New York's Trinity Church exemplifies a conflicted interface between heavenly and earthly realms. Situated where Wall Street dead-ends into Broadway, this church exemplifies the unholy American trinity of:
- Christian tradition - on grounds dedicated by the King of England to the church prior to the founding of the American nation
- Global capitalism - as the founding center of the New York Stock Exchange and profit, even at the expense of losing one's own soul
- Animal spirits - from the golden bull adjoining Trinity racing up to the entertainment emporia of Broadway.
In 325 AD, the first Roman emperor convert to Christianity convened a session of clerics to address a seemingly simple question: What is the relationship of God the Father to God the Son to the God the Holy Spirit? And beneath is an underlying question: Is Christianity a religion of one God or multiple Gods?
These were questions about what most Catholics and Protestants today consider as the doctrine of the Trinity. It’s a formulation that we know as the Nicene Creed.
Since 325 AD, the Council of Nicaea has served for nearly 1,700 years to buttress Catholic and Protestant notions of the Trinity – the notion of the Godhead as three in one. With the Son and Spirit consubstantial with the Father.
There have been two problems with this theological Trinitarian construct – both of which have to do with lack of scriptural authority. The first problem is that the term “trinity” is never once mentioned in the Bible. Simply stated, “trinity” is not a scriptural term; it’s an after-the-fact theological construct.
The second problem is that scripture has never even used even the looser notion of trinity such as the concept of “three in one.” This has been an unresolved problem down through the centuries for the orthodox church.
Three conclusions can be drawn from a review of early and medieval church history:
- The Nicene Trinitarian formulation of three-in-one, consubstantial with the Father may have served as good politics and as orthodox theology, but can not be explicitly scripturally grounded.
- Nicaea may also have been perceived as a marketable means by which Christianity could peddle itself as consistent with a monotheistic faith, but that subterfuge has been easily understood by Jew and Muslim alike.
- To retrieve an authentic Christianity, we need to go back to the boneyard of Nicaea – and start all over again. Confess the Nicene error, and move forward in the reality of Father, Son and Spirit as beings of similar but separate essence.
In one sense, this long-glossed over debate could be viewed as again to answering the question: how many angels can dance on the head of a pin? But in another sense, the answer is more consequential. If Christians are adopting a theology bereft of direct Biblical support, is that not akin to idolatry? How can Christian expect others to confidently place their faith in a spiritual system built on quicksand? And do we not owe our Jewish, Muslim an apology for two millennia of needless division and conflict over the very nature of the divine that we all profess to worship?
Be forewarned. While the fundamentals are simple, varied notions of Trinity are associated with a long and complex history. For more, check out our attempt at an overview explanation, by clicking On The Trinity. Or Or for the full collection of reference materials, go to the Academy library.