Rebecca Stark is the author of The Good Portion: God, the second title in The Good Portion series, a series written to encourage women to immerse themselves in the depths of Christian doctrine.

The Good Portion — God explores what Scripture teaches about God in hopes that readers will see his perfection, worth, magnificence, and beauty as they study his triune nature, infinite attributes, and wondrous works. 

Rebecca also blogs at Out of the Ordinary.

                         

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Wednesday
Aug292007

Answers to Quiz on the Trinity

Time to post the answers to Monday’s quiz on the Trinity. Here are a few definitions of the Trinity that may be helpful in explaining the correct answers to the quiz.

The doctrine of the Trinity is simply that there is one eternal being of God - indivisible, infinite. This one being of God is shared by three co-equal, co-eternal persons, the Father, the Son, and the Spirit.

The source for this definition is James White of Alpha and Omega Ministries.  (The whole of the linked article may be helpful to you as well.)

Wayne Grudem gives three statements that summarize the Biblical teaching on the Trinity in his Systematic Theology

  1. God is three persons
  2. Each person is fully God.
  3. There is one God.1
And for good measure, John Frame, in Salvation Belongs to the Lord, gives us five summary assertions:

(1) God is one; (2) God is three; (3) the three persons are each fully God; (4) each of the persons is distinct from the others; and (5) the three persons are eternally related as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.2

Longer than these summary statements, but extremely important, is the historical Athanasian creed. Quoting from the section that pertains to the Trinity:

  1. Now the catholic faith is that we worship
  2. One God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity,
  3. neither confounding the Persons nor dividing the substance.
  4. For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son, another of the Holy Spirit.
  5. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, is One, the Glory equal, the Majesty coeternal.
  6. Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Spirit;
  7. the Father uncreated, the Son uncreated, and the Holy Spirit uncreated;
  8. the father infinite, the Son infinite, and the Holy Spirit infinite;
  9. the Father eternal, the Son eternal, and the Holy Spirit eternal.
  10. And yet not three eternals but one eternal,
  11. as also not three infinites, nor three uncreated, but one uncreated, and one infinite.
  12. So, likewise, the Father is almighty, the Son almighty, and the Holy Spirit almighty;
  13. and yet not three almighties but one almighty.
  14. So the Father is God, the Son God, and the Holy Spirit God;
  15. and yet not three Gods but one God.
  16. So the Father is Lord, the Son Lord, and the Holy Spirit Lord;
  17. and yet not three Lords but one Lord.
  18. For like as we are compelled by Christian truth to acknowledge every Person by Himself to be both God and Lord;
  19. so are we forbidden by the catholic religion to say, there be three Gods or three Lords.
  20. The Father is made of none, neither created nor begotten.
  21. The Son is of the Father alone, not made nor created but begotten.
  22. The Holy Spirit is of the Father and the Son, not made nor created nor begotten but proceeding.
  23. So there is one Father not three Fathers, one Son not three Sons, and one Holy Spirit not three Holy Spirits.
  24. And in this Trinity there is nothing before or after, nothing greater or less,
  25. but the whole three Persons are coeternal together and coequal.
  26. So that in all things, as is aforesaid, the Trinity in Unity and the Unity in Trinity is to be worshipped.
  27. He therefore who wills to be in a state of salvation, let him think thus of the Trinity.3

Now onto the answers, although I’m betting that if you read through those statements quoted above, you already know most of the answers.

Remember, the point was to determine which statements are untrue according to the Biblical and historical doctrine of the Trinity. I’ve given short defenses of some of the answers, but doing it for every one seemed unnecessary and repetitive. If you want to know the reasoning behind any of the undefended answers, just ask.

  1. There is one God. True.
  2. God is one person. False. See, for instance, statement 4 in the Athanasian creed.
  3. God is one being. True. See James White’s definition of the Trinity.
  4. There are three persons in the Godhead. True.  Statement 4, Athanasian creed.
  5. The three persons in the Godhead are related eternally as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  True. Statement 5, John Frame’s five assertions.
  6. Each of the three persons of the Godhead is one-third of God. False. Each person is fully God; the Trinity is indivisible.
  7. The Father is fully God. True.
  8. The Father has the whole fullness of God’s being in himself. True.
  9. The Father is eternal. True.
  10. The Father is not the Son. True. The persons are distinct and not confounded.
  11. The Father is not the Holy Spirit. True.
  12. The Son is fully God. True.
  13. The Son has the whole fullness if God’s being in himself. True.
  14. The Son came into being at the time of the incarnation.  False. The Son is eternal and uncreated according to statements 7 and 9 of the Athanasian Creed. And of course, we have the scriptural statements that say that Christ was the agent of  the creation of everything as proof that he existed eternally. He is not a created being, but the Creator.
  15. The Son was brought into being in eternity past. False, see directly above. That Christ was created by the Father before the rest of  creation is one of the doctrines of Arianism, a heresy denounced by both the Council of Nicea and the Council of Constantanople, but which nonetheless still exists today, for instance, in the teaching of the Jehovah’s witnesses.
  16. The Son is eternal. True.
  17. The Son is not the Father. True.
  18. The Son is not the Holy Spirit. True.
  19. The Holy Spirit is fully God. True.
  20. The Holy Spirit has the whole fullness of God’s being in himself. True.
  21. The Holy Spirit is eternal. True.
  22. The Holy Spirit is not the Father. True.
  23. The Holy Spirit is not the Son. True.
  24. The persons of the Trinity are distinct. True.
  25. In their nature, the Son and the Holy Spirit are co-equal and co-eternal with the Father.  True. See especially statement  26 of the Athansian Creed, although other statements pertain as well.     
  26. The Son and the Spirit are subordinate to the Father in their essence or nature. False. In essence and nature they are all equal—equal majesty and glory; all three uncreated, eternal, infinite, etc. This false statement is one affirming a form of subordinationism, a heresy rejected by the early church.
  27. The Trinity is unique. True.
  28. There is both unity and diversity in the being of God. True.
  29. The persons of the Trinity have distinct primary roles. True. This is hinted at in statements 20-23 of the Athanasian Creed and supported in scripture. Although all three persons are involved in all of God’s work, there are distinctions in their focus. We might summarize their roles like this: the Father plans, the Son accomplishes, the Spirit applies.
  30. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are simply different names for the one person of God showing himself to us in three distinct roles. False.  Since the Trinity consist of three persons (not one) who exist co-eternally, God cannot be just one person manifesting himself in different roles. Melanie gives a scriptural argument that this statement is false in the comments of the quiz. This false statement is a modalistic one, and modalism (or Sabellianism) is a heresy that has always been condemned within Christianity, but one that also continues to exist. The United Pentecostal Church (Jesus-onlyism), for example, affirms a form of modalism.
  31. A right understanding of the Trinity is vital to right worship of God. True. Right worship is worship done for right reasons. An accurate view of God as Trinity is the foundation upon which we can worship each of the three persons in the Godhead. We know that only God himself is to be worshipped, right? So since the Son is fully God, co-equal and co-eternal with the Father, we have justification for worshipping him; but if he were not fully God, and a created being subordinate to the Father, we would not have justification for worshipping him.
  32. A right understanding of the Trinity is vital to a right understanding of redemption. True. For one thing, in order for the Father to pour out his wrath on his Son and for the Father to accept Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf, the persons must be distinct. That the Son is infinite God also explains how his death can infinitely valuable and thus able to pay the just penalty of eternity in hell for all those he redeems.
  33. Any analogy used to explain the Trinity will not represent it completely accurately. True, as we ought to expect, since the Trinity is unique. Nothing else is like it, so there is no good analogy for it. Most analogies used to explain the Trinity do a better job explaining a heretical view of God than the orthodox Trinitarian one. And do we really need analogies, anyway? God is incomprehensible; the Trinity is incomprehensible. While there are many true things we can know about it, I’d think we should be satisfied to live with a great deal of mystery in regards to it. In fact, one could argue that the errors in regards to God in Trinity have come from attempts to make the incomprehensible into something simpler to understand.
  34. The doctrine of the Trinity cannot be derived from the Biblical text. False. The word “Trinity” is not in scripture, but the doctrine of the trinity comes directly from all the statements made about God and the persons of the Godhead in scripture.
There you go. For those keeping count, there were 7 false statements. How did you do? 
 
1 Page 231. 
2 Page 30. 
3 The statements are not numbered in the original. I numbered them to make referencing the statements simpler.

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  • Response
    Response: Notes and Links
    Rebecca has a quiz on the Trinity (answers here). I think #29 is a little ambiguous, but in all it's a great quiz.

Reader Comments (6)

Just this past Monday I was reading J. White and Grudem on the Trinity as I work my way through the NANC Theology exam. Now I have your quiz to ponder and review! Thanks!

Thanks for including the question about analogies. I have forbidden analogies on the Trinity in my Bible Study Class, because they never capture the whole truth, but people remember the analogy and not the truth. I have one member who tried to convince me God was like 3-in-1 oil.

August 30, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterLarry Thompson

Rebecca
Thanks so much for posts like this. They teach so much and challenge me to be ever precise in my understanding of theology. I appreciate the edification. Wendy

August 30, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterWendy West

Well... I just saw that I missed one. It was the subordinate one - I didn't read it poperly and thought of subordinate roles, but it is talking about esence and nature.

August 31, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterCatez

Oh. Man I cannot believe that I missed this quiz... oh well.

God Bless,
Raj

August 31, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterRaj Rao

Excellent quiz, Rebecca.

With regard to #33: One of the things I like about Augustine's discussion of the Trinity in his book On the Trinity is that after devoting several parts to analogies for the Trinity, he devotes a large part of the last book pointing out all the ways in which they fail to be perfect Trinities. The whole structure of the book, in fact, is beautiful in this way: it begins with Faith, looking at what Scripture says about the Trinity, then proceeds from that to understanding 'in a mirror' through the reflections and riddles of analogies (but he explicitly only allows Trinitarian analogies that can help show us how to love God and neighbor better), and then ends by looking at the promise we have of the Understanding that will come from sight in the life to come. I often think that everyone's view of the Trinity would be better off if they structured their thought this way.

September 5, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterBrandon

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