The Trinity - A Christian Perspective

                    Phil Debenham

                     Oil and Wine Ministries


Having had numerous discussions with non-trinitarians on the subject of the Trinity I have noticed that they really have little grasp of what the doctrine truly is. Since they are approaching the topic from the standpoint of an incorrect definition, constructive dialogue is nearly impossible. This is unfortunate. To take a strong stand against a topic with which you have little understanding is never beneficial. The same could (should) be said of taking a strong stand for a topic with which you have little understanding. Either way you are arguing from a position of ignorance. 

Recently on a Facebook group entitled, “Ask Any Biblical Question to Jehovah’s Witnesses,” I asked the question, “How do you, as a JW, define the Trinity.” I received much condescension and a bit of arrogance from some who thought my query a bit disingenuous, but those willing to answer honestly defined the Trinity as “three gods in one god.” By their definition God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are all gods, who, together, somehow make up One God. They say that the Trinity is unscriptural, and given that definition, they are correct. 

One of the arguments against the Trinity that has reappeared often in discussions I have had with faithful non-trinitarians is that Jesus said, “My Father is greater than I” - (John 14:28). The conclusion is if Jesus is less than the Father, he cannot also be God. It is a logical argument given the definition of the Trinity they hold - “three gods in one god.” 

Further many of them state that Trinitarians are polytheistic, believing in three gods. Again, given the definition they have given me, that would be correct. 

I have endeavored to understand the Trinity from the non-trinitarian viewpoint, and I believe I have done so. It is imperative that we understand one another if we are to have any meaningful dialogue, and understanding was the purpose of my question to JW’s on that Facebook page. Once I had confidence that I understood their conception of the doctrine, I asked them to understand mine. I did not ask them to argue with me about it. I did not ask them to agree with me about it. I only asked them to understand the definition as Christians define the doctrine. 

To my utter dismay, none were willing to do so. None. Not one. Two of them belligerently argued with me without even an inkling of an attempt to simply understand the doctrine from a Christian standpoint. Instead they clung to the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society’s view as they had been taught it, and, from that point of view continued to attack the doctrine. One attack after another without any attempt what- so-ever to understand the actual Christian Doctrine. 

This article is a result of my I frustration at the lack of openness on the part of those JW’s, and other non-trinitarians, I have attempted to have dialogue with on this subject. The reason for the article is twofold: 

1. To help sincere non-trinitarians understand the doctrine of the Trinity from a Christian perspective, whether they accept or reject it. And, 

2. To assist Christians who believe in the doctrine but are still unable to effectively articulate that doctrine. 

This is a simple explanation, not an exhaustive one. It is meant to add clarity, but not to explain the doctrine in enormous detail. It is meant to be understandable to the layperson. 

Having provided that introduction, let’s delve into the actual subject.

 What the Trinity is Not 

The Trinity is not a doctrine of three gods making up the One God. It is not a doctrine that can be understood apart from Divine revelation. There is nothing in human experience, that is physical experience, that will help us to comprehend the substance of the doctrine. I will use our human existence to help define terms so that we understand them, but if God had not revealed this about Himself, we would never have understood it even to the limited degree we now can. And that understanding comes from revelation as revealed in the pages of the Old and New Testaments. 

What the Trinity Is 

A brief definition: 

The Trinity is a description of what and who God is. The Bible teaches us clearly that there is One (and only one) God. His name is YHWH. That speaks of his “Being”, his nature. He is God. 

We also are “Beings.” Human beings. In that, we are all the same...all human beings. That is our nature, our essence. 

“Being” is that which makes you what you are. You are a human being. 

“Person is that quality or essence that makes you who you are. What I am is a human being. That is my being. Who I am is Phil Debenham. That is my person. The two are not the same thing. 

All of us share essentially the same thing; this type of being that we all are. Human beings. However, we are not the same persons. You can see that the characteristic of being is not the same as the characteristic of person. 

So I consist of one person in one being. 

God consist’s of three persons in one being. Those three persons are described as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. These three are not three gods, but are the three persons that make up the one being of YHWH, the One God. 

You may ask, “Is there anything like that anywhere on Earth.” The answer is “No.” That question should be followed up with another - “Does that mean that God cannot be one being and three persons?” The answer is, again, “No.” After all, He is God and we are but His creation. There is no way we can know these deeper things of God apart from revelation. 

The Different Roles in the Trinity 

Notice the title of this section. It is not “The Different God’s in the Trinity.” We’re I speaking from the non-trinitarian understanding, “god’s” would be the word I’d use. But that is not in keeping with an accurate definition of what the Trinity is. This lack of understanding is where the dialogue usually goes awry. As you read the different roles of the Trinity, keep in mind our definition: One in Being, Three in Person. 

The three persons of the triune God are referred to as the Father, The Son, and the Holy Spirit. Often people hear the term “son” and impute inferiority to the father. In one sense that is accurate to do. In John 14:28 Jesus Himself says, “My Father is greater than I.” The question arises; How is it possible that Jesus is God when he says “My Father is greater than I”? 

In an organization the CEO is greater than an employee of the organization. The CEO is at the top of the totem pole while the employee is near the bottom. Both the CEO and the employee share the same kind of being. They are both human. Thus they are the same in being, but different in role. 

When Jesus says “My Father is greater than I”, the being is the same, but the role is different. This is how the Trinity all comes into focus as we read the Scripture. 

Evidence of the Trinity in the Old Testament 

Many have said that the concept of the Trinity can be found in the New Testament but not in the Old. However, the concept of the Trinity is not foreign to the Old Testament. If we read the Old Testament a bit more carefully, through the lense of greater revelation given in the New Testament, we can begin to see the Trinity in the Old as well. 

Where is the first place we can see evidence of the Trinity in the Old Testament? In the first verse of the first book of the Bible. Genesis 1:1 says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” The word translated “God” is “Elohim” which is plural. The word translated “created” is singular. Thus the verse is saying that God (plural) did a singular act. 

 In this first verse we see a plurality within a singularity within the Godhead. Further, as if to verify this conclusion, God refers to Himself as “we.” How is it that God refers to Himself plurally? The Queen of England refers to herself as “we” when she’s speaks to the nation. Perhaps that is what God is doing? No, this is not a plural of magesty for there was no such plural in the Hebrew language when this passage of Scripture was written. God says “we” will make man in “our” image and then he makes a plurality - man and woman. 

There is no verse of Scripture more repeated by the faithful Jew than Deuteronomy 6:4, “the Shamah”. “Hear oh Israel, the LORD is our God, the LORD is one.” The word for “one” is the Hebrew word “echod” which is used of a plurality making up a singularity. For instance a single bunch of grapes, consisting of many grapes, would be one (echod) bunch. So, even in the Shamah we have allusions to the plurality of persons in the Godhead. 

Again, this is not an exhaustive discussion of the doctrine of the Trinity, but I think it is a good basic representation of the doctrine, as well as one that is easily understood. My hope is that you will understand it and search the scripture to find it’s truth.

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