The Trouble With Trinities

The topic of the Christian Trinity is a subject which I’ve had issues with for some time. To me it resembles more closely theology that Christians and “the church” rail against as pagan, heretical or even evil. It further ties into my issue of people addressing Jesus as not just the Son of God but actually an incarnation of God Himself. That notion is a very familiar idea within paganism and Eastern philosophy. Certain denominations of Buddhism and Hinduism believe that certain deities will have an earthly incarnation into a human body and they in turn will worship that individual as if they were that deity. Yet Christians look at this practice as idolatrous and ignorant. But the idea that God existed in a physical body as Jesus is somehow not only acceptable but an idea that is still quite popularly accepted as the “truth” by a very large number of Christians today. But where did the concept of the Trinity come from? Is it even supported Biblically? Why is it viewed as a necessary part of the foundation of the Christian faith?

First, I became interested in finding out how and when the concept of the Trinity came about. From the reading that I have done the word “Trinity” was first used by Tertullian, a Latin theologian who wrote in the early third century. Tertullian is in fact the individual who first coined the term and to explain that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit were “one in essence – not one in Person.” (ANF 3.621; c. 213 AD). But it wasn’t until roughly a century later in 325 during the meeting of the Council of Nicea that this relationship was formally defined as a response to the teachings of Arius, who had taught that Christ was the first creation of God. The council was led by Bishop Athanasius who established the Trinitarian doctrine as orthodoxy, an action which essentially settled the issue… I had not actually heard of Arius before looking further into the Trinitarian concept, and I found it interesting that his proposed belief concerning Jesus was that while Jesus was superior to humans, he was not of the same order as God and was in fact a changeable created being made by God. While the council of Nicea condemned this teaching, after Constantine’s death Arianism began to take on popularity again for some decades afterwards and almost overtook the Nicene party. It wasn’t until the 381 C.E. that Arianism was officially & finally condemned at the Council of Constantinople.

With this knowledge then I find it more difficult to accept the idea of the Trinity as one which is divine and Biblical. It appears more as theology created to rationalize the predicament of keeping Christianity monotheistic while simultaneously stressing the requirement of worshipping the Son of God, often above the worship of God Himself. In looking for supporting Biblical evidence regarding the Trinity one website I found offers certain Biblical passages to support its views. These passages include John 20:28 which reads, “And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!”; 2 Pet. 1:1which states, “Simon Peter, a bondservant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained like precious faith with us by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ; Titus 2:13 which says, “…looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and savior Jesus Christ.” Yet, I do not see how these quotes are in any way irrefutable support of Jesus being the equivalent of God. First and foremost, these claims are being exclaimed by Jesus’ followers who are inarguably quite in awe of this man. Secondly, these are not words spoken by Jesus nor are they words which God has spoken to a prophet to proclaim. In every declaration I have ever read to be spoken by Jesus, he always refers to himself as the Son of God and as God being his father, not as he himself being the same as God. In fact that same website seems to contradict itself when it quotes Isaiah 44:8 stating that there is only one God and that God knows of no others, in what appears to be an attempt to say that while Jesus is the same as God he is not a separate entity from God. To me that just reads as an attempt to once again rationalize the concept of the Trinity so that Christianity can still maintain the guise of monotheism and avoid that “icky” label of polytheism. While that website is certainly not an in-depth scholarly study of the Trinity, when looked at critically, I see no reason why their few lifted Bible quotes do anything to support their stance on the issue.

Lest we forget the pure suspense of logic one must use in order to begin to rationalize the concept of Jesus being God incarnate in flesh form, while at the same time being in heaven and remaining omnipotent. If God were Jesus, why would Jesus still pray to God? Why would he exclaim, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46, Mark 15:34). Is he not just addressing himself? And what of the several Biblical quotes clearly refuting the divinity of Jesus?

“For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” – 1 Timothy 2:5

“I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.” – John 20:17

“My Father is greater than I.” – John 14:28

“And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? There is none good but one, that is, God.” – Matthew 19:17, Mark 10:18

“So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God.” – Mark 16:19

…And so on and so forth.

As much as I am a spiritual person, as much as I believe in a Divine force, a soul, a spiritual world, etc. I am also a person who embraces science, who thinks critically and logically. I can’t just turn my brain off and say, “OK”, to a theology if it just doesn’t make some semblance of sense to me. Whether or not a belief is widely held to be true does not in any way render it true by default. I enjoy thinking about abstract ideas and concepts and exploring them as fully as I can. Therefore, I cannot simply accept the concept of the Trinity as being true merely because it is an officiated doctrine; held not only by the Episcopal Church but by a majority of Christians worldwide. It’s a purely invented concept held loosely together by flimsy “evidence” and tradition.

I do not claim to be a Biblical scholar or an expert in any sense of the imagination. I am interested in the history of the Bible, how it was created and who wrote it, and the history which can be validated outside of the Bible through archaeology and academics. I believe the real truth is more apt to be found outside of the Bible than within it, based on the critical examination of its contents within the proper context of the time it was created. Once one learns more about how the Bible was created in the first place it becomes easier to be more objective at looking into its contents. The Bible was written by men, edited by men, compiled by men, interpreted & (mis)translated by men, and published by men according to what they deemed appropriate. When one studies the Bible in its correct historical context instead of attempting to live it literally one is more likely to get something of substance out of it. Much of the spiritual context of the Bible is contained in nuance and allegory, not in obsession over literal laws and verbatim quotes. We will never know what Jesus actually meant or said, and we won’t know if what people wrote down is the same as what God Himself was trying to get across. But I don’t think that by everyone trying to scream their version of the truth louder than the other guy is doing anyone much good. The two most important and fundamental laws which were to be obeyed, as spoken by Jesus, were to love God with all your heart and to love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:33-40). I think that if more people actually listened and carried out what they claim they believe Jesus to have said, they might actually start to live the “Christ” part in Christianity.