Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
An explanation of the Holy Trinity.
One God but three persons, out of necessity.
Christianity’s triune God.
It is recommended that readers should first gain a quick overview of Christianity by accessing the article titled, “Christianity explained”, before reading this particular article.
It is true to say that Christianity does have a level of complexity within its own monotheist model – a so-called triune God – that is not present within Judaism or Islam. This “Holy Trinity” consists of God the Father, God the Son (i.e. Jesus the Son of God) and God the Holy Spirit. Christian theology essentially offers one God in three persons (Father, Son and Holy Spirit); three persons in One.
This Christian belief of a triune God confuses many people, including writers from other monotheist religions, notably Islam. They rightly believe that there is but one God within their own religion, and often view Christians as paying homage to three gods. However, this is most definitely not the case. There is absolutely only one God, as far as Christians are concerned.
Now, if all this seems a bit too much for you … say if you are even struggling with the possible existence of God … please begin by reading the article, “How to believe in God”. Trust me on this one: if you are ready to believe, then you can!
2. WHY A ‘TRIUNE’ GOD?
God obviously, and undeniably, has the capacity to do anything he chooses to do! And, once an understanding of God’s motives are clear, it is also clear why the complexity of the Trinity was necessary. God had a need to ‘make-clear’ his relationship with us, and it was necessary for him to come amongst us, as one of us, to give; to guide.
But, God must continually nurture our universe on a moment to moment basis; he underpins reality; makes everything “be”. He is also present within each individual human being’s life. He tries for example to assist and guide each person, whether they have learnt to recognise that or not.
Humankind’s continual physical and spiritual dependence on God, meant that he could not just leave the universe to itself and then become human, to go about his work with us; for us. He had to do both simultaneously. And after Jesus’ physical death and ascension to Heaven there was a further need to have an intimate presence within the Church and in our lives; our hearts. This further ‘essence’ of God came to be known as the Holy Spirit.
3. THE BIBLE MAKES IT CLEAR
Two thousand years later, somewhat distanced from the event, we might merely understand the Trinity as the three roles of God, or even the different ways he operates. And perhaps it would do little harm to grasp the complexity in that manner. However, the Bible does take it further. It gives each person of the Trinity definite separation from the others. But all importantly, on the other hand, it still makes it clear that God has only one will, i.e. God definitely does not need to discuss issues/ make decisions amongst himself.
The Gospel of John actually lays a sound groundwork for the concept of the Trinity.
In John 1:1-5 it is made very clear that Jesus was God (The Word). And then in John 14: 5-14 Jesus ‘spells it out’ again. For example, Jesus states in verse 7 : If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”
Then in John 15:26 he included the other person of the Trinity, “When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me.”
4. PERSONS OF THE TRINITY
As far as we Christians are concerned, the concept of the Trinity allows us to approach God in slightly different ways on occasions, which does give us the ability to best match our needs and feelings to the characteristics of God. But there is much more intended by God with regards to the Trinity.
Let us have a look at the persons of the Holy Trinity.
4.1 God the Father
The nature of Father God is easily understood. The Father is fundamentally the God of the Old Testament (“Yahweh” to Jews and “Allah” to Muslims), truly a force to be reckoned with; to be respected and revered. He is in a sense comparable, in a transcendent manner of course, to our earthly parents. Father God loves us and wants a committed one-on-one loving relationship with each of us.
We also think of the Father as our creator, indeed the creator and sustainer of ‘everything that is’.
We can approach God as our loving Parent through this person of the Trinity.
4.2 God the Son (Jesus)
Approximately 2000 years ago, whilst still retaining his separate existence, God placed his own eternal ‘essence’ within a virgin human woman (Mary). That ‘event’ is not to be compared to human sexual processes in any way because God is purely spiritual. The child Jesus who developed, although divine, was also truly human. Jesus, Son of God, came with the passing of time to recognise that he was One with the God of the Old Testament. The previously mentioned theological description, by St John the Apostle, of Jesus as “The Word” further clarifies the divine connection between Jesus and God.
Jesus in his human form was destined to lay down his life to pay for all of humankind’s wrongdoings. Christians are called to ‘believe’ that Jesus died to ensure that they can all enjoy eternal life. It is said that by doing so we are “saved by faith”.
The person of Jesus, within the Trinity, offers us the characteristics of loving brother and comforter. Jesus intercedes for us. Through the person of Jesus, God fully experienced human temptation and pain. Therefore, Christians believe that they have a God who has actually experienced human life. Prayer with such a God is, as a result, potentially more intimate and ‘easy’.
4.3 God the Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit can firstly be understood as ‘proceeding’ from both the Father and the Son. The Spirit can be viewed as God’s ‘active’ presence here on Earth, and within us Christians.
Some of his main functions are to help make us holy, to assist us with obeying God; to encourage us to draw closer to the Father and Jesus. The Spirit also guides Christians within their faith, to understand the Bible so as to know Jesus better.
I believe the actual ‘presence’ of the “Spirit” is the most obvious within the Born Again/ Charismatic movement of the Church. It is explained in the article “Choosing a church”. This general section of the greater Church is the fastest growing for good reason. Amazing stuff happens there, empowered by the Spirit, just as it did in the early Christian Church more than 2000 years ago. He does it not to glorify himself but to draw us to our Lord and Saviour, Jesus (who in turn takes us to the Father). Please see the explanations of events in the article, “Experiencing the Holy Spirit”.
God as the person of the Holy Spirit can make himself dramatically known to each of us, whether a member of ‘the movement’ or not. He can grieve with us, support us in other life challenges, and empower us to ‘overcome’ if we ‘choose’ to involve him. The Spirit’s absolute (in-dwelling) contact with each of us provides God with the ability to: reach us spiritually; assist and guide us towards our ‘right path’. And then we can achieve our full personal, spiritual and social potential. For a better understanding, please see the article, “Sound faith“.
Through the Spirit, God can also guide and support our role in spreading his message of love and fulfilment that is primarily available through Jesus.
Without doubt, the Spirit communicates powerfully with our souls within this life. God’s presence in our lives is actually the subject of an article by the same name.
I again emphasise that most so-called Christian churches categorically believe that the three identities, Father, Son and Holy Spirit constitute one God. This outlook is essential to accepting the fullness of God’s love for us; the principle of grace.
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