Questions: On the Trinity

The response from the ‘Any Questions?’ post turned out to be good. Some posted their questions and you had an interaction among yourselves (since I don’t need to participate on all of the questions).

So I guess now I can try with a more specific topic. And let’s start with the Trinity, since I’ll be delivering a talk on the triune God for the next PU Kapsel. I hope by doing this it could help all of us to address common questions regarding the topic.

So, dear readers, what questions do you have on the Trinity?

34 thoughts on “Questions: On the Trinity

    1. Ind

      ‘acceptable’ simple way, that is. Dan ga cuman ke unbeliever kali ya… Juga ke arah ‘petobat baru’? =D Same question though.

      Reply
        1. septian Post author

          Good question, by the way. I’ll try to talk about the historical development of the dogma, then, particularly leading up to the Council of Nicaea and immediately afterwards with all those Arianism controversy.

          Also interesting would be to see how the New Testament authors used and modified the language of Yahwehism to denote Jesus and the Spirit.

    2. Kristo

      no illustration is perfect, the simpler it is, the more likely it is not accurate. While some might argue this is just to illustrate and communicate the trinity easily, I think so far I haven’t found any illustration that can put into a simple explanation the three statements (which I got from Grudem’s):

      – There is one God
      – God is three persons
      – All three is fully God

      So, enlighten me if you know a simple and acceptable way.

      Reply
      1. Arifin Effendi

        okay.. I also believe that there’s no perfect illustration (because our perception towards the illustration might differ) -> agree on the simplicity and illustration point.

        so, to make it easier… i’d like to rephrase my question to: “If someone asked you explain *briefly* about what trinity is. How are you going to answer it?”

        Reply
    3. septian Post author

      I like the sun illustration, i.e., the sun, the light, and the heat.

      We can’t see the sun, as we can’t see the Father.

      We can or we can’t see the light, as we can or we can’t see the Son, but definitely through the light we get a glimpse of the sun, as we can know the Father through the Son.

      And, yes, through the light we can see everything else including ourselves, as we can know what does it mean to be truly human through the Son. The light/the Son is the epistemology. Indeed, didn’t he say that he is the light of the world? (Joh 8.12) Through the Son we see everything else genuinely, and everything include God and ourselves.

      Finally, we feel warm through the heat, as the Spirit guides and leads us through our life. The heat is the empirical ‘proof’ of the sun, as the Spirit is the empirical ‘proof’ of God.

      Reply
    4. septian Post author

      Another good illustration is from St. Augustine: the triad (the Greek word for Trinity is triad) of love.

      The Trinity is then the Lover, the Beloved, and the Love. The Father corresponds to the Lover, the Son corresponds to the Beloved, and the Holy Spirit corresponds to the Love.

      What bonds the Lover and the Beloved is the Love between them, and, as what the Church Fathers used to say, the Holy Spirit is the bond of union within the Trinity. That is, the Holy Spirit is the bond of love between the Father and the Son.

      Reply
      1. septian Post author

        I think the Spirit of God is one way to express how God works in his creation. You know, Spirit of God, Hand of God, Word of God, Angel of the Lord, Face of the Lord, etc etc.

        But then, as dun mentioned, there are some specific things which seemed to be in the domain of the ‘Spirit’, like anointing kings or equipping the worker (I forgot his name) who was given a task to build the Tabernacle. So perhaps the Spirit is associated with anointment of a special vocation, perhaps royal (King) or priestly (Tabernacle/Temple).

        Hence the Spirit came down as a dove when Jesus was baptized and there was a voice from heaven saying, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” It had a royal connotation implying that Jesus was the King whom YHWH sent to deliver his people. What is the sign that he is the true King and not the false one? The Spirit in the form of a dove.

        Reply
    1. d

      i guess we already have some trinitarian answers.

      the question begets 3 more questions, each on its own:

      the first response asks for the definition of an aspect of being human (who is a unitarian),

      the next response asks for the definition of a Godly realm and/or state.

      the last response asks for the definition of ableness, a question of the spirit.

      Reply
    2. septian Post author

      OK I guess the gist of your question is whether an accurate understanding of the Trinity is essential for a person to be rescued. And I believe the answer is no.

      I believe even the best articulation of the Trinity would still falls short to describe who God is. Richard Bauckham once said that “The doctrine of the Trinity takes us into the mystery of who God is, but it does not explain or dispel the mystery.” The dogma of the Trinity didn’t solve the mystery of God but invites us into the mystery. If we have solved the mystery of God, God then will be reduced into a mere specimen in a petry dish.

      But then, on the other hand, I believe the dogma of the Trinity is one of the litmus tests of the true church. The dogma constitutes the church as an institution and what marks it to be different from another institution. The dogma of the Trinity separates the Catholic church from the Arian church.

      What is essential for a person to be rescued, that is, to die to himself and be raised up again and born anew, then is to pledge his allegiance to Jesus as his Lord. He is not of Adam any more, but now he belongs to the Messiah.

      Reply
      1. septian Post author

        I need to quickly add that an allegiance to Jesus as Lord and Messiah should flow at least into an understanding of some kind of a Binity, since the Lord and Messiah whom we believe in would immediately point us to his God and his Father, our God and our Father.

        The next step then is the Lord and Messiah whom we believe in said that he would not leave us alone, but would send his Spirit to be with us and guide us into whole fulness of truth.

        So you could see a trail from how a new life in Jesus would lead into a sketch of the Trinity.

        Reply
  1. Kurniawan

    There’s no such simple illustration to perfectly illustrate the Trinity of God. Even the illustration of “the sun, the light and the heat” itself has already explained that it is all indeed refer to the same subject, SUN, while there are three “persons” in GOD’s nature. They are different but they are GOD.

    Reply
    1. septian Post author

      Indeed. This is a good point. The other side of the coin of asking how we could explain the Trinity is to ask how the Trinity could explain everything under the sun (pun intended).

      And let be the trinitarian hermeneutics (see dun’s comment as an example of such thing).

      Reply
      1. septian Post author

        On the other hand, trinitarian language actually made possible natural illustrations as analogies of the Trinity. The dogma of the Trinity historically started as a defense of the deity of the Son since the Nicene fathers thought that if you deny the deity of the Son, you will deny the humanity of the Son as well. Hence the dogma of the Trinity is inseparable from the Incarnation.

        Moreover, the incarnation of Jesus re-affirmed the goodness of nature and hence it is possible to use ‘natural’ illustrations as analogies of the Trinity. This is usually what we called as natural theology, but now made possible from a trinitarian and/or incarnational perspective.

        Reply
    2. yosua

      What we need is not ‘perfect illustration’ but the concept of what we believe so we can share to others.

      I agree with you. I think there are three Entities, but with complete understanding and perfect teamwork. Like one marriage but consists of 2 individuals (or 3 with God for Christians). And so we can say believe in one God.

      But the problem is with the old testament verses that say “God is one”. Any interpretations on this?

      Reply
      1. septian Post author

        Nice. An illustration of the Trinity might not need to have ‘three’ members. A marriage would be a good example. Or a family, a community, etc. The point to deliver, in this case, is not the three-ness, but the complete union and harmony between each member.

        Regarding your question, it is important to note that the saying is “Hear, O Israel: YHWH our God, YHWH is one.” (Deu 6.4) And that if you read further, the saying is polemical in the sense of YHWH is the only one to be worshipped and not the other gods. So one possible interpretation is that it denotes exclusivity of allegiance and not the numerical analysis of god.

        But again it is indeed a difficulty which we must face. And I guess that’s why early Christians was at pain to articulate that they were worshipping one god and not many.

        Reply
        1. septian Post author

          OK I just remembered about this. Another example of such illustration is light, since light exhibits properties of both particle and wave.

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