I love a good mystery. My entertainment habits support this passion. Whether it is movies, TV shows, or books, most of the time I am pondering some kind of mystery. There is something challenging in piecing together the clues to solve the puzzle of the mystery. By the way, I love to do puzzles too!
There is one mystery, however, that we will never solve and one that we were never meant to solve. That is the mystery of the Trinity. I struggled with what picture to put on this post as how do you find a picture of the Trininty? I decided on a picture of a cathedral. I love visiting the great cathedrals in Europe. The architecture is so grand and awe inspiring, like the Trinity. I love to sit in one of those churches as you can’t help but ponder the greatness and majesty of God.
Talks two and three on Tuesday of our Renovaré Institute retreat dealt with pondering this wonderful mystery.
Chris Hall was our teacher. Chris has a distinguished academic career including Chancellor at Eastern University and Dean of Palmer Seminary. He has written several books and is very knowledgeable on the writings of the early Church Fathers. He is amazingly smart yet so relatable. I think I felt my IQ go up a couple of points just listening to him. If you want a taste of what it is like to listen to his teaching, check out the video on the right from a Chapel talk in 2017.
I found out first of all from Chris that I have been somewhat intellectually lazy regarding the Trinity. Because the Trinity is wildly beyond my comprehension, I have just taken by faith what I know about the Trinity and who the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are to be central to my life. But beyond that, I have not done a lot of investigation. I guess partly for me, it’s hard to put my attention to a mystery that I cannot solve. Wow, that kind sounds bad when I write it down like that. Why would I ever be intellectually lazy about knowing more about the greatest mystery of all time?
Bad Trinity Analogies
Throughout history, people have been trying to explain the equation of the Trinity:
1+1+1 = 1
How can God be three in one? Chris shared the video below to get an overview of how we have tried to make sense of the Trinity. It is funny it does provide instruction on alot of different interpretations with a more accurate description at about the 3 minute mark.
Approaches to a Mystery
To look at the Trinity properly, we have to use the proper approach. Chris gave us 3 ways to approach a mystery and only one of these approaches works with the Trinity.
- Investigative Mystery: this has been my approach, like reading a Sherlock Holmes or Agatha Christie novel. The excitement of discovering all the clues leading up to solving the mystery. The Trinity is not a mystery to be solved.
- Facultative Mystery: this approach attempts to solve a mystery by getting all of the smartest minds together to solve the mystery. Chris gave the example of the mystery a 777 jet being able to fly. This is solved by getting a bunch of really smart people with varying expertise to create a plane of such a size that it will actually fly. Again, great for solving a 777, but not the Trinity. All of the great theological minds for the past 2000 years put together have not been able to solve the mystery of the Trinity. I could read every theological book written on the Trinity but still not be able to solve that mystery.
- Revelational/Dimensional Mystery: The Trinity is not a mystery be solved, but a mystery to be explored and experienced. As we gaze upon the Trinity and explore it, we get a greater revelation of the greatness and glory of God. God invites us to view and explore the Trinity and as we seek Him a little more of this marvelous mystery is revealed and we get to know Him more deeply.
The Trinity is also a dimensional mystery. There are dimensions that we do not see where the Trinity operates. We tend to view life by only what see or what can be explained. C.S. Lewis referred to this as “flatlander” thinking. One example is time as a dimension, but the Trinity exists outside of time. Ok, I am bumping up against my limits, but the point is allow God to reveal Himself to us as we wonder and gaze at the Trinity and let go of our “flatlander” lenses and trust in His working in dimensions we cannot fathom.
Revelations From The Trinity
There is one a key thought Chris discussed related to the Trinity that I found most insightful.
The Trinity is intensely relational and immensely personal. The Trinity is a communion of love. God is love and we are invited to join that loving relationship.
We were created in the image of God with that same desire for intimate and loving relationship. Isn’t it interesting from the beginning of time how man has been on a quest to satisfy the desire for a personal and loving relationship. I grew up in the ‘60s and ‘70s and sometimes I listen to the music of that era and am struck by how many songs are looking and longing for love. Johnny Lee summed it up in 1980 with the song “Lookin’ for Love”:
Lookin’ for love in all the wrong places,
Lookin’ for love in too many faces,
searchin’ their eyes and lookin’ for traces
of what I’m dreamin’ of.
When marriages are in conflict, deep underneath is the unmet need for an intensely relational and personal love. We can only experience this kind of love when we turn back to God. Jesus reaffirms this to us:
Amazing to think, but our God is intensely relational and immensely personal. So when we think of spiritual formation and seeking to know God more, we should expect that it will be intensely relational. Sometimes, we just need to accept this offer of relationship and abide and remain in that love. When we take the time to explore the Trinity and get revelations of His nature, we may respond as David:
When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the starts, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? (Psalm 8:3-4).
Chris put it this way: “It is a story you always hoped to be true, but weren’t sure. It really is true!”
Practice: Abide in God's Love
Have you struggled with experiencing this kind of love? Have you been looking in all the wrong places?
Below is a brief exercise that you can do to help you to abide in God’s love and to receive and experience time with your Heavenly Father. God reveals so much to us as we experience His creation. Creation speaks to us all day long. How do you hear it in the morning when you first wake up? Do you feel any truth about God as you take your shower? Taste any truth as you sip on your morning coffee? How about the singing birds or a beautiful sunset? Everywhere we look, hear, feel, smell and taste, we can experience the presence of God, the amazing Triune God who seeks an immensely relational and immensely personal relationship with us. For the next few days, try to notice God throughout the day in creation and become aware of His presence in those times. See what God might be saying to you in those moments.