Thursday, August 05, 2010

Doctrine of the Trinity - Part 1

To begin this look at the Trinity I would like to look at two historical definitions of the trinity from two of the major confessions. Keep in mind that simply because these confessions support the Trinity does not make the trinity so. It is the biblical support that these confessions are based on and grounded in that makes what these statements say biblical. We simply start here to see how the trinity has been defined and we will look further at this as we move though the subject

From “The 2nd London Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689”
In this divine and infinite Being there are three subsistences, the Father, the Word (or Son), and the Holy Spirit, of one substance, power, and eternity, each having the whole divine essence, yet the essence undivided: the Father is of none, neither begotten nor proceeding; the Son is eternally begotten of the Father; the Holy Spirit proceeding from the Father and the Son; all infinite, without beginning, therefore but one God, who is not to be divided in nature and being, but distinguished by several peculiar, relative properties and personal relations; which doctrine of the Trinity is the foundation of all our communion with God, and comfortable dependence on him.
(1 John 5:7; Matt. 28:19,2; Cor. 13:14; Exod. 3:14; John 14:11; 1 Cor. 8:6; John 1:14,18; John 15:26; Gal. 4:6.)

From “The Westminster Confession of Faith of 1649”
In the unity of the Godhead there be three persons, of one substance, power, and eternity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost. The Father is of none, neither begotten nor proceeding; the Son is eternally begotten of the Father, the Holy Ghost eternally proceeding from the Father and the Son.
(Mat 3:16-17; 28:19; 2 Cor 13:14; 1 John 5:7. John 1:14, 18. John 15:26; Gal 4:6).

A somewhat easier description may be:
Within one Being that is God, there exist eternally three coequal persons, namely, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit

Or as I have often heard Hank Hanegraaff say:   There are three who’s and one what

So why do we need to study the Trinity? Is it not taken for granted? Does not everyone believe in it? Well in short, NO. I have found as I look around the internet and talk to people there are many that deny the Trinity and seem to not think this places them outside the pale of orthodoxy. Some of these may deny the Trinity out of ignorance or having been taught wrongly and they need to be discipled to see the truth of this great doctrine. However there others that teach that the Trinity is false and propagate their heresy where they are able. Some may do this openly such as the Jehovah Witnesses or avoid defining their terms clearly as with the Mormon’s so as to use Trinitarian words but give them decidedly different meanings. But, they do deny its truth. Of more concern are those within the walls of the professing church that teach such heresy and are not held accountable and are often even lauded and followed

As an example from the pulpit; T.D. Jakes is a well known preacher and writer in the evangelical community and while seeking to appear not connected with any denomination he does have connections with the Oneness Pentecostals which are modalists (more on modalsim later) who deny the orthodox definition of the Trinity.

Another example is Benny Him who while often criticized for his “Health and Wealth” doctrine has claimed that the Trinity is actually 9 persons with each person of the trinity having his own personal trinity, see video below.

An example from the sound booth would be Phillips Craig and Dean who are Oneness Pentecostals, Modalists, as well. This is not simply about mistaken individuals but they are all full time minters that happen to sing together and thus by their ministries are to be accountable for teaching heresy. Sadly many listen to their songs and even after finding out that they deny the Trinity justify things by their music being good or the words of a particular song being true. I do not know how many of those that justify their actions would listen to a good song by a Mormon or Jehovah Witness, well today maybe many.

I do not put this out there to simply point out these people but to show that the Trinity, the orthodox view of the Trinity, is not a doctrine that no longer needs to be studied and preached. But that we need even more so in the pluralistic age we live in study and make sure we know the true nature of our God. We need to remember that when we speak of God He is defined by His nature and that nature is Trinitarian. Thus when we speak of Islam, Judaism and others we are not speaking of the same God as they define God’s nature differently.

Sadly there are also so called “Christian” denominations, as alluded to above, that do not hold to the a biblical Trinitarian view of God but for some reason the church as a whole is fearful of calling a heretic a heretic. I think this is where confusion begins in the congregation since if the church does not speak out how are those in its ranks to see the seriousness of the error. This is not so much about labeling but about the correct understanding of God.

As we continue in the study of the Trinity we will get to its proofs but I thought it important to see why we need to study and we will see next why that the church from very early supported and defended this view of God.

Doctrine of the Trinity Series:

Sermon Series on The Doctrine of the Trinity:  Part 1   and   Part 2

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7
Part 8
Part 9
Part 10

(all verses used are from the ESV unless stated otherwise)

1 comment:

Tim Graham said...

Looking forward to your upcoming posts on this. I've been thinking a great deal over the past year about the nature of the oneness between the 3 persons of the Trinity and the ways in which it is the same and different from the unity we have now in the heavenlies with Christ through the Holy Spirit. Praying for you as you think about how to write about this.