Topic Article #8: The Trinity
by Dr. Eugene Clingman, Executive Administrator
Copyright 2006, International Church Council Project
(This article may be freely distributed so long as it is not altered
and this comment and the above information remain intact.)
The Trinity is the eighth topic of the International Church Council Project topics. The historic doctrine of the Trinity and the attributes of God form the essential foundation stones of Christianity on which rest many other doctrines and basic truths of Christian theology. They also provide answers to basic philosophic questions such as “the one and the many” and “the connection between the visible and the invisible worlds.” It took the careful scholars of the Church several hundred years to clarify the accurate picture of God from the Bible and we are indebted to them for working it out for posterity. For nearly 2000 years this doctrine of the Trinity and of God’s attributes has been believed by the Body of Christ in every country and is still considered to be necessary if one is to be truly saved and to be worshipping the one true God.
Religious liberals who have rejected the Bible as their source for truth have long since given up on believing in the Trinity or the deity of Christ. But within the last century, many Bible-believing people and some conservative denominations have adopted a modern version of the “modalism” heresy from the 3rd century AD, and as that false doctrine taught, they believe wrongly that God is not a trinity of three distinct Persons, but rather is only one divine Person who manifests Himself in any of three different modes at different times, like one actor playing three different roles. This serious error has penetrated many evangelical circles and is a deadly, unbiblical cancer which needs to be exposed and corrected. Because of this confusion among evangelicals, we have included the Trinity as one of the issues which must be addressed by this Church Council Project. We commend to the Church at large this statement on The Trinity to help her stay true to the historical and biblical position held by the Church for 2000 years and to offer her theological clarification which may help her correct her wayward children.
Such confusion and lack of theological clarity abounds in evangelical circles these days that a number of pastors and Christian leaders believe in the heresy of “modalism” while thinking all along they truly believe in the Trinity; many others simply do not have enough theological interest or knowledge to even care what anyone believes about the Trinity. Thus we offer this one question as a simple test to let pastors and church members be able to tell if a pastor or layman friend of theirs holds an errant/heretical view and needs to be exhorted and re-trained. The correct answer is “yes,” and a “no” answer or an “I don’t know” answer is a signal that that person holds a mistaken view of God, and may be a “modalist.”
The question is, “Does the one true God, the God of the Bible exist as a Trinity of three Persons wherein all three Persons are fully God and possess all the attributes of God, but the Father is not the Son or the Spirit, the Son is not the Father or the Spirit, and the Spirit is neither the Father nor the Son?” A true biblical and historical Trinitarian will answer “yes” enthusiastically.
This article is adapted from the Preamble of the International Church Council Project document titled, “The Trinity.”