Lecture 12 the trinity
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Lecture 12: The Trinity. Definition and Meaning of Trinity Historical Overview of the Trinity: Descriptions of the Trinity: Biblical Proofs of the Trinity: Illustrations of the Trinity. Definition of Trinity Dallas Theological Seminary Catalogue, 2000-2001, pg. 155.

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Lecture 12: The Trinity

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Lecture 12 the trinity

Lecture 12: The Trinity

  • Definition and Meaning of Trinity

  • Historical Overview of the Trinity:

  • Descriptions of the Trinity:

  • Biblical Proofs of the Trinity:

  • Illustrations of the Trinity


Definition of trinity dallas theological seminary catalogue 2000 2001 pg 155

Definition of TrinityDallas Theological Seminary Catalogue, 2000-2001, pg. 155

We believe that the Godhead eternally exists in three persons-the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit-and that these three are one God, having precisely the same nature, attributes, and perfections, and worthy of precisely the same homage, confidence, and obedience (Matt. 28:18-19; Mark 12:29; Jn. 1:14; Acts 5:3-4; 2 Cor. 13:14; Heb. 1:1-3; Rev. 1:4-6).


The meaning of the word trinity

The Meaning of the Word “Trinity”

The Word “Trinity” means that God is a triunity: He is a plurality within unity. God has a plurality of persons and a unity of essence; God is three persons in one nature.


Overview of the history of trinity

Overview of the History of Trinity:

  • Ancient Church and the Trinity (100-600):

    • Church Fathers and the Trinity (100-150):

    • Apologists and the Trinity (150-300):

      • Marcionism

      • Ebionites

      • Monarchianism

        • Dynamic (adoptionistic)

        • Modalism (Patripassianism)


Overview of the history of trinity1

Overview of the History of Trinity:

  • Modalism: Also called sabellianim after its founder in 217-220, Sabellius, Modalism holds that God is only one person who appears in different modes or roles at different times in the divine economy.

  • Tritheism: the belief that there are three gods or three separate beings in the Godhead. Few, if any, have held this view consciously, though unwittingly many have fallen into it verbally by their incautious language about the Godhead.


Overview of the history of trinity2

Overview of the History of Trinity:

  • Arianism: Following Arius (c. 250-336), its founder, this heresy denies that Jesus is fully God, allowing Him a created status below God. Arianism was opposed by Athanasius and condemned as heretical at the Council of Nicea.

  • Docetism: From the Greek word, “dokeo,” “I seem,” docetism affirms the deity of Christ but denies His humanity, claiming it was only an apparent, but not real, humanity.


Overview of the history of trinity3

Overview of the History of Trinity:

Nestorianism: It is doubtful that Nestorius (d.c. A.D. 451) held the view bearing his name, though some of his followers ae credited with it. This perspective posited not only two natures in Christ (which is orthodox) but also two persons (which is not). Allegedly, if there is both a human and a divine person in Christ, then it was only the human person who died on the cross; hence, His sacrifice for our sins would have no divine efficacy.


Overview of the history of trinity4

Overview of the History of Trinity:

  • Ancient Church and the Trinity (100-600):

    • Church Fathers and the Trinity (100-150):

    • Apologists and the Trinity (150-300):

    • Theologians and the Trinity (300-600):

      • Arianism

      • Council of Nicea (325)

      • Council at Constantinople (381)


Overview of the history of trinity5

Overview of the History of Trinity:

  • Ancient Church and the Trinity (100-600):

  • Medieval Church and the Trinity (600-1500):

  • Early Modern Churches and the Trinity (1500-1750):

    • Roman Catholic Church

      • Council of Trent (1545-1563)


Overview of the history of trinity6

Overview of the History of Trinity:

Early Modern Churches and the Trinity (1500-1750):

  • Protestantism and the Trinity:

    • Augsburg Confession (1530)

    • Westminster Confession (1647)

    • Socinianism

    • Deism

    • Unitarianism


Overview of the history of trinity7

Overview of the History of Trinity:

Late Modern Churches and the Trinity (1750-Present):

  • European Protestant Liberalism:

    • Friedrich Schleiermacher

  • European Protestantism:

    • Karl Barth

  • American Protestantism:

    • Jonathan Edwards

    • Paul Tillich

    • Process Theology

  • Roman Catholic Tradition

  • Orthodox Tradition and the Trinity


Descriptions of the trinity

Descriptions of the Trinity:

  • There is only one “What” (essence) in God, but there are three “Whos” (persons) in that one “What.”

  • God has three “I’s” in His One “It”.

  • There are three “Subjects” in one “Object.”


Proofs of the trinity

Proofs of the Trinity:

  • See Charts of Christian Theology and Doctrine by H. Wayne House, pages, 48-49:


Illustrations of the trinity

Illustrations of the Trinity:

  • Though no illustration of the Trinity is perfect, some are more biblical (and helpful) than others:

    • The following are poor illustrations because they tend to imply modalism or tritheism:

      • Three States of Water.

      • Three Links in a Chain.

      • Human body, soul, and spirit.

      • One actor playing three roles.


Illustrations of the trinity1

Illustrations of the Trinity:

  • Though no illustration of the Trinity is perfect, some are more biblical (and helpful) than others:

    • The following are better illustrations because three different elements exist in an undivided oneness at the same time:

      • A Triangle.

      • One to the Third Power.

      • God is love (1 John 4:16).

      • Mind, ideas, and Words.

      • When Evangelizing Muslims use Allah and the Qur’an illustration.


Illustrations of the trinity2

Illustrations of the Trinity:

  • Three States of Water:

    One popular used and bad illustration of the Trinity is one that teaches that the Trinity is like water, which has three states (solid, liquid, and gas).

    The problem with this is that no given drop of water is in all three states at the same time (there is a state where different drops of water in various stages of solid, liquid, and gas at the same time. But this would not illustrate trinitarianism, where one and the same drop to be in all three states at the same time). Yet God is both three and one at the same time. So despite the good intentions, this illustration implies the heresy of modalism (that God has one essence but is not three distinct persons).


Illustrations of the trinity3

Illustrations of the Trinity:

  • Three Links in a Chain:

    Trinity is a three-link chain. The problem here is that the links are three different things. So in spite of whatever good motivations there may be behind it, what is being illustrated is tritheism, not trinitarianism. God is only one thing (substance), not three different ones joined together in some way.


Illustrations of the trinity4

Illustrations of the Trinity:

  • Human Body, Soul, and Spirit:

    God is like man, who has body, soul, and spirit and yet is one. Even apart from the implied trichotomy, one problem with this is that the human soul and body separate at death. The members of the Godhead are inseparable. Further, God, has no body-He is pure Spirit (John 4:24).


Better illustrations of the trinity

Better Illustrations of the Trinity:

  • A Triangle:

    God is like a triangle, which is one figure yet has three different sides at the same time-there is a simultaneous threeness in the oneness. Of course, no analogy is perfect, since in every analogy there is a similarity and a difference. The difference here is that “corners” are not persons. Nonetheless, they do illustrate how there can be a “threeness” and a oneness at the same time.


Better illustrations of the trinity1

Better Illustrations of the Trinity:

  • One to the Third Power: 1x1x1=1.

    God is three ones in One; He is not 1+1+1=3. That is the heresy of tritheism, which holds three different gods, not just one God.


Better illustrations of the trinity2

Better Illustrations of the Trinity:

  • Love is Trifold:

    “God is love” (1 John 4:16), and love involves three elements: a lover, a beloved, and a spirit of love. These three are one. One advantage of this example is that it has a personal dimension, in that love is something only a person does.


Better illustrations of the trinity3

Better Illustrations of the Trinity:

  • Mind, Ideas, and Words:

    God is like the relation between my mind, my ideas, and my words. They are all distinct, yet they are united, for one’s words cannot be separated from his ideas, and his mind behind them. What is the essence?


Better illustrations of the trinity4

Better Illustrations of the Trinity:

  • Allah and the Qur’an:

    For Muslims (who deny the Trinity), a good illustration is the relationship between the Qur’an (which they believe is the eternal Word of God) and God (Allah), who expressed that Word. They believe there is only one God and that His Word is distinct from Him. Yet they also hold that thee is a unity between them, since there is a unity between God and His Word. So they are admitting a plurality and yet unity between God and His eternal Word. The Qur’an is not identical to Allah, and yet it is one with God, who supposedly expressed Himself in the words of Qur’an.


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