Dr. R. Scott Clark: The Trinity


January 1, 2016

scottclarkIn January 2009, we began a series on “The Essentials of the Christian Faith,” with Patrick Szalapski. That episode was an overview of seven essential doctrines of Christianity. Since then, we have taken every January (except 2012) to get specifically into each of the essentials. Dr. R. Scott Clark joins us for this episode to discuss the Doctrine of The Trinity.

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An Outline of the Discussion
  • The most basic thing we can say about the Trinity is that God is one god in three persons. There are not three gods, and there is not one person. At the deepest levels, it's a mystery how God can be one in being but three in persons.
  • The Athanasian Creed opens with a statement about the Trinity:

    Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic faith. Which faith except everyone do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly. And the catholic faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity, neither confounding the persons, nor dividing the substance.

  • The Doctrine of the Trinity is not a secondary issue (a second blessing), it is an essential, basic, fundamental doctrine of the Christian Faith.
  • When asked to describe the Trinity, most Christians default to analogies that, upon inspection, break down and end up being heretical.
  • The Arian controversy arose in the 4th century over the denial (by Arius of Alexandria) of the Trinity. Arius was a rationalist, and intellectually came to the conclusion that the Word (Christ) was created, and though like the Father, was not the same as the Father (did not share in Divinity).
  • The controversy over the essence of the Trinity in the 4th century, it is said, came down to the use of a single vowel. The orthodox position stated that Jesus, the Son, was “homoousios” (ὁμοούσιος) in relation to the Father, which means “of the same substance” or “of the same essence.” The Arian/heretical view was that the relationship was “Homoiousios” (note the inclusion of the ‘i' between the two ‘o's – ὁμοιούσιος in the Greek), which means “of similar substance” or “of similar essence.” It is quipped that all of Christendom hung on an iota.
  • The Jehovah's Witnesses, or Watchtower Society, are modern-day Arians.
  • Scott likes the Belgic Confession, particularly Article 9, for understanding the passages that address the heresies of the Watchtower.
  • My (Andy's) observation is that heresy typically boils down to a misrepresentation of the person or works of Christ, or both. The strictest sense of the word “heresy” is defined as a denial of the Holy and catholic (universal) faith, as described in the Apostle's, Nicene, and Athanasian Creeds, as well as others.
  • If you don't understand the Trinity, Scott recommends meditating upon the Athanasian Creed.
  • Another error that denies the Trinity is that of the Mormons, or Latter Day Saints, which is Polytheistic in nature. The Mormons regard each of the three persons of the Godhead as being separate and distinct, not one being but three in person as is the orthodox view.
  • The Trinity is necessary to salvation. We have sinned against an infinite God, and so we bear an infinite penalty. Jesus, being God, can pay that penalty that is too great for us to pay ourselves. The Heidelberg Catechism deals with this in questions 9-20.
  • Islam is strictly unitarian, and would accuse Christians (in their misunderstanding of the Trinity) of being polytheists,
  • The core conviction of Unitarians is that they have a later and superior insight to that which came before. They can't deal with the incarnation as it really was. Unitarianism is inherently universalist in it's view of salvation (all will be saved.)
  • Oneness Pentacostals (a.k.a. Modalists) believe that our one God presents Himself as Father, Son, and Spirit, but that He's only one of the three at any given time.
  • Terminology is important. False teachers will shroud their heresies in terminology that sounds orthodox. They won't tell you that they are using the same words, but giving them different meaning.
Scriptures Referenced
  • Deuteronomy 6:4
  • Genesis 1:1-2
  • John 1:1-3
  • Genesis 1:26
  • Genesis 3:22
  • Genesis 11:7
  • Matthew 28:18-20
  • Hebrews 13:20-21
  • 2 Corinthians 11:4
  • 2 Corinthians 13:14
  • 1 John 5:7-8
Related Episodes
Additional Resources

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    3 Responses to “Dr. R. Scott Clark: The Trinity”

  1. By Elizabeth Beasley on Jan 2, 2016

    Andy, May I suggest that the last essential -The Resurrection, be done around this Easter.
    T.D. Jakes doesn’t even know his own error,but the evidence in application of the error is obvious. They teach the “we are gods” doctrine,which has lead to serious “Trinity abuse”such as false signs and wonders, twisted doctrine, $$$seed-faith,etc.
    Thanks Andy

  2. By Andy Olson on Jan 2, 2016

    I love the suggestion! The timing might not be great though, I’ve got some things in mind that may get my shows filled into Fall this year.

    And if I did that, I’d wish I had done the Incarnation in December instead of January.

    As for T.D. Jakes, you’re right. His Word-Faith heresy is what drives his Modalism.

  3. By Matt on Jan 4, 2016

    Great show with Dr. Clark. It’s true that Islam is closer to Christianity than Mormonism. Islam and Christianity are monotheistic and Mormonism is polytheistic.

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