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Trinity Doctrine

father, church, nature, holy and divine

TRINITY DOCTRINE, the Christian doctrine of the triune nature of God. The doc trine of the Trinity is nowhere expressly taught in the Old Testament. The doctrine in regard to the divine nature which is most strongly insisted on throughout the Old Testa ment is the unity of God as opposed to polythe ism, and by the names by which God revealed himself to Moses (Ex. iii, 14, 15, and other passages) it is implied that the divine nature is inscrutable to human intelligence. The plural form used to designate the Deity in the account of the creation, and many other incidental cir cumstances or expressions, are, however, held as implying, if not teaching, this doctrine.

In the New Testament it is evident that the doctrine of a Trinity in the divine nature is clearly and copiously taught. In the Gospels Christ himself asserts a mysterious union be tween himself and the Father, appropriates to himself by an evident allusion the mysterious name of God revealed to Moses, and repeatedly refers to the Holy Spirit along with the Father as partaking of the same divine nature and union. The same doctrine is implied in the teaching of John, the forerunner. In the baptism of Christ by him the Holy Spirit is represented as de scending visibly upon him while he is recog nized by an audible voice from the Father, and in the rite of baptism instituted by Christ the names of Father, Son and Holy Ghost are used as the joint designation of the divine being. The apostles and other writers of the New Testa ment Epistles constantly employ this form both in the introductory assertion of their authority and in their closing benedictions.

Among the definitions which resulted from the conflict of opinion in the early Church with regard to the doctrine of the Trinity, that which was adopted by the Catholic Church, and is generally accepted by orthodox Christians, fairly claims the merit of the fullest harmony and most comprehensive consistency with the various statements of Scripture. It is that there are in the Godhead three persons, one in sub stance, coeternal, equal in power, the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. It was only, however, after a severe and protracted conflict that this definition came to be generally accepted, and as soon as the definition proceeds one step further a wide schism again separates the Church. The Eastern Church holds that the Holy Ghost pro ceeds from the Father; the Western, through out all its divisions, adopting the amended form of the Nicene Creed, holds that he proceeds from the Father and the Son. The three creeds commonly called the Apostles', the Athanasian and the Nicene, all contain the points of agree ment between the two divisions of the Church, while on the point of difference the Athanasian and the commonly known form of the Nicene express the faith of the Western Church. The word ((Trinity)) is not in Scripture. The term persons is not applied in Scripture to the Trin ity, but something analogous to the conception of personality seems to be implied in the apos- ' tolical arguments of fhe epistles. See ARIAN ISM ; NICE, THE COUNCILS OF; NICENE CREED; UNITARI ANISM.