This is the eighth in a series of articles on the Trinity, excerpted from “What Every Christian Should Know About the Trinity,” available through Amazon and other booksellers.
The Bible consistently declares there is one true and living God, the self-revealed Creator who alone must be loved and worshiped. All other gods are false. The physical depictions of these gods, as carved images or naturally occurring phenomena such as stars and trees, in fact represent demons (see Deut. 32:16-17; 1 Cor. 10:19-20).
Perhaps nowhere is the exclusivity of God stated more clearly than in the Shema, an affirmation of Judaism and a declaration of faith in one God. It is the oldest fixed daily prayer in Judaism, recited morning and evening since ancient times. It consists of three biblical passages, two of which instruct the Israelites to speak of these things “when you lie down and when you rise up.”
The best-known part of the Shema is from the first biblical passage: “Listen, Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength” (Deut. 6:4-5).
The prophet Isaiah echoes this cry as he calls the Israelites to return to the LORD. Isaiah 44:6 – 45:25 is a powerful reminder from Yahweh that He alone is God. Consider just a small portion of this passage:
“This is what the LORD, the King of Israel and its Redeemer, the LORD of Armies, says: I am the first and I am the last. There is no God but me” (44:6).
“I am the LORD, and there is no other; there is no God but me” (45:5).
This is the seventh 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.
To avoid confusion when exploring the Trinity, we need to understand three different ways the Bible employs the word “God” and the way we use it in our theology. Otherwise, we may be tempted to see the Trinity as three gods.
First, there are references to God as Father. The New Testament often uses this approach to distinguish between God the Father and Jesus. For example, 1 Corinthians 8:6 reads, “… yet for us there is one God, the Father. All things are from him, and we exist for him. And there is one Lord, Jesus Christ. All things are through him, and we exist through him.”
For Paul to declare Jesus “Lord,” using the Greek kyrios, is to affirm His deity. In the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures, the translators used kyrios as a rendering for Yahweh, the unique name of God. So, Paul is not calling the Father “God” and Jesus a lesser being. He is simply distinguishing these two members of the Godhead.
Paul further writes in 2 Corinthians 1:3, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort.”
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.”