Bothered By the Trinity

We can never get away with depersonalizing the Gospel or the truth to make it easier, more convenient. Knowing God through impersonal abstractions is is ruled out, knowing God through programmatic projects is abandoned, knowing God in solitary isolation is forbidden. Trinity insists that God is not an idea or a force or a private experience but personal and only known in personal response and engagement. – Eugene Peterson

If I made the statement that I was bothered by the Trinity, it would immediately elicit comments about how I am in some way denying God and am apostate and such like things. So, before I make that comment, let me just preface it by saying that I believe in it firmly and think it is probably the best way to understand God Himself. It’s a mysterious truth, but a truth nonetheless.

That being said, I am bothered by the Trinity. I am not bothered by it because it’s true and it makes me uncomfortable because God’s Spirit is calling me to salvation or anything like that. It bothers me because of the implications of it. And I think this is true of even great theologians as well.

If you read about the Trinity in most works of theology, you find that the authors stick to the abstract. They keep discussion of it limited to ideas and metaphors, Philosophy and logic. But little is said about what that all really means. It is as if either these men and women don’t know what it means or are scared of the implications. I tend to think it is the latter.

If we are honest, the Trinity carries with it some heavy implications for our day to day lives. If God is relational in Himself, and we are created in His image, then we are intended to be relational within ourselves as humans as well. Not just in a husband/wife manner, but with other people in general. We are to love others as ourselves, including our enemies. Most don’t wanna hear this or think about it and so they set it aside.

Another implication of the Trinity is that it means that our structures of authority are shown to be askew. Most understandings of the Trinity seem to put one member of the Godhead over the others, the Father usually taking the head position and everyone else under His dominating authority. And we carry this idea into our relations with other people. Husbands are expected to rule over their wives, masters over their slaves, and parents over their children. This idea is so entrenched, even, that abuse is accepted as a necessary evil in response to a lack of respect for the authority structure.

But the Trinity turns power structures upside down.

No one member of the Godhead is less God than the others. All are equal. The Son submits to the Father and the Spirit but the Spirit is in submission to Jesus and the Father and the Father will not act in domination over the other two. They are all perfectly and equally God. This poses a threat to the common power structures in our Western culture. If wives are to submit to their husbands but husbands are to love their wives as Jesus does His bride, then neither party is in domination. If masters are to wash the feet of the servants, then no one is a master in the way we think master.

In fact, interestingly enough, Jesus says something similar about how His followers are to act toward each other.

You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Matthew 20:25a-28 ESV)

There is more to the Trinity than this, but let this suffice for the time being. I want to move now into a discussion of the incarnation for, I believe, that doctrine bothers us in much the same way, but more deeply for it is much more personal.

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One thought on “Bothered By the Trinity

  1. E.D. Jones says:

    Great stuff about the Trinity. Thank you. One aspect of the Trinity that always blows my mind (when I pause to really think about Him), is the Holy Spirit in our lives. If we believe, we can have God the Holy Spirit living within us, as an integral part of our selves. God within me. WOW! That’s what Jesus offered us; the opportunity to have a relationship with Him even more intimate than what His disciples experienced. What’s impossible with us, is possible with God.

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