The Trinity is arguably the most important doctrine of the Church, since it deals with the very nature of God. And it is also very often misunderstood!
Here are five of the most common misconceptions:
Myth 1: The Trinity didn’t exist in the Old Testament
Truth: Actually, God has always existed as a Trinity. In the Old Testament, God did not reveal himself as clearly as a Trinity (though some evidence is there), but that doesn’t mean God wasn’t a Trinity. The doctrine of the Trinity describes the eternal nature of God.
Myth 2: The persons of the Trinity are different forms God switches between
Truth: This is often accidentally asserted with various metaphors people use to try to simplify the Trinity. A popular one says that the Trinity is like water: it can exist as steam, liquid, or ice, but it’s all water. The problem with this is that the three persons of the Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – exist at the same time, and always have from all eternity. The persons are not modes or forms that God switches between.
Myth 3: The persons of the Trinity operate independently of each other
Truth: We may sometimes say that the Father is the creator, the Son is the savior, and the Holy Spirit is the sanctifier (and rightly so according to the principle of appropriation), but strictly speaking all the persons of the Trinity always act together in unity.
So, for example, yes the Father is the creator. But so are the Son and the Holy Spirit and equally so. Things get a bit tricky in talking about the the Incarnation (since only the Son assumed a human nature), but even then the three person had perfect unity in will.
Myth 4: The Trinity was invented by the Catholic Church and doesn’t come from the Bible
Truth: Actually the Bible teaches the doctrine of the Trinity. No, the word “Trinity” isn’t in the Bible, but the concept is there.
There’s a lot of relevant Scripture on the topic, but a few examples will suffice: Genesis uses the third person plural to describe God creating the world, in the Gospel of Matthew Jesus commands his Apostles to baptize “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” and St. Paul often invokes the Trinity in his letters (e.g. 2 Corinthians 13.13).
Myth 5: Belief in the Trinity is optional
Truth: You might think the doctrine of the Trinity is too confusing or doesn’t make sense and so just dismiss it. But don’t!
The doctrine of the Trinity is a dogma of the faith, which means that it has been taught infallibly by the Church and Christians are required to believe it. Obstinately rejecting this doctrine can actually put one in danger of hell. So it’s not optional!
Further, as mentioned earlier, the doctrine of the Trinity is regarding the very nature of God. So insofar we love God and have dedicated our lives to him, we should care deeply about the doctrine of the Trinity, however mysterious it may be. But shouldn’t we expect God to be mysterious?