This is a chapter from a book I am writing. I am placing it here to get some feedback on the clarity of the writing style and the subject.
The debate over the Trinity and what exactly “Trinity” meant consumed the first few centuries of Christianity; so much so that it was the focal point for many writings as well as many councils. The Council of Nicaea and later the Council of Constantinople were called primarily concerning Trinitarian issues (mostly relating to the Incarnation of the Word). It’s hard to believe that the Trinity was such a controversial issue, especially since belief in the Trinity has gone by the wayside in the modern world. In fact, proper teaching on the Trinity has devolved so much in Western Christianity that even those who claim to be Trinitarian often don’t know what they mean by “Trinity.” The Trinity is often misunderstood, sometimes willfully rejected, other times rejected out of ignorance, and even when understood, the Trinity is viewed as a peripheral doctrine, something on the side that ultimately doesn’t matter.
Sadly, the most misunderstood doctrine in Christianity is also the foundational doctrine of the Christian faith. I purposefully leave out the letter “a” when saying the Trinity is a foundational doctrine. In Christianity, the Trinity functions as the foundation; without the Trinity, there is no Christianity. All other doctrines rest upon the precepts of the Trinity. Want to know why Jesus came to die for us? The ultimate reason rests in the Trinity. Want to know why we should have fellowship with each other? Look to the Trinity. Want to know how the Church should function in society? The Trinity is our example. Every aspect of Christian doctrine is touched by the Trinity and if a doctrine isn’t founded in the Trinity or can’t be traced back to Trinitarian thinking then the doctrine is false or so highly unimportant that it’s more opinion than doctrine.
But if the Trinity is so important, why are we so ignorant of what the Trinity is? As indicated earlier, the Trinity gives us a window into the nature of God. Though ultimately mysterious, the Trinity does give us an idea of God’s nature. Being a window, however, is often why the Trinity is neglected, rejected, and misunderstood. Put simply, the Trinity is confusing. To a society that relies on facts and figures and wants everything explained, we don’t like the Trinity because ultimately there is no explanation. We appreciate illusionists because while their tricks might baffle our minds, we know that ultimately someone has an explanation for the trick. Somewhere down the line the trick can be explained. In fact, if we were to study the illusion and put effort into it, we could figure out how the illusion was performed. But with the Trinity, no amount of study or knowledge will ever get us closer to understanding the Trinity. For a rationalistic society, such a mystery is ultimately unsavory and therefore rejected or at least put on the backburner of theology.
Being that the Trinity partially reveals God’s nature, we should not be surprised that the Trinity is beyond our grasp and ultimately is mysterious. Some might argue that since God is not the author of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33) and the Trinity is confusing, Trinitarian thinking does not come from God. But there is little warrant to such thinking. Aside from the fact that Paul was writing about having order in a church service so there would be no confusion in the teachings, such a passage hardly applies to the mystery of God. As we discovered in the last chapter, God is ultimately a mystery to us and infinitely beyond us. Since God is beyond us, it only makes sense that the Trinity would be ‘confusing.’ We will never fully understand the Trinity and that should be okay with us; the fact that the Trinity is non-contradictory, but still beyond our rational, would indicate that it is not of human origin, but instead originates from God. Continue reading