Monday, 23 September 2019

Understanding the Holy Trinity

MANY readers of the Henley Standard may recall singing at school or during a church service the hymn which begins: “Three in one and one in three.”

It is often sung on Trinity Sunday, which was last Sunday.

However, the idea of the Trinity is often very confusing, so let’s try to uncomplicate it.

The Christian doctrine of the Trinity holds that God is not one but three persons — Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Readers may ask where does this idea come from.

Let’s first record that scripture does not contain the word Trinity, but early Christian belief in the deity of Jesus Christ existed since the 1st century in the writings of John The Apostle (see John 1:1 or 20:38; Titus 2:13; Romans 9:5; Hebrews 1:8-10, 2 Peter 1:1).

John speaks about the persons — Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Then there are further writings by someone called Ignatius of Antioc, who was a disciple of John, who was born at the beginning of the Apostolic age (35C).

Christian history tells us that the Ante-Nicene Fathers also spoke of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Again, history suggests that the early church father who first used the word Trinity was a person called Theophilus of Antioch who defines the Trinity.

The first defence of the Trinity doctrine was in the 3rd century by someone called Tertullian, who very clearly defined the Trinity.

But does this history help us? Well, there is much debate in history about whether the beliefs of the Apostles were in the Creeds or were they corrupted and replaced with new beliefs?

Thankfully, all scholars recognise that the Creeds themselves were created in reaction to disagreements about Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

These controversies took many centuries to be resolved.

However, the Council of Nicea is an important event in the resolution of controversy so that by the end of the 4th century the doctrine of the Trinity had reached nearly our current use.

What may help readers to take a new interest is that anyone who has been to a baptism may well remember hearing the infant or adult was baptised with the words: “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

A Council of Constantinople in 381 said this is the faith of our baptism.

The Gospel of Matthew (28;19) indicates that Baptism was linked to the Trinity doctrine.

I hope the above clears some of the confusion and recreates a new interest.

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