Trinitarians Roger Olson and Christopher Hall say of the
doctrine (the Trinity) in their book, The Trinity (pp. 1-2):
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: Nicaea (324 AD) and Constantinople (381 AD).
Trinitarian Douglas McCready in his work He Came Down
From Heaven, states:
New Testament scholars disagree whether the
N.T. directly calls 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 bestselling book
Christian Doctrine, Professor Shirley C. Guthrie Jr., makes these strong
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 (pp 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 Gods – one “up in heaven” and one who appeared down here on earth?
The N.T. does not solve this problem (pp 78, 79). The doctrine of the
Trinity is not found in the Bible (p. 80).
Trinitarian G. W. Bromley is quoted in The Evangelical
Dictionary 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
Professor Charles C. Ryrie, writing in his well known work, Basic Theology, admits:
The N. T. contains no explicit statement of the doctrine of the Trinity of God (since “these three are one” in 1 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 admit that
in the final analysis it is 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.
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 clear or explicitly taught anywhere
in Scripture, yet it is widely regarded as a central doctrine,
indispensible 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 (pp 11, 12).
Erickson goes on to say that some oppose the
doctrine of the Trinity because of:
…[The Trinity] 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 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….There is another, more general objection against the doctrine of the Trinity. It is essentially an argument from 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 1 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.
The noted Catholic scholar Graham Greene was quoted in Life
Magazine 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. (Oct. 30, 1950, Vol. 29, No. 19, p. 51)
Adam Clarke, a Trinitarian Methodist in his Adam
Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible makes this strong statement:
trust I may be permitted to say, with all due respect for those who differ from
me, that the doctrine of the eternal son ship of Christ is in my opinion
anti-Scriptural and highly dangerous (p. 854).
Writer Lee Strobel, in his book The Case for Christ
(two 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’ Dictionary of the Bible, simply states:
avoid every kind of language which suggests that to St. Paul the ascension of
Christ was deification. To a Jew the idea that a man might come to be GOD could
have been an intolerable blasphemy (p.707).
Hastings also says:
It may be that St. Paul nowhere names Christ ‘God.’ To a Jew the idea that a man might come to be God would have been an intolerable blasphemy. (Hastings Dictionary of the Bible: 1994; p. 707-708).
Still more explicit is I Corinthians 11: 3: the head of the woman is the man, and the head of Christ is God; and in I Corinthians 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).
Professor James Dunn, a Trinitarian scholar, in his
exhaustive work Christology in the Making includes the following
There is no clear indication anywhere in Paul that he
ever identified Christ (pre-existent or otherwise) with the Logos (Word) of God
Similarly in Acts there is no sign of any Christology of
pre-existence (p. 51).
In Matthew and Luke Jesus’ divine son ship 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).
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 an 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 popular pagan superstition became popular Christian superstition, by a gradual assimilation and spread of belief (p. 251).
Professor James Dunn, a Trinitarian scholar says in his book “Christology In The Making”:
We cannot claim that Jesus believed himself to be the incarnate Son of God... (p. 254).
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. 51).
Frederic William Farrar, chaplain to the Queen of England, and faculty fellow at Trinity College in Cambridge, in his Early Days of Christianity, vol. I (Boston, Massachusetts: DeWolfe, Fiske & Company, 1882) p. 55, wrote:
The first teachers of Christianity were never charged by the Jews (who unquestionably believed in the strict unity of God), with introducing any new theory of the Godhead. Many foolish and false charges were made against Christ; but this was never alleged against him or any of his disciples. When this doctrine of three persons in one God was introduced into
the Church, by new converts to Christianity, it caused immense excitement for many years.6 Referring to this, Mosheim writes, under the forth century, “The subject of this fatal controversy, which kindled such deplorable divisions throughout the Christian world, was the doctrine of the Three Persons in the Godhead; a doctrine which in the three preceding
centuries had happily escaped the vain curiosity of human researches, and had been left undefined and undetermined by any particular set of ideas.” Would there not have been some similar commotion among the Jewish people in the time of Christ, if such a view of the Godhead had been offered to their notice, and if they had been told that without belief in
this they “would perish everlastingly”?
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:
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, p.
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
International, Univ. of Glasgow, 1982 ed., Vol. 18, p. 228):
The doctrine of the Trinity did not form part of
the apostles preaching as this (preaching) is reported in the N.T.
Dr. Colin Brown, Trinity
and Incarnations: In Search of Contemporary Orthodoxy, Ex Auditu (7); 1991, p. 88-89:
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.
Encyclopedia Britannica, 11 ed. Vol. 23, p.963:
Believers in God as a single person (God, the Father),
were at the beginning of the third century still forming the large majority.
Harper Collins Encyclopedia of Catholicism, p. 564-565:
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.
Encyclopedia Americana, Vol. 27, p. 27-28:
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 13th Century.
International Dictionary of N. T. Theology, Colin Brown, Gen. Ed., Vol. 2,
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.
Encyclopedia of Catholicism, Richard P. McBrein, editor, p 1271:
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 exists 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.
Academic International Encyclopedia, Lexicon
Publ., 1992 ed.; p. 300-301:
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 call 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 Nicaea comprehensible. In the religious thought of the
Enlightenment (17 and 18th centuries) there was a strong reaction
against Trinitarianism as an ‘orthodox’ mystery without basis in either
experience or reason.
Harper Collins Bible Dictionary, Paul J. Achtemeier, Editor, 1996 ed.; pp 452-453, 1052-1053, 1178-1179:
[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 Romans 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
son ship 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
Bishop D. L. Welch stated that: The doctrine of
the Trinity is as weak as the broth off of a turkey’s shadow.
Rogers, former pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church of Memphis, Tennessee, began a
sermon on the doctrine of the Trinity with this statement:
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, who Dr. Billy
Graham calls one of his favorite Evangelical writers, said in a letter to me
recently: “As you know, the Trinity was one of the most hotly debated topics of
the first five centuries, and still it has us scratching our heads.”
“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 Saviour but He used many men
through the ages as “saviours,” and He has used His son Jesus to save us
eternally. II Kings 13:5; Nehemiah 9:27; Obadiah 1:21; Luke 1: 47; 2:11.
Robert A. Wagoner, in The Great Debate Regarding the Father, Son, & Holy Spirit, wrote: