If the Bible Supported Trinitarianism . . .

If Trinitarian theology exists in the Christian scriptures (i.e., New Testament), what would we expect to find there to support such a notion? In other words, if the one God exists in three co-eternal, co-equal Persons -- because many passages seem to indicate as much -- then what kind of language would the authors employ? We agree that the word "Trinity" or "Triunity" is absent from the scriptures; but, then again, so are the words "Bible," "attribute," "omnipotent," "omnipresent," "omniscient," etc. Hence we need not see the word printed in the pages of the Bible in order to support the teaching.

This is not to admit, however, that we merely find what we expect to find, as though we have prophesied our way into a theology regarding the Trinity by seeing in the Text what is actually not present. On the contrary, if the teaching of the Trinity is present in Scripture, then what characteristics and ideology must be present in the pages of the Bible are very particular, very exact, such that if those particularities are absent from the Text, then any notion of Trinitarianism would be found false. We form our theology not by what we want to believe is in Scripture but by what we actually find in Scripture.

Dr. Robert Morey aptly states that theology is the language of the Church; it is progressively formed in time; and at times did only develop more fully due to the rise of controversy or heresy. Thus the doctrine of the Trinity was "not under attack while the New Testament was being written,"1 so one need not look for an explicit defense of the teaching -- there was no defense, only a well-accepted dogma shared by all orthodox believers. Allan Coppedge notes, "The Church fathers did not see their work as the invention of new doctrine but as a synthesis of apostolic teaching from the New Testament, which had been proclaimed within the Church from the beginning."2 What we expect to find in Scripture is but the
bud of the flower which bloomed at Nicea. We expect to find the authors indicating that the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Spirit is God. We expect to find the multi-personal nature of God in which the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are viewed as constituting one God. And this is exactly what we found in the New Testament.

We also expect to find them describing the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in ways which reveal that they assumed that the Three were One in nature. And lastly, we expect to find the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit described as working together as One to accomplish different goals.3
He continues that thought: "The Unitarians cannot expect to find any of the above in the New Testament." Of course, since they have already decided that the Trinity does not exist, then Unitarians are obligated to concoct an explanation when any passage appears at face value to teach Trinitarianism. He continues: "If the authors of the New Testament believed that only the Father was God, as the Unitarians claim, then we should not expect to find the Son or the Spirit called 'God.' The Three should not be described as 'one' in nature or in work."4 Is the Son or the Spirit ever referred to as God?


One of the most explicit statements regarding the divinity or deity of the Holy Spirit being called God is found twice at Acts 5. When Ananias and Sapphira lied to the church about how much money they had made on the land, having pledged to give a portion of that price as a love gift, Peter asked, "Why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back part of the proceeds of the land?" (Acts 5:3 NRSV, emphasis added) He then qualified that statement: "You did not lie to us but to God!" (Acts 5:4, emphases added) 

Here, Peter not only equates lying to the Holy Spirit as lying to God, but also names the Holy Spirit as being God. Lying to the Holy Spirit is an offense because lying is an attempt to deceive -- as though the Spirit of God did not know what price they had received for the land, and thus did not know that they were being deceptive. As God, the Holy Spirit knows all that can be known, and cannot be deceived. 

Three hours after Peter confronted Ananias, he then approached his wife, Sapphira, who was still unaware of what had happened to her husband. She, too, lied about the price, and Peter asked, "How is it that you have agreed together to put the Spirit of the Lord to the test?" (Acts 5:9) At this, she immediately died. "Testing" or "tempting" God is explicitly forbidden in Scripture (cf. Deut. 6:16; Matt. 4:7; Luke 4:12). But for Peter to insist that Ananias and Sapphira were "testing" the Holy Spirit, acknowledging the act as being completely sinful, is also to insist that the Holy Spirit is God.

But the Holy Spirit is both a Person and God, since both are revealed as such in Scripture: maintaining Personhood (cf. John 14:15, 16, 26; 15:26, 27; 16:7-14; Acts 6:9; 7:51; 13:2; Rom. 8:26, 27; 15:30; 1 Cor. 2:10, 11, 12, 13; 12:11; Eph. 4:30; Col. 1:8; 1 Thess. 5:19; 1 Tim. 4:1; Heb. 10:29; Rev. 2:7), attributes of God (cf. Gen. 1:1, 2; Job 26:13; 33:14; Ps. 104:30; 139:7, 8, 9, 10; Luke 1:35; John 3:3, 5; 14:26; 16:13; Rom. 1:4; 8:2, 11; 15:30; 1 Cor. 2:10; 3:16; 12:4-6; Eph. 4:30; 2 Tim. 3:16; Heb. 9:14; 2 Pet. 1:21), and mentioned in unity with the Father and the Son (cf. Isa. 48:12, 16; Matt. 3:16, 17; 28:19; Luke 3:21, 22; John 1:33; Acts 2:33; 2 Cor. 13:14; Eph. 2:18; 1 John 5:7, 8).5

We would expect to find no less evidence from Scripture with regard to Jesus, the Son of God, very God Himself; and what we find are attributes to His Personhood, attributes of God, and mentioned in unity with the Father and the Holy Spirit. 


The Son of God, incarnated Jesus Christ, has always existed with the Father and the Spirit as the Son of God. By Son, we do not mean that He was created, given birth to at any time by two cosmic or semi-cosmic parents, nor that He was eternally subordinated -- the latter being a truth which must be treated carefully lest we admit the heresies of either Tritheism or Unitarianism. Rather, we should, as Dr. Kevin N. Giles correctly notes, emphasize "divine unity, simplicity, and equality."6

When we emphasize differentiation among the Persons of the Godhead, we fall prey to Tritheism; and when we confound the nature of each Person, we fall prey to the heresies of Modalism or Unitarianism. What we expect to find in Scripture, with regard to Jesus as the Second Person of the Godhead, or Trinity, is that His will or purpose is that of both the Father and the Spirit. What do we find?

What we find is a confession of Jesus to being of one mind in the purpose of the Father: "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want." (Matt. 26:39) But did Jesus want or will or purpose that which was contrary to the Father? No, for His own confession states, "yet not what I want but what you want." His purpose was the purpose of the Father, as He confesses on two other occasions: "My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work" (John 4:34); "for I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me." (John 6:38) 

What we have here is a confession, not that Jesus actually had His own will, but to the exact contrary: He came to carry out the will of God. This corresponds with the author of Hebrews regarding Jesus' perfect sacrifice: "Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, 'Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body you have prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. Then I said, "See, God, I have come to do your will, O God" (in the scroll of the book it is written of me).'" (Heb. 10:5, 6, 7) Note, first, that in order for God the Father to have "prepared a body" for Jesus, He had to have existed prior to such preparation. Note, second, that Jesus' purpose in the incarnation was to carry out the purposes or will of God.

In other words, the will of the Father was also the will of the Son (John 6:38); just as the will of the Son was also the will of the Spirit (John 16:14, 15); just as the will of the Spirit was also the will of the Father (Rom. 8:27). All three divine Persons in the Godhead maintain, always, the same will, purpose, intent. This is how three divine Persons can be referred to as one God, not three gods, and not one Person as God -- both of which are refuted by numerous passages throughout the Hebrew and Christian scriptures (cf. Isa. 43:11; 45:5; Matt. 28:19; 2 Cor. 13:14). 

We find divine names applied to Jesus, just as to the Father and the Spirit (cf. Ex. 3:14, 15 with John 8:56, 58; Ps. 110:1; Isa. 9:6; Jer. 23:5, 6; Joel 2:32; Matt. 1:21; 22:43, 44, 45; Luke 2:11; Acts 2:21, 34, 35, 36, 37; 9:17; 16:31; Rom. 10:9, 13; 1 Cor. 12:3; Phil. 2:11; Heb. 1:1, 2; 1 Pet. 1:7, 8; 5:15; Rev. 1:7, 8, 11; 22:13, 16, 17, 18; 19:13); divine works were attributed to Him (cf. Matt. 19:28; John 1:1, 2, 3; 5: 28, 29, 36; 10:28, 37; 11:25; 14:11; 17:2; Acts 5:31; Phil. 3:21; Col. 1:16, 17; 3:13; Heb. 1:3, 10; Rev. 21:5); divine worship is given to Him as being God and, thus, worthy of such divine adoration (cf. Isa. 6:1-5; Matt. 8:2; 15:25, 26, 27, 28; 28:17; Luke 24:51, 52; John 5:23; 9:38; Acts 1:24; 7:59, 60; 1 Cor. 1:2; Phil. 2:9, 10, 11; 1 Thess. 3:11; Heb. 1:6; Rev. 5:12, 13, 14), to which divinity and deity Jesus Himself admits (cf. Matt. 10:37, 38; 12:48; Luke 14:26; John 5:23, 25; 8:56, 57, 58; 10:30, 38; 11:4; 14:10; 18:1-5), which otherwise -- meaning, if He were not deity, not God the Son -- would have been overt blasphemy, and deserving of stoning, rejection, and crucifixion.

With regard to the persons in the Godhead, Trinity, we cannot admit -- as did Arius, and as do others who deny the orthodoxy of the Trinity -- that the "essences of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit are separate in nature and estranged and disconnected, and alien, and without participation of each other."7 Oddly enough, Arius, and all others who advocate his non-Trinitarian cause, must, by necessary consistency, conclude not necessarily with the heresies of Monism, Modalism or Unitarianism, but apparent Polytheism or Tritheism, confesses professor Jaroslav Pelikan,8 since both Jesus and the Holy Spirit maintain the exact same attributes as those of God the Father. 

Hence, if Trinitarianism is in error, then either Tritheism or manifest Polytheism is the correct view of "God." This, then, would spell doom not merely for Trinitarianism, but also for Monism, Modalism, and Unitarianism -- the latter of which would actually maintain less problems, given the Unitarian-Universalist approach to choosing whatever version of "God" one desires, as is explicitly noted by Unitarian-Universalist teachers.9


1 Robert Morey, The Trinity: Evidence and Issues (Iowa Falls: World Bible Publishers, Inc., 1996), 437.

2 Allan Coppedge, The God Who Is Triune: Revisioning the Christian Doctrine of God (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2010), 86.

3 Morey, 437. 

4 Ibid., 438.

5 All references are found in Kevin J. Conner, The Foundations of Christian Doctrine: A Practical Guide to Christian Belief (Portland: City Christian Publishing, 1980), 74-76.

6 Kevin N. Giles, Jesus and the Father: Modern Evangelicals Reinvent the Doctrine of the Trinity (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006), 211.

7 Ibid., 215-16.

8 Ibid., 216.

9 Peter Morales and Melissa Harris-Perry, The Unitarian Universalist Pocket Guide, fifth edition (Boston: Skinner House Books, 2012), Kindle edition.


Post a Comment


My photo

My name is William Birch and I grew up in the Southern Baptist tradition but converted, if you will, to Anglicanism in 2012. I am gay, affirming, and take very seriously matters of social justice, religion and politics in the church and the state.