The Undivided Three: The Doctrine Of The Trinity In Church History -- By: Michael A. G. Haykin

Journal: Reformation and Revival
Volume: RAR 10:3 (Summer 2001)
Article: The Undivided Three: The Doctrine Of The Trinity In Church History
Author: Michael A. G. Haykin


The Undivided Three: The Doctrine
Of The Trinity In Church History

Michael A. G. Haykin

Among the greatest achievements of the early church is the forging of the doctrine of the Trinity. It received classical expression in the fourth-century creedal statement known to history as the Nicene Creed, in which Jesus Christ is unequivocally declared to be “true God” and “of one being (homoousios) with the Father” and the Holy Spirit is said to be the “Lord and Giver of life,” who “together with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified.”1 Some historians have argued that this document represents the apex of the Hellenization of the church’s teaching, in which fourth-century Christianity traded the vitality of the New Testament church’s experience of God for a cold philosophical formula. Actually, nothing could be further from the truth. The Nicene Creed served to sum up a long process of reflection that had its origins in the Christian communities of the first century. As Douglas Ottati, an American professor of theology who teaches at Union Theological Seminary in Richmond, Virginia, has recently put it: “Trinitarian theology continues a biblically initiated exploration.”2 Or, in the words of an earlier twentieth-century orthodox theologian Benjamin B. Warfield: the “doctrine of the Trinity lies in Scripture in solution; when it is crystallized from its solvent it does not cease to be scriptural, but only comes into clearer view.”3

The New Testament Basis Of The Nicene Creed

There is, for instance, the baptismal formula of Matthew 28:19: “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.” Here, we find the names of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit coordinated in such a way as to imply their equality and their distinctness as persons, but mention is made only of the singular name of the three, a distinct indication of their unity.4 Then, there are numerous passages in the Pauline corpus where these three persons are linked together as co-sources of the blessings that belong to believers in Christ. For instance, there is the benediction in 2 Corinthians 13:13: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.” Or there is the way in which Paul, in

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