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Basic Christianity, Part Four: The Trinity
December 12, 2003
Before we begin this study, let’s quickly recap what we have already learned in previous studies. We began with discussing reasons why it is good and necessary to have an understanding of Christianity. We then turned our attention to defining what God is. We examined His attributes, that He is infinite, eternal and unchangeable, and his various characteristics.
Today we expand our study of God by expanding our definition of God. We will introduce the concept of the Trinity.
Trinity As A Concept
God is one being, but He is manifested in three persons. Admittedly this is a difficult concept, so we will explain in some detail.
To understand this we must differentiate between beings and persons. Though the words may seem synonymous, there are crucial differences between them. We speak of “human beings.” With such a phrase we acknowledge that there is a difference between humans and beings. It would be correct to say that humans are a classification of beings. Similarly, we can say that dogs are a classification of beings (“canine beings”). Any animal or object has being, which is to say it exists and has attributes. We can always ask “what” questions in regards to beings. What color is the dog? What is the dog’s name?
A difference between animals and humans is that with humans we recognize that there are “personal attributes” that allow us to ask not only “what” but also “who.” Personal attributes indicate that a being is capable of having emotion, will and expression. There are three types of beings that have personal attributes: God, angels and humans. It is only these three that can be considered persons.
So returning to our definition of the Trinity, we see that there is one being of God who is shared by three distinct persons. There is one what shared by three who’s.
We must now turn to a discussion of who comprises the Trinity. The answer is that God has revealed Himself in the persons of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit - three persons but one being. Each of the persons is distinct and performs unique functions. Each of the persons fully contains each of the attributes and characteristics we discussed yesterday, so is fully God. Each member of the Trinity is infinite, eternal and unchangeable in His justice; each is infinite, eternal and unchangeable in his wisdom and so on.
We will very briefly look at the roles of each member of the Trinity. Some roles are shared between members, so in these cases we are indicating which member is predominant in the role. Each member of the Trinity will receive more detailed attention later in our series. The Father. The Father created the world and chooses and calls some people to become Christians. The Son. The Son did the work necessary to allow people to become Christians. The Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit helps Christians to live lives pleasing to God.
It is sometimes beneficial to examine certain errors to more fully understand the truth. There are two errors people commonly fall into when discussing the Trinity. We will use fancy names to describe them, though people who hold to these views may not be aware of these terms. It is the understanding, not the name that is important.
Monarchism says that in any grouping there must be a head (or king). It asserts that the Father is greater than the Son or the Holy Spirit. This is incorrect as all three members are equal in power, authority and every other attribute. Within Christendom there are several groups that teach variations of monarchism. This includes, for example, Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Modalism says that God is only one person who plays different roles depending on the situation. This is wrong as God has clearly revealed Himself as three distinct persons.
This concludes our brief introduction to the Trinity. The most important information to retain is that there is one God, but he is consists of three separate, equal, distinct persons, each with His own role. We will, of course, expand on these roles in more detail in later articles. First, though, we will turn our attention to The Bible.