Friday, June 15, 2012

What is the Doctrine of the Trinity?

There are many ways to explain the Trinity. Most are heretical. Few are orthodox. So in this article we've put together not one, but two definitions of our Triune God. It's not so much two completely different explanations, but two ways of looking at the same God. One view is simply a definition of God explained by his attributes. The other... is a bit more complicated.

Author #1. Will is an undergraduate student in Northern Virginia. He is working on a degree in Computer Science and spends his free time with the Scouts and working with church and para-church ministries. He loves the Lord and the Bible.
Throughout the bible there are references to three different persons who are at the same time one God. This doctrine is called the Doctrine of the Trinity: God the Father, God the Son (Jesus), and the Holy Spirit. The three persons are triune, meaning three in one. Each person of the trinity is equal in substance, and has always been and will be forever present.

God the Father, the first person of the trinity as well as maybe the most widely known person of the trinity is known by His attributes. Without them He would not be who He is. However, these attributes are humans putting God into anthropomorphic terms. In other words, we give God human characteristics to better understand him. But we can do so because he has revealed himself this way in the Bible. Some of his attributes: eternal, immutable, justice, love, creator, omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence.

These attributes also apply to God the Son or more commonly known as "Jesus Christ." As we are born into sin we cannot hope to get to heaven on our own, therefore God humbled himself to our level in the incarnation of Jesus Christ. This does not mean that Jesus is not God, because Jesus is fully God and fully man at the same time. Jesus made a decision not to use all the privileges of heaven in order for God’s plan to come to complete fulfillment in his work on earth (Philippians 2:5-9). Every attribute attributed to God the Father and God the Son such as omnipotence or all powerful also are attributed to the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit uses his attributes in different ways than either God the Father or God the Son uses them. Most people would think that the Holy Spirit is an “it”. The Holy Spirit is a person with his own personality. He has intellect, emotions, and will. Each person of the trinity has a separate personality and we can therefore attribute specific actions to each of them. Yet at the same time they are all God and of the same substance. This is why orthodox Christianity believes in one God in three persons.
Author #2. Jonathan is currently working on his Mater of Divinity at Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary. He enjoys studying theology and Scripture and has a little more precise take on the Trinity. He hopes to become a pastor after graduation. This definition comes straight from his statement of faith.
I believe in one glorious God existing in three eternal, distinct, and co-equal Persons of the same qualitative nature, namely, God the Father, source of all existence, [1] God the Son (Jesus Christ), eternally begotten without beginning or end,[2] and God the Holy Spirit, proceeding from both the Father and the Son,[3] all sharing in every divine perfection.[4] The Persons mutually interpenetrate one another without confusion (hypostasis) as they seek to accomplish their individual but harmonious tasks of creation, redemption, sanctification, and providence, all three implicated by the works of God while each work is distinctly that of the individual.[5] Furthermore, I believe in a God who is distinctly monotheistic in both undivided unity and numerical singularity.[6] He is Trinitarian in His three Persons, revealed as such in both the Old Testament in His plurality[7] and in the New Testament implicitly.[8]

I reject any doctrine that denies the threeness of God (abstract monotheism), the oneness of God (tritheism), the unity of essence of God (arianism), or God’s ontological distinction from the world (pantheism). I also deny one God is simply acting as three Persons (modalism), as well as any other statement that contradicts the Trinitarian doctrine of God.

Need a great book on the doctrine of the Trinity? Try Life in the Trinity (aff link).
Image By: VinothChandar

[1] Gen 1.1, Prov 30.4, 1 Cor 8.6

[2] Ps 2.7, Is 9.6, Matt 3.16-17, John 1.14, 3.16, Heb 1.1-5, Rev 1.4-6

[3] John 16.7, 20.21-22, Luke 24.49, Acts 2.33, Gal 4.6

[4] 1 Cor 2.10-11, Col 1.15, Heb 1.1-3

[5] 1 Cor 12.4-6, Eph 4.4-6, 1 Pet 1.2

[6] Deut 6.4, 1 Kings 8.60, Isa 45.5-6, 22-23, 46.9, Mark 12.29, John 10.30, Rom 3.30, 1 Tim 2.5, James 2.19

[7] Gen 1.26a, 3.22, 11.7, Psa 45.6-7, 110, 1 Isa 6.8,

[8] Matt 22.41-46, 28.19, Rom 1.1-4, 2 Cor 13.14

1 comment:

  1. Just a culture lesson on another religion; do what you will with this information:

    many thousands of years earlier the hindus had a similar thing to the 'trinity'. They believe there is only one supreme universal being that supports all. But then they believe that there are different manifestations of him, through 3 main 'Gods' or representations that are all him, and not separate, but perform different roles of the main Brahman and then all other things fall under those three main ones, but they created Gods to represent different concepts, hence the many hundreds of 'gods'. They are not truly Gods to the hindu though, they are symbolic manifestations of the supreme God. But by worshiping that manifestation, you really are worshiping brahman because brahman is in everything. Their Gods are drawn in the most unique ways to remind them of the transcendental nature of God. Its actually very similar to the idea of a patron saint now that I think of it (except for the drawing part).

    But I think that it is interesting that they believe that the universal Brahman is actually manifested in 3 ways, or main 'Gods', each with the attributes or roles being used differently (Vishnu, Shiva, and Brahma). Then all the others, simply manifestations of these three, but not taken as seriously or literally as the three.

    They sort of take it a step further and state that, generally, everything is connected to God (Brahman) whether realized or not, and that fully realizing this connection awakens their 'soul' (whether an animate or inanimate thing). This is worded in many different ways though, and is a simple oversimplification.