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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: The Trinity: One God in Three Persons

Don Stewart :: How Can We Categorize False Views about the Trinity?

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How Can We Categorize False Views about the Trinity?

The Trinity: One God in Three Persons – Question 19

The Christian church has testified that there is only God who exists. Yet the one God exists in three Persons, the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. These three Persons are co-equal and co-eternal. This is the doctrine of the Trinity.

The Formulation of the Doctrine of the Trinity

The word Trinity is not found in the Bible. Neither is the doctrine explicitly taught. However, the doctrine of the Trinity is the best explanation of all the biblical data on the nature of God. A comprehensive study of the Scripture, with respect to the nature of God, will demonstrate His triune nature. Therefore, it is necessary to gather all the information about what Scripture says concerning God's nature to discover what He reveals about Himself. When we do this, we come to the following conclusions:

1. There Is Only One God Who Exists

From a study of the totality of Scripture, there is no doubt whatsoever that one God has genuine existence. No other gods have existed or will exist. There is only one God.

2. There Are Three Distinct Persons: The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit

The Bible also teaches that three distinct persons, or centers of consciousness who exist. One is called the Father, a second Person is called the Son, and a third Person called the Holy Spirit. The Son is not the Father and the Spirit is not the Son. They are distinct from one another.

3. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit Are Each Called God, Have Attributes That Belong to God Alone, and Do Things Only God Can Do

The Scripture also teaches the following things about these three distinct persons; the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Each one of them is directly called God, each distinct Person has attributes that belong to God alone. Finally, these three distinct Persons perform actions that only God can perform.

Conclusion: The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit Are the One God

To deny the Trinity, at least one of these statements must be proven as untrue. In other words, there must be more than one God who exists, there are not three distinct Persons known as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, or one or more of these distinct persons cannot be called God.

Classifying the False Doctrines about the Trinity

Throughout the history of the church there have been those who have claimed to be Christians who have denied one of these statements. We can classify the heresies about the Trinity in the following categories.

1. There Are Those Who Deny of the Unity of God

The denial of the existence of one God is the heresy of Tritheism. They believe in three gods rather than one God. The Father is a God, the Son is a God, and the Holy Spirit is a God. Therefore, instead of a Trinity, one God in three Persons, there are three different gods. The unity of the God of Scripture is thus denied.

2. There Is the Denial of the Distinction between the Three Members of the Trinity

The denial of the distinction between the three members of the Trinity is called Modalism, or Sabellianism. This is the opposite of Tritheism. They believe that only one God exists who reveals Himself in three different modes or manifestations. In the Old Testament, He was manifested as God the Father, in the gospels as Jesus, after the Ascension as the Holy Spirit. Thus, they deny the distinctions within the Godhead.

3. There Has Been the Denial of the Deity of the Son and/or the Holy Spirit

The denial that Jesus Christ and/or the Holy Spirit is God has been held by a number of groups. These beliefs are known as such things as Arianism, Adoptionism, Subordinationism, and Binitarianism.

While each of these heresies are different, they all deny that Jesus Christ, or the Holy Spirit, is co-equal with God the Father. Usually, they are assumed to be created beings. Subordinationism holds that Jesus is the eternal God yet He does not have the same attributes as the Father.

These are the ways in which the doctrine of the Trinity has been denied. In our next few questions we will examine each of these false beliefs in detail. This will demonstrate that the historic doctrine of the Trinity is what the Scripture teaches on the subject while these other views are nothing but false beliefs.

Summary – Question 19
How Can We Categorize False Views about the Trinity?

The Trinity doctrine came about when Bible believers searched the Scripture to see what it had to say about the nature of God.

First, it was found that only one God exists. There is only one God who exists or who has ever existed. This is the God of the Bible.

Next, it was discovered that there are three distinct persons mentioned in the Bible. These persons are known as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. They are not the same person or center of consciousness but rather are distinct from each other.

Finally, it was determined from a search of the Scripture that each of these distinct persons is called God. The Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God.

The conclusion they came to is that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are the one God. This is the doctrine of the Trinity.

There have been those who have denied the doctrine of the Trinity. To deny the truth of the Trinity one must deny at least one of three things.

It is possible to deny that there is only one God. Many do this. They deny the unity of God by saying that more than one God exists. At times it has been argued that the Trinity is made up of three separate gods. This is one possible way of denying the truth of the Trinity.

Some deny the distinctiveness between the three members of the Godhead. In other words, the Father is not a distinct Person from the Son. He is, in reality, the same Person. The same hold true for the Holy Spirit. He is assumed to be the same Person as the Father. Denying the distinctiveness of the members of the Godhead is a denial of the Trinity.

Another way the Trinity is attacked is the denial of the deity of God the Son and/or the Holy Spirit. While the Deity of God the Father is rarely, if ever, denied, the deity of the Son and the Holy Spirit has often been rejected.

Many groups have arisen in the last two thousand years which have denied one or more of these truths. However, a look at what the Scripture has to say on the subject will demonstrate that they are in error. The doctrine of the Trinity is a biblical doctrine.

Have the Different Members of the Trinity Had the Same Function for All Eternity? ← Prior Section
Do Christians Believe in Three Different Gods? Next Section →
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