Friday, April 11, 2008

RE: GRM Question #3 "The Trinity"

I believe that most Christians would roughly know what the Trinity is already. At the same time we still do not really fully understand such an important doctrine of the church.

The Bible did teach on the Trinity, however, the term itself is not found in the Bible, so it belongs to systematic theology rather than biblical theology. Without the doctrine of the Trinity it would be impossible to explain the three persons of the Godhead. The term “Trinity” was first formally used in the synod held at Alexandria in A.D. 317. It was used to describe the three persons in the God head, namely the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

These three persons make up the Trinitarian Godhead. We do not worship three Gods but one God. The three are one and have been one since the beginning of time, and are of the same “ousious” (meaning essesnce). *Now go back and read that again in slow motion*. A few very important statements have been made in a rather short sentence, so take you time and have another read.

Let me just summarize and explain a little…

Christianity is a monotheistic religion, but we have often been accused by the Muslims and Jews as tritheists. But get it right, we worship one Trinitarian God. How do we reconcile this? We do not. We have to realize that we are finite and limited while God on the other hand is the total opposite. We cannot expect to fully comprehend something that is infinite and without limits whatsoever.

There is not one person in the trinity that precedes another, nor is there one that came after another. A common error is to think that since there is a father and there is a son, so naturally we conclude that the Father must have come before the Son. Then what happens to the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit? It only seemed natural that the Holy Spirit came after the Father and the Son. This is a wrong view of God. The three have been one right from the get go. How do we reconcile this paradox? We simply cannot. However keep reading…

The three persons are also the same in essence. When it comes to the subject of the essence of God the term used by theologians is “ousios”. The three persons of the Trinity share the same ousios. Some might have the opinion that the Father is the soul, the Son is the body, and the Holy Spirit is… the spirit. This is a faulty theology. Each person of the Trinity is as “god” as the next person in the Trinity. So when Jesus made statements that seemed as though he was “lower” than God the Father it is explained by theologians as an economic submission. It is a functional submission and not a lower status or essence. The three persons of the Trinity are of the same ousios. How do we reconcile this? Again… we do not.

Now this is my favourite part of explaining the Trinity. At almost every corner in this doctrine we encountered some kind of paradox that we simply cannot comprehend or reconcile. Here’s the beauty of it all: God does not expect us to be able to understand and explain all of this. Theologians throughout history have dubbed this the mystery of the Holy Spirit. Even the great thinkers had to conclude that there are simply things that cannot be understood no matter how much we tried.

I have avoided using analogies so far because analogies can never fully answer our question anyway. Often analogies are used to attempt to describe the Trinity. Here are some of the more common analogies used to explain the “three-in-oneness” of God. However I cannot stress enough how these analogies are merely man’s finite attempt to grasp an infinite concept. Impossible!

The “egg analogy”: the outer shell, the egg white, and the egg yolk makes up the complete egg.

The “H2O analogy”: H2O exists in three different forms. Whether liquid, steam, or ice, it is still H2O.

The “man analogy”: a man might be one singular person but this one man is at the same time a father to someone, a son of someone, as well as a husband of someone.

The “sun analogy”: with the sun we know it is a giant orb of gas in outer space, at the same time it also emits heat and light.

The “math analogy”: For those who like to answer this question in a mathematical way, this might help. We always wonder how can the Father + the Son + the Holy Spirit = Trinity. 1 + 1 + 1 = 3. But this analogy gives us another formula to solve this question. 1 x 1 x 1 = 1. Some have suggested this is how the Trinitarian Godhead is one.

As you can see from these analogies they can help us to have a better understanding of the Trinitarian Godhead. However analogies are just analogies, we cannot use limited human terms to quantify and describe God. Just as the video in my previous post, God is indescribable and unfathomable. But it would be a big mistake to just leave God as unexplainable, in this situation the means is as important as the end itself. In this journey that God brings us on the journey is as beautiful as the destination because in our search we will be able to come into a closer relationship with God. *Note that in my post on “revelation”, God reveals himself to us to draw us into a relationship. That is what we will gain from searching him even in the area of the Trinity.

Some are in the opinion that when we meet God at the end he will explain all these mysteries to us and it will be revealed to us, and the veils will be lifted and we will fully understand all the mysteries in the universe. For me this notion would be like trying to fit the waters in the seas into my mouth. It will not fit. True, when we get to heaven we will be perfected. So we would be perfect humans, like Adam and Eve. So question is: did Adam and Eve comprehend the mystery of the Trinity? I doubt it. Even if we used 100% of our brains we would still not be able to fit 1% of infinity into our puny minds. I believe this is the fun part of heaven and eternity, that we will be spending the rest of eternity discovering and getting to know God better and better. And God is infinitely able to show us something new and exciting every single day for the rest of eternity.

In this I take solace.

I know this post raises even more questions than answers, but I am alright with that, and I think God is alright with that as well.

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