The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Trying to understand non-Trinitarians. (Present your cases?)


I think it’s interesting that it was not until I had abandoned the “sacred cow” of ECT that I felt freer to begin to question other “sacred cows” (like the Trinity)!

One common Trinitarian objection to Unitarianism is that, according to certain verses from John’s Gospel (John 1:1-3; 6:38; 8:58; 12:41; 16:28; 17:5), Jesus pre-existed in heaven as a divine person before his conception. The following is a (relatively) brief examination of these verses (there are a few more verses thought to support this doctrine in the Pauline epistles, but I’ll hold off on covering those for now).

  1. “In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God ton theon], and the word was God theos]. He was in the beginning with God ton theon]. All things were made through him, and without him nothing was made that was made” (John 1:1-3).

It is inferred by Trinitarians that “the word” (ho logos) which was “with God” (pros ton theon) “in the beginning” is a personal being (i.e., the Son of God, or “God the Son”). But the Unitarian believes there is a better understanding of this verse: the “word” that was “with God in the beginning” is not the Son of God; rather, the Son of God is the human being (or “flesh”) which the word “became” when Jesus was conceived in the womb of Mary (v. 14; cf. Luke 1:30-35). But what then is the “word” that was “with God in the beginning?” Answer: the “word” or logos here refers to the spoken word of God by which God brought everything into existence, and which is the expression of God’s wisdom, purpose and character:

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth…and God said…” (Gen 1:1, 3)

“By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host…For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm” (Ps. 33:6, 9).

“He sent out his word and healed them, and delivered them from their destruction” (Ps. 107:20).

“He sends out his command to the earth; his word runs swiftly…He sends out his word, and melts them; he makes his wind blow and the waters flow…He declares his word to Jacob, his statutes and rules to Israel” (Ps. 147:15, 18-19).

“It is he who made the earth by his power, who established the world by his wisdom, and by his understanding stretched out the heavens. When he utters his voice, there is a tumult of waters in the heavens, and he makes the mist rise from the ends of the earth. He makes lightning for the rain, and he brings forth the wind from his storehouses” (Jer 10:12-13).

“…by the word (logos) of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water…” (2 Pet 3:5).

Consider especially Isaiah 55:10-11:

“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it” (Isa. 55:10-11).

Although personified, the “word” of God (which is said to go out from God’s mouth and accomplish the purpose for which God sends it) is not literally a person. But being God’s word (and thus the expression of his wisdom, purpose and character), it is divine in nature, and may thus be said to be “theos.” Note that John refers to the “word” as “theos” (which can mean qualitatively divine, or “divine in nature”) rather than ton theon, which is the personal title that refers to the Supreme Being himself (e.g., Jn. 3:16; 3:34; 4:24; 6:46; 11:22; 14:1; 17:3). Moreover, the word logos is used throughout John’s Gospel to denote a spoken word, and I submit it means the same thing in John’s poetic prologue. It’s no more a personal being with a mind and will separate from the Father (whom the word was “with” in the beginning) than “wisdom” is in Proverbs 8 (which was also “with” God in the beginning), and there is no more reason to capitalize logos in John 1 than there is to capitalize “wisdom” in Proverbs 8. But it was God’s word which, in a figurative sense, “became flesh” and was embodied or “incarnated” in a human person when Jesus was conceived in Mary’s womb by the “power of the Most High.” Christ, as the “word made flesh,” lived out and perfectly embodies the doctrine and words that he spoke during his earthly ministry (words which came from his Father - John 7:16; 17:14), and is the ultimate and definitive communication of God’s heart and mind to mankind. And just like the divine word of Isaiah 55:10-11, Jesus is the one through whom God will succeed in accomplishing his redemptive purpose for the world (i.e., the salvation of all people). Thus, it is highly appropriate that John refers to Jesus in Rev 19:13 as the “Word of God.” While in the course of redemptive history God has spoken through both angels and human beings (the prophets), only Christ is the complete manifestation of the divine logos, for “in him dwells all the fullness of the divine nature bodily” (Col. 2:9; cf. Col 1:19; Eph 3:19; 2 Pet 1:4). “For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God gives the spirit without measure” (John 3:34).

  1. “For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me” (John 6:38).

It was a common idiom among the Jewish people to say that something “came from heaven” if God was its source in some special way. For example, in Mal 3:10 God promised that he would “open the windows of heaven” and “pour down” a blessing for them. Such language, of course, does not mean that God was literally going to pour things out of heaven onto the earth. This kind of expression simply meant that God would be the origin of the blessings they received in their lives. Another example of this idiom is when Christ asked the Jewish people, “John’s baptism - where did it come from? Was it from heaven or from men?” (Matt. 21:25). The way that John’s baptism would have been “from heaven” was if God was the source of the revelation and practice. John did not get the idea on his own; it came “from heaven.” And in James 1:17 we read that every good gift is “from above” and “comes down” from God. Similarly, in chapter 3, we are told that the wisdom that should be possessed by believers is that which is “from above” and which “comes down from above” (James 3:15, 17). These verses do not mean that the good things in our lives literally come down from heaven (much less that they undergo some kind of mystical transformation before we receive them!). What James means is clear: God is the author and source of the good things in our lives (including the wisdom by which we should live). And just as God is said to be the source of “every good gift,” so God is the source of the ultimate blessing, Jesus Christ (which he was, in a unique and miraculous way; see Luke 1:34-35).

Thus, things can be “from heaven” (meaning they have their source in God) or they can be “from men” (meaning they originate with men). In light of how such language is used in Scripture, Jesus’ words in John 6:38 are clear: Jesus, whose existence began miraculously in the womb of his virgin mother, Mary, is “from God,” “from heaven” and “from above” in the sense that God is his Father and thus his origin. However, if we take Jesus’ words to mean that he, as a personal being, literally came down from heaven from a “pre-existent state,” we must also (to be consistent) believe that it was Jesus in his fleshly body who pre-existed and came down from heaven. For in John 6:33, Jesus declares himself to be “the bread of God” who “comes down from heaven,” and in v. 51, he declares this “bread” to be his “flesh.” As bizarre as this sounds, such a doctrine would be more consistent with the premise that Jesus pre-existed in heaven before he came to earth. Fortunately, however, we need not understand Jesus to be teaching any such thing.

  1. “Jesus said to them, 'Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58).

As this verse is discussed by me in some depth elsewhere on this forum, I’ll just provide the links:

  1. “Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him” (John 12:41).

It’s sometimes argued by Trinitarians that when Isaiah saw God sitting on a throne in a vision (Isaiah 6), he was seeing “God the Son” (for in v. 41 John writes that Isaiah saw [the Messiah’s] glory"). But that’s not at all the only possible (and I think certainly not the best) way to understand John’s words. First of all, where does the Trinitarian think the Father and the Holy Spirit are? Why was there only one divine person seen sitting on a throne in this vision? Rather than support Trinitarianism, this vision seems to further confirm the view of Unitarians that the “one God” is a unipersonal Being. But what then did John mean in this verse? One possible interpretation is that “these things” in v. 41 to refer back to both the quotation from Isaiah 6 and the quotation from Isaiah 53. So what I would suggest is that Isaiah “saw” the Messiah’s glory and spoke of him in both cases. But how did Isaiah see the glory of the Messiah? As a fulfilled reality? No; I believe he saw it in the same sense that Abraham saw the Messiah’s “day” and “was glad” (John 8:56) - that is, he saw it prophetically, in an anticipatory sense (this is most apparent from the prophecy in Isaiah 53, which is one of the greatest Messianic prophecies in all of the OT). So I submit that it could be said by John that Isaiah “saw” the Messiah’s “glory” when anything Isaiah wrote (i.e., “spoke”) had prophetic application to the coming Messiah. And because (according to John) the prophecy in Isaiah 6 had a dual fulfillment and was thus applicable to both Isaiah’s own day (i.e., when he saw YHWH in vision and was commissioned by him) as well as to the time of the Messiah, it could be said that, in both cases, Isaiah “saw [the Messiah’s] glory.”

  1. “I came from the Father and entered the world; now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father” (John 16:28).

As is the case with John 6:38, Jesus could declare that he “came from the Father” because, as the one responsible for the miraculous conception in Mary’s womb (Luke 1:35), God was his source. He “entered the world” when he was conceived, and left the world and went to the Father at his ascension (the word “back” in the expression “I am going back to the Father” is absent from the Greek text. As in the KJV, it should simply read, “I am going to the Father”).

There are also verses that say Jesus was “sent from God,” a phrase that also emphasizes God as the ultimate source of that which is sent. John the Baptist is also said to be a man who was “sent from God” (John 1:6). The idea of coming from God or being sent by God is clarified by Jesus’ words in John 17. There, we read, “As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world” (v. 18). We understand perfectly what Christ meant when he said, “I have sent them into the world.” He meant that he commissioned his disciples, or appointed them. No one thinks that Jesus’ disciples were in heaven with God and incarnated into the flesh. Christ said, “As you have sent me, I have sent them.” Thus, however we understand Christ’s sending his disciples into the world is how we should also understand God’s sending Christ into the world.

  1. “And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed” (John 17:5).

When we take into account the fact that things that are certain to exist or take place, and which are central to God’s plan, are sometimes spoken of in Scripture as if they already exist or have already been accomplished, Jesus’ words are easily harmonized with the fact that his existence as God’s Son had a beginning in history. Jesus was simply glorified in God’s presence before the world existed in God’s divine foreknowledge and predestined plan. In Ephesians 1:4, Paul speaks as if believers existed “before the foundation of the world,” and in 2 Timothy 1:9, Paul writes that believers were given God’s purpose and grace “before the ages began.” And in Romans 8:30 he speaks as if the elect had already been “glorified” (notice the past tense used). But no orthodox Christian believes that human beings existed before the foundation of the world or before the ages began; our being “chosen” by God, or being given God’s purpose and grace, or being “glorified” by him before we actually existed can only refer to God’s foreknowledge and predestined plan (see Rom 8:29-30; Eph 1:5, 11; cf. Gal 1:15; Jer 1:5).

In the same way, Jesus (as the most important and central figure in God’s redemptive plan) was “foreknown before the foundation of the world” (1 Pet 1:20). Because Christ’s being glorified by God was so certain to take place and so central to God’s plan for humanity, Christ could speak as if he had already been glorified in God’s presence before the world began. When Christ spoke the words of John 17:5, he had been glorified in promise, and as a central part of God’s predestined plan, long before he actually came into the world. Further support for this understanding of John 17:5 is that Christ goes on to say (v. 22), “The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one…” Here, the same glory that Christ prayed that God would give him is spoken of as if he already possessed it. But not only that, it is spoken of as if it had already been given to his disciples. And in v. 24, Christ prays, “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.” In v. 5 Christ spoke as if he had ascended to God’s right hand before the world existed, and in v. 24 he spoke as if he had already ascended to God’s right hand at the time of his prayer. In the former case Christ spoke of something that was going to happen as if it took place before he existed, and in the latter case he spoke of something that was going to happen as if it had taken place already while he was praying. In both cases, something that was certain to happen and central to God’s plan is spoken of as if it had already taken place. Was Christ confused during his prayer? Not at all; this was simply a figurative way of speaking.

Wow Aaron :open_mouth:
Thanks for all of this work. I haven’t finished reading your posts, but I’ll definitely get through these, and I’ll try and get to your posts on the other threads too. I’ve enjoyed and been challenged by what I’ve read so far. But to be honest, even if I believed unitarianism, I’m not sure I could ever ditch the trinity (even though I don’t hold it that closely – I don’t understand it!) – I’m not sure whether that’s cowardice or humility. You must have an awful lot of difficulty with most Christians by holding so many minority views…

I note that Aaron summarised why I had included Lk 22:42. I put it in there because it was the first verse where I personally stopped and tried to think of a way around it. The logic of it overcame me. I had no alternative but to either believe it, or else dismiss it and forget about the verse altogether (much as many people dismiss 1 Tim 4:10).

The other verse which confirmed this one was one which Aaron cited: 1 Cor 8:6. not only does this verse delineate God the Father and Jesus, but it tells out that everything is from God but through Jesus. it made more sense of an understanding of the relationship between God the Father and Jesus if there was no trinity.

Am I a non-trinitarian? I can’t say for fear that some spy will read what I write and I’ll lose my job. I do however agree with Aaron on this one:

I never had the sacred cow of ECT so I never had the sacred cow of “three persons” either. I guess (since I’m getting no responses) that I’m not relevant in a theological discussion anymore so much - which I suppose is a good thing but suffice to say this: The “real” creator" and the “real” Spirit of Christ does not care if you label Him as “God” or not. He DOES care if you seek to free the oppressed humans around the globe as that and that alone will bring us to the next stage in this long arduous journey.

So - not to judge you as anything other than humans doing the best you can (I don’t doubt your good intentions) I guess I’ll leave it at that. To quote my famous best friend “He that hath ears”.

Firstborn, the thread is set kind of for no responses, or at least no debate, so that may be why nobody has responded,

or everyone is just ignoring you :smiley:

I hear you brother! Preach it! I love a good theological shoot-out myself, but this stuff really doesn’t mean that much in the Kingdom. Your theology is of little consequence to your salvation. You are saved in the context of your practice, through faith in Yeshua. Getting absorbed in abstract doctrines to the detriment of works/life is immensely dangerous. I recently escaped this sort of attitude in my last church. I feel more alive in Christ then ever because of it too! All that said, please continue: Ding! Ding!..


Hi firstborn,

I think that understanding and believing sound doctrine is very important to our life as disciples (Matt 28:19-20; Acts 2:42; Eph 4:11-14; 1 Thess 5:21; 1 Tim 1:3; 2 Tim 3:10-17; 4:3; Titus 1:9-13; 2:7), and that we should be concerned when people are being lead astray with false teachings (1 Tim. 6:3-5; 2 Tim. 2:16-18). But I also think we all need a “wake up call” when what we affirm intellectually or verbally is not inspiring and challenging us to live in obedience to Christ (which means loving others and doing what we can to minimize the suffering we see around us), and so I appreciate the sentiment expressed in your words above. The doctrines we affirm, strive to understand better and contend for must be more than mere “head knowledge” if they are to influence what we do. And believing the truth should always have a positive influence on our lives and lead to greater conformity to Christ in our interaction with others.

You’re blessed to have never believed ECT! While I do think the doctrine of the Trinity is erroneous (and a “sacred cow” that would be better off as a hamburger! :slight_smile:), I find the doctrine of ECT far more destructive and offensive. I would rather be a Trinitarian Universalist any day than a Unitarian who believes in ECT. At the same time, I think it’s important that we seek to know what is true (especially the truth concerning who God is!), and that believing what is true is important to our worship of God. Recall Jesus’ words to the Samaritan woman in John 4:21-24: “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

Yes, I do know that some writings contained in the collection of writings we call “the bible” (as well as “the church”) put a high emphasis on correct doctrine. That is my very complaint and the purpose of my rant.

Too often the Bible is used as a magic perfect book where people can find ammunition to support their many and widely varying (even opposing) views to prove the rightness or wrongness of theirs or others beliefs. A really weird culture IMO where such things are accepted as normal/rational human behavior. Many of us are born brainwashed to thinking that this is how it should be done.

All that said - I enjoy the bible and all the nuances of doctrine IF they are recognized for what they really are. Using them (the scriptures) to discuss the inspiration and ideas of men about God and seeing the progression/evolution of spiritual thought and ideas through the ages is fascinating and I’ve learned so much - especially in the Hebrew and Greek. But when it all became an institution and political force - forget it.

Obviously - good hearted people like you and most here are not a part of (what I see) as the problem pre se, but are still trained to operate largely within the problem created by religious creeds and dogma through the centuries.

Does this make any sense?

Sorry if I come across as overly critical, I just see things this way and try to express what I see as best I can. Also - I’m off topic because I know the purpose of this thread is pro and con from scripture, so I’ll try to refrain from taking this into a different subject any further.

I have to say, I was hoping and looking forward to Aaron’s contributions to the thread (from the standpoint of having a fine opponent)! Yay! :smiley:

Being swamped at ‘work’ work (which is good in some ways, not so good in others at the moment), I doubt I’ll have the time and energy to go after all these–heck, I haven’t even been able to get back to our fascinating discussion on OT theophanies from a year or more ago!–besides which I do link to a vast amount of my arguments on these topics in 1Cor1522’s sister thread already.

However, another slightly-less-new-member :mrgreen:, “RedHotMagma”, has set up a thread at this link, for replying to the various non-Trin claims and arguments.

Anyone wanting to defend against and/or rebut Aaron or any other non-Trinitarian member contributing to this thread, should either go to that thread or start other threads for specific purposes. Please link back here (and from here to there), if you do so.

John 10:30-33 " ‘I and the Father are one.’ Again the Jews picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus said to them, ‘I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?’ ‘We are not stoning you for any of these,’ replied the Jews, ‘but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.’"

All will admit that Jesus’ Father is God. It is the Father, and not Jesus himself, whom Jesus understood to be the God of Israel (John 8:54), and whom he and all true worshippers worship “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:21-24). It is the Father whom Jesus addressed and referred to as “my God” (Matt 27:46; John 20:17; Rev 3:12), as the “only God” (John 5:43-44), and as the “only true God” (John 17:3). What then does “I and the Father are one” mean? Does it mean, “I and the Father are the same person?” No, it doesn’t – and no orthodox Trinitarian would answer otherwise. But why shouldn’t Jesus’ statement be interpreted in this way? Answer: Because such an interpretation would force Jesus to declare an absurdity. Jesus (a man) and Jesus’ Father (who is Jesus’ God) are most assuredly not the same person. But for the same reason that we cannot understand Jesus to be affirming that he and the Father are the same person (because this would make Jesus declare an absurdity), so we cannot understanding Jesus to be affirming that he and the Father are the same divine being. Jesus’ words cannot mean that he and the Father are both the “only true God” and the “one God.” Throughout the Gospels Jesus both implicitly and explicitly distinguishes himself from God. What then does Jesus mean when he declares that he and the Father are “one?” Answer: “One” here in John 10:30 means “one in purpose,” just as it does in John 17:21-23 in reference to believers. Similarly, when the apostle Paul speaks of he and Apollos as being “one” in 1 Corinthians 3:8, no one understands him to be saying that he and Apollos were the same human being, or shared the same “substance.” A more reasonable interpretation of Paul’s words is that he and Apollos were unified in a common purpose.

Thus, while Jesus was indeed making an astounding claim (i.e., that he and the Father were mutually “one” in purpose, thus giving Jesus a unique status as a human being), we are not told that he was claiming to be “the only true God” (YHWH) - and it is unlikely that this is what the Jews were accusing him of. A better translation of v. 33 would be, “…because you, a man (anthropos; the word “mere” is not in the original Greek text), claim to be a god.” The word theos, without the definite article, can be translated “god” (or “gods”) or “divine” (cf. Acts 12:22; 14:11; 28:6). It is possible, then, that the Jewish people were accusing Jesus of claiming to have the same “divine” status as an angelic being, which are referred to as “gods” (elohim) in Psalm 8:4-5 (cf. Heb 2:7; see also Psalm 86:8; 95:3; 136:1-2; 138:1; Job 38:7). We can be sure that this is a more correct translation and interpretation because, in the very next verses (vv. 34-35), the same expression (theos, without the definite article) is used again by Jesus in his quotation of Psalm 82:6. There, theos is translated “gods.” Jesus’ response to their accusation is basically, “If the corrupt human judges of Israel were called ‘gods’ (in the sense of being God’s human representatives invested with his judicial authority) then there is no impropriety in my calling myself the Son of God.” Thus, neither in the Jews’ accusation nor in Jesus’ response is anything being said about Jesus being YHWH, the Most High God of Israel.

John 14:8-9 "Philip said, ‘Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.’ Jesus answered: ‘Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?’ "

What does Jesus mean when he says, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father?” Does he mean that he and the Father are the same person? Answer: no, that is not what Jesus means (and again, no orthodox Trinitarian would argue otherwise). But why shouldn’t Jesus’ statement be interpreted in this way? Again, because such an interpretation would force Jesus to declare an absurdity. For the same reason, we cannot interpret Jesus’ words to mean that he and the Father are both YHWH. What then does Jesus mean? Answer: he is declaring himself to be the Father’s perfect human representative. As a sinless human being and thus the Father’s perfect human representative (or as Paul says, the “image of the invisible God” – Col 1:15; 2 Cor 4:4), Jesus could with all propriety declare, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.”

When Thomas later exclaims (upon seeing the risen Christ) in John 20:28, “My Lord and my God,” Jesus’ words in John 12:44-45 and John 14:7-9 should come to mind. In John 12 Jesus declared, “Whoever believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me. And whoever sees me sees him who sent me.” And in John 14 we read, “If you had known me, you would have known the Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him” (14:7). Jesus, of course, is not the Father (and no orthodox Christian would argue otherwise). However, because Jesus perfectly represents God, to see and know Jesus is to see and know the Father (which is what Jesus then explains to his disciples in response to Philip’s request – vv. 8-11). But again, it is because Jesus is not the Father that Jesus is not God (because it is the Father who is the “one God”). Jesus even distinguishes himself from God in v. 1 of this very chapter: “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.” Throughout the entire Gospel of John, whenever Jesus or his disciples address or refer to “God,” it is the Father alone who is meant. For example, after Jesus’ resurrection, he told Mary Magdalene, “Go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” It is the Father who is the God of Mary Magdalene and the disciples (including Thomas), and it is the Father who is the God of Jesus. Thus, when Thomas exclaims “My Lord and my God,” we can reasonably infer that by “my Lord” Thomas meant Jesus (whom Paul calls the “one Lord”), and by “my God” he meant the Father (whom Paul calls the “one God”). Upon seeing Christ after he was raised from the dead by God, Thomas must have recalled what Jesus had taught shortly before his death - i.e., that whoever sees Jesus sees him who sent Jesus (i.e., the Father). Thus, Thomas’ declaration “my Lord and my God” should best be understood as an affirmation of this truth.

You’re an Orthodox UR? Is that possible? O.O

Sure, if UR is orthodox doctrine (in the sense of being true). :wink:

Quite a few of the Eastern Orthodox would agree that (one or another variant of) UR is orthodox doctrine.

And insofar as “Orthodoxy” is a handy title for the groups which affirm the Big Three Creeds (Apostle’s, Nicene, and the catholic faith statement within the wrapping statements of the so-called Athanasian Creed), so long as someone affirms those they belong within that set of groups somewhere.

I myself first came to be a Christian universalist (instead of trying to decide between a version of Calvinism or Arminianism, with leanings toward Arm) thanks to extensive study into understanding and believing orthodox trinitarian theism to be true. That isn’t usual (I only know a few other people who arrived at a version of Katholicism this way–maybe I should run a member poll on the topic!) But it does happen. :slight_smile:

I’ve always been interested in the Eastern Orthodox for various reasons, but never courageous enough to go to a parish or something. They’re probably my favorite Christians, though.

just a comment and then a serious question I would like answered by you more learned disciples.
As to “Orthodox”, of course there are NUMEROUS flavors of these - my personal experience with some of what in America we call “Greek Orthodox” - they can be very very narrow-minded in the sense of excluding from their idea of “christian” any of us who subscribe to other-than-orthodox denominations [or non-]. Having good friends that are longtime missionaries in the middle east, we find that much persecution comes from various “orthodox” groups against christian missionaries and small groups of non-orthodox believers. To me their history might show them to be just another form of “Protestant” - decrying some of the doctrines of the Roman church and splintering off to go their own way, retaining much of the baggage of the parent just as other Protestants have. That all said, I think their common understanding of the Trinity is biblically sound.

Question: for the purposes raised by the OP in this thread, do the experts define “Trinitarian” in what I might call the “Lateral Alignment” mode? What I find in the canon [and, to a point raised above, in the ante-nicene fathers also] is a hierarchical understanding of “Trinity”.

To paraphrase Gandhi my issue is not with the Trinity but that so many alleged Trinitarians are practical Modalists.

Claudius; Yes that’s true, and is one of the things that got me to start questioning trinitarianism; too much practical modalism, as you say.

Just as long as nobody here thinks Michael is Jesus, I don’t care if they are trinitarian or unitarian, or modelist, or arian, etc.

The Orthodox are more permissive of “flavors” than other denominations. They have a stronger adherence to the idea of “mystery”, while others like to “know”. This permits for ranges of views. That’s why something like UR can be compatible with Orthodoxy. I’ve even heard a statement that the Orthodox Church believes what its Church (i.e., the members) believes.

The Orthodox are not very clear on the whole Christian/nonChristian thing, either. The Orthodox view their religion as a way of healing, learning, spiritual growth. They believe this is only possible within their church. I think they do a pretty good job in that department. They believe at the judgment, we all encounter God’s love and have to deal with it, and this doesn’t seem religion specific. I feel there’s a bit of a jump here, perhaps where they got off (exclusivity is a bit of a defensive reaction of religions). I asked a few Orthodox if they believe other Christians or unbelievers will be saved. Mostly they avoid the question, and say they can’t know (besides, Orthodoxy is self-centered, not other-people-centered). One notable Orthodox guy said that “there may be sheep outside, we should watch for wolves inside”. Again, very self-centered. The Orthodox are (supposed to be) concerned with THEIR flaws, THEIR problems, and any time I have spoken to an Orthodox, they seemed to reflect that philosophy. Furthermore, the Orthodox are afraid of the book of Revelation /s.

The Orthodox possess a rather strong tradition, compared to most Protestant denominations. It seems to give them a lot of power in terms of how well they follow Jesus. When Protestants give up (bla bla bla all fall short), the Orthodox try to perfect themselves (yes, these are sweeping generalizations and all). The Orthodox have a very strong monasticism tradition, as well.

As for the Roman Catholic Church, the Orthodox believe the RCC schizmed, not them… I don’t really know. But there is Catholic Church history, and there’s Orthodox Church history. Feel free to compare them.

I guess the only question now is why the heck am I still not Orthodox. :laughing:


For purposes of this thread, modalists are also invited to present their cases against trinitarians, since trinitarians (whether among the central orthodoxy promoted by Western and Eastern Rome, or otherwise) would affirm the real distinction of the Persons, “neither confounding the Persons nor dividing the substance.”

(Ideally anyway. Even professional trinitarians sometimes have difficulty keeping that in mind, and so shift effectively into some variety of modalism or unitarianism. But it is a shift. The position that professes both modalism and unitarianism, to roughly oversimplify it :wink: , may be difficult to hold, but it isn’t one instead of the other.)