Is The Trinity an Invention – or a Solution?

When it comes to the essential doctrines or beliefs in Christianity, there is probably none more essential, and yet misunderstood, as the Trinity. Ask the average Christian to explain the Trinity and it won’t be long before they start giving explanations that come close to being heresy. Yet, the Trinitarian view of God is so fundamental to the Christian faith that it if a person were to deny it, they could no longer be considered a Christian. A biblical understanding of the Trinity is also crucial in defending Christianity against the objections of Unitarian groups like Jehovah’s Witnesses and Muslims, who deny the Trinity and the Deity of Christ altogether.

What The Trinity is Not

The Trinity is NOT a belief in 3 gods who are one god. Although this is a common way the Trinity is portrayed by those outside the faith, it is not what we believe. While the belief in 3 gods who are one god is logically incoherent, the Trinity is not incoherent, when properly understood.

Bad Examples of The Trinity

The Egg – Many have tried to explain the Trinity by saying it is like an egg. An egg has 3 parts: The shell, the white, and the yolk – so they say. Although it is understandable at first why examples like this might seem appropriate, in actuality this is an example of a heresy called Tri-theism, or 3 separate gods. At no point can the members of the Trinity be separated into parts, and so any analogy that allows for this kind of separation is inadequate. Mormonism would be in line with this belief because they believe that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are all separate gods.

Water and Weight Machines – Another common example given to help illustrate the concept of the Trinity is comparing it to things like water, or more humorously, a weight machine. In the case of water, the argument is that water can exist in 3 different states – solid, liquid, and gas – and yet the chemical composition is consistent. A weight machine, as well, can be used for different exercises even though it is the same machine. The problem with these examples is that God would actually be one person who just kind of changes modes – which is why these are examples of the heresy known as Modalism.  One group that adheres to this belief would be the Oneness Pentecostals, also known as the “Jesus Only” cult. They believe that Jesus is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit – and that he simply changed forms throughout the course of history.

So What is The Trinity?

Despite what many people claim, the Trinity was not invented by some church council hundreds of years after Jesus died. It was an inference based on a huge amount of biblical passages that allowed for no other logical conclusion. The Trinity is the belief that God is one in being or essence, and three in person. Being or essence is what makes something what it is. Personhood is what makes someone who they are. A rock has one essence (the essence of being a rock), but no personhood. A human has one essence (the essence of being a human) and one personality. God has one essence, and three persons within that essence. In other words, God is one what, and three who’s.

The biblical argument for the Trinity is based on the following biblical passages:

  • Passages that teach the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are separate persons.

 Matthew 3:16-17 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

16 After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him, 17 and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.”

John 16:7-10 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment;concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; 10 and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me;

 Matthew 28:19 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit…

  • Passages that teach Jesus is God.

John 1:1-3 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.

 Philippians 2:5-11 New International Version (NIV)

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

6 Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

 Colossians 2:9 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form,

  • Passages that teach the Holy Spirit is God.

Acts 5:3-4 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the price of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control? Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.”

 Genesis 1:1-2 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters.

  • And finally, passages that clearly teach there is only one God.

Isaiah 44:6 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

“Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts:

‘I am the first and I am the last,
And there is no God besides Me.

Isaiah 43:10-11 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

10 “You are My witnesses,” declares the Lord,
“And My servant whom I have chosen,
So that you may know and believe Me
And understand that I am He.
Before Me there was no God formed,
And there will be none after Me.
11 “I, even I, am the Lord,
And there is no savior besides Me.

Looking at these three types of biblical passages, it should be easy to see how the doctrine of the Trinity was realized in the early church. Any group or person that denies the Trinity, will have to ignore one of the three previous types of passages. Jehovah’s Witnesses ignore the passages that talk about Jesus’ deity, and their bible translators have actually altered some of them to support their belief. Oneness Pentecostals will ignore the passages that demonstrate the distinction between the three persons of the Godhead. Mormons will ignore the passages which teach that there is only one God, as they believe that all men can become gods, and that The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three separate gods. Only someone who embraces ALL that the bible has to say will be able to see the necessity for the Trinity.

There is a logical necessity for the Trinity as well, in that it makes sense of one of the most fundamental aspects of God’s nature – God is love. If, however, God existed as only one person, then He could not be love. Love is a dependent quality. A person cannot be love if there is no one to love. If God were only one person, then that would make Him dependent on humans to be loving. He needed to create us so that love could exist! This would seem to make God into a much more inferior being than most religions would allow Him to be, however there doesn’t seem to be any way around it. If God is triune in His nature, then there has always been love between the members of the Trinity, and no one else needed to exist to make that love possible. Those who deny the Trinity are left with a God who needs humans, and God should not need anything.

Although the Trinity may be a hard concept to grasp from a human standpoint, it is certainly taught in the bible. Much like looking out at the ocean from the shore, we can come to understand that there is a lot of stuff going on under that water, while never fully comprehending just how much there really is. It is more than rational to assume that the God of the universe might be the same way. The Trinity is not a problem for Christians, or an invention by Christians, but rather a solution to anyone who takes the whole bible seriously.

Here are some videos that might help in understanding the Trinity better. Hopefully they help.

The Trinity Explained (with Reason)

The Trinity Explained 2 (with Reason)

The Trinity in the Old Testament

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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