This less-than-profound title is the most I could muster up for the subject of an email I wrote today.
I’m auditing the class “Existence and Majesty of God” in the NightWatch School of Ministry right now, taught by Wes Martin and Luke Wood. It’s a great class, and today we talked about the Trinity — half of the session was going through the Athanasian Creed and related Scriptures, and the other half was a lot of “What?” “Whoa!” “I don’t know…” and “My brain hurts.”
A friend of mine and I were talking about it some more during the class break, and she basically asked me to email her with what we had discussed. Let me tell you, trying to put words to the doctrine of the Trinity is one of the most intimidating things on earth. Most of the effort of writing is trying desperately to skirt heresy. Things like, “When speaking of the Triune God, should I say ‘He’ or ‘They’?” and “Dare I attempt to postulate what things would be like if God were only one Person, instead of three?” AUGH.
That might explain why it took me an hour to write four paragraphs.
At any rate, it ended up seeming like something worth sharing on this blog, as well. I will say up front that I am indebted to Mr. Liantonio for pointing out these concepts to our worship team some months ago in a briefing. If something sounds brilliant, I probably got it from Richard, and if it sounds weird, I probably accidentally butchered it.
So without further ado, I present “Trinity Stuff”: two reasons why it’s very important to care about the doctrine of the Trinity (besides, you know, the fact that it’s Biblical).
The doctrine of the Trinity profoundly affects how we view God, especially regarding His relational heart and ultimately, His ability to love and interact with other beings.
If God has existed from infinite eternity past as a lone Person, then the idea of relationship is a completely foreign concept to Him. It’s something He never would have experienced before creating the earth. Assuming Him to be self-sufficient, one would wonder why He would even create in the first place. If our God did not know community and did not know fellowship before creation, how can we expect to actually be able to relate to Him now? How can we expect Him to know our innate desire for relationship, affirmation, and love with others? If relationship and community are foreign to God’s essential nature, how are we supposed to have intimate fellowship with Him? His every interaction with us would be a strenuous reach for Him outside of His nature, having to deal with us in this foreign medium of interpersonal interaction.
On a related note, if it is true that God is love, how does that work for those infinite eons in eternity past where He is by Himself? Who is He loving? Who is He giving Himself to? How is God “love” if there is no object of His affection? If we are to affirm that God, in His very nature, is love, but we also deny His existence in Trinity, that leaves Him with infinite ages past of lack and unfulfillment in the very core of His being. Before creation, His nature had no way of expressing itself or of satisfying His desire for love. We end up with the theological error of assuming God created us because He needed something from us that He lacked in Himself alone.
These points are both best understood with the idea of a Trinitarian God, three Persons in unity as One God.
Relationality and community is an inherent part of who God is. He has never known a time of stoic isolation–only delightful fellowship. It is from the overflow of the love between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, that the Godhead proclaimed, “Let Us create man in Our own image”. Love and intimacy were already qualities that God had, and He now wanted to reveal that and pour it into human beings. Creation was not a matter of need, but of desire–an overflowing joyous expression of love between Three perfect Persons of one Substance, one God.
In this, we also see that God does not have to stretch outside of His essential perfect nature to relate to us. It is ingrained within who He is that He would invest Himself in us, befriend us, listen to us, and lavish His love upon us. In this way, it is because God has always existed as Three-in-One that we can be sure He really is, at His heart, a God of love.