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People often say they believe in
the Trinity, yet they difer in
their understanding of it.
What, exactly, is the Trinity?
Does the Bible teach it?
Is Jesus Christ the lmighty d
and pat of the Trinity?
Left: Egyptian sculpture of the second millennium (B.C.E.)
Triad of Amon-Ra, Ramses II, and Mut. Right: Fourteenth
century (C.E.) Trinity sculpture of Jesus Christ, the Father,
and the holy spirit. Note, three persons but only four legs.
How Is the Trinity Explained?
Is It Clearly a Bible Teaching?
How Did the Trinity Doctrine Develop?
What Does the Bible Say About God and Jesus?
Is God Always Superior to Jesus?
The Holy Spirit-Gad's Active Force
What About Trinity "Proof Texts"?
Worship God on His Terms
© 1989
ll ights Resevd
Gorgetown. Ontio. Canada
206 Printing
This publication is provided
s part of a worldwide Bible
educational work supported
by voluntary donations.
Should You Believe in the Trinity? English (ti-E)
Made in Canada
Unless otherwise indicated. Scripture quotations are from the moden-language
New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures-With References, 1984 Edition
3 Should You Believe It?
D o YOU believe in the Trinity? Most peo­
ple in Christendom do. After all, it has
been the central doctrine of the church­
es for centuries.
In view of this, you would think that there
could be no question about it. But there is, and
lately even some of its supporters have added
fuel to the controversy.
Why should a subject like this be of any
more than passing interest? Because Jesus
himself said: "Eternal life is this: to know you,
the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you
have sent. " So our entire future hinges on our
knowing the true nature of God, and that
means getting to the root of the Trinity contro­
versy. Therefore, why not examine it for your­
created by God, and for this reason he must
have had a beginning. They teach that Jesus
has never been Almighty God's equal in any
sense; he has always been subject to God and
still is. They also believe that the holy ghost is
not a person but God's spirit, his active force.
Supporters of the Trinity say that it is
founded not only on religious tradition but also
on the Bible. Critics of the doctrine say that it
is not a Bible teaching, one history source even
declaring: "The origin of the [Trinity] is entire­
ly pagan. "-
Paganism in Our Christianity.
If the Trinity is true, it is degrading to Jesus
to say that he was never equal to God as part
of a Godhead. But if the Trinity is false, it is
degrading to Almighty God to call anyone his
equal, and even worse to call Mary the "Moth­
er of God. " If the Trinity is false, it dishonors
God to say, as noted in the book
Jerusalem Bible
(J B).
Various Trinitarian concepts exist. But gen­
erally the Trinity teaching is that in the God­
head there are three persons, Father, Son, and
Holy Ghost; yet, together they are but one
God. The doctrine says that the three are co­
equal, almighty, and uncreated, having existed
eternally in the Godhead.
Others, however, say that the Trinity doc­
trine is false, that Almighty God stands alone
as a separate, eternal, and all-powerful being.
They say that Jesus in his pre human existence
was, like the angels, a separate spirit person
"Unless [people] keep this Faith whole and un­
deiled, without doubt [they] shall perish ever­
lastingly. And the Catholic Faith is this: we
worship one God in Trinity. "
There are good reasons, then, why you
should want to know the truth about the Trin­
ity. But before examining its origin and its
claim of truthfulness, it would be helpul to
deine this doctrine more speciically. What,
exactly, is the Trinity? How do supporters of it
explain it?
How Is the Tiy Eplnd?
HE Roman Catholic Church states: "The
Trinity is the term employed to signiy
the central doctrine of the Christian re­
ligion ...Thus, in the words of the Athana­
sian Creed: 'the Father is God, the Son is God,
and the Holy Spirit is God, and yet there are
not three Gods but one God.' In this Trinity
. . . the Persons are co-eternal and co-equal:
all alike are uncreated and omnipotent. "-
dom agree. For example, the Greek Orthodox
Church also calls the Trinity "the fundamental
doctrine of Christianity, " even saying: "Chris­
tians are those who accept Christ as God. " In
the book
same cburch declares: "God is triune....The
Father is totally God. The Son is totally God.
The Holy Spirit is totally God. "
Thus, the Trinity is considered to be "one
God in three Persons."Each is said to be with­
out beginning, having exilted for eternity.
Our Orth odox Christian Faith,
Catholic Encyclopedia.
Nearly all other churches in Christen-
Shold You Beieve It?
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Each is said to be almighty, with each neither
greater nor lesser than the others.
Is such reasoning hard to follow? Many sin­
cere believers have found it to be confusing,
contrary to normal reason, unlike anything in
their experience. How, they ask, could the Fa­
ther be God, Jesus be God, and the holy spirit
be God, yet there be not three Gods but only
one God?
ing theological terms and explanations, inves­
tigators still come away unsatisied.
In this regard, Jesuit Joseph Bracken ob­
serves in his book
Wh at Are Th ey Saying
"Priests who with consid­
erable efort learned .. . the Trinity during
their seminary years naturally hesitated to
present it to their people from the pUlpit, even
on Trinity Sunday....Why should one bore
people with something that in the end they
wouldn't properly understand anyway? " He
also says: "The Trinity is a matter of formal
belief, but it has little or no [efect] in day-to­
day Christian life and worship." Yet, it is "the
central doctrine " of the churches!
Catholic theologian Hans Kung observes
in his book
"Beyond the Grasp of Human Reason"
HIS confusion is widespread.
Th e Encyclo­
notes that the doctrine
of the Trinity is conside r ed to be "beyond the
grasp of human reason."
Many who accept the Trinity view it that
same way. Monsignor Eugene C " lark says: "God
is one, and God is three.Since there is nothing
like this in creation, we cannot understand it,
but only accept it." Cardinal John O'Connor
states: "We know that it is a very profound
mystery, which we don't begin to under­
stand." And Pope John Paul II speaks of "the
inscrutable mystery of God the Trinity."
pedia Americana
Christianity and the World Reli­
that the Trinity is one reason why the
churches have been unable to make any sig­
niicant headway with non-Christian peoples.
He states: "Even well-informed Muslims sim­
ply cannot follow, as the Jews thus far have
likewise failed to grasp, the idea of the Trinity.
. . . The
made by the doctrine
of the Trinity between one God and three
hypostases do not satisfy Muslims, who are
confused, rather than enlightened, by theolog­
ical terms derived from Syriac, Greek, and
Latin. Muslims ind it all a word game. . . .
Why should anyone want to add anything to
the notion of God's oneness and uniqueness
that can only dilute or nulliy that oneness and
uniqueness? "
A Dictionary of Religious nowledge
says: "Precisely what that doctrine is, or rath­
er precisely how it is to be explained, Trinitar­
ians are not agreed among themselves."
We can understand, then, why the
observes: "There are
few teachers of Trinitarian theology in Roman
Catholic seminaries who have not been bad­
gered at one time or another by the question,
'But how does one preach the Trinity?' And if
the question is symptomatic of confusion on
the part of the students, perhaps it is no less
symptomatic of similar confusion on the part
of their professors."
The truth of that observation can be veri­
ied by going to a library and examining books
that support the Trinity. Countless pages have
been written attempting to explain it. Yet, af­
ter struggling through the labyrinth of confus-
INot a God of Confusion"
"A dogma so mysterious presupposes a Divine
revelation." Catholic scholars Karl Rahner and
Herbert Vorgrimler state in their
OW could such a confusing doctrine origi­
Th e Ca tholic Encyclopedia
"The Trinity is a mystery .. . in
the strict sense ..., which could not be known
without revelation, and even after revelation
cannot become wholly intelligible."
The disciples of Jesus were
the humble common people,
not the religious leaders
About the Trinity?:
Catholic Encyclopedia
However, contending that since the Trinity is
such a confusing mystery, it must have come
from divine revelation creates another major
problem. Why? Because divine revelation itself
does not allow for such a view of God: "God is
not a God of confusion."-l Corinthians 14:33,
Revised Standard Version (RS).
In view of that statement, would God be re­
sponsible for a doctrine about himself that is
so confusing that even Hebrew, Greek, and
Latin scholars cannot really explain it?
Furthermore, do people have to be theolo-
If that
were the case, why did so few of the educat­
ed Jewish religious leaders recognize Jesus as
the Messiah? His faithful disciples were, in­
stead, humble farmers, ishermen, tax collec­
tors, housewives.Those common people were so
certain of what Jesus taught about God that
they could teach it to others and were even
willing to die for their belief.-Matthew 15: 1-9 ;
21:23-32, 43; 23:13-36; John 7:45-49; Acts
Is It Clearly a Bble Teacng?
F THE Trinity were true, it should be clear­
ly and consistently presented in the Bible.
Why? Because, as the apostles airmed, the
Bible is God's revelation of himself to mankind.
And since we need to know God to worship him
acceptably, the Bible should be clear in telling
us just who he is.
First-century believers accepted the Scrip­
tures as the authentic revelation of God. It was
the basis for their beliefs, the inal authority.
For example, when the apostle Paul preached
to people in the city of Beroea, "they received
the word with the greatest eagerness of mind,
carefully examining the Scriptures daily as
to whether these things were sO."-Acts 17:
10, 11.
What did prominent men of God at that time
use as their authority? Acts 17:2, 3 tells us:
"According to Paul's custom ... he reasoned
with them from the Scriptures, explaining and
proving by references [from the Scriptures]."
Jesus himself set the example in using the
Scriptures as the basis for his teaching, repeat­
edly saying: "It is written." "He interpreted to
them things pertaining to himself in all the
Scriptures. "-Matthew 4:4, 7; Luke 24:27.
Thus Jesus, Paul, and irst-century believers
used the Scriptures as the foundation for their
teaching. They knew that "all Scripture is in­
spired of God and beneicial for teaching, for
reproving, for setting things straight, for disci­
plining in righteousness, that the man of God
may be fully competent, completely equipped
for every good work."-2 Timothy 3:16, 17; see
also 1 Corinthians 4:6; 1 Thessalonians 2:13;
2 Peter 1:20, 21.
Since the Bible can 'set things straight,' it
should clearly reveal information about a mat­
ter as undamental as the Trinity is claimed
to be. But do theologians and historians them­
selves say that it is clearly a Bible teaching?
ITrinity" in the Bible?
PROTESTANT publication states: "The
word Trinity is not found in the Bible ...It
did not ind a place fornally in the theology of
the church till the 4th century."
(The llustrated
And a Catholic authority says
that the Trinity "is not ... directly and immedi­
ately [the] word of God."-New
Catholic Ency­
also comments:
"In Scripture . there , is as yet no single term by
which the Three Divine Persons are denoted
together. The word
tptn; [tri "a s]
(of which the
is a translation) is irst found in
Theophilus of Antioch about A. D. 180. . . .
Shortly afterwards it appears in its Latin form of
in Tertullian."
However, this is no proof in itself that Tertul­
lian taught the Trinity.The Catholic work
itas-A Th eological Encyclopedia of the Holy
for example, notes that some of Ter­
tullian's words were later used by others to
gians 'to know the only true God and Jesus
Christ whom he has sent'? (John 17:3,
Bible Dictionary)
The Catholic Encyclopedia
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