I wrote recently that a few years ago when I critiqued The Shack, I decided not to discuss the Trinity. Partly I thought there were other issues going on and I didn’t have the theological know-how to tackle it but also, to be quite honest, I was wondering what all the fuss was about. Like, we all know that the Trinity is at the core of who God is, but do the details really matter that much? It’s pretty confusing – no one really understands how it works, so does it matter if The Shack gets a few things wrong? Aren’t there bigger fish to fry? This was a question I brought with me to college – why does the Trinity matter, especially on a practical level?
The Theology course I’ve done this semester is called ‘Doctrine of God and the Work of Christ’ so at least the first half of the course is pretty much just working on different aspects of the Trinity. Now to be honest, even though I’ve grown in my appreciation for the Trinity, I still wouldn’t say it’s a doctrine that sets my heart on fire. So when it came to writing an essay, I didn’t want to just give systematic or biblical reasons for belief in the Trinity but practical and human answers: Why have people fought so hard for this in the past? What’s at stake? Why did it set their hearts on fire?
I’ve already posted my essay ‘Why do we believe in the divinity of the Spirit?‘. I was keen to do something on the Spirit as the lens for looking at the Trinity partly because heaps of the scholarship seems almost binitarian and I wanted to work out why it was so important for God to be three (as opposed to two). And because in the creeds, we say that the Spirit is worshipped and glorified with the Father and the Son but I’m not sure that’s always squared with my experience.
I don’t need to recount the conclusions of my essay here except to say that I worked out that if God is not who is he is, that is, the Trinity, that actually does have big implications. First of all, it’s not honouring to him (and after doing Ezekiel in Hebrew exegesis, I’m very wary of misrepresenting God’s honour!) but also, our future hope rests on God’s very being and person. So if he’s not three, no hope. It’s a bit like when Paul says if there’s no resurrection, we’ve believed a lie. Same deal with the Trinity. If the Spirit and the Son don’t save (since only God can save) we’re in big trouble!
It’s not about getting everything in the Trinity right. We had Andrew Moody, a guest lecturer who’s completing his Ph.D on the Trinity deliver the lectures and even he could only get so far! But it’s not about understanding the Trinity so much as it is choosing to believe it. And believing it isn’t just a cerebral idea but the basis for a faith that means something in the real world.
Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.