December 17, 2017

Grappling With the Mystery of the Trinity

Joel Arnold

It doesn’t take much experience on Planet Earth to learn that you don’t understand everything. After thousands of years of human research and reflection, plenty of subjects still elude the very sharpest minds. But strangely, we think that God is much simpler. Even though He created a world that outstretches our brains, we think we can comprehend Him? And so we reach the ultimate presumption—nothing is allowed to be true about God unless it fits my intuitions and my sense of reason.

The Trinity is a prime example. Scripture is very clear that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are God. It’s also clear that the three are distinct. And finally, we know that there is one God, not three. So how does that work? People offer all sorts of stretched analogies and forced explanations. Someone once explained the Trinity by showing me that a banana naturally splits into three parts. I’m not personally comfortable with comparing the Trinity to a banana.

The problem, of course, is that by removing the mystery these analogies also imply error. Can God really be neatly separated into three parts, existing individually without the other two persons in view? Is the Son really only 1/3 of God? Every attempt to completely resolve mysteries results in a heresy.

Yes, mystery does have a purpose.

Meanwhile, believers and unbelievers alike struggle with the Trinity and all but wish it away. Wouldn’t witnessing be so much easier if we could rid ourselves of this quandary once and for all? But all of Scripture has its God-ordained role; mystery is no exception. Do we really expect to worship a God we can squeeze into our heads? Granted, theological mysteries seem irrational to Muslims, Jehovah Witnesses, and many other faiths. But is it any more rational to insist that the God who made the universe isn’t allowed to exceed my understanding? He may be immense, omnipotent, boundless, and utterly unique; can I not believe in Him unless He fits inside my skull?

As for believers, the overwhelming marvel of the Trinity points us back to the cross. The Father and the Son had fellowshipped in perfect harmony for longer than your brain can fathom—their relationship had been forever. And then one day, Jesus spoke earth-shattering words that reverberated throughout the world and all of human history. “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”

In that moment the Father turned His back on the Son out of a holy revulsion that could not even look on sin. In fact, even Jesus turned away from Himself, horrified at what He had become. Jesus Christ had become “sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” Jesus died under the horror of being separated from God because of sin.

And that’s why it’s a mystery. The cross wasn’t merely a business transaction and it can’t be wrapped up under a few simple propositions and a picture or two. It went to the heart of the deepest relationship ever known and exacted a cost greater than the universe itself. The mystery of the Trinity and the events of the cross are bigger than your comprehension because that’s what it took to save your soul.

Marvel at the mystery. Stand at the foot of the cross. Hear those awful words. And know that it was all done for you.

Next: Fully God and Fully Man?

Joel Arnold is an appointee with Gospel Fellowship Association Missions. He is raising funds for future ministry in the Philippines.

Although Proclaim & Defend is the blog of the FBFI, the articles we post are not an expression of the views of the FBFI as a whole, they are the views of the author under whose name they are published. The FBFI speaks either through position statements by its board or through its president. Here at Proclaim & Defend, we publish articles as matters of interest or edification to the wider world of fundamentalist Baptists and any others who might be interested.

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