Thursday, June 1, 2017

What is the Trinity? (No. 2)

Most Christians today believe that the Trinity is taught in the Bible. Although majority of them affirm the teaching by faith, they really don't understand it. According to prominent Trinitarian apologist James R. White, the doctrine is "so misunderstood that a majority of Christians, when asked, give incorrect and at times downright heretical definitions of the Trinity."[1]


Trinitarians contend that, although the term "Trinity" is not found in the Bible, the concept is taught in it as a logical conclusion. Apologist Norman L. Geisler remarks, "The logic of the doctrine of the Trinity is simple. Two biblical truths are evident in Scripture, the logical conclusion of which is the Trinity:
1. There is one God.
2. There are three distinct persons who are God: Father, Son, Holy Spirit."[2]

Geisler suggests that God has one What and three Whos. "The three Whos (persons) each share the same What (essence). So God is a unity of essence with a plurality of persons. Each person is different, yet they share a common nature."[3]

White adds a third feature in defining the Trinity. He states that the belief is based on three biblical foundations:
1. Monotheism: There is only one God.
2. There are three divine persons.
3. The persons are coequal and coeternal.

White explains, "Christians believe in the Trinity not because the term itself is given in some creedlike form in the text of Scripture. Instead, they believe in the Trinity because the Bible, taken in its completeness, accepted as a self-consistent revelation of God, teaches that there is one Being of God (Foundation One) that is shared fully (Foundation Three) by three divine persons (Foundation Two), the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit."[4]

A Representation of the Trinity

When I was a Trinitarian, I frequently ran in to this diagram. It is an attempt to illustrate the Trinity.
With the help of this diagram, I understood the Trinity a certain way. That understanding was drawn from what I gathered the Bible is teaching and what Trinitarian theologians, apologists, and philosophers I read are saying. Here is the best and simplest way I can put the doctrine.

A. There is one true God.

B. The one true God is three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

C. Individually,
1. the Father is the one true God,
2. the Son is the one true God, and
3. the Holy Spirit is the one true God.

D. Collectively, these three persons are the one true God.

E. Distinctly,
1. the Father is not the Son,
2. the Son is not the Holy Spirit, and
3. the Holy Spirit is not the Father.

Did I misunderstand the Trinity? Am I misrepresenting it here? If so, you need to tell me precisely where I went wrong, and I will correct my mistake(s). I would not want to misrepresent that which I am attempting to refute. Such would merely be attacking a straw man, which does nothing to the actual position being refuted.

Now, I would ask that you offer a better model. I will then deal with it accordingly and provide a refutation. It would be interesting, though, to see how your Trinitarian model differs from others' and how it is able to withstand close scrutiny.

A Two-Pronged Objection to the Trinity

Of course, the model above is not an exhaustive treatment—but merely an illustrative attempt—to explain the Trinity. Now, assuming that the model fairly and accurately represents the doctrine, if we want to be biblical Christians, ought we to believe the Trinity?

I submit to you that we ought not to believe the Trinity. In fact, we ought to reject the doctrine because it is not only unbiblical but also illogical. In the next series of articles, I aim to provide good reasons for this two-pronged objection.

[1] James R. White, The Forgotten Trinity (Minneapolis, Minn.: Bethany House Publishers, 1998), 16, emphasis in original.
[2] Norman L. Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1999), 730.
[3] Ibid., 732.
[4] White, 28-29, emphasis in original.

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