On the Trinity

In this morning’s Fruit of the Vine, Arthur Roberts reflects on a request: “At Christmastime a collegiate granddaughter asked, ‘Grandpa, I’m puzzled about the Trinity; why is it important?’ You can understand that any professorial-type grandfather would enthusiastically engage in a theological dialogue!”

Arthur wrote this reflection and shared it with pastors in January 1998 – part of a 12-year project to encourage ministers and ministry leaders in Northwest Yearly Meeting. Arthur passed away last December, but many of his Reflections have been preserved through the Digital Commons at George Fox University. And this quarter, fourteen of Arthur’s essays have been edited for Fruit of the Vine, a publication that exists partly because of Arthur’s work in 1961.

“So how did I answer her?” Arthur continues. He pointed out that the doctrine of the Trinity is a way of acknowledging the limits of our understanding. We don’t know what God is. Or how. But in the Trinity, we learn to see or experience God: “The three ‘faces’ of God show us the activity of God.” This activity is revealed to us in three ways: “sense perception, reason, and intuition.” Then, when we worship God together, we can “affirm with reverence and awe the creation (the cosmic journey), the human experience in space/time (the outward journey), and the human psychic experience (the inward journey).”

At this point in the essay, Arthur turns his granddaughter’s question on us. “What does affirming the triunity of God mean practically in the life of the church? It means a godly concern for and stewardship of the creation now groaning under a load of sin; a godly concern for kingdom events historically, in your home, community, and the world; and nurturing the personal inward life of the Spirit.”

My mind moves to the massive floods felt in so many parts of the world over the last two months, something I’m especially sensitive to after a weekend of heavy rain in western Oregon. I wonder what a “godly concern” requires of me. I wonder what it requires of us.

This might be the point Arthur intended to make in response to his granddaughter’s question. Why is the Trinity important? It helps us to remember that we are not God. It helps us to remember that we don’t know God, we can’t control God, and we certainly don’t own God. It helps us to pay attention to what God is doing. It urges us to move forward together, joyfully joining God in the celebration of God’s “kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” 

Eric Muhr