Topic of the Month
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
Making Sense of the Trinity: Three Crucial Questions (3 Crucial Questions)
In Making Sense of the Trinity: Three Crucial Questions, Millard J. Erickson demonstrates the biblical foundation, logic, and importance of the Trinity as he answers three questions: Is the doctrine of the Trinity biblical? Does the doctrine of the Trinity make sense? Does the doctrine of the Trinity make any difference?
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