“…above all, in the case of those who inquire into the unity of the Trinity, of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit; because in no other subject is error more dangerous, or inquiry more laborious, or the discovery of truth more profitable.”– St. Augustine, On the Trinity 1.3.5.
The Trinity has been under assault since Christianity’s inception, and as St. Augustine affirms, an error of understanding the Trinity has produced more heresies than any other. Back then it was Arianism, Nestorianism, etc. Today it is still attacked outside of Christianity by Islam and Judaism, and inside of Christianity (mostly) by fringe Protestant groups such as Oneness Pentecostals, Mormons, Jehovah Witness, Hebrew Roots, etc. The latter half from inside of Christianity is what the majority of this article will hone in on. The Trinity is a fundamental doctrine of Christianity, it is not an optional belief if you call yourself a Christian. It is called a mystery because we cannot fully comprehend the infinite of God with finite minds. This doesn’t mean we cannot understand that it exists, but understanding the fullness of it is the mystery.
The Trinity In Scripture
Genesis 1:26, “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…” Who is us? The Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God is used both singularly and plural in the same verse. The Trinity is a paradox, just as God Himself is a paradox, He is completely knowable and completely unknowable simultaneously. The Trinity is three divine persons (hypostases) who share one essence (ousia). It is paradoxical to believe thus, but that is how God has revealed himself. All three persons are con-substantial with each other, that is, they are of one essence (homoousios) and co-eternal. There never was a time when any of the persons of the Trinity did not exist. God is beyond and before time and yet acts within time, moving and speaking within history. (2).
Genesis 1:2, “And the earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” This is another instance of one aspect of the Trinity in the Holy Spirit existing before the earth existed.
Psalm 2:7, “The Lord said to Me, ‘You are My Son, today I have begotten You.” The Lord is God the Father, Jesus is of course the only begotten Son (as well as the anointed spoken of in verse 2 of the same chapter, and the king in verse 6). Jesus is king without beginning and without end.
Isaiah 48:16, “Come near to Me, hear this: I have not spoken in secret from the beginning, nor did I speak in a dark place of the earth. When it took place, I was there, and now the Lord and His Spirit have sent Me.” The Lord (Father) and His Spirit (Holy Spirit) have sent Me (Jesus Christ). This is a clear, direct reference to all three Persons of the Trinity and the fact that ‘I was there’ shows Christ was there before all worlds. The verse is important because in which Christ reaffirms the prophecy made of him in Isaiah 9:5, “For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given.” The child born is Christ’s human nature, the Son given is the uniting of His two natures into one Person.
John 1:1-3, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” The Word is the eternal Son of God as mentioned in the verse. The Word being with God indicates that Christ is a distinct Person from the Father while being in eternal communion with Him (as evidence of ‘He was with God in the beginning).’ Notice it doesn’t say the Word was “a” God, it says He was God.
Hebrews 1:1-2, “God who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds.” This reveals again that Jesus Christ, is the One who created the universe together with the Father and the Holy Spirit. In verses 8-10 of the same chapter, it affirms the Father is speaking to the Son in Psalms 44:7.
Matthew 3:16-17, “When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” One of the most essential verses for the trinity is this one, for it shows both the Father affirming Jesus as the Son, and the Holy Spirit descending as a dove upon Jesus too. This verse is emphatic in it’s distinction of the Persons of the One God.
Jesus is God, The Holy Spirit is God
Arguments against the Trinity usually come down to believing Christ is not God or The Holy Spirit is not God. As we’ve already seen, all three are One God in scripture and there hasn’t been a time when either didn’t exist, but we can dive a little deeper into this. The Holy Spirit is indeed God. “But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God.“ Paul is emphasizing that no created intellect can “know the mind of the Lord.” (Romans 11:34). The fact that the Holy Spirit is here revealed to comprehend “the thoughts of God” would mean necessarily that he is, in fact, God.
The Holy Spirit is not an impersonal force controlled by the Father, The Holy Spirit is God, the third person of the Godhead. Most notably the Holy Spirit is referred to as ‘He’ and not ‘it” throughout the Bible (1 Corinthians 12:11). He speaks quite literally to the apostles multiple times in the book of Acts, 13:12 and 8:29 for example. “But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back part of the proceeds of the land? . . . You have not lied to men but to God.” – Acts 5:3-4. Here Peter states lying to the Holy Spirit is lying to God.
Jesus Christ is God. “For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily;” – Colossians 2:9. The center of Christianity is Jesus Christ, furthermore He is the centerpiece of history. He is 100% God and 100% man, doing what is appropriate for each nature in the unity provided by His one divine Person. Never does divine nature and activity become changed into human nature and activity. The two are in union without confusion. Christ however, redeemed human nature from sin and death and into union with God.
“I tell you the truth … before Abraham was born, I AM.” (John 8:58). This is a reference back to Exodus 3:14 when God revealed Himself as the “I AM.” Those who assert Christ never claimed to be God would have to explain this verse, it’s a clear distinction. The Jews who heard this statement responded by taking up stones to kill Him for blasphemy, similarly we have those today who would do the same. From the moment of Jesus’s birth He is worshiped as God (Matthew 2:1-12, Luke 24:52, John 9:38, Matthew 28:9), to which Jesus does not object. The apostle Thomas says to Christ, “My Lord and My God,” to which Jesus does not object, because He is the great I AM. Christ is the prophecy fulfilled in Isaiah 53, He is the suffering servant.
Christ is God, “I and My Father are One.” – John 10:30. Notice the Greek says “I and My” not “I and the.” Islamic apologist Ahmed Deedat cites the verse about man and woman becoming one flesh (Genesis 2:24) as evidence God and Christ are not the same. He also references that they are one in purpose not in divinity, as do most anti-trinitarians. However, there is a complete disregard for the entire chapter, they accuse Christians of taking one verse out of context while they take a whole chapter out of context.
The Pharisees are asking Christ if He is the messiah to tell them plainly. Which the following is stated, “Jesus answered them, “I told you and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of Me. But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep.” This brings back to the original point, the quote is “My Father” as Christ is asserting He is the Son of God to which the Jews take up stones to stone Him for blasphemy. If the context asserted by Mr. Deedat is correct, that it is simply saying they are one in purpose, why then are the Jewish people so angry and wish to stone Him? Surely God is everyone’s Father, and everyone should want the same purpose as God so this interpretation should not anger the Pharisees if this is what Christ meant, but Christ is elevating that more directly, He affirms He is God.
It also says, “And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish.” Who can grant eternal life but God? Christ does not say “My Father gives them eternal life” now, but “I give them eternal life.” The Jews know what He is saying, when they respond with “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy because You being a man, make Yourself God.” Even the Pharisees understand better than this day and age does. Christ goes on to say, “the Father is in Me, and I in Him.” Jesus doesn’t say the Father’s purpose is in me or that the Father and I are one flesh, but that He is fully God in essence. He is the great I AM.
- The Word ‘Trinity’ Isn’t Found In The Bible.
Neither is the word “Bible,” so this accusation invalidates itself. You’re accusing a word of not being found in scripture and holding it to a standard based also on a word not found in scripture. Now some will say, “Okay let me reword it, the word Trinity isn’t found anywhere in Scripture.” To which you will have to explain the previous section of all the verses it’s mentioned in Scripture.
- Anti-Trinitarian Hebert Armstrong claims in regards to 1 John 5:7 that, “Did you know this spurious section was not found in the text of any Greek manuscripts until after the invention of printing?” He is claiming the section of the verse about Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and the phrase “the three are one” are not found in Greek manuscripts.
This is simply a lie. We find it in the following works: Tertullian, Against Praxeaus Chapter 25, dated 200AD. Cyprian of Carthage, On The Lapsed, On the Novatians, dated 250AD. St. Athanasius, De Incarnatione, dated 350AD. Council of Carthage in 415AD appeals to it to combat the Arian heresy. The list goes on and on.
- The Trinity is polytheistic.
The Trinity is monotheistic, it’s a common objection from Islam and Judaism to claim we worship three Gods. Many do not understand it’s not an issue of Oneness, but the nature of this Oneness. The trinity is one God. This brings me to the next big objection.
Is the Trinity Pagan?
Paganism in the Trinity is a common accusation against Christianity, especially from debunked films such as Zeitgeist. They claim both Christ and Christianity are a copy of paganism. One assertion is Christ is a plagiarism of the Egyptian Horus, Jesus is certainly not Horus, and certainly wasn’t plagiarized from him. 1) Horus was not conceived of a virgin, Jesus was. 2) Horus had 4 disciples, Jesus had 12. 3) Horus was never baptized, Jesus was. 4) Horus was never crucified, Jesus was, and in fact the overwhelming majority of Egyptian stories of Horus don’t have him dying at all. 5) Horus is a sun god, Jesus is the son of THE only true God. You can easily search “Zeitgeist debunked” and find many more examples of their differences.
Another claim is that of the Sumerians, yes there are similarities in some instances, but many cultures have a similar mythology (example: the great flood found in numerous religions). In fact, there’s much more differences than similarities, here are some examples: 1) Sumerian culture was not monotheistic, they had personal relative gods. 2) They saw the world as born from ‘cosmic births’ and not created by God. 3) They believed heaven was only reserved for gods and no mortal could ever go there when they died. 4) They believed a person’s actions don’t have any effect on their afterlife, they had a vastly different viewpoint of the world and man’s place in it. If the apostles copied the Sumerians, they did a pretty terrible job of doing so.
Constantine is a conspiratorial figure in the minds of those who deny the Trinity, they assert He merged Christianity with Paganism corrupting the belief system. However, Constantine actually feared that Rome would become too stained with the pagan influence surrounding it that he declared a “New Rome”, called Constantinople (5). This is quite the opposite of what most Anti-Trinitarians believe, so while they are correct that there was a great deal of Paganism at the time, they are incorrect in saying the belief systems were meshed together to give us the Trinity. Constantine wanted to separate any influence of it, not conjoin it.
So where is the copy of pagan ideas in the Holy Trinity? Let’s look at other beliefs. Hinduism has the Vedas, which has three deities: Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. Yet of these three appear as avatars, manifestations, or modes of the supreme lord; they are not separate persons. Thus making it similar to Sabellianism, a form of modalism. There are many sects in Hinduism but most view these as distinct, unlike the trinitarians, whose view is that they are the same despite the difference. Moreover, Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva each have a goddess consort – Sarasvati, Lakshmi and Sakti respectively. That would make not three but six (7).
What about the Egyptians with Osiris, Horus, and Isis? Yet the highest deity in their pantheon was Ra, who later became to be merged with Horus. And the Egyptians never considered their ‘gods’ to be one person, they are each separate ‘gods.’ And they had even more such as Hathor, Ptah, Neith, Set, Nut, Geb, and Basht (6). Obviously the claim that Egypt was a model for the Christian Trinity holds no weight. Before Christianity, no religion ever believed in a single Deity consisting of three persons. This is the fundamental difference between the pagan trinities and the Christian trinity, who saw distinct separate gods in a polytheistic sense. And as shown, most of these pagan trinities weren’t even technically trinities as more deities were included in and around them.
The Trinity transcends some aspects of our understanding, minds that are used to the routine of duality, how can God be both three persons and one God? How does God “die” on the cross? In his humanity, in His love He chose to share in our weakness and reconcile us back to life. Not his divinity, for as already outlined, there was never a time when Christ didn’t exist. Death ate God and then God ate death. How also does death die? This is what I mean, who can understand fully with human ears? Many men want to be God, only the true God became man. “For the Son of God became man so that we might become God.” – St. Athanasius. We don’t become God in the apotheosis aspect, as the new age movement inverts, read more about that here.
A God that you fully understand in every way (in essence, not energies) isn’t God. Again, this transcends human understanding. God is both completely unknowable in His essence, and also completely knowable in His energies. God’s love is immeasurable, He wants us to participate with Him in the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4), He created us in His image (Genesis 1:26-28), He gave us free will like Himself (John 15:16), He gave us the power of words (Proverbs 18:21) the same way existence are words He chose to speak and Christ is the Word of God. And in the same paradox, God chose man in the hopes that man would choose God back.
1. St. Augustine, On The Trinity. 2. Kallistos Ware, The Orthodox Way. 3. The Orthodox Study Bible. 4. St. Athanasius, On the Incarnation. 5. Kallistos Ware, The Orthodox Church. 6. Ancient History Encyclopedia, 2016. 7. Robert A. Bruce, 2004.