I GOT SOME PUSHBACK to the 5-minute, all-you-need-to-know-about-the-Trinity video I released on New Year’s Day, The Trinity.
I was a little leery of a line I paraphrased from the Gospel of John, which I’m working on now for the Casual English Bible. One viewer jumped right on it. I commend her for picking up on it.
Here’s the line spoken by Jesus, as translated by the good folks with the New International Version.
“I and the Father are one” (John 10:30).
Here’s how I’ve paraphrased it for my yet unpublished beta edition, which I quoted in the video.
“The Father and I are one and the same.”
One gentle spirit asked what version reads that way. When I told her, she said, “Scripture talks about Adam and Eve being one but they surely were not one and the same. ‘One and the same’ doesn’t imply unity in my mind but identical without any distinction.”
To which I replied, “Think Identical with distinction. That sure seems to be what Jesus was trying to say. But that doesn’t seem to be something we can relate to or imagine. The Trinity was and is a mystery that we’re going to have to wait and watch unfold before us.”
Another viewer, a minister, wrote, “Methinks you are making the same mistake LDS makes as in Salishah—not 3 separate gods, but 1 God with 3 natures—so to speak. Our ability to correctly and accurately verbalize the nature of God is limiting. If Christ is not God, as Paul points out, then we are still in our sin.”
Well, I still don’t know what “Salishah” is, and I googled it. So in ignorance of that word, I wrote back,
“I don’t recall Paul ever calling Jesus ‘God.’ ‘Lord,’ yes but not ‘God.’ I think you’re confusing the Paul quote with this one: ‘If Christ wasn’t raised from the dead, then our preaching is a lie and your faith is a joke’ (1 Corinthians 15:14 Casual English Bible). The KJV puts it more like you did: ‘And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.’
Also, I don’t think I’m making the same mistake as the LDS unless they, too, are saying they are baffled by the idea of the Trinity. What I’m trying to say is that the church fathers agreed that they didn’t understand the Trinity, but they believed in it. I don’t have a problem with that, though what I think doesn’t matter much. We all have to work through our understanding of God, or our lack of it. Peace to you.”
Another reader added a note that got be thinking even more about this.
“Another thing that is profound to ponder on, is how in John Jesus prays that his disciples may be one as He is one with The Father.”
I think he was talking about this line:
“I am not praying just for these followers. I am also praying for everyone else who will have faith because of what my followers will say about me. I want all of them to be one with each other, just as I am one with you and you are one with me. I also want them to be one with us. Then the people of this world will believe that you sent me” (John 17:20-21 CEV).
Do you have any reaction to any of this? If so, what? I thank you very much.
Don’t forget or leave out John chapter 1
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
2 The same was in the beginning with God.
3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.
4 In him was life; and the life was the light of men.
5 And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.
Basically John is saying Jesus is God, The Word of God. There that should bewilder most.
Oh Jesus himself said he was God when he answered the Pharisees question about Abraham.
Stephen M. Miller
That, too. Thanks George.
The person of “God” cannot be explained in 5 minutes much less any human person! If I were to try, I would start with the Bible showing there is one God. I would then show that the “Father” is God. I would show that Jesus the Son is God and that the Holy Spirit is God (not just an impersonal force like the cults teach). As difficult and confusing to explain the Trinity — the Christian Church cannot explain it any better since it is impossible to explain the person of God. Here is something I use from the “New City Catechism” (I know it is long, but it is really good — especially the practical part at the end)
Kevin DeYoung says:
The doctrine of the Trinity is the most important Christian doctrine that most people never think about. It’s absolutely essential to our faith, and yet for many Christians it just seems like a very confusing math problem. And even if we can figure out what Trinity means, it doesn’t feel like it has much bearing on our lives, much relevance to us.
The word Trinity, famously, is not found in the Bible, but the word does very well at capturing a number of biblical truths. There are actually seven statements that go into the doctrine of the Trinity:
God is one. There’s only one God.
The Father is God.
The Son is God.
The Holy Spirit is God.
The Father is not the Son.
The Son is not the Spirit.
The Spirit is not the Father.
If you get those seven statements, then you’ve captured the doctrine of the Trinity—what it means when we say there is one God and three persons.
Christians are monotheists. We don’t believe in many gods or a pantheon of gods but just one God, and this God expresses himself and exists as three persons. That language of persons is very important. The early church wrestled with the appropriate language, and persons aptly speaks to the personality of the three members of the Trinity and also their relationship with each other; the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit coinhere as one essence, and yet there are distinctions. One is not the other, but they’re equal in rank, equal in power, equal in glory, equal in majesty. Just as Jesus sends out the disciples to go baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, we see this doctrine of the Holy Trinity woven throughout the Scriptures.
Even more confusing to people is the question “Why does this even matter? Okay, I understand I got three in one, one in three. What difference does this make for anything in my Christian life?” In good Trinitarian fashion, I think there are three important things that the doctrine means for us.
First, the Trinity helps us to understand how there can be unity in diversity. This is one of the most pressing questions in our world. Some folks focus almost exclusively on diversity, on the fact that people are so different. They don’t see any common ground. Others want to press for complete uniformity in thought, in government, and in expression. The Trinity shows us that you can have a profound, real, organic unity with diversity, so that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are working in complete union in our salvation. The Father appoints. The Son accomplished. The Spirit applies. We encounter God as fully God in the Father, in the Son, and in the Holy Spirit. And yet, their divine work is neither interchangeable nor redundant.
Second, when you have a triune God, you have the eternality of love. Love has existed from all time. If you have a god who is not three persons, he has to create a being to love, to be an expression of his love. But Father, Son, and Holy Spirit existing in eternity have always had this relationship of love. So love is not a created thing. God didn’t have to go outside of himself to love. Love is eternal. And when you have a triune God, you have fully this God who is love.
Finally, and most importantly, the doctrine of the Trinity is crucial for the Christian because there is nothing more important in all the world than knowing God. If God exists as one God in three persons, if the one divine essence subsists as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, if we are baptized into this triune name, then no Christian should want to be ignorant of these Trinitarian realities. In the end, the Trinity matters because God matters.
Stephen M. Miller
Wayne, the DeYoung excerpt reads a bit like a college term paper to me. It uses a fair number of words to say that there are three of them, but they’re all one, and that because of this we can say we worship one God and not three.
Beyond that, there’s nothing helpful that I can see in an effort to explain what it means to be three in one. And I don’t agree with the statement that the Trinity helps us better understand how there can be unity in diversity. We don’t know how the Three are united. We don’t even know how they are diverse in their activities. The Trinity helps us understand faith, and what it means to trust Jesus even when we don’t understand what he’s saying.
We can keep preaching sermons like we know what’s going on up in the heavenly Situation Room. But we’re preaching fiction. We don’t have a clue. And what I think many scholars would say is that it’s okay to admit it.