26 September 2008

The Trinity...

Someone recently asked a question in an online forum about where the Word of God teaches the word of the Trinity. I thought I would share my answer.

The Trinity, as others have shared, has a long and storied (and perhaps sordid) history. The term Trinity does not begin to appear until the latter part of the third century, though the writers are clearly struggling to understand the concepts revealed in Scripture, for better or for worse.

One of the key supports for the concept of Jesus' divinity is found in the Gospels. The prologue of John's Gospel specifically tells us:"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." and later "...the Word became flesh and lived among us..." (see John 1). John 1:1 literally teaches that God took on flesh and pitched his tent (tabernacled, dwelt) among us in the person of Jesus Christ. This can and has been interpreted in many different ways over the centuries.

No matter how you interpret it, it clearly teaches that in some fashion, in the person of Jesus Christ, God and man have been united. To the Trinitarian, it is inconceivable that the Father ceased to exist when Christ was made incarnate, as witnessed by the fact that Jesus prayed to the Father often during his earthly ministry.

Trinitarians will also point out the nature of the word Elohim, present in Genesis 1:1, as being plural and singular at the same time, as well as the mention of the Spirit in the creation narrative. As a result, the best explanation is that God is one, while possessing three different persons. (Sidenote: If Elohim is properly understood as singular and plural at the same time, than does not the choice of words teach us the concept of the Trinity? It is not an insinuation if, in fact, Elohim is as Biblical scholars accept it to be.)

Is this the best or most adequate explanation? Surely not. In fact, no explanation we offer can be perfect. Modalism fails us... Arianism fails us... every attempt to define the nature of the relationship between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit fail us as Christians, because our limited human comprehension and language simply cannot get wrapped around the true majesty of God and his nature.

So in the end, while Councils and Creeds have mandated the Trinitarian belief in the mainline Church, those of us on the margins who who accept the Trinity accept it because it is the best explanation we can come up with for what we see in the Scriptures. At the same time, we must admit that we fall short in even this description and acknowledge that the true nature and depth of God is a mystery far too great for us to understand or comprehend on this side of eternity.


All original material (C) 2007-2010 by Father Robert Lyons.

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