I have been pondering the doctrine of the Trinity lately. When I was a younger Christian I never really critically examined this belief, and when I was in college it gave me great difficulty because it seemed arbitrary to me. More recently, I have been struck by the beauty of this doctrine, and the profound implications that it has for epistemology and life. The other day during class I started jotting down some thoughts on the Trinity, and now I will post them here on my blog:
The doctrine of the Trinity should either be dismissed immediately as blatantly irrational, or it should restructure and govern all our thinking. It must either be discarded at the outset, or it must become the root and starting point for all subsequent thought. It is not one truth among other truths, passively waiting to be judged and evaluated by already existing and self-supported standards: it is a new standard, a new criterion, a new judge, breaking in and changing everything. For there is no standard by which God can be weighed outside of God Himself. The doctrine of the Trinity cannot be assimilated into an already functioning worldview, but it must challenge every worldview and call for epistemic revolution. God alone is ultimate, in the world of ideas as well as in the world of action.
The doctrine of the Trinity means that God is deeply mysterious and can only be known by revelation, for no one would have ever discerned by free speculation that God is three in one. If God, who is the first, the highest, and the most real thing, is deeply mysterious to us, and cannot be known apart from revelation, then how much more must we proceed with caution and humility in our knowing of lesser things? In comparison to the weight of God’s majesty, the entire universe is small and light, for He is necessary and eternal and infinite, while the universe is contingent and temporal and finite. If He is mysterious to us, and cannot be obtained by our free speculation, how can we trust free speculation in lesser matters? If we must lean against a wall to know what is most obvious and basic, how could we roam freely in our knowing of what is contingent and unnecessary? At every point in our thinking, we must steeply lean on God. When we wander away from Him, even for one tiny instant, it leads to chaos, because He is God and fills everything.
Trying to think apart from God is no less futile than trying to live apart from God. Just as the heart’s search for happiness can never be successful outside of God, so the mind’s search for truth can never be successful outside of God, because God himself is truth, just as God Himself is happiness. This is why modern Western philosophy, which began with Descartes and the Enlightenment by making autonomous reason absolute, has (according to its own principles!) degenerated into a kind of neo-paganism. Only God can be absolute! The history of secular philosophy, for all its pomp and pretension, is as bad at finding truth as a reckless hedonist is at finding happiness. It has not yet learned that only in submission to God can reality be meaningfully penetrated, for reality itself is God’s. When we breathe air, we are breathing God’s air; when we think thoughts, we are thinking God’s thoughts; when we so much as exist, we exist in God. “For in Him we live and move have our being.” To step away from God is to step into chaos and nothingness.
The doctrine of the Trinity means that ultimate reality is mysterious: but it also means that ultimate reality is a Person – in fact, a community of Persons! The first, the highest, the most real thing is personal. This boggles my mind! According to Christianity, ultimate reality (what is first and most basic) has a will, loves, and is beautiful. Ultimate reality is happy and sings! What a wonderful thought! What is ultimate is not a bland gray but a stream of color: not a “gentle indifference” (cf. Camus) but a fierce love: not a neuter force but a masculine will: not a cold darkness but a radiant joy! This moves me to worship. It is so incredibly beautiful that I instantly know it to be true, for something so beautiful cannot be false. To have seen God, to have beheld His majesty – once a person has done this, what could they ever desire again? To know Him is life and light and certainty and happiness. “Better is one day in your courts than thousands elsewhere.”