Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Holy Trinity in 500 Words or Less!

How does one describe the Holy Trinity in 500 words or less? This may be an impossible task. But the doctrine of the Trinity can be a stumbling block if we do not try to help the average person understand its significance. Below is my attempt for a meditation that goes into my parish's Sunday bulletin for Trinity Sunday. Beneath that is a diagram that has often been used to give a visual of the doctrine. It, too, has less than 500 words. Then beneath that is a link that will take you an article on the Christian and Research Ministry Website. It is more than 500 words!

The Holy Trinity is the distinctive nature of our God that we worship. It is very hard to describe in theological terms why this is important to know in less that 500 words, the length of a meditation for a weekly bulletin. But, nevertheless, we should understand that our God has a distinctive nature and not all religions understand our God this way.  So why is this important? Because if we do not understand the nature of something we may misuse it and this can be dangerous.

Let’s take the nature of gasoline. It is a liquid. It is flammable. It is toxic to the human body. While we cannot drink it, it is a very valuable fuel that runs our cars and other machinery to great benefit to humanity. Hence, we argue about it when its comes to supply and demand! To understand the nature of gasoline helps us to understand how we should relate to it. The nature of God is no different. The Trinity describes a quality, not a quantity. And by understanding God’s quality, we better understand His nature. And by better understanding His nature, we better understand how we can relate to God!

Let me give you an example from two denominations that claim to be Christian but are not. The Mormons (LDS) and the Jehovah Witnesses (JW) both deny the Trinity. Both groups believe we can earn our way into heaven through good works. Both have some doctrine that humans can become divine. There are other doctrines that both denominations hold that are non-biblical. So, because there is a false understanding of the nature of God, the JW’s and LDS end up having a false understanding of mankind. Let’s go back to the nature of gasoline. If I do not have a proper understanding of just one of it’s nature, I could burn down my home! To those who say the Trinity is not taught in Scripture, I say, neither is God taught in Scripture. From the very first words of the Bible we read, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” God “is” from the beginning. His divine nature is best described as three persons with one substance. Jesus understood this when He commands us to go and make disciples of peoples in the “Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” (Mt 28:16-20) There is no teaching on the Trinity, that’s just God’s nature from the very beginning! For a complete treatment of the nature of God, I refer you the Creed of St. Athanasius (p. 58, 1662 BCP) in our prayer book!

For more on the Trinity with biblical citations go here!

And when all else fails, use poetry!

Batter my heart, three-person'd God ; for you
As yet but knock ; breathe, shine, and seek to mend ;
That I may rise, and stand, o'erthrow me, and bend
Your force, to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurp'd town, to another due,
Labour to admit you, but O, to no end.
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captived, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be loved fain,
But am betroth'd unto your enemy ;
Divorce me, untie, or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me. (John Donne, Sonnet XIV)