One of the finest popular examinations, explanations, and defenses of the doctrine of the Trinity is found in Frank Sheed's masterful Theology and Sanity. A shorter work, 'A Map of Life', presents a much more concise version of some of the same material, yet with the same clarity and precision that marks Sheed's many writings.
Thus the doctrine of the Trinity, at first seen only as a sheer challenge to Faith grows steadily more luminous to the mind which accepts it and comes humbly to the study of what the Church has seen in it. This truth that the Godhead is absolutely one essence, one single concrete Something: yet that there are three Persons owning the one Nature--the one self-same identical Nature: this truth not only grows more luminous as the ideas of Person and Nature are studied, as the relation of Father and Son and the Spirit proceeding from both is meditated on; but throws a flood of light on the whole of our understanding of life.
The doctrine that in the unity of the Godhead there are three Persons truly distinct is the Supreme mystery revealed by Christ. Beyond it is no further mystery, for it deals with the innermost life of God. In a sense, man need never have been taught it apart from the Incarnation: for it is God in His unity who acts in relation to created beings, the threefold Personality being a fact of His own inner life, of His own internal activity, of that activity which remains within His own nature and does not directly affect the beings He has created. But it is a property of love that it wants not only to know but also to be known by the person loved. God loving us, wants us to know Him in His deepest and most secret life, and so gives us here upon earth a glimpse of that truth which it is man's proper destiny to spend eternity in contemplating. And, apart from that desire of God's to be known by man, the distinction of Persons has in fact a direct bearing on man's life since it was the Second Person, and not God in His threefold Personality, who became man for our salvation.
It is the supreme mystery in a double sense: it deals with the highest truth: and it is most inaccessible to the created mind. Yet certain elements of it can be grasped by us. ...
The Three Persons--the Father, the Son, the Holy Ghost--each possess the one Divine nature: they do not share it: they each possess it in its totality. It is important to grasp exactly what this means. Men, we say, have one nature, in the sense that they all are human and human nature is one thing. But though Brown and I are of one nature, I cannot think with Brown's mind nor love with Brown's will. I must think with my own mind and love with my own will. So that, although in a general sense human nature is one, in the concrete each man has his own nature and acts in it. With the Three Persons of the Trinity this is not so. There is but one Divine nature, one Divine mind, one Divine will. The three Persons each use the one mind to know with, the one will to love with. For there is but the one absolute Divine nature. Thus there are not three Gods, but one God. The Christian revelation cannot allow the faintest derogation from pure monotheism. The three Persons, then, are not separate. But they are distinct. The Father is God, the Son is God, the Holy Ghost is God. But the Father is not the Son, nor the Son the Holy Ghost, nor the Holy Ghost the Father.
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