When our JW callers tried to convince me that the Trinity was a mere controversy, I decided to write this series about what the cash value of the Trinity is for the average Christian. Because the Trinity is not a philosopher’s invention.
Sure, there’s been plenty of philosophising about the Trinity but in earliest Christian times, it was simply there. Without any big academic defence, the church baptised people in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It’s not hard to see why. Jesus’ big claim was that he was God. This is not doctrine for the sake of it: it’s the lifeblood of the ordinary Christian.
This Trinity was seriously challenged for the first time in the 4th century, when a guy called Arius taught that Jesus was not God – that he was a created being. He had this catchy little ditty ‘There was when he was not” i.e. there was a time when Jesus was not created. In his mind, Jesus was like God, but not God himself. JWs are essentially Arians.
Arius was opposed by the ‘black dwarf’ Athanasius and they had a big meeting about it called the Council of Nicea and in the end it was agreed that Jesus was, in fact God. They wrote the Nicene Creed. After that, some guys called the Cappadocian fathers unpacked how the same was true of the Holy Spirit as well.
Arguing about the Trinity might sound intimidating. Perhaps a more manageable way to think about it is working out whether Jesus and the Holy Spirit are just as divine as the Father. You still have to come to terms with the 3 of them being the 1 God (not 3 gods) but since defending the Trinity started out as defending the divinity of Jesus, it seems like a good place to start to me.
Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.