Three in One
Living a life of faith requires us to hold facts and beliefs in tension. Belief in the absence of facts is meaningless; it is a blind and useless faith. While faith may be metaphysical, biblical faith must be rooted in facts and not opposed to them. For this reason, Christians should live according the Berean Call of Acts 17 where Paul praises the Bereans for not blindly accepting what he taught, instead they searched scripture to see if what he said was true.
Nearly everyone has ideas about God, how are we to know which are true? We are wise to search the scripture. However, the truths about God cannot be fully comprehend by the written word alone; understanding also requires faith. It is like trying to understand love by reading books or poetry – these will instruct you about love, but you must experience love to comprehend love. However, there remains concepts and ideas beyond our ability to experience that must be embraced by faith; we use illustrations to explain these.
In the Christian faith, illustrations are used to explain theological beliefs like the trinity. One might say that the tri-unity of the trinity is similar to water’s three different forms (ice, liquid and vapor) yet they are all H2O. However, water is no more like the triune God than your DMV photo is like you; it is but a poor reflection of what is real.
Science commonly appeals to imagery to explain the incomprehensible. For example, how hot is the sun? 10 million degrees Kelvin. How hot is that? A Stanford University website answers, “Imagine boiling water. The center of the Sun is about 30,000 times hotter than boiling water. If you are having trouble imagining 30,000 times hotter than boiling water, then here is some help. You may start with thinking about how long is a day and a year. The analogy is that 30,000 times hotter than boiling water is like 82 years is to one day. A lifetime!”
A Popular Science article asks, “How close to the sun can a human get without getting burned up?” They answer, “You can get surprisingly close. The sun is about 93 million miles away from Earth, and if we think of that distance as a football field, a person starting at one end zone could get about 95 yards before burning up.”
Great answers, if I could comprehend how many miles 5% of 93 million miles is! I understand the words but I am unable to KNOW these words. Truthfully, it matters little if the sun is 500 times or a million times hotter that boiling water. Why? Because I cannot experience it, I must accept it by faith.
Theologians face similar problems in defining the trinity. “Trinity” expresses the biblical explanation of how there is only one God and yet how the Father is God, Jesus is God and the Holy Spirit is God. Because this is incomprehensible to our finite minds, some reason that it cannot be true. Since they cannot observe it, taste it, see it, or test it, then they cannot believe it!
However, none of us lives this way. Must I understand how hot 10 million degrees Kelvin is to accept the heat of the sun? Must I understand the law of gravity before I trust it? I live my life not by empirical evidence alone; I live life by faith as well. Every time I sit in a chair, push the brake pedal on my car or go to work, I do so in faith. It is faith that has been proven, reasonable, but it is still faith nonetheless.
Is it reasonable to worship a God that we cannot fully understand? It must be because if I need to understand God fully to worship Him he would cease to be God and would simply be an exalted man. Isaiah anticipates our questions asking, “Who has understood the mind of the LORD, or instructed him as his counselor? Whom did the LORD consult to enlighten him, and who taught him the right way? Who was it that taught him knowledge or showed him the path of understanding?” (40:13-14)
God has revealed himself to us in his Word and in Jesus of whom John 1:18 declares, “No one has ever seen God. But the one and only Son is himself God and is near to the Father’s heart. He has revealed God to us.” Our faith is not in faith but in the God revealed in Scripture.