A humble and feeble attempt concerning the Holy Trinity The Rev. Mark McDonald, Vicar – Episcopal Church of the Advent, Lillian AL www.AdventLillian.org
We Christians worship the one true God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Again, I say that we Christians worship the one true God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Upon reflection, I have to say that if you are deeply listening, you might be a little bit confused.
We worship One God, but yet I justed stated that the God we worship is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. That sounds an awful lot like three Gods. How can that be?
Most Christians are perhaps made a little uncomfortable by reflecting on this, because our one God, who consists of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is not a very easy thing to understand. Most of us believe in the Trinity because of tradition, and if it is good enough for the generations who came before, then it is good enough for me. But as much as we want to skirt by and not dig into a deeper discussion of the Trinity, we shortchange ourselves if we do not engage the Trinitarian God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Though the Trinity is one of the most fundamental doctrines of Christianity, the Bible says nothing about it directly. But yet today, we truly believe in the trinitarian nature of the one true God. What do you mean the Bible does not directly mention God as Trinity! If the Trinity is not specifically mentioned in the New Testament then why do we believe it so?
Well, we know that the new Testament is the story of the birth, life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus is referred to as Son of Man and Son of God for the most part in the New Testament, and the New Testament generally reserves the title of “God” to the Father. But in the New Testament, the title of God is bestowed on Jesus from time to time, such as in the opening verse of John’s Gospel where it states, “and the Word was God.” Also, after Thomas sees the risen Jesus and goes on to confess his faith when he says to Jesus, “My Lord and My God.”
This new faith, called Christianity, hinged on Jesus Christ being fully God or the savings acts of Jesus through his death and resurrection would mean nothing. Also, the faith of the apostles and Jesus were rooted in the monotheistic tradition of Judaism which states there is only one God who always existed. As you can see, the early church had a major theological dilemma, and it took hundreds of years for the Church to work this problem out.
The early church dealt with significant theological issues such as: Who is God? Who is Jesus? How can Jesus be God, if God existed from the beginning? But if Jesus is not God, then his life, death, and resurrection have no saving acts that can only come from God. But if Jesus is God, do we have more than one God? But we all know two or more God’s cannot exist since we are all aware, just as the ten commandments states, there is only one God and there can be no other Gods before me.
To the early Christian Church, the coequal divinity of Christ was of the highest urgency, because our salvation was at stake. If Christ is not truly divine, then he is a creature like us and has no special standing before God. We are all still in our sins, and therefore Christ does not offer salvation.
Do you see the dilemma of the early church? Are you starting to see how the Trinitarian nature of God came about even though it was not explicitly spelled out to us in Scripture? Thus the long process of the Trinitarian nature of the one true God began to be worked out and revealed among God’s people.
The trinitarian issue, through many heresies, debates, exiles, and deaths, mostly came to a conclusion at the Council of Nicea in the year 325 C.E. summoned by Emperor Constantine. The Council of Nicea was called to deal with the Arian question which in simplistic terms states that the Son was not fully God, but at the same time, way more than Human. In response to Arianism, the Council of Nicea gave us an answer to the Arian question. I think you may be a little familiar with the Response from the Council of Nicea. Here are a few phrases from that council held so long ago that shape our belief in the One true God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. “We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen. We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father.”
The Nicene Creed affirms that Christ and the Father are the same substance. Christ is one in being from the father. And this Sunday and most every Sunday, as a result of the Council of Nicea we will read in our Eucharistic liturgy the Nicene Creed as a Statement of our Faith. God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are three distinct persons all made from the same substance.
Now that we have this trinitarian business all cleared up. What now! Yeah! Like we could ever clear this up and fully understand the nature and being of God!
But it does give us an idea of the infinite and tremendous nature of God. God’s three persons are in relationship with each other and invite us to participate in God’s Divine relationship, God’s Divine dance. We, through God’s saving acts in history and through the actions of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are shown that God has many avenues to reach us, to guide us, to love us, to save us and to open us up to live a life that is dancing with God and is much larger than ourselves.
Instead of being mere subjects to an authoritarian God, we are invited to be in a relationship with the Trinitarian God. Guided by the Father, the Creator, we are created and loved as God’s children. Through the Christ, the Son, encompassing the divinity and the humanity of Jesus, we are invited to participate fully in the life of God. God, through the power of the Holy Spirit, connects us all to God’s divine life. God, the Holy Trinity, creates, nurtures, saves, redeems, revitalizes, makes old things new, gives us inspiration and second chances, shows us how to love, and connects all things to each other and God. In other words, through the Holy Trinity, we as humans are invited to dance with the mysterious, wonderful and tremendous God we know as the Holy Trinity. So it is time that we as Christians, put on our dancing Shoes and enjoy the ride known as the one true God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.