I have had discussions recently with people who believe in the trinity doctrine. What I have noticed is that most persons assume and some assert that the trinity is in the bible. I have even listened to debates where one side defends the trinity by quoting verses in the bible, and the other side debunks the trinity by also quoting verses in the bible. Oftentimes, both side quote the very same verses. Difference in meaning, interpretation, and text are often highlighted and argued. However, one thing that is often missing from discussions on the topic of the trinity is common sense reasoning. Reason and logic are present and contend in any discussion, but simple common sense is usually missing. For me, this is where I start. I want to express and share some of what I consider to be common sense thoughts on the trinity. Let’s get into this.
Where are the ‘trinity words’?
So, you ask someone about their beliefs of God, and you may get statements and explanations about God being a “trinity”, “triune”, “three persons in one being or essence”, “three ‘hypostasis’ in one ‘ousia'”, “God the Son”, “God the Holy Spirit”, “Jesus is God”, “One God in three persons”, “The Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are all the same God, but distinct persons” and a myriad of other expressions. What I find common and most interesting is that in every declaration and explanation of God being a trinity, the words used are not found in the Bible anywhere. Persons can go into very complex explanation and statements, but the one obvious thing is that the words they use are either non-biblical or are words never used in reference to God anywhere in the scriptures, whether in the Old Testament or the New Testament. Isn’t that a very strange observation? It is common sense that if the bible is the “word of God” and everything we need to know about God is in it, then the description of who and what God is should be provided by it directly. So, what is going on here, really?
If you go to any bible site with search tools (such as Biblegateway, Biblehub, or Blueletterbible) and search your KJV Bible for words: “trinity”, “triune” or “essence”, you won’t find any of them. You won’t even find them in more modern bibles like the NIV. If you search for phrases like “God is three persons” or “God the son”, you won’t find them either. Yet, most denominations and trinitarian scholars and bible teachers will use these words and phrases to describe God and tell you that if you don’t believe and accept the trinity doctrine that you aren’t a Christian.
My thought about this is that if God did not inspire men to even use the word “trinity” in the Bible, then what right does anyone have to tout it as a fundamental doctrine? I personally think that the fact that the word “trinity” itself is not in the scriptures is the most obvious proof that it is false. If the Bible can say “God is not a man” (Numbers 23:19), “God is one YHVH” (Deuteronomy 6:4; Galatians 3:20), “God is gracious and merciful” (2 Chronicles 30:9; Joel 2:13), and “God is love” (1 John 4:8), then why doesn’t it say “God is three in one” nor “God is the trinity”? Isn’t this common sense?
Where is the ‘trinity teaching’?
I have often heard trinitarians and others say that the argument that ‘the word “trinity” is not in the bible’ is simplistic. They often tend to focus on proving that the “teaching of the trinity” or “trinity doctrine” is in the bible. Trinitarians keep trying to prove the presence of the teaching and Biblical Unitarians keep trying to debunk the proposed proofs. Most persons keep focusing on the most complicated ways to prove things. Although it is important to always be able to navigate and rebut complex ideas, you can’t go wrong by stating the simplicity of God’s word and wording. The reality is that neither the word nor the teaching is in the scripture.
Most of the attempts to show the trinity doctrine from scripture involve taking lone words or verses out of context and associating them with other words or verses from different passages. It is very interesting when you listen specifically to what is said and the explanations given. You will realize that there is a lot added and meanings changed, and in some cases, details overlooked or exaggerated, to prove the existence of the trinity doctrine in the scriptures. Most of the debates over the centuries are regarding whether the scriptures teach the doctrine. From my perspective, there are many teachings in the scriptures that are as clear as day and stated clearly and plainly. If the trinity doctrine is to crucial, then why can’t anyone find it clearly stated? If the words for “three” existed in the Hebrew language and “trinity” in the Greek language in the first century and prior, and were not used to describe God (either as trinity or three in one) in the scriptures, then obviously, God did not want to be described that way.
What are we saying about God?
At a more fundamental level, I ask myself, ‘what does all this say about God?’. Does God need scholars’ help to say what he wants to say? It is one thing to be limited to the language of the 1st century, but it is another thing to not use language already existing in the first century when inspiring men to write actual scripture.
Since these words are not found in the scriptures, the key point is to ask why. Does God need help with his vocabulary from men with Greek philosophy and PhDs? Was God’s Greek or Hebrew bad or lacking? Did God not know that the word for “trinity” in Greek is “τριάδος” (transliterated: triados)? Of course, the answer to all of these rhetorical questions, is “certainly not!”. Theophilus of Antioch first used this term in the 2nd century. I don’t think there is anyone who would say that God didn’t know this before Theophilus.
The same thing can be said about Hebrew. If God was really three persons in one essence, then he would have just said so in the scriptures directly. Instead, we find the opposite. Moses declared in Deuteronomy 6:4,
Hear, O Israel, YeHoVaH our God is one YeHoVaH
Further to that, what is “essence” (“ousia” in Greek)? Since when is God referred to as “essence”? That is not in scripture but it is in the Nicene Creed of 325 AD. How can we even say that God is an essence, that is, three persons in one essence, when the scriptures say that God is spirit, not essence? The problem with terms like “essence” is that no one living today understands what that means. I mean, NO ONE. The scholars may claim they do, but the truth is that we don’t use that term in normal speech in reference to the living. We use it in products like “vanilla essence” or “almond essence”, as an ingredient for food and drink, or as an abstract way to describe the basics of something. What is “God’s essence”? Who can confidently describe it? It is just another fake (or made-up) term that scholars can use to create whatever meaning they want.
The Greek “ousia” for “essence” really means “substance”, but it is also translated as “being” in the trinity doctrine. However, we all know what “substance”, “essence” and “being” are in the 20th-21st centuries, because we learned those terms in school, but none of those terms are synonyms for each other. “Ousia” is in the bible, but never used in reference to God. God is not a substance or made of a substance or essence. A being is an abstract term to refer to an individual. It is not synonymous with essence. Using terms like essence for God creates confusion and is non-biblical.
The Place of Common Sense
I think it is important to understanding God and represent him as the scriptures declare him. I have heard persons dismiss common sense approaches to evaluating complex doctrines as simplistic, or even scoff at common sense reasoning as only “human logic” or “human reasoning”. The New Testament was written in the common Greek of the day, and the apostles were comprised of fishermen, tax collectors, and other ordinary men. To me, common sense is just the normal ability that God built into us to understand language and expressed ideas that are common to us all in everyday life. For centuries before Tyndale, the Roman Catholic Church blocked people from having access to the scriptures in their native language. It was only available in Latin, and only the priest were to interpret the scripture. I don’t believe that God intended the scriptures to only be understood by a select group of people. God is not [the author] of confusion. “For the Lord giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding.” – Provers 2:6. God, our Father, wants us to understand him, and knowledge and understanding come from his word, what he says, not what men say. I trust that the Holy Spirit will teach you all truth. God bless.