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When Christians Manipulate the Trinity to Push Forth Their Agenda

When a Christian Manipulates the Trinity to Push Forth Their Agenda

Our God is triune. No true Christian denies this, but how exactly to articulate this truth eludes most believers. Because of our limited knowledge or more nefarious purposes, we may insert our personal views into our theology of the Trinity, which manipulates the Trinity to fit our presupposition. I trust what you read here will reinforce what you know about the Trinity and, perhaps, tear down any false ideas that look more like the creature than the Creator.

Theology Lessons from Brandi Huerta

  1. Worship: The Best and Second Best Reasons to Study Theology
  2. Incomprehensibility: The Remarkable Way Finite People Understand Infinite God
  3. Infinity: Our Built-In Finite Limitations of Understanding an Unlimited God
  4. Aseity: God Does Not Need Us; His Love Is Perfect and Unmanipulated
  5. Impassibility: It Is Not Remotely Possible to Break God’s Heart
  6. Simplicity: God’s Simplicity Is a Majestic Matter to Comprehend
  7. Eternity: Eternal God Is the Beginning and the End at Once
  8. Trinity: When Christians Manipulate the Trinity to Push Forth Their Agenda

Take It Seriously

As James Dolezal says, there is no “last thing” about God, so it’s not even remotely possible to exhaust what can be known about Him. That’s understandable since the Trinity is one of the great mysteries of the faith. We can truly know what we can know about the Trinity, but our minds will never grasp the fullness of God—even in eternity because He is the infinite.

However, in loving God with our minds, we should seek to understand Him as best we can as mere creatures. I do bring a caution, though: danger arises when people seek to remove the mysteries of God and make Him more comprehensible. Perhaps you have seen this hilarious video. Heretical views on the Trinity—views that would have caused a person to be excommunicated from the church for the past two thousand years—are the norm now, rather than the exception. If you love God and want to glorify Him, I know that this will concern you.

When Jesus said that He and the Father were one, what did He mean? This concept seems like a relatively simple question, but your answer has tremendous implications. A prevalent modern answer to this is to say they are one in the sense that they are a society or a community: diverse members with their own wills and consciousnesses, working together in harmony with one another toward a common goal. This view is called social trinitarianism.

Complementarians

Some complementarians will erroneously claim that there is authority and submission in the family precisely because there is authority and submission in the Trinity (there is not; more on that later). There are two common ways that this false view typically presents itself. The husband plays the role of the Father, they say, and the wife plays the role of the Son, etc. In this way, they project human relationships back onto the Godhead. The complementarian position is biblical and correct, but the Trinity can’t rightly be manipulated to support it.

Therefore, what is everywhere true of a father-son relationship in the biblical world, and is not contradicted by any other passages of Scripture, surely should be applied to the relationship between the Father and Son in the Trinity. The names “Father” and “Son” represent an eternal difference in the roles of the Father and the Son.

The Father has a leadership and authority role that the Son does not have, and the Son submits to the Father’s leadership in a way that the Father does not submit to the Son. The eternal names “Father” and “Son” therefore give a significant indication of eternal authority and submission among the members of the Trinity. —Wayne Grudem

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Egalitarians

Ironically, people who hold the position opposite complementarianism—the egalitarian view that believes there is no hierarchy in Christian life—also use the Trinity to support their position. They say that since the members of the Trinity are equal in authority (which is true, contra the view that the Son eternally submits to the Father), we as image bearers all have equal authority as well. They, too, manipulate the Trinity to support their very different ends.

We find the earthly reflection of this divine sociality, not in the autocracy of a single ruler but in the democratic community of free people, not in the lordship of the man over the woman but in their equal mutuality, not in an ecclesiastical hierarchy but in a fellowship church. —Jurgen Moltmann

The truth is that the Trinity is sui generis, meaning that it is unique, the only one of its kind, something to which nothing may be compared. All analogies, as Donall and Conall said in the video I linked above, actually diminish and deform our view of the Trinity and dishonor the Lord. Both of the positions I described above try to use the Trinity to accomplish their social goals, which is idolatrous even if the goals are potentially good ones.

Simply One

The doctrine of the Trinity hinges on divine simplicity, The God who exists has no parts. Whatever is composed of parts is dependent on those parts to be what it is and is also reliant on a composer of some kind. Since God is of or from only Himself, this cannot be the case. God is not the unity of three beings; He simply is One. He is the fullness of Being itself. This truth is profound and incredibly difficult to understand, but there are some essential things we can say concerning how God can be three and yet somehow still one.

Timelessly, the Father communicates His entire essence to the Son. This fact isn’t a verbal communication, of course; what this means to say is that, in a sense, the divine being “flows” from Father to Son. The Father and Son together communicate the divine essence to the Spirit. The only thing that distinguishes the members is what we call the eternal relations of origin: the Father is unbegotten, the Son is begotten, and the Spirit is spirated or proceeds from the Father and the Son. Their only difference is the mode in which they possess the divine nature.

The Athanasian Creed

The great creeds and confessions of the faith have served as faithful biblical guardrails for truth for millennia. Consider this excerpt from the Athanasian Creed.

Whoever desires to be saved should above all hold to the catholic faith (this means “universal,” and is not a reference to Roman Catholicism). Anyone who does not keep it whole and unbroken will doubtless perish eternally. Now this is the catholic 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 catholic religion forbids us to say that there are three gods or lords.

The Father was neither made nor created nor begotten from anyone. The Son was neither made nor created; he was begotten from the Father alone. The Holy Spirit was neither made nor created nor begotten; he proceeds from the Father and the Son.

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.

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Trinity Manipulation, Bad

Everything in God, including His will, is communicated from the Father to the Son. They have the same will so that there is no need for submission—the yielding of one will to another. All of this is to say that in everything they do, they do it as a true, perfect Unity. There is but one God. With respect to His human nature, Jesus is a creature. He’s fully human and, as such, submits His human will to the Father perfectly. There is authority and submission in creatures because we are not like the Lord in this way. There is no real way to “apply” the Trinity because of the creator/creature distinction, and we should avoid trying to make any creaturely comparisons to the Trinity.

People come to us every day in our ministry because they need help. Many want the gifts; few express a longing for the Giver. How about you, friend? Like the people I described above, are you willing to manipulate the Trinity to get what you want? Our Triune God is the summum bonum, the greatest good in and of Himself. He is not the means to an end. Do you ever use the Good to get the goods, so to speak, or to prove your point? If you do, you’re normal. As John Calvin said, the human heart is a factory of idols. But you also must repent.

You may have noticed the warning at the beginning of the Creed, saying that whoever doesn’t believe all of it will be damned. No Christian understands everything it says from the moment of their conversion, and it wasn’t meant to imply that was the case. Do take the warning seriously though. A false god cannot save you, and now that you know, you’re accountable to Him for the knowledge you have been given here.

Call to Action

  1. Please seek guidance from a competent theologian if you need help with anything you have read.
  2. Will you print this article and study it until it masters you?
  3. The links will help you grow in your knowledge of this great God. Please click on them to study about our great God. Also, spend time studying the theology lessons at the beginning of this article.
  4. Will you commit your life to worshiping the Trinity in spirit and truth? Whatever you may lose in the process, you will gain God and be transformed into His image so that you have nothing but a blessing in front of you if you choose to find your delight in knowing Him.

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