THREE IS ONE AND ONE IS THREE? REFLECTING ON THE MYSTERY OF THE HOLY TRI(U)NITY Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem PhD

TRINITY IMAGE

When I was a little child, I could recall asking my dad a question he could not answer. My question was “who is the father of God?” In my petite reflection, everyone should have a father just like me and including God Himself who “fathered” Adam and Eve. In his response, my dad told me that I should not bother myself with the question as anyone who does so will die thinking! In order words, my dad was telling me that the paternity of God is a mystery! What is a mystery?

Most definitions of mystery see it as something that is difficult to explain or understand. A more religious approach sees it as a religious truth that can only be known through revelation. Today we are faced with one of the most profound mysteries in the Church’s life and teaching; the mystery of the trinity. The doctrine of the Holy Trinity tells us that there is one God who eternally exists as three distinct persons- The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit. Seen in another way, it states that “God is ONE in essence and THREE in persons”. The divine calculation is 1+1+1= 1.

God being ONE in essence and THREE in Person is the crux of the matter. Examining this mystery is a task that nobody can claim to have exhaustive treatment as nobody can completely get to the depths of God because God is Spirit and unlimited while we are human and limited.

There is one God (Deut.6:4). In this same one God there are three divine Persons: The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit. They are not three Gods (rather three Persons) but each of them is God: The Father is God (Is 9:5; Eph 4:6) The Son is God (John 20:28) The Holy Spirit is God (Acts 5:3-4). The Father is the Creator, The Son is the Redeemer and the Holy Spirit is the Sanctifier. The three distinct persons make up One God having one undivided substance.

Today we will be making effort to use the physical and spiritual sciences (the scriptures) to support our understanding of the Holy Trinity. In applying the physical sciences in demonstrating the Most Holy Trinity, we will be making use of analogies. It is worth noting that they are mere analogies, hence they do not perfectly exhaust the mystery of the Trinity, if they do, then the doctrine of the Trinity will no longer be a mystery. Actually the perfect explanation of the Trinity is the God.

 

  • MATTER: Matter has three states, solid, liquid, and gaseous. These are seen for instance in water. Hence water can manifest itself in three different forms but the same water. This analogy is also not perfect because the personalities are not merely manifestations of ONE GOD.
  • LIGHT:Any colour of light is formed from three primary colours: red, green, and blue. Even the light that appears to us as white is a manifestation of three colours in one. This analogy is imperfect. In the Trinity none of the personalities can function without the other. They are eternally inseparable unlike the colours that can be separated.

 

  • EGG: Using a boiled egg we can demonstrate three aspects exiting in one. A boiled egg has the outer shell, the inner albumen and the innermost yoke. We can say that the first is egg the shell, the second is egg the albumen and the third is egg the yoke. All these make up one egg just as the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit make up one God. This analogy is still not perfect because each of the aspect cannot stand as egg like each of the persons in the trinity can stand as God.

 

 

  • FORCE: In physics force is a pull or push which makes an object with mass to change velocity. Three forces control all interactions in matter: gravitational force, electromagnetic force and nuclear force. All these are manifestations of one force. I have earlier indicated that the persons in the Trinity are not mere manifestations of the Godhead.
  • Atoms: An atom is the smallest indivisible particle of an element. As small as an atom is it is made up of: (1) positively charged protons, (2) negatively charged electrons and (3) the neutrons. All these exist in one atom. But unlike in the Trinity each of them cannot be called atom.
  • TIME: In the universe time exists in three dimensions found in the past, present and future. This is still a single continuum and exists only in the present. God is timeless and this analogy is imperfect.
  • SPACE: In our universe space is the three dimensional extent in which events and things occur. In space we have length, width, and depth. Each of them cannot however stand for space in isolation.
  • HUMAN COMPOSITION: A single human person is made up of body, mind and spirit. These complete a single individual. Hence we reflect the trinity in our composition. Our human composition shows our limitation but God is unlimited. This is an analogy in any case.
  • LIFE ON EARTH: Life on earth can be possible only on three levels: land, sea and air but there are all in the one earth. Each of the spatial habitation is just an aspect and cannot describe the whole. Furthermore there is no equality because water for instance occupies more space on earth than land.

We can at this juncture move in to inquire what the spiritual sciences speak about God. Our source remains the bible. Notable the word Trinity is not used in the bible, but this does not vitiate the fact that the Trinity does not exist. Even the word bible is not found anywhere in the bible but we have it expressed in other words like inspired words. Here we have allusion that more aptly understands the Trinity.

 

  • Genesis 1:26: God said “Let us make man in our image and in our likeness”. God was not referring to the angels because they do not share the same image and likeness with God and they are created, so they cannot create. They are messengers of God. Hence God the Father was referring to the Son and the Holy Spirit.
  • Genesis 11: 7: God said “Let us go down and confuse their language so that they will not understand one another” Here builders of the tower of Babel were attempting to reach God and God reacted through the action of the three persons in One God.
  • Genesis 18: 1-2: God appeared to Abraham at the sacred tree of Mamre. As Abraham was sitting at the entrance during the hottest part of the day, he looked up and saw three men. God came to Abraham in the Trinitarian form.
  • Isaiah 6:3: Holy, Holy Holy is the Lord Almighty. The whole earth is full of His glory. Note the three times “Holy” “IS” the Lord nor “ARE” the Lords.
  • MARK 1: 10-11: As soon as Jesus came out of the water he saw the heaven open and the Spirit coming down on him like a dove and a voice came from heaven     “You are my dear son I am pleased with you”.
  • 2nd Cor. 13:13: St Paul says “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ the Love of God  and The Fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all’

Some people would argue that Jesus Christ is not God. And we reply through the bible:

  • Isaiah 9: 6: “Unto us a child is born to us a son is given. And he will be our ruler. He will be called wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.”
  • John 1:1: “In the beginning was the WORD, the WORD was with God and the WORD was God. Verse 14 says “and the WORD was made flesh and he dwelt among us”.
  • John 8:58: Jesus said “Before Abraham I AM” We remember this I AM in Exodus 3:14 as the name God told Moses that is the name he should tell the people if the ask him who sent him.
  • Philippians 2:6-8: “Though he was in the form of God Jesus did not count on his equality with God, he humbled himself and became obedient unto death..” Jesus is God but when he came to the earth he lived us humans in humility and for our salvation.

We also establish to those who doubt that the Holy Spirit is equally God.

  • Genesis 1:2: “The spirit was moving over the face of the deep” This was before God began active creation. The Holy Spirit has been with the God head from eternity. Hence the Holy Spirit is God.
  • Isaiah 61: 1: “The Spirit of God is upon me. He has chosen me and sent me to bring good news to the poor, heal the broken hearted, announce release to captives and free those in prison”. It is God who chooses and sends. Hence the Holy Spirit is here depicted as God.
  • John 16: 13: “The Spirit will reveal the truth about God”. Only God can reveal Himself to us. Therefore the Holy Spirit is here depicted as God.

 

 

We have just attempted to establish as much as possible that there are three persons in one God: Father the Son and the Holy Spirit. Above this rational attempt, it will be good for us to explore what we can learn from the Trinitarian union of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The following are very instructive:

1)      Unity in our diversity

2)      Community in functionality

3)      Equality in personality.

4)      Sharing with and helping one another

5)      Living in faith and trust

6)      Knowing our positions and keeping to them

 

 

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