Trinity

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The Godhead
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The Christian Trinity consists of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, as established by the Nicene Creed of A.D. 325. The Trinity refers to the three Persons in a single unity who are the one God, all co-equal, and all with one undivided divine nature forming one God.

Although it is never made explicit in the Bible, the concept of the Trinity is embraced by the Roman Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church, and nearly all Protestant denominations, and denied by all Unitarians. The name was coined by the Church Father Tertullian (A.D. 145-220). It is based on inferences from texts emphasizing the closeness of God-the-Father and Jesus (such as Rom. 8:31-34), the role of the Holy Ghost, and especially the baptismal formula in Matt. 28:19

Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.[1]

Illustrations and analogies

A good illustration is H2O, one atom of hydrogen and two atoms of oxygen. It can take three forms: solid ice, liquid water, and floating clouds, steam, formless fog and invisible vapor, all of which are considered water.

Another excellent non-physical illustration is the mind, which has three distinct powers of memory, understanding and will, which are not the same thing but are the essential expressions of one mind.[2]

A good three-fold human analogy is someone who is inwardly a healthy and intelligent individual, good, honest and truthful—someone who is outwardly modest and decent in dress, speech and actions, always kindly, generous, willing to help, and skillful in defending truth and right with wisdom, expressing good character—someone who with good reason is spiritually delighted and pleased with both the self-knowledge of true personal goodness and the personally reassuring, consistent, successfully genuine self-expression of goodness in being an actual benefit to everyone else in the whole community. We have the inner being, the outer expression, and a richly personal self-delight in both, as one well-balanced healthy individual.

In the same way, God exists as the three distinct but united whole persons of one divine being, utterly unique[3]. God is the Uncreated Holy Good[4], the Perfect, All-powerful, Eternal One, fully Self-expressing and Self-expressed with Loving Self-knowledge, totally Complete, limitlessly expressing the limitless expression of limitless self-giving loving Being. "God is love" 1 John 4:8b.

Filioque controversy

One of the causes of the Great East-West Schism of 1054 between the Catholic orthodox Church and the Orthodox catholic Church was the addition of the filioque clause "and the Son" to the Nicene Creed. This clause asserts that the Holy Spirit proceeds "from the Father and the Son".

The Law of Contradiction and Confusion of person and being

The law of contradiction states that a thing cannot both BE and NOT-BE at the same time. A statement cannot be both true and false at one and the same time.

Trinitarian doctrine does not claim that three Persons are one Person and that one Person is three Persons, or that three Beings are one Being and one Being is three Beings. That would be an absolute contradiction, and impossible. Instead, the doctrine of the Trinity holds that there are three Persons in one Being and one Being in three Persons.

Trinitarian apologists point out that confusion arises when "person" is taken to strictly mean "being" and personality is equated with nature. It is rooted in the common perception that a human being is a person, and on this basis concludes that therefore one person is one being and "being" means "person". This is entirely within the realm of ordinary human experience. But God is not a human being, and moreover, God is absolutely unique. The Trinitarian God is one being of three Persons, and is three persons of one Being. This is outside of normal human experience.

Those who are ignorant of the actual teaching of the doctrine of the Holy Trinity and falsely represent it as an absolute contradiction which violates intelligent reason are only employing a straw man fallacy. The logical fallacy of philosophical skepticism also holds that anything outside of one's own personal experience and understanding is most probably not true and therefore not worthy of belief without the direct proof of personal experience. Another logical fallacy holds that anything that cannot be (eventually) explained and understood according to the laws of science is not real. See Philosophical naturalism.

Christian Trinitarians acknowledge that because the Trinity is outside the realm of normal human experience, and is a mystery that cannot be fully grasped and understood, the doctrine therefore appears unacceptable and unbelievable to many people. They point out that while the doctrine is beyond—some of them prefer to say "above"—human reason and human intelligence, it is not necessarily therefore absolutely against human reason and human intelligence. And there is also the fact that there are many things within ordinary human experience that are not fully understood but are realities of normal human existence. Gravity and magnetism are primary examples. There are also those established paradoxes in science, philosophy and mathematics which defy logical analysis, but are real and not imaginary. Apologists advert to these admitted scientific facts as an aid in their argument of asserting that the Trinity of Persons of the one Being of God is not an impossible or contradictory doctrine but is simply a mystery beyond human understanding.

Denials

The Arians of the 4th century denied the Trinity. They were condemned as heretics and they died out, but Arian ideas reappeared in Europe after 1500. Isaac Newton was secretly an Arian.

By the mid-18th century Unitarianism had emerged in England, and by 1800 it spread to the U.S.. By 1820 it dominated schools like Harvard University.

In the 20th century Jehovah's Witnesses do not believe in the Trinity, and see it as contradicting the commandment to have no god but the one God.[5] Jehovah Witnesses disparage the Trinity by depicting it as a three-headed creature and claim the doctrine as a corrupt addition by Satan to Christianity. See Great Apostasy.

The doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints teaches that God the Father and Jesus as God the Son are two separate physical beings of flesh and bone, and that the Holy Spirit is not a physical Person but a Spirit Personage with influence of guidance and holiness[6].

Joseph Smith declared, "I will preach on the plurality of Gods. I have always declared God to be a distinct personage, Jesus Christ a separate and distinct personage from God the Father, and the Holy Ghost as a distinct personage and a Spirit: and these three constitute three distinct personages and three Gods" (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 370)[7].

Former Mormons have stated that, in the Mormon Temple, the traditional beliefs of orthodox Christians are portrayed as absurd and ridiculous.[8]

The Unitarian and Unitarian Universalist churches have no formulated creed, but they do agree in their denial of the doctrine of the Trinity and their assertion that it has no biblical support. All of the scriptural evidences proposed by Trinitarians in support of the doctrine of the Trinity are rejected as misinterpretations and distortions of the plain meaning of the Bible.

Islam has falsely taught that the Trinity is Father, Son, and Mother (the Virgin Mary), and therefore represents the doctrine as promoting blasphemous idolatry.[9]

Trinity Sunday

The Trinity is remembered in worship in liturgical churches each year on Trinity Sunday, the Sunday after Pentecost. The solemn celebration of The Most Holy Trinity is officially scheduled for the following Sunday dates in the U.S.:[10]

2017 June 11
2018 May 27
2019 June 16
2020 June 7
2021 May 30
2022 June 12
2023 June 4
2024 May 26
2025 June 15
2026 May 31
2027 May 23

See also

References

  1. The word "name" in this passage is singular. The plural word "names" is not said. Semitic peoples understood the name of something or someone was not merely a label, a sound, but an expression of the very nature of the subject as the referent. God is Trinity, but God's nature is unity, having one name, one nature.
  2. We can remember something we do not understand; we can understand something new which is not something we remember; and we can will to do something which does not need to be understood, which we have never done before.
  3. "unique" means the only one, one-of-a-kind. See Isaiah 45:21 and Isaiah 45:22
  4. The word "good" was originally the Old English and Middle English word "God".
  5. Watchtower, July 2008
  6. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints General Conference, April 1974. The Holy Ghost, Marion G. Romney[1]
  7. Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, compiled by Joseph Fielding Smith, 1977, Desert Book Co. ISBN 978-0877476269
  8. Mormonism: Christian or Cult? —"The endowment ceremony mocked all doctrines held to by Biblical Christianity." (9. Temple Rituals.) (rapidnet.com)
  9. Islam Under Scrutiny by Ex-Muslims: How can Allah have a son when He has no wife? by Mumin Salih (islam-watch.org)
  10. Trinity Sunday Future Dates (researchmaniacs.com)

External links

100 Bible verses about Trinity (openbible.info)

Did Constantine Invent the Trinity? The Doctrine of the Trinity in the writings of the Early Church Fathers, Nathan Busewitz (tms.edu) pdf

Doctrine of the Trinity (aliveandpowerful.com) pdf an outline

OrthodoxWiki article: Filioque

Catholic encyclopedia - Filioque.

A Brief Declaration and Vindication of the Doctrine of the Trinity, by John Owen (ntslibrary.com) pdf

The Trinitarian Doctrine of Jonathan Edwards: An Investigation of Charges Against its Orthodoxy, Richard M. Weber (etsjets.org) pdf

What Is the Doctrine of the Trinity? article by Matt Perman (desiringgod.org) pdf

Understanding the Biblical Doctrine of the Trinity (Godhead), By Cooper P. Abrams III (bible-truth.org) pdf

The Doctrine of the Trinity (A Brief Overview), by Kermit Zorley (21stcr.org) pdf

Reflections on the Doctrine of the Trinity, Raoul Dederen (adventistbiblicalresearch.org) pdf

The Doctrine of the Trinity (tobelikehim.com) pdf

The Trinity: Compiled and illustrated by Lionel Hartley PhD (ntslibrary.com) pdf

Trinity, doctrine of the (archive.org)

Slovan, Gerald S. The Three Persons in One God (1964) online edition (questia.com)

Catholic

The Blessed Trinity (newadvent.org)

Orthodox

Orthodox Church in America - The Doctrine of the Holy Trinity (oca.org)

United Church of Christ

The Surprising Origins of the Trinity Doctrine, by United Church of Christ (2011) supports rejection of the Trinitarian doctrine as being firmly rooted in paganism—"the true Church was largely absent from the scene, having been driven underground" (the true Church is then identified with heretics, and the orthodox leaders are identified as false teachers of corrupted doctrines.)

The Council of Nicea and the Doctrine of the Trinity, Written by Don Closson (probe.org) answers by a Christian apologist and historian to all the points of objection raised against Trinitarian doctrine (a perfect counterpoint to the UCC article above)

Unitarian

The Unitarian Church - A Study Outline: Salvation by Character, By Braxton Greathouse (1992) (biblebelievers.com) history and beliefs, Unitarian reasons for rejecting the doctrine of the Trinity

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Unitarianism (plato.stanford.edu)

Unitarians: What are some reasons (or arguments) why you reject the doctrine of the Trinity? What are for you the best objections to the doctrine of the Trinity? (reddit.com)

The Trinity Delusion: Why I abandoned the Trinity, by Brother Kel, servant of Jesus (angelfire.com) written by a former Lutheran

Trinitarian Apologetics

Unitarianism: The Close-Minded & Intolerant Religion, Paul Derengowski, ThM

CARM Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry. Trinity Chart, by Matt Slick (carm.org)

Apologetics Index. The Doctrine of the Trinity (apologeticsindex.org)

Apologetics.com The Doctrine of Trinity (apologetics.com) the reasonableness of the mystery of God—"it is beyond reason, but it is not against reason."

Classic art

The Icon of the Trinity by Andrej Rublev, about 1410.
The Holy Trinity by El Greco
The Two Trinities by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, about 1675-1682.
Coronación de la Virgen por la Trinidad (Coronation of the Virgin by the Trinity) by Vicente Castello (c. 1586-1640).