Home > Theology, Trinity > Why You Should Believe in the Trinity

Why You Should Believe in the Trinity

In the midst of questioning the importance of the doctrine of the Trinity, let it be known that I whole-heartedly defend the doctrine itself.  It is absolutely Biblical.

Opponents of the doctrine of the Trinity (like Jehovah’s Witnesses) will point out that the word “Trinity” does not appear in the Bible.  (Of course neither does ‘Jehovah’, but that’s not the point.)  The doctrine of the Trinity is merely a way to sum up various teachings from the New Testament which seem to be contradictory:

  1. Jesus’ Father is God
  2. Jesus is God
  3. Jesus’ Spirit is God
  4. The Father is distinct from the Son, who are both distinct from the Holy Spirit
  5. Yet there is only One God

Now let me be clear here.  Christians do not believe these five points because of the doctrine of the Trinity.  We believe them because they are biblical.  The New Testament affirms all five points, any of which can only be denied by twisting various passages and distorting their meaning.  The purpose of the doctrine of the Trinity is to attempt to hold all five points simultaneously without contradiction.  The original proponents of the doctrine turned to Greek philosophy for categories that would help them to explain it.

Different cultural contexts will require Christians to explain the Trinity in different ways.  In some cases it may be burdensome to use the word “Trinity.”  It is not the word that is important; it is the judgments that stand behind the word.  God is one essence, one substance, comprised of three persons, three centers of consciousness.

Almost all attempts to describe the Trinity will fail on one point or another.  But here is one that works for me.  I am a part of one family that is made up of seven people.  Likewise, God is one God that is made up of three people.  The analogy is weakest in the image of the family, since no family has ever been perfectly unified.  There is no such thing as a “dysfunctional God.”  The three persons of the Trinity are never in conflict with one another, but always act together in perfect unity.

I don’t care how you explain it or put it all together.  As long as you hold all the points listed above without denying any one of them, you’ll do alright.  The doctrine of the Trinity is the way theologians have come up with to do that.

See also my comments on the Trinity and monotheism on Bryan’s blog.

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  1. October 10, 2008 at 9:19 pm

    Jesus is never presented as the Most High, the only true God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Any of the very, very few times comparatively that the words for “God”, forms of the Hebrew EL or forms of the Greek THEOS, are actually applied to Jesus can be seen in the general sense of might, strength, power, etc. As a general rule these words are not applied to the Son of God. The very expression “son of God” indicates one who has been given life, existence.

    The trinitarian dogma has to be assumed, added to, and read into each and every scripture that is presented to allegedly support the assumption. Each and every scripture trinitarians present can be seen to be in harmony with all the scriptures without adding to and reading into them the assumption of the trinitarian dogma. Christians who examine the scriptures closely have no reason to add the trinitarian assumptions to the scriptures.

    For the illustration of the one family made up of seven people, only one person of the family were to be equal to the whole family would there be any illustration of the trinity. In other words, applying the illustration to the trinitarian dogma, one person would not be God, but would be a part of God, being only one person of God. He would need the other two persons in order to actually be God. If this were true, then Jesus would not be God, but only a part of God. The trinitarian dogma, however, would have us believe that Jesus is not part of the Supreme Being but that he is all of the Supreme Being; that the Supreme Being over the Son, the Father of the Son of the Supreme Being, is all of the Supreme Being, not part of the Supreme Being, and the Holy Spirit of the Supreme Being is not part of the Supreme Being, but all of the the Supreme Being. Of course, in reality, the only true Supreme Being who sent his Son into the world never ever claimed to be such as all of this. This is man’s doings, not God’s (although I do believe that Satan has deceived man into accepting these beliefs which would deny the very purpose of Jesus’ coming in the flesh, that is, to sacrifice that flesh once for all time for sin.

    http://sonofyah.wordpress.com

  2. October 12, 2008 at 7:42 am

    Ronald, there is a lot going on here. I will try to respond soon, but this is going to take a small investment of time to answer properly. You’re right about my analogy. The members of the Trinity mutually indwell one another. It has the same problems the Eastern Church Fathers had.

    There are lot of issues going on here. Did Jesus think He was God? Does the New Testament teach that Jesus is God? Is Jesus God? The three are related, butone must answer each one differently. The general consensus among everyone is that the answer to the second question is a resounding yes. I contend that you deny that the New Testament teaches the full deity of Christ only because you want to (1)deny that Jesus is God, and yet (2) affirm that the New Testament is inspired.

    Another point to press you on is why you would accept the canon of scripture who’s limits were decided by the very same people who defined the doctrine of the Trinity for us.

  3. June 17, 2009 at 1:42 am

    RT JONES

    If the Bible indeed teaches Trinity and Christ crucifixion is ineffective unless one is a Christian, where do all the children of God go before Trinity?

    Alhaj

  4. July 26, 2009 at 8:22 pm

    RT Jones

    You say, “Christians do not believe these five points because of the doctrine of the Trinity. We believe them because they are biblical. The New Testament affirms all five points …”

    I would be most grateful if you could point out to me the biblical testaments/passages …

    Alhaj

  5. July 27, 2009 at 8:53 pm

    Hi Alhaj. Thanks for your comments. I am sorry that I have been slow to respond. You have left me a lot of comments that all deserve in depth responses. Here are some initial thoughts.

    You say, “if the Bible indeed teaches [the] Trinity”… I am surprised anyone would find this a disputed point. On this point nearly all of us are agreed – the Bible in its entirety entails a trinitarian doctrine. Christians would affirm the Bible on this point, while Jews, Muslims, and others would reject the Bible because of it. I will have to get back to you on specific verses, only because I do not have time at the moment to look them up.

    Your second condition above is if “Christ[‘s] crucifixion is ineffective unless one is a Christian”. Many Christian churches would explicitly deny this. Some would say that a person can be saved by Jesus’ sacrifice even if he or she is not aware that this is why he or she is saved. The current position of the Roman Catholic Church is that there are “anonymous Christians” within other religions who serve God with a Biblical-style faith but are not aware of Jesus’ crucifixion.

    My main problem with this condition is different, however. It assumes that the primary purpose of the crucifixion is for the benefit of the individual believer. I assert that the crucifixion is primarily about Jesus and a particular vision of His messianic vocation. He believed he was to take the sins of God’s covenant people upon himself according to the prophecies of the suffering servant in Isaiah. This counter-intuitive vision of what messiahship means was vindicated only by Jesus’ resurrection. In other words, the crucifixion is not about my personal salvation but about Jesus’ lordship. The salvation of the individual is one of the many implications of the crucifixion. Thus, if the crucifixion is about Jesus rather than about believers, it would be “effective” even if no one ever believed. (I am largely following the Anglican scholar N.T. Wright here. This is a minority view within Christendom, so I am not representative of most modern Christians on this point.)

    As for the destiny of children of God before “before Trinity”, I must first say that Christian theology does not allow for a time “before the Trinity”. We believe the Trinity has always existed. The Nicene creed pronounces that Jesus is “eternally begotten of the Father.” There was never a time when He was not, and His relation with the Father has always been as Son.

    But I think I know what you’re getting at. If belief in Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection is essential for salvation, how would that be possible before these events happened? Salvation, we believe, has always been by faith alone. This is Paul’s point in Romans 4. Quoting from Genesis, he says, “Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Thus we believe there were saints before the time of Jesus, and they were made saints on nothing more than the basis of their faith in God alone. What is crucial for us is that the climax of God’s interaction with us occurred in the death and resurrection of Jesus. So on a Christian worldview, one cannot trust in God and yet refuse to trust Him in His greatest act of mercy towards the world.

    Thanks for your probing comments. Please keep them coming, even if I am slow to answer.

  6. August 10, 2009 at 12:12 am

    Dear RT JONES

    It was narrated from one of the tradition of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) that Adam was asked to choose between intellect, religion and dignity. Surprisingly Adam chose intellect. So said religion and dignity: if Adam chose intellect we have no choice but to be with him for there’s no religion and dignity without intellect.

    Other than scriptures, God equipped us with intellect (as tool) and reason (as mechanism) to understand and acknowledge Him through His scriptures. God’s religion is only one. As true religion is for all mankind, therefore men (from East or West), to come to the same conclusion in search of truth, are equipped with the same criteria.

    With intellect one reasons whether a point is true or not true, whether a point is a priori a truth or not a priori a truth. Truth in religion is like mathematical truth (exact) though religion does not deal with figures. Since Judaism, Christianity and Islam each claim to be a monotheism – the criteria that God is one should be the same.

    Jesus like Muhammad or like other messengers of God before them (pbut) conveyed God’s messages through revelations. Religious teachings (God’s monotheism and laws) were understood immediately at that point of revelation and requires no span of time to be understood conclusively as was like deliberated by the Council of Nicaea in the third centuries, giving no meaning of the revelation at point time of revelation.

    What picture of monotheism deliberated and concluded after the span of time from the time of revelation is theology – hence the difference between Judaism’s, Christianity’s and Islamic Theology. Theology can never take the place of scriptures to manifest truth. For without scriptures there’s no theology. Therefore scriptures must be preserved to maintain the theology arrived at, be it Judaism’s, Christianity’s or Islam’s. The truth reveal in the scriptures must be paralleled with the theology arrived at. It the scriptures (revealed) and theology (human understanding of the scriptures) are antagonistic, something is wrong somewhere but it cannot be the scriptures. Scriptures can only be said wrong if it is corrupted or manipulated. Messengers of God do not speak of God’s messages like Socrates or Aristotle does of philosophy. God’s messages are no philosophy. Furthermore Jesus preached to the laymen in an everyday language that they could easily be understood (so how come theology, trinity for example, become so mysterious?).

    Coming to the crux of the matter, when Jesus preached, he did not have with him the four gospels: the gospel according to Mark, the gospel according to Matthew, the gospels according to Luke and John and in Greek. Jesus spoke Aramaic and the audiences were Jews, not gentiles. It is agreed by scholars that the earlier the gospels’ sources the more reliance they become.

    When the Aramaic gospel is not available, to what extend can you give the authenticity of the truth revealed by the synoptic gospels plus John’s. Paul’s epistles as you implied exactly contradicted Jesus’.

    So Christian theology to the best I can say is a theology less of the authentic gospel of Jesus (Aramaic) and hence I cannot be convinced for certain from this historically given premise that present Christian theology really reflected Jesus’ monotheism of God. So speaking of Trinity is like mere academic exercise.

    See you again. I am not finish.

    Alhaj

  7. August 10, 2009 at 3:03 am

    Dear RT JONES,

    What I understand from what you write is that Jesus’ sacrifice is ineffective unless one is a Christian and adding to that though he or she may not be aware of it. I get your point.

    You say, “thus, if the crucifixion is about Jesus rather than about believers, it would be “effective” even if no one ever believed.” I get your point too, and that further strengthen the position that one must be a Christian to be saved for the lordship of Christ is emphasized.

    You say, “As for the destiny of children of God before “before Trinity”, I must first say that Christian theology does not allow for a time “before the Trinity”. We believe the Trinity has always existed. The Nicene creed pronounces that Jesus is “eternally begotten of the Father.” There was never a time when He was not, and His relation with the Father has always been as Son.”

    I am not asking you the non-manifestation of Trinity.

    But what I am asking you is that what happened to one’s salvation, one who was born long before the time of Jesus’ sacrifice: non-Christian after Adam and before Jesus?

    Again, if the crucifixion is about the lordship of Christ, why appeared now and not manifested immediately after Adam committed the sin, since the sin is the reason for all the sacrifice?

    You say, “Salvation, we believe, has always been by faith alone. This is Paul’s point in Romans 4. Quoting from Genesis, he says, “Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness.”

    I remember I didn’t touch on that, maybe I did.

    Anyway yes, Paul further added that if you work you are showing ingratitude to Jesus’ sacrifice.

    But did not Jesus remind you also that the master is greater than the disciple. Was not Jesus the master and Paul the disciple? So whose words have greater weight? And did not Jesus remind you that unless you are better than the Pharisees you will not enter the kingdom of heaven?

    Why did Abraham sacrifice Isaac? Is that not faith and work together? So what then is Abraham’s righteousness if not faith (belief in God’s command to sacrifice Isaac) and work (physical proof of action to sacrifice Isaac the day after)?

    Thanks.

    Alhaj

  8. October 30, 2009 at 10:21 pm

    Here, as I understand it, is the traditional Christian understanding of salvation throughout history:

    Before the time of Christ, people could be saved by faith in Israel’s God, Yahweh.

    After Christ, faith must be explicitly in Jesus.

    Evangelical Christians have debated the destiny of those who have never heard the name of Jesus. Some believe all who have never heard are consigned to hell, while others believe there may be a chance they will not go to hell.

    As for works, Protestant Christians have typically understood works as an indicator of one’s faith. Works are similar to a thermometer: a thermometer does not set the temperature, it merely reports the temperature. In the same way, works do not produce faith, they merely indicate the presence of true faith working in the life of the believer.

    Jesus said that one’s righteousness must exceed that of the Pharisees, not that one must be better than the Pharisees. Protestant Christians (and probably Catholic and Orthodox too, though I cannot speak on their behalf) have always understood this in light of Romans 4, quoting Genesis: Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness. Righteousness is produced by faith, so Jesus meant that the Pharisees did not have faith.

    The emphasis on faith matches other sayings of Jesus, for instance, calling them hypocrites for caring more about what people thought of them than what God thought. He also rebuked people for lack of faith, and spoke well of those who had faith. These sayings about faith can be found in all layers of the gospel tradition: Mark (the earliest), Q (a hypothetical source that is reconstructed from the material that is similar between Matthew and Luke; Q is considered very early), Matthew, Luke, and John.

  1. January 17, 2009 at 8:02 pm
  2. June 9, 2013 at 7:50 pm
  3. September 17, 2013 at 8:48 pm
  4. November 9, 2014 at 9:44 am

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