One of the core beliefs of Christianity (see Sections 1.3, 13.19 and 13.20 of Theology Corner) can be stated as:
The one true God exists as three distinct, transcendent, immanent, infinite, eternal, and immutable persons: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.
- The one true God (Deut 4:35, 6:4; Isa 43:10, 44:6-8; I Cor 8:6; 1 Tim 2:5) exists as three distinct,
- transcendent (1 Kings 8:27),
- immanent (Acts 17:27,28; Col 1:16-17),
- infinite (1 Kings 8:27),
- eternal (Isa 57:15) and
- immutable (Mal 3:6) persons:
- God the Father (John 5:18, 10:29, 14:28, 17:1-3; 1 Cor 8:6; Phil 2:11),
- God the Son (Isa 7:14, 44:6; John 1:1-14, 5:18, 10:30, 20:28, 8:58 cf Ex 3:14; Rom 9:5; Phil 2:5-11; Col 1:15-18; Titus 2:13, Heb 1:8; 1 John 5:20; Rev 22:13-18) and
- God the Holy Spirit (Ex 17:7 cf Heb 3:7-9; Mat 28:19; Acts 5:3-4, 13:2 cf Gal 1:1 and 1 Tim 1:1; 1 Cor 3:16; 2 Cor 13:14; 2 Tim 3:16 cf 2 Pet 1:21; Heb 9:14).
Some have claimed the Holy Spirit is not a person. This claim is refuted by the following Scriptures: (John 14:26, 15:26, 16:7-11, 14; Acts 5:3, 13:2, 16:7; Rom 8:16, 26; 1 Cor 12:11; Eph 1:14, 4:30).
Difficulties encountered in discussing this issue are compounded by the ambiguity associated with certain words. To remove some ambiguity, it is useful to distinguish between two concepts:
- NATURE -- A Complex Composite of Attributes
- PERSON -- A Substantive Entity
The human nature is a complex composite of the human attributes of intellect, will and heart (seat of emotions). These are housed in a substantive entity called a person identified by the body during life and the soul after death. The divine nature is a complex composite of the divine attributes of intellect, will and heart. These divine attributes are transcendent, immanent, infinite, eternal and immutable. They are housed in substantive entities called the three persons of the Trinity: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. The incarnation joined the divine nature of God the Son with the human nature of Jesus Christ, without change, division, separation or mixture, to form a single person who is fully human and fully divine. This implies, for example, that Jesus has both a human will and a divine will which was declared at the third council of Constantinople in 680 AD.
Neither the term Trinity, nor any that expresses the notion of Triunity is contained in Scripture. But the mysterious truth that these words represent is stamped upon the entire revelation of God. For example, each man and woman is capable of agape (unconditional) love for others only because each person is created in the image of God and agape love is one of God's attributes. But how can agape love be an attribute of God when, before the creation of heaven and the universe, nothing existed except God? Who would have been the object of God's agape love? The answer is simple for Christians. Each of the distinct, uncreated, eternal and immutable persons comprising the triune God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) has always loved the other two unconditionally. This quandary becomes unresolvable only for those who believe God exists as one person. The "agape love" dilemma besets non-Christian religions (e.g. Islam) as well as Christian spinoffs (Oneness Pentecostalism).
As demonstrated in Section 13.20 of Theology Corner, no more than 80 verses (0.25% of Scripture) are required to establish the foundational aspects of the triune God. The doctrine of the Trinity is also discussed in Sections 1.3, 1.19, 1.23, 4.7, 12.10, 12.12, 13.19, 13.20, 14.2 and 14.3 of Theology Corner. Here are some words of Samuel Wakefield on this issue.
"We now approach this great mystery of our faith, the doctrine of the Trinity, for the declaration of which we are exclusively indebted to the Sacred Scriptures. Not only is it incapable of proof a priori, but it derives no direct confirmatory evidence from the existence and wise and orderly arrangement of the works of God. It stands, however, on the unshaken foundation of his own word, that revelation which he has given of himself in both Testaments; and if we see no traces of it in the works of creation, as we do of his existence and perfections, the reason is, that creation in itself could not be the medium of manifesting or of illustrating it…
God is one being. But he is more than one being in three relations; for personal acts, such as we ascribe to distinct persons, and which most unequivocally characterize personality, are ascribed to each person of the Trinity. The Scripture doctrine therefore is, that the persons are not separate, but distinct, and that they are so united as to be but one God. In other words, that the Divine nature exists under the personal distinction of Father, Son and Holy Ghost, and that these three have equally, and in common with one another, the nature and perfections of supreme divinity. This appears to be the true simple doctrine of the Trinity, when stripped of refined and learned distinctions. As to the manner in which three persons are united in the Godhead, it is granted to be incomprehensible; but so is God himself, as is also every essential attribute of his nature."