The Trinity: A Word for Wisdom
Would it surprise you if I said the doctrine of the Trinity makes or breaks the Christian faith? After all, someone might say, the Bible teaches it and the church has always held onto the Trinity as central since the inception of the church. So, to the question “is the Trinity of the utmost importance,” Christians throughout the centuries of the church have resounded in reply: “YES!” My hope is you would join in that affirmative answer with the Christians of the past. But, to get more personal, do you know why it is important, or how and where we find the Trinity in the pages of the Scriptures? Not only that, but how creation itself can help us with our “God-talk?” It is important how each of us answer that question because the doctrine of the Trinity is so fundamental to Christianity that without it Christianity ceases to be. Do not get me wrong, the Trinity is mysterious and there is much we cannot comprehend concerning God’s essential being; incomprehensibility is central to diety, so this should not surprise any of us. However, God has revealed Himself, and it is the privilege and delight of all who love the Lord to know Him for who He is. With this in mind, we will begin with a word of wisdom from the past.
Our word of wisdom comes from the 5th century AD, from one Saint Augustine of Hippo. In Augustine’s treaty On The Trinity, he said that he and his reader will “inquire into the unity of the Trinity, of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit; because in no other subject is error more dangerous, or inquiry more laborious, or the discovery of truth more profitable” (De Trin. 1.3.5).
First, our subject is dangerous because of error. We are talking about God here. We have a grave need to be sure to venture on with caution. Remember what CS Lewis wrote in the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe? Susan asked Mr. Beaver if Aslan was safe. Mr. Beaver replied: “‘Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.’” For the sake of our knowledge of God, we need be careful lest we venture into dangerous and novel ways of thinking about the God who exists and is Triune. Error is easy, and sometimes it hinges on one mere word.
Second, to inquire into the realm of God’s Triune being is to labor the mind. Though the doctrine of the Trinity is mysterious and incomprehensible, it is knowable. Theologians in the first several centuries of the church went to great lengths to say something about what the Bible means when it says that the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God, and yet they are not three gods but one God. We would do well to heed the voices of the fathers of our faith; Augustine being one of those voices. Though, even he knew the road would be long and the journey hard for anyone who would venture into this topic: the triune nature of the living God. But, lest we stop because this is a difficult and even dangerous task, we have one more consideration.
Lastly, Augustine said, there is no other subject where we find “the discovery of truth more profitable.” There are many good things in life, and many good things to find in various studies. But, we cannot even begin to understand the good we will find when we contemplate the Trinity. The Trinity is the God who created the universe (Gen. 1:1; John 1:1). He is the God of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob. He is the God who spoke to Moses from the burning bush, whose name is “I AM” (Ex. 3:14). He is the God who spoke to the prophets (1 Pet. 1:10-12). He is the God revealed in the baptism of the incarnate Son, who spoke from heaven and descended in the likeness of a dove (Matt. 3:16-17). He is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (2 Cor. 13:14). He is the God who reveals Himself in creation and Scripture (Ps. 19). He is the God deserving all honor, praise, and glory (Rev. 5). He is the God for whom you and I were made (Rom. 11:36). And, He is the Father, who sent the Son (1 John 4:9). And the Son who accomplished our salvation and rules over the church (Eph. 2:4-5; Matt. 28:18-20). And the Spirit who seals us with the blessed promises of God (Rom. 8:15-17). Tell me, is there anything else more profitable, ultimately so, than simply knowing the Trinity? I hope your answer is no. So, let’s discover this truth together and bask in the glorious light of the Trinity.
Augustine of Hippo. “On the Trinity.” St. Augustin: On the Holy Trinity, Doctrinal Treatises, Moral Treatises. Ed. Philip Schaff. Trans. Arthur West Haddan. Vol. 3. Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1887. 19. Print. A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, First Series.
Lewis, C. S. The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. Tyndale House, 2015.