There is an aspect of the Christian doctrine that I have, for a very long time, pondered upon. It is a topic that challenges the very core of Christian belief; a topic that has generated serious dissension over the years. I have heard and read many people try to explain it as best as they can, so I am going to attempt to do the same here. In this short piece I am going to attempt to explain what I have come to understand about the concept Trinity. In my mind’s eye, I can visualize and imagine what I think it means, but until I can verbalize it and explain it to another person, I may not have fully grasped the concept. I am fully cognizant of the fact that in expressing such a grand, abstract and sublime idea, human language may prove to be a limiting tool. Feel free however, to share your own thoughts and opinions on the subject in the comments section especially if they are diametrically opposed to mine.
What is the Holy Trinity?
The trinity in simple terms means “three-in-one”. It can also be called Tri-unity, which is the idea that there are three separate, distinct but united things. As it relates to Christianity, Trinity is “Three persons in one God” or “One entity in three dimensions”. It is the understanding that in the Godhead (i.e in the very idea of One God) you have God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit—Separate but Equal; Distinct but of the same Essence; One Entity in Three Dimensions. Is this hard to imagine?
Well consider this: suppose you have an electronic device that can tell you the time, tell you the temperature of your immediate environment and also dial into AM-FM frequencies simultaneously. What do you really have—what should this electronic device be called? Do you have a clock, a thermometer or a radio? The right answer is that you have a triune device; a device that is just one entity but it has three different functions/dimensions/personalities. It is just not a radio nor a clock nor a thermometer—it is all three rolled into one. As you can see, you have one device with three distinct ‘personalities’; the three distinct personalities are separate but inseparable. This is analogous to the Trinity.
Again, suppose you have an audio device that can play cassette tapes, CDs and MP3s. Do you have a cassette-tape player, a CD player or an MP3 player? What you have is an electronic trinity; an electronic device that has three dimensions, ‘personalities’, or functionalities perfectly and seamlessly bundled into one. If you tamper with this device’s source of power, you will be left with an electronic nullity instead of an electronic trinity—i.e you cannot play either a cassette, or a CD or an MP3. This is analogous to the Trinity.
With that at the back of our minds, we can then fully appreciate the first three verses of the first chapter of the gospel according to Saint John which reads:
- In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
- The same was in the beginning with God.
- All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.
In effect, the Trinity informs us that in God we have the entity which is the Father, His Word and His Spirit. All three are one and the same and have co-existed eternally. God the Father (which is who people normally just call God), his Word and his Spirit are of the same essence. The concept of the trinity calls for an out-of-the-box thinking to visualize that these attributes/dimensions of the Godhead are distinct and the same—concurrently. The drama of creation becomes fascinating for then we see a Supreme Being who simply expressed Himself. God the Father uttered His Word and that Word was captured by His Spirit and instantly expressed. From before the creation of all things, God (The Father, His Word and His Spirit) was the only thing in existence. Then on the eve of creation, in Genesis chapter 1, God said—existing as God already was from time immemorial as a hypostatic union of Himself, His roving Spirit and His Eternal Word—”Let there be Light!” Immediately he expressed his Word, his SPIRIT instantaneously captured that Word and brought it into materialization! Three-in-one; three acting in concert!
Look at what the book of Genesis has to say about this triune concept when narrating what God did at the creation of Man in Gen 1:26:
26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.
Did you notice the pronoun “us”? This is one powerful destroyer of the Unitarian concept of God. If God (or more appropriately the concept of God) was not a triune fellowship existing in perfect harmony but a singularity, that verse would have used a different pronoun; it would have been “let ME make man” rather than “let US make man”. For without God the Father, there will be no creation. If his Spirit was not there, there would have been no creation. If God had not spoken his Word, nothing would also have been created. Thus the title God (sometimes spoken of as the “Godhead”) is to be properly understood as an umbrella term or title for speaking about this primordial creative trinity – one being in three personifications; three personalities that are exactly bound up in the same essence.
That same Word that had eternally co-existed with the Father; that practical, vibrant living Word which is the same and equal with the Father, in the course of time, was made to assume physical human flesh. In other words, one day, in the Godhead, a plan was hatched for human salvation. Working in unison as ever, God the Father and His Spirit caused the Word to become flesh and thus subservient. God’s Word thus became God the Son or appropriately, God the Begotten. God the Son was therefore Begotten (of the Father) and never created. If you can picture God’s Word suddenly stripping Himself of His eternal and divine glory, and taking on frail, corruptible human form then you are right on track. That human being dwelt and walked amongst other humans and was called Yeshua or Jesus the Christ.
You can clearly see that the Father (Creator), the Son (Redeemer) and the Holy Spirit (Comforter/Sanctifier/Paraclete) are linked in an indissoluble threefold relationship.