Is it true? Will you find the Trinity mentioned in the Bible, or more specifically, the New Testament? Let me save you the bother of rushing to your Concordance; the word Trinity does not occur in the Bible. However, do not despair. After all, anyone who takes the Bible simply at face value is in a lot of trouble – Holy Scripture deserves more than that of us. The letter kills, the Spirit gives life. If you want to understand the real message of the Bible, you’ve got to be prepared to dig beneath the surface and ask yourself what is the essential message contained in the verses. It can, of course, be threatening. But if we can work that through, and prayerfully bring our brains to bear on the Scriptures, it can be a liberating and enriching experience, far more enriching than mere surface readings of the Scriptures can ever give.
Instead of bewailing the fact that Our Lord and, later, St Paul did not give us a nice tidy explanation of the Trinity, you start asking yourself whether the Trinity is to be found in the New Testament, you begin to find it all over the place. You find it at the accounts of Our Lord’s baptism, you find it at the end of St Matthew’s Gospel, where the Risen Lord tells His followers to go and make disciples, and baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
The Christian Church didn’t invent the Trinity, nor did God the Father about two thousand years ago say to Himself “I’m feeling lonely I will turn myself into a Trinity.” God has always been Trinity right from the start of time: what has changed is that He has graciously allowed us to understand more of His nature as time has gone on. Non-Christians have falsely claimed that Christians worship three Gods. That old Trinitarian hymn which I used to sing as a boy, and which always used to remind me of a lubricating oil of the same name, three in one and one in three, makes a statement which on the surface is either nonsense or else simply incomprehensible.
To explain the Trinity is beyond human wit, so preachers often turn to analogies: the Trinity is like a shamrock perhaps. I prefer the suggestion that it is like looking at the same scene from different angles – one reality, but different ways of perceiving it, and from the different angles you get different views, glimpses of new riches which would otherwise be obscured. But in the end, all analogies break down, and we have to return to the original. So great is our God that He wants us to know Him and love Him as He reveals Himself in these different ways, as the Sovereign Lord of all; as Jesus, the one who saves us from the eternal darkness of separation from God; and as Spirit, the enlivener, or if you prefer, the life giver, the new life giver, the Spirit of Jesus living within us to continue the work of transformation, of making us more Jesus like, but still God in each of these different ways.
The doctrine of the Trinity is the corrective to any false notions that we can put God in a box and keep Him there, because although there is no new truth, although God does not change, neither does His nature, there is yet more to learn of what He is, and it reminds us that at the heart of God there is communion, fellowship, relationship. Maybe you can be a Christian on your own, without ever darkening a church doorstep – God knows, but our life here on earth is meant in some way to reflect the life of God Himself – creating, saving, enlivening others, and doing so in concert with others. Mystery the Trinity certainly is, but great and wonderful truth it is too, and we should be eternally grateful that God has graciously chosen to open the door of heaven in this way to enable us to worship Him, to fall on our knees and join with the cherubim and seraphim in their cry of “Holy, Holy, Holy.”
Fr Edward Bryant