“To Infinity and Beyond!” Can We Understand the Trinity?
By Tal Davis
One of the most troubling aspects of historic Christian theology to many people in other religions, or with no religion, is the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. This is especially true for followers of Islam, Judaism, Unitarianism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Oneness Pentecostalism. Theologians from these faiths have argued that the Trinity is either a pagan concept imposed on Christianity or a form of tri-theism and thus a violation of the commandment to worship only the one true God (egs. Allah or Jehovah).
Simply put, the doctrine of the Trinity states two basic propositions. The first is that Bible teaches there exists only one infinite and eternal God. Infinite in this context means without limitations of time or space. Eternal in this context means without beginning or end (human life, like the material universe, had a beginning in time but will be eternal in the future). In this regard, we are in agreement with the other historic monotheistic faiths. However, the second proposition is that the New Testament teaches that the one God exists in three infinite and eternal Persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The three Person of the Godhead are each separate and distinct, and each fully God, but, nonetheless, compose only one infinite and eternal being.
“So,” the non-trinitarian may say. ”How is that possible? It sounds contradictory. How can one being exist in three separate Persons?” This obviously is the crux of the matter. How can one God exist in three Persons? The problem arises when we try to explain God’s infinite nature in finite terms. Even well meaning Christians use clever analogies to explain the Trinity. They may compare the Trinity to the three sides of a triangle, the three states of matter (i.e., solid, liquid, gas), three relational roles of a person (i.e., father, son, husband), or the three dimensions of space. Every imaginative illustration fails, however, to describe accurately the indescribable Trinity. In fact, they may even lead to heresies like modalism, monarchianism, or Sabellianism.
I would suggest that the answer lies in the terms “infinite” and “eternal”. That is to say that God, by definition, is limited by nothing, including time or space. Also, by definition, there can only be one infinity and one eternity and they are without limits (despite Buzz Lightyear’s bold proclamation above, there is no “beyond” infinity). The fact that each of the three Persons is, in and of Himself, infinite and eternal means that they are all included in that one infinity and eternity. Remember, in the Christian view, none of the three Persons have ever been anything other than infinite and eternal. They did not become that way. They have always been that way. The only way anything could ever be infinite or eternal is that it has always been so. Something finite could never become infinite no matter how much time it takes or how big it grows.
Sometimes skeptics have argued that it just does not add up.
1 + 1 + 1 = 3
no matter how you look at it, they say. You either have three different gods or one God with three divided modes of existence.
However, that objection fails to recognize the infinite (symbolized by ∞ ) nature of the three Persons.
It is not 1 + 1 + 1, it is 1∞ + 1∞ + 1∞ = 1∞.
Also, even though the Second Person of the Trinity (Jesus) for a time took on the finite nature of man (while also retaining His Divine nature) , it did not diminish the infinite and eternal nature of the Godhead.
In this way, and only in this way, in my opinion, does the Trinity make sense.
I don’t know if this defense of the Trinity is original. I am eager to receive comments on this idea from our readers. I am certainly open to correction if this is not a sound proposition. I’d love to hear from some of you about it. Thank you.