I’ve been working on writing a catechism, a distillation of the faith into concise questions and answers with brief supporting scriptures that could be the starting point for a conversation. The reason being I’m convinced its important for the Church to inoculate our young people with a healthy dose of catechesis before we ship them off to college, just enough so that when they first hear about Nietzsche or really study Darwin they won’t freak out and presume that what the Church taught them in 6th grade confirmation is the only wisdom the Church has to offer.
You can find all the previous posts here.
III. The Son
28. How Can We Conceive of the Trinity?
As creatures, it’s ludicrous to think we can conceive of how God can be both and always three and one, anymore than we can conceive of what it means for God to be both divine and human.
However, that the Trinity is inconceivable is only a problem if you foolishly believe the word ‘God’ is somehow less mysterious.
God is the Creator of all that is and, as such, ‘God’ is necessarily outside the order of all beings. God cannot be classified among beings; God cannot be contrasted or compared with other objects. God holds all things in their existence at every moment of their existence but is not at any moment located among those things. God, by definition, is not an inhabitant of the universe. Whenever we speak of ‘God’ we’re already attempting to grasp beyond the limits of our language, which is not to suggest that to call this ‘God’ Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is a contradiction.
The Trinity is no less and no more mysterious than ‘God,’ for in neither case do we know what we’re talking about.
We cannot see how God can be Father, Son, and Holy Spirit any more than we can see what we mean by the word ‘God.’ Thus, Father, Son, and Spirit become our way of remembering that we cannot see God but instead must be shown God. Trinity is shorthand for our belief that only God can reveal God and even then, having been shown, we see only as through a glass, and dimly so.
Yet, that God is inconceivable does not make it nonsense to call God Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, for Trinity follows from the basic principle:
Everything that is in God is God.
That is, there is nothing in God which might not have been in God nor is there ever anything which God might be but is not. God is a Being with no potential, which is to say God is perfect plentitude, fullness and sufficient unto himself, immune to change.
A Being with no potential can have no “accidents”- no features that are ancillary to its being. Every feature of God, in other words, belongs to God’s essence; they are essential to God’s very being.
When we call God Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, therefore, we merely confess our belief that Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit sent by him are not “accidents” but are essential to whatever we mean by the word “God” whom Jesus called his Father.
By naming God Trinity, we profess that Jesus and his Spirit are in and of and from God, and because everything in God is God then Jesus and the Spirit belong to God’s very essence.
Inconceivably, they are God, three yet one.
“For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” 1 Corinthians 13.12