Maybe you find that helpful, maybe not. But does it matter? Why is the doctrine of the Trinity important? My answer would be that the doctrine of the Trinity is important because it places relationship in the essence of God, at the core of ultimate reality. ‘God is love’, writes St John and you cannot love on your own. CS Lewis puts it like this: ‘God is not a static thing...but a dynamic, pulsating activity, a life, almost a kind of drama. Almost, if you will not think me irreverent, a kind of dance.’
This matters more than anything else in the world. The whole dance, or drama or pattern of this three- personal life is to be played out in each one of us, Or putting it the other way around, each one of us has got to enter that pattern and take his (or her) place in that dance. There is no other way to the happiness for which we were made.’
Building on the same analogy of the dance, Timothy Keller says, ‘The Father, the Son and the Spirit are characterised in their very essence by mutually self-giving love… If this world was made by a triune God, relationships of love are what life is all about.’
We are invited to join this dance, to give up self-centred living and join the eternal dance of self-giving love at the heart of reality. Paul writes that those led by the Holy Spirit become children of God and co-heirs with Jesus – heirs of the Father, participants in the abundance of life represented by the Trinity. As Jesus said: ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life,’ – the life of the dance … life in all its fullness. Amen.
So sang the children in the toddler group in my previous parish. Simple isn’t it and yet profound at the same time. God has revealed himself in three persons – Father, Son and Holy Spirit, three persons who are at the same time one God.
Illustrations of Trinity
Various illustrations have been offered to try and explain the Trinity: the three sub-leaves of the clover leaf; one candle with three wicks; the one set of traffic lights with three lights, and so on.
CS Lewis explained it in terms of dimensions. If you are only using one dimension you can only draw a straight line. Using two, you can draw a figure, say a square, which is made up of four straight lines. In three dimensions you can build a cube, made up of six squares.
As we move up through the dimensions, we do not loose what went before – the two-dimensional world still has straight lines, but four lines make one square, a possibility not available in a one-dimensional world. In a three-dimensional world there are still squares but we know there is the possibility of combining them into a cube – a possibility that would be very difficult to imagine if you lived in the two-dimensional world.
The doctrine of the Trinity can be understood similarly. On a simple human level, one person is one being and any two persons are two separate beings. On the divine level, you still have personalities, but they can be combined in ways which we, living on the human level, find it hard to imagine.