2419) The Doctrine of the Trinity (1 of 3)


Whoever desires to be saved should above all hold to the catholic (universal) faith…  Now this is the catholic (universal) faith:

That we worship one God in trinity and the trinity in unity,
neither blending their persons
nor dividing their essence.
For the person of the Father is a distinct person,
the person of the Son is another,
and that of the Holy Spirit still another.
But the divinity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is one,
their glory equal, their majesty coeternal.

What quality the Father has, the Son has, and the Holy Spirit has.
The Father is uncreated,
the Son is uncreated,
the Holy Spirit is uncreated.

The Father is immeasurable,
the Son is immeasurable,
the Holy Spirit is immeasurable.

The Father is eternal,
the Son is eternal,
the Holy Spirit is eternal.

And yet there are not three eternal beings;
there is but one eternal being.
So too there are not three uncreated or immeasurable beings;
there is but one uncreated and immeasurable being.

Similarly, the Father is almighty,
the Son is almighty,
the Holy Spirit is almighty.
Yet there are not three almighty beings;
there is but one almighty being.

Thus the Father is God,
the Son is God,
the Holy Spirit is God.
Yet there are not three gods;
there is but one God.

Thus the Father is Lord,
the Son is Lord,
the Holy Spirit is Lord.
Yet there are not three lords;
there is but one Lord.

Just as Christian truth compels us
to confess each person individually
as both God and Lord,
so our religion forbids us
to say that there are three gods or lords…

Accordingly there is one Father, not three fathers;
there is one Son, not three sons;
there is one Holy Spirit, not three holy spirits.

Nothing in this trinity is before or after,
nothing is greater or smaller;
in their entirety the three persons
are coeternal and coequal with each other.

So in everything, as was said earlier,
we must worship their trinity in their unity
and their unity in their trinity…


     Got that?  Any questions?  Of course there will be questions.

     This is a classic definition of the doctrine of the Trinity, one of the most difficult doctrines of the Christian faith.  Christians worship one God, but within the Godhead are three persons:  God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.  Christians know about all three, but how they coexist together as one has been a source of ongoing confusion and bewilderment.  There have been many attempts over the last 20 centuries to explain the Trinity, but it remains unexplained.  There have also been many creative attempts to illustrate it.  While these illustrations can be of some help, they can go only so far, and will never give a complete picture.

     Some point to this belief in the Triune God and say, “It doesn’t make any sense; it is not logical, therefore Christianity must not be true.”  Others, more correctly in my view, say, “Why should we be surprised that we cannot fully comprehend God?  It should go without saying that a complete understanding of God will be forever beyond us.”

     When you think about it, the complexity of this mysterious doctrine of the Trinity adds to the credibility of the Christian claims.  The disciples were out in the world proclaiming the Gospel of the salvation to be found in Christ Jesus, whom they had seen risen from the dead.  That message is incredible enough.  So incredible, that many have argued that this Jesus did not rise from the dead, but that the disciples were inventing a new religion.  But if that was the case, they certainly would not have invented a complication like the doctrine of the Trinity to go with it.  They were going out into the very same empire that had executed their Lord, and was hostile to their message.  This doctrine of the Trinity made their job, and the job of every Christian preacher and teacher since then, more difficult.  This is not the sort of complication anyone would want to invent, and especially not if they were trying to make their case more convincing.

     Rather, this complex picture of God is what the disciples were left with after the amazing visit of God Himself to the earth in the person of Jesus.  Why should it surprise us that the exact nature of God is beyond our understanding?  How could we, who are so little, ever expect to fully understand God, who is so big and magnificent and wonderful?  (continued…)


O Father, my hope; O Son, my refuge; O Holy Spirit, my protection.  Holy Trinity, glory to Thee.

—Eastern Orthodox Church Liturgy