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More questions for trinitarians!

Last week I presented several problematic questions to Trinitarians, and provided clear Biblical solutions from a one God perspective. Whereas trying to fit the eclectic trinity into scripture leads to absurd consequences, applying the apostolic one God theology instead offers a consistent explanatory framework. The modalistic view of the Godhead, in which God is a single person who manifests Himself in different offices such as Father, Son and Holy Ghost, is coherent with scripture. It honors the strict Hebrew monotheism, retains Jesus as fully God, and avoids the many logical fallacies that result from mixing Biblical traditions with Greek philosophy. The so called holy trinity is nothing but a manmade construct that has nearly wrecked Christianity, by imposing on it an impossible piece of intellectual gymnastics. So let’s get rid of it and give the final kick!

This week the second part:

6.     Who exactly raised Jesus from the grave?

 Trinitarians contend that God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit are distinct persons, together making up one God. If one adopts this view of the Godhead however, there are problems with the resurrection of Jesus. Which one of the three persons raised Jesus from the dead?

The Bible claims the Father raised Jesus from the dead:

Gal 1:1 Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead;)

 In addition, the Sprit raised Jesus from the dead:

 Rom 8:11 But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.

To add to all the confusion, the text also states that Jesus actually rose Himself up…! (The term God the Son is absent from the Bible text…)

John 2:19 Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.

So who did it? Instead of simply admitting that Jesus Himself is God the Father, manifested in flesh and blood, Trinitarians come up with various forms of intellectual gymnastics to rescue their theological speculation. But the bottom line is, that Jesus raised Himself up, because He is the Father, not because He is outside of the Father.

 7.       What would be the name of the Father (or of the Holy Ghost) ?

 From a Trinitarian perspective, each one of the three persons in the Godhead must be invoked at moment of baptism. The basis for this practice is found in Matthew 28:19 they say:

Matt 28:19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost

However, one God believers point out several problems with this interpretation of Matthew 28:19:

Only a single name is mentioned, not names. That name seems to apply to all three of the persons.

  1. Titles like father and son are usually not considered real names, but indicative of a certain position or function. A man can be a husband, a father and is also a son. He is still only a single person obviously!
  2. A very good example of a verse where God is presented as having multiple titles is Isaiah 9:6:

Is 9:6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

Titles here include: Wondeful, Counsellor, might God, Prince of Peace and.. everlasting Father. Trinitarians do not use all these names in baptism. Why not? Like all the many other titles of God, such as Jehovah Jireh, Jehovah is my Righteousness, Jehovah Nissi, I AM THAT I AM, Adonai, Elohim, El Roi, titles are not names.

So although God has many titles, He only carries a single name (Is 52:6). The name God has chosen as the Savior of humanity is provided in the book of Matthew:

Is 52:6 Therefore my people shall know my name: therefore they shall know in that day that I am he that doth speak: behold, it is I.

Matt 1:21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.

 Jesus is a proper name. Jesus is derived from the Hebrew Yeshua, which is a conjunction of Yahweh and Hoshea, meaning God is salvation. Jesus is the Name above all Names that God has chosen for us. Father, Son and Holy Ghost are titles for the One God Yahweh, who took on flesh to become Yeshua, Jesus. It is easy to understand from the words of Jesus that the name of the Father is actually Jesus:

John 17:6 I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word.

Luke 24:47 And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.

 8.       Why did the apostles never baptize in the name of Father, Son and Holy Ghost in the Bible if this is the    correct formula to be used?

 Trinitarians will say that Matt 28:19 presents the only correct baptismal formula. Why is it then that the apostles never ever baptized using this formula? Trinitarian websites and armchair theologians have tried to come up with different answers to this obvious problem, some more absurd then others:

“The apostles were disobedient to Jesus” – Then why trust the Bible, as it was written by them?

“Jesus was code language for Father, Son and Holy Ghost” – Then why did the Pharisees forbid them to speak the name Jesus? Sadly these kinds of absurd objections reveal the desperation of Trinitarians…

“Baptism in Jesus Name was only for the Jews” – So how about Cornelius the Roman centurion and the pagans in Philippi?

 The real answer of course is that Matt 28:19 does not give the literal baptismal formula. The apostles, who were given the keys of hell and death, interpreted the “name” in Matt 28:19 correctly as “Jesus”. This must be obvious considering the fact that they did everything else (praying, exorcism, healing) in the name of Jesus as well. The Bible amply testifies that the apostolic mode of baptism is in the name of Jesus only:

Acts 2:38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Acts 8:16 (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.)

Acts 10:48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days.

Acts 19:5 When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.

Rom 6:3 Or do you not know that as many as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?

Many scholarly sources have confirmed that the Matt 28:19 baptismal formula is of a much later date, and Jesus never intended these words to become a baptismal creed:

“Although at first people were often baptized in the name of Christ alone, it soon became standard to be baptized into the name of the Trinity.”

(Lion’s handbook The History of Christianity, Dowley, 1990, p.116)

 “Jesus, however, cannot have given His disciples this Trinitarian order of baptism after His resurrection; for the New Testament knows only one baptism in the name of Jesus (Acts 2:38; 8:16; 10:43; 19:5; Gal. 3:27; Rom. 6:3; 1 Cor. 1:13-15), which still occurs even in the second and third centuries, while the Trinitarian formula occurs only in Matt. 28:19, and then only again (in the) Didache 7:1 and Justin, Apol. 1:61…Finally, the distinctly liturgical character of the formula…is strange; it was not the way of Jesus to make such formulas… the formal authenticity of Matt. 28:19 must be disputed…” (Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, page 435.)

 One of the cardinal rules of Bible hermeneutics is that no important doctrine should rest on a single verse only (Matt 18:16). Yet this is exactly the case with the Trinitarian baptismal formula. Matt 28:19 is the only verse in the Bible that contains the Trinitarian formula (if indeed it is original, which is contested by several scholars, and some church fathers also quote it differently). Whatever the story with Matt 28:19, we know for certain that the apostles only baptized in the name above every name, the name by which a man must be saved. That name is Jesus.

 9.       Must a Christian believe in the Trinity in order to be saved?

 The well known Athanasian creed (probably written in the 5th century, though not by church father Athanasius) explicitly states that a Christian must believe in the trinity in order to be saved. Most Trinitarians in fact agree with such a statement (if not then why would they care about the doctrine?).

 However, such a prerequisite is not supported by anything we read in the Bible. Let’s look at some examples, first the gospels:

John 3:5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

Mark 16:16 He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.

Luke 24:47 And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.

 Here the gospels name several elements that play a key role in forgiveness of sins: repentance, faith in Jesus, baptism, new birth. No word of the trinity whatsoever.

On the day of Pentecost, Peter and the apostles were together when the Holy Spirit was poured out on them, and they spoke in tongues. Subsequently Peter preached the gospel to a crowd of Jewish onlookers. After that, 3000 people were baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. During his speech, at no point does Peter highlight the necessity of a belief in the trinity. After Peter finishes, the people ask him what they should do with their newfound belief that Jesus is Lord and Christ:

Acts 2:37 Now when they heard this, they were acutely distressed and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “What should we do, brothers?”

According to Trinitarian Christianity, Peter should have said something like this:

“Believe that God eternally exists as three distinct persons – God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost, and you shall be saved”

But of course this is not what Peter said. Instead, he said the following:

 Acts 2:38 Peter said to them, Repent, and each one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Another example is the family of Cornelius, the Roman centurion. Surely Peter would have explained him the all-important trinity, after all, this was the first time that God brought him to the gentiles. But even now, the trinity is conspicuously absent from his discourse:

Acts 10:43 About him all the prophets testify, that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.

Acts 10:44 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell on all those who heard the message.

Acts 10:45 The circumcised believers who had accompanied Peter were greatly astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles,

Acts 10:46 for they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God. Then Peter said,

Acts 10:47 “No one can withhold the water for these people to be baptized, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did, can he?”

Acts 10:48 So he gave orders to have them baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to stay for several days.

Again the same pattern: 1. Peter presents the gospel message and faith in Jesus as Lord and Christ, 2. The Holy Spirit is poured out and/or promised. 3. He commands them to be baptized in the name of Jesus. In fact all the examples in the book of Acts are similar. Even the apostle Paul reiterates the essential qualifications for salvation:

Rom 6:4 Therefore we have been buried with him through baptism into death, in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too may live a new life.

Rom 10:9 because if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

Tit 3:5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost

This is the message of the apostles: one must believe in Jesus Christ as the risen Lord and God, and be baptized in His name for the remission of sins, and receive the power of the Holy Spirit. A final example is found in Acts 19, where the apostle Paul discovers some Christians that have not been filled with the Holy Ghost:

Acts 19:3 And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John’s baptism.

Acts 19:4 Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.

Acts 19:5 When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.

Acts 19:6 And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied.

 The conclusion is clear: a belief in the doctrine of the trinity is has nothing to do with salvation or going to heaven whatsoever.

10.       Why is the doctrine of the trinity absent from the Bible?

 There are many instances where the Bible speaks about Father and Son, and even several verses where Father, Son and Holy Ghost are all mentioned separately. Trinitarians would claim that these distinctions are proof that God is indeed a trinity. But is this really the case? The bottom line is being honest about the definition of the trinity. Mentioning Father and Son in the same sentence is not proof for any trinity, because the trinity defines the relationship between Father and Son (and the Holy Ghost) as three distinct persons that are fully co-equal, co-eternal and consubstantial. Only if we would find such a definition in scripture we could plausible assume that the apostles believed in God as three persons. But there is no such verse. Not one. And moreover, the distinctions between Father and Son in the Bible can be explained excellently  from a one God perspective, as offices that mark the difference between God as eternal Spirit and God manifested in flesh as Jesus Christ. In such a one God-framework no extra Biblical concepts like hypostases are required.

The doctrine of the trinity did not exist at the time of the death of the apostles, nor did anyone know of it in the post-apostolic era (the time of Clement, Ignatius and Polycarp). None of these writers ever mentions a trinity of persons. In the first two centuries, Christianity was a religion for the poor and uneducated slaves, women and underprivileged. But as soon as intellectuals and upper class elites started to become interested, things changed. The development of the trinity does not start until 150 AD when well educated Christian thinkers such as Justin Martyr, Tertullian and Origen take ownership. Justin Martyr decided to make the Word of God a second God, distinct from God the Father. Tertullian was the first to use the word trinity (trinitas in Latin), but he believed the three were locked in a hierarchy. Origen tried to solve the problem of an eternal God the Son by inventing (!) the doctrine of the eternally begotten Son. It was semi-pagan emperor Constantine who forced the bishops to produce a unifying creed in 325 at the council of Nicaea.

 Many Christians consider this Nicene creed inspired writing. But what is the Biblical basis for that assertion? In 325, neither the Arians nor the Athanasians were very happy with the text, and the word homoiousis had been suggested by emperor Constantine, who was technically not even a Christian at the time of the council (he was an Arian until his death). The status of the Holy Ghost was not clarified until the council of Constantinople (under Theodosius I) some 55 years later. Through the writings of the Cappadocian fathers (all borrowing from neo-Platonism) the doctrine of the trinity was fine tuned, and the hierarchy between the persons was replaced by a co-equality. How can such incremental development, derived from pagan philosophy, ever be considered the Word of God?

In 381 AD, emperor Theodosius I declared the trinity a Christian dogma. He also mandated that Christian bishops and officials could be deposed and even killed for not adhering to the doctrine (as defined by the Cunctos populous of 380 AD), thus effectively reversing the religious freedom since the edict of Milan (313 AD). In the centuries after Constantinople, the emerging catholic church would start to persecute and kill non trinitarians. How could such moral degeneration ever be reconciled with the words of Jesus? Can you as a Christian really identify with these politically motivated creeds, without feeling some level of apprehension? Should an honest born again Christian ignore such practices? God requires us to study His Word and be skeptical of manmade traditions. Siding with the silent majority is in no way the path to safety. In the Bible, the majority is usually wrong!

The doctrine of the trinity can only be accepted as inspired by God when one accepts that various extra-Biblical writings are indeed inspired. But this poses several logical problems:

  1.  None of the Trinitarian writings and creeds are part of the inspired canon of scripture.
  2. Neither the apostles nor the early apostolic fathers ever mentioned the doctrine of the trinity.
  3. The first Trinitarians writings (Origen, Tertullian) would have been considered heretical by the later church fathers, yet without them Trinitarian theology could have never been formulated.
  4. The Trinitarian concepts to describe the Godhead (such as homo-ousia and hypostasis) were derived from pagan neo-platonic works such as those of Plotinus.

So Trinitarians must face these consequences: since they cannot base the trinity on the Bible (only presuppose it), they have to elevate church tradition to the same level as the Bible. There goes your “sola scriptura” right out of the window!

What is the conclusion from all these questions?

The Christian challenge is to reconcile the following basic truths about the Godhead that are clearly distilled from scripture:

  1.  Strict monotheism. God is one in number, and He refers to Himself as an “I” or “me”, in both OT and NT.
  2. God is called Father, Son and Holy Ghost in scripture, mostly in the NT, and occasionally in the OT, in prophetic terms.
  3. There are certain textual distinctions between Father and Son, and (occasionally) between Father, Son and Holy Ghost, but only in the NT.

How can these truths be combined in a single theological framework? Is the 4th century doctrine of the trinity, God as three eternal, co-equal and consubstantial persons, the best answer? I believe the previous 10 questions have provided enough reasons to give a resounding: no!

The OT never speaks about any distinction between Father and Son, and a clear definition of the trinity is completely absent from the NT. The better explanation is that instead of three eternal persons, these distinctions are offices and titles, and arise from the birth of Jesus, when God manifested Himself in flesh as Jesus Christ. God became Father of His own flesh and blood at the moment of incarnation. Jesus as the Son of God has flesh and blood, but at the same time He is also the everlasting Father (Is 9:6). As the Son, He is the Mediator for all mankind, and spoke on their behalf when He prayed to the Father and suffered rejection. As the Father, He has all authority in heaven and on earth, was able to rise from the dead, defeat Satan and bring forgiveness of sins to those who are willing to believe.

The results of 1500 years of dogmatic trinitarianism has now proved to be devastating to the church:

  1.  The theology of God becomes a logical fallacy impossible to believe or rejoice in, especially by Muslims and Jews.
  2. The creation of an artificial, unbiblical division in the Godhead which is bordering on tritheism and discourages sincere seekers of truth.
  3. The trinity replaced divine revelation with Greek philosophy, and could only be defended by means of creeds and eventually, persecution, as it lacked Biblical support. This caused profound  spiritual deadness in the church, which was revived only when honest Christians began to question church traditions and move back to the plain text of the Bible.

My prayer is that the church will go back to the great I AM. God is an “I”, not a “we”. Only when the church of God re-adopts to the strict monotheism of the Bible can we expect a spiritual revival, as prophesied by Zachariah:

Zach 14:9 And the LORD shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one LORD, and his name one.

Jesus bless you,

Pastor Lars Oberink.

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