Notes on the Trinity


#1

Here are Bible verses that support the belief in the Trinity.

The Old Testament (OT) has many verses that teach that there only one God and God is alone (Deuteronomy 6:4, Isaiah 44:6), which is an intricate part of trinitarian belief. All scriptures that teach that God is one or alone support the belief in the Trinity.

The OT teaches about the Father, your Creator (Deuteronomy 32:6).

The OT teaches about the Son who is the Messiah. For example, Messianic Prophecy in Zechariah 14 teaches that the Lord will stand on the Mountain of Olives. And Messianic Prophecy in Daniel 7:13-14 describes the Messiah with the Ancient of Days who is the Father.

The OT teaches about the Holy Spirit (Genesis 1:2, Psalm 51:11, Isaiah 63:10-11).

Matthew 4:10 teaches that we should worship the Lord your God alone; Matthew 14:33 and 28:9 teach that the apostles worshiped Jesus; Matthew 26:42 describes Jesus praying to the Father; and Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34 teach that Jesus has a God.

John 5:19 teaches that the Father never works without the Son.

No human has seen God except the only Son of God who himself is God. John 1:18 TNIV, “No one has ever seen God, but the one and only [Son], who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.”

The New Testament (NT) teaches that Christ created all rulers and authorities in heaven and earth (John 1:1-3, Colossians 1:15-20).

Isaiah 44:6 says that the Lord Almighty is the first and the last, and apart from the Lord Almighty there is no God.

Revelation 21:6 says that God is the Alpha (first) and the Omega (last), the Beginning and the End.

Revelation 22:12-13 says that Christ is the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.

Matthew 1:18-20, 3:11, 12:32, and 28:19 teach about the Holy Spirit while implying that the Holy Spirit is a person.

Mark 1:8, 3:29, 12:36, and 13:11 teach about the Holy Spirit while implying that the Holy Spirit is a person.

Luke 3:21-22 shows the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit together.

John 14:14, 26; 15:26; 16:7 teach that the Holy Spirit is a person.

2 Corinthians 3:17-18 and 13:14 teach that the Lord is the Spirit of God/Holy Spirit.

The Son incarnated to die for the sins of humans (1 Corinthians 15:3) and to be an example of submitting to God and overcoming temptation (Matthew 4:10, Luke 4:8). And as I noted earlier, the Son has a God (Matthew 27:46, Mark 15:34).

All of these Bible teachings fit together. As we see from the verses above, the Bible teaches the following: there is one Lord God; the Father is God; the Son who is the one and only is God; the Holy Spirit is God; the three persons of God are one God; the three persons of God have equal authority in regards to eternal origin; the three persons of God revealed themselves in a hierarchal order to help teach humans about authority and submission; all other persons are created by the partnership of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.


#2

Jim,

Are you saying that there are 3 individual entities that make up one corporate entity or that there are 3 different aspects to just one individual entity?


#3

Great question, Jeff. At this point, I answer “no” to both your options.

My view definitely isn’t three different aspects of one entity, which describes Modalism. For example, Modalism could say that the Father and Son and Holy Spirit are three modes of one person. This view can respect the original deity of Christ while it makes no sense of the conversations between the Father and Son.

I also won’t say that the the Trinity is three individual entities that make up one corporate entity.

Here is a statement that I’ll make:

The Trinity is three individual persons who are one substance. I don’t think that the term entity applies to the individual persons while I guess that entity describes the substance.

The closest analogy that I found is a US business partnership. Perhaps business partnerships from other countries are similar but I don’t know those details. A business partnership is a corporation that has multiple persons who are agents with total authority in the corporation. Each agent has equal authority to make binding contract while the agents may mutual agree to specialize in various niches.

Here are some of the differences between the Trinity and a business partnership:

  1. A business partnership is created while the Trinity was never created
  2. A business partnership is a legal entity separate from the people who created it while the persons of the Trinity are not separate from the Trinity
  3. Business partners can conflict with each other while the Father and Son and Holy Spirit always work in harmony

Jeff, I’m curious about your outside perspective. Am I making any sense to you regardless of your agnosticism?


#4

I would have said the same thing, James, btw. :slight_smile:

While a geometrical analogy won’t ultimately work as a positive illustration (I’m personally convinced that no analogy will ever properly work for illustrating something that by its nature must be uniquely real), I’ve found the following analogy useful in the past for illustrating the difference between the two basic ‘heresies’ in relation to trinitarianism.

A can of Mountain Dew (which, as a cylinder, happens to be comprised of three surfaces) is a three-dimensional object that cannot be fully illustrated in a 2-D environment. Attempts to do so will usually result in the surfaces appearing to overlap one another, which they don’t do in reality. That would be similar to modalism. However, one way to try to illustrate in 2-D that the surfaces don’t blend with one another, would be to draw an ‘exploded view’ with a circle on top, a circle on the bottom, and a rectangle between them. That also is very false to the 3-D reality of the can, but it’s false in a different way–while being truer than the ‘modalistic’ illustration of the can in another way. Ditto for the ‘modalistic’ illustration: it’s considerably less true than the ‘tri-theism’ illustration in some ways, but is truer than the ‘tri-theism’ illustration in other ways (in affirming the full connection between the surfaces of the cylinder, for example).

Nor are the differences merely a matter of perspective. The upper and lower surfaces really are perfect circles (in an ideal cylinder anyway). The ‘tri-face’ illustration gets that part right, as a subjective illustration of the objective reality of the can. But in a 2-D plane the only way to get that part actually correct is to introduce a schism in the illustration that isn’t at all true to the reality of the can. Neither is either illustration very good at representing the roundness of the middle-surface between the two circles, though the ‘modalist’ version gets a little closer perhaps by introducing some curves at the top and bottom of the rectangle.

In the case of the can, we ourselves have 3-D properties which allow us to form some postive notion of what the 3-Dness of a can of Mountain Dew is. In the case of quantum mechanics, on the other hand, the most a teacher can say when trying to describe the behavior of an electron, is “It’s like this in some ways, but not really.” We don’t seem to have enough characteristics, as persons, to allow us to have a positive concept of what the behavior of an electron ‘really is’. In the case of the can of Mountain Dew, we share enough of the characteristics of the can to get a positive idea of the 3Dosity of the can, even if we still can’t communicate it accurately in 2D. (Adequately for some purposes, yes. Accurately, no.) And then again, even in what characteristics we must share with the can to get a positive idea of the 3Dosity, we still have limits: none of us can even positively imagine seeing all of a 3D can at once! (Similarly, we can only ever see three of the six sides of a prism. We cannot even positively imagine seeing more than three sides, though we can imagine imagining it. We can only see two of the three surfaces of a cylinder at a time, or three of four surfaces of a simple 3D pyramid, too. Interestingly, we can see the one surface of a sphere–but not all of that one surface at once!)

There is some debate among theologians about whether we share enough of the characteristics of God to have some idea positively of what He is (even though never a fully complete idea, not being omniscient ourselves), or whether all we can do is make statements about God, given to us in the limited language of revelations, without any intrinsic understanding of God’s unique “is-ness” at all. There are some good arguments to be made on either side of that dispute; but I tend to come down in favor of “kataphatic” or “positive” theology, though duly balanced by “apophatic” or “negative” theology in a secondary but important fashion. And frankly, I’m glad that this comports with the way God is presented in the scriptures!–I would feel stifled in a primarily negative religion, constantly denying ideas about God as being true (important though that is sometimes) and rarely if ever offering even any hope of positive content.

But then, to be fair, the apophatic theologians are usually trying to move aside a clutter of ideas about God in order to make room for a positive experience of God. There’s a lot to be said in favor of that attempt, but it isn’t very practicable for interpersonal relationships “here below”. And, perhaps not incidentally, the experiences of the negative theologians tend toward obviating personality altogether–which I take to be a major sign that the attempt, though well-intentioned, is wrong-headed. Negative theology has its place as a proper corrective; but ortho-doxy and ortho-praxy (right representation, right action) must have primarily positive content. Personhood has its dangers–pride is the fundamental sin after all. But God must think the risk is worth the cost, or there wouldn’t be derivative persons at all.

(Incidentally, when negative theologians go off-track, they tend toward modalism: the annihilation of personality in relations altogether. When positive theologians go off track, we can go either way but perhaps more often as tri-theists–I don’t recall ever reading a negative theologian falling into the error of presenting the Son as though He convinced the Father to do something other than the Father was originally intending to do, for example.)


#5

Jim amd Jason,

It’s a tricky one isn’t it? :confused:

I ‘sort of’ see where you both are coming from; in the sense that it is an attempts to capture in descriptive terms something for which there are not enough adequate terms. But mostly it feels like one of those optical illusions that depend on when you look at it (is it a vase or 2 faces looking at each other).

From my perspective I suppose it ultimately doesn’t matter whether a Christian believes as you both do or as WillieH does, as you all affirm those principles which to my ear sound as though they are essential to the Gospel - namely, that somehow ‘God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.’ (2 Corinthians 5:19)

Jason’s analogy is useful for giving the flavour that we are trying to pin down the unpindownable (not enough dimensions down here to form anything but a hazy picture). Which is I think what Paul was saying in 1 Corinthians 13:11.

‘When I was a child, I spake as a child,
I understood as a child, I thought as a child:
but when I became a man, I put away
childish things. For now we see through a
glass, darkly; but then face to face: now
I know in part; but then shall I know even
as also I am known.’

Jim - The only thing I would say about your explanation that doesn’t help me (and this is purely my fault) is that it gives me the mental image of one body with 3 heads a la the Knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail or someone with multiple personality disorder (no slight intended by that).

So in some circumstances I think to myself ‘yes the trinity is just fine and logical’ and in others I think ‘no that’s just not right’

As Paul said:
…without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh, Justified in the Spirit, Seen by angels, Preached among the Gentiles, Believed on in the world, Received up in glory. (1 Tim. 3:16.)


#6

Which is frankly true about most objective reality. :slight_smile: Principles can be perceived and grasped fairly easily (sometimes). But there aren’t even enough adequate terms to fully capture a description of the keyboard I’m typing on right now.

And the reason the three-headed knight and the MPD examples come to mind, is because they are two analogical examples (very limited though they are in other regards) of how the principles logically fit together. A three-headed knight isn’t impossible in principle; and no one denies that people with MPD exist. They aren’t very flattering analogies, but in their own way they are analogies.

(Relatedly, in my series of novels, when the “Christians” finally start showing up, their sign is a three-tined dinner fork. They have some very unflattering historical reasons for using that as their symbol, which makes for huge problems in trying to evangelize people. But then, in real life, Christians didn’t even dare start using the cross as a symbol for several centuries. Which is also, in its own way, a three tined fork. :slight_smile: Depending on the type of crucifixion method used… :mrgreen: )


#7

Hi Jeff, others have mentioned to me those ideas about multiple personality disorder (MPD) and and even the three headed knight. I certainly need to address these issues while I explain the Trinity in terms of partnership. And I picked up an idea from Jason. I’ll embrace that conjoined triplets and multiple personality disorders are disorderly analogies of the Trinity while business partnership can be highly functional analogy of the Trinity. I mean no disrespect to conjoined siblings and people suffering from MPD while I refer to then from a medical perspective for the purpose of this discussion, especially since we all have the same creator.

Here are points about multiple personality disorder that differ from the Trinity:

  1. A person with MPD started with one personality but personalities mulpitplied after childhood psychological trauma typically before the age of seven, which has nothing to do with the Trinity
  2. Multiple personalities rarely co-exist while they typically take turns controlling the body, which has nothing to do with the Trinity
  3. A person with MPD suffers extraordinary dysfunction while the Trinity has no dysfunction

Here are points about conjoined triplets that differ from the Trinity:

  1. Conjoined triplets share the same biological substance while the persons of the Trinity share the same supernatural substance
  2. Conjoined triplets suffer physical dysfunction while the Trinity has no dysfunction

Here are some important theological points. The Bible teaches to worship only the Lord God while the Bible teaches to worship Jesus. If we’re suppose to worship Jesus but we don’t, then we dishonor Jesus. If we worship Jesus while we believe that Jesus was not God from eternity past, then we are polytheists and reject what the Bible teaches about monotheism. And if the Trinity didn’t always exist, then God was lonely and loveless during eternity past. But God is love and has always been love.

I suspect that my model will look better the more that I pound it out after listening to feedback. Jeff, does my model make any more sense to you?

By the way, it took me way too many years of Christian growth to get the Monty Python parody of “Go Tell it on the Mountain” out of my mind while trying to sing it in a church setting during the Christmas season. And 25 years into Christian maturity, I still have to hold back smirks when somebody asks me the difference between Catholicism and Protestantism. And I’m sure that there a few other similar things, but by God’s grace, they aren’t plaguing my mind at this moment. I guess I made some progress.: )


#8

Jim,

I suppose the problem is that we always need to compare new/unfamiliar concepts to existing models that we feel we can understand and they are by definition not the thing we are struggling to conceptualise. When I use the 3 headed knight as an example apart from always looking for some humour in a situation (I had considered the conjoined triplet analogy but passed it over for the Python reference :smiling_imp: ) I am only looking at the similarities not the differences to the difficult concept of the trinity. So it is really only the one substance but 3 personalities that can interact (ignoring that they can act unlovingly unlike the persons in the trinity) that i take from that analogy and nothing else (I now think the multiple person disorder example less good). Similarly with your partnership analogy I seemed to instinctively know what you meant as being similar to the trinity and had not thought to include the list of things you stated as not applying.

I think I have some idea of the concept as you and Jason see it as opposed to WilleH’s position.

Thanks


#9

I’ve never encountered a Trinitarian who quoted the following words of our Lord; nor have I encountered one who has harmonized these words with the Trinitarian concept:

John 17:3 … this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, AND Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

Not only does Jesus address His Father as “the only true God” but by use of the conjunction “and” indicates that He, Jesus Christ, is not included in this “only true God” but is something other.


#10

Hi Paidion,

Calling the Father the one true God and distinguishing the Father from the Son are all consistent with what I and many others throughout history have written about the Trinity. The word and distinguishes the Father from the Son. And this same Gospel of John teaches that worship of Jesus is acceptable (John 9:38).


#11

They’re quoted in that galumphing huge scriptural digest I posted up somewhere else recently, as part of the overall scriptural case for trinitarian theism. Trinitarians quote them to modalists who deny that there are distinct persons of God (with the Son, Father and Holy Spirit all being variant ways of speaking of God on a par with Judge, King, Husband, etc.)

If you aren’t a modalist, it isn’t surprising trinitarians have never quoted them to you. There wouldn’t be any point quoting them to someone who already accepts the existence of at least the Father and the Son as distinct persons, even if the acceptance was different than the trinitarian acceptance of the distinction of the Persons.

The Final Discourse contains a lot of material distinguishing the Father from the Son, of course (and quite a few places distinguishing either of them from the person of the Spirit/Comforter, too), but trinitarians do include that material in the total scriptural case.

I’m close to being caught up with the various challenges and complaints against trinitarian theism on the board recently, and will be posting two threads of comments when I’m done. This is aside from discussing the doctrinal history of Christianity, which is something of another topic you’ve brought up, but which I’ll be catching up with, too, after I finish my current round of catch-ups. :slight_smile:


#12

Wow, I guess I am learning that many on this forum still hold to the tenants of the organized church which is apostate in almost all their beliefs. A teacher I know has a saying I often smile at, as I know it holds truth. He says, “if the church teaches it, it is a lie.” First I discovered many here believe in “fee will” and then a bit ago I see the “trinity doctrine” being espoused.

God help us to see how much we have learned is but the traditions of man and a product of a corrupt system that has kept most that name Christ afar from His grace. Not nearly a hindrance is a trinitarian view as is the belief in free moral agency but still I pray you might suffer me to share what I know as truth with regard to the make-up of God.

Friends, beyond the eons Jesus is FATHER

“Hear O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord” Mark 12:29

I believe you might find some truth in this which a friend of mine put together. Yes, God is even a family!


#13

John, if you don’t believe in free will, then how did you choose to write a response, in hope that it would bring change. If it is all already predetermined, why bother?


#14

I’ll give a response as someone who can see both sides. The carnal mind is the enemy of God, is not subject to the law of God neither indeed can be. That which is born of the Spirit is Spirit and cannot sin. The idea that there is a third entity involved who is completely neutral and simply freely chooses to follow either the flesh (sin) or the Spirit (life/righteousness) is what many challenge as non-scriptural/nonsensical.

Every decision has a cause or influence and so cannot fit the definition of free choice. That doesn’t mean nothing can change it just means that people are hemmed in until someone opens their eyes ala the Pauline commission: “to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me”. That’s why the gospel is never presented as “use your free will to do the right thing” but it is presented as a sovereign decree of freedom from God.

“… he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love”

In this view - the only one with free will is God and He is free to influence all other wills as well (and John may be hopeful to act as God’s influencing agent on these matters… :smiley: )


#15

Firstborn, it might be better said “I am driven to act as God’s influencing agent on these matters” :wink:

Always enjoy your thoughts brother!

John


#16

Hi John,

Please review “Board Rules and Policies”. This isn’t a forum where you may declare some people have apostate beliefs. You certainly may argue in favor of Modalism instead of the Trinity and argue against the existence of free will, but you need to do it without disrespect per the rules.

I hope you’ll be comfortable with our rules and policies and introduce yourself in SOCIAL HALL Introductions.

(When I have more time, I’ll amicably discuss with you about your criticism of Trinitarian doctrine in this thread.)


#17

Yes, Jesus would have been kicked off alot of these forums. :mrgreen:

Jim, Lord willing I’ll do my best to play by the rules as I am enjoying myself here.

God bless,

John


#18

1.) You aren’t Jesus.

2.) A charge of technical error is one thing–few if any people agree entirely as to the details of their beliefs, and where anyone happens to be incorrect (even if they don’t know it) they’re going to be engaging in ‘heresy’ (or ‘error’) to that extent.

A charge of apostasy might only be a very strong way of indicating error; but usually it’s a charge of ethical misbehavior, where people are acting as traitors. Which happens to be the kind of language you’ve been presenting it as, too–you aren’t qualifying that you’re only talking about extensive technical error. At the very least, this kind of charge is not conducive to friendly discussion on the topic. In effect, you’re saying that we’re being willfully stupid in a sinful way. This denies any possibility of rational discussion from the outset, by accusing us of having already shut down fair discussion in some cheating way.

When Jesus makes the kind of ethical charges in the scriptures, that you’re making of us, He has one or both of two things in mind: condemnation of those who are being uncharitable (especially to their enemies), and condemnation of those whom He knows have the advantages and indeed who know the real truth but who don’t want to face the real truth so who are engaging in intentional (and hateful) unreason in order to protect their own position.

If you have specific accusations to make to any of us along one or both of those lines, then make them–please abstain from general condemnations of people on this forum. And if you do have specific accusations to make against someone on this forum for ethical misbehavior (including some kind of intentional unreason), I recommend remembering that there is still a condemnation for whoever is being uncharitable to their enemies.

Or, if you want to actually discuss various points of theology, you’re welcome to do that, too. :slight_smile: I don’t think we’ve had a modalist poster since we started operation last year, and if you want to discuss various topics related to universalism from a modalist perspective, then do so; including if you think universalism follows more logically from some kind of modalistic theology and so want to theologize and exegete in favor of that.

Or even, if you are concerned that some other theology (like trinitarian theism) ends up logically requiring a denial of universalism, you can go that route, too, as a technical discussion.

Of course, apologetics and analysis above the level of universalism are important for sake of finding and understanding truth, and so are worth doing without reference to universalism–but this is a forum about universalism more particularly within broader theology, where the creators of the forum and the guest authors happen to be trinitarians who routinely present universalism within that theological framework when we’re doing work elsewhere. But we have the same responsibility of connecting back to the topic of ‘universalism’ wherever we can feasibly do so, not only for the sake of presenting the ‘good news’ of the gospel, but also in order to stay within the topical scope of the forum. If you only want to discuss and dispute larger theological positions, you should probably find another forum to work in; theologyweb, for example.


#19

Jeepers !

just when I thought we had become fast friends, Jason. :wink:


#20

That’s ok John, Jason is never friendlier than when attempting a demolition of a point expressed on the forum - I have been demolished many times but still survive :smiley: