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If Only We Had Listened to Gabriel - Page 2

The Justification of Later Developments
Theological writings frequently tell us that the right definition of Jesus and his relationship to God was discovered only after centuries of painful intellectual struggle. The Bible however seems much more straightforward. It says nothing about a “mystery of the Trinity.” This came much later. Post-biblical writings invite us into a very different world of thought. J.S. Whale asks:

“How did the doctrine of the Trinity come to be formulated and why? What did it mean? As soon as the Church addressed itself to systematic doctrine it found itself wrestling with its fundamental axioms. I use the word ‘wrestling’ deliberately, because those axioms were on the face of them mutually incompatible…The first axiom was monotheism, the deep religious conviction that there is but one God, holy and transcendent, and that to worship anyone else is idolatry. To Israel, and to the New Israel of the Christian church, idolatry in all its forms was sin at its worst. ‘Hear O Israel: the Lord our God is one Lord’ (Deut. 6:4). ‘I am the Lord and there is none else, there is no God beside me’ (Isa. 45:5). Monotheism was the living heart of the religion of the Old Testament. It was and is the very marrow of Christian divinity…The systematic thought inevitably involved a further definition of monotheism, an elaboration of the unitary conception of the Godhead, not in terms of tritheism, but of Triunity…Christian thought, working with the data of the New Testament and using Greek philosophy as its instrument, constructed the doctrine of the Trinity in Unity…The popular view of the Trinity has often been a veiled tritheism [belief in three Gods].”4

This account is typical of the voluminous material published to inform us how the Trinity came into being. Unable to face the awful possibility that the Church distorted the New Testament rather than explaining it accurately, our writer speaks in low-key words of “a further definition of monotheism,” an “elaboration of the unitary conception of the Godhead.” At least he recognizes that the creed of Jesus was non-Trinitarian, but rather “unitary monotheism.” But does he deal fairly with the disaster which occurred when Jesus’ own creed was tampered with? Why is it admissible to redefine the simple creed of the Bible? God is one. He is not three. One will not become three without a major restructuring of God and thus of the universe. The New Testament contains not a word about any “wrestling” with how many Persons in the universe can be called the supreme God. There are indeed struggles over issues of the Mosaic law and its application in the New Testament. But no one amongst our apostolic writers ever broached the subject of a brand new definition of God, of monotheism. The God of the Old Testament is the God of the New. No more needs to be said.

But the Gentile pagan mind did not want to submit itself to the Jewish creed of the Jewish founder of the Christian faith. The simplicity found in Jesus needed elaboration in terms of the philosophies of the Greek culture. Hence arose all the conflict over the identity of Jesus in relation to God.

Hence the church “wrestled,” wrestled itself in fact most unwisely out of the perceived straightjacket of biblical monotheism, the very doctrine which would have spared it so much subsequent agony and division.

Other authorities who comment on our topic are forthright about the facts, particularly if they are historians with less of a theological axe to grind. The 15th edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica in its article on “Trinity” says: “Neither the word Trinity, nor the explicit doctrine as such, appears in the New Testament, nor did Jesus and his followers intend to contradict the Shema of the Old Testament: ‘The Lord our God is one Lord’” (Deut. 6:4).5

Dr. Marvin Wilson comments well on Jesus’ unmistakable confirmation of the creed of Israel:

“Of the 5,845 verses in the Pentateuch, ‘Hear O Israel’ sounds the historic keynote of all Judaism. This fundamental truth and leitmotif of God’s uniqueness prompts one to respond by fulfilling the fundamental obligation to love God. Accordingly when Jesus was asked about the most important commandment his reply did not contradict this central theme of Judaism (Mark 12:28-34; Matt. 22:34-40). With 613 individual statutes of the Torah from which to choose, Jesus cited the shema, including the command to love God, but also extended the definition of the first and great command to include love for one’s neighbor (Lev. 19:18)…Yahweh is the Supreme Being, wholly unlike all other things in the universe which have been created by him.” Wilson then mentions that “Some have seen complex unity.” He wisely makes no attempt to justify this attempt to read later theology back into the simple words of the Hebrew Bible. But he strangely seems unalarmed that the church he belongs to does not subscribe to the creed affirmed by Jesus himself.

Dr. Wilson provides excellent historical comment on the creed recited by Jesus. In Our Father Abraham, Marvin Wilson states: The Shema “is one of the most crucial Old Testament texts for the foundational teachings of both Jesus and Judaism.”6 But that foundational creed of Jesus is nowhere to be found on the books of mainline churches. For all of his good history and presentation of the facts, Professor Wilson seems unable to protest the Church’s — his own church’s — failure to uphold the creed of Jesus.

Unless, then, it can be shown that belief in three Persons who are God can be reconciled with the Shema affirmed by Jesus, Christians have the wrong creed. They have been mistaken for centuries. They have abandoned Jesus at a fundamental level (as well as keeping Jews and Muslims away from considering the claims of Jesus).

Let us do some further comparing. We have seen what creed Jesus established as the foundation of true religion: “the Lord our God is one Lord.” Now let us hear what Christians were supposed to recite as creed some 500 years after the time of Jesus.

From the Jew Jesus to a New Gentile Creed
Below is the so-called Athanasian creed. I will not quote it in full, but give you enough to show how it unpacks the summary statement that “God exists in three Persons.”

“Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic [universal] faith; which faith except everyone do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly. And the catholic faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity and Unity; neither confounding the persons nor dividing the substance…The Father eternal, the Son eternal and the Holy Spirit eternal. And yet they are not three eternals but one eternal…So likewise the Father is almighty, the Son almighty, and the Holy Spirit almighty. And yet they are not three almighties, but one almighty. So the Father is God, the Son is God and the Holy Spirit is God; and yet they are not three Gods, but one God. So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son Lord and the Holy Spirit Lord; and yet they are not three Lords but one Lord. For just as we are compelled by the Christian verity to acknowledge every Person by himself to be God and Lord; so we are forbidden by the catholic religion to say there are three Gods or three Lords…and in this Trinity none is before or after another; none is greater or less than another. But the whole three Persons are coeternal and coequal. So that in all things, as aforesaid, the Unity in Trinity and the Trinity in Unity is to be worshiped. He who wants to be saved must so think of the Trinity.”

Note the heavy threats leveled at any who might question this amazing dogma. But could Jesus have possibly subscribed to that creed? Or would Jesus himself have fallen under the cruel anathemas of this “Christian” creed? The appalling possibility is that Jesus would have fled from association from this bizarre document, which presents the ordinary reader with rather obvious non-sense.

Jesus patently knew nothing about the creeds of Nicea or the so-called Athanasian creed. Jesus perfectly taught and carried out the will of his Father. Jesus’ own affirmation of the creed of Israel is testimony to the greatest fact of the universe: That there is a God, and that He is one divine Person. Could even the God of Jesus possibly believe in the Trinity?

4 Christian Doctrine,1952, p. 112.
5 p. 126.
6 p. 122

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(“If Only We Had Listened to Gabriel” is a reprint from Focus on the Kingdom, Jan, 2007, at and chapter 7 of my Jesus was not a Trinitarian, pp 192-225.)

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