elements of the orthodox understanding of the trinity.
• God is one.
• Each of three persons (Father, Son, &
Spirit) are deity.
• The threeness and the oneness of God are
not in the same respect.
• The Trinity is eternal.
• The function of one member of the Trinity
may for a time be subordinate to one or both of the other members.
• The Trinity is incomprehensible.
3. Historic erroneous attempts to explain the
became the Son of God at his baptism. (Dynamic Monarchisanism(one source))
- Redefining the Deity of Christ so as to suggest that the Father acts through
the Son who is “adopted” (at his baptism). II
Cor.5:19 “that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not
counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of
one God is revealed in three modes. (Modalistic Monarchisanism) - Denying
the distinction of the Son from the Father where God is like an actor who plays
several different parts in a play, (Father in the O.T., Son in the Gospels,
Holy Spirit in the epistles). Jn.10:30 “I
and the Father are one.”
is a lower form of God. (Arianism) -Redefining the relationship between the
Father and the Son so as to make the Son the highest creature, a step down from
God the Father. Prov.8:22-23 “The
Lord brought me forth as the first of his works, before his deeds of old; I was
appointed form eternity, from the beginning, before the world began.” Jn.14:28
“the Father is greater than I”; Mk.10:18
“Why do you call me good? Jesus answered, No one is good – except god alone.”
bears witness to a God who demands to be understood in a Trinitarian manner.
There is only one God but in the unity of the Godhead there are three eternal
and co-equal persons, the same in substance but distinct in subsistence.
b. The Nicene Creed A.D. 325
believe in one God, the Father almighty, Maker of heaven and earth and
of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only
begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of light, very God
of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by
whom all things were made. . . . And I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and
Giver of life; who proceeds from the Father and the Son; who with the Father
and the Son together is worshiped and glorified; who spoke by the prophets.”
(most of these illustrations have
a. The HUMAN MIND divides itself and holds
discussion with itself.
b. LIGHT can be represented as a ray, a
particle, or energy. This is a reality that cannot be denied yet it cannot be
c. A FAMILY includes a son who is subordinate to
his father yet both have equal claim to the family name.
d. The EGG consists of yolk, white, and shell
yet all together make up one egg.
e. WATER can take three forms - solid, liquid,
HUMAN ROLES can be present at the same time in one person (Father,
Professional, church member,).
The HUMAN PERSONA (bearing the image of God) provides an analogy. This
was Augustine’s argument. Our body, personality, and mental capacity are
distinct yet all one person. They are more than aspects of who we are in that
without any one of them we are no longer ourselves.
JOINT TENANCY is a legal contract where three people hold the some
Identical TWINS share the same genetic structure, interests, and
reactions yet are distinct. A CLONE might be an even better analogy where
identity and distinctiveness are uncompromised realities.
SIAMESE TWINS share
some of the same vital organs but yet are distinct in some other respects.
LOVE consists of 1) the
lover, 2) the one loved, 3)the feeling and acts of loving, yet all three are
included in the single concept of love. Augustine.
B. We believe in the trinity not because it is directly
referenced in the Bible but because it is the best explanation of the various
Biblical references to the Godhead.
1. There are other aspects of God’s person that
present similar challenges to our understanding.
God is transcendent and
God is everywhere
present and yet locally manifest.
God is sovereign yet
capable of dynamic relationships.
God is eternal and yet
active in time.
The unity and diversity
in the universe.
God is unity:
“Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one!”;
am the Lord, and there is no other; Besides Me there is no God.”;
“And this is eternal life, that they may know Thee, the only true God, and
Jesus Christ whom Thou has sent.”,
“Holy Father, keep them in Thy name, the name which Thou hast given Me, that
they may be one, even as We are.”;
Tim.2:5 “For there is one God, and one mediator also between God
and men, the man Christ Jesus,”
God is plurality:
“Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image”,
“Then the Lord God said, ‘Behold the man has become like one of Us, knowing
good and evil;”,
“Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand
each other.”(both noun and verb are plural),
“Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will
go for Us?”
c. God is a tri-unity:
“Listen to Me, O Jacob, even Israel whom I called; I am He, I am the first, I
am also the last . . . Come near to Me,
listen to this: From the first I have not spoken in secret, from the time it
took place, I was there. And now the
Lord God has sent Me, and His Spirit.”;
Matt.28:19 “baptizing them in the name
of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.”,
Cor.13:14 “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the
fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all.”
texts where all three members of the Trinity are used together. II Cor.1:21-22;
Gal.3:11-14; 4:6; Rom.14:17-18; Phil.3:3; Col.1:3-8; Eph.3:14-16; I Pet.1:2;
d. The FATHER, SON, and HOLY SPIRIT are each described as God.
1. Jesus is God
“and the Word was God”
“the only begotten God”
“my Lord and my God”
2:13 “of our God and Savior Jesus Christ”
• Jesus’ own self-consciousness.
1. He claimed to
possess what properly belongs only to God. “his angels” Matt.13:41; “his
kingdom” Matt.12:28; “his elect” Mk.13:20;
2. He claimed to be
able to forgive sin - Mk.2:8-10.
2. The Spirit is God
5:3,4 lie to the H.S. --- not to
men, but to God
Cor.3:17,18 “Now the Lord is the Spirit”
e. The Godhead is described as a plurality.
1. The use of plural pronouns points to, or at
least suggests, the plurality of persons within the Godhead in the Old
Testament. “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness...’”
2. The use of the singular word “name” when
referring to God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit indicates a unity within the
threeness of God. “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing
them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”
John 1:2; Rev. 1:8,17
I Peter 1:5
2 Cor. 12:9
I Cor. 2:11
I John 5:6
Creation of World
Gen. 1:2; Job 26:13
Creation of Man
Baptism of Christ
Death of Christ
means that all three are involved in all the works of God.
C. Distinctions between the Father and the Son.
a. Superiority of the
Father: Matt.3:17; Gal.3:26, Acts 17:29
b. Subordination of
the Son: Jn.14:28
a. The Son, a visible
b. The Father, an
invisible Spirit: Jn.1:18, 4:24
a. The Father, as
b. The Son as actor:
D. The Holy Spirit proceeds from
the Father and the Son.
“When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the
Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, He will bear witness of Me, and
you will bear witness also because you have been with Me from the beginning.”
“Thou dost send forth Thy Spirit, they are created; and Thou dost renew the
face of the ground.”
3. I Cor.2:11-12; Gal.4:6; Rom.8:9
E. The logic of the Trinity.
1. The doctrine of the Trinity is a
contradiction only if God is three at the same time He is one and is three in
the same respect as He is one.
a. The three members of the Trinity are the same
in essence. They each are made up of the “divine nature.”
b. The three are distinct in subsistence. They
each display the quality of a distinct individual persona (mask).
The three persons
constitute three centers of consciousness within the one being, capable of
interacting with one another. They are bound together so closely by the
centripetal power of love that they are inseparable.
2. The fact that God is love suggests that
there must be distinct persons in the Godhead for love demands both a subject
(lover) and object (one loved).
It should not surprise
us if we find the Godhead to be beyond our comprehension. If we can imagine a
hierarchy of life forms (grass, dog, human, God) we can quickly see that while
the dog can understand some of the attributes of humans he is unable to
understand many others. So it is not unreasonable for humans to realize that
they cannot understand everything about how the Godhead is constructed.
F. The place of the person’s of the Godhead in our lives.
a. God empathizes with our suffering.
b. God reveals a desire to relate to us
c. God takes the initiative in reaching out to
2. The Atonement
a. God takes sin seriously.
b. God makes a personal sacrifice to demonstrate
justice and love.
Christianity is distinct among other world religions.
Intimacy in prayer and worship are possible because of the Trinity.
5. The Trinity provides a model for
relationships among people.
a. Respecting distinct functions.
b. Equality of worth and value with hierarchy in
How important is the trinity doctrine?
1. The trinity doctrine is
important as an explanation of the Scriptural revelation concerning the nature
of God as revealed in Jesus Christ.
2. I try to avoid references
to the trinity because it is not a doctrine that is clearly developed in
Scripture. I refer to the deity of Christ, the unity of the Godhead, and the
person of the Holy Spirit because this is more closely aligned with the
3. Most cult groups will
digress from the orthodox doctrine of the trinity at one point or another. It
is a good test of orthodoxy.
4. Christians should be
familiar with the careful wording of a definition of the trinity out of respect
for the years of struggle that have surrounded the doctrine.
Fr. Tadros Malaty