God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. Three-in-one? Or are they each separate? This is the question that has been causing great debate for many, many centuries, since the 4th century in fact.
One cannot deny the fact that these three are truly remarkable, but do they form a threefold Godhead, with each part being co-equal and co-eternal? Most Christians of today think so.
It seems strange though that a central belief in the Christian churches of today – that is the doctrine of the Trinity – can form the core values on which they base their understanding of God and Jesus, yet few of these Christians actually have any understanding of the Trinity and few are aware of the problems that come with it. They simply take it for granted, leaving the finer points of this mysterious doctrine to the theologians.
Let us look what has been said about the mystery of the Trinity:
“The mind of a man cannot fully understand the mystery of the Trinity. He who would try to understand the mystery fully will lose his mind. But he who would deny the Trinity will lose his soul”
(Harold Lindsey and Charles Woodbridge, A Handbook of Christian Truth, pp. 51-52)
In essence, either accept this concept of the Trinity or else. Don’t try to understand it, but just believe in it. But, merely to accept it, is contrary to what the Bible says:
God inspired Paul to write: 1 Thess 5:21 “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good”
… and further to this Peter wrote 1 Peter 3:15 “Be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you…”
So where do we prove these things and find our answers? From the Bible of course!
Therefore the Christian is obliged to prove whether or not God is a Trinity or a Unity, not just accepting what others say, but finding out for him or herself. Your relationship with God is a personal relationship. You can’t claim that you have a relationship with God if all you know about him comes from information passed on to you. How can you know someone if you have never met them – I’m sure you have all experienced the time when you have been told all about someone, only when you finally meet them they are not at all how you imagined them.
If you want to get to know God then you must approach Him yourself and God has given us that means through his word printed on these pages – it is through the Bible that God reveals himself to us.
If you were to confine yourself to reading articles about the Trinity aimed at your average Christian, you would perhaps think that the Trinity was to be found everywhere in the Bible, but if you read some of the more technical articles, the encyclopaedias, and dictionaries you would come to an entirely different conclusion. The more you studied the Bible, the more you would realise that the doctrine of the Trinity is built on a very shaky foundation indeed.
All I can do is open your eyes, but don’t automatically believe (or disbelieve) what I have to say. It is so important to discover the truth about God for yourself by reading and analysing the scriptures – only then will you discover who God really is.
I shall try and help you on your way by taking an analytical look at the scriptures as a whole and then you can make your own informed decisions.
I’d like to look at a quote from the New Catholic Encyclopaedia:
“It is difficult, in the second half of the 20th century, to offer a clear objective, and straightforward account of the revelation, doctrinal evolution, and the theological elaboration of the mystery of the Trinity. Trinitarian discussion, Roman Catholic as well as other, presents a somewhat unsteady silhouette.”
New Catholic Encyclopaedia (Vol. XIV, p. 295)
But why should such a central doctrine be so difficult to understand, why is it so confusing? Why should such an important doctrine present an unsteady silhouette? Didn’t Christ and his apostles plainly teach it?
Surely the Bible is filled with teaching of the Trinity, but the word Trinity never appears in the Bible and not only does it never appear, there is no proof that such a doctrine is even indicated.
Okay perhaps some of the better versed of you will say, ah, but what about 1 John 5:7? Surely that proves the doctrine of the Trinity?
[1 John 5:6-8]
It certainly sounds like proof for the Trinity, but many theologians have conceded that this scripture was added to the New Testament manuscripts, perhaps as late as the 8th century. There are no respectable Greek manuscripts that contain these words, and the modern versions of the New Testament tend to omit these words, and quite rightly so.
Scholars clearly recognise that the scripture has been altered, and these words have no place in the New Testament, but some misguided Christians still hold onto this passage as proof of the Trinity.
In actual fact it should read this…
(Greek New Testament – Nestle-Aland – 27th Edition)
When in doubt always go back to the original text.
So we have seen there is no biblical basis for the trinity doctrine, but how did it arise if it wasn’t taught in the scriptures?
Firstly let us consider when it arose. The doctrine of the Trinity did not in fact appear until 300 – 400 years after the days of Christ and his apostles. To go even further, the early church fathers, the theologians who wrote in the period 100 – 300 A.D. knew nothing of it. There was no question of Jesus being co-equal or co-eternal with his father. He was the Son of God and was set lower than his Father.
The teachings of the Trinity were actually decisions made by a number of general church councils. These are the important ones:
325 AD – First General Council at Nicea, declared that the Son was from the beginning of the same nature as the Father.
381 AD – Second General Council at Constantinople, declared that the Holy Spirit was to be worshipped with the Father and the Son
431 AD – Third General Council at Ephesus, decreed that Jesus had two natures, a human and a divine; also that Mary was the ‘mother of God’, in opposition to those who maintained that she was the ‘mother of Christ’.
451 AD – Fifth General Council at Chalcedon, decreed that the two natures in Christ constituted only one person and one will.
As you can see the formation of the Trinity did not happen overnight, and took a considerable amount of time, but you can see the progressive nature of this doctrine by comparing the major creeds of the church.
I have picked out the general emphasis from each creed:
The Apostle’s Creed, is an early creed, date unknown, but expresses the relationship between God and Jesus….
“… God the Father Almighty… Jesus Christ His only Son … conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary …”
And after his resurrection “… ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of God the Father Almighty, from whence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead …”
This is in complete agreement with what the Bible says… but the same cannot be said of the later creeds.
The Nicene Creed, 325 AD declares that Jesus Christ is “… the only begotten Son of God, begotten of his Father before all worlds … God of God, Very God of Very God, being of one substance with the Father … the Holy Ghost with the Father and Son together is worshipped and glorified …”
The Athanasian Creed, of unknown date, but soon after 500 AD.
“We worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity … there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Ghost, is all one; the Glory equal, the Majesty co-eternal. The Father uncreate, the Son uncreate, and the Holy Ghost uncreate…”
All are declared to be eternal, “yet they are not three eternals, but one eternal”.
The Creed concludes by saying: “He that will be saved must think thus of the Trinity.”
Even theologians agree that the Trinity did not materialise until the 4th century, a time when the Christian movement was having a hard time establishing itself in a pagan world.
It is not clear why the formation of such a doctrine was necessary, especially as it did not seem to be based on biblical teachings, but as Greek philosophy was popular at the time (which contained non-biblical concepts such as immortality of the soul and dualism) perhaps it was thought that Christianity would be more palatable if they used the philosophy of the day.
Another possible reason is idea of knowledge equals power. If the churches could formulate some mysterious doctrine that required a high level of education to even begin to understand they would be able use their new found authority on scriptural matters to keep the people under control, which is similar to how the Pharisees behaved throughout the New Testament.
What is certain though is that the doctrine of the Trinity was largely based on political grounds, not Biblical.
Let us look at Bible evidence for the unity of God…. and show that Jesus is neither co-equal nor co-eternal with God. There are a number of reasons which clearly show that God cannot be Jesus and that Jesus cannot be God.
Note these are not isolated passages I’m going to use, but themes that run throughout the Bible and many more examples could be used, whereas many of the Trinitarian claims are based on the odd passage here and there which have no weight when it comes to considering the Bible message as a whole.
- No-one has ever seen God
Exodus 33:20 “Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live”
John 1:18 “No man hath seen God at any time”
1 Timothy 1:17 “Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God.”
1 Timothy 6:13, 16 “I give thee charge in the sight of God … whom no man hath seen, nor can see:”
1 John 4:12 “No man hath seen God at any time”
So these, and other passages from the Bible, show that no man can look upon God, and live, not that he can be seen anyway. Jesus as we know had walked the earth and been seen by great multitudes of people, so it follows that Jesus cannot be God.
- Jesus has a separate will from God
Matthew 26:39 “And Jesus went a little further … and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.”
John 5:30 “I can of mine own self do nothing… I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.”
John 6:38 “For I came… not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.”
Romans 15:3 “For even Christ pleased not himself.”
Philippians 2:8 Jesus “humbled himself, and became obedient unto death”
Jesus had separate thoughts and desires from God. When he prayed in the garden of Gethsemane, he did not want to die on the cross, but despite this he submitted himself to the will of God and humbled himself becoming obedient unto death.
You might be thinking here, what about…
John 10:30 “I and my Father are one”
Jesus is merely saying here that they understand each other; they are at one with each other and have a complete understanding. Jesus is not saying that he is God.
If Jesus had been God, then their wills must have been the same and indistinguishable; that would mean he could never have submitted his will to that of God.