Did the True Church Ever Teach a Trinity?

What is the doctrine of the trinity? What is the origin of the trinity?

By COGwriter

Is God a trinity? Was the modern trinity the teaching of the Bible or the faithful leaders of the Christian church?

If it was not part of the early church, when did it become accepted?

This article will attempt to answer those questions from the Bible, early writings, and even from Roman Catholic writings.

This Subject is Important

Traditional Roman Catholics generally believe:

It is impossible to believe explicitly in the mystery of Christ, without faith in the Trinity...Wherefore just as, before Christ, the mystery of Christ was believed explicitly by the learned, but implicitly and under a veil, so to speak, by the simple, so too was it with the mystery of the Trinity. And consequently, when once grace had been revealed, all were bound to explicit faith in the mystery of the Trinity (The Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas. Second and Revised Edition, 1920. Literally translated by Fathers of the English Dominican Province. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by Kevin Knight. Nihil Obstat. F. Innocentius Apap, O.P., S.T.M., Censor. Theol. Imprimatur. Edus. Canonicus Surmont, Vicarius Generalis. Westmonasterii. APPROBATIO ORDINIS. Nihil Obstat. F. Raphael Moss, O.P., S.T.L. and F. Leo Moore, O.P., S.T.L. Imprimatur. F. Beda Jarrett, O.P., S.T.L., A.M., Prior Provincialis Angliæ).

Yet, the Roman Catholics also teach that their trinity did not clearly come from the Bible and cannot be fully understood:

In Scripture there is as yet no single term by which the Three Divine Persons are denoted together....The Vatican Council has explained the meaning to be attributed to the term mystery in theology. It lays down that a mystery is a truth which we are not merely incapable of discovering apart from Divine Revelation, but which, even when revealed, remains “hidden by the veil of faith and enveloped, so to speak, by a kind of darkness” (Const., "De fide. cath.", iv). (Joyce G.H. The Blessed Trinity. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XV Copyright © 1912 by Robert Appleton Company Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight).

Thus, the Roman Catholic Church teaches that the trinity is a mystery and not a biblical term, but only a revealed doctrine. And, as will be shown below, the modern trinity was revealed through several councils, the first one called for by a pagan Emperor.

And Protestants?

It is indeed true that the name "Trinity" is nowhere to be found in the Holy Scriptures, but has been conceived and invented by man. (Luther Martin. The Sermons of Martin Luther, Church Postil, 1522; III:406-421, PC Study Bible formatted electronic database Copyright © 2003, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)

That Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, three distinct persons in one divine essence and nature, are one God, who has created heaven and earth...Concerning these articles there is no contention or dispute, since we on both sides confess them. Therefore it is not necessary now to treat further of them. (Luther Martin. The Smallclad Papers. 1537. Translated by F. Bente and W. H. T. Dau Published in: _Triglot Concordia: The Symbolical Books of the Ev. Lutheran Church_. (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921), pp. 453-529).

Luther called the Athansen Creed the grandest production of the Christian Church since the times of the apostles (Mueller, John Theodore. The Lutheran Confessions. circa 1953, p.5).

Those who deny the Triune God and His redemptive work are outside the church and without hope of salvation (Mueller, John Theodore. The Lutheran Confessions. circa 1953, p.6).

It is interesting to notice that Martin Luther saw no reason to explain much on the Godhead as both sides (the Protestants and the Catholics, but not the Bible) confessed a trinune divinity. The Athansen creed discusses the belief in the Trinity and the writing about it concludes with:

This is the catholic (general) faith; which except a man believe faithfully and firmly, he cannot be saved (p.6).

Thus, the position of the Roman Catholics and the founder of the Protestant Reformation seems to be that salvation is not possible for those who do not accept the trinity.

Also, it is a position of at least one unitarian that accepting that Christ is God stops one from being a true Christian.

Therefore this is an important subject.

Furthermore, the Apostle John warned that there was a doctrine of antichrist that denied that Jesus truly came in the flesh. If Jesus was not fully human while on earth (and this is discussed in the article Binitarianism: One God, Two Beings Before the Beginning), does not modern trinitarianism actually deny Jesus' humanity (an article of further interest might be Doctrines of Antichrist)?

But because both Roman Catholics and the Protestants teach that Jesus was 'fully human and fully God,' they reject that He emptied Himself of His divinity (Philippians 2:7), thus they deny that He has truly came in the flesh. There is even a book with that improper title (Casey, Michael. Fully Human, Fully Divine: And Interactive Christology. Liquori: Liguori Publications, 2004).

Before going further, let us notice something that the New Testament teaches about the Godhead:

1 For I want you to know what a great conflict I have for you and those in Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh, 2 that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, and attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge...8 Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. 9 For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; NKJV (Colossians 2:1-3,8-9)

The duality of the Godhead, the view known as Binitarianism is what the scriptures support.

Trinitarian Scriptures and the Origin of 1 John 5:7-8?

Was the trinity a central doctrine of the New Testament? Here is what one modern historian has written about it:

Like other doctrines that became central to the faith, however, belief in the Trinity was a historical development, not a "given" from the early years of the faith.

A. The basic notion of the Trinity is that there are three persons in the Godhead: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. These are all equally God and of the same substance, but despite the fact there are three persons, together, they compromise only one God, indivisible in nature.

B. This doctrine does not appear to be a doctrine pronounced by the historical Jesus, Paul, or any other Christian writer during the first hundred years or so of Christianity.

C. It cannot be found explicitly stated in the earliest Christian writings. The only passage of the New Testament that declares the doctrine (1 John 5:7-8) was not originally part of the text but was added by doctrinally astute scribes at a later date (it is not found in any Greek manuscripts until the 11th century) (Ehrman B. From Jesus to Constantine: A History of Early Christianity, Part 2. The Teaching Company, Chantilly (VA), 2004, p. 43).

The terms trinity, threeness, or trinitarian are not found in the Bible. But there are two main verses supposedly from the Bible that trinitarians point to.

The main one is I John 5:7-8, which was mentioned above. Although the NIV gets I John 5:7-8 right, the KJV, NKJV, and Douay Rheims for I John 5:7-8 includes words not in the original text:

7 For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. 8 And there are three that bear witness in earth, the spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one. (1 John 5:7-8, KJV)

7 For there are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one. 8 And there are three that bear witness on earth: the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and these three agree as one.  (1 John 5:7-8, NKJV)

7 And there are three who give testimony in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost. And these three are one.  8 And there are three that give testimony on earth: the spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three are one. (1 John 5:7-8, Douay-Rheims)

On page 1918, The Ryrie Study Bible reminds everyone, while referring to the NKJV:

"Verse 7 should end with the word witness. The remainder of v. 7 and part of v. 8 are not in any ancient Greek manuscript...".

In other words the words "in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness on earth" are not inspired and are not supposed to be in the Bible.

Notice how the Interlinear Bible translates the Greek:

7 For three there are that ......bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, ............and the
3754 5140 1526 3588 3140 <9999> <9999> <9999> <9999> <9999> <9999> <9999> <9999>
 Hóti  treís  eisin  hoi  marturoúntes

Holy Ghost: ..............and ...these .......three are one.
<9999> <9999> <9999> <9999> <9999> <9999> <9999>

8 And there are three that bear witness in earth, ....................the spirit, and ...the water, and .....the
<9999> <9999> <9999> <9999> <9999> <9999> <9999> 3588 4151 2532 3588 5204 2532 3588
 tó  Pneúma  kaí  tó  húdoor  kaí  tó

blood: and these ..three... in.... .......one. agree
129 2532 <3588> 5140 1519 3588 1520 1526
 haíma  kaí  hoi  treís  eis  tó  hén  eisin

(Interlinear Transliterated Bible. Copyright © 1994, 2003, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc.)

<9999> means that the word does not exist.

Now lest any Catholics have a different view, although the CHANGED version of the Latin Vulgate contains a version of this, the Codex Amiatinus (Codex Amiatinus. Novum Testamentum Latine interpreter Hieronymo. Epistula Iohannis I V:6-8. Constantinus Tischendorf, Lipsiae. 1854 http://books.google.com/books?hl=pl&id=x0opAAAAYAAJ&q=NOVUM_TESTAMENTUM_LATINE#v=onepage&q=NOVUM_TESTAMENTUM_LATINE&f=false viewed 04/21/12), which is believed to be the closest to the original document that Jerome originally translated, also does not have this as The Catholic Encyclopedia states

Codex Amiatinus The most celebrated manuscript of the Latin Vulgate Bible, remarkable as the best witness to the true text of St. Jerome...(Fenlon, John Francis. "Codex Amiatinus." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 4. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1908. 21 Apr. 2012 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04081a.htm>)

Note: Yes, I personally read the Latin in the Codex Amiatinus and compared it to the changed version and more modern version of the Latin Vulgate which differs from the early version in that the modern version adds "in caelo, Pater, Verbum, et Spiritus Sanctus. Et hi tres unum sunt. Et tres sunt qui testimonium dant in terra:" (Latin Vulgate . com is provided by Mental Systems, Inc. http://www.latinvulgate.com/verse.aspx?t=1&b=23&c=5 viewed 04/21/12).

So when did it get put in? Notice:

the earliest manuscript, codex 221 (10th century), includes the reading in a marginal note which was added sometime after the original composition. Thus, there is no sure evidence of this reading in any Greek manuscript until the 1500s; each such reading was apparently composed after Erasmus’ Greek NT was published in 1516. Indeed, the reading appears in no Greek witness of any kind (either manuscript, patristic, or Greek translation of some other version) until AD 1215 (in a Greek translation of the Acts of the Lateran Council, a work originally written in Latin)...

The Trinitarian formula (known as the Comma Johanneum) made its way into the third edition of Erasmus’ Greek NT (1522) because of pressure from the Catholic Church. After his first edition appeared (1516), there arose such a furor over the absence of the Comma that Erasmus needed to defend himself. He argued that he did not put in the Comma because he found no Greek manuscripts that included it...

In reality, the issue is history, not heresy: How can one argue that the Comma Johanneum must go back to the original text when it did not appear until the 16th century in any Greek manuscripts? (Wallace DB, professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary. The Textual Problem in 1 John 5:7-8. http://bible.org/article/textual-problem-1-john-57-8 viewed 04/21/12)

The Protestant and Catholic bibles that have the added words are relying on very late documents that were not considered to be original.  Some, of course, have ignored the truth about the origin of 1 John 5:7-8 and wish to believe that because early heretics seem to have possibly referred to it (one popular online source falsely claims that Tertullian, who followed the heretic Montanus, quoted the omitted words in Against Praxeas--this is not true as I have read that writing and it is not in there--but even if it was, Tertullian was a heretic follower who did not seem to have the proper canon), that it must be true--but that of course is a lie.

According to Dr. Wallace, here is what the original Greek supports for 1 John 5:7-8:

“5:7 For there are three that testify, 5:8 the Spirit and the water and the blood, and these three are in agreement.” --NET Bible

Now even various trinitarian scholars have concluded that 1 John 5:6-8 essentially has to do with baptism and Jesus--not the "trinity":

5:6 Water and blood have been interpreted...(1) as Jesus' baptism and death,(2) as His incarnation...Most scholars favor the first interpretation...

5;7, 8 The Holy Spirit testifies in accord with the water and the blood (v. 6) that Jesus is the Son of God (Radmacher ED, general editor. Nelson Study Bible. New King James Version, 1997, p. 2147).

Properly understood, 1 John 5 simply is not teaching the modern Greco-Roman trinity that most who profess Christ claim to believe in.

The second passage is often cited is Matthew 28:19. But it does not teach the trinity.

It should be explained here that perhaps the reason that the Bible teaches, "baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (Matthew 28:19) is that through being begotten by the Holy Spirit through baptism (Luke 3:16), we will ultimately be born in the family of God (this is discussed further below)--and that is part of the relationship between us, the Holy Spirit, the Son, and the Father (this is also consistent with what Theophilus, a second century leader, wrote). (More on Matthew 28:19 can be found in the article Is Matthew 28:19 in the Bible?)

Even the heretical Irenaeus did not teach that Matthew 28:19 endorsed the trinity as he felt:

And for this reason the baptism of our regeneration proceeds through these three points: God the Father bestowing on us regeneration through His Son by the Holy Spirit. For as many as carry (in them) the Spirit of God are led to the Word, that is to the Son; and the Son brings them to the Father; and the Father causes them to possess incorruption. Without the Spirit it is not possible to behold the Word of God, nor without the Son can any draw near to the Father: for the knowledge of the Father is the Son, and the knowledge of the Son of God is through the Holy Spirit; and, according to the good pleasure of the Father, the Son ministers and dispenses the Spirit to whomsoever the Father wills and as He wills (Irenaeus, St., Bishop of Lyon. Translated from the Armenian by Armitage Robinson. The Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching, Chapter 7. Wells, Somerset, Oct. 1879. As published in SOCIETY FOR PROMOTING CHRISTIAN KNOWLEDGE. NEW YORK: THE MACMILLAN CO, 1920) .

Notice that Irenaeus clearly is teaching that the Father and Son have separate wills and that they disperse the Holy Spirit--one does not disperse a person.

In addition in a relatively lame attempt to find scriptural justification for the trinity, some trinitarians have declared that the "Holy, holy, holy" expression used twice in the Bible is proof of a trinitarian God. The first time is Isaiah 6:3, so let us notice what it actually states:

I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one cried to another and said:

"Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts;
The whole earth is full of His glory!" (Isaiah 6:1-3).

The Bible, in the Book of Daniel, clearly shows the Ancient of Days on a throne with one like the Son of Man (Daniel 7:9-13)—thus the Bible is not teaching that one on a throne is actually three.

The expression is repeated in Revelation 4:8-9 and it also clearly shows that this is a discussion of one being, not three. Notice:

And they do not rest day or night, saying:

"Holy, holy, holy,
Lord God Almighty,
Who was and is and is to come!"

Whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, who lives forever and ever...

Notice that the four living creatures are giving glory to the Him who sits on the throne. This does not seem to be a discussion of a plurality. If trinitarians are trying to convince non-trinitarians of their point they would be wise to be more careful about their supposed proofs.

Regarding the New Testament, even a trinitarian scholar has admitted that the Bible has a binitarian view, and does not teach what is now considered to be the trinity:

The binitarian formulas are found in Rom. 8:11, 2 Cor. 4:14, Gal. 1:1, Eph. 1:20, 1 Tim 1:2, 1 Pet. 1:21, and 2 John 1:13...No doctrine of the Trinity in the Nicene sense is present in the New Testament...There is no doctrine of the Trinity in the strict sense in the Apostolic Fathers...(Rusch W.G. The Trinitarian Controversy. Fortress Press, Phil., 1980, pp. 2-3).

Early Trinitarian History

Pagan religions sometimes had a form of a trinity of deities. This dates at least from the time of ancient Babylon:

The ancient Babylonians recognised the doctrine of a trinity, or three persons in one god—as appears from a composite god with three heads forming part of their mythology, and the use of the equilateral triangle, also, as an emblem of such trinity in unity (Beck TD. The mystical woman and the cities of the nations: or, Papal Rome and her secular satellites. 1867. Original from Oxford University, Digitized Aug 15, 2006, pp. 22-23).

The Assyrians did as well:

On one cylinder of translucent green felspar, called amazon stone, winch I believe to have been the signet, or amulet, of Sennacherib himself, is engraved the king standing in an arched frame as on the rock tablets at Bavian, and at the Nahr-el-Kelb in Syria. He holds in one hand the sacrificial mace, and raises the other in the act of adoration before the winged figure in a circle, here represented as a triad with three heads...the triune god, the supreme deity of the Assyrians, and of the Persians, their successors, in the empire of the East.

Of the information as to the religious system of the Assyrians... It is difficult to understand such a system of polytheism, unless we suppose that whilst there was but one supreme god, represented sometimes under a triune form (Layard AH. Discoveries in the ruins of Nineveh and Babylon: with travels in Armenia, Kurdistan and the desert : being the result of a second expedition undertaken for the trustees of the British Museum. Murray, 1853. Original from the Bavarian State Library, Digitized Oct 20, 2009, pp. 160, 637).

Sennacherib is mentioned in the Bible (2 Kings 18:13) and reigned from about 720 BC to about 683 BC.

Furthermore, notice:

Mithra, who was originally subordinate to Ormuzd, and even reduced to the third place in the triad, subsequently rose practically to the first place, supplanting Ormuzd himself. Such a process, by which the mediating member of the trinity, as the special friend and savior of men, should become first and nearest in the thoughts, and affections, and hopes of men, and hence in time first in the divine order of the gods, is most natural, and we have already found it a marked feature of the historical evolution of most of the Ethnic trinities. Thus in the Babylonian triad Marduk, the mediating sun-god, usurps the place of Ea, his father. The same was true of Vishnu-Krishna in the Hindoo trinity, who, in his capacity of god- man and mediator, reduced Brahma to almost a shadow. So Mithraism pushed Ormuzd back into a place of inferiority, or rather he was quietly displaced and forgotten. The triad was practically reduced to unity in the Mithraic faith (Paine LL. The Ethnic Trinities and Their Relations to the Christian Trinity: A Chapter in the Comparative History of Religions. Kessinger Publishing, 1901 Original from the University of California, Digitized Nov 20, 2007, p. 84).

Mithraism entered the Roman Empire about a century before the crucifixion of Jesus and became influential among the emperors, including with Emperor Constantine (see also Do You Practice Mithraism?).

According to Roman Catholic sources, the term trinity, in relation to the Godhead, did not come until the late second/early third century.

Yet, the idea of the trinity was apparently voiced by the heretic Montanus and developed by a famous Gnostic heretic named Valentinus in the mid-2nd Century.

One of the so-called Montanist Oracles, spoken by Montanus was:

"I am the Father and the Son and the Paraclete." (Didymus, De trinitate iii. 41. 1.) (Assembled in P. de Labriolle, La crise montaniste (1913), 34-105, by Bates College, Lewston (Maine) http://abacus.bates.edu/Faculty/Philosophy%20and%20Religion/rel_241/texts/montanism.html 01/31/06).

This is one of the first references to a trinitarian view of the Godhead (the other earliest one was from the heretic Valentinus--it is unclear which was first). The paraclete is a term used to signify the Holy Spirit (it is from the Greek term parakletos).

Eusebius records (Eusebius. Church History, Book V, Chapters 18-19) that church leaders in Asia Minor and Antioch, such as Apollonius of Ephesus, that Serapion of Antioch, Apollinaris of Hierapolis, and Thraseas of Eumenia opposed the Montantist heresies (Apollinaris of Hierapolis and Thraseas of Eumenia were Quartodecimans, and Apollonius likely was as well). However, Roman Bishops would not renounce the Montantist heresy until sometime in the third century, and that after Rome accepted certain Montanus beliefs (see Montanists in The Catholic Encyclopedia)!

The Cathecism of the Catholic Church admits the Church (not the Bible) had to come up with terms of "philosophical" (pagan/Greek) origin to explain it::

251 In order to articulate the dogma of the Trinity, the Church had to develop its own terminology with the help of certain notions of philosophical origin: "substance," "person," or "hypostasis," "relation" and so on (Catechism of the Catholic Church. Imprimatur Potest +Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. Doubleday, NY 1995, p. 74).

Here is what it is recorded that a one-time Catholic bishop named Marcellus of Ancyra wrote, around the middle of the fourth century, where certain aspects of trinitarianism came from--paganism:

Now with the heresy of the Ariomaniacs, which has corrupted the Church of God...These then teach three hypostases, just as Valentinus the heresiarch first invented in the book entitled by him 'On the Three Natures'.  For he was the first to invent three hypostases and three persons of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and he is discovered to have filched this from Hermes and Plato (Source: Logan A. Marcellus of Ancyra (Pseudo-Anthimus), 'On the Holy Church': Text, Translation and Commentary. Verses 8-9.  Journal of Theological Studies, NS, Volume 51, Pt. 1, April 2000, p.95 ).

Valentinus also wrote this in the heretical 'Gospel of Truth',

The Father uncovers his bosom, which is the Holy Spirit, revealing his secret. His secret is his Son! (Valentinus.  Gospel of Truth.  Verse 17.  English translation by Patterson Brown).

Hence Valentinus is the earliest known professing Christian writer to make clear trinitarian claims (though he, himself, did not come up with the term trinity). It also should be noted that Valentinus was denounced by Polycarp of Asia Minor, when Polycarp visited Rome as a heretic (Irenaeus. Adversus Haeres. Book III, Chapter 3, Verse 4) and is considered to have been a heretic by Roman Catholics, Orthodox, most Protestants, and those in the Churches of God.

Furthermore, there were other views of the "trinity" around this time. The Catholic Encyclopedia notes:

Monarchians...Heretics of the second and third centuries...All Christians hold the unity (monarchia) of God as a fundamental doctrine. By the Patripassians this first principle was used to deny the Trinity, and they are with some reason called Monarchians. But the Adoptionists, or Dynamists, have no claim to the title, for they did not start from the monarchy of God, and their error is strictly Christological...The Monarchians properly so-called (Modalists) exaggerated the oneness of the Father and the Son so as to make them but one Person; thus the distinctions in the Holy Trinity are energies or modes, not Persons: God the Father appears on earth as Son; hence it seemed to their opponents that Monarchians made the Father suffer and die. In the West they were called Patripassians, whereas in the East they are usually called Sabellians (Chapman J. Transcribed by Anthony A. Killeen. Monarchians. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume X. Copyright © 1911 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight. Nihil Obstat, October 1, 1911. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).

However, it is not just those who accepted the monarchianism form of the trinity who were heretics.

Earliest Trinitarian Historical Claims

The position of the Roman Catholic Church is that the term 'trinity' (from the Latin trinitas) was developed 85 years after the last book of the Bible was written:

In Scripture there is as yet no single term by which the Three Divine Persons are denoted together...The word trias (of which the Latin trinitas is a translation) is first found in Theophilus of Antioch about A.D. 180...Afterwards it appears in its Latin form of trinitas in Tertullian ("De pud." c. xxi) (The Blessed Trinity. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XV Copyright © 1912 by Robert Appleton Company Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight).

First of all, it should be understood, that claims of Catholic scholars to the contrary, that Theophilus of Antioch did not teach the trinity or that the Holy Spirit was a person (though Tertullian, who became a Montanist sort of did--the leaders of the churches in Asia Minor and Antioch opposed the Montanists--Montanists taught a type of trinity before the Romans ever did). It was not after until Tertullian (over 100 years since the Book of Revelation was written) that professing Christian writers suggested the concept of the trinity close to how it is now understood.

The claim about Theophilus is based on a misunderstood and mistranslated passage in his writings. Here is a mistranslated version of what Theophilus wrote:

In like manner also the three days which were before the luminaries, are types of the Trinity, of God, and His Word, and His wisdom. And the fourth is the type of man, who needs light, that so there may be God, the Word, wisdom, man (Theophilus of Antioch. To Autolycus, Book 2, Chapter XV. Translated by Marcus Dods, A.M. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 2. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).

It is mistranslated because trinity is NOT a Greek word. Thus, the proper translation would be:

In like manner also the three days which were before the luminaries, are types of the three of God, and His Word, and His wisdom. And the fourth is the type of man, who needs light, that so there may be God, the Word, wisdom, man. (Theophilus of Antioch. To Autolycus, Book 2, Chapter XV)

Now the trinitarian may argue that this is just a semantics issue and that Theophilus is actually still talking about the trinity. Well, he is not as the third part is what Theophilus is teaching that man becomes. And that is what Theophilus is teaching--that now man is a fourth, but will become part of God (see Deification: Did the Early Church Teach That Christians Would Become God?), a third part, when humans become God's offspring! And that clearly is a binitarian view-the threeness, if you will of God is that those begotten of the Holy Spirit who do not commit the unpardonable sin will be born-again in the Family of God--we, through the Holy Spirit, become the third part.

Lest anyone suggest that I am reading something into Theophilus that he does not mean, he verifies what I concluded when he wrote:

...if I call Him Wisdom, I speak of His offspring (Theophilus of Antioch. To Autolycus, Book 1, Chapter III. Translated by Marcus Dods, A.M. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 2. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).

We are to be God's offspring! We are to be God in the family of God. Paul verified that when he wrote:

For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren (Romans 8:29).

Lest anyone suggest that I am further reading something into Theophilus of Antioch's writings that he does not mean, he verifies what I concluded when he wrote:

For if He had made him immortal from the beginning, He would have made him God...so that if he should incline to the things of immortality, keeping the commandment of God, he should receive as reward from Him immortality, and should become God...For God has given us a law and holy commandments; and every one who keeps these can be saved, and, obtaining the resurrection, can inherit incorruption (Theophilus of Antioch. To Autolycus, Book 2, Chapter XXVII. Translated by Marcus Dods, A.M. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 2. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).

Theophilus did not teach that the Holy Spirit was, or somehow was, one of three persons in any trinity. He verified that when he taught the following about the Spirit of God:

...if I say He is Spirit, I speak of His breath...For as the pomegranate, with the rind containing it, has within it many cells and compartments which are separated by tissues, and has also many seeds dwelling in it, so the whole creation is contained by the spirit of God, and the containing spirit is along with the creation contained by the hand of God (Theophilus of Antioch. To Autolycus, Book 1, Chapters III,V. Translated by Marcus Dods, A.M. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 2. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).

This is my God, the Lord of all, who alone stretched out the heaven, and established the breadth of the earth under it; who stirs the deep recesses of the sea, and makes its waves roar; who rules its power, and stills the tumult of its waves; who founded the earth upon the waters, and gave a spirit to nourish it; whose breath giveth light to the whole, who, if He withdraw His breath, the whole will utterly fail (Theophilus of Antioch. To Autolycus, Book 1, Chapters VII. Translated by Marcus Dods, A.M. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 2. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).

Therefore, do not be sceptical, but believe; for I myself also used to disbelieve that this would take place, but now, having taken these things into consideration, I believe. At the same time, I met with the sacred Scriptures of the holy prophets, who also by the Spirit of God foretold the things that have already happened, just as they came to pass, and the things now occurring as they are now happening, and things future in the order in which they shall be accomplished (Theophilus of Antioch. To Autolycus, Book 1, Chapters XIV. Translated by Marcus Dods, A.M. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 2. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).

It is not totally clear how Theophilus views the Holy Spirit, though life-giving breath may be close. The above writings suggest that it is the power of God, as opposed to a specific person--in no place does he suggest that the Holy Spirit is a separate person. Nor when he mentioned threeness did he speak of the Holy Spirit.

Although it seems to wish to act as if Tertullian (from Carthage in Egypt) only taught its version of the trinity, The Catholic Encyclopedia admits this about Tertullian's understanding of the Godhead:

He says that from all eternity there was reason (ratio) in God, and in reason the Word (Sermo), not distinct from God, but in vulva cordis. For the purpose of creation the Word received a perfect birth as Son. There was a time when there was no Son and no sin, when God was neither Father nor Judge. In his Christology Tertullian has had no Greek influence, and is purely Roman. Like most Latin Fathers he speaks not of two Natures but of two Substances in one Person, united without confusion, and distinct in their operations (Chapman J. Transcribed by Lucy Tobin. Tertullian. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XIV. Copyright © 1912 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight. Nihil Obstat, July 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).

While Tertullian himself also wrote:

The simple, indeed, (I will not call them unwise and unlearned,) who always constitute the majority of believers, are startled at the dispensation (of the Three in One)...are constantly throwing out against us that we are preachers of two gods and three gods...

Now, from this one passage of the epistle of the inspired apostle, we have been already able to show that the Father and the Son are two separate Persons, not only by the mention of their separate names as Father and the Son, but also by the fact that He who delivered up the kingdom, and He to whom it is delivered up -- and in like manner, He who subjected (all things), and He to whom they were subjected -- must necessarily be two different Beings. But since they will have the Two to be but One, so that the Father shall be deemed to be the same as the Son...For the Father is the entire substance, but the Son is a derivation and portion of the whole, as He Himself acknowledges: "My Father is greater than I." In the Psalm His inferiority is described as being "a little lower than the angels." Thus the Father is distinct from the Son, being greater than the Son (Tertullian. Against Praxeas, Chapters 3,4-5,9. Translated by Peter Holmes. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 3. Edited by Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).

In other words, neither of the two earliest sources of the word trinity, according to the Roman Catholics, actually clearly taught the concept the way it is now taught. Also, Tertullian admits that the majority around the early third century did not accept the trinity.

Perhaps I should mention that while earlier portions of chapter 9 from Tertullian are often quoted as THE so-called EARLIEST extra-biblical PROOF of the trinity, the latter statement shown above PROVES that the trinity as now taught (three co-equal persons), was not understood by Tertullian--Tertullian's understanding of scripture is that the Father and Son CANNOT BE CO-EQUAL. The unbiblical concept of the trinity consisting of three co-equal hypostasis (as it is now understood) apparently did not happen until at least the third century. (Interestingly Tertullian broke away from the Roman Church in circa 211 and became a Montantist).

It should be noted that some Roman Catholic scholars also claim that one of the earliest post-New Testament writings supports the trinity. Here is The Catholic Encyclopedia's interpretation of The Letter of the Romans to the Corinthians which it calls First Clement:

There is little intentional dogmatic teaching in the Epistle, for it is almost wholly hortatory. A passage on the Holy Trinity is important. Clement uses the Old Testament affirmation "The Lord liveth", substituting the Trinity thus: "As God liveth, and the Lord Jesus Christ liveth and the Holy Spirit -- the faith and hope of the elect (Chapman J. Transcribed by Gerard Haffner. Pope St. Clement I. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume IV. Copyright © 1908 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight. Nihil Obstat. Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York).

However, a careful reading of the above rendering simply says that the God and Christ live, but it does not say that about the Holy Spirit--this is because the Holy Spirit is not a being like the Father or the Son.

Interestingly even the Roman Catholics admit, "That "the Father" and "the Son" are distinct Persons follows from the terms themselves, which are mutually exclusive" (The Blessed Trinity, 1912)--this admission is more supportive of the binitarian position than the trinitarian position they now hold.

A binitarian view was still held by Roman leaders in the third century, such Hippolytus. According to The Catholic Encyclopedia around 212 A.D.:

Hippolytus had combated the heresy of Theodotion and the Alogi; in like fashion he opposed the false doctrines of Noetus, of Epigonus, of Cleomenes, and of Sabellius, who emphasized the unity of God too one-sidedly (Monarchians) and saw in the concepts of the Father and the Son merely manifestations (modi) of the Divine Nature (Modalism, Sabellianism). Hippolytus, on the contrary, stood uncompromisingly for a real difference between the Son (Logos) and the Father, but so as to represent the Former as a Divine Person almost completely separate from God (Ditheism) and at the same time altogether subordinate to the Father (Subordinationism). Hippolytus had combated the heresy of Theodotion and the Alogi; in like fashion he opposed the false doctrines of Noetus, of Epigonus, of Cleomenes, and of Sabellius, who emphasized the unity of God too one-sidedly (Monarchians) and saw in the concepts of the Father and the Son merely manifestations (modi) of the Divine Nature (Modalism, Sabellianism). Hippolytus, on the contrary, stood uncompromisingly for a real difference between the Son (Logos) and the Father, but so as to represent the Former as a Divine Person almost completely separate from God (Ditheism) and at the same time altogether subordinate to the Father (Subordinationism). As the heresy in the doctrine of the Modalists was not at first clearly apparent, Pope Zephyrinus declined to give a decision. For this Hippolytus gravely censured him, representing him as an incompetent man, unworthy to rule the Church of Rome and as a tool in the hands of the ambitious and intriguing deacon Callistus, whose early life is maliciously depicted (Philosophumena, IX, xi-xii). Consequently when Callistus was elected pope (217-218) on the death of Zephyrinus, Hippolytus immediately left the communion of the Roman Church and had himself elected antipope by his small band of followers. These he calls the Catholic Church and himself successor to the Apostles, terming the great majority of Roman Christians the School of Callistus. He accuses Callistus of having fallen first into the heresy of Theodotus, then into that of Sabellius; also of having through avarice degraded ecclesiastical, and especially the penitential, discipline to a disgraceful laxity (St. Hippolytus of Rome, 1910).

Zephyrinus' lack of a decision demonstrates that the traditional trinitarian view had not been accepted by all of Roman Catholicism at this time.

Notice that describing God as various modes (as the trinitarians normally now do) led to a split. It should be noted that Hippolytus was a martyr and is still considered a saint by the Romans, yet was possibly some type of binitarian (he made some comments about the Holy Spirit that make his binitarian status a question). Furthermore, the Catholics have written this about him:

Hippolytus was the most important theologian and the most prolific religious writer of the Roman Church in the pre-Constantinian era" (St. Hippolytus of Rome, The Catholic Encyclopedia, 1910).

For his views, Hippolytus was called a Ditheist. As The Catholic Encyclopedia also records:

Hippolytus (somewhat diversely in the "Contra Noetum" and in the "Philosophumena," if they are both his) taught the same division of the Son from the Father as traditional, and he records that Pope Callistus condemned him as a Ditheist (Chapman J. Transcribed by Kevin Cawley. Fathers of the Church. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume VI. Copyright © 1909 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight. Nihil Obstat, September 1, 1909. Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York).

But history also records that trinitarians did not want to be called Tritheists anymore that binitarians wished to be called Ditheists. The following was written in the fourth century by the trinitarian Gregory Nazianzen (whom the Catholics call a saint and doctor of the church) when talking to a binitarian:

XIII. What right have you who worship the Son, even though you have revolted from the Spirit, to call us Tritheists? Are not you Ditheists? For if you deny also the worship of the Only Begotten, you have clearly ranged yourself among our adversaries. And why should we deal kindly with you as not quite dead? But if you do worship Him, and are so far in the way of salvation, we will ask you what reasons you have to give for your ditheism, if you are charged with it? If there is in you a word of wisdom answer, and open to us also a way to an answer. For the very same reason with which you will repel a charge of Ditheism will prove sufficient for us against one of Tritheism. And thus we shall win the day by making use of you our accusers as our Advocates, than which nothing can be more generous.
XIV. What is our quarrel and dispute with both? To us there is One God, for the Godhead is One, and all that proceedeth from Him is referred to One, though we believe in Three Persons. (Gregory Nazianzen. Fifth Theological Oration. XIII & XIV. Excerpted from Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Volume 7. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. American Edition, 1894. Online Edition Copyright © 2005 by K. Knight).

The above provides further evidence that there was a early binitarian presence (though sometimes referred to as Ditheist by the trinitarians). And note that while the trinitarians (according to Gregory Nazianzen) believe in one Godhead in Three Persons, binitarians believe in one Godhead (family) that now consists of two persons (the Father and the Son).

As late as the end of the second century and the beginning of the third, Roman Bishops still were not trinitarian as now understood--at least two bishops at that time tolerated Sabellianism. Notice what one scholar wrote:

Sabellius taught the strict unity of the godhead: "one Person (hypostasis), three names." God is hyiopater, Son-Father. The different names Father, Son, and Spirit, merely describe different forms of revelation; the Son revealed the Father as a ray reveals the sun. Now the Son has returned to heaven, and God reveals himself as the Holy Spirit...Despite these flaws, Sabelliansim seems to have won the adherence of two bishops of Rome, Victor and Zephyrinus (Brown HOJ. Heresies: Heresy and Orthodoxy in the History of the Church. Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody (MA), 1988, p. 103).

If the doctrine of the trinity is so critical to being a "Christian" than why did not even the Roman bishops misunderstand it so much?

William Durant noted:

From Egypt came the ideas of a divine trinity...from Egypt the adoration of the Mother and Child and the mystic theosophy that made Neoplatanism and Gnosticism and obscured the Christian creed; (Durant W. Caesar and Christ: The Story of Civilization, Part III. Originally 1944. Simon & Shuster 2011; original page 595)

It was in Egypt that Gnostic and semi-Gnostic teachers such as Valentinus, Clement, and Origen started to promote the trinitarian doctrine.

According to The Catholic Encyclopedia on Clement of Alexandria, "Clement preceded the days of the Trinitarian controversies. He taught in the Godhead three Terms." The same article also teaches, "Alexandria was, in addition, one of the chief seats of that peculiar mixed pagan and Christian speculation known as Gnosticism. Basilides and Valentinus taught there."

Notice that both Catholic and Protestant scholars acknowledge that Clement of Alexandria had problems:

Clement of Alexandria, himself infected with Gnosticism (Strom, VI, xvi) (Arendzen JP. Transcribed by Joseph P. Thomas. Marcus. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume IX. Published 1910. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, October 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York).

Unlike Irenaeus who detested it, Clement refers to secret tradition, and his affinities to gnosticism seems to go beyond mere borrowing of gnostic terms. (Brown HOJ. Heresies: Heresy and Orthodoxy in the History of the Church. Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody (MA), 1988, p. 87).

Origen, who essentially succeeded him as a teacher, taught and used a term for trinity. Here one translated passage:

Moreover, nothing in the Trinity can be called greater or less, since the fountain of divinity alone contains all things by His word and reason, and by the Spirit of His mouth sanctifies all things which are worthy of sanctification...(Origen. De Principiis, Book 1, Chapter 7. Translated by Frederick Crombie. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 4. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1885.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/04121.htm>.)

Of course, the above disagrees with the words of Jesus who stated, "My Father is greater than I" (John 14:28). So, not all agreed with Origen's writings.

But the idea of the trinity really became promoted by a student of Origen's called Gregory the Wonder Worker or Gregory Thaumaturgus:

The first creed in which it appears is that of Origen's pupil, Gregory Thaumaturgus. In his Ekthesis tes pisteos composed between 260 and 270, he writes:

There is therefore nothing created, nothing subject to another in the Trinity: nor is there anything that has been added as though it once had not existed, but had entered afterwards: therefore the Father has never been without the Son, nor the Son without the Spirit: and this same Trinity is immutable and unalterable forever (P.G., X, 986).

It is manifest that a dogma so mysterious presupposes a Divine revelation. (Joyce, George. "The Blessed Trinity." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 15. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. 20 Apr. 2012 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/15047a.htm>.)

An interesting last statement. Well, Gregory claimed to see an apparition of the Apostle John as well as Mary, the Mother of Jesus (and is considered the first such person to do so), so it seems he may have gotten some "revelation" from a claimed Marian apparition. According to other sources, he had the power to cause death by placing his cloke on people, promoted non-biblical positions about Mary, and may have been the first to promote the expression "the Holy Trinity" in one of his writings. Notice the following:

Here the mystery of the Holy Trinity was revealed by the archangel to the Holy Virgin according to the gospel (Gregory Thaumaturgus, Homily concerning the Holy Mother of God, Section 35. Translated from the Armenian by F. C. CONYBEARE The Expositor 5th series vol.3 (1896), p. 173. http://www.tertullian.org/fathers/gregory_thaumaturgus_homily.htm viewed 11/13/12).

The gospel never uses the expression trinity, much less "Holy Trinity." But Gregory put his own interpretation on scripture (in this case, he was referring to Luke 1:35). Gregory was a major reason that the trinity started to get accepted much outside of Montanist circles (Origen, too, was a factor).

Fourth Century, Arius, and Semi-Arians

Even later in the 4th century, there were still binitarians in Asia Minor. The Catholic Encyclopedia notes that the Ditheism was still an issue with "even the Eastern moderates" (Chapman J. Transcribed by Thomas J. Bress. Photinus. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XII. Copyright © 1911 by Robert Appleton Company). Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight. Nihil Obstat, June 1, 1911. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).

Dr. Arius was a fourth century teacher from Alexandria who held to the belief that God the Father was supreme in authority to Jesus, and that the Holy Spirit was not the third member of the Godhead. However, he did hold at least one belief that binitarians did not hold--he believed that Jesus had a beginning, while binitarians do not accept that. Regarding Arius, here is what The Catholic Encyclopedia records:

He described the Son as a second, or inferior God, standing midway between the First Cause and creatures; as Himself made out of nothing, yet as making all things else; as existing before the worlds of the ages; and as arrayed in all divine perfections except the one which was their stay and foundation. God alone was without beginning, unoriginate; the Son was originated, and once had not existed. For all that has origin must begin to be (Barry W. Transcribed by Anthony A. Killeen. Arianism. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume I. Copyright © 1907 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight. Nihil Obstat, March 1, 1907. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).

And while true Christians will understand that Christ is God and accepts the Son being under the authority of God the Father, we do not accept that He had a beginning (see Hebrews 7:3). Perhaps, I should add what Herbert W. Armstrong wrote about Arius:

...another controversy was raging, between a Dr. Arius, of Alexandria, a Christian leader who died A.D. 336, and other bishops, over calling God a Trinity. Dr. Arius stoutly opposed the Trinity doctrine, but introduced errors of his own (Armstrong HW. Mystery of the Ages. Dodd, Mead & Company, New York, 1985, p. 54).

Herbert Armstrong is essentially stating that Dr. Arius' understanding was imperfect--and that would be at least on the point of Jesus at one time not existing. Many people know that there was a great debate at the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D. Although he did not wish to go to this meeting, Emperor Constantine summoned and forced Dr. Arius to attend the pagan Emperor's council. According to historical accounts, the attendees at this council were split into three factions:

1) Arians - Supporters of the position of Dr. Arius, about 10% of the attendees.
2) In-Between - Those who held a position between the Arians and Proto-Trinitarians, about 75% of the attendees. Eusebius was the main spokesperson for them.
3) The Proto-Trinitarians - Those who supported the views of Athanasius, about 15% of the attendees.

Notice that even within the Catholic/Orthodox Council, the majority of attending bishops did not hold to the trinitarian view before the Council. No matter what one may feel about the truthfulness of the trinity, how can any say that the acceptance of this doctrine is necessary for Christians as it was not the apparent belief of the majority of church leaders in the early fourth century?

Although Eusebius led the biggest group at this Council, after an impassioned speech by Athanasius, Emperor Constantine arose. And since he was the Emperor (plus he was dressed as a golden "angel"), his standing was noticed by the bulk of the attendees who correctly interpreted the Emperor as now supporting Athanasius (Emperor Constantine has familiar with a trinitarian viewpoint as he had practiced Mithraism, which had a type of triad leading it, see Do You Practice Mithraism?). And because of Athanasius' speech and the Emperor's approval, the bulk of the attendees decided to come up with a statement that the Arians could not support. This solved the Emperor's concern about unity of his version of Christianity, and pretty much drove the Arians out. But even some of the strongest supporters of Athanasius' position, such as Marcion of Ancyra, actually did not believe in the trinity as now taught (that is why this paper used the term "Proto-Trinitarians" above).

Also notice that the Emperor Constantine was heavily involved:

Although Constantine is usually remembered for the steps he took toward making Christianity the established religion of the Roman Empire, it would not be wrong to consider him the one who inaugurated the centuries of trinitarian orthodoxyIt was he who proposed and perhaps even imposed the expression homoousis at the Council of Nicea in 325, and it was he who provided government aid to the orthodox and exerted government pressure against nonconformists. (Brown HOJ. Heresies: Heresy and Orthodoxy in the History of the Church. Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody (MA), 1988, pp. 332-333).

Thus a pagan emperor, proposed and militarily imposed, a doctrine on his own. And this did not come from the Bible into the world's largest churches, but from a pagan (Constantine still honored the pagan sun deities after his supposed conversion to Christianity and was not even baptized into the world's church until his death bed--and even then he insisted upon being buried in a grave dedicated to a pagan deity).

However, the trinity as now taught was not completely adopted until many decades after this 325 A.D. the Council of Nicea. It was not even the necessary position of the bishops of Rome or Constantinople in the middle of the fourth century.

And at least one now claimed to be Pope (Liberius) was believed to have been Semi-Arian. Notice what The Catholic Encyclopedia teaches:

The second Formula of Sirmium (357) stated the doctrine of the Anomoeans, or extreme Arians. Against this the Semi-Arian bishops, assembled at Ancyra, the episcopal city of their leader Basilius, issued a counter formula, asserting that the Son is in all things like the Father, afterwards approved by the Third Synod of Sirmium (358). This formula, though silent on the term "homousios", consecrated by the Council of Nicaea, was signed by a few orthodox bishops, and probably by Pope Liberius (Benigni, Umberto. "Council of Rimini." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 13. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. 11 Jul. 2008 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/13057b.htm>).

Pneumatomachi…The majority of this sect were clearly orthodox on the Consubstantiality of the Son; they had sent a deputation from the Semi-Arian council of Lampsacus (364 A.D.) to Pope Liberius, who after some hesitation acknowledged the soundness of their faith (Arendzen, John. "Pneumatomachi." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 12. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. 11 Jul. 2008 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12174a.htm>)

Notice that the Orthodox bishop of Constantinople, Macedonius, in the fourth century held to some form of Semi-Arian view:

Towards the middle of the fourth century, Macedonius, Bishop of Constantinople, and, after him a number of Semi-Arians, while apparently admitting the Divinity of the Word, denied that of the Holy Ghost (Forget J. Transcribed by W.S. French, Jr. Holy Ghost. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume VII. Copyright © 1910 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight. Nihil Obstat, June 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).

Thus, into the middle of the fourth century, the two major leaders of the Greco-Roman churches endorsed Semi-Arian, non-trinitarian positions. How then can the Greco-Romans and Protestants claim then that the trinity was the original view of the church? It is a historical fact that it was NOT.

The trinity was finally formally adopted at the Council of Constantinople in 381--though many in the Roman and Orthodox Church believed in versions of it prior to this--but even in 381 it was not exactly the same trinity teaching as now understood. In spite of this, however, the trinity is considered to be so important that The Catholic Encyclopedia states:

The Trinity is the term employed to signify the central doctrine of the Christian religion (The Blessed Trinity, 1912).

The Council doctrine of the trinity is considered to be so central to the mainstream that they often teach that one is either not Christian or is in a cult if one does not accept this false doctrine. Yet in the early third century, the bishop of Rome (Zephyrinus) would not make a decision about the trinity as the nature of God. How central to the Christian religion could a doctrine, not fully embraced until a later date, actually be?

Similarly, notice this contradictory statement from a Protestant theologian:

The doctrine of the Trinity is fundamental for the Christian faith, even though the doctrine was not clearly formulated and generally accepted by an ecumenical council until the fourth century..The Council of Chalcedon, the decisions of which were reaffirmed at the Trullanum of 680-681, gave us the formulation of Christological doctrine we now call orthodox. Why did it take over two centuries for debate to cease on a topic, only to leave us with what was already said in 451?...Is it possible to say that Chalcedon politics created theology? There can be no doubt that political factors played a role, and a very important one...The formula for laying the trinitarian and Christological controversies to rest was spelled out at Chalcedon in 451, although it took more than two centuries to accomplish this goal (Brown HOJ. Heresies: Heresy and Orthodoxy in the History of the Church. Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody (MA), 1988, pp. 127,192-193,194).

Anything that was truly "fundamental for the Christian faith" must have been clear and accepted by the true church from the first century. This fact alone demonstrates the fallacy of the trinity.

A bishop of the Orthodox Church also confirmed the trinity's late acceptance:

...the councils defined once and for all the Church's teaching upon the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith -- the Trinity and the Incarnation. All Christians agree in regarding these things as 'mysteries' which lie beyond human understanding and language...the first two, held in the fourth century...formulated the doctrine of the Trinity...The work of Nicea was taken up by the second Ecumenical Council, held in Constantinople in 381. This council expanded and adapted the Nicene Creed, developing in particular that teaching upon the Holy Spirit, whom it affirmed to be God even as the Father and the Son are God...It was the supreme achievement of St. Athanasius of Alexandria to draw out the full implications of the key word in the Nicene Cred: homoousios, one in essence or substance, consubstantial. Complementary to his work was that of the three Cappadocian Fathers, Saints...(died 394). While Athanasius emphasized the unity of God -- Father and Son are one in essence (ousia) - the Cappadocians stressed God's threeness: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three persons (hypostasis) (Ware T. The Orthodox Church. Penguin Books, London, 1997, pp. 20-23).

If this doctrine were originally part of the true Christian Church, it would seem that this would be a charge laid against true Christians (such as Stephen, Peter, and Paul in the Book of Acts)--but it never was. And of course, as even most Roman and Orthodox Catholics admit, the term trinity is not mentioned in the Bible.

To insure that people would be forced into accepting the trinity, shortly after the 381 council, Emperor Theodosius’declared:

…let us believe in the one diety of the father, Son and Holy Spirit, in equal majesty and in a holy Trinity. We authorize the followers of this law to assume the title Catholic Christians; but as for the others, since in out judgment they are foolish madmen, we decree that the shall be branded with the ignominious name of heretics, and shall not presume to give their conventicles the name of churches. They will suffer in the first place the chastisement of divine condemnation an the second the punishment of out authority, in accordance with the will of heaven shall decide to inflict...(Theodosian Code XVI.1.2. Cited in Bettenson H, ed., Documents of the Christian Church, London: Oxford University Press, 1943, p. 31).

So the trinity need the force of Roman punishment against non-trinitarians.

The reasons is that the trinity simply was not something that true Christians ever taught.

Historical scholar Jonathan Roberts (who was not in the COG) wrote:

Until Theodosius commanded his subjects to believe in the doctrine of the Trinity, and enforced his commands upon them by the most inhumane ways, that doctrine was rejected and resisted by the Greek and Roman followers of the Christos…That so senseless and unnatural doctrine should have been forced upon any people, by any means, however tyrannical is a mystery even more mysterious than the arithmetic that can make one three, and three one (Roberts JM. Antiquity Unveiled: Ancient Voices from the the Spirit Realms Disclose the Most Startling Revelations, Proving Christianity to be of Heathen Origin ...Published by Oriental publishing co., 1894. Original from the University of Michigan, Digitized May 21, 2007, p. 468).

If the trinity doctrine was originally part of the Christian Church, it would seem that Paul would have mentioned three members of the Godhead in his letters to the churches--he never does. Paul mentions the Father and Jesus in every introduction of every book he wrote (Rom 1:7;I Cor 1:3;II Cor 1:2;Gal 1:3;Eph 1:2; Phil 1:2;Col 1:2;I The 1:1;II Thes 1:2;I Tim 1:2;II Tim 1:2;Ti 1:1;Phi 1:3;Heb 1:1-2;), but he never mentions the Holy Spirit--this is a binitarian position. If the Holy Spirit was a co-equal member of the trinity, could this possibly be blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (Mark 3:28-29)?

Part of the problem of the trinitarian view of one God who manifests Himself in three modes is that it demands that God could not have different wills.

Yet Jesus taught,

Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done (Luke 22:42).

Jesus is clearly stating that on this point He had a different will than the Father. If Jesus was part of the trinity, He could not have a different will than the Father, but since He did have a different will (see also John 5:30;7:16) and would speak different words (John 14:24), He could not be part of the traditionally taught trinity. Jesus also said that the Father knew things that He did not (Mark 13:32)--they thus could not be the same as trinitarians teach.

So how do trinitarians reconcile this and other problems? They do not. Instead they say that the trinity cannot be understood. Notice these admissions from Protestant and Roman Catholic trinitarian scholars:

...the Trinity...it has proven impossible for Christians actually to understand the doctrine or to explain it in any comprehensive way (Brown HOJ. Heresies: Heresy and Orthodoxy in the History of the Church. Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody (MA), 1988, p. 128).

The Vatican Council further defined that the Christian Faith contains mysteries strictly so called (can. 4). All theologians admit that the doctrine of the Trinity is of the number of these. Indeed, of all revealed truths this is the most impenetrable to reason...The Fathers supply many passages in which the incomprehensibility of the Divine Nature is affirmed. St. Jerome says, in a well-known phrase: "The true profession of the mystery of the Trinity is to own that we do not comprehend it" (De mysterio Trinitatus recta confessio est ignoratio scientiae -- "Proem ad 1. xviii in Isai."). (The Blessed Trinity, The Catholic Encyclopedia, 1912).

Actually, it is so impenetrable to reason, that one must deny both logic and biblical revelation to accept it. The trinity is a closed-loop system that essentially denies that any can be made to truly be part of the God Family.

Yet being truly part of the God family is what the Bible teaches.

For example, Romans 8:28-29 states,

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.

By showing the Jesus was to be the firstborn among many brethren, Paul is teaching that we will be in the same family of God that Jesus is in. Trinitarians do not generally teach that true Christians will really be part of the Godhead as Jesus is. Instead they tend to admit that they are confused or that their teachings are a mystery. Notice the following:

How did the Word, which was "in the beginning" (John 1:1) come to be "made flesh" (John 1:14) as the "one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus" (1 Tim. 2:5)? No full answer can be given, because the incarnation, like the Trinity, is a mystery, and will remain so (Brown HOJ. Heresies: Heresy and Orthodoxy in the History of the Church. Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody (MA), 1988, pp. 158-159).

I will simply add here that trinitarians simply do not understand what Jesus was on earth (this is discussed in the article Binitarianism) and because their positions are contradictory, they tend to instead use the term mystery.

Godhead from Early, Post New Testament, Writers

We in the Continuing Church of God believe in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit--but as the Bible, and not any council of men defines them.

In "the oldest complete Christian sermon that has survived" (Holmes M.W. The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations, 2nd ed. Baker Books, Grand Rapids, 2004, p. 102)--outside those in the Bible--sometimes erroneously referred to as Second Letter of Clement, it seems to support binitarianism. It was given perhaps with a year or so of John's death (thus may be towards the end of the time of Ephesus), begins with the following:

Brothers, we ought so to think of Jesus Christ, as of God, as "Judge of the living and the dead (An Ancient Christian Sermon (2 Clement), 1:1. In Holmes M.W. The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations, 2nd ed. Baker Books, Grand Rapids, 2004, p. 107)So then, brothers, if we do the will of God our Father...(An Ancient Christian Sermon (2 Clement), 14:1. In Holmes M.W. The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations, 2nd ed. Baker Books, Grand Rapids, 2004, p.121).

Now the church, being spiritual was revealed in the flesh of Christ, thereby showing us that if any of us guard her in the flesh and do not corrupt her, he will receive her back again in the Holy Spirit. For this flesh is a copy of the Spirit. No one, therefore, who corrupts the copy, will share in the original. This, therefore, is what he means, brothers: guard the flesh, in order that you may receive of the Spirit. Now if we say that the flesh is the church and the Spirit is Christ, then the one who abuses the flesh hath abuses the church. Consequently such a person will not receive the Spirit, which is Christ. So great is the life and immortality which this flesh is able to receive, if the Holy Spirit is closely joined with it, that no one is able to proclaim or to tell "what things the Lord hath prepared" for his chosen ones (An Ancient Christian Sermon (2 Clement), 14:3-5. In Holmes M.W. The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations, 2nd ed. Baker Books, Grand Rapids, 2004, p.121).

Thus the oldest preserved sermon says to think of Jesus as God and that the Father is God, but it never indicates that the Holy Spirit is God (this sermon can be found in its entirety at Ancient "Christian" Sermon). This is consistent with a binitarian view.

Polycarp was known as the Bishop of Smyrna and probably the first physical head (under Jesus Christ) of the era when Smyrna dominated. He was neither trinitarian nor unitarian according to various historical documents. The following quote attributed to him shows that he (and thus by inference the rest of Smyrna) was not unitarian,

Now may the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the eternal High-priest Himself, the [Son of] God Jesus Christ, build you up in faith and truth, and in all gentleness and in all avoidance of wrath and in forbearance and long suffering and in patient endurance and in purity; and may He grant unto you a lot and portion among His saints, and to us with you, and to all that are under heaven, who shall believe on our Lord and God Jesus Christ and on His Father (The Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians in APOSTOLIC FATHERS (as translated by J.B. LIGHTFOOT) 12:6,7).

It probably should be noted that Dr. Lightfoot left out "Son of" in his translation, which is in the Latin. It should also be pointed out that I am aware of another translation of this section by Roberts and Donaldson in Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol, 1 which omitted the term "God" before Jesus Christ, but I verified that the term "deum" is in the Latin version of this epistle {the original Greek versions did not survive pass chapter 10}. Dr. Lightfoot's translation "our Lord and God Jesus Christ" is a literal translation of the Latin "dominum nostrum et deum Iesum Christum". The University of Notre Dame Latin Dictionary and Grammar Aid states "deus -i m. [a god , deity]". The term "deum" is the masculine accusatory form of the word "deus". Since traditional unitarians do not call Jesus God, it appears clear that Polycarp clearly was not one of them. Furthermore, he did not ever call the Holy Spirit God. Also, Ignatius, who was known by Polycarp (and praised in this same Polycarp epistle) wrote around 100-110 A.D.,

For our God, Jesus Christ, was conceived by Mary in accord with God's plan: of the seed of David, it is true, but also of the Holy Spirit. He was born and baptized so that by His submission He might purify the water (Ignatius of Antioch, Letters to the Ephesians 18,2--note this is translated the same by at least three separate translations as done by Dr. Lightfoot, J.H. Srawley, and Roberts & Donaldson).

Hence, Ignatius, who received Polycarp's praise, also recognized Jesus as God, and thus could not have been a traditional unitarian. Ignatius also stated:

Ignatius, who is also Theophorus, unto her which hath been blessed in greatness through the plentitude of God the Father; which hath been foreordained before the ages to be for ever unto abiding and unchangeable glory, united and elect in a true passion, by the will of the Father and of Jesus Christ our God; even unto the church which is in Ephesus [of Asia], worthy of all felicitation: abundant greeting in Christ Jesus and in blameless joy (Ignatius' Letter to the Ephesians, Verse 0. In Apostolic Fathers. Lightfoot & Harmer, 1891 translation).

He also stated something similar to the Smyrnaeans:

Ignatius, who is also Theophorus, to the church of God the Father and of Jesus Christ the Beloved, which hath been mercifully endowed with every grace, being filled with faith and love and lacking in no grace, most reverend and bearing holy treasures; to the church which is in Smyrna of Asia, in a blameless spirit and in the word of God abundant greeting. I give glory to Jesus Christ the God who bestowed such wisdom upon you" (Ignatius' Letter to the Symrnaeans, Verses 0-1.1. In Apostolic Fathers. Lightfoot & Harmer, 1891 translation).

It is important to note that Ignatius referred to both the Father and the Son as God in both places (and I verified that it is in the original Greek), but he never called the Holy Spirit 'God'. Near the end of the second century, Melito of Sardis (whom Catholics and others consider to be a saint) wrote:

No eye can see Him, nor thought apprehend Him, nor language describe Him; and those who love Him speak of Him thus: `Father, and God of Truth" (Melito. A Discourse Which Was in the Presence of Antoninus Caesar).

Melito also wrote, "For the deeds done by Christ after His baptism, and especially His miracles, gave indication and assurance to the world of the Deity hidden in His flesh. For, being at once both God and perfect man likewise...He concealed the signs of His Deity, although He was the true God existing before all ages" (Melito. On the Nature of Christ. From Roberts and Donaldson).

This clearly shows that Melito considered Christ to be God, as well as the Father. There is no indication in any of the surviving writings of Melito that he considered that the Holy Spirit was also God, hence he seemed to hold a binitarian view. Actually, like most binitarians, his writings suggest that the Holy Spirit was simply the power of God as he wrote:

The finger of the Lord-the Holy Spirit, by whose operation the tables of the law in Exodus are said to have been written (Melito. From the Oration on Our Lord's Passion. Online version copyright © 2001 Peter Kirby. http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/melito.html 9/10/05).

Perhaps it should be noted that instead of accepting what Melito taught about the Godhead and Holy Spirit, at least trinitarian scholar (who is also an Anglican priest) wrote:

We must understand that Melito bears witness to the truth as it was understood in his day and that the orthodox faith has been gradually revealed (Stewart-Sykes A. Melito of Sardis On Pascha. St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, Crestwood (NY), 2001, p. 29).

Christians believe that Jude 3 was correct, cannot accept that the "orthodox faith has been gradually revealed". Notice what God inspired Jude to write:

Contend earnestly for the faith that was once for all delivered for the saints...

Since all legitimate scholars recognize that early Christian leaders did not support modern trinitarianism, those interested in the faith that was once for all delivered for the saints, would not accept the idea of that the true faith was gradually revealed.

Christianity Today (a Protestant publication) records this piece of Church history involving the Catholic Origen:

The great third-century theologian Origen, for example, pressed a bishop named Heraclides to define the relationship of Christ to God the Father. After much careful questioning, Heraclides admitted to believing in two Gods but clarified that "the power is one." Origen reminded Heraclides that some Christians would "take offense at the statement that there are two Gods. We must express the doctrine carefully to show in what sense they are two, and in what sense the two are one God." (Did You Know? Unusual facts about the Council of Nicea. Church History 2005. Christianity Today. http://www.christianitytoday.com/ch/2005/001/4.2.html).

Hence even the Catholic and Protestant scholars must know that binitarianism was the earliest prevailing position among those who professed Christ. Interestingly, Tertullian, around 213 A.D. wrote:

Well then, you reply, if He was God who spoke, and He was also God who created, at this rate, one God spoke and another created; (and thus) two Gods are declared (Against Praxeas 13:1).

Thus from Ignatius, Polycarp, Melito, Tertullian, and Origen, we have strong indication that the binitarian view was held during the time of Smyrna (the second, third, and early fourth centuries). It should be noted, that scholars, such as Professor L.W. Hurtado, have concluded that the early church was binitarian:

...the "binitarian" pattern of devotion in which both God (the "Father") and Jesus are objects of such reverence goes back to the earliest observable stages of the movement that became Christianity...The central place given to Jesus...and...their concern to avoid ditheism by reverencing Jesus rather consistently with reference to "the Father", combine to shape the proto-orthodox "binitarian" pattern of devotion (Hurtado LW. Lord Jesus Christ, Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity. William B. Eerdmans Publishing, Grand Rapids, 2003, pp. 615,618).

The doctrine of the trinity as now understood did not develop until the third and fourth centuries, yet had apparent ties to paganism. Notice the following, which was written by a trinitarian scholar:

Three centuries after his martyr's death, .Origen was to be posthumously condemned as a heretic by the Fifth Ecumenical Council (553). It is ironic that orthodoxy ultimately condemned him, for it is to Origen that orthodoxy owes the key to its understanding of the Trinity...Origen frequently uses language that resembles that of pagan Logos-speculation (Brown HOJ. Heresies: Heresy and Orthodoxy in the History of the Church. Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody (MA), 1988, pp. 88,89-90).

One of the most astounding historical facts about the trinity is that the first few to come up with it (and Theophilus of Antioch was not one of them) were all later condemned by the Roman Church as heretics (Montanus, Valentinus, Tertullian, and Origen).

Semi-Arians and the Council of Constantinople

The true Church of God opposed the efforts of the Roman Catholic Church at this time to become strictly trinitarian and, shortly after the Council of Nicea, most had to go into exile.

Historical records at the time show that some version of binitarianism was a belief held by many professing Christians then (including many not actually in the Church of God). Some who are unitarians believe they have conflicting evidence, but part of the problem is that while it is true that Dr. Arius (he was some type of teacher) held a version of the unitarian position (which differs dramatically from certain current traditional unitarians), it is also true that the binitarians were considered to be 'semi-Arians' (even though there were different definitions of semi-Arians as well).

In Emperor Constantine's time, many "heretics" were known as 'Paulicians', 'Bogomils', 'Cathars', and 'Patarenes', with those towards to end sometimes known as 'Albigensians' (although not all referred by those names were in the true Church). The Nationmaster Encyclopedia states, "The Albigensians and other Bogomil heretics were apparently believers in Dualism and denied the third person of the Holy Trinity." I would have preferred the term 'binitarianism', but even the term 'Dualism' and the denial of the trinity shows a binitarian continuity of the true Church of God. But the Roman Catholics wanted trinitarianism. Yet, the Catholics wanted to get the semi-Arians back. And that is part of why they convened the Council of Constantinople in May of 381 (First Council of Constantinople. Catholic Encyclopedia). Yet, the Council of Constantinople so offended the semi-Arians that they walked out.

What was the issue at that Council? The was, "was the Holy Spirit a person and part of a divine trinity or not? At least one trinitarian scholar has admitted:

The language of the New Testament permits the Holy Spirit to be understood as an impersonal force or influence more readily than it does the Son...The attempt to develop an understanding of the Holy Spirit consistent with the trinitarian passages...came to fruition at Constantinople in 381. There were a number of reasons why the personhood of the Holy Spirit took longer to acknowledge than the Son: (1) the term pneuma, breath, is neuter in general and impersonal in ordinary meaning; (2) the distinctive work of the Holy Spirit, influencing the believer, does not necessarily seem as personal as that of the Father...in addition, those who saw the Holy Spirit as a Person, were often heretical, for example, the Montanists; (3) many of the early theologians attributed to the Logos or Word, the revelatory activity later theologians saw as the special, personal work of the Holy Spirit (Brown HOJ. Heresies: Heresy and Orthodoxy in the History of the Church. Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody (MA), 1988, p. 140).

In other words trinitarian scholars understand that 1) a concept close to what is trinitarians teach about the Holy Spirit was not widely accepted until the fourth century, 2) normal understanding of koine Greek reveals that the Holy Spirit would be impersonal, not a person, 3) the work of the Holy Spirit can be attributed to an impersonal force from God, 4) second-century heretics were associated with treating the Holy Spirit as a person, 5) early church writers made statements contradicting the current trinitarian view of the Holy Spirit, and 6) after the trinity was accepted, later writers decided statements must support the trinity, hence essentially PROVING that the Holy Spirit as part of a divine trinity WAS NOT an original early Christian teaching. More information is included in the article Did Early Christians Think the Holy Spirit Was A Separate Person in a Trinity?

Here is how one author defined those who were semi-arian:

Semi Arianism...They rejected the Arian view that Christ was created and had a different nature from God (anomoios dissimilar), but neither did they accept the Nicene Creed which stated that Christ was "of one substance (homoousios) with the Father." Semi Arians taught that Christ was similar ( homoios) to the Father, or of like substance (homoiousios), but still subordinate" (Pfandl, Gerhard. THE DOCTRINE OF THE TRINITY AMONG ADVENTISTS. Biblical Research Institute Silver Spring, MD June 1999, http://www.macgregorministries.org/seventh_day_adventists/trinity.html, 7/12/04).

This definition is consistent with Jesus' statements about Himself and that He was subordinate to the Father (John 14:28; Luke 4:43) as well as Paul's statements (I Corinthians 15:27-28).

The Catholic Encyclopedia defines Semi-Arians this way,

A name frequently given to the conservative majority in the East in the fourth century...showing that the very name of father implies a son of like substance.

Thus it is clear that many held the binitarian view at that time (including no doubt, many who were not true Christians). Although Catholic writers have had many definitions of "Semi-Arians" (most of which disagree with the Continuing Church of God position), one that somewhat defines the binitarian view taken in this article would possibly be this one from Epiphanius in the mid-4th Century,

Semi-Arians...hold the truly orthodox view of the Son, that he was forever with the Father...but has been begotten without beginning and not in time...But all of these blaspheme the Holy Spirit, and do not count him in the Godhead with the Father and the Son (Epiphanius. The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis, Books II and III (Sects 47-80), De Fide). Section VI, Verses 1,1 and 1,3. Translated by Frank Williams. EJ Brill, New York, 1994, pp.471-472).

The above description is somewhat consistent with those held by the COGs. We believe Jesus was always God and forever with the Father, but once begotten, became the Son. By not considering that the Holy Spirit is a separate Being, some form of binitarians were called the Pneumatomachi as a subset of Semi-Arians. The Catholic historian Epiphanius described them as

A sort of monstrous, half-formed people of two natures" (Epiphanius. The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis, Books II and III (Sects 47-80), De Fide). Section VI, Verses 1,1 and 1,3. Translated by Frank Williams. EJ Brill, New York, 1994, p.471).

Hence, binitarians have long been subject to criticism by those who accepted the Nicene and later Councils. The simple truth is that the Bible teaches a binitarian view, that true Christians have always had a binitarian view, and that binitarianism was taught throughout history (this is documented in more detail in the article Binitarian View).

Aquinas, Martin Luther, and Later Writers

Traditional Roman Catholics' believe:

It is impossible to believe explicitly in the mystery of Christ, without faith in the Trinity...Wherefore just as, before Christ, the mystery of Christ was believed explicitly by the learned, but implicitly and under a veil, so to speak, by the simple, so too was it with the mystery of the Trinity. And consequently, when once grace had been revealed, all were bound to explicit faith in the mystery of the Trinity (The Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas. Second and Revised Edition, 1920. Literally translated by Fathers of the English Dominican Province. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by Kevin Knight. Nihil Obstat. F. Innocentius Apap, O.P., S.T.M., Censor. Theol. Imprimatur. Edus. Canonicus Surmont, Vicarius Generalis. Westmonasterii. APPROBATIO ORDINIS. Nihil Obstat. F. Raphael Moss, O.P., S.T.L. and F. Leo Moore, O.P., S.T.L. Imprimatur. F. Beda Jarrett, O.P., S.T.L., A.M., Prior Provincialis Angliæ).

IV. THE TRINITY AS A MYSTERY The Vatican Council has explained the meaning to be attributed to the term mystery in theology. It lays down that a mystery is a truth which we are not merely incapable of discovering apart from Divine Revelation, but which, even when revealed, remains "hidden by the veil of faith and enveloped, so to speak, by a kind of darkness" (Const., "De fide. cath.", iv). In other words, our understanding of it remains only partial, even after we have accepted it as part of the Divine messege {sic} (Joyce G. H. The Blessed Trinity. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XV. Copyright © 1912 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight. Nihil Obstat, October 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).

Martin Luther apparently decided that he could not understand God, but that he should teach the unbiblical doctrine of the trinity. Notice what one Protestant scholar (who is himself a trinitarian) wrote:

For Luther, as for the German mystics, God is Deus absconditus, the "hidden God," inaccessible to human reason...

By emphasizing the sole authority of Scripture and downgrading the work of the church fathers and the decisions of the ecumenical councils, Luther created a problem for his followers. One the one hand, Luther wanted to affirm traditional theology with respect to the doctrine of the Trinity and Christ, but on the other those doctrines are not explicit in Scripture. They are the product of church fathers and the councils (Brown HOJ. Heresies: Heresy and Orthodoxy in the History of the Church. Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody (MA), 1988, p. 314).

It should be remebered that NONE of the so-called "church fathers" prior to the end of the second century espoused any trinitarian position (an article of related interest might be Sola Scriptura or Prima Luther? What Did Martin Luther Really Believe About the Bible?).

Notice these admissions from the Eastern Orthodox:

Orthodoxy professes its faith in a simple trinity...If we speak of a simple Trinity, this self-contradictory expression means the distinctions...God is unknowable about what he is (Clendenin D.B. ed. Eastern Orthodox Theology, 2nd ed. Baker Academic, 2003, pp. 175,177).

Roman Catholic and Orthodox theologians agree in recognizing a certain anonymity characterizes the Third Person of the Holy Trinity. While the names Father and Son denote very clear personal distinctions, are in no sense interchangeable, and cannot in any case refer to the common nature of the two hypostases, the name Holy Spirit does not have that advantage. Indeed, we say that God is Spirit, meaning by that the common nature as much as any one of the persons. We say that he is holy...Taken in itself, the term Holy Spirit thus might be applied, not to a personal distinction...In that sense, Thomas Aquinas was right in saying that...the name Holy Spirit has been given to him...we find an image of the economy of the Third Person rather than an image of his hypostatic character: we find the procession of a divine force or spirit which accomplishes sanctification. We reach a paradoxical conclusions: all that we know about the Holy Spirit refers to his economy; all that we do not know makes us venerate him as a person (Clendenin D.B. ed. Eastern Orthodox Theology, 2nd ed. Baker Academic, 2003, pp. 165-166).

In other words, even trinitarians admit that that teaching did not come directly from the Bible, and that they cannot really know God.

Should doctrine come from the Bible (as the Bible itself teaches, see II Timothy 3:16) or traditions of men? Those unsure should read the article The Bible and Tradition.

It may be of interest to note that anti-trinitarians (Binitarian View: One God, Two Beings Before the Beginning who kept the seventh-day Sabbath (Christians who keep the Sabbath have often been labeled as Judaizers) existed throughout history. Notice that this was even true in Russia:

Judaizers...in Russia in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries...denied the Trinity (Fanning S. Mystics of the Christian Tradition. Routeldge, New York. 2001, reprinted 2006, p. 255).

Apostate Positions Involving 'Mary' as Part of the Trinity

In addition to the trinity as defined by Greco-Roman councils, there was another 'trinity' that certain apostates seem to have believed in. And that is one with a woman, sometimes considered to be part of that.

In the second century, a group of apostates led by the apostate Marcus, known as the Marcosians seemed to have a female as the replacement for the Holy Spirit. The Catholic Encyclopedia reported:

The Marcosians said: "In [eis] the name of the unknown Father of all, in [eis] the Truth, the Mother of all, in him, who came down on Jesus [eis ton katelthonta eis Iesoun]". (Arendzen J. Gnosticism. The Catholic Encyclopedia)

In 325 A.D., at the Council of Nicea, among the small minority who believed in the trinity there, was allegedly a group that defined it as consisting of the Father, Son, and Mary:

Consequently, we find the Melchite at the Council of Nice holding that there were three Persons in the Trinity — the Father, the Virgin Mary, and the Messiah their Son! (Brock M. Rome: Pagan and Papal. Hodder and Stoughton, 1883 Original from Oxford University, Digitized Apr 18, 2007, p. 134)

Is there one, who fears God, and who reads these lines, who would not admit that Paganism alone could ever have inspired such a doctrine as that avowed by the Melchites at the Nicene Council, that the Holy Trinity consisted of “the Father, the Virgin Mary, and the Messiah their Son”? * Is there one who would not shrink with horror from such a thought? What, then, would the reader say of a Church that teaches its children to adore such a Trinity as that contained in the following lines?–

"Heart of Jesus I adore thee; Heart of Mary, I implore thee; Heart of Joseph, pure and just; IN THESE THREE HEARTS I PUT MY TRUST." * 

If this is not Paganism, what is there that can be called by such a name? Yet this is the Trinity which now the Roman Catholics of Ireland from tender infancy are taught to adore. (Hislop A. Two Babylons. 1858. Loizeaux Brothers, 2nd American edition 1959, p. 89)

* (Quarterly Journal of Prophecy, July, 1852).

Notice also some the Protestant historian P. Schaff:

There was in Arabia in the fourth century a sect of fanatical women called Collyridians (Kollurivde”), who rendered divine worship to Mary. Epiphanius, Haer. 79. (Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Volume IV, Chapter III, “Mohammedanism in its Relation to Christianity”, fn. 188; source)

Idolatrous worship is what many give to Joseph today, and even more give it to their version of ‘Mary” throughout the year.

Notice another rather bizarre claim made by an alleged Marian apparition at Tre Fontance (1947):

I am she who is in the Divine Trinity; I am the Virgin of Revelation (Culleton, Reign of Antichrist, p. 220).

I would think that even trinitarians would have trouble accepting the above statement. But, again, in the end time, many will probably accept a lot of strange statements from what the Bible refers to as "lying wonders" (2 Thessalonians 2:7-9).

Notice something from an Eastern Orthodox writer:

To which Mary are Muslims and Protestants being drawn? The Protestant Reformation rejected the distorted view of Mary which had developed in the West since the Schism of 1054, and which would ultimately result in the Roman Church's proclamation of their dogma of the Immaculate Conception. But Protestantism did not just reject the Western view of Mary; it ignored Her altogether, in effect denying Her role in the Incarnation and, consequently, the part She plays in our salvation. As Rome began to see her more and more as a "goddess," a fourth Hypostasis of the Trinity, as it were, the Protestants reacted by down playing Her position and refusing to honor Her at all, this in spite of the Gospel words:"All Generations Shall Call Me Blessed."

Today, as heterodox Christians become more and more ecumenist and work toward creating a "One World Church," the search has begun for a Mary of universal recognition, one who will appeal not only to those who bear the name Christian, but apparently to Muslims and others as well, just as attempts are likewise being made to identify the "new Christ" with the Muslim concept of their coming Mahdi and with the Messiah still awaited by the Jews. This, of course, will be no Christ at all but the antichrist.

(Jackson P. ORTHODOX LIFE., No. I, 1997., Brotherhood of Saint Job of Pochaev at Holy Trinity Monastery, Jordanville, N.Y. pp. 18-22.  http://fr-d-serfes.org/orthodox/theotokos.htm viewed 05/11/09)

Apostate trinitarian positions (normally not including 'Mary,' but including some that do) have been widely accepted by those who profess to be Christian.

Conclusion

We in the Continuing Church of God believe in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit--but as the Bible, and not any council of men defines them. There simply is no verse in the Bible that clearly supports the Council of Constantine defined doctrine of trinitarianism.

There are verses in the Bible that teach that the Father is God, that the Word (Jesus) is God, and that the Holy Spirit is used by those in the Godhead. All the accepted writings of those clearly part of the true Church of God show that they taught the same thing.

The first writers who professed Christianity that promoted some version of the trinity were Valentinus and Montanus. Both are now considered to have been major heretics by the Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, most Protestants, and all in the Continuing Church of God. And later writers, such as Tertullian and Origen are also considered to heretics by the Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, many Protestants, and those in the Continuing Church of God.

On the other hand, Ignatius, Polycarp, Melito, and others considered to have been saints by the Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and most Protestants, all taught a binitarian view.

While in the late second and throughout the third century, the idea of trinitarianism became to be developed, it was still not accepted in a form that trinitarians now embrace until 381 A.D. Thus, it should be clear that the early Christian church had more of a binitarian, than trinitarian view. Those interested in the original faith (Jude 3) should re-examine their views if they are not binitarian.

While we in the faithful the Continuing Church of God do believe in the Father (who is God), the Son (who is God) and the Holy Spirit (which is a power eminating from the Father and the Son), we do not accept the trinitarian definition of the Godhead as it is biblically inaccurate and a later historical development.

An article of possible interest may be Some Doctrines of Antichrist.

Appendix A Seventh Day Adventists and the Trinity

While because of sabbath-keeping and avoidance of unclean meats, some confuse the Churches of God (COGs) with the Seventh Day Adventists (SDAs), the two groups are actually quite different.

What is interesting is that while the SDAs often claim similar histories as the COGs do, the SDAs admit that originally they were anti-trinitarian. This appendix contains some quotes from recent SDA scholars on this subject, as well as some commentary from me.

SDA pioneer J. Waggoner wrote:

The inconsistencies of Trinitarians, which must be pointed out to free the Scripture doctrine of the Atonement from reproaches under which it has too long lain, are the necessary outgrowth of their system of theology. No matter how able are the writers to whom we shall refer, they could never free themselves from inconsistencies without correcting their theology...“To the contrary, the advocates of that doctrine really fall into the difficulty which they seem anxious to avoid. Their difficulty consists in this: They take the denial of a trinity to be equivalent to a denial of the divinity of Christ. Were that the case, we should cling to the doctrine of a trinity as tenaciously as any can; but it is not the case. They who have read our remarks on the death of the Son of God know that we firmly believe in the divinity of Christ; but we cannot accept the idea of a trinity, as it is held by Trinitarians, without giving up our claim on the dignity of the sacrifice made for our redemption. (J. H. Waggoner, ‘The Atonement in Light of Nature and Revelation’, 1884 Edition, chapter ‘Doctrine of a Trinity Subversive of the Atonement’)

SDA scholar Samuele Bacchiocchi wrote:

The truth is that our Adventist church would not be here today, had it not been for the prophetic guidance of Ellen White. She played a leading role in shaping our message and mission. For example, we noted in the newsletter no. 150 the role of Ellen White in leading our church to accept the Doctrine of the Trinity (ENDTIME ISSUES NEWSLETTER No. 153."The Pre-Advent Judgment - Part I").

The doctrine of the Trinity has been under the crossfire of controversy during much of Christian history. Our Adventist Church has not been exempted from the controversy. In the newly released book The Trinity: Its Implications for Life and Thought (Review and Herald, 2002), Prof. Jerry Moon, one of the three authors, offers a most informative historical survey of the gradual evolution of Adventist pioneers from anti-Trinitarian to Trinitarian beliefs...

The struggle our Adventist Church has faced in accepting the doctrine of the Trinity, is reflected in the current challenge of this doctrine by an increasing number of Adventists. Surprisingly, recently a significant number of Adventists have emailed me studies defending the historical anti-Trinitarian position of our pioneers. They believe that the gradual acceptance of the Trinity by our Adventist church, represents a movement from the original true teaching of our pioneers to the acceptance of a Catholic heresy formulated by the Catholic ecumenical councils...

The doctrine of the Trinity was really the first doctrine that captivated the early church, causing an enormous investment of time and money. The first seven ecumenical councils from Nicea in 325 to Constantinople in 687, were convened mostly to define and refine the church position on the nature and relationship among the three members of the Trinity. Somebody said that the roads were filled with bishops travelling to attend councils addressing trinitarian questions.

In a very real sense, it was on the doctrinal issues of the Trinity that early church leaders cut their intellectual teeth. The matter was forced upon them by the need to explain to Greek thinkers how the three Beings of the Godhead can be defined and worshipped as one God. It is unfortunate that those apologetic endeavors often resulted in heretical anti-trinitarian teachings that have plagued Christianity until our time. It is unfortunate that those apologetic endeavors often resulted in heretical anti-trinitarian teachings that have plagued Christianity until our time. In fact, most of today's anti-trinitarian heresies found in such religious movements as the Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, the Unitarians, and liberal theologians, trace their roots to the early church. (Bacchiocchi S. The Importance of the Doctrine of the Trinity. ENDTIME ISSUES NEWSLETTER NO. 147. May 11, 2006).

In other words, Dr. Bacchiocchi admits that the trinity was some type of intellectual exercise and that it took until sometime in the late 7th century for it to be clarified. If it was such an essential doctrine, then why did God not make it clear in the first or second centuries? Note that Dr. Bacchiocchi also admits that groups that trace their histories to the early church were anti-trinitarian. Please note that a "liberal theologian" would be normally be one who changed doctrine--not one who kept the same faith--hence this is a clear case of the SDAs succumbing to liberal influence--not the other way around. The Continuing Church of God, who holds a Binitarian view, clearly is the one that has been most faithful to original doctrine here.

The following slightly abridged information shows what another prominent SDA scholar has written about the SDAs and some of their early views on the Godhead:

A Brief Overview of the Recent Debate

In 1963 Erwin R. Gane broke new ground with his M. A. thesis arguing that most of the leaders among early Seventh-day Adventists held an antitrinitarian view of the Godhead, but that Ellen G. White was an exception. In Gane's words, she was "a trinitarian monotheist." Gane did not attempt to trace the history of the change from rejection to acceptance of trinitarianism, nor did he address in detail the role of Ellen White's role in that change, but he set the stage for other investigators to further his work.

Several others have since taken up aspects of those two major issues. Russell Holt in 1969 added further evidence regarding James White, J. N. Andrews, A. C. Bourdeau, D. T. Bourdeau, R. F. Cottrell, A. T. Jones, W. W. Prescott, J. Edson White, and M. L. Andreasen. Holt concluded that until 1890, the "field was dominated by" antitrinitarians; from 1890 to 1900, "the course of the denomination was decided by statements from Ellen G. White," and during the period from 1900 to 1930, most of the leading antitrinitarians died, so that by 1931 trinitarianism "had triumphed and become the standard denominational position." Thus Holt approximated the general outline of the present research, though the size of his paper did not permit in-depth treatment.

In 1971, two years after Holt's paper, L. E. Froom in Movement of Destiny tried to prove that E. J. Waggoner had become essentially trinitarian, or at least "anti-Arian," as early as 1888, but only by "special pleading" could he sustain that hypothesis. Nevertheless, Movement of Destiny offers a more detailed examination of the primary sources on trinitarianism and antitrinitarianism in Adventism than could previously be found in any one place. For sheer bulk, his work makes a major contribution to the history of the Adventist theology of the Godhead.

Merlin Burt, in 1996, contributed much-needed depth and detail to the history of the development of the Trinity doctrine among Adventists in the first half of the twentieth century. Woodrow Whidden broadened the systematic theological discussion by linking the advances in soteriology and the new openness to trinitarianism during the decade of 1888-1898. Not until the publication of The Trinity: Understanding God's Love, His Plan of Salvation, and Christian Relationships, by Woodrow Whidden, Jerry Moon, and John Reeve (Review and Herald, 2002), did a single volume combine the biblical and historical evidence for an Adventist view of the Trinity. That book has also been published in Portuguese by the Brazil Publishing House.

All these contributions have basically supported Gane's original thesis. As a result, his contention that most of the leading SDA pioneers were antitrinitarian in their theology has become accepted Adventist history. However, the meaning of that history for belief and practice is still hotly debated. On one hand, some Adventists explain the historical process of change as the product of an ecumenical conspiracy theory, claiming that Adventist leaders sold out the original "truth" for the sake of public relations, as a means of shedding the denomination's sectarian image. On the other hand, the question of whether belief in God as a Trinity is really biblical receives additional force from the fact that some contemporary theologians in the wider Christian community are taking up anew the historic questioning of traditional trinitarianism.

Objectives and Outline of this Study

The purpose of this essay is to examine the process of change in the Adventist view of the Trinity in order to discover what motivated the changes, and whether they resulted from a growing biblical understanding or were driven by a desire to be seen as orthodox by the wider Christian community.

The development of the doctrine of the Godhead in Seventh-day Adventism may be divided into six periods: (1) Antitrinitarian Dominance, 1846-1888; (2) Dissatisfaction with Antitrinitarianism, 1888-1898; (3) Paradigm Shift, 1898-1913; (4) Decline of Antitrinitarianism, 1913-1946; (5) Trinitarian Dominance, 1946-1980; and (6) Renewed Tensions, 1980 to the Present. The first three periods have been treated by Gane, Holt, and Froom, and the 1888-1957 era by Merlin Burt, but only Froom addresses the trinitarian issues of the Kellogg crisis and no one has dealt extensively with the period from 1980 to the present.

ANTITRINITARIAN DOMINANCE: 1846-1888

From about 1846 to1888, most of the of leading Adventist writers rejected the concept of the Trinity, although the literature contains occasional references to members who held trinitarian views. Ambrose C. Spicer, the father of General Conference President William Ambrose Spicer, had been a Seventh Day Baptist minister before his conversion to Adventism in 1874. He evidently remained trinitarian, because W. A. Spicer recounted to A. W. Spalding that his father "grew so offended at the anti-trinitarian atmosphere in Battle Creek that he ceased preaching." S. B. Whitney had been trinitarian, but in the course of his indoctrination as an Adventist in 1861, became a convinced antitrinitarian. Whitney's experience would seem to indicate that at least some Adventist ministers taught antitrinitarianism as part of their instruction of new converts. R. F. Cottrell, on the other hand, wrote in the Review that while he disbelieved in the Trinity, he had never "preached against it" or previously written about it. A third bit of evidence that not all were agreed on antitrinitarianism was the remark of D. T. Bourdeau in 1890: "Although we claim to be believers in, and worshipers of, only one God, I have thought that there are as many gods among us as there are conceptions of the Deity."

It must not be misunderstood that those who rejected the traditional Trinity doctrine of the Christian creeds were nevertheless devout believers in the eternity of God the Father, the deity of Jesus Christ "as Creator, Redeemer and Mediator," and the "importance" of the ministry of the Holy Spirit. They held, however, that unlike the Father, the Son had a beginning, though by 1888 it was widely accepted that the Son had preexisted from "so far back in the days of eternity that to finite comprehension" he was "practically without beginning." Moreover, they initially believed that the Holy Spirit was an expression for the divine presence, power, or influence, but not an individual divine Personality.

No Biblical Evidences for Three Persons

The early Adventists set forth at least six reasons for their rejection of the term "Trinity." The first was that they did not initially see biblical evidence for three persons in one Godhead. This was not a new objection. In its simplest form, the concept of Trinity is the result of affirming, on the authority of Scripture, both the "oneness" and the "threeness" of God, despite human inability to fully understand the personal, divine Reality those terms point to. How this can be explained has been the subject of much thought and speculation over the centuries. The influence of Greek philosophy on the doctrinal developments of early and medieval Christian history is well known.

Trinity Makes the Father and the Son Identical

A second reason the early Adventists gave for rejecting the Trinity was the misconception that it made the Father and the Son identical. The first of the three recognized cofounders of Sabbatarian Adventism, Joseph Bates, wrote that: "Respecting the trinity, I concluded that it was an impossible for me to believe that the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, was also the Almighty God, the Father, one and the same being." At the time of his conversion to Christianity in 1827, Bates told his father, "If you can convince me that we are one in this sense, that you are my father, and I your son; and also that I am your father, and you my son, then I can believe in the trinity." Because of this belief, and that of baptism by immersion, the younger Bates joined the Christian Connection rather than the Congregational church of his parents. D. W. Hull, J. N. Loughborough, S. B. Whitney, and D. M. Canright shared this view...

The Trinity Presupposes the Existence of Three Gods

A third and opposite early Adventist objection to the Trinity doctrine was based on the misconception that it teaches the existence of three Gods. "If Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are each God, it would be three Gods," wrote Loughborough in 1861. But Loughborough clearly misunderstood the meaning of the term Trinity. Biblical trinitarians do not believe in three Gods. The whole point of the word Trinity is to maintain the biblical truth that there is only one God, without denying what the Bible also teaches, that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three individual persons.

The Trinity Diminishes the Value of the Atonment

A fourth view was that belief in the Trinity would diminish the value of the atonement. Since the "everliving, self-existent God" cannot die, then if Christ had self-existence as God, he couldn't have died on Calvary, they reasoned. If only his humanity died, then his sacrifice was only a human one, inadequate for redemption. Thus, in order to protect the reality of his death on the cross, the early Adventists felt they had to deny that Christ in his preexistence possessed divine immortality.

However logical that reasoning may have seemed to some, its basic premises were flatly rejected by Ellen White in 1897. She stated positively that when Jesus died on the cross, "Deity did not die. Humanity died." Her influence on Adventist readers, and their confidence in the source of her information was such that the implications of such a pronouncement could not be ignored, giving Adventist scholars one more reason to reassess their basic paradigm regarding the Godhead.

Being the Son of God, Christ had a More Recent Origin

Fifth, the fact that Christ is called "Son of God" and "the beginning of the creation of God" (Rev 3:14) was thought to prove that he must be of more recent origin than God the Father. Of course, these texts are no longer understood in this way. Ellen White insisted on the eternal preexistence of the Son, and the "beginning of the creation of God" (Rev 3:14) is no longer understood to refer to the first being created, but to the being who was the Source, the Initiator, the Beginner of all the creation of God (cf. John 1:1-3).

Expression Suggesting that the Holy Spirit is a Power

Sixth, it was argued that "there are various expressions concerning the Holy Spirit which would indicate that it [sic] couldn't properly be considered as a person, such as its being 'shed abroad' in the heart [Rom. 5:5], and 'poured out upon all flesh' [Joel 2:28]." These arguments, however, depended on giving a very literal interpretation to expressions that could also be seen as figures of speech. These arguments made sense within an overall antitrinitarian paradigm, but when that paradigm was called into question, these points were recognized as being capable of fitting either interpretation...

Yet all of them were based on biblical texts. Adventists eventually changed their view of the Godhead because they came to a different understanding of the biblical texts.

DISSATISFACTION WITH ANTITRINITARIANISM: 1888-1898

The focus of the 1888 General Conference session on "Christ our righteousness" and the consequent exaltation of the cross of Christ called into serious question whether a subordinate, derived divinity could adequately account for the saving power of Christ. E. J. Waggoner urged the necessity of "set[ting] forth Christ's rightful position of equality with the Father, in order that His power to redeem may be the better appreciated."

While by 1890 Waggoner had not yet fully grasped Christ's infinitely eternal preexistence, he argued convincingly that Christ was not created, that "He has 'life in Himself' [John 10:17]; He possesses immortality in His own right." Waggoner insisted on "the Divine unity of the Father and the Son" and averred that Christ is "by nature of the very substance of God, and having life in Himself, He is properly called Jehovah, the self-existent One" (Jer 23:56), "who is on an equality with God" (Phil 2:6, ARV), "having all the attributes of God."

Waggoner was not yet trinitarian, but he saw clearly that a more exalted conception of Christ's work of redemption demanded a higher conception of his being as Deity. "The fact that Christ is a part of the Godhead, possessing all the attributes of Divinity, being the equal of the Father in all respects, as Creator and Lawgiver, is the only force there is in the atonement. . . . Christ died 'that He might bring us to God' (1 Peter 3:18); but if He lacked one iota of being equal to God, He could not bring us to Him." The force of this logic leads inevitably to the recognition of Christ's full equality in preexistence as well.

Thus, the dynamic of righteousness by faith and its consequences for the doctrine of God provide the historical context for the provocative comment of D. T. Bourdeau that "although we claim to be believers in, and worshipers of, only one God, I have thought that there are as many gods among us as there are conceptions of the Deity." Such a comment from a highly respected evangelist and missionary seems to indicate that the collective confidence in the antitrinitarian paradigm was showing some cracks.

Further evidence that this was so appeared two years later in 1892, when Pacific Press published a pamphlet titled "The Bible Doctrine of the Trinity," by Samuel T. Spear. The pamphlet corrected two prevailing misconceptions of the Trinity doctrine, showing that it "is not a system of tri-theism, or the doctrine of three Gods, but it is the doctrine of one God subsisting and acting in three persons, with the qualification that the term 'person' . . . is not, when used in this relation, to be understood in any sense that would make it inconsistent with the unity of the Godhead."

In 1898, Uriah Smith prepared Looking Unto Jesus, the most comprehensive and carefully nuanced exposition of the nontrinitarian view among Adventists. Smith emphatically repudiated his earlier view that Christ had been created, but still held that "God [the Father] alone is without beginning. At the earliest epoch when a beginning could be,-a period so remote that to finite minds it is essentially eternity,-appeared the Word." Through some means not clearly revealed in Scripture, Christ had been "brought forth," "begotten," or "by some divine impulse or process, not creation," Christ had been given existence by the Father. In one paragraph Smith comes surprisingly close to a trinitarian statement: "This union between the Father and the Son does not detract from either, but strengthens both. Through it, in connection with the Holy Spirit, we have all of Deity." But this slow struggle toward a fuller understanding was eclipsed by the bold declarations of The Desire of Ages, published in the same year. Desire of Ages produced a paradigm shift in Adventists' perceptions of the Godhead.

PARADIGM SHIFT: 1898-1913

The period from 1898 to 1913 saw an almost complete reversal of Adventist thinking about the Trinity. I say "almost" because this paradigm shift did not lead to unanimity on the topic. As Merlin Burt has documented, a few thought leaders who tended toward the "old view" remained vocal, but with declining influence, for many years.

Nevertheless, the publication of Ellen White's Desire of Ages in 1898 became the continental divide for the Adventist understanding of the Trinity. Beginning with the first paragraph of the book, she called into question the dominant view of early Adventists regarding the relationship of Christ to the Father. Her third sentence in chapter 1 declared, "From the days of eternity the Lord Jesus Christ was one with the Father" (emphasis supplied). Yet even this was not sufficiently unequivocal to clarify her position regarding the deity of Jesus, for as we have seen, others had used similar language without believing in Christ's infinitely eternal preexistence.

Later in the book, writing on the resurrection of Lazarus, she quoted the claim of Christ, "I am the resurrection and the life" (John 11:25) and followed it with a seven-word comment that would begin to turn the tide of antitrinitarian theology among Adventists: "In Christ is life, original, unborrowed, underived" (emphasis supplied). "Life, original" means Christ possessed life at the point of the origin of all life-no one had life before Him. "Unborrowed" means that life was intrinsically His own; He did not owe His life to any Other; His preexistence life was not dependent on any other.

Finally, "underived" adds the third layer of White's redundant insistence that Christ did not ultimately derive his divine life from the Father. (Of course, in the incarnation, Christ voluntarily "humbled Himself" (Phil 2:6-8), became dependent (John 5:19, 30), and subordinated his will to the Father (John 5:30) in order to live as humans must, but that was not His position from eternity). Even as a man, He retained the power to lay down his life and take it up again (John 10:18). Thus with reference to Christ's resurrection, Ellen White again asserted his full deity and equality with the Father, declaring "The Saviour came forth from the grave by the life that was in Himself."

These statements came as a shock to the theological leadership of the church. M. L. Andreasen, who had become an Adventist just four years earlier at the age of eighteen, and who would eventually teach at the church's North American seminary, claimed that the new concept was so different from the previous understanding that some prominent leaders doubted whether Ellen White had really written it.

After Andreasen entered the ministry in 1902, he made a special trip to Ellen White's California home to investigate the issue for himself. Ellen White welcomed him and gave him "access to the manuscripts." He had brought with him "a number of quotations," to "see if they were in the original in her own handwriting." He recalled: "I was sure Sister White had never written, 'In Christ is life, original, unborrowed, underived.' But now I found it in her own handwriting just as it had been published. It was so with other statements. As I checked up, I found that they were Sister White's own expressions."

Desire of Ages contained equally uncompromising statements regarding the deity of the Holy Spirit. Repeatedly, Desire of Ages employed the personal pronoun "he" in referring to the Holy Spirit, climaxing with the impressive statement, "The Spirit was to be given as a regenerating agent, and without this, the sacrifice of Christ would have been of no avail. . . . Sin could be resisted and overcome only through the mighty agency of the Third Person of the Godhead, who would come with no modified energy, but in the fullness of divine power" (emphasis supplied).

These and similar statements drove some to a fresh examination of the biblical evidence about the Godhead. Others, disbelieving that they could have been wrong for so many years, studied to bolster the old arguments. Ellen White's testimony, however, by calling attention to Scriptures whose significance had been overlooked, created a paradigm shift that could not be reversed. As Adventists returned to the Scriptures to see "whether those things were so" (Acts 17:11), they eventually came to a growing consensus that the basic concept of the Trinity was a biblical truth to be accepted and embraced.

While Desire of Ages set in motion a paradigm shift regarding the Adventist understanding of the Godhead, it was not Ellen White's last word on the subject. Later, during the Kellogg crisis of 1902-1907, she repeatedly used expressions such as "three living persons of the heavenly trio," while continuing to maintain the essential unity of the Godhead. Thus she affirmed the plurality and the unity, the threeness and the oneness, the foundational elements of a simple, biblical understanding of the Trinity.

Evidence that at least a portion of church leadership recognized the Desire of Ages statements as removing the objections to a biblical doctrine of the Trinity is a summary of Adventist beliefs that F. M. Wilcox published in the Review and Herald in 1913, during Ellen White's lifetime, and on the same page with an article by Ellen White, where she would surely have been aware of it. The editor of the denomination's most influential periodical, Wilcox wrote that "Seventh-day Adventists believe,- 1. In the divine Trinity. This Trinity consists of the eternal Father, . . . the Lord Jesus Christ, . . . [and] the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Godhead."

DECLINE OF ANTITRINITATIANISM: 1913-1946

Despite Wilcox's declaration in the Review, (or perhaps because of it), the debate over the Trinity intensified in the early decades of the twentieth century. At the 1919 Bible Conference, Christ's eternity and his relation to the Father were major and unresolved subjects of debate. Curiously, in view of Ellen White's Desire of Ages statement that Christ's life was "underived," even W. W. Prescott, the foremost proponent of a trinitarian view at the conference, held that Christ's existence was in some way "derived" from the Father. This may constitute evidence that the leadership were not content to simply accept White's pronouncement without seeing it for themselves in Scripture. Or perhaps, it shows Prescott's conscious or unconscious reflection of classical trinitarian sources.

The polarization of American Christianity between modernism and fundamentalism in the first two decades of the twentieth century tended to push Adventists closer to a trinitarian position, since in so many other areas-such as belief in creationism, Christ's virgin birth, miracles, and literal resurrection-Adventists were in opposition to modernists and in sympathy with fundamentalists.

In 1930, the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists received a request from its African Division that "a statement of what Adventists believe be printed in the Year Book" to "help government officials and others to a better understanding of our work." In response, the General Conference Committee appointed a subcommittee (comprised of M. E. Kern, associate secretary of the General Conference; F. M. Wilcox, editor of the Review and Herald; E. R. Palmer, manager of the Review and Herald Publishing Association; and C. H. Watson, General Conference president) to prepare a statement of Adventist beliefs.

Wilcox, as the leading writer among them, drafted a 22-point statement that was subsequently published in the SDA Year Book of 1931. The second point spoke of the "Godhead, or Trinity," and the third affirmed "that Jesus Christ is very God," an echo of the Nicene creed. Lest anyone think that Adventists intended to make a creed, "no formal or official approval" was sought for the statement. Fifteen years later, when the statement had gained general acceptance, the General Conference session of 1946 made it official, voting that "no revision of this Statement of Fundamental Beliefs, as it now appears in the [Church] Manual, shall be made at any time except at a General Conference session." This marked the first official endorsement of a trinitarian view by the church, although "the last of the well known expositors" continued to "uphold the 'old' view" until his death in 1968.

TRINITARIAN DOMINANCE: 1946 to 1980

From the retirement of F. M. Wilcox in 1944 to the publication of Movement of Destiny in 1971, L. E. Froom was the most visible champion of trinitarianism among Seventh-day Adventists. His book, The Coming of the Comforter was unprecedented among Adventists (except for a few passages in Ellen White) in its systematic exposition of the personhood of the Holy Spirit and the trinitarian nature of the Godhead. Froom's leading role in the preparation of the 1957 work, Questions on Doctrine, has been amply documented elsewhere. Questions on Doctrine evoked a storm of controversy for certain statements on christology and the atonement, but its clear affirmation of "the heavenly Trinity" went virtually unchallenged-perhaps because M. L. Andreasen, the book's chief critic in other areas, was a convinced trinitarian. Froom's final word was his 700-page Movement of Destiny, published in 1971. Despite "instances of special pleading" and problems of bias that "somewhat diminish the work as dependable history," it nevertheless thoroughly documents the movement of Adventist theology toward a biblical trinitarian consensus.

The climax of this phase of doctrinal development was a new statement of fundamental beliefs, voted by the 1980 General Conference session in Dallas. The new statement of twenty-seven "Fundamental Beliefs," like the 1931 statement, explicitly affirmed belief in the Trinity. The affirmation came in the second article of the statement (following a preamble and a first article on the inspiration and authority of Scripture). "2. The Trinity[.] There is one God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, a unity of three co-eternal Persons." Article 4 affirms that "God the eternal Son became incarnate in Christ Jesus. . . . Forever truly God, He became also truly man." Article 5 declares that "God the eternal Spirit was active with the Father and the Son in Creation, incarnation, and redemption," and was "sent by the Father and the Son to be always with His children." At several points, the statement echoes the terminology of the classical trinitarian creeds, even including the Filioque clause with reference to the Holy Spirit.

A brief recapitulation of Adventist belief statements may clarify the significance of the 1980 action. The first Declaration of the Fundamental Principles Taught and Practiced by Seventh-day Adventists (1872) was the work of Uriah Smith. Its first two articles deal with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

1) That there is one God, a personal, spiritual being, the creator of all things, omnipotent, omniscient, and eternal, infinite in wisdom, holiness, justice, goodness, truth, and mercy; unchangeable, and everywhere present by his representative, the Holy Spirit. Ps. 139.7.

2) That there is one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Eternal Father, the one by whom God created all things, and by whom they do consist; that he took on him the nature of the seed of Abraham for the redemption of our fallen race; that he dwelt among men full of grace and truth, lived our example, died our sacrifice, was raised for our justification, ascended on high to be our only mediator in the sanctuary in heaven, where, with his own blood he makes atonement for our sins.

It is notable that while there is no reference to the term Trinity, neither is there any overt polemic against a trinitarian position. Smith was clearly striving to adhere as closely as possible to biblical language. The statement represented a consensus at the time, but in harmony with its preamble's explicit disclaimer of any creedal statement it was never given the status of official approval.

The second statement of "Fundamental Principles" (1889), also by Uriah Smith, is likewise a consensus statement that avoids pressing any points of disagreement. As with the 1872 statement, the preamble maintains "no creed but the Bible,"and further claims that "the following propositions may be taken asa summary of the principal features of their [Seventh-day Adventists'] religious faith, upon which there is, so far as we know, entire unanimity throughout the body" (emphasis supplied).

Apparently, Smith did not consider the fine points of the doctrine of the Godhead as ranking among the "principal features" of the SDA faith at that time, because he could hardly have been unaware that there were certain minor disagreements related to the Trinity. Article I from 1872 (quoted above), was reproduced without change in the 1889 statement. Article II in the 1889 statement has some modifications in the language about the work of Christ, but no material change in its reference to the person of Christ. Because these articles adhere closely to biblical terminology, they were capable of being interpreted favorably by either nontrinitarians or trinitarians.

The third statement of "Fundamental Beliefs of Seventh-day Adventists" was prepared under the direction of a committee, but it was actually written by F. M. Wilcox, editor of the Review and Herald. Fifteen years later, in 1946, it became the first such statement to be officially endorsed by a General Conference session. Article 2 declares,

"That the Godhead, or Trinity, consists of the Eternal Father, a personal, spiritual Being, omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, infinite in wisdom and love; the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Eternal Father, through whom all things were created and through whom the salvation of the redeemed hosts will beaccomplished; the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Godhead, the great regenerating power in the work of redemption. Matt. 28:19."

Thus, the statement voted at Dallas in 1980 was the fourth fundamental beliefs statement of Seventh-day Adventists, but only the second to be officially voted by a General Conference session. The official adoption of the explicitly trinitarian Dallas statement might have been expected to bring closure to the century-old debate, but it proved to be a precursor of renewed tensions.

RENEWED TENSIONS AND CONTINUING DEBATE: 1980 TO THE PRESENT

The period from 1980 to the present has been characterized by renewed debate along a spectrum of ideas from the reactionary to the contemporary. Soon after the Dallas statement-and perhaps in reaction to it-voices from the "edges" of the church began to advocate that the pioneers earliest views were correct, that Ellen White's apparently trinitarian statements had been misinterpreted, and that the Dallas statement represented apostasy from the biblical beliefs of the pioneers.

Some, in apparent ignorance of the 1946 action, believed that the Dallas statement was the first ever officially voted statement of Adventist belief, and hence, that its very existence was an aberration from the historical pattern. Citations from the primary sources, extracted from their historical context and repackaged in plausible conspiracy theories, proved quite convincing to many.

A more substantial development was the continued quest to articulate a biblical doctrine of the Trinity, clearly differentiated from the Greek philosophical presuppositions that undergirded the traditional creedal statements. Raoul Dederen had set forth in 1972 a brief exposition of the Godhead from the OT and NT. He rejected the "Trinity of speculative thought" that created philosophical "distinctions within the Deity for which there is no definable basis within the revealed knowledge of God." Instead, he advocated the example of the apostles: "Rejecting the terms of Greek mythology or metaphysics, they expressed their convictions in an unpretending trinitarian confession of faith, the doctrine of one God subsisting and acting in three persons."

Building on this line of thought, Fernando Canale, Dederen's student, set forth in 1983 a radical critique of the Greek philosophical presuppositions underlying what Dederen had referred to as "speculative thought." Canale's dissertation, A Criticism of Theological Reason, argued that Roman Catholic and classical Protestant theology took its most basic presuppositions about the nature of God, time, and existence, from a "framework" provided by Aristotelian philosophy. Canale maintained that for Christian theology to become truly biblical, it must derive its "primordial presupposition" from Scripture, not from Greek philosophy.

In the more recent Handbook of Seventh-day Adventist Theology (2000), edited by Dederen, Canale authored a magisterial article on the findings from his continuing work on the doctrine of God. Again, Canale explicitly differentiates between a doctrine of God based on Greek philosophical presuppositions and one based on biblical presuppositions, making a strong case for his view that only through a willingness to "depart from the philosophical conception of God as timeless" and to "embrace the historical conception of God as presented in the Bible," can one discover a truly biblical view of the Trinity.

A third line of thought seeks to locate Adventist trinitarianism in the context of contemporary systematic theology. Seconding Canale's discontent with classical theology, but taking the critique in a different direction, was Richard Rice's Reign of God (1985). Rice argued that the Trinity was implied, though not explicit, in Scripture. Fritz Guy, in Thinking Theologically (1999), agrees that "the traditional formulations" of the Trinity doctrine "are not entirely satisfactory." He warns against a perceived tendency toward tritheism and favors updating the language to make it more "functional and gender-neutral." Guy's book, however, is not a systematic exposition of the doctrine of the Trinity, and how his suggestions will ultimately affect the discussion remains to be seen.

CONCLUSION

The long process of change from early Adventists' initial rejection of creedal trinitarianism to their eventual acceptance of a doctrine of the Trinity could rightly be called a search for a biblical Trinity. The early Adventists were not so much prejudiced against traditional formulas as they were determined to hew their doctrine as closely as possible to the teaching of Scripture. In order to base their beliefs on Scripture alone, and to disallow tradition from having any theological authority, they found it methodologically essential to reject every doctrine not clearly grounded in Scripture alone. Since the traditional doctrine of the Trinity clearly contained unscriptural elements, they rejected it. Eventually, however, they became convinced that the basic concept of one God in three persons was indeed found in Scripture. In the second part of this study will consider in more detail the role of Ellen White in that process ("The Adventist Trinity Debate" Jerry Moon, Ph. D. Chairman, Church History Department. Andrews University Theological Seminary. As reported in ENDTIME ISSUES NEWSLETTER No. 149, June 15, 2006).

Another SDA scholar, G. Pfandl, wrote this about the Semi-Arians (a title that somewhat applies to those in the COGs):

While the Seventh day Adventist Church today espouses the doctrine of the Trinity, this has not always been so. The evidence from a study of Adventist history indicates that from the earliest years of our church to the 1890's a whole stream of writers took an Arian or semi Arian position...

Semi Arianism...They rejected the Arian view that Christ was created and had a different nature from God (anomoios dissimilar), but neither did they accept the Nicene Creed which stated that Christ was "of one substance (homoousios) with the Father." Semi Arians taught that Christ was similar ( homoios) to the Father, or of like substance (homoiousios), but still subordinate" (Pfandl, Gerhard. THE DOCTRINE OF THE TRINITY AMONG ADVENTISTS. Biblical Research Institute Silver Spring, MD June 1999, http://www.macgregorministries.org/seventh_day_adventists/trinity.html, 5/12/06).

What the above quote leaves out is that the anti-Trinitarian writers lost out because Ellen White allegedly published a pamphlet in 1897 declaring the Holy Spirit "the third person of the Godhead" (other writings from Andrews University, an SDA school, suggests the SDAs were binitarians before this).

Note that it was essentially Ellen White who changed the position (some SDAs dispute this and claim that some others tampered with her writings and she never endorsed the trinity). The idea that the SDAs now hold the "biblical view of the trinity" is false as the trinity is not a biblical concept.

However, it is important to note that the SDAs admit that they DID NOT have the same teaching on the Godhead throughout history. Yet, the COGs do. Thus, the COGs are the only sabbath-keeping group that has any right to claim continuity throughout history.

Appendix B - Another SDA-Related View

It needs to be understood that some groups with SDA affiliation do not agree with the SDA scholars cited above. Here are some comments from an email I received dated 01/18/07 about this (I have no retyped it and have not attempted to correct any typos):

I read with interest your article regarding the differences between Ellen White and Herbert Armstrong. One thing that I would ask you to consider updating is your belief that Ellen White led the Adventist church to its acceptance of the trithestic trinity doctrine. This is simply not true. Your sources, Gerhard Pfandl, Sam Bacchiocchi and Dr. Jerry Moon, are all part of the organizational group that is trying to convince the church that Ellen White became trinitarian. This is not the case, and these "scholars" have re-written church history, twisted quotes and supplied misinformation to the church at large to continue this charade in order to give a reason for the acceptance of the tritheistic trinity doctrine.
    The historic Adventist church, which does still exist, does not believe in the trinity. We believe that "to us there is but One God, the Father, of whom are all things and we in Him, and one Lord Jesus Christ by whom are all things, and we in Him". The historic chgurch was never "bitarian", but rather believed that the Father is the One true God and that Jesus Christ was His divine Son and God by inheritance.

I (COGwriter) will comment that my point that the SDA Church (the main one) teaches the trinity, is of course, sadly true.

He sent a paper titled We Have Nothing to Fear for the Future, Except…A Response to Dr. Jerry Moon’s Overview of The Trinity Debates By Final Reformation Ministries which includes the following statements:

What has come as an even bigger surprise is that our doctrine concerning the personality of God and of Christ came under heavy assualt shortly after Ellen White's death, and was changed unofficially in 1931, and then officially in 1946 and reaffirmed in 1980; each time claiming the support of the writings of Ellen White and Spirit of Prophecy.

More surprisingly, many are just finding out in the 21st century that Ellen White's and other Adventist authors writings were altered to substantiate this change of doctrine...

Story One begins with the pioneer Adventists and their history of Arian, or semi-Arian beliefs. Among those in the know and educated on Seventh-day Adventist history, there is no disagreement on this...

I will label Dr. Moon’s comments as Moon and my response as Response.

Moon--- In 1963 Erwin R. Gane broke new ground with his M. A. thesis arguing that most of the leaders among early Seventh-day Adventists held an antitrinitarian view of the Godhead, but that Ellen G. White was an exception. In Gane’s words, she was “a trinitarian monotheist.” Gane did not attempt to trace the history of the change from rejection to acceptance of trinitarianism, nor did he address in detail the role of Ellen White’s role in that change, but he set the stage for other investigators to further his work.  

Response- It is clear to many honest scholars that Ellen White was at no time in her Adventist life a trinitarian of any kind...

Moon- Further evidence that this was so appeared two years later in 1892, when Pacific Press published a pamphlet titled “The Bible Doctrine of the Trinity,” by Samuel T. Spear. The pamphlet corrected two prevailing misconceptions of the Trinity doctrine, showing that it “is not a system of tri-theism, or the doctrine of three Gods, but it is the doctrine of one God subsisting and acting in three persons, with the qualification that the term ‘person’ . . . is not, when used in this relation, to be understood in any sense that would make it inconsistent with the unity of the Godhead.”

Response- While this book by Mr. Spear (no relation to Adventist Ron Spear) used the word “Trinity” it also taught subordinationism, (that is, that Christ was not co-equal with the Father) a teaching that trinitarians reject wholesale. It should also be considered that this book was not written by a Seventh day Adventist, but was published by Pacific Press for an outside author, a fact that Moon neglects to include.

Moon-- Desire of Ages contained equally uncompromising statements regarding the deity of the Holy Spirit. Repeatedly, Desire of Ages employed the personal pronoun “he” in referring to the Holy Spirit, climaxing with the impressive statement, “The Spirit was to be given as a regenerating agent, and without this, the sacrifice of Christ would have been of no avail. . . . Sin could be resisted and overcome only through the mighty agency of the Third Person of the Godhead, who would come with no modified energy, but in the fullness of divine power” (emphasis supplied).

Response- While it is true that Ellen White used the term “third person of the Godhead”, it must be understood that she did not mean this term as used by trinitarians, as witnessed by her many “anti-trinitarian” statements about the Holy Spirit in the very same book.

Moon-- Evidence that at least a portion of church leadership recognized the Desire of Ages statements as removing the objections to a biblical doctrine of the Trinity is a summary of Adventist beliefs that F. M. Wilcox published in the Review and Herald in 1913, during Ellen White’s lifetime, and on the same page with an article by Ellen White, where she would surely have been aware of it. The editor of the denomination’s most influential periodical, Wilcox wrote that “Seventh-day Adventists believe,— 1. In the divine Trinity. This Trinity consists of the eternal Father, . . . the Lord Jesus Christ, . . . [and] the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Godhead.”

Response-- Ellen White, in her weak and feeble state in 1913, did not necessarily know about this, and had she known she likely would have said something...

Response-- Unfortunately, Moon has already admitted that the trinity as outlined in Seventh-day Adventists Believe has unmistakeable Nicene and Athanasian language and influence in various parts. We also have the confession of the Adventist representative to the World Council of Churches that says Adventists are in official agreement with the trinity doctrine as spelled out in the Nicene-Constantinian and Athanasian Creeds, the two documents that Moon is trying to distance himself from.

Thus, the above SDA-related group believes that the modern SDA scholars have changed or misquoted Ellen White on this subject. But that the main SDA Church clearly has embraced the unbiblical doctrine of the trinity.

Historical articles of intersest may included:

Location of the Early Church: Another Look at Ephesus, Smyrna, and Rome What actually happened to the primitive Church? And did the Bible tell about this in advance?
The Churches of Revelation 2 & 3 from 31 A.D. to present
The Ephesus Church Era predominant from 31 A.D. to circa 135 A.D.
The Smyrna Church Era predominant circa 135 A.D. to circa 450 A.D.
The Pergamos Church Era predominant circa 450 A.D. to circa 1050 A.D.
The Thyatira Church Era predominant circa 1050 A.D. to circa 1585 A.D.
The Sardis Church Era predominant circa 1585 A.D. to circa 1933 A.D.
The Philadelphia Church Era predominant circa 1933 A.D. to 1986 A.D.
The Laodicean Church Era predominant circa 1986 A.D. to present

It should be noted that in his writings shown above in this appendix, Professor Moon actually did not properly understand the binitarian position that Jesus is God and was not created later (the fact that some early SDAs had that misunderstanding does not mean that this is what was the original view within SDA circles).

On the SDAs and the Godhead, the following articles may be of interest:

SDA/CCOG Differences: Two Horned Beast of Revelation and 666 The CCOG is NOT part of the Seventh Day Adventists. This article explains two prophetic differences, the trinity, and differences in approaching doctrine.
Binitarian View: One God, Two Beings Before the Beginning Is binitarianism the correct position? What about unitarianism or trinitarianism?
Is The Father God? What is the view of the Bible? What was the view of the early church?
Jesus is God, But Was Made Man Was Jesus fully human and fully God or what?
Virgin Birth: Does the Bible Teach It? What does the Bible teach? What is claimed in The DaVinci Code?
Did Early Christians Think the Holy Spirit Was A Separate Person in a Trinity? Or did they have a different view?
Did the True Church Ever Teach a Trinity? Most act like this is so, but is it?
Was Unitarianism the Teaching of the Bible or Early Church? Many, including Jehovah's Witnesses, claim it was, but was it?
Binitarianism: One God, Two Beings Before the Beginning This is a shorter article than the Binitarian View article, but has a little more information on binitarianism.

Back to Early Christianity page

Back to COGwriter home page

Thiel B., Ph.D. Did the True Church Ever Teach a Trinity? www.cogwriter.com (c) 2006/2007/2008/2009/2010/2011/2012/2013/2014 0208