Trinitarian Doctrinal Statement

The following is a doctrinal statement I did for my ST 102 class: Trinitarianism. The prompt was as follows: “All students will write a doctrinal statement and ministry application paper. This assignment includes two parts. The first section is a descriptive definition of God, which should not exceed one page in length (single-spaced, normal font and margins) with biblical and theological references arranged as endnotes (no length specified here). The definition should state your beliefs about God. The explanation and defense of those beliefs should be in the endnotes, to avoid distracting from the flow of the definition. The second part of this assignment is a brief statement of personal application (about one page in length). Answer this question: What difference does the doctrine of the Trinity make in your life and ministry?


Doctrinal Statement on Theology Proper

It is of utmost importance to first and foremost affirm that God exists and has revealed Himself to humanity.[1] [2] He is a rational being, rationality being from Him.[3] It is of almost equal importance to affirm that He is “one God in Trinity, and that Trinity in unity.”[4] He is “more than the sum total of his perfections.”[5] He is “the sum total of his infinite perfections.”[6] He is personal and possess agency.[7] He is “ens perfectissimum.[8]

In further explanation of the Trinity, He exists eternally in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.[9] While eternally existing in three persons, distinct, He remains unified in essence.[10] All three persons are equal and distinct in deity, almightiness, incomprehensibleness, uncreatedness, yet there are not three deities, three almighties, three incomprehensibles, three uncreateds, but one.[11]

The Son was begotten, not made, from the Father in eternity past, and the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son.[12] This is apparent in the scriptures.[13]

The Son was born in human form, taking on flesh, by birth from Mary the then virgin.[14] The Son was the means by which the world came into being.[15] The Son took on the name Jesus of Nazareth during his years on earth, as well as the title, Christ.[16] The Son was crucified by Pontius Pilate, dead, buried, and resurrected on the third day.[17] This act atoned for human sin.[18] The Son will return in glory, rule on earth for 1,000 years and, with the Father and the Spirit, judge the living and the dead.[19] The Son consists of two distinct and complete natures, God and Man, “without confusion, without change, without division, without separation” both being perfectly represented in one person and subsistence: the God-Man.[20] He is human in every way excepting sin.[21]

The Spirit, “has spoken through the prophets” and indwells, seals, gifts, and baptizes those who believe in the Triune God.[22]

This is the extent to which I have yet understood the Triune God in whom I believe.

 

 

Personal Application of Theology Proper

Answering the question, “What difference does the doctrine of the Trinity make in your life and your ministry?” feels a little like answering the question, “What difference does air and gravity make in your running a marathon?” I would hope the answer is obvious. However, answer it I shall.

Answer: All the difference. Without at least a cursory understanding of the doctrine of the Trinity, I would be lost in death and sin. In my personal life, I have nothing without God. One of the reasons Nietzsche is a favorite philosopher of mine is that he is the only Atheistic philosopher I have read who is willing to go all the way with the logical implications of there being no God. Despair, anarchy, and death are all that awaits those who deny God’s existence. Genesis 1-3 make it impossible to have life without there first being God. Since it is necessary for God to exist order for life to exist, one must make some sense of God in order to make some sense of life. The Trinity is the most sense I have been able to make of God, and so my life only makes as much sense as the Trinity does. Were I able to fully and completely understand and make sense of the Trinity, I would be free from sin and death and begin living eternal life fully and completely, which I believe one day will happen, after Christ returns.

In my ministry, I teach more than I do anything else. Since I teach, and teach God’s revealed word— the Bible, The Trinity is of utmost importance there as well. Without at least a cursory understanding of the doctrine of the Trinity, my teaching would lack all sense, and here is why.

I teach what the bible teaches, that is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is that Jesus is the Son of God, who took on flesh and died for our sins, that he was buried and raised on the third day, and that by believing in Him we might have eternal life in His name. Since this is the message from which all other teachings spring, this message must make sense. It only makes sense when there is some sense in the phrases “Son of God”, “died for our sins”, “believing in Him”, and “life in His name.” The best sense in which to understand these phrases is in the sense of the doctrine of the Trinity, as described above. As the saying goes, “If the best sense makes sense, seek no other sense.” In a very real way, then, all my teachings on the Gospel and the Bible flow from my understanding of the Doctrine of the Trinity. The Trinity is a foundational doctrine, one which sheds light on and supports all the other doctrines to which I hold. The Trinity acts as the sun illuminating the passages of scripture one must squint into while reading, and as an anchor holding fast the passages one might run away with were it viewed in isolation. It is a leash and a lamp, a landing and a light. It is true, and true things have a way of making other true things make even more sense. That is what the Trinity does for the truth of the Gospel, the truth of scripture, the truth of the world around me, and life and ministry I lead.

I say again, “What difference does the doctrine of the Trinity make in my life and ministry?” All the difference.

 

 

Biblical, Exegetical, Theological, Historical, and Explanatory Notes

[1] The Bible assumes the first of these two facts from the first verse onward, and the entire Bible is itself the clearest of revelation which affirms the second fact by its very existence. It is completely illogical to assert that God does not exist (from a cosmological and ontological standpoint) and it is by grace that the God who exists is pleased to reveal Himself to the humans He has created. This revelation is contained in the Holy Scriptures, creation, and Jesus of Nazareth. It is by the 66 books of Holy Scripture that knowledge of any of this revelation is attained in the current age.

[2] Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God…”; Colossians 1:17, “He is before all things”; Revelation 1:8, “I am the Alpha and the Omega”; John 17:5, “And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.”

[3] “rationality” here refers more to the denial of the opposite. God is not irrational. He is not self-contradictory and does not break the laws of logic or morality. A simpler way to put it is, “God makes sense. He’s not nonsensical.” That sense is not always completely comprehensible by humans, due to the fall.

[4] From the Athanasian Creed, A.D. 500. I am tempted to simply say that I affirm the Athanasian Creed and leave it at that. He does a better job of explaining the Trinity than I ever could here.

[5] Charles Ryrie, Basic Theology (Colorado Springs: Victor Books, 1997), 35.

[6] Paul R. Shockley, “Another Look at Election,” unpublished paper, accessed April 26, 2016, http://pk.b5z.net/i/u/2167316/i/ANOTHER_LOOK_AT_ELECTION_rv_1.pdf.

[7] Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God created…” Every verse in which God refers to Himself in the first person (“I” in English) reveals that he is personal. Every verse in which God acts in any way (e.g. “created,” “said,” “saw,” “gave”…) reveals that he has agency.

[8] “the word ens designates Him as a being, not an idea, but as that which has real, objective existence; and absolute perfection distinguishes Him from all other beings.” Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology: Volume 1 (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2008), 366.

[9] Again, most clearly stated in the Athanasian Creed, but widely affirmed throughout Christian history since its elucidation in the Constantinople-Nicaean Creed. The three persons of God are most clearly seen in scripture at the Baptism of Jesus and in the ordinance of Baptism given by Christ before his ascension. Matthew 28:19, “…baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

[10] Again, based on the creeds produced by the councils of Nicaea, Constantinople, and Chalcedon, this seems like specific and important language. While I affirm that other language may exist that better represents the Trinity, I don’t know that it has been revealed to man, or at least not so succinctly. To avoid the ancient heresies, this language is quite important and should be retained in current Christian circles.

[11] Summarized from the Athanasian Creed.

[12] From the Athanasian Creed and Nicene Creed, A.D. 381.

[13] John 1 is the clearest example of Christ being begotten in eternity past. “In the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God,” indicates that the word, Christ, had existence prior to time. John 3:16, 18 give us the language of begotten. Monogeneis translated “only begotten” in the most famous verse in the Bible, tells us the method by which Christ exists, not as a created being, but a begotten one. That the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father is clearly evident in John 15:26 “…that is the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father,” and that he proceeds from the son, filioque, is evident by reason when examining other passages such as John 16:7 which states that Jesus sends the Spirit “… but if I go, I will send Him [the Helper] to you,” Romans 8:9, Galatians 4:6, Philippians 1:19, and 1 Peter 1:11, all of which equate the indwelling Spirit with Christ.

[14] Isaiah 7:14 directly predicts that a virgin would give birth to a child who would be the sign to the House of David, and Matthew 1:23 tells of the direct fulfillment of that prediction. John 1:14 also speaks of the word becoming flesh and living among us.

[15] John 1:10.

[16] John 1:45, Matthew 16:16. He is referred to as Jesus Christ in every epistle except 3 John, (which is likely due to its brevity.)

[17] Crucified, dead and buried: Matthew 27; Mark 15; Luke 23; John 19. Resurrected: Matthew 28; Luke 24; John 20.

[18] Genesis 3:15, 21; Leviticus 17:11; Isaiah 53; 1 Peter 2:24; Hebrews 9:12; Romans 5:6-11.

[19] Acts 1:11; Revelation 19-20.

[20] Quotation from the Definition of Chalcedon, A.D. 451. The nature of the God-Man while also incomprehensible must be affirmed to avoid heresies of reductionism or subordinationism. That he is fully God: John 1:1; 8:5-8; 10:30-33; Colossians 2:9; Philippians 2:5-11. That he is fully Man: John 1:14; 1 John 4:2; Luke 2:52, 52; 24:39; Matthew 4:2, Hebrews 4:15.

[21] Hebrews 4:15, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weakness, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin.”

[22] “Spoken through the Prophets” comes from the Nicene Creed and supported in 2 Peter 2:12. Indwells: John 7:37; Romans 5:5; 1 Corinthians 2:12; 2 Corinthians 5:5. Seals: 2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13; Ephesians 4:30. Gifts: 1 Corinthians 12; Romans 12; 1 Peter 4; Ephesians 4. Convicts: Matthew 3:11 (and parallels); Acts 1:5. Baptism of the Holy Spirit is not a second or third work of grace that further enables a believer. Rather, it is experienced by all believers at the point of salvation, is not repeated, and joins believers to the body of Christ. – Summarized from Ryrie’s Basic Theology, 362-365.

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