In June we celebrated Trinity Sunday. The doctrine of the Trinity is no doubt one of the most difficult parts of the Christian faith. How can God be both three and one at the same time?! Plenty of metaphors and analogies have been offered to explain the Trinity (e.g. water existing as solid, liquid and gas; one man being a husband, father and builder) but none of them is adequate. The various metaphors may help to illuminate one particular aspect of the mystery but they do so at the expense of obscuring other aspects. Through the centuries, Christians have not yet been able to find any one satisfactory metaphor.
I’d like to offer three reasons why the Trinity is good news even though it is a mystery (perhaps even because it is a mystery).
- The Trinity is the price you pay for having a God worth worshipping. There seems to be a universal human tendency to shrink God down. We would like to have a god who is manageable and easily containable. A god who is bigger than us is threatening! The God who thunders from the top of Mount Sinai in fire and cloud is scary!
But let’s stop to think for moment if we really want a god that we can control and contain. If we could fully understand a god and then fit him neatly into a box, what sort of god would that be? How much do you think that god could help you? How much do you think that god could change your life? Could that god stand up to the bullies you face? Could that god do anything about the evil and injustice in the world?
Uncomfortable as the God of the Bible may be, the alternatives are far more uncomfortable!
- The Trinity means that love is at the heart of the universe. The idea that ‘God is love’ is very common – and very popular – these days. But very few people stop to think through any of the implications of that. The only way God can truly be love is if He is Trinity. That’s because love is something that can only exist between (more than one) persons. If God were not Trinity, He could not have been love from all eternity. He could only have started being loving after He created humans or angels. He would not be love in and of Himself. It would mean that power and might is more fundamental than love (as in nearly all branches of paganism).
But because God is Trinity, love came before power. Love and relationship is the most fundamental reality.
The type of God we believe in has enormous implications for what we value and the sort of society we live in. We owe far more than we realise to the effect of centuries of Christian belief on the values of our society. Europe was a very different (and much darker) place before Christianity took root.
- The Trinity means that God is on the give, not on the take. If God needed to create humans for company, it would mean that He would need to take something from us. He would need our worship and adoration. But if God is, and always has been, Trinity; if He has always been perfectly content and happy in Himself, then He did not create us to take from us. He doesn’t need anything from us! So why did He create us? The only reason can be to give to us. He simply wanted the love and delight He had within Himself for all eternity to overflow beyond Himself. Like a married couple who are perfectly delighted in each other and choose freely to give life to a child, simply to share in and experience their love. The doctrine of the Trinity safeguards grace.
The Trinity is good news even though (in fact precisely because) it’s impossible for us to fully get our heads around!