Ask Abbie: How to understand the concept of the trinity

Published 9:47 am Saturday, March 22, 2014

Question: Even though I believe the trinity, the idea that God is both one and three persons at the same time, I don’t really understand how he can be. I know I will never know everything about God, but I am just not satisfied with any explanation of the trinity I have heard so far. Do you have any suggestions to help me understand it better?

Answer: Have you ever seen a work of abstract art that you don’t really understand? You interpret it to mean one thing, but aren’t really sure if you are right?

For instance, you see a painting of a red circle on a white background. You think it represents the flag of Japan, but aren’t really sure. Sometime later, during a conversation with the artist himself, you learn the painting actually represents the panic-stricken eye of a Central American red-eyed tree frog stuck in the snow. Now your interpretation of the painting can be much more accurate. In summary, true understanding of any work of art requires two things: the creator’s intention and the observer’s interpretation.

Observe the trinity as a work of art. In order to ensure the thoroughness of your interpretation, you must first gain knowledge of God’s artistic intention for it. To gain this knowledge, you must ask the Holy Spirit to deliver it to your heart. For through him and through him only, God sends any message you request to receive. Although the request and receipt of this message are up to you, the timing of its delivery is not; it is up to God. As you wait for it, stay focused on and in his Word, pray without ceasing, and do not grow weary. Be patient. He guarantees a perfect on-time arrival.

Once you receive your message, you must apply it to your own interpretation of the trinity. When I unexpectedly received my message while reading “Parmenides” by Plato, I applied it to my own interpretation of the trinity and received the better understand of it for which I was looking. The understanding I received is undeniable because it is my personal testimony and is included here to validate the success this approach has to offer.

My understanding of the trinity acknowledges the fact that in order for something to exist, so must its opposite. For instance, good cannot be known to be good unless there is such a thing as bad. Likewise, God says, “I am Father,” and a father cannot be a father unless he has a son. Hence, God must be both Father and Son. My understanding of the trinity also addresses the discrepancy between the Lord’s prayer that begins, “Our Father, which art in heaven,” and the scripture in Matthew 28 when the Son states, “I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

If the Father lives in heaven not with us on earth, how can he be with us and not with us at the same time? By way of the final component of the trinity, the Holy Spirit. To better understand this possibility consider the following. Once the Son ascended into heaven to live with his Father in order to save the world from its sin, he could no longer live in physical form with us here on earth. As a result, God sent the Holy Spirit component of himself to earth to live so he could remain with us always. If neither the Father nor his Son were living with us and there was no presence of the Holy Sprit, it would be impossible for God to be with us always.

Finally, as a way to see how it is possible for God to be one and three at the same time, consider your earthly father. He is one person, but he is also three different people at the same time; he is your father, your grandfather’s son, and your mother’s husband. If your dad can do it, so can God!

My understanding of the trinity will be different than yours and should be anticipated to be such. Not because our messages from God are different but instead because our interpretations of them are. Why? Because we are one-of-a-kind.

Remember God’s trinity is a work of art he gives you to study and from which to receive enjoyment, not anxiety. If you are experiencing anything other than enjoyment, realize the opposite of God, evil, is causing you to do so. Quickly shift your focus to what you know about the trinity, not what you don’t. There you will find peace and become a more useful tool for God’s artistic canvas.

ABBIE LONG is a Franklin native and advice columnist for The Tidewater News. Submit your questions to