Trinitarian Doctrine: How Our Unique Design Includes Community
The doctrine of the Trinity has been shrouded in mystery and is one of the most challenging concepts for Christians and non-Christians alike to understand. The key used for it is “mystery,” where “mystery is not something [one] cannot understand–it is something [humans] can endlessly understand! There is no point at which [one] can say, '[I have] got it.' Always and forever, mystery gets you!” (Rohr, 27)
The story of the creation of man depicted in Genesis 1:26 begins with, "Then God said, 'Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness.'” (Genesis 1:26 NRSV) The word “us” here is translated from the root word נַ֫חְנוּ as the plural form of ‘we, us, and our,’ signifying God is talking to a group, presumably the other members of the Trinity. The Scriptures then go on to say, “so God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” (Gen 1:27) This beginning encounter with the “We-ness” of what we have come to call the Holy Trinity is quite notable as it is written before the third member of the Trinity, Jesus, came to breathe his first breath upon this earth.
The actual term “Trinity” is never used in either the New or Old Testaments of our Holy Scriptures. Regardless of the lack of it showing up in the Scriptures, it is difficult for theologians to overlook the instances within the Bible that portray the elements of the Trinity. The use of “we” in the creation story and the time the three men visited Abraham are just two of the many references to God as three throughout the Old Testament.
In the New Testament, we can see Jesus mentioning the Holy Spirit and God, “who is apparently other than himself–and we have Jesus offering to share a part of himself, also the Father’s self, which he calls the Spirit.” (Rohr, 49) It is because of these examples (and many more that I have not listed) that convinced a man named Tertullian (150-240) in the third century to first “coin the word Trinity from the Latin trinitas, meaning “triad,” or trinus, meaning ‘three-fold’” (Rohr, 48) to address the fullness of God as a Trinitarian being.
Now, if human beings have been created in the very image of the Trinitarian God as Genesis 1:26 & 27 say, then we, as image-bearers of God, have been intrinsically designed to have a role within the Trinitarian universe. Richard Rohr says, “we are not outsiders or spectators but inherently part of the divine dance,” (Rohr, 67) where he describes this divine dance as a loving circle of relationship that we are invited into as image-bearers of the Trinitarian God. Rohr goes on to explain,
Jesus comes fourth from the infinite life of the Trinity and invites us and includes us back in the Infinitely Receiving Gaze so that now we can have participatory knowledge of the same, because no objectification of God is ever possible. We can only be mirrored, and we can only know and see ourselves fully both in a mirror and through a mirror. (Rohr, 52)
This way of mirroring and relationship “is an invitation to a Trinitarian way of living, loving, and relating–on earth as it is in Godhead. We–not you, but we–are intrinsically like the Trinity, living in an absolute relatedness.” (Rohr, 47) Another way of looking at this is to see that:
Because the ultimate reality of the universe, depicted in the Trinity, is a community of persons in relation to one another, we know they trey is the only way it is possible for people to treacle to one another in the individuality of one, the reciprocity of two, and the stability, subjectivity, and objectivity of three. (Andrews, 18-19)
When we are able to grasp a true triniarial theology, we will be able to see “that true power is circular or spiral, not so much hierarchical,” (Rohr, 95) which is at the very heart of the circle analogy used by Rohr. In this circular dance, the “all divine power is shared power, which should have entirely changed Christain politics and relationships,” (Rohr, 95) creating a circular community relationship all human beings who are image-bearers of the trinitarian God, are invited to partake in in order to become fully human together.
Andrews, Dave. A Divine Society: The Trinity, Community, and Society. Eugene, OR:
Wipf and Stock Publishers. 2012.
Rohr, Richard. The Divine Dance: The Trinity and Your Transformation. New
Kensington, PA: Whitaker House. 2016.