The doctrine of the Trinity, as one of the foundations of the religious studies, is subject to theological discussions. In fact, neither philosophers nor theologians have been ever capable of revealing the mystery of the concept. Even without having some basic knowledge of religion, a person understands that the trinity concept rejects the idea of a single God. As a result, the early church writers were engaged in giving arguments for or against the existence of the triad. The paper will focus on the development of the Trinity doctrine from the New Testament to the Nicene Creed and prove that the concept is a true religious article, which helps a person to establish relationship with God.
In spite of all the facts about the notion of the Holy Trinity being properly developed in the works of different early Christian writers, some of them stated that the doctrine offered by the church cannot be found in the Old Testament. As for the New Testament, the entire text of it verifies the existence of the Trinity. The New Testament expresses the Trinity doctrine much more vividly than the Old Testament: “It states that Jesus is God (John 1:1, 14); it says the Father is God (Phil. 1:2); and it says the Holy Spirit is God (Acts 5:3-4). Since the Son speaks to the Father, they are separate persons (John 17). Since the Holy Spirit speaks also (Acts 13:2)” (Astika 7). The Gospels in this sense also play an important part in showing how the Trinity concept developed. Their texts are full of elements indicating the triad nature of the Lord. From the very beginning, the readers get to know that, “Jesus is conceived by the Holy Spirit (Matt. 1:18, 20; Luke 1:35) and thus “the Son of God” (Luke 1:35) comes to be “Immanuel - God with us” (Matt. 1:30) (Astika 7). The discussion of the doctrine of the Trinity is an integral element in the history of the Christian church. On the one hand, a person can find quite firm arguments in the New Testament confirming the existence of the Trinity dogma. On the other hand, some ideas remain unclear. There is only one God, but Jesus and Holy Spirit are also Gods. Astika offers people to concentrate on more significant issues related to all-mighty God. Understanding the Trinity doctrine is about trying to perceive God, Jesus, and Holy Spirit in unity and separately at the same time.
One of the key points raising the discussion about the validity of the Trinity is its origin. The anti-Trinitarian literature points out that the doctrine has pagan and philosophical roots and has nothing to do with Christianity. Threesomes are present in the art works and texts of ancient Egypt, Greece, and Europe. Their revelations can be the groups of a father, a mother, and a son or a body with three heads, as well as three faces on one head. However, these similarities alone do not prove the fact that the named non-Christian elements somehow caused directly or even indirectly the development of the Trinity doctrine (Ankerberg and Weldon). Some modern writers also showed interest to the historic background of the Trinity. Morrison, analyzing A Brief History of the Doctrine of the Trinity in the Early Church by Franz Dunzl, states that the author has presented the idea of “the Early Church’s struggle for truth” quite clearly (Morrison 822). The author states that Dunzl went deep into the history of the doctrine, describing not only the previous struggle of the church to portrait an appropriate image of the Trinity, but also the idea of “monotheism existing at that time and interfering with the existence of the discussed concept in general” (Morrison 823). Thus, a significant part in the Trinity doctrine discussion was the question of its possible non-Christian origin.
As for the philosophical aspects, their influence on the development of the Trinity concept seems to be quite grounded and conditioned by some Christian views as well. Theophilus was the first to use the word “trias” about 180 AD (Astika 5). He started a discussion about God, the Father, His Word, and His Wisdom: “All we ask you to understand is that Trinitarian theology was not derived from pagan sources” (Ankerberg and Weldon 4). Ankerberg and Weldon state that in the course of the development of the Christian history, teachers and writers wanted prayers and believers to affirm four main Christian doctrines – trinity, salvation, incarnation, sacrificial death, and Christ resurrection. The Trinity dogma takes the first place in this line.
The philosophers tried hard to find as many proofs of its existence as possible. The discussion about the world creation and, in case of necessity, the appearance of God on the Earth continued. People could not help rejecting that the Lord left his realms all the time and did everything himself. He should have had certain divine assistants. The Trinity is the point that accumulates all possible religious views and dogmas. Not accepting the Trinity doctrine means leading people to quite a different form of religion. Early Christian philosophers were on the right way in their attempts to develop the Trinity doctrine (Ankerberg and Weldon).
Professor Christinel Ioja has performed an interesting research on the Trinity doctrine, highlighting its importance for religious life and explaining its nature. He came to a conclusion that according to the Christian-Orthodox faith, the dogma of the Trinity is united with the liturgical service and spirituality. He sees the Trinity as a doctrine, showing true life of the church and the world. The author is sure that the relationship between the Trinity, the church, and the society is integral. He explains that in the Orthodox religion, dogma is not some distant phenomenon, as the church sees it as a part of life itself. Ioja states, “In Orthodoxy the liturgy is theologically structured, and theology has a foundation and a structure, which are liturgical, contemplative and mystical” (108). The author also connects the life of the church with the concept of Trinity: “The church is a prolongation of Trinitarian life for people. It is a real mystery of their unity with the Holy Trinity through Crist” (108). The considered dogma is a model for the church life. Thus, Ioja supports the idea of Trinitarian existence.
The Trinity doctrine is definitely one of the most controversial aspects in the history of religion. As an answer to the existence of the only one Father God, there appeared the Son, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. Each of them performs the same, purely unique to the God functions. It is impossible to define the notion of God in usual words. The doctrine of the Holy Trinity can help to frame some possible living reality of God and answer some questions that believers may have. The word trinity itself means “three” and “unity” (Astika 2). People consider the unity of three beings – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. They are all separated in their attributes, yet one in the nature. The mystery of the Trinity doctrine that remains unrevealed is how one being can be three beings at the same time. Thinking about the relationship among these creatures, a person can find an answer to the question about his personal relationship with God (Astika). The supporters of the Holy Trinity Doctrine can answer that the Son and the Holy Spirit are “of God” and they are realities with different individualities. The New Testament lines quoted by Astica confirm this fact: “Though the word “trinity” is not present in the Bible, the church uses it to express the unity of God. The Trinity is composed of three united personalities without separate existence – so completely united as to form one God. The divine nature subsists in three distinctions - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” (Astika 3).
Nicene (325/381) and Athanasian creeds (approximately 500) officially affirmed the Trinity as an article of faith. They tried to organize people’s beliefs as there were still certain disagreements about the subject (Astika). This fact only confirms that the doctrine of the Trinity has passed a complicated way of development, starting it even before the New Testament. The Book contains enough references to the divine triad. As a result, the prayers themselves led to the fact that the Trinity was approved to guide them in their beliefs.
Having considered some authoritative works concerning the doctrine of the Trinity, it is possible to conclude that early Christian writers managed to collect a sufficient quantity of arguments demonstrating the existence of the Trinity in the Christian religion. The main mistake made by anti-Trinitarians is that they try to consider the doctrine from the practical point of view. They base their views on the fact that the only God cannot have three revelations. However, they forget about the divine nature of the problem and the all-mighty Lord who can take any forms. Thus, having passed a long way of formation from the New Testament until the Nicene Creed, the doctrine of the Trinity proved to be a significant religious aspect for prayers to comprehend the role of religion and God in their life better.