Defend the Faith: The One and The Trinity

God graces us with so many things. Among the many graces given to us by God are his wondrous mysteries. In addition to being an essential pillar of the Christian faith, The doctrine of Trinity is perhaps the most mysterious and least understood. Many people have either brushed the Trinity aside or rejected it outright because it doesn’t seem to correspond with their experience or because they believe it to be incomprehensible. Some religions have labeled it blasphemy because they believe that it is polytheism. The Bible tells us that we are created by an infinite and perfect Creator. Being that we are finite, imperfect, and furthermore, sinful creatures who are trying to comprehend the Creator, it behooves us to find humility and a certain level of comfort in mystery. However, though we can’t know everything about God, he has told us that he has made plain what can be known about him. Given this truth, it seems that we are capable of gaining some further insight about the Trinity. It’s possible that we simply take for granted this invisible attribute that God has revealed all around us.

God has revealed himself. Not only has he revealed himself, but he has revealed himself plainly. So says The Lord in Romans 1:18-20:

God’s Wrath on Unrighteousness

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

Notice that God didn’t limit his revelation to Christians. He has revealed himself to all men. The truth is there in plain view. However, because of sin the truth is suppressed. Normally, when Christians think of God’s general revelation, they think of what’s around us. They think of the world and nature. They think of the various gifts God has given us such as nourishment and safety. While God has revealed himself in these visible ways, another way he has revealed himself to creation is through his invisible attributes. His divine nature has been clearly perceived. Could it be that his trinitarian nature has been clearly perceived as well?

Is God one, or is God three? The answer is yes and yes. Though the word trinity isn’t found, nor is God is three explicitly stated in the Bible, the Trinity is implicitly affirmed and interwoven throughout. Curiously, the Hebrew singular/plural nouns Elohim (God) and Adonai (Lord) are used everywhere in the Old Testament. The doctrine is also evident in various places in the New Testament. Jesus himself speaks of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 28:19)

To gain insight into the Trinity we must first consider how we gain insight of reality. We have to ask, How does one really know anything? It sounds simple. Yet, it is actually a question philosophers have been struggling with for ages. The question manifests itself in the famous One-and-Many problem. The problem relates to how we search for true knowledge of anything. It identifies how we all think. It asks whether knowledge can be found by abstraction, or by analysis. In example, abstraction would take one’s pet dog and categorize it in universals of canines, mammals, animals, and so forth. One can gain information in this way. However, in this way does one truly know one’s pet dog? Conversely, you can analyze the dog by its distinctive characteristics, or particulars, such as its fur color, eye color, mannerisms, and so forth. However again, with this information does one have knowledge of one’s pet dog? Either way, one ends up with only an abstraction. Whats remains is either abstract unity, or abstract diversity. Neither provide true knowledge.

What does this all have to do with the Trinity? In short, the One-and-Many problem has been a problem for secular philosophers because they seek knowledge apart from God. While the Christian faith rejects pure irrationalism (knowledge can’t be known) they also reject pure rationalism (all knowledge can be obtained by human reason). Christians, at heart, believe that knowledge is only obtainable with God. Is God one or three (one or many)? Though it’s a stumbling block for unbelievers, the fact remains that God actually transcends number. In God the one and the many are equally real. The Son is no less God than is the Father or the Holy Spirit. They are equally one personal God yet distinct persons. God is one and three. In Proverbs 1:7 we learn, The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. While we can never exhaustively comprehend God’s divine nature; if we start with what can be known about God, we can truly see that knowledge really does begin with The Lord.