A Question I Was Asked:



"Is Your Trinity Article Contradictory?"






The Question:

Regarding your article, Coping with the Holy Trinity, you state, "Towards a Better Understanding of the Holy Trinity... " You then state, "... it really should not surprise us that the Trinity can never be fully comprehended by men and women while 'in the flesh.'" But I presume that you write as a man who is, "in the flesh," so - by your own words - you can never fully understand the trinity. So why should your view be correct?

My next question would be, Where in your understanding does our 'spirit' go at death? For, there is a Spirit in man. The Spirit that returns to God at death who gave us that Spirit: Eccl. 12:7.

Again, Paul in 1 Cor 15:44-46 shows that the resurrected sons and daughters of God will have spiritual bodies - not fleshly bodies. What is the difference between the resurrected Christ, the first born of many brethren, and the resurrected saints?

I think that in quoting the " The 39 Articles of the Church of England, 1563," you show where your passion is centered. The first half (presumably the questioner refers to the first part of my article), is biblically based :- "There is but one living and true God, everlasting, without body, parts, or passions; of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness; the Maker, and Preserver of all things both visible and invisible." This definition of the first half cannot be reconciled to the second part (The Holy Trinity) because it states three parts! Three parts and three bodies or persons. Sadly, the second part (presumably the questioner refers to the second part of the article) conforms to the philosophy of the Church of England and not the gospel of the Bible. Quote : -

"We will begin with a definition of the term 'Trinity' which will require just a bit of discussion concerning the primary philosophical terms which have been used in this definition. "


UK Apologetics Reply:

Okay, I find a certain confusion in these questions but will do my best to answer the points which are raised.

It seems as though my questioner rejects the Holy Trinity but some of the questions seem somewhat extraneous to that. I have arranged my response to his e mail in the form of about five questions which I will seek to answer. So let us look at these questions:

1. Is it contradictory to state that "it really should not surprise us that the Trinity can never be fully comprehended by men and women while 'in the flesh'" in an article in which I seek to cast light upon the matter? Also, Why should my view be correct?

No, I don't think that it is a contradiction. Men and women cannot, at the present time, fully explain the Trinity teaching because the teaching pertains to God Himself and how He operates as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. That cannot be easy for people to understand and it is not easy. Having said that, the Scriptures do say quite a lot about God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit and a careful perusal of those Scriptures will reveal quite a bit. To say that it does not make too much sense to us on a human level so therefore we should just reject the whole thing (as several of the cults have said) cannot be the answer. We should not expect the things of God to be easy for us to comprehend. Do we understand How God works with His holy angels? Of course not. Do we understand how He will be able to bring in a New Heavens and New Earth in the future? Of course we don't, but we accept scriptural teaching. The same thing here. To fully accept what the inspired Scriptures say about Father, Son and Holy Spirit brings us inexorably to the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. That's it. I say no more and no less.

I was careful with my choice of words in that article. I did not dogmatically (and foolishly) state, 'After reading this article you will never have another question on the Trinity.' My whole approach was something like, 'Hey, this is difficult but let us see what we can glean from Scripture.'

So I submit that my position on that score is not contradictory at all. It remains the case that 'the Trinity can never be fully comprehended by men and women while in the flesh.' I stand by that.
Why should my view be correct? But it is not just my view, this is the view of Christianity at large. This is the view of Eastern Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism and every single branch of Protestantism. This is the view of established Christian writers and theologians. Of Calvin, Luther, Zwingli, Aquinas, Augustine, Wesley, Whitefield, CS Lewis and all the rest. Could we all be wrong?

2. Where does the spirit component within men and women go at death?

Not quite sure how my questioner relates this to the Trinity but, nevertheless, let us look at it. The questioner already partly answers this by quoting Ecclesiastes 12:7. But let me not get ahead of myself here. God has given every man, woman and child upon this planet a spiritual component within their nature and being, something which we usually call 'soul.' When we die that spirit or 'soul' returns to God as Ecclesiates points out. Is it not highly interesting that when certain individuals have 'died' upon the operating table but been 'brought back' by resuscitation they have sometimes experienced rapidly travelling to a heavenly place but then being sent back? When our bodies perish all that is left of us is our souls and God looks after those in some heavenly place.

3. What is the difference between the resurrected Christ, the first born of many brethren, and the resurrected saints?

Obviously we will not have Christ's power or authority, but, regarding our resurrected bodies, there will be no difference. Christ was both physical and spiritual in His resurrection. He could eat, Thomas could feel the side of His body, but the risen Jesus could also go through unopened doors. He was recognisable and so will we be. That is how we will be in the resurrection of the dead. Jesus did rise again bodily though His body was then different, He was changed. But the idea that the risen Jesus was simply a sort of spirit essence is totally unbiblical. For more information on this, see Was the Resurrection of Jesus Physical or Spiritual? Or, Did It Have To Be Both?

My questioner quotes Paul in 1 Cor 15:44-46 to show that "the resurrected sons and daughters of God will have spiritual bodies - not fleshly bodies." But what exactly did Paul mean? Regarding the resurrection, Paul stated,

It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. So it is written: "The first man Adam became a living being"; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. (1 Cor. 15:44-46).

Let us check the context.

Paul is asserting the vital Christian teaching of the resurrection of the dead in the face of a few who were apparently denying it:

But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? (1 Cor. 15: 12).

He then spends quite a bit of time in underlining the correct teaching on the resurrection.

But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. (Verses 20-22).

Paul is showing that it is intrinsic to God's plan of redemption that just as people are born as physical human beings through the lineage of Adam but are then subject to the first death because of Adam's sin, they may be made alive again (resurrected) through Christ, the Second Adam. Adam brings death but Christ brings resurrection. And let us also note that as in Adam all must die, even so, in Christ, all will be resurrected. Paul then compares our earthly, purely transitory existence with the eternal existence of the saved.

But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?” How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body. Not all flesh is the same: People have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another and fish another. There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another. The sun has one kind of splendor, the moon another and the stars another; and star differs from star in splendor.

So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.

If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. The first man was of the dust of the earth; the second man is of heaven. As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the heavenly man, so also are those who are of heaven. And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we bear the image of the heavenly man. (Verses 35-49).

So in the resurrection we will have all-powerful spiritual bodies, just as the resurrected Christ did, but - please note - we will have bodies! Luke's account of the risen Christ makes this plain:

'They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”' (Luke 24:37-39).

We will not be ethereal phantasms. We will not be ghosts! That idea came from the early Gnostics. For sure, our bodies will not be as they now are, we will effectively exist in what one might call a different dimension, or different realm, but our bodies do rise again in the resurrection, though in a completely different form. They will no longer be of dust but of a heavenly origin.

4. In quoting the " The 39 Articles of the Church of England, 1563," am I showing where my passion is centered? Does my approach merely conform to the philosophy of the Church of England?

I find this accusation very strange indeed. I am not and never have been a member of the Church of England, however, I will say that their '39 Articles' are very strongly biblical. I do not have any particular passion for Anglicanism at all in fact I have often been very critical of Anglicanism. My passion is in the Bible and to faithfully uphold it's teachings. Does my approach to the Holy Trinity simply conform to the philosophy of the Church of England? But why would I wish it to? As already pointed out, the Holy Trinity is accepted throughout both Protestant and Catholic Christianity. Why is it so widely accepted? Because it is what the Bible teaches. If one should painstakingly go through every biblical reference to God and to Father, Son and Holy Spirit one arrives at a point which must insist that the Trinity is a correct teaching. The trouble is that many of those coming from a background in the cults and sects never seem to have exhaustively gone through all such references, or, if they have, they have already decided their prejudices.

5. Is it correct that the following statement: "There is but one living and true God, everlasting, without body, parts, or passions; of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness; the Maker, and Preserver of all things both visible and invisible." cannot be reconciled with the Trinity teaching?

Only if we are considering this subject in terms of purely human logic. As already stated, we are here dealing with biblically-revealed truth about the nature and make-up of God Himself. My questioner wants this to be simple and straightforward according to the most basic human logic, according to anthropocentric concerns (that is, placing Man and his ideas of logic, philosophy and practicalities right at the centre of the universe). For my part, I just want to be faithful to biblical teaching even when that is not easy for us to understand. As already stated, there are numerous things about God which we do not yet comprehend: How did He make the world and heavens? I don't know, neither can any of us know at present. Did Thomas understand how he could talk with the resurrected Christ, even eat with him, how he could even feel a hole in His side yet could see Christ going through walls without the need to open a door? Intellectually-speaking how did the disciples cope with the fact that the risen Christ still had a body but one which was not formed of dust? I don't know. There are many such questions which we cannot fully understand at present but where such things are clearly shown to be biblical we are - or should be - careful to hold onto them.
Robin A. Brace. November, 18th 2010.



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