As doctrines go, the doctrine of the Trinity is a pretty important church doctrine.
Doctrine simply means a teaching, instruction or principle of the church. The Trinity is the doctrine that God is in essence one, but three persons, historically described as Father, Son and Holy Ghost, but now often described in other terms like Creator, Christ and Spirit.
The word “trinity” doesn’t appear in the Bible and you won’t find any explicit statement of the idea there, either. The doctrine comes from the early days of the church when Christians were trying to figure out a way to explain the relationship between God, Jesus and the Spirit, a relationship that arises from scripture, but is not named there. The discussion was a long and involved one and still is. There’ve been many thick books, many centuries of debate and many heretics as a result. Inevitably, not everyone agreed and, well, we know what happens to people who don’t agree, don’t we? Yes, they go and form their own church with their own followers.
Or worse, of course. But I want to look at it positively. People find their way to God the way they find. And there are many ways to God, truly, and if it brings you to God and all the love, goodness and grace that is God, then travel that journey.
For me, the thing about the Trinity isn’t knowing the correct definition or following the proper doctrine of my faith tradition to the letter. For me, the Trinity is like light. Sure, you can explain it with all the science and demonstrate it with all the right lenses and equipment, but the really important thing is what it illuminates. (And the shadows it does, and doesn’t, make, but that’s a different story.) We are enlightened, and our attention is drawn to what is illuminated by the light.
The Trinity illuminates two contrasting things for me. The first is that God, the source and energy of life, is present in all creation and is constantly seeking relationship with us and through us. That is the “oneness” of which we are a part, though that oneness is still present with our individuality and in our living, both as individuals and as one. That’s pretty Trinitarian right there, but more important, perhaps, than the “three” is the connectedness. I believe that all living things are built for relationship and true relationship isn’t built on uniformity, but unity: true relationship is built on both the common ground and the respect and appreciation of our differences, together.
That leads me to the second thing the Trinity illuminates for me: how broken our relationships can be. When we focus on our differences without an appreciation and respect for their value, we aren’t seeking relationship, we’re seeking uniformity and that’s not the same thing. Uniformity rejects diversity for sameness, which is easy and comfortable, but ultimately not as rewarding, or as life-giving, or as essential to life as trying to find a path to unity. It’s also invariably built on control, on power over others in order to ensure that they conform.
Maybe that’s why we so often refer to the Trinity as a mystery. Not that it’s a puzzle to be solved, but that it’s a source of wonder and awe. It can draw us together and into the sense of oneness that is God when we fully embrace true relationship. And yet, we so often choose sameness, fearing diversity as if we might somehow lose ourselves, rather than enrich our own lives. Choose the wonder and awe of relationship.