Is The Trinity Doctrine Biblical?

Since the word “Trinity” doesn’t appear in the Bible, some wonder whether the early church simply invented the doctrine. The term “trinity” comes from the Latin trinitas. This term was used by the church father Tertullian (ca. A.D. 160-230) who wrote about “a trinity of one divinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” Some are troubled that the word “trinity” doesn’t appear in the Bible. But the absence of this word in no way invalidates the doctrine. Many important biblical concepts are conveyed by terms not actually contained in the Bible — for example, terms like Bible, canon, and inerrancy. Surely nothing in the text prohibits the use of extrabiblical terms to express proper meaning. Although the word Trinity doesn’t appear, Scripture clearly reveals the doctrine.

Here is the Trinity doctrine in six biblically based propositions:

  1. There is one, and only one, God (1 Timothy 2:5).
  2. The person of the Father is God (2 Peter 1:17).
  3. The person of the Son is God (Titus 2:13).
  4. The person of the Holy Spirit is God (Acts 5:3-4).
  5. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are distinct and simultaneously distinguishable persons (Luke 3:22).
  6. The three persons (Father or God; and Son or Christ or Lord; and Holy Spirit or Spirit) are frequently listed together in a triadic pattern of unity and equality (John 14:26).

Thus, the Trinity doctrine is derived directly from the content of Scripture. Though the apostles of Jesus were Jewish monotheists who believed strictly in one God, they nevertheless recognized that two other persons (the Son and the Holy Spirit) were spoken of as God. All three persons possessed the qualities and prerogatives of deity. The apostles therefore modified traditional Jewish monotheism in light of the revelation concerning the Son (Jesus Christ) and the Holy Spirit.

For more on the doctrine of the Trinity, see my book Without a Doubt: Answering the 20 Toughest Faith Questions (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2004), chapter 5.

  One thought on “Is The Trinity Doctrine Biblical?

  1. Carl
    July 15, 2011 at 10:14 am

    I found your article entitles “Is the Trinity Doctrine Biblical” to be not only extremely one-sided, but also Scripturally inaccurate. If the trinity doctrine truly is Biblical, then the two must be in complete harmony. But are they? See for yourself.

    1. The trinity doctrine says: “In all things…, the Trinity is to be worshipped.”

    In the Bible, Jesus said: “But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way.” Nowhere in this verse are the “true worshipers” (Christians) instructed to worship three persons as a single God. Only the Father is “looking” for worship, not the Son or the holy spirit.”

    2. The trinity doctrine says: “We worship one God in trinity.”

    In the Bible, Paul says: “But we know that there is only one God, the Father, who created everything, and we live for him.” (1 Cor. 8:6) He also mentioned “one God and Father, who is over all and in all and living through all.” (Eph. 4:6) So, the Father is the “one God,” not the trinity.

    3. The trinity doctrine says: “The Son is God.”

    In the Bible, Jesus said: “I am the Son of God.” (John 10:36) Jesus’ apostles also viewed him as the Son of God, not God himself. Said Nathanael: “Rabbi, you are the Son of God.” (John 1:49) Peter exclaimed: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matt. 16:16) Martha confessed: “You are the Christ, the Son of God.” (John 11:27) The apostle John wrote so people might believe that “Jesus is the Christ the Son of God.” (John 20:31) And of the apostle Paul’s ministry it is said: “He began to preach Jesus, that this One is the Son of God.” (Acts 9:20)

    4. The trinity doctrine says: “The holy spirit is God.”

    In the Bible, it says the holy spirit is something that belongs to God. As 1 Thess. 4:8 says: “Therefore, anyone who refuses to live by these rules is not disobeying human teaching but is rejecting God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.” Jesus said at Luke 11:13: “So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.”

    5. The trinity doctrine says: “We are compelled by the Christian verity to acknowledge every Person by Himself to be God.”

    In the Bible, Jesus addressed his Father, Jehovah, as the “only true God.” (John 17:3) By calling his Father “the only true God” Jesus shut himself out from being God or even a part or a Person of God. Otherwise, the Father would not be the “only true God.” That’s just common sense.

    6. The trinity doctrine says: “In this Trinity, None is greater or less than Another.”

    In the Bible, Jesus said: “The Father is greater than I am.” (John 14:28)

    7. The trinity doctrine says: “In this Trinity, the whole Three Persons are Co-eternal together.”

    In the Bible, only Jehovah is eternal. He is the only one said to be “from everlasting to everlasting. (Ps. 90:2) Jesus attributed his existence to his Father, saying at John 6:57: “I live because of the Father.” Also, Jesus’ life came to a temporary end when he was executed by his enemies. As Peter said to the Jews: “The Prince of Life [Jesus] you put to death.” (Acts 3:15) Can someone whose life had a beginning and an end be called “eternal”? No.

    8. The trinity doctrine says: “In this Trinity, the whole Three Persons are co-equal.”

    In the Bible, Jesus said: “The Father is greater than I am.” (John 14:28) 1 Cor. 11:3 says: “The head of the Christ is God.” 1 Cor. 3:23 says that the Christ is God’s property as Christians are the property of the Christ. It says: “You belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God.”

    9. The trinity doctrine says: “He therefore that will be saved, must thus think of the Trinity.”

    Nowhere in the Bible did Jesus say that believing in the trinity is a requirement for salvation.

    There is more to the trinity doctrine than I have covered here. But the question is: Is the trinity doctrine Biblical? No.

  2. Carl
    July 15, 2011 at 10:45 am

    In your article above, you said: “Though the apostles of Jesus were Jewish monotheists who believed strictly in one God, they nevertheless recognized that two other persons (the Son and the Holy Spirit) were spoken of as God.” Now, tell me, did ANY of those apostles say or even imply that the “one God” was made up of “a unity of three” persons, which is what the word “trinity” means? Not even close! Rather than modify traditional Jewish monotheism, as you claim, they merely enforced it. Consider: At John 8:41, Jesus’ fellow Jews said to him: “We have one Father, God.” At Matt. 23:9, Jesus told his disciples: “God is your heavenly Father.” The apostles did not modify that belief that the Father–a single person–is God. For instance, the apostle Paul said: “There is actually to us one God the Father. (1 Cor. 8:6) And, later, Paul wrote of the “one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” And Peter wrote: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Pet. 1:3) So, did the apostles modify traditional Jewish belief that the Father–a single person–is the “one God”? No. Instead, they took Jesus at his word that his Father–a single person–is the “only true God.” (John 17:3)

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