Where you learn what the Reformation added to the discussion about God’s Trinity.
The basic doctrine of the Trinity–one nature and three persons–survived the middle ages and the break with the Roman Catholic Church during the Protestant Reformation in the 16th Century.
In fact, the doctrine’s been the same since the controversy was settled in the early church.
So, what did the Reformation add to the discussion about God’s Trinity? Let me show you.
Martin Luther on the Trinity
Martin Luther, the Father of Protestantism, said, “Christ shows forcefully that the Holy Spirit is an actual Being in the Godhead and separate, distinct Person by Himself, one who is not the father or the Son.”
For example, Luther points out what Jesus said about the Holy Spirit in John 16:13:
But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.
Luther said this is the equivalent to saying the Holy Spirit is a distinct person with a particular responsibility. This jives with Augustine’s idea of economy of salvation.
John Calvin on the Trinity
All you need to know: Martin Luther’s contemporary, John Calvin, agreed with Luther.
The same holds in the case of the Holy Spirit; for we will immediately prove both that he is God and that he has a separate subsistence from the Father. This, moreover, is not a distinction of essence, which it would be impious to multiply.
Same essence. Different person.
All the Reformation did to the discussion on the Trinity is add a focus to the Holy Spirit. But despite the vigorous activity of people like Luther and Calvin, who devoted and endangered their lives to the defense of the orthodox view of the Trinity, deviant doctrines on the Trinity still emerged…most recently seen in William P. Young’s The Shack.
What ancient heresies do you recognize in today’s ideas about God, the Trinity or Christianity in general? Drop your thoughts in the comments.
**Part of the Thoroughly-Painless Guide to the Doctrine of God’s Trinity series.**