There is one God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, a unity of three co-eternal Persons.
God is immortal, all-powerful, all-knowing, above all, and ever present. He is infinite and beyond human comprehension, yet known through His self-revelation. He is forever worthy of worship, adoration and service by all of creation. (Deut. 6:4; Matt. 28:19; 2 Cor. 13:14; Eph. 4:4-6; 1 Peter 1:2; 1 Tim. 1:17; Rev. 14:7.)
Me. Myself, and I. The unholy trinity
My 6-year-old son, Billy, and I have been reading a book, “Margie Asks Why”, about the plan of salvation. We think the Trinity is pretty amazing. Imagine that God the Father and God the Son, able to have the same thought simultaneously, still have something to talk about Billy is learning how. God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit function as one unit and yet each has special jobs.
The Trinity and Phileo Love
The Trinity seems to cause a good deal of skepticism. “Christians don’t have a God,” one of my philosophy professors said at the University of Tennessee, “they have a squad!” A Muslim friend of mine once remarked that the idea of a God in three persons was “impossible” as far as he could see.
The Bible’s clear allusions to the Trinity are enough for Adventists. But since one truth links to another, a secondary supporting argument may be helpful. Such a line of thought may be adapted from “The Four Loves”, a book in which C. S. Lewis divides our catchall word “love” into four Greek words: storge (stor-gay), or affection, especially for what one owns; eros, which is desire; phileo, or friendship; and agape (ah-gah-pay), divine love shared with and among humans through grace.
The first point to understand is that all four loves are sanctified—and that God Himself participates in each. Yes, the first three are often twisted wickedly. But we must remember that all evil things are simply good things corrupted. Perversion of His gifts in some cases does not prevent their blessed use in others. For instance, God obviously feels “storge” for His people (Duet. 7:6) and expresses “eros” for them as His bride (Song of Solomon). “Agape” results when the Father and His people see each other through the life of the Son (John 14:9), while the people practice “agape” among themselves by the same vision.
But what of God’s participation in “phileo”? Lewis reminds us that friendship consists of two or more people sharing something or someone. Phileo includes fans yelling together for their team, two Christians affirming a Bible promise, proud parents of a child and so on.
In its ideal form, phileo must have at least three points of reference: a perfect Lover joining another perfect Lover in adoration of a perfect Love Object. God could not attain phileo at all without being a Trinity. The Father the Son join in phileo of the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit and Father join in phileo over the Son, the Son and the Holy Spirit together embrace the Father with phileo—three Persons united in mutual love.
Discarding the doctrine of three Persons in one would make ideal phileo impossible—God could take no part in it even though He Himself has created it out of Himself. Instead we would be left with the hideous picture of a single Person infinitely self-absorbed. If God is One in love, the love must include phileo, and phileo requires a Trinity.
This article originally appeared in the Adventist Review magazine in 1999.