Throughout this Easter season I have thought much about the Trinity. I find it does not present to me the great incomprehensible mystery theologians speak of – Why?
This is how my mind addresses it.
I am Barbara, one singular limited human being. During my lifetime others have known me as different persons. I can and have manifested myself in these ways: I am parent—“Mom”; teacher—“Ms. S-C”; and writer—“B. Sabonis-Chafee”. Because I am limited by my material reality and exist in time and space, those manifestations happen sequentially. Although most people can and do experience me mainly as one or the other (and can even be unaware that I’m manifested differently to others at other times) I am always the same Barbara.
For God, there is not a limit. The Eternal God exists beyond the limits of time and space. God’s Being has been manifested to humanity in three ways: as Creator, Savior, and Spirit. Christianity has chosen to identify those manifestations as: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Theologians have also chosen to label God’s different ways-of-being as ‘3 Persons’. The choice of terminology has effected our perception of and our ultimate understanding of God.
Consider the word ‘person’. Unconsciously we bring our common understanding to it, which refers to a separate individual or ‘unit’ of being. We know of a person as one who comes into life by way of two individuals joining in sexual union to produce a baby—or new unit of being—which is first dependent upon parents but develops (over time) into the new singular unit, independent of the source of their existence.
The vastness of God is beyond our ability to comprehend but we use what we do know to try to reach a degree of understanding. During the two thousand years of development, the Jewish people became monotheists—believers in One God—and awaiting a Messiah. The life and message of Jesus brought people to the belief that he was the promised Messiah, the Christ. He preached love and peace, was crucified, died and arose—conquering death. The Messiah, thus God’s presence had been manifested to the world. Some of the Jews, then non-Jews became Christians, believers with the conviction that Jesus=God. Then, experiencing another manifestation of God’s presence with Pentecost, accepted that Holy Spirit =God. It took centuries to establish the tenets of Christianity. One great problem (still considered the greatest Mystery) was how to reconcile monotheism with a Triune God of three different persons. The world’s experience of God had been in three different ways as: creator, savior and spirit; these encounters were different experiences so, in thought, they were separated and given the labels of ‘Father’, ‘Son’ and ‘Holy Spirit’, calling them different ‘persons’ of God, creating the confusion of One God, but three ‘persons’.
God is beyond our knowing and those awarenesses that do come to our understanding are clouded by explanations we have invented. When reason advances our understanding (consciousness?) it requires that we change our perceptions and relinquish the long-favored errors present in the explanation. Faced with a change in perception it is imperative not to deny the essential experience or main point but realize the error was in the way it was explained.
Regarding the Trinity, I suggest relinquishing the use of ‘persons’ to describe the differing manifestations—the ‘Person’ of God is God (I Am) One God. God was manifested in an earthly sojourn as the human person, Jesus. The Christian belief is that God did enter human form for a specific duration to share the experience of being human and demonstrate how we as humans can share in ‘godness’. We can’t fully understand it, but history and scripture affirm that it happened. God did not ‘leave’ eternity to become Jesus (making eternity absent of God). Eternity holds all expressions of reality within itself, so God continues eternally while entering time’s temporality.
How many ways can God manifest the God-self? We can’t know that, so lets confine the issue to the ways in which humanity has recognized them. God’s Being is manifested to our human world: 1) as Creator (we see and experience life and the world in which we exist); 2) as the Savior in the person Jesus, also identified as The Christ (saving us from limited being); and 3) as the Holy Spirit, (The Divine Milieu) present throughout all of creation, guiding our evolution.
My prayer: God of the Universe, you are one God in three manifestations;
--as Creator you give us life and the world;
--as Savior you clothed yourself in human flesh and entered time to show us how we are to live
--as Holy Spirit you are everpresent, enveloping us in your love and giving guidance to those who seek your council.
Thank you—for all that is
Amen—Thy will, not mine be done
Trust—I believe, Lord, help my unbelief
Trust—I believe, Lord, help my unbelief