Imagine you are on the streets and someone asks you, “Why do you believe in the Trinity?” This is a daunting question. A few weeks ago, several Abbey students went on a mission trip to Utah, and on that trip a Mormon student asked me that very question. My first reaction was to give her the Bible verses that support the doctrine of the Trinity, but then I realized that that was not the reason she was asking the question. Her point was that the Trinity is confusing and difficult to get one’s mind around -- Mormons often bring up the Trinity to try and poke a hole in Christianity. Instead of disagreeing, however, I agree with their point. The Trinity is true and the mystery surrounding it is evidence for its truth.
G. K. Chesterton offers a different approach to traditional apologetics in Orthodoxy. He confronts six arguments offered by Atheists against Christianity, but instead of disagreeing with them, he agrees with them. For example, one argument made by Atheists is that man is much like the beast; we are a mere variety of the animal kingdom. Chesterton responds by affirming that man is physically very similar to the beast, but what is really surprising is not the structural similarities, but the great differences in what we do. ”That an ape has hands is far less interesting to the philosopher than the fact that having hands he does next to nothing with them; does not play knuckle-bones or the violin; does not carve marble or carve mutton.” Our physical similarities, far from justifying the atheist’s argument, instead make the actions of humanity far more surprising. The Christian answer is true -- man is not like the beasts in his essentials.
I took Chesterton’s approach with the Mormon student; instead of trying to contradict the implication that the Trinity is confusing, I admitted that it is very confusing. Then I took her on a circuitous explanation of many things before coming back to the Trinity. First, I pointed to the mountains behind us and said, “Look at that mountain. God built that mountain so that from this vantage point, at this precise time, it would look exactly like that.” Then I pointed to the evergreen tree next to us, “Look at this tree -- God has guided its growth so that all of its boughs extend at the proper angles.” Finally, I pointed up; “If you look into the night sky with a telescope, you can find millions of galaxies that God hid there for us. God knew that thousands of years later we would find them and be amazed.” I used these examples to point out the wonders of the created order.
Then I turned the conversation toward God and the Trinity. The maker of a thing must be greater than that thing that is made. God made all the glories of the universe, and chief among them, mankind, which is capable of searching out all of this splendor. God must be greater than His creation, and His creation is great indeed. Therefore, I would not believe in a God that admits to easy rational explanation -- if He were easily rationally explained, He would not be greater than my mind. I believe in the Trinity because it is enigmatic. The mysteriousness reminds me that God is too amazing to fit into my understanding.
God doesn’t fit into our boxes. He doesn’t submit to our limited human ability to know -- He cannot be less than He is. Our difficulty in explaining the Trinity points not to its falseness, but to His greatness. All truths point us to God, some people just misunderstand which way they are pointing.
- Nathan Pegors