Roman Catholic Trinity

When discussing the doctrine of the Trinity, we are immediately confronted with the fact that it is a doctrine clouded in mystery.

The dogma of the Holy Trinity

253 The Trinity is One. We do not confess three Gods, but one God in three persons, the “consubstantial Trinity”. The divine persons do not share the one divinity among themselves but each of them is God whole and entire: “The Father is that which the Son is, the Son that which the Father is, the Father and the Son that which the Holy Spirit is, i.e. by nature one God.” In the words of the Fourth Lateran Council (1215), “Each of the persons is that supreme reality, viz., the divine substance, essence or nature.”

254 The divine persons are really distinct from one another. “God is one but not solitary.” “Father”, “Son”, “Holy Spirit” are not simply names designating modalities of the divine being, for they are really distinct from one another: “He is not the Father who is the Son, nor is the Son he who is the Father, nor is the Holy Spirit he who is the Father or the Son.” They are distinct from one another in their relations of origin: “It is the Father who generates, the Son who is begotten, and the Holy Spirit who proceeds.” The divine Unity is Triune.

255 The divine persons are relative to one another. Because it does not divide the divine unity, the real distinction of the persons from one another resides solely in the relationships which relate them to one another: “In the relational names of the persons the Father is related to the Son, the Son to the Father, and the Holy Spirit to both. While they are called three persons in view of their relations, we believe in one nature or substance.” Indeed “everything (in them) is one where there is no opposition of relationship.” “Because of that unity the Father is wholly in the Son and wholly in the Holy Spirit; the Son is wholly in the Father and wholly in the Holy Spirit; the Holy Spirit is wholly in the Father and wholly in the Son.”

— Source: https://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/__P17.HTM

Summary of the Orthodox Christian Doctrine of the Trinity

In summary, the doctrine of the Trinity asserts some basic facts: there is one living true God; the one true God is manifested as Father, as Son, and as Holy Spirit; the difference between them is only in regard to their origin as expressed in terms of relations: relationally, the Father is ungenrated, the Son is generated, and the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father, the one God of three Persons is in an absolute unity of being, consciousness, and will. These are the basic facts of the doctrine and the debates over the centuries concerning the issue of how to speak about the three Persons of the one God without contradicting a prior commitment to divine simplicity (that is, the indivisibility of the one God). The formula “one essence, three Persons” summarizes the discussion. But what these Fathers were trying to expound could be clarified by illustrating it in human terms. While the term “man” is common to all men (comparable to ousia), each man has distinctive characteristics (comparable to hypostasis) marking them off from everyone else. Applying these Greek categories to the divine nature, however, becomes tricky. First, consider the ousia of the divine Persons. Whereas the human essence that is common to all men is made up of “stuff”/”material,” the Greek conception of the essence of God as “intellectual” or “mind” makes whatever is common to the Persons abstract, impersonal, and elusive. The divine essence or substance that is common to the three Persons is not material. Hence, the divine essence is reduced to attributes (wisdom, power, goodness, etc.). These are what they possess in common. But these ineffable or inexpressible attributes do not really constitute nature, and the Cappadocians realized it. Gregory of Nyssa explained:

We, following the suggestions of Scripture, have learnt that that nature is unnamable and unspeakable, and we say that every term either invented by the custom of men, or handed down to us by the Scriptures, is indeed explanatory of our conceptions of the Divine Nature, but does not include the signification of that nature itself. . . . But in each of these terms we find a peculiar sense, fit to be understood or asserted of the Divine nature, yet not expressing that which that nature is in its essence. (Gregory of Nyssa, “On ‘Not Three Gods’ to Ablabius,” Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, second series, 11 vols., eds. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace (New York, 1885; reprint, Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1994), 5:332–333.)

Second, consider the Cappadocians’ use of the concept hypostasis, “person” (persona in Latin). Here also, whereas persons as individuals are autonomous in their consciousness and exercise of will, this is not so with God, because although God’s being is characterized by the hypostatic distinctions of Father, Son, and Spirit, all three persons are one in their will and activity. They are not autonomous persons in the modern nuance of “individual,” each with its own separate “ego” and “center” of consciousness. Rather, they have always and will always purpose and operate with one will and action. They are one God, not three.” (Olson and Hall, 36.)

Source: God in 3 Persons in Theology, pp. 12, 13

Roman Catholic Trinity — A short version: Trinity, as espoused by the Roman Catholic Church (we would refer to this version as the orthodox variation), defines the One God of the Bible as a Single Divine Supreme Being (without form) composed of three distinct Persons (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), who are co-eternal (without beginning, always existed alongside each other), co-equal (equal in position without hierarchy), indivisible (cannot be separated), consubstantial (an amalgamation of the same substance within a single “Being”), omniscient (all-knowing), omnipotent (all-powerful), omnipresent (everywhere present together). The Son exists through an “eternal generation,” which means that the Father eternally (continuously) generates the Son. As the begetting of the Son is eternal, so the “procession” of the Holy Spirit is also eternal. See what the Catholics say about Trinity HERE.

What the Roman Catholics say about their own doctrine of Trinity:

“Now this is the Catholic faith: We worship one God in the Trinity and the Trinity in unity, WITHOUT either confusing the persons or DIVIDING THE SUBSTANCE; for the person of the Father is one, the Son’s is another, the Holy Spirit’s another; but the Godhead of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is one, their glory equal, their majesty coeternal. INSEPARABLE IN WHAT THEY ARE, the divine persons are also inseparable in what they do.” — Catechism of the Catholic Church, Part one, The Profession of Faith, No.’s 266, 267

“Hence, we recognise the Trinity in the distinction of persons and we profess the unity on account of the nature or substance. Thus, the three are one by nature, NOT AS PERSON. Nevertheless these three persons are not to be considered separable since, according to our belief, none of them ever existed or acted before another, after another, without another. For they are inseparable both in what they are and in what they do…” (Creed of Toledo AD 675)

The Catholic Church also says,

The mystery of the trinity is the central doctrine of the Catholic faith. Upon it are based all the other teachings of the church.” — Handbook for Today’s Catholic, p. 11

“The doctrine of the Holy Trinity is not taught in the OT. In the NT the oldest evidence is in the Pauline epistles, especially 2 Cor 13:13, 14 and 1 Cor 12:4-6)” (New Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume 14 page 306, ‘Trinity, Holy (in the Bible)

The Encyclopaedia continues;

“In the Gospels, evidence of the trinity is found explicitly only in the baptismal statement.” (Ibid)

“In Scripture there is as yet no single term by which the Three Divine Persons are denoted together….The Vatican Council has explained the meaning to be attributed to the term ‘mystery’ in theology. It lays down that a mystery is a truth which we are not merely incapable of discovering apart from Divine Revelation, but which, even when revealed, remains ‘hidden by the veil of faith and enveloped, so to speak, by a kind of darkness.’” (Const., “De fide. cath.”, iv). (Joyce G.H. The Blessed Trinity. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XV Copyright © 1912 by Robert Appleton Company Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight) 

In other words, no matter how hard you try to search for the teaching of the doctrine of the Trinity in the Scriptures, or even by a divine revelation, it would still be a “mystery in theology,” as it will remain “hidden by the veil of faith and enveloped, so to speak, by a kind of darkness.” So no one can fully know the doctrine, yet Christians are taught to accept it as true because the clergy and the church creed said so.

As Roman Catholic, Graham Greene also wrote,

Our opponents sometimes claim that no belief should be held dogmatically which is not explicitly stated in scripture . . . But the Protestant Churches have themselves accepted such dogmas, as the Trinity, for which there is no such precise authority in the Gospels,” — Assumption of Mary, Life magazine, October 30, 1950, p. 51

Furthermore, for Catholics, Sunday is a day dedicated to the Trinity.

“Question: What is Sunday, or the Lord’s Day in general?

Answer: It is a day dedicated by the Apostles TO THE HONOUR OF THE MOST HOLY TRINITY, and in memory that Christ our Lord arose from the dead upon Sunday, sent down the holy Ghost on a Sunday, &c. and therefore is called the Lord’s Day. It is also called Sunday from the old Roman denomination of Dies Solis, the day of the sun, to which it was sacred.” — The Douay Catechism of 1649, p. 143

Sunday after Sunday we should recall in a spirit of gratitude the gifts which the Blessed Trinity is bestowing upon us. The Father created and predestined us; on the first day of the week He began the work of creation. The Son redeemed us; Sunday is the ‘Day of the Lord,’ the day of His resurrection. The Holy Spirit sanctified us, made us His temple; on Sunday the Holy Spirit descended upon the infant Church. Sunday, therefore, is the day of the Most Holy Trinity.” (Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, uCatholic, May 27, 2018)

“The first Sunday after Pentecost, instituted to honour the Most Holy Trinity. In the early Church no special Office or day was assigned for the Holy Trinity.” (Trinity Sunday, Catholic Encyclopedia)

Hence, the true day of worship-the Seventh day Sabbath was replaced by the Catholics and it is on this very day (Sunday) that the Catholic church declares their dedication “TO THE HONOUR OF THE MOST HOLY TRINITY.” This fact alone should cause every Adventists to give a very serious consideration.

Trinity — A Brief History

Few understand how the Trinity doctrine came to be accepted – several centuries after the Bible was completed! Yet its roots go back much farther in history.

Most people assume that everything that bears the label “Christian” must have originated with Jesus Christ and His early followers. But this is definitely not the case. All we have to do is look at the words of Jesus Christ and His apostles to see that this is clearly not true. Learn more HERE.

Recognized Sources on the origin of the Trinity doctrine

Let’s take a look whether or not there are any scholarly sources outside of Adventism who can give us some clear scriptural basis for the trinity doctrine.

The most commonly accessed Encyclopedia on the Internet, Wikipedia, states:

“The consensus of Modern exegetes and theologians is that the Hebrew Bible does not contain a doctrine of Trinity (even though in the past dogmatic tracts texts like Gn. 1:26, Gn. 3:22, 11:7, Is. 6:2-3 were cited as proofs). Further, modern exegetes and theologians agree that the New Testament also does not explicitly contain the doctrine of the Trinity. The Trinity was thrashed out in debate and treatises as a result of continuous exploration of the biblical data, and was eventually formulated at the Council of Nicaea in 325 CE.” — Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trinity (emphasis supplied)

The Encyclopedia Brittanica:

“Neither the word Trinity nor the explicit doctrine appears in the New Testament, nor did Jesus and his followers intend to contradict the Shema in the Old Testament: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord’ (Deuteronomy 6:4). . . . The doctrine developed gradually over several centuries and through many controversies. . . . It was not until the 4th Century that the distinctness of the three and their unity were brought together in a single orthodox doctrine of one essence and three persons.” — Encyclopedia Britannica, Vol 11, art. Trinity. 15th Edition.

Note: The Brittanica says basically the same thing as the Wikipedia. Both these sources tell us that both the Old and New Testaments do not clearly, explicitly, contain the doctrine of the trinity and the doctrine itself was developed gradually over several centuries and was finally formulated in the 4th century through many debates and controversies.

The Oxford Companion to the Bible:

“Because the Trinity is such an important part of later Christian doctrine, it is striking that the term does not appear in the New Testament. Likewise, the developed concept of three coequal partners in the Godhead found in later creedal formulations cannot be clearly detected within the confines of the canon.” — The Oxford Companion to the Bible, 1993. Art. Trinity, by D.N. Schowalter. p.782-3. Editors, Bruce M. Metzger, Michael D.Coogan. (emphasis supplied)

So, what are they saying here? Is it there or not? “Cannot be clearly detected within the confines of the canon”? Is it possible that this is just a nice way of saying that the Bible does not actually teach the Trinity doctrine?

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia:

“Trinity [Lat.,= threefoldness], fundamental doctrine in Christianity, by which God is considered as existing in three persons. While the doctrine is not explicitly taught in the New Testament, early Christian communities testified to a perception that Jesus was God in the flesh; the idea of the Trinity has been inferred from the Gospel of St. John.” — The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, Copyright © 2004, Columbia University Press. (emphasis supplied)

Again, we are lacking an explicit teaching of the Trinity doctrine in scripture, and we can only infer it from the writings of John.

The Encarta Encyclopedia has this to say about the origin of the Trinitarian doctrine:

“Trinity (theology) In Christian theology, doctrine that God exists as three persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—who are united in one substance or being. The doctrine is not taught explicitly in the New Testament, where the word God almost invariably refers to the Father; but already Jesus Christ, the Son, is seen as standing in a unique relation to the Father, while the Holy Spirit is also emerging as a distinct divine person. The term trinitas was first used in the 2nd century, by the Latin theologian Tertullian, but the concept was developed in the course of the debates on the nature of Christ. In the 4th century, the doctrine was finally formulated; using terminology still employed by Christian theologians, the doctrine taught the coequality of the persons of the Godhead. … For an adequate understanding of the trinitarian conception of God, the distinctions among the persons of the Trinity must not become so sharp that there seems to be a plurality of gods, nor may these distinctions be swallowed up in an undifferentiated monism.” — Encarta. Art. Trinity. (emphasis supplied)

The question begs to be asked, can we base our faith purely on inference alone? If it is a fundamental doctrine in Christianity, it should surely have enough evidence to have actually become a doctrine! Read on.

The Encyclopedia of Religion:

“Exegetes and theologians today are in agreement that the Hebrew Bible does not contain a doctrine of the Trinity, even though it was customary in past dogmatic tracts on the Trinity to cite texts like Genesis 1:26, “Let us make humanity in our image, after our likeness”(see also Gn. 3:22, 11:7, Is. 62-3) as proof of plurality in God.” — Encyclopedia of Religion, Art. Trinity, Volume 15, page 54, 1987. (emphasis supplied)

Further on we read;

“Further, exegetes and theologians agree that the New Testament also does not contain an explicit doctrine of the trinity.” (Ibid)

In the next paragraph it says regarding ‘trinity language’;

“In the New Testament there is no reflective consciousness of the metaphysical nature of God (“imminent trinity”), nor does the New Testament contain the technical language of later doctrine (hupostasis, ousia, substantia, subsistentia, prosopon, persona).”… “While it is incontestable that the doctrine cannot be established on scriptural evidence alone, its origins may legitimately be sought in the Bible, not in the sense of “proof-texting” or of finding metaphysical principles, but because the Bible is the authoritative record of God’s redemptive relationship with humanity.” (Ibid)

“What the scriptures narrate as the activity of God among us, which is confessed in creeds and celebrated in liturgy, is the wellspring of later trinitarian doctrine.” (Ibid)

The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology:

“Primitive Christianity did not have an explicit doctrine of the Trinity such as was subsequently elaborated in the creeds.” — The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology. Art. Trinity.

These standard works all seem to agree – something is fundamentally wrong, when the Bible doesn’t teach something, it must have come from somewhere! To have come at a later time in the creeds of Christendom is not enough! The Canon was compiled before that, and logically, anything after that which was not given through the gift of prophecy can only be invented by man, either as traditions or as false teachings. Which is it going to be? Reading on, we find this interesting piece;

The International Standard Bible Dictionary:

“The doctrine of the Trinity lies in Scripture in solution; when it is crystallized from its solvent it does not cease to be Scriptural, but only comes into clearer view. Or, to speak without figure, the doctrine of the Trinity is given to us in Scripture, not in formulated definition, but in fragmentary allusions; when we assemble the disjectamembra into their organic unity, we are not passing from Scripture, but entering more thoroughly into the meaning of Scripture.” — The International Standard Bible Dictionary, Art. Trinity. (emphasis supplied).

Note: “Fragmentary allusions” – We will leave the reader to define the word “Allusion”, for to allude to something, it really needs to have been found and defined beforehand.

“The trinity of God is defined by the Church [Catholic] as the belief that in God are three persons who subsist in one nature. The belief as so defined was reached only in the 4th and 5th centuries AD and hence is not explicitly and formally a biblical belief. The trinity of persons within the unity of nature is defined in terms of ‘person’ and ‘nature’ which are Gk philosophical terms; actually the terms do not appear in the Bible. The trinitarian definitions arose as the result of long controversies in which thes
e terms and others such as ‘essence’ and ‘substance’ were erroneously applied to God by some theologians.
” — Dictionary of the Bible, by John L. McKenzie, S.J. p.899. (emphasis in bold and bracket supplied)

This Roman Catholic source is clear as to the origin of the trinity doctrine. We could continue, with many more quotations to clarify the issue, but, to any unbiased reader the evidence is clear. Scripture does not clearly present the idea of the trinity doctrine, it is a doctrine which came after the canon of Scripture was closed, developed in the 4th and 5th centuries. Inspiration was obviously not involved in the formulation of the doctrine.

We should know what we believe and why we believe it, and we should be able to give an intelligent reason for our religious convictions.

“Believers are not to rest in suppositions and ill-defined ideas of what constitutes truth. Their faith must be firmly founded upon the word of God so that when the testing time shall come and they are brought before councils to answer for their faith they may be able to give a reason for the hope that is in them, with meekness and fear.” — Ellen G. White, Vol 5, Testimonies, p.708. (emphasis supplied)

We are to have an intelligent faith, and an intelligent knowledge of our God. we believe that the evidence in scripture fits the non-trinitarian model in a far more consistent way than the Trinitarian model. From the short review above, it is evident that God has not revealed Himself to be a trinity in His Word. No one has found one clear text in Scripture to prove the doctrine. By this we mean one text (at least) that shows that God is composed of three co-equal, co-eternal persons or beings; composed of the same substance. Scholars around the world have acknowledged for years that the trinity doctrine is not found in Scripture but is a later addition.

For further reading, please take a look at this short study, “What is the Doctrine of Trinity”