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The Church and the Holy Trinity

14 May 2015, by Rev. Fr. Joel Okojie OSA in Doctrines

holytrinityThe Holy Trinity is a doctrine in the Catholic Church that speaks of the three persons in the one Godhead; intrinity other words, the Catholic Church believes and teaches that God is a Triune God. He is three in one God: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

I do strongly feel that other Christian denominations believe in the Triune God. However, I do not speak for them but for the mother Church that I know. In her creed, the Catholic Church clearly expresses her faith in the Triune God; this creed is called the Nicene creed or Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed. The Creed is called Nicene because it was originally adopted in a city called Nicaea in present-day Turkey in the year 325 during the First Council of Nicaea. It is also called Niceno-Constantinopolitan because, in the year 381, the creed was amended in the First Council of Constantinople. I do not intend to go into details about these Councils. However, the Councils came up with this creed in reaction to the Trinitarian heresies of the time. Through this creed, therefore, the Catholic Church corrected the erroneous and misleading theology of the time, teaches the truth about God, and expresses her faith in the truth.

You may be wondering what the heresies of the time were; well, there were different heresies at the time, and the Church responded to them accordingly. I may not touch all the heresies in this article because my attention is not on Trinitarian heresies but on the teachings of the Catholic Church on the Holy Trinity.

Though my attention is on the teachings of the Catholic Church on the Holy Trinity, I will present it in the light of the Trinitarian heresies. These heresies are those erroneous teachings about the nature of the Triune God. The first of these heresies I want to talk about is Monarchianism.

MONARCHIANISM: Monarchianism is a set of beliefs that strongly emphasize the idea that God is one person in contrast to Trinity’s doctrine (Three persons in one God). Monarchianism can be looked at in two dimensions: the Adoptionists and the Patripassionists.

The adoptionists claim that Jesus Christ was a mere man, miraculously conceived in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary. They say that God the Father, the only God, adopted this miraculously conceived child at his baptism. By this teaching, the adoptionist claims that Jesus Christ is not divine but a mere human, only adopted by God. On the other hand, the Patripassionists claims that Jesus Christ is divine but only a symbol of the Father. In other words, they believe that it was the Father that became incarnate and not the Son. For them, there is nothing like Son, it was the Father that became incarnate, and it was he who died on the cross.

Monarchianism, in their defense of God’s oneness, rejected the Son and the Holy Spirit as divine, thereby rejecting and denying the reality of the Trinity. The Church sees these teachings as erroneous and heretical.

SUBORDINATIONISM: Subordinationism is another kind of Trinitarian heresies that can be looked at from two angles, like Monarchianism. Subordinationism is a set of beliefs that emphasizes the unequal of three people in one God. They believe that there are three persons in one God just as we do, but they are not equal, they claim. Arianism is a branch of Subordinationism that claims that God’s word did not exist from eternity; he is a creature of the Father. That means that Jesus Christ was created by the Father and did not exist from the very beginning. This idea is not different from those of the Macedonians; the Macedonians claim that the Holy Spirit is only a ministering Angel created by God and not God. This teaching is a rejection of the Trinity.

TRITHEISM:  Tritheism is another form or kind of Trinitarian heresy that claims that the doctrine of the Trinity is completely wrong. For them, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are different Gods. There are three Gods, they claim.

THE CATHOLIC CHURCH: The Catholic Church, therefore, teaches that there are three persons in one God; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit is one God. Shield-Trinity-Scutum-Fidei-English_svgIt is a mystery we cannot really understand; however, the Church, through the use of reason and faith in the Holy Spirit who teaches the truth, has been able to throw more light on the mystery of the Holy Trinity.

At creation, the Father said; let us make man in our image, after our likeness…(Gen. 1:26). The “us” and “our” shows that the father did not exist alone. At the baptism of Jesus also, the father’s voice was heard from above, and the Holy Spirit was seen descending on the Son. (Mk. 1:9-11). There are other scripture passages to back the reality of the Trinity, but we leave them out for now.

The Church believes that there are three persons in one God and that each of these persons is a complete entity and separate from each other yet one God. They can operate apart from each other, but they remain one. The Father did not die on the cross; the Son did. The Holy Spirit descended on the apostles and not the father and the Son. They are separate, yet one Godhead. The Son was not created; either was the Spirit. So, in our creed as Catholics, we express our faith in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible. We also express our faith in Jesus Christ, who is begotten, not made, consubstantial with the father, and our faith in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life. Who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified.

  • charles Reply

    Very interesting read

  • Ada Reply

    Awesome teaching here! am blessed by it. Fr. Joel, more grease to your power.