Can you explain the concept of trinity? While Muslims believe in the Torah which we Christians and Jews do as well, they believe in a indivisible God. How can God be one yet be called trinity?
Ihave already answered this question at the web site. I am copying and pasting a quick answer, as well as some fairly detailed notes on the trinity below that. It is difficult to defend the trinity as a logical concept, but it is clearly and unmistakeably taught in the New Testament (John 1:1).
|What is the origin of the doctrine of the trinity?|
|Question: Can you please explain the origin of the trinity belief to me?
The extremely brief answer to your question is that origin of the doctrine of the trinity is the teaching of Jesus and the New Testament (with a little bit of support from the Old Testament).
However, this is a grossly simplified and to some extent even misleading answer, so you deserve quite a bit better than that.
The doctrine of the trinity, as defined by the Nicene Creed (AD 325) confirmed by the Council of Constantinople (AD 381) and amplified somewhat by the Council of Calchedon (AD 451) is that the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are of the same substance (Greek homoiousis). Jesus is fully human and fully God, as worked out at Calchedon. Jesus, while in the body on the earth was one person with two natures, both divine and human completely joined and unified. Here is an extended quote from Calchedon:
We should confess that our Lord Jesus is one and the same Son; the same perfect in Godhead and the sme perfect in manhood, truly God and truly man, the same of a rational soul and body; consubstantial with the Father in Godhead and the same consubstantial with us in manhood; like us in all things except sin; begotten of the Father before all ages as regards to his Godhead and in the last days the same, for us and for our salvation… Later the church completed the process to say without ambiguity that the Holy Spirit is also consubstatial with the Father and the Son.
These creeds were hammered out over a nearly two hundred year period by the church. In the process, teachings eventually considered heretical, such as those of Arian (Jesus is a great but created being) or that (supposedly) of Nestor (that the humanity of Jesus is separate somehow from the divinity of Jesus–with the divinity being more essential) were pronounced by the biships to be incorrect. The first we know of to use the word Trinity was Tertullian in the first decade of the third century. He argued even at this early date that the trinity were consubstantial (ie of one substance).
Perhaps the best question we can ask is whether this doctrine, as defined by the Orthodox Christian Church in the third through fifth centuries is indeed true and biblical. Because you did not ask this question, I will leave you to think carefully and deeply about that. I believe that it is conceivable that the church overly defined the "trinity" ie overly defined the nature of the relationship between Father Son and Spirit, but I see nothing in this creed which contradicts the Scripture. I have studied the process by which these creeds were created fairly carefully. My conclusion is that the Church fathers put into relatively concrete form what was more or less the general thinking of the church from the beginning, although the words to express the nature of God were developed over a period of time.
John Oakes, PhD
A. The Trinity.
This was, arguably, the biggest apologetic problem for the church in the first three centuries.
A special problem with Muslims!!!! We are accused of being polytheists or tritheists. To the Muslim, the Christian idea of Trinity is a scandal! Is this true?
Let me be honest here, I believe we as Christians are vulnerable on this front. Let me share why.
The "Trinity" is not logical!
John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…. 1:14 The Word became flesh and took up residence among us.
To the Greeks, the idea that God would become flesh was outrageous. Their God was distant, removed, unchangeable, incapable of emotion, etc…
As is the "god" of Islam, Hinduism, etc.
John 1:14 The Word became flesh and tabernacled (feast of booths) among us.
How could this be?
Answer: This is a mystery!!!! Do not tempt to rationalize it!!!!
All other religions in the world have us groping toward God and a distant God sending emanations toward us.
Who reaches out to whom?
Works salvation: Man reaches out to a distant "god." Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, Jain, Sikkhism, Islam, etc.
Grace salvation: God reaches out to man: (Judaism) Christianity
The Trinity: God reaches out to us.
Apologetics of the Trinity:
•n Bottom line, the trinity is a mystery. We cannot defend it as a logical concept.
About the trinity: "It’s not logical it’s Godgical" P. Chacon
Christian theology is not always rational, but it is never irrational.
The Trinity, as other aspects of God is a mystery.
‘‘Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great:
He [God] appeared in the body,
was vindicated by the Spirit,
Was seen by angels,
was preached among the nations,
Was believed on in the world,
was taken up in glory”.
[A possible "early creed" of the church]
This scripture is telling us that we cannot completely understand the infinite God with our finite minds.
[Mystery: Romans 16:25 gospel a mystery, Ephesians 1:9, Ephesians 3:3-9 The Messiah a mystery, Colossians 1:26-27 the mystery: Christ in you Colossians 2:2 Christ a mystery]
We will get into trouble if we try to make God "reasonable", or "easily understood". God is complex. His thoughts are higher than our thoughts as the prophet pointed out in
Isaiah 55: 9
"As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Nevertheless, God has made a revelation of Himself in the Bible, which we can accept or reject as we please.
1 Corinthians 1:19-20
The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing. Greeks look for wisdom. "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise." Where is the philosopher? Where is the debater of this age? Hasn’t God made the world’s wisdom foolish?
Ezekiel 18:25 God does not defend his justice system as logical.
Scriptures which support monotheism:
- "There is no one like Yahweh our God." Exodus 8:10
- "Yahweh, He is God; there is no other besides Him." Deuteronomy 4:35
- "Yahweh, He is God in heaven above and on the earth below; there is no other." Deuteronomy 4:39
- "See now that I, I am He, And there is no god besides Me" Deuteronomy 32:39
- "Hear, O Israel! Yahweh is our God, Yahweh is one [echad]!" Deuteronomy 6:4
- "You are great, O Lord God; for there is none like You, and there is no God besides You" 2 Samuel 7:22
- "For who is God, besides Yahweh? And who is a rock, besides our God?" 2 Samuel 22:32
- "Yahweh is God; there is no one else." 1 Kings 8:60
- "…You are the God, You alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth…" 2 Kings 19:15
- "O Lord, there is none like You, nor is there any God besides You" 1 Chronicles 17:20
- "You alone are Yahweh." Nehemiah 9:6
- "For who is God, but Yahweh? And who is a rock, except our God" Psalm 18:31
- "You alone, Lord, are God." Isaiah 37:20
- "Before Me there was no God formed, And there will be none after Me." Isaiah 43:10
- "‘I am the first and I am the last, And there is no God besides Me." Isaiah 44:6
- "Is there any God besides Me, Or is there any other Rock? I know of none." Isaiah 44:8
- "I am Yahweh, and there is no other; Besides Me there is no God." Isaiah 45:5
- "Surely, God is with you, and there is none else, No other God." Isaiah 45:14
- "I am Yahweh, and there is none else." Isaiah 45:18
- "Is it not I, Yahweh? And there is no other God besides Me, A righteous God and a Savior; There is none except Me." Isaiah 45:21
- "I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me" Isaiah 46:9
- "And Yahweh will be king over all the earth; in that day Yahweh will be the only one, and His name the only one." Zechariah 14:9
- "The foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; " Mark 12:29
- "you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God?" John 5:44
- "I and the Father are one." John 10:30
- "This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God" John 17:3
- "The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one" John 17:22
- "since indeed God is one" Romans 3:30
- "to the only wise God, Amen." Romans 16:27
- "there is no God but one" 1 Corinthians 8:4
- "yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him." 1 Corinthians 8:6
- "Now a mediator is not for one party only; whereas God is only one." Galatians 3:20
- "There is one body and one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all." Ephesians 4:4-6
- "You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder." James 2:19
- "Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God" 1 Timothy 1:17
- "which He will bring about at the proper time-He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see. To Him be honor and eternal dominion! Amen." 1 Timothy 6:16
- "For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus," 1 Timothy 2:5
Jesus is God: The Deity of Jesus
Jesus created the universe
1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.
2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe.
16 For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning.
John 1:3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.
John 8:56-58 Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad."
"You are not yet fifty years old," the Jews said to him, "and you have seen Abraham!"
"I tell you the truth," Jesus answered, "before Abraham was born, I am!"
Col 2:9: the fullness of deity For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form,
Heb 1:3: The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.
Jn 14:8-10: He who sees Me sees the Father.
Philip said, "Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us." 9 Jesus answered: "Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.
Jesus is called God
Heb 1:8 When God brings his firstborn into the world, he says, "Let all God’s angels worship him." In speaking of the angels he says, "He makes his angels winds, his servants flames of fire." But about the Son he says, "Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever, and righteousness will be the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy."
Phil 2:6-8 Jesus existed in the form of God. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
Jn 20:28 ‘My Lord and My God’ Thomas said to him, "My Lord and my God!"
Isa 7:14 ‘A Child Will Be Born And His Name Is Called "Emanuel: God with us"
Isa 9:6 "A Child Will Be Born And His Name Is Called "Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace"
•n The "apologetics" of the trinity is that God became a man so that he could reach out to us-so that we could know Him.
•n Tertullian AD 160-220 Coined the word "trinity" about AD 200
•n The Father and the Son are different "not in condition, but in degree; not in substance, but in form; not in power, but in aspect"
Q: Is the trinity biblical?
No, it is Tertullianical.
Q: What is the doctrine of the Trinity?
Early developments in Christian theology were motivated by two things:
1. Apologetics in response to Greek philosophical criticism of Christianity.
2. Answering challenges to orthodox theology from heretical teachers.
A second century Roman creed (said at baptism)
I believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, and in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord, and in the Holy Ghost, the holy church and the resurrection of the flesh.
The Greek problem: God cannot change. For them it was very difficult to accept God taking on flesh.
God cannot change and God cannot feel emotions.
Greek critics: How can God become a baby? Who was taking care of the universe while God was an infant?
Did Jesus know he was God when he was 5 years old?
Was Jesus able to work miracles when he was 3 years old?
What happened at Jesus’ baptism?
To what extent did Jesus limit his divine power while in the body?
Most or all the heresies in the first five centuries were attempts to make the trinity rational. The lesson: We should not try to make the trinity rational?
Well, then, how do we defend it?
The Word of God became flesh!!!! God dwelt among us. God came to us so that we could come to him!!!
1. Ebionites: (poor ones) A mainly Jewish sect which claimed Jesus was a mere man. Theodotus, Artemon.
1. Adoptionism: deity came upon a human being Jesus by adoption at his baptism and left some time before the crucifixion. Before this event, Jesus was a human being. Period. Then he was "adopted" as the Son of God at his baptism.
Many adoptionists deny the virgin birth
Ebionites (poor ones), Theodotus, Artemon Mark 1:10
Q: How should we think about this? When did Jesus acquire knowledge that he was God?
Luke 2:41-51. Jesus aware he is special.
Gnostics: Cerinthus. Jesus a "demiurge" an emanation of God
The church saw all these as descended from Simon Magus.
God entered the person we know of as Jesus at his baptism. God left Jesus before his crucifixion.
Docetists: literally "to appear."
Jesus was wholly divine. He did not have a human nature at all. He only seemed to be human.
Marcion 2nd century.
Origen tended in this direction. God’s nature cannot change. How can the divine become human?
Patripassianism; It was God the Father who was born of Mary.
Arianism: (Jehovah’s Witness today) Jesus was a created being. He was not merely man, but he was not deity.
The Church Councils settled these issues.
For example Council of Nicea AD 325 settled the Arian heresy
Fatherhood, sonhood and spirit are different modes of the one person, appropriate to the situation.
Jesus has one nature, and that is divine. "Two natures before the (hypostatic) union, but after it, one nature. Reduced humanity of Jesus to a shell. "God in a bod."
Two separate persons in Jesus: one divine, one human.
Doctrine of the Trinity:
Nicaea AD 325
The question of Arianism. Jesus is fully divine. He is of the same substance (consubstantial) with the Father.
Arius said Jesus was of a similar nature
Nicene Creed (actually published after Constantinople)
We 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 Son of God, 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 (homoousios, of the same substance, consubstantial) with the Father, by whom all things were made.
Who, for us men and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.
And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life; who proceeds from the Father and the Son; who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; who spoke by the prophets.
And I believe one holy catholic and apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; and I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.
Of the same essence homoousios vs of similar essence homoiousious
Constantinople AD 381 Confirmed Nicaea. Holy Spirit also consubstantial (or one substance) with the Father and the Son. (less important because the Roman bishop did not attend. The Western church virtually uninvolved.
Ephesus AD 431 Jesus has both a human and a divine nature, but is one person.
Antioch (two natures) versus Alexandria (two natures, but later one nature)
Condemned Nestorianism. Deposed Nestorius, bishop of Constantinople. Emphasized the human nature of Jesus as separate from his divine nature. Nestorius: The "one nature" is his divine nature. Two natures before the union but one nature after the union.
Condemned Pelagius, in favor with Augustine. Pelagius supposedly said that salvation is at least in part a matter of human effort-that grace alone is not sufficient for salvation.
Chalcedon AD 451
After a thoroughly embarrassing "Robber Synod," at which armed monks of the Alexandrine school intimidated the Antiochenes and an emmisary of Leo was beaten to death, a council was called. It confirmed the council of Ephesus and more carefully defined the "two natures" doctrine.
"In agreement with the holy fathers we all unanimously teach that we should confess that our Lord Jesus Christ is one and the same Son; the same perfect in Godhead and the same perfect in manhood, truly God and truly man, the same of a rational soul and body; consubstantial with the Father in Godhead and the same consubstantial with us in manhood; like us in all things except sin; begotten of the Father before all ages as regards his Godhead and in the last days the same, for us and for our salvation, begotten of the Virgin Mary, the theotokos (as opposed to the Christotokos of the Nestorians) (the God-bearer, the mother of God) as regards his manhood; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, only-begotten, made known in two natures without confusion, without change, without division, without separation; the difference of the natures being by no means removed because of the union but the property of each nature being preserved and coalescing in one person and one substance, not parted or divided into two persons but one and the same Son, only begotten, divine Word, the Lord Jesus Christ; as the prophets of old and Jesus Christ himself have taught us about him, and the creed of fathers has handed down.
Believe it or not, the framers of this formula fully intended to leave the nature of Jesus as a mystery.
Without confusion, without change protects against Monophysitism, which teaches that Jesus’ nature changed when he took on human form. Monophysite = one nature (only the divine nature) This became the Coptic Church. This was the Alexandrine position.
Without division, without separation protects against Nestorianism, which would make a distinction between the divine and the human nature of Jesus-separating Jesus into two persons. This was the Antiochine position.
Thus, the Council declared that in Christ there are two natures; each retaining its own properties, and together united in one subsistence(hypostasis) and in one single person.
The "hypostatic union"
As the precise nature of this union is held to defy finite human comprehension, the hypostatic union is also referred to by the alternative term "mystical union."
Which nature of Jesus was tempted by sin? Could Jesus be tempted by sin before he took on a body?
Such things may best be kept as a mystery