Can Reason Alone Discover the Trinity?

What would you say if I told you that the basic concept of the Trinity—the part that everyone has trouble believing—could be demonstrated without appealing to one word of Scripture?

Most people think that the Trinity, even when properly defined, can only be accepted on pure faith. They know the Bible teaches it, but beyond that, there seems to be no particular reason that we ought to believe it. Actually, though, it doesn’t take much effort to demonstrate that, if God really does exist, then He must, by His very nature, exist as a plurality of Persons in one Being. I’ll offer full disclosure now and say that we can’t get necessarily to three Persons (at least, not very easily – an argument for three can be developed, but it gets very difficult), but merely showing that in order for the God concept to be coherent there must be more than one Person in the Godhead is a huge victory in and of itself.

The argument goes like this:

  1. If God exists, He is a perfect being.
  2. A perfect being, by definition, must be able to love (perfectly).
  3. If God exists, then He must be able to love.
  4. A perfect being cannot lack anything and still be called perfect. That is, a perfect being must be completely sufficient in itself.
  5. If God exists, then He is completely sufficient in Himself.
  6. A person cannot express love without another person to express it to.
  7. God must therefore have multiple persons within Himself to express love, or else He is not perfect or else He cannot love.

Now let me explain the argument more informally. Everyone agrees that, if God exists, He is perfect. By perfect, we mean that He lacks nothing. He has everything He needs within Himself. That includes knowledge, existence, goodness, power, etc. That also mean He must be able to love (whether He chooses to or not is unimportant; the critical point is that if God were incapable of love, then He would not be perfect!). But that presents a problem for the person who thinks that God is only one Person. Try to imagine God’s existence before He created anything else. There would be nothing in that state for Him to love, which means He would be fundamentally incapable of expressing love. That means that God needs other people to be able to express His love (some people use this, by the way, as an argument for why God chose to create humans – He needed someone to express His eternal love to).

Do you see the problem with that? If God is perfect and has everything He needs within Himself, then we can’t turn around and say that God needs anyone else for anything. If He needs us, then He isn’t perfect, because we would be giving Him something He didn’t have! The only solution to this problem is to say that there are multiple Persons within the Godhead. Perhaps there are two. Maybe three. Maybe infinite! Without Scripture, who knows? What we do know, however, is that the assertion that God is perfect requires us to admit more than one Person.

Far, then, from arguing that the Trinity’s basic concept of a plurality of Persons in the Godhead is self-contradictory, we actually find out that it is a logical necessity! What religions, then, in the entire world, have this concept of God?

The Trinity is not an illogical doctrine that can only be accepted by faith. On the contrary, though perhaps surprisingly, it turns out to be exactly what reason demands of us. And perhaps more amazingly, all this means that the love God has for us is exactly the same as the love He has experienced in Himself for all of eternity. The command to love is not arbitrary, for in God, in His very essence, is the model of unconditional love and unbroken fellowship, which God has invited to share with Him for all of eternity. That certainly can go a long way in meeting some of our emotional needs!

If you haven’t subscribed yet, be sure to do so. We’ll be doing several more studies on the Trinity in the near future that you won’t want to miss!

Overseer, A Word Study

Ok, so maybe the picture on the left isn’t quite what Paul had in mind when he used this last major word to describe the pastor, but maybe in the humor there is a pinch of truth somewhere. The word is “overseer,” or in Greek, episkopos. It is used five times in the NT (Acts 20:28; Phil. 1:1; 1 Tim. 3:2; Tit. 1:7; 1 Pet. 2:25). Including the very closely associated words episkope (used four times, Luke 19:44; Acts 1:20; 1 Tim. 3:1; 1 Pet. 2:12, meaning “office of overseer” or “visitation in judgment”) and episkopeo (Heb. 12:15; 1 Pet. 5:2, meaning “to oversee” or “to watch over”), the words occur a total of eleven times in the NT.

The basic concept is to watch over something. It was used in various ways in classical Greek and in the Greek translation of the OT. The gods were called overseers, meaning that they watched over all of mankind. At times, the purpose of this watching was to render judgment (in that sense, they were “witnesses”), and in others, the idea was one of protection. God in the OT is called an overseer in the same way. Humans were called overseers, sometimes as guardians and sometimes as witnesses. An added meaning in the human realm was “supervisor,” as sometimes over construction jobs or even cultic activity.

An episkopos, then, was basically a person who watched over others to see that things remained in order.

This meaning is carried over into the NT usage of the word. The overseers’ basic function is best described in Acts 20:28, “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood” (NIV). It is especially important to note that this was addressed to the “elders of the [Ephesian] church” (20:17). In this passage, then, we have the absolute equation of the terms “elder,” “overseer,” and “pastor.”  Certain men in the church were elders by status and overseers by pastoral function. That is, because of their spiritual depth and good reputations, they were honored to take the responsibility of watching over, tending, and feeding the church, God’s flock.

There is no biblical basis for a distinction between overseers (“bishops”) and elders, so we reject an Episcopal form of church government. That distinction arose in the second century, largely in response to widespread heresies about the nature of Christ. The overseers were considered the guardians of the apostolic tradition. Whether or not that was needed then is a matter of debate. Today, however, we have the complete cannon of the New Testament, which embodies that tradition. Overseers are to guard that tradition only in the sense that they are to guard against false doctrine, which is an obvious aspect of their role as shepherds (pastors).

From all we have seen, it appears the beginning point of human church governance begins with a body of men called overseers. As men of deep spiritual maturity, they are the elders of that body, and given their maturity, they serve as shepherds to guide God’s church. There seems to be no place for a single man carrying the office of “pastor” who acts as CEO of First Church, Inc. Likewise, there does not seem to be a place for a board of business men who governs the financial affairs of the church and leaves the teaching and discipleship to “the pastor” and his staff. Paul seems to have envisioned a group of deeply committed, morally pure, spiritually mature men who would serve to help God’s people grow, both individually and corporately.

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