Trinity The doctrine of the Trinity in the godhead includes the three following particulars, viz. (a) There is only one God, one divine nature; (b) but in this divine nature there is the distinction of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, as three (subjects or persons); and (c) these three-have equally, and in common with one another, the nature and perfection of supreme divinity. It was the custom in former times for theologians to blend their own speculations and those of others with the statement of the Bible doctrine. It is customary now to exhibit first the simple doctrine of the Bible, and afterwards, in a separate part, the speculations of the learned respecting it.
I. The Biblical Doctrine. — It has always been allowed that the doctrine of the Trinity was not fully revealed before the time of Christ, and is clearly taught only in the New Test. Yet, while it is true (1) that if the New Test. did not exist we could not derive the doctrine of the Trinity from the Old- Test. alone, it is equally true (2) that by the manner of God's revelation of himself in the Old Test. the way was prepared for the more full disclosure of his nature that was afterwards made. But (3) respecting the intimate connection of these persons, or respecting other distinctions which belong to the doctrine of the Trinity, there is nothing said in the Old Test. While in each particular text allusion is made to a trinity or plurality in God, yet these texts are so many in number and so various in kind that they impress one with the opinion that such a plurality in God is indicated in the Old Test., though it is not fully developed or clearly defined.
(I.) The texts of the Old Test. may be arranged in the following classes:
1. Those giving the names of God in the plural form, and thus seeming to indicates a plurality of his nature, of which קדוֹשַׁים אֲדֹנָי אֵֹלהַים are cited as examples; but as these may be only the pluralis majestaticus of the Oriental languages, they afford no certain proof.
2. Texts in which God speaks of himself in the plural. The plural in many of these cases can be accounted for from the use of the plural nouns אֲדֹנָי אֵֹלהַים, etc. Philo thinks (De Opif. Mundi, p. 17) that in the expression "Let us make man" (Ge 1; Ge 26), God addresses the angels. It is not uncommon in Hebrew for kings to speak of themselves in the plural (1Ki 12:9; 2Ch 10:9; Ezr 4:18). In Isa 6:8 God asks, who will go for us (לָנוּ), where the plural form may be explained either as the pluralis majestaticus, or as denoting an assembly for consultation.
3. Texts in which יהוָֹה (Jehovah) is distinguished from אֲלֹהַים (Elohim).These texts do not, however, furnish any decisive proof; for in the simplicity of ancient style the noun is often repeated instead of using the pronoun; and so, from Jehovah may mean from himself, etc. Further, the name אֵֹלהַים (Elohim) is sometimes given to earthly kings, and does not, therefore, necessarily prove that the person to whom it is given must be of the divine nature.
4. Texts in which express mention is made of the Son of God and of the Holy Spirit.
(a.) Of the Son of God. — The principal text of this class is Ps 2:7, "Thou art my son; this day have I begotten thee;" comp. Ps 72:1; Ps 89:27. This Psalm was understood by the Jews and by the writers of the New Test. to relate to the Messiah. But the name Son of God was not infrequently given to kings; it is not, therefore, nomen essentice, but dignitatis Messiance. The passage would then mean, "Thou art the king (Messiah) of my appointment; this day have I declared thee such." In this psalm, therefore, the Messiah is rather exhibited as king, divinely appointed ruler and head of the Church, than as belonging to the divine nature.
(b.) Of the Holy Spirit. — There are many texts of this class, but none from which, taken by themselves, the personality of the Holy Spirit can be proved. In these texts the term Holy Spirit may mean (1) the divine nature in general; (2) particular divine attributes, as omnipotence, knowledge, or omniscience; (3) the divine agency, which is its more common meaning. Isa 48:16, "And now Jehovah (the Father) and his Spirit (Holy Ghost) hath sent me" (the Messiah), is supposed to teach the whole doctrine of the Trinity. But the expression "and his Spirit" is used by the prophets to mean the direct, immediate command of God. . To say, then, the Lord and his Spirit hath sent me is the same as to say, the Lord hath sent me by a direct, immediate command.
5. Texts in which three persons are expressly mentioned, or in which there is a clear reference to the number three (Nu 6:24; Ps 33:6; Isa 6:3). But the repetition of the Word Jehovah in the one text is not an undeniable proof of the Trinity; and in the other, the word of his mouth means nothing more than his command; and in the last text the threefold repetition of the word holy may have been by three choirs, all uniting in the last words, "The whole earth is full of thy glory." Thus it appears that none of the passages cited from the Old Test. in proof of the Trinity are conclusive when taken by themselves; but, as was before stated, when they are all taken together, they convey the impression that at least a plurality in the godhead was obscurely indicated in the Jewish Scriptures.
(II.) Since we do not find in the Old Test. clear or decided proof upon this subject, we must now turn to the New Test. The texts relating to the doctrine of the Trinity may be divided into two classes — those in which the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are mentioned in connection, and those in which these three subjects are mentioned separately, and in which their nature and mutual relation are more particularly described.
1. The first class of texts, taken by itself, proves only that there are the three subjects named, and that there is a difference between them; that the Father in certain respects differs from the Son, etc.; but it does not prove, by itself, that all the three belong necessarily to the divine nature, and possess equal divine honor. In proof of this, the second class of texts must be adduced. The following texts are placed in this class:
Mt 18:18-20. This text, however, taken by itself, would not prove decisively either the personality of the three subjects mentioned, or their equality or divinity. For (a) the subject into which one is baptized is not necessarily a person, but may be a doctrine or religion. (b) The person in whom one is baptized is not necessarily God, as 1Co 1:13, "Were ye baptized in the name of Paul?" (c) The connection of these three subjects does not prove their personality or equality. We gather one thing from the text, viz. that Christ considered the doctrine respecting Father, Son, and Holy Ghost as a fundamental doctrine of his religion, because he requires all his followers to be bound to a profession of it when admitted by baptism into the Church.
1Pe 1:2: "Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ." From what is here said of the Holy Spirit, it does not necessarily follow that he is a personal subject; nor, from the predicates here ascribed to Christ, that he is necessarily divine. This passage, therefore, taken by itself, is insufficient.
2Co 13:14, "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all." Here we might infer, from the parallelism of the third member of the passage with the two former, the personality of the Holy Spirit; but we could not justly infer that they possessed equal authority, or the same nature.
Joh 14:26 offers three different personal subjects, viz. the Comforter, the Father, and Christ; but it is not sufficiently proven from this passage that these three subjects have equal divine honor, and belong to one divine nature.
Mt 3:16-17 has been considered a very strong proof-text for the whole doctrine of the Trinity. But though three personal subjects are mentioned, viz. the voice of the Father, the symbol of the Holy Spirit, and Christ, yet nothing is here said respecting their nature.
1Jo 5:7-8 are generally admitted to be spurious; and, even if allowed to be genuine, they do not determine the nature and essential connection of the three subjects mentioned.
2. We now turn to the second class of texts; viz. those in which the Father. Son, and Holy Ghost are separately mentioned, and in which their nature and mutual relation are taught. These texts prove (a) that the Son and Holy Spirit, according to the doctrine of the New Test., are divine, or belong to the one divine nature; and (b) that the three subjects are personal and equal.
(1.) The Deity of the Father. — When the term Father is applied to God, it often designates the whole godhead, or the whole divine nature; as θεὸς ὁ Πᾷτήρ,, 1Co 8:4-6; Joh 17:1-3. He is often called θεὸς καὶ Πατήρ, i.e. θεὸς ὁ Πατήρ, or θεὸς θεὸς ὅς ἐστι Πατήρ, as Ga 1:4, All the arguments, therefore, which prove the existence of God prove also the deity of the Father.
(2.) The Deity of Christ. — To prove the deity of Christ we present three classes of texts.
(a.) The following are the principal texts in which divine names are given to Christ:
Joh 1:1-2. Christ is here called ὁ Λόγος (the Word), which signified among the Jews and other ancient people, when applied to God, everything by which God reveals himself to men, and makes known to them his will. Hence those who made known the divine will to men were called by the Hellenists λόγοι. It was probably on this account that John declared Jesus to be the Logos which existed ἐν ἀρχῇ; that the Logos was with God, and the Logos Was God. In this passage the principal proof does not lie in the word Λόγος, nor even in the word θεός, which in a larger sense is often applied to kings and earthly rulers; but to what is predicated of the Λόγος,
viz. that he existed from eternity with God, that the world was made by him, etc.
Joh 20:28. Here Thomas, convinced at last that Christ was actually risen from the dead, thus addresses him, "My Lord and my God." This must not be considered an exclamation of surprise or wonder, as some have understood it; for it is preceded by the phrase ειπεν αὐτῷ, he said this to him." Thomas probably remembered what Jesus had often said respecting his superhuman origin (Joh 5:8,10,17), and he now saw it all confirmed by his resurrection from the dead.
Php 2:6, "Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God." There it is said of Christ that he is ἴσα θεῷ, Deo cequalis; not ὅμοιος θεῷ, ἀντίθεος, θεοείκελος, similis Deo-terms applied by Homer to kings and heroes. The term ἴσος θεῷ, on the contrary, is never applied to a finite or created being. Hence the Jews (John 18) considered it as blasphemy in Christ to make himself ἴσον θεῷ.
Joh 10:28-30, "I and my Father are one." These words are not to be understood to denote so much an equality of nature as unanimity of feeling and purpose. Still the passage is quite remarkable; because Christ professes to do his work in common with his Father; and that is more than any man, prophet, or even angel is ever said in the Bible to do. That being one with God, therefore, which Jesus here asserts for himself is something peculiar, which belongs to him only as he is a being of a higher nature.
Tit 2:13, "We expect the glorious appearance," etc. In this passage, since τοῦ is omitted before σωτῆρος, both μεγάλου θεοῦ and σωτῆρος must be construed in apposition with Ι᾿ησοῦ Χριστοῦ. Moreover, ἐπιφάνεια is the word by which the solemn coming of Christ is appropriately designated.
In some of the texts in which Christ is called the Son of God, the name is used in three different senses  Messiah or king, a title very commonly given to the Messiah by the Jews (see Mt 16:16; Lu 9:20; Mt 27:40; Lu 23:35; see also Mr 13:32; 1Co 15:28);  the higher nature of Christ (Joh 5:17 sq.; 10:30,33; 20:31; Ro 1:3-4);  he is also called the Son of God (Lu 1:35), to designate the immediate power of God in the miraculous production of his, human nature.
(b.) Texts in which divine attributes and works are ascribed to Christ. It is not necessary to find texts to prove that all the divine attributes are ascribed to Christ. These attributes cannot be separated; and if one of them is ascribed to Christ in the Bible, the conclusion is inevitable that he must possess all the rest. The following attributes and works are distinctly ascribed to Christ in the Scriptures:
[i.] Eternity (Joh 1:1; Joh 8:58; Joh 17:5; Colossians 1, 17).
[ii.] Creation and preservation of the world (Joh 1:1-3,10; Col 1:16; Heb 1:10 [where Ps 102:26 is quoted and applied to Christ]; 2:10).
[iii.] Omnipotence is ascribed to Christ (Php 3:21); omniscience (Mt 11:27). He is described as the searcher of hearts, etc. (1Co 4:5).
(c.) Texts in which divine honor is required for Christ. The following are the principal texts of this class; Joh 5:23, All men should honor the Son, even as they honor the Father;" Ac 1:24; Ac 7:59; 2Co 12:8, where Christ is approached in prayer; and those in which the apostles refer to Christ the texts of the Old Test. that speak of the honor and worship of God, e.g. Heb 1:6 from Ps 97:7; also Ro 14:11 from Isa 45:3; Php 2:10; 2Co 5:8-11; 2Ti 4:17-18.
(3.) The third point in the discussion of this doctrine is the personality and divinity of the Holy Spirit; for a full discussion of which SEE HOLY GHOST.
II. History of the Doctrine. — Respecting the manner in which the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost make one God, the Scripture teaches nothing, since the subject is of such a nature as not to admit of its being explained to us. It is therefore to be expected that theologians should differ widely in their opinions respecting it, and that in their attempts to illustrate it they should have pursued various methods.
1. As Held by the Primitive Christians. — For the first age the Scripture is sufficient evidence of the Christians' practice. For, not to insist upon the precept of honoring the Son as they honored the Father; or the form of baptism, in which they were commanded to join the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost in one act of worship; or the injunction to believe in the Son as they believed in the Father, let reference be made only to their example and practice. Stephen, the protomartyr, when he was sealing his confession with his blood, prayed to Christ, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit," and "Lord, lay not this sin to their charge" (Ac 7:59-60). Paul asserts that he baptized only in the name of Christ (1Co 1:13). Notice also his constant use of the name of Christ in invocation. There is the well known fact that the early believers were known as those who called on the name of Christ (Ac 9:14,21; 1Co 1:2; 2Ti 2:22).
2. As Held in the 2nd and 3rd Centuries. — Towards the end of the 1st century, and during the 2d, many learned men came over both from Judaism and paganism to Christianity. These brought with them into the Christian schools of theology their Platonic ideas and phraseology, and they especially borrowed from the philosophical writings of Philo. As was very natural, they confined themselves, in their philosophizing respecting the Trinity, principally to the Logos; connecting the same ideas with the name λόγος as had been done before by Philo and other Platonists. Differing on several smaller points, they agreed perfectly in the following general views, viz.: the Logos existed before the creation of the world; he was begotten, however, by God, and sent forth from him. By this Logos the Neo-Platonists understood the infinite understanding of God, belonging from eternity to his nature as a power, but that, agreeably to the divine will, it began to exist out of the divine nature. It is therefore different from God, and yet, as begotten of him, is entirely divine. By means of this Logos they supposed that God at first created, and now preserves and governs, the universe. Their views respecting the Holy Spirit are far less clearly expressed, though most of them considered him a substance emanating from the Father and the Son, to whom, on this account, divinity must be ascribed. These philosophical Christians asserted rather the divineness of the Son and Spirit, and their divine origin, than their equal deity with the Father. Justin Martyr expressly declares that the Son is in God what the understanding (νοῦς) is in man, and that the Holy Spirit is that divine power to act and execute which Plato calls ἀρετή. With this representation Theophilus of Antioch, Clemens of Alexandria, and Origen substantially agree. According to Tertullian, the persons of the Trinity are gradus, formae species unius Dei. Thus we find that the belief in the subordination of the-Son to the Father, for which Arianism is the later name, was commonly received by most of those fathers of the 2d and 3d centuries who assented, in general, to the philosophy of Plato. Another class of learned, philosophizing Christians substituted another theory on the subject of the Trinity, which, however, was nonetheless formed rather from their philosophical ideas than from, the instructions of the Bible. Among the writers of this class was Praxeas, of the 2rd century, who contended that the Father, Son, and Spirit' were not distinguished from each other as individual subjects; but that God was called Father, so far as he was creator and governor of the world; Son (Λόγος), so far as he had endowed the man Jesus with extraordinary powers, etc. He, in accordance with this view, denied any higher, preexisting nature in Christ; and with him agreed Artemon, Noetus, and Beryllus of Bostra. Sabellius regarded the terms Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as merely describing different divine works, and various modes of divine revelation.
In the following table the writers of the first three centuries on the subject of the Trinity are ranged according to their opinions:
Justin Martyr Theophilus of Antioch Athenagoras Irenaeus Clemens Alexandrinus Tertullian Origen Dionysius Alexandrinus Cyprian Novatian Dionysius Romanus
Theodotus Artemon Paul of Samosata
Praxeas Noetus Beryillus of Bostra Sabellius Among the terms introduced in the discussion of the doctrine of the Trinity during this period the following are the most common, viz.
(1.) Τρίας, introduced by Theophilus of Antioch in the 2d century, and often used by Origen in the 3d century. Tertullian translated it into Latin by the word trinitas, of which the English word is an exact rendering.
(2.) Οὐσία, ὑπόστασις. These terms were not sufficiently distinguished from each other by the Greek fathers of the 2nd and 3rd centuries, and were often used by them as entirely synonymous. By the word ὑπόστασις, the older Greek fathers understood only a really existing subject, in opposition to a nonentity, or to a merely ideal existence; in which sense they also not infrequently used the word οὐσία.
(3.) Persona. This word was first employed by Tertullian, and by it he means an individual, a single being; distinguished from others by certain peculiar qualities, attributes, and relations; and so he calls Pater, Filius, Spiritus Sanctus, tres personae (three persons), at the same time that he ascribes to them unitas substantiac (unity of substance), because they belong to the divine nature (οὐσία) existing from eternity.
We call attention to the following as shedding light upon the practice of the Church during this period. Pliny, a judge under Trajan, in the beginning of the 2d century took the confessions of some accused Christians, and says, "They declared that they were used to meet on a certain day before it was light, and, among other parts of their worship, sing a hymn to Christ as their God." Polycarp (Ep. ad Philip. n. 12) joins God the Father and the Son together in his prayers for grace and benediction upon men. Justin Martyr answering, in his Second Apology, the charge of atheism brought against them by the heathen answers. "That they worshipped and adored still the God of righteousness and his Son, as also the Holy Spirit of prophecy." Athenagoras answers the charge of atheism after the same manner. Similar testimony is afforded by the writings of Lucian the heathen, Theophilus of Antioch. Clemens Alexandrinus, Origen, Novatian, and others, illustrating the practice of the Church in paying divine honors to the Son and Holy Spirit.
3. The Trinity as Held in the 4th Century. — It had already been settled, by many councils held during the 3d century, and in the symbols which they had adopted in opposition to Sabellius and Paul of Samosata, that the Father must be regarded as really distinguished from the Son, and the Holy Spirit as distinguished from both; The relation, however, of the three persons of the Trinity, and the question in what the distinction between them properly consists, not having been discussed, these subjects were left undetermined by the decisions of councils and symbols. Different opinions prevailed, and learned men were left to express themselves according to their convictions.
Origen and his followers maintained, against the Sabellians, that there were in God τρεῖς ὑποστάσείς' (three persons), but, μία οὐσία (one substance) common to the three. Few had as yet taught the entire equality of these three persons, but had allowed, in accordance with their Platonic principles, that the Son, though belonging to the divine nature, was yet subordinate to the Father. In the beginning of the 4th century, Alexander of Alexandria, and Athanasius, his successor, attempted to unite the hypotheses of Origen and Sabellius, thinking that the truth lay between the two extremes. Athanasius stated the personal distinction of the Father and the Son to be that the former was without beginning and unbegotten, while the latter was eternally begotten by the Father, and equally eternal with the Father and the Spirit.
Arius, about 320, disputed the doctrine taught by Alexander, viz. ἐν τριάδι μονάδα ειναι, and so favored the Sabellian theory. As the controversy proceeded, Arius declared, in opposition to Sabellius, that there were not only three persons in God, but that these were unequal in glory (δόξαις οὐχ ὅμοιαι); that the Father alone was supreme God (ἀγέννητος), and God in a higher sense than the Son; that the Son derived his divinity from the Father before the creation of the world, and that he owed his existence to the divine will; and that the Holy Spirit was likewise divine in a sense inferior to that in which the Father is so. In opposition to all the Arian, and various other theories, Athanasius and his followers zealously contended. They succeeded, at a general council at Nice in 325, in having a symbol adopted which was designed to be thenceforward the only standard of orthodoxy. This symbol was confirmed by the council held at Constantinople in 381, under Theodosius the Great. The distinctions established at Nice and Constantinople were often reenacted at various succeeding councils. Many urged, in opposition, that tritheism (q.v.) was the inevitable consequence of the admission of these distinctions, but they, nevertheless, remained in force. The council adopted the word ὁμοούσιος (consubstantiality), explaining themselves thus: The Son was not created, but eternally generated from the nature of the Father, and is therefore in all respects equal to him, and no more different, as to nature, from God than a human son is from his father, and so cannot be separated from the Father. All that they meant to teach by the use of this word was that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit had the divine nature and divine perfections so in common that one did not possess more and another less; without asserting, however, that there were three Gods; in short, that in the Godhead there were tres distincti, unitate essentice conjuncti. SEE CREED, NICENE.
The characteristics by which the persons of the Trinity may be distinguished from each other under this view belong to two classes.
(1.) Internal ("characteres interni"). These are distinctive signs arising from the internal relation of the three persons in the Godhead to each other, and indicating the mode of the divine existence. The following distinctions are derived from the names Father, Son, and Spirit, and from some other Bible phraseology:
(a.) The Father generates the Son, and emits the Holy Spirit, generat Filium, spirat Spiritum Sanctum; and possesses, therefore, as his personal attributes, generatio activa and spiratio activa.
(b.) The Son is generated by the Father — Filii est generari non generare. The Son, therefore, possesses as his personal attributes jiliatio, generatio passiva; and also, as he is supposed to emit the Spirit in conjunction with the Father, spiratio activa.
(c.) The Holy Spirit neither generates nor is generated, but proceeds from the Father and the Son-Spiritus Sanctus est, nec generare nec generari, sed procedere. In regard to the Holy Spirit, there was nothing decided, during the first three centuries, by ecclesiastical authority respecting his nature, the characteristics of his person, or his relation to the Father and the Son. Nor was anything more definite, with regard to his nature and his relation to the other persons of the Trinity, than what has already been stated, established by the council at Nice, or even by that at Constantinople. To believe in the Holy Ghost — τὸ σὺν Πατρὶ καὶ Υἱῷ συμπροσκυνούμενον, and ἐκ τοῦ Πατρὸς ἐκπορευόμενονwas all that was required in the symbol there adopted. But there were many, especially in the Latin Church, who maintained that the Holy Spirit did not proceed from the Father only, but also from the Son. They appealed to Joh 16:13, and to the texts where the Holy Spirit is called the Spirit of Christ, e.g. Ro 8:9. To this doctrine the Greeks were, for the most part, opposed, because they did not find that the New Test. ever expressly declared that the Spirit proceeded from the Son. It prevailed, however, more and more in the Latin Church; and when in the 5th and 6th centuries the Arians urged it as an argument against the equality of Christ with the Father, that the Holy Spirit proceeded from the Father only, and not from the Son, the Catholic churches began to hold more decidedly that the Holy Spirit proceeded from both and insert the adjunct Filioque after Patre in the Symbolusm Nicceno-Constantinopolitaium.
(2.) External ("characteres externi"). These are characteristics of the persons of the Trinity arising from the works of the Deity relating to objects extrinsic to itself, and called opera externa, sive ad extra. They are twofold:
(a.) Opera Dei aeconomica, those institutions which God has founded for the salvation of the human race. The Father sent his Son to redeem men (Joh 3:16-17), and gives or sends the Holy Spirit (Joh 14:26). The Son is sent from the Father, etc., and sends the Holy Spirit from the Father (Joh 15:26). The Holy Spirit formed the human nature of Christ (Lu 1:35) and anointed it (Ac 10:38), i.e. endowed it with gifts; and is sent into the hearts of men, and carries them forward towards moral perfection.
(b.) Opera Dei attributiva, such divine works as are common to the three persons, but which are frequently ascribed to one of the three. To the Father are ascribed the decree to create the world, the actual creation, and the preservation of it. To the Son, also, the creation, preservation, and government of the world are ascribed; also the raising of the dead and judgment. To the Holy Spirit are ascribed the immediate revelation of the divine will to the prophets, the continuation of the great work of salvation commenced by Christ, and the communication and application to men of the means of grace.
4. History of the Doctrine since the Reformation. Nearly all the writers upon the subject of the Trinity since the Reformation belong to some one of the general classes already mentioned. We present several theories.
(1.) Some have attempted to illustrate and explain this doctrine by philosophy; and not a few have gone so far as to think they could prove the Trinity a priori, and that reason alone furnishes sufficient arguments for its truth. Others, again, looked to reason for nothing more than an illustration of this factor of the divine existence. In the latter class may be placed Philip Melancthon, who, in his Loci Theologici, thus explained the Trinity: "God from his infinite understanding produces thought, which is the image of himself. To this thought he imparted personal existence, which, bearing the impress of the Father, is his likeness and resemblance: and hence called by John λόγος. This illustration of the Trinity was received without offence or suspicion, until the heresy, which lurks beneath it was detected and exposed by Flacius. The latest attempt to explain the Trinity in this manner may be found in the Berliner Monatsschrift, Sept. 1790, § 280, in an article written by Schwab of Stuttgart, who refers to the accidents of space, viz. length, breadth, and thickness, as an illustration of the Trinity. Among those who supposed that the Trinity could be mathematically proved were Bartholomew Keckerman, in his Systema Theologicum; Peter Poiret, and Daries, who published an essay In qua Pluralitas Pe'sonaarum in Deitate Methodo Mathematicorum, Demonstratur (Leovardiae, 1735, 8vo).
(2.) Others have expressed themselves so boldly on the subject of the Trinity that they have seemed to approximate towards tritheism; in which. class we may mention Matthew Gribaldus of Padua, in the 16th century, who maintained that the divine nature consisted of three equally eternal spirits, between whom, however, he admitted a distinction in respect to rank and perfections.
(3.) Some modern writers have inclined to adopt the Sabellian theory, among whom were Servetus (q.v.), Grotius, Silvae Sacrae; Stephen Nye, Doctrine of the Trinity (Lond. 1701). In this class we place the hypothesis of Le Clerc, that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit designate the different modifications of the divine understanding, and the plans which God forms. This is the error into which Weigel and Jacob Bohme fell. Many of the modern German theologians have so explained the Trinity as to lose the idea of three 'divine persons, for which they have substituted either three distinct powers or attributes (as Meier, Seller, Claudius, and Tollner), or a threefold agency in God-three eternal actions distinct from each other (as S. G. Schlegel, Kant, Tieftrunk, Daub, Schelling, De Wette, and Fessler).
(4.) The Aian theory has also found advocates among Protestant theologians, especially those of the 18th century (e.g. Whiston, Harwood, and Wettstein); but the system which has met with the most approbation is that more refined subordinationism taught by Samuel Clarke, Scripture Doctrine of the Trinity (Lond. 1712).
(5.) The Socinians or Photinians. The founders of this sect were Lelius Socinus and his nephew Faustus Socinus (q.v.), who brought over considerable numbers to their doctrine in Poland and Transylvania.
(6.) A new theory on the Trinity was proposed by Dr. Urlsperger, Kurzgefasstes System seines Vortrags von Gottes Dreyeinigkeit (Augsburg, 1777, 8vo). He endeavored to unite the three theories — the Arian, Sabellian, and Nicene-by making a distinction between trinitas essentialis, the internal threefold distinction necessarily belonging to the divine nature, and trinitas aeconomica, the three persons revealed to us in the work of redemption.
It is proper to say that "the conclusion is obvious that, while we are taught by the Scriptures to believe in three equal subjects in the Godhead, who are described as persons, we are still unable to determine in what manner or in what sense these three have the divine nature so in common that there is only one God" (Knapp, Christ. Theology, § 34-44). SEE PERSON.
III. Practical Value of the Christian Doctrine of the Trinity. — The idea of a triune being — Father, Son, and Holy Ghost — is not by any means to be considered as separate from that of the nature and attributes of God. This apparent tritheism can be considered as the conclusion of true deism, and as a safeguard in the most momentous questions. Polytheism, pantheism, and dualism have been to some extent employed to vivify and prove the truth of religion; but we would present the practical advantages of the doctrine of the Trinity in quite a different manner; not as serving merely to prove another proposition without being also true in itself, but as aiding us in arriving at the knowledge of God's nature with an efficacy which is essentially inherent to its objective and permanent recognition. God may be considered either as not true or lofty enough, or not good and holy enough, or not essentially active enough; these may be considered the possible faults of a given system of deism. So long, then, as it distinguishes only between God and the world, and not between God himself, it retains always a tendency either to return to pantheism or to deny the existence of an absolute being. An absolute safeguard against atheism, polytheism, pantheism, or dualism cannot be found except in the doctrine of the Trinity; for the distinction existing between the Divine Being and the world is better made and observed as an absolute one by those who worship the triune God than by those who do not. Those monotheistic systems which were the most strenuously opposed to the idea of a Trinity, such as Judaism and Mohammedanism, have, by reason of their dryness and emptiness, led to the grossest pantheism.
From the doctrine that the Word, who was God, became flesh, follows the necessity of considering God as personally united with sinless humanity, but at the same time, also, the necessity of drawing a clear distinction between the divine essence and mere human nature. Faith in the everlasting holy love, which is God, can only be rendered theoretically and practically perfect by the knowledge of the perfect, eternal object of the self- consciousness and love of God; i.e. by the thought of the love of God for his only begotten Son. Finally, the idea of the fullness of God's creative and imparting nature can only be preserved from diminishing by the Trinitarian doctrine of a Holy Ghost. Whatever difficulties may result from the Christian idea of different divine persons, when brought into connection with the personality of the divine essence, the apparent contradiction is yet susceptible of a solution; even when we do not consider that the Primitive Church did not, for a long time, recognize these three persons but as only ἰδιότητες, ὑποστάσεις, etc.
The Latin Church alone has, since Augustine, sanctioned the expression personce in the Symbolum Quicunque. Augustine himself said, yet, "Tres personse, si ita dicendae sunt." Some consider the Trinity as essential to constitute the perfect personality, and employ the metaphysics of consciousness as an analogical proof thereof (see Schneider, Colestin, drei geistliche Gesprdche i. d. Personen d. Gottheit , 1). Others refuse to recognize the real personality of God in any but one of the so-called hypostases: namely in the Logos, the Son. Such is Swedenborg. Others still hold peculiar opinions. At any rate, we are obliged, according to the clear sense of Scripture, to seek not only the Trias in the subjectivity of the representation, nor exclusively in the economy of revelation, but also recognize that immediate faith does here contain within itself the germ of endless speculation; not only because every theological system of antiquity, from the time when, as reflecting gnosis, it rose above the myths, shows certain higher theological ideas (in the sense in which Nitzsch has presented it in a historical and critical manner in his Theol. Stud. ch. 1), nor merely because the Christian theologians of all times have made a certain rational understanding of this mystery possible and found it necessary. It is even essentially necessary for the Biblical theologian to recognize in the notion of the Logos-who is with God and is God, the procreative image of God, the inmost spirit of God who knew God-the elements of essential, immanent Trinity. For those only retain the trace of Biblical theology who, in all attempts at explaining it, keep in view the notion of the self- knowledge and self-love of God, or of the distinction between the self- concealing and self-revealing God. Twesten has latterly greatly perfected the philosophy of the doctrine of the Trinity, in its history and in its essence; first by placing the Trinity κατὰ τὸν ἀποκαλύψεως τρόπον, as subordinate to the analogical and philosophical interpretation; but then, again, κατὰ τρόπον ὑπάρξεως, and shows the connection between both interpretations. In the first case, he seeks a mediation between the ens absolutum and the finite world which yet reveals the infinite, and this he finds in the primordial, creative thought of God. But revelation cannot take place except towards discerning beings, and finite beings cannot know God save through God. This argument presents the three notions of God, Logos, and Spirit, yet forming still but one godhead. Such as God reveals himself, such, however, he is. This leads us to another consideration, viz. that the ego, in order to possess a real, living personality, must not only become dually contradistinguished within itself, but also, by a third process, reflectively act on itself as a third subject, and be conscious of itself as being a perfect image of self. This manner of treating this mystery, by analogy, is neither accidental nor gratuitous, since, according to Scripture, human nature is also analogous to the divine. Tertullian and Augustine had themselves established their theories already on this basis.
IV. Literature. — This is immensely copious. We can here refer only to a few leading authorities. See Baur, Hist. of Doctrines; Burris, The Trinity (Chicago, 1874); Cunningham, Hist. Theology, 1, 267; Lamson, Origin of Trinity; Lessing, Das Christenthum und die Vernunft (Berlin, 1784, 8vo); Marheinecke, Grundlehren der christl. Dogm. p. 129,370 (ibid. 1819); Mattison, The Trinity and Modern Arianism (18mo); Morus, Commentary; Mosheim, Leben Servet's (Helmst. 1748, 8vo); Meier, Historical Development of the Trinity; Neander, 2, 2, 891; Sailer, Theorie des Weisen (Spottes, 1781, 8vo); Walch, Historia Controversice Graecorum Latinorumque de Processione Spiritus Sancti (Jenae, 1751, 8vo); Ziegler,
Geschichtsentwickelung des Dogma vom heiligen Geist. For further literature see Biblioth. Sac. (184473), index to vol. 1-30; Dantz, Wörterbuch der theol. Literatur, s.v. "Trinitit;" Darling, Cyclop. Bibliog. col. 268, 1446, 1719-1722; Poole, Index to Period. Lit. s.v. "Trinity."