Is God A Trinity?
One of the most controversial topics in Christianity today is over the nature of God. Is God a single being, two beings, or three? This is a big subject that we cannot fully address in this short article. But what we will do is provide information that casts doubt on the idea that God is a Trinity.
Before we can look at some scripture we need to understand what Trinity means. The best source for this is the Athanasian Creed. This is the creed that was written to help Christians explain what they mean by Trinity. In this creed it states that the Father, the Son, and the Spirit are co-equal and personal beings. We will address these two points as we look at this issue. One of the most important points we can make to guard against the idea that God is a Trinity is that the word “Trinity” does not even appear in the Bible. One of the scriptures that leads people to believe that God is a Trinity is Matthew 28:19. This scripture tells us to baptize believers in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Now notice carefully what it does not say. It does not tell us that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all personal beings. It also does not say anything about them being co-equal. The reason the Holy Spirit is mentioned here with the Father and Son is because the Holy Spirit is imbued into believers at the time of baptism. God (Father and Son) gives the new believer part of their Spirit so the believer will begin to draw closer to God.
One of the most important scriptures used to defend the doctrine of the Trinity is 1 John 5:7-8. In the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible the scripture reads like this: “For there are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness on earth: the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and these three agree as one.”
In other versions of the Bible that same section of scripture reads like this:
“For there are three that testify: the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement.”
As you can see by comparing the two versions, the KJV is making a claim for the Trinity concept that the Father, Word, and Holy Spirit are one like the Trinity doctrine states. But there is a major problem in believing the KJV of this scripture. Most scholars believe that prior to the 16th century A.D. there is no Greek manuscript (MSS) of 1 John 5:7-8 that has the KJV of the scripture. Of the two Greek manuscripts that do show the verse prior to the 16th century (10th century MSS #221 and 14th century codex MSS #88), the verse in question appears to have been written in by a later corrector’s hand, not in the original scribe’s handwritten cursive style. That is why scholars discount the validity of these two earlier Greek manuscripts. Most scholars agree that the original version of this scripture did not have the Trinitarian verse.
Another thing to be aware of in this discussion is that the Bible makes it clear that the Father, Son, and Spirit are not co-equal. Notice what it says in John 10:29. It states that the Father is greater than all. This scripture is one among others that does not agree with the Trinity conception that the Father, Son, and Spirit are co-equal as the Athanasian Creed states. Jesus also mentions that only the Father knows the day and hour of the end. If the Father, Son, and Spirit were co-equal all three would know the day and hour of the end.
Some will argue that the Holy Spirit is a person because there are some scriptures that seem to imply that. For example, John 14:16-17 uses the personal pronoun “him” to describe the Holy Spirit. This does not prove anything. We must remember that in the Greek language neuter pronouns are often either masculine or feminine. For example, the word “rock” in Greek has masculine and feminine pronouns that are used with it, but we know that a “rock” is not a person.
If the Holy Spirit is not a third person making up God then what is it? Well in 1 Corinthians 2:9-12 we read that God’s Holy Spirit is like the spirit in a man. This scripture tells us the spirit in man knows the thoughts of a man. It seems to be talking about the mind of the man. Do you consider your spirit to be a separate person from you? Of course not, so I believe we should understand God’s Spirit in the same way in that the Holy Spirit is just God’s Spirit. It is God’s mind or consciousness and it becomes a part of us when we repent and are baptized.
Another way of understanding God’s Spirit is that it is God’s power. Take a look at Luke 1:35. Notice in this scripture how the Holy Spirit is likened to the power of God.
One final point I would like to make that helps make the case that the Holy Spirit is not a person like the Father and Son can be found in the salutations made in most of the New Testament epistles. For example, in Romans 1:7, Paul greets those he is writing to in the name of “God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” In the first chapter of most of the remaining New Testament books a similar salutation is made. If the Holy Spirit were a third person in a Trinity, wouldn’t the writer also mention the Holy Spirit in these instances? The lack of mention of God’s Spirit is more evidence in the case against a belief that the Holy Spirit is a separate person in a Trinity.
In any discussion of the nature of God remember to focus on what you may have in agreement with others. We in the Church of God, International do believe that the Holy Spirit is part of God (Father and Son). We just don’t believe it is a separate person equal to the Father and Son; it is the Father and Son’s Spirit.