The Trinitarian Problem

One of the lesser known arguments for the doctrine of the Holy Trinity is that it is the solution to a theological problem found in the New Testament. The problem is there is one God yet Jesus and the Spirit, who are distinct from God and one another, are also considered to be divine. The most influential proponent of this argument is theologian Arthur Wainwright in his 1952 book The Trinity in the New Testament. In it he called it the “problem of the Trinity” which he argues was later clearly articulated and fully resolved as “the doctrine of the Trinity”, that is, in the formal creeds. As such it is a version of the developmental argument for the Trinity and the most popular version of it. The Trinitarian problem approach is the most popular argument for the Trinity among the theologically educated. Even though I think it is the best argument for the Trinity there is a serious problem with the Trinitarian problem thesis. Continue reading “The Trinitarian Problem”


The Bible and the Development of the Trinity (Pt. II)

In the first part I began to look at problems with how developmental language is sometimes used with regard to the doctrine of the Holy Trinity and its relation to the New Testament (NT). In this post I I examine what’s wrong with characterizing what the NT has to say about the relationship between God, Jesus and the Spirit as “undeveloped”. Often “undeveloped” means it was not adequately thought out and articulated, that is, it is rudimentary, unsophisticated or immature. Continue reading “The Bible and the Development of the Trinity (Pt. II)”

The Bible and the Development of the Trinity

In the discussion of the Bible and its relation to the Trinity there is a particular term Trinitarians use which I think is misleading and that is “development.” The word and other related terms and ideas refer to the course of the historical development of the doctrine of the Holy Trinity from the 1st to the 4th centuries, the New Testament to the Nicene Creed.

As a point of historical fact, it is perfectly acceptable to say it developed because the doctrine did not appear out of thin air but there were a series of events that led to it. It is also correct to say that the path to the Trinity began with the New Testament (NT). The problem with the term development is how it is often used to suggest that given what the New Testament says, the formulation of Trinitarian doctrine was inevitable. Continue reading “The Bible and the Development of the Trinity”

The Missing Trinity

When I was in Sunday School there was a time where my friends and I would gather afterwards, while we were waiting for the adults to finish, to talk about things related to God. I was usually the facilitator of the discussion and on one such occasion someone asked me to prove the Trinity. That was one heck of a thing to ask a 12 year old. For a split second I was absolutely stunned by the magnitude of the question after which I immediately realised I had never actually thought about it myself prior to the moment I was asked. Thinking quickly on my feet I quoted the most Trinitarian passage I could think of.

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit… (Matthew 28:19 ESV)

There you have it, Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, the Holy Trinity clearly stated in the Bible. For most people evidence of the Trinity in the Bible simply consists of finding proof texts like that or 1 Corinthians 12:4-6 or others. The trouble is things are not so straightforward. Continue reading “The Missing Trinity”

Hurtado on Christology and Ontology

Larry Hurtado's Blog

A recent commenter queried my statement that “ontological” categories weren’t explicit or operative in 1st-century Christian texts (see my response to Philip Alexander in the comments on my posting here).  Granting that ontological categories and statements aren’t explicit in NT writings, the commenter asked how we can judge that ontological categories weren’t operative or on the table in early Christological beliefs/statements.  As this is an important question, I’ve chosen to address it in a posting, rather than in a comment/response.

These “ontological” categories figure in the Christological discussions and debates of the early centuries of Christianity, and are reflected in the classic creedal formulations, such as the “Nicene” creed, in which Jesus is confessed to be of the same “essence” as the Father.

First, the lack of explicitly ontological language in Christological statements in the NT writings is significant.  For, surely, if the writers of these texts were working with ontological conceptual…

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Some thoughts on the early history of the Trinity

A few years ago, when I began looking into New Testament Christology, I came across an interview of renowned New Testament scholar James D.G. Dunn by Frank Viola, where professor Dunn was discussing his work. He clarified some of his somewhat controversial views on Christology. Christology is broadly speaking the theological study of Jesus as presented in the Bible. So it deals with questions like was Jesus divine, was he worshipped? etc. Jimmy Dunn is a Christian but as a scholar he does not think that in the New Testament Jesus was considered divine and certainly not the second person of the Trinity. While he believes these things are true about Jesus he does not think the New Testament actually teaches them.

Now he made an interesting comment about the Trinity which has stuck with me ever since. Continue reading “Some thoughts on the early history of the Trinity”

God, Jesus and the Trinity

A discussion between Larry Hurtado and Anthony Buzzard, reviewed by Dale Tuggy

Continue reading “God, Jesus and the Trinity”