One of the most difficult core beliefs of the Christian faith is the doctrine of the Trinity. Not only do skeptics and adherents to major religions misunderstand it, but many followers of Christ do as well!
The objections to trinitarianism, in simplest terms, come in one of two forms:
1. The doctrine of the Trinity is false because nowhere in the Bible is the term ‘trinity’ used. It is nothing more than something made up at the Council of Niceae to solidify Church power and serve the political ends of Constantine.
2. Belief in the Trinity is nothing more than polytheism, and is clearly condemned in the Bible (or Koran, if the objector is Islamic).
I will grant that the doctrine of the Trinity is difficult to understand; the concept that there is only one God, and that the one God is made up of three distinct Persons who are also wholly one being appears at first glance to be self-contradictory.
That is because we are trying to understand and describe a hyper-dimensional being in three dimensional terms. We live and are confined to space and time; God is independent and beyond the confines of both. Accurately describing how God can be triune (distinctly three, yet completely and inseparably One) is like trying to describe a sphere to a being that exists in only two dimensions. How would you describe height in a world that had only length and breadth?
For a fuller and entertaining exploration of the problem I’ve just presented, I refer you to a novella by Edwin A. Abbot entitled Flatland, where he writes as a two dimensional being trying to explain the third dimension.
The first objection to the Trinity first takes issue with the fact that the term ‘trinity’ is not found in the Bible, which is I think is irrelevant to the question of the truth of the doctrine. Let me illustrate why the explicit use of the term is unimportant.
My wife is a licensed driver in the state of Washington. If I look at her license, it gives her license number, name, address, and some other identifying information. It says ‘Washington State Driver’s License” on it – but nowhere does it say that she is licensed to drive an automobile of any particular model, weight, or make. In fact, it doesn’t even state that she can drive an automobile at all. My license, on the other hand specifies that I am endorsed for ‘two-wheel motorcycles only’. Obviously, since the licenses never uses the term ‘licensed to drive an automobile’, then clearly it is not legal for her to drive a car, and that I am limited to operating a motorcycle!
That is the same exact argument as ‘it isn’t in the Bible’.
In fact, Trinitarianism IS found in the Bible in the same way my license allows my wife to legally drive a car. While not explicitly stated, it is very strongly implied. I base my support of belief in the Trinity on this as well as there being documented belief in the doctrine by early church leaders who were discipled directly by the Apostles.
Perhaps most importantly, the trinitarian view is the ONLY doctrine that fulfills these three requirements of an understanding of God that agrees with what is revealed in Scripture:
1. There is only one God (Dt 6:4; Isa 43:10-11; 44:8; 1Ti 1:17; 2:5; Jas 2:19)
2. Jesus is God, and always was God. (John 1:1, 14; 10:30-33; 20:28; Heb 1:1-12; 2 Peter1:1)
3. The Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are distinct Persons. Throughout Scripture, all three are worshipped and depicted as Deity. (Matt. 6:9; Heb12:9; John 4:23; 1 John 2:22; John 17:5; Rev. 2:8, 22:13; Acts 5:3-4; Gen. 1:2; Titus 3:5-7; Rom 8:9-17; John 16:13; Eph. 4:30; I Cor: 12:11)
Any doctrine of the nature and person of God that denies any of the above is contrary to Scripture.
I was quite surprised to find a very good overview of both the historical developement and balanced explanation of the doctrine of the Trinity at Wikipedia.
The following links, in no particualr order, provide a number of explanations of Trinitarianism that are a fairly easy read:
These next few links are to writings that get quite exhaustive and technical at times, and I reccomend for those of you with a more scholarly bent:
A Formulation and Defense of the Doctrine of the Trinity by William Lane Craig
Brief Declaration and Vindication of The Doctrine of the Trinity by John Owen, first published in 1669.
The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy has way more information about the various different attempts to understand Trinitarianism than anyone could ever need.
Understanding the Biblical Doctrine of the Trinity (Godhead) By Cooper P. Abrams, III
And finally two more useful pages:
Christian Defense has a comprehensive rebuttal to the Oneness objections to Trinitarianism
Apologeticsindex.org has links to many, many more resources on this topic