28 years ago Seattle had it’s first St. Patrick’s Day Dash, a 4 mile race to celebrate the holiday. This year, thousands of people gathered to take part in the annual race through the heart of Seattle.
As a child, St. Patrick’s day was celebrated by wearing green. If you didn’t wear something green, those who were wearing the color had the right to pinch you as hard as they wanted to. If you were pinched and you were wearing green, you could return the pain to the mistaken pincher by pinching him 10 times. St. Patricks day for us was one of strategizing to hide the green until some poor person decided to pinch you, then you could triumphantly go on your pinching binge to the delight of everyone around you. Except, of course, the one you are pinching.
Today, St. Patricks day is celebrated by millions of young adults that take the holiday as an excuse to go from bar to bar, pub to pub, having their good time drinking as much as possible. The will wake up tomorrow regretting it but for now, they want to have, what they believe is, fun.
How Times Change
St. Patrick was a Catholic who, as legend has it, would try to explain the Trinity using the Shamrock, a 3-leaf clover native to Ireland. His life was celebrated in Ireland long before the tradition was brought to the Pacific Northwest.
At one time, St. Patricks day was celebrated by attending church in the morning and having a celebration feast in the evening. Not celebrating Irish whiskey, but celebrating the life of a much-loved man in Ireland.
The Trinity in a Shamrock?
As the legend goes, the people of Ireland couldn’t quite come to grips with the idea that there was one God, and at the same time three Gods, all equal and co-eternal but still making up one God.
St. Patrick would explain it by picking a clover from the earth. He would show the people the clover’s stem and show them that there was only one stem. Then he would show them the three leaves on the end of the stem and say one was for the Father, the other for the Son, and the other for the Holy Spirit. Three separate leaves on one stem. 3 separate persons in one Godhead.
For the majority of people, Christianity is synonymous with this teaching. There are three Gods called the Trinity.
The problem with this, is the Bible is adamant that there is only one God.
Deuteronomy 4:35 Unto thee it was shewed, that thou mightest know that the Lord he is God; there is none else beside him.
Deuteronomy 4:39 Know therefore this day, and consider it in thine heart, that the Lord he is God in heaven above, and upon the earth beneath: there is none else.
I Chronicles 17:20 O Lord, there is none like thee, neither is there any God beside thee, according to all that we have heard with our ears.
So was St. Patrick wrong?
Not totally. He had it right, as many Trinitarians do up to a point. There is only one God, one stem, one clover.
There may be 3 leaves on this clover. But there is several other parts as well including the stem and the roots. You can tear a leaf off of a clover and it’s still the clover. You can’t take the stem out, however. Neither can you remove the root.
The three leaves are what we see that identifies the clover as a clover. We can look at a million stems but it would take a very special person to be able to identify a clover by only the stem.
No one would ever think that because a clover has three leaves it’s 3, separate plants making up one plant.
Three Manifestations Not Persons
Just like we identify a clover by its leaves, we identify God by the way we associate with Him. We associate Him as a father. We associate Him as a son. We can associate Him as the Holy Spirit that we can feel living inside of us, comforting us, and touching us.
But these are not different Gods. These are simply ways God has made Himself known to us.
Jesus communicated this very simple when He told His disciples that if they had seen Him, they had seen the Father. That’s a simple statement. When He gave the disciples the Great Commission, he solidified it further:
He told them to go into all the world and baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. A lot of people take this literally and, when baptizing, do so calling on these three different people. They never use their names though. They just invoke the name of the three different people by their titles.
If I took my dad’s checkbook to the store to buy a gallon of milk; if my dad had signed it “dad” I would probably have difficulty buying that gallon of milk.
My dad is a dad. He was also someone else’s son. He also has a spirit, a soul. You cannot legally sign documents using your titles. If your father sent you to the hardware store and said just charge the purchase in my name, what would you do? Would you tell the clerk you were charging this in your father’s name? If the clerk didn’t know you personally, he would ask the logical question, “what is your father’s name?”
Notice, Jesus said the ‘name’ of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. He didn’t say names. He said name. One. One name. If all of these have one name, what is that name? Easy right? Jesus.
Maybe that’s why Peter told the sinners, when they asked how to be saved, that they had to be baptized in Jesus’ name. Acts 2:38.
The clover is one clover. The leaves are part of the clover, not separate plants. One clover.
Ephesians 4:5-6 One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.