Why study the Trinity?
Have you ever spent much time considering the doctrine of the Trinity? Many of us are familiar with the declaration that God is three in one, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and yet I myself have often struggled to understand this doctrine. How many of us have wondered whether it was worth the time to puzzle over the nature of the Trinity or if this was more of an academic matter for theologians to argue about?
We turn first in our study to the articles exploring the Trinity. Introducing us to the subject is an article entitled “The Most Mysterious Doctrine” written by Loraine Boettner, a reformed theologian from the 20th century.
Dr. Boettner acknowledges right away that this is “perhaps the most mysterious and difficult doctrine that is presented to us in the entire range of Scripture.” He uses an analogy similar to Dr. Samuel Renihan’s picture this past weekend of our minds trying to understand the nature of God being like a thimble attempting to hold the oceans. Dr. Boettner compares trying to grasp a “full” understanding of God to an attempt to cram the ocean into a teacup. Rather than allow this difficulty to dissuade us, however, he goes on to assert that we can understand in a “plain, simple way” some truths about the Trinity that God has chosen to reveal to us. We will seek these truths by looking to God’s revelation about himself in his Scriptures while trusting the Holy Spirit to enlighten us.
This search into the doctrine of the Trinity cannot be achieved by looking to nature since nothing in the natural world can compare to the being of God. This requires us to embrace humility as we look to the Scriptures so that we may “receive implicitly whatever God has seen fit to reveal.” This reminds me of the call of Jesus to have a child-like faith.
In noting the importance of studying the Trinity Dr. Boettner points out that the Bible presents the persons of the Trinity as each having distinctive roles in the works of “creation, providence, redemption, and grace.” This means that if we are to understand any area of theology we must have an understanding of the Trinity. This is most clear in the area of salvation where our understanding of who Jesus is (incarnation) and what he has done (redemption) are bound up in our understanding of the Trinity.
Dr. Boettner concludes his article by laying out the process by which God has brought to us revelation of his triune nature. God has revealed something of himself in creation so that all people have a basic knowledge of his existence and attributes (This makes be think of the second half of Romans 1). Nature alone, however, cannot bring knowledge of the Trinity. This is why the Trinity is the distinctive mark of the Christian religion alone and found in no other religion in the world. Following this general revelation God chose to reveal himself further through the giving of the Old Testament revelation. This particularly revealed him to be a God of grace who redeems sinners. Finally God revealed himself in the giving of the New Testament. It is here that he reveals himself to be Triune with each person, Father, Son, and Spirit, working out distinctive aspects of the acts of creation, providence, and redemption.
This article by Dr. Boettner seems to be well chosen as an introductory article for the topic. Please continue to read along with us as we look to the next article in the upcoming days.