Some Powerful Reasonings About the Trinity
Not So Easily Dismissed
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This [Trinity] doctrine, were it true, must, from its difficulty, singularity, and importance, have been laid down with great clearness, guarded with great care, and stated with all possible precision. But where does this statement appear? From the many passages which treat of God, we ask for one, one only, in which we are told, that He is a threefold being, or that he is three persons, or that he is Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. On the contrary, in the New Testament, where, at least, we might expect many express assertions of this nature, God is declared to be one, without the least attempt to prevent the acceptation of the words in their common sense; and He is always spoken of and addressed in the singular number, that is, in language which was universally understood to intend a single person, and to which no other idea could have been attached, without an express admonition. So entirely do the Scriptures abstain from stating the Trinity, that when our opponents would insert it into their creeds and doxologies, they are compelled to leave the Bible, and to invent forms of words altogether unsanctioned by Scriptural phraseology. That a doctrine so strange, so liable to misapprehension, so fundamental as this is said to be, and requiring such careful exposition, should be left so undefined and unprotected, to be made out by inference, and to be hunted through distant and detached parts of Scripture, – this is a difficulty, which, we think, no ingenuity can explain.
We have another difficulty. Christianity, it must be remembered, was planted and grew up amidst sharp-sighted enemies, who overlooked no objectionable part of the system, and who must have fastened with great earnestness on a doctrine involving such apparent contradictions as the Trinity. We cannot conceive an opinion against which the Jews, who prided themselves on an adherence to God’s unity, would have raised an equal clamor. Now, how happens it that in the apostolic writings, which relate so much to objections against Christianity, and to the controversies which grew out of this religion, not one word is said implying that objections were brought against the gospel from the doctrine of the Trinity, not one word is uttered in its defence and explanation, not a word to rescue it from reproach and mistake? This argument has almost the force of demonstration. We are persuaded that had three divine persons been announced by the first preachers of Christianity, all equal and all infinite, one of whom was the very Jesus who had lately died on the cross, this peculiarity of Christianity would have almost absorbed every other, and the great labor of the Apostles would have been to repel the continual assaults which it would have awakened. But the fact is, that not a whisper of objection to Christianity on that account reaches our ears from the apostolic age. In the Epistles we see not a trace of controversy called forth by the Trinity.
from: Channing, William
Ellery (b.1780-d.1842). Unitarian Christianity; A Discourse on
Some of the Distinguishing Opinions of Unitarians, Delivered at [the
Ordination of Rev. Jared Sparks (b.1789- d.1866) in The First Independent
Church of] Baltimore, May 5, 1819.
Reprinted: Centenary Edition. Originally
Published in 1819. "Introduction" signed by E.M.W. [Wilbur, Earl
Morse (b.1866-d.1956)]. (Boston, Massachusetts: American Unitarian Association, , 1919),
heading II , subheading 1, pp.
35-37 (brackets ours). Library of Congress Call & Card Number: BX9843.C5 S55
1919 / 21017181
…the unbelieving Jews, in the time of the Apostles, opposed Christianity with the utmost bitterness and passion. They sought on every side for objections to it. There was much in its character to which the believing Jews could hardly be reconciled. The Epistles are full of statements, explanations, and controversy, relating to questions having their origin in Jewish prejudices and passions. With regard however to this doctrine [the Trinity], which if it had ever been taught, the believing Jews must have received with the utmost difficulty, and to which the unbelieving Jews would have manifested the most determined opposition, – with regard to this doctrine, there is not trace of any controversy. But, if it had ever been taught, it must have been the main point of attack and defense between those who assailed, and those who supported Christianity. There is nothing ever said in its explanation. But it must have required, far more than any other doctrine, to be explained, illustrated, and enforced; for it appears, not only irreconcilable with the doctrine of the Unity of God, but equally so with that of the humanity of our Saviour; and yet both these doctrines, it seems, were to be maintained in connexion with it. It must have been necessary, therefore, to state it as clearly as possible, to exhibit it in its relations, and carefully to guard against the misapprehensions to which it is so liable on every side. Especially must care have been taken to prevent the gross mistakes into which the Gentile converts from polytheism were likely to fall. Yet so far from any such clearness of statement and fulness of explanation, the whole language of the New Testament in relation to this subject is…a series of enigmas, upon the supposition of its truth. The doctrine, then, is never defended in the New Testament, though unquestionably it would have been the main object of attack, and the main difficulty in the Christian system. It is never explained, though no doctrine could have been so much in need of explanation. On the contrary, upon the supposition of its truth, the Apostles express themselves in such a manner, that if it had been their purpose to darken and perplex the subject, they could not have done it more effectually. And still more, this doctrine is never insisted upon as a necessary article of faith; though it is now represented by its defenders as lying at the foundation of Christianity.
Taken from: Norton, Andrews (b.1786-d.1853).
A Statement of Reasons For Not Believing
The Doctrines of Trinitarians, Concerning The Nature of God and The Person
of Christ. Abbot, Ezra (b.1819-d.1884), DD, LL.D., Editor. (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Brown, Shattuck, and Company; Boston, Massachusetts: Hilliard, Gray, and Company, 1833), pp. 38, 39 (brackets ours). BX9841 .N7 1833 / unk83-14874.
It would have been utterly impossible that our Lord’s contemporaries, his Apostles, his companions and disciples, or that the historians of his life, and miracles, and sufferings, should have written and spoken of him, have conversed with him, and behaved to him with all the familiarity which they always manifested, if they believed that Christ was in truth the very and eternal God. Let us for a moment place ourselves in their situation; and we shall feel at once, that the instant the amazing truth was communicated to them, their faculties would be absorbed in terror and astonishment; – no more free conversation, no more asking of questions: no more attempts to impose upon him or to rebuke him: the greatest awe and distance would instantaneously take place, and all the endearing and familiar relations of master, instructor, companion and friend, would be absorbed in the overwhelming apprehension of their Maker and their God.
And what would be the style and manner of those who, under these impressions, should sit down to write the narrative of his life and his miracles, his discourses and his sufferings? Would three out of four of his historians completely forget the awful fact of his divine nature, and not drop a single hint of it from the beginning to the end of their histories? Would the rest of the sacred writers have insisted upon this circumstance only incidentally and obscurely? Would the most direct evidence of the divinity of Christ have been found chiefly in passages at least suspicious, if not notoriously spurious? Would the great discovery have been left to be spelled out from a text here and another there, which if put together by a profound scholar, and especially be one who was critically versed in the niceties of the Greek article, might to men, whose minds are fond of mystery, be made to convey some such dark and hidden meaning? Would it be necessary, in order to establish the astonishing doctrine of the proper deity of Christ, to collect twenty or thirty texts, which, some being rightly, and some wrongly translated, might appear to countenance it: and to repeat those texts over and over, so that ignorant and inattentive persons might imagine that they recurred in every page of the New Testament?
If Matthew, and Mark, and Luke, and John, and Paul, and Peter, believed “that our Lord Jesus Christ is the very and eternal God, of one substance with the Father,” could they not have expressed the doctrine in language as plain as that of the learned Lecturer, or any other framer or supporter of creeds and articles whatever? And could they not with equal facility have lavished the charges of falsehood, impiety and blasphemy, against the impugners of the faith?
I am confident that it is impossible for any person, who reflects calmly and seriously upon the subject, to doubt, that if the doctrine of their Lord’s equality with God were true, and made known to the Apostles and first believers, their minds would have been so deeply and so powerfully impressed with the subject, that they would be able to think, and speak, and write of nothing else, and that this great and wonderful doctrine would be blazoned from one end of the New Testament to the other: it would flame in every chapter, it would shine in every page, it would dazzle in every line.
That it does not so; that not only pages and chapters, but even whole books of the New Testament, yea, that professed histories of our Lord’s life and character, and of the progress and success of his doctrine, of what he was and what he taught, and of what his disciples said and taught of him, should have passed over this great discovery in silence as deep and as total as the silence of the grave, is a demonstration as clear as light to every human being whose understanding is not veiled by the grossest prejudice, that these writers had never heard of the divinity of Christ, that it never entered into their conception that the Master whom they revered and loved, was the very and eternal God whom they adored and worshipped.
All arguments and criticisms, however ingenious, however learned, however recondite [obscure], which can be produced in reply to considerations and facts like these, are as chaff before the whirlwind; and like Samson’s cords, they fall asunder, as a thread of tow touched by the fire.
Taken from: Belsham, Thomas (b.1750-d.1829), Minister of
Essex Street Chapel.
Lecturer Reproved: Being a Reply to Calumnious Charges of the Rev. C[harles] A[bel]
Moysey [b.1779-d.1859], D.D. etc. In His Late Bampton Lectures Against
the Unitarians, and Especially the Editors of the Improved
Version [of the New Testament]; in Letters to a Friend. To Which
is Annexed a Letter, in Reply to the Charges of the Very Reverend Dean
[William] Magee [b.1766-d.1831], In Volume II. Part II. of His
Dissertations on Atonement and Sacrifice. (London, England:
R. Hunter; Dean Eaton, 1819), pp. 42-45 (brackets ours). Pamphlets on Protestant Christian Denominations, 28 vols., Part 2; 1819-1947, number 34. Library of Congress Collection Level Cataloging, Collection Management: BX4807 / 95127685.
There arose several controversies in that age, especially with those Jews who had been converted to Christianity. Some of these are treated of in the Epistles. But it is very observable, that amongst the questions which thus arose and required explanations from the Apostles, there is no record of any question or controversy respecting the Object of worship. And yet, if the new religion was adding two new objects of worship [“Jesus” and “Holy Spirit”] to that of the old [“Jehovah God” alone], this would have been, to a Jew, by far the most important, most interesting, and most perplexing of all the peculiarities of the gospel. No such doctrine could have been added to the ancient faith of the Jews, with whom the Unity of God was the proud and distinguishing tenet [Deuteronomy 6:4], without its occasioning some controversy, between those who received and those who persecuted the new birth. Yet no such controversy took place; neither is there the slightest appearance in the New Testament, that any objection, difficulty, or doubt arose in any quarter upon this ground. Is it not impossible, then, that any such doctrine should have been taught?
from: Ware, Henry, Jr. (b.1794-d.1843).
Outline of the
Testimony of Scripture Against the
Trinity. 2nd Edition. “This Tract is taken from
an Address delivered in 1827 before the Unitarian Association of York
County, Maine.” (Boston, Massachusetts: Gray and Bowen,
1832), IV , 5, pp. 17, 18 (brackets ours). Now
contained within the First Series, Numbers 50-61
of: Tracts of the American Unitarian
Association. (Boston, Massachusetts: The Association, Series 1–, vol. 1–, 1827–), 1st Series, Volume 5, Number 58 (1832), pp. 211-232. Scattered issues only in Miscellaneous Pamphlet Collection (AC901.M5) and in YA Pamphlet Collection. BX9813 .A5 / 46028939.
We nowhere find either in the Acts or the Epistles any trace of the controversy and questionings which the direct announcement of such a doctrine [of the Trinity] must have excited. The one aim of the early apostolic preaching was to convince first the Jews, and then the Gentiles, that Jesus, whose life and teaching were so wonderful, whom God had raised from the dead, was the Messiah, exalted by God to be a Prince and a Saviour. To acknowledge Jesus as the Christ, or Jesus as Lord, which is essentially the same thing, was the one fundamental article of the Christian faith. Much, indeed, was involved in this confession; but it is now, I suppose, fully established and generally admitted that the Jews in the time of Christ had no expectation that the coming Messiah would be an incarnation of Jehovah, and no acquaintance with the mystery of the Trinity.
from: Abbot, Ezra (b.1819-d.1884), D.D, LL.D. "On the Construction of Romans ix .
appearing within: Journal of Biblical
Literature. (Boston, Massachusetts: Society of Biblical Literature and
Exegesis, vol. 1–, 1881–), vol. 1 (1881), pp. 87-154, quote from p. 124 (brackets ours). BS410 .J47 / 01-009638.
…[The Trinity] is not clearly or explicitly taught anywhere in Scripture, yet it is widely regarded as a central doctrine, indispensable to the Christian faith. In this regard, it goes contrary to what is virtually an axiom of biblical doctrine, namely, that there is a direct correlation between the scriptural clarity of a doctrine and its cruciality to the faith and life of the church….There is another, more general objection against the doctrine of the Trinity. It is essentially an argument from the apparent silence of the Bible on this important subject. This contention notes that there really is no explicit statement of the doctrine of the Trinity in the Bible, particularly since the revelation by textual criticism of the spurious nature of 1 John 5:7b. Other passages have, in many cases, been seen on closer study to be applicable only under the greatest strain. There are, to be sure, still a number of passages intimating something that contributes to the formulation of the doctrine. The question, however, is this. It is claimed that the doctrine of the Trinity is a very important, crucial, and even basic doctrine. If that is indeed the case, should it not be somewhere more clearly, directly, and explicitly stated in the Bible? If this is the doctrine that especially constitutes Christianity’s uniqueness, as over against unitarian monotheism on the one hand [in particular, with respect to the Jewish belief about God], and polytheism on the other hand [referring to the Gentile/Pagan belief systems], how can it be only implied in the biblical revelation? In response to the complaint that a number of portions of the Bible are ambiguous or unclear, we often hear a statement something like, “It is the peripheral matters that are hazy, or on which there seem to be conflicting biblical materials. The core beliefs are clearly and unequivocally revealed.” This argument would appear to fail us with respect to the doctrine of the Trinity, however. For here is a seemingly crucial matter where the Scriptures do not speak loudly and clearly.…Little direct response can be made to this charge. It is unlikely that any text of Scripture can be shown to teach the doctrine of the Trinity in a clear, direct and unmistakable fashion.
from: Erickson, Millard J. (b.?-d.?).
God in Three
Persons: A Contemporary Interpretation of the
Printing. (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 1996), pp. 11, 12, 108, 109 (brackets ours). BT111.2 .E75 1995 / 94046191.
[The Trinity] is not a biblical doctrine in the sense that any formulation of it can be found in the Bible.…What is amazing, however, is that this [later, fourth century] confession of God as One in Three took place without significant struggle and without controversy by a people [the Jews] indoctrinated for centuries in the faith of the one God, and that in entering the Christian church they were not conscious of any break with their ancient faith.*
Taken from: The Illustrated
Bible Dictionary. Douglas, James Dixon (b.1922-d.2003), Editor; Hillyer,
N. (b.?-d.?), Joint Editor. 3 vols. (Leicester, England; Sydney and Auckland, Australia: InterVarsity Press; Tyndale House Publishers; Hodder and Stoughton, 1980), pp. 1597, 1598 (brackets ours). BS440 .I44 1980. OCLC: 7285769.
more reasonable explanation
as to why a concept of God "as One
in Three" was able to take "place without significant struggle and without controversy" (especially among first century Jews), is simply because
of the fact that no such unusual ideas about God had ever been introduced. When
Jesus spoke about the role he was playing in the outworking
of God's will and purpose, it stands to reason
that if, along with this,
he was also introducing any new, expanded notions
about their "God," (especially with any hint of being a
"Trinity"), as a serious modification to their view of God, such could have
never taken place without some immediate notice, without some level of discussion - and, certainly, never to be
allowed "without significant struggle and without controversy." As
this scholar has certainly made clear, there
is no evidence that any of such intimations about God had
ever taken place, thus providing one of the greatest proofs against
any notion of the introduction of such a radically new teaching/thinking/belief about
Why is it that whenever there was an occasion for discussing the identity of the one, true God, the authors and participants of Scripture always spoke of him as “the Father” and never as “the triune God”? Perhaps these facts do not decisively affect the validity of Trinitarian teaching (what Trinitarian apologists would ultimately have to contend), but who could rightfully deny the reasonableness and significance of the question? Why is it that every positively and deliberately-set-forth scriptural presentation of God’s identity is always different from Trinitarianism’s? In a considerable number of cases it can be pointed out (if we assume the Trinity to be biblical) that whenever opportunities arose to introduce or defend the Trinitarian concept (an entirely distinctive and revolutionary one from the Jewish perspective), not one of God’s faithful servants in Scripture, including Jesus himself, ever made it a point to speak a word on its behalf. Instead, they always made expressions that – when considered in hindsight – leave one with the impression that the idea of a Deity whose most distinguishing and, perhaps, most fascinating characteristic, involved the idea of “one essence” being shared by three distinct “persons” had no place in their understanding of God’s nature and identity after all.
from: Navas, Patrick
(b.?-d.?). Divine Truth or Human Tradition? A
Reconsideration of the Roman Catholic-Protestant Doctrine of the Trinity
in Light of the Hebrew and Christian
Scriptures. 1st Edition. (Milton Keynes, United
Kingdom [England]; Bloomington, Indiana: Authorhouse, 2007), p. 152. BT111.3 .N38 2007 / 2006906613. 2nd Edition: p. 164. OCLC: 741541952.
Now if Jesus were the infinite God, would he be
preached as Messiah? Messiah was to be only king of the Jews, not
God. Would the apostles deliberately ignore the awful
[meaning , great] assertion of the Deity of Jesus, and place all their emphasis on the comparatively trivial Messiahship? This is inconceivable. Peter preached Jesus as Messiah simply because it never entered his mind that Jesus was the Eternal. His language throughout proves this. Thus: “Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God unto you.” [Acts 2:22] “This Jesus did God raise up.” [Acts 2:32] “The God or our fathers has glorified his Servant Jesus.” [Acts 3:13] And the prayer of the disciples in the fourth chapter: “Thy holy Servant Jesus whom thou didst anoint.” [Acts 4:27] “Grant unto thy servants that signs and wonders may be done through the name of thy holy Servant Jesus.” [Acts 4:29, 30].
Are there texts in the New Testament which directly express the Trinity by putting the three persons together, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost? If the Trinity is a genuine element in the Christian faith, and if it was taught by Jesus, we should expect to find several such texts. We should further expect that the texts thus proclaiming what is called a fundamental truth should be authentic and sure beyond any likelihood of doubt. What we find, however, is not that at all.
Taken from: Sullivan, William
Laurence (b.1872-d.1935), D.D. From the Gospel to the Creeds; Studies
in the Early History of the Christian
Church. (Boston, Massachusetts: The Beacon Press, 1919), Chapter XVII , “The Apostolic Teaching,” “1. What the First Apostolic Preachers Thought of Jesus,” and “4. Does the Trinity-Formula Occur in the New Testament?”, pp. 117, 118, 121 (brackets ours). BR162 .S8 / 20000187.
The first teachers of Christianity were never charged by the Jews (who
unquestionably believed in the strict unity of God), with introducing any
new theory of the Godhead.5
Many foolish and false charges were made against Christ;
but this was never alleged against him or any of his disciples. When this doctrine of three persons in one God was introduced into the Church, by new converts to Christianity, it caused immense excitement for many years.6 Referring to
this, Mosheim writes, under the forth century, “The subject of this fatal
controversy, which kindled such deplorable divisions throughout the
Christian world, was the doctrine of the Three Persons in the Godhead; a
doctrine which in the three preceding centuries had happily escaped the
vain curiosity of human researches, and had been left undefined and
undetermined by any particular set of ideas.”* Would there not
have been some similar commotion among the Jewish people in the time of
Christ, if such a view of the Godhead had been offered to their notice,
and if they had been told that without belief in this they “would perish
Stannus’ footnotes read:
5 “Monotheism was the proud boast of the
Jew”. – Canon Farrar, “Early Days of Christianity”, vol. i , p.
55. [Farrar, Frederic William (b.1831-d.1903). The Early Days of
Christianity. (Boston, Massachusetts: DeWolfe, Fiske & Company, 1882). BS2361 .F3 1883a / 16-003273].
6 “In the Fourth Century”, says Jortin**,
vol. ii , p. 60, “were held thirteen Councils against Arius, fifteen for him, and seventeen for the semi-Arians, – in all, forty-five”.
*Mosheim, John Lawrence (b.1694?-d.1755),
D.D. An Ecclesiastical History: Antient and Modern, From
the Birth of Christ, to the Beginning of the Present Century: In which The
Rise, Progress, and Variations of Church Power are Considered in their
Connexion with the State of Learning and Philosophy, and the Political
History of Europe during that Period. By the late learned John Lawrence
Mosheim, D.D. and Chancellor of the University of Gottingen.
Translated from the original Latin, And accompanied with Notes and
Chronological Tables, by Archibald Maclaine, D.D. [b.1722-d.1804]. In Six
Volumes. To the whole is added an accurate index. A New
Edition. (London, England: Printed for Thomas Cadell, In the
Strand, MDCCXC ), vol. 1, "An Ecclesiastical History. Book the
First. Containing the History of the Church, from The Birth of Christ to
Constantine the Great," Century IV , Part II , Chapter V ,
"Concerning the divisions and heresies that troubled the church during
this century," IX , pp. 411. OCLC: 9063110.
(b.1698-d.1770). Discourses Concerning the Truth of the Christian
Religion; and Remarks on Ecclesiastical History. 5
vols. (London, England: Printed for C. Davis, R. Manby, H. Shute Cox and J. Whiston, 1751-54, 1773), vol. II , quote appearing within this edition, p. 205. OCLC: 5340436. British Library: 680.d.5-9 and 212.b.15-19. / SN: 001903745.
from: Stannus, Hugh Hutton
(b.1840-d.1908). A History of the Origin of the Doctrine
of the Trinity in the Christian Church, With an Introduction and Appendix
by the Rev. R[obert] Spears
[b.1825-d.1899]. (London, England: Christian Life Publishing Company, 1882), pp. 35, 36 (italics his). BT111 .S7 / 07-028755
The thoughtful student
must ask himself: If it was hard to convince the Jews in the early church
to let go of the Law, wouldn’t it have been even harder to get them to
change their view of God? Fifteen New Testament chapters are
dedicated to changing the Jew’s mind on the Law. And if it took that
much to deal with the Law, shouldn’t we find at least 1 or 2 chapters
explaining the change in how God would be viewed from now on? But
not a single verse suggests the Jew change his view of God. … [There is
not] a single verse which taught … [the Trinity] doctrine. The Bible
has many verses which "teach" justification, "teach" repentance, "teach"
baptism, "teach" resurrection, but not one verse in the entire Bible
"teaches" the doctrine of the Trinity. No verse describes it,
explains it, or defines it. And no verse tells us to believe
When one considers just how different the Trinitarian view
is from the traditional Jewish view of God, you have to ask yourself,
where are all the arguments to get the Jew to change his view? Why,
when the Apostle Paul spends entire chapters getting the Jew to change
his view of the law, isn’t there
just one text to get the Jew to change his view of God? This vital,
but missing piece, is the Trinity’s single biggest flaw.
Taken from: Wagoner, Robert A.
(b.?-d.?). The Great Debate Regarding the Father,
Son, & Holy Spirit; An Exhaustive Verse-by-Verse, Side-by-Side
Comparison of the Four Major Historical
Paradigms. Rice, David (b.?-d.?); Parkinson, Jim
(b.?-d.?); Cordaro, John V. (b.?-d.?); Hagensick, Cher-El (b.?-d.?), Contributors. (Santa Ana, California: 1997, 1998), pp. 12, 88, 89 (brackets ours).