If you happen to be familiar with the church year, then you know that last week, June 11th, was Trinity Sunday. On Trinity Sunday, some Christian churches recite the Athanasian Creed, which is a thorough description of the immanent workings of the Triune God as well as the nature of Jesus as god and man. My church’s vicar, who is essentially acting as pastor while the pastor is away, gave the congregation the week following Trinity Sunday to submit any questions that we had about the Trinity so that he could address their questions in this week’s bible study. The bible study ended up being a combination of his pre-prepared presentation and his answers to the congregation’s questions. While he’s not as wild as the crazy pastor, some interesting topics did come up. As you’re about to see, I took notes on what was said.
The Trinity: A Complete Explanation in One Hour
- First, we watch St. Patrick’s Bad Analogies to explain the workings of the Trinity
- People’s first thoughts of the Trinity are things like “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,” and “Three in One”
- One reason to believe in Christianity is because the Trinity is essentially too complicated to be made up; if someone thought up Christianity then why did they make it so complicated? The only explanation for how complicated the Trinity is must be because it’s real, so the intricacy was unavoidable
- Whoever desires to be saved must wholeheartedly believe the Athanasian Creed (thus the Trinity)
- Vicar says his children are Christians even though they can’t explain the Trinity or the Athanasian Creed, so they, like all true Trinitarian Christians, must believe by faith and not rely on reason or their own understanding
- Someone asks about how the Athanasian Creed doesn’t sound very LCMS towards the end since it hints to being saved by good works and not by faith alone; “And those who have done good will enter into eternal life, and those who have done evil into eternal fire.”
- Vicar points him towards Matthew 25:31-46 where essentially, at the ends of their lives, people are separated into those who did good and went to heaven and those who did bad and went to hell, similarly to what is said in the Athanasian Creed
- This too, hints at being saved by works rather than faith, but Matthew 25 is Lutheran, which means that the Athanasian Creed is Lutheran as well
- They justify themselves in teaching that good works get you into heaven, because they say that good works are only a result of faith, so those who do not have faith cannot do good
- (This confuses me because it seems to contradict what these same Lutherans believe on the topic of total depravity and the fact that no one can do any good. I understand that they say that the Holy Spirit performs good works through us rather than the believers themselves doing good, but why, then, does he only do good works through and give faith to certain people?)
- Anyways, their verdict on this is that good works without faith is worthless and does not get you into heaven, and also there are some good works that you can only do if you’re a Christian (I don’t know what this means… they didn’t give any examples)
- This leads them to the question: if not for sinners, then who was Hell made for?
- (One guy shouts: “HELL WAS MADE FOR UNBELIEVERS!”)
- The vicar corrects him, saying that hell was made to punish Satan and his angels, but unbelievers end up going there as well
- You only count as a believer if you’re a Christian believer, and you’re only a Christian believer if you believe in the Triune God, and you only believe in the Triune God if you believe in the Athanasian Creed
- Just because you go to church and recite the Athanasian Creed doesn’t mean that you believe it (yes, I am aware of this)
- If you believe in a god that’s not the Triune God, then you don’t believe in the God of the Bible but rather an idol that doesn’t exist or provide salvation, like Allah
- They then got into some of the more intricate workings of the trinity, which can essentially be summed up by this graphic:
I kind of enjoyed attending this bible study. It was interesting that my mother and I sat and listened to the same thing and took the same notes and obviously have completely different thoughts on what we heard. Even though I don’t agree with or believe what was said, it’s still an interesting topic to learn about. It’s important to understand that you can attend church, even sit in bible study and takes notes and even be somewhat intrigued without believing in the Trinity or in God at all. It even helps me become a more informed atheist so that I know both what I do believe and what I don’t believe.
Note: when the Athanasian Creed says “catholic church,” it essentially just means the Christian church.