Sunday, 22 May 2016
Talk of three persons, one divine substance, a “procession” of the eternal Word, let alone a ”spiration” of the Spirit, can all seem like technical terms of little real significance.
It is worth recalling, therefore, that the doctrine of the Trinity is one that many of our fellow Christians across history, and even today across the world, have been persecuted and even martyred for. The truth of what the Trinity articulates is not merely something technical.
The religion of Islam, for example, claims that the doctrine of the Trinity is not only illogical but is blasphemous. They say that God is one, and refer to a specific sin called ”shirk”, which is the sin of joining partners to God -i.e. joining Jesus and the Spirit as “partners” to the one godhead.
Judaism, likewise, holds that the claim that Jesus is God is blasphemy. As you may recall that it was precisely for this claim that the Lord Jesus was condemned to death as a blasphemer, when the High Priest heard Jesus’ claim to be God, tore his robes, and condemned Him to death as a blasphemer (Mt 26:65).
The protests of Judaism and Islam should remind us that there is something very significant in today’s feast.
God is one, and there is no other.
This is the first and central truth that God worked to reveal in His dealings with His chosen people. In maintaining this truth Judaism and Islam hold to the core that we too, as Christians, maintain.
So why do we need to maintain something more?
Why does the doctrine of the “trinity” matter?
On one level we can say it matters because Jesus says it matters:
He claimed to be God. He pushed the point such that He was crucified for this claim.
He, further, taught about the Holy Spirit.
On another level it matters because of what it teaches us about how God relates to US.
The truth that Jesus, the eternal Word of the Father, took flesh, became one of us, died on the Cross for us -this truth tells us something vitally important about how God relates to us:
He is transcendent; He is all powerful; but He has also chosen to fully engage with us, as one of us.
This isn’t just a truth about a one-off event 2000 years ago on the Cross, but a truth that daily, continually, impacts on how the Lord relates and engages with me today.
And the truth that the Spirit He sends is likewise fully God is also a truth about how God chooses to engage with us:
The Spirit He sends is not just a thing FROM Him, but is truly HIM.
So, to conclude, the doctrine of the Trinity matters.
I can pray to God on the Cross, God who is one with me in my weak suffering flesh;
I can behold the God who is not only almighty but has allowed Himself to be weak for my sake;
But I can ONLY do this because of the truth of the Trinity:
That the Word who, as St John’s Gospel starts by proclaiming, the Word was not only “with” God in the beginning but “the Word WAS God”(Jn 1:1) and IS God,
and so I can know today that the Lord Almighty is with me.