When I graduated high school and began college I was placed in some classes that were called “remedial” classes. They were classes designed for freshman college students that scored low on entrance exams. English was one area I was deemed to be low in according to college standards. I started reading and writing to improve my English skills. Part of that meant I needed to improve my vocabulary. I began reading books and kept a dictionary close at hand. If I came across a word I did not recognize I would look it up in the dictionary, write the word down in the margin of the page, and write the definition next to it so that I could reference the word later on in the book if I came across the word again. One of those words I remember looking up was the word “paradox.” A paradox as I now know is “a seemingly absurd or self-contradictory statement or proposition that when investigated or explained may prove to be well founded or true” (Dictionary.com). When new Christians begin to study the Bible and learn about the Trinity sometimes they think that the doctrine is a paradox that does not make sense: three unique persons united in one essence.
Photo Credit: Photo Credit: “Holy Trinity” by Hendrick van Balen
Now that we have studied the attributes of God, how God is the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, I now want us to look at how the three members of the Godhead exist in community and relationship with each other. I’d like us to look how the members of the Godhead relate to each other and how the three persons exist as one essence. The book, Two Views on the Doctrine of the Trinity, is not a book I would recommend reading but I did come across a helpful quote about how the relationships among the Trinity exist.
Fatherhood and Sonship are relational terms, and so are neither substantial nor accidental. The claim here runs as follows: Father and Son are two existences of the same simple essence, distinguished by the relationship of begetting, and by that relationship only; that relational distinction is their difference from each other—the Father is not the Son—but it does not compromise the simplicity of the divine essence. Similar arguments can be made about the Father and the Spirit and the Son and the Spirit ~ Stephen Holmes, “Classical Trinity” in Two Views on the Doctrine of the Trinity, 37.
First, let’s examine how the three persons exist as one essence.
Relationships within the Trinity
I. THREE IN ONE
Now let’s look at how these unique persons can exist as one essence.[ref]”God, the cause of all, is One. This One is light and life, spirit and word, mouth and speech, wisdom and knowledge, joy and love, the Kingdom of Heaven and Paradise, the heaven of heavens, just as He is called the sun of suns, God of gods, day without evening, and whatever other good things you might cite from the visible world. And, if you seek beyond all that exists, you will find this One Who is, and is alone properly and substantially called Good. That One is not such as are visible things. Rather, He transcends incomparably and inalterably all the visible world.” (St. Symeon the New Theologian, On the Mystical Life: The Ethical Discourses, vol. 1, The Church and the Last Things, p. 122).[/ref]
A. God Is One
Moses was writing at a time when there were many many gods and often people worshiped all the gods they knew. With that background Moses declared that God (not “gods”) created the world (Gen 1:1), there was only one God (Exod 20:2-3), and that the LORD was one (Deut 6:4).