The Doctrine of the Trinity: Why is it so?
Part I – Précis
The Doctrine of the Trinity is one of the core tenets of the Christian Faith. The question I hope to
answer through this presentation is:
What were the driving factors behind the official Church position on The Doctrine of the Trinity and
the formulation and affirmation of the Nicene Creed at the First Council of Nicaea in 325 CE?
What is The Doctrine of Trinity
To introduce The Doctrine of the Trinity I used article I of the Articles of Religion of the Anglican
Church, “Of Faith in the Holy Trinity”1, and “The Dogma of the Trinity” from the Catholic
Encyclopaedia2. I chose these references because of the intended audience for the presentation.
I then moved onto a list of some alternate doctrines (heresies) that were being argued throughout
the early Christian Church these included: Unitarianism, Binitarianism, Modalism, Gnosticism, and
Arianism discussing where they differ from the Trinitarian view of the Church.
Readings from the Early Church Fathers
In this section of the presentation I focused on two of the Church Fathers; Irenaeus of Lyons “a rule of
faith”, and arguments against Gnostics3, and Athanasius of Alexandria and his defence against
“Binitarianism” and “Arianism/universalism”4.
First Council of Nicaea
Focus then moved to the First Council of Nicaea, discussing the different arguments for and against
the affirmation of the Doctrine of the Trinity and the formulation of the Nicene Creed as the
‘Confession of Faith” for the Church.
Pattern of the Trinity in Scripture
Finally, I discussed the pattern of the Trinity in both the New and Old Testaments concentrating on
John and Matthew. In my conclusion I summarized the Doctrine using the image that shows the
different relationships between the Persons of the Trinity.
The presentation was given to a small group of mature practicing Anglicans and Roman Catholics
that I know through my work place, and my wife Carol Ann. The group all have tertiary level
education which include business, information technology, science and engineering.
Part II – Summary and Analysis
The purpose of this part of the document is to summarise and provide an outline of the feedback
received from the participants after the completion of the presentation.
The presentation was delivered to the group described in the précis above. During my presentation I
asked one of the participants to give me a warning 5 minutes before my expected 15 minute
timeframe, I exceeded the time limit by 2 minutes making the duration of the presentation 17 minutes.
As such the summary and conclusion of the presentation were a little rushed.
To help evaluate my presentation style I provided a modified version of the “Presentation Evaluation
Form” which I sourced from the internet, I have provided a copy of the evaluation form as Appendix
A to this document. 5
The following is a list of categories and the average out of 5 for each of the categories
1. Introduction: 4.2
2. Organization: 4
3. Content: 4.2
4. Visual Aids: 4.4
5. Conclusion: 4.2
6. Delivery: 4.2
7. Discussion: 4.2
Several comments were provided in the General Comments section of the evaluation which I will
cover in the next section.
Discussion Points and Comments
What is the Doctrine of the Trinity?
I read the content of Article I and The Dogma of the Trinity from my notes. One of the comments on
the evaluation form was that I read the text from the slide. Not sure that with text extracts like this
that you would do anything else but read it directly, but I will ensure that next time I keep reading
from the notes to a minimum.
My Roman Catholic friend suggested that rather than use the Catholic Encyclopaedia that I should
have used the Catechism of the Catholic Church, I agree with that comment.
The general comment on my explanation was that some were still confused by the language used to
describe the Trinity and were unsure why we make it difficult to understand.
The Alternate Doctrines
There were a few comments regarding this topic, during the presentation I used the words ‘false
doctrine’ and ‘heresy’.
1. It was pointed out to me that rather than ‘false doctrine’ it was ‘alternative’ or ‘other’ belief
or doctrine. I do agree with this and it has made me think about how we use language.
2. Another comment was that the word ‘heresy’ has negative connotations. When I asked why
I was a little taken back with the answer. My friend said, “when I hear the word ‘heresy’ it
makes me think of the burning of heretics during the medieval period, and I find that very
uncomfortable”. I agree that words can be linked to the darker periods of history, but do we
stop using these words because of it, or should we be more careful where and when we use
3. Others found it very interesting that I provided a list of ‘alternate beliefs’ and a short
description, one said they were going to follow up on what other beliefs were out there
during the early Church period.
Early Church Fathers
I chose the readings by Irenaneus of Lyons6 and Athanasius of Alexandria7. The group commented
that by tying together the readings, ‘alternate doctrines’, arguments at the First Council of Nicaea,
and the formulation of the Nicene Creed helped them to understand the content of the
presentation, and the necessity for the Doctrine of Trinity.
First Council of Nicaea
As we ran out of time the group said that I could have spent a little less time on this slide and used
the slide on the Church Fathers and the Nicene Creed to emphasise the connection between the
‘alternate doctrines’ the readings, and council.
I added bold highlighting to the Nicene Creed to emphasise the link between the Irenaeus2 reading
and the shape of the creed the comments were positive and they said it helped to drive this point
home. Two of the participants felt that I should have provided an English translation of the original
Council of Nicaea creed rather than the version from the Book of Common Prayer8.
The Pattern of the Trinity in Scripture
I ran out of time to go too far into the list of scripture references I provided so I concentrated on the
Baptism of Jesus scene (Matthew 3:17, Luke 3:22) and Matthew 28:19. The general feedback was
that maybe I could put this slide in at the beginning to emphasise why the Early Church Fathers
rejected the various ‘alternate doctrine’ of the times.
General Questions and Comments
I did have some notes which I referred to on a couple of occasions one of the members of group
commented that they found the rustling of papers distracting, which I have taken on board. Another
member of the group asked me to go through the diagram again because the language and
relationships of the Persons of the Trinity was still not clear. I am not sure that it made a difference
but the group seemed satisfied with the explanation.
I have addressed the outline and a summary of the feedback by topic received from the attendees of
the presentation on the “Doctrine of Trinity: Why is it so?”. I have also provided a summary of the
Presentation Evaluation form provided by the participants.
England, The Church of. “The Book of Common Prayer, Articles of Religion.” (1662): 299-
———. “The Book of Common Prayer, the Order of the Ministration of the Holy
Communion.” (1662): 143-53.
McGrath, Alister E. Editor. “The Christian Theology Reader: 25th Anniversary 5th Edition, 3.3
Irenaeus of Lyons on the Trinity (157).” (2016).
———. “The Christian Theology Reader: 25th Anniversary 5th Edition, 3.10 Athanasius of
Alexandria on the Holy Spirit and the Trinity (166).” (2016).
New Advent, ed. “The Catholic Encyclopedia, “the Dogma of the Trinity”, [Cited 18 April
2017], Online: http://www.newadvent.org/Cathen/15047a.Htm.”
“Presentation Evaluation Form Cited 13th April 2017
Appendix A Presentation Evaluation Form (modified)
Presentation Evaluation Form
Presentation Grade [5= Excellent; 4 = Good; 3 = Satisfactory; 2 = Some problems; 1 = Many
problems; 0 = Did not present
Presenter: Gordon Hooker
Topic: The Doctrine of the Trinity: Why is it so?
____1. Introduction: Did the introduction capture your interest? Was necessary background
given? Was a clear purpose conveyed?
___2. Organization: Was there a clear organization? Were transitions between sections
clear and effective? Did the organization lead to a clear conclusion?
___3. Content: Did the speaker support their points? Was the supporting material relevant,
up to date?
___4. Visual Aids: Were visual aids used effectively and appropriately, carefully prepared?
___5. Conclusion: Were key points reinforced? Was a sense of closure provided? If
appropriate, was a course of action proposed?
___6. Delivery: Was the speaker natural, enthusiastic? Did they speak clearly? Were
appropriate gestures, posture, expressions used?
___7. Discussion: Were questions answered accurately, clearly, effectively?
___8. General Comments (use back):