LET US REASON TOGETHER.
“Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord.”
JOHN 1:1 is the rallying point of Trinitarians. But in defense of the bible Students’ non-Trinitarian reading of this verse, we quote from The Bible Translator, a periodical sent to Trinitarian scholars:
“If the translation were a matter of substituting words, a possible
translation . . . would be, ‘The Word was a god? As a word-
forward translation it cannot be faulted, and to pagan Greeks
who heard early Christian language, Theos en o Logos, might
have seemed a perfectly sensible statement. . . . The reason why
it is unacceptable is that it runs counter to the current of Johannine
thought, and indeed of Christian thought as a whole.”’
Please note their observation that, as a word-for-word translation, it cannot be faulted.” As a matter of fact, in Acts 12:22 (Herod’s voice is a god’s voice) and Acts 28:6 (Paul is called a god), the translators supplied the article “a” to the word theos in both instances. They just happen to think this would be contrary to John’s thought in John 1:1. That is a very subjective conclusion.
John 1:1, 2 reads: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with [ton, the] God.” A word-for-word Greek rendering of John 1:1, 2 is: “In [ a ] beginning [arche] was the Word, and the Word was with the God, and [a] God was the Word. This was in [ a ] beginning with the God.” Trinitarians tried to level the field by leaving out the article (ton) “the.” In the King James, as in many other translaions, all references to God are equal to the English reader. You do not get the contrast between the emphasized God spoken of twice and the unemphasized God referring to the Logos.
Yet consider how later in this chapter (John 1:18), in the same context, a clear distinction is drawn between these Gods apart from mere grammatical emphasis: “No man has seen God at any time; the only begotten god, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.” (New American Standard Bible, Marshall Interlinear, etc.)
Clearly, there is a “begotten God” and a begetter “God.” Hence, John 1:1 must be understood in a manner that harmonizes with this verse.
To be convincing, the Trinitarian must prove that “God” in John 1:1 has supreme signification in all three of its uses. We quote from an orthodox Trinitarian, Dr. G. C. Knapp: “It (the appellation Logos, here translate(l Word), signifies, among the Jews and other ancient people, when applied to God, every thing by which God reveals Himself to men, and makes known to them His will. In this passage the principal proof does not lie in the word Logos (‘revealer of God’), nor even in the
word theos (‘God’), which, in a larger sense, is often applied to kings and earthly rulers, but to what is predicated of the Logos.”’
Using such reasoning, is it possible to prove Jesus is the supreme God from this passage? Does the passage in fact say that the Logos God has parity with the God’? Without parity, he cannot be the God, nor can he be one-third God. What beginning is John talking about? God has no beginning or end, for He is “from everlasting to everlasting” (lisa. 90:2).
So what “beginning” is the Logos identified with? Rev. 3:14 supplies the answer: “The Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning Iarche] of the creation of the God.”
Some say that the word “beginning” (arche) is rendered “principality (ties), magistrates, at the first, first estate, corners,” etc. and that this gives Rev. 3:14 a different meaning. Whether our Lord was the beginning, first, or principal “creation of God,” how would that change his being a created being before all others?
In the King James, the Apostle John’s use of the word arche is consistently translated “beginning.” In the Appendix we submit every usage of archc in the New Testament by John’s and other New Testament writers as listed in The Englishman’s Concordance. Please also note its uses and how “beginning” is an appropriate translation . It is only because translators have seen the threat this poses to the Trinity that they have labored to change the intent of that word in this verse.
But, let us assume that the Trinitarians are correct on John 1:1. Let us presume the Logos was Jehovah (or Yahweh God). What is John then telling’? If John believed the Logos was the God of Moses, why would John say the “Logos was with God, and the Logos was God”? What God was the Logos with?
Why place a mark on eternity and say that was the beginning and the Logos was there’? If he really wanted to prove the Logos was God, he should have said, “See this mark. It is the beginning. Now, the Logos was here before that beginning as the God, for He was the God.” To place the Logos at the mark called beginning and not before the “beginning” weakens their whole position.
The following texts delineate this truth—that God always existed and that a beginning in time is associated only with the Logos:
God from everlasting to everlasting.” Ps. 90:2
Christ Jesus, “ in the beginning was the Word......” John 1:1
The Lord created me at the beginning of his work.” Prov.8:22, NSV
Furthermore, John 1:1 could not be a proof of the Trinity, for no mention is made of the holy Spirit. That is most embarrassing when the key scripture to the whole Trinity concept omits one-third of the Trinity. Therefore, whatever John 1:1 proves, it does not mention the holy Spirit, and it fails to provide the third part even necessary to support the Trinity.
Trinitarians have combed through the Bible using every possible text to prove their point. In the overwhelming majority of texts used, you find them doing the same thing as in John 1:1, using arguments that God and Jesus are one, hoping we will not notice that none of their proof verses include the third part necessary — the holy Spirit.
The idea is to get people so involved in the discussion that they will forget the holy Spirit is not mentioned. Therefore, the debate lacks the third part needed for rational proof. In order to prove the Trinity doctrine, it is necessary to find Biblical statements of the oneness of being of Father, Son and holy Spirit. Even if we could prove the Father and Son were one being, would it give us a Trinity?
To call God “Christ” gives them a name but not a Christ [an Anointed One]! We ask again, “What have you done with Christ?” Where is he? You cannot have three absolute Gods and one absolute God. The very moment you do, you must redefine absolute. The moment you define God as Christ, you replace Christ. God can never be less than God!
Why Must the Savior be a God-Man?
The Trinity concept insists that Jesus had to be a God-man to be the Savior. If he was a mere man, they say, how could he take upon him the sin of the whole world? It sounds good to make such extravagant claims about Jesus.
Generally, we cannot pay sufficient homage to our Savior for his great sacrifice, so why not go all out in our claims for him? To some extent that is how the Trinity was started, countering claims that Jesus was just a mere man. As the defense of our Savior was made, so the claims for him grew and became exaggerated — from being a perfect man and Son of God, until at last the ultimate claim was made that he was in fact God.
Then followed the super patriotism and the cry “To the fire” with those who dare claim Jesus someone less than God. History records John Calvin burned (roasted) Michael Servetus at the stake for not believing the Trinity. As they lit the flames, Michael Servetus cried out, “Oh thou Son of the eternal God have pity on me.” One observer said, We might have had pity on him if he had said, “Oh Eternal Son of God.”
Why is church history so lacking in mercy and kindness and so mean?
“By this shall all men know ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:3 5). If only God’s people had served their God as well as they had their Church organizations, how much kinder Church history would be. In a Church bent on world conquest, there is little love or kindness to be found . Our country was born to provide refuge from religious persecution.
Jesus Christ the “Ransom for All”
We read in 1 Tim. 2:5, 6: “The man Christ Jesus; who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.” What is the ransom? The Greek word for ransom is antilutron—defined by Dr. Young as “a corresponding price.” ’ One perfect man was a substitutionary sacrifice for the perfect man Adam, who forfeited his life along with the human race in him. However, the Church fathers lost sight of the true meaning of the ransom. When this happened, there was no holding back the ground swell of extravagant claims about Christ. Anything less than calling Jesus God was considered demeaning.
For the sake of argument, let us go along with this exalted claim that Christ is God— a claim neither he nor Scripture makes. Let us accept their claim that he was God and, therefore, God died for us . May we ask, How could an immortal God die?
Did the Absolute God die? The creed maintains Christ was “very man.” Hence, to call God “Christ” gives them a name, but not a Christ. It was the “very man” Christ who died. No matter how they define it, they have only a “very man” who died. How, then, did “very God” die? God is immortal, death-proof. God could not die; only some flesh form could die. Despite the semantics, they come away with only a perfect “human sacrifice.” That is exactly what we believe and claim.
Dr. Adam Clark, a Trinitarian, says, “Two natures must ever be distinguished in Christ: the human nature, in reference to which he is the Son of God and inferior to him, and the Divine nature which was from eternity, and equal to God.” He also disallows that Jesus could be begotten from eternity, saying: “To say that he [Christ] was begotten from all eternity, is, in my opinion, absurd; and the phrase eternal Son is a positive self-contradiction. ETERNITY is that which has had no beginning, nor stands in any reference to TIME. SON supposes time, generation, and father
In other words, it was only the human flesh of Christ that died. Hence, they do not have an infinite sacrifice, because it was the inferior Son who died. So where, oh where, is the infinite sacrifice of God?
Unless the complete Trinity died on the cross, Trinitarians have but a very man for their savior. While Trinitarians insist Jesus was wholly God and wholly man, their burden is to prove this and also to show that both God and man died on the cross.
The Bible does not say this. Theologians have labored long and hard to compensate for what is not clearly stated in the Word. Did Jesus ever say he would give his flesh and deity for man as a ransom? No. He said, “The bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world” (John 6:51). Then could he take his flesh body back after giving it? What would have become of his ransom if it was taken back after it had been given?
Dr. Adam Clark renders Psalm 8:5: “Thou has made him little less than God.” He refers to this verse in Heb. 2:7, and applies it to Jesus, saying, “For a short while, he was made lower than the angels, that he might be capable of suffering death.” If Dr. Clark’s assertion were true, Jesus was less than God or lower than the angels. How could he be “less than God” and still be Absolute God? This presents a problem in logic.
A Mighty and Infinite Sacrifice With Small Results
Let us allow that Christ’s sacrifice was infinite as claimed. We are allowing this without a Scriptural basis, for nowhere does the Bible say Jesus’ sacrifice was infinite. It does not say he suffered more than all mankind. It does not even say he suffered more than any man. Even Isaiah 52:14, which speaks of his “visage”.and “form” being marred “more than any man,” does not fulfill the infinite suffering assertion. It is not wise to say more than the Scriptures say. We are allowing such reasoning only to see where it leads.
Now, allowing for the most extravagant sacrifice for sin, we ask, How come so few are saved? How come, when salvation has been reduced to just making a “confession for Christ,” the vast majority of mankind are not accepting Christ? The churches, for some 1500 years, have entreated the world. They have carried on bloody wars, imposed the “holy(?) inquisition,” employed the powers of the state, threatening damnation and eternal fire on those slow to respond—torturing, killing, maiming—all in vain.
The vast majority of the world is not Christian in any sense of the word, and the part called Christian is suspect of being mostly a field of”tares” (Matt. 13:24-30). Would God provide such a powerful salvation, requiring only the very faintest acceptance, and still somehow fail to save the vast majority of those purchased?
Even when telling people that Christ has purchased their ticket to heaven and all they have to do is accept it, still the world at large is unsaved. How come this mighty salvation fails? More than two-thirds of the world are without Christ . And the part that accepts Christ might have a goodly number of “tares” among them, who are the planting of the Wicked One. How could something so overpowering be so ineffective?
With such an overwhelming salvation, how is it that most people are lost?
The claim that Jesus had to be God to pay for every man’s sins, who, according to their theology, is to be tortured forever and ever if unsaved, means that Jesus would have endured the fires of theological hell for every man, woman and child that eternity would inflict upon them—a very sadistic concept. They claim he had to be God to do this.
This whole claim is totally unscriptural. The Bible says, “For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul” (Lev. 17:11). Again we read: “Without shed-cling of blood is no remission” (Heb. 9:22).
This shedding of blood requires the death of the victim, not merely suffering . If people could atone for their sins by suffering, then the Hindu and Eastern religions, wherein people afflict themselves, laying on spikes, putting hooks in their flesh and staring at the sun until blind, would certainly commend themselves to God by buying remission for their sins. Even the pre-reformation Christian theology with its flagellations should not then have been discarded. The world already endures such great suffering because of sin. As we look out into the world, our hearts ache for humanity. How they need the hope of Christ’s glorious Kingdom on earth, when all men will be lifted up and blessed as God pours out His “spirit upon all flesh” (Joel 2:28). All of this will be possible by Christ’s death on the cross. Let us see how.
Our understanding of Scripture is that Jesus died as a perfect man providing a “corresponding price” for father Adam. He died a substitutionary death for Adam. All who are in Adam, therefore, will be ransomed, released from the condemnation of death. It stands to reason that if Adam did not possess everlastimig life and he didn’t because he died), then Christ’s ransom sacrifice can restore to Adam and all men only what he lost before he sinned. Adam had an opportunity to live everlastingly if he obeyed God, but failing in this, he died. Christ’s ransom sacrifice can only bring Adam, and all in him, another opportunity to attain
Two classes, the Church and the world, will be privileged to benefit from Christ’s death. During the Gospel Age, the True Church receives justification to life and, upon “overcoming,” will receive a heavenly reward. The world will be released from Adam’s condemnation during the Millennium. Christ will be their Mediator (1 Tim. 2:5, 6) . How can he mediate between God and man if he is God? A Mediator must always be a third party! When the world is nurtured back to human perfection and their reconciliation with God shall have been accomplished, they will then be delivered to God, the Father. When Christ’s mediation is completed, then shall “The King say unto them on his right hand, Come , ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matt. 25:341 The Mediator’s work shall have been accomplished. See 1 Cor. 15:24-28.
Mankind, which had been driven from Eden, will return to an Edenic Paradise on earth. We have all that is required—the perfect man Christ Jesus as our Savior and tremendous results from two salvations—the Church now, and the world of mankind in Christ’s kingdom here on earth. Therefore all men will be benefited from Christ’s sacrifice. That is as it should be.
And in the final picture, the Divine Christ will be subject to the Father, with all “overcomers” of both the Gospel Age and the Millennium received back into favor with God (I Cor. 15:24-28). Then God will be all in all. What could he sweeter?
“Are You the Christ?”
In Jesus’ illegal trial at night, while Peter was still there, they asked .Jesus “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” And Jesus said, “I am” (Mark 14:61, 62). If Jesus was truly the Absolute God, didn’t Jesus owe them that information? The reason Jesus was crucified was because he was the “Christ, the Son of the Blessed.”
If Jesus proclaiiiied himself to be Absolute God, they would have had a perfect right to put him to death according to their understanding of the Mosaic Law: “You shall have no other Gods before me” (Ex. 20:3). Oddly, they crucified Jesus for claiming to be the “Son of God,” exactly what he admitted being, while they themselves claimed, “We have one Father, even God” (John 8:41).
If the disciples believed Jesus was God, they would not have believed his death. How could they if they held any concept of his being God? God is eternal!
Their immediate problem after his death was accepting the truth that God raised Jesus from the dead—Thomas being the last to believe . Later, they became witnesses to his resurrection, saying to the Jews, “Ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you; and killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead” (Acts 3:14, 15).
“Christ who is above all, God for ever blessed! Amen.”
—The Jerusalem Bible
THE TRINITY EMERGES GRADUALLY.
“The time will come when men will not put up with sound
doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather
around them a great number of teachers to say what their
itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from
the truth and turn aside to myths.” (2 Tim. 4:3, 4, NIV)
AFTER the Church lost the pristine vision which it held in the beginning, these last two creeds were formed. The Athanasian or Trinitarian Creed, became the largest and most confusing creed of all.
It became necessary for salvation to believe this creed—making this a threatening theological statement. Please notice the unitarian concept of God was a statement of belief without threatening overtones. Notice how the Creed becomes more foggy and “incomprehensible” as it endeavors to incorporate Trinity concepts.
Additionally, as it swells to more than a statement of belief, it then threatens any not accepting this foggy concept with perishing “everlastingly.”
When Jesus rendered his final report to his Father, it only required three words—” It is finished” (John 19:30). Nothing more needed to be said. Notice, however, when the one-talented, unfaithful servant rendered his report, it required 43 words, and he was just as much a failure after his explanation (Matt. 25:24, 25). The Unitarian Creed required only 115 words to make itself known; the Nicene Creed required 230 (twice as many words to make God and Christ one); and the Athanasian Creed required 702 words to explain the “incomprehensible” Trinity.
If the number of words used proved the case, the latter is clearly the winner. But it is not by much speaking that we shall be heard.
The Illustrated Bible Dictionary states: “The word Trinity is not found in the Bible.... It did not find a place formally in the theology of the church till the fourth century. . . . Although Scripture does not give us a formulated doctrine of the Trinity, it contains all the elements out of which theology has constructed the doctrine.” That is partially correct. Theology indeed is responsible for constructing the doctrine.
But we firmly believe that the “elements” of Scripture alluded to here were never intended to provide a framework for such a dogma.
The following is found in The Book of Common Prayer on
Three Creeds of the Church of England:
The Apostles’ or Unitarian Creed.
Being the Creed of the
first two Christian centuries.
“I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Maker if heaven and earth: And in Jesus Christ, his only son our Lord: who was conceived by the holy ghost (spirit), born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried, he descended into hell (the grave); the third day he rose again from the dead, he ascended into heaven, add sitteth on the right hand of God, the Father Almighty; From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead;
“I believe in the holy ghost ( spirit); the catholic (gcneral) Church; the commun-ion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.”
The Nicene, or Semi-trinitarian Creed:
Principally drawn up by the Council of Nice
in A. D. 325, the clause concerning the holy
ghost in brackets  of Constantinople, in A. D
381, except the words [and the son] which
were afterwords introduced into it.
“ I believbe in One God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and eartlr: and of all things visible and unvisible.
“ And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God; begotten of his Father before all worlds, God of [or from] God; Light of [or from] Light; Very God of [or from] Very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made, who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven; and was incarnate of the holy ghost of the virgin Mary ; and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate, he suffered, and was buried, and on the third day he arose again, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father; and he shall come again with glory to judge both the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.
“And I believe in the Holy Ghost. [the Lord and Giver of life; who proceedeth from the Father [and the Son]; who with the Father and the son together worshipped and glorified; who spake by the prophets].
“And I believe one catholic and apostolic church; I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; and I look for the resurrection of the dead; and the life of the world to come. Amen.”
The Athanasian or Trinitarian Creed.
Long ascribed to Athanasius, a theologian of
the fourth century, but now generally allowed
not to have been composed until the fifth
century, by some other person.
“Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the Catholic Faith; which faith excerpt everyone do keep wshole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly.
“And the Catholic faith is this; that we worship One God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; neither confounding the Persons nor dividing the substance. For there is one person of the Father , another of the Son, and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is all one; the glory equal, the majesty co-eternal.
Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Ghost. The Father uncreated, the Son uncreated, the Father eternal, the Son eternal, and the Holy Ghost eternal; and yet they are not three eternals. but one eternal. As also there are not three incomprehensibles, nor three uncreated, but one uncreated and one incomprehensible.
So likewise the Father is Almighty, the Son Almighty and the Holy Ghost Almighty; and yet they are not three. Almighties, but one Almighty. So the Father is Lord; the Son is Lord, and the Holy Ghost is Lord , and yet they are not three Lords but one Lord.. So like as we are compelled by the Christian verity to acknowledge every person by himself to be God and Lord; so are we forbidden by the Catholic religion to say, There be three Gods, or three Lords. The Father is made of none, neither created nor begotten. The Son is of the Father alone, not made nor created, but begotten. The Holy Ghost is of the Father and of the Son, neither made nor created nor begotten, but proceeding .
Soi there is One Father; not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; and one Holy Ghost, not three Holy Ghosts. And in this Trinity none is afore or after another, but the whole three persons are co-eternal together, and co-equal. So that in all things, as is aforesaid, the Unity in Trinity, and the Trinity in Unity, is to be worshipped. He, therefore , that would be saved, must think of the Trinity.
Furthermore, it is necessary to everlasting salvation, that he also believe rightly the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. For the right faith is, that we believe and confess that our Lord, Jesus Christ, the son of God, is God and man; God of the substance of the Father; begotten before the worlds; and man, of the substance of his mother, born in the world; perfect God, and perfect man, of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting ; equal to the Father, as touching his Godhead; and inferior to the Father as touching his manhood; who,although he be God and man, yet is he not two, but one Christ; one, not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh, but by taking of the manhood into God.
One altogether, not by confusion of substance, but by unity of person. For as the reasonable soul and flesh is one man, so God and man is one Christ; who suffered for our salvation; descended into hell and rose again the third day from the dead; he ascended into heaven; he sitteth on the right hand of the Father, God Almighty from whence he will come to judge the quick and the dead, at whose coming all men shall rise again with their bodies and give accunt for their own works.
And they that have have done good shall go into life everlasting, and they that have done evil , into everlasting fire. This is the Catholic faith, which except a man believe faithfully, he can not be saved. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.”
Greek philosophy was a serious threat to the early Christian Church. Paul said, “Greeks seek wisdom” (1 Cor. 1:22, RSV). To counter this, Paul said, “I did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God in lofty words or wisdom” (1 Cor. 2:1, RSV).
Apparently, there were those who did. Greek philosophy was kept out of the Bible, but not out of theology. As the church fathers strove for preeminence, they found the high-sounding wisdom of Greek philosophy a cutting edge for distinguishing themselves. When the religious debates spilled over before the Roman emperors, what better tool could be used than Hellenistic philosophy interwoven with new Christian doctrine? Greek and Mid-eastern philosophies were pervasive, and when someone like Constantine listened to the controversy between Anus and Athanasius, the strong pagan influence was certain to have an effect.
Constantine had ostensibly converted to Christianity, and he intended to use the new religion to solidify the empire. Earlier he had raised a symbol of Christ seen in a vision (“P” fixed in the center of an “X”—the first two letters of “Christ” [XPlIETOE] in the Greek) as a new imperial standard and used it to gain victory in a key battle against pagan forces. He believed he had heard a voice from heaven saying, “In this sign conquer.” If the symbol (also called a “Christogram”) actual
ly represented two gods, he might have thought it all the better. If Christ were really both man and God, flesh and spirit, that would be closer to Greek philosophy and the pagan trinity models. It would make the new religion all the more attractive to the masses.
The Nicaean Council
Quoting Bruce L. Shelley, a writer for Christian History, we read:
“The Council of Nicea, (was) summoned by Emperor Constantine and held in the imperial palace under his auspices. Constantine viewed the Arian teachings—that Jesus was a created being subordinate to God—as an insignificant’ theological matter. But he wanted peace in the empire he had just united through force. When diplomatic letters failed to solve the dispute, lie convened around 220 bishops, who met for two months to hammer out a universally acceptable definition of Jesus Christ.
“The expression homo ousion, ‘one substance,’ was probably introduced by Bishop Hosius of Cordova (in today’s Spain). Since he had great influence with Constantine, the imperial weight was thrown to that side of the scales. . . . As it turned out, however, Nicea alone settled little . For the next century the Nicene and the Arian views of Christ battled for supremacy.
First Constantine and then his successors stepped in again and again to banish this churchman or exile that one . Control of church offices too often depended on control of the emperor’s favor.”
Why would anyone look to the fourth century for truth, particularly in view of our Lord’s great prophecy covering the period of his absence and return, saying, “Take heed that no man deceive you” (Matt. 24:4J?
Without a doubt, this was where the Church had lost its way. It was shamelessly prostituted before the ambitious Roman emperor. It is important to know that while Constantine accepted Christianity and became the Pontfex Maxim us of the Church, he also continued to function in all the pagan ceremonies, as paganism had deep roots in the Roman Empire and would not pass away overnight.
Julian succeeded Constantine to the throne, and he was a devout pagan, although a noble one. Rome became a melting pot of paganism and Christianity—not a good mix.
Wrong conclusions are easily reached about the Nicaean Council. It is easy to conjure up images of a united group of bishops with only two in dissent, endorsing wholeheartedly the Athanasian proposition uniting the Father and Son into two parts of one deity. Nothing could be further from the truth. We quote the following:
“They rejected the formulae of Anus, and declined to accept those of his opponents; that is to say, they were merely competent to establish negations, but lacked the capacity, as yet, to give their attitude of compromise a positive expression.
True, at Nicaea this majority eventually acquiesced in the ruling of the Alexandrians; yet this result was due, not to internal conviction, but partly to indifference, partly to the pressure of the imperial will—a fact which is mainly demonstrated by the subsequent history of the Arian conflicts.
For if the Nicaean synod had arrived at its final decision by the conscientious agreement of all non-Arians, then the confession of faith there formulated might indeed have evoked the continued antagonism of the Arians, but must necessarily have been championed by all else.
This, however, was not the case; in fact, the creed was assailed by those very bodies which had composed the laissez-faire centre at Nicaea; and we are compelled to the conclusion that, in this point the voting was no criterion of the inward convictions of the council. . . . For it was the proclamation of the Nicene Creed that first opened the eyes of many bishops to the significance of the problem there treated; and its explanation led the Church to force herself, by an arduous path of theological work, into compliance with those principles, enunciated at Nicaea, to which, in the year 325, she had pledged herself without genuine assent.”
This tells us, in effect, the body of bishops who voted for this Creed were not unanimously believers in it. Hence, the vote testified to weakness of character and the human tendency to get on the bandwagon for the sake of expediency. What else would make one vote for something not truly believed and which would later be assailed by them?
When the Nicean Council ended on August 25, 325 A.D., Emperor Constantine delayed the festivities of his twentieth anniversary until the close of this council. We quote the following:
“A magnificent entertainment was provided by that prince, ‘for the ministers of God’ . . . No one of the bishops was absent from the imperial banquet, which was more admirably conducted than call possibly be described. The guards and soldiers, disposed in a circle, were stationed at the entrance of the palace with drawn swords. The men of God passed through the midst of them without fear, and went into the most private apartments of the royal edifice. Some of them were then admitted to the table of the emperor, and others took the places assigned them on either side. It was a lively image of the kingdom of Christ(?), and appeared more like a dream than a reality.”
We cannot help but contrast this event with the occasion when Satan showed Jesus all the kingdoms of this world and their glory and then said, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me” (Matt. 4:9, RSV). It seems the Devil had more success with these bishops than he did with our Lord. Yes, Constantine now had most of the bishops in his pocket, and from there we see the church merged with the kingdoms of this world, trying to make believe that this was the kingdom of God.
Pagan Models of Trinity.
The Trinity concept presented by Athanasius was essentially borrowed from other ancient religions. John Newton (Origin of Triads and Trinities) writes: “With the first glimpse of a distinct religion and worship among the most ancient races, we find them grouping their gods in triads.” He then proceeds to trace the strong Trinitarian beliefs which were common in ancient India, Egypt, and Babylon as
Regarding ancient India he states: “The threefold manifestations of the One Supreme Being as Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva was thus sung of by Kalidasa
(55 B.C.): ‘“In these three persons the One God is shown,
Each first in place, each last, not one alone.
Of Brahma, Vishnu, Siva, each may be
First, second, third among the Blessed Three.”’
In speaking of ancient Egypt, Newton quotes Professor Sayce
(Gifford Lectures and Hibbert Lectures) as follows: “ ‘The indebtedness of Christian theological theory to ancient Egyptian dogma is nowhere more striking than in the doctrine of the Trinity. The very same terms used of it by Christian theologians meet us again in the inscriptions and papyri of Egypt:”
Newton continues: “And now we see some meaning in the strange phrases that have puzzled so many generations in the Nicene and Athanasian Creeds, such as ‘Light of Light, Very God of Very God, Begotten not Made, Being of one Substance with the Father.”
These are all understandable enough if translated into the language of the Solar Trinity [worshipped in ancient Egypt] but without this clue to their meaning, they become sheer nonsense or contradictions. . . . The simplicity and symmetry of the old sun Trinities were utterly lost in forming these new Christian Creeds on the old Pagan models. . . . The [pagan] .trinities had all the prestige of a vast antiquity and universal adoption, and could not he ignored. The Gentile converts therefore eagerly accepted the Trinity compromise, and the Church baptized it . Now at long length we know its origin.
What a revelation—that portions of the Nicene anti Athanasian Creeds were plagiarized from pagan sources—word for word and exact phrases, lifted right off the papyri and inscriptions of ancient Egypt! Should this knowledge not leave a little chill aniong those subscribing to these creeds?
Edward Gibbon says, in his preface to History of Christianity . Jf Paganism was conquered by Christianity, it is equally true that Christianity was corrupted by Paganism. The pure Deism of the first Christians . . . was changed, by the Church of Ronie, into the incom prehensible dogma of the trinity. Many of the pagan tenets, invented by the Egyptians and idealized by Plato, were retained as being worthy of belief.” Gibbon is an historian’s historian. He would not speak so forthrightly without an enormous basis for his evaluations.
Commenting on the state of affairs in the early Church, H. G. Wells writes: “We shall see presently how, later on, all Christendom was torn by disputes about the Trinity. There is no clear evidence that the apostles of Jesus entertained that doctrine.” The fact that the Trinity did not originate with the Apostles should be of grave concern to all Christians . The Church of England freely admits the old Unitarian Creed was believed in the first two centuries. In view of all these facts, we cannot help but wonder why anyone would feel secure in accepting the doctrinal developments of the fourth and fifth centuries and forsake the pristine teachings of our Lord and the Apostles.
In Matthew 13:24, 25 we read: “The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: but while men [the Apostles] slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way.” How can one leave the Apostolic Era to find truth without risking being contaminated and choked by “tares”? The “tares” sowed were the work of the enemy . The “tares” that sprouted and grew were results of false teachings that begat “tare” Christians. Hence, all Bible-believing Christians need to be aware of the risks involved in leaving the Apostolic Era of doctrinal purity and of coming under the influence of the “tare” seeds of error spread by the Adversary.
Further Scriptural Harmony
“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved,
a workman who does not need to be ashamed and
who correctly handles the word of God.”
(2 Tim. 2:16, NIV)
God (‘Elo-him’) in Plural Form
T HE REASONING IS PRESENTED THAT THE OLD TESTAMENT HEBREW WORD FOR GOD IS OFTEN IN PLURAL FORM.
To the Trinitarian mind, this is supposed to prove that God is a composite of three beings somehow congealed into one identity. It never had such a connotation to the Jewish writers of the Old Testament. They did not believe in a Trinity.
It is an enigma to them that, after the fact, some Christians come along and prove the Trinity where none existed in the minds of the writers of the Old Testament. Trinity never was in their thinking, and therefore it was not in their ink quills.
Commenting on Gen. Li, where God is mentioned in the plural as elohim,’ Dr. Rotherham says: “It should be carefully observed that, although elohim ’is plural in form, yet when, as here, it is construed with a verb inthe singular, it is naturally singular in sense; especially since the ‘plural of quality’ or ‘excellence’ abounds in Hebrew in cases where the reference is undeniably to something which must be understood in the singular.”
Oxford scholar R. B. Girdlestone writes on this matter in his Synonyms of the Old Testament: “Many critics, however, of unimpeachable orthodoxy, think it wiser to rest where such divines as Cajetan [a theologian] in the Church of Rome and Calvin among Protestants were content to stand, and to take the plural form as a plural of majesty, and as indicating the greatness, the infinity, and the truly incomprehensibleness of the Deity.”’ The truth on this matter is clearly perceived by many scholars, but it is hard to restrain some hard pressed Trinitarians from stretching the truth to prove the unprovable.
It should be mentioned also that the Hebrew elohim” is used to describe pagan gods such as Dagon (1 Sam. 5:7) and Marduck (Dan. 1:2). These were singular gods. No one has claimed they were triune gods. Hence, it seems many Trinitarian scholars wince at excesses of their brethren. The higher ground for the Trinitarian is still that the Trinity is not understandable, nor explainable, and must simply be accepted as a theological mystery. This is especially difficult for fundamentalist Bible believers to accept. They find this an uncomfortable posture in which to be.
“Immanuel” and the “Mighty God”
Isaiah 7:14 reads: “Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” We shall not enter the discussion as to whether this verse may have had a fulfillment other than to our Lord Jesus.
Be that as it may, we have Matthew’s application of this verse being fulfilled in Jesus’ birth (Matt. 1:23) . It is, therefore, on Apostolic authority, applied to our Lord, and that should be the end of all strife.
However, when it came time to give our Lord a name, he was not called Immanuel, meaning “God with us,” hut Jesus, “Savior” (Matt. 1:25). Hence, the name is a title, very much as the Son of God or the Son of Man. If God was sending His only begotten Son to dwell with men, that surely would be a sign that God was with us, lifting up His countenance upon us and being gracious to us. Even today we use the expression, “God be with you.” No niore than this need be implied in Isaiah 7:14.
Isaiah 9:6 gives our Savior the title, “The mighty God.” But the Jewish writers were not saying that the Messiah would literally he Jehovah. If judges of Israel were called “gods,” as in Ps. 82:1-7, what would be earthshaking about calling Jesus the “mighty God” (Hebrew, El Gib-hohr’)? Notice, he is not called El Shad-dai,’ a term exclusively applied t o Jehovah. Further, “God” in the Isaiah text is the Hebrew EL, defined by Dr. Strong as “strength; as adj[ective] mighty; espec[ially] the Almighty (but used also of any deity).” The fact that the same word (EL) is used in Isa. 57:5 in describing idols shows indeed that it is a general term used to describe any mighty being and, hence, quite appropriately may be applied to our Savior, Jesus, in Isa. 9:6.
The following sources ofier additional comments on Isa. 9:6 and Ps. 82:1-7: The Catholic Encyclopedia states: “Even these exalted titles did not lead the Jews to recognize that the Saviour to come was to be none other than God Himself.” And the Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature, by McClintock and Stromig, says: “Thus it appears that none of the passages cited from the Old Test[amnent] in proof of the Trinity are conclusive. . . . We do not find in the Old Test[ament] clear or decided proof upon this subject.”
Scriptures with Groupings of Three Titles.
Some Bible texts mention three subjects in continuity and have been seized upon as proof of the Trinity. In 1 Corinthians 12:4-6 are found Spirit, Lord and God; 2 Corinthians 13:14 lists Christ, God and the Holy Ghost [Spirit]; Galatians 4:4-6 lists God, Son and Spirit of his Son; Ephesians 4:4-6 lists Spirit, Lord and God and 1 Peter 1:2 lists God, Spirit and Jesus Christ
If we were to accept such logic as proof of the Trinity, then we would be led to believe that Peter, James and John are a Trinity because they are listed together. (See Luke 9:28.) 1 Timothy 5:21 says: ~ charge thee before God, and the Lord Jestis Christ, and the elect angels.” Does this make angels a part of the Trinity?
Then there is the great conimission text, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the son, and of the Holy Ghost [Spirit]” (Matt. 28:19). However, sentiment is mounting that this text is a forgery.
In every other instance where baptism is mentioned in the New Testament, it is shown to be in the name of Jesus. Further, many of the early Church fathers, in quoting this passage, leave out the Trinitarian forniula and say simply “in my name”; that is, in the name of Jesus alone the baptism was to be carried out. In 1960, The British & Foreign Bible Society published a Greek Testament, and in Matt. 28:19 the phrase “in my name” is given as an alternative reading, with Eusebius cited as the early Church authority.
Let us note what some theologians have to say on this matter:
Dr. Adam Clark, a Tririitarian, in commenting on Matthew 28:19
as proof that the Father, Son and holy Spirit were three persons,
says: “‘But this I can never believe.’ I cannot help that—you
shall not be persecuted by me for differing froni my opinion.
I cannot go over to you; I must abide by what I believe to be
the meaning of the Scriptures.”
He then shows how the New Testament believers in Acts
2:38; 8:16 and 19:5 were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus
Also, G. Kittel, in his Theoloqical Dictionary of the New
Testament, states forthrightly: “The N[ewj T[estament] does
not actually speak of triunity. We seek this in vain in the triadic
formulae of the NT.” Hence, there is such a thing as trying too
hard to use Scriptures to infer meanings not intended, and some
scholars refuse to do that.
“My Lord and My God”
One verse often used in an attempt to prove the Trinity doctrine is John 20:28. “And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God.” First, let us notice Thomas did not mention the holy Spirit.
He would have needed to do so for this verse to sustain any Trinity connotation. Failing in this, it becomes, at best, a stool with only two legs—not good to stand on. This verse reveals Thomas’ happy response on finding his Master appearing before him. He was slow to believe in Jesus’ resurrection, and it took this personal interchange with the master to make a true believer out of him He was the last of the Apostles to have been honored with a visit from the Master after his resurrection This probably hurt his feelings to think that so many others had met with the resurrected Lord and he had not been so blessed.
Thomas resolved: “Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe [in his resurrection]” (John 20:25). Did Thomas believe that it was God the Father who was dead? Surely not.
But if he believed Jesus was God, how could lie believe that it was Jesus who was dead? Yet if anything at all is clear, it is that Thomas did believe Jesus was dead and was overjoyed to find him alive.
When .Jesus offered to fulfill all the necessary conditions to make him believe his resurrection, Thomas cried out, “My [the] Lord and my [the] God” (John 20:28). God here is a translation of the Greek THEOS, which is defined by Dr. Young as “God, a god, object of worship.” It is a general term in the New Testament, used frequently to denote the Heavenly Father (such as in Matt. 27:46, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me,” and in niany additional places). However, it is also used to depict other beings, whether good or bad. THEOS is used to describe Satan, “the god of this world” (2 Cor. 4:4), the saints, “gods, sons of the Most High” (John 10:34, 35, from Ps. 82:6, RSV), idols, or fabricated “gods who will go before us” (Acts 7:40), and heathen gods, “the gods have come down to us in human form!” (Acts 14:11, 12) Hence, THEOS is quite general in its application in Scripture, and the fact that it is occasionally used of Jesus should not be taken as proof that he was God the Father. Such usage alone is not conclusive to warrant such a distinction.
The .Jews had earlier accused Jesus of blasphemy because, being a man, lie made himself “God”—but this was a false and exaggerated accusation against Jesus which he never is recorded as saying. Jesus’ response was, “Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods? If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the Scripture cannot he broken; say ye of him, whom the Father bath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God?” (John 10:34-36).
Even to be called God was not earthshaking. .Jesus pointed out that those to whom the Word of God came were called “gods.” (The original early manuscripts were written with all capitals. Hence, translators must decide whether to capitalize or not.) But Jesus did clarify who he was. He said, “I am the Son of God.”
Did Thomas now believe something different than Jesus claimed for himself? If those to whom the word of God came were called “gods,” what would be extraordinary about Thomas calling Jesus “My Lord and my God”? Herod’s voice was called “god’s” voice, and Paul was called “god” (Acts 12:22; 28:61 This, undoubtedly, was a very emotional moment for Thomas and certainly not an attempt on his part to offer advanced theology. The fact that he says “the Lord” and ~‘the God” seems appropriate to his emotional state wherein he accepts Jesus as his resurrected “the Lord” and “the God.” His very Jewishness prohibits us from concluding he thought Jesus was “God the Father.” He could not possibly have fused Jesus and God the Father into one. Jesus had been his “Lord” (or “Master”), and now, believing his resurrection, he accepts him as his “God” (or “mighty one”).
In addition to the foregoing, there is an alternative explanation that should be considered. This was an emotion-filled moment for Thomas, a monient about which he had spent much time in prayer to God. It may be that Thomas was merely crying out to God, his Father, “My Lord and my God” as an exclamation for answering his prayers.. Today, people cry out “My God” in moments of their overwhelming sorrow or joy. Jesus cried out, My God, my God” on the cross. This may be what Thomas meant by his expression on this occasion. There is nothing to preclude this thought. One thing we know, his assertion did not include the holy Spirit, and therefore the Trinity cannot have been implied.
The Apostle John, who wrote his Gospel long years after Pentecost, likewise did not believe Jesus was God. John quotes Jesus’ reminder to Mary, saying, “I ascend to my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God” (John 20:17). Jesus had the same Father and God as Mary .
Additionally, John sums up his lesson covering these momentous events, saying, “But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name” (John 20:31).
The Apostle Thomas was a Jew who held to the view that the “LORD our God is one.” To argue that he forsook his Jewish religious training at the moment in question and received Jesus as (the) God the Father is an unlikely scenario. John, who is aged and serene while writing his Gospel, summarizes this entire chapter saying, “Jesus is the Christ, the son of God.” That’s what he wanted us to believe —and that’s what Thomas believed as well.
“In Three Days I Will Raise It Up “
In John 2:19 we read: “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The argument is made that Jesus was God and that he raised himself from the dead. This is said in spite of the clear and oft repeated statement of Scripture that “God raised him from the dead.”
The testimony of Scripture is so complete and overwhelming that God raised Jesus from the dead that there cannot be any shade of doubt about it.
Now let us examine some of our Lord’s statements on this to see if they can be harmonized. In Matthew 17:22, 23, Jesus said, speaking of his approaching death: “The Son of man shall be betrayed into the hands of men: and they shall kill him, and the third day he shall he raised again.” (See also Luke 9:22; Matt. 16:21.)
The angels quoted our Lord’s words to the women who witnessed his resurrection, saying: “Remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee saying, the Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again. And they remembered his words” (Luke 24:6-8). These verses fit in with the Bible testimony that God raised Jesus on the third day.
However, in John 2:19, Jesus said, in response to the Jews’ request for a sign from him: “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” John quotes Jesus and then gives the proper understanding of Jesus’ words . He says, “But he spake of the temple of his body” (John 2:21). Here the aged John is suggesting what Paul confirms: “For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body.... Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular” (I Cor. 12:12, 13, 27) . Further insight is provided in 2 Cor. 4:14, which reads: “Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by [with, throughl Jesus, and shall present us with you.” In John 6:44 we read a similar thought: “No man can come to me, except the Father . . . draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.” This shows that God’s power would not be exercised independently but through Jesus in the resurrection of the Body of Christ.
Hence it is Jesus who will take an active role in raising his Church from the dead. John shows in 14:2, 3 when that will be. He says: “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself, that where I am, there ye may be also.”
So it is at Jesus’ second advent that his faithful followers will be rewarded. Other Bible texts detail the timing of the Church’s resurrection yet further. Peter declares that “One day is with the Lord as a thousand years” (2 Pet. 3:8). If we divide the time from man’s creation into one-thousand year days, Jesus was crucified and resurrected on the fifth (thousand year) day. If he returns in three days to raise his body members, counting inclusively from the fifth day, we arrive at the seventh (thousand year) day, which is the grand Millennial Day of blessing.
Now let us examine John 2:19—”ln three days I will raise it up”—from another standpoint. The disciples had come to regard Jesus’ death and resurrection as a precursor of their own resurrection. They remembered his promise: “Because I live, ye shall live also” (John 14:19). Hence we read: “When therefore he was risen from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this unto them; and they believed the scripture, and the word which Jesus had said” (John 2:22).
We must remember that before Pentecost, Jesus’ disciples did not entertain a heavenly hope . The last thing they asked our risen Lord before he ascended was: “Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6). Subsequently, they came to realize they were to be a part of the body of Christ and that God would “raise up us also by Jesus” (2 Cor. 4:14). That is what they remembered Jesus’ words to mean.
Challenges of Interpretation.
Some while back , a 31-page booklet entitled Should You Believe the Trinity?” was circulated, which caused quite a stir in Trinitarian circles.
Robert M. Bowman ,Jr., rose to the occasion and wrote an entire book in reply entitled Why You Should Believe in the Trinity. His work enables one to see how a Trinitarian studies the Bible and how he comes to his conclusions. It really demonstrates that an effort can be made to defend the Trinity and that Bible verses may be used in an endless array to justify said beliefs.
Yet, despite a valiant overall effort, Mr. Bowman clearly falls short of the mark in at least one direction—and that is in clarifying the doctrine for us. After attempting at length to explain the unfathomable mystery of the Trinity, he finally admits in summary: “The choice is therefore between believing in the true God as he has revealed himself, mystery and all, or believing in a God who is relatively simple to understand but bears little resemblance to the true God. Trinitarians are willing to live with a God they can’t fully comprehend.”
Most of his arguments pertain to Bible verses where God and Christ may be, with a little effort, fused into one Being. The hard part was in adding the holy Spirit to make Trinity complete . He says, to lay the foundation for his argument: “The Holy Spirit is nothing less than God himself. God is present everywhere, so he has no problem controlling his works. He needs no force outside himself to do his works, nor does he need to emanate some of his own energy to places far from his presence in order to ‘be there” Unfortunately, he asserts God is everywhere without a Bible citation.
One must suppose this is accepted in theology. However, our Lord Jesus taught us to pray, “Our Father, which art in heaven” (Matt. 6:9) Jesus could have helped theology if he taught us topray: “Our Father, which art everywhere,” but he did not say this.
Such reasoning comes close to New Age theology which teaches that God is everywhere and in everything and if we identify with the earth, sun, water, etc., we become a part of God. The wise man said: “God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few” (Ecc.5:2). When Moses wished to see God’s glory, God caused a representation of Himself to pass before Moses. The restriction was that Moses would see God’s “back parts” (Ex. 33:23). How could a God who is everywhere be represented by God’s glory as it passed by? How long would it take for everywhere to pass before Moses? Also God is said to dwell in “light which no man can approach unto” (1 Tim. 6:16). If God is everywhere, he must also be in the dark holes of the universe . How could it be said: “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5)?
If God is everywhere, then Jesus is everywhere and so also the holy Spirit. This raises a question in logic . In John 14:3, Jesus promises: “I will come again.” How does someone who is everywhere come again to somewhere? Jesus also promised in John 15:26: “But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you . . . he shall testify of me.” How do you send sonieone who is everywhere? Why would you need to? How can everywhere be moved to somewhere?
Mr. Bowman asserts God “needs no force outside himself to do his works, nor does he need to emanate some of his energy to places.” It is doubtful if niany theologians would back such an extravagant assertion. This would seem to rule out any use of the holy Spirit as the mind, influence, power, etc., of God. For a case in point, God says: “I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh” (Joel 2:28). How could a God-person, who is everywhere, be poured ou t on “all flesh”? Logic and common sense require even Trinitarians to read certain verses with the same meaning as non-Trinitarians. That is the hard part of arguing against the Trinity; it seems everyone defending it has some different ideas. Greater minds than his have struggled to find the formula to merge three persons into one and have conceded that, after having done their best, their concepts were incomprehensible.”
Mr. Bowman concludes the same, as we have observed : “Trinitarians are willing to live with a God they can’t fully understand.” The Trinity is a doctrine of inference — not of Biblical statement. We doubt that many theologians would support his position that it is unnecessary for the Spirit ever to be a power or influence or the mind of God. His position seems untenable here.
Finally, every Christian must realize that there is nothing they believe that cannot be assailed by someone somewhere. The Devil quoted the Bible trying to beguile our Lord. The Judaizing Jews quoted Scripture verses to bring Gentiles under the Law . Were they sincere? Probably, but misinformed. There is not a single doctrine believed by any Christian which is not assailed with vigor and even sometimes with forceful presentations. What do we do in such an event? We can close our mind to all discussion aiid retreat to our trenches. That is probably good if indeed our belief is well-founded in the Word. There definitely is a cloud over the Trinity which is very troubling to many, and we trust that such will be blessed by this presentation.
Confronting Gnostic Heresies
“Turn away from godless philosophical discussions and the
opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge [GNOSIS],
which some have professed and in so doing have wandered
from the faith.”
(1 Tim. 6:20, NIV and NJB)
W ’HEN THE APOSTLE JOHN SPOKE OF THOSE WHO DO NOT “ABIDE IN THE DOCTRINE OF CHRIST” (2 JOHN 9), WHAT FALSE TEACHING WAS HE REFUTING?
We believe he was confronting a particular false teaching being advocated in his time and place
As mentioned earlier, the Trinity doctrine was not yet formulated, and John was not confronting it. It was not troubling the Church at that time. In Acts 15 the early Church did have a heated conference of elders and Apostles, but it addressed the issue of Gentiles coming into the Church and being pressured to keep the Jewish Law Covenant.
The council ended with a very clearly-worded message : “For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost [Spirit], and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these real necessary things; that ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: froni which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well” (Acts 15:28, 29).
Now, you would think if the Trinity was even faintly mentioned in Church teachings, it would need some clarification. Certainly, those of the Priesthood (Acts 6:7) who had become believers and who were trying to bring Gentiles under the Law would have raised eyebrows at any teaching beclouding the one-God concept of the Jewish Law. The leadership of the Church were all mainlyJews carried over from the Law arrangement.
Yet not one word emerged abotit a tripersonal deity. How could the Trinity not have been mentioned in this conference, or in the Bible itself, if it was an essential doctrine for jews and Gentiles alike to believe?
John’s Gospel, as well as his epistles, are believed to have been written toward the close of the first century. McClintock & Strong on “John,” says: Ephesus and Patmos are the two places mentioned by early writers, and the weight of evidence seems to preponderate in favor of Ephesus. Irenaeus . . . states that John published his Gospel whilst he dwelt in Ephesus of Asia. Jeronie ........relates that John was in Asia . . . Theodore of Mopsuestia relates that John was living at Ephesus when he was moved by his disciples to write his Gospel.
“The evidence in favor of Patmos comes from two anonymous writers. The author of the Synopsis of Scripture, printed in the works of Athanasius, states that the Gospel was dictated by John in Patmos, and published afterwards in Ephesus.........IAnother] author . . . states that John was banished by Domitian to Patmos, where he wrote his Gospel.”’
Quoting McClintock and Strong, on ‘John, First Epistle,” we read: It has been conjectured by many interpreters, ancient and modern, that it was written at the same place as the Gospel. The more ancient tradition places the wrifing of the Gospel at Ephesus, and a less authentic report refers it to the island of Patmos...... it was probably posterior to the Gospel, which seems to be referred to in 1 John 1:4. Some are of the opinion that the Epistle was an envelope or accompaniment to the Gospel, and that they were consequently written nearly simultaneously.”
These comments suggest John’s writings were the writings of his old age. Having outlived the other Apostles, John could see the essential fabric of Christianity beginning to be subjected to intellectual Hellenistic philosophy and gnosticism. John was the last Apostolic outpost defending the “faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3). He was dearly loved by the brethren of that time, but not by all. “Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not” (3 John 9).
It is hard to believe anyone would not receive John in the Christian community. However, ambition and power-lust were running high, and hence even the beloved Apostle found himself put upon. This should make us wary of accepting beliefs not originating in Apostolic times.
Confessing Jesus Christ Is Come in the Flesh
John, in his epistles, as well as in his gospel writings, was dealing with certain gnostic heresies that had started to trouble the early Church. In 1 .John 4:3, we read: “And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of anti-christ.” What was John addressing here? For an answer we quote McClintock & Strong: Irenaeus says, Cerintlms taught that the world was not made by the supreme God, but by a certain power (Demiurge) separate from Him, and below Him, and ignorant of Him. Jesus he supposed not to be born of a virgin, but to be the son of Joseph and Mary, born altogether as other men are; but he excelled all men in virtue, knowledge, and wisdom. At His baptism, the Christ caine down upon Him, from God who is over all, in the shape of a dove; and then He declared to the world the unknown Father, and wrought miracles. At the end, the Christ left Jesus, and Jesus suffered and rose again, but the Christ being spiritual, was impassible.”’
This view presents Jesus as a mere man fathered by Joseph, who later became possessed by Christ at Jordan and deserted by Christ before Jesus was crucified. Hence, Christ did not come in the flesh, nor did he suffer in the flesh, but simply took possession of a man named Jesus from Jordan and left hini before he was crucified.
Under this teaching, Christ neither suffered nor died. It was Jesus the man who suffered and died and was resurrected. This concept may have arisen from the practice of demons entering fleshly bodies to possess them, such as evidently was fairly commonplace in Jesus’ day.
We refer again to McClintock & Strong on Cerinthus: The account of Jrenaeus is that he [Cerinthusj appeared about the year 88, and was known to St. John, who wrote his Gospel in refutation of his errors. lrenaeus, on the authority of Polycarp,. narrates that the Apostle John, when at Ephesus, going on a certain day to the bath, and finding Cerinthus within, fled from the building, saying “l.et us even be gone, lest the bath should fall to pieces, Cerinthus, that enemy of the truth, being within.”’
This scrap of history would confirm John’s unwillingness to have any interchange or contact with one who was introducing such mind-beguiling errors into the Churches. Yet, the point to be noted is that, even while the Apostle John still lived, various forms of gnostic errors affecting the nature of Christ were indeed infecting Christianity. What would happen when all the Apostles fell asleep? Surely, no one would logically expect truth to triumph.
Jesus taught—”While men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way” (Matt. 13:24-30). What were the “tares” the enemy sowed? Errors or false teachings which would subvert true Christianity. Yes. Even before the Apostles fell asleep, the Devil was busy trying to infuse gnostic beliefs among the people of God.
Paul confirms this, saying, “The mystery of iniquity doth already work” (2 Thess. 2:7). We must always remember, these false teachings were kept out of the Bible, but not out of the Church. What was to be a “wheat field” turned into a field of “tares,” the planting of the Wicked One. The Parable of the Wheat and Tares (Matt. 13:24-3(3) was given by the Master to foretell what would follow the death of the Apostles. For anyone to go to the fourth and fifth centuries to seek the truth is to ignore this clear warning of Jesus.
Docetisrn appeared in the latter half of the second century. It was, in fact, only another form of gnosticism. McClintock & Strong, commenting on Docetae, say: In order to remove the author of all good from all contact with matter, which they conceived to be the same as evil they called in the aid of Oriental philosophy in order to people the space between God and matter with a vast succession of super-human beings as mediators between God and the world.
These, emanating froiii the Deity, were called aeons; among these the highest rank was assigned to Christ. Here, however, they seem to have split. ‘Many imagined that Jesus was a mere man, and maintained that the aeon Christ descended upon the man Jesus at his baptism, and left him immediately before his crucifixion, so that Christ was not, in fact, subjected to pain and death; while others held that the body, with which Christ appeared to be invested, was not really human and passable, but unsubstantial or etherial, or, at least immaterial: these last were called Docetae. Waddinqton’s History of the Church, p. 74, 75J. They denied the whole humanity of Christ, regarding it only as a deceptive show, a mere vision.
Docetism was a most subtle element, which wrought variously before it had any discernible concentration in any leading men or sects, and it infused its unreal and fantastic leaven into various Gnostic sects, and other later ones which grew out of Gnosticism. It was a deep, natural, rationalistic, pseudo-spiritualistic, anti-incarnation element.
The errors introduced by Cerinthus did not disappear, but infected the Church heavily in the second century. It was these errors that were leavening the lump, and to offset them, both truth and additional errors were used to put down these gnostic teachings. The hardest thing is to defend the truth without exaggerating matters. The Devil does not care which ditch one gets into, as long as one leaves the strait and narrow path of truth.
Gnosticism in the Church
The early Christians did seek knowledge of spiritual things. Paul says some were given the “word of knowledge (gnosis by the same Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:81 There was a proper knowledge that came to saints of that day, and then there were supposed superior knowledge and insights that were nothing more than heretical gnosticism. The Church was put upon by these claimants of superior knowledge. McClintock & Strong , on Gnosticism, say: The name Gnosticism has been applied to a variety of schools which had sometimes little in common except the assumption of a knowledge higher than that of ordinary believers. . . . They seldom pretended to demonstrate the principles on which their systems were founded by historical evidence or logical reasonings, since they rather boasted that these were discovered by the intuitional powers of more highly endowed minds, and that the materials thus obtained, whether through faith or divine revelation were then worked up into ascientific form according to each oiie’s natural power and culture. Their aim was to construct not merely a theory of redemption, but of the universe—a cosmogony.
No subject was beyond their investigations. Whatever God could reveal to the finite intellect, they looked upon as within their range. What to others seemed only speculative ideas were by them hypostatized or personified into real beings or historical facts. It was in this way that they constructed systems of speculation on subjects entirely beyond the range of human knowledge, which startle us by their boldness and their apparent consciousness of reality.”
Most of the controversies of the early Church were Judaistic in nature, but evidence is found early on o f heretical influences that affected the brotherhood. Quoting again from McClintock & Strong on Gnosticism:
The heretical gnosis did not make its appearance with an uncovered head until after the death of the apostles, but . . . it previously worked in secret. . . . While niost of the heresies of that period were Judaistic, there was an obvious difference between those reproved in the Galatian churches and those noticed in the epistles to the Colossians and Timothy. The latter are treated much more mildly, and we readily perceive that they must have been much less developed and less subversive of the Christian system. They are expressly called (1 Tim.6:2O), a false gnosis, and were characterized by empty sounds without sense and subtle oppositions to the truth, a depreciation of the body, and a worship of angels (Col. 2:18, 23~, and interminable genealogies and myths (1 Tim. 1:4). These seem more akin to Jewish than to heathen speculations, and imply not the completed Gnosticism of the second century, but the manifest germs of Docetic emanations and Gnostic dualism.”7
It is easy to see how such forces at work within the early Church were like leaven that needed an incubation period before it “leavened the whole.” While the leaven was rising, it induced a power struggle among the bishops, sonic for truth and sonic for error and, more often than not, a struggle for preenlinence and power.
To secure these, one needed some platform that played well and would seduce the largest numbers. Later, the seduction was directed toward the Emperor Constantine, for the imperial power would make or break the bishops. Those who contended for the faith “once delivered unto the saints” became merely voices crying iii the wilderness (Jude 3).
To believe that most Church leaders were the great preservers of the “faith once delivered to the saints” is to believe the unbelievable. The Great Wall of China was built to keep out invading enemy forces. However, the wall was breached three times within the first century of its construction—in each instance from within. Once we leave the Apostolic Era and the Word of God, it becomes stormy and treacherous.
What John Was Confronting.
The Apostle John, in his Gospel, was filling in details left out in other Gospel accounts as well as lightly addressing some subtle errors of that era. In John 1:1-18, we find John refuting gnostic heresies. He shows that Jesus was a spirit who was “with God” and who subsequently became flesh. He says, “ And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth” (vs. 14).
This is a plain statement of fact . Jesus was “made flesh.” He did not possess another’s body or form, but he was, in fact, “flesh.” Neither was he a mixture of natures--—spirit and flesh. He was “flesh.” Peter confirms this truth, saying, “Being put to death indeed in flesh, but made alive in spirit” (1 Pet. 3:18, Rotherharn). The gnostic teaching that Christ was a composite of spirit and flesh did finally emerge. But the Bible is quite clear that Jesus was made “flesh.” It does not say he assumed a fleshly body and then left it. He died on the cross and was raised from the dead by God on the third day (Matt. 28:7; Acts 2:31, 32).
John 1:18 reads, “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten son [some authorities read God], which is in the bosom of the Father, he bath declared him.” Men did see Jesus. No man has ever seen God, nor can they and live, Jesus, then, is the revealer of God, the one through whom we may know the Father.
What did John mean when he said: “Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son” (2 John 9)? Why didn’t he add: “hath the Father and the Son and the holy Spirit”?
Obviously, John was not dealing with any part of the Trinity when he wrote these words. He was meeting the errors of Cerinthus and gnosticism, which were beginning to surface in that very early era when the Apostles still lived. He was endeavoring to prevent Ceriiithus and his deceived followers from bewitching the Church with their Satan-inspired, beguiling errors.
The battle did not cease after the Apostles fell asleep. The Church of God became infested with philosophy, gnostic dualisms, docetic emanations, etc. The stage was being set for the dualism of God and Christ to be fused into one substance, composed of spirit and flesh simultaneously.
Because these earliest errors had to do with the nature of Jesus Christ in human flesh and his relationship to God, it became increasingly difficult to separate fact from fancy . A thick cloud of confusion settled upon Christians. As a result, theologians left the simplicity of the unitarian God of the first century and fused Jesus and God into one Being in the fourth century.
At last in the fifth century, the Trinity was born even while the Christian Church began its descent toward the Dark Ages. If at least we could see the Church moving toward more brotherly love and kindness after the Trinity concept took root, we could sense that something good had emerged.
But such was not the case. The picture that emerges is of a Church steeped in worldliness, pomp and ceremony, leaving the purity and simplicity of its early faith far behind. Even worse are centuries filled with bloodletting and ruthlessness that followed, with the Church bent on world conquest. All contrary religious thought was stifled as the Chtirch grasped for total world-control.
Hellenistic Influences in the Church.
Hans Kung writes:
If we take the New Testament as a criterion, we cannot deny that the Council of Nicaea certainly maintained the New Testament message and did not Hellenize it totally. But it is equally beyond dispute that the council remained utterly imprisoned in Hellenistic concepts, notions and thought-models which would have been completely alien to the Jew Jesus of Nazareth and the earliest community. Here in particular the shift from the Jewish Christian apocalyptic paradigm [beliefs, values, techniques and so on shared by the members of a given community] to the early church Hellenistic paradigm had a massive effect.”
There is little doubt that after the Hellenization of the Church, it would have been unrecognizable to early Jewish Christians.
When the Church became Hellenized, it became a tool for Constantine. Hans Kting says:
He not only convened the ecumenical council but directed it through a bishop whom he had commissioned, with the assistance of imperial commissioners; he adjourned it and concluded it; by his decision the resoltitions of the council became imperial laws. Constantine used this first council not least to adapt the chtirch organization to the state organization. It was now clear to Constantine, the political strategist, that the imperial church needed more than just the more or less varied confessions of faith of the individual local or provincial churches. It needed a uniform ‘ecumenical creed, and this was to be the church law and imperial law for all the churches. He believed that only in this way could he ensure the unity of the empire under the slogan one God—one emperor—one kingdom—one church—one faith:”’
While Constantine was using the Church for his own political agenda, it must he remembered that, although confessing to be a Christian, he was actually a ruthless opportunist . He still presided at all pagan festivities, commissioned many of the new Churches to be adorned with pagan artwork, and was responsible for also murdering members of his own family
In 326 A.D., long after his “conversion,” he had his wife, Fausta, and his eldest son, Crispus, put to death. When convinced that his own death was near, he received baptism from Eusebius of Nicomedia, in 337 AD. He had delayed baptism to the end, since he felt he could not avoid committing “mortal” sin during his lifetime, and such sin after baptism was considered to be unforgivable.”’
This was the man who forced his will upon the Nicene Council, dictated the very wording of its creed, and thereby directed the doctrinal course of the Church for centuries to come. But is this the kind of man to whom we should be entrusting our most sacred beliefs?
Hans Kting makes another observation:
Nor did Patil want to replace Jewish belief in one God with a Christian belief in two Gods. Rather, he always regarded the Jesus who had been exalted by God’s spirit to God as subordinate to this one God and Father: as the Messiah, Christ, image, Son, of the one God. So his christocentricity remains grounded in and culminates in a theocentricity: ‘from God through Jesus Christ through Jesus Christ to God: To this degree Paul’s christology is directly compatible with Jewish monotheism.”
We realize, too, that Paul was not opposed by his Judaizing Jewish brethren because of his presentations of God. It was his opposition to bringing Gentile Christians under bondage to the Law arrangement that incurred their ire.
We quote again from Hans Kung:
;We should note that whereas the Council of Nicaea in 325 spoke of a single substance or hypostasis in God, the starting point in the 381 Council of Constantinople was three hypostases: Father, Son and Spirit. There has been much discussion in the history of dogma as to whether the transition from a one-bypostasis theology to a three-hypostasis theology is only a terininological change or—more probably (as the temporary schism in Antioch between old and new orthodox shows)—also involved an actual change in the conceptual model. At all events it is certain that we can speak of a dogma of the Trinity only after the Second Ecumenical Council in Constantinople.”’
There is little doubt when Trinity became a Church dogma. For those willing to accept the Council of Constantinople as the basis of their faith, we wish them, well, but our conviction is that Christians should be free to believe only what was taught by the Apostles.
Trinity a Recognized Stumbling Block.
When the Church united with the Roman powers, it seemed certain that the conquest of the world lay before it. Rome was the leading power of the world, and the Church was able to march under two banners—Christ and Rome. It was seemingly invincible. Why did it fail? Hans Kung says:
A main cause of the failure of Christianity seems to have lain in the inadequate foundation of the dogmas of christology and the Trinity. The Catholic theologian Hermann Stieglecker, who gives an admirable account of the theological controversies between Christians and Muslims in his book on The Doctrines of Islam, rightly regards this lack as one of the most serious causes of the collapse of Christianity, particularly in its homelands, in the Near East and North Africa. It was in fact simpler to believe in the One God and Muhammad, the Prophet after Jesus. In addition, however, there were also the lamentable internal divisions within Christianity.”
Christianity was born in the Middle East, and for the churches to have lost that whole area is most painful to them. While a few churches are now tolerated there, what hope is there in regaining what the Muslims have taken? The Trinity, which seemed a popular route to take in conquest of the world, has turned out instead to be a great impediment.
That is why Hans Kung and a host of men like him are trying to break out from this “incomprehensible” Trinity concept. No matter how it is explained, no matter how it is qualified, no matter how it is propped up, its inherent weakness remains — it is unreasonable and consequently incomprehensible.
An Overview of the Controversies Concerning Christ.
Let no one come away thinking that only two views of Christ have existed. The controversies were many. We quote from Christian History.”
Those Believing Jesus Was Either Divine or Human Docetists, e.q., Guostics: The divine Christ would never stoop to touch flesh, which is evil. Jesus only seemed (dokeo, in Greek) human and only appeared to die, for God cannot die. Or, in other versions, “Christ” left “Jesus” before the Crucifixion.
“Apollinarians: Jesus is not equally human and divine but one person with one nature. In Jesus’ human flesh resided a divine mind and will (he didn’t have a human mind or spirit), and his divinity controlled or sanctified his humanity.
“Modalists, a.k.a. Sahellians: God’s names (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) change with his roles or ~modes of being’ (like a chameleon). When God is the Son, he is not the Father. There is no permanent distinction between the three ‘persons’ of the Trinity, otherwise you have three gods.”
Those Believing Christ May Be Special, But Not Divine
“Ehionites: For these conservative Jewish Christians, God is one, and Jesus must be understood in Old Testament categories. Jesus was merely a specially blessed prophet.
“Adoptionists, a.k.a., dynamic monarchianists: No denying Jesus was special, but what happened is this: at birth (not conception) or baptism, God ‘adopted’ the human Jesus as his special son and gave him an extra measure of divine power dynamics, in Greek).
“Arians: The Son as Word, Logos, was created by God before time. He is not eternal or perfect like God, though he was God’s agent in creating everything else.”
Those Believing Christ Has One Nature
“Mono physites, e.g., Eutijchians : Jesus cannot have two natures; his divinity swallowed up his humanity like a drop of wine in the sea:
Those Believing Christ Was Two Persons
“Nestorians: If you dismiss Jesus’ humanity like that, lie cannot be the Savior of humankind. Better to say he has two natures and also two persons: the divine Christ and the human Christ lived together in Jesus.”
The Orthodox View: (The Majority View, Right or Wrong)
“Trinitarians: Jesus is fully human and fully divine, having two natures in one person—’without confusion, without change, without division, without separation.”’
Every inquirer for truth should know how widespread, divisive and confusing these controversies were before the Trinitarians were able to crush the opposition, taking over schools of learning much as evolutionists have done in our day.
The law at work here might be likened to that of the Wild West, where the man with the fastest draw became the established authority.
History records that the Church “was racked by feuding, recriminations, and downright treachery. . . . Bishops turned against one another, often mounting intricate intrigues to promote their theological viewpoints. To win the day, or just to survive, churchmen needed both a theologian’s wisdom and a politician’s savvy.”
Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria and called a saint by his followers, is an outstanding example of a Trinitarian leader noted for his strong stand against Arianism. But consider the kind of man he was-----~ruthlessly and tenaciously opposing Arms, the kindly, intelligent and popular presbyter in Alexandria, who courageously defended the early Church view of Jesus as the only begotten Son of God.
Athanasius, in contrast, staunchly upheld the Nicene Creed, “was incapable of compromise, and believed that anyone who disagreed with him was not only wrong but also evil.” He was most harsh and acrimonious in manner and was known for being “autocratic in his dealings with dissenters in his church.” He was variously accused of employing black magic, attempting to levy improper taxes for priestly vestures, and even of rape and murder. Called before a full ecclesiastical council at Tyre in 335 , just ten years after Nicea, he was deposed as bishop and thereafter was exiled no less than five (5) times. Yet, despite all this, he is considered one of the Fathers of the Church—solely because of upholding the “faith of Nicea.”
It is also common knowledge that the victor in the kind of strife that occurred here is the one who controls the history of the period. The evidence for the opposing view is methodically squelched or distorted. In this instance, an effort was made to give the impression that Trinity was the accepted Christian belief from the very beginning of the Church, rather than the labored product of centuries of theological squabble and fusion with pagan beliefs.
In retrospect, it seems odd that the one view which seems least understandable, and the least logical, would be the one that claims orthodoxy today. And yet we must not allow ourselves to be over-whelmed by what the Apostle Paul termed “the godless chatter and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge [Greek, Gnosis] , for by professing it, some have missed the mark as regards the faith”
(1 Tim. 6:20, 21, RSV). What a hollow victory for Trinity to have carried the day with such an incomprehensible and mysterious teaching.
Finally, when we turn to artwork, we find that artists created other heresies when they tried to illustrate the doctrine of the Trinity. Medieval art depicted God with three faces and one body, which really is modalisni, which denies differences between the Father, Son and holy Spirit.
Another medieval Hungarian portrait showed God on a throne with the holy Spirit as a dove resting upon Jesus, who is portrayed as a man. This shows God as three separate beings. Alas, nothing seems able to describe this mystery adequately, even in artwork!
Yet Jesus confidently taught us, “Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God” (Mark 4:11). And the Apostle Paul said, “We speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory; which none of the princes of this world knew.., but God hath revealed.. . unto us by his Spirit” (1 Cor. 2:7-10).
Views of the Early Church Fathers
“To us there is but one God, the Father,
of whom are all things,
and for whom we live; and one Lord,
Jesus Christ, by whom are all
things, and through whom we live.”
(1 Cor. 8:6, KJV and NIV)
IF Jesus taught and revealed himself to be an uncreated “God the Son” rather than the Son of God, it should have been universally accepted by our early Church brethren . Their writings should show the Trinity to be understood and developed from the very start of the Apostolic Era.
The fundamental doctrines of the Church were not to be originated by those following the Apostles. God did not give further revelations after their passing. (See Rom. 15:4; 1 Cor. 4:6; 2 Tim. 3:16; 2 John 9, NAS.)
The doctrine of the. Trinity, defined over a 264-year period from The Council of Nice in A.D. 325 to The Third Synod at Toledo in A.D. 589, states that there are three distinct persons of the same spiritual nature—The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit.
It is claimed that all three persons are uncreated and share in omnipotence, making them one. Therefore, the Trinity fails once it can be established that (1) There was a time when the uncreated Father was alone, (2) The Son, Jesus, was produced from the first creative act of God, and (3) The holy Spirit is not a person, but the power, the energy or force used by God (and in this sense is also uncreated).
Let’ s examine what the students of the Apostles, their friends, peers and subsequent students had to say between A.D. 96—A.D. 320.
We present these historical readings, not as a foundation for Truth, but simply to show that these early Christians had not come to believe in the Trinity. To those who feel comfortable going to the fourth and fifth centuries to establish this doctrine, we wish them well, but we cannot leave the Apostolic Era to come over to them. Biblically and historically, this early period is just too important to abandon. We hereby submit the following:
Clement of Rome: according to many Christian writers before the Nicemie Council, he is the Clement of Philippians 4:3. He was an elder in the Rome congregation from about A.D. 92-101. His Corinthian Epistle, written about A.D. 96, was held in high esteem, considered by many to be equal to the writings of the Apostles and was frequently used in their Sunday meetings. He was born about A.D. 30 and died about A.D. 100.
“We know you alone are ‘highest among highest’ . . . You
have chosen those who love you through Jesus Christ, your
beloved son, through whom you have instructed, sanctified
and honored us. . . . Let all nations know that you arc the
only God, that Jesus Christ is your son and that we are your
people.” To The Corinthians, Chap. 59, vs. 3, 4.
Ignatius of Antioch: was surnamed “Theophorus,” meaning “God-bearer,” because of his gentle, kindly nature. He was an elder at the Antioch, Syria, congregation and was a student of the Apostle John. His authentic writings, being the short version of his seven epistles, were written about A.D. 110. He was born about A.D. 50 and was martyred A.D. 116.
“There is one God, who manifested Himself throughJesus
Christ, His son, who being His Word, came forth out of the
silence into the world and won full approval of Him whose
ambassador he was.” To the Magnesia ns, Chap. 8, vs. 2.
“..... who also really rose from the dead, since his Father
raised him up,—his Father who will likewise raise us also
who believe in Him through Jesus Christ, apart from whom
we have no real life.” To The Trallians, Chap. 9, vs. 2.
“You are well established in love through the Blood of
Christ and firmly believe in our Lord. He is really ‘of the line
of David according to the flesh’ and the son of God by the will
and power of God.” To The Smgrnaeans. Chap. 1, vs. 1.
Polycarp: born about A.D. 69, was also a student of the Apostle John, as well as a close friend of Jgnatius of Antioch. He was an. elder at the congregation in Smyrna, Asia Mnor, and wrote his Philippian epistle before A. D. 140. He was burned at the stake February 23, 155.
“Now, may the God and Father of our Lord Jesus
Christ, and the Eternal Priest himself, Jesus Christ, the son
of God, build you up in faith and truth.” To The
Philippians, Chap. 12, vs. 2.
“.... to Him who is able to bring us all in His grace and
bounty, to His Heavenly Kingdom, by His only-begotten child,
Jesus Christ, be glory, honor, might and majesty forever.”
Martgrdorn, Chap. 20, vs. 2.
Justin: called “Martyr” because of his martyrdom in A. D. 166, was born about A.D. 107 in Rome. He was a heathen philosopher converted to Christianity about A.D. 130. His first work, Dialogue with Trygpho, was written in A.D. 135 as Trypho, a Jew, was fleeing Jerusalem after the Bar Kochba revolt. He wrote between A.D. 135 until just before his beheading.
“God begat before all creatures a Beginning who was a
certain rational power proceeding from Himself, who is called
by the holy spirit now ‘The Glory of the Lord,’ now ‘The Son,’
again ‘Wisdom,’ again ‘an Angel,’ then ‘God,’ then ‘Lord’ and
’Logos;’ and on another occasion lie calls himself ‘Captain.”’
Dialogue with Trypho, Chap. 61.
“We follow the only unbegotten God through His Son.”
First Apology. , Chap. 14.
“We assert that the Word of God was born of God in a
peculiar manner, different from ordinary generation, let this,
as said above, be no extraordinary thing to you who say that
Mercury is the angelic word of God.” First Apolo~q~, Chap. 22.
“The Father of all is unbegotten . . . And His Son, who
alone is properly called Son, the Word . . . was with Him and
was begotten before the world Second Apology. Chap. 6.
Tatian: born in Assyria about A.D. 110, was a student of Justin Martyr. He wrote the earliest Bible commentary of the four Gospels known to exist. Sometime he became the leader of the Encratite sect of the Gnostics. Despite this, his writings give a semi-fair view of Christian doctrines. He wrote between A.D. 161-170 and died about A.D. 172.
“The Lord of the Universe, who is Himself the necessary
ground of all being, inasmuch as no creature was yet in exis-
tence, was alone. . . . And by His simple will the Logos springs
forth; and the Logos, not coming forth in vain becomes the
first-begotten work of the Father and was the beginning of the
world.” To The Greeks, Chap. 5.
Melito: born about A.D. 110, was an elder at Sardis, Asia Minor, from about A.D. 160-170 and a friend of lgnatius of Antioch as a young child . He wrote between A.D. 165-70 and was martyred A.D. 177. Only small fragments exist.
“There is that which really exists and it is called God
This being is in no sense made, nor did He come into
being, but has existed from eternity.” Apology. 1: To
“Jesus Christ ... is perfect Reason, the Word of God, he
who was begotten before the light, he who is creator together
with the Father.” Apoloqy 4: On Faith.
Theophilus of Antioch: was born about A.D. 1130 and was an elder at Antioch, Syria, around A.D. 1170-1180. He wrote before A.D. 1175 and died A.D. 181.
“God, then, having His own Word internal within His
own womb begat him, emitting him along with His own
Wisdom before all things. He had this Word as a helper in the
things that were created by Him, and by him He created all
things.” To Autoltjchus, Chap. 10.
Athenagoras: born in Athens of heathen parents in A.D. 134 wrote his work “Defense for the Christians” in A.D. 176 and preseiited it to the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius, a fierce persecutor of Christians, in A.D. 177 . He died A.D. 190.
“We acknowledge one God uncreated, eternal, invisible,
impassable, incomprehensible, illimitable ... by whom the uni-
verse has been created through His Logos and set in order
I say ~His Logos’ for we acknowledge also a Son of God... He
is the first product of the Father, not as having been brought
Into existence, for from the beginiiing, God, who is the eternal
mind, had the Logos in Himself, being from eternity endowed
with spiritual reason, coming forth as the idea and energy of
all material things.” Defense for the Christians, Chap. 10.
Irenaeus: one of the most recognized early Christians, was born A.D. 140 and was a student of Polycarp. He was an elder at the Lyons, France, congregation from A.D. 178. He was well known throughout the Western world of the time. He died in France A.D. 202. His writings can be dated from about A.D. 180.
“if anyone, therefore, says to us, ~How, then, was the Son
produced by the Father?’ we reply to him, that no one under-
stands that production, or generation . . . no powers possess
this knowledge but the Father only who begat and the Son who
was begotten.” Aqainst Heresies, Book 2, Chap. 28, vs. 6.
Clement of Alexandria: born Titus Flavius Clemens A.D. 150,
was born, raised and becaiiie an elder at Alexandria, Egypt. He wrote between A.D. 190-195 and died about A.D. 220. His writings are valuable becatise once he was converted to Christianity, he traveled throughout the Ronian Empire to learn pure Christianity from the oldest and most respected Christians alive.
“The best thing on earth is the most pious: perfect man; and
the best thing in heaven, the next and purer in place, is an angel,
the partaker of the eternal and blessed life. But the nature of the
Son, which is next to Him who is alone the Almighty One, is
the most perfect.” Miscellanies , Book 7, Chap. 2.
“He [Jesus] commences his teaching with this: turning the
pupil to God, the good, and first and only dispenser of eternal
life, which the Son, who received it of Him, gives to us.”
Salvation Of The Rich Man, Chap. 6.
Tertullian: was born in Carthage, Tunisia AD. 160, of Libyan descent and a distant relative of Anus. His writings began about A.D. 190, about 10 years before he joined the Montanist sect of Christianity, who believed in continuing revelation [speaking in tongues, healing, etc.] and a life of asceticism . He continued writing until about A.D. 210 and died A.D. 230 in Carthage, where he was also an elder.
“Before all things God was alone—being in Himself and for
Himself.., the Word was in the beginning with God although
it would be more suitable to regard Reason as the more ancient
...... For although God had not yet delivered His Word, He still
had him within Himself. . . Now, while He Was actually thus
planning and arranging with His own reason, He was actually
bringing forth the Word.” Against Jpraxeas Chap. 5.
“The Word, no doubt, was before all things. ‘In the begin-
ning was the Word’; and in that beginning he was sent forth by
the Father. The father, however, has no beginning, as proceed-
ing from none; nor can He be seen since He was not begotten.
He who has always been alone could never have order or
rank.” Against Praxeas, Chap. 5.
Hippolytus: born about A.D. 160, was a student of Jrenaeus. He wrote about AD. 220, dying August 13, 235, after being banished to the Mediterranean island of Sardinia.
“If therefore, all things are put under him [Jesus] with the
exception of Him [God] who put them under him, he is the
Lord of all and the Father is Lord of him. . . And this indeed is
said by Christ himself, as when in the Gospel he confessed Him
to be his Father and his God. . . . He [Jesus] did not say, ‘I and
the Father am one~ but ‘are on& For the word ‘are’ is not said
of one person, but refers to two persons and one power. He has
himself made this clear when he spoke to his Father concern-
jug his disciples [in John 17:22-3] . . . For Christ had spoken of
himself and showed himself among all to be as the Son ... And
as the author and fellow-counsellor and framer of the things
that are in formation He begat the Word . . . He sent him forth
to the world as Lord . . . And thus, there appeared another
beside hiniself. . . For there is but one power, which is from the
All; and the Father is the All, from whom comes this power, the
Word . . . and was manifested as the Son of God. All things,
then, are by Hini and He alone is the Father.” Against The
Heresy Of One Noetus, Chaps. 6, 7,10, 11.
Origen: born of Christian parents A.D. 185 in Alexandria, Egypt , Origen was the most prolific of all early Christian writers. Trained by Clement of Alexandria, he was elected elder at the age of 18 when Clement had to flee for his life. He was a friend of Hippolytus and is distinguished for the first complete Bible commentary. In A.D. 253, at age 70, he was captured, tortured and one week later died for his faith.
“We next notice John’s usage of the article in these sen-
tences. He does not write without care in this respect, nor is he
unfamiliar with the niceties of the Greek tongue . . . He uses
the article when the name of ‘God’ refers to the uncreated of
all things, and omits it when the Logos is named God’ he
God who is over all is God with the article ... all beyond the
Only God is made god by participation in His divinity, and is
not to be called simply ‘The God’ but rather ‘god’ . . . The true
God, then, is ‘The God and those who are formed after Him
are gods, images as it were, of Him, the prototype.”
Commentary on John’s Gospel, Book 2, Chap. 2.
Novatian: who was born about A.D. 200 is known for his work that was posthumously titled Commentary on the Trinity.. It was written about AD. 240, 18 years before his death in 258.
“God the Father and Creator of all things, who only
knows no beginning . . . when He willed it, the Son, the
Word, was born . . . But now, whatever he is, he is not of
himself because he is not unborn, but he is of the Father,
because he is begotten . . . he owes his existence to the
Father . . . He therefore is god, but begotten for this special
result, that he should be god. He is also the Lord, but born
for this very purpose of the Father, that he might be Lord.
He is also an Angel, but he was destined of the Father as an
Angel to announce the great counsel of God . . . God the
Father is God of all, and the source also of His son himself
whom He begot.” Commenturg on the Trinity. , Chap 31.
Arnobius; born A.D. 253 in Sicca, Algeria, was first an enemy of Christianity. When converted, he became a teacher to many new Christians in the West. He wrote Against the Heathen about A.D. 300 and died about A.D. 327.
“We Christians are nothing else than worshippers of the
Supreme King and Head, under our master, Christ.. . 0 great-
est, 0 Supreme Creator of all things invisible ... You are illim-
itable, unbegotten, immortal, enduring for age, God yourself
alone, whom no bodily shape may represent, no outline delin-
eate . . . ‘Is that Christ of yours a god, then?’ some raving,
wrathful and excited man will say. A god, we will reply, and a
god of the powers of heaven, and—what may still further tor-
ture unbelievers with the most bitter pains—he was sent to us
by the King Supreme for a purpose of the very highest order. ~
Against The Heathen, Book 1, Chaps. 27, 31, 42.
Lactantius: Lucius Coelius Firmianus Lactantius , born in Rome A.D. 260, was a student of Arnobius. He was the teacher of Emperor Constantine’s oldest son, Crispus . His work entitled The Divine Institutes was written about A.D. 320 . Eventually moving to France, he died about A.D. 330.
“God, therefore, the contriver and founder of all things, as
we have said in the second book, before He commenced this
excellent work of the world, begat a pure and incorruptible
Spirit whom He called His Son. And although He had after-
wards created by Himself innumerable other beings, whom we
call angels, this first-begotten, however, was the only one
whom He considered worthy of being called by the divine
name.” The Divine Institutes, Book 4, Chap. 6
SUMMARY and CONCLUSIONS.
Some 1600 years have passed since the Trinity was forged. In all that time, no one has been able to provide a clear and logical statement of it. It has begged an explanation in every age. Oddly enough, no scholar or groups of scholars have been able to coin a clear and workable formula that is an acceptable standard for all time. Every explanation is flawed and needs more theology to clarify it. Endeavors at clarification, more often than not, lead into a labyrinth of words with the fog-level index going out of sight. And there we would be left— hopelessly lost and struggling for truth.
The Trinitarians paradoxically operate on two levels. When reading or quoting the Bible, both Trinitarians and non-Trinitarians sound alike. Both refer to the same verses, and their readings are similar. As long as the Bible is adhered to, they are hard to tell apart. But when the Bible is departed from and philosophical arguments are introduced, a wide gap soon appears.
Because the Trinity is a doctrine of inference, and not of statement, it can be sustained only as long as it is continually inferred from the Bible. Whenever the Scriptures are merely read and quoted, the Trinity loses ground. Hence, every so often, the doctrine must be “injected” into the consciousness of the hearers lest they forget . The Trinity has to be piped into Scripture before it can be piped out.
Everyone knows you do not get cider from cotton. Yet, in fact, you can squeeze cider from cotton. However, you must first soak the cotton with cider, and then, lo, and behold, you can squeeze cider from cotton. That is how you may extract the Trinity doctrine from the Bible.
First, saturate the Bible texts to be used with the concept; then squeeze it out. That is why Dr. Pelikan, who has been called “perhaps the foremost living student of Church history,” said, in effect, no one could find the Trinity by just reading the New Testament. You need the theologians to superimpose their theology upon the Word before you can find it there.
In our brief consideration of this subject, we have found the Scriptures unequivocally teach that “to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him” (1 Cor. 8:6)
These are the two great personalities of the Bible, with the holy Spirit an expression of their power and influence. The Father, always supreme and preeminent, exists “from everlasting to everlasting.” The Son, the direct creation of the Father, was highly exalted for his faithfulness in becoming the world’s redeemer; yet he always remains in harmony with and in submission to his Father’s will.
It was also shown that Trinity as a concept was an integral part of heathen religions many centuries prior to Christianity. The idea was borrowed by some later theologians, who, during the third to the fifth centuries, developed it into a basic dogma of the Christian religion. The gradual emergence of the Trinity doctrine is freely acknowledged by most historians, attested by its lack of Scriptural support and demonstrated by the evolving sequence of the basic creeds of the faith.
Hence, rather than being pure truth taught by Jesus and his Apostles, the Trinity turns out to be Church dogma arising gradually from the philosophy of men who attempted to fuse certain heathen and Christian ideas together. It required many years to fashion and shape it against the objections of many of the outstanding leaders of the early Church, as we have noted. In the end, the effort prevailed, a doctrinal theory was created, and it was given the blessing of orthodoxy by official Church councils. Yet all of this does not make it valid, for eternal truth is not the handiwork of man but stems only from our immortal and all-wise God.
We opened this treatise with a discussion of the “doctrine of Christ.” We found this to mean that Jesus had come in the flesh and died in the flesh. It holds that he was the “Anointed” of God, anointed King of Kings and Lord of Lords, and also the abiding Melchizedek priest. He is the glorious Bridegroom for whom the Heavenly Father is selecting a bride during this Gospel age. As Christians, we hope to be joined with our Master in the marriage of the Bride and the Lamb. No Christian can anticipate marriage to God, but only to God’s dear Son. In another figure, he is the vine and we are the branches (John 15:5). And in yet another, he is the head of the body of Christ of which the faithful believers are members (Col. 1:18). In contrast, God is spoken of as being “the head of Christ” (I Cor. 11:3).
Repeating our opening text, 2 John 9 (RSV)— “Any one who goes ahead and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God; he who abides in the doctrine has both the Father and the Son.” The lesson is clear. We cannot have access to the Father apart from the doctrine of Christ—that he is the Anointed One of God. When we accept the singular personhood of Jesus as God’s Anointed, then by addition, we have two—both the Father and the Son . Let us then abide in the doctrine of Christ. In so doing we shall have the extravagant blessing of having both the “Father and the Son”—and that is everything!
The Trinity was a theological attempt at fusion. Somehow, with the incantation of words, the effort was made to fuse God ,Jesus and the holy Spirit into one. We get the feeling, sometimes, that many scholars wish they had not done this, but like the leaning Tower of Pisa, it will just have to remain a religions wonder until it falls of its own weight and imbalance due to an unscriptural foundation.
* * * * * * * *
“ADDING UP THE TRINITY”
In Christianity Today, April 28, 1997, p. 26, in an article entitled,
‘Adding Up the Trinity,” Immanuel Kant and Thomas Jefferson are quoted
on the subject of the logic and practical value of the doctrine of the Trinity.
Kant, for example, argued the doctrine had no practical significance. ‘The doctrine of the Trinity provides nothing, absolutely nothing, of practical value, even if one claims to understand it; still less when one is convinced that it far surpasses our understanding. It costs the student nothing to accept that we adore three or ten persons in the divinity...... Furthermore, this distinction offers absolutely no guidance for his conduct.”
“Jefferson seems particularly irritated by the complexities of ‘Trinitarians arithmetic,” as he called it, a theological mathematics that only served to blur our vision of who Jesus trimly was: ‘When we shall have away with the incomprehensible jargon of the Trinitarian arithmetic, that three are one, and one is three; when we shall have knocked down the artificial scaffolding, reared to mask from view the very simple structure of .Jesus; when, in short, we shall have unlearned everything which has been taught since his day, and got back to the pure and simple doctrines he inculcated, we shall then be truly and worthily his disciples.”
The same article quotes Roderick T. Leupp on his book, Knowing the Name of God; A Trinitarian Tapestry of Grace , Faith and Community. “For most people and, sadly, for most Christins also, the Trinity is the great unknown.
The Trinity, to use a faniiliar equation is viewed as a riddle wrapped up inside a puzzle and buried in an enigma. A riddle, for how can any entity be at the same time multiple (three) yet singular (one)? A puzzle, for the Trinity is so clearly contrary to any rational thought as not to warrant a second thought from sensible people. An enigma, for even if the Trinity could be understood, of what practical value, even what religious value, would it have for ordinary people?”
The article continues: “Not mush, many of us might be tempted to say, As Karl Rahrier notes, “Despite their orthodox confession of the Trinity, Christians are, in their practical life, almost mere monotheists’ So we find the Trinitarians very much in the same posture as the evolutionists.
The evolutionists control the schools, the media and all the mind programming areas, but when all is said and done, most students go to Church on Sunday and sing, “How great Thou art.” They are not true believers in the evolution theory. So with the Trinity, people are programmed to believe the Trinity, but worship God in a monotheistic way and praise Him for sending His son to be our Redeemer.
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