What if God was not Trinity?

MP3 Audio: WS330358_Dn-Joseph_The-Trinity.mp3

This homily was preached on Trinity Sunday morning, June 15, 2014,
at Christ the King Orthodox Church in Omaha, Illinois, by Dn. Joseph Gleason.

~

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, our God is One.

Today we celebrate Trinity Sunday, the first Sunday after Pentecost. We have gone through the penitential season of Lent, we have experienced the glories, the death and resurrection of Christ, the Pascha, the ascension of Christ into the Heavens at the ascension, the coming of the Holy Spirit upon His Church at Pentecost, and now that all these glories have been revealed to us we revel in the magnificent glory of knowing God himself as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Now, last night as we were talking, I suggested a little homework assignment. I said,

Spend some time and think about the Trinity. Think about why it is important for us to believe in the three persons of God. And how would our lives be different? How would the Universe be different? how would our faith be different if God was just one person instead of three? What difference would it make? How radically would it change things?

Did anybody come up with any ideas? Did anybody think about it and say, “Here is something that would be different if God was not Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?”

Subdeacon Ambrose: I had trouble thinking in time, so I had to think of before creation, before time. What would change if there was only a unity instead of a Trinity? And if God is said to be the Father, but he had no Son in eternity, He would not be eternally the Father. There would never be eternally the Son. So we wouldn’t have that; we would have one. And also the perfection that is in the Trinity, in that when Henry mentioned last night, love. Before anything was created, how could God had been said to be love, if He had nothing to enact that love upon prior to creation? God would be lacking in something, in a way to express Himself, if He had nothing to express Himself upon. So the only thing I could come up with why He wouldn’t be unity, why that would be bad, and there is a lot of ramification about what I said . . . what I couldn’t figure out is why it had to be Trinity, why it couldn’t be 18 or seven or whatever. Why did it have to be three, I haven’t grasped yet.

Deacon Joseph: So what Subdeacon Ambrose has said, is that it would change the very identity of God. If you do away with the Trinity, you’re not just doing away with Holy Spirit and the Son. But if there is no Son, there can be no Father, for one is not a father if one does not have a child. It also hits at the very core of God being love. Scripture says that God is love. How can He be love, if there was no one to love? We all know that self-love is of a different sort, from that type of sacrificial and self-giving love that you pour out for another person.

Anybody else come up with any differences that would occur in our faith, in our universe, in our life, in our worship, if there was no Trinity, if there was just one person in God?

Kimberly: The Bible says that God sent his only Son into the world.

Deacon Joseph: Exactly! The Bible itself would be lying, because it says God sent his only Son. So Scripture itself would be radically different if God were only one, and he were not three persons. Anybody else have any ideas how everything would be different, how things would be radically changed?

Henry David: The New Testament wouldn’t be there. . . . The Bible would be so much smaller because a lot of it covers the teachings of the Son as written by the apostles that walked with the Son.

Deacon Joseph: Yep!

Sh. Amy: All of our prayers would be different.

Deacon Joseph: Very good! Sh. Amy pointed out all our prayers would be different. Why is that?

Sh. Amy: There would be no Father, because there would be no Son.

Deacon Joseph: Exactly. She just said if there’s no Son then there is no Father. So the Lord’s prayer which Jesus commanded to pray, “Our Father, who art in Heaven . . .” how could He really be Father? How could that be His identity?

Christa: In Genesis it says that the Spirit of God hovered over the waters. And it also says let us make man so we wouldn’t even be created if this conversation wasn’t going on between more than one person of the Trinity.

Deacon Joseph: Very good! Christa is pointing to something very important. Creation itself, in just the first few verses of Genesis chapter one, has the Holy Spirit hovering over the waters, has God speaking. His voice is speaking — the Logos, the Word — that is the Son. And then it doesn’t say in Scripture, “I’m going to make man in my image.” It says in Genesis, “Let us make man in our image.” You can’t even get out of the first book of the Bible, you can’t even get past creation, without seeing God talk about Himself in plural. And that means that creation itself would be different, particularly the creation of man would be different, if God were not three persons. Because if He could have only said, “I’m only going to make man in my image,” not “We’re going to make man in our image,” then we would be different. Because however God is — whether that’s one person or whether it’s three persons — whatever image God is in, that’s the image He created us in. That means that if God was not Trinity, then we ourselves would have been created differently. Humanity itself would be different; creation itself would be different.

So lets go back over a few of these things:

Prayer would be different

The Lord’s prayer: “Our Father who art in Heaven . . .” It kind of would be hard to look at Him as the eternal Father, if in eternity He had no Son. You would not be able to thank the Father for sending His Son, if He didn’t have one. You would not be able to thank the Son for submitting to the will of the Father, if He didn’t have one. You wouldn’t be able to thank the Father and the Son for their love that they showed for us, the Holy Spirit for the love that He showed for us. You wouldn’t be able to thank the Father for sending the Holy Spirit, if there wasn’t a Holy Spirit.

So many of our prayers that we offer in thanksgiving for the different things that the different persons of the Trinity did, we wouldn’t be able to offer. It affects the very way that we pray. You can’t thank the Father for dying on the cross for you, because He didn’t. You can’t thank Jesus for filling everyone at Pentecost, because He didn’t.

Now, they are all three working together. Together they are one God. But is the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, that came at Pentecost. It is the Son, Jesus, that died on the cross for you. It is the Father that showed the love of a father, and loved you so much that He gave His only Son for you. Now, I don’t know about you, but if I had to choose between going to my death, or just standing and watching one of my children go to their deaths, I think I’d rather go to mine than watch one of my children go through that. Think of the love of the Father for you. He loved you so much, He didn’t die for you — He watched His child die for you. So our prayers would be very different.

God would be different, having no humility

In eternity past, before the creation of the universe even occurred. God Himself would be different. His  identity would be different. There could be no humility in God, without multiple persons. Because if you’re just one person existing before the creation of the world, and nothing else exists, what are you going to show humility towards? Nothing. It’s kind of hard to put somebody else first, if there is nobody else. But in eternity past, the Father loved the Son. The Son submitted to the Father. The Holy Spirit acquiesced to the Father and the Son. It’s like this eternal dance that was going on even before the creation of anything, each one lovingly submitting, each one showing love, each one showing humility towards the other.

Love would not be eternal

Love itself could not be eternal, if God were not multiple persons. Because if in eternity past there was only one person . . . to whom would he show love? Well, you could say he could create a world and then show love. But then God’s love would be dependent on us. God’s not dependent on anything, or else he’s not God.

Creation is not eternal. You mess around with the Trinity, you mess with everything. You either have to say God is not love, or if you keep saying that He is love, now you have to make creation just as eternal as he is. Which now we are into pantheism, where everything is God, or at the very least God is dependent upon the existence of  things. That’s a different kind of God.

The God we serve in Scripture says, “God is love.” We also know that He doesn’t depend on us for anything. He didn’t need to create the world. He didn’t have to. Well, if He didn’t have to create the world, and if He is love, then that means that in eternity past, before the universe was ever spoken into existence, that God is love. The Father loved the Son and the Spirit, the Son loved the Father and the Spirit, the Spirit loved the Father and the Son, before Adam and Eve were ever created. God is love.

Humanity would be different

If God was not love, if God was not humble, then how different would you be if you are created in God’s image?

Allah, the god of the Muslims, is just one person. He is not a god of love, and he’s anything but a god of humility. Is it any surprise that those who follow him often show similar characteristics? If you were created in the image of a god who is not humble, if you were created in the image of a god who is not love, then maybe you’d be justified in being selfish. Maybe you’d be justified in grinding other people under your feet, and not showing love for others.

Families would be different

How important is your family to you? Most of you have children, most of you have brothers and sisters, all of you have parents. Every single one of us that is here, has a mom and dad. Family itself,  community, that intimacy of familial relationships — that’s part of what it means to be created in the image of God. “Let us create man in our image.”

Would it be the end of the world if you had to give up your truck, Henry David? No! Would it be the end of the world if we had to give up the six-acre farm, Amy? Russ, what if you had to give up your wood-shop and your property and all your guns? Do you think you could still get by in the world? Ok, let me see a show of hands:

How many here would be willing to give up their family?

Would that be the end of the world if you lost your whole family? Pretty much, Pretty much. We don’t even want to think about that, do we? Losing a child, losing a parent, losing a sibling? Your family that you love so much, your family that means so much to you, those family relationships that give meaning to your life, we were created in that way.

We were created to have those kinds of relationships, because we were created in the image of one who has relationships even before the creation of the world. The concept of family — the concept of father and son, parent and child — it’s not something that God created. It’s not something that God invented. It’s something that is part of the very essence of what it means to be God. In eternity past, before He created a thing, God was already Father, God was already Son. Fatherhood is eternal. Son-ship is eternal. What we experience here on earth is just a copy of that, a picture of that, an image of that. But it’s not something that God just made up or invented. It’s part of who He is.

So our lives would be very radically different if God wasn’t Father, Son, and Holy Spirit:

  • We wouldn’t have a God who can say that “God is love.”
  • We would not have a God who Himself is humble.
  • Our prayers would be different.
  • God’s identity would be different.
  • And we, because we are created in the image of God, we and our entire family life would be radically different.

Because then, instead of being created in the image of the Father, and the Son, and the Spirit, we would be created in the image of just a self-centered, non-humble, loner who did not have any relationships whatsoever in eternity past. Which God would you rather be created in the image of?

A Proper Response

What response should we have? Very simple. We should have a response of gratitude and thankfulness, and we should have a response of prayerful vigilance.

Never ever let the thought go through your mind that, “Ah, the doctrine of the Trinity is this sideline thing, and you can take it or leave it.” “It doesn’t really matter what you think about it; just as long as you go to church and have your Bible and love Jesus it’s not that important.” Never let that go through your mind.

If God were not a multiplicity of  persons — God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit — the universe you live in would be so different you wouldn’t even recognize it. You yourself and every person you know would be so different that you wouldn’t even recognize it. So be grateful. Be thankful. Every time you kiss your child goodnight, be thankful for the Trinity. Every time you embrace that loved one and you feel the intimacy of that relationship, you feel the mutual humility that is shown, you feel that flow of love between you, give thanks for the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Be grateful that this trinitarian God  has created you and each member of your family in His image.

But I said not only thankfulness; I also said vigilance. Never forget that you are created in the image of God. Never forget your child and your spouse — they are created in the image of God. Your parents are created in the image of God. And if you are created in the image of God, then to do violence to those relationships is to do violence to the name of God. It’s a form of blasphemy.

You see, in our sinfulness, what if we decide we want to be selfish? What if we decide we don’t want to show any humility? What if we decide we don’t need to honor our parents or obey them? What if a husband decides he really doesn’t need to love his wife? What if a wife decides, “My husband hasn’t really earned my respect so I’m not going to respect him; I’m not submitting to him”? What if parents hearts grow cold and they do not sacrificially pour out themselves to love their children, to discipline them, and to bring them fully into God’s kingdom? If we violate love, if we violate what God has told us to enact in our family relationships, then we do violence to the very name of God, for we are created in His image. And part of being created in His image means that we are created for love. We are created for relationship. We are created for mutual humility and sacrifice.

If I were to paint a picture of Joseph Stalin, or Adolph Hitler, or Benito Mussolini, and then hold it up here, and then write under it, “Jesus Christ”, since I put the name “Jesus Christ” on that pictures would you come up here and venerate that icon? Would you kiss it? Would you bow down? It would be a lie. You are created in the image of God. Other people know it. The angels know it. And if you act in a way that violates love, that violates those family relationships, then you are telling a lie. You are acting like the wicked, and yet you still have that indelible stamp on you that says “Image of God.” You are telling a lie about who God is, by your very life.

Anytime you speak to your wife in a way that shows a lack of love, you are lying about who God is. Wives, anytime you raise your voice to your husband, anytime you speak to your husband with any hint of  disrespect, you are lying about who God is.

Children, anytime you dishonor your mother of your father, or your grandmother or your grandfather, anytime you disobey your parents, you are telling a lie about who God is. After all, in eternity, does the Son dishonor the Father? Does the Son disobey the Father? And yet stamped on you is “Image of God!” And as the image of God, you will disobey your parents, just because you happen to be over the age of 18? You’ll dishonor your parents just because you happen to be over the age of 18?

Guess what? Jesus is over the age of 18. He still honors His Father. He still obeys His Father.

Parents, to discipline your children is a good thing. But to speak to them in anger, to speak to your children with a sharp tongue, is to lie about who God is. At what point in the history has the Father ever spoken with a sharp tongue to His Son Jesus Christ? And yet stamped on you is this  indelible mark: “Image of God”. You will speak to your children this way, and you are the image of God? You are lying about who God is.

Let us be thankful for our family relationships. Let us be thankful for the Trinity. Let us be thankful for the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit saying, “Let us create man in our image.” And at the same time, because we are created in His image, let us be so careful. Let us be so vigilant. Let us be prayerful. Let us be repentant. Let us do away with old habits. I don’t care if it’s hard; do away with those old habits. Put them behind you. And let us tell the truth about who God is, because you can not change the fact that you are created in God’s image.

Therefore, in the way that you treat your parents — no matter how old they are or how old you are — in the way that you honor them, in the way that you respect them, even in the way you obey them, in the way you love your brothers and sisters, in the way that you love and cherish and show compassion and mercy for your children, in every way that you interact with your family — with those that you love — exercise such a love and such a humility that when people look at you and say, “There’s the image of God”, they are not looking at a lie, but they are looking at somebody who truly is showing that image with honesty, somebody who is truly living out in such a way that somebody says, “Yes, that is what God is like. That is how the Son loves the Father, that is how the Father loves the Son, that is how God Himself shows love within the Trinity. Yes, you are the image of God. You are the image of God.  You are telling the truth!”

Let us live in that way. And when it comes to loving our family and treating those relationships correctly, let’s do that seriously. Because the command to do that is not just something that God came up with arbitrarily a few thousands years after he created us, because He felt like it. No, God lives in community, God lives in love, God lives in that eternal family. He created us in His image. And it’s only right and fitting and good that in our family relationships we should tell the truth about who God is — as Trinity — as the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Now, for the rest of your lives, if you are ever in communication with somebody out in the world and they say, “Well, I get alms and charity, and loving one another and getting together, but this whole confusing idea of the Trinity — the idea that God is three in one — why is that important? How can that possibly be a big deal?” For the rest of your lives, you will never need to answer that question with an “I don’t know.” Because now you will have several reasons that you can give them, to say, “Hey, this doctrine of the Trinity is important. It’s about who God is, in His very identity. It’s about God being love. It’s about God being humble. And because we are created in His image, God being Father and Son and Holy Spirit affects the very fiber of our being, of who we are.”

Let us remember these things, let us love God, and let us love one another.

In the name of the Father the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

~

This homily was preached on Trinity Sunday morning, June 15, 2014,
at Christ the King Orthodox Church in Omaha, Illinois, by Dn. Joseph Gleason.

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About Fr Joseph Gleason

I serve as a priest at Christ the King Orthodox Mission in Omaha, Illinois, and am blessed with eight children and one lovely wife. I contribute to On Behalf of All, a simple blog about Orthodox Christianity. I also blog here at The Orthodox Life.
This entry was posted in 2014 Homilies, Fr. Joseph Gleason, Genesis 1:26-28, Orthodox Homilies, Trinity Sunday. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to What if God was not Trinity?

  1. Susan says:

    Hooray! A new post! Will listen to the audio while I do laundry this afternoon. Thank you, Father!

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