One of the most problematic doctrines of the Trinity is the idea of God incarnate. As we’ve seen, the Nicene Creed explains that Jesus was of:
one essence with the Father, by Whom all things were made; Who for us men and for our salvation came down from Heaven, and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and became man.
Note that the creed stipulates that Jesus was “incarnate of the Holy Spirit.” But how can the spirit of God incarnate itself and still remain spirit? Can God come to earth?
This distinction, between God becoming incarnate (which is not confessed in the creed) and spirit becoming incarnate (which is) gives many pause for reflection. Nevertheless, common Christian understanding is that Jesus was God incarnate.
The early Christian notion of God incarnate, however, clearly borrowed much from the Greco-Roman concept of a God-man. Greek gods looked like men and often came to earth, and all the Roman Emperors were viewed as God incarnate. Indeed, much of early Christian doctrine is problematic precisely because the scholars who formed it were more immersed in Greek and Roman concepts and philosophy than they were in Judaic teaching.
The Divine Reality which is purified and sanctified from the understanding of human beings and which can never be imagined by the people of wisdom and intelligence is exempt from all conception. That Lordly Reality admits of no division; for division and multiplicity are properties of creatures which are contingent existences, and not accidents which happen to the selfexistent. Some Answered Questions, p. 113.
Baha’is believe that God is free from division, and is also, as Abdu’l-Baha explains, “sanctified from singleness.” Whatever God is, He is immeasurably above our power to explain or understand.
As to the Son, Jesus, and all the other Prophets of God, Abdu’l-Baha explains: “All that is mentioned of the Manifestations and Dawningplaces of God signifies the divine reflection, and not a descent into the conditions of existence.”
In other words, the unknowable God does not descend and appear as a Prophet. Rather His Effulgence or Logos is reflected in the soul of the Manifestation of God which is like a “clear, pure, polished mirror.” God, the Sun, “does not descend to dwell and abide in the mirror. No, it continues to subsist in its exaltation and sublimity, while appearing and becoming manifest in the mirror in beauty and perfection.”
As to the Holy Spirit, Abdu’l-Baha explains that:
The Holy Spirit is the Bounty of God which becomes visible and evident in the reality of Christ. The Sonship station is the heart of Christ, and the Holy Spirit is the station of the Spirit of Christ. Hence it has become certain and proved that the Essence of Divinity is absolutely unique, and has no equal, no likeness, no equivalent.
This is the Baha’i understanding of the trinity. It contains the three elements of faith: God, His Chosen One, and the Holy Spirit. All are united in one substance: light. And yet God is clearly the one supreme ruler.
Abdu’l-Baha closes His statement by indicating that arguments about the Trinity must be logical. He writes:
This is the signification of the Three Persons of the Trinity. If it were otherwise, the foundations of the Religion of God would rest upon an illogical proposition which the mind could never conceive, and how can the mind be forced to believe a thing which it cannot conceive? A thing cannot be grasped by the intelligence except when it is in an intelligible form; otherwise it is but an effort of the imagination.