THE doctrine of the Trinity is nowhere
expressed or explained in the Scriptures, hence any discussion of it must depend on
writings outside the Word of God. We have often wished for a short, authoritative
statement, upon which an examination might be based. This has been furnished in the form
of an address delivered at the Los Angeles Convention of the Worlds Christian
Fundamentals Association, in June, 1930, by Leander S. Keyser, D. D. It was later
published in THE CHRISTIAN FUNDAMENTALIST, of January, 1931. It thus has the full sanction
of the Fundamentalist organization.
the high rank of the author and the unusual merits of the article itself, we feel that we
have before us the best possible exposition and defense of the Trinity of the Godhead.
Usually such utterances are too vague, too sentimental, to afford any clear ground for
consideration. Here we have definite statements which can be compared with the Scriptures,
and a wealth of illustrations which may be tested for their aptness and logic. We desire
to thank Dr. Keyser for this classical contribution to the subject.
It may be
objected, Why consider the subject at all? Why not set forth the facts and the truth, and
let this error shrink away when the light is turned on? We may as well go further, and
ask, Why write about it at all? Is the truth not set forth clearly in Gods Word,
where all may read and believe? This is true. They read, but they do not perceive. Their
minds are so dominated by credal theology that the Scriptures make no impression. It is
not until these false notions have been swept aside that their eyes are open to apprehend
the Scriptures. The plainest statements are meaningless or distorted so long as the
popular errors obsess them. We will have much to say as to the relations existing between
God and His Son, but it is necessary to start where our readers are, and show them
the need of a fresh investigation, before they are in a position to appreciate or accept
one difference between the supporters of the Trinity and our efforts to show it to be
unscriptural which, to the thoughtful mind, almost settles the question even before
discussion. We cheerfully reprint the whole of this article against our position, and urge
our readers to weigh it carefully. Will Trinitarians have enough confidence in their own
teaching to publish my reply? I am so sure that everyone who really considers my answer
will be satisfied that Trinitarianism is unscriptural that I consider any article, written
in its defense, destructive of its own position. Will The Christian Fundamentalist
find my refutation sufficiently in favor of Trinitarianism to publish it? What orthodox
publication has the courage to present both sides of the argument to its readers?
to distinguish the article from our discussion, it will be set off within borders. The
opening paragraphs follow:
THE DOCTRINE OF THE TRIUNE
LEANDER S. KEYSER, D.D.
Delivered at the Los Angeles Convention, June, 1930
every other doctrine of our holy faith, the doctrine of the Trinity is called into
question in these days of deadly doubt. Not long ago, Dr. A. C. Barton, a
well-known modernist, scoffed at this doctrine by declaring that there was no mathematics
in time or eternity that could add three ones together and make them only one.
When I was
a very young man, over fifty years ago, Robert G. Ingersoll ridiculed the sacred doctrine
of the Trinity in precisely the same way. A little further along I will expose the
superficiality displayed by both of these critics. It may be said here that most of the
modernistic criticisms of orthodoxy are based on a lack of accurate theological knowledge
and acumen. It is not at all probable that all the great evangelical scholars of the
centuries, from Athanasius to Warfield, have believed a palpable absurdity.
The article begins with a very grave defection from
the faith, which is the key to all of the infidelity that follows. It does not
discriminate between that which has been hallowed by God and that which is held to be holy
by man. The word Trinity is not sacred. God has refused it a place in
His revelation of Himself. It is human, unnecessary, defective, and hypocritical. It has
crept in despite the apostles warning to have a pattern of sound words (2 Tim.1:13).
I have personally made a close examination of the entire vocabulary chosen and refined by
God and find no expression in Hebrew, Chaldee, or Greek, which answers to the term
Trinity, used in connection with this theme in the Scriptures.
this will have little weight, for they worship man and not God. But it should have a
powerful appeal to Fundamentalists and all who really revere Gods holy Word. No
doctrine is holy which has not been put into words by the holy spirit of God. Thus the
article begins with a false note. It is the duty of faith to doubt man-made substitutes
for divine revelation. Such doubt is not deadly, but safe. If there is such a thing as the
doctrine of the Trinity, let us have it in Gods words. We are convinced that the
subject is beyond mans intellect, so it is sheer folly to let him repudiate
Gods expressions, with the subtle insinuation that his are better.
We do not
at all relish being classed with Modernists and agnostics. I realize the popularity of
such an appeal to prejudice. At the beginning of this discussion, however, it is a fatal
sign of weakness. It is quite possible for unbelievers to disbelieve that which is false.
The great differences which exist between godly believers certainly show they are not
infallible. This is only another appeal to man. The doctrine does not go back to
the apostles, but to Athanasius. All of this is utterly prejudicial to the subject.
Logically, it leads to Rome. If a doctrine is true because it has the support of human
minds and masses of men, divine logic should proclaim it false, rather than true.
A BIBLICAL DOCTRINE
primary reason why our great orthodox theologians have believed the doctrine of the
Trinity is that they have found it clearly taught in the Bible. A scientific correlation
of all the teaching of the inspired volume yields the doctrine of the triune God. That is
also the reason why the great ecumenical creeds and all the evangelical confessions teach
the same doctrine. The great confessors of the evangelical church did not develop the
doctrine out of their own intellects or out of the speculations of Greek philosophy; no,
they found it clearly taught in the Holy Scriptures. Finding it there, they, like true
scientific thinkers, formulated the Biblical teaching into consistent statements of
doctrine. That is something which the scientific and scholarly mind ever seeks to
dosynthesize and classify into a system the varied data of any field of
investigation whether they belong to the physical, the psychical, the ethical, or the
A careful comparison of these statements is all that
is needed to show that quite a number of them are the expression of a wish rather than a
fact. Notwithstanding that the Trinity is clearly taught in the Bible, the
Scriptures did not yield this truth(?) until a scientific correlation of all the
teaching had been made. The plain fact is that the Trinity is not clearly
taught, even in a Bible corrupted in its favor. This article is evidence that it is not clearly
taught anywhere. It is a human deduction, not from all the teachings of the Bible,
but from a very few isolated texts.
knows anything of the centuries of wrangling which resulted in the creeds, will agree that
the Scriptures are not clear as to any Trinity. The church did not adopt it because of a
unanimity of belief, but as a compromise, a desperate alternative. The original framers of
the creeds were often most dissatisfied, and only yielded to the ignorant majority. Now
these same creeds are received as though they were the voice of God. The greatest stain
upon the movement which battles for the supernatural in the Bible, is that it clothes the
creeds with a cloak of sanctity much more inviolate than the sacred text itself.
creed makers found this doctrine clearly taught in the Holy Scriptures why was
it at all necessary to formulate the Biblical teaching into consistent statements of
doctrine? This is not faith. The Scriptures are not an undigested mass of memoranda,
which God has not found time or strength to formulate. It is not the
scientific or the scholarly mind which finds the Scriptures crude
and inconsistent, needing classification and synthesization into a
system. It is sheer unbelief. Gods Word is a living, life-giving
organism. Do men need to analyze and rearrange the human body? No more do they need to
attempt any such tinkering with the Word of the living God.
THERE IS ONLY ONE GOD
thinking of GodI mean the God of Christianitythere is not a single passage of
Scripture that either teaches or intimates three Gods. That is a heresy which the
evangelical church has always rejected. The true doctrine is monotheismmonos,
one, and Theos, Godthe doctrine of one God.
clearly teaches that there is but one God. There is not a single passage of Scripture that
either teaches or intimates Polytheism. Indeed, that doctrine is condemned throughout
Gods Book of divine truth. The very first commandment of the Decalogue says most
positively: I am the Lord, thy God; thou shalt have no other gods before me.
This language can be interpreted in only one wayit teaches absolute monotheism.
in the Scriptures we read: Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord
(Deut.6:4). Afterward Christ repeated and endorsed this very passage from Deuteronomy,
quoting it verbatim (see Mark 12:29). Note Pauls statement: One Lord, one
faith, one baptism; one God and father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in
you all (Eph.4:5,6). Thus it is clear that the doctrine of the Bible is Monotheism
and not Tritheism.
This calls for our highest commendation. The
Scriptures are quoted and believed. There is no necessity for reasoning from them. Our
faith is fastened on the Word of God itself. We believe Him. This is something that
is clearly taught in the Bible.
THREE PERSONS IN THE GODHEAD
yet it is just as evident that the Bible teaches the doctrine that there are three persons
who are called God, and they are described as Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
Our readers will agree with us that the opening
statement is not warranted by the facts. It is not just as evident that there
are three persons who are called God. There is no definite statement
to that effect. None of the three are ever called persons, for the simple
reason that such a term is not at all necessary in stating the truth as to the relations
existing between the Deity, and our Lord, and Gods holy spirit. Without this
man-made expression we could not be carried on into the devious doctrine of the Trinity.
If it cannot be uttered in inspired words, it is not of God, and has the hallmark of
Note our Lords own words: All power
[authority] is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore and disciple all
nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with
you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen (Matt.28:19,20). What sacrilege it
would have been to couple those three names together if they were not all divine, all
coordinate, all co-equal! To the same effect note the Pauline benediction: The grace of
the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost be with
you all. Amen (2 Cor.13:14). Here all the persons are again joined together, and
Christ is even named first.
Now, instead of a clear statement of the teaching, we
are asked to deduce it by inference from passages which, on their face, were never written
on this theme at all. This method is specifically discredited and denounced in the
Scriptures. Since sin has entered the race, men are not logical. Even minds renewed by the
spirit of God are not able to safely reason out His truth. In our inability, God has
graciously relieved us of the task. He has reasoned out everything essential to faith, so
that we are always given the conclusion along with the premises. God does not supply us
with a minor premise, and ask us to supply the major premise and the solution. This is
what we find here.
premise may be stated as follows:
|All names coupled with Gods are
divine, coordinate, and coequal.
All else, we are told, would be sacrilege. The
contrary is true. In one of the most august passages in holy Writ, which opens up the
Unveiling, we read, Grace to you and peace from Him Who is, and Who was, and Who is
coming, and from the seven spirits which are before His throne, and from Jesus
Christ, the Faithful Witness, the Firstborn of the dead, and the Suzerain of the kings of
the earth (Rev.1:4,5). Let us follow this line of logic. The seven spirits must be
essential Deity. Hence here we have nine persons in the Godhead! Indeed, many have
tried to argue that the seven are the one spirit of God! Such reasoning would soon wreak
havoc with the divine records.
hardly wise to select one benediction which seems to prove a point and ignore others. To
the same Corinthians Paul had written before, The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be
with you! My love be with all of you in Christ Jesus! Did Paul put himself in
the same rank with Christ by coupling their benedictions in this manner? Was Gideon put in
the pantheon when he was told to shout, The sword of the Lord and of Gideon
(Judges 7:20)? There is no ground whatever for the main premise on which this reasoning is
founded. It is contrary to the facts. It is worse than no reason at all.
subject of the passage is not the constitution of the Godhead, but the baptism of the
nations in the day of the Lord. The titles used in baptism are always chosen with the
utmost exactitude, and varied to accord with the relationship of its subject to the
administration in which it occurs. During the coming eon the nations will receive
blessing. There will be great spiritual endowments, as the earnest in Acts. Hence they
will be baptized into the name of the spirit. The nation of Israel will monopolize the
title Christ as they did in the past. Hence they are related to our Lord as
the Son. It will be the beginning of Gods rule of the nations through Israel. The
character of His government will be paternal. Hence the name Father. The
formula used is fitted for its purpose. It has no bearing on the subject in hand.
That the Father is represented in the Scriptures as
God is so plain that it needs no argument. But the Son is also called God. Note: In
the beginning was the Word [Logos], and the Word was with God. The same was in the
beginning with God. And by Him were all things made, and without Him was not anything made
that was made....And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His
glory (John 1:1-14).
this sublime passage teaches the deity of the Son, for the term Logos can refer to
no one but to Him. Observe: The Logos was with God, making a
distinction between the Father and the Son; and yet the Logos was God,
indicating that in their Godhood or deity the Father and the Son are identical. This
passage can be explained only according to the Trinitarian conception. Elsewise it has no
meaning that makes sense.
Here is another false premise: All who are called by
the divine title are, of necessity, absolute Deity. This is quite contrary to the facts.
Not only the Son is called God, but even Satan is called the god of this eon (2 Cor.4:4).
The term Elohim is applied to arbiters in Israel (Ex.21:6; 22:8,9,9,28, judges) and to
unruly spirit beings (Psa.82:6). Do not mistake me. I am not reasoning concerning the
relation of Christ to His Father. I am merely showing the fallacy of this method of
inference. If the application of a divine title proves Deity, then there is no mere
Trinity, but gods many, as the Scriptures declare. However, they do not
stop with this statement. They assure us that, for us, there is one God, the
Father, and one Lord, Jesus Christ (1 Cor.8:6).
not normally speak directly to His creatures; He speaks through the Logos, the
Expression, the Word. Now that this Word is to become flesh it is necessary that It be
introduced by describing Its relationship to God. First, we are told that It is toward
God. The rendering with is inexact and misleading. It fails utterly to convey the
sense. Sound is directive. Christ came, not to reveal Himself, but the One Who sent Him.
As the Word He was in the direction where God is. He was toward God. The Deity is
also invisible. Who then was that One Who appeared to Adam, to Abraham, and to Moses? That
God was the Word. This is the exact phrase of the original. It is not
the Word was God, but God was the Word. The incarnate Word is the
God of the Hebrew theophanies.
only makes sense but is vigorous and revealing. Accounts like Matthew and John
must relate themselves to previous revelation. Matthew traces His physical connections, so
that He may have the throne. John shows that, from Eden on, He was Gods audible
expression, the Elohim, the Jehovah, through Whom He made contact with mankind and Israel.
It is not sense, but non-sense, after saying that the Word was with God, to add that the
Word was God. It is absolutely incomprehensible. If you do not think so, explain
it, or get someone else to make it clear. No Person can be with another
Person and also be that Person.
Again, the Angel of the Annunciation said to Joseph
when he was troubled about Mary, his betrothed: She shall bring forth a Son, and
thou shalt call his name Jesus; for he shall save his people from their sins
(Matt.1:21). Do you know what the name Jesus means when traced back through the
Greek to the Hebrew? It is derived from Je-Hoshea, and that means Jehovah-Saviour,
teaching plainly that Jesus is identical with the Jehovah of the Old Testament.
angel at the same time said of the Child who was to be born of the Virgin Mary in
fulfillment of prophecy: They shall call his name Immanuel, which being interpreted
is, God with us. Have you ever studied the etymology of that word Immanuel?
It is thus composed: immanu, with us, and El, the first syllable of Elohim,
which is another Hebrew name for God. And where do we first find that holy name? In the
very first verse of the Bible, In the beginning God (Elohim) created the heavens and
the earth. Thus the little child who was to be born of the lovely virgin was
identified with the Creator of the universe. So Jesus must be God as well as manthe
eternal Son of God, who in the fullness of time became God incarnate in human form, and
tabernacled among us.
Here is another false assumption. It may be stated
thus: Everyone whose name includes a divine title is a Person in the Godhead.
The mere statement of it should be enough to show how shallow the argument is. Many of the
names in the Hebrew Scriptures are compounds, including a divine title. All the iahs,
ijahs, and els, according to this, are in the Godhead! Our
Lords personal name means Jehovah-Saviour, and He was the visible Jehovah, but we
must look for proof of that elsewhere than in His name, for Joshua and Isaiah are mere
variations of this name. Are they in the Godhead?
It is not
wise to confound the title El with Elohim. There is no question, that our Lord was the
Elohim of Genesis 1:1. The title El, however, does not associate Him with creation, but
priesthood. The verb ale, from which El (or, better, Al), comes, means invoke.
He is the One Who is invoked. The first occurrence is in the description of Melchisedec,
who was a priest of El, the Supreme (Gen.14:18), and this is the connection in Matthew
also. It follows immediately after the declaration that He, in accord with His name,
Jehovah-Saviour, shall save His people from their sins (Matt.1:22,23).
Many other proofs might be set forth to establish the
true Godhead of Jesus Christ, but I need only to mention a few. When Thomas called Jesus,
My Lord and my God, Jesus commended him. Jesus is called, God manifest
in the flesh, and, God blessed forever more. He was in the form of
God. He Himself said, I and my Father are one...He that hath seen me hath seen
my Father also.
The Father is invisible (Col.1:15). The Son is His
Image. God can be seen only in His Son. Therefore, He said these things. If He actually
were the Deity what sense is there in saying that He was in the form of God? He is
the appearance of God, the Effulgence of His glory. These glories do not identify Him with
God. They do not involve a mythical Godhead, of which nothing is said by God
Himself, but they give Him the right to be called God. An image may have and should bear
the name of the one that it represents. Of a painting or a statue we say, This is so
and so. No one, in common life, mistakes our meaning.
not, however, manifest in flesh. The secret of devoutness it was that was
manifested in flesh. The old reading will not bear investigation (1 Tim.3:16). Not that it
affects the question of the Trinity. God has taken great pains to show us that He was not manifested
by the flesh of Christ, by setting it forth typically as the veil, or curtain, which hid
the Shekinah glory. It was only at His death, on the accursed cross, that God was manifested,
and, to certify to its truth, an invisible hand rent the veil of the temple in twain, from
the top to the bottom. No such passage should be injected into this discussion.
On a later
occasion our Lord prayed for His disciples, that they may be one, according as We
are. Does this prove that all who are Christs are included in this
Trinity? Our Lord said that the oneness between Him and the Father is the same as that
between Himself and His saints. This is against, not for the Trinity.
In the same way the Deity of the Holy Spirit may be
established by an appeal to the Holy Scriptures. For instance, Ananias lied to the Holy
Ghost, and Peter accused him of lying, not to men, but to God (Acts 5:4). The Holy Spirit
possesses divine attributes: He is eternal (Heb.9:14); He is omnipresent (Psa.139:7); He
is almighty (Luke 1:35); He is all-wise (1 Cor. 2:10); He performs divine works (Gen.1:2;
Romans 8:11; John 6: 53).
Why should not Gods holy spirit be identified
with Him? There is not the slightest need to prove its deity. But it is utterly illogical
and unscriptural to infer that it is a distinct Person from God. Who
ever thinks of making Christs spirit another deity? If He is divine, co-ordinate and
coequal with God, why is His spirit not also another Person with these
attributes? If this is not so of Christs spirit, then it is not true of Gods
spirit. In the original both are always in the neuter gender, it. Gods spirit
has His Personality, but is not a separate Person from God
Himself. God and His spirit are both given as the Father of our Lord. How can two distinct
Persons be His Father?
Now we have proved from the Holy Scriptures that there
are three persons who are divine, and yet there is only one God. Is the Bible a welter of
contradictions and inconsistencies? Nay, nay! A book that has lasted through the ages and
through whose teaching so many people have been saved from sin and despair, must be a good
and consistent book; and so we must and can correlate the varied teachings of the Bible
and show it to be a wonderful unity. That is just what the great and erudite confessions
of the evangelical church have done in our great ecumenical creeds.
The Bible is a great book! To survive the
opposition of its enemies is a miracle. But a far greater marvel is its persistent purity,
in the original, notwithstanding the erudition of its defenders! Any other book, would
long ago have gathered into itself the philosophical accretions which cover it in
Christendoms creeds. This very subject of the Trinity affords a wonderful example of
its power to repel error. Only one passage in current versions gives any coloring to the
triune theory. And it is universally admitted, even by Trinitarians, that the three
witnesses is a crass corruption, with the avowed purpose of putting the Trinity into
the sacred record!
in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit, and the three are one, and
there are three which bear witness in the earth (1 John 5:7,8) have been the
stronghold of Trinitarianism. One of our greatest scholars declares that the
authenticity of the words will, perhaps, no longer be maintained by anyone whose judgment
ought to have weight. On this account it is not necessary here to detail the long
story of their shady history. We would never have had them in our Bibles if Erasmus, one
of the early editors of the Greek Scriptures, had not been badgered into making the
promise that, if one Greek manuscript could be found, he would insert them. No
other text has so little authority. It is a crime to publish a Bible containing it.
three are one is the only statement which may be construed to express the idea of
the Trinity in our Bibles. The criminal record of these words is a strong argument against
the doctrine. They were unknown until after the theory arose. Realizing how much better it
would be if at least one passage actually taught the Trinity, an effort was made to insert
it, but without much success. Erasmus could not find a single text which contained it until
he published his third edition. Can we account for its inclusion on any other grounds than
its popularity in man-made theology? Is it not an overwhelming indictment of the Trinity
and of those who allow it a place in Gods revelation?
GOD IS BOTH ONE AND THREE
us not think superficially on these profound and uplifting doctrines of Holy Writ. God is
not one and three in the same respect. That would be an absurdity indeed. He is one in one
respect and three in another respect, which is also quite possible in many other realms.
Even a block of wood is one in substance and three in dimensions, and besides, it has
weight, form, and color.
It is rather unfortunate to introduce this ramble into
the world of figures by comparing the Godhead to a block of wood! I once thought that I
was a blockhead because I could not understand this doctrine. Now, however, I have a
secret inclination to confer the title on those erudite mortals who have formulated it and
whose followers seek to explain it, not because they lack in mental acumen, but because
they seek, in the realm of reason, what can only be found in the sphere of revelation.
Real mental capability realizes the limitations of the human mind. It procures knowledge
from One Who knows, when its own powers are patently inadequate.
object violently to the statement that the Trinity is not in the sphere of revelation.
They say that the Trinity is purely a matter of revelation. Where then, is it? It is
never asserted. It must be inferred. Hence it is a decision of
reasoning (Rom.14:1) to which no one can be compelled to assent. Here we have
touched a sore spot. Most men imagine that, if they have a text, they can combine it with
their own deductions and still retain the truth. All that really remains is a pious
comparison should have some points of contact, some resemblance, let us say. Now in what
way is the Godhead like a block of wood and the three Persons like its dimensions? Is the
omnipresence of God to be explained in that One has length, the other breadth,
and the other height? As Persons, then, they are decidedly constricted, for each of these
occupy no space at all! How about weight, form, and color? If we add a few attributes,
such as temperature, elasticity, and all of its other physical peculiarities, do we
enlarge the Trinity? May we add the three dimensions, and the various colors, and make a
A block of
wood might illustrate an idol, but it utterly fails to suggest one phase of the Deity
which is strongly stressed in the divine titles. That is time. Jehovah, commonly
rendered LORD, is the God of the eons. He is, and was, and is to come. That is the
significance of His name. In the titles, not in the Godhead, there are
distinctions which correspond to the items of our experience, but it is evident that as to
such matters as size and weight and form, no comparisons can be drawn. In fact, we have
the definite statement that the Son was in the form of God. They are the same
in apparent dimensions.
Concisely stated, what is the true doctrine of the
trinal deity? It is this: He is one in essence; three in Persons; one in Being; three in
hypothesis or subsistences; one in His Godhead; three in centers of foci of
self-consciousness. And let us remember that self-consciousness is the core of
personality. You and I have consciousness of self; therefore, we are persons. A stone has
no consciousness; therefore it is not a person. Three powers of self-consciousness in God
constitute Him tri-personal; and that is the holy doctrine of the Trinity.
Having convinced themselves that God scattered hints
here and there which He expects them to work up into a scientific statement of His being,
men were now prepared for the highest effort of human wisdom. To the well-balanced mind it
must seem strange that God should continually warn us against reasoning, and then expect
us to use our corrupted faculty in deducing the most important and fundamental fact in the
universe. I do not say that He did. I know He did not. But that is the only way in which
the Trinity has come to us. We cannot believe God. We must deduce it.
Now let us
get a clear conception of the Trinity. The first and chief definition is that God is one
in essence; three in Persons. I must pause to register my utter repudiation
of the two chief words in this definition. They are the essence of a corrupt mind and
haughty audacity. God has spoken. It apes insanity to ignore His utterances. He has
charged us to hold to a pattern of sound words. These words are fundamentally unsound.
They are the terms of a false philosophy, not the purified phraseology of revelation.
Nevertheless, under protest, we will consider what they say. We will not allow ourselves
to be fuddled by their vagueness. Vagueness is the vogue in theology, especially when
considering this theme. As one has lately said, When we throw dust into the air, the
scientist says, I cant see, but the theologian asserts, I can
only one rational way to test this idea of three persons, one in essence. We are not
familiar with any persons but our fellow humans. Fortunately all humanity has come from a
single original, Adam. Hence it is essentially one. Consequently, according to this
definition, God is like the human race, one in essence, many in persons. But this is true
of the ancient polytheisms which were denounced by God! They were one in essence. This
proves polytheism. They had many persons. There is no use juggling with the word essence.
It is made out of putty. God has never said He was one in essence. He claims to be one in
person. Hear, O Israel! Jehovah, our God, is one Jehovah!
(Deut.6:14). He is the God of gods (Deut.10:17). If there are three gods then He is God of
the other two. We know that He is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Now to the
next definition: One in Being; three in hypothesis or subsistences.
The fog is thickening! Is the three persons in the Trinity only a hypothesis,
a theory or supposition? It is a Greek compound, meaning literally UNDER-PLACE. The verb
is used in the Scriptures with the sense of jeopardize (Rom.16:4) and suggest
(1 Tim.4:6). Its theological intention is as luminous as darkness. If anyone should call
our God, or His spirit, or our Lord Jesus Christ an hypothesis, I would put him down as an
agnostic, if not an atheist. It is the hypotheses of science which conflict with
Scripture, and it is this hypothesis which hinders the knowledge of God and of His Christ.
am inclined to the idea that the printer improved this definition, and
substituted hypothesis for hypostasis. We must not blame him, for
he was anxious that it should mean something, and, though a loyal fundamentalist,
he probably had never heard of hypostasis. First we will give the theological
definition. The Council of Alexandria defined hypostasis as synonymous with person.
In fact, this merely repeats, in an unknown tongue, what has been already stated:
three in Persons. But it sounds more convincing and dreadfully erudite.
Ordinary folk would not dare to contradict it, because they feel it is beyond their range.
It is not a revelation. It is an obfuscation.
leaving out hypostasis, and substituting existence for being: One
in existence; three in subsistence. It will be necessary to grope our
way in this Egyptian murk. We all know what existence means, and are glad to learn that
God exists. In fact, we agree thoroughly so far. One God exists. Perhaps we should
understand that He did exist once, but now He continues to exist, or subsists,
as three persons. It is evident that plain English only makes this statement ridiculous.
It is a theological term which is supposed to mean the same as hypostasis. In
plainer language, the idea seems to be that Gods mode of existence is in
three Persons. His Being, individualized, becomes three.
feature about this, however, is that the word, hypostasis is a scriptural term. I
consider it one of the major crimes of the church that, not content with inventing their
own vocabulary, they actually use one of Gods words, distort it out of all
recognition in their usage, and then claim for it all the sanctity of a divine revelation.
Hypostasis, UNDER-STANDing, is a postulate, an assumption, and is used of
the various characters God assumes in relation to His creatures, which are made known to
us through Christ. God is our Father. Those who have seen Christ have seen the Father, for
He is the Emblem of all of Gods assumptions hypostasis. This word does
not represent His person, for no other passage in which the word occurs will
bear this meaning. Paul assumed boasting (2 Cor.9:4; 11:17). Faith is an assumption
of what is being expected (Heb.11:1). The Son is the Emblem of Gods assumption
definition is one in His Godhead; three in centers of [or?] foci
of self-consciousness. Here we have a geometrical explanation. It is
evident to the writer that three centers is not any too clear. Are some of
them eccentric? It is impossible and absurd. So he resorts to foci. Two foci would make an
ellipse. But three foci! We do not feel privileged to give our readers a headache, so will
not ask them to draw or imagine a what? with three foci. This explanation is
just as difficult to apprehend as the Trinity. With three centers we might have
managed something, even if they were no longer centers. But hardly with foci, without
introducing more difficulties than explanations.
matter were stated plainly, no one could believe it, hence this welter of words. Here it
is: God is not a Person essentially. When He becomes such He splits up into three.
All of the endless discussions about the Trinity have scarcely concerned themselves with
the Scriptures, but with the impossible terms of the creeds. They really have the elements
of pantheisman impersonal godand polytheismmany persons. That is what
the Trinity really isa combination of the two great errors concerning, the Deity
seeking to find some support in Gods holy Word. It is pantheistic polytheism. One
impersonal God with three conscious personalities!
This great and profound doctrine has often been
derided by superficial critics. Dr. A. C. Barton recently held it up to ridicule. Mr.
Ingersoll was wont to make fun of Christian people by saying they did not know as much
about arithmetic as a district school-boy, for the school boy would solve the simple
problem in addition in this way: One plus one plus one equals three, whereas
ignorant Christians would say, One plus one plus one equals only one!
And then he would laugh and his audiences would laugh with him.
the infidel could be smart, perhaps some of the rest of us can be
smart too. Let us look a little further into our simple equation. Suppose we
imagine it being written on the black-board: one plus one plus one equals three. How many
figures are there on the right side of the equation mark? Only onethe figure 3. So
in one respect one plus one plus one equals one; in another respect it equals
threeone figure composed of three units. So God is one in Essence, three in person,
or in self-conscious powers and qualities.
A believer who is charged with agreeing with agnostics
is put in a most uncomfortable position. If the Trinity were true, would it be necessary
to outsmart the unbeliever? Why not produce a passage from Gods Word? If the
explanation proves anything it also proves that each of the members of the Trinity is
one-third of a god, for we are dealing with mathematical addition. We must take the
relative values. If three represents the one God, then one cannot do so. The mere
appearance is utterly misleading. God appears in only oneChrist.
You can take three pieces of crayon, and bunch them
together, and as the result you will have one group and three pieces. However, we may find
better illustrations, for God is psychical or spiritual Trinity; therefore our best
analogies will be found in the realm of the human mind, which has been created in the
divine image. The mind is onea unity; it is not composed of divisible parts as is a
material object. And yet it functions in three well-defined major ways: intellect, emotion
and will. But there is only one mind. The intellect will equal the whole mind; the emotion
equals the whole mind; the will equals the whole mind; yet all three of them together
equal the one whole mind. That is, when the mind functions, it does so as a whole. It is
one in essence or entity three in functioning power. So the Trinity is one in one respect
and three in another respect. He is not one and three in the same respect.
If the implications of these illustrations had been
seriously weighed they would never have been used. The Deity, we are told, is a group
of Gods! The mind of man is a poor illustration of three distinct persons. Does the
intellect have self-consciousness distinct from the emotion and will? Do each of these
function as a separate person? Is God the Father restricted to the will, without emotion
or intellect? Is Christ only an emotion, without intellect or will? How each of
these equals the whole mind is not at all clear, especially when it takes all three
to equal one whole mind.
contradictions have we here! When the mind functions it does so as a whole...three
in functioning powers! If this is a sample of the functioning of the mind, it
certainly should never be used as a figure of the Godhead! Besides God the
Father and Christ the Son do not necessarily function alike. There came a time
when it was not at all Christs will to suffer, yet He bowed to the will of His God.
There is not the least support in Gods Word for this fantastic illustration.
A still profounder analogy may be found in the realm
of self-consciousness. You and I have a single ego or I-hood; yet in the
analysis of the self-conscious a three-fold process is clearly seen. You are yourself; yet
you can think of yourself, objectify yourself; that makes two. Now by a third process you
perceive the two to be one and the same Ego or self. Thus you have the subjective Self,
the objective Self and the percipient Self; yet they are all one Ego, one Self, in essence
of entity. This is not a perfect analogy, as I shall indicate in a moment, but it does
prove in a profound way that an entity can be one in one respect and three in another
respect without inconsistency and contradiction.
In the Scriptures we are given a perfect illustration
of the relation of Gods spirit to Himself. Christ had a spirit. Human beings have a
spirit. The same language is used in each case, so that we know that Gods spirit is not
an ego distinct from Himself, but one and the same. Let each reader ponder this simple and
satisfactory fact. It is impossible to consider the spirit apart from the ego. We may
consider it apart from the body, and distinct from the soul, but, being the seat of life
itself, the spirit can by no manner of means be detached from us so that there are
distinct personalities, each with a separate self-consciousness.
told that the Trinity is in the Persons of the Godhead. Now we are
supposed to find three persons in ourselves! Does the fact that you can think of yourself
make you two persons? The very statement of the case sounds like a sleight of hand
performance. First, you think of yourself and create a duplicate. Then you perceive that
you are not two, but one, and so become three! This, we are told, is not a perfect
analogy. If it were, God could not think of Himself without danger of becoming dual. This
is sheer philosophy, utterly foreign to Gods Word. An appeal to it is, in itself,
all the proof that is needed that error, and not truth, is dependent upon it.
Now let us consider another important distinction.
While man was created in the image of God, he is only a finite image, not a complete
replica of God. Man has only a single Self, or I-hood or center of
self-consciousness; therefore he is only finitely conscious. The Triune God of the Bible
has three foci or powers of self-consciousness, and these three constitute the
three persons of the Godheadthe Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost co-eternal
and of majesty coequal. I think we can see from this analysis that the Father eternally
begets the Son and the Holy Spirit eternally proceeds from the Father and the Son. Surely
what God is now He must have been from eternity. If He is a Trinity now, He must have
always been a Trinity.
Let us suppose that man was created in the image of
this triune deity. Then each of us would be three persons! Not twins, but triplets! But
man is created in the image of God. The difference between his single self-consciousness
and the Trinitys triple self-consciousness is not infinity. If God is infinite in
this manner, three must be multiplied by infinity, and we have pantheism. If it is a
matter of mathematics God is one, not infinity. Is it not significant that divine
revelation never speaks of infinity, a word most essential to theology? No one comprehends
infinity, so why bring that up?
are asked to consider the figure of three foci. A diagram should have been given. All of
these illustrations are very helpful in showing us that the idea of the Trinity is so
hopelessly hazy that the very illustrations used are outside the realm of sober thought.
This has nothing whatever to do with time, yet there is no hesitancy in assuming that the
foci are co-eternal. Even though we cannot place the three foci in any
relation to each other, we are asked to close our eyes and make them co-equal.
As a consequence we find ourselves on a sea of mysticism far from the solid ground of
told that the Father eternally begets the Son. If we can go this far,
why not invent something worth while? Why not include the virgin Mary in this eternal
process? Why not expunge such passages as Today have I begotten Thee
(Heb.1:5)? It does not seem possible that the organ of the Fundamentalist organization
would allow such a sentence in its columns. Still I doubt very much if they dare to
repudiate it. If the Father eternally begets the Son, when will He be begotten? This has
all the vagueness and vapidity of an incantation. God forgive us for even repeating such
also told that the Holy Spirit eternally proceeds from the...Son. According to
this Luke was mistaken when he ascribed the conception of our Lord to holy spirit (Luke
1:35). Gods Word says that the Son proceeded from the holy spirit and the Father.
How then can the holy spirit proceed eternally from the Son? The holy spirit operates through
the Son, but it is Gods spirit, and can proceed only from Him. The inference
that God is always the same is true only in a limited sense. Scripture gives no ground for
such a conclusion. There the figure is not a trinity, but Father and Son. Any reasoning
based on this would lead in an opposite direction.
There is still another difference between God and the
human beings whom He has brought into existence. Think of three different human persons.
As to their minds, their substances are of the same kind, namely, psychical substances;
but they are not the same substances; for each individual has his own mental substance.
But in the Triune God all the divine persons inhere in, and possess and function in and
through the whole divine substance. Thus each have the one infinite, absolute substance
with threefold consciousness. In God the substance is Homoousios, that is the same
substance; in human personalities the substance is Homoiousios. In describing God
the Iota must stay out; in describing human beings, the Iota must be
inserted. Those marvelously acute Nicene fathers (325 A.D.) made this profound distinction
in the God-head, and thus avoided Monarchianism, on the one hand, and Tritheism, on the
other; they were true Trinitarians.
Faith, our King James Version tells us, is a
substance. We will need a great deal of it to assimilate this mysticism. This sort of
faith is of no value. Let us reserve faith for confidence in God. An
extraordinary capacity for credulity alone will convince us of this venerable folly. First
we are told that our minds are made of psychical substances. It is not clear just
what this means. In the Scriptures, psychic means soulish, having sensation, once
translated sensual (James 3:15). But, as the character of this substance seems
to be of no special importance, we will not follow this further, except to say that
substance, essence, and hypostasis, and
subsistence all have one common meaningwhich is as vague as vacuity.
point lies in the two Greek words, which we will turn into good English, lest our readers
lose all anchorage and drift helplessly away. The great battle which was ended (or begun)
by the Nicene creed, was, as stated, about I. Leave it out, and we have
SAME-BEING. Put it in, and we have LIKE-BEING. Some said that the substance of
Christ was like Gods. Others insisted that it was the same as
Gods. Is there anything in Gods Word as inane as this! God is spirit.
Christ became flesh. All speculation about a common or similar divine
substance is only the nightmare of unbelief.
was right? No side is ever right which departs from Gods revelation. Both were
wrong. Not only were they wrong, but the so-called Monarchianists (meaning only
supreme) were also wrong, for they taught that Christ was a mere man, with no special
spiritual relationship to God. The Tri-theists, on the other hand, held that there were
three Gods. Trinitarianism is a compromise, a combination of errors so subtle and so
illusive, that few indeed even care to investigate it.
Still another fact is to be kept in mind. Your Ego
(self-consciousness) functions in and through your whole beingyour body and mind,
your intellect, emotion and will. In the trinal Godhead each Ego functions in and through
the whole infinitive divine Essence or Being. Thus again we see how each person is Deity,
and all are Deity, and yet there is only one Deitya glorious Triunity, Three in
onethe Trinity of the persons.
We see! What we do not see is our ego. In the
Scriptures the ego (the Greek pronoun I), includes our body and mind
and intellect and will. It is not another person using our apparatus. We see
that this definition of the ego is not Gods. It is human philosophy. Therefore there
is no such thing as three Egos in the Godhead apart from the divine
Essence or Being through which they function. Just try to imagine a God Who is not a
Being! Imagine Him using a Being. But always read a portion of the Scriptures after such
efforts, so as to wipe away the stain which such vain imaginations leave.
ALTRUISTIC LOVE AND THE
God were a mere Monad with only one conscious center, it is hard to see how He could have
had from eternity anything but egoistic lovethat is, if He could have had any love
at all in His nature. This would give us a frightful conception of God. But, thanks be to
Him, He has been a tri-personal God from eternity and so from eternity He has been moved
by altruistic love, and not merely by ego-love for the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit
have had among the eternal movement and fellowship of love for one another.
has had other-love from eternity, since He is tri-personal, and so He could create
human personalities like you and me who have other-love in our finite degree as well as
self-love. Hence, He could consistently issue the command to every human creature created
in His similitude, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. Other-love
in God is the source and basis of all other-love to create personalities.
where there is other-love there can also be self-sacrificing love. Hence the Triune
God could surrender the Son in utmost pitying love to become incarnate in human nature and
to sacrifice Himself on the cross as mans divine-human substitute for the expiation
of the sins of the race. If God made no sacrifice for man, He is not a God of true,
self-abnegating love. But God does truly love us, for He made an infinite sacrifice for
our redemption. Yes, He loved me, and gave Himself for me. And again the triune God is the
primal source and spring of all self-immolating love in the human family. Such love could
not spring from insensate matter, nor from the selfish and struggle for existence. It
could come only from the loving God.
If God were a mere Monad comes as near
blasphemy as I care to go. Monad simply means One. How often has He declared that
He is! Not only that, but He has declared that He is Love. What basis is there for
comparing Him with sin-sickened men? What right have we to insist that He was without
objects for His affection in past eternity?
have we to give the name love to one Being with three Persons? Would not the fact
that they have a common substance make their attraction for one another
self-esteem? Let us get back to the Scriptures. No man ever yet hated his own flesh.
Is that altruistic? Now if three persons used the same body, would not real,
self-sacrificing love be out of the question? The argument here is self-destructive. There
is only one God. If He loves any other Person, He must still love the one God.
love is not manifested in loving God, as Trinitarianism teaches, but in loving objects
far, far beneath Him. That such objects were ever wanting is only an unfounded inference.
What unscriptural expressions follow this departure! God gave His Son, not Himself.
He did not become incarnate in human nature. He became flesh. Never is He
called a substitute.
love should never be judged by mans. He is its source. Man is its object and
reflection. To argue that God would not be love without an outlet is not only irrational
but derogatory. It is not a subject for debate. It has no bearing on the Trinity. The
number of Persons does not alter the great fact that God is love, any more
than it does the companion truth, that He is light. One torch is light just as truly as
three. And light does not become darkness if there is no one to observe it. Love is
altruistic and unselfish, or it is not love.
A full-toned Christian experience requires a God who
is triune. It needs and knows God as Father; it needs and knows God as Son and Redeemer;
it needs and knows God as Holy Spirit and Sanctifier; each a distinct person and each God.
Be it remembered, a true, full-toned Christian experience is Trinitarian, not Unitarian.
Let us hear the Gloria Patri:
be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost, as it was in the beginning, is now,
and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
An experience that glorifies God must be based upon
faith. Not mere confidence in a creed, but vital dependence upon, and living acceptance of
His revelation. Whatsoever is not of faith is sin. It is a sin to believe in a
triune God, a Trinity. There is no escape except to believe God
Himself. There is a curse on confidence in mortal men. If we cast out all of these human
excrescences on Gods revelation we will by no means lose Him as our Father. We will
still know His Son as our Redeemer. And we will be filled with holy spirit as never
superficial reading of the article we have been answering will doubtless confirm those who
are already Trinitarians, but the effect upon those who examine it carefully is just the
reverse. If such is the basis of Trinitarianism, it must be false. There is not a
single divine fact in its foundation. Like evolution, it thrives on theory and
speculation, but lacks the least shred of actual evidence in its support. In a world
teeming with evidence, the evolutionist cannot find a grain of sand on which to sustain
his religion. So he inflates it with the hot spirit of the times, which floats it above
our heads until the gas escapes or cools off. So also with this theologic theory. The god
of this wicked eon has driven men away from vital touch with God through His Word, and has
inflated them with the false philosophy that, by reasoning they can supersede revelation.
He scores no greater triumph than when he manages to cloak a delusive error with the
sanctity of a divine fiat, and then persuades Gods slaves to bow in obeisance while
suffering for their loyalty to Him, and publicly protesting against the very course they
are pursuing. Stand firm for Gods Word, my brethren! But be sure that it is God
Himself Who is speaking!
A. E. Knoch