The Trinity

December 18, 2017

A Most Important Doctrine

 

            Wayne Grudem writes: “The doctrine of the trinity is one of the most important doctrines of the Christian faith. To study the Bible’s teachings on the trinity gives us great insight into the question that is at the center of all of our seeking after God: What is God like in himself?” This makes it easy to understand why the doctrine of the trinity is the most debated Christian doctrines of all time. Throughout church history from the time of Christ to today, men have struggled over understanding a proper biblical view of our God, who is indeed one and yet three persons all at the same time. So it is not difficult to imagine that this doctrine of the trinity would be one of the most “ask about” doctrines where Dake is concerned.

Trinity Definition

 

            Let us approach the definition of the trinity from a classical point of view. For this view we will turn to the definition as given by “H. Orton Wiley,” in his widely acclaimed, “Introduction to Christian Theology.”

   

“The evangelical doctrine of the trinity as generally held in the Church is best expressed in the words of the ancient creeds and confessions of faith. The Athanasian Creed has the most explicit statement: "We worship one God in Trinity, and trinity in Unity; neither confounding the Persons, nor dividing the substance. For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Ghost; but the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost is all one, the glory equal, the majesty coeternal." The Thirty-nine Articles as revised by John Wesley declared that "in the unity of this Godhead, there are three Persons of one substance, power, and eternity-the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost." Therefore, we may say that the evangelical doctrine affirms that the Godhead is of one substance, and that in the unity of this substance there are three subsistences or Persons; and further, that this must be held in such a manner as not to divide the substance or confuse the Persons.”

 

            Now let us read Dake’s definition of the trinity as taken from God’s Plan for Man.

 

“TRINITY. This means the union of three persons - the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit in one (unified) Godhead or divinity - so that all three persons are one in unity and eternal substance, but three separate and distinct persons as to individuality (1 John 5:7-8; Daniel 7:9-14; Matthew 3:16-17; 28:19; Acts 7:56-59).”

 

            Take note that Dake’s definition of the trinity includes all the elements of the classical definition of the trinity. In fact the similarities between Dake’s and Wesley’s definitions are striking to say the least. No doubt Dake gleaned his definition from Wesley.

 

The Moody Handbook Of Theology

 

            For a more detailed look at this definition let us consult another classic work on Theology: “The Moody Handbook of Theology” which points out what must be the basic elements of a Biblical definition of the trinity. The Moody Handbook points out the following:

           

            1. God is one in regard to essence.

            2. God is three with respect to Persons.

            3. The three Persons have distinct relationships.

            4. The three Persons are equal in authority.

 

            Here again we can easily see that Dake’s definition of the trinity has all four of these basic requirements for a Biblical definition of the trinity. In fact let us look at Moody’s definition point by point for comparison. And let’s bring in a few other pages from Dake’s works to bring an even greater understanding of Dake’s view.

 

Moody

Dake

1. God is one in regard to essence.

…all three persons are one in unity and eternal substance…

 

2. God is three with respect to Persons.

…the union of three persons…

 

3. The three Persons have distinct relationships.

…the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit… …three separate and distinct persons as to individuality…

 

4. The three Persons are equal in authority.

…equality with God in Divinity is definitely stated…

 

 

            Without doubt Dake’s view of the trinity is compatible with the orthodox view as stated in Moody. There can be no argument here.

Westminster Confession Of Faith

 

            To give further confirmation of Dake’s views on the trinity being within the mainline discussion of the doctrine, a simple statement from the historic Westminster Confession of Faith states: “In the unity of the Godhead there be three Persons, of one substance, power, and eternity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost.” Again, an examination of Dake’s definition of the trinity when compared to this definition by the Westminster Confession of Faith, shows that Dake’s definition is well within the bounds of a orthodox view.

Easton’s Bible Dictionary

 

            So as not to be accused of being shallow we shall consult one last work on this definition of the trinity. The “Easton’s Bible Dictionary” gives the following definition:

 

“TRINITY a word not found in Scripture, but used to express the doctrine of the unity of God as subsisting in three distinct Persons. This word is derived from the Gr. trias, first used by Theophilus (A.D. 168-183), or from the Lat. trinitas, first used by Tertullian (A.D. 220), to express this doctrine. The propositions involved in the doctrine are these: 1. That God is one, and that there is but one God (Deut. 6:4; 1 Kings 8:60; Isaiah 44:6; Mark 12:29, 32; John 10:30). 2. That the Father is a distinct divine Person (hypostasis, subsistentia, persona, suppositum intellectuale), distinct from the Son and the Holy Spirit. 3. That Jesus Christ was truly God, and yet was a Person distinct from the Father and the Holy Spirit. 4. That the Holy Spirit is also a distinct divine Person.”

 

            Here once again a comparison chart may be useful to see the Easton definition and the Dake definition side by side.

 

Easton

Dake

1. That God is one, and that there is but one God.

…three persons are one in unity and eternal substance… Elohim is not a divided Deity, but three persons in one God, or one Deity.

 

2. That the Father is a distinct divine Person… …distinct from the Son and the Holy Spirit.

The Godhead consists of three separate and distinct Persons. This fact is simply stated in Scripture…

 

3. That Jesus Christ was truly God, and yet was a Person distinct from the Father and the Holy Spirit.

…divine names and titles given to Jesus proves that He is by nature divine and a member of the Godhead. Jesus Christ is Nor the Father or the Holy Ghost.

 

4. That the Holy Spirit is also a distinct divine Person.

The Holy Spirit is pictured in Scripture as God, as a real person separate and distinct from both the Father and the Son.

 

 

            In addition to these written definitions of the trinity by Dake, it is interesting to hear him give a definition in his normal conversational speech. He did this in response to questions that had been asked when he was host of his WGST radio program in Atlanta Georgia, in 1954. On broadcast number 16, during a discussion on the “Truth About God” Dake said:

 

“…the word trinity is often misunderstood. It simply means the union of three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, in one, so it refers to the unified Godhead or the deity, so that all three persons in the one unity and eternal substance are really one in unity and yet three separate and distinct persons as to individuality.”

 

            Citations and comparisons could go on for a number of pages more, but to the honest reader the agreement between Dake’s view of the trinity and mainline Christianity has been shown. Now just as other writers, so with Dake, their might be fine points of this doctrine that could bring about a heated discussion among theologians of different camps of theology, but none that separate Dake from a sound understanding of the trinity and more importantly a Biblical understanding of the Doctrine. In fact, in an examination of over 75 theological texts that sit on my shelves, by many well-known historic and modern day theologians, I could easily find differences in doctrine between the most of them on this subject, while at the same time most all of them would still fall within the bounds of the classical view of the trinity just as Dake does.

 

 

Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1994), page 226.

 

Wiley, H. Orton, Introduction to Christian Theology, (Kansas City, Missouri: Beacon Hill Press, 1946), page 123.

 

Ibid. God’s Plan for Man,  page 51.

 

Paul P. Enns, Moody Handbook Of Theology, (Chicago, Illinois: Moody Press, 1989), page 199.

 

Ibid. God’s Plan for Man,  page 51.

 

Ibid. God’s Plan for Man,  page 492.

 

Ibid. God’s Plan for Man,  pages 373, 446, and 481.

 

Ibid. God’s Plan for Man,  pages 371.

 

G. I. Williamson, The Westminster Confession Of Faith, (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1964), page 199.

 

M.G. Easton M.A., D.D.,  Easton’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, 1897)

 

Ibid. God’s Plan for Man,  page 51, 480 and 492.

 

Ibid. God’s Plan for Man,  page 64 and 65.

 

Ibid. God’s Plan for Man,  pages 370 and 373.

 

Ibid. God’s Plan for Man,  pages 444.

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