A Defense of the Trinitarian Worldview

In this paper I will attempt to show that the Christian-Trinitarian worldview is more logical and rational than the Unitarian worldview. Perhaps one of the most attacked beliefs of Christianity today is the Trinity. The Christian doctrine of the Trinity is often attacked by other monotheistic faiths such as Judaism and Islam; as well as Unitarian groups such as Oneness Pentecostals, Jehovah Witnesses, and Christadelphianism, etc. In order to have a true Christian worldview it is essential to believe in the doctrine of the Trinity. Without the Trinity there really is no Christian faith and there can be no salvation found through the cross of Christ. Since the Trinity is a major doctrine of the Christian faith, it is therefore very important to be able to logically and clearly define and defend the Trinity.

Before defining and defending the Trinity it is important to first define Unitarianism. In his article “What is Unitarianism,” Matt Slick states: “Unitarianism is the belief that God exists in one person and not three. It is a denial of the doctrine of the Trinity as well as the full divinity of Jesus. Therefore, it is not Christian” (Slick, 2015). In the section on the Trinity in the Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, it is written that a proper biblical view of the Trinity is one that has a balance of the concepts of unity and distinctiveness. When bringing up the error of Unitarianism the Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary says, “Unitarianism excludes the concept of distinctiveness while focusing solely on the aspect of God the Father. In this way Christ and the Holy Spirit are placed in lower categories and made less than divine” (Chad Brand, 2003). Perhaps one of the most common attacks on the Trinity is the question, “How can God be one and three at the same time?” This appears to be illogical and not possible, so therefore Unitarians claim that the doctrine of the Trinity must be false and that God exist in only one person.

The problem with Unitarian monotheism is that there are logical inconsistencies. While they claim Unitarianism is more logical and rational than Trinitarianism, it is possible to actually show the very opposite. First, a proper understanding of what the Trinity is must be explained. For example, the Westminster Confession of Faith states: “In the unity of the Godhead there be three Persons of one substance, power, and eternity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost. The Father is of none, neither begotten nor proceeding; the Son is eternally begotten of the Father; the Holy Ghost eternally proceeding from the Father and the Son” (Assembly, 1646).

When talking about the Trinity we must distinguish between “what’s” and “who’s,” or “substances” and “persons.” For example, I am a human being, that is what I am, but I am also Aaron, this is who I am. Therefore; when applying this to the Trinity the classic orthodox doctrine is that God exist in three persons (this is who God is), unified into one substance or essence (this is what God is). If the doctrine of the Trinity was the belief that there are three gods in one god, or three persons in one person, then it would be a logical fallacy. However three persons existing in one essence is not a logical impossibility. The substance of what God is, is one, yet in this one substance exist three persons. The Trinity will always be difficult to fully grasp, there will always be mystery to it, but that does not mean it is an impossibility, in fact because God is so utterly different than us, He should be mysterious.

This distention is essential to understanding the Trinity, as James Orr puts it: “The doctrine of the Trinity is first of all a doctrine of distinctions interior to the Divine essence, and as such it has frequently been objected to on the ground that it asks us to accept an intellectual puzzle, or to believe in an intellectual contradiction—that three can be one, and one be three. No objection is more common than this, yet none is more baseless—more narrowly the product of the mere logical understanding” (Orr, 1897).

Therefore; if the concept of the Trinity is logically possible, what about Unitarianism? How is Unitarian monotheism inconsistent? One way to show that Trinitarianism is more logical than Unitarian is by starting with a general definition of God. We can find such a definition in Anselm’s Ontological Argument for God. Anselm’s definition is, “a being than which nothing greater can be conceived” (Anselm, n.d.). In other words, God must be the most Supreme Being we can think of, he must be perfect in everything he does and is (omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, etc.). God is not a divine being, he is the divine and Supreme Being, if we can think of anything greater than God, than that thing must be God. So by first looking at two attributes, love and self-sufficiency, we can begin to see the inconsistencies in Unitarianism.

Since God must be the most Supreme Being, his attributes must be ultimate and perfect, otherwise He would not be God. I will use the attributes of self-sufficiency and love to show that the Trinitarian view of God is more logical than the Unitarian view. The argument is as follows:

  1. God is self-sufficient
  2. God’s love is perfect
  3. Unitarianism is logically inconsistent
  4. The Trinitarian view of God is the best explanation
  1. God is self-sufficient

Again beginning with the presupposition that God must be the Supreme Being and the greatest being we can think of, He must be self-sufficient. This is true because if God could not exist outside of the universe, space, time, etc., He would then be dependent upon something greater than Himself, and therefore; whatever that thing is would then be God, since God could not exist apart from that. Therefore; to believe that God is the Supreme Being and not self-sufficient is a logical fallacy. The Scriptures also attest to the fact that God is self-sufficient. Charles Hodges writes: “According to the Scriptures God is self-sufficient. He needs nothing out of Himself for his own well-being or happiness. He is in every respect independent of his creatures; and the creation of the universe was the act of the free will of that God of whom the Apostle says in Romans 11:36, ‘Of Him, and through Him, and to Him are all things,’” (Hodge, 1871).

  1. God’s love is perfect

First it is important to show that God has love, we know this from the Scriptures: “So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him” 1 John 4:16 (ESV). So since God has love we can also say that God’s love is perfect. This is because; since God is ultimate and perfect, His love must also be ultimate and perfect. Why is this true? Again by accepting Anselm’s presupposition; if there existed some love greater than God’s, then His love would not be perfect and there would be some kind of love higher than God’s. If God is God then there can be nothing else above him, His love must be perfect because there can be no kind of love greater than His love.

  1. Unitarianism is logically inconsistent

Because God must be self-sufficient He must also be free from the need of creating the world. Since God did create the world we must conclude that he did this for other purposes besides His need of it. However the problem with the Unitarian view of God is that it makes God dependent upon His creation, the world. This is because if love exist that means there must also exist something to love, love is between two persons. If God alone is the eternal Supreme Being, what could He have loved before He created something? How could He have love if He alone was the only person? It is not possible for a Unitarian God with only one personhood to even have love, much less have perfect love. Therefore; the Unitarian is stuck with a God who has imperfect love and is not self-sufficient but dependent upon the world, this is not logically consistent with what the Supreme Being must be.

  1. The Trinitarian view of God is the best explanation

While the Unitarian is forced to find ways to reconcile the problems of self-sufficiency and love, the Trinitarian view of God fits into this definition of the Supreme Being. In fact using these proofs for the Trinity has been a favorite for many theologians. God is essentially love and there cannot be love without an object to be loved. There must be an eternal object for God to love, this object cannot be the world, since this would make God dependent upon the world as stated before. Therefore; God must have some way within His own being to display His love, so then the object(s) of God’s love must exist within Himself. This fits with the doctrine of the Trinity because without the distinction of persons within the God head, God would have no object for His love (Orr, 1897).

The Trinity makes it possible for God to be both self-sufficient and have perfect love. From eternity past God existing in three persons had communion and love within His own being, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Each member was able to love the other perfectly, not depending on anything outside of God, and therefore both self-sufficient and loving. I believe then that the Christian-Triune worldview of God is the only one consistent with both Scripture and logic, and is then more rational and possible than Unitarianism.

While the doctrine of the Trinity can be defended, it is also important to note that the term trinity is not a biblical word or expression. The doctrine of the Trinity is also not something that could be created by man, since it is too mysterious, however we must believe this is what the inspired Scriptures teach us about God. The Trinity is one of the most profound and glorious mysteries in the Bible and makes the Christian God unique not only among monotheist but all other religions. It should also be noted that there is nothing in nature that we can use to perfectly illustrate the Trinity. Many people have tried to use examples from things that can be divided into three parts such as; light-heat-energy, or water-ice-steam, or body-soul-spirit, however these all fall short of completely illustrating the Trinity (Benson, 2007).

It is also important to understand that the revelation of the Trinity is progressive. The Old Testament is not explicit in the area of the Trinity, however there are many allusions to the Trinity. For example the use of plural pronouns in verses like Genesis 1:26; 11:7; and Isaiah 6:8. Passages like Isaiah 9:6; Micah 5:2; and Psalm 45:6-7 indicate that the Messiah is one with Yahweh yet distinct from Him. The Angel of the Lord (or Yahweh) is also described in this way in Genesis 16:9,13; 22:11, 16; 31:11-13; 48:15-16; Exodus 3:2, 4-5; Judges 13:20-22. Also the Hebrew word Elohim that is translated “God,” is a plural noun but usually takes a singular verb. The Trinity of course becomes much more precise and is clearly taught in the New Testament. The deity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is taught in the New Testament while at the same time the Scripture differentiates between them (Benson, 2007).

In conclusion, I hope I have clearly shown that the Christian-Triune view of God is more logical than the Unitarian view and is therefore a more rational worldview. In order for God to be the Supreme Being He must be both self-sufficient and have perfect love. The Triune God is self-sufficient because He does not depend upon the world in order to have an object to love, and the Triune God is able to have and be love because he has eternally existed as three persons in one substance. Lastly, the Bible does teach the doctrine of the Trinity.

 

Works Cited

Anselm. (n.d.). Anselm’s Ontological Argument. Retrieved from http://www.princeton.edu/~grosen/puc/phi203/ontological.html

Assembly, W. (1646). Westminister Confession. Retrieved from reformed.org: http://www.reformed.org/documents/wcf_with_proofs/

Benson, C. B. (2007). Exploring Theology: A Guide for Systematic Theology and Apologetics. Wheaton: Crossway Books.

Chad Brand, C. D. (2003). Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary. Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers.

Hodge, C. (1871). Systematic Theology. New York: Charles Scribner and Co.

Orr, J. (1897). The Christian View of God and the World. New York: Charle’s Scribner’s Sons.

Slick, M. (2015, April 10). What is Unitarianism? Retrieved from Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry: https://carm.org/what-unitarianism

 

1 Comment


  1. Great stuff, good arguments!

    Reply

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