I know that one of the most oft-repeated questions I have
dealt with is, "How does one explain, or even understand,
the doctrine of the Trinity?" Indeed, few topics are made
such a football by various groups that, normally, claim to be the
"only" real religion, and who prey upon Christians as
"convert fodder." Be that as it may, when the Christian
is faced with a question regarding the Trinity, how might it best
For me, I know that simplifying the doctrine to its most basic
elements has been very important and very useful. When we reduce
the discussion to the three clear Biblical teachings that
underlie the Trinity, we can move our discussion from the
abstract to the concrete Biblical data, and can help those
involved in false religions to recognize which of the Biblical
teachings it is denying.
We must first remember that very few have a good idea of what
the Trinity is in the first place - hence, accuracy in definition
will be very important. The doctrine of the Trinity is simply
that there is one eternal being of God - indivisible, infinite.
This one being of God is shared by three co-equal, co-eternal
persons, the Father, the Son, and the Spirit.
It is necessary here to distinguish between the terms
"being" and "person." It would be a
contradiction, obviously, to say that there are three beings
within one being, or three persons within one person. So what is
the difference? We clearly recognize the difference between being
and person every day. We recognize what something is,
yet we also recognize individuals within a classification. For
example, we speak of the "being" of man---human being.
A rock has "being"---the being of a rock, as does a
cat, a dog, etc. Yet, we also know that there are personal
attributes as well. That is, we recognize both "what"
and "who" when we talk about a person.
The Bible tells us there are three classifications of personal
beings---God, man, and angels. What is personality? The ability
to have emotion, will, to express oneself. Rocks cannot speak.
Cats cannot think of themselves over against others, and, say,
work for the common good of "cat kind." Hence, we are
saying that there is one eternal, infinite being of God, shared
fully and completely by three persons, Father, Son and Spirit.
One what, three who's.
NOTE: We are not saying that the Father is the Son,
or the Son the Spirit, or the Spirit the Father. It is very
common for people to misunderstand the doctrine as to mean that
we are saying Jesus is the Father. The doctrine of the Trinity
does not in any way say this!
The three Biblical doctrines that flow directly into the river
that is the Trinity are as follows:
1) There is one and only one God, eternal,
2) There are three eternal Persons described in Scripture -
the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. These Persons are never
identified with one another - that is, they are carefully
differentiated as Persons.
3) The Father, the Son, and the Spirit, are identified as
being fully deity---that is, the Bible teaches the Deity of
Christ and the Deity of the Holy Spirit.
One could possibly represent this as follows:
The three sides of the triangle represent the three Biblical
doctrines, as labeled. When one denies any of these three
teachings, the other two sides point to the result. Hence, if one
denies that there are Three Persons, one is left with the two
sides of Full Equality and One God, resulting in the
"Oneness" teaching of the United Pentecostal Church and
others. If one denies Fully Equality, one is left with Three
Persons and One God, resulting in "subordinationism"
as seen in Jehovah's Witnesses, the Way International, etc.
(though to be perfectly accurate the Witnesses deny all three
of the sides in some way---they deny Full Equality (i.e., Jesus
is Michael the Archangel), Three Persons (the Holy Spirit is an
impersonal, active "force" like electricity) and One
God (they say Jesus is "a god"---a lesser divinity than
Yahweh; hence they are in reality not monotheists but
henotheists). And, if one denies One God, one is left with
polytheism, the belief in many gods, as seen clearly in the
Mormon Church, the most polytheistic religion I have encountered.
Hopefully these brief thoughts will be of help to you as you
"grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus