The Holy Trinity

The mystery of the Holy Trinity is a subject that can confound the wisest of theologians - how can one God be three separate and distinct persons? Many people have tried to provide an explanation that is suitable for everyone, not just theologians, but perhaps faith in something that is unexplainable is true faith after all?

According to the BBC, "The Trinity is a controversial doctrine; many Christians admit they don't understand it, while many more Christians don't understand it but think they do. In fact, although they'd be horrified to hear it, many Christians sometimes behave as if they believe in three Gods and at other times as if they believe in one." BBC Article 21 July 2011.

The same article, further down, attempts to describe what the Trinity is but also, helpfully, defines what it is not:

"The idea that there is One God, who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit means:

  • There is exactly one God
  • The Father is God
  • The Son is God
  • The Holy Spirit is God
  • The Father is not the Son
  • The Son is not the Holy Spirit
  • The Father is not the Holy Spirit

An alternate way of explaining it is:

  • There is exactly one God
  • There are three really distinct Persons - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
  • Each of the Persons is God

Common mistakes

The Trinity is not

  • Three individuals who together make one God
  • Three Gods joined together
  • Three properties of God"


The second, alternative, explanation is the easiest to understand - there is only one God, but it is made of up three distinct persons. However, each of these persons is God. What is not explicitly stated is that if each of the persons is God, and there is only one God, then all three persons must be equal.

St Patrick, as legend would have it, used a shamrock ( a member of the clover family and common in Ireland) to explain the mystery of the Trinity - the shamrock has three leaves that are yet part of the one plant, and in a similar way the Trinity is one suprememe being, but contains three distinct persons - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. There are a number of legends that depict how St Patrick used this analogy, and whilst there are discussions over which one is correct, maybe they all are!


Perhaps one of the best explanations of this very complex subject comes in the text of the Worship4Today Course (Bent & Tipple) which states that: "The relationship is made of mutuality and interdependence. William P Young in 'The Shack' describes it as...'a circle of relationship, not a chain of command...' A strong reminder not to lord it over others with an autocratic style of leadership."

A copy of "The Shack" can be purchased on Amazon by clicking on this link.