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The Doctrine of the Trinity:

The Doctrine of the Trinity is misunderstood by many people today. Below is an aritcle I wrote a few years back dealing with some of the most prominent misunderstandings and misconceptions about this important teaching. A very good supplementary article is called "Loving the Trinity" by Dr. James White.


Exposing Weak Arguments Against the Trinity
and the Deity of Jesus

Arthur Daniels, Jr.


Over the years, many people who do not understand the doctrine of the Trinity and the correlative teaching on the Deity or Godhood of Jesus have come up with weak and faulty arguments which they think refute these teachings. Some of these arguments appear stronger and more valid than others. Many of them are riddled with logical and theological flaws that are very easy to expose if you know Scripture and logic well.

Bare in mind, however, that the primary flaw in most arguments against the doctrine of the Trinity is the fact that the people trying to refute it do not truly understand it but yet try to argue from their misunderstanding. I will begin with a prime example.

Weak Argument # 1:

Anti-trinitarian: “There is only ONE God” Read Deuteronomy 6:4 which says: “Hear O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one!”

Trinitarian response: Amen! The doctrine of the Trinity teaches that there is only ONE God. Using Deut. 6:4 exposes the fact that you do not understand what we teach. We teach that God is ONE God, but that He eternally self-exists in nature as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, according to the Scriptures (Matt. 3:16, 17; 28:19; Philippians 2:11; John 1:1; 2 Peter 1:1 [in Greek and more accurate translations], Acts 5:3,4). This is by no means an exhaustive list. For a more complete list, see The Biblical Basis of the Doctrine of the Trinity.

The “three” (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) are all called "God" and have ONE (singular) name according to Matthew 28:19, and that “name” is Yahweh. Thus we have the term Trinity, which simply means tri-unity, or three in ONE.

In historical context, Deuteronomy 6:4 is not an indictment against trinitarianism but against polytheism, since that is what Israel was surrounded by. Their God was just "one" as opposed to the many gods that the other nations worshipped. Using Deuteronomy 6:4 proves that although you may know of the doctrine of the Trinity, you apparently do not accurately understand what this doctrine teaches. It is the height of folly trying to disprove something that you don't even understand to begin with. Begin again with a better understanding and THEN try to refute the doctrine.

Now, a cousin to this faulty argument goes like this: "Deuteronomy 6:4 does not say that God is one God in three persons, therefore the Trinity doctrine must be false." The problem with arguing this way is that you make the illegitimate assumption that if one text does not explain all there is to know about the nature of God, then that aspect of God's nature must be untrue. This is clearly a non sequitur logical fallacy, as well as an example of flawed Biblical interpretation (i.e., bad hermeneutics).

But when you apply that same reasoning to the other attributes of God, you find a curious problem. You find out that the reasoning is fatally flawed quickly because we can also argue that because Deuteronomy 6:4 does not tell us that God is merciful, just, forgiving, longsuffering, kind, and loving, then that must mean He is not all those things.

Like many doctrines found in the Bible about the nature and attributes of God, the doctrine of the Trinity is derived from the logical implications of a number of passages found from Genesis to Revelation. If it can be called a "construct," as I have heard it called, then it is a wholly Biblical construct that takes much rationalization and misreading to attempt to disprove, since the evidence in Scripture for the doctrine is manifold and not taken from one or two verses barely understood and taken out of context.

This next one is my all-time favorite weak argument used against the Deity of Jesus. Keep in mind that most who deny the Deity of Jesus will also deny the doctrine of the Trinity because the two doctrines are interrelated.

Weak Argument # 2:

Anti-trinitarian: "God says He is not a man in Numbers 23:19. Jesus was a man. Therefore Jesus cannot be God."

Trinitarian response: This is a classic example of the fallacy of taking a verse out of context. This is like someone trying to teach atheism from Psalm 14:1 by saying "See, even the Bible says 'There is no God.'" Numbers 23:19 is not about God saying He's not a man. God is saying, in context, that He is not a liar like humans and He stands by His spoken word. But people still try to use this verse out of context, pretending that the verse stops at "God is not a man," when it continues on to say "...that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent." Your argument started out wrong and therefore ends wrong. You cannot use Numbers 23:19 taken out of context to prove Jesus is not God, just like you cannot prove the Bible teaches atheism by misquoting Psalm 14:1. Take a course in Biblical hermeneutics...that should help. :-)

This next one is my second favorite weak argument used against the Deity of Jesus.

Weak Argument # 3:

Anti-trinitarian: "Scripture says no man has seen God (John 1:18). People saw Jesus the man. Therefore Jesus cannot be God."

Trinitarian response: You fail to understand John 1:18 and what it means within the context of a holistic view of the Bible. Moses did see God's "back" according to Scripture (Exodus 33:20-23). Others have "seen" God in the Old Testament times (Exodus 24:11). Therefore, this passage cannot mean God was never seen at all or in any sense.

But the main point that is overlooked is the fact that this passage does not say "no one has seen God in human flesh at any time." The first premise of the anti-trinitarian argument is based on a misinterpretation of the verse and an addition to the verse, i.e., the idea that the passage refers to "God in human flesh." Jesus is revealed as God manifested in the flesh in John 1:1, 14 and 1 Timothy 3:16. John 1:18 simply means no one has seen God in the totality of His being as a Spirit, or His "face," if you will. You need to clearly understand a text before trying to quote it to disprove the Deity of Jesus. Your argument fails logically and theologically.

This next one gets the prestigious "weakest argument in the universe" award for being so logically fallacious that it boggles the mind that people still try to use it as if it proved anything:

Weak Argument # 4:

Anti-trinitarian: "The word 'Trinity' isn't even in the Bible. Therefore, the doctrine cannot be true or biblical."

Trinitarian response: By that same faulty logic the doctrine of monotheism cannot be true or biblical either, since that specific English word does not appear in the Bible. The English word "Bible" doesn't appear in the Bible either. The word "ethics" doesn't appear in the Bible either. But doesn't the Bible teach ethics? The word "morals" isn't in the Bible. But doesn't the Bible teach morals? There are many more examples to prove this point, but I think this is enough.

When people use this argument they are committing the classic logical fallacy known as the non sequitur, which simply means that their conclusion does not logically follow from their premise. Just because the term "Trinity" isn't in the Bible, this, in and of itself, does not prove that the doctrine is not systematically laid out in the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. It clearly is, and that's why the doctrine exists.

And actually, if I wanted to get technical and a little bit semantical, the word "Trinity" is in the Bible, just not in combined form. The Greek word we get our English "tri" from is found in the Bible many times in the New Testament (Matthew 26:34; Acts 11:10). And the word "unity" can also be found in Ephesians 4:13, translated from the Greek "henoteta." But I digress... :-)


"Biblical" Unitarian Arguments Refuted:

A group known as "Biblical Unitarians" have a website with arguments pretending to refute the doctrines of the Trinity and the Deity of Jesus. The website here specifically tries to argue that "If Jesus is God, the Bible has many contradictions." The stated purpose of the website article is "To show that in order for the doctrine of the Trinity to be true, the Bible will have to contradict itself many, many times." But are such claims valid? Let's examine carefully each claim, except for alleged contradiction #1, which has already been refuted above in "Weak Argument #2."

Weak Argument # 5:

Biblical Unitarian: "Contradiction # 2: God cannot be tempted (James 1:13). Jesus was tempted in every way (Hebrews 4:15). Therefore Jesus cannot be God."

Trinitarian Response: This alleged contradiction has many flaws and is partially based on the same invalid assumption as alleged contradiction #1. First, the assumption here is that the text in James refers to "God in human flesh." But the text nor the context makes a reference to God incarnate.

Second, the text in Hebrews is speaking about Jesus, who has been revealed in Scripture as God incarnate, in His high priestly ministry before the Father. While Jesus was God incarnate on earth it would seem reasonable to understand that He could be "tempted" and suffer as we are tempted and suffer. This makes Him a better high priest who can "sympathize" with us, as Hebrews 4:15 points out.

Third, and finally, Jesus is recognized in Scripture (John 3:16) as the only unique (monogenes in Greek) "Son" of God (meaning He had the unique nature of God) and the "Son" of man (meaning He had the nature of a sin-free human). Therefore, Jesus was both God and man while on earth. Jesus in His humanity could be "tempted," but the essence of His Deity within did not allow such temptation to have any real power because He was also God. This is why this apparently normal human being, born of sinful humanity, could live an entire life without sin. This also serves to prove His Deity because it is widely recognized that only God is perfect and sinless. And the sinless life of Jesus is what you would expect of God who became man. This alleged contradiction is fatally flawed and fails to prove anything except that people can make up imaginative arguments based on their assumptions and misunderstandings of Scripture.


Weak Argument #6:

Biblical Unitarian: "Contradiction #3: God is Spirit (John 4:24). But Jesus is not a Spirit, but flesh and blood (Luke 24:39)."

Trinitarian Response: Here we have several problems. First, there is that sneaky assumption again that John 4:24 speaks of "God" in every sense for all time, including speaking of God incarnate. We have already seen that such an assumption is not valid.

Second, this passage, in context, is not so much making an ontological statement about the "physical" nature of God as a spiritual Being but a statement about the proper form of worshipping the Father (see verses 20-23). Jesus was making the point that true worship is not about the place of worship but about the quality and character of the one worshipping, i.e., in spirit and in truth.

Third, even as God incarnate, Jesus did have "a spirit" cloaked in His flesh and bones according to Luke 23:46. We also know that Jesus had "glory" as a spiritual Being with the Father before the world was created (John 17:5). Therefore we cannot pretend that Jesus had no "spirit" or that He had not long before creation been united with the Father as Spirit.

Fourth, and finally, the text in Luke 24:39, if you notice carefully, says "flesh and bones" not "flesh and blood," as the Unitarian argument misstates. Jesus gave up His blood for the atonement but could live in a physical body which contained no blood! That is the power of the resurrection! There is no true contradiction here. The Unitarians have simply manufactured a contradiction out of their own minds because they continue to make invalid assumptions and do not apply proper interpretation skills (hermeneutics) when reading Scripture.

Combining these two passages no more proves that Jesus is not God than combining John 4:24 and Psalm 18:2 proves that the Father is not Spirit but "rock." :-D You just gotta laugh at some of this childish stuff pretending to be serious arguments against orthodox Christian doctrine.

Weak Argument # 7:

Biblical Unitarian: "Contradiction # 4: God does not change according to James 1:17 in the NIV. But Luke 2:52 shows how Jesus changed and grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men. Therefore, Jesus cannot be God."

Trinitarian Response: First, again we have the same problem with this alleged contradiction as with the last two: the assumption that when a text uses the word "God" that it must refer to God in every sense and every way.

Second, the text in James is speaking in the context of God not changing in terms of being stable in His character. Humans can be unstable and changing, as well as natural elements and lights of creation (see verses 6-17). But with God, there is no variation or "shadow of turning." This text is not saying that God cannot take on human flesh and "change" in this manner, nor is it saying that God has not done this in Jesus. You have to interpret that kind of reasoning into the text, which is called eisegesis (pronounced eye-se-gee-sis). But the best way to interpret Scripture is to do exegesis, which is to interpret out of a text what is there, not read into it what is not there.

Third, and finally, the fact that Jesus in His incarnate state as a human had to "grow" in stature and in favor with God and men proves nothing against His Deity. If God becomes human and takes on human, fleshly limitations (like needing sleep, food, etc), then it is reasonable to presume that such limitations do not involve a change in character or essence for God. To argue otherwise would violate both the context of James 1:17 and the message of Scripture as a whole regarding the character of God. Therefore, since physical growth and growing in wisdom and "in favor" have nothing to do with inner character and essence, this alleged contradiction fails to prove anything against the Deity of Jesus or the doctrine of the Trinity.

Weak Argument # 8:

Biblical Unitarian: "Contradiction # 5: God cannot die according to 1 Timothy 1:17. Jesus died for our sins (1 Corinthians 15:3). Therefore, Jesus cannot be God."

Trinitarian Response: Here again is an example of bad hermeneutics finding a contradiction where none truly exists. The text says that God is the King eternal, immortal, and invisible. So does this mean that under no circumstances, even ones under God's control, that God cannot die in any sense or cannot be seen? Think very carefully on this because Scripture will reveal the weakness of such an argument very quickly.

For example, if God is said to be invisible that means He cannot be seen. Correct? Yet why is it recorded that God has been "seen" in passages like Exodus 33:20-23 and 24:11? Is this a contradiction, or is it an example of God manifesting His power by doing what we would consider "impossible" under normal circumstances? Normally, God is invisible. But that does not preclude the fact that God can manifest and make Himself visible at will.

The same is also true for His eternality. If God has the power to manifest in human, mortal flesh then it stands to reason that under such circumstances that He could "die" (at least the physical manifestation could). Thus under normal conditions, unchanged by God Himself, God cannot die, but the doctrine of the incarnation spoken of in John 1:1-14 is manifestly abnormal. Therefore, Jesus, as God incarnate, can die for our sins without any alleged contradiction with the nature of God as an eternal Being.

This argument is actually a slap in the face of God's omnipotence, since it ultimately seeks to argue that God cannot become human and yet remain God because He was essentially God from eternity. The Unitarian "god" is thus revealed as impotent and a far cry from the God of Biblical revelation who is said to be able to do what we would think to be "impossible" (Luke 1:37; Jeremiah 32:17). Consequently, this argument also fails to prove Jesus cannot be God. (another one bites the dust)
;-) Next....

Weak Argument # 9:

Biblical Unitarian: "Contradiction # 6: God knows everything there is to know (Isaiah 46:10). But Jesus did not know everything there is to know (Mark 13:32; Luke 2:52). Therefore, Jesus cannot be God."

Trinitarian Response: Although this argument would seem on its face quite strong and formidable, it is actually rather weak and can be exposed as such very easily. All you have to do is produce a parody of the Unitarian argument to show how fallacious it is.

Using the same faulty reasoning of the Unitarian website, I could also argue that even God the Father didn't know "everything" there is to know, since Scripture says in Genesis 3:9 that God did not know where Adam was and had to ask "Where are you?" So we have Jesus in the Gospels apparently not knowing ONE thing, and we have God the Father, the Yahweh of the Old Testment, apparently not knowing ONE thing. This about makes them even, or equal, wouldn't you say? :-)

Ok, that was fun, but let's use this little analogy to segway into a more serious point about the flawed hermeneutic behind the Unitarian argument. I find that some people are often so focused on trying desperately to hold onto ad hoc assumptions against orthodox Christian teaching that they don't really stop and think critically about what's being said in a given text they are trying to argue from.

So focused on trying to disprove the doctrine of the Deity of Jesus, Unitarians and others have never bothered to ask important questions as to WHY it is said that Jesus apparently didn't know ONE thing prior to His resurrection and glorification, and yet we also have Peter confessing in John 21:17, "...Lord, You know all things..." (also see John 2:24,25; 16:30).

The problem with too many anti-trinitarians is that they become so consumed with the effort to disprove our doctrines in their hermeneutic that they forget to take the time to fully understand what a text is saying in context. Instead of finding out why Jesus is said to know "all things" except ONE, anti-trinitarians like the Unitarians are simply content to believe that passages like Mark 13:32 prove that Jesus is not God.

All that matters to them is that they appear to have a half-way plausible argument that seems to be supported by the Bible. The problem with this faulty method of interpretation is easily exposed by the analogy I created above using Isaiah 46:10 and Genesis 3:9. If all I care about is having an argument against the Father that "proves" He doesn't know everything there is to know, and if I don't take the time to fully understand Genesis 3:9 in its context, then I am bound to create an erroneous interpretation that blinds me to the whole truth of this matter. And this is where the anti-trinitarian of every shade and color makes his or her greatest error.

So what are we to make of what Jesus said in Mark 13:32 and Matthew 24:36? Does it even make logical sense that Jesus would not know the day or hour of His own return? How is He supposed to accomplish this at its appointed time if He didn't truly know? These are important questions that we all must ponder, especially the anti-trinitarians.

So the question remains: Do these passages, in light of other facts, prove that Jesus cannot be God because He apparently didn't know on earth ONE specific thing? The answer to this is simple. If Jesus must be denied Deity by what can easily be shown from Scripture to be a self-imposed limitation, then the fact that He needed food and sleep can also be used to argue He was not God. Although this too has been argued, the fact remains that an omnipotent God surely has no problem taking on humanity and yet remaining who He was in essence, which was God from eternity.

This argument also has no validity because it assumes that if God becomes human and takes on human limitations that this necessarily means He cannot be God. Christian theology proper has no problem with Jesus being God and needing sleep and food, and it certainly has no problem with this same Jesus choosing not to know ONE specific thing on earth, prior to His resurrection and glorification, for whatever purpose He had in mind.

As one final note on this weak argument, for those of you who may think that it was somehow impossible or implausible for Jesus to have somehow chosen to limit His knowledge while on earth prior to His resurrection and glorification, please remember the lesson of John chapter 11. There Jesus CHOSE to allow Lazarus to die. But allowing Lazarus to die didn't prove that Jesus had no power to heal Lazarus or raise him from the dead. Right? If Jesus can choose to limit Himself there, why can't He do the same in regards to Mark 13:32? Something to think about. Next...

Weak Argument # 10:

Biblical Unitarian: "Contradiction #7: God does not grow weary or tired (Isaiah 40:28, NASB). Jesus became weary in John 4:6. Therefore Jesus cannot be God."

Trinitarian Response: Here again we have a confusion based in a flawed assumption. Where in Isaiah does it even suggest that we are talking about God as manifested in human flesh? Once again, if God takes on human nature, including limitations that have nothing to do with sin (like needing to eat, rest, etc), then it stands to reason that in this form God would become weary.

Another example of this flawed argument tries to use passages like Psalm 121:3,4 to argue that since God says He neither slumbers nor sleeps and Jesus is recorded as sleeping in Matthew 8:24, that this must mean Jesus cannot be God. But once again, where do we find the Psalmist demonstrating that God in human form does not sleep? You can't find this assumption in the text because it is added into the text to create an argument against the Godhood of Jesus.

This final argument from the "Biblical" Unitarian website fails to prove anything because it makes invalid assumptions and is also based in the logical fallacy of the straw man argument. The straw man fallacy comes in because although orthodox Christian teaching says Jesus is both God and sinless man, the argument put forth pretends that we only argue Jesus is God. But since this is NOT our argument, the straw man fallacy should be evident to all who are familar with logic (or common sense with fancy labels attached to it).


Biblical Unitarian Illogical Conclusion

The "Biblical" Unitarian website wants to conclude from this spurious attempt at refuting the doctrine of the Trinity and the Deity of Jesus by saying that either Jesus is God and the Bible is full of contradictions, or "Jesus is not God, but the Son of God; He is a human being with freedom of choice..." But the problem here again is that they have created another logical fallacy known as the false dilemma. The very evident third alternative is that perhaps they have made critical errors in reasoning and Biblical exegesis, thus creating contradictions where none truly exist. Why this alternative was not even considered speaks volumes about how "Biblical" Unitarians approach the Bible and its proper interpretation.

Update on "Biblical" Unitarian arguments refuted above:

It seems that since the obvious weaknesses of the Unitarian arguments above have been exposed, the creator(s) of the original arguments changed the webpage so that the arguments are now different (see it here). That is interesting. It seems that instead of realizing their error and coming to the knowledge of the truth, people would rather make up other erroneous arguments to replace the ones already refuted. So be it. Once again into the breach...


"Biblical" Unitarian Arguments Refuted 2:

The "Biblical" Unitarian website now wants to ask a series of 10 "logical questions that need answers" under the heading "Is Jesus God?" But for the most part, these so-called logical questions are nothing more than the same old anti-trinitarian assertions dressed up as questions. In fact, the questions themselves are based on many illogical assumptions, as we will see. So the following is an analysis of these questions from a Biblical and logical perspective:

Biblical Unitarian: "Question # 1: If Jesus is God, how could he die for our sins? ...God cannot die, yet Jesus was killed and then resurrected (Acts 5:30). The Bible does not say that only his 'human nature' died; it says that Jesus died, which would include all of Jesus (100%). "

Trinitarian Response: This question is just a restatement of what was already refuted in "Weak Argument # 8" above. The Bible does not have to literally say "only His human nature" died because that is a given if you understand what it means to be human. That kind of argument is akin to an argument from silence.

The Bible also does not say that Jesus ever went to the bathroom either, but can we assume that He didn't just because it is never said in Scripture? Does human nature include eating and digesting food and then getting rid of waste?

This question is also a form of the logical fallacy called petitio principii, or begging the question. In other words, you have to assume that Jesus cannot be both God and man in a trinitarian sense in order to even pose the question to begin with. Thus this invalid question has been answered sufficiently and logically, but people simply refuse to accept the answer. This is still a weak argument, and the original critique in "Weak Argument # 8" stands. Next...

Biblical Unitarian: "Question 2: How can Jesus be 'God' and have a 'God' at the same time?...Jesus Christ cannot be 'God' if he says that our heavenly Father is his 'God.' You cannot be the 'Most High God' and be in submission to the 'Most High God' (1 Cor.15:28) and say that He is your God. This makes no sense. If words truly have meaning, then one cannot be 'God' and have a 'God' at the same time."


Comments or questions about this article so far? Join the Gospel Answers Discussion Board and voice your opinion. This article is incomplete and is constantly being updated, so check back periodically to see if more refutations have been added.




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