Can you precisely and concisely summarize the doctrine of the Trinity? Do you know which doctrinal errors to avoid?
Sunday we will continue our Making Merry at Christmas series at the Red Brick Church. Our children will be singing – – which always brings great joy – – but I will also be showing how if we properly understand and meditate on the doctrine of the Trinity it will give way to joy and celebration.
You will have to come to church (or listen online) to the sermon to see how I connect the dots. But it’s always a good thing to review the doctrine of the Trinity and be reminded of its basic parameters. Bernard Ramm is right when he shows how the doctrine of the Trinity is of incredible help.
“. . . once a doctrine has been clarified in this manner, it has a wonderful way of explaining Scripture when turned back upon the Scripture. We wonder why we did not see it so clearly before! Yet this is the nature of progress in theology. Only by pushes and pulls, by rushes to one flank and a counter-rush to another flank, does the ‘obvious’ in Scripture become ‘obvious.’” Bernard Ramm, The Witness of the Spirit, 29.
Packer is also helpful in reminding us that the goal of the doctrine of the Trinity is not to give us comprehensive understanding of the Trinity.
“The historic formulation of the Trinity seeks to circumscribe and safeguard this mystery (not explain it; that is beyond us), and it confronts us with perhaps the most difficult thought that the human mind has ever been asked to handle. It is not easy; but it is true.” J.I. Packer, Concise Theology, 40.
The statements in the below table summarize the doctrine of the Trinity. (1) God is 3 persons. (2) Each person is fully God. (3) There is one God. For more, see Justin Taylor’s post, Trinity 101. See also this important post on the Nicene Creed.
Table 1. Summary of the Doctrine of the Trinity: “One What, Three Who’s”
|Biblical Truth||Select Scripture References||Heresy or Error if Denied|
|1||God is three persons.||F & S: Jn 1:1-2 show distinctions, 1 Jn 2:1. Each must be a person for these to happen.||Modalism: One God that goes by 3 different names.|
|HS: Coordinate relationships (Mt 28:19, Greek grammar, personal activities assigned to HS: teaching (Jn 14:26), speaking (Acts 8:29, 13:2) and other personal activities.|
|2||Each person is fully God.||F: Gn 1:1; Mt 6:9||Arianism: The Son or the Spirit not fully God. Subordinationism: Son not equal to Father even though eternal. Adoptionism: Jesus ordinary until his baptism.|
|S: Jn 1:1-18; Heb 1:1-4|
|HS: Ps 139:7-8; Acts 5:3-4|
|3||There is one God.||Deut 6:4; Isa 45:22||Tritheism: three different gods.|