“What’s this? God has a Son?” – Jewish Thought, Islamic Thought, Unitarian Thought
“The Spirit is just a force.” – Jehovah’s Witness
“Jesus is not the God; he is a god.” – Mormonism
“The word Trinity is never mentioned in the Bible. It is man-made.” – Religious Skeptic
When approaching the biblical teaching of the Trinity, the above comments arise. The below list of terms and outline will acquaint the reader with how and why many students of the Hebrew Torah together with the Christian Bible have come to understand God as “Three Persons in One Essence,” a.k.a the Tri-unity or Trinity or Godhead. First, a couple of pertinent quotes.
“The monotheistic notion, as voiced by Jews, Mohammedans, and Unitarians, is of a God who is one Person; while the Christian’s idea is of one God who answers every claim of biblical monotheism, yet subsists in three equal Persons.” (Chafer, vol.1&2, p. 311)
“They [the Apostle’s] held it [the doctrine of the Trinity], as it were in solution; only time, reflection, and the shock of controversy and opposition, caused it to crystallize into definite and dogmatic form.” (Strong, p. 304, underscore mine)
Students note from pertinent biblical data that the Trinity as a real matter of fact.
- God is a unity — Deut. 4:35, 39; Deut. 6:4; Isa. 44:6; 45:21-22; Mk. 12:29; John 17:3; Jas 2:19; 1 Cor. 8:4, 6; Eph. 4:6; 1 Tim. 2:5
- God is a plurality — Gen. 1:26, 27
- Messiah is Divine and Eternal – Ps. 2:12; Isa. 7:14; 9:6; Mic. 5:2; Zechariah 12:10
- God is the Father – John 6:27; 1 Peter 1:2
- God is the Son (pre-existent, Jesus Christ, The Messiah) — Prov. 30:4; John 1:1, 18; 20:28; Romans 9:5; Titus 2:13; Hebrews 1:8; 1 John 5:20
- God is the Holy Spirit — Luke 1:35; Acts 5:3, 4; 1 Cor. 3:16; 2 Cor. 3:17
- The Father, Son, and Spirit are not the same Person but are distinct — Matt. 3:13-17; 2 Cor. 13:14; Eph. 2:18
- The Father, Son, and Spirit are the same Essence (ousia) – John 10:30; John 14:16
- The Father, Son, and Spirit are coequal in glory — Matt. 28:19; 2 Cor 13:14; Heb. 1:3; 1 Cor. 12:4-6; Eph. 4:4-6
False Theories (historic and modern) disproven by the above biblical data:
- Arianism – 4th Century; affirmed humanity but denied the eternality, and therefore, the Deity of Christ. (not exactly God but like God – similar in nature to God but not the same – homoousia vs. homoiousia)
- Dynamic Monarchianism: (late 2nd and 3rd C.) Theodotus proponed “that prior to baptism Jesus was an ordinary man, although a completely virtuous one. At baptism, the Spirit, or Christ decended on him…” (Erickson, 359).
- Ebeonism – 2nd Century; affirmed the humanity but denied the real Deity of Christ. Jesus became the Son of God at His baptism (Messianic consciousness taken on by his only human nature).
- Economic View: attr. Hippolytus and Tertullian – concentration “on the ways in which the Triad were manifested in creation and redemption; …three manifestations of the one God.” (Erickson, 358)
- Modalistic Monarchiansim: Neotus of Smyrna, Sabellius; appearing to affirm the Trinity but essentially stating that there is one Godhead which may be variously designated as Father, Son, or Spirit. These are not really distinct.
- Monarchianism: “(Literally, ‘sole sovereignty’);” or, one rule; conception of God which is in remnant form as Dynamic and Modalistic Monarchianism.
- Patripassianism: modalism’s view that the Father suffered along with Christ, since he was present in and personally identical to the Son. (Erickson, 360)
- Procession of the Spirit – Historically, a false/non-biblical doctrine gathered from John 15:26 that the Holy Spirit has His ground of Being in the Father or in the Father and in the Son. However, John 15:26 uses the term to describe the active selflessness of God the Holy Spirit in His eternal, Godhead relation of revealing God the Son, having His goings forth (in ministerial sense) from the Father and the Son.
- Modalism – false notion that the “persons” of the Trinity are successive manifestations of God through the course of revelation.
- Perichonesis: life of each Person of the Trinity flows through the others.
RESOURCES & BIBLIOGRAPHY (of Christian Theologies):
Erickson, 346-367; Pink, Gleanings in the Godhead; Owen, Doctrine of the Trinity; Gill, the Doctrine of the Trinity; Ryrie, 58-71; Strong, 304-352; Hodge, Charles vol.1, pp.442-482; Grudem, 226-261; Chafer, 272-311; A.A. Hodge’s Outlines of Theology 164-199.