Unison and Harmony: Are the Members of the Trinity Equal?

As a vocal music major in college, I was required to participate and sing in a wide variety of groups. There was the annual oratorio choir and orchestra, the college chorale, and a smaller select group called the Chamber Singers. At various times I toured and concertized with all of them, sometimes as a tenor, though more often later as baritone/bass.

There was a regular sort of competition that went on among the voice parts as to which was the best and most important. The sopranos were often a bit high and mighty (pun intended); and while carrying the melody most of the time (though not always) they perceived themselves as the most indispensable. I always thought the bass section had a strong argument as saying that they were the foundation of the chordal structure upon which all else musically rested (though colorful chord inversions messed with this theory – just went music geek on you there). And the altos and tenors would argue that they were responsible for the bulk of the harmonies that made a choral production colorful and beautiful.

The fact is of course that all of the parts were necessary, and though they played different roles, none was more technically important than the others. The strength expressed in unison singing brought power to a composition, whereas the delicate harmonies contributed a rich context of refinement.

We may apply this to the discussion of the roles of the Trinity, though as with any and all natural world explanations, it will fall short of fully illustrating the impossible to completely grasp and comprehend.

The members of the Trinity are co-equal and co-eternal. There is equality, yet mutual submission in the roles each plays.

One of the early statements of the faith (The Athanasian Creed) affirmed this truth, and out of it came a graph called the Shield of the Trinity. I shared it on Sunday as a projection in English, but here it is as it looked in Latin …


You can probably figure it out, but a translation would roughly say: The Father is God, The Son is God, The Holy Spirit is God; God is the Father, God is the Son, God is the Holy Spirit; The Father is not the Son, The Son is not the Father, The Father is not the Holy Spirit, The Holy Spirit is not the Father, The Son is not the Holy Spirit, The Holy Spirit is not the Son.

Now doesn’t that just clear up everything?

In biblical study there is a discussion called the theology of procession. This says that the Father sends the Son, and the Father and the Son send the Spirit. That might seem to suggest that the Father is most important, whereas it speaks of the relationship that exists in terms of function. There is yieldedness within the Trinity.

Again, illustratively – is the husband greater than the wife? It speaks in the Scripture of headship for the husband, but he is not greater. Likewise, are certain gifts and positions of service in the church better than others – the speaking gifts better than the serving gifts? No, not really. All parts of the body are necessary and needful.

The Trinity is a model of diversity of roles, yet unity of essence and purpose.

But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that being justified by His grace we might be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (NASB) Titus 3:4-7

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About Randy Buchman

I live in Western Maryland, and among my too many pursuits and hobbies, I regularly feed multiple hungry blogs. I played college baseball, coached championship cross country teams at Williamsport (MD) High School, and have been a sportswriter for various publications and online venues. My main profession is as the lead pastor of a church in Hagerstown called Tri-State Fellowship. And I'm active in Civil War history and work/serve at Antietam National Battlefield with the Antietam Battlefield Guides organization. Occasionally I sleep.

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