The Trinity and John 16 video discussion

Should we preach on the Trinity on Trinity Sunday? Or should we preach on the passage in John 16? Or should our preaching always be in some sense ‘Trinitarian’?

James and Ian discuss the issue, the details of the text, and some important issues to think about when talking about the Trinity.

For full textual discussion, see the previous article here.

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18 thoughts on “The Trinity and John 16 video discussion”

  1. I have long taught teenagers when taking them through the BCP Catechism before confirmation, that the word Trinity is inadequate to describe God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I use a pyramid with four sides to explain that God-in-Christ’s world is bigger than ours, His time all round our time. The Qur’an corrects the Church Councils in the matter.

      • An odd comment, I agree, but it does indirectly remind us that we have, in part, the doctrine of three gods in one to thank for the rise of Islam: a reaction to the perceived polytheism of the religions dominating Arabia in the 7th century.

        • Steven – I’d like to try and pinpoint your objection to the Trinity. I agree that if one isn’t careful, it can begin to look like three gods in one.

          Do you believe that Christ was God incarnate? If so, then where do you `part company’ with Trinitarianism? If not, then where does our assurance that we are saved come from?

          • I thought you said you were going to buy When the Towers Fall, which goes into this in some detail and answers your query. And in briefly answering it now, I am only repeating what I have said before on this site.

            One can define the trinitarian idea in two ways, the first acceptable, the other biblically and logically unacceptable. In the one, Jesus is recognised as the Son of God – God in human form – and the Holy Spirit is divine inasmuch as he comes from the Father and the Son. In the other, Jesus is seen as co-eternal with the Father and therefore, as a matter of simple logic and semantics, not his son, and the Holy Spirit is seen as a person distinct from the Father and the Son. In every point this view seems to me to contradict what Scripture says (at a heretical level, given the importance of the concept of sonship) and to reduce Christianity to a modified form of polytheism. Three divine co-eternal persons is by definition three gods; that is exactly how Christianity appeared to Mohammed and how it still does to Muslims, not to mention atheistic onlookers.

            Theologians have unfortunately taken little care to differentiate these positions. They assume that Trinitarianism necessarily denotes the second, whereas the biblical position, before Roman thinking took over, is decidedly the first. You’re half way there when you recognise that the Ethiopian eunuch received the Holy Spirit without any notion that he had to believe that the Spirit was not the Father nor the Son but a third person.

            Paul never writes about the godhead in trinitarian terms. In letter after letter he uses the term ‘God’ to refer to the Father distinct from Jesus Christ. In his greetings he never mentions the Holy Spirit. Go through the letters yourself, starting from Rom 1:7-9, and check this out.

            The denial that God created the heavens and the earth as per Genesis 1 is another modern heresy going to the heart of the biblical revelation of who God is.

            If the above is not logical enough for you, go through these steps:
            1. Do I believe that Scripture should interpret Scripture?
            2. Where does the term ‘son(s) of God’ first appear in the Bible?
            3. Is the meaning there that the being(s) so described was co-eternal with God?

            In addition:
            4. How do I understand the word ‘son’ when it is not followed by ‘of God’? (Why does the meaning change when ‘of God’ follows?)
            5. How do I understand ‘son of God’ in Luke 3:38? Was Adam also co-eternal with God?
            6. What is the meaning of the incarnation, if not the moment marking the beginning of Jesus as son of God in the flesh?
            7. Who was the commander of Yahweh’s army in Jos 5:13-15? He is not there even described as an angel (which in Hebrew and Greek means ‘messenger’ – the word is not, as in English, an ontological category); he is said to be a man. Not ‘like’ a man, but a man. But how can he be a man?

            With this last question we enter deeper waters. If you had read my book, you would have seen that Jesus in the Apocalypse appears several times as an angel, but I guess that’s more than one bridge too far. The point nonetheless is that Revelation repeatedly subverts the rigid, compartmentalising, Roman/western way of thinking about the godhead. We should try to grapple with this.

          • Steven – many thanks for taking the trouble to put this down. It makes sense. And yes – the faith of the Ethiopian eunuch (noting that receiving the Holy Spirit in the way he did) is an important point.

            I do have the book – but haven’t had an opportunity to read it yet. (That will come with the next holiday – which should be reasonably soon).

  2. Informative discussion lads.

    Psephizo – if you want a career in televion – you need to conceal your hands from the camera. Background scenery good with the display of books. Same goes for James.

    James – you need to suppress some of the background light.

    Psephizo – I suppose it would be too much to ask you to wear a collar?

    • ‘Psephizo – if you want a career in televion – you need to conceal your hands from the camera.’

      I don’t, and I deliberately use my hands in a way that works on Zoom to keep the conversation lively.

      ‘Psephizo – I suppose it would be too much to ask you to wear a collar?’

      Why should I? ‘I would rather someone knew I was a minister of the gospel by what I teach and how I live, not by what I wear.’

      • Psephizo

        ‘Why should I? ‘I would rather someone knew I was a minister of the gospel by what I teach and how I live, not by what I wear.’

        I agree. But it would be helpful to someone clicking onto your video to perceive straightaway, that this is going to be an authoritative discussion on Christianity.

        • Really,DS?
          While that may apply to Ian, being collared is so very far from being authoritative in Christianity, in scripture, in teaching.
          Some are atheists, some deists, some pluralists. You have described some as liberals. I would not come under their organisation, structural authority, sit under their teaching.
          I recall being present when one CoE Bishop said the cross of Christ was a failure. Maybe he was a disciple of Nietzsche. Or believed Jesus was a mere man, or perhaps a legend, myth, not even lived in place, space and time. Or an imaginative product of a social community.

          • Geoff

            I’m sure all that type of thinking will be the subject of discipline by the authorities.

            I was looking at the video from a presentational point of view – to encourage an increase in audience figures.

  3. The idea of the Holy Spirit coming alongside could be described as a pilot climbing aboard a ship to guide it on the final part of the journey.
    Ps. My son has moved to Impington. I will probably be there often in future. I must pop in sometime.

    • What, Steve?
      You’ve left your son to his own devices? Is GPS a theological replacement for Father Son and Spirit, on Don Cupitt’s, Sea of Faith. Or as I’d put it faith shipwrecked, while being all at sea.

      • I think you are muddling RoadAngel with commercial shipping gps! But hey, shipwrecked faith wouldn’t happen if the Pilot wasn’t locked out of the bridge.

  4. DS,
    It is far from discipline in the CoE!
    The Bishop I referred to remained in office for many years after his display of unbelief and incredulity in his preaching. And this wasn’t a former bishop of Durham, David Jenkins who has been the subject of a plethora of comments of this site. Nor was it Don Cupitt, described as an atheist priest.
    Not all subscribe to the 39 Articles of Faith, nor the Creeds. Or even the Evangelical Alliance Statement of Faith, for those Christians outside the Anglican church.

    For a different way of expressing the Christian faith, outside the Anglican church, it’s worth chewinng over the Heidelberg Catechism, available online, if you are not familar with it.

    Discernment is needed. Or, beware, don’t get conned by a collar.
    A man recognised as a faithful teacher of scripture, from outside Anglicanism is not collared, D A. Carson. There are many who are faithful to the key tenets of Christianity.
    But almost like a process of osmosis the church embraces culture- see my example of mother god in my comment to Peter Reiss.


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