I recently received an email question from a listener who wrote: “I have studied quite a few different translations of the bible and have full faith in what it says. I also believe that Jesus is my savior, and do my best to live by what He taught. However, I am not a Christian according to many religious leaders, because I do not believe in the doctrine regarding the trinity. I have read nothing in the Word that supports this idea, in fact Jesus proclaims many time that He is less than the Father. My question is simply this, how can I be judged based on my faith in Jesus and following what he taught, and be told that I am not Christian because I won’t accept what I believe is a man-made theory?”
Keeping Jesus In His Place
Most people (and groups) who have historically denied the triune nature of God have relegated Jesus to a subordinate position that describes Him as something less than divine. This is perhaps the greatest danger in misunderstanding the Trinity. To deny the Trinity is to either embrace some from of polytheism or deny the Deity of Jesus. For this reason, a denial of the Trinity is a denial of Christian orthodoxy.
A Suitable Sacrifice
If Jesus is simply a created being (even if He is something special yet not God), His death on the cross is insufficient to save us from our sin. In fact, if Jesus is not God Himself, the Christian God can fairly be described as a horrific deity that requires human sacrifice to appease his demands for justice. This is a common objection offered by skeptics who fail to understand the Trinity and the Deity of Jesus. The cross is the place where God Himself paid the price of our sin; He did not require the death of another created being, the sacrifice of one human for another. Instead, He offered himself in our place.
Solving a Biblical Dilemma
In addition, the Trinity explains an apparent contradiction in Scripture. The Bible clearly teaches that God is ONE (see Deuteronomy 6:4-5, Isaiah 43:10, James 2:19, 1 Corinthians 8:4, 6 and 1 Timothy 2:5-6). At the same time, however, the Bible also teaches that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit all possess the classic divine attributes of omnipotence (Isaiah 64:8, John 1:3, Job 33:4), omniscience (1 John 3:20, John 16:30, 1 Corinthians 2:10), omnipresence (1 Kings 8:27, Matthew 28:20, Psalm 139:7-10), and omnibenevolence (John 3:16, Ephesians 5:25, Romans 15:30-31). In fact, Scripture applies the title of “God” to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit independently (Philippians 1:2, John 1:1, Acts 5:3-4)! The solution to this apparent contradiction of Scripture (God is one, yet three are God) is the classic formulation of the Trinity as described in the Athanasian Creed:
“That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; Neither confounding the Persons; nor dividing the Essence. For there is one Person of the Father; another of the Son; and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is all one; the Glory equal, the Majesty coeternal. Such as the Father is; such is the Son; and such is the Holy Ghost. The Father uncreated; the Son uncreated; and the Holy Ghost uncreated. The Father unlimited; the Son unlimited; and the Holy Ghost unlimited. The Father eternal; the Son eternal; and the Holy Ghost eternal. And yet they are not three eternals; but one eternal. As also there are not three uncreated; nor three infinites, but one uncreated; and one infinite. So likewise the Father is Almighty; the Son Almighty; and the Holy Ghost Almighty. And yet they are not three Almighties; but one Almighty. So the Father is God; the Son is God; and the Holy Ghost is God. And yet they are not three Gods; but one God. So likewise the Father is Lord; the Son Lord; and the Holy Ghost Lord. And yet not three Lords; but one Lord. For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity; to acknowledge every Person by himself to be God and Lord; So are we forbidden by the catholic religion; to say, There are three Gods, or three Lords. The Father is made of none; neither created, nor begotten. The Son is of the Father alone; not made, nor created; but begotten. The Holy Ghost is of the Father and of the Son; neither made, nor created, nor begotten; but proceeding. So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Ghost, not three Holy Ghosts. And in this Trinity none is before, or after another; none is greater, or less than another. But the whole three Persons are coeternal, and coequal. So that in all things, as aforesaid; the Unity in Trinity, and the Trinity in Unity, is to be worshipped. He therefore that will be saved, let him thus think of the Trinity.” (from Creeds of Christendom, with a History and Critical notes. Volume II. The History of Creeds.. Harper & Brothers. 1877. pp. 66–71.)
I discusses this in more detail on this podcast along with other listener email questions: How can God “send” people to hell? What happens to those who never hear the Gospel or who can’t understand the Gospel? What areas of life and policies should government consider for “promotion”?
For more information about the reliability of the New Testament gospels and the case for Christianity, please read Cold-Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels. This book teaches readers ten principles of cold-case investigations and applies these strategies to investigate the claims of the gospel authors. The book is accompanied by an eight-session Cold-Case Christianity DVD Set (and Participant’s Guide) to help individuals or small groups examine the evidence and make the case.
J. Warner Wallace is a Dateline featured Cold-Case Detective, Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, Adj. Professor of Christian Apologetics at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University, author of Cold-Case Christianity, God’s Crime Scene, and Forensic Faith, and creator of the Case Makers Academy for kids.
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