Is the Holy Trinity Just an Interpretation?

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Image by Aaron Burden. Adapted for Redemption of Humanity. Used under licence.

Last edited on 12/Mar/2021

Introduction

An attack that many people launch against the doctrine of the Trinity is that it’s simply one of many possible interpretations of how the Bible describes God. This would mean that the way the Bible describes God is ambiguous, meaning that the Trinity shouldn’t be considered an essential doctrine, and that the cults which deny it should be considered Christian too. If, however, it were a false accusation, then the Trinity remains as one of the most important truths of Scripture, and every group which denies this is false. So, is there any truth to this claim?

The Trinity Is Not an Interpretation

Absolutely and unequivocally not. It is the way of the world to sow seeds of doubt in the hearts and minds of Christ’s flock, by saying that fundamental doctrines are open to interpretation. Likewise, it is the work of the devil to say that Christians have been wrong about who God is all along, and that the Bible is too unclear for Christians to know how he has truly revealed himself. As Christians, it is our duty to “destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). These are our divine weapons in the spiritual war that we are fighting in this day and age (2 Corinthians 10:3–4). We should take this duty seriously. The Bible warns of the possibility of believing in a different Jesus, and a different Spirit from the real Jesus and Holy Spirit of the Bible (2 Corinthians 11:3–4).

This means that we must be extra cautious when deciding on what we believe about who God is. A Jesus and Spirit who aren’t the second and third Persons of the Trinity are not the same Jesus and Holy Spirit of the Bible, but rather inventions of mankind’s imagination. If someone teaches anything contrary to what the Bible says about the nature of God, then it is our responsibility to correct them and refute such an argument. The Bible teaches that the real Jesus of the Bible is the only way to salvation (John 14:6Acts 4:11–12). If you don’t have him, and believe in another one, then you’re in big trouble unless you correct your beliefs. Likewise, only the real Holy Spirit of Scripture can give you new life (Romans 8:11).

Why the Trinity Is Not Just an Interpretation

So, why isn’t the Holy Trinity simply one of many possible interpretations? The answer is because the Trinity is just a term that literally describes everything the Bible teaches about who God is, without adding to, subtracting from, or rationalising and making sense of the passages; instead, they’re left as a mystery. Therefore, the Trinity isn’t an interpretation of God’s Word, which requires guess work and inferences, but rather it can be seen as a term which describes the process of examining all the passages about God’s nature, and letting them stand as they are. When we allow all the passages about God’s nature to speak for themselves, then we will come to believe that the one and only true God exists in three distinct Persons: the Father, Son (Jesus), and Holy Spirit, as the Trinity defines him.

The Bible Teaches the Trinity

Let’s examine this further. According to the Trinity, there is only one God in existence. This is not merely an interpretation, but a biblical fact, because God taught that besides him there is no god, and that before him no god was formed, neither shall there be any after him (Isaiah 43:10Isaiah 44:6, 8). Since these passages are simple and easy enough for everyone to understand, how can anyone disagree with this without denying Scripture itself? Is disagreeing simply a matter of contradicting an interpretation, or the Bible itself?

The Trinity also teaches that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three distinct Persons. This is also a biblical fact, because we see that in Jesus’ baptism the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were simultaneously present, and we also see in John’s Gospel that Jesus said he would ask his Father to send the disciples another Helper, the Holy Spirit (John 14:16–17Matthew 3:16–17). Again, no guess work or inferences need to be made to establish that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit interact with one another in each others’ presence, so how can people deny this without denying Scripture?

The Trinity also teaches that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are God. Is this an interpretation or a biblical fact? Considering the fact that there are many clear passages which directly call Jesus “God” (Hebrews 1:8), the “Mighty God” (Isaiah 9:6), the Word who “was God” (John 1:1), “Lord” and “God” (John 20:28), Yahweh (Romans 10:9–13), and which call the Holy Spirit “God” (Acts 5:3–4), “Lord” (2 Corinthians 3:17–18), Yahweh (Hebrews 3:7–11), and which say that he dwells in “God’s temple” (1 Corinthians 3:16), it’s clear that it’s a biblical fact. Like the other examples, all one has to do to agree with the Trinity’s teaching here is to accept and repeat these Scriptures word for word, so how can this just be an interpretation?

The Mystery of the Trinity

Of course, people can and have tried to argue against all this, but at this point they’re no longer arguing against a definition or an opinion, but against the Bible itself, since God’s Word is clear on all this. In these three examples, we have briefly defined the essential teachings of the Trinity. It can be defined as the doctrine that “there is only one God in three distinct Persons: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit”. Three Persons of the one substance.

Does this make sense? Not entirely, since it’s hard for us to wrap our heads around the concept that three distinct Persons can somehow be the one God, co-equal (because God can’t be less than God), and co-eternal (because God can’t have ever not been God). Yet the Bible doesn’t simplify God’s nature for us, and just leaves it as a mystery that we must accept by faith. Scripture doesn’t reveal absolutely everything about God for us, but it does reveal everything we need to know in this life.

Why People Reject the Trinity

However, because of human sinfulness, many people deny the Trinity because they want to rationalise God, and define him in a way that they can understand, even though it always requires rejecting the plain meaning of several Scriptures. The Bible warns us that there are some things in the Scriptures that are hard to understand, “which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction” (2 Peter 3:15–16).

It also warns us that the time will come when “people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2 Timothy 4:3–4). This can clearly be seen today in all the non-Christian cults that reject the Trinity—a biblical truth that cannot fully be comprehended by the mind—because it suits their passions of simplifying God.

Conclusion and Consequences of Rejecting the Trinity

But rejecting and twisting Bible passages comes with a price: the price is that if your Jesus isn’t God, the one God with the Father and the Spirit, and a distinct Person from the Father and the Spirit, then you have a false, non-biblical Jesus. Likewise, if your Holy Spirit isn’t God, the one God with the Father and the Son, and a distinct Person from the Father and the Son, then your Holy Spirit is also false. The Holy Trinity is not simply one of many possible interpretations of who God is, let alone an incorrect interpretation, and arguing against this will simply entail arguing against the Bible itself one way or another.

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