When I mentioned to my wife the idea of writing an article on the Trinity her response said it all: “Keep it practical!” But can the doctrine of the Trinity really be practical? In this four part post I would like to help you grow in your understanding and appreciation for what most consider to be either a riddle or a blatant contradiction that Christians believe about God. The first three parts are meant to help you grasp more fully this awesome truth about God’s nature and identity, and see how it will deepen and enrich your faith walk with God. The fourth part is for those of you who are raising children, and is meant to give you some practical tools to make a trinitarian view of God foundational to their faith.
Christians, at some level, know the Trinity is important, (or so we’ve been told), but does it really speak to the everyday of our existence? Of equal importance, is it really something our kids need to know about? After all, isn’t the Trinity just one of those ideas that confuses people and subjects Christian faith to the charge of ‘irrationality’. We face the old joke that while the rest of the world knows that 1+1+1=3, Christians are convinced that 1+1+1=1.
RECOVERING THE TRINITY AS CORE
“Keep it practical!” Those words ring in my ears, as I recognize that many Christians have little interest in such doctrines because ‘theologian types’ have too often failed to connect the dots and show how indispensably practical they are. At the same time a burden should be shouldered by the rest of us who minimize what we can be bothered to learn or communicate concerning our faith in Christ. Too often we’ve reduced our gospel message to “Jesus died for our sins so that we can be saved and go to heaven when we die” as if that’s all we really need to know or say. But what we fail to see is that without the doctrine of the Trinity we cannot even answer ‘why Jesus saves’, ‘how Jesus saves’ or ‘what Jesus saves us to.’ Indeed, so crucial is God’s triune nature that to communicate the gospel of Jesus apart from it is really to communicate no gospel at all. As J. I. Packer puts it:
“All non-Trinitarian formulations of the Christian message are by biblical standards inadequate and indeed fundamentally false, and will naturally tend to pull Christian lives out of shape.”1
The simple truth is that right thinking about God fosters right living. This isn’t to say that without a proper grasp of the Trinity we cannot become Christians, for indeed this would rule out most people from receiving the gospel in the first place. Simple faith in Jesus is enough to save, but what simple faith in Jesus achieves for us is nothing less than life in fellowship with the Trinity.
There is great benefit therefore to deepening our understanding of the Trinity, for in doing so we pursue the greatest knowledge a person can have, namely a true knowledge of God.
My ‘practical’ goals then are two: first, to help you identify the Trinity with the core of your Christian faith and worship. Not just to add an element of ‘Trinity speak’ to your gospel vocabulary, but rather to more fully reveal to you the God of whom the gospel speaks. Our end goal is not mere knowledge but right worship. Second, in keeping with our theme, (“keep it practical”) I want to supply you with a framework for leading your children into ‘Trinitarian’ living. I know, I know…that doesn’t sound very practical. Trust me, it is!
Next time we’ll take a look at what the doctrine of the Trinity really means, and how it really serves to protect us in a very important way.
For some other helpful posts for teaching the Trinity to kids, check out:
Also, here is a great teaching tool for young children.
- J. I. Packer, Concise Theology: A Guide to Historic Christian Beliefs, (Carol Stream, Ill, Tyndale House Publishers, 2001), p. 42.