History of the Trinity, Part 15

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

Part 15

The Confusion — By Don Barnett

In short, Trinitarianism and Monarchianism have both conflicted and overlapped in their doctrines. The picture is confusing because the term “Trinity” did not mean to Tertullian what it meant to Athanasius, and to him it did not mean what it did to Augustine. Calvin’s concept was not the same as Luther’s neither was it identical to Augustine’s. Even today there are several concepts under the heading of “Trinity” — many even holding Oneness views and denying three persons in the Godhead. Athanasius, whose name is identified with the Nicean Creed of the Trinity, not only admits confusion of the subject, but makes Modalistic statements contrary to Trinitarianism, such as:

“The divinity of the father is identical with that of the son”: and even that the son’s divinity is the father’s divinity. “The son”, he argues, “is of course other than the father as offspring, but as god he is one and the same. The godhead is a unique, indivisible monad.” [20]

Some are arguing that Christians should keep the term “Trinity” but return to the biblical, Monarchian view of God. Some feel that they are caught in the wedge of tradition on the one side, and the Scriptures on the other side -and they are. The majority of non-scholars today are quite ignorant about the entire subject. Most ministers graduate from Bible Schools, parroting Trinitarianism, but know little about its history and problems — few have examined the other side; they attack it on the grounds that they have been warned against it. The terms “Oneness,” “Monarchianism,” and “Sabellianism” have not only erroneously been termed the “Jesus Only” doctrine, but have become known as the devil’s lie and heresy — whereas Trinitarianism is the deviate. It is even common to hear or read that Monarchianism denied the Holy Trinity — as though the doctrine of the Trinity was the established doctrine when Monarchianism was invented. The truth, as shown by history, is that the Trinity doctrine, when formulated, denied Monarchianism, which came first.

No wonder people are confused, neither knowing what they affirm nor what they are against — blindly following Catholic tradition, and labelling the teachings of the Apostles: “heresy” and “a cult”!