Logic of the Trinity

Why do Christians believe in the doctrine of the Trinity?

Christians believe that the one true God exists eternally as three distinguishable but inseparable persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit—equal in every divine perfection and executing distinct but harmonious offices in the great work of redemption. These three are identical and unchanging in nature and attributes, equal in power and glory, and one in essence and being.

This is what orthodox Christianity holds to, but how do we get there? How do we argue from Scripture for the doctrine of the Trinity? This post from the Cripplegate does an outstanding job of summarizing the argument.

Although the term Trinity does not occur in Scripture, the concept is inherently biblical. The Trinitarian nature of God is revealed implicitly in the Old Testament and explicitly in the New Testament. The doctrine of the Trinity is founded on two fundamental theological realities…

Read the rest of the post and learn how to defend the doctrine of the Trinity here!

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Series on How to Compose a Doctrinal Statement

Aside

Below, you’ll find links to my series on how to develop and write a doctrinal statement. I’ve geared this toward churches specifically, but I hope it will be of some benefit to you personally as well. This also is my personal statement of faith (adapted for churches of course), so this will let you get to know me a little better as well.

Reflections on Transcendent Truth, Goodness, and Beauty

I believe that truth, goodness, and beauty are transcendent realities rooted in the nature and character of God. Belief in these absolute, transcendent standards is rooted in a recognition that God is the source, sustainer, and end of all things (Romans 11:36).

All truth is grounded in the reality that God is True. All virtue is grounded in the reality that God is Good. All beauty is grounded in the reality that God is Beautiful.¹

Therefore, as image-bearers of God, I believe Christians must commit themselves to thinking God’s thoughts after him, to behaving in ways that conform to God’s moral character and will, and to loving those things that God calls lovely.¹

Belief in objective, transcendent standards of truth, goodness, and beauty is a uniquely conservative distinctive. Most Christians readily affirm that the Bible should shape our beliefs and morals. Many, however, have not even given thought to how the Bible ought to shape our affections as well. That is, we must work to align our values and affections with those of God. This is what Paul refers to in Philippians 4:8 when he says to dwell on whatever is “true,” “right,” and “lovely.” The word for lovely is defined as “worthy of taking delight in,” or, “worth the effort to have and embrace.” In other words, there is an objective standard for what is worthy of our delight and affection. It is, therefore, wrong to love what God hates, or take delight in what God is disgusted with, or to call beautiful what God calls ugly.

We must not only learn propositional truth about God and live in accord with His moral imperatives, but we must allow Scripture to shape and cultivate within us rightly-ordered affections as well. Nevertheless, right beliefs, morals, and affections are not always transparent, and thus require careful judgment to discern biblically.¹

Part of the image of God in humanity is the capacity to love, for God loves and He is love. The Scriptures clearly teach that the most important human duty is to love God and love others. Love is a function of the will, and not merely of the understanding. A right relationship to God involves more than an abstract or theoretical understanding of the truth of His Word. Rather, it includes grasping the truths of God’s perfections and mighty deeds and relishing these truths as beautiful and lovely.²

Furthermore, as an intellectually conservative Christian, I seek to not disparage or shun tradition simply because it is tradition, nor praise and value innovation simply because it is new and progressive. On the contrary, conservatism seeks to cherish and nourish tradition as valuable and worth conserving—not simply because it is tradition, not as though tradition is authoritative, and not as though it is necessary to preserve all available elements of church history, nor to remain in a bygone century—but rather out of a genuine respect for the permanent things, that by carefully evaluating the values, forms, and functions of traditions, we may preserve and hand down to future generations that which is true and good and beautiful within the Christian tradition.

Conservative Christians seek to take what is timeless, true, and permanent, and apply it to our changing world. We desire to be faithful Christians in the present, while honouring and building upon what we have been handed.³

Conservative Christianity wishes to conserve and pass on the truth, goodness, and beauty of essential Christianity.³

(Exodus 28:2; Deuteronomy 6:4–5; Psalm 15:4; Matthew 22:37–39; Mark 12:29–30; John 17:17; Romans 11:36; 1 Corinthians 11:2, 16; 14:40; Philippians 3:17; 4:8, 9; 2 Thessalonians 2:15; 3:6; 2 Timothy 2:2; Hebrews 12:28–29; James 1:17; 1 John 4:16–21)

virtus et honos

Composing a Doctrinal Statement [sections 4&5 — on Angels and Mankind]

Composing a doctrinal statement (or any other essential documents) can be one of the most arduous (but crucial) projects undertaken by a church. In this series, I’m sharing my own doctrinal statement, a section (or two) at a time, in an attempt to provide a helpful example of a detailed statement that is worded positively, but articulated precisely enough to exclude certain theological positions for the protection and unity of the church.


Section 4 — Angels

We believe that God created an innumerable company of spirit-beings commonly called angels. Although they are a higher order of creation than humanity, angels were created within space and time, and are not to be worshiped themselves, but are created to serve God and to worship Him.

(Exodus 20:11; Nehemiah 9:6; Daniel 9:20–23; 10:1–14; Luke 2:9–14; Hebrews 1:6–7, 14; 2:6–7; Revelation 5:11–14; 19:10; 22:8–9)

Fallen Angels: We believe that Satan is a created angel, and the author of sin. He incurred the judgment of God by rebelling against his Creator, and introducing sin into the human race by his temptation of Eve. He is the open and declared enemy of God and mankind. He is the prince of this world, who was defeated through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ; and he will be eternally punished in the lake of fire. Numerous angels (also called demons or unclean spirits) followed Satan in his original rebellion against God, and will share in his eternal judgement.

(Genesis 3:1–5; Isaiah 14:12–17; Ezekiel 28:11–19; Matthew 4:1–11; 25:41; 2 Corinthians 4:3–4; Revelation 12:1–14; 20:10)

Section 5 — Mankind

We believe that Adam and Eve were created in the image of God, unfallen, and to enjoy fellowship with their Creator. By voluntary transgression, man fell from his sinless estate. All humanity sinned in Adam. As a result, all men and women are born spiritually separated from God and share in Adam’s fallen nature. All people are sinners by nature (inherently from Adam), and by choice (by individual thought and conduct), and, therefore, are under just condemnation without defense or excuse, utterly unable to remedy his lost condition by any strength or will of his own accord.

(Genesis 1:26–28; 3:1–6, 16–24; Psalm 51:5; Romans 1:18–32; 3:10–19; 5:12, 19)

Composing a Doctrinal Statement [section 3 — on Creation]

Composing a doctrinal statement (or any other essential documents) can be one of the most arduous (but crucial) projects undertaken by a church. In this series, I’m sharing my own doctrinal statement, a section at a time, in an attempt to provide a helpful example of a detailed statement that is worded positively, but articulated precisely enough to exclude certain theological positions for the protection and unity of the church.


Section 3 — Creation

We believe that the creation of the space-time universe from nothing, as recorded in Genesis 1–2, is neither allegory, nor myth, nor poetry, but a literal, historical event [1]. The existence of all things is the result of the direct, immediate, creative acts of God over six literal days [2]. Mankind was created in the image of God by a direct work of God (not from previously existing forms of life), and the entire human race descended from the historical Adam and Eve. Mankind was given dominion over the earth (though the full exercise of this dominion is redacted due to the Fall), to be stewards of creation for the glory of God. We affirm and hold to The Biblical Perspective of Environmental Stewardship.

Death (both physical and spiritual) entered into this world subsequent to, and as a direct consequence of, man’s sin [3]. The special creation of Adam and Eve, and their subsequent fall into sin, is historical, literal, and the basis for the necessity of salvation for mankind. God’s purpose in and for creation is to reveal His glory.

(Genesis 1–2; Exodus 20:11; Nehemiah 9:6; Isaiah 11:6; 45:18; Matthew 19:4; John 1:3; Acts 17:24–27; Romans 5:12; 1 Corinthians 15:20–26; Colossians 1:16–17; Hebrews 11:3)


Notes

1) With this one simple statement, based on the statements on inerrancy and hermeneutics in Section 1, we’ve lost half of evangelical Christianity, but we’ve created a mighty foundation for unity on the inerrancy, sufficiency, and authority of Scripture.

2) And there go some more… Notice how many views we’ve excluded by this statement: Theistic Evolution (and atheistic, for that matter), Day Age, Progressive Creation, Analogical Day, any allegorical interpretation, even the Framework Hypothesis depending on the variety.

3) This statement not only excludes evolutionary cosmogonies, but also such views as Day Age, Analogical Day, Framework Hypothesis, and the Gap Theory.

Composing a Doctrinal Statement [section 2 — on God]

Composing a doctrinal statement (or any other essential documents) can be one of the most arduous (but crucial) projects undertaken by a church. In this series, I’m sharing my own doctrinal statement a section at a time (at times with footnotes to point out key features and specific wording that I found to be especially crucial for the precise articulation of the view and for the protection of the church from false doctrine) in an attempt to provide a helpful example of a detailed statement that is worded positively, but articulated precisely enough to exclude certain theological positions for the protection and unity of the church.


Section 2 — God

We believe that there is one, and only one, living and true God, the necessary and self-sufficient creator, owner, and supreme ruler of heaven and earth. He is the source, sustainer, and end of all things. He is the defining, transcendent, and absolute standard of truth, goodness, and beauty [1]. God exists eternally in three distinguishable but inseparable persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit — equal in every divine perfection and executing distinct but harmonious offices in the great work of redemption. The three are identical and unchanging in nature and attributes, equal in power and glory, and one in essence and being. God is perfect, holy, and immutable in justice, love, omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence, and sovereignty, and worthy of all possible honor, confidence, and love. We believe that God is sovereign over all of life and history, and knows the future certainly, exhaustively, and actually [2]. God has chosen to reveal Himself to mankind through general revelation (creation), special revelation (Scripture), and personal revelation (the person of Jesus Christ).

(Exodus 3:14; 20:2–3; Deuteronomy 6:1; 1 Samuel 2:2; 1 Kings 8:27; Job 28:24; 37:16; Psalm 19:1; 90:2; 139:1–16; 147:5; Proverbs 15:3; 19:21; Isaiah 6:3; 14:27; 40:28; 43:13; 46:9–10; 57:15; Jeremiah 23:24; Daniel 4:35; Habakkuk 1:13; Matthew 3:16–17; 19:26; 28:19; John 1:1, 18; 8:58; 10:30; 14:6; 17:6; Acts 1:16; 14:16–17; 17:24–31; Romans 1:18–20; 8:38–39; 9:5; 1 Corinthians 8:6; 2 Corinthians 13:14; Ephesians 2:4–5; Colossians 2:9; 1 Timothy 1:17; 2 Timothy 3:16; Hebrews 1:1–2; 4:13; 7:24; James 1:17; 1 Peter 1:2, 16; 2 Peter 1:1; 1 John 4:8; Revelation 1:8; 4:8, 11; 19:6)

God the Father: We believe that the Father is sovereign over all life and history, and reigns with providential care over all Creation. He continually upholds, directs, and governs all creatures and events. He orders and accomplishes, for His own glory, all things that come to pass. He hears and answers prayer. He initiated salvation by sending His Son. He adopts into His family all who come to Him through faith in Jesus Christ as Savior, thus saving them from the penalty, the power, and, eventually, the presence of sin.

(I Chronicles 29:11–13; Matthew 7:11; John 1:12; 3:16; Acts 16:31; Romans 6:23; 8:15; 1 Corinthians 8:6; 2 Corinthians 6:18; Galatians 4:5; Hebrews 12:5–9; I John 4:9–10)

God the Son: We believe that Jesus Christ is the uncreated, eternal Son of God. He came into this world, as foretold by the Scriptures, to manifest God to mankind, to offer the promised Kingdom [3], and to be the Redeemer of the sinful world. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of a virgin. Jesus took upon Himself genuine humanity, without ceasing to be truly and fully God. In Christ’s incarnation, perfect humanity and undiminished deity were united in one person forever, without confusion of the divine and human natures.

Christ remained perfect and sinless throughout His entire life. His humanity qualified Him to be our substitute; His sinlessness qualified Him to be the perfect sacrifice sufficient to take away our sins by His substitutionary death on the cross. Jesus Christ alone is the full and complete propitiation for sin — the full satisfaction of the Father’s justice regarding sin. Because He conquered sin, death — sin’s penalty — could not hold Him; He was bodily resurrected from the dead, and physically ascended to Heaven, where He now sits at the right hand of the Father as Intercessor, Advocate, and High Priest for the redeemed. His bodily resurrection and ascension give proof to the fact that His sacrificial death was fully acceptable to the Father for sin.

(Genesis 3:15; Isaiah 7:14; 9:6; 53:1–12; Micah 5:2; Luke 1:30–35; 24:34–39; John 1:1–2; 8:58; 10:30; 20:11–31; Acts 2:22–24; Romans 1:4; 3:25–26; 9:5; Colossians 2:9; Hebrews 1:3, 8; 2:17–18; 4:14–15; 7:24–25; 10:1–14; 2 Peter 1:1; 1 John 2:1–2)

God the Holy Spirit: We believe that the Holy Spirit is a divine person, equal with the Father and the Son, and of the same nature and essence. He was active in Creation. He restrains the Evil One until God’s purpose is fulfilled. He convicts of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment. He authors divine revelation, and He bears witness to the truth of the gospel in preaching and testimony, and is the agent in the new birth. He seals, guides, teaches, sanctifies, and gives aid to the believer.

(Genesis 1:1–3; 2 Samuel 23:2; Psalm 139:7; Ezekiel 2:2; Matthew 22:43; 28:19; Luke 11:13; John 14:16–17, 26; 16:8–11; Acts 1:16; 1 Corinthians 2:10–11; 2 Corinthians 13:14; Hebrews 9:14; 2 Peter 1:21)

We believe that the Holy Spirit has given gifts to the church through which Christians serve one another and the world. Some gifts, such as prophecy, healing, tongues, and interpretation, were temporary (being necessary before the completed New Testament was available, and serving to validate and confirm the ministry of the Apostles as the founders of the church) and are no longer given today. While God still works mightily and miraculously to accomplish His purposes, these gifts are no longer given to individuals as permanent gifts for the edification of the body [4].

(Matthew 10:18–20; Acts 2:22; 8:6; 1 Corinthians 13:8; Ephesians 2:20; Hebrews 2:1–4; Revelation 22:18–19)


Notes

1) This statement is an important distinctive of a full-orbed conservative Christian philosophy. As Dr. Scott Aniol puts it, “All truth is grounded in the reality that God is True. All virtue is grounded in the reality that God is Good. All beauty is grounded in the reality that God is Beautiful… Christians as image-bearers of God must commit themselves to thinking God’s thoughts after Him, to behaving in ways that conform to God’s moral perfection, and to loving those things that God calls lovely.” For a fuller explanation of the conservative view of transcendentals, see A Conservative Christian Declaration, from Religious Affections Ministries.

2) Unfortunately, various versions of Open Theism, the view that God cannot know the future with certainty, are becoming more and more popular among evangelicals. Thus, I think it’s important to directly address this false teaching. (See also the links in this article)

3) Which, by the way, I believe was a legitimate offer of the expected Kingdom as foretold in the Old Testament.

4) Some will take issue with being so specific on the spiritual gifts, since we are excluding such a large portion of modern evangelicals with such language. I’m not going to argue for my position here, but I want to comment on one popular position. Many people will argue that we should not take a firm position, at least on specific gifts, within the actual doctrinal statement, but that we can simply make a policy that we don’t want anyone practicing these gifts in the public assembly. In my opinion, this is the least desirable situation. Think about what the gifts are, and how often the New Testament emphasizes the use of one’s gifts. Imagine someone believes they have the gift of ‘helps,’ or ‘mercy,’ or some similar gift, and the elders of the church tell that person that they are not allowed to utilize that gift for the edification of the body. They are not allowed to use the gift the Holy Spirit has given them for the purpose of ministering to their local church? If you think that would be a foolhardy position to hold, understand that it is no different to say that we will not take a clear position on the sign gifts, because we want to be “open,” or “accommodating,” or “humble,” or whatever the reason, and yet we will ask that no one, including people who believe they possess those gifts, exercise them within the church. You’re refusing to say that you believe these gifts are no longer given by the Spirit, but then you are asking someone to not use their spiritual gift to minister to the church. That seems… well, insane, to me. Therefore, I take a clear position in my doctrinal statement. This ultimately will provide for the most solid and consistent unity in the body, as well as the most theological stability.