There are times when I’ve regretted opening my mouth. I hope this isn’t one of them.
This past Sunday in the Christian tradition was Trinity Sunday, which is celebrated in some churches more than others. Lots of Christians today would actually say that they have no use for trinitarian thought any longer, though it seemed to serve a purpose for the church founders in the 4th century. We have many churches still affirming the ancient creeds (belief statements) during their worship services on Sunday, though few Christians today really understand what the Trinity really has to do with their connection to God.
I say all this to start, because I want my Muslim friends to know that I agree with you when I read that Islam denounces the idea that there are three deities rather than just the one true God. This would freak me out, too, if someone told me that Christians worshipped three gods. But I totally can see the confusion from an outsider’s perspective. Kind of like I used to think Hindus worshipped a hundred different deities, when really the statues of their “gods” capture the different aspects or dimensions of God for them—maybe not unlike the way Islam celebrates the 99 names of Allah.
The Trinity has always, first and foremost, been a figurative model about understanding the RELATIONAL dimensions of God. That the very essence of God is healthy relationship through the selflessness of Love to find wholeness with Self and the rest of creation. It It is supposed to be a model of understanding that as human beings we will find our purpose and meaning in life if we act into this truth of God (emptying or surrendering our small selves in our relationship to the world, so that we can find healthier relationship to Life through connection to our higher Selves in God).
The classic language of the “God in three parts” or “Three in One” has been Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. But some use the words Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer.
Lover, Beloved, and Belovedness.
Source, Christ, Spirit.
Jesus of Nazareth was the prophet who revealed this Oneness/Unity of connectionality and belonging between DISPARATE groups of people, not just for his own peeps, the Jews, and so he was understood by Paul of Tarsus (the fella who is credited for starting the early church and writing important letters in the Christian scriptures) to be fulfilling what the nation of Israel’s prophets had been long expecting: that the Gentiles would also come to know the one, true God.
This Oneness that we all belong to, which has been a part of the universe since before time and is embedded in every aspect of creation today, is called the Christ. Jesus is the pointer to this Oneness that he experienced so powerfully in his own life, which is why scripture calls him the “Son” of God. He knew and trusted in his own belovedness in God and points others to knowing the same about themselves. This is why we call him Jesus the Christ. Our understanding of what the Christ IS is most clear to us through the life of Jesus.
And when we surrender ourselves to God’s will and love for us (like Jesus did), we find ourselves in the dimension of consciousness called “Christ Jesus,” again, because it is the prophet Jesus who opened this door of understanding for us so deeply, that some would even call him the door himself. This is why people have continued to worship in the name of Jesus the Christ, even though Jesus never told people to worship him, but rather to just FOLLOW him.
Because the Spirit of Oneness (Christ) that Jesus unleashed in the world is inseparable from the life and teachings of Jesus, it is easy for people who have experienced the intimacy and forgiveness of God in this Oneness, to think that Jesus and God are one and the same. Actually, no. There was a historical Jesus who was a man who walked around like we do. And he pointed to the “risen,” “higher” consciousness of Christ in the world. So the Risen Christ is still with us, and we sometimes refer to that personal presence today as Christ Jesus, but Jesus of Nazareth is long dead.
So trinitarian thought makes sense to me today if I understand the cycle of relationship between the “Three in One” this way, as it relates to human beings:
- The Spirit of God experiences life through each person’s ordinary moments, thoughts, and situations,
- God, the Source of Being, responds to what is experienced in this first step by creating new possibilities in life for us to draw from,
- as we live from the essence of Christ Consciousness in our lives.
The Trinity is a “brand name” for the Love and Light of God as it infuses and relates with us, so that we can express this Love and Light (will) of God into the world. I am a trinitarian thinker, but not to the exclusion of other models of thought about how to understand the ineffable, unknowable, Mystery that is God.
What a miracle it is that God chooses each of us, regardless of the models we hold about our relationship with the divine! As it says in the last line of Psalm 150: Let everything that breathes praise the Lord!
Thanks for this goos article on Our Trinitarian God, and, it is good also for Interreligious Dialogue.