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In 2017, Trinity Sunday is June 11.

As I explained in 2010, also known as the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, it falls on the Sunday after Pentecost.

Catholics, Anglicans, Methodists, Lutherans and many Presbyterians celebrate this important feast day honouring the Triune God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  The celebrant wears white vestments.

That post has more information on the history of Trinity Sunday, one of the major feast days in the Church calendar.

These posts might also be of interest:

Anglican reflections on the Trinity

A practical — and Anglican — reflection for Trinity Sunday

Trinity Sunday — an Anglican analysis of its importance

Trinity Sunday 2016: May 22 (John 16:12-15, three-year Lectionary Year C)

Now is a good time to explain the Holy Trinity to children. The concept of Three-in-One can be difficult to grasp, but one Lutheran pastor came up with an ingenious way of explaining it with an egg. This is foolproof:

A great way to explain the Holy Trinity

I hope that all my readers have a blessed day rejoicing in the Triune God.

(Comments temporarily off.)


holy_trinity by st andrei rublevSunday, May 31, 2015, is Trinity Sunday.

Trinity Sunday is always the next one after Pentecost.

My 2010 post explains that it was not until St Thomas Becket dedicated the Sunday after Pentecost to the Trinity in 1162 that it became a uniform feast in the Church.

Traditionally, in some denominations, subsequent Sundays until the First Sunday of Advent were referred to as Sundays ‘after Trinity’. Since then, this has changed in favour of Sundays ‘after Pentecost’ or ‘in Ordinary Time’. However, there are a few which have retained the Trinitarian association.

It is important for Christians to explain to their children the divine mystery of the Holy Trinity. My 2013 post features the Anglican, Revd Matt Kennedy’s, emphasis on the Bible which enables us to understand how the Holy Trinity helps us in our understanding of divine purpose. My 2012 post details an excellent Lutheran way of explaining the Trinity simply to our children: use an egg.

Along with many other clergy, Kennedy acknowledges that because we do not ‘get God’ as we ‘get’ — understand — the workings of our world, we tend to ignore or deny divine mysteries and truths. My 2012 post highlights his sermon on this topic; it is very useful for those who doubt the existence and doctrine of the Holy Trinity.

Today’s Anglican reflection also addresses our reluctance to accept the Trinity.

The late Revd Dr John Hughes, Dean of Jesus College, Cambridge, gave a sermon in 2010 which clarifies the importance of Trinity Sunday. Excerpts follow, emphases mine:

Trinity Sunday began to be observed in England under St Thomas Becket and then spread to the rest of Western Christendom.  And yet, there is a tradition that this Sunday the task of preaching is a short straw, not a joy and a delight.  Why is this?

The doctrine of the Holy Trinity, highest and most central of Christian doctrines has not enjoyed a good reputation in the last century or so.  I remember as a teenager being fascinated by those endless paradoxes in the Athanasian creed: ‘not three eternals, but one eternal, not three uncreated, but one uncreated…’   The whole thing sounded like some great riddle.  And let’s be honest, congregations have a tendency to glaze over when we come to the finer points of doctrinal and philosophical theology.  But the point runs deeper than this: for many in the last hundred years, the doctrine of the Trinity was seen as a later invention of Greek philosophy far removed from the simple faith of the Galilean fishermen.  Sceptics have ridiculed the endless debates in the early Church around that one word ‘homoousion’ – ‘of one being’ as we still say every Sunday in our creed.  The Trinity has been seen as part of the ecclesiastical baggage of dogma and metaphysics to be cast away in the return to the simple faith of Jesus.  Such a view was held by the Unitarians, who have a chapel on Christ’s Pieces.  And for a while such a view seemed to be becoming mainstream amongst New Testament scholars, theologians and even a few Bishops, although I’m glad to say things seem to have changed in recent years.  And of course the rise in interest in Islam, in many ways an early form of Unitarianism, has raised this question again of late.

Hughes’s three points about the Holy Trinity are that 1) Christians believe that God is very much alive and active in each of our lives; 2) He communicates this via Christ’s humanity (in addition to His divinity) in ‘collaboration with humanity’ and 3) we are called, via the presence of the Holy Spirit, to preach the Gospel.

Whilst I disagree with Hughes’s semi-Pelagian belief that we have a divine presence here on earth (see his third point) — our perfection comes in heavenly afterlife — his conclusion is worthwhile:

So to recap: God is Love, God is personal

Unbelievers do not understand this, and it is one of the most difficult challenges we face when evangelising in greater and lesser ways. So much atheistic propaganda has presented God as perpetually angry and distant, that it is hard to counteract this in conversation with curious unbelievers.

In closing, Hughes died in a car accident in June 2014. A memorial service in thanksgiving for his life took place in October that year at the University Church of Great Saint Mary’s in Cambridge. Professor Janet Soskice, President of Jesus College and Chair of the Faculty Board of Divinity, gave the address:

… John loved the Church of England, its language, prayer books and liturgies, but above all he loved the living church itself. Theologically and liturgically Anglo-Catholic, the services he organised and sermons he preached were never exclusive or cultish, and always deeply informed by his study of Scripture. He inherited from Tim Jenkins and Jonathan Collis, previous Dean and Chaplain, a lively and well-integrated chapel. With Mark Williams, the Director of Music, he oversaw a golden age of Jesus Chapel worship

John emanated unruffled energy. He never appeared to be rushed even while, along with all his chapel and college duties, I knew he was researching, lecturing, publishing and supervising and examining both undergraduate and graduate students. In the Faculty of Divinity he was a highly regarded colleague in theology, philosophy of religion and ethics. Amongst his contemporaries he was widely regarded as the most gifted Anglican theologian of his generation

I have spoken with a number of agnostics who think the Church needs a revival of Christian philosophy. Very few clergy have studied it in depth. It seems to be present among a few Catholic and Anglican priests, but not enough to make a wider difference. From my conversations with agnostics, Christian philosophy would facilitate a sort of applied Christianity which would enable making a greater connection between the New Testament and our lives today.

Readers may agree or disagree with this perspective. However, the Reformed (Calvinist) minister, the Revd Vincent Cheung, has combined the two in a traditional yet thought-provoking series of sermons.

stained glass teaching-scriptures-720641 genxrisingcomTrinity Sunday 2013 falls on May 26.

Last year, I featured excerpts of a Trinity Sunday sermon from the Revd Matt Kennedy, Rector of the Anglican Church of the Good Shepherd in Binghamton, New York. Mr Kennedy explained various heresies and what makes them so.

I located another sermon of his for today’s post. I do not recall if it is specifically for Trinity Sunday, however, Kennedy makes excellent points on the application of the Holy Trinity in our lives.

At some point in a good number of us — myself included — have come to such an abstraction about the three-in-one Godhead that, if left unchecked, it can be a divine mystery which we neglect.

The Holy Trinity can be difficult to understand and explain; it is a mystery of faith. Yet, we must do our best to understand and apply what we can of this mystery to our daily lives. This is a good way to explain it to children and adolescents; it involves an egg. This post from 2010 explains more about Trinity Sunday and its place in the Church year.

Now on to Kennedy’s sermon which ties us in with the three Persons of the Trinity, the Church and  the Bible. He has more at the link, but this is the excerpt — the practical application in our lives — which caught my eye (emphases mine):

The individual Christian,
the Church
cannot separate the Holy Spirit from the Holy Scriptures.
The scriptures are the words of Christ,
the Son,
and it is the task of the Holy Spirit to glorify the Son
by taking his words
and making them known
not undercutting them.
The Holy Spirit is never, therefore,
never going to contradict the Holy Scriptures.

On the contrary,
if you want to hear the voice of God,
if you want, in your ordinary day to day life,
to feel the presence of God,
to know him,
to be guided by him,
to find out if he loves you and how much,
to figure out what to do with yourself,
how to relate to the people around you,
if that is what you want,
then there is one place to go
and that is the Bible.
And that is because for the believer,
the Holy Spirit’s task is not reveal to new revelations
or new truths to astound our friends,
but to illumine,
to help you understand what has already been so carefully
and perfectly revealed.
He does that supernaturally
through your personal study,
through teachers,
through preachers,
applying those words to your life and to the life of the church.

Before moving on to Mark 4, there are two important aspects of the second half of Mark 3 which are worth studying.

One is the notion of Jesus’s ‘madness’, discussed yesterday.

The other aspect, blaspheming the Holy Spirit, is also related to the accusations by the Jewish hierarchy that Jesus had an ‘unclean spirit’.

Both passages are included in the Lectionary for public worship, but they can leave some readers, Christians included, confused.

Here is Mark 3:22-30 (emphases mine):

Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit

 22And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “by the prince of demons he casts out the demons.” 23 And he called them to him and said to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? 24If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. 26And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end. 27But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man.Then indeed he may plunder his house.

 28Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, 29but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”30for they were saying, “He has an unclean spirit.”

John MacArthur says that the parallel to these verses are in Matthew 12:22-32:

Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit

 22 Then a demon-oppressed man who was blind and mute was brought to him, and he healed him, so that the man spoke and saw. 23 And all the people were amazed, and said, “Can this be the Son of David?” 24But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons.” 25 Knowing their thoughts, he said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. 26And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? 27And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. 28But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. 29Or how can someone enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house. 30 Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. 31 Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. 32And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.

Luke 11:14-23 tells a similar story, although without the warning against blaspheming the Holy Spirit. MacArthur says:

The section in between where the leaders call Him satanic, this text in Mark 3 is parallel to Matthew 12. But that happened on another occasion in Luke 11. Luke 11 has a record of almost an identical conversation but it’s different. This all happened in Galilee. The one in Luke 11 happened in Judea. This one happened in response to the healing of a deaf and dumb and blind demon-possessed man. The one in Luke, the situation of the healing was different. What that tells me is that this conversation happened at least twice and the facts are it may have happened a lot. And that lets us know that the Pharisees were doing everything they could everywhere they went to tell people He was satanic. That was their mantra.

Why demonic?

The scribes and Pharisees could see that Jesus was performing miracles. They saw the results of these healing — creative — miracles. Jesus could not have been mad, because He would have been incapable of miracles. However, even a healthy mental state does not produce miracles. Therefore, the miracles came from something supernatural inherent within Him.

They were so set against Him that they spread the rumour that he had demons. Mark 3:30:

for they were saying, “He has an unclean spirit.”

MacArthur explains:

They use the vilest possible slander and blasphemy and say the Son of God is nothing but a servant of Beelzebul. Most people wouldn’t say that. I don’t think most people in Israel would say that. I think it was a hard sell for them to convince the people that this was actually who He was. I don’t think there are very many people that would say that today. Some would, some would say that Jesus was satanic but it’s pretty rare. If you reject Jesus, you probably don’t want to say that, you probably never have said that, you might never have thought that. There are atheists who reject Christianity who don’t go that far. But really, you certainly can’t say that He’s just a good man. If He’s not a lunatic, He’s a very bad man. He is a great liar. He is a massive deceiver. He’s trying to convince people that he’s God and he’s got supernatural power and if he’s not God, that supernatural power has to be satanic.

The name Beelzebul — and others

Mark 3:22 says:

And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “by the prince of demons he casts out the demons.”

MacArthur examines this name, as well as others with which the Jews were familiar:

Now Beelzebul had become a name for Satan. There was another one the Jews used, Belial … Beelzebul was a name for Satan. It was basically a name that meant what Mark says they said in the second statement, verse 22, He cast out the demons by the ruler of the demons. Beelzebul was a name to designate the ruler of the demons. And Luke says Beelzebul means the ruler of the demons in Luke 11:15. By the way, that word Beelzebul is used five times in the Old Testament, so it had been around a long time. The Jews were familiar with it and used it.

Now where did it come from? Probably from Beelzebub which came from Baal. Baal means lord and the Ekronites…Ekron was a city in Philistia and according to … 2 Kings chapter 1, the Ekronites had a god named Baalzebub which means the Baal of the high place, or Baal meaning lord, lord of the high place, lord of the dwelling, lord of the temple. That was Beelzebub, that was the Ekronite god.

Well the Jews purposefully corrupted Beelzebub into Beelzebul because when you change it from the B to t he L, it goes from being the lord of the high place, to being the lord of the manure…a very purposeful corruption showing Jewish disdain for the false Canaanitish god. So through the years, this Beelzebul, lord of the dung, or lord of the flies that collect on the dung, had become the name for Satan.

Jesus’s response

Our Lord answered the scribes in a curious yet well known set of verses, more generally used in a political context today. It is easy to forget that Jesus was talking about Satan and not a nation.

Jesus calls his critics toward Him in verse 23. He asked how Satan could cast himself out of someone, then followed up with familiar verses (24 and 25):

24If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.

What does this mean? Simply that Satan never works against himself. As Matthew Henry explains:

It was plain that the doctrine of Christ made war upon the devil’s kingdom, and had a direct tendency to break his power, and crush his interest in the souls of men; and it was as plain that the casting of him out of the bodies of people confirmed that doctrine, and gave it the setting on; and therefore it cannot be imagined that he should come into such a design; every one knows that Satan is no fool, nor will act so directly against his own interest.

Jesus was even-tempered with his accusers:

he treated them with all the freedom, friendliness, and familiarity that could be; he vouchsafed to reason the case with them, that every mouth may be stopped.

Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit

Jesus told the scribes (Mark 3:28-29):

28 “Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, 29but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”—

The eternal sin is because they say He has an ‘unclean spirit’ (Mark 3:30).

Recall that the Holy Trinity is one in three persons.

MacArthur tells us what blasphemy is not:

You will please notice that it is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit but it’s not denying tongues, or denying a healing, or denying some power display, supposed power display of the Holy Spirit.


It is blaspheming the Holy Spirit by saying Jesus is demonic.

How does that blaspheme the Holy Spirit? Because when Jesus came into the world, the New Testament says, He set aside the prerogatives of His own power. He said, “I only do what the Father shows Me to do, tells Me to do. And He did it by the power of the Spirit.” That’s what the incarnation meant, that when He laid aside His glory, became a man, He restricted the independent use of His divine attributes and He left Himself to the will of the Father and the power of the Spirit. Whatever He did was the Father’s will and was done through the Spirit’s power. So if you say Jesus is satanic, you have just blasphemed the Holy Spirit cause the Holy Spirit doing His work through Him. The Holy Spirit came upon Him at His baptism, the Holy Spirit led Him from there into the wilderness to be tempted, was with Him through His temptation. The Holy Spirit then anointed Him to preach and away He went preaching and doing all His ministry.

If you were there and you saw it and you heard it and your final conclusion was He’s demonic…you’re damned, you can’t be saved because that’s your ultimate conclusion with full revelation. So this is unique to those people who had that full revelation.

From this, some of us might conclude that this was for the scribes and Pharisees’ time, not ours. However, MacArthur draws our attention to St Paul’s Epistle to the Hebrews (10:26-31), which says much the same:

26For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. 28 Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. 29How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has spurned the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? 30For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

Matthew Henry observes:

Many of those who reviled Christ on the cross (which was a blaspheming of the Son of man, aggravated to the highest degree), found mercy, and Christ himself prayed, Father, forgive them; but this was blaspheming the Holy Ghost, for it was by the Holy Spirit that he cast out devils, and they said, It was by the unclean spirit, v. 30. By this method they would outface the conviction of all the gifts of the Holy Ghost after Christ’s ascension, and defeat them all, after which there remained no more proof, and therefore they should never have forgiveness, but were liable to eternal damnation. They were in imminent danger of that everlasting punishment, from which there was no redemption, and in which there was no intermission, no remission.

MacArthur says:

Look, we’ve all been forgiven for rejecting Christ, haven’t we? We’ve all been forgiven for rejecting Christ because we weren’t born saved. So we’ve all been forgiven for that. But the one who won’t be forgiven is the one called the apostate who gets full exposure to the truth, full exposure to the gospel, full revelation and makes the final conclusion…it’s not true, I reject Christ. It’s a deception.

If that’s where you end up after full exposure, that’s what’s called apostasy…that’s unforgivable. The Holy Spirit’s testimony is that He is Lord. The Holy Spirit did this mighty work through Him to demonstrate that He is…He is Lord.

This is what Paul was saying to the Hebrews. They were blessed enough to know those who lived and walked with Christ. Today, we have that witness in the four Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.  Our rejection of that testimony is a serious thing indeed.

That is not the state in which to leave this world.

MacArthur concludes:

Look, all that’s left for you if your final decision is with full knowledge to reject, fearful judgment, terrifying judgment, severer punishment, the hottest hell is for those who rejected with the most knowledge. There are perhaps some of you who have rejected Christ. Your knowledge is increased today. You are in danger of greater judgment if you conclude that He is not the Lord He claimed to be. You need to be frightened by this. Some of you perhaps have thought that you were guilty of some blasphemy that could never be forgiven. May I remind you in final comments that the Apostle Paul in 1 Timothy, and I love this, said this, chapter 1, verse 12, “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who strengthened me because He considered me faithful, putting me into ministry even though I was formerly a…what?…blasphemer.” All manner of blasphemy can be forgiven except that final blasphemy that says with full revelation, “I reject Christ.” And you’re left with the fact of explaining His supernatural power as satanic. And you stand then with the crucifiers, crucifying Him again and putting Him to open shame.

Much better to remember Matthew 12:32 says, “You can speak a word against the Son of Man and be forgiven.” We’re all blasphemers of a sort who have been forgiven if we’ve come to faith in Christ. Don’t turn away, get the full revelation and respond in full trust.

Lewis’s trilemma

C S Lewis devotees might say, ‘I was wondering how long it would take to get to this point’.

Others will wonder what Lewis’s trilemma is.

It is an argument used to prove Christ’s divinity:

“Lunatic, Liar, or Lord”, or as “Mad, Bad, or God”

Although the trilemma is so called because Lewis popularised it in a BBC radio talk, it has been around since the 19th century. Wikipedia tells us:

The Scots preacher “Rabbi” John Duncan (1796–1870), around 1859-60:[2]

“Christ either deceived mankind by conscious fraud, or He was Himself deluded and self-deceived, or He was Divine. There is no getting out of this trilemma. It is inexorable.”

Duncan was one of several preachers, both in Britain and North America, to use the same argument, perhaps worded differently.

Unfortunately, modern theologians have criticised the argument.

Yet, Lewis wanted us to see that our condescension in calling Jesus a great man or a wonderful prophet falls well short of the mark:

I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronising nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to. … Now it seems to me obvious that He was neither a lunatic nor a fiend: and consequently, however strange or terrifying or unlikely it may seem, I have to accept the view that He was and is God.[5]

Every household and every so-called Christian school would do well to reflect upon these readings and this trilemma.

I, too, was guilty of condescension towards Jesus Christ. A better study of Scripture helped to dispel such a prideful notion.

I pray that an improved study of the New Testament also works for others in this situation.

June 3, 2012 is Trinity Sunday. Yesterday’s post gave a useful way to explain the divine mystery of the Holy Trinity to children and new believers.

The Revd Matt Kennedy, Rector of the Anglican Church of the Good Shepherd in Binghamton, New York, warns us about heresies concerning the Holy Trinity. What follows are excerpts from his Trinity Sunday sermon from 2010, ‘God’s Self Disclosure’ (emphases mine):

… let me start out by saying two things: 1. The Trinity is not something we made up. Concepts humans make up are very tidy. They may be complex like the combustion engine or the personal computer, but once you get the system everything falls into place. The Trinity is not tidy. It is not a practical, relevant, human-friendly system that once understood will make everything fall into place. That’s because the Trinity is not a human concept thought up by humans for humans. It’s the word humans use for God’s own nature that he has revealed to us. Everyone here can understand the basic facts about the Trinity because God has revealed these basics in a way that is fit for our finite minds, but we’ll never “get God” like we might “get” computers or mechanics, because God is infinite and we’re not.

Which brings me to the second thing: self disclosure is an act of love … the Creator of the Cosmos who owes us nothing and who needs nothing from us, reveals himself to us. Don’t sit back as if the Trinity is some dry dusty esoteric doctrine. It is God’s self disclosure. He’s inviting us to go deeper and to love him more. Christianity is a revealed faith not an intuitive religion. Christians do not take a mystical self-guided journey into the great cosmic yes. God reveals himself to us through his word. That’s an unwarranted unmerited immeasurably valuable gift. How stupid and selfish to be bored by it.

I’ve found that starting with what the Trinity is not, makes it easier to grasp what the Trinity is. So let’s start with four of the most common misunderstandings
Modalism: A couple of months ago someone in ST suggested this analogy for the Trinity. “Just as a single man can simultaneously be a son to his father, a father to his son, and a brother to his sibling so the one God can be Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” God steps into various roles depending on the circumstances. Sometimes he is the Father, other times, the Son and still others the Holy Spirit.  This is called Modalism.

Take a look at the gospel lesson this morning in John 16:13-15.
“13…when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. 15All that belongs to the Father is mine.” 

Is there anything in this text that would conflict with modalism? In verse 14 Jesus says that the Holy Spirit will glorify the Son. That requires two distinct persons. The Son and the Spirit are distinct and operating in relationship to each other at the same time. This relationship is impossible unless there are two distinct persons. In verse 15 Jesus mentions the Father. The Father shares everything with the Son: relationship. One person is not jumping into three roles. Three persons are relating simultaneously to each other. You see the same thing in the gospel accounts of the baptism of Jesus. Simultaneously Jesus, the Son, is baptized, the Father speaks “This is my beloved Son” and, the Holy Spirit descends as a dove. All three, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, present and actively relating to one another. The New Testament is full of these kinds of events and from them we learn, God tells us, that the Father is not the Son, the Son is not the Father, and the Spirit is not the Father or the Son. Father, Son and Holy Spirit are distinct…they are not the same Person.

Arianism: Well then, some will say, if Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are distinct, then they can’t all be God because there is only one God. So only the Father is God. Jesus is like a powerful avatar or spirit being. And the Spirit must be like the force in Star Wars, this spiritual energy field that the Father emits. Arius, a famous heretic, taught something like this in the early 4th century but its back in vogue in liberal mainstream protestant circles where Jesus is often depicted as being a super spiritual human so in touch with God that the divine becomes manifest through him—kind of like the Buddha but without all the fasting.

It’s clear enough that the Father is God. But scripture clearly identifies Jesus as God as well.

1. In John 1:1 we read: “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the word Was God”. Well who is the Word? Skipping down to verse 14 of John 1, “and the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.”  Obviously Jesus is the Word.
2. Jesus himself claims to be God. In John 8:56-58, Jesus has this exchange with Jewish Authorities “Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.” “You are not yet fifty years old,” the Jews said to him, “and you have seen Abraham!” “I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” Those last words “I Am” or “ego eimi”, are the words used in the Greek Old Testament to translate YHWH. The Pharisees understand very clearly what Jesus means because in v. 59, they try to stone him for blasphemy.
3. And finally, Jesus accepts the kind of worship that belongs to God alone. What did Thomas’ say when the risen Jesus showed him his wounds?  “My Lord and My God”. And how did Jesus respond? “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”(20:29) The apostles claim Jesus is God, Jesus claims that he is God. Jesus accepts the worship only due to God

Tritheism: So are we saying that there are three Gods? Muslims and JWs believe that we are. In Isa 44:6 we read: “This is what the LORD says…I am the first and I am the last; apart from me there is no God.” Does the confession that the Son is God and the Holy Spirit is God in the New Testament undercut that basic Old Covenant truth? Not at all. The truth that there is only one God that is reaffirmed in the New Testament. Paul writes in 1st Timothy 2:5: “For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus”. And James in 2:19 writes: “You believe that there is one God? You do well. Even the demons believe and shudder”  So the very apostles who proclaimed that the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Spirit is God just as strongly proclaimed that there is only One God.

Tripartism: Well, maybe God is like a giant peace sign with the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit coming together as the three sections or parts. That idea doesn’t hold up either. One example will suffice. In Colossians 2:9, Paul writes “9 For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.” The fullness of the deity, all that God is, Jesus is. The Son is not part of God, the Son is fully God and, on the basis of the texts we’ve already looked at, we must say the same is true for the Father and the Spirit
So here’s what we have so far: Scripture reveals, that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are distinct persons, not the same. Scripture also reveals that the Father is fully God, the Son is fully God, and the Holy Spirit is fully God. And Scripture clearly reveals that there is only one God. How do we put this together? On the surface it seems like a contradiction but God does not contradict himself. So we are called to harmonize what he reveals.
That’s what the doctrine of the Trinity accomplishes. God is one in his nature or his essence, his being. God is three in Person …

So why is this keeping this straight important? …

Letting the Trinity go is one of the fastest ways to fall into spiritual danger. Almost all of the heresies—the lies about God that lead people away from the truth, away from Christ—that’s what heresy does, that’s why its so dangerous—at the root reject one or more truths about the Trinity …

It’s less common today for children in Christian schools and at home to learn about heresy. There are several and supposedly newer ones actually derive from the original. As Kennedy mentioned, Arianism is flourishing in ‘liberal’ churches. It certainly is in the Church of England. Jesus is the great socialist collectivist ‘teacher’. Although our churches have crucifixed and commemorate all the great feasts, sermons are reductive socio-political editorials. How many converts did the clergy of St Paul’s Cathedral make during Occupy, which ended — for now — a few months ago? It’s doubtful they made many with their social gospel. Their public pronouncements had little to do with Christ and everything concerning redistribution of wealth by the notional 1%. How sad.

Perhaps they have problems understanding or believing in the Trinity? Now that we have celebrated Pentecost Sunday and Trinity Sunday, let us ensure we remain true to Scripture and Christian doctrines. Heresy really does take us away from the truth of Jesus Christ.

Explaining the Holy Trinity to children and new believers can be difficult. St Patrick was said to have used the shamrock, with its three leaves attached to the same stem.

What follows is another — and for me, more useful — way. It comes from a lady named Sue whose brother is a Lutheran pastor. At the last minute, he was asked to preach on Trinity Sunday at his family’s church because their pastor had laryngitis.  This is how he explained the Holy Trinity (emphases mine):

He set out 3 small bowls. He cracked an egg, separated the white from the yolk, placed them in 2 of the bowls, and the shell in the third. He then asked the children which was the egg (which of course brought out all kinds of interesting responses). He used this illustration to explain the Trinity. I think even the adults in the congregation were enlightened by his talk. The children certainly learned something that day.

The parts of an egg are inseparable — the shell, yolk and white are all component parts. Without any one of them, there would be no egg. The same is true of the divine mystery of the Holy Trinity. God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit are integral — not three different Gods, but three-in-one.

Tomorrow: An Anglican rector on the correct understanding of the Trinity

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