Broadening Our View of the Trinity

We speak of God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The early Church tended to speak of Him as Father, Word, and Spirit. In this short essay, I want to suggest some other ways to think of the Trinity, ways that I have found pastorally helpful in my own life and devotions. (Like Peter’s essay last month, this is “a book I’d write if I had the time to do it justice.”)

0. The very real male-chauvinistic character of Greek and Roman culture, which infects Western Civilization, has blinded us to the pervasive feminine imagery about humanity in the Bible.

1. If God is Father, and God is Son, then what is humanity? Humanity is the Daughter. The Bible speaks of us as Daughter Zion, Daughter Jerusalem. It is a mistranslation of the Hebrew construction to read “Daughter of Zion.” Zion is the Daughter. Thus, we are the Daughter.

The daughter-imagery in the Bible is wonderfully comforting, for it means that God will love us and protect us with the same kind of ferocious love that a good father has for his daughter.

2. God is Father, and the Second Person of God is God the Brother, while the Third Person is God the Counsellor. I don’t recall ever seeing a discussion of God the Brother, but the Older-brotherhood of the Second Person is clearly revealed in the story of Jacob. Jacob wrestled with Esau in the womb, and with Isaac and Laban in life, but at Peniel he learned that he was really wrestling all along with God the Brother, who had fought with him not to destroy him, but to make him strong enough to enter the land. The story of Jacob and Esau is parallel to the story of Cain and Abel, and reveals to us God the Brother.

Jesus is also the Younger Brother, like Abel and Jacob and Joseph, who replaces and then redeems his wayward older brother.

Thus, we are the younger brother, and even more, we are the younger sister. God the Brother will guard and protect us with all the ferocious, jealous care of an older brother for his little sister.

Because an older brother counsels his sister, I fit the Spirit as Counsellor into this model.

3. God is Father. The Second Person of God is God the Husband, and the Spirit is God the Matchmaker. We, thus, are the Bride. More attention has been paid to this particular Biblical image, of course. We should never speak of the Church as “it,” always as “she.” Jesus will guard us as any husband does his wife, and He will be very jealous if we give our wifely attentions to some other man, especially to images.

The Spirit is not often remarked as Matchmaker, however, but if we read the book of Esther properly we shall see the Spirit as the Divine Eunuch who prepares Esther for the King. Esther spent six months saturating her skin with oil, to soften it, and six months exposed to incense, so that her skin absorbed the smell and she became a living flower (Esther 2:12). Believe it or not, all the hard things God has put us through are designed to soften us up and make us a fragrant bride for our Husband.

4. If the Second Person is the Word, then the Father is the Author and the Spirit is the Breath, or more accurately, the Music. Any time a word is said out loud, using breath, it has a musical quality to it. We “intone” words when we speak them. Each of our voices has its own unique tone color (timbre), which is how we recognize one another. We speak with all the musical qualities: dynamics (loud and soft), melody (voice rising and falling), rhythm (fast and slow), and harmony (speaking so that the melody of our voice makes sense).

It is such a shame that our worship is spoken instead of sung! We dishonor the Spirit by not taking music more seriously. Humanity, in God’s image, is the singing daughter, sister, bride. Why do we say the Lord’s Prayer when we could sing it? Why do we say the Creed and the Ten Words, when we could sing them? Why do we read the psalms, when we could chant them? Why do we merely say, “The Lord be with you,” “And also with you,” when we could sing such dialogues?

5. Finally, God is Planner, Doer, and Coordinator, and as such, we are dancers. We are the dancing daughter-sister-bride-singer. We should consider our lives as dances. Our work is a dance. Our play is a dance. All that we do is a dance, a dance with Him.

James Jordan is scholar-in-residence at Theopolis. This article originally appeared at Biblical Horizons