Why Does What We Believe About the Trinity Matter?

The late Dr. R.C. Sproul is famous for saying, “Everyone is a theologian.” True as the statement may be, the lion’s share of “everyone” in our day is likely unsure of its meaning As a new Christian, I certainly was. So, what is Theology?

Theology

Theos (God) + Logia (Words, Reasoning) = Theology— reasoning about God.

Therefore, a Theologian is one who reasons about God.

At the heart of Theology is the Theos— the identity of the God we are considering. Whether we reason that God doesn’t exist, or we can’t know if He exists, or even, as Christians have declared for two millennia, that there is one God revealed in three divine persons, we all think something about God— and we are all speaking what we believe about Him through what we say and do all the time. The question for all of us must be, “Is there a right way to reason about God? Does it matter if we have different concepts of God?”

Yes and yes are the short answers, but short answers don’t make for good blog posts. 

God, The Prime Reality

First, when we speak about God, we are talking about the prime reality; we are speaking about what is really real—the reality that is underneath our reality, the one who created us and the world in which we live. Though it is becoming more unpopular in our postmodern, relativistic world, the correspondence theory of truth is this: “truth is that which corresponds to reality.” So, when we speak about God, the highest or most foundational reality, we are either faithfully representing reality—telling the truth—or we are lying.

The Prime Imperative

Second, if it is true that there is a prime reality, and if we ought to tell the truth, then it follows that it is profoundly, vitally important for us to tell the truth about God. In fact, if God is ‘the really real,’ then no truth-telling matters more than this. If we misrepresent this true truth, then we are lying about the most important of all truths—the truth upon which all other truths are built.

Why It Matters

The teaching that there is one God in three persons is known as the Trinity, and it has been accepted by orthodox Christians the world over as a faithful articulation of the doctrine of God revealed in the Holy Scriptures since their inception. Appropriately so. While I could tread the ground many greater men than I have trod before me (and with more finesse) in proving the Trinity from Scripture, that is not the purpose of this posting. I want to address a practical question: “Why does it matter what we believe about the Trinity?”

There are popular figures in what could be called ‘popular evangelicalism,’ i.e., those whose platforms are primarily built on Facebook and other social media outlets, with well-documented, fatally errant views on the Trinity. Joshua Feuerstein (famous for outrage concerning Starbucks cups and other minutia), and Marcus Rogers come to mind; both of them subscribe to an ancient heresy known as Sabellianism or Modalism which has been rebranded in the past century as “Oneness” or “Jesus Only” Theology. This heresy teaches that, rather than one God in three persons, God exists as one person who changes by taking on different modes at different times. God used to be the Father, then He became the Son, and now He is the Holy Spirit. The question for us, regarding popular figures like these, is this: “They believe something very different about God, but they say a lot of things that I agree with. We might differ here, but does that mean we’re on different teams?”

Yes, it means exactly that.

That may shock or offend you. You may think that this is arrogant for me to say. I assure you that isn’t my intention. What I want you to know is that this isn’t something I’ve cooked up to stir division in the body. I want to direct your attention to the first four articles of the Athanasian Creed:

“Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic faith;

Which faith except every one 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.”

Athanasian Creed, articles 1-4

The universal Christian Faith is faith in the Triune God revealed in Scripture, and the Creed has the audacity to say that if you do not hold this faith, you will perish everlastingly.

I hear you saying, “But those are the words of men!” Well, what about our Lord and Savior Himself?

And He was saying to them, “You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world. Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.”

Jesus Christ, John 8:23-24 (NASB)

Ego eimi—“I AM.” The divine name is applied to Jesus. Jesus teaches us that those who do not believe His divine identity as He has revealed it will die in their sins. Since the God revealed in the person, life, and work of Christ is Trinitarian in nature, one cannot understand and deny this teaching and be saved. 

So, in short, “Why does it matter?” It matters because eternity is on the line. It matters because those who do not accept God on His own terms will perish eternally. If we misrepresent God, we are the greatest of all liars. This is why we must study this issue out and confess God as He reveals Himself in the Scriptures through Christ—as Trinity in unity and unity in Trinity.

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