It is rumoured that Saint Augustine, when asked to define the Holy Trinity, used an example of a small child attempting to transfer the whole ocean to a small bucket with a spoon. Such was the enormity of attempting to understand the Trinity.
Yet a simple organisation chart based on modern management techniques might well make this ‘mystery’ a little easier to understand.
But first, there are a few basic areas that need defining and a few generally accepted theories that need explanation. GOD – The Source of all Goodness – Always was – Is – Always will be. To emphasise this point, on the chart GOD is surrounded by a ring which has no defined beginning and no end.
In our human understanding, infinity is often restricted to as far as we can see. We build large telescopes to see further into the unknown. We send spacecraft to search beyond the planets into the currently unseen void of our universe.
The interesting thing about our understanding of infinity is that we see our position as the starting point and we define infinity as that which extends beyond us and has no end. How then do we see our God who always was and who always will be?
Maybe when we symbolise our God as a triangle we are falling short of using the symbol to define our meaning. Perhaps a more accurate symbol of the Divine would be the infinity horizontal eight symbol touching a circle and then another infinity symbol.
The circle has no beginning and no end and infinity on both sides indicates our God always was and always will be.
The use of a triangle to explain the Christian understanding of three persons in the one God tends to humanise the Almighty and can only confuse those trying to understand more about the Trinity. We learn about The Father, Son and Holy Spirit because Jesus himself prayed to his father and the apostles were told on the mountain that, “This is my son…”.
Just as Jesus gave his message to his followers in stories they could understand, so scripture allows us to see in a simple way the existence of the Trinity.
Because God became human in the form of a man born in the same manner as we all recognise, it is easier for us to understand the terms of Father and Son. However, the Holy Spirit is not so easily recognisable. Pictures of firey tongues sitting on the top of the Disciples heads is, to say the least, a very restricted way of depicting the Holy Spirit. A dove returning to Noah’s Ark with a branch in it’s beak is another symbol used which requires considerable imagination to see this as a symbol depicting God.
While the Father and the Son can be seen as ‘persons’ it is hard to classify a tongue as a person. Hence the triangle depicting the three ‘persons’ in the Trinity is somewhat inaccurate, especially as the second ‘person’ in the group didn’t become a ‘person’ until he was born and the first ‘person’ wasn’t born at all.
Let us go back to the circle symbol of our God and let us not see God as a person but as a free Spirit.
It seems easy for us to understand the presence of GOD in our world. We see GOD – The Source of all Goodness, in creation and in the wonders around us. We can also often see GOD in other people as they display kindness and love towards us and to others.
We seem to have accepted the definition of ‘everlasting’ as ‘never ending’. We sing of ‘a never-ending or ever-lasting love’ for one another. We pray ‘world without end, amen’.
But we find it difficult to come to grips with something that doesn’t have a beginning. Even though it is difficult to understand in human terms, if we can accept that GOD ‘always was’ then the enormity of who GOD is can be more readily understood.
If we look at Genesis 1:26 where God was in the process of making the world then it is interesting to note “God said, ‘Let us make man in our own image, in the likeness of ourselves’”.
It is my belief God was speaking as part of the Trinity which accounts for the plural use of ‘us’ and ‘ourselves’. Thus the Trinity existed before ever this world existed.
There is no reference to how, or if, the Trinity actually had a beginning. Hence, my understanding is that God ‘always was’.
So, let’s refer to GOD – The Source of all Goodness, overall as a ‘Love Company’, for want of a better title. And that organisation has three working equal components who together manage the Trinity Love Company.
There is the Manager (Engineering and Science) responsible for creation and judgement referred to as ‘The Father’
There is the Manager (Human Resources) responsible for redemption and forgiveness referred to by His human name of ‘Jesus’.
There is the Manager (Operations) responsible for maintenance and support referred to as ‘The Holy Spirit.
The combination of the three managers work directly through you and me and support us in possessing Faith and Grace, Belief and Hope. For our part we are required to contribute Love and Caring, Good Works and Prayer.
Seems simple really!!!
But let’s consider how Jesus explained the situation in heaven. To understand why he used the ‘Father in Heaven’ phrase, we need to go right back to Mary’s visit from God’s messenger. What an enormous task she was asked to perform. Yet she had a great faith in the GOD she had learned so much about through her Jewish upbringing and she humbly accepted the role with which she was being asked to take.
After the visit, when reality set in, her thoughts must have been for Joseph, her engaged partner. I can imagine she would have sent him a message along the lines of, “Joe, we need to talk”.
Joseph certainly would have believed he had a gem for a girlfriend who genuinely loved him and no doubt he would have listened to her story about a heavenly visitor because I feel sure they had an honest, caring relationship. Yet when she dropped the bombshell that she was pregnant, it must have been a bit hard for Joseph to handle.
Can you imagine what was going through Joseph’s mind as he headed off home. However, GOD must have seen Joe’s dilemma and sent him a messenger as well to explain the situation. We don’t hear what Joseph’s response was, but I feel sure he would have mentioned how difficult it was going to be for both he and Mary having to face the accusations from their families and his mates.
I daresay he was told he had to ‘take it on the chin’ for the plan to succeed. His whole life had changed overnight.
Then along came little Jesus and all was well until Jesus decided his public life should begin. Everyone thought Joseph was his father but to get the story straight, Jesus had to squash that understanding. Hence, the ‘Father in Heaven’ idea.
In a number of locations in the Synoptic Gospels (Mark, Mathew & Luke), Jesus refers to himself as ‘The Son of Man’. One might argue that giving himself this title only emphasised his mortality. However, this title is mentioned in Daniel 7:13-14, “On him was conferred sovereignty, glory and kingship and men of all peoples, nations and languages became his servants”. It is obvious that such a person was more than an ordinary man.
Meanwhile, back to the Organisation Chart. The ‘Love Company’ is composed of three managers of equal status with three different managerial responsibilities. Together they are the nucleus of the Company and influence each one of us according to our needs.
One of the major hurdles the Company constantly has to face in its day to day operations is that each of us has been given a free will to make our own decisions that affect ourselves and our lives. This has resulted in the presence of greed, wars and all manner of nasty behaviour.
But we also have been given a ‘conscience’ so we each can determine the difference between good and evil.
As Christians, we believe in the Resurrection and we live in the belief that Jesus has suffered and died that we might accept him as our redeemer and saviour and have eternal life. This is emphasised in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians 15:3-8 where the early church adopted this concept as a ‘Creed’. Jesus, unlike us, who are born to live, was the only person ever born specifically to die.
Because of our Baptism, we know the Holy Spirit dwells within each one of us. Therefore, if we refer to the Organisation Chart we can be assured that GOD is with us at all times.
While that is a powerful thought, let us then enjoy The Trinity Love Company particularly when we are one with our GOD – The Source of all Goodness.
I’m Peter mack and that’s how I feel.