So Now I’m a Christian. Now What? Part 4:The Loving, Triune God

 

 

I know your thinking, “So you think you can suck me into reading a treatise on the Trinity by mentioning “love?”

The ideas are related. Stick with me now.

 

You may remember, if you’re keeping score at home, that in part 1 of this series, I explained that God is self-existent. That means, among other things, that he is completely independent of anything else for his existence. If that is the case, it also means that every essential attribute God has is independent of anything else. What I mean by an “essential attribute” is any property or quality that a thing has such that if it did not have that property, it would be something else.

“Wait, what?”

Bear with me. An example would be water ice. Ice has the property of being solid at temperatures below 320F at sea level, and being made of water. If it were made of lead instead of water, it would not be water/ice. If it was 500F, it would be liquid, not ice. You get the idea.

“Still waiting for the ‘love’ part.”

I’m getting there. For God, we said that self-existence, immutability (he does not change) omnipotence,(all powerful) and omnipresence (everywhere present at the same time) are all essential attributes of God. Love is also one of his essential properties. If love exists, if it is a real thing, then it must have a source. If God is the ultimate source of all things, he must also be the ultimate source of love. If he is not, he is dependent on a source outside of himself.

“Great! Now lets move on. We don’t need to confuse this issue with this ‘Trinity’ stuff.”

Not so fast. For love to exist, you need two things: a lover, and a beloved. Love is a subject-object relationship. If God is love, as John tells us (1 John 4:8) then he must have an object of his love. If the only objects of his love are his creations, then he is dependent on his creation for an essential attribute. Do you see the problem? If God is not at least two persons, whom does he love when there is no creation?

“But, the word ‘Trinity’ isn’t in the Bible.”

True, but neither is the word “Bible,” so that doesn’t tell us anything. This is where the work of theologians comes in handy. (No, really!) Some doctrines come from straightforward readings of Bible passages, like the doctrine of creation from nothing (Genesis 1:1,) or the resurrection. Some, however, come from taking all of what the Bible says and putting it together like a big puzzle. This is called “systematic theology.” The Trinity is such a doctrine.

The doctrine of the Trinity says that there is only one God, one divine being, which exists as three Persons. We call these Persons the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The Bible teaches us that there is only one God,[1] and that the Father is God,[2] the Son is God,[3] and the Holy Spirit is God.[4]

“Okay, but maybe sometimes God is the Father, sometimes he’s the Son and sometimes he’s the Holy Spirit.”

That’s Modalism, Patrick! (Don’t worry about what Modalism means, or who Patrick is. Just watch the video linked below.)

We know they are not all the same person switching “hats” because Jesus referred to the Father and the Holy Spirit as distinct from himself. Jesus was constantly talking about the Father, and he taught his disciples that he would send the Holy Spirit. If we can’t take his word on that, what can we trust him on?

“But if the Father is God, and the Son is God and the Holy Spirit is God, why do you say there is only one God? Are you really saying there are three Gods and one God?”

No. Next question? Okay, I’ll unpack that a little more.

Despite certain individual’s use of this distinction to try to dodge getting caught in a lie, there really are different meanings to the word “is.” If I say, “Dan Wynne is the husband of Carole Wynne,” I am saying Dan Wynne and the husband of Carole Wynne are one and the same. They are identical. That is why this is called the “is of identity.” A is B if A is identical to B. There are a few other ways “is” is used, but for our purposes, I will just explain one more. If I say “Dan Wynne is human,” you see that I am not saying that Dan Wynne is identical to “human.” If that were the case, it would also mean that “human” was identical to Dan Wynne, and you can see that is not the case because if you are reading this and you are not Dan Wynne, you are still human. Clear as mud? This use of “is” is called essential predication, or simply, predication. It answers the question, “What kind of thing is that?” When we say the Father, the Son or the Holy Spirit is God, we are answering the question, “What kind of thing is the Father?” He is God. If it helps, think of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit as divine. The simplest way, though imperfect, could be to think of God as one “what,” and three “who’s.”

Some have tried to come up with analogies to explain the Trinity. They are all flawed; no one explains that better than my friends at the Lutheran Satire YouTube channel. For an informative and funny video on the subject, click here.

“Okay, but they tell me Jesus is God. Does that make four persons?”

No. In my next post, I will explain how the Son is Jesus.

[1] Deuteronomy 6:4, Isaiah 45, 1 Timothy 2:5

[2] Matthew 5 and following (basically the Sermon on the Mount)

[3] John 8:58, Titus 2:13

[4] Acts 5:3-4

Author: apologeticsminion

Daniel has an MA in Christian Apologetics from Biola University. He is married and has four grown children. Professionally, Daniel is a sign language interpreter.

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