3. The Triune God: Who Is He?
The Article: The Trinity (Triunity) of God
The term “trinity” is not found in Scripture. But the concept, however difficult to finite minds, nonetheless is. And this is exactly why the early church believed in the trinity, though the doctrine was only implicitly developed. Its full systematic exposition grew as a result of the heretical influence of the Gnostics and other groups who in one way or another denied God’s oneness and threeness.
The key to defining the trinity is understanding the terms “person” and “essence.” God is one in essence, yet he subsists in three distinct persons. There is unity in diversity, equality among the diverse persons, and diversity in the operations of the three persons of the Godhead. Tri-theism (three distinct gods) is an error to avoid in thinking about the trinity. So also is modalism (one person in the Godhead who appeared in different ways) and Arianism, the latter of which denies the deity of Christ.
The article also goes on to deal with the Biblical evidence for God’s oneness and threeness, as well as passages that seem to suggest that the trinity is not a Biblical doctrine. It also discusses the practical ramifications of the truth of the trinity and the difficulty we have as finite human beings (also fallen human beings) to understand what appears to be a contradictory doctrine. But is the doctrine of the trinity really contradictory after all?
1. In the study of the trinity, what does “person” and “essence” mean?
2. How would you define the doctrine of the trinity in a single sentence?
3. What are some heresies which grew up in the early church and how did they differ from the Christian doctrine of the trinity?
4. What are some common, present-day misunderstandings to avoid in thinking about the doctrine?
5. What are some practical results arising from the truth of the trinity?
6. Name three passages in the NT which are difficult to reconcile with the idea of the trinity? How do you interpret each one?