God is everywhere and nowhere, everything and nothing. God is three people, and yet one person, and yet not a person at all. Even though God cannot be understood, we understand Him. Even though God cannot be defined, we will define Him, and if you have a definition that is different from ours, you obviously believe in a different God and are therefore a heretic and a villain. God cannot be known, and only by knowing God can we be saved.
Is this the language of a rational person?
A university professor once told me a story about his conversion to the Latter-day Saint faith. When he informed his mother that he wanted to convert, she could not understand why he would want to forsake their Catholic faith. He explained to her that there were many Catholic doctrines that he did not believe. She asked him to give her an example. “Well,” he said, “Catholics essentially believe that the Father and the Son are the same Being, so when Jesus prayed to God, Catholics believe He was praying to Himself.” She laughed. “We don’t believe that! That’s ridiculous!” He told her that this actually was Catholic doctrine, but she did not believe him. She decided to ask her priest. The answer that her priest gave surprised her. She soon became a Latter-day Saint as well.
Yes, I have a problem with Trinitarianism. Even though the concept of the Trinitarian God has permeated contemporary Christian belief, the claim that this has always been the fiat and unchallenged definition of God since the time of Christ is contrary to both history and scripture. The identity of God was hotly debated in the centuries following the Apostles, and the Nicene Creed and Athanasian Creed came into existence not in celebration of sweeping consensus among Christians, but as an attempt to deal with continuing dissent. Thus, there is nothing intrinsically modern or innovative about Christians believing in a non-Trinitarian God.
Just as the Pharisees of Christ’s time cited their worldly learning as grounds upon which they could claim to speak authoritatively about God, the Christian scholars who framed these creeds did so without one scrap of the divine authority that is required to dictate the correct interpretation of scripture. Instead of appealing to the source of truth by means of revelation, they turned to worldly philosophy to make sense of things. Thus, they sought to find some way of reconciling the Biblical account of God as a living, feeling, thinking, personal being with the pantheistic deism of the Greek philosophers, as Greek culture dominated the scholarly world at that time. Also, seeing the conflicts that had arisen in the Christian world as a result of varying definitions of God, these scholars sought to establish peace. The peace they managed to establish, however, was as cheap and as costly as peace always is when you purchase it with that which is most dear. These scholars did not receive any new revelation to help them establish a firm definition of God. Rather, they cited revelations already received in bygone eras. These were the same revelations that were being cited by their rivals: they just interpreted them differently. In the end, to deal with conflicts arising from differing definitions, these scholars threw out all definitions. That is, they concocted a mystical new definition that was too vague and noncommittal to even be called a definition: “You say that God is A, and you say that God is B. Very well: we say that God is each separately, both together, and neither at all.”
No, the Trinitarian definition of God is not even a definition. This is the kind of answer someone gives when they do not really have an answer but want to appear smart: that is, it is intentionally complicated to the point that, when you do not understand it, the person giving the answer can just say that you are not smart enough, even though the fault actually lies in the inadequacy of the answer. And then, anyone who attempts to restate Trinitarian doctrine in a way that makes sense – by simplifying it with some sort of analogy or comparison – is deemed a heretic. (This rather humorous video illustrates that point beautifully.) This is because the Trinitarian definition of God stipulates that God is beyond understanding, so any analogy that helps us to understand God must therefore be incorrect. Thus, Trinitarianism is fundamentally illogical because it posits itself as something that can only be understood by faith, and not by logic – as if logic and faith were irreconcilable. (It is a classic “emperor’s new clothes” ploy: if you don’t see what everyone else is talking about, you apparently don’t have enough knowledge, faith, refinement, etc.) As a result, those who refuse to bow to the Trinitarian “definition” of God are ostracized and termed “fake Christians.” I am one of these.
Do not think of me as an iconoclast or an ideological aggressor, though. My intent is not to destroy Christian faith, convince Christians to believe in a different God, or direct their faith toward some new and unfamiliar being. Instead, what I aim to do is simply show Christians that, despite what they may say, if they are like the vast majority of Protestants and Catholics I have met in my life, they do not really believe in Trinitarianism at all. I want to show sectarians that we already believe in the same God – not by convincing them that I believe in the Trinitarian deity of the Nicene Creed and Athanasian Creed, but by showing them that they actually do not believe in said deity. Catholics and Protestants may say that they worship the Trinitarian God, but I do not believe that the Being to whom most of them direct their prayers fits that description at all. Here are some of my reasons:
I. Jesus Christ’s Baptism
When Christ went to John the Baptist to be baptized, all three members of the Godhead became manifest – separately. (Matt. 3:16-17) Is God the Father pleased in Himself? No; He is pleased in the Son. The Trinitarian interpretation here does not just require us to see three different representations of the same Being; it requires us to believe in a Being that exhibits a serious multiple personality disorder – and a bit of narcissism.
II. The Garden of Gethsemane
In what is perhaps the most important, pivotal moment in all of scripture, Jesus Christ entered the Garden of Gethsemane to pray to the Father and take the sins of the world upon Himself. In His prayer and the events surrounding it, we see the relationship between the Father and the Son manifested as a relationship of two beings with perfect unity of purpose, such that they could figuratively – but not literally – be described as one. This is evident in the following ways:
- Jesus compares His relationship with the Father to our relationship with Him. This is most evident in John 17:20-21. Are Christians meant to literally become a single entity, a single person? Most Trinitarians would resist this idea. And yet, Christ’s greatest desire is “That [Christians] all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us.” Either both relationships are literal, or both are figurative. Christ’s fervor and specificity do not allow for one to be literal and the other figurative. If Trinitarianism were true, Christ would have been asking for something that was not just highly improbable due to human frailties, but utterly and completely impossible.
- Jesus begs the Father. He is not just about to be beaten and crucified: He is about to take the sins and maladies of all existence upon Himself, which is something that makes the suffering of crucifixion a triviality. He knows what is coming. He understands the infinite pain it will entail. For this reason, He begs the Father to consider another possibility for bringing to pass the salvation of humanity. As we read in Matt. 26:39 (Luke 22:42): “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.” He was not afraid of dying, as He knew that He would arise again. He simply feared the suffering that was involved. Some will interpret this as God essentially talking to Himself, but I interpret it as a faithful Son speaking to a loving Father.
- Jesus is comforted by an angel. (Luke 22:43) This simple fact shows us that Jesus, despite His perfection and His close unity with God the Father, was also a man experiencing the frailties of mortal existence. The unknowable, unapproachable, unfathomable God without parts or passions that Trinitarianism gives us does not require the support of a lesser being like an angel. (Also, it is puzzling that we should talk about “the Passion of Christ” with such great fervor if Christ is God and God is “without body, parts, or passions”.)
- Jesus Christ’s explanation of salvation makes either salvation or Trinitarianism impossible. In John 17:3, Christ says: “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” We are saved by coming to know God (the Father) and Jesus Christ. And yet, according to the mystical definition of God given by Trinitarian dogma, God is unknowable. Hence, if Trinitarianism is true, and if Jesus Christ spoke the truth, we are all damned.
III. Jesus Christ’s Obeisance to the Father
Time and time again, Christ reiterates that He is secondary to the Father. All such statements directly contradict the Athanasian Creed’s assertion that all three members of the Godhead are “coequal”. Some examples:
- “Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God.” -Mark 10:18 (Luke 18:19; Matt. 19:17)
- “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.” -Rev. 3:21 (Again, this shows the relational comparison: Us : Jesus :: Jesus : God the Father.)
- “Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.” -John 5:19
- “I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.” -John 5:30
- “I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.” -John 20:17
The Father and the Son are not coequal. Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit share the title and office of God with the Father only because the Father has decided to make it so. Jesus Christ had the power to command the elements, work miracles, defeat death, and save mankind because that power was given to Him by the Father.
A Better Explanation of Scripture
To some extent, some time after the deaths of the Apostles, the doctrines of the Christian world were hijacked by scholars and philosophers who were adequately described by Paul: “Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (2 Tim. 3:7) Because they could not come to a knowledge of God’s nature, they decreed that God’s nature could not be known. They rationalized this assertion by misinterpreting various scriptures, such as John 10:30, in which Jesus says: “I and my father are one.” They took this verse literally. However, taking this verse literally requires us to take many other verses – such as the ones previously mentioned – figuratively. Either John 10:30 is literal and John 17 is figurative, or John 17 is literal and John 10:30 is figurative. Interpret these verses as you will, but I feel that it is much more rational to believe that the unity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is figurative than to believe that God speaks to Himself like a madman, is pleased with Himself like a narcissist, fathered Himself, and bows before Himself.
Instead of the mystical and unapproachable Trinitarian Jesus, I give you the Jesus of scripture, who:
- Lived a mortal life – just as you and I do – in which He learned and grew. (Luke 2:52)
- Is literally the Son of God in the physical sense – while we are not. (Hence, Christ is the “Only Begotten”.)
- Is literally a child of God in the spiritual sense, just as we are. (We were all created together spiritually by the Father before the world was.)
- Is figuratively the Father of the human race because He, invested with God the Father’s power, created the physical existence we know. (Ephesians 3:9)
- Is figuratively the Father of the faithful because He, invested with God the Father’s power, brings us back into the family of God after we have become subject to the Fall.
- Is a knowable, sensible, feeling being to whom we can turn for succor because He – rather than being a disembodied blob deity who is here and there and everywhere and nowhere – descended below all things and took upon Himself all of our sins, suffering, and imperfections in a very real and sympathetic manner. (Alma 7:11-13)
Is Jesus God? Yes. But only because God the Father has decided to share His power and authority with Jesus, and not because they share some inexplicable metaphysical mixture of identities that is impossible to understand. When John the Beloved wrote that Jesus Christ was with God and one with God “In the beginning” (John 1:1), he was referring to the beginning of this physical existence, and not to the beginning of the spiritual existence that preceded it.
It is a complex explanation, but it is a consistent and rational one. It takes some thought, but most people can grasp it after thinking about it for a little while. This makes it quite different from the Trinitarian interpretation of scripture, which only becomes less and less rational the more one contemplates it, resisting explanation not because it is too perfect, but because it is flagrantly imperfect. A fundamentally contradictory concept cannot be explained, no matter how intelligent or spiritual you are.
So do I believe that Christian scholars and anchorites have taught a false doctrine of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit for more than a millennium?
Yes. Yes I do. And, chances are, so do you.
Even if you belong to a Trinitarian sect, I doubt you really believe in Trinitarianism. Rather, I think you probably believe in a God who sent His Son – and not a mere appendage or shadow – to make the ultimate sacrifice for all mankind. When you drop to your knees to seek guidance and reprieve during your dark night of the soul, despite whatever Dark Age dogmas your denomination may officially espouse, I think that the God to whom you direct your words is the God I describe. One cannot worship or love an incomprehensible being any more than one can hold an immaterial object.
The primary function of religion is to help us understand the most important truths of human existence. Thus, when a sect cannot give a straight answer on a matter as basic and important as the nature of Deity, is it fulfilling its purpose or simply pretending to do so?