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Christianity - Trinity

Christianity - Trinity

Author: David Dillard-Wright

Understand the origin and nature of the Christian doctrine of the Trinity.

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[MUSIC PLAYING] Welcome to this tutorial on the Christian doctrine of the Trinity. As you can see from this diagram, Christians affirm that God comes in three phases or three persons. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. And it matters and Christianity that God comes in these three distinct persons.

As the theologian Jurgen Moltmann months said, God is no more one than God is three. In other words, in Christianity, the Trinity is the proper understanding of who God is. So to call Christianity monotheistic is, in a sense, incorrect. Because Christianity is a trinitarian religion.

The doctrine of the Trinity was formulated at the Council of Nicea in 325 CE. And it was later ratified by the church at the Council of Constantinople in 381. These ecumenical councils-- ecumenical means involving the entire church-- were convened to settle disputes within Christianity. And to formulate the official theology of the church.

There were two errors that the church was dealing with, that they were fighting. And errors that necessitated the formulation of the doctrine of the Trinity. The first was Arianism, which was a very large movement that threatened to overtake the entire church. The Arians were followers of Arius, who was the bishop of Alexandria. Thought of themselves as good Christians.

But they have some theological differences. A quote from Arius will illustrate this. Arius said, there was a time when he was not. So Arius taught that there was God. And then there was the word of God. There was a time when there was no word of God.

And this was dangerous from the Orthodox perspective because it seemed to imply that Jesus himself was created. That is, was not co-eternal. And this was dangerous according to the Orthodox position-- what later became known as the Orthodox position.

The other dangerous error that the church wanted to avoid was called Patripassianism. Patripassianism said that the Father and the Son are the same. Which says that, in other words, the father suffered on the cross.

So this option seemed to make there be too much difference between the Father and the Son. And this one seemed to make the father and son simply the same thing. So the church wanted to make sure that the persons in the Trinity could be distinct. And yet that they could also share the same nature.

Just a couple of terms, "hypostasis--" this is an outer expression of an inner nature. This is the word that is often rendered as persons of the Trinity. Another word from the 300's, "prosopon," which means face. So we could think of one god with three faces.

But the doctrine of the Trinity is ultimately indescribable. Gregory of Nyssa was one of the Cappadocian fathers. Cappadocia is a region in what is today, Turkey. Gregory said, the divine nature is unnameable and unspeakable.

And when you think about it, the doctrine of the Trinity cannot be understood in logical terms. How can something be three and yet, one, at the same time? But the Cappadocians thought that if you meditate on the Trinity, if you meditate on its comprehensibility, it will lead you to a higher understanding.

So the three faces reveal glimpses of the life of God, which remains hidden and remains a mystery. And yet, through meditation and through the grace of God, you can come to understand it. So that's a little bit about the doctrine of the Trinity.

There are some Christians who do not believe in the doctrine of the Trinity. And for the most part, these are more recent denominations. The Jehovah's Witnesses don't believe in the Trinity. Basically because it's not in the Bible. There's not very many places in the Bible where you can point to find that nice, neat, threefold formulation. You can find all the persons of the Trinity, but not in one place, wrapped up in a neat little package.

Next, the Mormons. So the Mormons believe that the persons of the Trinity are three beings who are one in purpose, but not in essence. And finally, Christian Science. Christian Science teaches a strong monistic perspective. Which says that the divinity of Christ is separate from his humanity. Jesus is the Son of God and is not God.

So there's one God and that goes throughout everything. And that is part of Jesus' nature. But it doesn't fully describe who he is. So that's a little bit about the doctrine of the Trinity.

Thank you for watching this tutorial on the Trinity. The Trinity is the Christian concept that the three persons of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are distinct and yet, equal and eternal. The Trinity provided a way for disputes within the early church to be resolved, especially reacting to the two heresies that we discussed-- arianism and patripassianism.

We said that the Trinity is a mystery of the Christian faith that cannot be understood logically. We also said that most Christians believe in the Trinity but not all Christians. And we gave three examples-- Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, and Christian Scientists-- as examples of Christians who do not believe in the doctrine of the Trinity.

Terms to Know

The conception in Christianity of one God manifested in three distinct persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.