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In related form to a previous question on the basis for the Trinity, what is the Biblical basis for disbelief of the doctrine?

Not all Christians (and perhaps not all branches of Christendom) hold to a Trinitarian view - how are those views justified from the Bible?

Specifically, what verses do non-Trinitarians cite to support their views / contradict the doctrine of the Trinity?

note - I am a very committed Trinitarian, personally; this question should not be a platform to rail against non-Trinitarian beliefs

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What is the Biblical basis for disbelief in Moses' horns? Unitarians don't disbelieve in the Trinity due to the Bible specifically addressesing it. They do so because they don't think the Bible teaches the Trinity in the first place. Since God clearly states that He is "one", they would say that the burden-of-proof is on the Trinitarians to prove otherwise. Is there some specific passage you have a question about? Or is there a more specific Unitarian teaching that you are asking about? (I'm using the term Unitarian in the classic sense, not the denominational sense) – Steven Doggart Aug 1 '13 at 15:42
Perhaps a better way to word your question would be, "What verses, if any, do non-trinitarians believe specifically contradict the doctrine of the Trinity." – Steven Doggart Aug 1 '13 at 15:48
possible duplicate of Is there Biblical basis for unitarianism? – Steven Doggart Aug 1 '13 at 20:09
@StevenDoggart I don't think this is a duplicate, since some Christian faiths believe in 3 separate beings that may each be called God, but do not believe in the Trinity doctrine. – Matt Jul 15 at 0:41

2 Answers 2

up vote 5 down vote accepted

This answer addresses the question according to the perspective of the Jehovah's Witnesses.

First of all the word Trinity does not exist in the Bible. Second, the Trinity is an invention in the third century in Nicene Creed:

QUICK FACTS: “The Nicene Creed is actually not the product of the First Council of Nicea (325) . . . but of the First Council of Constantinople (381),” says The New Westminster Dictionary of Church History. “The Council of Nicea in 325 stated the crucial formula for [the yet future Trinity] doctrine in its confession that the Son is ‘of the same substance . . . as the Father.’”—Encyclopædia Britannica.


The Athanasian Creed mentions : "the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God, and yet there are not three Gods but one God." In this Trinity of Persons the Son is begotten of the Father by an eternal generation, and the Holy Spirit proceeds by an eternal procession from the Father and the Son"

Reference: - catholic encyclopedia


Jesus is not God, he has a God:

  • “I [Jesus] ascend unto my Father, and your Father, and to my God, and your God.”—John 20:17.
  • “To us there is but one God, the Father.”—1 Corinthians 8:6.
  • “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”—1 Peter 1:3.

Jesus has a beginning while God has not

  • “These things saith the Amen [Jesus], . . . the beginning of the creation of God.”—Revelation 3:14.

  • "He[Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation." _ Colossians 1:15

Jesus is not co-equal to God

  • “My Father is greater than I [Jesus].”—John 14:28.

  • “I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a woman is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.” _ 1 Cor. 11:3

  • “‘God has put all things in subjection under his [Jesus’] feet.’ But when it says, ‘All things are put in subjection under him,’ it is plain that he is excepted who put all things under him. When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be
    subjected to him who put all things under him, that God may be
    everything to every one.” _ 1 Cor. 15:27, 28

  • Jesus said in prayer: “Father, . . . this is eternal life, that they know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.” (John 17:1-3). [Think: who is Jesus praying to?]

Holy Spirit is not a person

The Holy Scriptures tell us the personal name of the Father—Jehovah. They inform us that the Son is Jesus Christ. But nowhere in the Scriptures is a personal name applied to the holy spirit.

The New Catholic Encyclopedia admits: “The majority of N[ew] T[estament] texts reveal God’s spirit as something, not someone; this is especially seen in the parallelism between the spirit and the power of God.” (1967, Vol. XIII, p. 575) It also reports: “The Apologists [Greek Christian writers of the second century] spoke too haltingly of the Spirit; with a measure of anticipation, one might say too impersonally.”—Vol. XIV, p. 296.

Source for below information: and

Does John 1:1 prove that Jesus is God?

John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God [also KJ, JB, Dy, Kx, NAB].” NE reads “what God was, the Word was.” Mo says “the Logos was divine.”

What is it that these translators are seeing in the Greek text that moves some of them to refrain from saying “the Word was God”? The definite article (the) appears before the first occurrence of the·os′ (God) but not before the second. The articular (when the article appears) construction of the noun points to an identity, a personality, whereas a singular anarthrous (without the article) predicate noun before the verb (as the sentence is constructed in Greek) points to a quality about someone. So the text is not saying that the Word (Jesus) was the same as the God with whom he was but, rather, that the Word was godlike, divine, a god.

*What did the apostle John mean when he wrote John 1:1? Did he mean that Jesus is himself God or perhaps that Jesus is one God with the Father? In the same chapter, Joh 1 verse 18, John wrote:

“No one [“no man,” KJ, Dy] has ever seen God; the only Son [“the only-begotten god,” NW], who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known.”

(RS) Had any human seen Jesus Christ, the Son? Of course! So, then, was John saying that Jesus was God? Obviously not. Toward the end of his Gospel, John summarized matters, saying: “These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, [not God, but] the Son of God.”—John 20:31, RS.

Does Thomas’ exclamation at John 20:28 prove that Jesus is truly God?

There is no objection to referring to Jesus as “God,” if this is what Thomas had in mind. Such would be in harmony with Jesus’ own quotation from the Psalms in which powerful men, judges, were addressed as “gods.” (John 10:34, 35, RS; Ps. 82:1-6) Of course, Christ occupies a position far higher than such men. Because of the uniqueness of his position in relation to Jehovah, at John 1:18 (NW) Jesus is referred to as “the only-begotten god.” (See also Ro, By.) Isaiah 9:6 (RS) also prophetically describes Jesus as “Mighty God,” but not as the Almighty God. All of this is in harmony with Jesus’ being described as “a god,” or “divine,” at John 1:1 (NW, AT). The context helps us to draw the right conclusion from this. Shortly before Jesus’ death, Thomas had heard Jesus’ prayer in which he addressed his Father as “the only true God.” (John 17:3, RS) After Jesus’ resurrection Jesus had sent a message to his apostles, including Thomas, in which he had said: “I am ascending . . . to my God and your God.” (John 20:17, RS) After recording what Thomas said when he actually saw and touched the resurrected Christ, the apostle John stated: “These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:31, RS) So, if anyone has concluded from Thomas’ exclamation that Jesus is himself “the only true God” or that Jesus is a Trinitarian “God the Son,” he needs to look again at what Jesus himself said (Joh 20 vs. 17) and at the conclusion that is clearly stated by the apostle John (Joh 20 vs. 31).

Do the miracles performed by Jesus prove that he is God?

Acts 10:34, 38, RS: “Peter opened his mouth and said: ‘ . . . God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; . . . he went about doing good and healing all that were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.’” (So Peter did not conclude from the miracles that he observed that Jesus was God but, rather, that God was with Jesus. Compare Matthew 16:16, 17.)

Is Jehovah in the “Old Testament” Jesus Christ in the “New Testament”?


Ps. 110:1: “The utterance of Jehovah to my [David’s] Lord is: ‘Sit at my right hand until I place your enemies as a stool for your feet.’” (At Matthew 22:41-45, Jesus explained that he himself was David’s “Lord,” referred to in this psalm. So Jesus is not Jehovah but is the one to whom Jehovah’s words were here directed.) Phil. 2:9-11: “For this very reason also God exalted him [Jesus Christ] to a superior position and kindly gave him the name that is above every other name, so that in the name of Jesus every knee should bend of those in heaven and those on earth and those under the ground, and every tongue should openly acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. [Dy reads: “ . . . every tongue should confess that the Lord Jesus Christ is in the glory of God the Father.” Kx and CC read similarly, but a footnote in Kx acknowledges: “ . . . the Greek is perhaps more naturally rendered ‘to the glory,’” and NAB and JB render it that way.]” (Notice that Jesus Christ is here shown to be different from God the Father and subject to Him.)

What is the meaning of John 5:18?

John 5:18, RS: “This was why the Jews sought all the more to kill him, because he not only broke the sabbath but also called God his Father, making himself equal with God.” It was the unbelieving Jews who reasoned that Jesus was attempting to make himself equal with God by claiming God as his Father. While properly referring to God as his Father, Jesus never claimed equality with God. He straightforwardly answered the Jews: “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing.” (John 5:19, RS; see also John 14:28; John 10:36.) It was those unbelieving Jews, too, who claimed that Jesus broke the Sabbath, but they were wrong also about that. Jesus kept the Law perfectly, and he declared: “It is lawful to do good on the sabbath.”—Matt. 12:10-12, RS.

Texts in which the plural form of nouns is applied to God in the Hebrew Scriptures

At Genesis 1:1 the title “God” is translated from ’Elo·him′, which is plural in Hebrew. Trinitarians construe this to be an indication of the Trinity. They also explain Deuteronomy 6:4 to imply the unity of members of the Trinity when it says, “The LORD our God [from ’Elo·him′] is one LORD.” The plural form of the noun here in Hebrew is the plural of majesty or excellence. (See NAB, St. Joseph Edition, Bible Dictionary, p. 330; also, New Catholic Encyclopedia, 1967, Vol. V, p. 287.) It conveys no thought of plurality of persons within a godhead. In similar fashion, at Judges 16:23 when reference is made to the false god Dagon, a form of the title ’elo·him′ is used; the accompanying verb is singular, showing that reference is to just the one god. At Genesis 42:30, Joseph is spoken of as the “lord” (’adho·neh′, the plural of excellence) of Egypt. The Greek language does not have a ‘plural of majesty or excellence.’ So, at Genesis 1:1 the translators of LXX used ho The·os′ (God, singular) as the equivalent of ’Elo·him′. At Mark 12:29, where a reply of Jesus is reproduced in which he quoted Deuteronomy 6:4, the Greek singular ho The·os′ is similarly used. At Deuteronomy 6:4, the Hebrew text contains the Tetragrammaton twice, and so should more properly read: “Jehovah our God is one Jehovah.” (NW) The nation of Israel, to whom that was stated, did not believe in the Trinity. The Babylonians and the Egyptians worshiped triads of gods, but it was made clear to Israel that Jehovah is different.

1 John 5:7, 8:

KJ reads: “For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness in earth, the spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.” (Dy also includes this Trinitarian passage.) However, NW does not include the words “in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness in earth.” (RS, NE, TEV, JB, NAB also leave out the Trinitarian passage.) Regarding this Trinitarian passage, textual critic F. H. A. Scrivener wrote: “We need not hesitate to declare our conviction that the disputed words were not written by St. John: that they were originally brought into Latin copies in Africa from the margin, where they had been placed as a pious and orthodox gloss on ver. 8: that from the Latin they crept into two or three late Greek codices, and thence into the printed Greek text, a place to which they had no rightful claim.”—A Plain Introduction to the Criticism of the New Testament (Cambridge, 1883, third ed.), p. 654.

John 10:30:

When saying, “I and the Father are one,” did Jesus mean that they were equal? Some Trinitarians say that he did. But at John 17:21, 22, Jesus prayed regarding his followers: “That they may all be one,” and he added, “that they may be one even as we are one.” He used the same Greek word (hen) for “one” in all these instances. Obviously, Jesus’ disciples do not all become part of the Trinity. But they do come to share a oneness of purpose with the Father and the Son, the same sort of oneness that unites God and Christ.


Since Jesus was a Jew by birth, he was instructed to follow this same command. After his baptism, when tempted by the Devil, he said: “Go away, Satan! For it is written, ‘It is Jehovah your God you must worship, and it is to him alone you must render sacred service.’” (Matthew 4:10; Deuteronomy 6:13) We can learn at least two things from this incident. First, Satan was trying to entice Jesus to worship someone other than Jehovah, an attempt that would have been absurd if Jesus were part of the same God. Second, Jesus made it clear that there is just one God who must be worshiped when he said “him alone,” not “us,” which he would have said if he were part of a Trinity.


What the Bible teaches about God and Jesus is clear and simple. It is not difficult to understand. Neither the word “Trinity” nor the concept is found in God’s Word. The Bible clearly states that Jesus Christ is God’s firstborn Son. (Colossians 1:15) It also points to Jesus as being the “mediator between God and men.” (1 Timothy 2:5) About the Father, the Bible says: “You, whose name is Jehovah, you alone are the Most High over all the earth.”—Psalm 83:18.

Luke 1:32: He will be great and will be called the Son (huios) of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David

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I think this is a good answer, but I wonder if it would be also a good idea to state how the people who follow this view approach the texts that indicate that Jesus is God? – DJClayworth Aug 7 '13 at 15:56
I added an edit. Not sure if you can see it yet. – Saher Ahwal Aug 8 '13 at 7:51
You missed a few. And since You're getting a chance to write an answer from your own point of view unopposed, I'd be grateful if you could remove the gross insult against Trinitarians in general. – DJClayworth Aug 8 '13 at 16:44
I couldn't put an answer to every single scripture but the links I provide talk about them all. I tried to include the common ones. There is no insult when speaking the truth, can you argue against the fact that the scripture was manipulated. You know what happens to people who try to change God's Word (Read Rev 22:18,19). As a result new Bibles now have the correct rendering of that Scripture. God preserves his word. – Saher Ahwal Aug 8 '13 at 18:46
the Trinity was not an invention of the Nicene Council, though it is there it was first formalized :) – warren Aug 23 '13 at 17:55

Yes, it's long!

Yes, I know this is a long answer. Sorry about that!

However, given the huge amount of ink (and pixels) that has been expended on the doctrine of the Trinity for almost two thousand years now, I do not see how justice can be done to the subject in the brief answers that are preferred here on StackExchange.

I therefore ask for your patience and indulgence as I attempt to give a proper answer on the most highly debated and contested issue in the history of Christian doctrine.

The theological basis for this response

This answer is based on the Bible interpretations and Christian theology put forth by Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772), which is the basis for the Bible interpretations and theology of the various New Church, or Swedenborgian, denominations that were founded after his death.

  • This theology is not unitarian as that is usually defined, because Swedenborg stated that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all fully divine, and are God.
  • This theology is not trinitarian as that is usually defined, because although Swedenborg stated that there is a Trinity in God, he denied that the Trinity consists of three persons, but stated that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit exist in a single person of God.
  • It is also not modalist, as explained in this answer.

Though Swedenborg's theology has been identified with many earlier theologians and heresies rejected by Roman Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox Christianity, a closer examination shows that his theology fundamentally disagrees with every such theology or heresy that has been attributed to him. To the best of my knowledge as a lifelong scholar and teacher of Swedenborg's theology, his solution to the problem of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit presented in the Bible as being one God is unique in the history of Christian thought. It skips over all the creeds, and relies on the Bible's own statements.

Though it is beyond the scope of the question and this answer to present a full explanation of Swedenborg's doctrine of a Trinity in one person of God, it will be necessary to provide a sketch of it at the end in order to properly answer the question from a Swedenborgian Christian perspective.

The definition of "Trinity"

Also in order to properly answer the question, it is necessary to be specific about the meaning of "the Trinity" as it is almost universally defined in Christianity today.

"The Trinity" does not mean merely an acceptance of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as God. Rather, it specifies that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are each distinct persons of God.

The most compact definition of the Trinity as almost universally accepted in Christianity today is:

One God in three persons.

Beyond that, the definition of "Trinity" as used in most Christian theologies gets less unanimous and more conflicted. However, it is commonly stated that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit share a single substance or essence, which is expressed in three distinct persons or hypostases.

(Though I do not subscribe to this theology, I am doing my best to define it as trinitarians themselves define it. If this definition needs correction in any way, I would be happy to have it corrected, as long as the correction conforms to widely accepted Christian definitions of the Trinity of persons.)

The question as asked is:

What is the Biblical basis for disbelief in the doctrine of the Trinity?

This response is based on the above widely accepted definition of the Trinity.

Note that though I will commonly refer to the doctrine of "a Trinity of persons," if I simply refer to "the doctrine of the Trinity" or "trinitarian doctrine" without specifying otherwise, I am referring to the same doctrine, as defined above.

This response is not based on prooftexting

While I am perfectly capable of prooftexting with the best of 'em, I doubt that anyone who has spent any significant time reading pro-trinitarian and anti-trinitarian debates has not already read whole volumes of selected verses from the Bible purporting to demonstrate one position or the other. I suppose that if all the arguments were put together, nearly every verse in the entire Bible that says anything at all about God has been brought forward both in support of and against both positions.

And yet, each side of the debate still continues to believe that its position is correct while its opponent's position is incorrect based on the Bible.

In short, prooftexting the Trinity has already been done, and has failed to produce any significant results.

Therefore though this response will necessarily make reference to the Bible from time to time, my main approach will be to take a broader view based on the Bible as a whole, and why, from the perspective of Swedenborgian theology, trinitarian theology as adhered to in most of Christianity today does not have a sound biblical basis.

The Trinity is not taught clearly, if at all, in the Bible

The primary biblical basis for disbelief in the Trinity is disarmingly simple:

The specific teachings that distinguish the doctrine of a Trinity of persons in God from competing doctrines are not taught clearly, if at all, in the Bible.

  • The word "trinity" does not appear in the Bible.
  • The word "persons" is never used in reference to God in the Bible.

I am aware that this has been stated many times. Even defenders of the doctrine of the Trinity commonly admit these things.

However, I do not think that such defenders fully realize the force of these facts.

The Bible is the primary source and basis of Christian doctrine

All of the major Christian denominations consider the Bible to be the first and foremost authority in the church.

Even the Roman Catholic Church, though it also asserts the authority of the church itself on doctrinal matters, still holds the Bible as the primary authority on matters of Christian doctrine, and generally argues that its promulgated doctrines are either supported by, or are at least not in conflict with, the Bible.

The doctrine of a Trinity of persons in God is held by all the major branches of Christianity (Roman Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox) to be a fundamental doctrine of the church. The Athanasian Creed, in which that doctrine is most clearly articulated of any of the widely accepted Christian creeds, after spending most of its text explaining that doctrine, states:

This is the catholic faith; which except a man believe truly and firmly, he cannot be saved.

In other words, the Athanasian Creed, which is accepted as doctrinally correct in most of Christianity, states that unless a person believes that there is a Trinity of persons in God, that person cannot be saved.

Now, here is the problem with that:

As any honest defender of trinitarian doctrine will admit, the doctrine of a trinity of persons in God is not clearly and unmistakably taught in the Bible. And yet, it has been adopted as fundamental to Christianity and to salvation by the vast bulk of Christian churches, clergy, and theologians.

How can a doctrine that is not clearly articulated in the Bible be essential to salvation?

How can a doctrine that took several centuries of debate and dissension among human theologians to establish as the primary doctrine of Christianity be considered fundamental to Christian belief, and necessary for salvation?

Such a position impugns both the Bible and its divine Author (as is believed by most Christians) as being incapable of providing the clear, basic teachings necessary for salvation.

It holds that God's Word alone is not sufficient to provide faithful Christians with what they need to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved. By implication it claims, instead, that the Bible must be "helped" by human theologians in order to get its teachings into a form that is effective in saving the faithful.

I fully understand that there are some Christian doctrines that require human interpretation of the Bible in order to be seen and understood.

However, Swedenborg, and Swedenborgians generally, hold that:

Any doctrine that is essential to Christianity and essential to salvation must be clearly present in the plain words and teachings of the Bible, without the need for interpretation by human theologians.

Quite simply, the doctrine of a Trinity of persons in God fails that test.

Not only is it not clearly taught in the Bible, but it was not even clearly formulated until several hundred years after the last books of the Bible were written.

At minimum, then, the doctrine of a Trinity of persons in God must be rejected as being fundamental and necessary Christian doctrine.

Since that doctrine is not taught clearly, if at all, in the Bible, any claim that Christians must believe in it, or that it is essential to Christian belief, cannot be sustained based on the general principle that the Bible is the primary source of Christian belief, and provides all of the teachings necessary for salvation.

The Trinity is at best a secondary, non-essential doctrine

Based on all of this, the most that can be claimed for the doctrine of the Trinity is that it could be accepted as a secondary, non-essential doctrine of the church.

However, I am not aware of any Christian branch, church, or denomination that considers the Trinity to be a secondary doctrine. All of the trinitarian churches that I am aware of consider it to be fundamental, primary Christian doctrine. If they were asked to relegate it to secondary status, they would vigorously defend it as a fundamental doctrine of Christianity, if not the fundamental doctrine of Christianity.

Therefore the doctrine of a Trinity of persons in God as it is promulgated and held to by all of the major groups of Christians that believe in it cannot be supported in the doctrinal position that they give it because it fails the test of being clearly taught in the Bible.

It is not necessary to biblically disprove the Trinity

Based on the above argument, it is not necessary to disprove the doctrine of the Trinity of persons using Biblical citations, as has often been attempted--and just as often refuted.

All that's necessary is to show that it is not clearly and unequivocally taught in the Bible as necessary for salvation. And I have yet to see any cogent, Bible-based argument that the Bible itself teaches that it is necessary to believe in a Trinity of persons in God in order to be Christian and to be saved.

So the crux of this response is that the burden of proof rests on trinitarians to show that this is a clear, unequivocal teaching of the Bible, without a belief in which a person is not Christian and cannot be saved.

I do not believe it is possible to show such a thing based on the Bible.

Just a few Bible texts to illustrate the above response

I stated above that I would avoid prooftexting. That is still my intention. I do not claim that the following quotes prove the position of Swedenborgian theology. (I also in no way believe that it is necessary for a Christian to accept Swedenborg's theology in general, or his formulation of the Trinity in particular, in order to be saved.)

However, if I do not provide at least some quotes from the Bible, it may seem that this response doesn't fulfill the parameters of the question. So here are a few to whet your whistle.

I stated earlier that:

  • The word "trinity" does not appear in the Bible.

It is not fundamental to this argument to reject the idea of three-ness in God. As I said at the beginning, Swedenborg accepted the idea that there is a Trinity in God--though not as it is usually defined.

However, it is quite striking that whenever a number is specifically attributed to God in the Bible, that number is always one. Just two examples, one from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament:

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord (Deuteronomy 6:4)


I and my Father are one. (John 10:30)

There are no corresponding verses that state that God is three.

Yes, I am aware of the statement in 1 John 5:7:

For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.

However, the Comma Johanneum, spanning 1 John 5:7-8, is now widely accepted by Bible scholars as a later, most likely post-Nicene, addition to the Greek text of the Bible from Latin sources. In other words, it was most likely added to the Bible after the doctrine of the Trinity had been formulated by Christian theologians.

So it now seems quite clear that the one and only verse in the entire Bible that even approaches a trinitarian formula is a later addition, and not part of the original text of the Bible. (And even if it is accepted as genuine, it still doesn't say that there are three persons in God.)

The fact of the total absence from the Bible of any statement clearly attaching the numeral "three" to God invalidates the Trinity as fundamental Christian doctrine.

I also said earlier that:

  • The word "persons" is never used in reference to God in the Bible.

This is even more telling as to the lack of a biblical basis for the doctrine of the Trinity.

Proponents of the Trinity can argue that there are "threes" associated with God, such as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

But they cannot point to a single verse in which those three are called "persons," individually or collectively.

The reality is that the language used in Christian formulations of the doctrine of the Trinity is not based on the Bible. Rather, the wording commonly used is based primarily on ancient (non-Christian) Greek philosophers, sometimes as formulated in Latin rather than in Greek.

The very fact that this doctrine could not be properly formulated without borrowing vocabulary from non-Biblical sources should give pause to those who believe that it is a fundamental Christian and Biblical teaching.

In particular, words such as "persons," "essences," "hypostases," and so on, as they are used in trinitarian formulations, are derived from Greek and Roman philosophy, not from the Bible.

Does this mean they are wrong?

Not necessarily.

But it means that the formulation of the doctrine had to rely on non-biblical sources in order to provide a statement of it that was satisfactory to Christian theologians and the major branches of Christianity.

The Bible never calls the Father, or the Son, or the Holy Spirit "persons."

And yet, stating that they are "persons" is fundamental to the doctrine of the Trinity.

This should establish that the primary basis of the doctrine of the Trinity is human philosophy and reason, not the Bible.

As I said previously, if the Trinity were claimed only as a secondary doctrine, that would not be a major problem. But since it is claimed as an essential doctrine of the church, a belief in which is necessary for salvation, it is invalid because it is based on human reason and interpretation, not on the plain language of the Bible.

There is a solid, Bible-based alternative to Trinitarian doctrine

The Christian theologians who developed and established the doctrine of the Trinity were facing a tough challenge. As recounted in scholarly histories of the doctrine such as this one (with thanks to Marc for calling it to my attention), the doctrine of the Trinity as now accepted in most of Christianity was formulated primarily in response to Arianism, which in effect denied the full divinity of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit by saying that they were created rather than eternal beings.

The challenge was to develop some doctrine that accepted Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as fully divine without rejecting the nature and role of each. The result, over time, was the doctrine of the Trinity.

Perhaps the most cogent argument in favor of this doctrine is not that it is clearly taught in the Bible (because it isn't), but rather that it is (as is commonly believed) the only doctrine that fully accepts the divinity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as presented in the Bible, maintaining that all three of them are God.

In order to do that, trinitarian doctrine defined each of them as "persons," and stated that all were equally eternal, infinite, and divine.

It is often claimed by trinitarians that this is the only possible doctrine that could be derived from the many statements about God throughout the Old and New Testaments.

However, I believe that Swedenborg presented a superior doctrine, more soundly based on the Bible's entire presentation about God, in the form of a doctrine of a Trinity in a single person of God.

If there is a doctrine that preserves the full divinity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and that harmonizes with all of the statements about them in the Bible while maintaining that they are fully one, and not unbiblically "three persons," then the claim that the doctrine of the Trinity is the only fully Bible-based doctrine about God falls to the ground.

That doctrine also becomes unnecessary and not to be believed because it introduces non-biblical concepts that are not needed to formulate a doctrine of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit that is fully based on the Bible's own statements about them and about God in general.

Offering a full presentation of that doctrine would be far beyond the scope of this response, and would swell it to massive size. For those interested, please see my readable, plain English presentation of it in the article, "Who is God? Who is Jesus Christ? What about that Holy Spirit?" And for Swedenborg's own far more extensive and theological presentation of that doctrine, see his work True Christianity.

However, to complete this argument, here is a thumbnail sketch, with some reference to its biblical basis.

Swedenborg's doctrine of a Trinity in one person

In Genesis 1:26 we read:

Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness."

And God proceeded to do just that in Genesis 1:27.

Since we humans are created in God's image, our nature should, in a finite way, reflect God's infinite nature.

This means that if there is a Trinity in God, and humans are created in the image of God, then there must be a trinity in us as well.

According to Swedenborg, this is precisely the case. There are three essential parts of a human being without which we would not be human:

  1. Soul
  2. Body
  3. Actions

("Actions" includes what we say or write as well.)

These are all common Biblical concepts.

This forms the basis for a simple, clear understanding of the Trinity in one divine Person of God:

  1. The Father is the divine soul.
  2. The Son is the divine body, or human manifestation.
  3. The Holy Spirit is all of God's words and actions flowing out from God.

We would never say that there are three "persons" in a human being because that human being has three essential parts: soul, body, and actions.

Similarly, if God has a divine soul, which is the Father, a divine body, which is the Son, and a divine proceeding or flowing outward, which is the Holy Spirit, we would never say that there are three "persons" of God. Rather, we would say that there is one God with three essential components.

Another way of formulating the Trinity in God is:

  1. The Father is the divine love, which is the underlying substance or soul of God. (1 John 4:8 and 4:16 state that "God is love.")
  2. The Son is the divine wisdom, which is the expression or human presence of God. (John 1:14 states that "the Word became flesh and lived among us.")
  3. The Holy Spirit is the divine proceeding, which is God's truth and power flowing out into the universe, and to humans and angels. (John 14:26 says, "The Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything.")

If we think of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in this way, many otherwise confusing statements in the Bible make perfect sense.

For example, the highly philosophical opening statement in the Gospel of John (John 1:1-18) becomes a luminous poetic expression of God expressing himself through his eternal Word, which was made flesh (human) as Jesus Christ.

It also makes perfect sense that Jesus said "Whoever has seen me has seen the Father" (John 14:9), since Jesus is the human presence and expression of the Father, which is his inner divine soul.

And of course, when Jesus says, "I and the Father are one" (John 10:30), that also makes perfect sense.

Swedenborg's doctrine offers a better, more Biblical alternative

Much of the language applied to God in the Bible is poetic and symbolic rather than literal and technical. If we consider God's problem in attempting to convey lofty spiritual and divine ideas to us dense, materialistic human beings, we can perhaps understand why the Bible uses metaphors such as "Father, Son, and Holy Spirit" in describing God.

However, if we interpret these metaphors as Swedenborg does, as referring to distinct essential components of one God in a single divine Being, or Person--components that are commonly reflected and described throughout the text of the Bible itself--then everything that the Bible says about God, and about the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, falls beautifully into place.

This, of course, barely scratches the surface. It may raise more questions than it answers. But I hope it is enough to show that there is a coherent, Bible-based alternative to the widely accepted brain-bending and logic-defying doctrine of a Trinity of persons in God.

And if there is another doctrine that affirms the full divinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, while seeing them as fully and unequivocally one, just as the Bible says God is, then that doctrine must be seen as more in accord with the Bible's statements about God than the trinitarian doctrine that took hold in Christianity only in response to the Arian Controversy that erupted in the fourth century of the Christian church.

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So was Swedenborg essentially a modalist then? – curiousdannii Apr 8 at 5:11
@curiousdannii No, Swedenborg was not a modalist. – Lee Woofenden Apr 8 at 5:14
+1. Even though I disagree with the conclusions and would even take issue with some of the reasoning, this is a very clear presentation of exactly the view point this question was calling for. – Caleb Apr 8 at 5:34
@curiousdannii Fuller answer: In layman's terms, Modalism, or Sabellianism, is the idea that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are simply three different ways God appears to people. Swedenborg specifically rejected this idea. Instead, he said (based on Biblical statements) that no one ever sees the Father, that the Son is the only way to see the Father, and that the Holy Spirit is the actual expression of God's words and actionns. This is contrary to Sabellian doctrine. – Lee Woofenden Apr 8 at 16:53
Here is my answer to the question about Swedenborg and modalism: What's the difference, if any, between the Swedenborgian and Oneness Pentecostal doctrines of God? – Lee Woofenden Jun 22 at 15:51

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