Four Things to Know About the Doctrine of the Trinity
“THE TRINITY” IS NOT IN THE BIBLE
That is to say, the word “Trinity” does not appear in the text of the Bible. The word is Latin based and is not used to describe God until around 180 AD by Theophilus of Antioch. However, this shouldn’t be of any major concern as there are many words that do not appear in the Bible, words like “rapture” and “Bible” for example. Nevertheless, we can use these words to intelligibly discuss Christian doctrine. The word “Trinity” is used to summarize the Scriptural data which testifies to the nature of God. So, using this textual fact as an argument against the validity of the Doctrine of the Trinity is rather silly.
THE TRINITY IS MONOTHEISTIC
Sometimes, the claim is made “The Trinity is wrong because the Bible says there is one God”. This is, however, not a contradiction. The Doctrine of the Trinity in its simplest form states
- There is one, and only one God
- The Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God
- The Father is not the Son, the Son is not the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit is not the Father
When someone says “The Bible says there is one God!” the Trinitarian will heartily agree as this is an affirmation of the first point. The distinction between the Christian Doctrine of the Trinity and say, the Islamic Doctrine of Tawhid or oneness Pentecostalism is not one of monotheism vs trithiesm; rather, it is the distinction between Unitarianism and Trinitarianism.
Unitarianism is the doctrine that the one God is one person while Trinitarianism is the doctrine that the one God is three persons. It gets to be confusing when artistic depictions of the Trinity are practically tri-theistic like this and this and this and this.
THE TRINITY IS THE FATHER, SON, AND HOLY SPIRIT
This is probably a very well known fact especially in Christian saturated countries like the United States. The members of the Trinity are referred to as the Father (Isaiah 64:8), the Son (Hebrews 1:8), and the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:4). As The Athanasian Creed puts it: “God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit: And not three gods, but God is one”.
Now, something interesting is the Islamic view of the Trinity. There is an interesting passage in the Quran, Surah 5:116, which gets a lot of attention as it seems to suggest that Mary is a member of the Trinity. Although, it should be said that, while many Muslims believe this, there are some who do not.
THE TRINITY IS MYSTERIOUS
God is truly mysterious as 1 Timothy 3:16 testifies. His Trinitarian nature is no exception. There is no analogy which can do full justice to the Doctrine of the Trinity (in fact, all analogies are heresies) and the moment that one thinks he fully understands the Trinity is the moment when he can be sure he his mistaken. While the Trinity is mysterious and at times confusing, it is not contradictory. The Doctrine of the Trinity states that there is one being that is three persons. It is not one being that is three beings nor one God that is three gods; these are contradictions. Something very important to remember is that just because the Trinity is mysterious does not mean it is false nor unworthy of thought and reflection.
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