The Christian teaching of the Trinity serves as one of the foundational teachings of historic, biblical Christianity. The Trinity is the belief that God is one yet exists in three Persons—God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Critics sometimes argue that this teaching promotes worship of three gods rather than one. How is the Trinity not tritheism?
Is the Trinity really tritheism?
First, the Bible itself teaches that God is one: "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one" (Deuteronomy 6:4). In the New Testament, Jesus affirmed this teaching, quoting this same verse (Mark 12:29). This teaching denies the existence of any other gods. Therefore, if God the Father, Son, and Spirit are each represented as God, then they must be the same God in three Persons.
Second, the Bible refers to all three Persons of the Trinity as God. God the Father is clearly described as God from the first verse of the Bible and beyond (Genesis 1:1). Jesus Christ is also referred to as God. John 1:1 states that He "was God." Colossians 1:16 teaches, "by him all things were created." In Acts 5:3-4 the Holy Spirit is referred to as God by the apostle Peter. God is one, yet all three Persons of the Trinity are referred to as God. This is not worship of three gods, but worship of one God in three Persons.
Third, the New Testament writers, including all four Gospel writers, mentioned all three Persons of the Trinity in the same context at times while only worshiping one God. For example, at the baptism of Jesus, we find Jesus coming out of the water, the voice of the Father coming from the sky, and the Holy Spirit descending upon Jesus like a dove (Matthew 3:16-17; Mark 1:10-11; Luke 3:21-22; John 1:32-34). The apostle Paul, who wrote 13 of the 27 books of the New Testament, referred to all three Persons yet worshiped one God (1 Thessalonians 1:3-10). Paul also explicitly stated "For there is one God" (1 Timothy 2:5).
Some critics contend that the word Trinity is not found in the Bible and is therefore unbiblical. Such criticism is only half correct. The word "Trinity" is not found in the Bible, but the concept is. The word does not need to be explicitly stated in the Bible in order to represent an accurate understanding of what the Bible teaches.
Interestingly, when Jesus gave His Great Commission prior to ascending to heaven, He said, "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you" (Matthew 28:19-20). As His followers made disciples, they were to baptize them (once) in the name (singular) of the Father, Son, and Spirit. Christians have always been a people who worship one God in three Persons. This is the biblical teaching of the Trinity, not the worship of three gods or tritheism.
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