There are a lot of misconceptions about the doctrine of the TRINITY, both within and beyond the Christian Faith.
As a secondary teacher in Fiji, one of my colleagues was the head of Muslim Youth in Fiji, and we became good friends. I once drove him to Suva in his beaten up Corolla, which was no mean feat – seeing I had to drive through a tropical storm – not quite a hurricane. On the way he broached the subject of the
Trinity, and I was completely thrown by his interpretation. “Why do you worship three gods?” He asked. “We don’t!” I said, “There is only One God.” “But you believe in a Trinity, three persons,” he countered.
Now I was at that stage only a candidate for the ministry and had not undertaken theological studies, so I was not sure exactly how to answer him. However, he went on to describe the Trinity as ‘God the Father, Mary the Mother, and Jesus the Son!’ After a moment of silence I said that this was certainly not what Christians believe.
Trying to put into words I said that Christians believe that God is ultimately a mystery that we cannot and never will be fully able to grasp. If we could then it would be God that we are seeking to describe. God cannot be one dimensional, or so simple that just saying, ‘God is One’ won’t do. Yes, of course God is One. That is there is a wholeness, a completeness, a unity about God. And yes, God wants us to know God, and so the Christian faith speaks of God as knowable. Christians believe that we see the face of God reflected in the person of Jesus Christ. That is we see what God is like in the life and character and teaching Jesus Christ.
I don’t think my Muslim friend was in any way convinced by my response and many years later I could have referred him to passages in the New Testament (Colossians 1:15-20) that speak of Jesus as the image of the invisible God, however I’m not sure that that would have convinced him either.
Today, I would want to speak of the length and breadth and height and depth of God that the writer of Ephesians speaks about, and to say that the doctrine of the Trinity speaks about God in personal and relational terms. God wants to be known and not just known about, but also loved, not as a philosophical or even a mathematical problem to be solved, but as someone who loves and cares for us. There is such depth to God that while we can know God, we will always be discovering more about God the more we try to understand.
Early Church leaders spoke about this when they said, ‘Faith seeks understanding.’ That is when we come to faith in God, we want to know more and understand what we believe. But there’s a catch, because once we understand it leads us to deeper faith that in turn wants to know more. So it sets us on an ever deepening journey. But the journey is not just an intellectual exercise: it’s not just about knowledge. The journey of faith is ultimately about how we live, how we relate to God and to one another. You could say that the test of faith is measured by the genuineness of our love for God and our neighbour – how people experience God through the way we treat them, and how we live.