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:
- Jesus’ Father is God
- Jesus is God
- Jesus’ Spirit is God
- The Father is distinct from the Son, who are both distinct from the Holy Spirit
- 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.