In his excellent book on the Trinity (which I’ve referenced here several times) Fred Sanders gives this memorable example from his childhood to illustrate how much those of us who are born again actually do know about the Trinity, even if we just need to have it pointed out to us…
Anybody who has encountered God in Christ through the Holy Spirit has come to know the Trinity. But not everybody in this position knows that they know the Trinity. When they move to that next level of knowing that they know the Trinity, a bright light shines on everything they knew before. The situation is like a vivid learning experience I had as a child.
I was standing on the front lawn of my great-grandmother’s farm watching clouds pass in front of the moon. It was early evening, the sun had just gone down, the moon was already very bright, and the clouds were blowing quickly across the face of the moon. It was very beautiful, and I was standing on the front lawn, just looking at it.
My Uncle Dan came out and asked, “What are you looking at?”
I said, “I’m watching the clouds go by the moon.”
He asked, “What does that make you think about?
I replied, “Well, really I’m waiting to see if any of the clouds will go behind the moon. So far they’ve all gone in front of it.”
Uncle Dan stood there with me watching clouds, and after a while he asked, “Where is the moon?”
“It’s in outer space.”
Some more time went by. “And where are the clouds?”
“Oh… right,” it dawned on me. “I’m going to stand here a long time before I see a cloud going behind the moon. In fact, it’s not going to happen.”
What I always come back to when I think about that story is the question, Did I know that clouds are closer than the moon, or did I not know that? I had in my mind all the information I needed to draw the right conclusion, but I had never put it together. It was a situation in which I didn’t know that I knew it. And that put me in an awkward position, and made it very likely that I would say foolish things and even waste my time waiting for something that was never going to happen.
If you trust Jesus to be your salvation, you already know the Trinity. But it’s a great benefit to know that you know the Trinity. It’s a great benefit to know that you’re a Christian because you’ve received a Spirit of adoption from the Father, a Spirit that makes you call God “Abba, Father.” The Trinity is lurking in the gospel, just as it is lurking in the life of every believer. This Trinitarian reality is going on in our Christian lives whether we know that we know it or not.