The Trinity: A Brief Historical Background and Defense of the Doctrine
by Jacob Allee
When one considers the history of the Christian church and the full gambit of Christian doctrine there are only a few doctrines that compare with the intensity of debate that has surrounded the doctrine of the Trinity and even fewer that are comparable in their centrality to the Christian faith. The doctrine of the Trinity is no less than an absolutely essential doctrine in the Christian faith for it deals with the very nature of God’s existence and how He has revealed Himself to mankind in His word. This doctrine has been repeatedly attacked by those both inside Christendom at large and by those outside the church. Wrapped up in this central doctrine is the deity of Christ and the Holy Spirit along with the Father. It is hard to overemphasize the importance of a clear and right understanding of the nature of God and, therefore, the history of this debate and what the Scripture actually has to say about the Tri-unity of God deserves our attention just as much today as it ever has. In this paper we will examine the historical development of the Trinitarian language, the major players in the historical debate of the Trinity and the biblical passages that warrant belief in a triune God.
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History of the Trinitarian Debate and the Development of Trinitarian Language
In recent years some popular novels such as Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code as well as the press surrounding the publication of the Gospel of Judas and other Gnostic works have stirred up a lot of controversy surrounding the old debate about the deity of Christ. Conspiracy theories’ concerning massive cover ups by the church and supposed attempts to suppress the truth about the real and, by the way, totally human Jesus, have regained popularity over the last decade. However as we will see, the debate about the deity of Christ and indeed the Trinity were not covert conspiracies but were quite public. As it would turn out the church councils, who affirmed the orthodox view of the full deity of Christ and the tri-unity of God, did not invent something altogether new, nor did they systematically suppress another version of Christianity that was widely held but, rather, they merely affirmed what the church has always believed about God because of the clear teaching of the Scripture. Let’s start by turning our attention to some of the most famous characters in the debate, Arius and Alexander, both bishops of Alexandria Egypt in the early 4th century, and also Athanasius and Emperor Constantine.
Arius (founder of the heresy known as Arianism of which the Jehovah’s Witness are a modern day example) was trained in Antioch. Antioch had long held differences with Alexandria on the matter of how one ought to handle the Scripture in regard to a number of issues. His training undoubtedly played its hand in Arius’ understanding of the doctrine of God and led him to conflict with other church leaders in Alexandria…
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