The Evangelical Universalist Forum

The Trinity and why it is a big issue


#21

Jason: I’m the only other gung-ho trinitarian in this thread…

Tom: I’m a gung-ho trinitarian observer of this thread! :ugeek:

Yaaay to the triune God.

Tom


#22

Which is odd, then, that you quoted me on the issue of worshiping Jesus but then didn’t engage with it. :wink:

Getting completely away from claims of even partial divinity of Jesus and focusing only on the (full not only part??) humanity of Jesus, doesn’t help the divine worship issue either, much less engage it.

Um… no?

Trinitarians sometimes do, since in modern parlance the problem is more with the claim of divinity. But the historical fact is that most of the Christological controversies from the 4th century onward through around the 7th involved the ‘orthodox’ party defending and stressing the FULL HUMANITY of Jesus against various doctrinal threats–including, among other things, the notion that Christ was only partially human.

(The main reason the three main Eastern trinitarian branches split apart was over the humanity of Christ; the Alexandrian branch wanted to stress the divinity at the expense of the humanity, and the Nestorian branch wanted to accentuate the division of human nature from the divine nature, each with the purpose of protecting the doctrine of the divinity from being imperiled, as they thought, by the doctrine of the humanity, although neither did they deny the full humanity of Christ. The middle ‘orthodox’ branch, which eventually split between “Eastern Orthodox/Catholicism” and “Roman Catholicism”, was concerned in those disputes to protect the doctrine of the humanity of Christ from being overrun or disregarded as unimportant.)

The doctrinal set certainly stresses the full humanity of Jesus (instead of only partial humanity, for example again.) So while trinitarian theologians may inadvertently not stress that enough, especially when concentrating on the part that modern people find more difficult to believe, the problem isn’t with the doctrinal set.

Actually, in the OT there is a lot more talk of expectation of God Most High, YHWH ADNY ELHM Himself, returning in some kind of direct visible presence to set His people free. Not so much about a human king coming to do this, though there’s some talk of that, too (along the son/branch of David, son of Judah). But even when they talk about that, they typically talk of this human king in wildly elevated terms that really should only apply to YHWH Most High on pain of idolatry (if he, or He, isn’t somehow YHWH.)

Call it a persistent hangover from paganism (and its propensity to talk about merely human kings in terms rivaling God Most High–which YHWH and the OT prophets constantly fulminate against.) That could easily enough explain it, but by the same token that means we ought to know better than to be following them on that! Yet the NT authors follow them on that, while also strenuously warning just the same that we are not to worship lesser lords and gods (whether human or angelic) the way the pagans do.

Except that the immediate contexts of that verse, as I discussed at some length above, go hugely farther than that. Jesus wasn’t nearly stoned (and eventually handed over to be hung to death on a tree) by the religious establishment for only claiming to be a human Messiah (a concept they would have been perfectly comfortable with, aside from political worries.)

I actually agree with that! :wink: But you’ve never heard such a thing from me. (Including in the comments you were supposed to be engaging. :mrgreen: )


#23

The “Son of Man” was clearly a divine title which was borrowed from Daniel, which in and of itself was a parallel to a Ugaritic text describing Baal (in order to trump Baal and show Elohim’s preeminence over the Canaanite gods).

Reference: logos.com/ugaritic


#24

:laughing: Sorry, I meant in the sense of having posted lengthy entries in this thread on the topic! I was trying to figure out who Paidion was replying in regard to there.

(Edited to add: as a rule, when I describe myself as “gung-ho”, I’m being a bit self-deprecating about my propensity to disgorge a giant blob of post. :smiley: Sonia is as much ortho-trin as I am, too, but she only had a couple paragraphs of comments; at any rate it was easy to see that Paidion wasn’t replying to either of you, and even my posts are too long for me to sift through sometimes! :laughing: But I know me well enough to know that I wouldn’t have claimed ortho-trin as a system per se was being taught in the 2nd century.)


#25

Knoch was an interesting dude. He started out as ECT and came out on the side of universal restorationism as a result of his translation work (and yes, he is the one I’m referring to). But he also has some interesting twists on dispensationalism as well. He basically believes that the Gospel preached in the gospels only applies to the Jewish converts of Jesus’ day, and that after Paul’s revelation of the “higher” (but not different) gospel is for everyone else. He also makes a distinction between the body and bride of Christ (The bride being those converts pre-destruction of Jerusalem AD70 and the body, everyone else.)

He sort of comes out as a universalist dispensational literalist with a good measure of preterist thrown in. His views are certainly among the most unique I’ve seen from those we would call christian universalists.

I may not be doing justice to his version of non-trinitarianism (I’m a little fuzzy because it has been awhile), but basically that article I sent you a link to awhile ago for review (that I bugged you about a couple times :mrgreen: ) was his argument against trinitarianism. For the most accurate representation of his view, look in the horse’s mouth! :ugeek:


#26

Jason, thanks for your comments on my post. I suppose I need to explain a little more where I’m coming from.

Attempting to keep it brief… I’ve heard loads of people try to explain the Trinity to me, but their arguments just don’t seem to hold. I think maybe it’s because it’s a difficult and tricky concept and I can see that maybe they don’t actually understand it that well themselves. From Robin Parry’s blog, I read an article which, whilst helpful in discussing the “problems” of the Trinity, went incredibly deep to the point of being rather confusing for me, and what I did manage to comprehend from the last quarter of it I didn’t feel was a good argument. But I’ll admit that maybe the part I didn’t understand was the crux of it.

The problem is that I’ve had a few chats with other people about it. After battling through comments about being a heretic for even questioning the Trinity, I was effectively told…

which is the reason I said it. If people say that sort of thing to me, I switch off from them. No offense to them, it’s just that I find that argument fairly pathetic (which you seem to agree with anyway!).

A few weeks ago we had a Bible study on the subject of the Trinity, and I came to the conclusion that maybe I’m not actually in denial of the Trinity, but that I dislike the usual terminology and explanations for it. (The explanations I’ve heard seem to miss the idea of Jesus being the Messiah and what that meant to the people at the time… which is why I mentioned it.)

I will freely admit that I’m not too well read on the subject, but from my mathematical background I believe I can see jumps in logic and arguments which don’t necessarily make sense (of course, I may be wrong in that assumption!). I have read Robin Parry’s book “Worshipping Trinity” (for which, coincidentally, my sister designed the front cover! :sunglasses: ) and although I found it a very good read, personally I felt it just didn’t quite have that spark to nudge me from where I was at. However…

Actually, I would argue that from the opening paragraph of chapter 5 of Robin’s book. (If you want me to type out that paragraph, I am happy to… but I can’t be bothered right now!) Sorry if you felt I was ignoring your comment on that, I just didn’t feel it was a particularly strong argument and wanted to address what I felt were more pressing thoughts!

Like I said, I’ve been struggling with the idea, not because I desperately want it to be true or false, but because I just want to understand the whole thing better and I don’t seem to be getting anywhere… just comments of being a heretic for questioning it. (One person actually spoke to the rector about me, suggesting that maybe I shouldn’t be involved with the youth work if I didn’t completely accept this doctrine. I’m glad the rector appreciated my questioning nature…)


#27

There may or may not be a Trinity. Nobody knows. What we do know is that the Apostle Paul never heard of it. We really don’t have to look much further than the introductions to his epistles to see that he makes a very careful distinction between God and Jesus.

Here are his greetings:

Romans, I & II Corinthians, and Galations:
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

Colossians:
Grace and peace to you from God our Father.

I Thessalonians:
To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace and peace to you.

II Thessalonians: To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace and peace to you from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

I & II Timothy:
Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.

Not once, in any of his writings, does Paul ever refer to God the Son or God the Holy Spirit. And, of course, he never mentions a trinity, three persons in one, a triune God, or anything of that nature. I can just imagine Paul on Judgment Day, seeing Trinitarian theologians and asking, “How on earth did you ever get the idea that I was preaching about a God who is three persons in one?”

Given this complete lack of explicit teaching in the Bible about a Trinity, here is the question with which we are all faced:

All of these “difficult and controverted” texts are addressed here:
biblicalunitarian.com/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=109

Again, there may be a Trinity. I don’t have any axe to grind. If it turns out that there really is a Trinity, and He (or They) don’t mind that I misinterpreted the texts on this one, then I’ll be a happy camper. I’m just saying that I don’t find it in the Bible.


#28

But that is not an exception, Jason. That is an instance of there being another modifier, namely “mou”. The phrase literally is “the God of me” or “my God”. You have not provided a counter-example.

Even Greek expert and Trinitarian Henry Alford stated in his Greek Testament (with commentary) that “This is the true God and ‘eternal’ life” is a reference to the Father. The first part of the verse (which you did not quote) states:

…and we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, to know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in his son Jesus Christ.

So John is already writing about the Father as the one who is true. So surely He is also “the true God and life eonian”!

Oh, so you are sure that this is “the only way out”? Well, let me suggest another way. Jesus was a prophet. Jesus was prophesying. The Father was speaking through Him in the first person as He did through many other prophets. The Father did many things through His Son. He created the Universe through His Son. Now He spoke through His Son, saying, “Destroy this temple, and in 3 days I [the Father] will raise it up.” (Even though those who heard Him did not know it, and supposed Jesus was speaking from Himself).


#29

If the Son was preexistent from the very beginning, has all power in the universe under the Father, and all things exist in and through him, what’s the trouble in calling him God?


#30

No trouble. He just isn’t called God in the Bible.

See my post above.


#31

Stellar, I don’t think that there is any trouble in calling him God, or worshipping him as such, seeing as he has been given all power and authority by the Father.
Laying aside questions of your statement being how the text actually reads in the Greek, I’d say the issue is the doctrine of the Trinity; not the identity of Christ, per se.

I don’t consider myself anti-trinitarian, just non-trinitarian (being agnostic on the subject at the end of the day).


#32

There would be a confusion in calling Him “God”, since this term, in the New Testament is normally applied to the Father. Some passages apply this appelation to the Father, and some other term to the Son in the same verse:

*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

…one God and Father of us all, who is above all and through all and in all. Ephesians 4:6

For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus. 1 Timothy 2:5*

This is not to say that the Son is not fully divine. He is just as divine as His Father, just as you are just as human as your father. This is what John 1:1 teaches.

John 1:1 does not teach that the Logos was God Himself.
How could the Logos be with God and also be God? That’s not what the text says.

The first “God” is prefixed with the article; thus “the God” (meaning the Father, whom Jesus addressed as “the only true God”.). The second “God” has no article. So it does not refer to the Father.

Because of the lack of an article, some think the sentence should read “and the Logos was a god”. This is also an incorrect translation.

That would be the case if the subjective completion had been placed AFTER the copula verb.
If John had meant “The Word was a god”, then the Greek words would have been:

ὁ…λογος…ἠν…θεος
the…word…was a…god

But this is not what John wrote.

If John had meant that the Word was God the Father Himself (as Modalists affirm), then the Greek words would have been:

ὁ…λογος…ἠν …ὁ…θεος
the…Word…was…the…God

Prefixing the word “θεος” with the article “ὁ” (with no other modifiers) would indicate that God the Father is meant. But that is not what John wrote.

Here is what John actually wrote:

θεος…ἠν… ὁ…λογος
God…was…the…Word

John placed the subjective completion BEFORE the copula verb! What did John mean? Did he mean that God the Father was the Word? No! If he had meant that, he would have prefixed the word “θεος” with the article “ὁ”. What then was his meaning? As a person who has studied Hellenistic Greek for several years and has even taught a self-devised beginner’s course to adults, I am going to propose a suggested translation, and then justify it by reference to other similar constructions in the New Testament.

A very crude translation could be “The Word was God-stuff”. However, this doesn’t sound very reverent. So I suggest “The Word was Divinity” or perhaps “The Word was divine”. He was divine because God begat Him before all ages (or, as I see it, the act marked the beginning of time), as Another just like Himself! “God” or “Divinity” was the essence of the Word.

Let’s look at two more instances in the New Testament in which a subjective completion without a modifier is placed BEFORE a copula verb. In I John 4:8 and also in I John 4:16, we find the phrase:

ὁ…θεος… ἀγαπη…ἐστιν
the God…love…is

Here the subject is clearly the Father since the word “θεος” is prefixed with the article. But notice the subjective completion “ἀγαπη” occurs BEFORE the copula verb “ἐστιν”. The correct translation is: “God is love”. Love is the essence of God. This is analagous to saying in John 1:1 that Divinity is the essence of the Word.

One more example:

ὁ…λογος…ὁ…σος…ἀληθια…ἐστιν
the…word the [one]…of you reality…is

Translation: “Your word is reality”. God’s word is reality. There is never falsehood or unreality in what God says. Once again, the subjective completion “ἀληθια” comes BEFORE the copula verb “ἐστιν”. Reality is the essence of what God says.

Martin Luther, whatever else he may have been, had an excellent understanding of Greek. Concerning the phrase in John 1:1:

θεος…ἠν… ὁ…λογος
God…was…the…Word

Luther expressed quite succinctly what I have attempted to relate about the word order. He said:

“The lack of an article is against Sabellianism; the word order is against Arianism.”

Sabellianism was a form of Modalism, that God is a single divine Individual who expresses Himself in three modes: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Today, Modalism is represented by the United Pentecostal Church as well as the various sects of the “Apostolic Church”.

Arianism was and is thought by many to have been a position whereby the Son was a lesser god, and thus the translation “The word was a god”. This position is represented today by Jehovah’s Witnesses. The New World Translation actually renders the Greek phrase as "The word was a god.”

But an appropriate translation would be:

In the beginning was the Logos, and the Logos was with God, and the Logos was divine.


#33

That’s all? Just because there’d be confusion?

Oh, geez! So we’re talking semantics, here. Facepalm. Just what I suspected happens with some unitarian/trinitarian discussions.

I agree with your wording. I like your translation of John 1:1. Thank you.

I do see where the confusion arises sometimes, especially when C.S. Lewis seems to confuse the members of the trinity so thoroughly that he felt he had to answer an objection of how God could be both running the universe and on earth for 33 years. Yet I’m eternally thankful for his answer to that question.

However, I also agree with this quote by Oswald Chambers:

Of course, I also argue that since Jesus only does what He sees the Father doing, then the Father must suffer in some way, too.

But I have to admit that since Jesus is ‘divine’ and ‘one with the Father’ that the confusion is probably going to lie beyond just semantics sometimes. Though I have problems with Jesse Duplantis’ vision of heaven (as its most simplistic interpretation is non-universalistic, though not necessarily), it meshes with my own beliefs in every other way. For instance, when he’s before God’s throne, he realizes that love is pure energy (something integral to my apologetics with materialists) and actual substance. He then saw the Son come out of the Father, and realized that the trinity could be one because of the substance of their being - energy.

Yes, yes!

And the kicker here is that God keeps on creating His son, in a sense; although creation lacks prior existence, so a better word would be “sustaining” or perhaps if we’re brave, “re-creating.” Thus the Son remains eternal and existent whenever/wherever the Father exists, yet still within time in a sense.

What do you think of the appearances of the “word of God” as an anthropomorphized person, as God manifest to certain individuals in the OT?


#34

I see the Son of God as so appearing. Indeed, I believe that He and His Father both share the name “Yahweh”. Genesis 19:24 seems to speak of two Yahwehs in the same verse:

Then Yahweh rained on Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from Yahweh out of heaven.

Two Yahwehs! One in heaven in command of the operation, and One on earth, the direct agent of the operation. The “man” who remained behind with Abraham while the other two went on to Sodom, was addressed by Abraham as “Yawheh”.

Remember from the old Xmas carol “Adeste Fideles” verse 2 “Begotten not created”. We humans beget children; we don’t create them. They are human like us because we beget them. We create paintings ---- which are NOT human like us, but are entirely different in nature. I am not certain how you are using “eternal”, but if you are using it in the traditional sense vis à vis Augustine, Anselm,Aquinas, Calvin, etc., then I do not find such a concept coherent. On the other hand, if you are using the word as a synonym for sempiternality, then I must disagree that the Son’s existence (or the existence of anything else) extends into the infinite past. The later Trinitarians, such as Augustine, claimed that God was and is “eternally begetting” the Son to make the begetting consistent with Triniarianism. The idea is that God begat His Son atemporally or “outside of time”. I don’t think it is necessary to postulate an atemporal existence for God and/or His Son. Indeed, I cannot make sense of the idea. The early Christians stated that the Father begat the Son as the first of His acts “before all ages”. I don’t understand this as “before time began” (an oxymoron), but that since the begetting was the first of God’s acts, the event marked the beginning of time. Even the Father did not precede the Son temporally, but did precede Him causally. Thus there was not a TIME when the Son did not exist or when the Father did not exist. Since time had a beginning there was no “before”. So it is incoherent to speak of The Father or the Son “existing” before time began. Such a concept presupposes a “time” before time began. I am not saying the Father had a beginning, for to have a beginning at some time T, implies that there was a period of time prior to T. In that sense even the only-begotten Son had no beginning. Yet the Father begat Him, but the Father was unbegotten, as the early Christians put it.


#35

All self-conscious beings are trinitarian. When I contemplate myself, I am the Object, the Observer and the act of Observation, all three simultaneously. Similarly, when I love myself, I am the Lover, the Beloved and the act of Love. If I talk to myself, I am the Speaker, the Listener and the Conversation.

Rocks are unitarian. Self-conscious persons are trinitarian.

True, we don’t find the Trinity in the Bible. Nor do we find an oak in an acorn. Rather, the truth of the oak lies hidden in the acorn, waiting to unfold.


#36

And just as we can’t find an oak by studying an acorn, we can’t find a Trinity by studying the Bible.


#37

Some also say we are a trinity of body, soul, and spirit. All of this may be a good analogy for a modalist, but not for a trinitarian. For since you are a single individual, you cannot be a trinity (unless you have a split personality). Rather, you are a unity of body, soul, and spirit (if it is true that you are a trichotomous being), whereas Trinitarians consider God to be a Trinity of three divine Individuals.

If God is really a Trinity, one would expect the word “God” to refer to the Trinity a number of times in the New Testament. But to the best of my knowledge, “God”, as it occurs in the New Testament, never refers to a Trinity, not even once.


#38

If you plant the acorn and watch it grow, something hidden is revealed. The resulting tree would come as quite a surprise to someone who had only ever studied acorns. They might even deny there was any connection between the two. “Botanists must have plucked the idea from thin air. Clearly, the oak came from somewhere else. It sprouted from a fallen branch, perhaps.”

In the same way, the truth of the Trinity, once hidden, has unfolded as the church has grown. The resulting theology would come as quite a surprise to someone who had only studied documents known to the baby church. These readers might even deny there is any connection between the Bible and the Trinity. “Theologians must have plucked the idea out of thin air. Clearly, the doctrine came from somewhere else. It sprouted from pagan myths, perhaps.”

If you want to judge the mature doctrine, you must see how the primitive doctrine has developed naturally over time. It’s like family photos.

“Wow! Is that baby* really* you? Gosh, you’ve changed…”

“Yes. I have changed. Look at my gray hair. But I’m still the same person as that baby.”


#39

‘And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry."

When I talk to myself, one person is talking to another. The Speaker is talking to the Listener. I am often of two minds.


#40

I think Paidion has put his finger on the crux of the matter, and from the scripture in Greek, no less.

I have no doubt that the Trinitarian explanation of God sprang from an honest attempt to describe Him in a way that would simplify the concept of God as presented in scripture to the masses. It ultimately falls short though.

It is, as one of my Junior High math professors used to say, “the best wrong answer”. :wink: