) includes all Christian belief
that reject as non-scriptural, wholly or partly, the
doctrine of the Trinity
that the God of the Bible is three
distinct persons in one being, and that these three persons are
eternal and equal in nature, authority, and knowledge.
The absence of the Trinity is not of necessary importance to all
nontrinitarians. Persons and groups espousing this position
generally do not refer to themselves affirmatively by the term. The
have adopted a name that
speaks of their belief in God as subsisting in a theological or
cosmic unity. Modern nontrinitarian views differ widely on the
nature of God
, and the Holy Spirit
Various nontrinitarian views existed from the time of Jesus, such
, and Arianism
, which existed prior to the formal
definition of the Trinity as doctrine in AD 325. Nontrinitarianism
was later renewed in the Gnosticism
in the 11th through 13th
centuries, in the Age of
of the 18th century, and in Restorationism
during the 19th century.
All nontrinitarians take the position that the doctrine of the
earliest form of Christianity (see Apostolic Age
) was not Trinitarian. Typically,
nontrinitarians explain that Christianity was altered as a direct
and indirect consequence of the edicts of Constantine the Great
, which resulted
in the eventual adoption of Trinitarian Christianity as the
official religion of the Roman Empire. Because it was at this time
of a dramatic shift in
that the doctrine of the Trinity attained
its definitive development, nontrinitarians typically find the
doctrine questionable. It is in this light that the Nicene Creed is
seen by nontrinitarians as an essentially political document,
resulting from the subordination of true doctrine to State
interests by leaders of the Catholic Church, so that the church
became, in their view, an extension of the Roman Empire.
Although nontrinitarian beliefs continued to multiply, and among
some people (such as the Lombards
West) were dominant for hundreds of years after their inception,
the Trinitarians gained the immense power of the Roman Empire.
Nontrinitarians typically argue that the primitive beliefs of
Christianity were systematically suppressed (often to the point of
death), and that the historical record, perhaps also including the
Scriptures of the New Testament, was altered as a consequence.
Nontrinitarian followers of Jesus fall into roughly four different
- Some believe that Jesus is not God, instead believing that he
was a messenger from God, or Prophet, or the perfect created human.
This view was espoused by ancient sects such as the Ebionites. A specific form of Nontrinitarianism is
Arianism, which had become the dominant
view in some regions in the time of the Roman Empire. Arianism taught the Father, Son,
and Holy Spirit but held that the Son was not co-eternal with the
Father. However, Arians did not consider worship of Jesus as wrong.
Another early form of Nontrinarianism was Monarchianism.
- Others believe that the Heavenly Father, Resurrected Son and
Holy Spirit are different modes or aspects of one God, as perceived
by the believer, rather than three distinct persons in God Himself.
This is a doctrine known originally as Sabellianism or modalism, although it is explained somewhat
differently in the churches which hold these beliefs today.
Examples of such churches today are Oneness Pentecostals and the New Church.
- Denominations of the Latter Day
Saint movement (including the largest, The Church of
Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) teach the divinity of God
the Father, his son Jesus, and the Holy Spirit; however, they also
teach the Godhead is composed of the three distinct, separate
persons. Conversely, some of the movement's denominations are
Trinitarian. The Church of
Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints specifically holds that the
Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are three separate and distinct
individuals ( ), but can and do act together in perfect unity of
purpose as a single monotheistic entity (the "Godhead") for the common purpose of
saving mankind, Jesus Christ having received divine investiture of
authority from Heavenly Father in the pre-mortal existence.
- Some denominations within the Sabbatarian Church of God tradition accept the divinity of
the Father and Jesus the Son, but do not teach that the Holy Spirit
is a Being. The Living Church of
God, for example, teaches, "The Holy Spirit is the very
essence, the mind, life and power of God. It is not a Being. The
Spirit is inherent in the Father and the Son, and emanates from
Them throughout the entire universe". This view has historically
been termed Semi-Arianism or Binitarianism.
According to The Outline of History by H.G. Wells: "We shall see
presently how later on all Christendom
was torn by disputes about the Trinity. There is no evidence that
the apostles of Jesus ever heard of the Trinity at any rate from
him." Of course, Wells' assertion is disputed.
Nontrinitarians claim the roots of their position go back farther
than those of their counterpart Trinitarians. The biblical basis
for each side of the issue is debated chiefly on the question of
the divinity of Jesus
note that in deference to God, Jesus rejected even being called
"good", that he disavowed omniscience as the Son, and that he
referred to ascending unto "my Father, and to your Father; and to
my God, and to your God", and that he said "the Father is the only
true God." Additionally, Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 6:4 when saying
in Mark 12:29 "The most important one (commandment
answered Jesus, "is this: 'Hear, O Israel,
the Lord our God, the Lord is one
Siding with nontrinitarians, scholars investigating the historical Jesus
often assert that Jesus
taught neither his own equality with God nor the Trinity (see, for
example, the Jesus Seminar
The text of the Athanasian Creed
state that the three are "coequal"; this is the term actually used
in the doctrine. One might consider co-owners of a business as
being equal owners but with different roles to play in operating
the business. Nontrinitarians point to a very important statement
by Jesus that contradicts the use of the term equal or "coequal".
It is a simple passage where Jesus stated his explicit subordinance
to the Father: "for my Father is Greater than I" (John
In addition, the Nicene Creed was established approximately 300
years after the time of Jesus on Earth as a result of conflict
within pre-Nicene Early
. Nontrinitarians also note that the Bible
forewarned the reader to beware the doctrines of men (e.g. Mat.
15:9; Eph. 4:14).
The Encyclopædia of Religion and Ethics
describes the five
stages that led to the formulation of the doctrine of the Trinity.
- The acceptance of the pre-human existence of Jesus as the
(middle-platonic) Logos, namely, as the medium between the transcendent
Sovereign God and the created cosmos. The doctrine of Logos was
accepted by the Apologists and by other Fathers of the 2nd and 3rd
centuries, such as Justin the
Martyr, Hippolytus, Tertullian, Ireneus,
Clement of Alexandria,
and the 4th century Arius.
- The doctrine of the timeless
generation of the Son from the Father as it was articulated by
Origen in his effort to support the ontological immutability of God, that
is, He's ever-being a Father and a Creator. The doctrine of the
timeless generation was adopted by Athanasius of Alexandria.
- The acceptance of the idea that the Son of God is
homoousios to his Father, that is, of the same
transcendent nature. This position was declared at the creed of the
First Council of Nicaea,
which specifically states the Son of God is as immutable as his
- The acceptance that the Holy Spirit also has ontological
equality as a third Person in a Divine Trinity and the final
trinitarian terminology by the teachings of the Cappadocian Fathers.
- The addition of filioque to the
Trinitarian creed, as accepted by the Roman Catholics.
Points of dissent
Trinitarians say that "the doctrine of the Trinity is [...] a deep
mystery that cannot be fathomed by the finite mind". Criticism of
the trinitarian doctrine includes the argument that its "mystery"
is essentially an inherent irrationality, where the persons of God
are claimed to share completely a single divine substance, the
"being of God", and yet not partake of each others' identity.
Nontrinitarians claim that the perplexity of the Trinitarian
arguments, which has included the use of philosophy, is contrary to
the Biblical principles of simplicity and clarity in
Regarding Laws of Thought
doctrine of the Trinity ignores Aristotle's
three laws of thought:
- Law of Identity, for example: [A = A] must always be true
- Law of Noncontradiction, for example: [A = B] and [A > B]
cannot be both be true
- Law of Excluded Middle, for example: [A = B] is either true or
false; there is no middle ground (half-truth/ half-false)
Critics also argue the doctrine, for a teaching described as
fundamental, lacks direct scriptural support, and even some
proponents of the doctrine acknowledge such direct or formal
support is lacking. The New Catholic Encyclopedia, for example,
says, "The doctrine of the Holy Trinity is not taught [explicitly]
in the [Old Testament]", "The formulation 'one God in three
Persons' was not solidly established [by a council]...prior to the
end of the 4th century". Similarly, Encyclopedia
states: "The doctrine is not taught explicitly in the
New Testament, where the word God almost invariably refers to the
Father. [...] The term trinitas
was first used in the 2nd
century, by the Latin theologian Tertullian, but the concept was
developed in the course of the debates on the nature of Christ
[...]. In the 4th century, the doctrine was finally formulated".
also says: Neither the word
Trinity nor the explicit doctrine appears in the New Testament, nor
did Jesus and his followers intend to contradict the Shema
in the Old Testament: “Hear, O Israel:
The Lord our God is one Lord” (Deuteronomy 6:4). [...] The doctrine
developed gradually over several centuries and through many
controversies. [...] by the end of the 4th century, under the
leadership of Basil of Caesarea, Gregory of Nyssa, and Gregory of
Nazianzus (the Cappadocian Fathers), the doctrine of the Trinity
took substantially the form it has maintained ever since." The
states: "One does not find in the NT the
trinitarian paradox of the coexistence of the Father, Son, and
Spirit within a divine unity." The question, however, of why such a
supposedly central doctrine to the Christian faith would never have
been explicitly stated in scripture or taught in detail by Jesus
himself was sufficiently important to 16th century historical
figures such as Michael Servetus
to lead them to argue the question. The Geneva City Council, in
accord with the judgment of the cantons of Zürich, Bern, Basel, and
Schaffhausen, condemned Servetus to be burned at the stake for
this, and for his opposition to infant baptism.
Divinity of Jesus
For some, debate over the biblical basis of the doctrine tends to
revolve chiefly over the question of the deity of Jesus (see
). Those who reject the
divinity of Jesus argue among other things that Jesus rejected
being called so little as good in deference to God, in the story of
the rich young ruler (Mark 10:17-18; Matthew 19:16-17; Luke
18:18-19), disavowed omniscience as the Son, "learned obedience"
(Hebrews 5:8), and referred to ascending unto "my Father, and to
your Father; and to my God, and to your God" (John 20:17). They
also dispute that "Elohim" denotes plurality, noting that this name
in nearly all circumstances takes a singular verb and arguing that
where it seems to suggest plurality, Hebrew grammar still indicates
against it. They also point to statements by Jesus such as his
declaration that the Father was greater than he or that he was not
omniscient, in his statement that of a final day and hour not even
he knew, but the Father (Mark 13:32), and to Jesus' being called
the firstborn of creation (Colossians 1:15) and 'the beginning of
God's creation,' (Revelation 3:14) which argues against his being
eternal. In Theological Studies #26 (1965) p.545-73, Does the NT
call Jesus God?, Raymond E.
wrote that Mark 10:18, Luke
18:19, Matthew 19:17, Mark 15:34, Matthew 27:46, John 20:17,
Ephesians 1:17, 2 Corinthians 1:3, 1 Peter 1:3, John 17:3, 1
Corinthians 8:6, Ephesians 4:4-6, 1 Corinthians 12:4-6, 2
Corinthians 13:14, 1 Timothy 2:5, John 14:28, Mark 13:32,
Philippians 2:5-10, 1 Corinthians 15:24-28 are "texts that seem to
imply that the title God was not used for Jesus" and are "negative
evidence which is often somewhat neglected in Catholic treatments
of the subject."
The Iglesia ni Cristo
the doctrine of Christ's Divinity is a man-made teaching, a dogma
that is not biblical but was invented by the Catholic Church in the
4th century through the First
Council of Nicaea
. Through the bible alone, they believe that
Jesus was sent by God to establish the church with Jesus as its
head. Jesus himself did not believe in his own divinity as citing
an instance in the bible where he prayed to God and mentioned that
the Father alone is the only true God. After Jesus went to heaven,
his disciples never also preached the divinity of Christ. This
doctrine came to being after all the apostles died and all the
faithful followers died of persecution. Jesus and some apostles
prophesied before that the church will be struck by wolves not
sparing anyone. This wolves according to Jesus will be dressed in
Trinitarians, and some non-Trinitarians such as the Modalists who
also hold to the divinity of Jesus Christ, claim that these
statements are based on the fact that Jesus existed as the Son of God
in human flesh. Thus he is both God
and man, who became "lower than the angels, for our sake" (Hebrews
2:6-8, Psalm 8:4-6) and who was tempted as humans are tempted, but
did not sin (Hebrews 4:14-16).Some Nontrinitarians counter the
belief that the Son was limited only during his earthly life
(Trinitarians believe, instead, that Christ retains full human
nature even after his resurrection), by citing 1 Corinthians 11:3
("the head of Christ [is] God" [KJV]), written after Jesus had
returned to Heaven, thus placing him still in an inferior relation
to the Father. Additionally, they refer to Acts 5:31 and
Philippians 2:9, indicating that Jesus became exalted after
ascension to Heaven, and to Hebrews 9:24, Acts 7:55, 1 Corinthians
15:24, 28, regarding Jesus as a distinct personality in Heaven, all
after his ascension.
Christian Unitarians, Restorationists, and others question the
doctrine of the Trinity because it relies on non-Biblical
terminology. The term "Trinity" is not found in scripture and the
number three is never associated with God in any sense other than
within the Comma Johanneum
disputed authenticity. Detractors hold that the only number
ascribed to God in the Bible is One and that the Trinity, literally
meaning three-in-one, ascribes a threeness to God that is not
Several other examples of terms not found in the Bible include
multiple “Persons” in relation to God, the terms “God the Son
” and “God the Holy Spirit”, and
“eternally” begotten. For instance, a basic tenet of Trinitarianism
is that God is made up of three distinct Persons (hypostasis
). The term
is used only one time Biblically in reference
to God ( ), where it states that Jesus is the express image of
God's person (hypostasis). The Bible never uses the term in
relation to the Holy Spirit nor explicitly mentions the Son having
a distinct hypostasis from the Father.
As regards the major term homoousios
(of the same
essence), which was introduced into the Creed at the First Council
of Nicea, Pier Franco Beatrice has stated: "The main thesis of this
paper is that homoousios came straight from Constantine's Hermetic
background. [...] The Plato recalled by Constantine is just a name
used to cover precisely the Egyptian and Hermetic theology of the
"consubstantiality" of the Logos-Son with the Nous-Father, having
recourse to a traditional apologetic argument. […] Constantine's
Hermetic interpretation of Plato's theology and consequently the
emperor's decision to insert homoousios in the Creed of
Trinitarians maintain that these ideas are implied within scripture
and were necessary additions of the Nicene Era to counter the
doctrine of Arianism.
It is also argued that the vast majority of scriptures that
Trinitarians offer in support of their beliefs refer to the
and to Son
, but not to the Holy
. This suggests that the concept of the trinity was not
well-established in the early Christian community.
The teaching is also pivotal to inter-religious disagreements with
two of the other major faiths, Judaism
; the former rejects Jesus' divine
mission entirely, the latter accepts Jesus as a human prophet, and
as the Messiah. The concept of
is totally rejected with quranic verses terming trinity
as blasphemous. Many within Judaism and Islam also accuse Christian
Trinitarians of practicing polytheism
believing in three gods rather than just one.
Scriptures cited as being in opposition to the Trinity
Among Bible verses cited by opponents of Trinitarianism are those
that claim there is only one God, the Father. Other verses state
that Jesus Christ was a man. Although Trinitarians explain these
apparent contradictions by reference to the mystery and paradox of
the Trinity itself, some nontrinitarians argue that there is
little, if any, Biblical basis for the Trinity. This is a partial
list of verses implying opposition to Trinitarianism:
- : "Jesus said to him, 'Away from me, Satan! For it is written:
"Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only."'"
- : "Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only
true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent."
- : "For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or
on earth (as indeed there are many "gods" and many "lords"), yet
for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came
and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ,
through whom all things came and through whom we live."
- : "For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men,
the man Christ Jesus"
- : "You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons
believe that—and shudder."
- : “You heard me say, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to
you.’t If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the
Father, for the Father is greater than I."
Son and Father
- : "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in
heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father."
- : "No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who
is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him."
- : "You heard me say, 'I am going away and I am coming back to
you.' If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the
Father, for the Father is greater than I."
- : "My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who
will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be
one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also
be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I
have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as
we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to
complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have
loved them even as you have loved me."
- : "Jesus said, "Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet
ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, 'I
am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your
- : "But he (Stephen), being full of
the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory
of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, and said,
Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on
the right hand of God."
- : "He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all
- : "Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to
God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and
power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his
feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For he "has put
everything under his feet." Now when it says that "everything" has
been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God
himself, who put everything under Christ. When he has done this,
then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything
under him, so that God may be all in all."
- : "And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write,
'These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the
Beginning of the creation of God:"
Holy spirit as gift of God
- : "(But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on
him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet [given]; because
that Jesus was not yet glorified.)"
- : "And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another
Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; "
- : "But the Comforter, [which is] the Holy Ghost, whom the
Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and
bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto
- : "But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you
from the Father, [even] the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from
the Father, he shall testify of me:"
- : "Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you
that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come
unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you."
- : "And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I
will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your
daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and
your old men shall dream dreams: And on my servants and on my
handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they
shall prophesy: "
- :"Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one
of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and
ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost."
- : "And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished,
as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was
poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost."
- : "For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to
fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry,
- : "Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the
spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are
freely given to us of God."
- : "This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by
the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?"
- : "That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles
through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the
Spirit through faith."
- : "And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of
his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father."
- : "In whom ye also [trusted], after that ye heard the word of
truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye
believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,"
- : "And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he
in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit
which he hath given us."
- : "Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because
he hath given us of his Spirit."
- : "He therefore that despiseth, despiseth not man, but God, who
hath also given unto us his holy Spirit."
- : I saw in the night visions, and, behold, [one] like the Son
of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of
days, and they brought him near before him.
- : Jehovah saith unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, Until
I make thine enemies thy footstool.
- : But when the people of Israel cried to the LORD, the LORD
raised up for them a deliverer, Ehud, the son of Gera. The same
Hebrew word is used both to translate "savior" and "deliverer". If
God is the only true savior, as is Jesus, according to the Trinity
doctrine, then the term "savior" or "deliverer" could not apply to
anyone else. This would then imply a contradiction to the Trinity
doctrine or imply that Jesus had been sent to Earth prior to events
in the new testament.
- , Jesus said, "The servant is not greater than his lord;
neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. Jesus said
on numerous occasions that, "the Father… hath sent me."(John
5:37,6:37) The Holy Ghost was also sent by the Father(John 14:26)
and Jesus(John 16:7,13), thus making Jesus inferior to the Father
and the Holy Ghost inferior to both the Father and Jesus.
- "And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another
comforter, that he may abide with you forever; even the spirit of
- Jesus prays to God.
- Jesus has faith in God.
- Jesus is a servant of God.
- Jesus does not know things God knows.
- Jesus worships God.
- Jesus has one who is God to him.
- Jesus is in subjection to God.
- Jesus' head is God.
- Jesus has reverent submission, fear, of God.
- Jesus is given lordship by God.
- Jesus is exalted by God.
- Jesus is made high priest by God.
- Jesus is given authority by God.
- Jesus is given kingship by God.
- Jesus is given judgment by God.
- , , "God raised [Jesus] from the dead".
- , , , Jesus is at the right hand of God.
- Jesus is the one human mediator between the one God and
- God put everything, except Himself, under Jesus.
- Jesus did not believe being one with God was possible
- : "Around the ninth hour, Jesus shouted in a loud voice, saying
"Eli Eli lama sabachthani?" which is, "My God, my God, why
have you forsaken me?""
- : "And at the ninth hour, Jesus shouted in a loud voice,
"Eloi Eloi lema sabachthani?" which is translated, "My
God, my God, why have you forsaken me?""
There have been numerous other views of the relations of the
and Holy Spirit
; the most prominent include the
- Church Fathers of the 2nd and 3rd
Century: The Christian Apologists and
other Church Fathers of the 2nd and
3rd century, having adopted and formulated the Logos Christology,
considered the Son of God as the instrument used by the Supreme
God, the Father, to bring the creation into existence. Especially
Justin the Martyr, Theophilus of Antioch, Hippolytus and Tertullian speak about as to how the internal
Logos of God (Gr. Logos
endiathetos, Lat. ratio), that is His impersonal
divine reason, was begotten as Logos uttered (Gr. Logos
proforikos, Lat. sermo, verbum) and thus became a
person to be used for the purpose of creation..
- Arius (AD ca. 250 or 256 - 336) believed
that the Son was subordinate to the Father, firstborn of all creation. However, the Son did
have Divine status.
- Ebionites (1st to 4th century AD)
believed that the Son was subordinate to the
Father and nothing more than a special
- Marcion (AD ca. 110-160) believed that
there were two Deities, one of creation / Hebrew Bible and one of the New Testament.
- Modalism states that God has taken numerous forms in both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, and that God has manifested
Himself in three primary modes in regards to the salvation of
mankind. Thus God is Father in creation (God
created or begat a Son through the virgin
birth), Son in redemption
(God manifested Himself into or indwelt the begotten man Christ
Jesus for the purpose of His death upon the cross), and Holy Spirit
in regeneration (God's indwelling Spirit
within the souls of Christian believers).
In light of this view, God is not three separate Persons, but
rather one God manifesting Himself in multiple ways. It is held by
its proponents that this view maintains the strict monotheism found
in Judaism and the Old Testament scriptures.
- Many Gnostic traditions held that the
Christ is a heavenly Aeon but not one with the
- Docetism comes from the Greek: δοκηο
(doceo), meaning "to seem." This view holds that Jesus only
seemed to be human and only appeared to die.
(Compare to Islam's View of the Crucifixion)
- Adoptionism (2nd century AD) holds
that Jesus became divine at his baptism (sometimes associated with the Gospel of Mark) or at his resurrection (sometimes associated with
Saint Paul and Shepherd of Hermas).
- Swedenborgianism holds that the
Trinity exists in One Person, the Lord God Jesus Christ. The
Father, the Being or soul of God, was born into the world and put
on a body from Mary. Throughout His life, Jesus put away all the
merely human desires and tendencies inherited from Mary until He
was completely Divine, even as to His flesh. After the resurrection
He influences the world through the Holy Spirit, which is His
activity. Thus Jesus Christ is the one God; the Father as to His
soul, the Son as to His body, and the Holy Spirit as to His
activity in the world.
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons) hold
that the Father, Son, and
Holy Ghost are three separate and
distinct individuals ( ), but can and do act together in perfect
unity as a single monotheistic unit (the "Godhead") for the common purpose of
saving mankind, Jesus Christ having received divine investiture of
authority from Heavenly Father in the pre-mortal life. The Latter-day Saint doctrine on the Godhead began to be established with the
First Vision of the Prophet Joseph Smith in 1820 ( ) and
found its final form in a revelation received in 1843 ( ). They
believe this view to be supported by New Testament scriptures,
including the circumstances surrounding the baptism of Jesus ( ) and Christ's prayers
to God. Christ's statement that He and His Father are "one" is
interpreted to mean one in purpose, which purpose they
believe the Apostles were also to join (after their resurrection)
as Christ prayed in His intercessory prayer: "...that they may be
one, as we are" ( ).
- Christadelphians, the Church of God
General Conference and the Biblical
Unitarians believe that God is the Father, and that Jesus is
his literal son. They believe that Jesus was totally human, and
needed to be so in order to save people from their sins. In
Christadelphian belief, the words "Holy Spirit" in the Bible refer
to God's power, by which he does everything, and God's holy
character/mind, depending on the context of the passage the words
are in - either way, the Holy Spirit is not considered to be a
- Jehovah's Witnesses believe
that Jesus Christ was the first creation of God and that God used
him in the creation of the universe. They point to the fact that
Jesus was called the "Son of God" on many occasions and claimed he
had a God as proof that Christ is indeed subordinate to the Father.
They believe that the holy spirit is not a person but God's active
force, which he uses to accomplish his will.
- Iglesia ni Cristo believe that
the "Heavenly Father" is the only true God, who created
all things. Jesus Christ is human in nature but was endowed by God
with attributes not found in ordinary man. God has attributes not
found in Jesus. God's will is for man to worship and honor Jesus
Seventh Day Adventist Church rejects the doctrine of the
Trinity as an extra-Biblical error. They believe that the Father
and Son are two distinct and separate beings. They reject the idea
of the Holy Spirit as a person in the same sense as the Father and
Son, believing it to be the shared essence, power, characteristics,
presence, and life of those two.
- A modified oneness view is being promoting by the Church of
Jesus Christ  which is called economic, referring to
the second century reference to the Deity as 'economic'. This view
holds that the Logos is an Emanation from God, but is not distinct
nor a mode of revelation. It is the operation of a Transcendent God
in a temporal world.
Rastafarians accept Haile Selassie I, the former (and last)
emperor of Ethiopia, as Jah (the
Rasta name for God incarnate, from a shortened form of Jehovah
found in Psalms 68:4 in the King James Version of the Bible), and
part of the Holy Trinity as the messiah promised to return in the
- Islam's holy book, the Quran, denounces the concept of Trinity (Qur'an
4:171, 5:72-73, 112:1-4) due to Christians' high reverence of Jesus
the Christ a wrong understanding and states Jesus Christ was one of
the most respected prophets and Messengers of God ( 2:136) sent to prevent the Jews from changing
the Torah ( 61:6) and renew the religion of Moses, and the
birth of Jesus is termed similar to the creation of Adam out of
dust whereas Jesus was born without any male intervention (
3:59) and believing in Jesus as a prophet (
5:78), in the Gospel the Torah and his virgin
birth ( 3:45) as a criterion of being a Muslim and a
criterion for Salvation in the hereafter along with belief in the
Prophet Mohammad and all the prior prophets.
- The Urantia Book teaches that
God is the first "Uncaused Cause" who is a personality that is
omniscient, omnipresent, transcendent, infinite, eternal and
omnipotent, but He is also a person of the Original Trinity - "The
Paradise Trinity" who are the "First Source and Center, Second
Source and Center, and Third Source and Center" or otherwise
described as "God, The Eternal Son, and The Divine Holy Spirit".
These personalities are not to be confused with Jesus who is also
one with God, but not one of the Original Personalities of His
Original Paradise Trinity. Each one of the Original Holy Trinity is
a separate personality, but acting in function as a divine and
The Church is charged with adopting these pagan tenets, invented by
the Egyptians and adapted to Christian thinking by means of Greek
philosophy. As evidence of this, critics of the doctrine point to
the widely acknowledged synthesis of Christianity with Platonic
philosophy, which is evident in
Trinitarian formulas that appeared by the end of the third century.
"The Greek philosophical theology" was "developed during the
Trinitarian controversies over the relationships among the persons
of the Godhead." Roman Catholic
doctrine became firmly rooted in the soil of Hellenism
; and thus an essentially
pagan idea was forcibly imposed on the churches beginning with the
Constantinian period. At the same time, neo-Platonic
trinities, such as that of the
One, the Nous and the Soul, are not a trinity of consubstantial
equals as in orthodox Christianity. Nevertheless, the Neoplatonic
trinity has the doctrine of emanation, a timeless procedure of
generation having as a source the One and being paralleled with the
generation of the light from the Sun, which was adopted by Origen
and applied to the generation of the Son from the Father, because
he wanted to support that the Father, as immutable, always had the
Son with him, and thus the generation of the Son is eternal and
timeless. This formula was accepted by Athanasius
and others and became an official
doctrine of the Church. The Gentile (non-Jewish) culture of the
Bible times suggests that miraculous events were attributed to
assert that Catholics
must have recognized the pagan roots of the trinity, because the
allegation of borrowing was raised by some disputants during the
time that the Nicene doctrine was being formalized and adopted by
the bishops. For example, in the 4th century Catholic Bishop
Marcellus of Ancyra
On the Holy Church,9 :
"Now with the heresy of the Ariomaniacs, which has
corrupted the Church of God...These then teach three hypostases,
just as Valentinus the
heresiarch first invented in the book entitled by him 'On the Three
For he was the first to invent three hypostases and
three persons of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and he is
discovered to have filched this from Hermes and Plato."
(Source: Logan A.
Marcellus of Ancyra (Pseudo-Anthimus), 'On the Holy
Church': Text, Translation and Commentary.
Journal of Theological Studies, NS, Volume 51,
1, April 2000, p.95 ).
Such a late date for a key term of Nicene Christianity, and
attributed to a Gnostic, they believe, lends credibility to the
charge of pagan borrowing. Marcellus was rejected by the Catholic
Church for teaching a form of Sabellianism
The early apologists, including Justin
, frequently discussed the parallels and
contrasts between Christianity and the pagan and syncretic religion
, and answered charges of
borrowing from paganism in their apologetical
Many nontrinitarians have long contended that the doctrine of the
is a prime example of Christianity
borrowing from Indo-European pagan sources . According to them,
very early in the Church's history a simpler idea of God was lost
and the incomprehensible doctrine of the Trinity took its place due
to the Church's accommodation of pagan ideas. In support of this,
they often compare the doctrine of the Trinity with notions of a
divine triad found in ancient pagan religions and even in modern
argue for a pagan basis note that as far back as Babylonia, the worship of pagan gods grouped in
threes, or triads, was common, and that this influence was also
prevalent among the Celts, in Egypt, Greece, Rome and even in
ancient India where the
trio of Brahma, Shiva
and Vishnu were being worshiped centuries
before, during, and after Jesus.
The concept of the trio,
the creator, the maintainer and the annihilator dates back to
millennia before Christ. They allege that after the death of the
apostles these pagan beliefs began to invade Christian doctrine. At
the very least, they suggest that Greek philosophy brought a late
influence into the creation of the doctrine.
nontrinitarians find a direct link, for example, between the
doctrine of the Trinity and the Egyptian theologians of Alexandria, suggesting that Alexandrian theology with its
strong emphasis on the deity of Jesus served to infuse Egypt's
pagan religious heritage into Christianity.
They charge the
Church with adopting these Egyptian tenets after adapting them to
Christian thinking by means of Greek philosophy. As evidence of
this, they point to the widely acknowledged synthesis of
Christianity with Platonic philosophy
evident in Trinitarian formulas
appearing by the end of the third century. Hence, beginning with
the Constantinian period, they allege, these pagan ideas were
forcibly imposed on the churches as Catholic
doctrine rooted firmly in the soil of
Hellenism. Most groups subscribing to the theory of a Great Apostasy
generally concur in this
The Comma Johanneum
(the portion of
1 John 5:7-8 that does not appear in the earliest Greek
manuscripts) has been pointed out by some as an explicit statement
of the Trinity; however on two accounts this is discredited. First,
the authenticity of the passage is in doubt, not being found in
what modern scholars regard as the "best" or oldest manuscripts;
and secondly it suggests that the unity "in heaven" is one of
agreement, rather than of essence - and therefore the verse does
not distinguish Trinitarian belief.
Thus, while first and second century Christian writings do reflect
a certain belief that Jesus was one with God the Father, Unitarian
nontrinitarians contend that after that point in time the nature of
that oneness evolved in the Church's hands, perhaps under the
influence of other religion and philosophy, from a pervasive
coexistence into a complete identity.
Other nonunitarian nontrinitarians, however, point to this passage
from the Gospel of John, to support their view that Jesus was God
in the Bible, "And Thomas answered and said to Him, "My Lord and my
God!" Jesus said to him, "Thomas, because you have seen Me, you
have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have
believed" " (John 20:28-29 NKJV). Since Thomas called Jesus God,
Jesus' statements appear to confirm His view of the correctness of
Thomas' assertion. Of course, it is equally plausible that Thomas
is addressing the Lord Jesus and God the
who raised Jesus from the dead. Raymond E. Brown
in Does the NT call Jesus
notes on this passage: "... the contention of Theodore of Mopsuestia
Thomas was uttering an exclamation of thanks to the Father finds
few proponents today." "Dominus et deus noster" (Our Lord and God)
was a title used by the Roman Emperor Domitian
. Regarding this usage, Jesus Himself said,
"Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods?"" referring to
Psalms 82:6-8, "I have said, Ye [are] gods; and all of you [are]
children of the most High. But ye shall die like men, and fall like
one of the princes. Arise, O God, judge the earth: for thou shalt
inherit all nations." The word "gods" in verse 6 and "God" in verse
8 is the same Hebrew word "'elohiym", which means, "gods in the
ordinary sense; but specifically used (in the plural thus,
especially with the article) of the supreme God; occasionally
applied by way of deference to magistrates; and sometimes as a
superlative" and as "God, god, gods, rulers, judges or angels" and
as "divine ones, goddess, godlike one"
Advocates of the "Hellenic origins" argument consider it well
supported by primary sources. They see these sources as tracing the
influence of Philo
on post-Apostolic Christian
philosophers - many of them ex-pagan Hellenic philosophers - who
then interpreted Scripture through the Neoplatonic
filter of their original beliefs
and subsequently incorporated those interpretations into their
theology. The early synthesis between Hellenic philosophy and early
Christianity was certainly made easier by the fact that so many of
the earliest apologists (such as Athenagoras and Justin Martyr)
were Greek converts themselves, whose original beliefs had
consisted more of philosophy than religion.
Stuart G Hall (formerly Professor of Ecclesiastical History at
King's College, London) describes the subsequent process of
philosophical/theological amalgamation in Doctrine and Practice
in the Early Church
(1991), where he writes:
- The apologists began to claim that Greek culture pointed to
and was consummated in the Christian message, just as the Old
Testament was. This process was done most thoroughly in
the synthesis of Clement of Alexandria. It can be done in
- You can rake through Greek literature, and find (especially
in the oldest seers and poets) references to ‘God’ which are more
compatible with monotheism than with polytheism (so at length
Athenagoras.) You can work out a common chronology between the
legends of prehistoric (Homer) Greece and the biblical record (so
- You can adapt a piece of pre-Christian Jewish apologetic,
which claimed that Plato and other Greek philosophers got their
best ideas indirectly from the teachings of Moses in the Bible,
which was much earlier.
- This theory combines the advantage of making out the Greeks
to be plagiarists (and therefore second-rate or criminal), while
claiming that they support Christianity by their arguments at least
some of the time. Especially this applied to the question
Philo himself had been influenced by Plato’s Timaeus
which he called the logos “the image of God” and “the second God”.
Many Trinitarians today are emphatic in their insistence that
John's gospel deliberately makes use of the term "logos
(Example: ) because (according to them) he was fully aware of its
Philonic meaning, and expected his readers to understand this. Some
Trinitarians even go so far as to say that John himself was
responsible for using the term in a new and especially religious
Philo's work reveals his dependence upon the Hellenic view that God
Himself could not be directly responsible for the creation - for
how could a perfect being produce an imperfect world, or the
mutable derive from the immutable? The Greek solution was to
propose the existence of a secondary divine being - the Demiurge -
which, although tremendously powerful in its own right, was a
little lower than God Himself (being neither perfect nor immutable
in the absolute sense), and could therefore be safely associated
with the creative process. To the Greeks, this arrangement was both
a logical and philosophical necessity, and Philo - following his
Hellenic inclinations - emphasizes it strongly in De
- The Absolute Being, the Father, who had begotten all
things, gave an especial grace to the Archangel and First-born
Logos (Word), that standing between, He might sever the creature
from the Creator. The same is ever the Intercessor for the
dying mortal before the immortal God, and the Ambassador and the
Ruler to the subject. He is neither without beginning of
days, as God is, nor is He begotten, as we are, but is something
between these extremes, being connected with both.
Here, then, was a concept which would bridge the gap between Greek
philosophy and the Christian Scriptures, allowing the Hellenic
philosopher-theologians to understand Christianity in the context
of their own cosmological views. Instead of abandoning their
philosophical preconceptions, they were able to import them into
their new religion. It is therefore easy to understand the
attractiveness of the Philonic model among Greek converts to
The idea was warmly received by Justin Martyr, Irenaeus,
Tertullian, Origen and Arius (to name but a few), who successfully
developed it over several centuries.
To quote again from Hall's Doctrine and Practice in the Early
- Justin’s ‘creed’, as we saw, spoke of a transcendent God
and Father, of his Son (with the angels), and of the Spirit of
prophecy. This triple confession is in line with what we
know of the baptismal formula.
- But when we look at the theology of the apologists, we find
that generally their thought is ‘binitarian’ rather than ‘Trinitarian’: it speaks
of God and his Word, rather than of Father, Son and Holy
Spirit. The term ‘Trinity’ was not yet in use in the
- Theophilus is the first to use the Greek word for Trinity
(trias, triad), when he takes the first three days of creation as
signifying the trinity of ‘God and his Word and his Wisdom’ (To
Autolycus 2.15), and Tertullian soon after 200 was using the
Latin trinitas of God.
- If we suppose that the baptismal confession and central
Christian belief was in a threefold form, we have to account for
the binitarian thought of Justin and those like him. The
most obvious explanation is that their apologetic is directed
towards Greek thought. They began from what appeared to be
- Among the Greeks, a familiar notion was the thought of an
utterly transcendent, perfect, unmoving God, and of a second,
mediating, active being responsible for the created order, whether
as its superior governor or as its immanent soul.
- Such a theology was being propounded, for instance, by the
Platonist Albinos in Asia Minor at the same time that Justin was
himself there, before he moved to Rome.
Quite apart from any philosophical reasons (which were certainly
influential in their own right), the church preserved the Philonic
writings because Eusebius of
labeled the monastic ascetic groups of Therapeutae and
Therapeutrides - described in Philo's De Vita
- as Christians (which they were not.) Eusebius
also promoted the legend that Philo met Peter in Rome, while Jerome
(345-420 CE) even lists him as a church Father. None of this was
true, but in time (via church tradition) it came to be accepted as
historical fact. Thus, through a series of pious frauds, Philo's
work was eventually elevated to the level of honorary
One standard reference for the "pagan origins" hypothesis is
Alexander Hislop's The Two
It is charged that the book is poorly researched and
badly written while being well referenced and powerfully presented.
Critics contend the book contains a multitude of errors easily
overlooked by the untrained eye, and say its popularity among
nontrinitarians is a result of uncritical acceptance. A critique of
the Hislop hypothesis (written from a non-trinitarian perspective)
is available here.
Controversy over status
Most nontrinitarians identify themselves as Christian. In this
regard The Encyclopedia Britannica
states, "To some
Christians the doctrine of the Trinity appeared inconsistent with
the unity of God....They therefore denied it, and accepted Jesus
Christ, not as incarnate God, but as God's highest creature by Whom
all else was created....[this] view in the early Church long
contended with the orthodox doctrine." This view (nontrinitarian)
“in the early church”, still supported by some Christians,
generates controversy among mainstream Christians. Most
trinitarians considered it heresy
believe in the Trinity.
Christianity is typically understood as Trinitarian monotheism in
its God-concept, although the theological and philosophical work
needed to differentiate this from tritheism
is significant. This difficulty is so
great that non-Christians who make the attempt are often left with
a view of Christianity as being a faith of tritheism or
quadratheism when dealing with Roman Catholics and their focus on
. Some scholars get the general
sense that the Cappadocian
, who developed the idea of Trinity, were themselves not
entirely convinced of its truth. However, some framework was needed
to reconcile the centrality of Jesus for the Christian experience
with the figure of YHWH
or "Abba" of which
Jesus was a representative, and the best option at that time was
this trinity idea. In any discussion of early Christianity, it is
important to remember that a small sect like Christianity needed to
show itself as quantifiably different from that which came before
and the surrounding culture in general. In order to accomplish
this, a standard theology was needed. With this theology, the group
could define itself and rally around a central cause or figure.
This made the faith strong, but after the faith grew beyond the
danger of being destroyed by Rome, it also made the faith somewhat
myopic when it came to dissenting views.
At times, segments of Nicene Christianity reacted with ultimate
severity toward nontrinitarian views. At other times, especially
among Protestants, the same views have been accommodated. See
section of the Unitarianism article
for a more detailed discussion.
- Hermas c. 140 (he considers the Father
superior and the Son as the archangel Michael)
- Clement of Alexandria c.
190 (he considers the Father superior and the Son born in
- Natalius, ~200
- Sabellius, ~220 (he considers the
Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit as three manifestations of the
- Origen c. 230 (he considers the Father
superior, but the Son as co-eternal)
- Paul of Samosata, 269
- Arius, 336
- Eusebius of Nicomedia,
341, baptized Constantine
- Constantius II, Byzantine Emperor, 361
- Antipope Felix II, 365
- Aëtius, 367
- Ulfilas, Apostle to the Goths, 383
- Priscillian, 385, considered first
Christian to be executed for heresy
- Muhammad, 632, see also Isa
- Ludwig Haetzer, 1529
- Michael Servetus, 1553,
burned at the stake in Geneva
under John Calvin
- Sebastian Castellio,
- Ferenc Dávid, 1579
- Fausto Paolo Sozzini,
- John Biddle, 1662
- Thomas Aikenhead, 1697, last
person to be hanged for blasphemy in
- John Locke, 1704
- Isaac Newton, 1727
Whiston, 1752, expelled from University of Cambridge in 1710
- Jonathan Mayhew, 1766
- Emanuel Swedenborg, 1772
- Benjamin Franklin, 1790
- Joseph Priestley, 1804
- Joseph Smith, 1805
- Thomas Paine, 1809
- Thomas Jefferson, 1826
- James Madison, 1836
- William Ellery Channing,
- Robert Hibbert, 1849
- John Thomas
- Ralph Waldo Emerson,
- Robert Roberts
- James Martineau, 1900
- Félix Manalo, 1914
- Charles Taze Russell,
- Neville Chamberlain,
- William Branham, 1965
- Herbert W. Armstrong, 1986
- Eliseo Soriano, 1947
- HISTORY OF ARIANISM, Alexandria and Arius: AD
- see John 8:28 "Then Jesus said unto them, When you have lifted
up the Son of man, then ye shall know that I am he and
that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father has taught
me, I speak these things."
- W. Fulton, .”Trinity”, Encyclopædia of Religion and
Ethics, T. & T. Clark, 1921, Vol. 12, p. 459.
- Evans, W., & Coder, S. M., The great doctrines of the
Bible, Moody Press, Chicago 1998, c1974, p. 26.
- "How Is the Trinity Explained?" Should you believe in the Trinity?,
Watchtower Bible and Track Society, New York. Retrieved in April 1,
- John Macquarrie, "Trinity," Microsoft Encarta Reference
Library 2005. © 1993-2004 Microsoft Corporation. Retrieved in
March 31, 2008.
- "Trinity," Encyclopedia Britannica 2004 Ultimate Reference
Suite DVD. Retrieved in March 31, 2008.
- Jouette M. Bassler, "God in the NT", The Anchor Bible
Dictionary, Doubleday, New York 1992, 2:1055.
- "The Word "Homoousios" from Hellenism to Christianity,"
Church History, Cambridge University Press on behalf of
the American Society of Church History, Vol. 71, No. 2, (Jun.,
2002), pp. 243-272.
- Justo L. González, The Story of Christianity: The Early
Church to the Present Day, Prince Press, 1984, Vol. 1, pp.
159-161• Jaroslav Pelikan, The Christian Tradition: A History
of the Development of Doctrine, The University of Chicago
Press, 1971, Vol. 1, pp. 181-199
- Avery Cardinal Dulles. The Deist Minimum. 2005.
- Pfizenmaier, T.C., "Was Isaac Newton an Arian?" Journal of the
History of Ideas 68(1):57–80, 1997.
- Is God Always Superior to Jesus? - Jehovah's Witnesses
Official Web Site
- The Holy Spirit-God's Active Force - Jehovah's Witnesses
Official Web Site
- Manalo, Eraño G., Fundamental Beliefs of the Iglesia ni
Cristo (Church of Christ) (Iglesia ni Cristo; Manila
- The Church of Jesus Christ - Doctrine
- The Church of Jesus Christ - Doctrine
- A. Hilary Armstrong, Henry J. Blumenthal, Platonism.
Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved May 13, 2008, from
Encyclopædia Britannica 2006 Ultimate Reference Suite DVD.
- See John Laird, Cosmology and Theism, Ayer Publishing,
1940, 1969, p. 119• Deepa Majumdar, Plotinus on the Appearance
of Time and the World of Sense: A Pantomime, Ashgate
Publising, 2007, p. 77, 78• Ν. Λούβαρις, Ιστορία της
φιλοσοφίας, Ελευθερουδάκης, τόμ. 1, p. 156• Paul M. Blowers,
“Creation,” Encyclopedia of Early Christianity, Taylor and
Francis, 1999, p. 299· James Orr, The Progress of Dogma,
James Clark and Co., 1901, 2002, p. 86.
- 'At times he forms one of a trinity in unity, with Ra and
Osiris, as in Fig. 87, a god with the two sceptres of Osiris, the
hawk's head of Horus, and the sun of Ra. This is the god described
to Eusebius, who tells us that when the oracle was consulted about
the divine nature, by those who wished to understand this
complicated mythology, it had answered, "I am Apollo and Lord and
Bacchus," or, to use the Egyptian names, "I am Ra and Horus and
Osiris." Another god, in the form of a porcelain idol to be worn as
a charm, shows us Horus as one of a trinity in unity, in name, at
least, agreeing with that afterwards adopted by the
Christians--namely, the Great God, the Son God, and the Spirit
God.'—Samuel Sharpe, Egyptian Mythology and Egyptian
Christianity, 1863, pp. 89-90.
- Encyclopedia Britannica 1942 edition p.634
- Higher Ground Online - Various Articles, Audio
- Binitarian View: One God, Two Beings Before the
Beginning - Church of God (Armstrong) perspective
- Christology - Christadelphian perspective
- Unitarian Christianity: A Very Short Introduction
- Columbia Encyclopedia
- The Trinity: True or False? by James H.
Broughton & Peter J Southgate
- The Origin of the Trinity: From Paganism to
- Should you believe in the Trinity? - Jehovah's
- Smyrna Gospel
Ministries - Books and materials on the history of the trinity
and some biblical arguments.
- An investigation of the trinity of Plato and of Philo
Judaeus, and of the effects which an attachment to their writings
had upon the principles and reasonings of the father of the
Christian church, by Caesar Morgan, Cambridge University
- Apostolic Theology.com Oneness Pentecostal Site
- Antitrinitarian biography; or, Sketches of the lives and
writings of distinguished antitrinitarians, exhibiting a view of
the state of the Unitarian doctrine and worship in the principal
nations of Europe, from the reformation to the close of the
seventeenth century, to which is prefixed a history of Unitarianism
in England during the same period, Robert Wallace, 1850.