2 Questions to be addressed in this chapter What is the doctrine of the Trinity?Why did Christians develop this doctrine?What were the early attempts at explaining the Trinity, and why did they fail?What was the result of the accepted Trinitarian definition?
3 What is the Trinity? Identity Statements Distinction Statements The Father is God The Father is not the SonThe Son is God The Son is not the Holy SpiritThe Holy Spirit is God The Holy Spirit is not the FatherUnity StatementThere is only one God
5 The reason for the Trinity The New Testament documents testify to the fact that the early Christians believed Jesus to be more than just a great teacher who gave witness to God; they took him to be the revelation of God himself.It was the experience of Jesus as God—not the verbal attestations or theorizing—which compelled the first disciples to recognize him as divine in their creeds.
6 Explanation of the Trinity – early attempts If theology took its cue from the actual practice of Christian communities, care was needed in translating the liturgical or even mystical language into the rational propositions of theology.As in the Christological debates, Christian thinkers were pulled in two seemingly opposite directions in trying to understand their object.On the one hand there were the Monarchists—so called because of the literal meaning of mono-arche, which is “one principle”.On the other hand there were the Economists—a “economy” deriving from the Greek word oikonomia, which was the management of a household.
7 Terminological clarification The Trinitarian debate was going on around the same time period as the debate over Christology.Athanasius, who figured so prominently in the Christological controversies, also played an important role in clarifying the nature and role of the Holy Spirit.Athanasius wrote the “Four Letters to Serapion”, using various arguments to defend the deity of the Holy Spirit.According to Athanasius, the relationship of Son to Spirit is such that the two must be of the same essence or nature.The God-man, Jesus Christ, was declared to be one person with two natures; the Trinity, then, was declared to be three persons with one nature.
8 Summary of main points1. The Father, Son, and Spirit are all God; they are not identical with each other; and there is only one God.The first Christians’ religious experience drove them to maintain the deity of Son and Spirit in addition to that of the Father.3. Monarchists and Economists each went too far in emphasizing the oneness or the three-ness of the Trinity.Postulating three persons and one nature did not completely explain the Trinity, but it did set parameters within which orthodox Christian thought should remain.