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In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit

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Ireoba

Today, Trinity Sunday is the only feast day of the church that is devoted to a doctrine and not to an event or person, or story. Trinity, as Christian doctrine, is the affirmation that God is in three persons but at the same time, of one and same substance. It is the index, clue, reflection and expression of the mystery of the Christian belief and practice. Christianity has the unique belief that the one God has disclosed Himself eternally as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Christians are baptised to the Faith in this triune God, following an explicit and the last command of the Risen Lord Jesus Christ (before His ascension) to “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19).

This phrase from the Lord Jesus Christ, “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” is known as the Trinitarian formula. It is mostly followed by an “Amen,” obviously, being a prayer or invocation of the one in three God. It is very familiar to most Christians and captures and contains the raw materials for the doctrine of the Trinity. The “name” is in singular, indicating a reference to one entity, yet there is a distinction between the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, meaning a simultaneously singular and plural God (Complex Monotheism). This is the mystery, that God is one, and at the same time, in three persons, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Each Person of the Godhead is known and appreciated in the specific role He played in our salvation (Creation, Redemption and Sanctification, respectively). It should, however, be noted that God did not become three persons in order to save man or stopped being three persons after the salvation of man. God has been in three persons in all eternity (The Father is eternal, the Son eternal and the Holy Spirit, eternal).

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The Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, together make the Lord and God, Who is One, and Who, though are distinguished in roles, cannot be clearly separated at any time. This obviously contradicts reason and opens Christianity up to the charge of a veiled polytheism – believing in three gods rather than one. But the earliest Christians, who did not have any background of polytheism (being Jews that had the worship of only one God at the heart of their faith) were compelled into this by the sheer weight of revelation and their accompanying experience of God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

The Christian faith is a traditional faith (1Cor. 11:2; 15:3; Gal 1:6-10). It is a received body of belief, which we also need to transmit. The Christian faith is actually derived from God (1Cor. 11:23), and since God does not change, it also does not change. Christians, therefore, are not the originators and indeed, are not at liberty to devise or choose what to believe. We should therefore do our best to link ourselves with the early Christian tradition. The teaching ministry of the church is most fundamental to the Christian faith and must be warmly embraced by Christians. The concept of Trinity is what makes the essential difference between Christianity and other religions.

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Unorthodox views of the Trinity have been marked as heresies in the Church history. Examples include the Sabellians, who denied the real distinction of the Godhead; the Arians and Macedonians, who denied the co-equality and co-eternity of the three persons of the Godhead and the Nestorians, who held that Christ had two persons and two natures. Today, there are sects who hold unorthodox views about the Trinity. Also, most cults and New Religious Movements deny the Deity of Christ. However, the more problems and confusions lie in the discordant teachings and preaching about the Person and Nature of God within the orthodox and the evangelical churches. Some deny the humanity of Christ and preach “a cross less” Christianity; some emphasise the Holy Spirit over the other persons of Godhead; some deny the equality of the three; and some recreate God in their own imaginations. The Catholic Faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity, neither confounding the Persons, nor dividing the substance. (The Athanasian Creed)

As we are baptised, so we are Christians, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The Ven. Dr Princewill Onyinyechukwu Ireoba is the Rector, Ibru International Ecumenical Centre, Agbarha-Otor, Delta State.

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