Question – Is the Trinity Biblical?
Answer – Let me see if I can help you with your understanding of the trinity.
I will point to some scriptures that show the writers were trinitarians themselves. But before I do, let me say this. While the word “trinity” is not found in scripture, well, the word “Bible” is not in scripture either. The word “trinity” started to get thrown around in 180 AD, though some scriptures do reflect the trinity in action.
One thing we have to appreciate is that God is so far above us we mine as well be talking about how far above the earth the stars are. Sometimes our faith is not just about believing if God is real, but when we are past that, faith may just be about believing God is who He says He is.
Just because the trinity is hard to understand, should not make it hard to believe. For example, I don’t know how the internet works, but I use it everyday. What I mean is, I know how to use the internet, but if you gave me all the time in the world, I could not build my own internet. I get the general idea of how it works, but I don’t know enough to make my own. Or cell phones for that matter. I use one every day, but I could not build you one with all the time and all the plastic on earth. I would not be able to figure out how to project my voice onto the air silently, so that it bounces off a satellite in space, and then redirected to exactly where I want it to go, and come out of a speaker (which I could also not recreate) and sound exactly like my voice as I say the exact words I say. All of these things blow my mind, but I know they do work, and that I can trust them to work when I need them to.
The trinity may be much the same way. Author C.S Lewis explained it better then anybody I have read in Mere Christianity. Let me quote him here.
“You know that in space you can move in three ways – to left or right, backwards or forwards, up or down. Every direction is either one of these three or a compromise between them. They are called the three Dimensions. Now notice this. If you are using only one dimension, you could draw only a straight line. If you are using two; you could draw a figure: say, a square. And a square is made up of four straight lines. Now a step further. If you have three dimensions, you can then build what we call a solid body: say, a cube – a thing like a dice or a lump of sugar. And a cube is made up of six squares.
Do you see the point? A world of one dimension would be a straight line. In a two-dimensional world, you still get straight lines, but many lines make one figure. In a three-dimensional world, you still get figures but many figures make one solid body. In other words, as you advance to more real and more complicated levels, you do not leave behind you the things you found on the simpler levels: you still have them, but combined in new ways – in ways you could not imagine if you knew only the simpler levels.
Now the Christian account of God involves just the same principle. The human level is a simple and rather empty level. On the human level one person is one being, and any two persons are two separate beings – just as, in two dimensions (say on a flat sheet of paper) one square is one figure, and any two squares are two separate figures. On the Divine level you still find personalities; but up there you find them combined in new ways which we, who do not live on that level, cannot imagine. In God’s dimension, so to speak, you find a being who is three Persons while remaining one Being, just as a cube is six squares while remaining one cube. Of course we cannot fully conceive a Being like that: just as, if we were so made that we perceived only two dimensions in space we could never properly imagine a cube. But we can get a sort of faint notion of it. And when we do, we are then, for the first time in our lives, getting some positive idea, however faint, of something super-personal – something more than a person. It is something we could never have guessed, and yet, once we have been told, one almost feels one ought to have been able to guess it because it fits in so well with all the things we know already.
You may ask, ‘if we cannot imagine a three-personal Being, what is the good of talking about Him?’ Well, there isn’t any good talking about Him. The thing that matters is being actually drawn into that three-personal life, and that may begin any time”
The father is God, the son is God, the holy spirit is God, and yet there are not three gods, they are all one God
Judaism was a monotheistic faith, which made them stand out in their day of mostly polytheistic religions.
Deuteronomy 6:4 – Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one
The New Testament also makes direct claims to God being the only one
- John 5:44 – How can you believe since you accept glory from one another but do not seek the glory that comes from the only God
- Romans 3:30 – since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith.
- 1 Timothy 1:17 – Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.
- James 2:19 – You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.
Yet the creation account in Genesis has god referring to himself as WE when he says
- Genesis 1:26- And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness
- We read of God the creator in Genesis 1:1-3
- Genesis 1:2 we read of The Spirit of God hovering over the waters
- The words “and God said” are all over the creation account showing God created through His Word: ie John 1
- Thus, God the Father, God the Word/Son, and God the Spirit were all there in the beginning
We also see God refer to Himself as “us” in Isaiah.
Isaiah 6:8 – Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”
The early Christians were faced with some historical events that revolutionized their understanding of God. They witnessed Jesus life, his ministry, his miracles, his death, and his resurrection, and could not help but to worship Him as God
John 20:28 – Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
And yet they completely rejected the polytheistic patterns of the Roman world
They came to see him as a man whose identity was God, and yet who was not identical with God.
Then, starting on the day of Pentecost after Jesus resurrection, they experienced the Holy Spirit which led them out of the realms of human experience, being caught up in a direct relationship with the Godhead.
They realized that the Holy Spirit was identified with God and Jesus, and yet was not identical to either of them.
They believed in the deity of the Father, and the deity of the Son, and the Deity of the Holy Spirit, and that there is only one God.
We know John is familiar with God being one, but opens up his gospel introducing Jesus and the Father as one. John referred to Jesus as “The Word of God that became flesh” in John 1: 1-3 & 14. So we know who John is referring to when he used the phrase “the Word” again in 1st John 5:7
1st John 5:7 – For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.
Baptism is done in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit as commanded by Jesus himself in Matthew 28:19, who was the biggest advocate of God is one. And a great example of the triune Godhead working together would be at the baptism of Jesus, where the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus in the shape of a dove, after the Heavenly Father spoke from the sky saying “this is my Son, whom with I am pleased”
Paul says things that sound trinitarian in examples like
In 2 Corinthians 13:14 Paul writes “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen.”
These texts may not say the words “doctrine of the Trinity” but they do point strongly to it.
Another example of Paul as a trinitarian is in
Ephesians 2:18 – For through him (Jesus) we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.
When we are filled with the Holy Spirit we give thanks to God the father, and are equipped to serve the Father, in the name of Jesus Christ.
More from Paul, 1 Corinthians 12:4-6 – There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.
Peter also sounds trinitarian in 1 Peter 1: 1-2 – To God’s elect, …….. 2 who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to be obedient to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with his blood:
In spite of all these early church fathers clearly trinitarian views, there is no clear creed or statement. They just simply experienced it, and understood it. The doctrine was only defined later to defend against heretical views.
Let us not be distracted by the fact that the trinity is incomprehensible, and end up thinking that it is unbelievable.
It is no surprise that what little has been revealed about the true nature of God is impossible for us to wrap our heads around in this dimension.
St Augustine of Hippo in the 4th and 5th centuries wrote over 15 volumes on the topic of the trinity, writing some of the most profound statements in all history, and yet barely scratched the surface of the matter.
St Augustine said “If you can understand it, it is not God” meaning that if think you understand this, you probably have it wrong.
He did not mean that we should not attempt to understand it, or he would not have written 15 volumes on it. He only meant that there will always be an element of mystery to it.
Human language does not have the words to express it. Any analogy will fail to explain the trinity and can be accurately called a heresy by somebody, because all analogies will fail to express the truth without some limitation.
Also, we are limited in our ability to understand.
Like if I tried to explain the internet to an ant, the ant would not be able to understand it, even if I did have the words to explain it in ant language.
This is why the trinity seems like a paradox to us.
For example, light is understood as both a particle, and as a wave. But how could it be both? Until the Quantum Theory explained it, we thought of the issue as a paradox and contradiction. Now, Quantum theory explains both. With the trinity, we need three explanations for the one issue.
At the end of the day, I would rather experience the trinity then be able to explain it though.
Now with light, we can use it every day, without needing to understand it as a particle or as a wave, or an understanding of quantum theory at all. We can just recognize it and use it.
I hope this has helped you in your walk with the Lord. I look forward to our next correspondence.