Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The Trinity Doctrine Denied by Unitarians by John Wright 1872

The Trinity Doctrine Denied by Unitarians by the Rev. John Wright, B.A., Bury 1872

THE belief in the Trinity is held by a great majority of the Christian world. The following are orthodox statements of the doctrine:—

"We worship one God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity, neither confounding the Persons nor dividing the substance. For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is all one: the glory equal, the majesty co-eternal."-—Athanasian Creed.

"In unity of this Godhead, there be three Persons of one substance, power, and eternity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost."—-First Article of the Church of England.

"In the Unity of the Godhead there be three Persons, of one substance, power, and eternity, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost."—-Westminster Confession of Faith.

This is a doctrine which it is utterly impossible to reconcile with reason. All Christians profess to believe in the Unity of God, a doctrine so plainly taught all through the Bible, that no one who takes the Bible as an authority can doubt it. The Trinitarian declares he believes God is One as much as the Unitarian. But then we ask how can God at the same time be three? The "persons" of the Trinity are spoken of separately, prayer is addressed to one apart from another, one is a Father, and another a Son, and another is said to proceed from the Father and the Son, how then can all three be one? If the doctrine of the Divine unity, as taught by the Hebrew prophets, and confirmed by Jesus Christ, be true, "The Lord our God is one Lord"—-how can there be included in this unity three separate persons? The doctrine is opposed to the simplest rules of arithmetic and the plainest teachings of common sense.

But orthodox teachers reply that religion is above reason, and that we must believe what we cannot understand; that there are mysteries which call for the exercise of faith, and this is one of them. I grant that there are truths which are above the human understanding, that the mind of man cannot for instance grasp the full conception of the Infinity or the Omnipresence of God, but may nevertheless believe in these attributes. But it is impossible for us to believe what is not above our reason but contrary to it, what is not a mystery — that is, a secret — but an absurdity, because a self-contradiction. Try, in the affairs of ordinary life, to persuade any one that three is the same as one, that the greater is equal to the less, and you will find it impossible. Ought these words then to be used in religion as synonomous? It is sometimes replied that the "three" are not separate beings, but modes, distinctions, or manifestations. If this is all, why is prayer offered to each, do we pray to a mode or a distinction, or call on a manifestation to help us, apart from the Being manifested? Such philosophical subtleties, while they aim at clearing away the difficulties felt by the reason, abandon the Trinity altogether. This is not the plain meaning of the passages I have quoted from orthodox creeds, and those who cannot support that meaning should candidly acknowledge that they reject the creed. He who believes that creed (as Lord Bacon says) "believes things his reason cannot comprehend; — believes three to be one and one to be three; a father not to be elder than his son; a son to be equal with his father, and one proceeding from both to be equal with both; he believes in three persons in one nature, and two natures in one person."— Works, Vol. II. p. 410.

The only reply that is made to such representations as these, by Trinitarians, is that the doctrine of the Trinity is taught in the Bible, and that however impossible it may be to understand it or to reconcile it with human reason, it must be received on the authority of Scripture. Let us enquire then if the Bible does teach it. We must have some very plain and certain proof on this point to convince us of the truth of a doctrine that is incomprehensible and self-contradictory. The word Trinity is not found in the Bible. Jesus Christ approves of and confirms the Hebrew teaching "the Lord our God is one Lord," {Mark xii. 29), and never hints that there is any division of persons in the Godhead. Paul preached many discourses to both Jews and Gentiles, and wrote many letters to his converts, yet he never teaches this, now said to be the fundamental doctrine of Christianity. It cannot be expressed in the words of Scripture. Not one single text can be quoted in which its truth is asserted. No unprejudiced reader, who had never heard of the Trinity, would learn anything about it from the Bible.

Let us examine the passages of Scripture on which the believers in the Trinity depend for its support.

Gen. i. 26, "Let us make man in our image." The fact that the pronouns are plural, and that the Hebrew name for God has a plural ending, is said to prove that there are a plurality of persons in the Godhead. But this would equally well serve to prove that there are many Gods, if it proved anything. The fact is however, as many orthodox learned men have acknowledged, that the plural is used simply by way of dignity, just as a monarch in our own times commences a proclamation with we instead of I, and says "given at our palace." The Hebrews themselves, who are the best judges of their own language, universally give this explanation, and none of them ever dream of any doctrine at variance with the Divine Unity being taught in this text.

Matt. xxviii. 19, "baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost." Observe nothing is said here of the three persons mentioned together forming one God. To "baptise in the name" is equivalent to baptising in the belief, and this text signifies that those who were received as Christian conveits were to declare their belief in God, in Christ and in the Holy Spirit; but not that the three are one. We have a similar expression, 1 Cor. x. 2, "baptised unto Moses," but no one concludes thence that Moses was God. So (Romans vi. 3), the disciples of Christ are said to be baptised into his death, that is into a profession of their belief of his death. We do not find in the Acts of the Apostles that the first Christian preachers used the formula given by Matthew, but they simply baptised into the name of Christ. Would they have failed to use the threefold formula if it had been significant of an important doctrine? Compare these words with the declarations of the doctrine contained in modern creeds, and it will be seen how the one fails to confirm the other.

II. Cor. xiii. 14, "the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost be with you all."

Here again three are mentioned, but it is neither said nor hinted that they are one, or that they are God. On the contrary God is spoken of apart from the other two, which could not be the case, if they also were God. It will hardly be asserted that the mention of another in the same sentence with God proves that this other is God. We read Ex. xiv. 31, "the people feared the Lord and believed the Lord and his servant Moses." I. Sam. xii. 18, "the people feared the Lord and Samuel." 1 Chron. xxix. 20, "worshipped the Lord and the king." Unless these texts prove that Moses, Samuel, and David were one with Jehovah, the texts we are considering cannot prove Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit to be one with God.

1 John v. 7, has often been quoted in support of the Trinity, but it is now generally acknowledged that this verse is an interpolation, and ought not to appear in the Bible. It is contained in no Greek manuscript written before the 15th century, in no Latin manuscript before the 9th century, in no ancient version. It was omitted by Zuinglius, Luther and Griesbach, and in the old English Bibles was printed in smaller type or between brackets. Its spuriousness has been admitted by learned Trinitarians of all denominations.

It has been shown (1) that the doctrine of the Trinity is self-contradictory and unreasonable; (2) that it is not taught plainly and explicitly in the Bible; (3) that it is opposed to the declarations of Christ and his apostles; (4) that the texts quoted in support of it do not express it. Why then should we receive it? Has it any important practical influence? Does it tend to make men pious and virtuous? Can it be expressed in Scripture language? Can it be put in any form that will reconcile it with common sense or recommend it to the human understanding? Let Christians ponder these questions, and if they find themselves compelled to answer "no" to them, let no power of fashion or custom or prejudice, no sanction of antiquity or Church authority induce them to profess a belief in a doctrine they can neither understand nor defend.

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