Why I Believe In The Trinity
(This article was originally a post on the newsgroup bit.listserv.christia.)
I've stayed out of this trinity discussion so far, but mostly because I felt that many of the posts had little content, and I didn't want to contribute in the same fashion. I am going to try to present an article of the trinity that has content, and is biblical, without speaking just to one particular opposing view. This is by no means meant to be an exhaustive treatment.
There are at least three groups of non-trinitarians who read christia. JW's, who believe that Jesus is a created being and the Holy Spirit is a "force," not a person. LDSs who believe that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are persons, that they make up the Godhead, but while they are united in purpose, they are not united in being. Lastly, there are the Oneness folk who believe that God reveals Himself to us in different ways, as Father, Son, or Holy Spirit, but they believe that there is only one person, not three. (If I got any of this wrong, I'm sure you'll let me know. :-) )
The Definition Of Person
As my definition of person, I take the normal, natural one that everyone uses in everyday life. If I come across my housemate Dan staring at a mirror and talking, I would say a person is talking to himself. If I come across him holding a conversation with our friend Felix, I would say that one person is talking to another person. If I come across Dan holding a conversation with himself, using different means of expressing himself for each half of the conversation, I would still say one person was talking to himself, and I would hope he was practicing lines for a play, otherwise I would begin to worry.
First I would like to get over a silly anti-trinity argument. This being that the word trinity is not found in the Bible, therefore the trinity is not a biblical doctrine. I respond that the word monotheism is not found in the Bible either, but no one is saying we shouldn't be monotheists. The word used to refer to a concept is not what is under discussion. We are discussing the concept itself.
The Biblical Data
The foundation of the doctrine of the trinity is found in the OT.
Deut 6:4 "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD;
The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who gave Moses his personal name YHWH (represented as LORD in this quote) is one. Fairly straightforward.
I'm going to call this Point I - There is only one God.
Isaiah 43:10-11 10 "You are my witnesses," says the LORD, "and my servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe me and understand that I am He. Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me. 11 I, I am the LORD, and besides me there is no savior.
Is 44:6 6 Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: "I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god.
These passages reaffirm the Deuteronomy passage, and also give some of the characteristics of God. He is the only God, He is the only savior, He is the first and the last.
Consider now this passage from Revelation.
Rev 22:13-16 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end." 14 Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates. 15 Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and fornicators and murderers and idolaters, and every one who loves and practices falsehood. 16 "I Jesus have sent my angel to you with this testimony for the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, the bright morning star."
Who is the first and the last? Jesus. This passage clearly identifies Jesus with the LORD (YHWH). I also think that everyone acknowledges that Jesus is our savior, yet the passage above from Isaiah (44:11 above) says that only the LORD is our savior.
So, my Point II is that Jesus is God.
Acts 5:1-4 1 But a man named Ananias with his wife Sapphira sold a piece of property, 2 and with his wife's knowledge he kept back some of the proceeds, and brought only a part and laid it at the apostles' feet. 3 But Peter said, "Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back part of the proceeds of the land? 4 While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? How is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God."
Peter claims that Ananias lied to the Holy Spirit, then says that he lied to God. Do you lie to a force? To a thing? No, you lie to a person (who in this case is identified with God).
Confirmation that the Holy Spirit is a person is found in Acts 13:2 2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them."
Point III - The Holy Spirit is God
Point III.A - The Holy Spirit is a person.
I don't think anyone denies that the Father is God, but here are some scripture passages.
John 6:27 Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of man will give to you; for on him has God the Father set his seal."
Eph 1:17 17* that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him,
2Cor 1:3 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,
Point IV - The Father is God
I don't think that anyone denies that the Father is a person, or that Jesus is a person. It is such a natural reading of the Bible that someone would have to go to great extents to try to demonstrate otherwise. I therefore won't bother covering it.
Point II. A Jesus is a person
Point IV. A The Father is a person.
With all these points, we seem to have created something of a paradox. We have three persons who are God, but we have affirmed that there is only one God. How do we resolve this? An easy resolution would be to say that they are really just the same person. Is this consistent with scripture? Lets see.
Eph 1:17 says "the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory"Now, this is a very confusing phrase if the Father and Jesus are the same person. Jesus (who is the Father) is his own God. ???2 Cor 1:3 is even worse "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ"Now Jesus is his own father!Rev 1:1 says it is "The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him." So God (presumably the Father, but I suppose not necessarily at this point) gave himself a revelation? A rather confusing state of affairs, n'est pas?
John 14:26 26 But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.
So now we have one person, the Father, sending another person, the Spirit, in a third person's (Jesus') name. But if Jesus is the Father, who is the Spirit, why did Jesus say such a confusing thing? Why didn't he just say he would be with us in spirit?
It would seem that scripture makes no sense if one assumes that the Father is the Son is the Spirit, that there is only one person. There are many, many passages dealing with two of these three persons at the same time whose only natural reading says that they are separate persons. To believe otherwise does violence to language (any language).
This leads to another point.
Point V. The Father, the Holy Spirit, and Jesus are three separate persons.
My points then are:
- Point I - There is only one God.
- Point II - Jesus is God.
- II. A Jesus is a person
- Point III - The Holy Spirit is God.
- III. A The Holy Spirit is a person.
- Point IV - The Father is God.
- IV. A The Father is a person.
- Point V. The Father, the Holy Spirit, and Jesus are three separate persons.
The Seeming Paradox
What about our seeming paradox? "We have three persons who are God, but we have affirmed that there is only one God." Well, the orthodox position is to say that we believe the word of God, and accept on faith that this only seems to be a paradox.
"If there is one God, and if there are three persons called God in the bible, then by faith I must accept the doctrine of the trinity, even though I may not fully comprehend how God can be one yet three in perfect unity and equality at the same time. If a person rejects the trinity, it is because he wants comprehension rather than faith and belief."
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