“Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” – John 12:24
“The last enemy to be destroyed is death...Death is swallowed up in victory.” – 1 Corinthians 15:26, 54
"The greater the sin, the greater the mercy, the deeper the death and the brighter the rebirth.” - C. S. Lewis
"This story...has the very taste of primary truth." - J. R. R. Tolkien

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The Trinity: An Ontological Foundation

At first glance the doctrine of the Trinity may seem unreasonable or even impossible. How can God be three persons and yet one God? After carefully considering these things, it becomes clear that the being of God is not nearly as simple as we may have thought, and that although we may approach some limited knowledge of God through what he has graciously revealed, he is beyond our comprehension simply because he is God. That is what it means for us to be finite beings and God to be the infinite source of all reality.

We can, I think, deduce from what we observe in the world that there is some sort of Supreme Being – an entity of such power and greatness inherent to its being that it exists of necessity and thus provides an answer in itself as to why anything at all exists. One would expect that only the greatest thing would exist of necessity, upholding its own being, and an all-powerful, infinite Being seems to be the best fit for this “necessary greatest thing.” That is, an all-powerful, infinite Being as the ontological foundation of reality is perhaps the best explanation both of reality in general and of human beings (with consciousness, thought, and emotion) in particular. But why, one might ask, does a three-in-one God exist as opposed to nothing at all? To an extent we must recognize that we will not fully understand why God exists as he does. It seems to me, though, that the explanatory nature of God as “necessary greatest thing” – the source of reality and alternative to nothingness – is preserved in the unity of the Trinity. One might say that if he is three persons God is divided and not one thing, and thus a less great being, or no longer the greatest and most supreme conceivable thing, or even one single thing at all. But God, although he is three persons, is no less One Being – no less One ultimate, absolute, supreme, and infinitely great and powerful entity. The ontological self-existence of God is grounded in the unity – the “oneness” – of his diverse being. That is part of the incomprehensibly wonderful mystery of the Tri-unity of God. If God were not Triune he would not be God. It is in the unity of the diverse perfections of God that the greatest beauty is found.

But still the mystery remains – why is God the way he is? A simpler “Supreme Being” might strike us as something that must exist necessarily, or as something that is “self-explanatory” as a self-existent entity, but does not the Trinity seem a bit arbitrary? Perhaps we can accept that a Triune God might be the greatest possible Being, but why three persons? In this life we will not fully know the answer to that question. A day will come, though, when we will look upon the Trinity with unveiled faces. In that day we will see God for who he is, and he himself, in all the splendor of the fullness of his being, will be the answer. We have seen glimpses of the awesome answer that is this God himself, but the full truth will only be made known to us in the kingdom of heaven – in “the high country of the Trinity where the air is thin.” For now we must accept what God has revealed as sufficient for reasonable faith and press on to know more deeply what can be known of the Triune God with our fallen, mortal minds, while at the same time remembering that we are in over our heads in trying to comprehend things that are beyond us.

It is a remarkable and awesome truth that an unknown Supreme Being should exist instead of nothing, but how much more stunning and astonishing and awe-inspiring it is that this God, this diverse yet united Trinity, exists as opposed to nothingness – that we actually have some knowledge of who God is! It is amazing that the I AM (Exodus 3:14) is Triune – “the Trinity IS.” It’s mind-blowing that this is just the way it is, the way God is, and it is that way so that the redemption of a fallen world can be achieved, a fallen world that the same Triune God ordained because of who He is. Instead of nothing existing, the Trinity exists. Instead of nothing, this reality exists.

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