What is the Holy Trinity?
Relationships in the Trinity
|Serious film buffs will recognise Trinity as the heroine of the Matrix series (much in these movies is based on Christian ideas, including the three main characters: Morpheus, Neo, and Trinity). Don McLean referred to a different Trinity in his song American Pie: “Of the three men I admire most, the Father, Son and Holy Ghost”.
The Christian belief in God as Trinity—their faith in one God, but three persons—is strange and complex, so why hang onto it? Plus, the first followers of Jesus were Jews, who believed absolutely in one God (a practice called monotheism), so how did belief in God as Trinity ever come about?
It was the experience of the first disciples—their relationship with Jesus, the strange events of the resurrection and, at Pentecost, the arrival of the Holy Spirit—which made them start to think hard about their understanding of God, and of who Jesus is. Jesus talked about the three persons of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and Paul (a major figure in the early Church), ended a letter he wrote to Christians in Corinth with the words, “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all”. This ‘grace’, as it is called, has been used for 2,000 years.
The realisation that God had been experienced in different ways had to be thought through. In particular, who was Jesus, and what was his relationship with God? For 300 years, while ordinary Christians just got on with worshipping Jesus and being Church, theologians tried to pin down the detail. Eventually, the creeds were produced: statements of belief about God, trying to express in theological and philosophical language what Christians were living out in their daily lives and regular worship.
There is only one God. Jews, Christians and Moslems are agreed on this; it’s fundamental to all three religions. Christians, however, believe that the being of God is expressed in three ways. Within the one God there are three persons. You might well object, and say that 1+1+1=3 gods. But look at it another way: doesn’t 1x1x1=1?
Actually, no one can really fully explain the Trinity, because—ultimately—God is mystery. The idea has to be taken in faith, rather like a good scientific theory which hasn’t yet been proven, but explains a number of observations.
God as Trinity helps us to understand the nature of God as presented by Jesus: a God of love. Love can only exist in relation to another person. It wants the best for them, and acts accordingly (read 1 Corinthians (NT), chapter 13). A single God could not be love, whereas the Trinity forms a community within which love can be expressed. The Trinity allows us to see the life and death of Jesus as God’s self-giving, rather than as God imposing the cross on an ordinary human being.
It’s a strange idea—but, based on 2,000 years of experience, it has to be taken seriously.
Pray: God, it's hard to get my head round the fact that there's three of you, and yet only one. Help me to understand and appreciate God the Father, Jesus Christ his son, and the Holy Spirit. Help me to feel the importance of each one in my life, that I might get to know you better and grow deeper in relationship with you. Amen.
Read more about the Holy Trinity on the BBC website
See the painting by El Greco painting The Holy Trinity (Christ crucified, God the Father in Heaven, and the Holy Spirit as a dove)
Read what Christians believe about the three Persons in the Nicene Creed
Watch a The Matrix trilogy
Read the book Matrix Revelations: A Thinking Fan's Guide to the Matrix Trilogy by Steve Couch
Read the book Is the Trinity Unbiblical, Unbelievable and Irrelevant? by Nicky Gumbel
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