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New Trinitarian Church Creeds

J. Dan Gill

With councils, and the advent of a new orthodoxy, came the issuing of dogmas. Over time the post-biblical church fathers locked in their confusion by means of church creeds. They hammered out creedal statements that would be recited by Christians. The orthodoxy of the new church fathers rested on their own devised creeds and not on the Bible itself. Dr. Cyril Richardson of Union Theological Seminary in New York states:

My conclusion, then, about the doctrine of the Trinity is that it is an artificial construct. It tries to relate different problems and to fit them into an arbitrary and traditional threeness. It produces confusion rather than clarification; and while the problems with which it deals are real ones the solutions it offers are not illuminating. … There is no necessary threeness in the Godhead.[1]

The problem for the new orthodoxy was even more acute than the lack of Scriptures stating it. Again, the idea of multiple persons as one God is in direct opposition to the great body of Scriptures insisting that only one individual is God. Key in this is the Shema itself. The Shema is “the” biblical creed with regard to God. It remains the creed of devout Jews to this day. It rules out the idea of multiple persons being the one God. Because of this, there has been a tendency for Gentile Christians to diminish the Shema or simply disregard it.[2]

In that light, it is notable that Christians often celebrate the first of the 10 Commandments. That commandment is summarized in the negative directive: “You shall not have any other gods before me” (Ex. 20:3). By comparison, the positive statements in the Shema are more illuminating. In the Shema is found not only the declaration of who God is — YHWH alone — but also the essential affirmation that a person is to love the LORD with all of his heart, soul and strength!

Some frail attempts have been made by multi-person pundits to reinterpret the Shema in keeping with the new Gentile version of God. Some have suggested that the words in the declaration: “Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one” must refer to multiple persons of Deity who are together a “compound one.”[3] The word “God” is then taken as referring to the “essence” or “substance” in which the supposed persons exist. Confusing to even think about, this reinvention of the Shema is very awkward and comes late. Nothing is said in Deuteronomy 6:4 about “substance,” “essence,” or “multiple persons” as being a “compound one.” No one in the entire Bible proposes such meanings for Moses’ words.[4]

In their scriptural context, it is unmistakable that the words of the Shema uncompromisingly affirm what all of God’s prophets and people of old confessed about him: There is only one individual who is God — he is YHWH. Some twelve times in the sixth chapter of Deuteronomy “the LORD” is referred to by “he,” “him,” and “his.” Singular personal pronouns define a single person. Moses says:

Verse 1 — Now this is the commandment, the statutes and the decrees that the LORD your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are about to enter into and possess…

  • v. 2 keep all his decrees and his commands
  • v. 4 Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one.
  • v. 10 into the land that he swore to your fathers
  • v. 13 him shall you serve… by his name
  • v. 15 he will destroy
  • v. 17 diligently keep… his decrees, and his statutes as he has commanded you.
  • v. 23 he brought us out from there to give us the land that he had promised
  • v. 25 If we observe… as he has commanded

How many people will hear Moses speaking the words above and walk away thinking that the LORD, God of Israel, is two or three persons existing as a compound one? Again, how many people will be thinking that the word “God” actually means the “essence” or “substance” in which multiple persons exist?[5] The answer is clear on both counts — none! On the other hand, how many will walk away knowing that there is only one individual who is God? The answer is certain — all of them! They will know no other God and no other persons with Deity. They will know only him! The Shema is a proclamation about one amazing individual, YHWH himself.[6] He is their Father.

Continue reading – next in series

Gill, J. Dan (2016). New Church Creeds. In, The One: In Defense of God (pp. 249-252). Nashville, TN: 21st Century Reformation Publishing.


[1] Cyril C. Richardson, The Doctrine of the Trinity (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1957), 148 and 149. Dr. Richardson is now deceased,

[2] The Shema expresses a timeless truth — that only one individual is God and that individual is YHWH. As Pastor Jack L. Stone has said, “Whatever God was in eternity he is now. His nature and being doesn’t change” (personal correspondence, 4-28-14). A recent example of the diminishing of the Shema by post-biblical Gentile Christians is that of Craig Evans who asserts that: “Jesus’ affirmation of the Shema is neither remarkable nor specifically Christian.” Craig Evans, Word Biblical Commentary on Mark, 34b (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2001), 261. I would respond that Jesus’ affirmation of the Shema is very remarkable (he declared it to be the greatest of all the commandments) and solidly Christian ( Jesus himself taught the same timeless truth regarding God being only one individual — John 17:3). It would also seem that Dr. Evans here makes a tacit admission that the Shema does not speak of a multi-person God. It is hard to imagine Evans writing from his Trinitarian perspective that the Shema is not remarkable nor specifically Christian if it were actually speaking of the Trinity.

[3] This relates to the abuse of the Hebrew word echad (one, alone, single) which is erroneously proposed by some to refer to a “compound one.” Again there is a review of the word echad in chapter 10 of this book.

[4] It can be noted by even the casual Bible reader that the word “LORD” (YHWH) is accompanied by singular verbs and pronouns continuously (thousands of times) throughout the Hebrew Bible. That further confirms the obvious: a single self (one individual) is being referenced when we read about YHWH.

[5] For the benefit of “Social-Trinitarians,” we might also ask how many people will walk away thinking the word “God” here refers to an eternal group of three divine friends?

[6] It is the Father who is YHWH (Isa. 63:16). He is the only one who is the LORD and it is he who created all things (Neh. 9:6).

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