God’s Challenge to Trinitarianism
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God’s Challenge to Trinitarianism
The belief that God is a trinity of three persons in one being is the hallmark of Christian Orthodoxy. But have you really examined the claim? It may shock you to learn that the so-called hallmark of Orthodoxy, Trinitarianism, the belief that God exists in His eternal being as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, is not found in the Bible—and in fact the doctrine is one of Satan’s greatest deceptions!
Why would I make such a shocking statement? Simply stated, it is because classical Trinitarianism obscures the purpose of human existence and what human beings were created to become in the Kingdom of God.
Critically, insisting that all three persons fully participate in the being of the other means that God the Father died with Jesus the Son!
The very first article of faith is to believe that God exists: “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6, King James Version). In other words, a person must believe that God exists and that He always has our best interests at heart.
There are, of course, skeptics who don’t believe in the existence of God, but most people in the Western world profess some kind of belief in the God of the Christian Bible. God is said to be uncreated, eternal and invisible. Jesus states in John 4:24 that God is spirit.
But what about the origin of Jesus, the Son of God? How did He come into existence? Classical Trinitarianism holds that God the Father eternally generates the Son, and that the Father and Son eternally generate the Holy Spirit. Theologians refer to this closed system as the triune God—“triune” meaning “consisting of three in one.” They further assert that all three—Father, Son and Holy Spirit—mutually participate in the being and action of the other.
As you can see, the triune Godhead is a closed system—no one can enter into that “eternal model.” (To clarify, the word “Godhead” means Godhood—existence as God with divine nature—and has nothing to do with the modern word “head.”) If the Godhead is closed, how can human beings become children of God and members of His family, as stated in 2 Corinthians 6:18? And what about the incarnation of the Word—the Son of God being born in the flesh? Remember, classical Trinitarianism holds that the Father is eternally generating the Son in heaven.
The incarnation and resurrection shatters the Trinitarian paradigm.
One can readily see the dilemma this poses. How can there be a Son in heaven and one on the earth? How is the “essential nature” of God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit preserved when the Word is made flesh? If any of the divine persons is altered or taken out of the model, the whole paradigm is shattered. Yet Trinitarians contend that the Father continued to generate the Son in heaven even while He was begotten in Mary’s womb and during all the time He lived on earth in the flesh.
If this classical model of the Godhead of eternal generation in the heavens were true, then the incarnation would introduce a second Son—one Son being eternally generated in heaven and another Son existing in the flesh on earth. Thus according to the Trinitarian model, the Son on earth is effectively a fourth being that enters the equation—three in heaven and one on the earth until later rising to heaven.
Theologians have vainly attempted to explain away their dilemma by appealing to the distinctions in the Godhead. That is, the Son as one of the persons in the Godhead was made flesh, suffered and died for the sins of the world.
But how can this be so since, by Trinitarian doctrine, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit each fully participate in the being of each other and the action of each, thus ensuring the oneness and indivisibility of the Godhead? Regardless of theologians’ attempts to get around this quandary by emphasizing distinctions in the Godhead, they are hopelessly entangled in a series of contradictions.
The logical outcome of insisting that all three persons fully participate in the being of the other is what is labeled patripassianism—that is, the notion that God the Father suffered and died with Jesus the Son for the sins of the world.
Explanations of ways of existing as God or emphasizing distinctions in the Godhead cannot negate the fact that according to this doctrine, if one of these three dies, they all die.
Sadly, this doctrine reduces Jesus Christ to mere human flesh that died for the sins of the world. Moreover, proponents of this doctrine are in essence saying that God gave a part of Himself to Himself, a mere mortal, since the eternally generated Son continues to be generated by the Father in heaven. Yet Christ cried out on the cross, “Father, into your hands I commend My spirit” (Luke 23:46).
How does Jesus’ resurrection fit the Trinitarian view of God?
The Trinitarian paradigm is further shattered by the glorious resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Trinitarians insist on a body-only physical resurrection in an attempt to preserve the Trinitarian model of the Father eternally generating the Son.
Their insistence on a fleshly resurrection denies Christ’s resurrection as a life-giving spirit: “And so it is written, ‘The first man Adam became a living being.’ The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual” (1 Corinthians 15:45-46).
The Scriptures clearly reveal that the resurrected Christ is a separate and distinct entity from God the Father, as He now sits at the Father’s right hand. The apostle Peter said: “Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne, he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul [His being] was not left in Hades [the grave], nor did His flesh see corruption.
“This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear. For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he says himself: ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand . . .”’” (Acts 2:29-34).
Trinitarian theologians have recognized that the resurrection of Christ as a life-giving spirit would introduce a fourth person into the Godhead. So they insist that Jesus’ resurrection was a restoration of His human bodily life, now eternally preserved—implying that only Jesus as a human being died since, according to Trinitarianism, the Father is eternally generating the Son.
This denies the death of the Son on the cross and implies that He resurrected Himself rather than being resurrected by the Father (Romans 8:11).
One can also readily discern the inherent contradictions contained in the doctrine of the trinity as proponents attempt to explain the origins and oneness of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Origin of the Word
What do the Scriptures reveal concerning the origin of the Son of God? Is the One who became the Son of God in the flesh a created being? If He is not a created being, how and when did He come into existence?
Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the apostle John clearly explains the origin of the Word or, in Greek, Logos, the Being who became Jesus Christ. John 1:1 states, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” The three simple clauses here serve to illustrate the eternal existence of the Logos as opposed to a created being:
• In the first clause, “In the beginning was the Word,” the Greek term translated “was” is a “to be” verb having the sense of “existed.” The Logos existed “in the beginning,” an obvious allusion to Genesis 1:1. At the very beginning of creation, the Logos already existed.
• In the second clause, the same word for “was” is used to describe manner of existence in terms of a relationship. That is, the Logos was with God, showing Him to be distinct from God and at the same time in fellowship with God.
• The same verb for “was” is used in the third clause to help define the character or essence of the Logos—“and the Word [Logos] was God [Theos]” (Joel Green, Scot McKnight, Howard Marshall, editors, Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, “Logos,” 1992, p. 483).
John clearly identifies two entities, the Word (Logos) and God (Theos). Furthermore, John forcefully proclaims that the Word was God (Theos). Moreover, he asserts that the Logos had a personal relationship with God. The chronology is emphasized in verses 1 and 2. That is, the Word who was “in the beginning” was also “with God.” The repetition in verse 2 of the fact that the Word, and none other, was with God in the beginning emphasizes His existence and relationship with God in eternity. Since God created all things through the Word, the Word did not come into existence as a creation of God. The Word already existed—He was already in existence at “the beginning” of creation.
If no other scriptures were available, the simplicity and force of these words make it clear that the Word is uncreated—coeternal with God (Theos).
John repeats the Logos’ role in creation in John 1:10 by asserting, “He was in the world, and the world was made through Him . . .” The Greek word translated “was made” is egeneto, from the primary verb ginomai, meaning “to become, i.e. to come into existence, begin to be, receive being” (Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament). Thus it was through the Word that the world came into existence.
But the most dramatic proof of the preexistence of the Logos is the declaration that the Logos was made flesh and dwelt with humankind (John 1:14). If the Logos had no preexistence, then God the Father merely created a new being to become the only begotten Son of God to die for the sins of the world. But as noted above in John 1:1, the Word who existed coeternally with the Father is the One who became flesh.
The Logos identified in the book of Revelation
The book of Revelation is declared in the first verse to be a revelation God the Father gave to Jesus Christ for His servants. Jesus then sent it by an angel to the apostle John (Revelation 1:1). John’s salutation that follows is from God the Father, who is and was and is to come, and from Jesus Christ, the firstborn from the dead (Revelation 1:4-5).
After the salutation, John is given a vision of the Son of Man walking among seven golden candlesticks. This One declares that He is “the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last” (verses 10-17). Thus Jesus Christ equates His eternity with that of God the Father. These passages clearly parallel the “I AM” declaration of Jesus in John 8:58, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.” Jesus thus irrefutably proclaims co-eternity with the Father.
Moreover, John is given a vision of Jesus Christ coming in glory as King of Kings and Lord of Lords: “Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God” (Revelation 19:11-13).
Here the Father reveals to all the world that Jesus Christ is “The Word of God,” the same Being who was with God the Father in eternity. He is the One who emptied Himself of His glory and took on the form of flesh as Immanuel, “God with us” (Matthew 1:23)—the incarnate Word who died for the sins of the world and who is now alive forevermore.
The Logos empties Himself of glory
The Father and the Logos determined that the Word would give up His glory so He could reconcile sinful humanity to God the Father and begin a new order of beings—that is, spirit-born sons of God through a resurrection from the dead.
As the apostle Paul proclaims, this plan of salvation existed before God created humankind. He writes of God “who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began” (2 Timothy 1:9).
Thus the Word had to empty Himself of His glory and take on the form of flesh so sinful humanity could be reconciled to the Father, the Word then being returned to glory as the firstborn from the dead (Hebrews 2:9-10; Revelation 1:5). His becoming the firstborn from the dead shows that others will obviously follow (see also Romans 8:29; Hebrews 2:10).
Paul makes it very clear that the eternal Logos gave up His glory and took on the form of a servant to act as our Savior. Paul writes of Him, as translated in the New King James Version: “who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:6-8). So it was through the Logos being willing to give up His glory that He could take on the form of a man.
But, the skeptic may ask, do the above verses prove that the Logos existed with the Father? The key word is found in verse 6: “. . . being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God.” The Greek word translated “being” is a form of huparcho, which means “to begin, to come forth, hence to be there, be ready, be at hand” (Thayer’s). Thus the Word was already in the form of God before taking on the form of a man.
Now, how could the Word exist in the form of God and not be God? If one accepts Paul’s assertion that He took on the form of a man, one must also accept that He existed in the form of God.
Furthermore, where some versions translate that He “did not consider it robbery to be equal with God,” the Greek for “robbery” is a form of harpagmos, meaning “a thing seized or to be seized” or, as some render it, “something to cling to” (New Living Translation). What this means is that He did not consider equality with God something to hold on to, but instead let it go—voluntarily relinquished it—when He emptied Himself of His former glory.
Clearly this means that equality with God was something the Word already had. And His giving up of His glory is the greatest act of servant leadership the world has ever witnessed. Moreover, His willingness to give up the glory He shared with God the Father is one of the principal reasons the Father has exalted Him and placed Him over all things (Ephesians 1:20-22).
Christ’s testimony of glory He shared with the Father
Before giving His life for the sins of the world, He asked the Father to restore to Him the glory He had with the Father before the world existed (John 17:5). The force of this request in the Greek language is undeniable. Before the “world” (a form of the Greek kosmos, meaning the arrangement of the universe) “was” (Greek einai, referring to existence), Christ shared this glory with the Father. Any attempt to dismiss this as only prophetic as to what would happen after Jesus’ resurrection is not in keeping with Christ’s clear words.
Why would Jesus Christ ask the Father to restore something He had with the Father before the world was if He never experienced it in the first place? If He had never experienced this glory, it seems He would have asked the Father to glorify Him with a different glory, rather than the glory He previously had with the Father.
Clearly the preexistence of Christ is affirmed in this verse. It is clear from the Scriptures that Christ came to the earth and gave up that glory He had with the Father. But following the end of His human life, Jesus, who died for the sins of the world, was raised from the dead—glorified—and now sits at the right hand of the Father, restored to His former glorious existence.
So the fact that Christ was glorified at the resurrection in no way contradicts the understanding that the Word previously existed in a glorious, divine state before He came to the earth. As Paul explained in Philippians 2, the Word had already existed in glory before He emptied himself of His glory and took on the form of a man.
In the flesh He was divine in the sense that He was the same One who had always existed before His incarnation, still having His divine identity as the Word. He was also the monogenes—the unique Son of God (John 1:14; John 1:18; John 3:16; John 3:18), begotten of the Father and filled with the Holy Spirit, having the same perfect righteous character of God. In His humility He took on the form of a man so He could die for the sins of the world and usher in a new order of beings through becoming the firstborn of the dead when the Father raised Him from the dead.
So we see that through God’s love, grace and mercy the Trinitarian model of a closed system is shattered by God’s great purpose for creating humankind. God the Father and Jesus Christ offer us eternal life in the glorious Kingdom of God. We can share in the glory of the Father and Son in the Kingdom of God, transformed into glorious radiant spirit beings like them—being now, in the words of Romans 8:17, “heirs of God and joint heirs with Jesus Christ.”