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Can teaching of the Holy Trinity be a model for the world?

Is the Holy Trinity a strange and untenable doctrine of the divine or a mystery and model for earth community and hope for the world?

Is the Holy Trinity a strange and untenable doctrine of the divine or a mystery and model for earth community and hope for the world?

In much of the western Christian tradition, we recently celebrated the Holy Trinity. The only church festival based on a doctrine, it imagines the paradox of one God united in three equal and undivided persons or experiences, as Creator, Christ Jesus, and Holy Sprit. There are those who question the Trinity as a third or forth century invention. But the majority Christian view is that the doctrine describes a Biblical/New Testament understanding of God as “trinity” (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) without using the word. Whatever the perspective, historic or present, the Trinity remains an essential tenet of Christianity and may hold some promise for a divided and suffering world.

In a discussion with a wonderful group of children at the learning time/Sunday School on Trinity Sunday, we looked at and talked about a variety of illustrations or analogies for the Trinity. Three states of matter - solid, liquid, and gas; a three-leaf clover or shamrock; a triangle; a Celtic knot with its continuous and overlapping cord of three in one. I explained that all of them are attempts to describe or show us dimensions of the Trinity, but none is complete because the Trinity is a mystery of perfect divine love. One young person said about this mystery, “it is unsolved.” I like that. As humanity we admit there is much that is unsolved for us about the nature of God and this world, and we at best describe, often in paradox, what we cannot fully understand or solve.

What might a partial understanding of God as Trinity help us grasp? At its essence the Trinity expresses that God is at once whole and one in pure love, and in relationship or community within God’s self in that perfect love. This divine oneness and community of love creates and sustains the world, as Creator, as Word or voice speaking creation into being, and as Spirit/wind/breath animating all that is. The creation stories of the Bible suggest we are made in this image of the divine. Does that mean created out of divine love in oneness, and for loving relationships with God and everyone and everything else in all creation?

What if we saw everyone and everything, in all its diversity and paradox of beauty and brokenness, as one, in this divine community of love together? Our neighbour with whom we have a dispute or opposing views; strangers whose differences make us uncertain or lash out; a sworn or perceived enemy from across the world or across the street; the earth, its climate and creatures, stressed and struggling; those impoverished because of inequity; the fearful because of violence or oppression; and wars and conflicts in our world that seem unsolvable with unimaginable suffering. Could this divine oneness and community of love of which we are a part push us to have the difficult conversation, to reach out with compassion, suspend our judgements and certainty, quiet our fears, act for justice and peace, in love for a neighbour, a stranger, an enemy, the earth and all its creatures?

If in the Holy Trinity, we are divinely created in oneness and loving community together with everyone and everything, and this is our unsolved and humble way of beginning and being each day, I wonder what could be transformed in us and in this hurting world for good? Let it be so. In all our relations.

Rev. Lyle McKenzie (he/him) is a soon-to-retire Co-Pastor of Lutheran Church of the Cross and UVic Multifaith Co-Spiritual Care Provider. A personal note, I want to thank the Times Colonist and Moderator of the Faith Forum since its inception, for making possible the privilege of writing for this column together with multifaith siblings over the years. Thank you!

You can read more articles on our interfaith blog, Spiritually Speaking at

*This article was published in the print edition of the Times Colonist on Saturday. June 8th 2024