[This is the full text of an article that I recently wrote for our local paper.]
We will look at the Apostle's Creed in more detail this week in our series on the Heidelberg Catechism. From a close look at the outline of the creed, we can see the doctrine of the Trinity clearly displayed.
Question and answer 24 read, “How are these articles divided? Into three parts: God the Father and our creation; God the Son and our deliverance; and God the Holy Spirit and our sanctification.”
The catechism introduces us to the three Persons of the Trinity and their role in our salvation when we have true faith. Almighty God, the Father of all Christians, creates us and sends the Son and the Spirit. God the Son, Jesus Christ, delivers us from our sin and misery by His life and death. In addition, God the Spirit, the Holy Spirit, empowers us for the Christian life and makes us holy.
Question and answer 25 clearly state the nature of the Trinity, “Since there is only one divine being (Deut. 6:4; 1 Cor. 8:4, 6), why do you speak of three: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? Because that is how God has revealed himself in his Word: (Matt. 3:16-17; 28:18-19; Luke 4:18 (Isa. 61:1); John 14:26; 15:26; 2 Cor. 13:14; Gal. 4:6; Tit. 3:5-6) these three distinct persons are one, true, eternal God.”
In the words of another famous catechism, “God is a spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth.” Does that sound like anyone you have ever met? There is only one Being like this, and it is awesome to think about Him.
Why should we expect Him to be just like us, having one person in one being? Should we not expect Him to be so much more? God is, as C. S. Lewis put it, “beyond personality.”
There is nothing like God, and there are no good examples that help explain this doctrine. As I know from trying to explain the Trinity to my eight-year-old daughter, it is very hard to describe. That is why the catechism carefully states the doctrine and does not try to explain it.
God is one in Being or Essence, but three in Person. His being is what He is. His person is who He is. He is not one in being and three in being; that explanation would be nonsense. It would be like saying it is raining outside and not raining outside at the same time. He is not one in person and three in person; that would be nonsense too.
God is one in one way and three in another, one in being and three in person. It is like saying it is raining outside in one place and not raining outside in another place across town. That description is not nonsense. It seems strange, but it can be true.
It is fitting that we begin our journey through the Apostle’s Creed with this doctrine because it humbles us and makes us see the limits of our own thinking. Next week, we will begin to explore what the doctrine of God the Father means to us.