When we classify Jehovah’s Witnesses as a cult because they reject the doctrine of the Trinity, some people take offense, thinking that we’re condemning another religious group over an insignificant theological point. The doctrine of the Trinity is also a major obstacle for Muslims in accepting the Christian faith. The concept of a triune God seems like a belief in three gods to them, which runs counter to Islam’s strongly monotheistic theology.
The concept of the Trinity is beyond human intellect and understanding, and difficult to describe in human language. So why is a doctrine that nobody seems to fully understand so important?
It’s important because it deals with the nature of God. For example, we believe that God is love. But if God is mathematically one, saying that God is love doesn’t make sense, because love requires an object beyond itself. If God is one person, then before time and creation, when only God existed, the object of His love could have been nothing but Himself. But this kind of self-love is not what we mean when we say that God is love. And since God is unchanging, it cannot be that He became love when He made creation. He must have always been love. And that only makes sense if God is a Trinity, one God in three persons.
That God is one but in three persons, Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit, can be understood somewhat when we realize that a human being consists of three distinguished entities: the body, the soul, and the spirit. None of these consists of the true “person” independent of the others.
The heart of the doctrine of the Trinity is love. The three persons of God are intertwined with love. The love between the Father and the Son is like that between human fathers and sons, and the persons are thusly named. The Holy Spirit can be said to be the bind that holds the three persons together.
The love between the three persons is not self-centered. The sole desire of the Father is to honor the Son. The sole desire of the Son is to honor the Father. The sole desire of the Spirit is to honor the Father and the Son. This divine love that desires to honor and glorify others is called agape love.
The Spirit does not want to be the focal point of attention. He wants the others to be exalted. So He is sometimes called the “shy God.” Some Christians make the Spirit and His working the most important emphasis of their Christian walks. When I think about His role in the Trinity, I wonder if the Spirit really wants this.
God invites us to participate in and enjoy the fellowship and love of the triune God. God also established the Church so that it reflects the loving community of the triune God.
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