Article of the Month

June 2012

 

  TRINITY?   

 

We almost hesitate to present an Article of the Month on a topic like the Trinity which has traditionally aroused more emotion than thought. So many Christian people find the topic an unquestionable but necessary object of belief — a “mystery” of faith more than an examinable doctrine. This, in itself, should set alarm bells ringing.  Whenever religious teachers surround a teaching with fear and “mystery,” it is likely because nothing short of fear will keep people believing in it.  Fear has always been the devil’s best tool for keeping people in line.  Thus, many Christian people use the doctrine of the Trinity as a litmus test for orthodoxy.  They whip out some form of the magic question, “Do you believe Jesus and God are the same?”  If the response is negative, or even hesitant, these Christians close all doors of communication as if their unreasoning question settles all dispute.   Yet, if we were to put one hundred of these people in the same room and ask them to explain what they mean by Trinity, we might have as many as one hundred variant answers.

In a recent television interview, a nationally known evangelist was asked about the difficulties evangelical Christians have with Mormonism.  His immediate (and only stated) objection was that Mormons do not accept the Trinity.  Mormons, of course, are not the only professedly Christian group which is not Trinitarian.  As the matter of fact, a large percentage of Christians in the early part of America’s history were Unitarian in their beliefs.  Yet, this evangelist made it sound as if Trinitarianism is the single, unchallengeable test of what has always made a Christian a Christian.  It is not.

 

—  History  —

 

It is a sad thing to be historically uninformed.  Tyrants, of course, and bigots along with them, have always wanted to obscure the memory of the past.  Such controllers of thought are those who burn books, discourage questioning, and often (as with Hitler and Stalin) simply murder those who have and teach facts about truths they don’t want to hear.  And the fact is this:  The doctrine of the Trinity was not a part of Christian theology in the days of Jesus and the Apostles.  When Trinitarian thought did emerge, it evolved!  It was not even Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  That trio is only the final recipe that emerged over the centuries!

 

A perceptive and informed Jewish man, Richard E. Rubenstein, a professor at George Mason University in Virginia, has written a book entitled “When Jesus Became God.”  It is one of the better historical treatises on the subject of the evolution of Trinitarian thinking.  Those who wish an unprejudiced treatment of the subject may wish to consult this book for an accurate history.

 

  Scripture 

 

 

Many thousands of pages have been written in defense of and in opposition to Trinitarian thinking.  In a short article like this one, it would be fruitless to try to carefully compare the many Scriptures that are cited on each side of the question.  As a generalization, however, it is fairly safe to say that if a person did not believe in the Trinity before trying to justify it with Scriptures, one would never become Trinitarian from reading the Bible.

 

Jesus, of course, was Jewish, born under and obedient to the Jewish Law.  The Jewish Law certainly does not teach a Trinity!  The doctrine to this day is repugnant to Jews and forms one of the basic roadblocks to a Jew’s having any respect for Christianity.

 

Jesus often magnified the Law.  For instance, he taught that “Thou shalt not commit adultery” could actually be an improper way of THINKING instead of the more obvious illicit open sexual impropriety.  (Matthew 5:27, 28)  But Jesus never contradicted the Law and its content.  As he plainly stated, “I am not come to destroy the Law.”  (Matthew 5:17-19)  As Jews correctly understand it to this day, God is God.  He is not a part of a Trinity.  Everything in the Jewish Law mitigates against Trinitarian thinking — and Jesus believed the Law.

 

 

 The Simple Truth  

 

 

The personal identities of God and Jesus are clearly spelled out in Scripture.  There is nothing complicated or mysterious.  Likewise, the identity of the “Holy Spirit” is clear and unambiguous.  It is not a “person” — not a sentient being.  It is the invisible power and influence of God and of Jesus.

 

Jesus, of course, had a pre-human existence.  He was God’s original and only direct creation.  (Revelation 3:14)  By Jesus everything else was made.   He was his Father’s active agent in creating all that was created.  (John 1:3; Ephesians 3:9; Colossians 1:15-17)  He became a man in order to ransom mankind from the death penalty.  (Hebrews 2:9; Galatians 4:4, 5; I Timothy 2:5, 6)  When God raised him to a new nature, he became (and still is) “the express image” of God’s person…seated “on the right hand of the Majesty on high.”  (Hebrews 1:1-3)  He is not THE God — “the Father,” or YAHWEH.  He is a totally separate, distinct, and created being.  Yet, no Biblically-informed Christian would deny Jesus his rightful place in God’s order of things.  No being approaches Jesus’ greatness and station.  Next to the Father, Jesus is pre-eminent in the universe.  But we don’t need a Trinitarian doctrine to acknowledge his exalted station.

 

The doctrine of the Trinity adds nothing helpful to Christian theology.  It does add confusion of thought because it is unexplainable!  It also challenges truth because it beclouds the philosophy of Jesus’ death —both the reasoning behind it, and the actuality of it.  It is an unscriptural and deceptive teaching unworthy of belief by any thoughtful and studious disciple of Jesus.  Yet, it continues to be perpetuated by most Christian denominations — and with an unreasoning vehemence.

 

What is it, other than Devilish deception, that makes this doctrine seem so important to so many?  How is it necessary that Jesus and his Father be the same being?What does the teaching accomplish?  It seems, actually, to diminish God and to make Jesus into something he could never be if he were really to DIE!

 

And what is it about the Holy Spirit that should make it so “co-equal” in every way with God and with Jesus?  This third part of the Trinitarian doctrine is mostly ignored or pushed into the conversational shadows when Trinitarian concepts are discussed.  And yet, according to orthodoxy, the Holy Spirit is no less than, (yea — it is “co-equal”) the other parts of this God.  Does it somehow defy reason to see the Holy Spirit as inanimate, but powerful in the extreme, because it IS God’s and Jesus’ power working in the universe?  The thought does not defy Scripture!

 

We cannot even hope to expect open discussion on this topic.  Only God will clarify the matter.  We would hope, however, that the Holy Spirit will convince a number of us to, without fear, consider the totality of the Biblical evidences on this matter.  A true understanding releases us from fear and confusion and infuses us with a light which glows with happiness in better knowing God and His relationship to His beloved Son.

 

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