The Evangelical Universalist Forum

The Trinity - Implications and Rationales

Some things that came to me as I was just musing over Jesus’ proposed deity and the existence of the Trinity.

First some implications that result from this belief (I’m sure Jason could provide more):

  1. If Christ was both God and man, then this explains his sinlessness and conquering nature and miracle-working power. If he was not God, we have to explain how he was able to be do all these things and what the implications of this are. Is it possible to become sinless and conquer the world and perform miracles through human power on some level?
  2. If Christ was not God, then God himself has not experienced our pain through directly encountering it (unless you’re talking in panentheistic or mystical terms, but then he still has not experienced human limitations) so as to be able to empathize with it.
  3. If Christ was not God, then the whole universe is held together by, and subservient to, a man (even if not a mere man) as in Colossians 1, including all peoples of the earth (though Christ spoke against men lording it over each other).
  4. If Christ is God, then this demonstrates how very intimately close God and his creation are, to the point that not only could God directly create human material but can become a human with not only no contradiction but perfect synchronization.
  5. If Christ was God, then this demonstrates the extremity of God’s servanthood in coming himself to earth directly.
  6. If Christ was not God, then we are taught by him to eat the flesh and drink the blood of a man to be refreshed and that a human being is everything, in fact the very representation of God in the flesh to the point where they are one. It is also very odd that John is not rebuked for worshipping a man in the beginning of his revelation on Patmos.

Continuing from this, but heading in the direction of the belief of the Trinity:
7) If there is not both a Son and a Father, then we are still left with the problem (which is yet apparently not a problem for open theism, though I maintain that it still has issues with describing a fully complete picture of God) for how God can be both unlimited and limited, most noticeably in knowing everything and not knowing everything, as demonstrated by the OT and one of Jesus’ own sayings. The God that the Hebrews interacted with apparently acted as if He was not always cognizant of future events yet acted in full wisdom given the knowledge that He had. But how is this possible with an omniscient eternal God outside of the realm of time? It works if, in fact, there is both an unlimited and limited person of the Trinity.
8) If there is a Trinity, then it can be said in the fullest sense that God is love, for his very existence is that of a community of love. This cannot be said with the same strength in unitarianism.
9) Every government to some degree has been a rulership by a group ether than a single person. Even monarchs had advisors and nobles whom if not followed could spell certain danger for his authority. It seems that this is a basic principle of leadership. It would have to be argued that God could violate this principle (which has as many positive reasons as negative ones, for instance strength in bonds of fellowship). In other words, a single personality would be the most powerful force in the world instead of unity, love and perfect sacrifice and submission, which are the hallmarks of NT Christianity and the answer to all of our human woes.
10) If the Trinity doesn’t exist, then it is less true what CS Lewis pointed out that the Spirit is God in us guiding our hearts, Christ is the visible pathway we take, and the Father is our destination. Perhaps those roles could still hold true, but if they do so in perfect all-powerful love, which is the definition the scriptures seem to give for divinity, then why not call them God?

There may be even more but this is good for now. I’ll post some rationales as soon as I get a reasonable chance.

Hi Justin,

Just thought I’d offer a few brief comments from a Unitarian perspective in response to your musings above (I realize that I recently said that this is the kind of topic in which I didn’t really want to get embroiled right now, but I couldn’t help myself. :stuck_out_tongue: I will, however, try to keep my involvement in this thread to a minimal so I can focus the little time that I have these days on topics that more directly pertain to the subject of UR!)

But that is not how Scripture explains his sinlessness, conquering nature and miracle-working power. I understand the consistent teaching of Scripture to be that Jesus was empowered by, and completely dependent on, God (see, for example, John 5:19, 30). And if Jesus is a human being and not a co-equal member of a triune God, then this explains such complete dependency on the One whom Jesus declared was “greater” than himself (John 14:28).

What about the pain of a guilt-stricken conscience, or the pain of being relationally estranged from God? Or what about the pain of utter despair and hopelessness? While Jesus was tempted “in every respect as we are” and experienced sadness and loss, there are some human pains he didn’t (and couldn’t) experience as a sinless being in intimate fellowship with God, so it follows from your above argument that he cannot fully empathize with those who have endured such pains. Nevertheless, it remains true that Jesus loves sinners as much as he loves himself. In the same way, I submit that God (the Father) doesn’t need to experience our pain and limitations in order to perfectly understand what we’re going through, and to love us with an unconditional, unsurpassable love.

But Jesus is a man (Acts 2:22; 13:38; 17:31; Rom 5:15, 17, 19; 1 Cor 15:21; 1 Tim 2:5). The whole universe is held together by, and subservient to, a man because God made Jesus Lord (Acts 2:36) and gave him all authority in heaven and on earth (Matt 28:18). And when all are made alive in Christ and the last enemy, death, is abolished, then Christ will once again be subjected to God just as he was before his resurrection, that God may be “all in all” (1 Cor 15:22-28).

The above seems to presuppose that God cannot be “intimately close” to his creation without himself being a part of his creation. But God is uncreated and self-existent, and it would be meaningless to assert that God is both uncreated and created at the same time. And if Jesus is God, then he is not created and is thus no more or less intimately close to the creation than any other supposed member of the triune God is.

By “coming himself to earth directly” I assume is meant God’s supposedly becoming a human being. But if this is the case, then it would actually demonstrate the extremity of only one person of the triune God’s “servanthood in coming himself to earth directly.” But if Jesus is only one member of a multi-personal God, then would it not be an even greater demonstration of “the extremity of God’s servanthood in coming to earth directly” if all three divine persons did so, and not just one?

Moreover, the presupposition seems to be that it is both necessary to man’s best interest as well as possible for God to “demonstrate the extremity of his servanthood” by becoming a human being. But neither need be the case.

As God’s ultimate and final representative agent/emissary, it is only natural and to be expected that Jesus would be given such high honor.

I’m interested in reading what other trinitarians on this board have to say about this one. Perhaps I’m just out of the loop, but I’ve actually never heard this put forth as an argument for belief in the Trinity. You seem to be saying that the Son was “limited” in knowledge even before the incarnation.

First, I think it’s interesting that you refer to the existence of the triune God as “his” existence. But shouldn’t it be “their” existence if God is in fact a multi-personal “community of love?” Or should the divine “substance” or “essence” that unites the three persons of the trinity in numerical oneness be considered a “he” instead of an “it?”

Second, for God to be love in the “fullest sense” it is simply not necessary that “he” exist as a “community of love.” At least, that doesn’t seem to be at all what John had in mind. Rather, God is said to be “love” because of his perfectly benevolent disposition toward mankind, which was manifested most fully in history by his sending his Son “so that we might live through him.” Nothing else seems to be meant by the expression than that God’s disposition is that of perfect benevolence.

Third, in the only passage where God is declared to be love, it is evident that John is using the title “God” to refer to the Father - which is exactly what one would expect if John was a Unitarian. See also John 4:21-24 and 1 John 1:5-7, where God is said to be “spirit” and “light,” respectively. In both places it is clear that the title “God” refers exclusively to the Father.

When you say “It would have to be argued that God could violate this principle [of leadership],” you seem to be suggesting that IF God were a single person or self (as Unitarians believe) he would be violating the ideal principle of leadership of which you speak by virtue of his being (and choosing to remain?) a single sovereign ruler. But I’m not at all sure how this would be the case. If there is such a “principle of leadership” there is no reason to see it as being a principle that is as equally applicable to God as it is to man. Perhaps it is because man isn’t God that such a “principle of leadership” exists for his benefit in this world.

The question seems to presuppose that Christ is a person of “perfect all-powerful love” in the same sense that the Father is. But Scripture teaches that Christ’s divine power and authority is derived from, and given to him by, God; it is not inherent to his person (see my response to #1 and #3).

Yes the question of Jesus being tempted as we are always causes me trouble. If there was no possibility of him giving in to the temptation then it’s not really temptation

Also if jesus emptied himself of his divinity then he was just a man - or was he only a bit divine but not divine enough to know the future or other stuff like that.

I still also have trouble with what exactly died on the cross - a God, a man or a God-man. The part of jesus that is God cannot have died on the cross - if God is self existing at all time then no part of God could be said to have died on the cross. If that is so and Jesus’s words about being forsaken by God at that time are true then, even if Jesus was God, only the human part of Jesus could have died.

Jeff, 1 Peter 3:18-20 may speak to this issue…

**For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. **

does this mean that our Lord died in the flesh, that His divinity preached to those souls in the underword, who had rebelled in the time of Noah, and then returned to His flesh at the Resurrection? keeping in mind that according to John 1, the Word who was God became flesh, and dwelt among us, traditionally understood to mean that Christ’s person was and is pre-existent, and that His eternal divinity was united with His historical humanity through His conception to the Virgin Mary.

this is how i’m understanding it, that He was crushed in the flesh, He preached to the imprisoned, and returned to that flesh to live again, fully God and fully Man, forever.

Thank you for the reply Grace - people certainly have been confused by this for a long time :slight_smile:

Sorry, I haven’t gotten back to this yet. I’ve been busy between school and going out on weekends and work and now getting laid off. I’ll come back to this when I can.

Does the article in this link … LogID=2277 give an unusual biblical reasoning for Jesus being God? It’s not a long article and there is some preamble but from about half way down the page the writer makes what I think is an unusual case for the divinity of Jesus - what do you guys and gals think? :wink:

You mean this?:

hah, I don’t think that’s quite what Paul’s saying there. That is indeed very unusual. Good thing he’s not trying to debate unitarians, though. They’d laugh in his face. :laughing:

I have a question here: If God is a Trinity, and made us in His image, “male and female, He created them”, then why did he only make two? The man/ woman combination (as one flesh) is supposed to be reflecting the nature of God. That’s binitarian, not trinitarian. I find it interesting that Eve was brought into being by removing a piece of Adam, so that she was “begotten” directly from him, rather than created separately. Perhaps this is a picture of the Logos coming out from God?

Honestly, I think where we’ve gotten off track with inventing trinitarianism, is with treating the holy Spirit of God as a distinct, “individual” member of a Godhead, making it trinity; whereas I think the witness of the scripture points to the holy Spirit of God being the (personified) power of God; among other things, the “glue” if you will, that holds the Father and Son and Husband/Wife in unity. Remember, God IS Spirit. I don’t think there’s any need (or warrant) to separate that aspect out from His identity as the Father into a third individual “person”. Is the holy Spirit of God, God? Yup! Just not a distinct “person” from the Father, who is Spirit.

Awesome observation!!

Just for the heck of it, I took the Statement of Faith for this website, and removed about 3 words and came up with this:

So what do the “evangelical” universalists believe? Much the same as any other evangelical. They believe that God (x) created the world ex nihilo; they believe that humans are created in this God’s image; they believe that human rebellion separates us from God and deserves punishment; they accept the final authority of the Scriptures for matters of Christian faith; they believe that the Father sent his one and only Son as a human being (x) to live as our representative, to reveal the Father and to atone for our sins through his death on the cross; they believe that through his resurrection eternal life is available to those who trust in Christ; they believe in salvation by grace (not merit), through faith in Christ (not works); they believe in the return of Christ and the coming day of judgment; they even believe in hell!

Two notes:

  1. Where there is an (x) I removed the words ‘is Triune’ in the first instance and (never ceased to be divine) in the second instance.

  2. There was no mention of the Holy spirit in that paragraph.

Did my removals make a difference? Isn’t the statement just as good without those words?

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Reads just as well to me !!

It wasn’t good enough for any of the original directors of the forum. They removed me from that role when I argued for exactly those changes. Of course, they’re all scarce here now. Jason Pratt, for whose scholarship & character I have deep respect, was my most articulate critic about keeping those words.

As I’ve mentioned in other threads the last couple months, the only philosophically satisfying atonement theory I can think of is one in which Jesus is God. To recapitulate my (albeit incomplete) theory:

By dying on a cross God showed four crucial (no pun intended) truths: that God doesn’t determine morality, that morality is real, that God is moral, and that the essence of morality is love.

If God determined morality then there’d be no need for him to die on a cross; he could sovereingly forgive us without suffering physically at all; him dying a horrific death then would be gratuitous suffering. So morality/justice isn’t determined by God.

The Bible says Jesus had to die for us to be forgiven. Since God could forgive under those circumstances but not any other means
morality must be real.

The fact that God chose to take the action necessary for us to be forgiven shows that God is moral.

The fact that the necessary action entailed unbearable pain shows that the essence of morality is love.

That language is unfamiliar to me. Can you amplify on what you mean by “determining” morality? If God is not the one who determines morality and justice, who or what does?

Which texts do you find most plainly state that?

No one determines morality, just as no one determines abstract objects like the objects of math (e.g. 1 + 1 = 2) or modus ponens.

I’ve quoted them before. Do you really need me to quote them again?