It’s thought by some that the idea of a Trinitarian God is a Christian invention not found in Jewish thought. Nothing could be further from the truth, which we will look at here.
In part one we looked at what the Trinity is and why it’s important. Now we’re ready to look at this Christian doctrine in the Bible.
Again, the Trinity is the Christian doctrine that deals with and describes the nature of God. The doctrine asserts the following:
- There is one and only one God.
- God eternally exists in three distinct persons.
- The Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God.
- The Father is not the Son, the Son is not the Father, the Father is not the Spirit, etc. (Theopedia)
As before, in order save verbiage, I will use short videos. The first ones are from InspiringPhilosophy (IP). Here are links to two short videos that outline the Scripture references to a Triune God in both the Old and New Testaments:
What I want to focus in on here is the notion that the Trinity is a Christian invention that does not find its roots in Hebrew Scripture. This video clip from IP refutes this argument. It’s a fascinating study worth watching.
This second video is from Trinity Apologetics with Dr. Michael Brown where he discusses some of the Trinitarian leanings found in Jewish sources that go well with the tri-unity concept of YHWH found in holy Scripture, all the while emphasizing the oneness of God. (NOTE: The outro to this video is a lot louder than the rest, so you may want to lower your volume @ 7:30).
Dr. Brown mentions the Jewish thought on the personification of wisdom and John calling Christ the “Word of God” (John 1:1). I talked about the history of this concept briefly in “Logos: the structuring reality of everything.”
While the doctrine of the Trinity is admittedly a hard concept to grasp with our finite minds, it’s critical that we do have at least a basic understanding and not make it a secondary issue, because when we understand God’s true nature in relationship within Himself, we will understand how we are to relate to Him, to one another, and to the world around us. This is what Jesus said we would see when we received the Spirit of Truth:
20 On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. (John 14:20 NKJV)
23 I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me. (John 17:23 NKJV)
I pray Paul’s prayer for us, “that the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints (Eph. 1:18). Amen.
I’m loving this series, Mel. Learn lots of interesting things! I’ll probably come back and watch those videos again, pick this up some more.
Thanks IB. 🙂
Couple of thoughts from my book:
Couple of my own thoughts: While there are some scriptures in Genesis that make mention of “us,” there’s no indication the word refers to the entities considered by Christians as the “Holy Trinity.” (But even beyond that … who was there to overhear these remarks?)
I think you will agree that people on both sides of the issue can make the scriptures mean/say whatever they want. It’s all a matter of interpretation … which is why so many non-believers say the bible can hardly be the “final word” when it comes to Christian doctrines. If we were to view things without prejudice, the “feelings” and “experiences” referenced by believers (such as yourself) probably have more validity than any written word.
Hi Nan. While your history of what we have available of early church writers using the word, “Trinity” is essentially correct, it doesn’t mean it wasn’t a doctrine that was taught before then. The Nicene Council did not make the Trinitarian doctrine official. The Council was convened in order to deal with Arius’s heretical teaching what was causing strive in the church. The reason the Trinity is more fully fleshed out as a statement of faith there was to clearly contrast it from the teachings of Arius and other heretical teachings at the time (the modalism of Sabellius and earlier Gnostic teachings). But the Trinity was already a well-established doctrine long before the Council of Nicaea met in 325. The Bible itself is pretty clear on this teaching once you know what it is.
I would also say that, while the doctrine did get better articulated in the second and third centuries, it was done so precisely because of the revelation of Christ and how this challenged the Greek view of God as being indivisible. It was also thought to be a challenge to Jewish monotheism but that turned out to not be the case. Once the early church fathers understood the hypostatic union of Christ, they saw this tri-unity principle of God hidden in the Hebrew text. The two links I gave here to Old and New Testament clearly lay this out in Scripture. So, the Trinity was clearly in Scripture long before it was recognized or named so. By the Council of Constantinople in 381, where Gregory of Nyssa gave more definition to the Holy Spirit in the trinity, it was a settled matter.
Of course, people can choose to not believe this, but it’s not a disputed matter in orthodox Christianity.
Note again what I wrote: … the First Council of Nicaea established the doctrine as orthodoxy and made it a part of the Nicene Creed. I didn’t say they are the ones who came up with the doctrine … they established it as being part of the Christian belief and included in the Nicene Creed (which I’m sure you are familiar with).
As you know, I did considerable research for my book. Although I had left the church, I was not prejudiced against Christian teachings. Rather, my goal was to learn more about them and in the process, I discovered many were not valid but rather were “invented” by early church fathers to validate what they believed to be “truth.” Over the years, yes, they became part of “orthodox Christianity” but this does not necessarily mean they have inarguable validity.
I’ve also done considerable research on the early church fathers and the Trinity in particular, and have read all the ante-Nicene fathers, what they actually said, and I come up with a very different conclusion than you have (of course!). I know you’ve left Christianity so I understand why you would say it this way, but when you say that many of their findings were “invalid” and “invented,” that is a derogatory statement that I would very much disagree with. All Christian doctrine is construed from interpretation of Scripture but it doesn’t mean that it is invented. The more accurate way to look at this doctrine would be to say it was first fleshed out and articulated as a doctrine by the early Church fathers, but it was already deeply and inextricably embedded in Scripture, both in the Old and New Testament (as the videos show). Btw, we see the same progressive understanding in Scripture with the resurrection. They discovered a truth about God in Christ that was always there from the beginning but hidden until the proper time.
There is no meaningful argument over the essentials of Trinitarian doctrine amongst orthodox Christians, only from heterodoxical cults, sects, skeptical scholars, and other religions. These arguments were actually well hammered out in the first five centuries, even though skeptics have tried to discredit them with misinformation. Just about every objection they have raised against this doctrine in modern times was already argued out and found conclusively to be false and heterodoxical, and for good reason. This is why the Trinitarian doctrine is not just some tradition but a central tenet of the faith. There are many Christian doctrines that I would not be dogmatic about, but this is not one of them. In my view, without the Trinity we cannot understand the true nature of God or our relationship with Him.
Always “interesting” to discuss (debate?) Christianity and its various perspectives with you. You express yourself with such “certainty” as though there simply are no other explanations. I suppose I should expect nothing less. *sigh*
Even so, because I DO feel there are other ways to look at things, I expect I’ll continue to present alternate views. 😛
Have a nice evening & weekend. I’m sure we’ll “talk” again.
I don’t know if I would call it certainty…maybe a high of confidence. 🙂 Of course, I know I can’t prove it and I understand there will be those who disagree. I myself have varying levels of confidence in other Christian doctrines, going from “willing to die for” to mildly interesting. The Trinity would happen to be very high on the scale. Let’s say it’s beyond a reasonable doubt in my mind because it’s very central to my understanding of God and relationship to Him. But I’m sure we’ll talk about other subjects that I’ll be more middle of the road on, or could even see it several different ways. I may even agree with you in some areas! 🙂
You have a nice evening & weekend, too.
And the Trinity is one such ”construed interpretation”.
If there were no doubts then having to establish this belief as official doctrine would not have been necessary, as it would have been as plain as the nose of Yeshua’s face.
There are plenty of non-Trinitarian Christians who flatly deny this ”construed interpretation”.
The harder one has to work at explaining something that should be obvious suggests there is something not right about it, that it is in fact, man-made.
What does your god say about it?
Well, absolutely nothing, in fact.
Any more than he claimed to be Yahweh.
That is a totally faulty premise. Many critical truths are not obvious to us, even in the natural world. For instance, bacteria and viruses weren’t obvious to us for thousands of years, yet it was always true, and many people died because of our ignorance of that truth.
And you have no excuse because intuiting a creator is as plain as the nose on your face, as Paul said:
Everyone can intuit a creator from just seeing the world around us. We do know, we just suppress the truth in our hearts. This is the argument made from natural theology, and why humankind has believed in a creator god from the beginning. God became a man in Christ we could see and touch, and He explained God to us (John 1:18). Now, we’re no longer ignorant about who this “God” is (Acts 17:16-31).
Not true. God said a LOT about it. The video clips list dozens of places where He said it. You just don’t believe it.
Then are we dealing with a god or a man who had delusions of grandeur and simply screwed up?
There is only one answer.
To compare with bacteria etc is as childish and ridiculous a response as I have ever read.
Even if a creator can be imagined where in Hades does one intuit this deity to be the character Jesus the Nazarene?
No your god absolutely NOTHING about it whatsoever.
Stop telling lies.
You are just proving my point. You just dismiss everything by saying I’m lying, so there’s really nothing I can say to you, Ark. We’ve been round this same mountain many times now. I don’t want to waste more of my time explaining the same things over and over again. Believe whatever you want. You are free to do so.
But you are, Mel.
The Trinity is a man-made doctrine from start to finish. It does not feature in the bible any more than there are any passages where Jesus the Nazarene claims to be Yahweh.
To continue to assert either of these are true suggests you are delusional or telling lies.
Which one is it?
That’s your opinion, Ark. One that cannot be proven. I am asserting what I have high confidence in, based on Scripture, which is what every person does who has convictions on anything. That doesn’t mean I’m lying. What’s funny here is that you are the one spouting absolute certainties like some extreme Fundamentalist. But you know nothing about it.
So, no, I am not lying. You are free to disagree with me, but your unfounded accusations will not work on me. And you only lose credibility by these accusatory dismissals.
Nothing about what, Mel?
You yourself have stated it is all construed interporetation.
And thus you cannot demonstrate the truth of a single claim ….. from evidence.
And you KNOW this. Thus ,as you know this to assert otherwise suggests you are delusional ( as a result of indoctrination) or telling lies.
You tell which one it is, as I fail to see a middle ground here.
What do you mean by evidence, Ark? Exactly how do you define evidence?
Mel … I can’t let this comment go by without commenting: “Everyone can intuit a creator from just seeing the world around us.” I feel you are making a very broad assumption here. Certainly people who lean towards religious beliefs (of all faiths) may believe (or consider) there is a “creator,” but to say that everyone believes (or intuits) this and are simply “suppressing” the truth is, to me, stretching the point.
I’m just saying what Paul said; and I agree with his point because, to me, it’s irrational, not a natural intuition. What I mean is, I would never look at anything else so intricately put together and assume there’s no designer. It seems to me that we have to have that intuitive knowledge taught out of us.
So are you saying that a young child has this “intuitive knowledge”? That s/he “automatically” looks around and says, “Wow! There must be something wonderful somewhere ‘out there’ that created all this!”?
I’d say it’s more the other way around. That the “intuitive knowledge” you speak of is what is taught.
I’m not saying that a child would have this explanation. But if this normal intuition were not true, religion would’ve have never begun in the first place. We would have no field of metaphysics or philosophy because it is not natural. We would just have science. And you cannot just dismiss it as superstitious ignorance on their part. While their conclusions might’ve been superstitious in the ancient world, their intuition was not. And science cannot answer these existential questions. That’s why the “God” question will never go away.
Yes Nan, iot is what we call indoctrination. But we all know this to be the case … even Mel.
To admit it he would incriminate himself, thus he is obliged to continue to lie.
Oh, the webs of self-deceit .
And that’s a biased statement, Ark. Indoctrination goes both ways. All children are indoctrinated, one way or the other. They won’t have their own convictions until they are older. And all positions are stated from a biased point of view. It’s a false premise to assert that the default is to not believe. We make a choice up front and justify our belief or non-belief with our “evidence.” And to call this a “web of deceit” is a judgmental accusation not worthy of respect.
Ah so you ARE saying that you indoctrinate kids to accept your unsubstantiated beliefs.
Thank you. A little bit of honesty for a change.
I do not need to put speech marks around any evidence I have ever presented to my children. Not ever.
I challenge you to identify one piece of bona fide evidence you have ever produced to show your children regarding the tenets of your faith.
Yes, of course it’s indoctrination. But my beliefs aren’t unsubstantiated. And children are also indoctrinated by public schools and everything else they have to learn until they can think for themselves. That’s the only way they can learn something.
Again, you present a false premise. Your definition of “evidence” is untenable in real life. There are many things that we believe that are not unequivocal and beyond any shred of doubt. That’s a ridiculous assertion. Prove to me unequivocally without a shred of doubt why you chose your wife, or love your kids. And prove without any shred of doubt WHY there is science or how something can come from absolutely nothing.
Substantiate the Virgin Birth of the biblical character Jesus the Nazarene please.
Nonsense!You tell you kids that Jesus s god.
You tell your children that this god loves them and if they worship it/him and have faith they will live forever in heaven.
Can you demonstrate a single one of these outlandish claims?
( For your sake, we won’t even touch on hell ….)
We have evidence of evolution.
We have evidence of dinosaurs
We have evidence of fossils.
We have evidence of …. well pretty much everything except the claims you make.
Why I chose my wife?
I didn’t. She chose me … apparently.
Of course, we have evidence for science. I’m not disputing that. But we make conclusions based on evidence that doesn’t fit your definition of evidence. And again, indoctrination is not bad per se. And it’s not wrong to tell your child what you believe. You have that right and it’s ridiculous to say you shouldn’t. As they grow older, you can nuance that with critical thought. That’s what we did with our sons. They came out just fine.
I have to go so I won’t be able to continue this conversation with you. Let me say one last thing here about the point I’m trying to make. Ark, your definition of “evidence” is untenable because it’s self-refuting. It’s merely a scientistic absolutism that cannot even be proven with science! In science, a hypotheses is put forward and tested and agreed upon, until someone comes along with a better explanation. There is no absolutism “beyond any shred of doubt.” Your definition of “evidence” would not work in any court of law either. The jury cannot reach a verdict based on “unequivocal, no shred of doubt” evidence. They must come to the point of “beyond a REASONABLE doubt” to make their decision. That’s the best you can do with things that cannot be proven or disproven with science. You are setting an impossible standard in order to shut down anyone that you doesn’t agree with you. But there are a lot of things in this world that we believe that would not hold up to that standard, whether we are theists or atheists. So, your assertion is bogus.
Talk to you later.
But, by your definition of evidence, you will NEVER know. Yet, I bet you make decisions all the time based on less that what you call evidence.
And my sons are all Christians. Thank you for your concern. And thank God they didn’t become irrational atheists! 🙂
Never know what, Mel?
Again you cannot provide any evidence for your claims, yet you assert they are true.
Thus this is a lie.
Again, your definition of evidence is untenable, as I have explained several times now, so you’re saying nothing to me.
It’s a false premise to assert that the default is to not believe.
No, it’s not. You are removing the young and innocent child who has NO knowledge of a “creator” and replacing it with one that has been “educated” by parents, society, training, etc.
Further, belief in a superior being did not come from “intuitive knowledge.” It came from fear and ignorance by primitive people who did not understand nature … and was later “developed” by more “educated” individuals … and included BOTH “gods and goddesses.”
Mel, I do understand where you’re coming from. These are the things you have been taught … and accepted. But that does NOT make them undisputed truth.
What I said is that the false premise is that of unbelief. A child is actually much more neutral and open to either possibility. I would argue that a theist model is more rational, but I am not against them learning other views. It’s not wrong to teach them about God; science is not wrong either. My argument is with scientism.
It is true that ancient superstitious beliefs came from fear and ignorance, but it’s not true that they did not intuit a creator. Removing fear and ignorance does not remove God, I believe it bring His true nature into sharper focus. Of course, I understand you probably won’t agree with that. 🙂
Fair enough. I never said they were undisputed. But, actually, I personally rejected the religion of my youth and was well trained in science when I went to school for electronics engineering. I was very happy being neither a believer or a non-believer. My faith in God is not based on indoctrination, but in a real living experience I have with God that is transforming my life, but not without reasonable explanation as I have shown on this blog. And besides, the premise of ignorance is false because people like Francis Collins and Alister McGrath are brilliant, well-educated scientists, and C.S. Lewis was a brilliant literary scholar, and they grew up in secular environments and became atheists, then came to faith after a journey of well-reasoned thought and exploration. I would hardly call them ignorant and superstitious.
Children assign agency. This is a known fact. They have to be indoctrinated to believe in gods.
And they have to be indoctrinated to believe everything else. It doesn’t make it true or false. It’s just how they learn.
With religious belief they are gradually programmed through fear. Reward and Punishment.
Would you like to see a few videos , Mel to demonstrate this fact?
No, I don’t want to see your videos. Anyone can prop up bad examples. It doesn’t mean that this represents healthy Christianity.
There is no such thing as healthy Christianity.
It requires indoctrination.
It is based on fear.
And I am still waiting for you to produce a single piece of evidence of the basic tenets of your religious beliefs that would be good enough to convince a neutral observer.
I have to go, but in the meantime, you can prove your claim by providing unequivocal, beyond any shred of doubt whatsoever in every case evidence (not your opinion or point of view) if you want. But I won’t hold my breath.
And “neutral observer?” Haha…that’s funny. You are naïve aren’t you. Talk to you later.
Neutral observer could be a South American Indian for example.
You are simply too disingenuous for words.
They are not neutral. They are a product of their own culture. They start with their own set of beliefs and assumptions.
And you are simply too naïve for words.
Of course they do, but they beleive in gods as you do. They are at least open to be convinced.
Christians managed t do just this didn’t they?
After slaughtering one or two of course.
Should not evidence stand up for itself, Mel?
Why would you consider me or anyone else overly bias to your claims?
We both agree that evolution is fact do we not?
And we both base this on evidence , yes?
So use this as your template and show me evidence for just one of your claims.
Again, your absolutist definition of evidence won’t even stand up to itself, so I have no way of answering your question. You’ve set it up to be false.
Fair enough. Indoctrination, peer pressure guilt, several thousand years of cultural bias, and fear.
None of that is certainly true in public schools and the marketplace today. Christians are made fun of and, if anything, it’s biased against religion, yet people like Francis Collins and other highly educated people still come to faith in Christ. Hmmmm…
He didn’t come to faith because of evidence, as well we both know.
So one of several of the reasons I mentioned still hold true.
What was yours again? Guilt wasn’t it?
Francis Collins came to faith AFTER looking at the arguments objectively and honestly. Faith is a decision you eventually have to make make because evidence will never conclusively prove anything outside of the natural world.
My reason for coming to Christ was not guilt at all. I wanted to know Him the way my (future) wife did. I choose to accept the invitation and it’s the best decision I’ve ever made in my life. Second was eventually marrying my wife (which was also a faith decision since I could not predict the outcome).
No he didn’t. This too is a false statement.
The natural world is all we have and you cannot demonstrate otherwise.
To make claims supernatural claims which you assert are true makes you a liar.
You were a christian beforehand if memory serves and then you decided to become a Christ follower.
So if not guilt was it childhood indoctrination?
So, Francis Collins is a liar, too. Just another indoctrinated dupe. Whatever…this conversation has gotten ridiculous. Good-bye.
Christians are made fun of … ??? You must live in a very secular area!
I’ve heard and read numerous personal testimonies that say it’s much more the other way around. For example, in many (if not most) of the southern states — where religion pretty much rules the roost — individuals (especially children) who don’t go to church and pray and do all the things that “Christians” do are ridiculed, taunted, and even threatened with physical attack.
And it’s this type of thing that causes many to have an extremely negative view of Christianity. While you and other believers may promote love and forgiveness and gush on and on about the “Love of Christ,” there are double (triple? quadruple?) your number that use threats and fear and even physical violence to promote their beliefs. I know you’re going to say this is not something you condone, but you cannot help but agree it does happen and it’s why so many atheists pound away at the Christian faith.
I definitely don’t live in the Bible belt! We’re not as secular as in the Northwest, but most people in my area are either very religious (traditionally) or secular, either indifferent or anti-Christian (The Freedom from Religion Organization is based in Madison, WI). I would probably disagree with a lot of the Bible belt culture, but not with their faith in Christ.
Again, sadly, I would have to agree with your assessment of the current situation. I might be as hard on this type of Christianity as you are. In my book I made the point that American evangelicalism, as it’s currently practiced, is broken and in need of total reform. On these issues, I would be on the side of atheists, but not on their side about faith in Christ. That’s why I generally use the term “religion” in a pejorative sense. I want freedom from religion, too! 🙂 What I advocate is actually following Christ.