The "Mystery" of the Trinity

Often times the Trinity is exalted as a mystery. It is done so for a good reason. However, I think things have been blown a little out of proportion. Allow me to offer what I believe is the true mystery of the Holy Trinity. The Trinity’s mystery lies more in our inability to relate to it than in our understanding of it. In other words, we often talk about how we can never fully understand the Trinity. I don’t think that’s the case; I think we can never fully relate to the Trinity.

This is a vitally important distinction for many reasons. The primary reason is because the Trinity is one of the most basic and essential doctrines of Christian orthodoxy. It seems unfair to the precious revelation that we have in holy Scripture to let the unbelieving world know that that which we hold as infallible, inerrant, and divinely inspired truth is not sufficient to reveal to us, with clarity, a foundational and fundamental truth of who God is. The bottom line is the Scriptures do in fact reveal for us, with clarity, the doctrine of the Trinity. And it can be clearly explained and proven to junior high students.

It is true to a degree that the doctrine of the Trinity can not be “fully understood”. I admit that. But we have an issue when we apply that only to God’s revelation of the Trinity. What is true is that everything God has revealed cannot be “fully understood”. God is eternal and omnipresent. We cannot wholly grasp any of His attributes or His character. Thus, although we don’t “fully understand” the Trinity, we don’t fully understand the holy purposes and distinctions of sanctification, justification, predestination, and many other Biblical doctrines either. The purpose of Scripture is not to give us exhaustive knowledge of God and His character and actions, but to give us sufficient revelation of those things. Thus, we have sufficient revelation to understand the Trinity as much and as well as we understand the incarnation, justification, redemption and wrath. Again, we don’t know all of these things exhaustively, but we can know them sufficiently and with clarity. I admit, most of us Christians don’t understand the Trinity. That is true. But it is not due to the lack of perspicuity in revelation or the inability of the human mind to venture into that topic, but due to lack of preparation.

What has ultimately happened is for many reasons the church has done a poor job equipping our young ones to be able to articulate the Trinity and prove it biblically. Thus it has turned into a tradition more so than a Biblical doctrine. And when pressed, it is easier to say something like “well, we can’t really understand the Trinity” than it is to defend it and articulate it biblically. The Trinity is revealed with as much clarity and just as sufficiently as all other characteristics of God in Scripture.

Why is it then that the Trinity is so much more uncomfortable of a conversation to discuss than many other divine truths? Why does it seem so much more complex and so much more difficult? I think this is due to the relatability of the Trinity. God’s Trinitarian nature is so much more complex than our own, we cannot relate to it. On top of that, God created no other being on Earth to mimic His Trinitarian nature so that we are utterly without any way of relating to it. God is 1 being; we as humans are one being. However, the 1 being of God is shared by 3 distinct Persons. We cannot possibly relate to that or be intimately familiar with what that looks like. We are 1 being and our 1 being is shared by only 1 person.

This is why Trinitarian analogies fail so hard. We think we need the analogies to explain it better, but the analogies are trying to help us see the Trinity elsewhere; they are trying to help us understand by relating to it. However, there is nothing that relates. That’s the struggle.

We do distinguish between person and being all the time. We all recognize that a tree has a being but it does not have personage. We all recognize that humans beings are just that: beings. We distinguish between the being and the person subconsciously. We see the distinction between being and personage. However, we do not see, in all of creation, something that has one 1 being yet 3 persons participating in it.

We as humans understand forgiveness, wrath, love, sacrifice, humility, grace, mercy, existence, being, relational roles, and many other of God’s character and attributes. We can never attribute our emotions to God for His are above ours and different from ours. But they are described in human terms in Scripture. Thus, we can relate to God, in some degree, in all of His attributes. The  Trinity we can never relate to. And it’s in that unique relationship, in that un-relatable Divine being, that we can comfortably call the Trinity a holy and beautiful mystery.

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