Pop quiz. What is the sum of 1+1+1? You’re thinking three. That’s correct in mathematics but not in theology. When it comes to the nature of God, 1+1+1=1!
The Catechism of the Catholic Church calls the Holy Trinity an “ineffable mystery” (CCC, 251). This mystery, taught in embryo in Holy Scripture, was birthed through the theological controversies of the first three centuries of Christianity. In 325, the Church Fathers at Nicea formulated the doctrine to combat the Arian heresy which taught that the Son and the Spirit are merely created beings. As Catholics, we profess every Sunday our belief in One God who exists eternally in three Persons when we recite the fourth-century Nicene Creed. Easy to say. Difficult to grasp.
We shouldn’t be surprised that some important truths of the Christian faith are difficult to explain and understand. The same could be said for Einstein’s Theory of Relativity or Goedel’s Incompleteness Theorem. Logically, you’d think 0.999… would be just a tiny bit less than 1, but mathematically they are equal. There are many truths that are difficult to grasp!
Why should we believe in this difficult teaching of God’s Three-in-Oneness?
First, we should believe the doctrine of the Trinity because it’s true. While the doctrine of the Trinity surpasses human reason, it does not contradict human reason. Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition both attest to its truth. The doctrine has stood the test of time, and the overwhelming majority of Christians in the world believe and profess it.
Second, we should believe the doctrine of the Trinity because it’s important. The Son and the Holy Spirit have been sent into the world to reveal God to us. God is love (1 John 4:8). The Son and Spirit are also love, because they are God. If the Son and Spirit were mere creatures, their ability to reveal God to us would be limited. Because the Spirit and Son are God, they can reveal the Father’s love to us in its fullness. When Jesus died on the cross, he wasn’t merely a martyr suffering unjustly. God was hanging on the cross, suffering with us and for us to show us his love. When Jesus, along with the Father, sent the Spirit to abide with us, he didn’t send a created being that was lower than God. He sent us God himself. If the Son and Spirit were created beings, then God would be distant. Thankfully, the Son and Spirit are God, and we can relate to God the Father through them.
Happy Trinity Sunday!