TRINITY 1: Bad maths?

TRINITY 1: Bad maths?

Three-in one, one-in-three? Everyone knows this is simply bad maths. It certainly is an inconvenient doctrine at times. When chatting to interested friends about Christianity perhaps we dread having to explain this strange sum. ‘Shamrocks’ or ‘ice/water/steam’ are pulled out of the hat. And they are indeed helpful in clearing up what the Trinity isn’t! The three persons are not each part of a whole, each are fully God; and nor are three persons different modes of appearance of the same ‘one’. So to what can we compare the Trinity? Isaiah (40.18) asks, “With whom, then, will you compare God? To what image will you liken him?” The answer is of course there is no-one or any thing like our God! Firstly, that assures me of the truth of the Christian God – no one could make this up, surely! Secondly, it drives me to worship as I consider the uniqueness and glory of our triune God. And lastly, I am compelled to adopt the illustration that scripture uses: Father, Son and Holy Spirit (2 Cor 13.14, Matt 28.19). And as we will see, this is a doorway to glorious news.


Comments

  1. This is a key (the key) issue in interaction with Muslim friends. Most Christians are confused on this essential truth. God is One (basic for Muslims) but Christians affirm he is three persons (blasphemy for Muslims), Father, Son, Spirit a truth we declare weekly in our creeds (not declaring this in some of the so called creeds invalidates what is being said). Sadly most Christians express their faith as tri-theism i.e. that there are three Gods, sometimes at odds with each other, or as one God who has three ‘masks’ (modalism). It is amazing that folk who daily deal with (say) the most detailed intricacies of engineering back away from understanding and grasping the fundamental wonder of our Triune God.

  2. This is a key (the key) issue in interaction with Muslim friends. Most Christians are confused on this essential truth. God is One (basic for Muslims) but Christians affirm he is three persons (blasphemy for Muslims), Father, Son, Spirit a truth we declare weekly in our creeds (not declaring this in some of the so called creeds invalidates what is being said). Sadly most Christians express their faith as tri-theism i.e. that there are three Gods, sometimes at odds with each other, or as one God who has three ‘masks’ (modalism). It is amazing that folk who daily deal with (say) the most detailed intricacies of engineering back away from understanding and grasping the fundamental wonder of our Triune God.

    So do we despair at crossing the bridge of (mis)understanding with Muslim friends? No, the one thing that communicates is the consistency of transformed life visible / practical / lived out in Christians. Mostly we western Christians are conditioned to view communication as wining arguments that are coherently and (hopefully) lovingly expressed. The vast majority of Muslims around us come at communication as something that is lived. Also, culturally, many are sensitive to non-verbal communication – life-styles, gestures, ‘manners’ all matter. Just re-read the NT and see just how many times the consistent living is emphasised.

    But there is a danger here. One sometimes bumps into the statement attributed to St. Francis of Assisi on the lines of our doing rather than speaking (Preach Jesus, and if necessary use words. …). The way this is bandied about ignores that fact that St. Francis was a gifted speaker and made a journey to Egypt to evangelise. The NT emphasises that we be ready to answer for the faith we hold – hopefully in response to what people have seen in us. Seen in us what is worked in us by Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

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