Who am I?
While I have nominally been a Christian my entire life, I didn’t really get “serious” about things until my mid-20s when my wife and I decided that it was time to find a church to call our own. Like so many other young adults who drift away from their faith during their college years, we too had taken a hiatus from “religion” for a variety of reasons; nevertheless, we both agreed that, in keeping with our own upbringing, we wanted our children to be raised in the church. Thus we set about finding a church home, and soon landed in a welcoming congregation where our faith took root and began to grow once again.
It didn’t take very long, though, before I knew I needed to dig deeper into the things I was hearing about from week to week. Fortunately, I had the immense privilege of connecting with several “seasoned” Christians who mentored me as they helped me find the answers I was searching for. Because even though many of my questions were indeed addressed forthrightly in the pages of Scripture, I quickly realized that not every question had a clear answer.
And believe it or not, the Trinity wasn’t even at the top of my list. It was just one of the many doctrines that I found to be bewildering and somewhat frustrating, because when it came to understanding our denomination’s teachings in light of the competing viewpoints of other denominations…like predestination, for one…I was never satisfied with just accepting our denomination’s “standard response.” It felt silly to adopt one position over another simply on the basis of the building where I attended every week, and the only thing I could say with any certainty was that opposing viewpoints on any given topic couldn’t both be right. They might both be wrong, but at most only one could be correct. Accordingly, I felt compelled to wrestle with these doctrines from all sides so that I could make up my own mind, and over time my faith started to feel like my own, rather than something that was merely “taught” to me.
In any event, the Trinity was the one doctrine that kept eluding any sense of closure. Because no matter how many times I revisited the notion of “three persons within the Godhead,” I always ended up coming to the same conclusion: something just isn’t adding up… In fact, the deeper I delved into this enigmatic teaching, the more convinced I became of its flaws! Thus given the Trinity’s significance, I became increasingly unsettled with every fruitless search for clarity. Not on account of my conclusion per se, but because I reasoned that I had to be missing something fundamental in order to keep falling so far short of the mark time after time.
Moreover, whereas my mentors had always welcomed my questions and encouraged me to pursue the answers to them without fear, the Trinity was the one area that was effectively “off limits.” Not that they weren’t happy to talk about it ad nauseum, but there was no sense of “middle ground” like there was with just about everything else. The Trinity was the one thing you simply had to accept.
Why am I writing this?
So here I am almost 30 years later, and I have finally decided to “go public.” The decision to take this step has not been an easy one, because I have no illusions about what’s at stake. Frankly, to say that this project has been undertaken with the utmost “fear and trembling” would still be a gross understatement, because I’m not questioning some minor, tangential point of doctrine…I’m going after the crown jewels!
As such, even after resolving to put pen to paper almost two years ago, there have been many points along this journey when I looked at the path before me and almost turned back. It’s not because I have any doubts about the flaws in the Trinity, but because I have absolutely no interest in just replacing one error with a potentially bigger one.
So what made the difference? What finally got me over the fear of becoming just another heresy in a long line of failed alternatives? For one thing, I am firmly convinced that there is indeed a better answer to the riddle of “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” than the “high-sounding nonsense” (Paul’s words, not mine) of the Trinity. But what really sealed the deal is the knowledge that even if I’m completely wrong, the gravest heresies still serve a purpose by galvanizing the church to clarify, articulate, and defend the essence of our faith. Clearly I’m betting on the former, rather than the latter…but either way God will ultimately be glorified.
Just to be clear, my conviction neither presumes that I have considered all of the evidence, nor does it reflect some self-assured notion that I am incapable of reaching a faulty conclusion myself; to the contrary, I continue to assume precisely the opposite on both counts. So if and when my error is made plain to me at last, then I will have no choice but to recant and rejoice! Until then, I am offering this chronicle of my 30-year journey for your consideration.
Why does it matter?
If you are like most Christians, you have probably never read the entire Bible. Thus in light of the countless hours that we spend reading rants on Facebook, eavesdropping on other people’s conversations via Twitter, or simply perusing social media’s endless supply of memes and other superficial, maudlin fare…something certainly seems a little out of balance.
That being said, if you are like most Christians, it’s not as if you haven’t tried! Multiple times, in fact! The spirit is indeed willing, but somewhere in the middle of Leviticus, or perhaps Numbers, your resolve gets lost amidst the seemingly pointless details about festivals, rituals, and genealogies. Or maybe you plunged right into the New Testament with every intention of circling back to the Old Testament at some point in the future. Things are going great through the Gospels, and Acts reads almost like a novel…and then you get to Romans. So you decide to jump right to the end of the story and run headlong into the juggernaut that is the book of Revelation. And after a few chapters of the apocalypse…you’re crying “Uncle!” rather than “Father!”
One reason that reading the Bible can be such a challenge is simply because its cultural and historical context is so utterly foreign to us. This is where a good study Bible can certainly help you fight your way through the inevitable fog, as does picking a translation that “helpeth thou feelest as if thou art” actually reading…English. Nevertheless, even when armed with these tools and the occasional Bible study group, many Christians still end up waving the white flag…yet again. Especially when there are so many adorable videos of puppies just waiting to be discovered on Instagram.
The real problem when it comes to reading Scripture, though, is that the Bible is spiritually discerned. That is just a fancy way of saying that since this is God’s Word, the only way you’ll ever really “get it” is with the help of the Author. Sure, modern translations and study Bibles are a good start, but in the final analysis only the Holy Spirit can help you put all of the pieces together.
As such, until we remove the “earplugs” that we bring to the Scriptures – namely our own biases & preconceived notions, like the Trinity – any chance that we have of clearly hearing God’s voice typically gets lost along with the Israelites somewhere after Exodus. But whereas Israel eventually made it through the wilderness and reached the Promised Land, most Christians continue to wander aimlessly through the Bible, and God’s Word remains little more than an impenetrable mystery.
Why should you listen to me?
Please don’t get me wrong. I’m not claiming that reading this book will be like hearing sound for the first time, or that it will miraculously cause every last scale to fall from your eyes…but I do believe it will get you closer. After all, since the doctrine of the Trinity casts its long shadow across the entirety of Scripture, to the extent that you can put it aside you’ll be amazed at the amount of light that finally starts to break through.
With that being said, though, you’re probably still wondering why you should bother listening to anything that I have to say about it. That’s a good question! I am not a trained theologian, I never attended seminary, and I have no credentials that would otherwise convince you that I am up to this task. Indeed, I have asked myself this very question dozens of times while writing this book, and given the hundreds – if not thousands – of brilliant minds that have grappled with this doctrine over the past 2,000 years, I wish I had a better answer to give you.
All I can say is that apart from any “official” qualifications, what I do have is an earnest desire to know God more deeply today than I did yesterday. To worship Him in spirit and in truth. To be obedient in something that I firmly believe that God has called me to do. And above all, to honor my Lord and Savior, God’s only Son, Jesus Christ. Many will undoubtedly tell you that it’s impossible to do these things unless you actually believe the Trinity, but I respectfully beg to differ.
For a more in-depth explanation of the peculiarities and issues with this doctrine, read Part 1: What is the Trinity and decide for yourself.