History of the Trinity, Part 12

History Of The Doctrine Concerning The Nature Of God In The Early Centuries Of Christianity

Part 12

Trinitarianism, An Outgrowth Of Idolatry

In 451, the celebrated council of chalcedony disciplining euthychas, formulated the orthodox doctrine of the trinity which has ever since been regarded as the limit of human wisdom of this subject. [2]

The doctrine of the trinity did not form part of the apostles preaching. in its final form it is a product of many factors. some of these are biblical — on the other hand, there are considerations at least partly philosophical. the reformers retained the view that the doctrine of the trinity describes the essence of the godhead, but later protestant theologians have argued this point. [13]

The theory received its classic form from St. Thomas Aquinas [14] (a roman catholic philosopher; 13th century a.d.). after it received further elucidation at the hands of John Calvin (a noted 16th century theologian), it passed into the body of the reformed faith. [17] triads of divinities occur in nearly all polytheistic religions – the Egyptian triad of siris, isis, and horus: the hindu triad of brahma, vishnu, or shiva, etc. it was no more than was to be anticipated that one or more of these triads should now and again be pointed to as the original of the Christian doctrine of the trinity. (the so-called “Christian” doctrine of the trinity bears a close resemblance to the older hindu verse): “in those  ‘three persons’ the was shown — each first in place, each last – not alone: of siva, vishnu, brahma, each may be among the blessed three.” [10]

(Christians unanimously agree that hinduism is polytheism and yet they regard the trinity doctrine in christianity as being monotheistic, in spite of the fact that both doctrines acclaim three persons in one god.)

A trinity of deities is common to all nations. the emperor of china offers once each year a sacrifice to the spirit of trinity and unity. lao-tse (600 b.c.) says: “tao is by nature one; the first begat the second; both together brought forth the third; these three made all things.” we are more familiar with the indian trimurti: brahma, vishnu, and siva, who are represented and worshipped as three persons, although the original divine principle brahm is but one. in a commentary on the rig veda it is said: “there are three deities, but there is only one godhead, the great soul.” the so-called chaldean oracle says: “the unity brought forth the duality which dwells with it and shines in intellectual light: from these proceeded the trinity which shines in all the world.” the names of the chaldean trinity are: anos, illinos, aos; the phoenicians: ulomus, ulosurus, eliun; the egyptians: kreph (or ammun), pithah, osiris; the irish: krissan, biosena, jiva; the scandinavians: thor, woden, fricco. the ancient prussians, pomeranians, wends, the old americans, and the babylonians, all had their trinities. the divinities of Greece were grouped by mythologers both in a successive: uronas, chrondos, zeus; and a simultaneous trinity: zeus, poseidon, aldoneus. [18]

== conclusions ==

(Butler concludes): do not all these coincidences serve as indirect proof to compel us to acknowledge that schelling was right when he said “the philosophy of mythology proves that a trinity of divine potentialities is the root from which have grown the religious ideas of all nations of any importance… this idea does not exist because there is such a thing as Christianity; on the contrary, Christianity exists because this idea is the most original of all.” [18]

(It must be admitted that the heathens knew of a trinity, long before Christ, and therefore, Christians. if god is a trinity, it is incongruous that the heathens knew of it long before the Christian era, when the prophets of Israel did not!)

(Phillip Schaff defends the heathen concept in these words): “the deeper minds of the heathen ambiguity showed a presentiment of a three fold distinction in the divine essence, which like all the deeper instincts of the heathen mind, serve to strengthen the Christian truth.” [18] (as though the instincts of darkness can help illuminate the light of god’s revelation!)

(i.s.b.e. justifies the trinity with its definitions that are closer to heathen idolatry than the bible, thusly: “the definition of a biblical doctrine in such unbiblical language can be justified only on the principle that it is better to preserve the truth of the scripture than the words of scripture.” [4] (as though the truth of the bible can not be taught by using biblical terms!) many modern scholars, however, are admitting that the doctrine of the trinity is indefensible. There is even a change of attitude toward a more biblical definition of the trinity:

It might be well if the term “trinity” were employed to designate the threefold self-manifestation of god. the first Christians had with St. Paul a saving experience of the grace of the lord Jesus Christ and of the love of god and of the communion of the holy ghost, and the theologians were led, inevitably, to effect an alliance between the gospel of their salvation and the speculative philosophy, and more especially the Platonism, in which they had been trained, while, in making room for the Christian gospel within the world — not altogether hospitable — of the
Greek philosophy, they found themselves translating their empirical knowledge of god — the god of the father of the lord Jesus Christ – into a doctrine of diversity and multiplicity, as distinguished from merely abstract unit, within the divine nature itself. in other words, in thinking out the trinity they arrived at the trinity. the greatest and most influential of the Christian fathers, origen, Athanasius, basil, the gregories, Augustine, all acknowledged that the divine nature remained for them a mystery.

In the system of Christian theology, the doctrine of the trinity does not usually fit well into the general doctrine of god, and often bears the character of a doctrine apart.

In short, god himself is the father revealed; god himself is the Christ revealing; god himself is the holy spirit abiding. it should be remembered that there was no word “person” in the vocabulary of the Greek- speaking theologians who shaped the doctrine of the trinity to the authoritative form it assumed in the Nicean-Constantinopolitan creed. through origin’s influence it came to be employed in the theological terminology as the designation of a member of the trinity.