What does it mean, God is triune?


(Carson Weitnauer) #1

Hi Greg,

In your book Our Deepest Desires: How the Christian Story Fulfills Human Aspirations, you make a compelling argument that links our fundamental personhood and need for relationships with the Christian story of the Trinity. For those following along, here are two quotes to give a sense of how you put it:

God eternally lives in relationship. Relationality, then, is as deep as the deepest feature of reality. It is not a feature that was added to reality as an afterthought. The most fundamental reality is not simply personal but a community of three persons in relationship (37).

The self-giving love that expressed God’s own nature among the persons of the Trinity and to us is to be our model of how we ought to love not just our family and friends, but those who are strangers and those who may be out to hurt us. To be honest, we have rarely seen anyone consistently come close to meeting the challenge of these commands. When we do witness such love, we tend to be humbled and awed. Self-sacrifice is hard, but it makes sense that this would be our ethical standard because self-giving reflects both the internal love within the Trinity and the external love God demonstrates toward us (39-40).

In the midst of this chapter, you write:

There are many mysterious elements in the concept of the Trinity, as we should expect in the nature of God. We will not raise these puzzles or try to defend the doctrine. Instead, we are interested in how this piece of the Christian picture of reality connects with our relationality.

I find that Christians are sometimes reluctant to think about or discuss the Trinity precisely because they feel a bit shaky or uncertain of what it means that God is Triune. What have you found helpful to help Christians - and skeptics - understand the sensibility of the one God eternally existing in three Persons?

Introduction: Linda Giesebrecht
Ask Dr. Greg Ganssle (November 6-10, 2017)
(Greg Ganssle) #2


This is a great question!

The first thing that helps me is what I put into that sentence. There are many mysteries here, and the fact that there are mysteries is exactly what we would expect in the life of God. This fact helps me remember that it is not a requirement to get a model of the Trinity that answers every question.

Second, There are two books that have been helpful. First is “Trinity 101: Father, Son and Holy Spirit” by James Papandrea. This book is a short, clear introduction to the Trinity for people who are not students of theology. It does not assume a lot of knowledge and it is very clear. The second is “The Triune God” by Fred Sanders. This requires a lot of thought! Sanders helps people like me think about how the early church came to recognize the Scripture’s revelation that God is triune. The issues that were most central for them were largely different than the ones most of us think about. It is a helpful corrective to my naive views!

(Kay Kalra) #3