So Nimm Denn Meine Hande...

Saturday, November 11, 2006

The fruits of an afternoon of work...

I wrote an explanation of the Trinity for a friend this afternoon who was trying to understand it enough to explain it to a friend of his who doesn't get it. Anyway, I hate doing HUGE projects like that becasue you're never satisfied with what you've got, but once you're done you can say "Hmmm. Maybe I can at least blog that and have a good post out of it!" HA! So here's some thoughts on Trinitarianism for y'all:


How would one explain the Trinity? Well, that’s a good question baby. In a nutshell, one has to look at the scriptures. The scriptures paint a significant picture, showing how the Father is God, the Son is God and the Spirit is God. The Scripture is exceedingly clear how Christ is God, and this one statement has a lot of textual evidence, with basically every attribute that is ascribed to God being ALSO ascribed to Christ:

Jesus is God of very God and he is deity in his very essence. (Col 1:19; Heb 1:3; John 8:58, 10:30). In being very God of very God, Jesus shares divine attributes with God. God is the creator of all things (Gen 1:31; Eph 3:9; Neh 9:6; Ps 102:25; Acts 14:15; Heb11:3), though Jesus is the creative agent of the Trinity (John 1:3; Col 1:16; Heb 1:2). God is everlasting (Ps 90:2,135:13; 2 Pe 3:8) and Christ is everlasting (John 1:1-2, 8:58; Heb 7:23-25). God is the sovereign and rules over all (1 Chr 29:12; 2 Chr 20:6; Ps 29:10, 47:2-3; Acts 17:24; Rev 19:6) while Christ will also rule over all, though his earthly reign has not yet commenced (Rev 1:5, 17:14, 19:16, 22:3; Heb 2:8). God is unchanging, nor can he change (James 1:17; Ps 102:27; Malachi 3:6) and Christ does not change (Heb 13:8). God is omnipresent (Deut 4:39; Isaiah 66:1; Ps 139:7-10; Prov 15:3) and yet Christ, in his divinity, is also omnipresent (Matt 18:20, 28:20. Col 3:11). God is omnipotent (Job 42:2; Is. 43:13; Matt 19:26) and yet Christ is also omnipotent (John 2:1-11, 2:19-22, 5:19, 11:43-44; Luke 7:14-15 Matt 8:26-27;Phil 3:20-21; Rev 1:8). God is omniscient (Job 31:4; Ps 147:5; Heb. 4:13; 1 John 3:20) and Christ also is omniscient (Mark 2:8; John 2:23-25, 6:64, 16:30, 21:27; Col 2:3; Rev 2:2-13, 3:1-15). God is the judge of the world (Ps 58:11; Ecc 3:17; Heb 12:23) and yet Christ will judge the world (Matt 25:31-46 John 5:22-23; Acts 10:42, 17:30-31; Rom 2:16; 2 Tim 4:1). God is faithful (Deut. 7:9; Prov. 36:5; 1 Cor.1:9; 1 Pet.4:19) and Christ is also faithful (2 Tim 2:13; Heb 10:23; Rev 19:11). God is holy (Ex. 15:11; Ps 99:9; Isaiah 6:3; Rev. 4:8, 15:4) and Christ is holy (Luke 1:35; Acts 3:14). God is righteous (Ezra 9:15; Ps 145:17) and Christ is righteous (1 John 2:1; Acts 3:14). God is true (John 17:3) and Christ is true (Rev 19:11). God is love (1 John 4:8) and Christ is the embodiment of the love of God (1 John 3:16; John 13:1; Rom 8:35-39; Eph 3:19). God is merciful (Ex. 34:6-7; Ps 86:5) and Christ is also full of mercy (James 5:11; Jude 21). God is the most high (Ps. 83:18; Acts 7:48) and Christ is exalted above everything (Phil 2:9). God is perfect (Matt 5:48) and Christ also is perfect (Heb 2:10, 5:9, 7:28). God is glorious (Ex.15:11; Ps 145:5) and Christ also is glorious (John 1:14, 17:5). God is compassionate (2 Ki 13:23) and Christ is also compassionate ( Matt 9:36, 14:14, 15:32, 20:34, 23:37; Mark 1:41; Luke 7:13; John 11:35).

That’s not the say that there isn’t sufficient textual evidence ascribing divine characteristics to the Holy Spirit. Many of those characteristics are spoken of in regard for the Spirit too. The Spirit is eternal (Heb. 9:14). The Spirit is omnipresent (Psalm 138:7-10). The Spirit is Holy (Rom. 1:4, Eph. 4:30). The Spirit is Love (Rom 5:5, Gal. 5:22, Col 1:8). The Spirit is omnipotent (:Luke 1:35; Acts 1:8, 2:1-4, 2:17-21, 4:31-33).

The spirit is also a person, like the Father and the Son. Scripture tells us that the Spirit has intellectual capacities (John 14:26, 15:26, 16:7, 16:13; 1 Cor. 2:10), feels emotion (Is. 63:10, Eph 4:30), communicates propositionally (Matt 10:20, John 16:13, 1 Cor 12:3) and has a will (Gen 6:3, Is. 63:10, 1 Cor. 12:11). The Spirit is called the paraclete in the scripture, which means “counselor” and is a personal title (John 14:16, 14:26, 15:26, 16:5)

The New Testament comments that in the Old Testament, when the Israelites were provoking God, they were provoking the Holy Spirit (Heb. 3:7-9). Beyond that, the Holy Spirit is often spoken of in the same breath with both God and Christ as being co‑equal with God and Christ (Mt. 28:19, Acts 5:34, 1 Cor. 12:4‑6, 2 Cor. 13:14).

So, what one is left with is a logical question. If the Father is God and the Son is God and the Spirit is God, but they’re all separate persons, what does a person do? Well, one either dismisses certain scriptures in the light of others or one becomes Trinitarian. The first 500 years of church history show how this development of Trinitarianism came about, but in a nutshell:

The Father is fully God.

The Son is fully God.

The Spirit is fully God.

None of them absorb or exclude the other

None of them dominate or subjugate the other

None of them are the derivation or source of the other

None of them is independent from the other

None of them are dependant on the other

The Triune God is a perfect being that is perfect in power, knowledge, wisdom, sensation, passion, love, will and morale purity. “Who is like the LORD our God, the One who sits enthroned on high?” (Psalm 113:5).

One phrase has been used – three persons of one essence.

The Trinity is one essence; one substance that is made up of three separate beings, three persons.

Beyond that, there’s a few difficult to overcome logical oppositions to any sort of non-Trinitarian positions:

1. If God is not triune, then he cannot be love. If God is completely perfect in himself, and needs nothing from man, then before he had created man, he would have needed someone to be loving to. If there wasn’t anyone for him to love (as in the other persons in the trinity), then God is flawed and needs man (or something in creation) in order to be loving. If God requires anything or anyone for either existence or expression of any of his moral characteristics, he’s neither perfect nor holy.

2. If Jesus wasn’t God, then he didn’t have authority to forgive sins (that belongs to God the Father, and the Pharisees well knew that, which is one of the things that so shocked them about Christ. Matthew 9:1-8, Mark 2:1-12 and Luke 5:17-26 give the account of the event I’m referring to.)…

3. If the Spirit isn’t God, then he cannot perfectly reveal the Father to mankind (he wouldn’t have perfect knowledge of the Father and could, albeit infinitesimally small, be mistaken in his knowledge of the Father. I.E. the Spirit could lie about God out of ignorance. 1 Corinthians 2:11-16 comments on this as well as John 16:12-15.).

4. If the Spirit is somehow not God, then God uses a flawed intermediary in the economy of Salvation. If the Holy Spirit convicts of sin, grants understanding and faith, and renews the mind, and somehow is not “the very God of very God”, God is using a less than perfect intermediary for his project of salvation, and thereby chancing his own glory on some else’s incompetence. Salvation is certain (100% and not 99.9999999999%), only and exclusively if the Spirit is God. (If there’s even the most remote shred of doubt in the economy of salvation, Romans 8:29-39 is using definitive language incorrectly; it is lying. Beyond that, Eph 1:13-14 say that the Spirit is a guarantee of our future inheritance. If there is a shred of doubt, even infinitesimally, then there’s really no guarantee.).

I don’t use analogies with the Trinity to describe it, as every analogy falls short. I recommend simply to give a person the tension of scripture and every time they attempt to logically leap around the scripture into some form of subordinational relationship or historical heresy, or any other simplistic systemization, shut them down. I’m sorry if this isn’t the “magic explanation”, but the Trinity is definitely the most difficult piece of doctrine to get your thumb on.


Enjoy thinking huge thoughts. Until Next Time,

The Armchair Theologian


Blogger Jen2 said...

Thanks for putting those down in one place armchair.
Praise the Lord ~

10:46 AM

Blogger Craver VII said...

Ai que bueno! I have been in a long-term dialog with a few Jehovah's Witnesses, so I'll have to glean some good stuff from this here post. I expect to see them again this Wednesday night at 7PM Central Time. If you think about it, I would appreciate your prayers.

11:59 AM

Blogger Craver VII said...

Having read it, I liked it.

Okay, if you're up to it:
I'm in a long-term continuing dialog with JW's. How would you answer them about the subordination of Christ to the Father?

Sheesh! I'm tired of looking at my avitar already, but it's the only face shot I have that doesn't look like a terrorist.

7:49 PM

Blogger The Armchair Theologian said...

Forgive me, but I'm not sure what you're asking EXACTLY. The subordination of the Son and the Father is a rather volumous topic.

What's the SPECIFIC question?

(In General, I'd say that Jesus prayed to the Father and did what the Father told him to do; he came to fulfill prophecy and exalt the word of the Father.

BUT, Christ is also spoken of as the one who will execute judgement upon the world, as well as he who forviges sins, and the Jews all knew that those two statements were clear deity claims, for those offices were reserved for the father. I don't have 20 scriptures for those off the top of my head, but I have them somewhere if you want.)

8:47 AM

Blogger Craver VII said...

I guess I have never really thought deeply about it, but the JW’s deny that Jesus and the Father are of the same nature or essence, and one of the reasons they offer is that Jesus says that the Father is greater and that he only does the Father’s will. I suppose I have always considered each member of the trinity as equal to each other, because they share one nature, but then, why does Jesus say that the Father is greater than he?

I'm not suggesting that you should invest a bunch of time to answer this, it was just something I threw at you because of this post. I must still exercise my responsibility to do my own digging for answers.

10:14 AM

Blogger michael lewis said...

Good article.

Although perhaps a bit lofty for common folk. ??

Suggestion: create a corporate metaphor. A corporation is a person within western law, as are the employees of the corporation. I am merely a worker, and also a person, and the company I work for is also a person, and I represent that person, and that person represents me.

It's got potential. More than the cherry pie analogy.

But what of the triple point?

9:50 PM

Blogger The Armchair Theologian said...

Well, like I said. I don't use any analogies or metaphors with the Trinity. God doesn't use them in scripture, and history is chalked full of heresies that came from misunderstandings of metaphors. I'm sorry bro, but that's just where I'm at.

God simply presents the tension in scripture and leaves some open mystery, so I'm sticking with what I've been given.

And lofty for common folk?

I don't know. There's a fair amount of pretty biblical literate and cognitively capable people around here, and the guy I wrote it for is used to me not holding back at all. What do y'all think?


Too "lofty" for you? I'd be interested to know if I'm talking over all your heads. Hmmm. Interesting question though Michael.

10:36 PM


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