The Trinity and the Protestants

The previous post “Grammatical Analysis of John 1:1c and John 1:14” noted that the doctrine of the Trinity is not supported by the grammar in the opening of the Gospel of John. Since this is widely considered to be the most important and direct scriptural evidence of Jesus’ preexistence and divinity, one would have to look elsewhere to establish such a doctrine. And indeed, this precisely what happened.

The doctrine of the Trinity was first developed at the Council of Nicaea in 325AD, three centuries after Jesus lived. The doctrine would be further refined in later councils of that century[1], but this was its formal beginning. Those determinations have since been fully embraced by Catholic and Orthodox traditions, who see the validity of the doctrine of the Trinity as an inseparable combination of Biblical teaching and church authority (e.g. the Catholic magisterium).

But many Protestants hold to the doctrine of sola scriptura, or the Bible alone.[2] If Protestants reject the primacy of the spiritual authority of the Catholic or Orthodox churches, then it must do so by rejecting the authority of their councils that codified the Trinitarian doctrine. The Protestant is faced with two logical choices:

  1. Accept the authority of the Catholic church and the illegitimacy of the Protestant offshoots.
  2. Reject the Trinity as a 4th century innovation[3].

The doctrine of sola scriptura obligates the latter.

Why is it that Protestants reject nearly every doctrinal innovation made by the Catholic church, but deeply accept the corruption about the very nature of the Father and the Son themselves? If you reject the authority of the Catholic church to establish doctrines, then you should reject the doctrine of the Trinity (which is arguably of greater consequence), because it is not defensible under a sola scriptura framework.

Protestants should either become Unitarian Monotheists[4] or else join the Catholic church.

John C. Wright, a well-reasoned writer who became a Christian in dramatic fashion, more-or-less agrees in his Catholic Universal Apologia:

While a Mormon or a Christian Scientist, who espouse theories even further from the mainstream than Arianism and Albigensianism, can say without a blush that all the Ecumenical Councils were wrong, no one who believes the doctrines of the Incarnation and the Trinity can do so. These doctrines have little or no basis in scripture, and no basis whatever in natural reason: they are purely artifacts of the deposit of faith entrusted to the Apostles and their successors, and rest solely on the authority of the [Roman Catholic] Church to define Christian doctrine. (emphasis added)

[1] Directly coinciding with the formation of the magisterial Catholic church.

[2] This is generally simplified to mean accepting only the Bible and not the written works of later Christians outside of the accepted canon. Sola scriptura does not exclude the direct revelation of the Holy Spirit. Indeed, those who hold to the doctrine also accept that Holy Spirit speaks directly to Christians and authoritatively instructs them.

[3] Along with veneration of relics of martyrs, the doctrine of Mary’s sinlessness,  and the real presence of the Eucharist (the Roman mass sacrifice that replaced the tithe offering and consecration).

[4] Not Unitarians, which is a religious group. Unitarian Monotheists are Christians who reject the doctrine of the Trinity as a largely 4th century theological innovation not found in the Bible. They are not a specific religious group.

2 thoughts on “The Trinity and the Protestants

  1. Your starting point is wrong. Your Axiom is the Roman Catholic church which arose in 386 is the same as the early church which was catholic for the first 4 centuries and protestant after that. Tim Kauffman does a good job of locating where God protected his true church from Roman Catholicism antichrist. So no we arent forced into those 2 choices. Reform doctrine says if its taught in scripture or is of necessary consequence it is to be believed. Even the Westminter Confession says reformed andcalways being reformed. We start with the Axion that the bible is God’s only infallible source on faith and morals. Sola Scriptura. You start with the Roman Catholic church is Christ’s church because they told you so, sola ecclesia. That’s circular. From our Axiom we conclude Roman Catholicism is antichrist. From your axiom you conclude Roman catholic church is Christ’s church.

    1. “Your Axiom is the Roman Catholic church which arose in 386…”

      You hold as axiomatic that the RCC arose precisely in 386 and that its heresies did not begin development prior to that date. These are your errors, not mine.

      “We start with the Axion that the bible is God’s only infallible source on faith and morals. “

      Trinitarianism is an inference formalized over many decades, not a doctrine derived from the Axiom of Biblical Infallibility. Even if the RCC arose precisely, the very fact that Trinitarianism arose at all (e.g. in 325 at the Council of Nicea) is reason to reject it on exactly the same grounds.

      The Council of Nicea was itself an innovation: the first general council. Under the Axiom, it did not have any legitimate authority to create doctrine, nor bind the church and state. Neither the error of 380 AD nor the error of the First Council of Constantinople in 381—the first council of the newly official Roman Church which declared the doctrine of the Trinity with finality—could have occurred without first embracing the error of 325.

      “You start with the Roman Catholic church is Christ’s church because they told you so”

      My view requires a rejection of this premise.

      Trinitarianism is an innovation made formal by the (proto-) Roman church authorized by the Roman emperors during the 4th century. The church—prior to the Roman church—did not believe that Jesus was divine (prior to his theosis) or preexisting.

      Even if a subset of the church innovated Trinitarianism earlier (after all, it had to develop sometime!), it still doesn’t matter because the Bible itself doesn’t support it. A late 1st century innovation would still be an innovation! But, Trinitarianism rose to prominence in the 4th century in conjunction with the flood of other errors by the Roman church. If one holds to the Axiom of Biblical Infallibility, then they reject the Trinitarian innovation along with all the innovations (and avoid circular reasoning!).

      “…the Westminter Confession…”

      …is not the Bible, nor is the Nicean Creed (of 325). The reason behind non-creedal Anabaptist denominations—the Axiom of Biblical Infallibility—applies here as well.

      If you think my biblical interpretation is wrong, that’s a completely different discussion. I welcome any attempt at a refutation. If you wish to make one, I will help facilitate it if you desire.

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