Well, it certainly sounds like it. We speak of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit! Actually we only believe in one God, and we believe that very firmly. But isn’t that contradictory? It’s certainly confusing.
Why don’t Christians keep it simple and just talk about God, even if they sometimes call him “Jesus”? The reason is that we would lose a lot from the Christian Faith if we did.
It all started in the Bible. Obviously, there is a God in heaven. He’s often referred to as our Father. Then came Jesus and he soon got into trouble for claiming to be God. And yet he prayed to God in heaven. This wasn’t a case of schizophrenia. They were actually two distinct persons, each said to be or claiming to be God!
Of course, someone might say that Jesus was mistaken and he wasn’t really God. If that is the case then Christianity is fundamentally false. Jesus’ death is a sad story but has no relevance to or benefits for us. So the two billion Christians in the world are deceived. We should all convert to Islam or Judaism!
But if Jesus was not God, but thought he was, he must have been mad. If he knew he was not God, but claimed to be God, he must have been bad. I find those ideas completely incredible, especially when you remember the inspiring teaching of Jesus and the huge effect for good he has had on the world.
However, Jesus complicated it even more by referring to the Holy Spirit and making it clear he was God too!
And yet, as a very observant Jewish rabbi, Jesus believed firmly that there was only one God! It doesn’t seem to make sense. What are we to make of it all?
My first response is to ask why do we think we would be able to understand with our little minds the eternal God who created, and sustains, this vast universe? What sort of God would he be if we could easily understand him and explain him and there is no mystery about him? The answer is – a little tin-pot idol.
The Christian belief in the Trinity (God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit) is mind-boggling. It’s a mystery. So what? It’s only to be expected.
When Christians say that God is three persons yet only one God, they are saying God is “super-personal.” His personhood is so much greater than ours that the only way we can describe it, in our limited human words, is that God is “Tri” – three (persons), “unity” – one, i.e. Three in One: Trinity.
However, there is a much more wonderful reason why Christians believe in the Trinity. The universe has been around for 13.7 billion years and human beings for a much shorter time than that. God is eternal and he existed before anything else came into being and long before human beings existed. Yet we Christians believe God is so loving that we say: “God is love.”
The big question is: if God was only one person who would he have had to love before the universe and human beings were created? Talk about unrequited love! But, if God is, as Christians believe, three persons (yet still only one God) there would have love within the Trinity for all eternity. Putting it simply, Christians believe that God is a “family” of persons bound together by infinite and eternal love.
So on Trinity Sunday we reflect on the boundless, awesome love of God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
© Tony Higton: see conditions for reproduction