The Holy Trinity: A brief introduction.

I was young when The Shack came out. I got it from the library, and I honestly didn’t get all that much out of it. But I do remember thinking how weird it was that God the Father was portrayed as a woman.

Now that I’m older, and more theologically inclined, I see more of the problems with The Shack‘s theology in a clearer light. Since the movie is coming out in less than a year, I thought it might be wise to take a look at the doctrine of the Trinity.

Before we go much further, click here and take the Trinity quiz that Tim Challies offers. How’d you do? 

The word Trinity is not found in your bible. It is an ecclesiastical, or church, word used to describe God’s revealed nature. A simple definition of the Trinity might look something like this: There is only one God, who exists as three distinct and co-eternal persons. The best definition of the Trinity is found in the Athanasian Creed.

I’m sure you’ve heard an analogy for the Trinity before. Throw it out, because it’s probably useless. I’ll let Donall and Conall explain:

Yes, I know: The rest of the post is going to be boring after that.

So where in the bible do we find this Trinitarian doctrine? I submit that the bible teaches that (1) there is only one God, (2) the Father, the Son, and the Spirit are distinct persons, and (3) the Father, the Son, and the Spirit are each fully God. If all three of these premises are true, then the Trinitarian concept of God is also true.

Premise 1: There is only one God.

This is, ostensibly, the easiest premise to prove from scripture. We know from a host of verses that God is the only God (Deut. 6:4; 4:35; 32:39; Is. 43:10; 44:6; 45:5; 45:18; 46:5-9, just to name a few). Two of my favorites are Isaiah 44:8 and Psalm 18:31. Both put polytheism to rest so succinctly.

Isaiah 44:8 says “Do not tremble and do not be afraid; Have I not long since announced it to you and declared it? And you are My witnesses. Is there any God besides Me, Or is there any other Rock? I know of none.” In Isaiah 43-49, God goes on an epic rant against those false gods and false saviors of other nations. He repeatedly makes the point that there are no other gods and no other saviors. And here He hammers it home: “I know of none!”

Psalm 18:31-32 says “For who is God, but the LORD? And who is a rock, except our God, the God who girds me with strength and makes my way blameless?” Again, the only acceptable answer to this rhetorical question is “No one!” God alone is God.

Premise 2: The Father, the Son, and the Spirit are distinct persons.

This premise is also easy to demonstrate from the Scriptures. In Matthew 3, at Jesus’ baptism, we see all three separate and distinct persons of the Trinity simultaneously. “And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased”” (vs. 16-17). This poses a serious challenge to modalists (people who believe that God is not three co-eternal persons, but one person playing the different roles of Father, Son, and Spirit at different times): Was Jesus just throwing His voice to speak from Heaven as the Father?

Another passage, which plays nicely in our next premise as well, is John 1:1. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”  So as far back as you can go, the Word – whom John identifies as Jesus (Jn. 1:14) – was already there as a distinct person from God (the Father). This “face-to-face” relationship can only take place between distinct persons – not one person playing two different parts.

Premise 3: The Father, the Son, and the Spirit are each fully God.

This premise may be demonstrated in two different ways. The first way is that each of the Persons of the Trinity – Father, Son, and Spirit – are certainly called God in Scripture. The second is that each of them is attributed with titles and qualities reserved only for God in Scripture.

As John 1:1 showed that the two persons, Father and Son, are unique, so also it demonstrates that “the Word was God.” Another appropriate translation of that verse is “what God was, the Word was.” Everything that God is by nature, the Word is also by nature.  Distinct persons, but one substance – exactly as the Athanasian Creed puts it.

The Spirit, also, is called God. In Acts 5:3-4 Peter says

“Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to man but to God.”

Notice in the first sentence, Peter says that they lied to the Holy Spirit; in the last line Peter says they’ve lied to God. So the title of God is applied to the Holy Spirit.

The attributes of God are applied to each of the Persons of the Trinity equally as well. I won’t reinvent the wheel here: Check out this chart of scripture verses.

trinity-chart

Conclusion: The Trinity must be true.

Since the three premises are supported by even this cursory examination of the scriptures, we must conclude that the Trinity is true. It is mysterious, and beyond our understanding by reason alone, true, but God has revealed Himself in this manner. It is our privilege to know and worship the true and Triune God.

 

Got questions about the Trinity? Comment below! Or share your favorite bad analogy (or a good one, if you can find it!), myth, misunderstanding, or other Trinitarian related topics. If you want to hear more then subscribe via email or WordPress, and like the blog on Facebook. See you next week for Trinity Myths and Misunderstandings!

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39 Comments

Filed under Apologetics, Theology, Theology Thursdays

39 responses to “The Holy Trinity: A brief introduction.

  1. I’d always been curious about something: I was told that it takes both male and female to image God. With the emphasis on God as being Father and Son, his maleness seems apparent; but the femininity in God which Eve images has always been hidden. It’s hard to know if God really transcends gender if He is exclusively referred to in male terms. If there really is nothing new under the sun, then something feminine has to exist in God, right?

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    • I suppose it would depend on what we understand the image of God to be. I don’t know that it has to do with sexuality per se. In fact, if you take into account the lack of marriage and giving in marriage at the resurrection of which Jesus speaks, then it seems that our eternal selves might transcend our current state. Not that we won’t be gendered, but that it doesn’t seem that our sexuality will be a huge part of eternity. But I don’t know for sure!

      Great questions and I’ll keep thinking about them!

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  2. J-money_daddyfresh

    Checkmate, Mormons.

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  3. so many problems with this! let me simply tackle one rather than the lot.

    you claim john 1:14 calls jesus god. the “word” is “intent, plan, will, etc”; greek, logos. it is not a person and not a book.

    in other words, jesus is what god had in mind for humanity all along; jesus is the way (hodos) god intended (logos) mankind to be in the world (zoe) all along and jesus is the revealed truth (alethea) of humanity.

    at least if you understand greek and don’t foist english and new doctrine on john’s writing.

    scripture says nothing remotely close to trinitarian theology, teachers nothing about it. it was invented in the third and fourth centuries.

    further, the trinity is a combination of modalism and tritheism. it entails a contradiction and as a result cannot be explained as to what “trinity” even means. as a result, the trinity cannot be used to explain anything else. therefore, the trinity cannot be any important idea or central idea upon which christianity hangs. if the trinity is central to something, it is only central to a community that thinks it’s important, despite it being incoherent. but, that community is no more christian than those which reject it, and no more closer to god or understanding god either.

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    • Since the latter half of your comment is nothing but assertions and you exalting your own reason over God’s revelation of Himself, I’ll ignore it. But John 1:14 says “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…” The Word is the second person of the Trinity, Jesus Christ. The Word is with God and in God. Your assertions to the contrary betray both a misreading of the text and your ignorance of Greek.

      What concordance are you using for your definition of λόγος, by the way? Strong’s Greek (number 3056, if you want to check) says “a word, speech, divine utterance, analogy.”

      Sorry to be so sharp here, but you’re very wrong and it’s hard to be anything but blunt.

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      • no, that’s greek. you baldly denying facts of the matter with a dismissal fallacy is what’s arrogant.

        yes, the word became flesh! in other words, jesus embodied humanity as god intended it.

        yes, the word was with god and is god. logos is not a person but intent, will, plan.

        funny how you purposefully left out EMBODIED IDEA and all theological commentary!

        logos: a word (as embodying an idea), a statement, a speech

        biblehub.com/greek/3056.htm

        you’ve just lost all credibility, with me and your readers.

        cheers.

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      • Well I haven’t left anything out as I directly quoted the definition listed on the page you linked.

        Further from Strong’s (my physical copy, but you can find the same online: http://www.bibletools.org/index.cfm/fuseaction/Lexicon.show/ID/G3056/logos.htm):

        “Something said (including the thought); by implication a topic (subject of discourse), also reasoning (the mental faculty) or motive; by extension a computationl specifically (with the article in John) the Divine Expression (id est Christ)…”

        Your definition isn’t part of any actual entry from Strong’s that I can find, and I don’t see how it changes the fact that the Word, which was in the beginning with God, became flesh in Christ. Do you deny that the Word was God? Do you deny that the Word was with God? Do you deny that Jesus is that Word who became flesh and had glory which we beheld, and made the Father known to us? I can’t comprehend your argument against the Trinity.

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      • the word is not a person or a book, and that’s the point. god had a plan for humanity. jesus *embodied* that plan.

        all the same words, you see, but you are foisting a reification of “logos” in order to say jesus is god, not just divine. instead, you have to study the language (greek), the philosophy (stoicism), and the history. from that, you cannot get an idea of trinity until after origin, and really, until tertullian. none of the gospels imply jesus is god at all in fact and that idea is late too.

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      • Was the Word God? And was the Word made flesh? Then God was made flesh. Again, you ignore what the Scriptures clearly state.

        As far as the gospels not implying that Jesus is God, what do you do with texts like John 20:28 where Thomas calls Jesus “my Lord and my God,” or Colossians 2:9, which states that “In Christ all the fullness of deity dwells bodily?”

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      • you aren’t listening. if logos is an idea, an intention, will, then john saying jesus is the logos made flesh is only tantamount to john saying jesus is what god had in mind all along. THAT is ALL scripture says. your additions are just that, additions.

        calling someone lord is a statement of sovereignty and place, not ontological proclamations that jesus is god. same with “my god”, after all, there must be other gods for “two shall have no other gods before me” to even bother stating. and to say jesus is divine is not at all to say jesus is god!

        what do you do with 1) nothing in trinitarian theology being present in scripture, 2) no mark in history until origen that starts to imply more than the divinity of jesus but jesus being god incarnate, 3) no mark in history of the holy spirit being god as well until tertullian, 4) jesus’ self conception been non controversial since it was identical with jewish, strict monotheism, 5) the idea of jesus being divine or god incarnate appears in history exactly when controversy arises too (third century), and 6) many ideas appeared at the very same time (simply anointed one, heteroousia, homoousia, etc), and 7) trinitarianism and arianism BOTH rise and fall in christianity coinciding ONLY with what the reigning emperor preferred; after constantine, arianism dominated and trinitarianism was nearly forgotten and discarded because the next two emperors thought it absurd, and 8) the plethora of scriptures clearly not equating jesus with god, and 9) the fact that johannine literature is the only scripture in the NT that at all discusses the divinity of jesus and it’s a theology, not a history, and about one hundred years after jesus, and thought to be from four different authors?

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      • I’m sorry, but your ideas of history and theology are so convoluted and incoherent that I’m going to have to bow out of this conversation. You didn’t really respond to anything in my original post, since you’ve just consistently misread what John says. So maybe next time!

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      • you do realize that none of your rejoinders are more than a “nugh ugh”, right? how on earth do you feel equipped to write on apologetics?!

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      • I’ll offer you a more substantive rejoinder when you offer a substantive critique. You haven’t interacted at all with the text, or with my post, beyond using a very narrow and out-of-the-way definition for your Greek, which still doesn’t make sense as an alternative reading. There’s not much to which I need offer response.

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      • any response besides “nugh ugh” would make me happy.

        you claim john 1:14 states jesus is god. this tells on the mailing of logos.

        far from “out of the way”, logos in greek philosophy, in the surrounding religions of john’s audience, and from the hebrew memra in the OT, logos is not a person but ANY manifestation of god’s will on earth. from the beginnings of judaism through philo, john’s predecessor, from cicero to the alexandrians, logos/memra was not god.

        i posted a paper with several theologians saying exactly that. in fact, nothing i’ve said differs!

        out of hand, you dismiss everything, leaving me exemplifying the points in your article as you exemplify those you portray as lesser than yourself.

        sir, if john differs at ask from the consistent idea, use and meaning and theology behind memra and logos, it is on YOU to demonstrate THAT john has a special meaning, why it is, what it is, and how we can know that at all. if you read the paper, a case can be made, but you will find that scripture itself is not saying a thing other than god, inasmuch as the logos can resemble god and inasmuch as god can resemble logos, scripture only translates to saying jesus was an expression of god’s will on earth.

        if you want to say john departs from the normal, traditional meanings and ideas, then justify it … as it is, you just showed your cards in saying my comments are of the beaten path, when no theologian would agree and instead, state clearly that john was expressing a totally new idea using the only language he could in order to capture it.

        another monolithic loss of credibility, friend.

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      • “the word WAS God.” John says himself that his usage is different. He describes a person who is in the beginning with God, and who is everything that God is, and who becomes flesh and dwells among us and we behold “his Glory” not it’s glory. Jesus is the Word, and the Word is God. You have to deny the clear teaching of John the Apostle (someone with much more credibility than you or I) in order to advance your blatantly false view. If you want to talk about losing credibility, contradicting an Apostle will do that.

        You seem to be claiming to be a monotheist, but you also seem to be saying there’s more than one god, as God commands not to have other gods before Him. That’s irony of the highest order, if I’m reading you correctly.

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      • no, nothing’s ignored. philo and john are saying things after all. 😉

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      • sorry…philo and john both say the logos is god but not god. “is” is an ontological statement, so when seeing any being verb, you don’t get its meaning merely by setting it. it’s polysemic.

        for halloween once, i WAS charlie chaplin. QED.

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      • by the way, john the apostle is likely not the author of the gospel of “john”, so suggesting there’s a loss of credibility via false appeal to authority is credulous. funny too how paul and james, paul and peter, disagree all the while paul never even met jesus yet, paul has been more the “rock” than peter.

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      • “this tells on the meaning of…”

        bad text gesturing.

        “this hangs on the meaning of logos”

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  4. cperk

    Soooo what do we do with the Holy Spirit being here on earth, Jesus sitting at the right hand of God the Father in heaven, and God the Father sitting in heaven? (John 14, Romans 8:34) How is that not the teaching of the Trinity??

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    • because jesus sitting next to the thing he is and the holy spirit being not where he is … is incoherent, first, but more importantly, your example rules both modalism false and homoousia; in other words, rules out trinitarianism. at best, you have polytheism limited to three gods.

      tell me, what am i claiming when i assert that fido, rover, and spot are the same dog, but at the same time, different dogs?

      THAT is trinitarian theology. anyone who has ever answered that question has explained that it’s a mystery. but, this is an admission that indeed the trinity makes no sense, and with the admission, trinitarianism cannot at all inform us about god, christ, or the holy spirit; which, by the way, is the only reason the idea exists TO do yet can’t!

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      • Cperk

        Oh, so you don’t like just read Scripture and believe what it says. I didn’t present an incoherent idea; I only said what Scripture says: that there are three persons of the Godhead and that they are currently in three different locations. That is clearly what Scripture says.

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      • scripture says nothing about a godhead, so you aren’t just reading and believing.

        scripture, in john, says god made jesus divine. it never says jesus is god. and in the history of logos, whether philo or john, the word is always a manifestation of god’s will, an expression of his nature; be that logos or memra. and in either case, neither is equated as ontological oneness, ever.

        quote me the scripture that talks about a godhead.

        even if we say eusebius wasn’t quoting the original text when quoting “go and baptize them in my name”, “go and baptize them in the name of the father, son, and holy spirit” isn’t describing a godhead, a trinity, anymore than it is establishing tritheism, heteroousia.

        and if you think merely reading scripture at all leads you to knowing what it says, an ancient text who’s author and audience is completely foreign to us, well, that’s the epitome of illiteracy.

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      • Cperk

        It is unbelievable how you balk at certain facts, ignore others facts, and wrongly change others facts

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      • i don’t care if you concocted the idea of the trinity or not. the point is, the idea is incoherent … and YOU air as much if you can’t explain it other than appealing to “it’s a mystery”.

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      • “own” not “air” … text gesturing gone wrong. 😉

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  5. J_money_daddyfresh

    Hey Steven you are aware in John chapter 10 Jesus himself says “I and the Father are one”…. Like that’s in red letters bro. And also, I can’t believe you said there must be other gods because the second commandment mentions it. Do you even read the Old Testament? Just because the mystery of the Trinity is misunderstood to you, does not disprove it. As Johnny said, most of you examples are assertions and beliefs you have clouded your mind with all while ignoring what scripture literally says.

    The fact that Jesus is also God, but separate person, is riddled all in the Old Testament as well as the new. Examples- you have Christ “types” all through out, pointing to the actual birth and coming of Christ, and what God planned to do.

    Also, by rejecting the Trinity, and the fact that Jesus is also God, you reject that his sacrifice was sufficient, as only He (as God) could serve as a perfect sacrifice for our sins.

    Soooo, what do you believe exactly?

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    • fully aware, and you know, the fact that my wife and i are one doesn’t at all equate to ontological oneness… and since logos historically is divine mind, will, reason, plan, principle, but historically NEVER a person, then like my wife and i, jesus is saying he and god are one; in will, mind, reason, etc; jesus is the perfect expression of god’s will in the sensual world … IIF you apply the classic meanings and uses and ideas of logos and memra.

      you cannot hope to suggest that passage makes an ontological claim in the least, outside of pure desire.

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      • J_money

        Sir, where do you find he historical meaning of logos? I am confused as to your historical definition and the worded definition in Strong’s concordance. I am certain the interpretation of much of the NT for you must hang on the correct definition of logos.

        If Jesus is indeed God and indeed a separate person, your entire theology concept of Christ and the Trinity changes.

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      • j money, a simple to the library ought to help. as it is, i’ve posted two links here at least and in them, an entire bibliography of sources. and no, nothing about exegesis hangs on the definition of logos. however, the trinity does, and you have it as the central idea of christianity … and the church did just fine without it for three centuries, aside from the fact that non trinitarian christians HAVE always been around, just a christian as any other.

        seriously though! if i say fido, rover, and spot are the same dog but not the same dog, what have i said? if i say that’s what i believe, what do i believe? gibberish, and nothing more.

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    • too, and to be perfectly clear, it is god’s active presence in the world (grace), through our iconic relation to god, that pistis (faith) inclines man to the good; the good being synonymous with god. pistis is not propositional beliefs or intellectual ascent. it is the draw to the good. grace and faith are GIFTS from god and are ALL scripture states as being efficacious for salvation.

      it’s not that the trinity is something i misunderstand! EVERYONE has no understanding of it! that’s why all explanations collapse on “it’s a mystery”!

      please, tell me what i believe if i say i believe fido, spot, and rover are the same dog and not the same dog.

      to say the trinity is a central belief of christianity but lacking any ability to explain WHAT is believed, tell me what is actually meant by “i believe in the trinity” … because of trinity is tantamount to mystery, then all it translates to is “i believe in mystery”.

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    • funny, finally, you take full literally on the abstract yet deny the plainest statement said to be uttered from god’s own lips: though shall have no other gods before me. what ELSE can that mean BUT “there are other gods”?

      of course you’d say there AREN’T and that ANYTHING placed before god is a god… just a false one. guess what. that’s exactly why monotheists charge trinitarians of; that jesus is lord above or even equal to, much less IS, god. and i needn’t mention bibliolatry is is of the same stripe; a book put above god and however he may reveal his will on earth; despite whatever your beliefs and claims about it may be.

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      • J_money

        I am curious to your understanding of the 3 persons of the Trinity. If they are not as we understand it, what is it? Help me understand you.

        As far as why would it say “no other gods before me” it is simple because man would create idols and call them “god”. Man is selfish and loves to worship himself and carven idols. God is a jealous God, and states not to have anything before him, insinuating that there are indeed none besides him(see Isaiah) and that even the false ones that have been imagined by man should not be worshiped. I would not think that Him saying that would attribute actual validity to other lesser beings than Himself.

        Also, why have you confined the understanding of the Trinity to an earthly understanding? It is like saying that the bread upon Institution from Jesus himself isn’t his body, it’s just bread, because it’s literally bread, and it’s physically impossible.

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      • dude! didn’t i just tell you that this is exactly ALL anyone could say, and that you would?!!! you should read what i wrote, again, because i also said that with trinitarianism, jesus is made into an idol!

        bread is bread, indeed. transubstantiation is also a late invention of the church, and moreover, an absurdity protestants have done away with altogether.

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