The Three in One, the One in Three? Not so!
To my own God I go.
It may be He shall give me greater ease
Than your cold Christ and tangled Trinities. —Monotheistic rendition of Rudyard Kipling’s “Lispeth”
The Trinity: the foundation of faith for some, the focus of ridicule for others, but a
mystery for all. And that should be no surprise. To quote the authorities, “The word does
not occur in scripture…”
and, “The doctrine of the Trinity as such is not revealed in
either the OT or the NT …”105
So where did it come from?
The Greek trias for “triad” was “a word first used of the Trinity in the Godhead
by Theophilus of Antioch, who names as the Triad ‘God and His Word and His Wisdom.’” 106 This, at the very least, is a triad that makes some sense once a person
accepts that God’s words are an expression of His wisdom. Why Theophilus felt
compelled to separate God from His attributes is a separate and largely irrelevant issue.
History indicates that the Latin word trinitas was first proposed in 220 CE by
Tertullian, a thirdcentury writer and early Christian apologist from Carthage, who
theorized the cosharing of divinity between God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. The fact that
Tertullian was a lawyer tickles the fancy of those who have noticed that
incomprehensible words and doubletalk frequently originate from lawyers and politicians
(many of whom are lawyers anyway, but with the added political requirement of lacking
even the minimal ethics of the legal profession). One wonders what was in Tertullian’s
fine print, and upon what evidence he based his theory. What spawned the theory that
somehow escaped the minds of the gospel writers, the disciples, and even Jesus himself?
A person should not expect to find definitive scriptural reference, for “The formal
doctrine of the Trinity as it was defined by the great church councils of the fourth and
fifth centuries is not to be found in the NT.”
107 The best one can hope for are passages
which appear to suggest the Trinity, in concept if not in name.*
The formal doctrines of the Trinity and divine sonship both sprang from the
Council of Nicaea and were incorporated into the Nicene Creed—“A profession of faith
agreed upon, although with some misgivings because of its nonbiblical terminology, by
the bishops at Nicaea I (325 CE) to defend the true faith against Arianism” (italics mine). 108 Now, stop. Rewind, and play again. The bishops of Nicaea derived the doctrine
of the Trinity based on nonbiblical terminology, pronounced theirs the “true” faith and
then labeled Arius, whose Unitarian doctrines were taken from the Bible, a heretic?
Normally, in religious discussion, we prefer to avoid the term “bass ackwards,” but in
this case …