Index To All Six Sections
Part I: Definition and Historical Background, Relying On Others To Decide What We Should Believe
Part I B Plurality in The Godhead, The Deity of Christ & The Deity of The Holy Spirit
Part II: Passages That Supposedly "Prove" the Trinity.
Part III: The Holy Spirit... a Separate Person, Or The Divine Presence And Power Of The Father Himself
Part IV: The Grammar... Can it legitimately be used to support the idea that the Holy Spirit is the third Person of the Trinity
Part V: The Cappadocian Fathers.. The doctrine of the trinity, which has remained virtually unchanged to this day, found its roots in paganism not the Bible. This largely due to the part played by three ancient Greek philosophers and mystics.
Part VB: The Cappadocian Fathers... Are both the Son and Spirit derived from the Father in "different ways"? Asceticism and Mysticism. The sad legacy of Neoplatonism.
You Are Here Part VI: Summary and Conclusion
Summary and Conclusion
Challenging the doctrine of the Trinity does not mean challenging the Divinity of Christ and it does not mean challenging the Divinity of the Holy Spirit. The New Testament abounds with much proof of the deity of Jesus Christ, and Acts 5:3-4 is more than enough to clinch the issue of the Holy Spirit being God.
Challenging the doctrine of the Trinity is challenging the doctrine that the Holy Spirit is the third person of the trinity... a co-equal member of the Godhead, which most Christians believe to be divine truth... so much a foundational part of the Christian faith that many go as far as to say you cannot be completely Christian unless you believe it.
Although, there isn't a single verse or passage that "clearly" states that there is one God who exists in three persons, Trinitarians usually advance a number of verses as evidence for there being three co-equal members of the Godhead.
In reality these verses do no such thing.
Texts that mention Father, Son and Holy Spirit in one place are often pointed to as 'proof texts' for the Trinity. If we stick to exactly what the text says, and abstain from going beyond the actual words, we will find that none of the verses usually cited say anything about the nature of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. None of them describe a triune Godhead, or even imply that there are three coequal Persons in one Divine Being. For example, when, at Jesus' baptism, we read that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit all do different things simultaneously, we automatically assume that, just because each of the three functions separately, each has to be an individual member of the Godhead. This, as I also said, is to apply a very human perspective to the scene.
The catch here is that we cannot apply to God our understanding of how things work in our physical three dimensional world. I have no idea how God and His Spirit can be seen simultaneously doing different things, but then again I don't understand How God made a dragonfly's wings either.
If the Bible is content to tell us that God and His Spirit can perform separate activities at the same time, then I am equally content to accept it as so.
The Bible makes it very clear that there is only one Spirit.There is a huge mountain of evidence that suggests that The Spirit of the Father is The Holy Spirit and that this Spirit is no different from the Spirit of Christ mentioned several times. In other words, the Spirit of God the Father, the Spirit of Christ and the Holy Spirit are one and the same Spirit
In telling the Jews that He and the Father "were one" [John 10:30], Jesus made Himself equal with God. [John 5:17-18], and said that the Father had sent Him [John 8:16]. But not once did He make a similar statement about Himself and the Holy Spirit. Paul consistently, and repeatedly, tied the Father and Son together with no mention of the Holy Spirit. John makes no mention of seeing the Holy Spirit in his visions recorded in the book of Revelation, The the third person of a supposedly triune God is curiously absent from Daniel's vision of heaven, and Stephen, at his martyrdom, saw God the Father and Jesus the Son, but no Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit... Conspicuous By It's Absence as A Distinct Person
The Holy Spirit is missing from the opening salutation of most of the New Testament books, and from the approximately eighteen doxologies found in these books.
The Holy Spirit is often portrayed being grieved, speaking and capable of being lied to... all the characteristics of a person. However, anthropomorphism, which is attribution of human form, characteristics, emotions, motives, and actions to non-living things, is an ancient literary tradition. Both the Bible and poets often attributing emotion and action to inanimate objects that obviously have none. The Old Testament speaks of non-living things crying out for vindication, shouting/singing for joy, clapping their hands, lamenting etc while the New Testament depicts wisdom as having children, creation groaning, righteousness speaking etc.
Therefore ascribing activity or other human characteristics to the Holy Spirit does mean the Holy Spirit is a distinct person.
On the contrary, God the Father and Jesus Christ are consistently portrayed with human like shape and form.. arms, hands, faces, hearts etc. In comparison, the Holy Spirit is consistently represented by symbols, like a dove, or inanimate objects like water, tongues of fire, or a pledge.
Additionally, the Holy Spirit is spoken of in many ways that do not support the idea that a person is being spoken about. For example, a person, divine or otherwise, cannot be quenched, be given as a gift that is "poured out", or given "without measure". You cannot rekindle, or "stir up" a Divine being, unless of course this being, like the Genie on a bottle, is asleep and needs shaking awake. People cannot drink/partake of a person, or be filled with a person. and finally, you cannot be baptized with a person.
Because the Holy Spirit is referred to as 'He' or "Him" in quite a few places in The New Testament, many people assume that the Holy Spirit is a divine person just like the Father and the Son. In fact, the grammar is often used by many evangelicals as the first line of defense against any challenges to the doctrine. The problem is that the grammar cannot legitimately be used to support the idea that the Holy Spirit is the third Person of the Trinity.
Doctrinal bias, not grammatical accuracy, is responsible for referring to the Holy Spirit with masculine rather than neuter pronouns. In other words, there is no grammatical foundation for the orthodox view of the Trinity.
So, If Not The Scriptures, Where Did The Idea of The Trinity Come from?
Three theologians from Cappadocia .... Basil, bishop of Caesarea, his brother Gregory, bishop of Nyssa, and Basil's close friend Gregory of Nazianzus, jointly known as the Cappadocian Fathers, gave definitive shape to the doctrine of the Trinity The problem is that they were, provably, greatly influenced by Greek philosophy. There are strong links between Plato's teachings and the Trinity as adopted by the Second Ecumenical Council in 381 AD In fact, all three of the Cappadocian fathers were well trained in philosophy and rhetoric, the art of using language effectively and persuasively (The word rhetoric was also used of language that was elaborate and high-flown).
Greek philosophy focused on the importance of reason and evidence in understanding the nature of the god, the universe etc. In other words, everything about God etc. had to be approached based on reason. As long as the so called logic was sound, it didn't seem to matter whether or not it contradicted the Scriptures.
Basil and the two Gregorys were also greatly influenced by the writings of Origen. In fact, Gregory of Nazianzus wrote: "Origen is the stone on which all of us were sharpened." Basil, bishop of Caesarea and his close friend Gregory of Nazianzus "edited a collection of Origen's writings, which they called Philokalia,
Yet, Origen, known for introducing Greek ideas into Christianity, often flatly contradicted Scripture.... He taught the pre-existence of souls, the final reconciliation of all creatures (possibly even Satan), and the subordination of the Son to the Father. Yet, Gregory of Nyssa based his conception of the Trinity, on Origen's ideas.
Besides which, Origen stated that, since there are "certain secret analogies or affinities" between the things below and the things above, we must "read within ourselves the reflection of truths" that we could not otherwise know. It was Gregory of Nyssa however, who applied Origen's line of reasoning to the trinity. In fact, he says we would have no content for our thoughts about Father, Son, and Spirit, if we did not find an outline of their nature within ourselves. Ouch! In other words, the key to the Trinity is in our triple nature ... our minds or reasoning, our word, and our souls. And, Gregory went several steps further, stating that you learn "the secret of God" from the things within yourself... a "testimony above and more sure than that of the Law and the Gospel".
And finally, all three were mystics.
Not only did Basil, bishop of Caesarea and Gregory of Nazianzus pioneer the rules of monastic life, compiling what became known as "the Rule of St. Basil", but some of Gregory of Nazianzus' writings on the Trinity were nothing short of mystical gobbledygook... "No sooner do I conceive of the One than I am illumined by the Splendor of the Three; no sooner do I distinguish Them than I am carried back to the One."  etc
As a mystic Gregory of Nyssa is said to be "most important as a neoplatonic Christian" . And why is that important? Simply because Platonic philosophy holds that all existence consists of emanations from the One with whom the soul may be reunited. Plotinus believed that through contemplation people could be mystically united with, or absorbed into, "the One itself".
In short, contemplative prayer, from the time of the desert fathers to our day, began with Neoplatonism. It came to us via Origen, Gregory of Nyssa, and the various "desert Fathers" who, emphasizing an ascent to God through periods of purgation and illumination, deeply affected the spirituality of both the Western and Eastern Church.
In so few years the entire lot of them had forgotten Paul's words (as, unfortunately, have we)...
For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made void. For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the cleverness of the clever I will set aside." Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness [1 Corinthians 1:17-23 NASB]
Our Over Reliance On Scholars and Theologians
Sadly, too many people, assume the doctrines and beliefs they have held for all their lives are true, and are often unwilling to examine the possibility that their teachers were incorrect. All too many Christians, completely forgetting (or ignoring) the many many New Testament cautions against deception, carelessly assume that what they have been taught is true.
When non-Christians hold to the beliefs they may have held from their childhood, we urge them to examine the evidence for themselves. Yet Christians rarely seem to take their own advice, seemingly unwilling to even consider that any of the doctrines they have unquestioningly accepted may not conform to what the Bible teaches. Sadly, these are the same people who, often vigorously, defend their beliefs, without considering how they came to those beliefs in the first place.
So what is it about us? Why do we think we, or our teachers, can not possibly be wrong, especially when Paul warned that the wolves would arise from among us?
Sadly, those that disagree with orthodox church doctrine are immediately dismissed as heretics. Yet, in the final analysis, doctrine cannot be based on what this theologian, or that church father believed and taught, what conclusions various councils came to, what the official position is of any given denomination is, nor what 'orthodox' church doctrine states. What we believe cannot entirely depend on what seminaries and Bible schools teach, nor on what conclusions modern scholars and theologians come to, regardless of how well respected and highly thought of they may be. And we certainly cannot trust what conclusions Catholic mystics, who were deeply immersed in Greek philosophy, came to.
By this, I certainly do not mean that we cannot learn from those who may have devoted much of their lives to the study of the Scriptures, and may have great insight into God's word.
What I am saying is that every single word that proceeds from the mouth and pen of man has to be carefully checked against the standard that the Almighty Himself has given us. Regardless of how eminent the theologian, if his words do not agree with the Scriptures, then they are to be discarded forthwith... without delay or hesitation.
No, I take that back.
Considering that all too many of the issues are a matter of life and death, false doctrines are not just to be simply rejected but, they are to be actively opposed.
So why did this particular idea prevail?
Simply because it satisfied a number of requirements. a) It cleared the church against the multi-god accusation, albeit with a very intricate and complicated explanation. b) Since no Bible verse explicitly states the exact nature of the Holy Spirit, the doctrine could be considered 'safe'. And, finally c) the doctrine allowed the church to happily go about their business under the impression that they had solved the dilemma of seemingly contradictory statements in the Bible.
As far as they were concerned... they had a nice tidy solution. The difficulty was resolved, and the case could be closed! However, the fact that the conclusion did not follow from, nor agree with, all the evidence was ignored.
Although the Bible definitively points to a plurality in the Godhead, there is absolutely no evidence that the Holy Spirit is the 'third person of the trinity', and much evidence for the Holy Spirit being the Spirit of the Father Himself... the very essence of God Himself, the agency, or power/ability through which God acts, and which empowers us to overcome sin, be regenerated and renewed, and grow in the faith, thus becoming more like Jesus.
Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. [Romans 15:13 NASB]
He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, [Titus 3:5 NASB]
Finally, I'd like to say that the church, substituting their own rules for what the Scriptures teach, has often insisted you believe in their version of the trinity, in order to consider yourself as being saved. The truth is that how many Beings the Godhead consists of does not matter one whit. We are no closer to really understanding the Father than we are to taking a stroll around Pluto. Make no mistake, the Lord is not going to judge you on whether you are right or wrong about this. He is going to judge you on how righteously you live and whether or not you have followed His commandments.
If you wish to believe there is a trinity, go right ahead. However, if you follow the Biblical evidence, you are very likely to realize what a concoction the whole issue is.
The problem is if the church has based their decision about this "crucial" matter on shallow interpretations, bad grammar and an ignorance of where the doctrine actually originated, my question is what else do they have wrong?
Unfortunately, the list is a very long one. Let's begin with some genuinely crucial matters, the Myth of Faith Alone, and the question of whether any living Christian is completely and finally saved HERE. Additionally, Christians who believe they will spend an eternity in "heaven", seem to have little or no idea where this heaven is, what it will look like, or what they will do there. This is not helped at all by the pious phrases resorted to by theologians who themselves seem to know nothing about it. See What and Where is Heaven? And of course, just like the trinity, the belief that Hell is a place of unending torment has been so strongly held for so long that few have dared to challenge it. However, the deeper one delves into the subject the less persuasive the argument in favor of the traditional view becomes. See What and Where is Hell?