My general view of the Trinity on a charitable day is that it is close enough for government work: it does the job of explaining how Father, Son, and Spirit can be distinct but still One God. On an uncharitable day, I'll still acknowledge that it is better and closer to the truth than the alternatives that have been put forward by, say, Jehovah's Witnesses, Christadelphians, or Oneness Pentecostals, to mention some of the better known alternative views there. Keep in mind that I do not write from the "free church" rejection of tradition but from within the tradition, belonging (with no apology) to the kind of church that recites one or the other of the historic creeds each time we worship. So my aim in discussing the Trinity is to determine what it would take to fine-tune the existing view for accuracy based on views that are deliberately native to Scripture. Here are the specific challenges I set out:
- Seeking to know "God in Himself" may be misguided. Do we know anything definitive about God in Himself? Did God choose to be known in that way or remain that way?
- Speaking of "God in Himself", do we actually know whether the Son and the Spirit, apart from creation, were meaningfully distinct from the Father?
- The phrase "God in three persons" has at least the potential to be misleading, even given the changes in language and meaning over time. To what extent is it possible to complete the phrase "God in three ______" (insert noun) without obscuring the unity of God or obscuring the origins of Son and Spirit from the Father or obscuring the differences between Father, Son, and Spirit? To be sure, additional explanations have been added and the phrase does not stand alone. But have the additional explanations been adequate? If not, then filling in that blank is not a helpful move and may be an unhelpful move.
- When we call the Holy Spirit a "person" (even granted the shifts in the meaning of words over the different times and languages involved), does considering the Spirit as Person prevent us from considering the Spirit as Spirit? Is Spirit in a different category than Person, so that a Spirit belongs to a Person (in the more modern sense at this point) and is rightly known as the Spirit of that Person? When we consider the Holy Spirit as Person do we lose sight of the Spirit as the Spirit of God?
- I consider it likely that the Son (the Word of God, the Christ) is an intermediary not only in his role but also in his essential nature.
So with all those points of tension, I would not have been surprised to have been asked to discuss some of those points in more detail by people who see it differently.