The Doctrine of Christ
"Any one who goes ahead and does not abide
in the doctrine of Christ does not have God; he who abides in the
doctrine has both the Father and the Son." (2 John 9, RSV)
"The doctrine of Christ" was clear in
Johnís time. He was unwilling to receive any contrary thinking.
John held uncompromisingly to this doctrine, saying, "If any
one comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive
him into the house or give him any greeting; for he who greets him
shares his wicked work" (2 John 10, 11, RSV). In this
treatise, we will discuss the false teaching John was addressing.
Suffice it to say here, it did not include a defense of the
doctrine of the Trinity. The Trinity concept was foreign to the
early Church and did not emerge until the third and fourth
centuries. Through time this "doctrine of Christ" has
developed into a theology meaning something different from that
which was held by John and the entire early Church.
The Christian Church started out exclusively
Jewish and, as such, had a singular God. "The Lord our God is
one Lord" is the basic concept of the Jewish faith (Deut.
6:4). This was universally accepted and stressed by Jewish
authorities from ancient times. They understood the Old Testament
Scriptures to portray God as truly singular in being, and they
consistently rejected any other characterization. With one voice,
Jehovah was believed to be the only all-powerful, unoriginated,
immutable, eternal and self-existing Oneóthe one true God.
There is little doubt the Christian religion
started out with this original concept of God. The Church of
England, in the Book of Common Prayer, presents the Apostlesí
Creed as a Unitarian Creed, which it affirms was the belief of the
Church during the first two centuries. This Unitarian Creed is
still quoted in many churches today. (We should distinguish
between the Unitarian Creed, which presents God as a single being,
and the Unitarian Church, which believes Jesus is not the son of
God but only the son of Joseph and Mary.)
In the fourth century, under Constantine (A.D.
325), the Nicene, or Semi-Trinitarian concept, was forged making
Jesus and God one in substance. Then in the fifth century, the
Athanasian, or Trinitarian Creed, came along, adding the holy
Spirit, to complete the Trinity doctrine. Though called the
Athanasian Creed, it is now generally admitted to have been
composed by some other person. It is noteworthy that the word
Trinity nowhere appears in the Bible. More importantly, the early
Church debates of the Apostolic Era were centered on keeping newly
converted Gentiles from being brought under the Jewish law. There
were no ongoing debates on whether Jesus and God were two persons
in one. Yet since the early Christian Church was mostly Jewish,
any deviation from the "Lord our God is one Lord"
foundation would have taken enormous discussion and debate.
The formulators of the Athanasian Creed well
knew they had to meet the singular requirement: "The Lord our
God is one Lord" (Deut. 6:4). How could they make three
persons into one? Some of the best minds forged this explanationó"There
are not three incomprehensibles, nor three uncreated; but one
uncreated, and one incomprehensible." It was an explanation
that did not explain. With such incantation of words, they
presented their case and, apparently, prevailed. They claimed the
One God was three persons, yet only One God. No wonder they said
it was "incomprehensible."
There was subtlety here. God himself, in one
sense, is incomprehensible, in that He is above and beyond our
grandest conceptions. (In another way, He is not incomprehensible,
because we are created in His image with the ability to reason and
think in the same mode, though vastly inferior to the divine.)
Many people will grant that in one sense God is
"incomprehensible," and therefore, by association, they
propose that the doctrine about God is
"incomprehensible." They shift the
"incomprehensible" from the person of God to a doctrine
made by men about God. Yet, "the doctrine of Christ" was
clear and comprehensible in Johnís time.
Jesus Presented Himself
Jesus did not go about declaring he was the
"Christ" or the "Anointed One." He did not
encourage his disciples to do so. Jesus inquired, "Who do men
say that the son of man is" (Matt. 16:13-20)? The answers
were: Elijah, Jeremiah or one of the prophets. Nothing very
dramatic, was it? Nobody guessed he was the "Christ"ómuch
less God. No!ónot even His disciples. Jesus asked, "Who do
you say that I am?" Peterís answer pleased our Lordó"You
are the Christ [Anointed], the Son of the living God." That
was correct. Only by the aid of the holy Spirit was Peter able to
But notice what the holy Spirit did not suggest:
It did not imply Jesus was Godónot even the vaguest hint of it.
The holy Spirit owed us the truth, and it gave us the truth.
"You are the Christ [Anointed], the Son of the living
God." They were then charged, "Tell no one." If
denied from presenting Jesus as the Christ, would they present
Jesus as God? Did the holy Spirit tell Peter a half-truth about
The "doctrine of Christ" is: Jesus is
the "Anointed" One. The Jews knew only priests, kings
and some prophets were anointed, and it was strictly forbidden to
make or use the special "holy anointing oil" improperly
(Ex. 30:31-33). Jesus was not a Levite and, therefore, could not
be of the Levitical Priesthood. He was, however, of Davidís line
and could be anointed "King." Before his death, Jesus
rode into Jerusalem saying, "Tell the daughter of Zion,
Behold, your king is coming to you" (Matt. 21:5-16).
In Jesusí last encounter with the Pharisees,
he asked: "What do you think of Christ? Whose son is
he?" They knew Christ (Messiah, the Anointed) was spoken of
as the Son of David and that David looked for a son he would call
Lord. They answered: "The son of David." Jesus said,
"How is it then that David, inspired by the Spirit, calls him
Lord" (Matt. 22:42, 43, RSV)? We ask: Did David believe he
would father a son who would be God himself? Would he father God?
Certainly not! David, through the Spirit, was showing that the
Messiah of promise would be born of Davidís royal line and, by
faithfully laying down his life as the ransom price, would be
raised as Lord of both the living and the dead. (See Rom. 14:9.)
This would be the Fatherís reward for His son Christ Jesus, to
enable him to carry out his great future work as Judge and
Mediator in the Millennial Kingdom.
If the doctrine of Christ meant Jesus was God,
the holy Spirit failed to make this known. The title
"Anointed" is never applied to God. That would be a
sacrilege. The greater always anoints the lesser. God is above
all. He anoints, but is not anointedónor can He be. We repeat:
God is never called anointed! Never ever! It would be a grave
impropriety to do so.
We Have Found the Messiah
Andrew found his brother Simon and said,
"We have found the Messiah [Christ, the Anointed]" (John
1:41). That is what they were looking foróthe Anointed One of
Godócertainly not God. When they met Jesus, he did not tell them
to take off their shoes because they were standing on holy ground,
as Moses was instructed to do (Ex. 3:5). Jesus simply said,
"Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas
[Peter] (John 1:42)." We find no instance where they fell at
Jesusí feet worshiping him, nor of Jesus looking for such
worship. As a matter of fact, we are told "Even his brothers
did not believe in him" (John 7:5, RSV). They did not believe
Jesus was the Messiah, and certainly they did not believe he was
the God of Moses. Could they be Godís brothers? Surely not! (See
Heb. 2:11, 12.)
Jaroslav Pelikan, sterling Professor of History
at Yale University, who is called "The Doctrine Doctor,"
is quoted saying: "You are not entitled to the beliefs you
cherish about such things as the Holy Trinity without a sense of
what you owe to those who worked this out for you. . . . To
circumvent St. Athanasius on the assumption that if you put me
alone in a room with the New Testament, I will come up with the
doctrine of the Trinity, is naive."1 The renowned Doctor of
Doctrine is telling us the Trinity cannot be found by open study
of the New Testament. He is admitting that it is not a doctrine of
clear Biblical statement. Rather, the Trinity is a doctrine of
inference, not of statement. That is why the Trinity has such
troubled acceptance. We could add to Dr. Pelikanís statement and
say that if you placed 10,000 people in rooms with New Testaments,
they would not find the Trinity. We also have not found it.
The churches have had consistent trouble with
unbelief in the Trinity. We quote Larry Poston, writing for
Christianity Today, who looked into why the average age of
Christian conversion was 16 years old whereas the average age of
Muslim conversion was 31. His explanation in part was:
Muslim is not asked to give credence to allegedly Ďirrationalí
concepts such as the Trinity, the Incarnation. . . .
essential that concepts such as the Trinity be
explained before conversion, are the common presentations of these
Can you have a rational explanation of an
"irrational" concept? Mr. Poston cannot be a rational
believer in the Trinity, and there are more like him. Such members
within the church find themselves put upon to accept something
that is inherently not understandable. The Athanasian Creed tried
to present the Trinity not as "three incomprehensibles"
but "one incomprehensible." As much as Mr. Poston would
like to see a more adequate explanation of the Trinity, it is
unlikely that anyone will come up with a clear explanation of it.
The early Christian Church converts were mostly
adult men and women. Mr. Poston must believe the modern church
attracts members in their teens because mature minds are less
inclined to accept irrational tenets. We must not conclude that
everyone who professes belief in the Trinity teaching is
necessarily a wholehearted believer. Some are silent doubting
Thomases or, even worse, it is mandatory they confess the Trinity
in order to be a member of a church denomination or that they put
down theologically programmed answers to become degreed ministers.
Forced belief was the stock and trade of religious oppression, but
it has proved ineffective in making true believers out of people.
"A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion
For Those Who Have Doubts
About the Trinity
The purpose of this writing is not for those who
have no doubts about the Trinity. That is their fixed belief.
Nothing we could say would penetrate their patriotic zeal for the
Trinity. However, if you are one with gnawing doubts about it, and
wish to satisfy your reason and heart, then this message may be
very helpful. You may be glad to know early Christians did not
believe in the Trinity, so you have lots of company. Also, there
are increasing numbers in the churches today who sincerely doubt
it, including some of the scholars as well.
Mr. Poston is not a lone voice crying in the
wilderness on this subject. Quoting another source: "A
fruitful cause of error in ancient and also modern times is owing
to an attempt to explain or illustrate this [Trinity] doctrine,
forgetting that it is a mystery to be received on faith, which
cannot, from its own nature, be rendered intelligible to manís
intellect."3 We may also here quote H. M. S. Richards, in a
Voice of Prophecy Radio Broadcast, who similarly said,
"[Trinity] is basic in our faith. . . . None of us can
understand it. Itís a divine mystery, but gloriously
true."4 No wonder children are prepared to believe it more
readily than adults.
Three Classes of Trinitarians
The tendency is to group all Trinitarians into
one group. Such is not the case. Actually, there are three groups
in the Christian world professing belief in the Trinity.
(1) The Catholic Church and the Episcopal Church
believe in Apostolic succession. They believe the Word of God is
being developed on an ongoing basis through a continuous chain of
apostles from our Lordís time until now. Hence, they are not
embarrassed to accept the Apostleís Creed, the Nicene Creed and
the Athanasian Creed even though contradictory. They do not need a
strong Biblical basis for their beliefs because they can accept a
council of bishopsí or a popeís statements as a basis for
belief. They believe God invests his truth in an ongoing body of
apostles to define and clarify the faith. Hence they accept the
fact that the early Church had a Unitarian God concept which
evolved into the Trinity. They believe the Trinity just developed
over time as the outgrowth of continued apostolic revealment.
(2) Then there is the Protestant Modernist and
those who believe in Contemporary Religion. Their belief is that
man makes known his understanding of God on an ongoing basis. In
each time and place, men have presented their concepts of God.
They hold that the Bible was created by men who presented their
opinions about God in their time and place, and men have a right
to continue presenting their growing conceptions of God and truth.
Such do not believe the Bible to be the inspired Word of God but
merely an attempt to define God in ancient times. Hence they do
not waste too much effort trying to harmonize it or understand it.
They feel man must continue writing his own Bible as he
progresses. In this camp the range of belief is incredibly
diverse, and the real question with many of these is not if they
believe in the Trinity, but do they, in fact, believe in God.
However, in that they do not openly oppose the Trinity or the
Bible, but are quite permissive of both, they are acceptable in
the Christian community.
(3) The last group are the Fundamentalists and
the Evangelicals who believe the Bible is the Word of God and
inerrant. To this we agree. This group is uncomfortable with the
fact that the Nicene Creed was created in the fourth century and
the Athanasian Creed in the fifth century. That is an
embarrassment to them because they feel the Bible is their sole
basis of belief. Hence, having accepted the Athanasian Creed, they
become revisionists of history and try to rewrite it so they can
teach the early Christian Church believed it. They also comb
through the Bible looking for some support of Trinitarianism. Some
of their assertions make the Catholics, the Modernists and
Contemporary religionists a bit uncomfortable. As badly matched as
these three groups are, they are amazingly tolerant of each other
in this regard.
In John 8:13-18 (RSV) the Pharisees were having
a little skirmish with Jesus. They said, "You are bearing
witness to yourself; your testimony is not true." Here you
are, just a plain ordinary person, going about making claims. Why
should anyone believe you? After all, we are learned and taught in
rabbinical schools, and why should we be concerned with your
testimony? Jesus answered, "Even if I do bear witness to
myself, my testimony is true, for I know whence I have come and
whither I am going. You judge according to the flesh, I judge no
one. Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is true. . . . In your
law it is written that the testimony of two men is true; I bear
witness to myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness to
me." If they wanted two witnesses, Jesus gave them two
witnessesóGod and himself. We might ask, why didnít he give
them three witnesses, as provided for in Deut. 19:15, by adding
the holy Spirit? Evidently because the holy Spirit was not a
person. God and Jesus together make two, no more, no less: 1 + 1 =
2. That is pure math as taught by Jesus.
"They Have Taken Away My Lord"
Remember Mary, standing at the empty tomb. As
she stood there weeping, two angels asked her, "Woman, why
are you weeping?" She said to them, "Because they have
taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid
him" (John 20:13, RSV). Now, she was not looking for her
deceased God. God does not and cannot die. She was looking for her
Master or Teacher, or at least for his remains. Her only mistake
was to look for the living Jesus among the dead after he was
resurrected. We might say the same. The Trinitarians have taken
away the living Lord and we do not know what they have done with
him. If he is the God of Moses, then what has happened to our Lord
Jesus? We would not have an elder brother. How could the Absolute
God say, "I will proclaim thy name to my brethren" (Heb.
2:11, 12, RSV)? Only Jesus could speak of us as his brethren, and
only he is privileged to thus proclaim the Fatherís name to us.
God never ever called anyone His brother. He has
no brothers or sisters. Jesus taught us to address God as
"our Father." Our resurrected Lord Jesus is not
"ashamed to call us brethren." God has given us the
"Spirit of Sonship"óthat makes Him "our
Father." God is not our "brother." The Trinity
concept has taken away our Lord Jesusóour Elder Brother, and we
do not know what they have done with him. We cannot find him in
this doctrine. Godís voice in two Gospels said, "This is my
beloved Son" (Matt. 3:17; Mark 9:7). If Jesus is a Son and we
are sons of God, then we are brethren. Why have they taken away
our brother? What have they done with him?
Will a "Holy Quaternity"
In 431, the Council of Ephesus issued the dogma
that Mary was to be honored as Theotokos, the God-bearer or Mother
of God. The Nicene, or semi-trinitarian creed, was formed in 325.
A century later they declared Mary officially to be the Mother of
God. Once Jesus was declared to be God, it is only logical to
conclude Mary to be Godís mother. If that be so, then King David
was a great, great grandfather of God. Commenting on Maryís
elevated position of worship, Kenneth L. Woodward in a Newsweek
article wrote: "In place of the Holy Trinity, it would
appear, there would be a kind of Holy Quartet, with Mary playing
the multiple roles of daughter of the Father, mother of the Son
and spouse of the Holy Spirit."5 Dr. R. C. Wetzel says in his
evaluation of the Council of Nicaea called by Constantine in 325:
"The Trinity was established as: God the Father, the Virgin
Mary, and Messiah their Son."6 Strange that Mary should be
replaced by the holy Spirit and now resurface again with a view of
being part of a "Holy Quarternity."
Today, Mary is again on the minds of many
Catholics. The Pope receives an average 100,000 requests a month
requesting that he exercise the power of papal infallibility to
proclaim that Mary is "Co-Redemptrix, Mediatrix of All Graces
and Advocate for the People of God." If the present pope
yields to religion by polls and consensus, rather than by
Scriptures, perhaps he will make such a proclamation. However,
Catholic theologians wish this whole idea would just go away. It
is Scripturally indefensible. In 1 Timothy 2:5 we are told:
"There is one God and one mediator between God and man, the
man Christ Jesus." That says it all. If the Pope makes Mary a
"Co-Redemptrix" they will be equally hard pressed to
defend it Scripturally.
Protestants know the Bible does not say that
Mary is the mother of God, yet if they teach Jesus was God then
Mary must be Godís mother. They are uncomfortable with this. The
best answer they have is that the Bible does not say Mary was Godís
mother. But then, the Bible does not say there is a Trinity. Note
the insightful quote from Newsweek Magazine:
"Prof. Marguerite Shuster of Fuller
Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif., analyzed more than 3,000
sermons. . . . Out of this huge sample, only 20 sermons focused on
the Trinity itself. The sermons, Shuster says, reveal considerable
confusion in the preachersí understanding of the Father, Son and
Holy Spirit. Many preachers, she finds, confuse the work of the
Holy Spirit with that of Jesus. Others collapse the Trinity into
one God who operates in different modesóan ancient Christian
heresy. Still others preach as if Christians worshiped three gods,
not oneóa heresy that the stringently monotheistic Muslims have
always accused Christianity of teaching. As particularly egregious
examples, Shuster cites such sermon titles as ĎYou Need Three
Gods in Oneí and ĎGod Speaks Through Many Voices.í In one
sermon, Billy Graham himself confesses that while he believes in
the Trinity, ĎDonít ask me to explain it. I canít.í"7
If the trinity teaching is so important, why is
it that so many preachers canít seem to get it right? If the
preachers seemed to be confused, what about the congregations?
What if the Pope adds Mary as the "Co-Redemptrix?" How
will this affect Protestants? This is fallout from the trinity
theology. Can anything so complicated and incomprehensible be
1. Christianity Today, Mark A.
Noll, "The Doctrine Doctor," Sep. 10, 1990, p. 26.
2. Ibid., Larry Poston, "The Adult Gospel," Aug.
20, 1990, p. 24.
3. Dictionary of Doctrinal and Historical Theology, p. 765.
4. The Voice of Prophecy radio broadcast, H. M. S. Richards,
speaker, Los Angeles, Dec. 20, 1958.