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Is the Trinity Nonsense?

Published in the Allentown Morning Call May 29, 2010


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Many people think that the doctrine of the Trinity is unbiblical, contradictory, unintelligible, and useless for any practical purpose. To the contrary, the major branches of the Christian church—Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant—regard this as the central doctrine of the Christian faith. I want to respond briefly to these charges.


Unbiblical? The word Trinity does not occur in the Bible. It is a made-up word meaning Tri-Unity. It is a short-hand way of summarizing three truths that the Bible frequently teaches. (1) There is one God (Isaiah 44:8). (2) Three Persons are God (John 20:27-29; Acts 5:3-4). (3) These three Persons are distinct (Matthew 3:16-17). The doctrine is biblical, even though the word is not.


Contradictory? It would be contradictory to say that there is one God who is three Gods or to say that God is one Person and three Persons. It is not contradictory to say that the one God exists as three distinct Persons—Father, Son and Holy Spirit.


Unintelligible? The essential definition of the doctrine as given above is clear. Each of the defining statements is easy to understand. God Himself is naturally far above our comprehension. Many people do not understand the electrical wiring in their house, but they know how to turn on a light switch, and they know not to stick bare wires plugged into an outlet into their mouths. God has told us what is essential for us to know, even if our minds cannot adequately picture the inner life of the triune God.


Useless? First, the doctrine of the Trinity is essential for seeing how an infinite, holy God has reached down to save weak and sinful people. In Christ, God became a man to bridge the gulf between God and men. “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them…. [God] made Him [Christ] who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:19, 21).


Second, the relationships among the Persons of the Trinity form the pattern for all healthy social relationships among human beings. Each Person of the Godhead is equal in power, glory and wisdom to the others (Revelation 5:11-14). However, Jesus, the Son of God, always submitted to the will of God the Father (John 5:19; 6:38). The Father honored His Son and the Son honored His Father (John 17:1-5). When people forget that equals can and should submit to other equals, one of two evils typically occurs. The first is anarchy, a state in which no one willingly submits to anyone. The second is that the powerful turn the weak into sub-human creatures—either cattle to plow the master’s fields, or machines to produce his goods.


Third, like a great artist, God desired to express what was in Himself on a canvas of His own making.  And what was in Him? He was filled up with the harmony of love that binds the members of the Trinity together.  All the beauty of the created world is only a dim reflection of that harmony.  Because human beings are made in God's image, we are able to delight in the beauty He has built into the world: the splendor of the heavens; the explosion of color on a crisp fall day; and the melody of a bird’s song.


Even though our world is broken, it is still surrounded and sustained by the beauty of the triune God. That is the theme of a book I have written, The Beauty of God for a Broken World, scheduled to be published by Christian Literature Crusade in July. Please contact me if you want to be notified when it is available.


© 2010, John K. LaShell