What's So Economic About the Trinity?

Have you heard of the Economic Trinity? What is the Economic Trinity? No, it’s not some version of the Trinity that’s half-priced. “Economic Trinity” is theological speak for describing how the three persons of the Trinity work together in the world. When we attempt to describe who God is, we are talking about what’s called the “Ontological Trinity.” When we talk about how God works in the world, we are discussing the Economic Trinity.

We all struggle to understand the Trinity. In fact, the more we talk about the Trinity the more likely we will say something heretical! However, as hard as the Trinity is to understand as a concept, it is incredibly easy to understand as the daily living reality of the Christian. Every Christian can understand the Economic Trinity.

Perhaps we can find an analogy in the nature of light. Physicists have been perplexed ever since they observed that light exists as both a wave and a particle. This depends on how you observe light. If you look at it one way, it’s a particle. If you look at it another, it’s a wave. These two seemingly contradictory things are both true. As difficult and counterintuitive as this is to understand intellectually, the simple observation of how light works in the world is not difficult. Light is both a particle and a wave. We find ourselves in a similar situation with the Trinity. God is three in the sense we call “person” and one in another sense called “being”. This is difficult to understand intellectually but easy to understand through experience.

Like light, the Christian experiences the Holy Trinity everyday. When you hear, read, or remember God’s Word and it convicts you of your sin, that’s God the Holy Spirit. When you turn to Christ to receive forgiveness and strength to live differently, that’s also God the Holy Spirit. When we look at Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection we see the perfect manifestation of God’s presence and character. That is God the Son. And trusting Christ, he brings us into a living relationship with God, such that we have the right to call him Father. That is God the Father.

That’s how the Trinity works in our lives. This is how C.S. Lewis describes it in Mere Christianity:
You may ask, "If we cannot imagine a three-personal Being, what is the good of talking about Him?" Well, there isn't any good talking about Him. The thing that matters is being actually drawn into that three-personal life, and that may begin any time —tonight, if you like. What I mean is this. An ordinary simple Christian kneels down to say his prayers. He is trying to get into touch with God. But if he is a Christian he knows that what is prompting him to pray is also God: God, so to speak, inside him. But he also knows that all his real knowledge of God comes through Christ, the Man who was God—that Christ is standing beside him, helping him to pray, praying for him. You see what is happening. God is the thing to which he is praying—the goal he is trying to reach. God is also the thing inside him which is pushing him on—the motive power. God is also the road or bridge along which he is being pushed to that goal. So that the whole threefold life of the three-personal Being is actually going on in that ordinary little bedroom where an ordinary man is saying his prayers. The man is being caught up into the higher kind of life...he is being pulled into God, by God, while still remaining himself.

As God's family, let us increasingly grow in the awareness of how the Trinity is working in our lives. Blessed be God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit!


Father Kurt Hein