The Holy Trinity
By Rev. Canon David B. Tabo-oy
When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.
John 16:13 RSV
I am putting together this article while on the eve of the conclusion of the Triennial International Consultation of the Anglican Communion United Society Partners in the Gospel here in the Barbados. I still am confused of the time zone even after seven days here near the Caribbean – we are twelve hours behind. I just hope that this article beats the deadline in the Philippine time zone.
As I normally base my topics on the church lectionary and liturgical events celebrated by the mainstream churches, I may sound redundant or worst indolent by repeating the ideas already shared in this column on the same event. But in biblical studies, the more the words are seen in the verses underline their importance. This Sunday – the first Sunday after Pentecost is also called Trinity Sunday. This Sunday the Church put central focus to the mysterious character(s) of God called Holy Trinity. Again, we ask, what is the Holy Trinity? As mentioned in my earlier articles and most preachers admits, this maybe the most mysterious and most difficult to explain in simple terms about the God we believe and worship, of His attributes, or characters.
The Holy Trinity refers to the Christian understanding of God as a unity of three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. All are equally God and so is one, each sharing in the divine attributes of ultimacy, eternity, and changelessness; Yet they are distinguishable in their relations to one another and in their roles within creaturely and human life and destiny.
The doctrine of the Holy Trinity is a post-scriptural attempt to bring to coherent expression diverse affirmations about God, all of which seemed necessary to a full statement of Christian experience and belief.
First, from Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) and the clear tradition of Jesus teaching, the church affirmed that not only is God one, but God is also the creative and sovereign Father. He is transcendent of finite limits, time, and change and all that characterize God’s creatures (supreme, surpassing others); Second, it was affirmed that Jesus Christ was more than a great prophet adopted by God; rather, he was the Son of God, the Word made flesh, saving the world from sins; Third, the Holy Spirit from whose presence the community of believers received their faith, their confidence in the truth of faith, and holiness. God appeared in what they called a threefold “economy” in, so to speak, three forms, or modes. “We believe in God, the Father Almighty, the Creator of heaven and Earth….“We believe in Jesus Christ, the Only Son of God, for our sake, he was crucified, for us and for our salvation… “We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of life…” (The Nicene Creed)
The Anglican Archbishop of Internal Province Ghana in his Bible Study Thursday morning as he shared his church context to the participants of the USPG consultation here in Barbados cited the Baptism of Jesus as one event where the Holy Trinity characters are clearly seen together. Jesus the Son of God in the river Jordan before John the baptizer, the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove descending upon him and a voice from heaven (Father) saying ‘this is my beloved Son, listen to him.’
Three Gods? No, rather three persons in One God. He revealed himself as God the Creator, Savior and Sustainer. The doctrine of Trinity does not attempt to explain God. It only explains to us in a very elemental way what God has revealed to us about himself so far. To describe the tip of the iceberg above the water is not to describe the entire iceberg. So we Christians affirm the Trinity, not as an explanation of God, but simply as a way of describing what we know about Him.
The idea of the Trinity is not emphatically stated as a doctrine in the scriptures. Yet, by implication, it is stated many times. The early Christians soon discovered that they simply could not speak of God without speaking of the three ways in which he had revealed himself to them. This does not mean that there are three Gods. It means that there is one God who has shown himself in three ways: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
THE HOLY TRINITY IS NOT SO MUCH WHO GOD IS BUT HOW GOD LOVES THE CREATION. He created it; Redeemed it, and is Sustaining it. There is no other clearer and comprehensive proclamation of this Christian doctrine than the Nicene Creed.
Clarence Macartney tells of a certain Canadian river which flows through a forbidding chasm. Looming on either side of the river are rugged, uninviting crags which bear the names “Eternity” and “Trinity.” Macartney suggests that the opposing crags invite an analogy (you understand of course, that to a preacher, most everything invites analogy). “Inseparable from any true conception of God,” he says, “are always the two doctrines of God’s eternity and God’s trinity … The threefold experience of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.” The great preacher then goes on to conclude that both doctrines lie helplessly beyond human comprehension. (CSS Publication)
Let us pray.
Almighty and everlasting God, you have given to us your servants grace, by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the power of your divine Majesty to worship the Unity: keep us steadfast in this faith and worship, and bring us at last to see you in your one and eternal glory, O Father, who with the Son and the Holy Spirit live and reign, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (CPWI Book of Common Prayer, Trinity Sunday Collect)**