About the Trinity

While the doctrine of the Holy Trinity as we know it is not fully developed in the Bible, yet there are many passages in which there are reference to the Triune God. Most Christian theologians point to the language of Genesis 1.1-3 (the first words of the Bible) as indicative of God being revealed as a Trinity of persons

“In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.  Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.”

This short paragraph highlights what most theologians identify as the relationship of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit reflected in the very act of the creation.  The Father is the creator, but creation takes place through the word of God that is to say Jesus, and it takes place in the power of the Holy Spirit, the “wind from God sweeping, brooding over the face of the waters.”

Certain comments of the Lord Jesus as reflected in the Gospels also point in the direction of the Holy Trinity: There is the Great Commission of Matthew 28 in which the disciples are instructed to go forth into the world baptizing in the Name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit. It is reflected in certain Johannine passages such as we heard last week and several weeks before, in which the Son asks the Father to send the Advocate, the Parakletos, the Holy Spirit upon the disciples. It is reflected in other passages such as in Luke: 10:21, in Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said:

 “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”

While we may not fully comprehend why there is the necessity of the language of the Holy Trinity, we should understand that it is there because it is part of God’s revelation: God shows himself to be Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

This Trinitarian nature of God is a part of what we assert in the historic creeds of the Church, whereof there are 3. They are commonly known as the Apostle’s, the Nicene Creed and the Creed of St. Athanasius, or the Quicunque Vult. Why it is called the Quicunque Vult is because it is generally thought that Saint Athanasius did not actually write it; it is thought to be a later creed than either Apostle’s Creed or the Nicene Creed. Athanasius became Bishop of Alexandria the year after the Council of Nicea which was in the year 325; to confuse you all the more, the Creed that we know as the Nicene Creed emerged after a number of Church Councils, most notably the council of Chalcedon in 451.

While the language of the creeds evolved over time and while the paragraph about the divine and human nature being joined in Jesus was a corrective to the egregious error and heresy known as Arianism, that’s with an i, not y.  To do what is called disambiguation these days: Arianism with an I has to do with the teachings of Arius, who lived in the 300’s; Aryanism with a y has to do Nationalist Socialist Party or Nazis and certain hate groups that persist today and model themselves after the philosophy of White Supremacy.  the importance of our knowing the Creeds has to do with a celebration of the of our Christian Faith. 

Some would say we don’t have too much danger of becoming Arians, so why bother with the Creeds? But Arianism with an I is still also very prevalent. It shows up these days when people say such things as: Jesus was a good man, a good moral teacher, an exemplar to us all—or anything that denies the love and the power of God as the gift of salvation.


Canon Greg+


About canongreg

I have been Rector of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Wellsboro, PA since 1994.
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