The Trinity: Not a Philosophical Idea

First Sunday after Pentecost: Trinity Sunday, Year C, RCL Romans 5:1-5, John 16:12-15

Detail of a chasuble from the Hilversum studio J.L. Sträter, photo by Marikevanroon20, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Trinity chasuble, ca. 1950-1955 Netherlands

Many religions have similar precepts as Christianity. Their moral compass tends to point in the same direction. Many have similar practices of worship and prayer, ritual baths, feasts, and fasts. What sets Christianity apart from other religions is the Trinity. The Trinity is not a mathematical or logical problem to be solved. One plus one, plus one, will never equal one. It’s not a logic puzzle. Three individual persons comprising one God; in complete unity, yet diversity. No there is no rationale to help explain the Trinity either. And it’s not a philosophical concept, a way of reasonably explaining the unexplainable. For it is irrational, much like rising from the dead, calming a storm, or felling the walls of Jericho by blowing horns. Any attempts we use to explain our God come up short because our God is beyond our comprehension and explanation, much like many aspects of our faith.


Simply put, the Trinity is our God, and what the Trinity shows us is that God is relational. God is three persons who are all intimately related to one another in a constant dynamic flow of movement. In the unity of the three persons, we find in our God, a God that is recognizable to all who look.


God the Father, the creator and sustainer, is possibly the most difficult to recognize in our daily life. This is one reason God sent the Son. The Son was given to us, in part, so that we can recognize God through him, Christ being the perfect image of God. Though God is not human, through Christ, God the Son became human. Because of the incarnation, we can relate to God, talk, eat, and be with God, who otherwise would be ineffable.


The Spirit was also given to us by the Father so that we can be comforted, reminded of Christ, and recognize Christ in our lives, even when he is not physically present with us.[i] It is through the Spirit that we follow God’s will; that we spread the good news to others. We find Christ through the Spirit, we find God through Christ, and somehow, when we know Christ and the Spirit, we know the Father and thus the Trinity.


The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit make up the Godhead, the one God who is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, our all in all. As Paul says to the Greek people in Acts 17, Your unknown god, is the creator and sustainer of the world. We search for God and perhaps grope for him and indeed find him – for indeed he is not far from each one of us. For ‘in him we live and move and have our being.’[ii]


This all sounds incredible and hopefully wonderful but there is more to it than we might think. What is most amazing is that this dynamic flow extends beyond the Trinity to us. We engage one another and the world around us through interaction and conversation. By nature, we are relational beings. We do best, physically and mentally, when we have relationships with others and our environment. Studies have shown this to be true, whether with people who are isolated due to aging[iii] or through incarceration.[iv] and I suspect due to the pandemic. People are healthier when they have relationships.


The relationships we have formed within our community, friends, and family are images of the relationship we are called to be in with God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We were made in God’s image, as relational beings, so that our interactions flow from one person to the next, mingling and dynamic, just like the movement of the Trinity.


This dynamic relationship is a central idea of Christianity and it sets Christianity apart from the other Abrahamic religions. You cannot be born a Christian. To become a Christina you must be baptized and to be baptized it takes the interaction of at least one other person or ideally an entire community, along with the three persons of the trinity. Your baptism initiates you into the Christian Church, not birth. Nor does our baptism make us complete or mark the end of our journey with God. Baptism is just the beginning. It is the initiation, the adoption into a family which allows us to partake more fully in the rest of the sacraments and life of the Church.


As Christians, we are called to interact and build relationships with all of our neighbors. Though fellowship is one of the primary ways we do this, we are called to do more. We are called to tell our shared stories of faith and Christ with one another. We are called to feel the fire of the Holy Spirit within us, even if it is just a tiny flicker. This flame within us, that burns to know God more deeply, is nurtured as we learn and study the Word of God; allowing the dynamic movement of the Trinity to act more easily in our lives.


Because of the Trinity, we are not alone in our endeavors. For we have our triune God abiding within us, to comfort us in sorrow, to guide us when we are unsure, to steady us when we feel off-kilter, and to celebrate with us when there is joy. Because we have a relational God, who promotes relationships with him and others, we are lifted up every time we fall. We are forgiven every time we repent. No, the Trinity is not a philosophical idea. It is not a logical construct. The Trinity is one of the many mysteries of our God. And it is where we find love, strength, courage, hope, and most importantly, life.

 

[i] John 14:25-29

[ii] Acts 17:22-28

[iii] Health Effects of Social Isolation and Loneliness, Journal of Aging Life Care, Spring 2018: https://www.aginglifecare.org/ALCA_Web_Docs/journal/ALCA%20Journal%20Spg18_FINAL.pdf

[iv] Effects of Solitary Confinement on the Well Being of Prison Inmates, Applied Psychology OPUS: https://wp.nyu.edu/steinhardt-appsych_opus/effects-of-solitary-confinement-on-the-well-being-of-prison-inmates/

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