In my youth, my family attended various churches, and in most of them I occasionally heard about “the most blessed Trinity” as a summary doctrine about God: “God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit.” Never did I hear that teaching publicly denied or even intelligently explained; it was just taken for granted as a given, a fixture, a rock in the ocean. When I began to seek the truth about God, and find spiritual life in the midst of a swirling, tumultuous society in the 1960’s and 1970’s, what drew my attention and response was the gospel about Jesus Christ, his life and death and resurrection. As for discussions of “the Trinity,” I found the attitude expressed in the spiritual classic, The Imitation of Christ, to be on the right track: “I would rather love the Trinity than define it.”
As we mature in our understanding of Christian faith and practice, we probably do not give much thought to the dogma of the Trinity, but we know not to deny its truth. On the other hand, we may--and should--long for the presence of the living God, and not be content with a mere assent to the “doctrines of the faith.” A human being with faith seeks communion with the Divine, and cannot rest content in doctrinal or creedal formations of “the faith.” Our desire indeed is “to love and serve the LORD,” and not to think that we have figured God out. Perhaps without being aware of our attitude, most of us agree with Thomas a Kempis, that we long to love God. For as we grow in grace, we know well that “knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.”
Then the questions emerge: “Do I truly love God, or do I merely give lipservice?” “Do I long for God’s friendship, or am I too immersed in the passing things and activities of this world?” “What do I do to cultivate friendship with God, and not be content to be a mere `church-going Christian?’”
For my part, I am still listening to the question of the Apostle Paul, which breaks through mere doctrinal formulations to the truth of spiritual experience: “Let me ask you this: Did you receive the Holy Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith?"