Published on March 5th, 2017 | by Josiah Batten0
Why The Trinity Matters
Without the Trinity, there is no Christianity.
Far too many Christians think the Trinity is some an out-of-reach doctrine with very little importance for the Christian life. Why does the Trinity matter in how I live? Can’t someone have faith in Christ even if they don’t get the Trinity?
We have ignored these questions for too long. We have actively minimized sound teaching on the Trinity. The result is people read a fiction book (or watch a movie) like “The Shack” and think that it is appropriate the represent the Father as a mother.
Despite all of this confusion, the Trinity is of primary importance in the Christian faith. To deny the Trinity is to deny the Gospel itself. If there is no Trinity, there is no Christianity.
Let me back this up by defining the Trinity, and then explaining why it is so important. The Trinity is the biblical doctrine that teaches there is only one God, and this one God exists in the three persons of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The word “Trinity” itself is extra-biblical, it is a word not in the Bible itself, but one we use to describe what the Bible itself clearly teaches.
But how is this possible? How can there be one God, and three persons that are God? The answer comes from an important difference, the difference between being (or essence) and personhood. God is one in His being or essence. There is only one being that is all-powerful, all-good, all-knowing, everywhere present, holy, and wholly just, and this being is God. Yet there are three persons that share this one being. All of the divine attributes just listed are completely true of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. To use an analogy (that hopefully doesn’t reduce to a heresy), think of a triangle. There are three distinct points to a triangle, but all of them share being triangular. That is, what makes a triangle a triangle is the fact that it is a three sided object. You cannot have two points and still have a triangle. All three points share an essence – being triangular. Yet there are still three points, distinct as to their pointyness. There is one triangle with three points. Likewise, there is one God in three persons.
With that explained, why does this doctrine matter? What difference does it make that God is one in being, and three in person? I want to list just a few reasons why the doctrine of the Trinity matters:
- The doctrine of the Trinity is unique – Among the world religions, Christianity alone teaches the Trinity. When people ask “Do Muslims and Christians worship the same God?” the answer is necessarily “No” from a theological perspective. Islam denies the Trinity, Christianity affirms it. The doctrine of the Trinity sets Christianity apart from all other religions.
- The doctrine of the Trinity means God is relational by nature – Because Christianity alone teaches that God is Trinity, Christianity alone can teach that God is relational by nature. That is, in God’s very being, He is relational. No other religion can claim this given their idea of God, because relationships require people. Sure, there are religions that teach there are multiple gods (as in the Greek pantheon), but these gods don’t all share one essence, some are older than others, some more powerful, etc. Christianity affirms that God is eternally relational, because God is Trinity.
- The doctrine of the Trinity grounds the idea of equality – There is much said about equality in our day. Christianity grounds the very idea of equality by means of the doctrine of the Trinity. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are distinct as persons, they have distinct roles, but they are completely and wholly equal in being. They are all equally God, all equally worthy of worship, adoration, and our obedience. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit’s equality in terms of being God requires we respond to them in particular ways, ways befitting of God. Any human’s equality in terms of being human requires that we treat all people in a way befitting our shared humanity, it demands we treat everyone with equality.
- The doctrine of the Trinity makes the Gospel possible – If there were no Trinity, there could be no Gospel; and if there were no Gospel, there could be no salvation. Why is this? Because the Gospel teaches that sin is paid for by the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. This sin is against God, and the sacrifice of the Son satisfies the Father, and the Son resurrects by the power of the Holy Spirit. If there is not Trinity, there is no Gospel and we are still in our sin.
It is possible to go on, but I believe this is enough. The Trinity is not some out of touch, esoteric doctrine for ivory tower intellectuals or far out mystics. The doctrine of the Trinity is not only among the most important teachings in the Christian faith, it is among the most practical. The Trinity matters, and now more than ever we need to understand this doctrine, and worship appropriately the one Triune God.
All glory to God,