THE Christian Doctrine

What do you believe is THE doctrine that separates Christianity from Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, etc..?

It is the doctrine of the Trinity.  The Catholic Encyclopedia refers to the Trinity as “the central doctrine of the Christian religion”.  Did you know that?

The Athanasian Creed explains this doctrine, teaching  that:

The Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God, and yet there are not three Gods but one God.

This is the doctrine that separates Christians from Jews.  This doctrine requires Jews to call Christians “idolaters”, for they do not maintain the ancient Jewish doctrine, which teaches:

Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord.

Yes, the Christian doctrine claims to be consistent with the Jewish doctrine, but the Jews do not agree.  They believe that when St. Thomas the Apostle knelt before Jesus and professed, “My Lord and my God!”–he was committing idolatry.  This, to the Jews, is THE evil of Christianity–that Christians worship Jesus–a man–as God.

Now, this controversy is not unique to the Jews.  The doctrine of the Trinity has been controversial throughout Church history and the creeds we have–which EMPHASIZE the doctrine of the Trinity–were formed to make this doctrine as clear as could be.

The Apostles Creed focuses on the Trinity, “I believe in God, the Father…and in His Son….and in the Holy Spirit”.  The Nicene Creed further emphasizes this doctrine, “We believe in one God…the Father…and in one Lord, Jesus Christ…and in the Holy Spirit.”    Anyone who suggests that this doctrine has never been questioned among Christians doesn’t know history.

Even after the Protestant Reformation, when “Bible-believing Christians” started their own “Biblical” churches, the doctrine of the Trinity came up again.  In the 16th century, the Unitarians organized within Protestantism, believing that the doctrine of the Trinity was not to be found in Scripture but was rather Catholic Church dogma and not necessary for Christian faith and life.

As Christian Trinitarians, we face a weighty accusation from the Jews.   They say were are, in this doctrine of the Trinity, committing idolatry.  They do not deny that it may be true that Jesus is the Messiah…time will tell.  However, they believe that even if Jesus is the Messiah, God is NOT made up of three persons, and Jesus of Nazareth may never be addressed as “God”.

Nevertheless, we profess it to be so.  Have you ever realized how often you make reference to the Trinity in your daily life of prayer and worship?  The Sign of Cross is a profession of the Trinity.  The Glory Be is a profession of the Trinity.  In Morning Prayer, we make the sign of the Cross three times and say the “Glory Be” five times!  If you pray Morning and Evening prayer everyday for a month, you would have made the Sign of the Cross 180 times and the Glory Be 300 times!  We can’t even eat a meal without professing the doctrine of the Trinity!

Are you committed to the doctrine of the Trinity?  If so, why?  I’m not asking, “Can you recite the arguments given by Christians for the Trinity?”  Really, everyone knows them (the baptism of Jesus, the Great Commission, God refers to Himself in the plural, Wisdom is personified in the OT, etc..).  I’m interested in knowing what has led you–personally–to be committed to the docrine of the Trinity, seeing how controversial it has been throughout history and how serious a doctrine it is.

Categories: Religion

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8 Comments on “THE Christian Doctrine”

  1. Eve Sullivan
    May 3, 2012 at 7:37 pm #

    For me personally, I have always found consolation in following the Church fathers and the saints; in addition there is that safety net of being united with the Church teachings. Because I believe in the one true Church, I would accept its teachings even if I didn’t understand. I have never assumed myself wise enough to understand the mysteries of the Church when even the greatest saints couldn’t understand. That’s why these teachings are
    called mysteries, right?

  2. jhaselbarth
    May 3, 2012 at 11:00 pm #

    Definitely has given me pause in the past. Its argued by both Jews and Muslims. The doctrine is also impossible to picture in art. Art always makes it three things (which it is) and never one thing (which it also is). When art tries the one thing I think it looks awkward. I can imagine a Jewish or Muslim mind looking at this and just not getting what Christians are talking about: Holy Trinity

  3. Christopher
    May 4, 2012 at 7:19 pm #

    Without the Trinity, perfect love would not be possible. The Father gives Himself eternally to the Son, who in turn perfectly receives what the Father gives, and from both comes the Holy Spirit, the perfect fruit of love. They must be separate persons for an act of love and its fruit to be possible, and they must be eternal and spiritual to be able to participate in an act of love without the limits of time and space. The superabundance of a perfect act of love also provides an understandable explanation for why a perfect God would create something outside of Himself.

    I was challenged by your post, Mr. Michael, and I’ve been thinking it over.
    What do you think?
    Chris Ruckdeschel

  4. wmclaa
    May 4, 2012 at 7:56 pm #

    What I’m more interested in is what leads us to believe in the doctrine of the Trinity as opposed to the Unitarian view. None of us can say, “Oh, come on, in 2 Peter such and such, he says, ‘God is made up of three divine persons.’” How did we come to be Trinitarians?

    I honestly don’t know how I did or that I ever really did. I just don’t think much about it. My arrival went like this:

    1. I was a total pagan from age 12 to 17.
    2. At age 17, I started thinking about death and what follwed.
    3. I met a girl who invited me to church with her family.
    4. I started reading the Bible, specifically the books of Job and Matthew.
    5. I prayed the Lord’s Prayer, which I learned when I was 7 years old.
    6. I was brought into the Christian (evangelical) community as I began college.
    7. I studied the Bible very diligently.
    8. I began studying philosophy and history in college.
    9. I read John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards and the Puritans, who were Trinitarians.
    10. I asked my Baptist pastor during college, “Where is the Trinity taught in the Bible?” He showed me a few passages and I said, “That really doesn’t say anything about the Holy Spirit being God or Jesus being God.” He warned me about being a heretic. I said, “Whatever.”
    11. I moved into traditional Anglicanism and was very, very happy. I was taught plainly that the doctrine was established by the living Church, in her councils throughout history.
    12. I realized that the Anglican Church broke from that tradition and became Catholic.
    13. Here I am.

    I’ve never really given as much attention to the doctrine of the Trinity as I have to Christ’s atonement, the Resurrection, the sacramental nature of the Church and practical stuff like being a husband and father, living a righteous life, etc.. I have been challenged, therefore, by the pressure my orthodox Jewish friends have put on me over this particular doctrine and was, honestly, surprised to find it identified as THE CENTRAL doctrine of the Catholic Christian religion. It was never presented to me as such. Hence, my question to you.

    WM

  5. Christopher
    May 4, 2012 at 8:35 pm #

    Okay, I see what you mean.

    Everything in the Catholic Faith flows out of this truth. It’s central because it’s the starting point for all that flows from it. If we are not going to concern ourselves with proofs from Scripture or Tradition, which provide us with an intellectual foundation in such a belief, couldn’t we turn to the fruits of this belief? In our day to day lives, without focusing on the doctine itself, we focus on all that flows from it, all of the time. Our prayer lives, our meditations, our reading all come from this belief. Apart from argument, couldn’t we offer the lives that we lead as a result of living in the belief of the Trinity, in communion with 3 persons? You’ve made this point over and over. Who would want to be a Christian if they are just like everyone else.

    • wmclaa
      May 4, 2012 at 8:53 pm #

      What concerns me is that we’re never challenged to actively accept this doctrine–that GOD is three persons. GOD IS THREE PERSONS. The universe is ruled by one being who is three persons. Is that really the central doctrine in our Christian lives?

      The whole question has stirred me because this is called idolatry by the Jews–and I mean the BEST Jews. We carelessly–CARELESSLY–make the sign of the cross throughout the day, even our toddlers, as we make THE profession that marks what we are as Christians. It’s really fascinating to me when you consider that this is what the great councils debated!!

      We do it…but we don’t do it consciously, and intentionally. We just do it habitually or mechanically, absorbing it from Catholic culture around us and it becomes normal.

      Am I the only one?

      WM

  6. jhaselbarth
    May 4, 2012 at 9:18 pm #

    You are not the only one. I think about things like this too. What is scary to me is that when I really think about it, I am not sure I CAN believe in the Trinity. I have to default to the “believe in order to understand” on this one.

    Christianity has marched through the ages as THE monotheistic religion. But the Jews have a point here. It is actually very STRANGE to say that God is Trinity. If you step back from it and honestly judge it for what is being presented, it sounds pagan. It doesn’t sound monotheistic. It has to be defended, whereas the Jews and Muslims don’t have to defend in this way.

    It does remind me of Chesterton who once said that in Christianity, its doctrines seem to be fitting together just fine for a while, like symmetry, until you meet up with a major doctrine that doesn’t quite fit as you expected. He compares it to an alien meeting a human for a first time and analyzing his body – a seemingly symmetrical thing. A leg on one side, a symmetrical one on the other, an ear on one side, and another on the other side – two eyes, two hands, two brain halves, two lungs….and then…when you get to the very center of the whole thing…there is a heart, situated just off to the left, with no corresponding match on the other side. The heart of the matter doesn’t quite fit. That is how I feel about the Trinity.

  7. Shane Floyd
    June 3, 2012 at 11:43 pm #

    The Trinity is the Central doctrine of our Christian lives, but it is a doctrine without immediate practical distinction for Catholics, (unless we are defending the divinity of Jesus). Unitarians or Jews or Muslims will point out what seems to them as Idolotry, but they are really attacking the divinity of Jesus. I believe in the doctrine of the Trinity because I believe and defend the divinity of Christ. The sign of the cross, is an outward manifistation of that belief. It would be the same as a protestant who denies the perpetual virginity of Mary. There is no immediate practical distinction for Catholics to believe this doctrine, but is of utmost importance to the divinity of Jesus. We do not call ourselves Christians first unless we believe in the divinity of Jesus. This is what we are challenged to believe, and come to believe through Grace, ie. faith, hope, and love. The doctrine of the Trinity, although a mystery, is a statement, explanation and defense of Christs divinity. We are led to believe in Christ’s divinity,which has enormous implications for my life, and the doctrine of the Trinity sanctifies that belief. Anyways thats what leads me to believe in the doctrine. -Shane Floyd

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