The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Poll: Are you a Trinitarian?

Are you a Trinitarian?

  • Yes, definitely
  • Yes, fairly sure
  • I’m really unsure either way or just haven’t really ever looked into it
  • No, not really
  • No, definitely not

0 voters

I’m sorry if this simplistic explanation makes anyone (picturing Jason) cringe! I see God as love necessitating the need for at least an actual lover and an actual beloved (before creation), and it’s reasonable to assume that the “makeup” of God will be more complex than me, so it doesn’t surprise me that the NT claims God is Father, Son & Holy Spirit at the same time. Given universalists usually hold God’s love as at least very important, if not central, it really surprises me that not all are Trinitarian :confused:

Anyway, just for fun (& because a friend wondered if “EUs stay Trinitarian or do they tend to give that up once they become universalists?” - which is a general question about EUs, hence why it’s in this category) I thought I’d do a non-official poll. Universalist and non-universalists are both free to vote.

I voted ‘yes, fairly sure’ but for me, the top of my priority list is the debate over the deity of the man who walked the earth and was called Jesus Christ.

Yes there certainly has been much debate over the exact nature of Christ over the years! :slight_smile: 100% God & 100% man is my answer, but obviously there are many scenarios that can be painted where it’s hard to work out what that actually means. e.g. God doesn’t sleep but humans sleep, so being 100% both, does He need to sleep or not?? :confused:

People like to limit the omni-dimensional God to our not so very well understood 4 dimensional space.

The way I see it, God is perfectly capable of expressing himself in three co-existent, co-eternal, co-operative, co-sentient, co-interactive expressions of being - and that these expressions are perfectly capable of interacting with one another. God is infinite after all. :slight_smile:

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I voted “definitely no”. Having studied the New Testament through the lense of second-century orthodox, catholic literature (Note the small “o” and small “c”), I have arrived at the same conclusions about the Deity. I believe that the Father is “the only true God” as Jesus prayed in His prayer. Yet, I believe the Son of God is fully divine, and always was — just as divine as His Father. He is “the exact imprint” of the Father’s essence (Hebrews 1:3)

However, when the Son of God became man, He was then fully human, having divested Himself of all His divine attributes.

Have this mind in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, existing in the form of God, counted not the being on an equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant δουλος - slave], being made in the likeness of men; and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, becoming obedient even unto death, yea, the death of the cross. Philippians 2:5-7 ASV ---- (emphasis mine)

So Jesus fully became a man while here on earth. He got hungry and thirsty like all other people. As a baby He cried and wet His diapers (or the equivalent) like any other baby. He did not stand up and deliver great orations at the age of 6 months (as the gnostics taught). He could perform no miracles on His own, but through His complete trust in His Father, God performed many miracles through Him. The only aspect of Deity that He retained while here on earth was His identity as the Son of God. In that sense only, He was more than a mere human being while on earth. After His resurrection, He regained all the divine attributes which He possessed prior to His birth.

He was begotten by the Father at the beginning of time as a single act (not a perpetual begetting as per the later Trinitarians). This was the first thing the Father ever did. We cannot speak of “before the beginning of time”. There WAS no “before”. At a single instant God begat His Son and that act marked the beginning of time. The Father preceded His Son causally but not temporally and thus contrary to Arius, there was NOT a time at which the Son did not exist. When dogs beget offspring they are canine. When people beget offspring they are human. When God begat His Offspsring, that Offspring was divine, and thus of the same essence as His Father. “Begotten, not created” as the ancient creeds affirmed.

It is correct to call the Son “God” in the sense that He was divine and equal to the Father in the sense of being deity. All people are equal too, in the sense of being human. But in other respects, as Jesus said, “The Father is greater than I”. Even after His resurrection it seems that Jesus was not omnicient, since the first verse of Revelation affirms:

The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John.

I read this sentence as saying that Jesus received a revelation from God which Jesus then made known to John through His angel which He sent to John. An implication of this, is that prior to receiving this revelation, Jesus wasn’t aware of the matters which God made known to Him.

But one may ask, what about the Holy Spirit? Jesus promised his disciples that He and the Father would come to anyone who loves Him and keeps His word, and make their abode with them (John 14:23). So if the Father and the Son come to dwell within Christ’s disciples, why postulate a third Divine Person? The Father and the Son can extend their personalities (or spirit) anywhere in the universe, and especially in the hearts of Christ’s disciples. Justin Martyr (2nd century) in his Dialogue with Trypho records both he and Trypho (a Jew) speaking about the spirit of God. Certainly Trypho, as a Jewish person, didn’t consider the spirit of God as a separate divine Individual, since he believed that God was a single Individual. Justin, too, didn’t say a word about the Holy Spirit being a separate Individual. However, he asked Trypho and interesting question:

“Do you think that any other one is said to be worthy of worship and called Lord and God in the Scriptures, except the Maker of all, and Christ, who by so many Scriptures was proved to you to have become man?”

Trypho replied, “How can we admit this, when we have instituted so great an inquiry as to whether there is any other than the Father alone?”

Then Justin said, “I must ask you this also, that I may know whether or not you are of a different opinon from that which you admitted some time ago.”

Now by asking whether there was any other worthy of worship other than the Father and Christ, this would have been a prime opportunity for Justin to have introduced to Trypho, the Holy Spirit as a different Individual who was worthy of worship — if that had been Justin’s belief. But instead, he asked it simply to see whether Trypho had changed his mind again.

Classic Trinitarians, if I understand Trinitarianism correctly (and I’m not sure that all Trinitarians see it the same way) is that God is a compound being made up of three Divine Individuals, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Yet God is not compound but simple, a single divine Essence. So when a Trinitarian speaks of “God” he has in mind a Trinity of three Divine Individuals. In the New Testament the words “ο θεος” (the God) where “θεος” has no other modifier, seem to apply to the Father alone in every instance. It never refers to Jesus, and never to a “Trinity”.

The apostle Paul, however, stated that there is “One God” and he seemed to refer to the Father alone. He didn’t include Christ as part of that one God but as anothor one, namely our Lord:

*Yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist. 1 Corinthians 8:6

Paul also states in 2 Corinthians 3:18, that this same Lord (Jesus)** IS **the Spirit! In several places Paul speaks of “One Spirit”. Indeed, there is One Spirit, and that One Spirit is shared by the Father and the Son, who extend their Spirit into the hearts of Christ’s disciples. Yet sometimes we read in the New Testament of “the Spirit of God” and in other places “the Spirit of Jesus”. Obviously, the Spirit which descended on Jesus at His baptism was the Spirit of God. It seems that the human spirit or personality of Jesus was confined to His body while He was a human being.

In our day, it is common to hear someone address the Holy Spirit in prayer. A number of hymns we sing are addressed to the Holy Spirit. However, you may have noticed that in the New Testament there is not a single prayer addressed to the Holy Spirit, whereas prayer is addressed to the Father, and the Son also after His resurrection. While Stephen was dying from being stoned, he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”

So this is my position. I am not a Trinitarian. I am not a Modalist (the belief that God is a single Divine Individual who expressed Himself in three modes: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Some who think they are Trinitarians are actually Modalists).
I believe that I hold the position held by the main church of the first two centuries.

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Is this a misprint? Logos isn’t “God”.

That’s a good point: technically trinitarian theism could be true yet Jesus not be deity in any way. (Just as there have been officially sanctioned messiahs who weren’t deities in any way, much less the 2nd Person of God Most High incarnated–Cyrus the pagan tyrant for example!)

This is why I try to usually specify ‘orthodox’ trinitarianism. (Not ‘orthodox’ in the sense of definitely being right, and not capital ‘O’ orthodox, though they’re ortho-trin, too. :wink: But lowercase ‘o’ orthodox as a group classification who, aside from filioque questions, accept Athanasius Creed catholic faith statement.)

Similarly, Jesus could be full deity without trinitarian theism being true (if modalism was true instead, or even only binitarian theism with no 3rd Person of God.)

So there are various options, some of which are pretty subtle.

SLJ, no, it wasn’t a misprint. It must have been a senior moment! Thank you for pointing that out. I meant “θεος”, of course, not “λογος”.

Yes, even Arius in his letter to Eusebius wrote:

But what we say and think we both have taught and continue to teach, that the Son is not unbegotten, nor part of the unbegotten in any way, nor is he derived from any substance; but that by his own will and counsel he existed before times and ages, fully God, only-begotten, unchangeable.

This is surprising in view of the fact that Arius is viewed as having believed the Son of God to have been created, and thus to be a “lesser god”.

If I touched Flatland, I would appear to the inhabitants to be an unsavory irregular circle. I would be able to work miracles, I’d say seemingly crazy things, and I’d annoy a lot of Pure Circles. In the same way, an n-dimensional being touching this world would appear to be an unsavory 3-dimensional miracle-worker who said crazy things and annoyed a lot of Pure People.

I am a Trinitarian in the sense that I think it is our best explanation of how God has revealed Himself to us. I think we will all be surprised when we see Him face to face and find how our own explanations fell far short of the mark. Nevertheless, I hold to the orthodox creeds and could offer no better explanation myself. I marvel that any can doubt the deity of Christ. Who else could show fully who/what God is in essence? (If you have seen me…) If he was not YHWH, he could not show us YHWH, for there would always be a lacking due to his deficiency. But we know there was no deficiency for he was “the exact representation of His very being…” I like what C.S. Lewis said about making and begetting. He said that man makes something different from himself, but begets something of the same kind: fish begets fish, bird begets bird, man begets man, God begets God. The only begotten son could be none other than God Himself! Do I have an explanation for that? NO! :smiley: And don’t even get me started on the Holy Spirit :laughing:

P.S. I still think it’s funny that the JW’s say he is Michael the Archangel seeing that Michael’s name means, “who is like God?” with the answer being the obvious: NO ONE! So how can this Jesus, who is the EXACT representation of His being, be Michael, who could not possibly be like Him, based on his very name? :question: :exclamation:

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Except that Arius was quite insistent on the Son being both begotten and also (as you yourself quoted) “no[t] part of the unbegotten in any way”, where by “the unbegotten” he meant the Father Who was the one and only God Most High.

That’s a lesser god, not God Most High. Your quote source has miscapitalized the “fully God” part; it ought to read “fully god”, little g. Arius would have been the first person to deny that the Son was “fully God”, big ‘G’ by English grammatic convention: his whole point was to avoid denying distinctions between the persons on one hand (he started his crusade thanks to an incautious bishop preaching along this line), and to avoid claiming two Gods Most High on the other. (He and the orthodox party both agreed with those avoidances; but Arius thought the ortho party’s solution was logically fallacious at best, and eventually collapsed into one of the positions he was reverently trying to avoid.)

I consider faith in the Trinity essential, despite that I have learned a lot about UR from the writings of “High Arian” A.E. Knoch. The Trinity reconciles a lot in Scripture about the Father, Son and even the Holy Spirit and I fail to see the other explenations add up. I also think considering the complexity of the issue and the almost universal acceptance of the Trinity doctrine among Bible believers, it’s not right to cause division over this. Finally, those that reject the Deity of the Son removes the humbling and extremely grand concept of the Almighty becoming creature himself. I couldn’t picture Christianity without it. I did for numerous years reject the Trinity, so I am familiar with the antitrinitarian concepts that may at first sight appear so convincing.

I answered ‘No, definitely not’. I base this on how I think the Apostle Paul would answer this question. The truth is that nobody knows if there is a trinity or not. But the choice we have is to either take at face value the numerous, very clear statements in the Bible that present a distinction between God and Jesus (Christ), or to develop a completely new doctrine of the nature of God by piecing together some vague verses, using our vivid imaginations and philosophical abilities.

Here is just one example from Paul. Which of these 3 versions is the one that Paul used in 1Timothy 2:5?

Version 1:
For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the God Christ Jesus

Version 2:
For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the God-man Christ Jesus

Version 3:
For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus

Well, as you probably know, Version 3 is the correct one. If Paul had wanted to present a completely new concept of God, this would have been the perfect opportunity. He is talking about Christ’s position between God and man, and he puts Christ between them as a man – not as God, and not as a God-man. Paul had so many opportunities to refer to Jesus as God the Son or as part of a trinity, and yet he never did.

That’s why I voted the way I did.

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Do you think Jesus was eternal, or do you think he was a creation by God?

Hi dirtboy,

The real answer is that nobody knows; and nobody knows the answer to most of the questions raised on this site – even people with doctorate degrees in theology.

But it’s an interesting question, so I’ll give you my two cents. Paul talks about a First Adam and a Second Adam (Jesus), and both of them were “fathered” by God. Adam was created out of dirt, and Jesus was created by God causing Mary to become pregnant. Most people would not say that Adam is eternal, but many would say that Jesus is eternal. It seems to me that if the First Adam wasn’t eternal, then there is no reason to suppose that the Second Adam was eternal. So I’ll go with “creation by God”.

And does this insistence imply that the Son was not fully God? I am not sure that Arius did believe that the Son was “a lesser God” . He may have believed that the Son was “fully God” because God the Father begat Him. You know, dogs beget dogs, humans beget humans, God begets God.

I think the first chief error of Arius was in saying that God begat Him “out of nothing”. Surely if the Son is divine in virtue of having been begotten by the Father, He was begotten out of the essence of the Father. The second chief error was in affirming that there was a time at which the Son did not exist. I think his reasoning must have been that since God begat the Son as a unique act, there must have been a time prior to that begetting. However, if God’s begetting of the Son marked the beginning of time, then there was no “before”, so that although the Father preceded the Son causally, He did not precede Him temporarily.

Since I can’t know what “God” is, and I don’t know what “Man” is, how can I know if God can become Man? Nonetheless, I accept the Incarnation because a good God would give himself to us in love and share our suffering.

There is an interesting thing to look at in Isaiah 9:6 regarding what we typically here as “eternal father”. Many translations render it something like “Father of Eternity”. This is an interesting translation for it shows this child to be the one from which eternity comes - the source of eternity:

6For to us a Child is born, to us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder, and His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father [of Eternity], Prince of Peace.© (Amplified bible)

6For a Child hath been born to us, A Son hath been given to us, And the princely power is on his shoulder, And He doth call his name Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Father of Eternity, Prince of Peace. (Young’s Literal Translation)

6For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder; and his name is called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty ùGod, Father of Eternity, Prince of Peace. (Darby Translation)

So Jesus, the Logos made flesh is the source of eternity. Very interesting and compelling in regard to deity. Would I be correct in assuming that you’ve gone over all the “deity” verses in the N.T. concerning Jesus? I find them to be very compelling. What do you think?

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Thanks for the post!

I’m inclined to agree that the Hebrew “avi’ud” (Father of Eternity) employs “father” in the metaphorical sense of “source” or “progenitor” and not as a reference to the divine person of the “Father.” The latter view (that the incarnate Logos either is or will be called “Father”) is not a view orthodox trinitarians have maintained. We don’t call the Son the Father, etc.

So it makes great sense to take “father” here metaphorically and understand the verse as saying the child to be born to us actually predates us and is himself the source of time and being. It is common in Semetic languages to use “father” in this metaphorical sense to attribute some characteristic or mastery to the person being described. I’m an Arabic speaker for example, and we do this all the time. If somebody is very smart we’ll call him “abu-l’ilm” (the father of knowlegde) or if they’re very organized we’ll call them “abu-nizaam” (the father of organization), or “abu-lmasaari” (the father of money) if they’re very rich. The construction also carries the idea of “control over” the characterisitc named. So “abu-lmasaari” may be either a very rich person OR a treasurer who exercises control or say-so over a budget. So, the Arabic “abu-labadiya” (equivalent to the Hebrew “avi-'ud”) might mean the progenitor of time itself AND/OR the one who exercises mastery and oversight of time and its progress. Basically, the baby to be born is the “Lord of History.” THAT is what we call Christ, not the person of the Father.