The Trouble with the Trinity
The doctrine of the Trinity is one of the most contested of Christian doctrines. As you might imagine, any attempt to explain or describe God might be met with skepticism or disagreement or outright condemnation. This post is not an attempt at laying out a full explanation for the doctrine, which will come later. It’s simply an effort to get the doctrine ‘on the record’.
It’s worth noting that there’s a big difference between teaching on the Trinity and explaining the Trinity. To teach it, one only needs to go to the Bible verses where we see the Trinity in action. To describe the Trinity, however, is virtually impossible. One simple reason is that there are no parallels to the Trinity in nature. There’s nothing we can point to and say, “See that? God is just like that.” We’re left with something that’s more than a little mysterious. That doesn’t mean the doctrine is wrong, or that one can imagine the Trinity to be whatever feels right. We do have Scripture as a reference, and it’s important to teach what the Bible says.
The Basics of the Trinity
God is described in the Bible as the Father, as the Son, and as the Holy Spirit. At the same time, the Bible is abundantly clear that there is only ONE God. Each of the three “persons” is described as having relationship (interacting) with one another, and as being present before, and taking part in, creation.
Because of this, the doctrine of the Trinity can be explained “simply” in this way:
- The Father is God.
- The Son (Jesus) is God.
- The Holy Spirit is God.
- The Father is not the Son, nor the Spirit.
- The Son is not the Father, nor the Spirit.
- The Spirit is not the Father, nor the Son.
- There is only one God.
Clear as mud, right? While analogies abound in our attempts at explaining how this can be so, we have no natural analogues for this kind of three-in-one relationship. We have only the Bible to help us understand, and the Bible doesn’t usually lay out such things precisely. Suffice it to say that if anyone denies that one of the above items is true, their theological understanding of God would be considered both unbiblical and unorthodox.