Wrested Scriptures

The Trinity


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Excerpts from Writings of Trinitarians From Their Literature

Shocking Admissions:

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 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 (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. 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 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:

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 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:

We must 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 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 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).

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 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. 396:

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.

Encyclopedia 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.

New International Dictionary of N. T. Theology, Colin Brown, Gen. Ed., Vol. 2, p. 84:

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.

Harper-Collins 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 the N.T.

Bishop D. L. Welch stated that: The doctrine of the Trinity is as weak as the broth off of a turkey’s shadow.

Dr. Adrian Rogers, former pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church of Memphis, Tennessee, 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, 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.”

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 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.

Closing Thoughts

Robert A. Wagoner, in The Great Debate Regarding the Father, Son, & Holy Spirit, wrote:

The Bible has many verses which "teach" justification, "teach" repentance, "teach" baptism, "teach" the resurrection, but not one verse in the entire Bible “teaches” the doctrine of the Trinity. No verse describes it, explains it, or defines it. And no verse tells us to believe it. When one considers just how different the Trinitarian view is from the traditional Jewish view of God, you have to ask yourself, where are all the arguments to get the Jew to change his view? Why, when the Apostle Paul spends entire chapters getting the Jew to change his view of the law, isn’t there just one text to get the Jew to change his view of God? This vital, but missing piece, is the Trinity’s single biggest flaw.

The more I looked at the Trinity, the more I saw a doctrine rich in tradition, and passionately defended by brilliant and sincere people, but serverly weak in reason and badly wanting in Biblical support. (p. 88-89)

 

Compiled by: Philip P. Kapusta