Doctrine #3:We believe that there are three person in the God-head, the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, undivided in essence and co-equal in power and glory.I have never been good at math.
Numbers just aren't my thing. As a musician, I find myself sticking to predictable phrases, or the length of a term of beats, measures, and so on… For example, in the morning, when making myself a glass of tasty chocolate milk, I count to myself as I put 32 swirls of Hershey's chocolate syrup in my 1% milk (in a good size glass, mind you, at a clip of about 150 beats per minute). I don't count 30 or 35. No, it HAS to equal an 8 measure phrase, in 4/4 time. It just feels right. Why? Because I'm a musician, of course. And it tastes amazing. I'm just sayin' is all.
What I have just unpacked for you is the extent of my arithmetical prowess. Now, string some flowery words together, accompanied by somewhat mediocre and average chord progressions… THAT, I can do! Compound interest, dealing with probabilities, long division, calculating tips, (shoot, even trying to figure out stats in baseball), these all perplex me, and if I'm really bothered by it, I'll ask someone for clarification (these days, it's one Brad Rowland, drummer/math whiz). But that's only if I'm bothered by it. Most of the time I am not. Perhaps this is why it took me 3 shots at passing the same math class in college (sorry, Mom), and that was AFTER taking 2 prep remedial math classes! (I should also mention that I was a poor test-taker. At least that's my theory).
Additionally, my first non-summer-camp job was as an employee at a Salvation Army Thrift Store. I'm positive the commanding officer had pity on me, realizing that I may not be the best fit for what he had in mind for me. I'm grateful he took a chance, but clearly I wasn't cut from the right cloth. Here's why: for the first two weeks in my new job (that had nothing to do with washing dishes, or even teaching music to kids at camp) I was given some pretty interesting tasks. (Okay, let's be honest… I was BORED out of my mind after spending 4 hours sorting through donated goods). After my supervisor realized that even this was too much for me to handle, he put me out on the floor of the store. This was better. At least I could see windows. Fast forward another month, and the saintly woman that I now reported to drew my attention to this modern marvel of a machine called a cash register. "I'm gonna teach you how to use this," she said. "It's easy," she said. "Even a monkey could do this," she said. (I'm getting to the point, promise!). Well, after spending nearly 2 hours, she explained what had to be done. I asked my questions, she gave her answers. All was good. They were careful about how much responsibility they gave me, and for good reason. After doing this earth-shattering work, they offered me a chance of a lifetime. See, I had started this fantastical job over a Christmas break. By the time the spring semester came around, I told them it was going to be difficult commuting all the way across town to get some hours in. The solution was genius. They scheduled me in at another location! A much smaller store, only 3 miles from my college campus. Awesome. Except for one thing… I had to settle my own accounts after every shift. Oh, and I also closed the store out BY MYSELF every time, making sure the deposit was counted and calculated properly. Clearly, by now, the fine folks in charge of things had lost their minds, entrusting me with such responsibility. Long story short(er), I never once settled a balanced shift. Not once did I ever have what register said I should have. Sometimes there wasn't enough. Most times, there was more than I was supposed to have (we're not talking big amounts here… maybe ten cents here and there). To this day, I still have no idea how they kept me on as long as they did. (The business manager, who played the aforementioned part of the "saintly woman" finally had a word with me, and it was agreed that I made a better sorter than a cashier. Only I didn't want to sort. So I got a job at Old Navy instead. Sorting. They asked if I was interested in being a cashier. I declined.)
So you understand my plight by now, hopefully… Me and numbers don't get along. And assigning myself the task of writing about the single greatest mystery in the history of all mankind (which, of course, involves NUMBERS!)??? Now it would appear that I am the one who's lost his mind.
HOW ON EARTH (OR HEAVEN, FOR THAT MATTER) IS THE TRINITY EVEN REMOTELY FATHOMABLE TO OUR LIMITED SCOPE OF UNDERSTANDING AS HUMANS?
I may be horrible at math, but even I know the notion that God, Jesus and The Holy Spirit all being ONE, while distinctly being THREE at the same time, doesn't add up.
Or does it?
You've most likely heard and seen all the analogies that accompany the explanation of the Holy Trinity:
The ooey, gooey berry cobbler, whose innards, when cut, still fuse back together (another mystery!) The crust/top may have been divided, but the insides were still one.
Then there's the Water/Steam/Ice analogy. That's a good one. Water, when it is heated turns to steam. Somehow it's still water. But when it's frozen, it's ice. So, is ice frozen steam? Or it is frozen water? This is too much… Science is too much like math. I'm bad at math, remember?
Oh, what about the 3-blade propellor? Or, one of my personal favorites, the egg: Shell/White/Yolk… (I love eggs!). How about the three-leaf clover (??? Just found that one on Google).
As you might imagine, there's plenty that has been shared on this subject. And while I could point you to any number of theologians, one that I always find to be thought-provoking is A.W. Tozer. Here's what he has to say, from his book "The Knowledge of the Holy":
To meditate on the three Persons of the Godhead is to walk in thought through the garden eastward in Eden and to tread on holy ground. Our sincerest effort to grasp the incomprehensible mystery of the Trinity must remain forever futile, and only by deepest reverence can it be saved from actual presumption. Some persons who reject all they cannot explain have denied that God is a Trinity. Subjecting the Most High to their cold, level-headed scrutiny, they conclude that it is impossible that He could be both One and Three. These forget that their whole life is enshrouded in mystery. They fail to consider that any real explanation of even the simplest phenomenon in nature lies hidden in obscurity and can no more be explained than can the mystery of the Godhead.
What I love about this is that, even in my dumbfounded-ness, I can accept in faith who God says He is. I'm not a high thinking individual. I don't read works on philosophy or theology for fun. I don't spend time arguing the greatest mysteries, or debate lofty rhetoric. And it's not that I don't want to. It's that I can't. I am simply not wired that way. However, I know, as Tozer suggests, that all of life is "shrouded in mystery," and that if there is one area of life that I'll never be able to explain, then there is no area of life that I'll EVER be able to explain. But it's this MYSTERY that absolutely fascinates me. It's this MYSTERY that has me hooked, with bated breath, every time I encounter the LIVING GOD who has created me (God, the Father), saved me (Jesus, the Son), and sustains me (The Holy Spirit).
The bottom line is this: I don't want to be able to understand it. Even if it's never explained to me on either side of Heaven, here or there, I will forever embrace the mystery. All of it. I believe it. I may not be able to argue a case about it. I may never scratch the surface of human thought regarding the Father, Son and Spirit, and that's absolutely fine by me. I still put all my stock in the MYSTERY.
Here is what I've come up with for this astounding statement of ours, in homage to this Triune God we believe in:
Three In One (The Mystery Hymn)
The mystery, how can it beThree persons undivided, TrinityIn essence all three are the sameSharing the glory and the power of Their Name
The mystery, the God-head threeBefore all time began, in perfect unityOur Father Love, Creator GrandHolds all the universe inside His mighty hand
The mystery, that on a treeJesus, the Son, would die for our LibertyThe maker of that tree would standAnd raise to life again, His perfect Warrior-Lamb
The Holy Spirit, Oh Holy SpiritMoving among us, around us and through usCome move among us, around us and through us
Father, Son, Spirit OneYour will be done here, Your will be doneGod the Judge, Jesus the SonSpirit, convict us, make us oneHere's to getting rid of our thinking-caps and perhaps for the first time believing in faith, without analogy or explanation, in this great MYSTERY!
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