Tuesday, May 20, 2008

What I Believe About the Trinity

If I were to call one specific doctrine of the Christian church the most complicated, most incomprehensible, most confusing and most divisive, it would be the doctrine of the Trinity. There have been a few times in my life when I thought that I understood what the trinity was all about. I felt as though I could not only understand, but also explain the intricacies of the “three in one.” Those occasions have been rare, and short lived.

The gist of the Trinity is this: God exists in three persons whom we call the Father, Son (Jesus Christ) and Holy Spirit. Each person within the Trinity is completely God. That means when Jesus lived and walked on the earth, he was not one-third God, he was completely God. Likewise, when I am filled with the Holy Spirit, I have the entirety of God living within me. But the Spirit living in me never diminishes the Holy Spirit (or God the Father, or Jesus) available to everyone else. This mystery is that God is completely engaged as Jesus, and also completely engaged otherwise as well.

I have tried many illustrations to explain this phenomenon. One of the simplest to use is to compare the Trinity to an egg. Initially, this works very well. There are three parts to an egg- the shell, the yolk and the white. However, the illustration breaks down if you look at it too closely. After all, an egg shell, separated from the rest of the egg is only an egg shell. It is no longer an egg. With God this is not the case. When Jesus ministers on earth- essentially separated from the other members of the Godhead- he was still God, completely God.

Another illustration that works a little better is that of the three roles of an individual. For example, I am one person and yet I am a father, a husband and a son. However, this is less than perfect because I am only fulfilling the roles of father, husband and son. God does not fulfill roles or functions. He is completely whole. We refer to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit as the three persons of the Trinity, not the three functions.

When considering the Trinity, we must always remember some other things that are just as incomprehensible.
  • God is omniscient. This means that God knows everything that can be known. He knows our thoughts. He knows our past and our future. God knows every thing, always.
  • God is omnipotent. God can do anything and everything. He is all-powerful. There is nothing beyond the scope of God’s wisdom and ability.
  • God is omnipresent. This is the thought that is most closely related to our concerns on the Trinity. God is completely present in every place at all times.

A few years ago it occurred to me that I would probably never completely “get” the Trinity. I am still pretty sure of that fact. I am resigned to never- at least in this life- fully understand ‘the three in one.’ Thank God that the Bible speaks so clearly about the value of faith. I love that old hymn, Trust and Obey. This is how I now view and relate to the Trinity.
Trust and obey for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus
But to trust and obey.

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