What Do Protestants Believe About God and the Trinity?

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Protestants are united in affirming an orthodox, Nicene doctrine of God, as demonstrated in the following selections from key Protestant confessions: the 25 Articles of Religion (Methodist), 39 Articles of Religion (Anglican), Belgic Confession (Reformed), Augsburg Confession (Lutheran), and Westminster Confession of Faith (Presbyterian).

25 Articles of Religion

The 25 Articles are doctrinal standards for the people called Methodists, being abridged by John Wesley from the 39 Articles of the Church of England:

There is but one living and true God, everlasting, without body or parts, of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness: the maker and preserver of all things, visible and invisible. And in unity of this Godhead, there are three persons, of one substance, power, and eternity; — the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. (Article I. Of Faith in the Holy Trinity)

39 Articles of Religion

The 39 Articles are doctrinal standards for the Church of England, and were affirmed by John Wesley, a lifelong Anglican priest, until his death:

There is but one living and true God, everlasting, without body, parts, or passions; of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness; the Maker, and Preserver of all things both visible and invisible. And in unity of this God-head there be three Persons, of one substance, power, and eternity: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. (Article I. Of Faith in the Holy Trinity)

Augsburg Confession

The Augsburg Confession is a key document of the Protestant Reformation, first written to defend the movement against detractors, and is still a doctrinal standard for Lutherans:

Our churches with common consent teach that the decree of the Council of Nicea concerning the Unity of the Divine Essence and concerning the Three Persons, is true and to be believed without any doubting; that is to say, there is one Divine Essence which is called and which is God: eternal, without body, without parts, of infinite power, wisdom and goodness, the Maker and Preserver of all things, visible and invisible; and yet that there are Three Persons, of the same essence and power, who are co-eternal, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. And we use the term “person” as the Fathers have used it, to signify not a part or a quality in another, but that which subsists of itself.

We condemn all heresies which have sprung up against this article, such as that of the Manichaeans, who assert two gods, one Good and the other Evil; also that of the Valentinians, Arians, Eunomians, Mohammedans, and all like them. We also condemn the Samosatenes, old and new, who contend that there is but one Person, arguing with sophistry and impiety that the Word and the Holy Spirit are not distinct Persons, but that “Word” signifies a spoken word, and “Spirit” signifies the motion created in things. (Article I. Of God)

Our churches with common consent teach that the decree of the Council of Nicea concerning the Unity of the Divine Essence and concerning the Three Persons, is true and to be believed without any doubting.

The Belgic Confession

The Belgic Confession is a doctrinal standard for Reformed churches, and was affirmed and defended by Jacob Arminius, along with the Heidelberg Catechism, until his death:

​​We all believe with the heart, and confess with the mouth, that there is one only simple and spiritual Being, which we call God; and that he is eternal, incomprehensible, invisible, immutable, infinite, almighty, perfectly wise, just, good, and the overflowing fountain of all good. (Article I. There is One Only God)

According to this truth and this Word of God, we believe in one only God, who is one single essence, in which are three persons, really, truly, and eternally distinct, according to their incommunicable properties; namely, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost. The Father is the cause, origin, and beginning of all things, visible and invisible; the Son is the Word, Wisdom, and Image of the Father; the Holy Ghost is the eternal Power and Might, proceeding from the Father and the Son. Nevertheless God is not by this distinction divided into three, since the Holy Scriptures teach us that the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost have each his personality, distinguished by their properties; but in such wise that these three persons are but one only God. Hence, then, it is evident that the Father is not the Son, nor the Son the Father, and likewise the Holy Ghost is neither the Father nor the Son. Nevertheless these persons thus distinguished are not divided nor intermixed; for the Father hath not assumed the flesh, nor hath the Holy Ghost, but the Son only. The Father hath never been without his Son, or without his Holy Ghost. For they are all three co-eternal and co-essential. There is neither first nor last; for they are all three one, in truth, in power, in goodness, and in mercy. (Article VIII. God is One in Essence, Yet Distinguished in Three Persons)

The Westminster Confession

The Westminster Confession is the doctrinal standard of Presbyterians, and was often cited and defended by the Methodist divines, along with the Westminster Shorter Catechism (which Wesley revised for Methodists), despite their disagreement with the Westminster Standards at key points:

1. There is but one only living and true God, who is infinite in being and perfection, a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions, immutable, immense, eternal, incomprehensible, almighty, most wise, most holy, most free, most absolute, working all things according to the counsel of His own immutable and most righteous will, for His own glory, most loving, gracious, merciful, long-suffering, abundant in goodness and truth, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin; the rewarder of them that diligently seek Him; and withal most just and terrible in His judgments; hating all sin; and who will by no means clear the guilty.

2. God hath all life, glory, goodness, blessedness, in and of Himself; and is alone in and unto Himself all-sufficient, not standing in need of any creatures which He hath made, nor deriving any glory from them, but only manifesting His own glory in, by, unto, and upon them; He is the alone foundation of all being, of whom, through whom, and to whom, are all things; and hath most sovereign dominion over them, to do by them, for them, or upon them, whatsoever Himself pleaseth. In His sight all things are open and manifest; His knowledge is infinite, infallible, and independent upon the creature; so as nothing is to Him contingent or uncertain. He is most holy in all His counsels, in all His works, and in all His commands. To Him is due from angels and men, and every other creature, whatsoever worship, service, or obedience He is pleased to require of them.

3. In the unity of the Godhead there be three Persons of one substance, power, and eternity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost. The Father is of none, neither begotten nor proceeding; the Son is eternally begotten of the Father; the Holy Ghost eternally proceeding from the Father and the Son. (Chapter 2. Of God, and of the Holy Trinity)

Johnathan Arnold
Johnathan Arnold is a husband, father, and aspiring pastor-theologian, as well as the founder and president of holyjoys.org. You can connect with him on Twitter @jsarnold7.