Doctrine of the Trinity


Although the doctrine of the Trinity is one of the fundamental doctrines of Christianity, there are quite a few who call themselves followers of Jesus yet deny this doctrine. In fact, I was listening to an interview on the Internet recently and heard the interviewer and interviewee claiming that the doctrine of the Trinity is false. That's not all that rare these days, but what was amazing was the claim that it was difficult to discover where this doctrine comes from. Nonsense. The doctrine of the Trinity was enumerated at the council of Nicea and all we need to do is to understand the historical context and arguments made at that time to see why this the Trinity is central to Christian dogma.

For most of my life I also had the opinion that the doctrine of the Trinity was impossible to prove or even really understand. After making my own study of the history, I found that it is simple, obvious and fundamental to Christianity. When looked at correctly, the Trinity is easy to understand and obvious. As I hope I can show, if you discard the doctrine of Trinity you undermine the foundation of Christianity and open the door to various heresies and ultimately false Christs.

The first thing that needs to be done is accurately state this doctrine. Most of the anti-Trinitarian claims create a straw-man to argue against, and thus it sounds like they know what they are talking about when in fact they are not arguing against the "trinity" at all. The simplistic statement of the Trinity is that it refers to a "triune-god" but that really isn't what it says. Stated only as "three-in-one" without a full understanding, the Trinity cannot be understood logically and sounds to be in conflict with the Bible. The Bible states that there is one and only one God. All other gods are false. To suggest that there are three "Gods" at first seems wrong. The arguments against the Trinity usually build from this point and argue that Jesus was limited, physical, could die and thus could not be the omnipotent, omniscient, infinite being that we define as God.

We take it as an a priori premise that God is omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, and thus to identify God with something limited seems wrong. However, to say that God is omnipotent but can't do "X" is inconsistent. The moment you state God can't do something you have denied his omnipotence. It's a paradox, then, because if God is truly omnipotent, then that must include the ability to be limited. Think about it for a bit, because it's a little confusing at first. The problem is that our system of logic has limitations. We cannot logically describe anything that is "A and not A" and the idea of an omnipotent being that is somehow limited cannot be expressed in logic. All that means is that logical statements are limited to those things that logic can describe. But that cannot be taken as the limit of all truth since that would in effect declare logic as omnipotent. See? There are things about the infinite that cannot be logically described because of the limits of logic. We call these "paradox" and leave it at that.

Another common argument is that the Bible does not describe God as a Trinity. That's arguable, but not really all that important. The doctrine of the Trinity is not a form of exegesis but is rather a theological conclusion drawn from statements in the Bible. This isn't a problem because the doctrine of the Trinity is not really "three-in-one" but rather is an attempt to explain the nature of Christ as savior based on statements that are in the Bible. It is a part of Christology, in other words. The best way to understand that doctrine is to follow the same path of philosophical reasoning the bishops at Nicea did. The Trinity then becomes obvious and correct.

There are two areas of philosophy and theology that we need to look at. The first is ontology. Ontology is a branch of metaphysics that deals with categories of being. There are many different ways of dividing being, but the one that is relevant here has to do with created being as opposed to self-existent being. Any person is one or the other. If you are created, you are not self-existent. If you are self-existent you are not created. We state categorically that God is self-existent. All other being must be created if we believe in a monotheistic theology of the the Bible. That was the basic problem. If Jesus is self-existent being and distinct from God, it sounds like we have more than one God. Thus the anti-trinitarians defined Jesus as subordinate, created being. The Trinitarians said, basically, you can't do that and have Christianity.

The reason has to do with the area of theology called soteriology. Soteriology deals with the nature of salvation. Christianity is based on the claim that Jesus is the savior of mankind. More importantly, He is the unique savior of mankind. "No man comes to the Father but by me," in other words. In addition, Christianity states that man cannot save himself. Put in philosophical terms, the ontologically inferior must rely on the ontologically superior for salvation. Thus, logically, obviously, if Jesus is our savior he MUST be ontologically superior to man. Since we only have two categories of being, created and self-existent, Jesus must fall into the category of self-existent. Q.E.D.

Simple, isn't it? You see, if Jesus is taken out of the category of self-existent being, then you would be saying that any created being could have been the savior. That means, you, me, or almost anyone else could have, hypothetically, become a savior of mankind. What's more, you could have many saviors, each with the necessary conditions, of course. That opens the door to false-christs and self-saving attitudes by man. It is the idea expressed in Gnosticism and many modern new-age ideas of Ascended Masters, world teachers, etc. If you take the unique divinity of Jesus away, you destroy the foundation of Christianity. Now do you get it?

This is why the Catholic Church and the Protestant Churches have been so adamant about the doctrine of the Trinity. Anyone trying to undermine this teaching is laying the foundation for denying Jesus as the unique savior of mankind.

The actual statement of the doctrine of the Trinity is found in the Nicene Creed. It is that Jesus is "begotten not made" indicating that he is ontologically superior to man and equal to God the Father. He is, therefore, of the same "substance" as God. Although this is a paradox that cannot be logically explained, the necessity of the Trinity can be logically derived from the nature of our salvation.

The doctrine of the Trinity is complex and involves a long history. It should not be casually discarded simply because it seems to go against common sense or because it is difficult to understand. Those still young in faith may not fully understand the importance, and really, as long as you hold to Jesus as savior, it isn't necessary that you understand all the complexities. Simply put, the doctrine of the Trinity says that Jesus is divine, and thus capable of being our savior. Beware of the wolves in sheep's clothing that would confuse this issue to the point that it becomes an open door to heresy and apostasy.

For further reading, see the following:

Doctrine of the Trinity


Council of Nicaea

Catechism of the Catholic Church




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