Trinity Sunday, 2013


Some Thoughts on the Christian Doctrine of Trinity


     “God is basic Fact or Actuality, the source of all other facthood. At all costs therefore He must not be thought of as a featureless generality. If he exists at all, He is the most concrete thing there is, the most individual, ‘organized and minutely articulated’. He is unspeakable not by being indefinite but by being too definite for the unavoidable vagueness of language…Grammatically the things we say of Him are ‘metaphorical’: but in a deeper sense it is our physical and psychic energies that are mere ‘metaphors’ of the real Life which is God.” [C. S. Lewis Miracles ch 11].

“It would always have been impossible that He should not exist. He is the opaque centre of all existences, the thing that simply and entirely is, the fountain of facthood….He is so brimfull of existence that He can give existence away, can cause things to be, and to be really other than Himself, can make it untrue to say that He is everything.” [C. S. Lewis Miracles pp90,91].


“…when they try to get rid of manlike, or as they are called, ‘anthropomorphic,’ images they merely succeed in substituting images of some other kind. ‘I don’t believe in a personal God,’ says one, ‘but I do believe in a great spiritual force.’ What he has not noticed is that the word ‘force’ has let in all sorts of images about winds and tides and electricity and gravitation. ‘I don’t believe in a personal God.’ says another, ‘But I do believe we are all parts of one great Being which moves and works through us all’ not noticing that he has merely exchanged the image of a fatherly and royal looking man for the image of some widely extended gas or fluid….If a man watches his own mind, I believe he will find that what profess to be specially advanced or philosophic conceptions of God are, in his thinking, always accompanied by vague images which, if inspected, would turn out to be even more absurd than the man-like images aroused by Christian theology. For Man, after all, is the highest of the things we meet in sensuous  experience.” [C. S. Lewis Miracles pp75,76]. 


The doctrine of God as a Tri-unity derives in Christian history from the inductive effort to interpret the Bible consistently.  It was not invented but discovered, not contrived but found. The theologian Charles Hodge summarized it this way: “The Scriptural facts are, (a.) The Father says I; the Son says I; the Spirit says I. (b.) The Father says Thou to the Son, and the Son says Thou to the Father; and in like manner the father and the Son use the pronouns He and Him in reference to the Spirit. (c.) The Father loves the Son; the Son loves the Father; the Spirit testifies of the Son.”   “…a person is an intelligent subject who can say I, who can be addressed as Thou, and who can act and be the object of action.” [Systematic Theology Vol. 1, 444]

We must remind ourselves that Christian theology does not believe God to be a person. It believes Him to be such that in Him a trinity of persons is consistent with a unity of Deity. In that sense it believes Him to be something very different from a person, just as a cube, in which six squares are consistent with unity of the body, is different from a square. (Flatlanders, attempting to imagine cube, would either imagine the six squares coinciding, and thus destroy their distinctness, or else imagine them set out side by side, and thus destroy the unity. Our difficulties about the Trinity are of much the same kind.) [C. S; Lewis Christian Reflections pp79,80]

The Trinity is not “three and one” which is four, but “three in one” which is a mystery.