Is the Trinity Relevant?
Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio
Trinity Sunday celebrates the dogma of the Most Holy Trinity . . . that God is Trinity, one God in three persons. This doctrine has baffled people for 2,000 years. Given that it is so hard to accept, why bother with it? What difference does the dogma really make to how we live our Christian lives?
Many are ready to give a polite nod of some sort to Jesus of Nazareth. Most honor him as a great moral teacher. Many even confess him as Savior. But the Incarnation of the Eternal God? Second person of the Holy Trinity? God can’t be one and three at the same time. Such a notion is at worst illogical, at best meaningless. “This was all invented by the Roman Emperor Constantine in 313 AD,” scoff a motley crew ranging from the Jehovah’s Witnesses to the DaVinci Code.
Of course this charge has no historical leg to stand on. St. Ignatius of Antioch wrote seven brief letters around 110AD in which he called Jesus “God” 16 times.
True, the word “Trinity” is not in the bible. But everywhere the New Testament refers to three distinct persons who seem to be equally divine, yet one (e.g. 2 Cor 13:13). So over 100 years before Constantine, a Christian writer named Tertullian coined the term “Trinity” as a handy way to refer to this reality of three distinct, equal persons in one God. It stuck.
But if the doctrine of the Trinity is authentically biblical, is it relevant? Does it really matter?
If Christianity were simply a religion of keeping the law, the inner life of the lawgiver would not matter. But if Christianity is about personal relationship with God, then who God really is matters totally. Common sense tells us that some supreme being made the universe and that we owe Him homage. But that this creator is a trinity of persons who invites us to intimate friendship with Himself, we never could have guessed. We only know it because God has revealed it.
God is love, says 1 John 4:8 (see too John 3:16). If God were solitary, how could he have been love before he created the world? Who would there have been to love? Jesus reveals a God who is eternally a community of three persons pouring themselves out in love for one another. The Father does not create the Son and then, with the Son, create the Spirit. No, the Father eternally generates the Son. And with and through the Son, this Father eternally “breathes” the Spirit as a sort of personalized sigh of love. “As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be.” That’s what the conclusion of the Glory Be really means, that the self-giving of the three divine persons did not begin at a moment in time, but was, is, and is to come.
If we are truly to “know” our God, we must know this. But if we are ever to understand ourselves, we must also know this. For we were made in the image and likeness of God, and God is a community of self-donating love. That means that we can never be happy isolated from others, protecting ourselves from others, holding ourselves back selfishly from others. Unless we give ourselves in love, we can never be fully human. And unless we participate in the life of God’s people, we can never be truly Christian either. Because Christianity is about building up the community of divine love which is called the Church. If God is Trinity, then there really is no place for free-lance, lone-ranger Christians.
The family, the domestic Church, is a reflection of Trinitarian love – the love of husband and wife, distinct and very different persons, generates the child who is from them but is nonetheless distinct from them, indeed absolutely unique.
And that is the final point. One of the greatest treasures of Western culture is the concept of the uniqueness and dignity of the individual person. You really don’t find this idea in the ancient societies of Greece and Rome or in other great world religions, such as Islam.
The concept of the irreplaceable uniqueness of each person came into Western culture straight from the doctrine of the Trinity, three who possess the exact same divine nature but who are yet irreplaceably unique in their personhood.
The irony? As it progressively abandons the triune God, the Western world is undermining the very foundation of personal dignity, individuality, and freedom.
So yes, the Trinity does matter.
For Spanish - Haga Aqui!
This first appeared in Our Sunday Visitor as a reflection on the scripture readings for Trinity Sunday (Exodus 34:4b-9; 2 Corinthians 13:11-13; John 3:16-18). It is reproduced here by permission of the author.
Follow Us -
Join us on Facebook
Join us on Twitter
Be a part of the “new springtime” of evangelization! Your tax-deductible gift helps us use TV, radio, and the web to proclaim the message without compromise but in language even the young can understand. Click here to donate now.
Click here to download and print Trinity Undivided by Dr. D'Ambrosio -
For more on the Trinity - Check out these:
Mystery of the Trinity
Three Persons - One Energizing Reality
For more Catholic resources to feed your faith, visit the Crossroads Initiative Homepage.
To sign up for our free weekly e-mail with Dr. D'Ambrosio's commentary on the Sunday readings, liturgical feasts, updates on where Dr. D will be speaking, a chance to WIN a FREE CD and MORE, CLICK HERE!
I Believe - The Heart of the Catholic Faith - DVD Set
In this dynamic, four-part faith formation series, on the Creed, Dr. D'Ambrosio explains how this expression of the basic beliefs of Roman Catholicism is relevant to our personal relationship with God.
Confirmation - The Sacrament of Champions
Why do we need the sacrament of confirmation? What is the purpose and meaning of this sacramental anointing? These questions and more are answered by this dynamic talk appropriate for both teens and adults.
God's Seven Gifts: The Seven Sacraments of the Catholic Church
The Catholic Church has always emphasized how important the seven sacraments are for our lives. Yet many take these 7 sacraments for granted. With little understanding of the sacraments, many are simply going through the motions. This CD will give you new insight into the meaning of these seven unique embraces of divine love that will unlock the power of the sacraments in your life!
BioLean® of the BioLean® Weight Management System - free-shipping
Ephedra-free BioLean®, of the BioLean® Weight Management System, is an excellent natural choice to help jump-start your healthy lifestyle. Designed to help curb your cravings, promote healthy energy levels, and satisfy your appetite, BioLean® is powered by Advantra Z®, the only patented citrus aurantium extract for weight loss on the market today. The great thing about BioLean® is that is can help reduce body fat even while promoting the development of lean muscle mass --the only path to long-term, healthy weight loss.
Keeping Your Kids Catholic - CD Set - Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio
How in this day and age do we raise our children in the Catholic Church? This 2 talk set will shed light and offer suggestions based in faith and reality from Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio, father of five and Catholic Theologian.
The Handbook for Catholic Moms
Drawing from the deep tradition of the Catholic faith, Lisa Hendey coaches Catholic moms in how to care for themselves—heart, mind, body, and soul—so that they can better love and care for their families, their neighbors, and their Church.
With warmth and wisdom, Hendey creates an environment where Catholic moms can reflect peacefully upon often-competitive topics like parenting style, types of schooling, and working outside the home. By sharing her own story, Hendey inspires readers to better balance their own needs with the demands of family life and faith commitment.