A challenging article re: Trinitarian thought.


Paidion, you said "The problem which is brought out vanishes if we can accept that the Son of God actually BECAME man, rather than being the pre-incarnate Son clothed with a human body. "

That’s where I’m at as well. I just cannot see how to go any further. I’m trying though, for many reasons, to grasp what I am missing in the argument for the Trinity, if I am missing something.

Scripture does of course talk about the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. I of course accept that. The incarnation, though…man, that is a tough one, unless the Son actually became MAN.


I’ll have to go over Bill’s comments (and Joseph’s letter to him) some other time.

Trinitarians don’t always appreciate that the kenosis (pouring out, self-sacrifice) of the 2nd Person must be fundamental to the distinction of that Person in the deity of God: even at the level of God’s own eternal self-existence, the Son receives all things from the Father and does nothing except (analogically speaking) what He sees the Father doing. The act of creating not-God entities (if my metaphysical logic is correct) involves a concurrent but different self-sacrificial action of the Son (different from the self-sacrificial action of God’s coherent self-existence I mean), and that goes so far that any Incarnation personally as a baby of two natures would be less of a kenosis by comparison!

The pouring out of the 2nd Person in Incarnation, consequently, can go very far without losing the personal identity of the Son, even if in regard to the particular action of the Incarnation there are various mental and physical limitations.

In regard to any natural miracle at all, God is “doing” something in Nature in a limited way while “also” actively self-existing eternally as God transcendent to all natural space-times, and while “also” self-sacrificially keeping any not-God realities in existence. The Incarnation isn’t an exception to that capability, assuming we have already inferred (or are at least prepared to grant for sake of argument) that God acts particularly in any natural system at all. The Incarnation would rather be the example par excellance (or however the French spell it :wink: ) of that capability.

I’m leading out with this because my quick scan of Bill’s reply (and thanks for bolding his portions, Dave!) gives me a (perhaps mistaken) impression that he’s critiquing a point that Lewis used to stumble over, namely how can the Incarnation and also orthodox trinitarianism both be true if Jesus is so fully human (as the Gospels certainly testify) that He has human limitations? – wouldn’t that mean the Son inherently has only human limitations and characteristics, or that the Son stops existing as divine and starts existing as human and then goes back to existing as divine (so cannot be never-endingly divine, a necessary characteristic for the one and only God Most High)?

But I may have quickly misunderstood what Bill was after. I’m running a bit late already this afternoon and need to move along. Hopefully later!


Thanks, when you get caught up with things please pay a visit back to this, if you remember. Better yet, I’ll nag you on it in a few weeks :smiley:

The OP was an obvious troll for you and Paidion :blush: - all are welcomed of course, to comment or just read.


The trinity seems really to be a late theological development.

Neither Peter nor James nor Mark believed in it.


Perhaps you are right; however a late development does not mitigate against it being true.
I know what you’re saying but I don’t think we can sew up the argument one way or the other with that reason alone.


Just to unload a heretical proposition here (trolls allowed?), I think the term “God” is a term relative to a domain, kingdom, phylum, division, class, order, family, genus, species, etc. There is only one (numerically) God domain, but there are three that may legitimately use that title (God) because of the intrinsic properties that belong to that title (creator, before all, omnipotent, omnicient…). There is an order within that domain, just as there is an order within every kingdom, phylum, division, class, order, family, genus, species. The Father is superior to the Son- in that the Son submits to the Father, but not vice versa. The Son only does what the Father instructs, but not vice versa. The Son is legitimately God - God the Son.

The physical universe was created through and for the Son. The Son was intended, from the only-begotten past, to bridge the physical and the spiritual worlds together into the Father. God the Father is spirit. God the Son is physical. God is within all things, spiritual and physical. This was not caused by sin, it was brought about through the operation of sin. God has intended a great marriage take place between humans and God Himself - through the Son. This marriage of the bride of Christ was always intended. God’s will is to have the entire physical universe ruled by the unique Kingdom, which is a select group of humans who are to rule over the universe with their Christ. Again, this was not an afterthought, nor was it a compensation or compromise because of sin. This was God’s eternal purpose. Sin was the means in which to bring all things into a new creation. That was always intended, but the journey of sin unfolds our individual merits of being co-rulers with Christ. This role is not for every Christian - it is for a select few. This is the primary purpose of creation. The secondary purpose is to sort out humanity, after they have been tested by sin, into division, class, order, family, genus, species. This is not the destination - this is the journey. Our destination is based on the merits of our lives of faith and sin.

Jesus became man to reconcile man to God, and to allow man to identify their heavenly bridegroom before the wedding takes place. As this is a mystical wedding, so too, God has concealed his plans in a mystical and mysterious body of writings and life experiences. Some will refuse God’s wooing and poetic hymnology as barbaric. Others will be seduced into their lovers embrace, and like the true love of the Sulamite, they will find no fault in their courtier, and they will wait faithfully as virgins for their scheduled unification.

The current Nicene model of the trinity does not allow for any spiritual recognition of God’s eternal purpose in the Son becoming man. The atonement and the cross are means to an end - they are not themselves the end. They are simply the means to achieve what God had eternally planned - the unity of the entire universe into the Son. This eternal will of God has been confounded in the Nicene dogma, and it has divided the world through compounding the mystery and will of God. Like an old school uniform, the Nicene dogma will soon be a relic of the past as something we have grown out of. It was needed for a time (apparently), but the rigidity it left has now become a barrier for comfort and freedom. It is akin to the Old Testament laws, and rightly, it developed close to that time frame. Paidion has a very close model (IMO) to the biblical mystery of the Godhead. I also think that Eunomius of Cyzicus, Sir Isaac Newton and William Whiston had done a great service to the church in rattling the cage of incongruence (when they translated and published the lost work of Eunomius: The First Apology).

(See **Eunomius: The First Apology **- against which, Basil the Great wrote his Confutation)



Lots to think about there, Steve, and I will.
I am trying - trying - to keep myself focused on the Trinity OP, and then all these tempting by-ways are opened up. Show some mercy on a poor hobbit and let me push the two natures-one person thing further before drawing me off into the wilderness?? :laughing:


LOL. Bless you Dave. I will try to stop trolling now.



:laughing: Thanks for your understanding.


Good perception, Jason. I didn’t get that out of the article, but perhaps it’s there and I missed it. Wouldn’t be the first time I didn’t read carefully enough. And indeed, I think that His ceasing to be divine while He lives as a man, and then becoming divine again at His resurrection may be the case, although I feel a little uneasy about that, and would never have put it in that way. As I did, in fact, put it, He divested Himself of all of His divine attributes (Heb. 1:3), and retained only His identity while He was a son of man.

Great paragraph, Stef!

Yes, the Son is “God” in the sense of being “God stuff” or divine as in John 1:1. For that reason second-century Christian writers, such as Justin Martyr, referred to Him as “God”. Even the apostle John called Him “the ONLY-begotten God” in John 1:18, but the expression “God the Son” to the best of my knowledge is never affirmed by any but Trinitarians.

There are 18 occurrences of “God the Father” in the New Testament.

How many occurrences of “God the Son”? ZERO.

How many of “God the Holy Spirit”? ZERO.


You are right! But, … using a non-biblical term does not make the term wrong… it depends what is meant by it and why it is used. Jesus was clearly the Son, and Jesus is most definitely referred to as God. To distinguish Jesus from God the Father… it is appropriate to use the terms “God the Son”.

For me personally, I think classical trinitarians (post-Nicaea) have used the term in an erroneous way, and they have constructed a vision of God which is quite… hmmm… illogical. God’s mystery does not need to become weird to be a mystery. The distinction between the Father and Son was made quite clear by the ECF like Justin in the concept of subnumeration. This view (of subnumeration) was eventually rejected by the 4th century church, but it is undeniable within the 2nd and 3rd century christians. This classification within the subject of the Godhead was a safeguard against the runaway mysticism which followed after the 4th century.

**150 AD - Justin Martyr **

**190 AD - Clement Of Alexandria **

200 AD - Tertullian



Steve - Could you give any more examples of first/second century subnumeration in the ECF?


Ok, Dave, I will probably get back to this tomorrow. I will see how time greets me :slight_smile:


I have edited down the long OP to four of the more obvious arguments. I have numbered them, strangely enough, One through Four.
Do trinitarians have any answers to these specific questions?
The response that 'we know the Trinity is a clear scriptural truth, but wrapped in mystery so unfathomable that we can’t…fathom it" seems to me to be arguing backwards. If it was clear, there would have been a whole lot less meanness in church history, on both sides of the issue. If it isn’t clear, then it’s only natural to try to clear it up. If we can’t clear it up, then the jump to ‘well it is too ginormous for us to comprehend’ may be the only answer, but only if it is shown to be true.
There are acres and acres of smart trinitarians; I’ve read a few but still cannot get past things like 1-4.
I know that this has all been hashed and re-hashed for centuries, but it is evergreen in mankind’s attempt to understand God.
I’d prefer to have comments on this by referring to the aforementioned complicated numbering system. :laughing:

**One **
BV: If there are two streams of consciousness, one human, the other divine, then presumably there are two (synchronic and diachronic) unities of consciousness. But it is not clear how one person can encompass two distinct unities of consciousness. The Chalcedonian definition requires that there be exactly one person with two natures. Now if there is exactly one person, then it seems there would have to be exactly one (synchronic and diachronic) unity of
consciousness. Otherwise, there would be something like multiple personality disorder.

The Son assumes humanity, that is acquires the property of being human by becoming humanly embodied. The Son also assumes a human rational soul and human body. ‘Soul’ is ambiguous here. Perhaps one can say that it means principle of life. But then perhaps this phrase turns out to be ambiguous too. In the Platonic sense, a soul is an immaterial mental substance. In the Aristotelian sense, a soul is a substantial form or property in virtue of which a living substance is alive. In the Platonic sense, the Son assumes a human rational soul by becoming a human rational soul.

BV: How exactly? By becoming identical to a human rational soul? How then could the Son retain its divine properties?

In the Aristotelian sense, the Son assumes a human rational soul by acquiring a property in virtue of which he is a human rational living substance. This could involve acquiring a distinctively human rational stream of consciousness. More straightforwardly, the Son assumes a human body by coming to stand in the relation of human embodiment to a human biological organism. I am taking ‘human body’ as human biological organism.

This is my substance dualist account of the Incarnation. But another account that equally defends the doctrine from the charge of inconsistency is the one Trenton Merricks provides in his paper ‘The Word became Flesh: Dualism, Physicalism, and the Incarnation’ (unpublished), where to be human is to be a human biological organism, in which case God becomes human by becoming a human biological organism.

BV: Both on your and Merrick’s accounts, I am left with my question of how one thing can have incompatible properties.

I do not believe that, in the Incarnation, one person incarnates himself in another person. The Son becomes incarnate or humanly embodied in a human biological organism. But this human biological organism is not a mental subject. So the Son does not incarnate himself in another person.

BV: The trouble with saying this is that the Son does not become man by assuming a human body, but by assuming a human body together with its animating rational soul, which latter is a mental subject. That a divine mind should acquire a human body is not so problematic; but that a divine mind should acquire a human mind-body complex is quite problematic. How can two minds/persons be one mind/person?

BV: Here is the problem in a nutshell. Two persons in two natures gives you the heresy of Nestorius. But one person in two natures presents the problem of how one person can have radically different natures. If Christ is both fully divine and fully human, then Christ does not merely have a live human body, he also has a human mind. But how can there be two minds without two persons? If you say that a divine mind occupies a human body, then that is the heresy of Apollinaris.


I think this refers mainly to ONE in the above post.
From Wm. Ellery Channing. I don’t think that this essay (this is only an excerpt) or any other single work will settle the case, ever, one way or t’other.
But this is a very clear, moderate, and thoughtful presentation on the subject, and not to be taken lightly:

We object to the doctrine of the Trinity, that, whilst acknowledging in words, it subverts in effect, the unity of God. According to this doctrine, there are three infinite and equal persons, possessing supreme divinity, called the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Each of these persons, as described by theologians, has his own particular consciousness, will, and perceptions. They love each other, converse with each other, and delight in each other’s society. They perform different parts in man’s redemption, each having his appropriate office, and neither doing the work of the other. The Son is mediator and not the Father. The Father sends the Son, and is not himself sent; nor is he conscious, like the Son, of taking flesh. Here, then, we have three intelligent agents, possessed of different consciousness, different wills, and different perceptions, performing different acts, and sustaining different relations; and if these things do not imply and constitute three minds or beings, we are utterly at a loss to know how three minds or beings are to be formed. It is difference of properties, and acts, and consciousness, which leads us to the belief of different intelligent beings, and, if this mark fails us, our whole knowledge fall; we have no proof, that all the agents and persons in the universe are not one and the same mind. When we attempt to conceive of three Gods, we can do nothing more than represent to ourselves three agents, distinguished from each other by similar marks and peculiarities to those which separate the persons of the Trinity; and when common Christians hear these persons spoken of as conversing with each other, loving each other, and performing different acts, how can they help regarding them as different beings, different minds?
We do, then, with all earnestness, though without reproaching our brethren, protest against the irrational and unscriptural doctrine of the Trinity. “To us,” as to the Apostle and the primitive Christians, “there is one God, even the Father.” With Jesus, we worship the Father, as the only living and true God. We are astonished, that any man can read the New Testament, and avoid the conviction, that the Father alone is God. We hear our Saviour continually appropriating this character to the Father. We find the Father continually distinguished from Jesus by this title. “God sent his Son.” “God anointed Jesus.” Now, how singular and inexplicable is this phraseology, which fills the New Testament, if this title belong equally to Jesus, and if a principal object of this book is to reveal him as God, as partaking equally with the Father in supreme divinity! We challenge our opponents to adduce one passage in the New Testament, where the word God means three persons, where it is not limited to one person, and where, unless turned from its usual sense by the connexion, it does not mean the Father. Can stronger proof be given, that the doctrine of three persons in the Godhead is not a fundamental doctrine of Christianity?
This doctrine, were it true, must, from its difficulty, singularity, and importance, have been laid down with great clearness, guarded with great care, and stated with all possible precision. But where does this statement appear? From the many passages which treat of God, we ask for one, one only, in which we are told, that he is a threefold being, or that he is three persons, or that he is Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. On the contrary, in the New Testament, where, at least, we might expect many express assertions of this nature, God is declared to be one, without the least attempt to prevent the acceptation of the words in their common sense; and he is always spoken of and addressed in the singular number, that is, in language which was universally understood to intend a single person, and to which no other idea could have been attached, without an express admonition. So entirely do the Scriptures abstain from stating the Trinity, that when our opponents would insert it into their creeds and doxologies, they are compelled to leave the Bible, and to invent forms of words altogether unsanctioned by Scriptural phraseology. That a doctrine so strange, so liable to misapprehension, so fundamental as this is said to be, and requiring such careful exposition, should be left so undefined and unprotected, to be made out by inference, and to be hunted through distant and detached parts of Scripture, this is a difficulty, which, we think, no ingenuity can explain.


For the rest of that, as well as his considerations of the unity of our Lord, I’ll just post the link:
americanunitarian.org/unitar … ianity.htm

My purpose in these posts is selfish - I want to understand, and I have been unable to - as concerning the Trinity and the Incarnation. I’m hoping to shake loose some new thinking on my part by stimulating those who are pro/con on these important issues.

Far and away, Channing is, for me, the clearest expositor on the questions.
But I am really, really willing to be taught otherwise.


Dave, I will give you some more subnumeration quotes tomorrow. I have found some. In the meantime, I want to show you another consideration concerning the earliest teaching on the trinity…

While we today think of the trinity only from the perspective of the 4th and 5th century councils, such as Nicaea and Chalcedon, the earlier christians had much more freedom to explore the Godhead without the fear of being labeled a heretic. This position is shown in the commentary given by Origen on the different views of the trinity that were then entertained:

These 3 clauses of Origen were the earliest acceptable boundaries in which the dogma of the trinity was communicated (Justin Martyrs, and later, Nicaean views, were equally compatible within Origens outline). Notice that the third clause is the position (or doubts) which Paidion holds. This was an acceptable view in the 3rd century, but today it is conceived in terms of heresy. It is our modern post-Nicaea view of the trinity, insisting that it alone is fundamental to Christianity, which is truly heresy (or rather, to be rejected). Most people who discuss the trinity are speaking in reference to the Nicaean Creed, which is quite unfortunate. The definitions of the trinity from the 2nd and 3rd centuries encompass a far greater array of views which were all orthodox. One of those most frequent orthodox views were subordinationism and subnumeration. The Godhead had a clear hierarchy, and many of the earliest fathers had emphasized the order of the Godhead in very clear terms. The 4th century church, which adopted a universal pope, statues, bribery, violence, pagan churches, forgeries, celibacy for clergy, Mariology, etc, had also adopted a dogma on the trinity which is devastatingly wrong.

Dave, I firmly believe in the trinity, but the Catholic version of the trinity is just as wrong as their version of Mary, the rosary, celibacy and statues. I am a Catholic, I was baptized as Catholic, so I do not hate catholics. We were the first sect of the church to become recognized as the “institutional church”. Like any sect, we manipulated the scriptures and the teachings to accommodate our own misconceptions. The early Protestants were not very well educated on the 4th century history, nor on the earlier teachings of the 2nd and 3rd centuries fathers. They knew of them mostly through the eyes of Eusebius and Jerome. They were not able to discern the great drift that occurred with the earliest church. This drift is enormous, yet difficult for so many to acknowledge. The implications seem too astounding, so they are swept under the carpet. It makes no difference to me. This is not my hobby-horse. If people want to be confused, that is their problem. I had enough problems just surviving life, so I am not too worried that others are still caught in this diabolical dogma conundrum. God helps us all anyway, whether we are Catholic or Protestant. It is only from the perspective of accuracy, which is my personal agenda. It doesn’t bother me that others believe that the pope was truly chosen by Christ to rule over the entire church, and that the pope is infallible, and that this pope has decided most of the dogmas of the existing churches up until now. Everyone is free to believe whatever their heart desires. I have rejected these teachings on the basis of seeking accuracy, and my understanding of the trinity is based on the same objective.



If the object is to distinguish Him from the Father, why not refer to Him as “The Son of God” as the scripture does? For He is the ONLY begotten Son of God.

When NT uses the phrase “ho theos” (the God) without any other modifiers of “God”, it ALWAYS refers to the Father, and never to the Son.
NOWHERE does the phrase in the NT refer either to the Son or to the holy spirit. And NOWHERE in the scripture does the word “God” refer to a Trinity.


And a practical consideration also:

True piety, when directed to an undivided Deity, has a chasteness, a singleness, most favorable to religious awe and love. Now, the Trinity sets before us three distinct objects of supreme adoration; three infinite persons, having equal claims on our hearts; three divine agents, performing different offices, and to be acknowledged and worshipped in different relations. And is it possible, we ask, that the weak and limited mind of man can attach itself to these with the same power and joy, as to One Infinite Father, the only First Cause, in whom all the blessings of nature and redemption meet as their centre and source? Must not devotion be distracted by the equal and rival claims of three equal persons, and must not the worship of the conscientious, consistent Christian, be disturbed by an apprehension, lest he withhold from one or another of these, his due proportion of homage?

Again this is not THE proof against trinitarian thought, but it is clearly a sober assessment of this part of the subject.


BTW, I’ve contacted the moderators and welcomed them to reign in my ‘fixation’ on this subject if they feel I’m running wild. :smiley:
I can get carried away; and I don’t want to do anything if it is not edifying to the Body of Christ.
Let me know if this is causing waves - Christian unity in love is more important than anything else.