When you ask most Christians if the Trinity is a Biblical doctrine, they instinctively answer in the affirmative. I say “instinctively” because most Christians will typically admit that they really don’t understand this enigmatic teaching. Nevertheless, they believe the Trinity to be trustworthy because if it wasn’t in the Bible, the Church wouldn’t present it as truth, right?
Don’t get me wrong, I honestly don’t believe that the Church has been intentionally trying to deceive or otherwise mislead people for almost two millennia, but the fact of the matter is that the word “Trinity” is not in the Bible. Not once. While this reality is perplexing, to be sure, the bigger issue is that the Trinity’s central premise – that God is one “being” or “essence” who exists in three distinct “persons” – is similarly nowhere to be found in the pages of Scripture. Not a single verse!
If you have any doubts about the veracity of these statements, you can read through the details in “A Synthetic Doctrine” of “Part 1: What is the Trinity?” And if you still are unconvinced, you can fairly easily prove them yourself by using your favorite on-line study Bible and a good search engine.
So where does this doctrine come from? I unpack this question in Part 2 of Testing the Trinity, but it is effectively the byproduct of the collision between Christian doctrine and Greek philosophy. Because as the Gospel spread across the Roman Empire, new believers struggled to reconcile their “Greek” beliefs with the proclamation of an Incarnate God. The Trinity was the result, a synthesis of two conflicting worldviews that essentially redefines God in light of ideas and concepts borrowed from Aristotle, Plato, and the Stoics.
What I find most astonishing, though, is that even the Trinity’s proponents will readily admit that the idea of “one God in three persons” was initially introduced by the “Greek Fathers” of the early church! Granted, this admission doesn’t necessarily rule out the Trinity as a possible explanation regarding the nature of God, and certainly the Trinity’s track record in the defense of Christianity is impossible to deny; still, that doesn’t change the fact that this teaching is extra-Biblical by definition! Indeed, when you consider all of the evidence, it certainly seems that the early church fell victim to the very “empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense” that Paul warned us against in his letter to the Colossians. (Col. 2:8)
So is the Trinity historic? Absolutely. Is it backed by tradition? Without a doubt. But is it Biblical? The clear answer is “no.” It’s simply not there.
As such, why does this confusing doctrine continue to be touted as the arbiter of orthodoxy? Good question. And is there a better answer to the meaning of “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” that itself steers clear of violating Scripture? Most would instinctively answer “no,” but I respectfully beg to differ…