Is the Trinity Biblical?

Many non-Christian groups who accept some form of the New Testament – Muslims, Mormons, and Jehovah’s Witnesses – claim that the Christian doctrine of the Trinity is false.  One of the arguments often used is that the concept of the Trinity cannot be found in Scripture, so the doctrine cannot be true.

This argument, however, will not fly.  The argument for the tri-unity of God is straightforward and well grounded in the biblical text.

The first premise of the argument is that God is one.  We know this from verses like Deut. 6:4 and 1 Cor. 8:4.

The second premise is that three persons – the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – are all called God.

Concerning the Father, we read verses such as John 6:27 and Rom. 1:7.

Concerning the Son, we read a verse such as John 8:58, where Jesus uses an Old Testament name of God, “I am,” to refer to Himself.  We also read of instances where Jesus does things that only God would do, such as forgiving someone’s sins in Mark 2:5-7.

Concerning the Holy Spirit, we read a verse like Acts 5:3-4, where the Holy Spirit is called God.

Therefore, if the Bible teaches that God is one (and it does) and the Bible teaches that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all God (and it does), then the doctrine of the Trinity is established.  There are three persons in one God.  This is what Christians affirm and non-Christians deny.

Now I have to quickly state that there are far more verses than the ones I mentioned above that establish the doctrine of the Trinity.  I am only providing a tiny sampling in order to refute the claim that the Trinity is not based on the Bible.  It is biblical, but please don’t think that my evidence above is exhaustive.  If you want to dig deeper, then this study of the Trinity should more than satisfy you.

17 thoughts on “Is the Trinity Biblical?”

  1. Note: Although my following comments here will be critical, I hope that they are not taken as an indication of hostility or personal dislike.

    I think that there are several problems with your arguments and conclusions on account of ambiguities, oversimplifications, an insufficient critical methodology, and dubious unstated assumptions which you appear to hold.

    For example, no where do you actually state what the definition of the “Trinity” you are using is. To what definition of the Trinity is the reader to contrast your biblical proof-texts? Simply showing from the biblical texts that God is one (in some sense) and three (in some sense) is an insufficient methodology for establishing your argument(s). When you claim that there is “one God,” in what sense are you suggesting that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are “one”? Is this a claim that their relationship is one of substance (ousia)? And, if so, what do you specifically mean by that term? And when you claim that God is three, in what sense are you suggesting this to be the case? How distinct are the divine persons and what is(are) the relationship(s) between them? For example, is your definition of the Trinity broad enough to encompass Social Trinitarian views? These questions are important because the doctrine of the “Trinity” has been variously interpreted by philosophers and theologians throughout the centuries.

    Moreover, Mormons, accept that all of the divine persons are fully God, but they also refer to the three divine persons as one divine unity as God. Their position is just as easily established by your scriptural proof-texts as you believe your interpretation is.

    An additional problem is that your post fails to acknowledge that in scholarly circles the consensus position is that the New Testament does not teach the Trinitarian teachings of later (nonbiblical) councils and creeds of the fourth and fifth centuries. I think it is one’s duty when she is arguing for a minority position (at least when she wants to be taken seriously) to acknowledge and interact responsibly with the literature and arguments that conflict with their position.

    Now I want to deal with some of the problems in regards to your interpretations of specific texts, which problems, in my judgment, stem from your unfamiliarity with the relevant scholarly secondary literature or from the ambiguities, oversimplifications, uncritical methodology, and unstated assumptions which I just briefly discussed (or both).

    For example, you quote 1 Cor. 8.4 as demonstrating that there is “one God.” However, 1 Cor. 8.4-6 (NRSV) reads as follows:

    “Hence, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that ‘no idol in the world really exists’, and that ‘there is no God but one.’ Indeed, even though there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as in fact there are many gods and many lords—yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.”

    I think it is demonstrable from this passage that Paul here identifies the “one God” as God the Father–not the unity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I believe this distinction is important and worthy of note. I am personally unaware of Paul ever clearly referring to Jesus by the title/term God (theos) in his genuine letters. He consistently refers to Father as (the one) God.

    Next I take issue with your use of the Shema. It is important to be aware of the critical scholarship that surrounds this passage, as well as Deuteronomy as a whole. This passage (Deut. 6.4) literally reads: “Hear, O Israel, YHWH is our God, YHWH is one.” What does this mean? The purpose of the Deuteronomistic school was to promote YHWH as the only God worthy of Israel’s worship. Moreover, for the Deuteronomists YHWH was only to be worshipped in one place, namely Jerusalem. This passage may best be interpreted in light of its historical context as arguing against non-centralized worship of YHWH. YHWH was only to be worshipped in his official manifestation in Jerusalem. As Carl Ehrlich states:

    “Hear, o Israel! Yhwh is our god, only Yhwh (or: Yhwh is one)” (Deut 6:4). This verse, which has been understood as the Jewish equivalent of the first part of the Muslim shahadah (“There is no god but God [= Allah], and Muhammad is his prophet”), namely as an absolute monotheistic declaration, can also be read in context as a henotheistic statement: Among the gods, Yhwh is the one whom Israel is to wor¬ship, but he is not the only god there is. If one translates the last phrase of the so-called Shema (“Hear”) as “Yhwh is one,” then the implica¬tion—in accord with the common scholarly dating of this text to the time of the religious reform of King Josiah of Judah in the late seventh century BCE (see Sweeney 2001)—is that one is to worship Yhwh only in his manifestation as god in Jerusalem and not in his various other local manifestations.”

    Moreover, it is clear even from Deuteronomy itself that there were other genuine divine beings in the heavens. For instance, Deut. 32.8-9 (NRSV adapted) reads as follows:

    “When the Most High [elyon] apportioned the nations, when he divided humankind, he fixed the boundaries of the peoples according to the number of the sons of God [bene elohim]; the Lord’s [YHWH] portion was his people, Jacob his allotted share.”

    The Masoretic Text (MT) which was followed by the King James Translators here reads “sons of Israel” instead of “sons of God.” However, the LXX and manuscript 4QDeut from the Dead Sea Scrolls, as well as several other ancient versions support the reading of the “sons of God.” The MT reading thus appears to be a deliberate alteration to change what was otherwise seen by an ancient scribe as a reference to the existence of other gods. I have written a post that provides important, basic information regarding the divine council in the Hebrew Bible. It may be read here:

    Moreover, your next section of proof-texts which show that various functions and titles for God may be applied to both God the Father and Jesus (and the Holy Spirit) do not demonstrate that God is three in a creedal Trinitarian sense (again, what definition of the Trinity are you arguing for?). Here again there are problems because of the lack of historical context provided for the texts cited, as well as the lack of a critical methodology. For instance, as evangelical scholar Larry Hurtado has written regarding the “monotheistic” Jewish context from which Christianity emerged:

    “This [Jewish] commitment to the one God of Israel accommodated a large retinue of heavenly beings distinguished from God more in degree than kind as to their attributes, some of these beings portrayed as in fact sharing quite directly in God’s powers and even his name…
    Jews were quite willing to imagine beings who bear the divine name within them and can be referred to by one or more of God’s titles (e.g., Yahoel or Melchizedek as elohim or, later, Metatron [Enoch] as yahweh ha-katon [“the lesser Yahweh”]), beings so endowed with divine attributes as to be difficult to distinguish them descriptively from God, beings who are very direct personal extensions of God’s powers and sovereignty. About this, there is clear evidence. This clothing of servants of God with God’s attributes and even his name will seem “theologically very confusing” if we go looking for a “strict monotheism” of relatively modern distinctions of “ontological status” between God and these figures, and expect such distinctions to be expressed in terms of “attributes and functions.” By such definitions of the term, Greco-Roman Jews seem to have been quite ready to accommodate various divine beings.”

    As Hurtado states here, even “strict” Jewish groups of the Second-Temple period, such as the Qumran community, maintained a belief in a divine council or pantheon of genuine deities/gods over which YHWH presided as supreme King or ruler (as I referenced above, this belief is clearly found in pre-exilic Israel as well); and the gods/heavenly in the pantheon could be described using the same words and titles attributed to YHWH, and at times even possess his very name. Furthermore, at times these beings act as surrogates for God in his dealings with humanity.

    Finally I will add some discussion regarding John’s gospel. It is obviously true that John refers to Jesus as God in verse one of chapter one. However, it is also important to recognize the distinctions John draws between the Father and Jesus. For instance, John significantly refers only to God the Father as “the only true God” (17.3), and states that the Father is “greater” than the Son (14.28). Throughout John’s gospel, Jesus is still significantly subordinated to the Father. Renowned Catholic scholar Raymond Brown summarized the issue(s) well as follows:

    “The prologue’s “the Word was God” offers a difficulty because there is no article before theos. Does this imply that “God” means less when predicated of the Word than it does when used as a name for the Father? Once again, the reader must divest himself of a post-Nicene understanding of the vocabulary involved…It is Jesus Christ who says in John xiv 28, “The Father is greater than I,” and who in xvii 3 speaks of the Father as “the only true God”.”

    I now conclude with a few final remarks. First, my intention again by these critiques was not to create anger or hostility, but simply to clarify several (important) issues which I believe were neglected in the post. I also wanted to provide further information and resources for those who are interested in engaging any of these issues further. Lastly, I will mention that for those interested in seriously engaging the issue of Mormonism’s relationship to the broader Judeo-Christian tradition in respect to the nature of God, I recommend reading Blake Ostler’s first and third volumes of Exploring Mormon Thought. A number of free articles and other resources that he has authored can be found at his website:

    Best wishes,

    The Yellow Dart

  2. Thanks for your response, Yellow Dart. You’ll find no anger or hostility from me, but you will find some spirited disagreement!

    The purpose of the post was simply to disprove the common and mistaken belief among some non-Christian groups that the doctrine of the Trinity is not based on Scripture. It is based on Scripture and I gave a basic argument and a few verses that demonstrate that it is. It was never my intention to give an exhaustive analysis of this doctrine, and that’s why I provided a link to a detailed and scholarly defense for those who want to dig into the issue further. Rather than dealing with all of your challenges to the Trinity, I refer my readers to that link.

    There is, however, one section of your comment that I want to address because it jumped out as obviously wrong, unless I’m misunderstanding you, which is possible. You said “An additional problem is that your post fails to acknowledge that in scholarly circles the consensus position is that the New Testament does not teach the Trinitarian teachings of later (nonbiblical) councils and creeds of the fourth and fifth centuries.” I have no idea what scholarly circles you are referring to, and I’d like to see your list of scholars. The doctrine of the Trinity that I uphold is the official position of Roman Catholicism, most Protestant denominations, and Eastern Orthodox Christians. Those groups claim about 2 billion adherents, whereas the total number of Mormons in the world is somewhere around 13 million. So again, I am baffled that you assign me the minority position.

    As a Mormon, you have to believe that for 1400 years the entire Christian church completely misunderstood the nature of God and the divinity of Jesus. It was not until the early 1800’s that Joseph Smith finally figured it all out. Now that is possible, but for you to claim that my position is in the minority is odd. None of this proves the doctrine of the Trinity right or wrong, but we might as well get the facts as straight as we can.

  3. Yellow Dart,

    Thank you for your post. While I disagree with your conclusion on many points, I respect the manner in which you seek to defend your position.

    You said:

    “Moreover, Mormons, accept that all of the divine persons are fully God, but they also refer to the three divine persons as one divine unity as God.”

    Please clarify your position for me.

    Are you asserting that Mormonism teaches as official doctrine that Jesus Christ is in and of Himself fully God?


  4. Hey Bill,

    Thanks for the bold highlighting…

    As for your question, I was specifically referring to the scholarly world of academia. The majority of critical scholars agree that the later definition(s) of God provided by the non-biblical councils represent a theological development away from the bare New Testament texts. You may, for instance, simply read the article on “God” in either the ABD (Anchor Bible Dictionary) to get a basic feel for where critical scholars are on this issue and what some of the relevant literature is. Simply, the terminology and categories of thought used to describe “God” are markedly different between the New Testament texts and the later creeds. Although one may believe the later creeds properly interpreted the New Testament texts, the New Testament simply does not clearly teach the formal doctrine of the Trinity as encompassed in the later creeds. This was the initial point I was getting at in my first comment: your scriptural proof-texts may be used to support Mormonism’s understanding of the nature of God as easily as you believe it supports your own. Furthermore, there are certainly religious traditions and scholars which accept the formal doctrine of the Trinity as contained in the creeds, but which also recognize a development of understanding of the nature of God between the New Testament texts and the later creeds. Raymond Brown (from the Catholic tradition) whom I cited above would clearly fall into this category (as his quote above demonstrates). The only persons or groups for whom this issue is really a problem are those who have prior fundamentalist commitments to the biblical texts, i.e., their religious presuppositions and prior assumptions concerning the inerrancy, sufficiency, utter theological consistency, and complete authority of the biblical texts prevent them from recognizing conflicting positions or information within the biblical documents and with later creedal interpretations, or sometimes from even just recognizing a progression of thought between the two.

    Best wishes,


  5. Hey Darrell,

    I referred to Blake Ostler’s volumes in the final paragraph of my first comment. I personally think that they are the most important books ever written regarding Mormon philosophical theology, and they provide critical historical and philosophical discussion concerning Mormonism relationship to the broader Judeo-Christian tradition. I recommend them to anyone who is seriously studying Mormonism.

    As for your specific question, I regard as “official” writings for Mormons only those texts which the Church as a whole as accepted as binding, namely what Mormons refer to as the Standard Works. I believe it is eminently obvious from Mormon scriptures (which includes the Bible!) that Jesus Christ is fully God.

    Best wishes,


  6. YD,

    Thank you for your clarification. Let me say that, just as Bill, you will find no anger or hostility from me. You will, however, find that I sharply disagree with you… afterall, I did leave the LDS Church to become a Christian!! 🙂

    You take the position that the LDS Church teaches that Jesus Christ is “Fully God”. However, the teachings of the LDS Church on the nature of Jesus Christ do not allow for this position. The Bible teaches that God is eternal, has always existed as God, and that there are no Gods besides Him (Isaiah 43-46). In addition, the Bible teaches that God does not change (Malachi 3:6 as well as numerous other verses).

    Therefore, if the Mormon Jesus is Fully God, He has to meet these criteria…. which He does not. The LDS Jesus is a spiritually born being. Prior to being spiritually born He was “unformed” and was not “God”. This creates several problems. First, He has not always existed because there was a time when He was unformed/unborn. Second, He was not always God because, again, there was a time when He was unformed/unborn. Third, He has changed… He went from being unformed/unborn to existing as a God.

    God of the Bible: Was never born or formed, Eternally existed as God and unchanging

    Mormon Jesus: Spiritually born, not always God, Changing

    I have spoken with Mormons about this in the past (while I was a Mormon in fact). The only way I have seen this issue addressed is by attempting to redefine what the Bible means when it says“God”… which is exactly what you are attempting. You cite research on early fringe heretical Jewish teachings… much of which I have read. This research trys to make the case that early Judaism taught a plurality of Gods/lower gods/multiple divine beings/etc.. Unfortunately, a visit with nearly ANY Jewish Rabbi will quickly lead one to the conclusion that this was not the position of early Judaism and is not the position they hold today. There were early fringe groups which taught this heresy. However, one can find almost ANY heretical teaching early in Judeo-Christian history. The fact that it was taught by someone, somewhere does not make it right. The fact is it did not survive as a systematic teaching of Judaism, it was not official and was not a widely held belief.

    The Jews were and are strictly monotheistic and therefore, The Law, The Prophets and The Writings are strictly monotheistic as well. Attempting to redefine what the Bible means when it says God is simply a vain attempt to make it fit a preconceived doctrinal position caused by supposed modern revelation.

    Have a good night!!


  7. Hi Yellow Dart,
    I have read critical academic scholarship on various issues, but not on the Trinity. I do not have the Anchor Bible Dictionary on-hand, but after looking around the internet, it seems like a good resource to have. Thanks for mentioning it to me.

    You claim that scholarly consensus believes that the definition of God developed over the centuries after Jesus lived. I have no issue with this statement. The church fathers were wrestling with the teachings of the apostles, and later their writings. They were trying to come to an understanding of what it all meant. Some of the teachings of the apostles were easy to understand, and some were more complicated. I believe that the discussion over the nature of God was one that took a while for the church fathers to nail down, and I’m OK with that. Maybe we can agree on this point.

    The ironic thing here is that these very critical scholars you mention would almost universally deny the Mormon understanding of God. What is the consensus scholarly view on the Mormon view of God? I believe it is overwhelmingly negative, as I’m sure you would agree. So, the very tools you use to tear down the traditional Christian edifice cannot be used by you to build back your own. Surely this has occurred to you.

    But I don’t see how any of this disproves my original point, that the doctrine of the Trinity was, and can still be, developed from biblical texts. If you will read the article at the link I provided, you will see a detailed and persuasive case made from biblical texts. Just because there was a process of debate and discussion that occurred within the church over a 300-year period does not mean that the doctrine is incorrect. The Christian church has continued to affirm this doctrine ever since, and has had plenty of time to review it.

    You didn’t answer this issue, but I will raise it again. Would you have us believe that God fundamentally left the entire Christian church in complete error about his nature for 1,400 years until Joseph Smith came on the scene? Every church father, including Augustine, Anselm, Aquinas, Calvin, Luther, and so on, had it completely wrong about a central issue as this one. Isn’t it more likely that Joseph Smith got it wrong? Convince me as a Christian that I should believe what he taught about the Trinity. He didn’t have any of the tools of modern scholarship. He wasn’t trained in biblical languages. He was removed 1,800 years from the times of Jesus. You have studied these issues, and I give you credit for that, but convince me, using logic, reason, and good scholarship, that I should go with Joseph Smith. Use the scholarly consensus that you have wielded against my view to prove your view.

    Thanks for the debate,

  8. Hey Darrell,

    I think this will be my last exchange with you regarding the nature and deity of Jesus within Mormon thought. If you are still interested afterward in pursuing this issue, I suggest that you read the scholarly literature I recommended previously. Simply, I disagree with your assessment, as do many respectable scholars of Mormonism. I am a Mormon, for instance, who does not believe that Jesus was literally “spiritually birthed.” Furthermore, I believe he is an eternally existent person who has always existed in intimate divine relationship with God the Father and the Holy Spirit. (I am certainly not alone in holding these positions within the Mormon tradition, and the literature I recommended would be worth your time to read since there are more issues and texts to engage and analyze concerning these issues than can be adequately addressed in my brief comments here.) Moreover, I am unaware of any Mormon scriptures that assert within their historical context that God the Son was “spiritually birthed.” Attempts to show that Mormon scripture does assert that Jesus was literally spiritually begotten in some sense are suspect because there is no historical evidence that Joseph Smith ever taught about spirits being literally birthed. Rather, Mormon scriptural references to the nature of “spirits” or “intelligences,” and Joseph’s Smith’s personal explanations of such scriptural statements, affirm that spirits are eternally existent. Hence, there can be no time when Jesus as a person did not exist. Moreover, Mormon scripture affirms that Jesus was fully God in his pre-mortal state as well as after his resurrection. Further, it states that God himself (in Jesus) came down to earth taking upon him a human form to perform an infinite atonement. (Again, I recommend you read Blake’s first and third volumes of Exploring Mormon Thought to explore these issues more fully and carefully.) Additionally, stating that God “does not change” is remarkably vague. What does this mean? For clearly according to Christian tradition Jesus (God) became mortal (even being “birthed” by a mortal woman!) and eventually died. He gained a genuine human experience from which he even learned (Heb. 5.8-9).

    Finally, I want to address your proof-texts from Second Isaiah. Your simple statement does not adequately address the complexity of the issues regarding the passages in Isaiah which you quote, as well as their relationships to other relevant biblical texts. First, the passage(s) which you take as categorically affirming the denial of other real gods have a very similar grammatical structure to other verses in Isaiah which would, by the same method of interpretation, deny the existence of other cities, armies, or rulers. For instance, Is. 47.8,10 in reference to the city Babylon (cf. Zeph. 2.15 in reference to Nineveh) reads:

    “Now therefore hear this, you lover of pleasures,
    who sit securely,
    who say in your heart,
    ‘I am, and there is no one besides me…
    You felt secure in your wickedness;
    you said, ‘No one sees me.’
    Your wisdom and your knowledge
    led you astray,
    and you said in your heart,
    ‘I am, and there is no one besides me.’” (NRSV)

    However, we know that there are other real cities in existence. The point is that Babylon is superlatively great, not that there are no other cities in existence. This is clearly not a categorical denial of the existence of other cities.

    Furthermore, we read similar denial language in Deut. 32.39 which states that “See now that I, even I, am he; there is no god besides me” (NRSV); yet, as I noted above, Deut. 32.8-9 in the very same chapter clearly refers to the sons of gods/gods! Additionally, most scholars recognize the presence of this divine council itself in Isaiah in Is. 6 and Is. 40.1-6 and 22-26. Thus in chapter 40 YHWH himself addresses the (unseen) divine council with plural markers (as in Gen. 1.26-27, 3.22 and elsewhere).

    Many ancient Near Eastern texts often praise various kings or gods in language virtually identical to that which Isaiah uses. Yet such statements are not to be read in their historical context as categorical denials of other kings or gods. The function of Isaiah’s language simply is to praise and magnify YHWH who is the King of the gods and the ruler of the nations. Such language is purposefully hyperbolic, and it is certainly not to be read in terms of later Greek metaphysical ontological categories. Additionally, we must not forget that this sort of language is clearly poetic. The point in such passages as Is. 40.17, 23, 41.12 and, 44.6, 24 which mock and “deny” other armies, cities, rulers, nations, and gods is not that those entities do not literally exist, but that YHWH is supreme and has ultimate authority, and all others compared to him are powerless or “nothing.” As Job 38.7 makes clear, the sons of god were clearly present when YHWH laid the foundations of the earth, as is implied in Genesis 1.26-27 and 3.22 (and elsewhere) as noted above.

    Thus these “denial” statements in Isaiah can fit comfortably with other biblical passages which affirm that there are indeed other gods (acherim elohim) in his council. The point again is not to deny the existence of other gods, kings, or princes, but to note that they are incomparable to YHWH in the sense that he is superlatively great. These passages simply must be interpreted without the lens of “ontological” categories, but rather through the categories of kingship and covenant which were common to the ancient Near East (and to the Israelites especially), and which demanded that covenant vassals extol and magnify their own king or patron as incomparably great and honorable and worthy of total fidelity and loyalty. Thus we read in Psalm 89. 6-8 (NRSV, adapted):

    “6For who in the skies can be compared to the Lord?
    Who among the sons of God is like the Lord,
    7 God feared in the council of the holy ones,
    great and awesome above all that are around him?
    8 Lord God of hosts,
    who is as mighty as you, O Lord?
    Your faithfulness surrounds you.”

    Again we read in Psalm 29. 1-2 (NRSV, adapted):
    1Ascribe to the Lord, O sons of God,
    ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
    2Ascribe to the Lord the glory of his name;
    worship the Lord in holy splendour.

    Here YHWH is incomparably great, yet clearly the bene elohim/elim, literally “sons of God/gods,” are ontologically real and exist in his council. Again, Greek metaphysical categories of “ontology” are foreign to the biblical texts. Instead these texts must be read through the understandings associated with kingship, covenant loyalty, political allegiance, and honor and shame that were dominant in Israel’s cultural and historical setting. Such terminology and language in Isaiah simply does not fall into the discourse of “ontology” as has been the typical framework of interpretation since the early Middle Ages.

    Finally, Darrell, your statements regarding Judaism are simply naive. Second-Temple Judaism was a diverse phenomenon and underwent substantial changes following the Jewish wars of the first and second centuries, as well as throughout the Middle Ages. I will note, additionally, that Jewish scholars, such as Harvard’s Jon Levenson or Brandeis’ Marc Brettler, admit that the oldest strata of biblical texts contain the notion of the divine council and do not teach radical monotheism.

    I do not intend to pursue this discussion any further, as these comments are becoming unwieldy in length and breadth of subject matter. I have provided further relevant literature for anyone who is interested. Thanks for your interaction and best wishes in your further studies regarding these issues should you pursue them further in the future. If you want the final reply, you can have it.

    Best wishes,

    The Yellow Dart


    Hey Bill,

    You said:

    “The ironic thing here is that these very critical scholars you mention would almost universally deny the Mormon understanding of God. What is the consensus scholarly view on the Mormon view of God? I believe it is overwhelmingly negative, as I’m sure you would agree. So, the very tools you use to tear down the traditional Christian edifice cannot be used by you to build back your own. Surely this has occurred to you.”

    Actually, the Mormon understanding of God fits very well with recent developments in philosophical discussion concerning the Social Trinity. Moreover, Mormons usually maintain a robust notion of the divine persons and do not use later Greek ontological categories in order to interpret the “nature of God” as described in the New Testament texts. In my view the Mormon understanding of God generally aligns fairly well with recent advances in historical-critical scholarship and recent philosophical studies which undermine the logical consistency of the classical creedal notion of the Trinity. Again, I recommend Blake’s works, but I might also suggest you read David Paulsen’s “Mormonism in Dialogue with Contemporary Christian Theologies,” which has a number of contributions from several well-respected non-Mormon philosophers and theologians.

    Lastly you stated:

    “Would you have us believe that God fundamentally left the entire Christian church in complete error about his nature for 1,400 years until Joseph Smith came on the scene? Every church father, including Augustine, Anselm, Aquinas, Calvin, Luther, and so on, had it completely wrong about a central issue as this one. Isn’t it more likely that Joseph Smith got it wrong? Convince me as a Christian that I should believe what he taught about the Trinity. He didn’t have any of the tools of modern scholarship. He wasn’t trained in biblical languages. He was removed 1,800 years from the times of Jesus. You have studied these issues, and I give you credit for that, but convince me, using logic, reason, and good scholarship, that I should go with Joseph Smith. Use the scholarly consensus that you have wielded against my view to prove your view.”

    Bill, I don’t have the ability to prove faith claims through pure logic and reason alone. Nevertheless, I will note that a number of Joseph’s claims about the bible and the nature of God are now considered the consensus position among modern critical scholars, although during his time his claims were considered unfounded and audacious by the broader Judeo-Christian community. This includes especially the notion of the divine council, as well as the fact that the bible teaches creatio ex materia and not creatio ex nihilo, that many of the biblical texts have undergone redaction and editing, that the New Testament texts do not teach the later creedal notion of the Trinity, that metaphysical or ontological monotheism does not accurately capture the teachings of the Hebrew Bible, etc. If you would like to read, for example, about the divine council, the editing of Genesis 1-3, or creation from pre-existing matter in Genesis, you are welcome to peruse my introductory writings on the subjects at my blog (just click on my name to get there). If you want further relevant scholarly literature about these subjects or others, I’d be happy to provide you some useful resources orintroductions. (I will note also that your statement that Joseph wasn’t trained in biblical languages is not fully accurate. He actually did study biblical Hebrew. Thus he did know one biblical language and had access to at least one modern tool of scholarship.)

    Again, thank you for your kind interaction, but I feel I have said what I wanted to say. For those who are interested I have provided further resources. I don’t have the time to continue writing such lengthy comments, but I appreciate your kind interactions. Again, if you want the final reply, you can have it (but if you still want further recommendations regarding scholarly literature on certain subjects I would be happy to try and oblige you.)

    Best wishes,

    The Yellow Dart

  9. Yellow Dart,
    Thanks for your gracious reply. I want to note a couple of things. First, you earlier said that fundamentalists bring presuppositions to their biblical studies. Throughout our dialogue, you have brought many presuppositions of your own. You presuppose Joseph Smith and his teachings are infallible. You presuppose that the Bible is inferior compared to the Book of Mormon. You presuppose that the men sitting on the early church councils were not attempting to be faithful to Scripture. I could go on, but you get the point. We all bring presuppositions, so let’s not pretend that one side is neutral and the other side is biased in these debates.

    You seem to be attracted to some critical scholars because you find support in their sometime attacks on Christian doctrines that differ from Mormonism. You must know that some critical scholars presuppose naturalism, atheism, and other philosophical views that you would strongly oppose. I ask you to be careful wielding this sword of critical scholarship, as it will undoubtedly be taken from your hand and used against you.

    Second, you were unwilling to concede in your last response that critical scholars do not support Smith’s views on God, but you know this is true and I know this is true. There is no rising tide of modern scholarship waving the flag of Joseph Smith and Mormonism. With gentleness and respect, I would say that there may be isolated ideas in Mormonism that gain support from time to time, but the total package of Mormon beliefs does not command respect from modern scholarship. I think it is a severe stretch for you to make the case that the Mormon doctrines of God are winning the day at the academies. Perhaps we’ll just have to agree to disagree on this point.

    I do appreciate your civility very much and I look forward to you leaving comments on our blog some day when you agree with something I said. I’m sure you can find something! 🙂

    Until next time,

  10. Hey Bill,

    I just don’t want to let you down, so I will go back against what I said and leave one more comment for you. You said:

    “I do appreciate your civility very much and I look forward to you leaving comments on our blog some day when you agree with something I said. I’m sure you can find something! :)”

    I actually agree that many of the persons involved in the early church councils were attempting to be faithful to scripture as they understood it. I also agree that everyone has presuppositions and biases. So there are two things we can agree on.

    However, I don’t think Joseph Smith was infallible. I don’t think the BofM is infallible or inerrant. And I don’t know what you mean by the Bible being “inferior” to the BofM. So there are several presuppositions which you think that I hold but which I do not. Finally, I was never trying to argue that critical scholars are purposefully looking to prove that Mormonism is true. Most of them probably are not interested in Mormonism at all. My point was simply that many of their conclusions happen to align with claims Joseph Smith was making over a century and a half ago. Do with that information what you will.

    Best wishes,


  11. Hey YD,

    Thank you for your honesty in sharing that you do not believe that Christ is a spirit child of God. It is great to hear that you do not subscribe to this false doctrine. Unfortunately, however, this doctrine is the official doctrine of the LDS Church. Not only does D&C 93:21 teach that Christ was spiritually begotten of the Father but I can also cite numerous modern LDS Leaders who teach this. In addition, some modern LDS teaching manuals teach this doctrine. Please let me know if you would like for me to provide a list of some of these as I will be happy to do so.

    I have read quite a bit about the divine council as well as the view of God within early Judaism. My understanding of this is far from “naive”. I think you may misunderstand my position as I do not have a problem in the least with the notion of a divine council in Heaven prior to the creation of man. I simply disagree with many of your conclusions surrounding the implications of this divine council as well as who the participants were. Where you and I may diverge is:

    1) I do not take the position that this divine council means that Polytheism is true. Perhaps you do… only you can answer that.

    2) I do not believe that the divine council supports mormon doctrine in the slightest. In fact, I think a strict reading on the Old Testament teachings about the divine council lead to the belief that LDS Doctrine is severly lacking in credibility.

    3) I believe that the divine council actually SUPPORTS the doctrine of the trinity.

    4) I believe the divine council shows that Yahweh is the ONE and ONLY TRUE God.

    5) I do not believe the divine council shows that Judaism evolved from a polytheistic religion to a monotheistic religion. On the contrary, I believe the evidence shows that Judaism HAS ALWAYS BEEN monotheistic. I will grant that the modern use of the word monotheism may not fully describe early Jewish views on God… but that discussion would be better addressed in another post.

    6) I do not believe that the Bible supports the mormon notion that MAN was part of the divine council or that man was the “bene elohim” who participated in it.

    You appear to be asserting that scholars have come to a consensus view on the divine council that supports mormon doctrine. This is simply not true. There are numerous views among scholars and there is simply no consensus view that mormonism’s view of the pre-existence of men and the ontological oneness of man and God is somehow supported by the biblical teaching on the divine council. In fact, I would challenge you that the ONLY scholars who view the divine council as supporting the mormon view of God and man are scholars who ARE mormon themselves.

    For further reading on the problems with the LDS scholarly view of the divine council please see a 2007 essay by Michael S. Heiser here.

    Have a good night!!


  12. I enjoyed reading the spirited debate on the Trinity, a concept that is non biblical and really did develop in the early church over the first few centuries, if one reads what is available in scholarly literature. After the early church fathers finally decided upon the true nature of Jesus or at least the proto-orthodox gained final supremacy and it was decided that Jesus was fully divine there became a problem of two Gods in heaven which had to be rationalized. Both Tertullian of Carthage and Hippolytus of Rome were strong in their opposition to the thought that Jesus and God the Father were the same being giving many of the same arguments that we hear today: 1) Why does the scripture say God sent his son rather than he came himself? 2) How can anyone be his own Father? 3) To whom was Jesus speaking when he prayed? 4) Why or how would he speak about going to the Father if he were the Father? 5) Most importantly, is it really possible that the Father was killed?
    John 17:3 says: And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.
    If that is the basis of eternal life, then the concept and knowledge are vitally important, to our eternal lives. And, and this is important when you read some of the material out there, it is obviously possible to know God and His Son. So, the knowledge of God and His nature and the nature of His Son is a vital and important thing and yet people struggle over this issue. When one comes to the core of the concept of the Trinity, the mystery of it becomes the beauty of it and one is lost in its un-understandable nature. The response then becomes, we cannot understand this mystery.
    Now, I agree that the finite mind has trouble with the infinite. The shamrock is a nice object lesson. We cannot of ourselves wrap our minds around the infinite, but the Spirit gives us the ability. That must be acknowledged.
    In the above blogs, there were comments on why would heaven leave people struggling for 1400 years until Joseph Smith if their concept of God was incorrect? That is simple. If one does not look outside their construct, they do not see or hear. The churchmen had decided the heavens were closed and there would be no revelation, so who was looking or listening? One does not see or hear what one does not seek.
    The book of James was written, as it states in the first verse, to the 12 tribes which are scattered abroad. Joseph Smith’s English ancestry would make him highly likely to be one of those of the house of Israel scattered abroad and he claimed to be of the house of Joseph. He took at face value the directive of James and knowing he lacked wisdom sought it from the source and received it. The fact that he claimed to see two beings was interesting enough by itself. Were he to have made it up, he would likely have gone on the basis of his upbringing and reported seeing one being, as he was so raised to believe. Were he to have made a real jump into the dark, he might have reported seeing three, but why two? In one brief Theophany he cleared up the question and put us back on track with the first century Christian church, the church of the Apostles.
    Since people cannot figure out from the ancient word what even the nature of God is, then it is pretty certain that we ought not close our minds to the possibility that God might like to reveal His word to us, still. I have talked of cheeseburgers in the past, but on a more serious note, to know God is the nature of salvation or should I say, eternal life, since salvation is the free gift, cheeseburgers or no. If we say that the ancient scripture is enough to have to figure it out, then tell me why there is such disagreement and difficulty in knowing the nature of God. As we read some authors the personal, approachable, tribal God of Abraham seems to have been pushed so far away that He is neither knowable, understandable or even approachable. Jesus came to show us the Father. Jesus when he was here was all these things and promised: If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. John 14:23 It sounds like a good idea, but we had best set two places.

  13. 1.Where do we find The concept of trinity in God, in His Existence/being [how he is in Heaven] or in His revelation?

    Why the Question

    A. If Trinity apply in the Existence of God, The Existence/being [how he is in Heaven] of God has not been revealed to the human or it has not be in Bible as He Existed in the Heaven. Job 36:26 Behold, God is great, exceeding our knowledge, Romans 1:20 invisible God, 1 Timothy 6: 15 b & 16 who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, 1 John 4:12, Exodus 33:20 No one has ever seen God. Also see Psalm 145:3, 1 Corinthians 22:10-12, Psalm 139:6, Isaiah 55:8-9, Romans 11:33.

    B. If Trinity is in Revelation of God it not only in the form of three but in many ways, forms.(In many separate revelations [[a]each of which set forth a portion of the Truth] and in different ways God spoke of old to [our] forefathers in and by the prophets,[But] in [a]the last of these days He has spoken to us in [the person of a] Son, Whom He appointed Heir and lawful Owner of all things, also by and through Whom He created the worlds and the reaches of space and the ages of time [He made, produced, built, operated, and arranged them in order].Hebrew 1:1-2 Amplified Bible)

  14. TRUTH IS! The Messiah WAS Created!

    ELOHIM said, “Let There Be Light” and “there was Light”! (Genesis 1:3)

    “The Only Begotten Son of Our ABBA and ELOHIM”! (John 3:16)

    And “The Beginning of The Creation of ELOHIM”! (Revelations 3:14)


    As for The Holy, Set Apart, SPIRIT?

    Our ABBA and ELOHIM IS SPIRIT, and HIS “Born Again” children were immersed in, of, by and thru HIS Holy, Set Apart, SPIRIT! (John 4:24, John 3:3,7, I Peter 1:23)

    Thankfully “The SPIRIT that IS Our FATHER and GOD was IN The Messiah(a servant of The Only TRUE GOD, yet HIS Only Begotten Son)”! (II Corinthians 5:19, Isaiah 53:11, John 17:3, John 3:16)


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