KCU/03/Lady Knights

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Topic 4: Doctrine of the Trinity—essential or pointless? Question: Do you think that it is important to believe in the doctrine of the Trinity? Why or why not? (Be sure to do more research into the issue. If the group cannot come to a consensus, feel free to have different group members each express their own opinions.)


Throughout the world, you can find many ideas of what the trinity is and what it does. Some religions do not believe in the Trinity, others believe the Trinity consists entirely of Christ taking three forms, and still others believe in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit in three separate bodies and yet existing as one whole entity. But still, what is the trinity’s purpose? Is it essential to our Christian walk? What does the Bible say on it? And last but not least where did the trinity idea come from? These questions on the Trinity will be answered in this paper.

What is the Holy Trinity?

The word "Trinity" is not found in the New Testament, nor is the doctrine explicitly taught there. However, foundations of the concept of the Trinity can be seen in the New Testament, especially in the Gospel of John, one of the latest and most theologically developed of the New Testament books (Religion facts).

The Holy Trinity is defined differently by different religions. “Christians are not polytheists (we don’t believe in many Gods), nor are we strictly speaking monotheists (believing in one God).Instead Christians are Trinitarians” (Everystudent). “The Holy Trinity is part of many sects of Christian doctrine. The belief is that God is of three parts: God the Father, God the Son, as represented by Christ, and God the Holy Spirit. The key element of this belief is that God is at once a single God, but also that each aspect of God is individual” (Christensen). The word trinity comes from Tri meaning three and unity meaning one. (Religion facts) “The bible clearly speaks of God the father, God the son, and God the Holy Spirit… and also clearly present that there is only one God” (Religion facts). The Holy Trinity is also known in a limited way as Creator, Redeemer and Counselor (Berwick). Some have also tried to give scientific illustrations for the Trinity, such as H2O being water, ice and steam. They are all different forms, but all are H2O ( Religion facts). This is an attempt by people to understand a very complex issue. Others think of it a part of the mystery of God (Christensen).

This is where the debate into the Holy Trinity originates. How can there be three complete individuals but yet still be one full and complete God. It is not the deity of the God that has been disputed, but the deity of Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Each is proven to have the same deity as God in the bible. Jesus is addressed as God, Lord, and Savior. These area all names that are given to God. Scripture acknowledges the Son as having attributes that belong exclusively to God. Third, Jesus does the same work that is known of God; like the forgiveness of sins (Highfield 17). Just like Jesus the deity of the Holy Spirit can be proven in the bible. The Holy Spirit is called by divine names, acknowledged as having divine attributes and also does divine work in us (Highfield 19). However recognizing the definite distinction between the Father,the Son, and the Holy Spirit is as important as recognizing their unity (Highfield 20).

The purpose of the Holy Spirit

Belief in the Trinity tells us to invest in relationships. If there is no Trinity, then before the world there were no relationships. With no relationships there is no love, because you can only have love where there is relationships. However we know that there was and is perfect love between the Father,the Son, and the Holy Spirit (St Pauls theological center).

“Belief in the trinity teaches us to get involved in building community. The word community is about common life, which is held together in unity. Common life that’s held together even though there is difference within it” (St Pauls theological center).

In this world we are taught to be the same. We are made to mold ourselves to fit into a community. We believe that if you are not the same then you do not fit in. The trinity teachers us diversity in unity. There are three persons in one. They are different from each other, but the same in unity. We do not have to make everyone the same, because God made everyone different (St Pauls theological center).

Last and most importantly we cannot love God with all our hearts if we do not know him. The only way for us to know him is through Jesus Christ his son, and the Holy Spirit that is inside of us. If Jesus and the Holy Trinity are not fully God then how can we fully know him? (Everystudent).

Why is the Doctrine of the Trinity Essential?

Recognizing the scriptural distinctions among the Father, Son, and Spirit is as important in assessing the doctrine of the Trinity as recognizing their unity in the divine nature. (Holloway, Harris, and Black). For any student of the Bible it is essential to have a working understanding of the Doctrine of the Trinity. To be able to define our own faith we must have a concept of the Trinity and what it means to us.

Basically, it is essential to have a working theory of the Trinity to ensure what you don’t believe. There have been various movements that supported either one side or the other of the Trinity. Subordinationists argue for the inferior status of the Son and the Holy Spirit. Modalism attempts to preserve the unity of God by arguing for the full deity of the Son and the Spirit at the expense of the distinctions among the Father, Son, and Spirit. (Holloway, Harris, and Black).

An understanding of the Trinity and the history of the Doctrine of the Trinity is useful for all Christians. It strengthens their belief system and brings them closer God. It is essential to grasping what the scripture says. Must you believe in the Trinity to be Saved?

Christ says “All who believe in me shall not perish but have everlasting life”. To be saved, it is not necessary to believe in the Doctrine of the Trinity. One must believe that Jesus is the son of God, that he died for our sins, and will come back. A belief in Christ is necessary for salvation. However a full understanding of how Jesus fits into the Doctrine of the Trinity is not.


So we have talked about what the Trinity is and why it is essential, but what does the Bible have to say about it? Well let us start back at the very beginning, back to Genesis when the first evidences of the Trinity are seen. In Genesis 1:26 the Bible says “And God said, let us make man in our own image after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every thing that creepeth upon the earth.” Who is God talking to when He says “let US make man in OUR own image after OUR likeness…?” At that time there was no other person or being around, unless he was talking to the Angels. He wanted to make man in his own image, and it does not say anywhere in the Bible that Angels assisted in the making of man.

The only other sensible option in the depiction of this verse would be God the Father was talking to Christ and/or the Holy Ghost. He follows up in another verse after Adam and Eve sinned saying, “And the Lord God said, behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: (Genesis 3:22).” When the snake was tempting Eve in the garden, did he not say she would be as a god if she ate of the fruit? Now that they ate, we see God talking to Christ and/or the Holy Spirit telling them that man has become like them.

We see this interaction again, in the Garden of Gethsemane, the night Jesus was to be betrayed by Judas. Jesus prayed to the Father for strength and that the Father’s will might be done (Luke 22:42). Later on, while hanging on the cross, Jesus cried, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do,” and later said, “Father into thy hands I commend my spirit” (Luke 23:34 and Luke 23:46). These are just some of the references for both the Father and the Son to exist as two separate beings. The next big evidence of the Trinity is at Jesus’ baptism found in both Matthew 3:13-17 and Luke 3:21-22. Matthew 3:16-17 says, “And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Here in the scripture we see a distinctive separation between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The Son is now being baptized into the ministry. The Spirit is descending on him like a dove and the Father’s voice echoes from heaven “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” If the Trinity did not exist, then whose voice was heard? Christ did not act as a ventriloquist. If he, Jesus, was the only being and there was no trinity, then he would have proclaimed his ministry himself, instead of a voice coming from heaven.

Finally, this brings us to Old Testament scripture and proof of the Trinity. Starting in the leadership of Moses, God had his people build the Ark of the Covenant. This ark was very sacred. You could not touch it or open it or you would be punished with death, this was proven several times. An example of this is when the Philistines were returning the Ark, and it went to the Beth-shemite camp. When the people took off the cover, they also removed the mercy seat with it. The mercy seat was placed on top of the ark and the priests were to pour the blood of the sacrifice over it. By doing this, the sins of the people were shielded from God’s judgment because when God sees sin he must judge. When the mercy seat was removed, God saw sin and 50, 040 people died that day.

Now go to when Jesus was on earth. According to other beliefs, Jesus is the only God, and the God-head does not exist. If this is true, Jesus would have been face to face with the sins of the people with no mercy seat and blood to cover it. Jesus was the blood to save us so he would have to judge sin and judge the people that moment. Therefore there must be a difference between God the Father and God the Son.

All throughout time people have had different opinions about the Trinity and if it is true or not. They can look at a verse and take it out of context to match their own beliefs. These next few paragraphs will show you both arguments. The biggest controversy starts with the Baptism. In Matthew 28:19 we see the commandment, given by Christ himself, to baptize “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:” However, you look at Acts 2:38 and it says “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” We see in Matthew that there is a clear distinction between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Why would Christ talk about all three if they were in fact only one person/being? According to other people who do not believe in the Trinity, Christ is the only being and that when he came to this earth he put himself into a fleshly body and became the Son also. So when people look at the verse in Acts they say it is proof that you are only praying to Jesus Christ, not the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.

The Holy Trinity and Ministry

The Doctrine of the Holy Trinity is essential to the vocation of Ministry. The Trinity provides a foundation and framework for the vocation of ministry. No doctrine is more relevant to the identity and calling of ministers than the Trinity. "Many view the Trinity as a problem, difficult to understand and explain. At first glance it may appear that way, but as we ponder it, we find the oposite is true. The Trinity is a solution that makes so many perplexing issues intelligible" (Seamands). The Doctrine of the Trinity can be described as the grammar of the Christian faith. A grammar is a set of rules governing a particular language. It tells us how to speak the language correctly and to properly convey our meaning. As the Christian grammar, trinitarian doctrine enables us to speak rightly about the God who is revealed in Scripture as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. "It is this doctrine that makes the Christian understanding of God distinctly Christian and not merely thesitic" (Seamands).

One may understand and speak a language without knowing its grammar. Grammar itself does not convey meaning and content, except about the language itself. Often commited Christians can not articulate an understanding of the Trinity, yet they grasp it intuitively. Nevertheless, as is the case with any language, knowledge of trinitarian grammar is important. Without it we can not fathom the richness or depth of the Christian understanding of God, nor can we communicate it effectly to others. It's crucial for Christian leaders to know the rules of trinitarian grammar.

In Seamand's book, "Ministry in the Image of God", the characteristics of the Trinity is broken down into several ideas that suggest their relations to an understanding of ministry shaped by the Trinity. The first characteristic is Relational Personhood: The nature of Trinitarian ministry. Human beings, created in the image of the triune God, are constituted for relationship. "The relational personhood, which characterizes the inner life of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is fundamental to human personhood as well" (Seamand).

The second characteristic is Joyful Intimacy: The foundation of Trinitarian ministry. Jesus prayed "that the love with which you {The Father} have loved me {The Son} may be in them, and I in them" (John 17:26). This discusses love's self-sacrificing nature. The focus is on the joyful intimacy of this trinitarian love and its implications for minsitry. Jesus said that The Father's love for him (The Son) existed "before the foundation of the world" (John 17:24). The trinitarian persons have always had intimate communion and delightful fellowship with one another.

The third characteristic is Glad Surrender: The heart of Trinitarian ministry. To demonstrate the depth of God's sacrificial self-giving love for humanity, the New Testament writers always point to a concrete, historical event: Christ's death on the cross. "God proves his love for us," (Romans 5:8). Similarly John writes, "In this love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins" (1 John 4:10). But Christ's death not only supremely reveals the nature of divine love, it also discloses what is eternally etched in the heart of the triune God. Before creation, before the existence of a world in need of redemption, self-giving, self-sacrificing love marked the fellowship of The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit. Jesus, the Lamb of God who died on Clavary to take away sins, is the Lamb slain for the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8).

History of the Holy Trinity

Our sources in the history section include thoses of David C. Pack. Pack's views are considered contraversial to the other sources used in this paper. We use Pack's opinions to demonstrate the opposite viewpoint. Although the doctrine of the Holy Trinity is a new development, the roots of the doctrine can be seen from the first century (Religionfacts). “The word "Trinity" is not found in the New Testament, nor is the doctrine explicitly taught there. However, foundations of the concept of The Trinity can be seen in the New Testament, especially in the Gospel of John” (Religionfacts). The New Testament and the Nicene Creed are deeply entangled with each other. The Nicene Creed is the document created by the Council of Nicea explaning the Holy Trinity. The wording and the concepts in the Nicene Creed come from the New Testament. In fact, one of the most important debates at the Council of Nicea concerned whether it is proper to include a word in the Nicene Creed that does not occur in the New Testament (Collins). This controversy is decribed in futher detail below. Many believe that the beginning of the Christian era saw the beginning of the Doctrine of The Holy Trinity. However, numerous variations of the Trinity existed long before the Christian era (Pack). Some of the first forms of the Holy Trinity come from ancient Egypt about three centuries after the great flood. These Egyptions worshiped three seperate gods. These Egyptian deities were known as Osiris, Iris, and Horus. (Pack). Another example would be in ancient Rome, a triad of deities was worshipped—Jupiter, Fortuna and Mercury. These deities had similarities with the above mentioned triads (Pack). "The Nicene Council did not invent the Trinity in the early fourth century, as some people imagine. A full century before the Nicene Council, Tertullian wrote a voluminous explanation and defense of the Trinity ... A couple of decades before Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria and Irenaeus, bishops at opposite ends of the Mediterranean basin, both taught the Trinity. A half century or more before Irenaeus and Clement, we find Trinitarian teachings in the authentic works of Justin Martyr, who died in 157 (Collins)."

We see many changes in not only the beliefs, but the actions of the church through the centuries. We do not know much about the history of the church, but we do know that there is a change from the first century to the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th centuries (Christensen). Churches began to change thier beliefs and the way they worshiped. “Rather than treating God’s word as direct instruction from the almighty, the orthodox Christian movement came to use the bible to allegorically explain pre-conceived philosophies” (Pack). It is because of this, true Christians were forced underground where they could practice thier own beliefs. Thus causing the difference between the beliefs of the first Century Christians to the 5th century (Pact). There were several different controversies between the new and upcoming religions. “The Christian movement hailed the trinity as a solution to the various contradictions in their understanding. It seamed to satisfy the requirements of monotheisms while acknowledging that Christ was God in the flesh” (Pack).

There were many different men who had their own unique theory on the Trinity. One of these was Plato. Plato was deeply ingrained with Trinitarian thought. He sought to better define the Creator by elevating this Being above the host of other deities in Greek mythology. His definition consisted of: (1) The “first God,” who was the Supreme Being in the universe; (2) the “second God,” whom Plato described as the “soul of the universe”; and (3) the “third God,” defined as the “spirit”. (Pack)

Another is Lucian, Lucian strongly taught Christ’s divinity prior to his appearing in the flesh—without the philosophical trappings of the Trinity (Pack).

Arius, who studied under Lucian, compromised. He leaned toward the teachings of Paul of Samosata, who maintained that Christ had to be a created being and had not been God prior to becoming flesh… Defining Christ as a created Being, Arius deduced that a member of the true Godhead could never dwell among sinful mankind. This became the greatest weakness in his thinking and became the basis for the rejection of his views at Nicaea. (Pack) However, we see from the scriptures that Christ humbled himself to become a man, therefore he was able to dwell among us. Athanasius followed the philosophy of Origen. Origan weighed as a Platonist and Stonic. Origan was the antihesis of Lucian. “Origan has been described as the most distinguished and most influential of all the theologians of the ancient church” (Pack) Lucian however, was considered a Judaizer much in tradition of the original apostles (Pack). Ignoring the bible men came to regard Plato’s theory as the best attempt to explain God and his relationship to the Holy Trinity (Christension).

Gnosticism was the new religion trying to explain the Trinity. Gnosticism was developed from the theroies of Plato. However Gnosticism is considered by some to be from Plato’s more stable positions. “Note that Gnosticism was acknowledged to be distinct from true Christianity" (Pack). Due to the many changes in the churches thier were many new branches of religons being developed. Gnosticism was soon left behind, as others before it, for its unusual beliefs (Religionfacts).

“Plato’s influence in almost every aspect of the movement that replaced first-century Christianity was profound—including mystery religions, the “soul,” and the Trinity.Gnosticism’s influence in the established Christian movement, especially in the second and third centuries, should never be understated” (Pack).

During this time the Trinity became the focus of many of the local religion groups. For example, Justin Martyr, known for his anti-Semitism and opposition to all things Hebrew, defined the trinity as “the Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit… Irenaeus defined the Godhead as consisting of “the Father, the Word and the Wisdom.” Eventually, the trinity concept became the focus of theologians and philosophers such as Clement of Alexandria and Origen. (Pack)

It was because of the interest shown by many philosophers, and the controversies between them, that there was a need for the Council of Nicaea. There were two main opposing sides to the controversy at Nicaea (Christension). One of these sides was represented by Arius, and the other by Athanasius. Both men were influenced by the same speculated mindset of Greek philosophy (Pack). Constantine who was Roman Caesar called for the Council of Nicaea (the first ecumenical council of the Catholic church) to meet. He did this to try to put and end to the controversy and finally decide on the true meaning of the Holy Trinity (Pack). “In 325, the Council of Nicaea set out to officially define the relationship of the Son to the Father, in response to the controversial teachings of Arius. Led by bishop Athanasius, the council established the doctrine of the Trinity as orthodoxy and condemned Arius' teaching that Christ was the first creation of God” (Riligionfacts). Although the council was required to choose a side. Both sides of the argument were frowned upon by the Council for their lack of biblical teaching. Also both sides departed from the bible and gave their own opinions (Pack).

After the opposing views at Nicaea had been presented, both sides continued to lobby and position behind the scenes for a number of weeks. Most of the delegates were not impressed with either argument, both of which were considered somewhat extreme. Finally, as the Nicaean Council came to an end, most of the delegates voted in favor of Athanasius. This was not so much a mandate for his beliefs, but rather the lesser of two evils (Pack). The Nicaen creed is the only creed that was promulgated by any of the seven ecumenical councils and thus it is the only creed that is truly ecumenical and universal (Collins).

The Nicene Creed reads: I. We believe in one God the Father Almighty, the maker of all things visible and invisible. II. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of the Father, only begotten, that is of the substance of the Father, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made, both those in heaven and those on earth. Who for us men and for our salvation came down and was incarnate, and was made man, And suffered, And rose the third day, Ascended into heaven, Is coming to judge quick and dead (Pack). Nicaea did not end the controversy, however. Debate over how the creed (especially the phrase "one substance") ought to be interpreted continued to rage for decades… But for the most part, the issue of the Trinity was settled at Nicaea and, by the fifth century, never again became a focus of serious controversy (Religionfacts).

Church Fathers Augustine has been called the “the greatest doctor of the Church, the greatest philosopher of the patristic age and probably the most important and influential theologian of the Church.” (Fortman). Augustine’s theory starts with the unity of nature and moves to the trinity of Persons. The unity is the most important part, and the trinity of persons is in the background. Augustine focuses on one divine nature subsisting in three Persons. The divine unity had never been in the forefront in its relation to the three divine Persons. Augustine stresses oneness rather than threeness and starts from the one divine essence rather than from the saving deed of God in Christ, which he assumes to be known. This new starting point will be very influential in all subsequent Western Trinitarian teaching, and will lead to a distinction on how the Western world views the Trinity and God.

Gregory of Nyssa wrote several Trinitarian works, "That There Are not Three Gods", "To the Greeks", "Concerning the Deity of the Son and Holy Spirit", and an important treatise "Against Eunomius." Gregory of Nyssa writes that the Holy Spirit is out of God and is of Christ and he compares the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit to three torches, the first of which imparts its light to the second and through the second to the third. In another passage he seems to speak of the Holy Spirit as caused by the Son: “the Holy Spirit is in touch with the Only-begotten, who is conceived of as before the Spirit’s subsistence only in the theoretical light of a cause” (Fortman). Gregory clearly insists mainly on the Father’s causal role in the production of the Holy Spirit, yet he seems to insinuate that the Son too has a functional or causal role in this production, and this without detriment to the Father’s primordial role.

Personal Beliefs Our personal beliefs are as follows: we believe the Doctrine of the Trinity is a very important aspect of Theology and in ministry. We do not believe that it is necessary to salvation because the only belief necessary for salvation is a belief in Christ as the Son of God, and that He died on the cross for our sins and was raised three days later. The belief of the Trinity is necessary for any person studying the Bible seriously. It is imperative to believe that the Father,the Son, and the Holy Spirit are all three aspects of the same God and yet three different beings as shown in the content of this paper.


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Christensen. Tricia. “What is the Holy Trinity”. Wisegeek. 2007. 11.9.07 www.wisegeek.com/what-is-the-holy-trinity.htm

Collins, Kennith W. "The Nicean creed" Rev. Kenneth W. 2007. 04.10.07 Collinshttp://www.kencollins.com/why-07.htm

Davies, Richard N. Doctrine of the Trinity The Biblical Evidence. 1891. New York. Hunt & Eaton

Everystudent. “Can you explain the Trinity”. 2007. 10/09/07 http://everystudent.com/forum/trinity.html?gclid-CKae-uCU204CFQp7PAod5_A

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Pack.c.David. “The Trinity is God three-in-one?” The restored church of God. 2005. 12.09.07 www.thercg.org?books/ttigio.html#ch2

Religion facts. “The doctrine of the Trinity” Religions Facts. 2007. 12.09.07 www.religionfacts.com?christianity/beliefs/trinity.htm

Seamands, Stephen. Ministry in the Image of God. 2005. Madison, WI. InterVarsity Press.

St Paul’s theological center. “What is the Trinity and why does it matter: St Pauls theological center. 2007 [?]. 15.09.07 sptc.htb.org.uk/news/what-trinity-why-does-it-matter

Torrance, Thomas F. The Christian Doctrine of God One Being Three Persons. 1996. Edinburgh. T & T Clark

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