I briefly explained the historical development of the Trinity doctrine to my daughter. I started with the church fathers of the first three centuries, through the tumultuous events of the fourth century, with a brief overview of the history there-after. She then apparently did some reading, and sent me a reference to the GotQuestions article – What does the Bible teach about the Trinity? In the current article, I respond section by section to that article.
All bold, underlining, UPPERCASE, font sizes and italics in this article were added by myself. Bible quotes are mostly from the NASB.
The MOST DIFFICULT THING about the Christian concept of the Trinity is that there is no way to perfectly and completely understand it. The Trinity is a concept that is IMPOSSIBLE FOR ANY HUMAN BEING TO FULLY UNDERSTAND, let alone explain. GOD IS INFINITELY GREATER THAN WE ARE; therefore, we should not expect to be able to fully understand Him.
Though we can understand some facts about the relationship of the different Persons of the Trinity to one another, ultimately, it is incomprehensible to the human mind. However, this does not mean the Trinity is not true or that it is not based on the teachings of the Bible.
God is infinite.
In response, I certainly agree that we are unable to understand God. The LORD Himself declared:
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways
And My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isa 55:8-9).
We will NEVER be fully able to understand Him, even in eternity, because HE EXISTS WITHOUT CAUSE. He exists beyond time, space and matter. All else exist because He exists. All things came forth from Him and exists within Him. We can accept that He is infinite, omniscient (all-knowing) and omnipresent, but our finite minds cannot comprehend these things. We are like a lone wanderer building a small fire at night in the desert. In the light of the fire, we can see our immediate surroundings, but we can see NOTHING of the expanse of the earth. We similarly know only a tiny bit about God, BUT WE UNDERSTAND NOTHING of His infinite greatness.
However, we must distinguish between God and the Trinity concept. The Trinity concept is A HUMANLY DEVISED THEORY about the nature of God and the relationship between the Father, the Son, the and Holy Spirit. Gotquestions claims that the Trinity concept is BASED ON THE BIBLE, but it is nevertheless a human interpretation of the Bible, and therefore fallible. We, therefore, MUST TEST THE TRINITY CONCEPT AGAINST THE BIBLE.
But before we do that, it is the purpose of this article to evaluate the Trinity doctrine in a different way, namely to ask whether it makes logical sense. This is the playground of philosophers. Over the centuries, some of them have argued that the Trinity doctrine contradicts itself, and for that reason, cannot accurately reflect Bible revelation, for TRUTH DOES NOT CONTRADICT ITSELF. Listen to Trinities podcasts 2 and 3 for arguments for and against the logical consistency of the Trinity doctrine. Those podcasts discuss the Athanasian Creed, which is how the Trinity Concept was formulated more or less in the fifth century. That creed was used throughout the middle ages and is considered important even to this day.
Three Persons but One Being
Gotquestions defines the Trinity concept as follows:
The Father is God,
the Son is God, and
the Holy Spirit is God—
but there is only one God.
The Trinity concept contradicts itself when it says that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are three distinct and different Persons with different origins, different wills, and different roles, but one and the same Almighty Being in all respect:
We agree that they differ, for example:
The Son is BEGOTTEN from the Father,
the Holy Ghost PROCEEDS from both the Father; but
the Father is NOT BEGOTTEN and
does NOT PROCEED from any other.
Further examples of differences between them are:
The Son “is seated AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD” (Col. 3:1). Stephan said, “I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD” (Acts 7:56).
Jesus said, “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42). THIS MEANS THAT THEY HAVE DIFFERENT WILLS.
In the Trinity doctrine they are one and the same Being, for the Athanasian Creed declares:
We are compelled … to acknowledge
every Person by himself to be God …
(but we are) forbidden by the catholic religion; to say,
There are three Gods.
The Trinity doctrine does not teach that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are three parts of God. It teaches that “EVERY PERSON BY HIMSELF TO BE GOD.” In other words, whatever we can say about the Father, is also true about the Son, and vice versa. To quote the Athanasian Creed:
Such as the Father is;
such is the Son; and
such is the Holy Ghost.
The Father is Almighty;
the Son Almighty; and
the Holy Ghost Almighty. And yet
they are not three Almighties; but one Almighty.
More than one Almighty Being is logically impossible. They are, therefore, only “one Almighty.” Thus, we can represent the Trinity concept with the equation:
God = Father = Son = Holy Spirit.
One would, therefore, be able to say that the Son is also the Son’s Son. To say that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three different Persons, with different origins, but one and the same Being is analogous to saying that Peter, John, and James are three persons, but one being. The Athanasian Creed states that we are “forbidden … to say, There are three Gods,” but just saying that does not make it right. It does not undo the logical contradiction of the doctrine.
Some church fathers solved this contradiction by accepting that They are One Being, but by rejecting that They are three distinct persons. They regarded Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three names for the same Being, and as different “modes” or “manifestations” of God. This is known as modalism or Sabellianism, but was rejected by the church majority.
Christ’s Dual Nature
A further contradictory element of the Trinity theory is that Jesus is both FULLY GOD AND FULLY MAN. This is the teaching that He has both a human and a divine nature. That makes Him a binary being, comparable to the view that God is a trinity.
This was the primary focus of the Chalcedonian Creed of 451. This creed responded to the question:
If Jesus is “very God of very God,” WHY DID HE NOT KNOW THE DAY AND HOUR OF HIS RETURN? WHY DOES ONLY THE FATHER KNOW THAT (Matt 24:36)?
And why does the New Testament so consistently present Him as
subordinate to God, the Father? Why did He say, “The Father is greater than I?“
The Chalcedonian Creed explains the subordination statements in the New Testament by saying that Jesus was speaking from His human nature. Opponents of this theory point out that that then means that Jesus was not telling the truth when He said that He does not know, for in His divine nature He actually knew. And if that was not a true statement, HOW CAN WE RELY ON ANYTHING ELSE THAT HE SAID?
Furthermore, if Jesus had both a divine and a human nature, THEN HE NEVER REALLY DIED and nobody died, for only His human nature died, which was part of Him. But His death is a fundamental part of the gospel. This theory causes more problems than it solves.
The Athanasian Creed starts and ends with the following words:
This is the catholic faith;
which except a man believe truly and firmly,
HE CANNOT BE SAVED.
Which faith unless every one do keep whole and undefiled,
HE SHALL PERISH EVERLASTINGLY.
This is a ridiculous claim. In the first place, people are not saved by believing a doctrine. They are saved by God’s grace through faith in Him. They are saved when they love and support God’s suffering people (Matt 25:34-40).
Secondly, Athanasius MADE A VERY TECHNICAL AND CONTRADICTORY STATEMENT OF BELIEVE A TEST OF TRUE FAITH. And these were not idle words. The Roman Empire was not known for religious tolerance, and after the emperor became the de facto head of the church, early in the fourth century, the church slowly adopted the character of the Roman Empire. For example, immediately after the Nicene Creed of AD 325, a number of dissenting bishops lost their jobs and were exiled. Constantine also destroyed all of Arius’ books and threatened to kill all people who hide his books. Over the many years since that time, many Christians were persecuted for not accepting the prevailing theory of the nature of God.
Christianity.com has an article on Michael Servetus, who was burned for heresy in the town where Calvin was the pastor. Michael was quite an astute scientist. He studied mathematics, geography, astrology, and medicine. Gaining fame as a physician, he came close to discovering the pulmonary circulation of the blood. In 1531 Servetus published a work called the Errors of the Trinity. Both Protestants and Catholics found the work blasphemous, and the emperor banned the book.
Michael continued to criticize Calvin and stated that, to believe in the Trinity, is to believe in the spirit of the dragon. Calvin wrote to a friend that if Servetus ever fell into his hands, he would not allow him to get away alive. Roman Catholic authorities arrested Michael for heresy. He escaped, however, and fled toward Naples by way of Geneva where Calvin was a pastor. He entered a church where Calvin was preaching, was recognized, and arrested on charges of blasphemy and heresy. Calvin insisted with the rest that Servetus must die, but urged that in mercy, Servetus be executed by the sword, not by burning. Servetus was nevertheless burned to death on October 27, 1553.
The Christianity.com article attempts to exonerate Calvin for his involvement, but his part in killing Servetus should really bother Calvinists, for Calvin did that after writing one of the most influential systems of theology the Christian faith had ever seen. What does that say of the spirit of his work?
Things that have not been revealed
The Trinity doctrine attempts to explain THINGS THAT HAVE NOT BEEN REVEALED and is, therefore, a sin. For example, the cornerstone of the Nicene Creed is the statement that the Father and Son are of the same substance (Homoousios). Where is that revealed in the Bible? And where is it revealed that the Son has both a human and divine nature?
Add the persecuting spirit, which entered the church in the fourth century, after it became the official state church, to doctrines based on things that have not been revealed, and we have a deadly combination.
This series responds to the GotQuestions article – What does the Bible teach about the Trinity?
The Trinity concept may be summarised as that the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God—but there is only one God.
Gotquestions argues that is not possible to understand the Christian concept of the Trinity for it is impossible to understand God. However, that argument confuses God with the concept of the Trinity. The Trinity concept is A HUMANLY DEVISED THEORY about the nature of God, and must be tested against the Bible.
This article agrees that we are unable to understand God, but claims that the Trinity doctrine contradicts itself because it claims that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are THREE DISTINCT AND DIFFERENT PERSONS with different origins, different wills, and different roles, but that each of them is the entirety of THE SAME ONE TRUE GOD; not three parts of the God-Being. If the Trinity concept contradicts itself, then it cannot accurately reflect what the Bible teaches, for TRUTH DOES NOT CONTRADICT ITSELF.
Some church fathers solved this contradiction by accepting that they are One Being, but by rejecting that they are three distinct persons. These church fathers believed that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three names for the same Being. This is known as modalism or Sabellianism, but was rejected by the church majority.
Some New Testament passages explicitly present Jesus as inferior to the Father in knowledge and authority; not only when He was on this earth, but still today and in all eternity (e.g. 1 Cor 15:28). The Trinity theory responds to these passages by teaching that Jesus is both FULLY GOD AND FULLY MAN, and only inferior to the Father in His human nature. Opponents of this theory point out that that then means that JESUS DID NOT TELL THE TRUTH when He said that He does not know, for in His divine nature He actually knew. It would also mean that JESUS NEVER REALLY DIED, while His death is a critical salvation concept.
The Trinity doctrine is a very technical and ambiguous theory, but still, over the centuries, the church made it a test of the true faith and it persecuted Christians, such as Michael Servetus during the reformation, for not adhering to it.
The Trinity doctrine tries to explain things that are not revealed in the Bible. Combining that with persecution is the spirit of the beast.
Gotquestions argues that we cannot understand this because we cannot understand God, but the next articles in this series will show that the Trinity concept is inonsistent with the Bible. The next article in this series discusses Hebrews 1:8, which Gotquestions uses as evidence that Jesus is God.