When Don McLean, in his hit “American Pie,” refers to “the Father, Son and Holy Ghost” as “the three men I admire most,” I suspect many people find that consistent with their own view of the Trinity. There is much that can be said about the anthropomorphic and gender problems with the word “men,” and I am among those who have a problem with those, but that discussion is for another time. I want to look at the number.
I think that most, if not all my Trinitarian friends will easily affirm a belief in One God. Yet the way many talk about the Father, Son and Holy Spirit sounds polytheistic at times. Thus, I can understand why my Unitarian friends can be led to scoff at such a notion.
I ascribe to the doctrine of the Trinity, yet I am a monotheist. Is that possible?
One God in three forms. Is that simple or complex? It seems simple until someone starts talking about the Trinity as “three men” or three seemingly independent beings. Why go out of the way to say “In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit” when it’s just one Being?
I saw a program on public TV many years ago that attempted to show how a two-dimensional being (i.e., length and width, but no depth) would experience a three-dimensional one. As the three-dimensional being passed by, it would appear to the two-dimensional one in changing, two-dimensional forms. The 2-D cannot experience the 3-D any other way. It has been suggested that our ability – or rather shortcoming thereof – to understand a Triune God is kind of like that. God has more dimensions than we do, thus appearing to us in different forms in different circumstances.
Countless volumes have been written about the nature of God. I could write a lot of words in trying to explain what I may understand on this topic at this point in my life, but I’m aiming here for a page, not a book. Many words and phrases come to mind, including “Creative Force,” “Sustainer of Life,” “Power” and, especially, “Love.” I grew up hearing the Bible verse “God is love.” In recent years, I applied the “if A=B, then B=A” logic and have found it helpful to say also “Love is God.”
And here’s something I don’t believe: I don’t understand God to be some white-haired and -bearded man in a robe sitting in some large chair somewhere up in the clouds.
I’ve always resonated well with the rock song “Jesus Is Just Alright with Me.” I find that I refer to “Jesus” in couple of differing, though related ways. In the past tense, I mean the historical figure who taught us a lot about God and how we should live. In the present tense, I am referring to God as revealed in the teachings and personal example of the historic person. “Christ,” to me, refers to the special and mysterious way in which God was present in the historical man, and to the spirit that he engendered and which lives on today in many people.
I’ll admit I’m a little hazy in distinguishing between “Spirit of Christ” and “Holy Spirit.” But maybe that’s OK, since both refer to God’s presence within us. I think perhaps one distinction may be that “Spirit of Christ” has to do with how we want to live and “Holy Spirit” how we can more nearly do so. Maybe “Christ” is the Love; the “Spirit” is the Power.
I’ve also learned that “Christ” means “God incarnate” – Jesus in the first Century and now the “Body of Christ,” which is the Church – and that the “Holy Spirit” is the “breath of God.” This suggests to me that the doctrine of the Trinity is a reminder that God is living and breathing. That’s helpful to me, as is remembering that “In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit” can mean “We honor You in all the ways we experience Your Presence.”
At this moment in my journey, I find that I identify as a Unitarian Jesus freak, empowered by the Holy Spirit.