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Five Problems with the Trinity

  

Last October, I had the pleasure of attending Ken Westby’s One God Seminar. During that seminar I spoke on “Five Major Problems with the Trinity.” Click here to listen to the presentation. The talk was 36 minutes long and the remainder of the time addressed questions from the audience. Click here to download the notes. The rest of the 2010 conference is mostly available here (I’m still waiting on a couple of presentations).

Many of us are well-trained on both one-God arguments as well as explanations to difficult texts. However, fewer of us have the ability to show where the logical, biblical, and historical problems emerge from a Trinitarian perspective. This involves both getting to know the doctrine reasonably well so as to avoid arguing against something Trinitarians themselves do not believe in (like arguing against the idea that Jesus is his own Father, which, of course, Trinitarians do not believe) and discovering what the problems are from an insider perspective.

The reason why this is all important is because usually no one will be interested in an alternative view of something as significant as their doctrine of God, unless they are unsatisfied with their current understanding. We must first demonstrate in a kind and respectful manner that the Trinity has major problems with it before preceding (or at least while preceding) to show them the reasons why we believe God is one. This is done by first assuming the Trinity is true and then showing how certain conflicts inevitably result. Someone who comes to see their beliefs as problematic will likely then begin to research the subject, but so long as they are unaware of the problems they will continue to brush off alternative views like unitarianism, arianism, modalism, etc.

9 Responses to “Five Problems with the Trinity”

  1. on 02 Feb 2011 at 6:12 pmAntioch

    Thanks so much for doing the video. Great stuff. Another question for trinitarians – when did the apostles realize that Jesus was God? Certainly being Jews, they did not expect Messiah to be God (am I wrong)? So, when did they come around and would that not have been a very profound point that should have dominated all of the gospels, Paul’s letters, and elsewhere?

    Instead, they seem to focus on this much ‘lesser point’ – that Jesus was Messiah.

  2. on 02 Feb 2011 at 8:31 pmDoubting Thomas

    Antioch,
    That is an excellent question!!!

  3. on 03 Feb 2011 at 11:44 amSean

    Antioch,

    If Jesus is God then this fact overwhelms all of the other titles given to him such as Messiah, Son of God, prophet like Moses, Son of Man, etc. However, from a NT perspective we have only two texts which call Jesus God (John 20.28 and Hebrews 1.8), which I think should be understood as instances where God’s agent is called “God” b/c he represents him and carries his authority (more on this here. The simple fact that the chief confession about Jesus is that he is the Messiah, the Son of God (Mat. 16.16, et al.).

  4. on 03 Feb 2011 at 12:14 pmXavier

    Antioch

    …when did the apostles realize that Jesus was God? Certainly being Jews, they did not expect Messiah to be God (am I wrong)?

    Judaism, before and after the ‘Apostolic age’, are still expecting a promised Davidic King, human Messiah, who they believe will restore the kingdom [land] to the Jewish peoples. That is the OT view and the Jewish expectation.

    Texts such as Num 23.19; 1Sam 15.29 and many others clearly have and are still being used to support the simple fact that the God of Israel, YHWH, cannot be a human being.

    Sean

    …we have only two texts which call Jesus God (John 20.28 and Hebrews 1.8), which I think should be understood as instances where God’s agent is called “God” b/c he represents him and carries his authority (more on this here.

    Check out our “revision” of John 20.28:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1b-U8Fd5cRE

  5. on 12 Feb 2011 at 6:55 pmanthony buzzard

    Here is what I have learned about the core problem of the Trinity.
    The Trinity is in fact a contradiction. It therefore does not offer an intelligible proposition. Thus: God is referred to by Trinitarians as HE, HIMSELF. HE and HIMSELF denote one Person. The Trinitarian then tells you that God is THREE Persons. So the proposition he offers you is in fact ONE Person (HE) is three Persons (three He’s).
    This is no clearer than “this is a chair and this is a chair, and that makes one chair.” Or, “The Father is Yahweh and Jesus is Yahweh and that makes one Yahweh.”
    The key is to begin by asking your friend, “How many YHVHs are you proposing?” When they say ONE, then ask “OK, Jesus is YHVH? and the Father is YHVH? How many is that?”
    Don’t pose the question in terms of GOD or gods but in terms of YHVH.
    Jesus said that “the Lord our God is one Lord.” (LXX and NT) That is not two, or three Lords.
    It is actually not possible to believe in the Trinity. Belief implies comprehension and “one plus one plus one” does not equal one.
    The 23 million SDA’s recently wrote that “one plus one plus one= one.” They called that the “keystone of our theology”
    What are you going to do to help them?
    You might quote James Dunn in his latest book on the early Christians and the worship of Jesus. He says “Jesus is not Yahweh, not the God of Israel.” Perhaps we are emerging from centuries of muddle (British understatement!).

  6. on 12 Feb 2011 at 7:33 pmXavier

    “Is it not possible to have fellowship with the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, without being able to explain philosophically the distinction between the Father and the Son, or between the Holy Spirit and both the other persons; or the difference between the generation of the Son and the procession of the Spirit?

    If I believe the tradition of the Church, that there are three of one substance, what need of laborious disputation? If I do not believe, no earthly reasoning will convince me

    You will not be condemned for not knowing whether the Spirit which proceeds from the Father and the Son consists in one principle or in two; but you will not escape destruction unless you make it your endeavor to posses the fruits of the Spirit, which are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, long-suffering, meekness, faith, modesty, continence, chastity…

    The sum of our religion is peace and concord; which cannot easily be maintained unless we define but very few points, and in the greater number leave every one free to form his own judgment.” Erasmus.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JulqQ-cV8GQ&feature=related

  7. on 03 Jul 2011 at 10:41 amXavier

    here’s an interesting comment by noted evangelical pastor/scholar R.C. Sproul on Phil 2, showing yet another “problem with the Trinity”:

    I think the context of Philippians 2 makes it very clear that what he emptied himself of was not his deity, not his divine attributes, but his prerogatives — his glory and his privileges. He willingly cloaked his glory under the veil of this human nature that he took upon himself. It’s not that the divine nature stops being divine in order to become human.

    In the Transfiguration, for example (Matthew 17:1-13), we see the invisible divine nature break through and become visible, and Jesus is transfigured before the eyes of his disciples. But for the most part, Jesus concealed that glory.

    I think Paul is saying in Philippians 2 that we’re to imitate a willingness to relinquish our own glory and our own privileges and prerogatives.

    In rejecting the traditional view of Kenosis by defending the immutability of God, Sproul does not notice the predicament he makes for himself. For if one of the Persons of the Trinity “took upon himself human nature” at the Incarnation, doesn’t that deny the immutability of God? In other words, the Trinitarian interpretation of the Incarnation suggests that the Godhead changed by adding to itself humanity. Something it did not have before.

  8. on 30 Jul 2011 at 9:56 amXavier

    New book on the Trinity by Marian Hillar of Servetus fame…

    http://www.cambridge.org/gb/knowledge/isbn/printView/item6563099/?site_locale=en_GB

  9. on 14 Aug 2011 at 6:28 pmDoubting Thomas

    I just watched a great new updated video from Sean (from this summer) about the five problems with the Trinity. I will paste the link below for anyone that it interested…

    http://www.21stcr.org/multimedia-2011/sf_five_problems_trinity/Play_webDVD.html

  

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