Why is the Trinity important?
This Sunday (30/5/21) marks Trinity Sunday, a day which celebrates the doctrine of the Trinity: the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit.
Revd Canon Tim Jones, Director of Ministry & Discipleship, lets us know why this doctrine is so important to the Christian view of God.
Some people argue that there is no god, others believe in several gods. Some faiths, including Christianity, understand that there is one God, that the nature of reality is ‘mono-theistic’. But the distinctive insight that Christianity offers to the world is the nature of God as Trinity: there is definitely only one God, and that something else must also be said. The implications are huge: Christians cannot think of God simply as some kind of giant in the sky: God is both absolutely distant and absolutely here, both entirely beyond our understanding and revealed within our experience of life.
The earliest Christians were devout Jews, and so had no doubt that there was only one indivisible God, the creator of all that is, sometimes thought of as the divine ‘Father’. The Apostles also knew that in Jesus Christ they had encountered that God (John 1v1-18; 20v28). Moreover, they knew that in the Holy Spirit they also encountered God (Matthew 28v19). It took the early Christian Church several generations of hard thinking and argument to work out how to make coherent theological sense of that complex experience.
We can see the fruits of their labours in our liturgies: the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed are statements of Christian faith as Trinitarian: the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are the same in ‘substance’, but are distinct in their identity. There are all kinds of analogies to help us understand this, but all analogies have weaknesses, so preachers get very nervous every Trinity Sunday about whichever analogy they use – they know that on its own it isn’t nearly enough.
The nature of God as Trinity is a true mystery. “Mystery” doesn’t mean it’s a tricky puzzle to be solved, like an Agatha Christie mystery. It means that it has depths infinitely beyond the capacity of human understanding. That certainly isn’t an excuse to make no effort to understand God; it just means that however deep we go in our understanding, it is always possible to go deeper. Whenever we pray to, or about, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we are stepping out of our own limited view and into the infinity, eternity, mystery of reality.