“Your Word Is Truth”
Why Is the Trinity Taught?
ACCORDING to the Trinity doctrine adhered to by the majority of Christendom’s churches, the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost (or Spirit) are ‘one God as to substance but three persons as to individuality.’ All three persons are viewed as being ‘coequal and coeternal.’ The doctrine is considered to be a mystery that can never be fully understood. But what is the origin of this mystery?
The New Catholic Encyclopedia acknowledges: “There is the recognition on the part of . . . Biblical theologians, including a constantly growing number of Roman Catholics, that one should not speak of Trinitarianism in the New Testament without serious qualification. There is also the closely parallel recognition on the part of historians of dogma and systematic theologians that when one does speak of an unqualified Trinitarianism, one has moved from the period of Christian origins to, say, the last quadrant of the 4th century. It was only then that what might be called the definitive Trinitarian dogma ‘one God in three Persons’ became thoroughly assimilated into Christian life and thought.” So the Trinity doctrine as believed by the majority of Christendom’s church members is admittedly not presented as such in the Bible.
Regarding the formulation of the Trinity doctrine, the New Catholic Encyclopedia further observes: “It was the task of the Fathers of the Church and of the early councils to formulate the mystery of Christ, true God and true man, in accurate and technical terms.”
This gives rise to a number of questions: Why is the Trinity doctrine not set forth clearly in the Holy Scriptures? Does the formulating of this “mystery” find any basis in the Bible? Could it be that those who contributed to the development of the Trinity doctrine had actually departed from the teachings of true Christianity?
Already in the first century C.E. false teachers had crept into the Christian church or congregation. The apostle Paul wrote to Christians in Galatia: “There are certain ones who are causing you trouble and wanting to pervert the good news about the Christ. However, even if we or an angel out of heaven were to declare to you as good news something beyond what we declared to you as good news, let him be accursed.” (Gal. 1:7, 8) Warning Christians of future developments, the same apostle stated: “The inspired utterance says definitely that in later periods of time some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to misleading inspired utterances and teachings of demons.”—1 Tim. 4:1.
Since the Trinity doctrine was not developed fully until the latter part of the fourth century C.E., there is clear possibility that those responsible for its development had apostatized from first-century Christianity. We should therefore want to prove to our own satisfaction whether the Trinity doctrine finds any basis in the Bible or not. Certainly no one desiring to gain God’s approval would want to be found following a ‘teaching of demons,’ that is, a doctrine contrary to God’s truth.
It may come as quite a surprise to some that the trinity of Chinese Buddhism is described in almost the same way as the trinity of Christendom: Of this Buddhist trinity, we read: “The Three are all included in one substantial essence. The three are the same as one; not one, and yet not different; without parts or composition. When regarded as one, the three persons are spoken of as the Perfect One (Tathagata). There is no real difference [between the three persons of the trinity]; they are manifestations, different aspects of the same unchanging substance.” Obviously, the formulation of the trinity of Chinese Buddhism had no connection with the Bible.
Could that also be true of the Trinity doctrine of Christendom’s churches? The Catholic Encyclopedia for School and Home frankly admits: “The Trinity was unknown to people before the time of Our Lord.” In an attempt to explain why the Trinity doctrine is not plainly presented in the Christian Greek Scriptures, the New Catholic Encyclopedia argues: “In the New Testament the revelation of Christ’s divinity was gradual, discreet, and mainly indirect. One never meets a blunt statement: Christ is God. It had to be so if that faith was to find entrance with the Jews.” But may it not just as well be that Jesus Christ never claimed to be coequal and coeternal with the Father because this simply was not the case?
The completed Holy Scriptures do not present the identity of Jesus Christ in concealed language, language that had to be clarified and years later formulated by clergymen into a mystery that no one understands. Jesus Christ is referred to as the “Son of God,” not as ‘God the Son.’ The very fact that he is called “Son” shows that he had a beginning. This is why the Bible speaks of him as being the “firstborn of all creation” and the “beginning of the creation by God.”—Col. 1:15; Rev. 3:14.
Even after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension to heaven he did not gain a position of equality with his Father. The inspired apostle Paul wrote: “I want you to know that the head of every man is the Christ; in turn the head of a woman is the man; in turn the head of the Christ is God.” (1 Cor. 11:3) “The Son himself will also subject himself to the One who subjected all things to him, that God may be all things to everyone.” (1 Cor. 15:28) In the book of Revelation the glorified Lord Jesus Christ repeatedly speaks of his Father as “my God.” At Revelation 3:12, for example, we read: “The one that conquers—I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God, and he will by no means go out from it anymore, and I will write upon him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem which descends out of heaven from my God, and that new name of mine.” This is in full harmony with Jesus’ earlier statement to Mary Magdalene: “I am ascending to my Father and your Father and to my God and your God.”—John 20:17*
In view of the clear testimony of the Scriptures, the Trinity doctrine is what the New Catholic Encyclopedia acknowledges it to be—a mystery formulated by men living years after the Holy Scriptures were committed to writing. The formulation of this mystery in supposedly “accurate and technical terms” has, in reality, so confused matters that throughout the centuries millions have been unable to see the difference between the expressions “Son of God” and “God the Son.” Instead of ‘bending the knee in the name of Jesus and acknowledging him as Lord to the glory of God the Father,’ they have worshiped something they admittedly do not understand—a mysterious triune God. (Phil. 2:10, 11) The Trinity doctrine has thus made it impossible for millions to worship God “with spirit and truth” and has dishonored God by denying that he alone is the Supreme Sovereign of the universe.—John 4:24.
For a detailed discussion, see the booklet “The Word”—Who Is He? According to John and the book Aid to Bible Understanding, pp. 918-920.2