Athanasius was a church leader in the 4th century and one of his most important contributions was bringing together theologians to clarify the doctrine of the triune God.
As a result of his efforts many Christians know and recite the Athanasian Creed.
Because a long list of Trinitarian dogma can make a person’s brain hurt, I offer some bits and pieces of the creed below, with brief words of explanation. May we continue to marvel at the mystery of our triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Words of the Athanasian Creed are in bold, with words of explanation in normal font.
We worship one God in three persons and three persons in one God, without mixing the persons or dividing the divine being.
We don’t mingle the three individual persons of God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) like stirring together drink powder, sugar, and water into a batch of Kool-Aid; each person of the Trinity remains independently intact to contribute uniquely to our faith and salvation.
Neither do we slice God into three different pieces so that each of the persons is a third of God; we don’t worship demi-gods or deities who have the potential to become more divine.
For each person – the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit – is distinct, but the deity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is one.
What the Father is, so is the Son, and so is the Holy Spirit.
The Father is uncreated, the Son uncreated, the Holy Spirit uncreated.
Our triune God did not ever begin, and so cannot contain design flaws.
The Father is infinite, the Son infinite, the Holy Spirit infinite.
Our triune God is limitless in who he is, where he goes, and what he does in his love for sinners.
The Father is eternal, the Son eternal, the Holy Spirit eternal.
Our triune God will never retire or get too old to do his work.
In the same way the Father is almighty, the Son almighty, the Holy Spirit almighty.
Our triune God is never in a situation that is out of his control.
So the Father is God, the Son is God, the Holy Spirit is God; yet they are not three Gods, but one God. So the Father is Lord, the Son is Lord, the Holy Spirit is Lord; yet they are not three Lords, but one Lord.
The triune God simply doesn’t add up according to the limits of our human understanding – which is exactly what we want as the object of our faith and hope.
If we are limited to what we can understand, then our unsolvable problems are not going to be solved, and our sins, our death, and the powers of hell will have their way with us. We want a God whom we cannot completely understand. So he can do for us what we could never decide, design, or do on our own.
And within this Trinity none comes before or after; none is greater or inferior, but all three persons are coequal and coeternal, so that in every way, as stated before, all three persons are to be worshiped as one God and one God worshiped as three persons.
With perfect symmetry, balance, and coordination our three-in-one God saves sinners who worship him for who he is.
PRAYER: I marvel at your mystery, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – my God and Lord. Teach me to trust you in the wonder of your glory, without needing to comprehend you. As I search your paths make me satisfied to thrill in what I can discover, and satisfied to believe in what I can’t. Amen.
FURTHER MEDITATION: Okay, go back. Slowly now. The phrases you glossed over while reading. Stop at them. Consider them. Let them sink in!