For centuries the idea of a trinity in God has dominated debate both within
Christianity and between Christianity and other faiths, but if
God is One, what
does it mean to talk about the trinity in God or the threefold nature of
God? To begin to answer this question we must start by exploring what makes up
the essential nature of God.
Two key elements surely exist as the essence of God – love and wisdom. We
might say that God is Love Itself and Wisdom Itself since all love and all
wisdom throughout God’s creation come from the One divine source.
But there is a third key element that arises from divine love and divine
wisdom acting as one and that is divine power, activity or influence. We can
therefore understand God as being All Loving, All Wise and All Powerful. This
picture of God is common to many world religions and provides a fundamental
description of the trinity in God or God’s threefold nature – divine love and
wisdom acting powerfully together throughout all creation.
In the Old Testament prophecy of Isaiah there is the following passage:
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be
upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty
God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6
For Christians this prophecy is taken as relating to the birth of Jesus
Christ, who is therefore, according to Isaiah, the Mighty God and the
Yet the New Testament presents several very important concepts that appear to
produce a different view of the One God.
Right at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry he is baptised by John the Baptist
and the Gospel of Matthew 3:17 records these words:
… and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on
him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I
am well pleased.”
Frequently Jesus is reported as talking about the Father as someone
completely separate to him and describes himself as the Son, as in these words
from the Gospel of John 5:19:
So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of
his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father
does, that the Son does likewise.
But at other times Jesus makes a different claim, as in these words from John
Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know
me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us
But Jesus also prayed to the Father, as in Mark 14:36:
And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup
from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”
Finally after the resurrection Mathew 28:19 tells us that Jesus said to his
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of
the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all
that I have commanded you.
What clearly emerges from these Gospel accounts is that God can be seen as
Father, Son and Holy Spirit, a trinity in God, although there is apparent conflict as to who Jesus
is – is he the Son or is he the Father as well?
Nevertheless can we perhaps begin to see the parallel between
the trinity in God of Love, Wisdom and Power and the trinity in God of Father, Son and Holy Spirit?
But how can it be that at times Jesus felt himself as completely separate
from the Father and yet at other times he could remark –
“I and the Father are
one.” John 10:30
So who is the Jesus of the Gospels?
In Matthew 1:23 Jesus is referred to as – ‘Immanuel’ (which means, God with us).This is because the only way God could directly challenge the evil and
selfishness of the world, and so restore spiritual freedom, was to take on human
form with all its weakness and be born as a baby in Bethlehem but without a
human father. Thus, as he grew up, Jesus was human like us all but with a soul
that was the Divine Itself – the Father. His humanity was continuously tempted
as he confronted every evil experienced by mankind right up to his final
temptation and victory on the cross. By this means he overcame the power of evil
and made his Humanity, Divine.
During his life then, the humanity of Jesus was in transition from a weak and
error prone humanity derived from his mother Mary to a Divine Humanity. And all
the time his inner being was the very being of God – the Father within. As Jesus
struggled with this transition he felt at times totally separate from the Father
within, as when he prayed to the Father, and yet at other times he was so aware
of the forthcoming union with his Father following his death and resurrection
that he was able to say with total conviction - “I and the Father are one.”
This leads us to a new diagram of the trinity in God picturing the relationship
between the Divine Humanity of the Risen Lord Jesus Christ, the Divine Inmost,
and the Divine Life that flows throughout Creation.
In his second letter to the Colossians, Paul writes:
“For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form”
Writing in a similar way Emanuel Swedenborg simply states:
"God is one, in whom is the Divine Trinity, and He is the Lord God the Saviour
True Christian Religion 3