If it is the Christian experience of Jesus that gave rise to the teaching on the Trinity, then the only way even to begin to understand the doctrine is to reflect on the experience that prompted it. — Dennis Hamm
Is the idea — well, it is actually a doctrine, but more about that later — of the Trinity: God being Father, Son, and Holy Spirit personal to you? No, this is not a catch question. Is it somehow personal? Review your life and also review the Letter to the Romans. Go ahead; I wait here while you do . . .
Back? Good. Paul seems to be somehow in the process of describing Christian life, Christian life dynamics if you will. Paul makes a careful argument that on earth, everyone is under the threat of condemnation. The Law, breathed by God, when taken serious, makes this clear. God’s wrath, a wrath of the creator, is justified. When Messiah comes there will have to be a reckoning. You might have seen the billboard: “God is coming and boy is she mad.”
At least so it would seem. But, there is a new righteousness that is from God by Faith through which all now have the hope to share the Glory of God. That switch in chapter 3 is important. Faith, allegiance to Jesus Christ in all things, puts us in a different relationship with the Almighty. We are at peace with God and God is at peace with us.
To push the matter further, Paul will make an argument in chapter 8 that there is “life” according to the flesh” and “life according to the Spirit.” The former is an enemy of God and hates the eternal law of God. The latter is connection to the giver of life, the one who raised Jesus from he dead, (8:11) and that connection is Christ (8:9) and that connection reconciles not just human and God but human and Law.
The whole argument is trying to trace the journey the early Christians had experienced in coming to faith. From a “lostness” as pagans yet still responsible before God and a “lostness” of Jews in Jerusalem and diaspora, once under the law but failing it in letter and spirit, to gaining a new and different relationship with God by the Resurrection of Christ by the glory of the Father now delivered by the Spirit.
The relationship now is no longer slave or servant, or subject. The relationship is now: “Child.” (8:15) In that relationship, the law takes on new meaning. With the relationship settled, the Law becomes a reminder of the mind of the Creator and one keeps it for love of Creator and creation. The whole process, the entire experience is shot through with the work of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
One cannot ever say these thing “simply.” To take a hit at explaining what Christians mean and cherish by speaking of God as “Father, Son and Holy Spirit” seemingly always leaves the listener looking quizzical saying: “Huh,” and speakers looking helplessly saying: “Do you understand what I am getting at?”
"Bring me a worm that can comprehend a man, and then I will show you a man that can comprehend the Triune God,” wrote John Wesley. But does that not leave us with a God so remote that nothing can real be said to explain the deity? And if so, how can there be any relationship, other than a destructive are mechanical one, between creator and creature?
G.K. Chesterton wrote: "If the moderns really want a simple religion of love, they must look for it in the Athanasian Creed. The truth is that the trumpet of true Christianity, the challenge of the charities and simplicities of Bethlehem or Christmas Day never rang out more arrestingly and unmistakably than in the defiance of Athanasius to the cold compromise of the Arians. It was emphatically he who really was fighting for a God of Love against a God of colourless and remote cosmic control; the God of the stoics and the agnostics. It was emphatically he who was fighting for the Holy Child against the grey deity of the Pharisees and the Sadducees. He was fighting for that very balance of beautiful interdependence and intimacy, in the very Trinity of the Divine Nature, that draws our hearts to the Trinity of the Holy Family. His dogma, if the phrase be not misunderstood, turns even God into a Holy Family."
I return to the initial question for a moment: Is the idea of the Holy Trinity personal to you? To me the answer would rally depend on whether you want God to be “personal.” The verb in that sentence is odd, I know: “Want” ought to not enter into the matter. God shows up when, where, and as what God chooses and according to what and how God is. Millenia of witness, Jewish and Christian alike confess that not only is there a God with a name so holy, it is spoken only in awe if at all, but also that God continues to be involved in the machinery of creation.
Rather have an impersonal God? Too bad. Instead Jesus, the Son, showed up. Rather have an impartial and merely observing God? Too bad. Instead in calls in the night to Abram and in burning bushes to Moses, the creator chose a particular people as witnesses with whom the store of divine pronouncements and wisdom was deposited. Want a God who leaves you alone? Too bad. Instead the same Spirit to which patriarch and prophet listened is still here and still speaks the Holy Will into sometimes rebellious hearts that would rather have their own wills ordained as eternal and true.
Trinity Sunday invites a reflection on our experience with the divine. Who is it that we are betting our lives on and is anything less worth the risk?