"Facing The Truth Regarding
The Doctrine of The Trinity"
by Joel Hemphill
The Bible clearly teaches that Jesus Christ is the supernaturally conceived, virgin-born, sinless Son of God; savior, redeemer, Messiah and the only way to God . His name is the only name whereby mankind can be saved. He has been anointed, appointed, approved, empowered and ordained to build a kingdom, which he will reign over on Planet Earth for 1000 years, before he lays it at the feet of God our Father (I Cor. 15:24-28; Rev. 20:4-7) .
But Jesus is not a human incarnation of Almighty God as the Oneness teach, nor an incarnation of God the Son, second person of a triune God, a pre-existent being, as millions of Trinitarians believe.
The God of the Bible is one Entity, Being, Person .
"Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord " (Moses speaking) (Deut. 8:6). Notice: God is one Lord, not three.
"Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord " (Jesus speaking) (Mark 12:29).
"The one and only God ...the Father" (Jesus speaking) (John 5:44 - NASB) .
"Father...that they might know thee the only true God " (Jesus speaking) (John 17:3).
"Why callest thou me good? There is none good but one , that is God " (Jesus speaking) (Matt. 19:17).
"To us there is but one God , the Father" (Paul speaking) (I Cor. 8:6).
The Most High God is not a Trinity, He is one .
"For I am the Lord thy God, the Holy one of Israel...before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me. I, even I, am the Lord; and beside me there is no Savior...ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord, that I am God . I am the Lord, your Holy one , the Creator of Israel" (Isa. 43:3, 10-12, 15). Note: God is our true Savior but He used many men thru the ages as "saviors," and He has used His son Jesus to save us eternally. (II Kings 13:5; Neh. 9:27; Obed. 1:21; Luke 1:47, 2:11).
Shocking Admissions .
Again and again as I am studying the doctrine of the Trinity and in wonderment at its errors, I am amazed at the number of noted Trinitarian scholars who admit in their writings that it is not a doctrine clearly taught in Scripture. Here are some of their shocking admissions.
Trinitarians Roger Olson and Christopher Hall say of the doctrine in their book, "The Trinity:"
"It is understandable that the importance placed on this doctrine is perplexing to many lay Christians and students. Nowhere is it clearly and unequivocally stated in Scripture. How can it be so important if it is not explicitly stated in Scripture?" (p. 1). "The doctrine of the Trinity developed gradually after the completion of the N.T. in the heat of controversy. The full-blown doctrine of the Trinity was spelled out in the fourth century at two great ecumenical councils: Nicea (325 A.D.) and Constantinople (381 A.D.)." (p. 1-2)
Trinitarian Douglas McCready in his work "He Came Down From Heaven" states:
"New Testament scholars disagree whether the N.T. directly calls Jesus God. In terms of first century Judaism, it would be understandable if no N.T. writer described Jesus as God because of the difficulty such language would create for early Christians with a Jewish background... It is important to note that every passage that identifies Jesus as 'theos' can be translated other ways or has variants that read differently" (p. 51). "In biblical Judaism the term 'messiah' did not necessarily carry any connotation of divine status, and Jews of Jesus' day were not expecting their messiah to be other than human." (p. 55). "While some have used the title ('Son of God') to denote Jesus' deity, neither the Judaism nor the paganism of Jesus' day understood the title in this way. Neither did the early church " (p. 56).
Writing as a Trinitarian in his best selling book "Christian Doctrine," Prof. Shirley C. Guthrie Jr., makes these strong admissions:
"The Bible does not teach the doctrine of the Trinity. Neither the word 'trinity' itself nor such language as 'one-in-three,' 'three-in-one,' one 'essence' (or "substance"), and three 'persons' is biblical language. The language of the doctrine is the language of the ancient church taken from classical Greek philosophy " (p. 76-77). "But there is an obvious problem here (calling Jesus Lord and Savior) . There is only one God, the Creator of heaven and earth, the Lord and Savior of Israel. If we say that God is really present and at work in Jesus, how can we avoid saying that there are in fact two God's - one 'up in heaven' and one who appeared down here on earth? The N.T. does not solve this problem" (p. 78-79). "The doctrine of the Trinity is not found in the Bible" (p. 80).
Trinitarian G.W. Bromiley is quoted in "The Evangelical Dict. of Theology" edited by Walter Elwell, as saying:
"In the New Testament there is no explicit statement of the doctrine..." (p.1112)
Respected Trinitarian Evangelical Biblical scholar Prof. Charles C. Ryrie, writing in his well known work "Basic Theology" admits:
"The N.T. contains no explicit statement of the doctrine of the triunity of God (since "these three are one" in I John 5:7 is apparently not a part of the genuine text of Scripture )" (p. 60). "A definition of the Trinity is not easy to construct. Some are done by stating several propositions. Others err on the side of oneness or threeness" (p. 61). "Even with all the discussion and delineation that we attempt in relation to the Trinity, we must acknowledge that it is in the final analysis a mystery" (p. 61). "In the second half of the fourth century , three theologians from the province of Cappadocia in eastern Asia Minor gave definitive shape to the doctrine of the Trinity " (p. 65). "But many doctrines are accepted by evangelicals as being clearly taught in the Scripture for which there are no proof texts. The doctrine of the Trinity furnishes the best example of this. It is fair to say that the Bible does not clearly teach the doctrine of the Trinity . In fact, there is not even one proof text , if by proof text we mean a verse or passage that 'clearly' states that there is one God who exists in three persons" (p. 89). "The above illustrations prove the fallacy of concluding that if something is not proof texted in the Bible we cannot clearly teach the results... If that were so, I could never teach the doctrine of the Trinity or the deity of Christ or the deity of the Holy Spirit " (p. 90).
Regarding the O.T. name for God, "Elohim," Ryrie says:
"To conclude plurality of persons from the name itself is dubious " (doubtful) (p. 58).
Trinitarian Millard J. Erickson, research professor of theology at S.W. Baptist Theological Seminary (Southern Baptist) in his book on the Trinity, "God In Three Persons," is compelled by the Biblical evidence to make some strong admissions:
"This doctrine in many ways presents strange paradoxes... It is a widely disputed doctrine, which has provoked discussion throughout all the centuries of the church's existence. It is held by many with great vehemence and vigor. These advocates are certain they believe the doctrine, and consider it crucial to the Christian faith. Yet many are unsure of the exact meaning of their belief. It was the very first doctrine dealt with systematically by the church, yet is still one of the most misunderstood and disputed doctrines. Further, it is not clearly or explicitly taught anywhere in Scripture , yet it is widely regarded as a central doctrine, indispensable to the Christian faith. In this regard, it goes contrary to what is virtually an axiom (a self evident truth) of biblical doctrine, namely, that there is a direct correlation between the Scriptural clarity of a doctrine and its cruciality to the faith and life of the church" (p. 11-12).
Erickson goes on to say that some oppose the doctrine of the Trinity because of :
"....the apparent silence of the Bible on this important subject. This contention notes that there really is no explicit statement of the doctrine of the Trinity in the Bible , particularly since the revelation by textual criticism of the spurious nature of I John 5:7. Other passages have been seen on closer study to be applicable only under the greatest strain . The question, however is this. It is claimed that the doctrine of the Trinity is a very important, crucial, and even basic doctrine. If that is indeed the case, should it not be somewhere more clearly, directly, and explicitly stated in the Bible? If this is the doctrine that especially constitutes Christianity's uniqueness, how can it be only implied in the biblical revelation? In response to the complaint that a number of portions of the Bible are ambiguous or unclear, we often hear a statement something like, 'it is the peripheral matters that are hazy or on which there seem to be conflicting biblical materials. The core beliefs are clearly and unequivocally revealed.' This argument would appear to fail us with respect to the doctrine of the Trinity, however. For here is a seemingly crucial matter where the Scriptures do not speak loudly or clearly. Little direct response can be made to this charge. It is unlikely that any text of Scripture can be shown to teach the doctrine of the Trinity in a clear, direct, and unmistakable fashion . " (How can Erickson go on claiming belief in the doctrine of the Trinity after making such statements?). He goes further , "There is one final and quite serious consideration regarding the biblical status of the doctrine of the Trinity. That concerns the texts that seem to argue against it.
1. The first group of texts are those that seem to say that the Son was a creature ." (He cites Proverbs 8:22-26; Acts 2:36; Romans 8:29; Colossians 1:15; and Hebrews 3:2. He should have included Revelation 3:14 where Jesus declared that he is "the beginning of the creation of God").
2. "The second classification of passages is those in which God the Father is represented as the only true God, especially when these are uttered by Jesus himself " (He cites John 17:3; Mark 10:18; and Luke 18:19).
3. "A third group of texts includes those that seem to imply that Jesus is inferior or subordinate to the Father " (He cites John 14:28; and Matthew 26:39).
4. "The final group of texts....is the whole collection of statements about the limitations on the Son , whether involving ignorance, weakness, suffering, or development" (He cites Matthew 24:36; Mark 9:21; Luke 2:52 and Hebrews 5:8). Erickson then makes this revealing statement, " Not all of these texts can be easily disposed of ."
The noted Catholic scholar Graham Greene was quoted in Life magazine a few years ago as saying:
"Our opponents sometimes claim that no belief should be held dogmatically which is not explicitly stated in Scripture...but the Protestant Churches have themselves accepted such dogmas as The Trinity , for which there is no such precise authority in the Gospels." And he of course is right!
Adam Clarke, a Trinitarian Methodist in his "Adam Clarke's Commentary on The Bible" makes this strong statement:
"Here I trust I may be permitted to say, with all due respect for those who differ from me, that the doctrine of the eternal sonship of Christ is in my opinion anti-Scriptural and highly dangerous " (p. 854).
Writer Lee Strobel, in his book "The Case For Christ" ("2 million copies sold"), recounts a conversation with Trinitarian professor Ben Witherington of Asbury Theological Seminary, regarding the person of Jesus. Witherington makes this interesting statement, "If he had simply announced, 'Hi, folks' I'm God,' that would have been heard as 'I'm Yahweh,' because the Jews of his day didn't have any concept of the Trinity. They only knew of God the Father - whom they called Yahweh - and not God the Son or God the Holy Spirit. So if someone were to say he was God , that wouldn't have made any sense to them and would have been seen as clear-cut blasphemy " (p. 133).
Theologian James Hastings, a Trinitarian, in his famous work "Hastings' Dict. of The Bible" similarly states:
"We must avoid every kind of language which suggests that to St. Paul the ascension of Christ was a deification. To a Jew the idea that a man might come to be God would have been an intolerable blasphemy " (p. 707).
Hastings says also:
"It may be that St. Paul nowhere names Christ 'God,' " and verses that seem to him (Hastings) to infer it, " must all be otherwise explained." Hastings calls this "one of the most baffling problems of N.T. theology." He states that "No candid exegete (an expert in explaining Scriptures) will deny that over and over again Christ is somehow given a place inferior to God , His entire redeeming work and position being traced back directly to the Father. We have such expressions as 'God sent forth his Son' (Gal. 4:4), 'He that spared not his own Son' (Rom. 8:32), 'God hath highly exalted him' (Phil. 2:9) in which either the gift of Christ to the world, or the bestowal of exalted glory on Christ Himself, is declared to be God's act. All is accepted, endured, achieved 'to the glory of God the Father. ' " Hastings continues, "Still more explicit is I Cor. 11:3 'the head of the woman is the man, and the head of Christ is God'; and in I Cor. 15:28 Christ is portrayed as delivering up the Kingdom to God , and as finally submitting even Himself to a higher , 'that God may be all in all'. St. Paul does not give us much help, perhaps in solving this antinomy" (inconsistency) (p. 708) . Paul is not inconsistent , it is we who have been inconsistent in our interpretation of Paul, in our effort to make Jesus "God."
Prof. James Dunn, a Trinitarian scholar, in his exhaustive work "Christology In The Making" includes the following statements:
"There is no clear indication anywhere in Paul that he ever identified Christ (pre-existent or otherwise) with the Logos (Word) of God" (p. 39). "Similarly in Acts there is no sign of any christology of pre-existence" (p. 51). "In Matthew and Luke Jesus' divine sonship is traced back specifically to his birth or conception...he was Son of God because his conception was an act of creative power by the Holy Spirit " (p. 61). "In the earliest period of Christianity 'Son of God' was not an obvious vehicle of a christology of incarnation or pre-existence. Certainly such a christology cannot be traced back to Jesus himself with any degree of conviction,...it is less likely that we can find such a christology in Paul or Mark or Luke or Matthew" (p. 64). "There is no thought in any of the passages we have studied of Jesus existing prior to his birth whether as an angel or archangel, a spirit or the Spirit. There is no thought whatsoever of Jesus on earth as the incarnation of angel or archangel, spirit or Spirit" (p.159). "They (the N.T. writers) do not think of Jesus as the incarnation of the Spirit, nor of Jesus as already Spirit prior to his existence on earth" (p. 61). "In the early stages of this development (the time of Paul's writings) it would be inaccurate to say that Christ was understood as a pre-existent being become incarnate, or that Christ himself was thought to have been present and active in creation" (p.211). "There is no indication that Jesus thought or spoke of himself as having pre-existed with God prior to his birth or appearance on earth." (That is) "christological thinking which cannot be traced back to Jesus himself. We cannot claim that Jesus believed himself to be the incarnate Son of God " (p. 254). "There is of course always the possibility that ' poplar pagan superstition ' became popular Christian superstition , by a gradual assimilation and spread of belief" (p. 251).
Friend, if Jesus, Paul, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Peter knew nothing of a pre-existence and incarnation, it did not happen ! It is baffling to me that after all of these admissions, Prof. Dunn closes out his text with a "Trinitarian confession" (p. 268). It reminds me of a story that is told of a man who thought he was dead. In spite of all efforts by family and friends to convince him otherwise, he could not be persuaded. Finally in desperation his family took him to a psychiatrist who tried his best to convince him as well. Failing also, the doctor had an idea and said, "Let me ask you something, do dead men bleed?" "No, dead men don't bleed" he replied. "Are your sure" the doctor asked? "Yes, I'm sure" the man said! Grabbing his finger the doctor pricked it with a pin and looking at the spot of blood said, "Now, what do you think of that?" "Well, I was wrong" the man exclaimed, "Dead men do bleed!"
Revealing statements from other credible sources.
There are other credible sources such as encyclopedias, dictionaries, and secular works that make revealing statements regarding the doctrine of the Trinity not being found in the Bible. They have no apparent "ax to grind" in regard to its truth or error, but make these statements based on history and scholarship. Here are some examples:
"The Trinity doctrine; the Catholic Faith is this: We worship one in trinity, but there is one person of the Father, another of the Son and another of the Holy Ghost - the Glory equal; the Majesty coeternal. The doctrine is not found in its fully developed form in the Scriptures. Modern theology does not seek to find it in the O.T. At the time of the Reformation the Protestant Church took over the doctrine of the Trinity, without serious examination ." (New Intl. Ency.; 1916 Ed.; Vol. 23; p. 47, 477).
"No record of the Trinitarian formula can be discovered in the Acts or the Epistles of the Apostles." (Intl. Standard Bible Ency.; Vol. 1; p. 396).
"The doctrine of the Trinity did not form part of the apostles preaching as this (preaching) is reported in the N.T." (Ency. Intl.; U. Of Glasgow; 1982 ed.; Vol. 18; p. 226).
"It is a common but patent misreading of the opening of John's Gospel to read it as if it said: 'In the beginning was the Son and the Son was with God and the Son was God.' What has happened here is the substitution of Son for Word, and thereby the Son is made a member of the Godhead which existed from the beginning." (Dr. Colin Brown, "Trinity and Incarnation: In Search of Contemporary Orthodoxy;" Ex Auditu; (7); 1991; p. 88-89).
Believers in God as a single person (God the Father), were "at the beginning of the third century still forming the large majority ." (Ency. Britannica; 11 th ed.; Vol. 23; p. 963).
"Today scholars generally agree that there is no doctrine of the Trinity as such in either the O.T. or the N.T. It would go far beyond the intention and thought-forms of the O.T. to suppose that a late-fourth-century or thirteenth-century Christian doctrine can be found there. Likewise, the N.T. does not contain an explicit doctrine of the Trinity." (Harper Collins Ency. Of Catholicism; p. 564-565).
"The Trinity is a 'mystery,' a formula or conception which really transcends human understanding. It is held that although the doctrine is beyond the grasp of human reason it...may be apprehended (though it may not be comprehended) by the human mind. The full development of Trinitarianism took place in the West , in the Scholasticism of the Middle Ages , when an explanation was undertaken in terms of philosophy and psychology , especially of the recovered Aristotelianism of the 13 th Century." (Ency. Americana; Vol. 27; p. 27-28).
" The N.T. does not contain the developed doctrine of the Trinity . The Bible lacks the express declaration that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are of equal essence and therefore in an equal sense God himself. And the other express declaration is also lacking, that God is God thus and only thus, i.e. as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. These two express declarations, which go beyond the witness of the Bible , are the twofold content of the Church doctrine of the Trinity." (New Intl. Dict. of N.T. Theology; Colin Brown, Gen. Ed.; Vol. 2; p. 84).
"Trinitarian doctrine as such emerged in the fourth century , due largely to the efforts of Athanasius and the Cappadocians... The doctrine of the Trinity formulated in the late fourth century thus affirms that the one God exits as three Persons. The purpose of this formulation was to profess that God, Christ, and the Spirit are equally responsible for our salvation, thus each must be divine ." (Harper-Collins Ency. of Catholicism; Richard P. McBrein, Ed.; p. 1271).
"The doctrine of the Trinity is a post-scriptural attempt to bring to coherent expression diverse affirmations about God... For Christians the one God appeared in what they called a threefold 'economy,' in, so to speak, three forms or modes. Difficulties soon emerged in formulating and understanding the threefold 'economy.' Catholic and Protestant theology has sought in various ways to make the doctrine stated at Nicea comprehensible . In the religious thought of the Enlightenment (17 th and 18 th centuries) there was a strong reaction against Trinitarianism as an 'orthodox' mystery without basis in either experience or reason ." (Academic Intl. Ency.; Lexicon Pub.; 1992 ed.; p. 300-301).
(Incarnation) "refers to the Christian doctrine that the pre-existent Son of God became man in Jesus. None of these writers (Matthew, Mark, Luke) deals with the question of Jesus' pre-existence. Paul does not directly address the question of the incarnation... It is only with the fathers of the church in the third and fourth centuries , that a full-fledged theory of the incarnation develops." "The use of the word "appointed" in Rom. 1:4 indicates that at this stage in the history of Christian thought the title "Son of God" denoted an office or function in salvation history, rather than a metaphysical quality as in later dogmatics. This usage is in accord with O.T. Jewish thinking . (The birth narratives of Matthew and Luke) "do not imply a pre-existence - incarnation Christology or a divine son-ship in the metaphysical sense. Rather, it implies Jesus' predestination from the womb for a messianic role in salvation history. The functional meaning of divine sonship is made clear in Luke 1:32-33." "It is generally acknowledged that the Church father Tertullian (A.D. 145-220) either coined the term (Trinity) or was the first to use it with reference to God. The explicit doctrine was thus formulated in the post-biblical period ... Attempts to trace the origins still earlier to the O.T. literature cannot be supported by historical-critical scholarship. The formal doctrine of the Trinity as it was defined by the great Church Councils of the fourth and fifth centuries is not to be found in the N.T." (Harper-Collins Bible Dict.; Paul J. Achtemeier, Ed.; 1996 ed; p. 452-453, 1052-1053, 1178-1179).
With these statements in mind I wholeheartedly agree with what my old friend, the late Bishop D.L. Welch said, "The doctrine of the Trinity is as weak as the broth off of a turkey's shadow." No wonder the late Dr. Adrian Rogers, former pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church of Memphis, TN., began a sermon on the doctrine of the Trinity with this statement: "Ladies and gentlemen, I am going to confess to you at the start of this message that I do not understand it" (the Trinity) . No wonder a famous author, whom Dr. Billy Graham calls one of his favorite Evangelical writer's, said in a letter to me recently: "As you know, the Trinity was one of the most hotly debated topics of the first 5 centuries, and still it has us scratching our heads ."
Theology must be intelligible .
I agree with Prof. Ryrie when he begins his book "Basic Theology" with these statements regarding Christian theology:
"The word 'theology,' from 'theos' meaning God and 'logos' meaning rational expression, means the rational interpretation of religious faith. Christian theology thus means the rational interpretation of the Christian faith. Theology is intelligible . It can be comprehended by the human mind in an orderly, rational manner " (p. 13). Ryrie continues, "God communicates in a normal, plain or literal manner. Ignoring this will result in the same kind of confused exegesis that characterized the Patristic and Medieval interpreters" (p. 17). Regrettably, Brother Ryrie breaks his own rule when he comes to the doctrine of the Trinity.
The Emperor Is Naked
The doctrine of the Trinity with its lack of Biblical covering reminds me of a tale by Hans Christian Andersen called "The Emperor's New Clothes." The story concerns an Emperor who was so vain regarding what he wore that he cared nothing about anything except showing off new clothes.
Two swindlers came to town, and picking up on the Emperor's vanity, they decided to embarrass him and make a lot of money besides. They got themselves appointed to make the Emperor a new suit, but instead of using the cash they were given to buy the finest silk, they wove the trousers, coat and mantle out of invisible material "as light as a spider's web."
The Emperor could hardly wait! Day after day he sent officials to see the work in progress. They were ashamed to tell him that they had seen nothing, so they came back each time exclaiming over the magnificent design and colors.
Finally the day arrived for the Emperor to lead a great procession in the exquisite new clothes. Putting them on, with his officials around him exclaiming, he did not dare tell them that he felt naked. His whole retinue stared and stared. One saw no more than the other, but they all joined the Emperor in exclaiming, "Oh! It is soo pretty!" His chariot was waiting. Giving each of the swindlers a cross to wear around his neck, and bestowing upon each the title of "Sir Weaver," he departed to lead the great parade.
Everyone in the streets and windows cheered and said, "Oh, how fine are the Emperor's new clothes! Don't they fit him to perfection? And see his long train!" No one dared confess that he couldn't see anything.
"But the Emperor is naked," a little boy said. "Well, that's true!" said his father. And one person whispered to another what the child had said, "He hasn't anything on. A child says he is naked." Gaining courage the whole town cried out at last, "The Emperor hasn't got anything on!"
You may ask, "what are you saying?" I am saying that the doctrine of the Trinity is Biblically naked , and I am calling on all of those who see and love the truth to join me in speaking up.
In Christian Love,