In order to walk with me on this, you need to take off your toga. Our Western heritage descends directly from the Greeks and Romans, who made logical argument an art and a science. Rhetoric itself--how to persuade others--was a key part of classical education. William Shakespeare and Thomas Jefferson both were well-schooled in the art of rhetoric. They both understood logic and its fallacies, and practiced it as an artist and as a statesman, respectively. That is one reason that their words are so potent--they carry depth of thought and elegance of reason.
The Greeks and Romans robustly debated, seeing the world as a "Cascade of Reason." This means that if A is true, then B is true, and then C is true, and so on.
Think of a courtroom, where an attorney builds his case before a jury, based on such a progression. Whether it's the prosecution or the defense, both sides seek to set up a series of events, based on evidence, to create a conclusion in the jury's mind.
But, in order to understand the Trinity, I must ask you to don a prayer shawl, and think about things the way people did in the Middle East, specifically the Jews in Israel. Jews had no problem entertaining two seemingly contradictory ideas. Logic did not drive their thinking. Things did not have to fall in a logical sequence to be true. Yes, they reasoned that God was a Divine Being Who cherished order (Genesis 1 and its creation sequence points to that) and Who sought to eliminate chaos.
Sin, as I have explored in an earlier blog, reintroduced chaos into creation. On one hand, the Jews said that God was El-Shaddai (the Almighty One) and yet compared Him to a loving earthly mother: "Yet it is I who taught Ephraim to walk, I took them in My arms; But they did not know that I healed them. I led them with cords of a man, with bonds of love, And I became to them as one who lifts the yoke from their jaws; And I bent down and fed them.…" (Hosea 11:3).
The Greeks would have said, "OK, Which is it? Is He the mighty God or a loving gentle parent? How can you have both?"
Exactly. To the Jew, you could have both, because the Holy One was not Someone we humans could completely comprehend. Look at the name that God gave Moses when he inquired of Him: He called Himself, "I AM." That means I have always been, I am now and I will always be. Moses went down the mountain happily bearing this name.
The Greeks would have said, "What? He has always been? Even our gods had a beginning. Zeus was created. How could someone, albeit divine, have no beginning?"
So, fast forward to Jesus. He used illogical comparisons all the time. We call them paradoxes. You have to lose your life to find it. The poor are blessed. The meek are blessed. Seek God first and then you will have what you desire. You need to be born a second time.
The Greeks would be rolling their eyes at this point. "How can you die and then find life? The poor and the meek are far from blessed. The pursuit of knowledge and reason lead you to security. Seeking the gods will lead you into trouble. Climb back into Momma's womb? We need some wine about now..."
Thus, when Jesus said...
"I and the Father are one." (John 10:30)
"Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, 'Show us the Father '? Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works.…" (John 14:9-10)
"I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. After a little while the world will no longer see Me, but you will see Me; because I live, you will live also.…(John 14:16-19)
Jesus was accused of blasphemy. His fellow Jews did not chide Him for being illogical. Those listening were startled to hear Him blending Himself into the Father and promising to return again as the Spirit. Because of their fierce respect of God and the monotheism of Judaism, His listeners only had two ways to go: Either God was manifesting Himself in the likeness of this Man to rescue them from sin and death or a mere man was claiming to be God, and such blasphemy deserved death.
They didn't try to argue with Him. Greek listeners would have enjoyed a heated debate with Him, because what was at stake, in their way of thinking, would have been reason itself. A skilled thinker could prove his intellectual prowess and then walk away. No harm, no foul, no relationship to the subject at hand; only an intellectual Wimbleton and then, game over.
But to the Jews, their relationship to God was everything. So, Jesus made His relationship to the Father front and center. He was way more intimate with God, making His listeners very uncomfortable. Jesus called Him "Abba," meaning "Daddy." Then He spoke of His oneness with this Father. Then He spoke of never leaving the ones who were following Him. He would return and dwell within them, and the same power in Him would reside in them.
The Trinity, although not by name, is evinced all throughout Jesus's relational teachings. I have only cited a few. They are key, however, to why the Trinity is important: These statements by Jesus speak of the relationship within the Godhead, and of the relationship between Him and us.
God the Father gave His only begotten Son to the world. The Son agreed, and dwelt among us. The Spirit came to live in us, now that we are cleansed from sin by the Son's blood.
If God is our Father, He wanted to walk among us. He was the prodigal son's father...always waiting for the return of his lost child. Then He became a Child, born in a stable and encased in fragile flesh. He was tempted, cried tears, humiliated, betrayed and beaten. He then faced a horrible death.
He was then resurrected by the power of His Father, and returned home to be seated at His Father's side. He sends the Holy Spirit, to dwell and empower us to walk in His footsteps.
With every aspect of the Trinity, we are blessed with relationship: a Father Who waits for us, a Son Who died for us and a Spirit Who lives in us. Theology, schmology....He wants to live in us and reveals Himself to us to bring us into His arms.