Some thoughts on Trinity Sunday

  • The summary of God’s revelation of Himself in this doctrine of the Holy Trinity is there to help us not go astray and come up with false conclusions (errors and heresies). Erroneous understandings of God lead to erroneous understandings about the meaning and purpose of our lives and how we can be saved from sin and evil. So the Church provides us with this doctrine to help us avoid those false conclusions.
  • In these times, one of the most important things the Doctrine of the Holy Trinity does is summarise for us what is the meaning and purpose of what it is to be a human being. This comes from the simple revealed truth (shared by Jews and Christians alike) that all human beings are made in the image and likeness of God. This means that fundamentally we understand what it is to be a human being not from psychology, not from anthropology, not from human biology, not even fundamentally from our own experiences; we understand what it is to be a human being from the Doctrine of the Holy Trinity! And I think that is an astounding thing – and in fact it is a revolutionary thing!
  • I learnt fairly early on that there are basically two ways of approaching the study of God (theology). The two ways are polar opposites! And in my own crude way of understanding things I call one way the ‘bottom-up’ approach, and the other way the ‘top-down’ approach. God being at the top and human beings being at the bottom, what I mean by ‘bottom-up’ theology is where one begins with human experience and understanding and you project that on to God! For example, in this approach when you consider God as Father, what you do is explore what we understand as being a father from a human point of view and then you write that a bit larger and project it on to God. So from this bottom-up approach you are saying basically God is like a human father but a bit more powerful and better. That is an example of bottom up approach to understanding God. And I suggest to you that that is the completely wrong way of approaching theology from a Christian point of view. It results in errors and confusions.
  • From a Christian point of view we begin with the revelation of God and then come to the human level – that is what I mean by top-down theology. So using the same example: we start with the revelation by Jesus Christ that God is Father (Jesus did not say God is like a father, but that God is Father). So that means that all expressions of fatherhood derive from God the Father. Incidentally that is why I think human fathers find it very difficult to work out really what it is to be a father – it is a bit of a mystery! God has chosen to make women mothers and written their identity as mothers in their bodies. A woman grows to know what it is be a mother because she has a womb and she has breasts and she has a monthly cycle of fertility and renewal of her womb and she has a cycle of hormonal changes. God has written that identity into her body – less so for men being fathers (if they simply attend to their bodies they become bad fathers). To be a good father a man doesn’t start with his body – he has to find it outside of himself.
  • And the mystery of being created human beings in the image of God is also that God has made us male and female. He has purposely created human beings in two different yet equal types: male and female. Men and women are different but created to be mutually complimentary. Despite what modern gender ideology says (which gets almost everything wrong) men and women are meant to be different, but different in such a way as to be perfectly complimentary and therefore find a unity by their difference. The difference of sex is a reflection of the Trinity which is the perfect unity of divine Persons such that they are one being. For in the Trinity we see the perfect instance of difference being oneness: God the Father is not God the Son, and God the Son is not God the Spirit, and God the Spirit is not God the Father, but the Father is God, the Son is God and the Holy Spirit is God. The three divine persons are different but they are also one. God has reflected that in the way He has created us human beings. (That is why in preparing a couple for marriage you need to begin with the Trinity).
  • Today is a wondrous celebration of what God has revealed to us about Himself through the revelation of Jesus Christ. But it is not a man-made doctrine. It is not that one day some churchman came up with this idea and everyone said ‘oh that’s really clever, we’ll use it for our Christian doctrine of God!’ The doctrine of the Trinity is the summary of the revelation by God of Himself. And this summary of revelation amongst other things helps us to avoid error and reveals to us what it is to be a human being, what our purpose is as human beings, what the meaning of what it is to be a human being, and how God calls to live out fully being made in His image as men and women. And all of this should lead us to one thing: worship/adoration. So let us worship and adore the One God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and praise God who has made us men and women in His image and likeness.
Fr Ian Hellyer