3 Critical Characteristics of the Trinity You Must Know

Discover the three characteristics of the Trinity you must know if you want to live a vivid, meaningful Christian life.

What do you think: Does the doctrine of the Trinity even matter to your every day life?

I mean, is it just some theological abstraction men in university auditoriums bicker about?

Or does it have a concrete, practical application to your personal and private world?

In a nuthsell, does an understanding of the Trinity even matter?

I’m here to tell you that it does. Especially if you want to live a vivid, meaningful life. Let me explain.

Tim’s Excellent Question

I owe Tim Wilson a huge thanks for raising his hand yesterday during my headlong rush through the history of the doctrine of the Trinity and asking me to slow down and explain how knowledge of the Trinity even made a difference in his everyday life.

So, let me take a pause and explore the historical, personal and relational characteristics of the Trinity and how it, indeed, can make a difference to you.

Historical: Your Flesh and Bones God

As I pointed out yesterday, Augustine was the scholar who originated the idea of the economy of salvation. Yet, Karl Rahner was the scholar who actually articulated it in those words.

The economy of salvation basically says this:

In the three persons of the Trinity, you have God who created people, Christ who redeemed people and the Holy Spirit who sanctifies people.

Let me say it another way: God created us, died for us and dwells in us. That, in three over-simplified stages, is the history of redemption.

Therefore, if God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit is a historical being, then that means he’s also a personal being. And if He’s a personal being, then He’s perilously close to getting into our business. Just watch.

Personal: Your Private God

So, if this Trinitarian being is a historical being, then we can say three things about Him:

1. He’s unlike other gods who have zero basis in human history.

2. If He was an actual historical figure (Christ–the God man–walked on the Earth), then we can know him.

3. And if we can know Him, then it’s possible to trust  in Him and the things He says.

In fact, as Robert Jensen pointed out, and as our creeds try to do, defining God as the three persons creates theological precision in which we then are very clear about which God we are talking about. The doctrine of the Trinity separates the Christian God from the mob of gods competing in our culture.

And with this precision, we no longer have a fuzzy, speculative being we worship. We have a personal, very private, very clear understanding of God. And if we are seriously personal, private and have a clear understanding about this God, then we can have a relationship with Him.

A relationship that sometimes brings personal risk.

Relational: A Passionate Affair

How do you know if you have a good relationship? A good marriage? Believe it or not, but you have a good marriage when you have conflict. I call it passion.

Sound absurd? Well let me say this: Conflict in a marriage isn’t a sign of trouble. Conflict is a sign of contradictions. Differences, yes. But it’s also a sign of struggles two people are working through to create something more beautiful than if they left them alone.

On the other hand, a lack of conflict or contradiction in a marriage is a sign that someone is withdrawn, isolated and independent. The same is true in your relationship with God.

Here’s why. If you are independent and individualistic and carry on thinking God loves you just the way you are and that He’d never conflict or contradict you…you don’t have a relationship with a person…

You have a  fawning, submissive, impossibly agreeable robot. [Think Steppford Wives here.]

When I say God is historical and personal, I’m also saying He’s relational. I’m saying He cares about us. And he cares enough to want to help us grow into better people. He wants to set us apart from the profane and make us holy. He’s passionate about redeeming His people.

And so the Holy Spirit fits into the Trinity and the history of redemption this way: God created us. Jesus redeemed us. The Holy Spirit changes us.

Over to You

So, without a clear understanding of the Trinity, I do not think you can live a  vivid, meaningful life. . .because if we insist on a hollow, distant knowledge of the three persons of God. . .we end up with a diluted, weak association heavily weighted in our favor. Not a relationship.

What would you rather have: a meaningful relationship with a historical being who wants to give you a glorious life that rests in Him? Or would you rather live a paper-thin, solitary existence forever threatening to combust?

I’d love to hear what you think. [Tim, did I answer your question?]

**Part of the Thoroughly Painless Guide to the Doctrine of God’s Trinity series.**