Last week I preached on the Trinity. Here are a few things that did not fit into the sermons, but which I find interesting.
The early church fathers were very hesitant to use the words “persons” (in Greek, hypostaseis) of the Trinity.” While references to a Father, a Son and a Holy Spirit are all in the Bible, the word “Persons” are never used to refer to them. Eventually Athanasius and others were willing to talk about the three persons, if coupled with the conviction that God was one essence or being (ousia in Greek). So the first essential formulation of the Trinity is that God is one Being (ousia) but three persons (hypostaseis).
While people use different things to represent the Trinity (Shamrocks being the most popular, as passed on by St. Patrick) formal theologians use a different symbol, as seen in the image here. This is an essential. The Son is not the Father and the Father is not the Son. The Son is not the Spirit and the Spirit is not the Son. The Father is not the Spirit and the Spirit is not the Father. (Confused yet?) But all are God. This goes back to the idea that the Father, Son, and Spirit are unconfused.
When I preach on the Trinity, I usually talk about how the essence of God is best seen in relationships. God is not an impersonal “Force” a la Star Wars, but an interaction of relationships. Without relationships, God would not be the
Christian God we worship. This opens the door for our relationship with God.
Books on the Trinity
These Three Are One by David Cunningham
David is a fellow Duke graduate now a theology professor, but don’t let the last part scare you off this book. This is an excellent over view of the most important aspects of Trinitarian theology, and while it might take some work to get through some sections, for the most part the average lay person could read this without difficulty.
God for Us: The Trinity and Christian Life by Catherine LaCugna
If you ever wondered why theologians pondered the unknowable essence of God, this is the book for you. LaCugna gives some practical implications of Trinitarian doctrine.
The Trinity by Philip Butin
Philip gives a good, basic historical overview of the Trinity, connecting ancient theology with current trends His basic idea is that the Trinity actually makes God more accessible to us, and helps us be more accessible to each other.