Is The Creedal Doctrine Of The Trinity Biblical?
By Bob Passantino, © 1992
As a member of the historic Christian Church, I answer this resolution in the
affirmative: Yes, the creedal doctrine of the Trinity is biblical.
Affirming this resolution means the doctrine of the Trinity represents the uniform
and consistant teaching of the historic Christian church from the original revelations
contained in the Bible, through the development of the early Christian church, and as
reflected in the ecumenical creeds adopted by the Church. I believe the early Christian
church and the Bible agree on the doctrine of God, namely, the Trinity. I will show this
argument in several different ways: (1) The New Testament teaching of the doctrine; (2)
Continuity in the history of preserving the doctrine; and (3) Continuity in the formulation
of the ecumenical creeds.
I will prove my affirmation by using the logical argumentation form called perfect
induction. Induction argues from specific to general. Since general induction takes
particular examples and builds from that a general conclusion, it offers probable or statistical
truth, but not absolute certainty. The next sample could (hypothetically) disprove the
universal application of the conclusion. There is a way to achieve certainty in some
instances, through a method called perfect induction (also called induction by complete
enumeration), a method of rational analysis that can give certainty, because the items in the
field (all possible samples), as well as the field itself, are limited and known. For example,
through induction you might postulate that all crows are black because in your extensive
sampling, all the crows you saw were black. However, a white crow could fly in tomorrow
and disprove your claim. The situation changes if you have a limited field (one room), and
a limited number of items in the field (three crows), and all of those items (crows) were
black, then you could by perfect induction know for sure that all crows in the room are
This resolution can be resolved using perfect induction. It is my conviction that the
biblical nature of the creedal doctrine of the Trinity has a limited field (the Bible), limited
items in the field (the terms), and all the items are known. Therefore, it is possible to use
perfect induction to know for sure that the creedal doctrine of the Trinity is biblical.
This resolution, by its very wording, limits the field of inductive inquiry: (1) The
doctrine to be discussed is the creedal doctrine, not any other. (2) The Trinity as articulated
by the creeds is to be discussed, not philosophical speculations about the Trinity. For the purposes of this debate, doctrine refers to "teaching" (2 Timothy 3:16); and
the doctrine to be considered concerns generally the doctrine of God, and specifically the
doctrine of the Trinity.
By "biblical" I mean the doctrine contained in the sixty-six books of the Old and New
Testaments, accepted by all segments of the historic Church, including Eastern, Roman, and
I do not mean to include the Apocrypha, which is not accepted as scripture by the
Mormons or the Protestants.
By "trinity" I mean that within the nature of the one true God, there are three
eternal, distinct Persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. These three persons are
the one God. By using the logical technique called the transitive property of equality (things
equal to the same thing are equal to each other), I will now demonstrate the biblical
doctrine of the Trinity.
The Bible teaches that there is only one uncreated, eternal, true God (Exodus 3:14;
Deuteronomy 6:4; John 17:3).
The Bible teaches that there will never be any other uncreated, eternal, true God(s)
to come into existence (Isaiah 43:10; 44:6-8; 1 Cor. 8:4-6; Galatians 4:8).
The Bible teaches that this one true God created everything ex nihilo, or from
nothing (Psalm 90:2; Isaiah 44:24; Hebrews 3:4; 11:3).
When we say "the Father is God," we mean that a distinct person known as the
Father is identifiable as the one true God, the creator ex nihilo (1 Cor. 8:4-6; 2 Peter 1:17). When we say "the Son is God," we mean that a distinct person known as the Son is
identifiable as the one true God, the creator ex nihilo (John 1:1-3; Colossians 1:16).
When we say "the Holy Spirit is God," we mean that a distinct person known as the
Holy Spirit is identifiable as the one true God, the creator ex nihilo (Job 33:4; Acts 5:3-4;
1 Corinthians 2:11).
Therefore, as the transitive property of equality shows us, the three Persons Are the
One God (Matthew 28:19).
This biblical doctrine of the Trinity does not allow for a plurality of gods. Although
the Bible uses "god" in a variety of ways, there is only one uncreated Creator. Scriptures
such as Exodus 4:16; Psalm 82:6; John 10:30-36; etc. use "god" in a symbolic or
representative way. Nowhere does the Bible describe anyone other than the one true God
as the Creator ex nihilo. In fact, the Bible declares that all the so-called gods that did not
make the heavens and earth will perish (Jerimiah 10:11). This is also a perfect induction
argument, that is, the field of the term "god" is limited to creator ex nihilo, and the one
member of that field is known, the biblical God, creator of the heavens and the earth. The
biblical doctrine of the Trinity affirms a unity of divine essence (numeric identity). As
theologian William Shedd describes, "the substance of one divine person is the substance of
the others, both numerically and identically."
The biblical doctrine of the Trinity affirms one and only one uncreated, true God
who created everything else from nothing; and this God is three eternal, distinct Persons
(Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). By "creedal doctrine" in this resolution is meant the doctrine associated with the
ecumenical creeds generally accepted by the Christian church, including the Apostles and
The New Testament creedal phrases from the apostles reflected a body of belief,
within which was the assumption of the doctrine of the trinity, exemplified by Matthew 28:19
and 2 Corinthians 13:14.
The Bible is God's Word, and the creed is the believer's confession of commitment
to what God's Word teaches. Creedal phrases abound in the New Testament, including
Matthew 28:19; 1 Corinthians 15; Romans 10:9-10; and Philippians 2:5-11.
The Apostles Creed was ascribed to the apostles, whether they had personal
involvement in its formation or it merely reflects the core of apostolic teaching. It was used
throughout the Western Church, perhaps from apostolic times. Writers of the second and
third centuries already referred to it as the established, common confession of the church.
Our first extant copy of the Greek text is from around 336-341, and a Latin text dates from
around 390. The Apostles Creed was brief and with little detail since it preceded most of
the Church turmoil caused by later heresies.
The Nicene Creed is named after the Council of Nicea (325), although the text
underwent clarification and reached its final form around 381. It is also called the Nicene-
Church historian and scholar G. W. Bromiley notes how even the very early creedal
development affirmed the biblical doctrine of the Trinity. He says, "Fragmentary creeds
from the second century . . . support the thesis that creeds quickly became Trinitarian, or
were so from the outset.
Here are only a few of the earliest references to the creedal doctrine of the Trinity
from the early Church:
- The Didache (35-60): "baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of
the Holy Spirit."
- Irenaeus (115-190): "The Church . . . . [believes] in one God, the Father
Almighty . . . and in one Christ Jesus, the Son of God . . . and in the Holy Spirit."
- Tertullian (190-200): "Thus the connection of the Father in the Son, and of the
Son in the Paraclete, produces three coherent Persons, who are yet distinct One from
Another. These Three are one essence, not one Person."
Creedal support of the biblical doctrine of the Trinity is made clear simply by quoting
the relevant portions of both the Apostles Creed and the Nicene Creed, corresponding to
the biblical argument previously presented:
- Only One True God (Uncreated, Eternal Creator)
Apostles Creed: "I believe in God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and
Nicene Creed: "I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven
and earth and of all things visible and invisible."
- The Father is God
Apostles Creed: "God, the Father Almighty."
Nicene Creed: "God, the Father Almighty."
- The Son is God
Apostles Creed: "Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord."
Nicene Creed: "And in one Lord Jesus Christ . . . God of God, Light of
Light, very God of very God."
- The Holy Spirit is God
Apostles Creed: "Jesus Christ . . . was conceived by the Holy Spirit, . . . . I
believe in the Holy Spirit."
Nicene Creed: "I believe in the Holy Spirit . . . who with the Father and the
Son together is worshiped and glorified."
The creedal doctrine of the Trinity was fully expressed by the later Athanasian Creed
(900s), which says in part, "And the catholic faith is this, that we worship one God in three
persons and three persons in one God, neither confusing the persons nor dividing the
substance. For there is one person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the
Holy Spirit. . . ."
On the basis of the argumentation and evidence presented here, I affirm the
resolution: Yes, the creedal doctrine of the Trinity is biblical.