The doctrine of the Trinity is unique to Christianity and also one of the most difficult to grasp, much less explain to others. Astrophysicist, Hugh Ross, in The Creator and the Cosmos, offers a most helpful paradigm from science for understanding the Trinity. Ross suggests that the discovery of multiple dimensions creates a context for resolving many apparent paradoxes. String theory posits 10, 11, even 26 possible dimensions. It is understandable that in our four dimensional world, certain concepts will be impregnable. However, by adding multiple dimensions to the equation, God’s triune nature may be less implausible.
It’s been suggested that the doctrine of the Trinity proves Christianity was not concocted by man. Who in their right mind would place something so complex — three distinct beings, eternally existent, co-equal in power, in one God — at the heart of their belief system? But while most apologetics deal with the WHAT and HOW of the Trinity — what is it and how do we defend it — few deal with the WHY. Why does God exist in trinity?
In The Unity of the Bible, Daniel P. Fuller offers one of the most intriguing perspectives on the Trinity I’ve come across. While the following hypothesis may not help us explain or defend the doctrine, it can possibly assist in our contemplation of the nature of God.
The outline of the argument goes something like this:
- God is perfect
- God is love
- Because God is perfect He doesn’t need the world — He is perfect in Himself
- But since God is love — and love requires an object or person of its affection — God requires an object / person to share His love
- In order for God to be love and remain perfect — without need of the world — He finds within Himself another Person to love (the Son)
- The Holy Spirit embodies the love that the Father and the Son share; He is the “spirit” of that Relationship, the joy and generation of that ecstatic union
Regarding the Holy Spirit, Scripture is clear that (1) He is a Person and (2) He proceeds from the Father and the Son. Hence, the Westminster Confession makes the following distinction:
III. In the unity of the Godhead there be three Persons of one substance, power, and eternity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost. The Father is of none, neither begotten nor proceeding; the Son is eternally begotten of the Father; the Holy Ghost eternally proceeding from the Father and the Son.
Notice that, while the Son is “eternally begotten” of the Father, the Holy Spirit is “eternally proceeding from the Father and the Son.” C.S. Lewis puts it this way in Beyond Personality:
The union between the Father and the Son is such a live concrete thing that this union itself is also a Person. I know that’s almost inconceivable, but look at it this way. You know that among human beings, when they get together in a family, or a club, or a trades union, people talk about the “spirit” of that family, or club, or trades union. They talk about its “spirit” because the individual members, when they’re together, do really develop particular ways of talking and behaving which they wouldn’t have if they were apart. It is as if a sort of communal personality came into existence. Of course, it isn’t a real person: it is only rather like a person. But that’s just one of the differences between God and us. What grows out of the joint life of the Father and the Son is a real Person, is in fact the Third of the three Persons who are God.
I like that phrase “communal personality” — the Holy Spirit is the embodiment of the communal personality of the Godhead. Fuller points out another interesting aspect of this relationship: “[W]hile we have seen passages in which the Father loves the Son and vice-versa, nowhere does one read of the Father or the Son loving the Holy Spirit, or vice-versa.” Isn’t that fascinating? Why isn’t the Holy Spirit ever described as loving, or being loved by, the Father and the Son, if not for the fact that He has an entirely different relationship with the Father and the Son?
So, in answer to the question Why does God exist in Trinity, we could simply respond: “Because He is love.” Or, to quote Lewis again in Beyond Personality:
The words ‘God is love’ have no real meaning unless God contains at least two Persons. Love is something that one person has for another person. If God was a single person then before the world was made, he was not love.
It’s a compelling assertion about the WHY of the Trinity. Of course, this understanding may not help you advance arguments with your Jehovah’s Witness neighbors, but it’s a provocative meditation concerning the nature of our mighty Triune God.