The first attribute that I wish to address is that God is triune. Some would argue that this is not an attribute. However, given the definition mentioned before, that an attribute is a defining factor of who God is, it fits well. The characteristic that we are describing with the trinity is community. Our idea of community comes from the trinity, and not the other way around. Thus I have decided to make the statement that God is triune instead of that God is communal.
We understand community by understanding the trinity. The doctrine of the trinity is reduced to three main points. First, God is one. Second, God has revealed Himself in three forms (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). Third, all three forms exist eternally alongside one another. As far as a good description or analogy of the trinity, I am both happy and disappointed to say that there are none. I am happy to say that there are none because it would then cause pause as to whether we have conceived of this ourselves. I am disappointed to say that there are no good analogies of the trinity because it now causes extreme difficulty in expressing what it is and what it means.
God is one. The Hebrew word is echad. Echad means one. It never means anything else. There is the Hebrew word yachid, which some have argued that this is the word for “one singular.” However, the usage of yachid in the Hebrew Bible, and the contexts under which it is used, leaves that argument neutered. The argument that echad might mean “one plural” is also unwarranted. There is absolutely no argument that can be made from the Hebrew words for the multi-person God. Yachid is a word that is rarely ever used in the Old Testament Scripture. Similarly, echad is used in verses like Ecclesiastes 4:8, “There is one (echad) alone, and there is not a second; yea he has neither child nor brother…”
Echad is used in Genesis 1:5 to say that it was the first day. Do we claim it was the first day, or do we claim that it was somehow a conglomeration of days that all consist of “one” day? The challenge of explaining the Trinity through Old Testament Scriptures is not one of wording. The question to ask is not whether there is one singular verse, like Deuteronomy 6:4, that explains the multiplicity of God, but rather the cumulative argument of many verses over that express the three points explained in the first paragraph. It is not difficult to express these three points through Old Testament Scripture, and I’ve dedicated a section later to this very thing.
Even in the word Elohim we do not have any sufficient reason to say that this means God is more than one. Elohim is a plural noun, but so is panim. Panim is the word for “face.” We don’t say that I have faces, but Hebrew does use panim instead of panah. Even with this, does that necessarily mean that Elohim is also a plural word that has a singular context? We find in Exodus 7:1 that God tells Moses, “I have made you a god (elohim) to Pharaoh.” Obviously, Moses is not suddenly multiple people.
The basis that we take for the trinity is not in these Hebrew words or concepts. It is from other Scriptures, which we will discuss later. In order to understand the trinity, we must come to grips that though God is three separate forms, He is still one being. There is nothing wrong with saying the shema: the Lord your God is one. YHWH is indeed one. Though this concept is difficult to grasp, it is the basis of our understanding of God.
It is well believed that we, as humans, are three distinct forms as well. We consist of body, soul, and spirit. Very few in Christianity would claim that there is no spirit within a man. Even fewer would claim that there is no soul. I would assume that we would be hard pressed to find anyone that could say they do not believe in anything outside of the physical body of a man and that they believe the Bible. If it were not inconceivable or irrational to speak of mankind in this sense, then why would we consider it difficult to understand God in this sense? Man is in three forms, yet is one being. God has made us in His image to reflect the Divine in this manner. This does not give us an exhaustive understanding of what the trinity is like, nor does it do justice to explaining how God can be three-in-one, but it is nonetheless a description that we can all understand and associate with.
The difficulty with discussing the trinity is that we have three distinct persons, and yet those persons are all one. Even in the description that man is body, soul, and spirit, those aren’t distinct persons that do distinct actions. Yet, the trinity consists of three distinct persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and those distinct persons each have their place and purpose in the Godhead. They are all of equal authority, and yet the Bible teaches that Jesus was “promoted” and “given all authority.”