The other night our small group was discussing the importance of understanding the Trinity as we seek to be the image-bearers of God in our parenting. We need to understand the God in whom we live and move and have our being if we are ever to faithfully pass that on to our children. The Trinity often becomes one of those truths that we know should be fundamental to our faith but struggle to understand the application of it to everyday life. Let me say up front that this is no easy task. But it is one that cannot be overlooked if we are to grow up as the people of God.
All the major creeds place a central emphasis on the triune nature of God. It has always been the case that those who place themselves outside this belief in the Trinity have been seen as outside true Christianity. In other words, to affirm the Christian faith as taught in the holy Scriptures is to affirm the truth of the Trinity however dim our understanding of it might be.
Without trying to fully explain the mysterious with mere words and crashing the tiny hard-drive of my brain in the process, I want to spend a few paragraphs talking about how God as the Trinity created the world and how we should respond to that reality.
When God created the world, he did not do so like a modern artist splashing paint on a canvas and letting the drops fall where they may. He did not have a giant galactic laboratory where everything was sterile and completely separate from each other. God cannot create apart from his nature. As someone has noted, his fingerprints are on everything. His Word is in every story. So when we see that this God is both One and Three, there are some implications for how the world turns.
One of the fundamental realities we see in the world that flow from God is the principle of “the one and the many.” Let’s start with an easy and well-known example. How do we define beauty in art according to way God created the world? Is beauty subjective? Is it a matter of taste and preference or are there objective laws that govern what we are to see as beautiful? I would argue the latter. It must submit to the reality of the one and the many. If an artist rejects the many in favor of the one and paints a canvas with one unified color, maybe the color of magenta. What do we have? We have a big square of bright, eye-piercing magenta. Let’s say this same artist rejects the one in favor of the many. Now what do we have? We have a mess. There is no form or order. There is only chaos. But what happens when this artist uses many colors and does so in a way where each color complements and contrasts in the right way, each stroke builds upon the last, and there is a deep respect for both unity and diversity? There is now the fertile ground in which beauty might grow.
What about “the one and the many” in civil government? A tyrannical government is one in which the unity of a people is defined as the State and emphasized at the expense of the diversity within that people. It is a rule from the top down for the purpose of creating a population working in singular purpose towards the purposes and good of that State. For an anarchist, or even extreme libertarian, government is one in which the many, the desires and purposes of each individual, is emphasized at the expense of community. It is a rule from within in which each person is governed only by themselves with no submission or deference to another.
What about “the one and the many” in the church? A church that demands absolute unity and ignores the freedom given to us in Christ is called a cult. A church that worships diversity and condemns an uncompromising unity of faith and submission to doctrine is…well, it’s the sexual revolution, gay rights, radical feminism, evolution, and the United Nations all dressed up in their Sunday best.
What about the “one and the many” in the home? Are our marriages reflecting a one flesh, covenantal relationship in which mutual submission is adorned with a deep understanding and appreciation for our unique callings as men and women within the unity of marriage? Do our children see how the family as a whole is to give identity to the parts and how the parts affect the health of the whole? Are we relational as God is relational? Are we finding joy in the various roles that we play?
There is much to say about these things, and I hope this has served as a primer to get you thinking along these lines. The fruit of such labor is the joy, love, peace, harmony, and mutual satisfaction that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit enjoy with one another as our Triune God. Such was Jesus’ prayer to His Father on our behalf, “I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”—John 17:20-23