Three in One: The Foundational Paradox of Christianity


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

Reflections on the Trinity – The Spirit


Who am I to be so bold as to declare to you who you are? I offer this prayer up humbly to you my Lord, knowing that you are the Alpha and Omega. You are beyond me. It is in your mystery that I find clarity. It is in your hidden nature that I find you. I take sweet rest in your grace. I am weary O Spirit, but my rest is in you.

Eternally proceeding from the Father, but uncreated, you comfort us my God. You proceed as the heat proceeds from the sun, though distinct you are unified to the Father, though uncreated you find your existence in him. Such a mystery I shall never comprehend or understand, but in my finite nature I worship you.

Never let me blaspheme you, O Spirit. Should I ever blaspheme you, may you make my thoughts and actions cease! May you restrict me like an unruly child. Should I ignore your discipline, which is your love, then may you cast me into oblivion. May I never experience your presence or find comfort in you should I rebel against you!

But in all, please show patience with me Lord. I am a sinner, lowly in heart and low in mind. I need you to guide my path and to give me the strength to follow your path. It is through you, O Spirit, that I am defied, not in my identity and being, but in all other things I become like you. What a humbling thought that you would step down from heaven to dwell with me so that I might become like you. I do not deserve this for I have soiled your name. I have cursed you in word and deed. I have been your enemy. Yet you live within me and guide me to what you desire; your love I shall never comprehend.

You are the gift given by the Word to us mere mortals. You are the strength behind the martyrs. You are the power that raised Christ from the dead. You are the one that resides within those who follow and proclaim Jesus as the Christ. It is only through you that we know anything. But you are not a force, an inanimate object that permeates all of creation. You are a person unified with the Father and Son in identity and being, a living person who thinks and feels and I worship you.

How amazing it is that I could not worship were it not for you. It is only through you that I can worship you. I am so finite and so sinful that I am not even capable of uttering your name in a worthy fashion without your power. But you do not withhold this joy from me. You do not abandon me to live a life absent of worshiping you, which is Hell. Instead, you indwell me and open my mind. You enlighten me in every aspect of my being to prepare me to worship you and to wholly worship you. Such a beautiful mystery.

Christ called you the Comforter, the one who would walk with us and dwell within us in our darkest moments. What glory there is in such a thought! To know that there is no pain too great that you cannot overcome it, for what is our temporary pain in comparison to the infinite God of the universe? There is no sadness that can quench the joy you instill in us. There is no harm that can capture the soul that belongs to you.

You have been breathed into man twice, at our creation and at our re-creation. When created you are the one who crafted us into the image of God. When we are redeemed by the Word you are the one who is breathed into us again to craft us into the image of Christ, to make us holy, to make us more than we ought to be.

O Spirit, I pray that you sustain me tonight and for all the days of my life and once you have called for my mortal life to end that you will embrace my soul and bring me to your bosom. I pray that you will welcome me as a faithful servant and not a rebellious child. Continue to live within my life so that I may disappear and you may appear. Have mercy upon me O Spirit, a sinner.

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This was a scheduled post. I am currently out of town and subsequently have turned comments off since I cannot moderate or interact with commenters. If you have any questions, comments, or concerns about this post, please feel free to contact me.