Another Trinity Sunday passed: I imagine vicars dread it. Trying to explain the doctrine of the Trinity is thankless, to a congregation who are not interested in it nor need be. It is a doctrine of fascination to theologians since Christianity began, but if it has any application to the actual living of a Christian life is doubtful.
For the dedicated vicar, he may attempt an exposition, or praise the Lord in numerous aspects (which actually he or she should do throughout the year, if they remember), or may do a normal sermon, simply punctuating the service with Trinitarian hymns (three verses and a fourth to summarise), or may just hand it over to a Reader to have a go.
It still strikes me though that the doctrine is not technically actually scriptural, just an unavoidable inference from the Gospels, and so while it should be adhered to, the detail teased out by theologians is contestable and irrelevant to the daily life of the worshiper in the pews.
Presumably on the clerical side, if one can ensure that all clergy are up with a sound appreciation of that particular doctrine, then they are less likely to wander into speculations that lead their flocks astray, but even there I am unsure. The Doctrine of the Trinity is not plain in scripture and relies on terms and subtleties made up afterwards as mainly logical deductions from what is in the Gospel, but it ends up as a game with words.
Hobbes recognised the unscriptural original of the terms used and he wrote:
God, who has been Represented (that is, Personated) thrice, may properly enough be said to be three Persons; though neither the word Person, nor Trinity be ascribed to him in the Bible. St. John indeed (1 Epist. 5.7.) saith, “There be three that bear witnesse in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these Three are One:” But this disagreeth not, but accordeth fitly with three Persons in the proper signification of Persons; which is, that which is Represented by another. For so God the Father, as Represented by Moses, is one Person; and as Represented by his Sonne, another Person, and as Represented by the Apostles, and by the Doctors that taught by authority from them derived, is a third Person; and yet every Person here, is the Person of one and the same God. But a man may here ask, what it was whereof these three bare witnesse. St. John therefore tells us (verse 11.) that they bear witnesse, that “God hath given us eternall life in his Son.”
Again, if it should be asked, wherein that testimony appeareth, the Answer is easie; for he hath testified the same by the miracles he wrought, first by Moses; secondly, by his Son himself; and lastly by his Apostles, that had received the Holy Spirit; all which in their times Represented the Person of God; and either prophecyed, or preached Jesus Christ. And as for the Apostles, it was the character of the Apostleship, in the twelve first and great Apostles, to bear Witnesse of his Resurrection; as appeareth expressely (Acts 1. ver. 21,22.) where St Peter, when a new Apostle was to be chosen in the place of Judas Iscariot, useth these words, “Of these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out amongst us, beginning at the Baptisme of John, unto that same day that hee was taken up from us, must one bee ordained to be a Witnesse with us of his Resurrection:” which words interpret the Bearing of Witnesse, mentioned by St. John. There is in the same place mentioned another Trinity of Witnesses in Earth. For (ver. 8.) he saith, “there are three that bear Witnesse in Earth, the Spirit, and the Water, and the Bloud; and these three agree in one:” that is to say, the graces of Gods Spirit, and the two Sacraments, Baptisme, and the Lords Supper, which all agree in one Testimony, to assure the consciences of beleevers, of eternall life; of which Testimony he saith (verse 10.) “He that beleeveth on the Son of man hath the Witnesse in himselfe.”
In this Trinity on Earth the Unity is not of the thing; for the Spirit, the Water, and the Bloud, are not the same substance, though they give the same testimony: But in the Trinity of Heaven, the Persons are the persons of one and the same God, though Represented in three different times and occasions.
To conclude, the doctrine of the Trinity, as far as can be gathered directly from the Scripture, is in substance this; that God who is alwaies One and the same, was the Person Represented by Moses; the Person Represented by his Son Incarnate; and the Person Represented by the Apostles. As Represented by the Apostles, the Holy Spirit by which they spake, is God; As Represented by his Son (that was God and Man), the Son is that God; As represented by Moses, and the High Priests, the Father, that is to say, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, is that God: From whence we may gather the reason why those names Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in the signification of the Godhead, are never used in the Old Testament: For they are Persons, that is, they have their names from Representing; which could not be, till divers men had Represented Gods Person in ruling, or in directing under him.
I think that makes more sense.