Topic of the Month

The Trinity

In recent years, the Trinity has been one of the most hotly debated topics in the theology world, and for good reason: What we believe about the Trinity shapes the way we think about and worship our God.

Understanding the Trinity itself—one God in three persons (Father, Son, and Spirit)—takes us into deep theological waters, where the simplest math fails us: 1+1+1=1. Even though the word “Trinity” never appears in the Bible, God reveals himself throughout Scripture as one being (Deut 6:4, John 10:30) in three persons (Gen 1:2; Matt 3:16–17, 1 Pet 1:2).

While we can’t find answers to every question about the Trinity, we can grow in our love for God by searching Scripture to discover how he reveals himself to us.

Trinitarian controversies in Church history

The early Church’s councils and creeds were responses to heresies—and many of them represented attempts to make human sense out of the divine doctrine of the Trinity.

In fact, consider the two most significant trinitarian heresies:

  • Arianism—the Son is the Father’s first and best creation and is therefore exalted over humanity but is not quite equal with the Father.
  • Modalism—the one God takes on one of three roles (or modes) at a time, sometimes presenting himself as the Father, other times as the Son, still other times as the Spirit.


We can learn a great deal from how the early Church responded to these heresies. The Nicene Creed, for example, shows us how the early Church carefully searched Scripture to explain Christ’s work and refute Arianism.

We might think that those kinds of mistakes are all in the past, but without Church history to look back on, we’re just as susceptible to error. As Augustine reminds us in The Trinity, many of our mistakes on the Trinity come from thinking of God in human terms. He adds, “It is difficult to contemplate and to comprehend fully the substance of God, which makes changeable things without any change in itself, and creates temporal things without any temporal movement of its own.” *

* Augustine of Hippo, The Trinity, ed. Hermigild Dressler, trans. Stephen McKenna, vol. 45, The Fathers of the Church (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 1963), 5.

Today’s trinitarian controversies

In the past few years, we’ve seen a renewed exploration of trinitarian study specifically as it deals with the so-called eternal functional subordination of the Son (or the eternal subordination of the Son, sometimes referred to as EFS or ESS) and God’s “inseparable operations.” While these two topics might seem at first to be isolated within the walls of academia, what we believe about them shapes what we believe and teach about each member of the Godhead.

You can explore these topics more fully in many of the works listed below.

How Logos can help you explore the doctrine of the Trinity

It’s impossible to say everything that could be said about the Trinity—there’s so much we as creatures don’t and can’t know about our Creator, but the things he has revealed do belong to us to study (Deut 29:29). The Bible is our source for learning about the Trinity. Here are some ways you can use Logos Bible Software to dig into biblical teaching about the Trinity:

  • Start your study of Scripture with an expert introduction, including key verses and reading recommendations, in the Theology Guide
  • Find key biblical references and allusions to the Trinity with customizable search templates
  • Research trinitarian heresies and the corresponding councils and creeds with the Timeline
  • Track what you learn with a built-in notes app designed for Bible study

Courses


Mobile Ed: OT291 The Jewish Trinity: How the Old Testament Reveals the Christian Godhead (4 hour course)

Mobile Ed: OT291 The Jewish Trinity: How the Old Testament Reveals the Christian Godhead (4 hour course)

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Mobile Ed: TH215 Trinitarian Theology (3 hour course)

Mobile Ed: TH215 Trinitarian Theology (3 hour course)

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Mobile Ed: CH261 History of the Doctrine of the Trinity (10 hour course)

Mobile Ed: CH261 History of the Doctrine of the Trinity (10 hour course)

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Mobile Ed: TH102 Introducing Bible Doctrine II: The Triune God and His Heavenly Host (6 hour course)

Mobile Ed: TH102 Introducing Bible Doctrine II: The Triune God and His Heavenly Host (6 hour course)

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Resources


Retrieving Eternal Generation

Retrieving Eternal Generation

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The Trinity and Martin Luther (Revised Edition)

The Trinity and Martin Luther (Revised Edition)

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The Triune God (New Studies in Dogmatics)

The Triune God (New Studies in Dogmatics)

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God in Three Persons: A Contemporary Interpretation of the Trinity

God in Three Persons: A Contemporary Interpretation of the Trinity

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Systematic Theology: God as Trinity

Systematic Theology: God as Trinity

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The Trinity, Creation, and Pastoral Ministry

The Trinity, Creation, and Pastoral Ministry

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Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics: The Rise and Development of Reformed Orthodoxy; Volume 4: The Triunity of God

Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics: The Rise and Development of Reformed Orthodoxy; Volume 4: The Triunity of God

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Resurrecting the Trinity: A Plea to Recover the Wonder and Meaning of the Triune God

Resurrecting the Trinity: A Plea to Recover the Wonder and Meaning of the Triune God

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The Deep Things of God, 2nd ed.

The Deep Things of God, 2nd ed.

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Oneness Pentecostals and the Trinity

Oneness Pentecostals and the Trinity

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Two Views on the Doctrine of the Trinity (Counterpoints)

Two Views on the Doctrine of the Trinity (Counterpoints)

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On the Nature of God and on the Most Holy Mystery of the Trinity

On the Nature of God and on the Most Holy Mystery of the Trinity

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Crossway Studies on the Trinitarian God (6 vols.)

Crossway Studies on the Trinitarian God (6 vols.)

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One God in Three Persons: Unity of Essence, Distinction of Persons, Implications for Life

One God in Three Persons: Unity of Essence, Distinction of Persons, Implications for Life

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The Forgotten Trinity

The Forgotten Trinity

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The Triune God and the Charismatic Movement: A Critical Appraisal of Trinitarian Theology and Charismatic Experience from a Scottish Perspective

The Triune God and the Charismatic Movement: A Critical Appraisal of Trinitarian Theology and Charismatic Experience from a Scottish Perspective

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Meditations on the Trinity

Meditations on the Trinity

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Knowing and the Trinity: How Perspectives in Human Knowledge Imitate the Trinity

Knowing and the Trinity: How Perspectives in Human Knowledge Imitate the Trinity

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The Battle for the Trinity

The Battle for the Trinity

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Trinity and Revelation

Trinity and Revelation

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Fortress Studies on the Trinity (2 vols.)

Fortress Studies on the Trinity (2 vols.)

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Trinitarian Studies Collection (4 vols.)

Trinitarian Studies Collection (4 vols.)

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Recent Developments in Trinitarian Theology: An International Symposium

Recent Developments in Trinitarian Theology: An International Symposium

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New Testament Essentials: Father, Son, Spirit and Kingdom (IVP Essentials)

New Testament Essentials: Father, Son, Spirit and Kingdom (IVP Essentials)

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Confessing the Triune God

Confessing the Triune God

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The Divine Name(s) and the Holy Trinity, Volume One

The Divine Name(s) and the Holy Trinity, Volume One

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What Is the Trinity?

What Is the Trinity?

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God the Holy Trinity: Reflections on Christian Faith and Practice

God the Holy Trinity: Reflections on Christian Faith and Practice

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The Trinity

The Trinity

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The Trinity: Evidence and Issues

The Trinity: Evidence and Issues

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Experiencing the Trinity: The Grace of God for the People of God

Experiencing the Trinity: The Grace of God for the People of God

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The Christian Doctrine of God, One Being Three Persons

The Christian Doctrine of God, One Being Three Persons

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Systematic Theology, vol. 2: The Beauty of Christ - a Trinitarian Vision

Systematic Theology, vol. 2: The Beauty of Christ - a Trinitarian Vision

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We Believe in One God (Ancient Christian Doctrine)

We Believe in One God (Ancient Christian Doctrine)

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Jesus in Trinitarian Perspective: An Introductory Christology

Jesus in Trinitarian Perspective: An Introductory Christology

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The Trinitarian Controversy

The Trinitarian Controversy

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