Tuesday, July 09, 2002

The Trinity

The Trinity is an essential doctrine of Christianity. In other words, it is so important that one cannot be a Christian and yet deny the Trinity.

The Nicene Creed summarizes many Christian essentials. Such is the purpose of creeds. It reads:

We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified.

From this we can state exactly what it is we believe when we say we believe the Trinity. We believe a mystery about the Godhead that we cannot fully comprehend:

  1. There are three persons of the Godhead, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
  2. Each of these persons has full deity.
  3. Although separate persons, the three are of one power, substance and eternity. The three are of one essence.

Some heresies associated with the Trinity are:

  1. That is does not exist for any of a number of reasons such as a denial of the deity of Christ.
  2. That there are not three distinct persons but merely three distinct roles or personalities (modalism).
  3. That there are three completely separate Gods that make up the Godhead (tritheism).

Scriptural Basis of the Trinity

Much of this has been covered recently by Mark Byron and Marc Velazquez (sp?) aka Spudlets. I am not really adding anything to their discussion; mostly this blog is for my own edification. The verses I have chosen are not nearly exhaustive—they are in some sense a “minimal” set.

To provide the scriptural proof of the Trinity, we need to find clear support for each of the enumerated items in the first list above.

Three persons of the Godhead

Are there verses that state explicitly the three persons of the Godhead? There are indeed. Included among them are:

16 After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him, 17 and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, " This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased." (Matthew 3:16-17, NASB)

"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, (Matthew 28:19, NASB)

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. (2 Cor. 13:14, NASB)

Full Deity for each Person of the Godhead

In interests of space I will leave it as an exercise for the reader to verify the deity of the Father and the Son. It won’t be hard. For the deity of the Holy Spirit we find:

3 But Peter said, "Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the price of the land? 4 "While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control? Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God." (Acts 5:3-4, NASB)
The person being lied to is called the Holy Spirit and, just a bit later, God.
Therefore I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven people, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven. (Matthew 12:31, NASB)

One blasphemes against a deity, therefore Matthew 12:31 tells us that the Spirit is God. The Spirit has the Attributes of a deity:

The Spirit is eternal:
how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? (Heb. 9:14, NASB) )

The Spirit is omnipresent:
Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? (Psalms 139:7, NASB)

The Spirit is omniscient:
10 For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. 11 For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. (1 Cor. 2:10-11, NASB )

One Essence

The last remaining piece is that the three persons are of one essence.

Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! (Deuteronomy 6:4, NASB)

"I and the Father are one." (John 10:30)

When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father (John 15:26, NASB)

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit. (2 Cor. 3:17-18, NASB)

A Slam Dunk but alas Not Without Controversy Verse

For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. (1 John 5:7, KJV)
This verse, almost single-handedly establishes the Trinity. However, it is, alas, not this strong in all translations. For example, in the NASB it reads: For there are three that testify: And then verse 8 goes on to say they “agree”, but does not use the “these three are one” found in the KJV and NKJV. Consult your favorite Bible translation scholar for an explanation. Because of this controversy, it is not advised to use this verse in a discussion with Jehovah’s Witnesses. They will be ready for it.

Inferences Where Art Thou?

In a comment on my post on Sola Scriptura Craig suggests I deny the validity of inferences. I do not—it is just that I think the definition of an essential doctrine such as the Trinity is one that the scripture teaches explicitly and does not require inferences. For example, In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth (Gen. 1:1). We don’t need to make any inferences: God as the Creator is explicit. On the other hand my Calvinism, which I so dearly love, requires inferences. Dots have to be connected, and at times I have to say “what this seems to mean is…”. There is nothing wrong with that. As Craig pointed out, Luther said: “"Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason..."” Luther certainly did not rule out the validity of inferences and reason. We just have to admit the possibility that in any doctrine in which inferences are required, we might be wrong. The Trinity is not such a doctrine.

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