This is the sixth in a series of articles on the Trinity, excerpted from “What Every Christian Should Know About the Trinity,” available by contacting the MBC or through Amazon.
In seeking to simplify the complex truth of one God in three persons, Christians sometimes resort to analogies – the comparison of two things for the purpose of explanation or clarification. While analogies applied to the Trinity seem helpful on the surface, they fail to do justice to our infinite and eternal God. Worse, “each represents an ancient heresy,” according to Nathan Jacobs, visiting scholar of philosophy at the University of Kentucky.
As Jacobs points out, Trinitarian analogies typically fall into three groups:
Parts-whole. In parts-whole analogies, the Trinity may be likened to an egg, which has a shell, egg white, and egg yolk. Each part is fully egg but not the whole egg, and thus each part is distinct from the others. As another example, the Trinity sometimes is said to be like a three-leaf clover. Each leaf is distinct from the others, but the clover is incomplete without all three. One other example, from ancient times, is that the Trinity is like a single lump of clay divided into three parts.
Parts-whole analogies are similar to the heresy of Tritheism, which takes two basic forms: (1) the belief that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three separate divine beings, and (2) that the divine nature may be divided into three parts. This reduces God to the sum of His parts.
This is the fifth in a series of articles on the Trinity, excerpted from “What Every Christian Should Know About the Trinity,” available in print and Kindle versions from Amazon.
As we pursue a biblically faithful understanding of the Trinity, it may help to sort through a number of false views of this crucial doctrine.
Some faulty definitions are grounded in misunderstanding, such as the Muslim view that Christians are polytheists for worshiping God, Jesus, and Mary. Others are subtler in that they properly identify the persons of the Godhead, yet reduce the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit to pieces of a divine puzzle, or as three separate gods.
So, as we briefly explore these flawed depictions of the Trinity, it’s important to keep in mind that the Bible reveals one true and living God, who exists as three distinct, but inseparable, co-equal, co-eternal persons – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
This is the fourth in a series of articles on the Trinity, excerpted from “What Every Christian Should Know About the Trinity,” available in print and Kindle versions from Amazon.com.
Some critics of the Trinity doctrine protest that it is a late invention, formulated only after the Roman Emperor Constantine, a convert to Christianity, decreed an end to all persecution of Christians in AD 313 and convened the first ecumenical council at Nicaea in AD 325.
But the charge of doctrinal invention simply isn’t true, as we see from Scripture and the history of early Christians, who embraced both the deity of Christ and the deity and personhood of the Holy Spirit – although admittedly they often struggled to understand the mystery behind it.
Yes, the councils of Nicaea and Constantinople (AD 381) produced the Nicene Creed, but neither the councils nor Constantine manufactured the Trinity. Rather, the Nicene Creed settled the question of how Christians can worship one God and also claim that God is three persons.
It was also the first creed (a formal statement of Christian beliefs) to obtain universal authority in the church, and it improved the language of the Apostles’ Creed by including more specific statements about the deity of Christ and the Holy Spirit.
As theologian Millard Erickson points out, there is no virtue in continuing to hold such a difficult doctrine as the Trinity if it is not actually taught in the Bible: “The church … drew the inference of the Trinity from two sets of evidence it accepted. On the one hand, the Bible taught that God is one. On the other hand, there were three persons whom the Bible seemed to identify as being divine.”
This is the third in a series of columns about the Trinity, excerpted from “What Every Christian Should Know About the Trinity,” available in print and Kindle versions from Amazon.com.
Consider three simple truths the Scriptures teach about the Trinity:
- There is only one true God.
- The Father is God; the Son is God; and the Holy Spirit is God.
- The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are distinct, but inseparable, persons who exist simultaneously.
1. There is only one true God. Christians do not worship three gods; that’s polytheism. We do not worship one God made up of three parts; that’s tritheism. Nor do we exalt God as a lone actor who wears three different masks; that’s modalism.
Rather, Christians worship one God who exists as three distinct, co-equal, co-eternal persons, sharing all the attributes of deity, agreeing completely in will and purpose, and existing eternally in divine, loving relationships with one another.
Scripture is clear that there is only one true and living God. The Shema, the most important text for considering Jewish monotheism, reads, “Listen, Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one” (Deut. 6:4).
The Lord Himself declares in Isaiah 43:10, “No god was formed before me, and there will be none after me.”
And the apostle Paul writes, “there is one God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith” (Rom. 3:30).
Many other passages could be cited, but there is a clear and consistent theme throughout Scripture that there is one, and only one, true God.
This is the second in a series of columns on the Trinity.
How do we biblically define a term that never appears in the Bible? As Jehovah’s Witnesses, Muslims, and others are quick to point out, the word Trinity is conspicuously absent from the pages of Scripture. Therefore, they argue, to embrace such a term goes against the Bible’s clear teaching.
Not so fast. While it’s true the term Trinity is not found in English Bible translations, that doesn’t mean the doctrine is missing in action. We might point out that phrases such as “the second coming” and “receiving Jesus as Savior” never grace the Bible’s pages either. Even so, Christians look forward to the return of Jesus one day, and we enjoy benefits as adopted children of God, having received Him by faith (John 1:12).
So, when we talk about the Trinity, it’s important to show how Scripture describes God as one eternal being in three persons. This is not as easy as it sounds, for the Trinity in some respects is a mystery – a revelation of God hidden in times past but revealed progressively from Genesis to Revelation.