Peter Porter I'll be talking about five major problems with the trinity and my intention here is to approach the matter from an internal perspective. Our strategy is to assume the trinity is true and to see from an internal perspective what problems there might be. The reason why I'm approaching it from this angle is there's this idea that people aren't willing to really consider a new option until they're convinced their old option is somehow inadequate. You know unless we're honest with what would convert us to the trinity or whatever other option, I think we'll continue to struggle in talking with others because we can share with them our proof texts we can share with them 1 Timothy 2:5, John 17:3 1 Corinthians 8:6 Deuteronomy 6:4 and Psalm 110:1 so on. All these magnificent verses teach these things, but unless their theological model is in some way challenged, they're going to interpret those from within their frame of mind. And they're going to not really even have an interest in further investigating the subject a lot of times. What I like to do is approach the subject from within, let's just assume the trinity is true for the sake of this conversation and then I'd like to point out five problems from an internal perspective that would arise if we approach it this way.Let's all pretend for now that the trinity is true and see what sort of problems we would have. I did want to mention one other thing and that is 1 Peter 3:15 teaches us that when we do defend things for God we do so in a gentle and respectful way. Nobody is going to want to listen to what we have to say if we don't do it in a way that's respectful to their position, however absurd their position may seem to us and or vice versa however absurd our position may seem to them. Problem number one, as trinitarians Jesus was a Jew, and the problem with Jews is that they have this creed about God and in the first century Jews did not believe in the trinity. I don't think you could find one or any scholars that says, Jews apart from Jesus and his movement believed in the trinity. I mean there's nobody. That's an ironclad statement, and the reason why the Jews don't believe in the trinity then or now is because of the Jewish Scriptures that proclaim monotheism. If we look at Deuteronomy 4:35,39 for example. It is very clear in those verses who Yahweh is and that you would acknowledge that Yahweh is God there is no other besides Him. People reading these texts are going to come away with a certain perspective that there's only one God named Yahweh and there's no other. Verse 39 So acknowledge today and take to heart that Yahweh is God in heaven above and on earth beneath there is no other. This idea of Jewish monotheism is really troubling. If I say statement one Jews did not believe in the trinity in the first century, statement two Jesus was a Jew, conclusion Jesus did not believe in the trinity you know it seems like a very ironclad statement. But what's the comeback? The comeback is well how do we know Jesus differ with the Jews in their common understanding of who God was? Our response to that is Mark 12:28-34 which is a conversation, I mean it's really an excellent thing to look at, because what if we could find a conversation between Jesus and a Jew about who God is, and see if they disagree. The best kind of Jew to have this sort of conversation with would be an expert in the scriptures, a scribe would be the best person for Jesus to have a conversation with about God's identity. To talk about differences and similarities and so on. And what do we find when we read such a text, the scribe comes up to Jesus and, this scribe is not trying to pose a trick question to Jesus. He's not in that category he's just checking Jesus out, and he says to Jesus what's the first and Great Commandment.
Jesus answered him, O Israel the Lord our God is one Lord and you shall love Him with all your heart soul mind and strength, good Jewish response. This response will be the same thing today if you ask any Jew even if it was a liberal Jew or conservative or Orthodox Jew, they all will say the same thing. That's the core of our faith as a people. And so Jesus is responding like a good Jew and saying that God is one and you're supposed to love Him. Both of those commandments are important and so Jesus confesses this Shema and he doesn't alter the Creed. He doesn't add other statements like. He does not say, O here Israel the Lord our God is a compound unity and you should love them, he doesn't alter the verse, he just leaves it as one. The question is how would a Jewish scribe have heard this? Would a scribe have heard this Creed as a trinitarian Creed, or a non trinitarian creed? Of course the response is a non trinitarian, he would here the Shema as a non trinitarian Creed. Jesus has a real opportunity then to teach the trinity but, because we know historically that the Jewish scribe who was not part of Jesus movement whatsoever, had a nontrinitarian understanding of the Shema. We know that the Shema should be understood as three persons in one essence. I told you we're pretending to be trinitarians right. So that's the correct understanding of the Shema from our perspective as trinitarians, so this Jewish scribe has an incorrect interpretation of the Shema. And so Jesus has to now explain to him the additions or at least corrections or throw in some sort of uncertainty here.
Otherwise Jesus is complicit in this Jewish scribes ignorance, even is misleading him to continue not believing in the trinity even though he's the second person of the trinity. You see how this is a problem for us as trinitarians., How could this Jewish scribe have heard this and we know how the Jewish scribe took it because he responded. He is one and besides him there is no other, that's how he understood the Lord is one. When he heard it, he said well what do you mean by that? is he one and there is no other? It's very explicit what's going on here, and here's what Jesus does, He doesn't alter, He doesn't criticize this unitarian reading of the Shema, rather He highly praises the scribe and says, you're not far from the kingdom of God. In this encounter this Jew doesn't believe in the trinity and Jesus who does believe in the trinity has presumably agree on the same definition of God. Do you see the contradiction, right that can't happen, if Jesus really did believe in the trinity He should have corrected the Jew with more information. That's a problem for us, that's the first problem the Jewishness of Jesus. Jesus isn't just a Jew in an ethnic sense, it's not just because of his birth that he was a Jew. He was a practicing Jew He held the faith of Judaism and that's what Mark 12:28-34 teaches us. That what he held as his own personal core, the core Creed of Judaism itself. He's not just ethically Jewish, he's Jewish in faith as well.
Problem number two is that the trinity is never explained in scripture for us as trinitarians, this is difficult because we should expect to find a book in the Bible called trinity, and it should have three chapters in it, and each chapter should have one verse and or 33 verses or some divine inspired creative teaching on this doctrine in the Bible. Let's look at this a little bit more, I recognize this, you can take a verse from Matthew 28:19 you can take John 1:1 you can take 1 John 5:7 in the forged Greek version that Erasmus used and other verses and you can pull together something. But that only works if you have a priori in other words if you already have your model, your theological system in place then you can do this work of pulling verses together to build this trinitarian edifice. But without that you can't do it and that's a problem for us this is not the same as something being explained in scripture, for example I'll give you a silly example the doctrine that Peter tempted Eve in the garden. Peter the Apostle tempted Eve right that's my belief, I founded a church on it if you don't believe that you can't come. How do I get that well you know it says that the serpent tempted Adam and Eve in Genesis 3, in Revelation 12 it says that old serpent is the devil. Jesus said to Peter get behind me Satan, so it was Peter in the garden that tempted Eve. So you can do this with Scripture if you have a theory, you can pull together verses in a way that seems logical. But it doesn't work thankfully nobody believes that yet. What is the trinity?
Number three it was taught but it caused no controversy whatsoever among monotheistic Jewish communities and that's a conspiracy theory, it's like nobody there know about the trinity and there was no controversy on this one thing. It's an ad-hoc theory you just throw it out there in order to keep your belief system in place. This is a real problem for us and you have this myth of primacy. Let's look at history, when did we find controversy? 325 right and the Arian thing starts about 318, Arian and his bishop Alexander, Arian was a priest and had good standing with the church in Egypt, he claimed his doctrine was traditional. That controversy starts by 320 there's a local synod held and Alexandria and Arian is condemned. 325 is when you have the big council. Why are councils always for controversies, did you notice that? I just kind of realized that recently the Jerusalem Council the very first one in Acts 15, why do they have that? Was it because everyone was getting along. Like they said, let's do some creative theology, what is the Gentile relationship with God, God's Redemption plan in our time, let's just pontificate, no it was like you have Judaizers and you have Libertines and you have these to fit, and we have to figure out an answer here right.
So they had a council and they decided Gentiles don't need to keep the law in order to be accepted as full Christians and they sent out letters right. You have councils, you have controversy, and then you have letters. These letters were like cannons that are like rules, that are enforcement's. 325 controversy is whether or not the Son is eternal and what's his relationship to the Father. What do they decide? the Son has always existed, He is at the same level as the Father the same substance or essence as the Father. If you do a study about these councils – The church established this by decree at Nicaea; whether or not the Scriptures provided any justification of this was, evidently, a secondary question for them. No Scripture was cited at Nicaea in support of their decree. They considered themselves as having the right to determine the faith of the church, without showing any evident concern about the Scriptures. However, some efforts were made to read the trinitarian faith into some NT passages either by way of interpretation and even, in a number of places, by apparently tampering with the NT text. 381 It's so interesting, you would figure that after all these bishops we just put an end to the problems right, I mean they always believed in the trinity from the beginning.
Everybody just believed it without a controversy supposedly and until this heretic came along and then we dealt with them and now all is well. That's what we would expect if it were all true the way we just said it. But instead we don't. In fact we find the Council of Nicaea the first one is really more like something that generates more councils than the other way around. So 381 we have Constantinople, the question is, is the Holy Spirit the third person? answer yes. The third council, and there are hundreds of councils, these are just the seven big ones that are called the ecumenical councils. Number three is in 431 in Ephesus. The question there was, was Mary the bearer of Christ's divine nature? or just of his human nature? is Mary the bearer of God or just the bearer of Christ? and there is a big controversy over that. So there were controversies after controversies one of these in 787 was in Nicaea - which is can icons of Christ be worshipped? big controversy in the city of Constantinople over that. People were saying well you're just worshiping the human nature of Christ as representative than an icon. What you're doing is you're making them into one nature again.
This is a big problem for the present christian church, they are worshiping an icon, an image of God and that is seriously wrong. What I'm saying is the trinity is inherently controversial and if we can liken it to a fruit tree we must say that the fruit on that tree is not good, the tree itself produces bad fruit and that is evidenced by all these councils. And every one of these councils the loser gets kicked out of the church and so you have to keep kicking people out of the church and so the trinity's inherently is a doctrine divisive and that's a problem for us. So if the myth of the trinity was true, that it always existed and was understand and taught since the time of the apostles then why were there four and a half centuries of controversies? Why does the historical record look like the trinity slowly evolved?
Now we have to realize the trinity is a very complicated thing it's the belief that there's one god in three persons, it's a belief that these persons are co-eternal so that means all of them had no beginning the Father had no beginning the son had no beginning the Holy Spirit had no beginning. If they co-essential they share the same essence or substance or being. They are co-equal but not just in a sense of rank or functionality they're co-equal in a more subtle sense. They're co-equal in the sense that they in their essence are all, not as before behind the other but in their function in the economic trinity in the plan of salvation out working, they're able to be unequal. The Son can be unequal to the Father as he is incarnate but he's not really unequal in his essence. So that's all bound up in this word co-equal and what I'm doing is just listing the necessary components of the trinity. I mean there are probably more but these are just ones that I think are important.
With these concepts, you don't want to use the word “person” you want to say rather individual or center of consciousness doesn't matter but not “one person”. Here are a few concepts of the trinity they required to talk about, they are all necessary concepts to talk about. Eternal generation is the idea that you can say these two things at the same time, “eternal and the son” alright so in order for Jesus to be God he had to have always existed right because God is eternal so you need eternal in there to be God. But you know if you're eternal you don't have a moment when you were begotten, you don't have a beginning if you're eternal. In order to say the Son needs to have some sort of beginning, some sort of generation procreation from the Father. So we say “eternal generation” it's a very complex concept if you really try to wrap your mind around it when it's necessary to talk about the trinity. The dual natures of Christ in one person, it is absolutely fundamental you can't have a trinity unless you have these, since we are Orthodox trinitarians we believe in all these things in their union, each nature preserves its distinct attributes. We're not confusing the two, divine and human nature's together like the monophysites did and we're not dividing them apart like the historians we are Orthodox trinitarians.
We need all these extra things you might call it baggage in order to be Orthodox. There's two wills in Christ that's on the books nobody usually studies that one. There was a controversy called the monolith elitism controversy we'll get more to that in a moment but it's the idea that there are two wheels in Christ, but they never disagreed right but it's only one person and two natures, nature's are preserved wills are separate, but working together. So this is the trinity there's probably a few things I missed but just off the top of my head these are the necessary components to talk about the trinity. Let's go ahead and concede the scriptures. Never say the word trinity, trinitarians never say the phrase “God the Son” they never say the word “co-equal” cause in fact they never say any of this. Not only do they never say any of these words but none of these concepts are anywhere explained in scripture. Like there is no verse that explains that there are two natures in Christ, and it's important to preserve the distinct attributes of each, like there's just no verse. Maybe in the book of Hezekiah or something, but that's not in the Bible. You know that's a problem for us, the trinity is never actually explained in scripture, it has to be read alongside it. Here's my last point. The trinity is like an oral tradition taught alongside scriptures typically historians call it the “rule of faith” and it's this idea that you have an oral tradition taught alongside scriptures, passed down from the Apostles from generation to generation. And it was never written down and nobody really talked about it until the heretics came and started challenging it and then we get books about it. That's the idea of oil tradition, but the problem with the trinity as an oral tradition is that it puts it in the same group as the Pharisees who had these oral traditions (Talmud) that Jesus was just always challenging. Like not washing hands before dinner or disagreeing about tithing while neglecting their parents because the tradition of Corbin allowed them not to take care of their parent and more. Oral traditions that Jesus was always against and it puts the trinity in the same category as the Pharisees, and that's not good if it is never explained by Jesus or the Apostles or in Paul. Let's move on to the next one.
Problem number three, there is no Jews who converted to Christ's, this is the problem of controversy, no Jews who converted to Christ (after Pentecost) ever challenged the trinity. Now we're assuming the trinity is true, we're simple assuming that Jesus believed it, we're assuming the Apostles taught it, so if the Apostles taught the trinity as part of their evangelism efforts to Jewish people, there should be some historical controversy there. There should be some Jew somewhere that says wait a second this doesn't fit with what my grandpa told me, this does not fit with what the rabbi taught me in synagogue. This doesn't fit with what mom would read me in the scriptures the other day. Do you think a Jew will just accept it?
Let's think about this a little more, suppose a unitarian missionary went into a mainstream Church and upon being invited to speak a few words they explained that the Father is the only true God. Just imagine that you get invited to a Baptist Church or Roman Catholic Church and there's this meet-and-greet part, where you stand up and introduce yourself and say “hi you know my name is Shawn here's my wife and here's our children we're so glad to be here, we just want to let you know that we've discovered that the Father is the only true God, and that the son is not God and the Holy Spirit's not God, those are lies that have been taught to us and we're just so glad to be here thank you for welcoming us.” Would that be received well? would somebody come up to us and talk to us afterwards? would there be controversy if I did that again? I think so. To think that in the first century they're preaching this message including the doctrine of the trinity and nobody gets mad about it. It's just bad history. What about this, what if you had this idea that in the first century it was the Golden Age and in the first century nobody argued about things.
There wasn't controversy when Jesus taught in the first century, when the Apostles taught in the first century. The spirit opened people's eyes to understand it and to hear it and believe it and there was no controversy because God was at work right. That's an interesting theory. There are controversies in the New Testament. In fact the New Testament is full of controversies isn't it? Jesus is controversial from the moment he is born, Herod sending out the people to have them eliminated right. Corinth is full of controversies from the factions in the early chapters where some members claim, I am of apollos, I'm of Cephas, I'm of Christ. To speaking in tongues. 2nd Corinthians is filled with controversy about these other super apostles taking over. You got general controversy in Acts chapter 15 over whether or not Gentiles should be accepted into the church without first becoming Jews. Then you also got controversy theologically being worked out and in Paul's epistles whether or not justification comes through the works of the law and so the New Testament in the 1st century is just brimming with controversy. But here's the funny thing, and of all the things there are to argue about, they never argue about the trinity like nobody ever brings it up. These are the three options number one, the trinity did not exist yet - it existed but wasn't taught, so they believed in it but just nobody talked about it or it wasn't that important.
Number four. God is always addressed using singular personal pronouns and God almost always speaks in singular personal pronouns right do you see the difference between those three phrases. A lot of us are familiar with the pronoun argument when people speak to you they always say “you” singular. In English, I only have one word for “you” and if we're talking to one person we say “you” if we're talking to 500 people we say “you” In the Bible we see just the word “you” whether it's one person or 50 people, but in Greek it's not like that. They have different words for “you” if it's singular or plural. The biblical text really does only ever address God using the “you” singular they never say y'all Father Son and Holy Spirit. God is always spoken of as singular. Whenever somebody talks about God, whenever I'm making an absolute statement, find me one exception, I mean whenever God is spoken of they always say “He” they never say “they” always singular “He.” The third one is God always says “I” when He talks, unless He's talking to other people who is including in the action in which case He says “us” four times. So if you said, if Adam said to Dan let's go grab a cup of coffee would an onlooker to this interaction maybe he only saw Adam he didn't see Dan at the same time. Saying let us go get a cup of coffee, would the onlooker automatically think to him selves, that Adam is schizophrenic. Adams talking to another person of Adam within himself?
Or wait there's Dan behind the camera, Adam is actually talking to someone else. It is obvious if we say “us” we mean ourselves and whoever it is we're talking to, so when God says “us” it just means the same thing. Other than those four times, the other 20,000 or whatever, God always says “I” so singular personal pronouns are used for singular persons. I know that might sound very boring but the implications for us as trinitarians are devastating because as trinitarians we believe that God is a multiplicity of persons. We believe there's one God and 3 persons the Father the Son and the Holy Spirit and so if God is three persons then we can't use singular pronouns because singular personal pronouns are used for singular persons right. So there's a real grammatical problem with our Bibles that we should probably correct as trinitarians if God were a trinity we should find plural pronouns right. But we don't, thousands of times we are confronted by the fact that God is a singular individual, he is a single individual. If you want to check the NIV Study Bible or the NET Bible both Bibles are done by mainstream Christians, they both say that God is talking to the angels. Any commentary written in the 20th or 21st century they all say the same thing that God is talking to the angels. He's not talking to Jesus or the Holy Spirit.
Problem number five: is that Jesus was not omniscient, that's going to be a problem. God knows everything that can be known. If the trinity is true then Jesus is fully God and so He should have full knowledge right, here's the problem Mark 13:32. Jesus says about that day and hour no one knows, so am I going to believe Jesus or whoever this other person is, I don't know neither the angels in heaven nor the son but only the Father. This is Jesus confessing to not knowing something. He's confessing ignorance about the issue of whether or not he's coming back. Jesus says he doesn't know something. We had two options, did Jesus really not know or was he lying? Jesus as God really did know but pretended not to know? Option number one, or Jesus really did not know and therefore is not really God at least not a part of the trinitarian god. So for us this is a problem, this is another one of these major problems because either we have Jesus misrepresenting himself, lying saying he didn't know something that he really did know, or he's not God. So either he's God, he's lying or he's not God. None of those are acceptable from a trinitarian perspective. This is a real point of tension and we know that this was historically very difficult for Christianity because in the Matthew version a scribe changed it. He took out the Son so it's just the Angels and the Father but nobody ever messed with Mark 13:32.
What's the comeback, when Jesus said he didn't know he was speaking out of his human nature, when he did other things he was doing it out of his divine nature right. So he wasn't speaking as God he was speaking as man when he said he didn't know because humans don't have full knowledge. And God does so. If He speaks and says I don't know something he's saying that as a man but not as God. So that's the comeback. Trinity teaches that there's only one person subsisting in two natures, so the thing that you're interacting with, the being the person that you're interacting with, there can only be one of, so if he has a divine nature and a human nature. Let's assume that he still only has one mind, He is one person out of which he interacts with you, so if we're going to split his human mind and his divine mind of the person, we will be called Nestorian heretics. So we can't say that it is an invalid response to the Mark 13:32 problem. It makes us heretics which as trinitarians were trying not to be heretics, but it's hard work. He cannot have two minds one that knew something and another that did not know something. Unless we now want to make the absurd claim that mind and person are not correlated.
The conclusion the five problems: I suspect you have familiarity with these five things already but just maybe this angle of approach might help you in conversation with others. Rather than initially targeting them with verses that you consider very good for a Unitarian understanding you can first talk a little bit about their own perspective. It's really helpful for us if we are informed on what their perspective is and if we say to them something like, you believe that Jesus is the Father. They might say well we're trinitarians we don't believe that, then there's a real problem right, because trinitarians don't believe Jesus is the Father. They believe they're both persons of God. The trinity is very complicated it will take absolutely brilliant people to explain this idea. It just so happens that it's wrong. Jesus affirmed the theology of nontrinitarian with Jewish scribe. The trinity is never explained in Scripture there's no controversy over the trinity in the first century. Singular pronouns exclude the notion of multiple persons of God. Jesus was not omniscient. God bless. Please listen to the video below. A teaching from Sean Finnegan.