The Doctrine of the Trinity and Christianity

I can guarantee you I am not “missing” anything. In this conversation, I don’t have it wrong and you have it right…we are not arguing what Christians believe, in that case you would be right. We are arguing (or were) the trinity and the old testament. In that conversation my argument is that the Christian view of God and the Holy Spirit as a “person” is flawed. I don’t care if it is historically correct and that “scholars” say this and that, in that case I would argue that man has been historically wrong.

Even if there are some Trinitarians that explain orthodox Trinitarian theology erroneously, I don’t see how that justifies the error of Oneness Pentecostals. Rather it points to the need for correction for both.

I’m not convinced that person’s view expresses the majority beliefs of everyone adhering to Oneness theology. Similar to what I said above, many people in Trinitarian denominations do not understand Trinitarian theology deeply and may fall into error. However, there’s a difference between falling into error out of ignorance and consciously rejecting an orthodox doctrine. This is why I think the role of creeds are important: because they serve as practical guardrails against error and a constant historical reference for people to look into and go back to the orthodox path.

Now, there are other Christian groups that have non-mainstream views of expressing their beliefs about the Trinity, notably the Local Churches movement (started by Watchman Nee). However, after many interactions and discussions, they repudiated modalism and became gradually more accepted among mainstream evangelicals, even if their way of expressing their theology is rather eccentric. So I think here you have a real case of “terms differ but beliefs are substantially the same”.

(I also note that even within traditional Trinitarian theology, the Eastern church tended to use the term hypostasis while the Western preferred prosopon or persons, and some have argued that there is a slight difference in meaning between the two, leading to subtle differences in Eastern and Western Trinitarian theology. But both churches are still regarded as part of the Trinitarian tradition.)

On the other hand, I’m skeptical that the above can apply to Oneness churches, because they consciously reject traditional Trinitarian terminology as “man-made”. My skepticism is also because they hold pretty strong beliefs against the validity of other denominations. Most believe if you don’t speak in tongues or have not been baptized in the name of Jesus only (instead of the Trinity), then you are not saved. Thus it seems to me that Oneness Pentacostals are a different religious movement from orthodox Christianity - their theological differences with mainstream Pentecostals and other evangelicals are more substantial than a disagreement about terminology.

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Then you would say my view of God and the Holy Spirit is wrong? And the Nicene and Athanasian Creeds are wrong?

Why are you more gifted than others in the church to recognize the flaws in what has been orthodoxy?

I have never claimed superiority. I view God and the Holy Spirit as unknowable beings, not persons. That is my only point. You can view God however you like.

Mark, it’s been demonstrated in this thread that you misunderstand what the scholars are trying to convey by the term “person”. How can you disagree about something that you don’t know?

I don’t misunderstand, I disagree with the use of the term “person” because it leads people to have a very shallow view of God, and leads people to concepts like ID and YEC. I think the way that man has “defined God” is in error.

Are you contesting my statement that Trinitarian theologians do not mean “human person” when referring to persons in the Trinity?

These two statements are contradictory.

Now this sounds like polytheism.

My purpose here is only love for you. I think you have amazing Bible knowledge. But the church fought for the doctrine of the Trinity so much because if you have the wrong conception of God you can fall into heresy or idolatry. There is truth about God. All the people running around with their own conceptions of God cannot all be right.

God tells me I must try to correct your error if you’re my brother. I cannot just decide that you can view God how you like and I can view God how I like if we’re both Christians. I would be sinning against you to do so.

Philippians 2

Therefore if there is any [a]consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, 2 fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. 3 Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. 4 Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.

I care enough to explain that God has provided the church to help us when we fall into error. Right now, that’s us. So far, you have not argued your position from Scripture. On what basis then do you know you’re not wrong?

Hi @Mark10.45,

Just a couple of quick questions.

  1. Do you agree that God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit all know you and love you? (I’m sure you can think of many Scriptural passages which say they do.) If your answer is “yes,” then congratulations! You’ve just agreed that they’re persons. Anything that’s capable of knowledge (as in understanding) and love is, by definition, a person.

  2. Do you agree that the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit talk to one another? I’m sure you know the Scriptural passages where the Father and Son address one another as “you,” and where Jesus refers to the Spirit as “he.” If you answered “yes,” then you’ve agreed that they’re not only persons, but distinct persons: they’re not the same as each other.

  3. Do you agree that God has just one Mind and Will? Once again, I’m sure you know the Scriptural passages which refer to “the mind of God” (not “minds”) and “the will of God” (not “wills.”) If the Father, Son and Spirit share the same Mind and Will, then by definition, that makes them one being.

So in God, there are three who know and love, and who talk to one another, but they share a common Mind and Will. That’s the doctrine of the Trinity, in a nutshell. Cheers.

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No I am not contesting how theologians have defined person.

I can disagree without being superior.

I am not polytheist.

I fully agree with this, and am wary of the way the church has defined the trinity. I am also arguing out of love, knowing that the Spirit is in me and that God has called me for a purpose. That purpose is not to conform to the pattern of this world, and at this point I view mans definition of the trinity as three (non-human) persons as worldly. In their effort to make the unknowable knowable, they package and simplify the concept which in turn causes people to stop seeking thinking that they know the truth. If I say to a new Christian that “pick up your cross and follow me” means to go buy a necklace pendant and attend church once a week on Sunday, I have then simplified the meaning and made it more difficult for that person to find truth.

Yes, I get the same message, but I am growing weary as an obvious outsider. But that is also biblical. I do not seek my own interest, I follow Christ.

I seem to be the only one defending scripture. “Trinity” as man has defined it is not in the bible and therefore not scripture. If I were wrong the Holy Spirit would convict me and I would change my stance. If God wanted scripture to be easily understood, He would have made it easy.

How do you know that your conviction about your purpose and about the doctrine of the Trinity is correct? It seems to me just as manmade to me.

If you think that the doctrine of the Trinity claims to “make the unknowable knowable”, you are simply mistaken, Mark. This will become apparent even if you just dig a little deeper. You’ve already admitted that you don’t have a deep understanding of Trinitarian theology. It seems to me that a more appropriate stance is to admit your ignorance and resolve to study further before you reject something?

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I am obviously not being clear, I know the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are one. I will figure out a way to state my position better.

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Not true, my dog is capable of knowing and loving me, and is not a person.

No, I believe that they are one and as such know before they need to speak to each other. I believe that whatever communication occurs in scripture is for our benefit, Jesus was a person without doubt and provided a way for us to connect to the “person” of God. But when I pray to the Father or the Spirit, I am not praying to a person, I don’t ask the Spirit to tell the Father my prayer.

Yes and no. I don’t believe God has a Mind in the sense that humans perceive a mind. I think God is beyond human understanding. God’s will could be defined as our sense of what God wants, which is one will in harmony.

Again, I don’t misunderstand, I disagree with the simplicity and the dangerous doctrine to over-simplify scripture “in a nutshell” as though I am just supposed to agree and move on. I see that your message is simple, and the Spirit in me convicts me to disagree with that simplicity. I understand that everyone here is associated with Academia and that “scholars” and “theologians” are king…I think Jesus is King, and will follow Him.

Ironically, a lot of this is affirmed by orthodox Trinitarian theologians.

Nobody is saying you should just “move on”. It seems that you are interested in being careful about our language in talking about God, and that is a very valid and important concern. (It’s related to a concept called the “doctrine of analogy”.) But that’s exactly what Trinitarian theologians have been seeking to do when formulating the Trinity, and explaining what is meant by the term “person”. My advice is to go deeper into the doctrine of the Trinity. You will discover that a lot of these concerns have been thought of, expressed, articulated by fellow Christians for centuries.

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Great advice for anyone. Best part of the forum is when people kept saying I was wrong, I learned way more from studying an issue. This doctrine I’d like to study more also.

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That’s the plan, I kind of have to on my current path…taking hermeneutics, synoptic gospels and Pauline prison epistles now…I am really not that far from either of you, in fact I would say we all believe the same thing, but I don’t like the way it is packaged for easy consumption…classes are kicking my behind now, don’t have as much time as I did before to respond thoughtfully.

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All of that is awesome. Glad to hear it. I think it’s packaged a certain way to keep people from error, not to make God “easy to consume.” Not possible anyway for finite beings to ever come to full knowledge of God. That’s what’s so wonderful about Him to me.

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The doctrine of the Trinity is part of systematic theology. Many Bible colleges can give you a decent grounding in the Bible, but often for systematic theology you need to read more deeply on your own. Again, I would recommend the above book chapter as a start.

@thoughtful has hit it on the nail here. Once you get deeper into the Trinity it is very easy to fall into heresy of one kind or another. (Remember this thread? A Conversation about the Trinity)

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Which “people” does it lead to a very shallow view of God? Are you talking about everyday churchgoers who don’t have much theological education, and naively take the word “person” to mean what it means in everyday conversation nowadays? Well, yes, they might be misled. But the Greek-educated thinkers who introduced the language of “persons” into the discussion of the nature of God had a great deal of theological education, and they were not using the term “person” as a bus driver in a modern Baptist church might use the term, but as a technical term.

All you have to do is read the original sources – the discussions of the Trinity in the Eastern and Western Fathers (have you read any of those original sources, by the way?) – to see that their understanding of “God” is anything but “shallow”. It’s in fact a much deeper and more complex understanding of God than is held by typical American free-church Protestants. But if you don’t take the time to understand how they use technical terms like “person” and “substance”, you won’t see just how deep and complex it is.

The YECs here can speak for themselves, but regarding ID, ID is not and does not pretend to be a Christian theology, and it has no responsibility to articulate a deep and thorough concept of God. That is a job for the churches and the theologians. ID investigates only one facet of God – and even then, only indirectly, since it doesn’t directly address “God” – God’s mind or plan as revealed in the structures of the natural world.

I suspect that underlying your remarks is some notion that describing God as a “person” makes God into an anthropomorphic or “mythological” deity such as Zeus, whereas God is beyond such limitations. And of course all Christians agree that God is not merely another version of Zeus, but something much deeper. But the very Trinitarian theologians you are criticizing certainly did not hold to a “mythological” conception of God, and did not think of him as just a super-Zeus. Nor do ID proponents – most of whom who are Christian, and quite often very orthodox members of their various denominations – think that God is nothing but a super-Zeus, or that his being or activity is exhausted in designing the world. Your objections seem to be based on a misunderstanding of what the Early Church Fathers were trying to do, and of what ID is about.

Daniel Ang, though a physicist by training, seems to have acquired a good understanding of classical Christian theology, and as someone trained in the history of Christian thought myself, I can recommend his comments as worthy of further thought and study on your part. There are also innumerable good books on early Church doctrine, the Trinity, etc., written by scholars of Orthodox, Catholic, Anglican, Reformed, etc. persuasion, which comment on the Fathers and the development of Christian doctrine on this subject. If you want references to some works I have found helpful, I can give you some.

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