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 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.
This is the first in a series of columns on the Trinity.
Would it surprise you to know that six out of 10 U.S. adults say the Holy Spirit is a force, not a personal being? Or, more shocking, that 78 percent of Americans with “evangelical beliefs” agree with the statement that Jesus was the first and greatest being created by God the Father?
These views, part of Ligonier Ministries’ 2018 State of Theology survey of 3,000 Americans, expose the soft underbelly of evangelical Christianity in our country.
If Jesus is God’s first and greatest created being, then Arius, the fourth-century heretic, was right after all. On the other hand, if Jesus is the uncreated, eternal Son of God, then the church has made little headway in promoting sound doctrine since the councils of Nicaea and Constantinople pushed back against Arianism.
The doctrine of the Trinity distinguishes orthodox Christianity from counterfeit forms of the faith, and sets Christianity apart from other monotheistic religions such as Judaism and Islam. Even so, many Christians struggle to understand and explain this non-negotiable doctrine.
What Every Christian Should Know About the Trinity explores the biblical foundation of belief in one true and living God, who exists as three distinct, but inseparable, co-equal, co-eternal persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Written for pastors and laypersons alike, this new resource features twelve lessons that conclude with probing questions, making this an ideal resource for personal or group study.
Written by the Missouri Baptist Convention’s Rob Phillips, the book features a foreword from noted apologist Robert M. Bowman Jr.
Available in print from the MBC.