1+1+1=1 The Trinity, Part 2

In my previous post I outlined the trinity in as basic and succinct fashion as possible. At the end of that post, however, I explained that I would tackle the big question—why is the trinity such a big deal? When one looks at the history of the Christian church, this is one of the subjects which have caused considerable debate and division among the ranks of Christendom. So why is everyone so vehement about their position concerning the trinity? It is important for a couple of reasons.

It is how God revealed himself
This may seem to be an understatement at first glance. This couldn’t be further from the truth though. It strikes at the very core of who God is—his very being. God is the creator of all things and made us with a purpose. He made us to be in relationship to him. So understanding God is not unimportant. When getting to know another person, it would be rather offensive to them for us to say, “Oh, I don’t need to know whether you are white, blue-eyed, or male.” These are all facts of who that person is—their very being. God has revealed his very nature to humanity and the picture with which one draws is important to how they will interact with him.

It serves as an example to us
There is a perfect love that exists between the members of the trinity, which is the example of how our relationships should be characterized between one another. Jesus speaks to this very point in John 15:9—“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.” Several other Scriptures address this as well. 1 John 4:21 reads, “And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.” Similarly, John 17:22-23explains that we are to be exhibiting the unity and love that exists among the Father, the Son, and (implicit in the passage) the Spirit—“I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”

What if any of these points are neglected or denied?
While some would attempt to state their agreement with one or two points, one cannot be a quasi-trinitarian. It is a doctrine where one must agree with all three points or else they come away with a greatly distorted image. For example, if someone denies the first point (there is one God), then they become polytheistic, pluralistic, or the like. It would be denying one of the foundational tenants of Christianity. It would be leaving the realm of monotheism and entering another.

The second point also must be maintained. When this is denied, it puts got in an awkward position as it then forces him to take on different “roles.” There are clearly three main characters when speaking to God in the Scriptures. When one denies that God is three persons, it follows that there is one person fulfilling three different roles. Does this mean that God left the throne room unattended while in the physical person of Jesus Christ? Was he performing one big magic trick at the baptism of Christ in order to make us think there is God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit? Lastly, what would God truly gain in having three different roles to fulfill? It seems that this only serves to complicate things. Would it not be easier for God to simply be God? Trying to balance three different “hats” unquestionably muddles up the picture God is trying to paint of himself to humanity. I imagine it would be like trying to have a relationship with someone who has a multiple personality disorder; you would constantly have to ask yourself with which personality you are currently relating before being able to proceed forward.

When denying the third point, it leads to having a hierarchy and essentially denies deity to one or members of the trinity. What do I mean by that? Viewing the members of the trinity as not being equal in deity inevitably leads to one member of the trinity being exalted over another. This is actually all too common among Christians. While they do not overtly or explicitly promote this position, they inadvertently advocate it by their actions. For example, the salvific work of Christ on the cross is certainly an important part of our daily life as Christians. However, this usually leads us to making all of our prayers about him, to him, and through him even though Romans 8:26 makes it clear that it is the Holy Spirit who intercedes for us and makes our prayers effective (especially when we are spiritually week). Likewise, there are groups who focus on being “led by the Spirit” and end up neglecting the very work which the Holy Spirit helped produce to guide men—it’s called the Bible.

All three points regarding the doctrine of the trinity are essential to the complete understanding of God and how we relate to him in our faith, both daily and for eternity. While I hope that I have been able to bring some clarity about this doctrine, I also want to remind you that it is a subject which is beyond our complete comprehension. So even after reading this post and even if you began an exhaustive theological study concerning this doctrine, you will always find yourself coming away confused and not concrete in your understanding.
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