Before I signed on, Jessica did an interesting series on that most mysterious of doctrines, the Trinity. We recently had a short series at chapel on ‘the fundamentals of the faith’ and I thought it might be interesting to share part of it with the audience here.
I start with this definition (James White, The Forgotten Trinity: Recovering the Heart of Christian Belief (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 1998), 26.)
“Within the one Being that is God, there exists eternally three coequal and coeternal persons, namely, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”
To those who say it is unscriptural I respond that it is the only logical deduction from three lines of argument in the Bible:
1. There is one God (Deut. 6:4; 1 Tim. 2:5; James 2:19).
2. The Father is God, the Son is God, the Holy Spirit is God (John 8:58; Acts 5:3-4; 1 Cor. 1:3; Eph. 4:30; Col. 2:9; 2 Peter 1:17).
3. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are distinct Persons (Matt. 3:15-17; Matt. 28:19; John 16:13-15; 2 Cor. 13:14).
To quote Kenneth Samples:
God is Triune: “He exists eternally and simultaneously as three distinct and distinguishable persons (though not separate): Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. All three persons in the Godhead, or Divine Being, share equally and completely the one divine nature, and are therefore the same God—coequal in attributes, nature and glory. God has revealed himself as one in essence or substance (being), but three in subsistence (personhood). In terms of what God is (essence), God is one; in terms of who God is (subsistence), God is three.”
Or in the words of the Athanasian Creed:
“We worship one God in the Trinity, and the Trinity in unity; we distinguish among the persons, but we do not divide the substance…The entire three persons are coeternal and coequal with one another, so that…we worship complete unity in Trinity and Trinity in unity”
The Trinity can thus be defined as three persons in one divine essence or as one divine essence subsisting in three modes, the unity of essence being guaranteed by the consubstantiality and coinherence of the persons, the distinction of persons being manifest in their relations.”
It is correct to say “Jesus is God” but not “God is Jesus.” Why? Because to say “Jesus is God” is to predicate to Jesus the whole of the divine nature which two other Persons posses: the Father and Holy Spirit. But to say “God is Jesus” in terms of the “is” of identity is incorrect because Jesus does not exhaust what it means to speak of God. Therefore, logically speaking, we can affirm: First, “The Father is God,” “The Son is God,” and “The Holy Spirit is God” using the “is” of predication. Second, “The Father is not the Son,” “The Son is not the Spirit,” and “The Spirit is not the Father,” using the “is” of identity. And third, “God is the Trinity” and “The Trinity is God” using the “is” of identity.
All of which is what the Cappadocian Fathers said many centuries ago. But in an era when men seem inclined to forget that there is a doctrinal content to our Faith, and when some question the very notion of the Trinity, it cannot be asserted often enough that our God is a Trinity of Persons.