That Christ is God, Proved to be False from the Scriptures
By Andrews Norton (publ. 1859)
LET us examine the Scriptures in respect to the fundamental doctrine of Trinitarianism; I mean, particularly, the Christian Scriptures; for the evidence which they afford will render any consideration of the Old Testament unnecessary.
I. In the first place, then, I conceive, that, putting every other part of Scripture out of view, and forgetting all that it teaches, this proposition is clearly proved to be false by the very passages which are brought in its support. We have already had occasion to advert to the character of some of these passages, and I shall now remark upon them a little more fully. They are supposed to prove that Christ is God in the highest sense, equal to the Father. Let us see what they really prove. One of them is that in which our Saviour prays: "And now, Father, glorify thou me with thyself, with that glory which I had with thee before the world was." John xvii. 5.
The being who prayed to God to glorify him, CANNOT be God.
The first verse of John needs particular
explanation, and I shall hereafter recur to it. I will here only observe, that if by the
term Logos be meant, as Trinitarians believe, an intelligent being, a person, and this
person be Christ, then the person who was WITH God could not have been God, except in a
metaphorical or secondary acceptation of the terms, or, as some commentators have
supposed, in an inferior sense of the word, -- it being used not as a proper, but as a
In John v. 22, it is said, according to the common version, "The Father judgeth no man; but hath committed all judgment unto the Son." "The Father judgeth no man, that is, without the Son," says a noted Orthodox commentator, Gill, "which is a proof of their equality." A proof of their equality! What, is it God to whom all judgment is committed by the Father? We proceed to Colossians i. 15, and here the first words which we find declare, that the being spoken of is "the image of the Invisible God." Is it possible that any one can believe, that God is affirmed by the Apostle to have been the image of God?
Turn now to Philippians ii. 5-8. Here, according to the modern Trinitarian exposition, we are told, that Christ, who was God, as the passage is brought to prove, did not regard his equality with God as an object of solicitous desire, but humbled himself, and submitted to death, even the death of the cross. Can any one imagine, that he is to prove to us by such passages as these, that the being to whom they relate is the Infinite Spirit?
There is no part of the New Testament in which the language concerning Christ is more figurative and difficult, than that of the first four verses of the Epistle to the Hebrews. But do these verses prove that the writer of the Epistle believed Christ to be God? Let us take the common version, certainly as favorable as any to this supposition, and consider how the person spoken of is described. He is one appointed by God to be heir of all things, one by whom God made the worlds, the image of his person, one who hath sat down at the right hand of God, one who hath obtained a more excellent name than the angels. Is it not wonderful that the person here spoken of has been believed to be God? And, if the one thing could be more strange than the other, would it not be still more wonderful that this passage has been regarded as a main proof of the doctrine?
Look next at Hebrews i. 8, 9, in which passage we
find these words: "Therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of
gladness above thy fellows." Will any one maintain that this language is used
concerning a being who possessed essential divinity? If passages of this sort are brought
by any one to establish the doctrine, by what use of language, by what possible
statements, would he expect it to be disproved?
There are few arguments on which more stress has been laid by Trinitarians, than on the application of the title "Son of God " to Christ. Yet one who had for the first time heard of the doctrine would doubt, I think, whether a disputant who urged this argument were himself unable to understand the meaning of language, or presumed on the incapacity of those whom he addressed.
To prove Christ to be God, a title is adduced
which clearly distinguishes him from God. To suppose the contrary, is to suppose that
Christ is at once God and the Son of God, that is, his own son, unless there be more than
one God. I think it evident, that the conclusion of the fifth verse of the ninth chapter
of Romans, and the quotation, Heb. i. 10-12, do not relate to Christ.
I conceive that they relate to God, the Father. Putting these, for the present, out of the question, the passages on which I have remarked are among the principal adduced in support of the doctrine. They stand in the very first class of proof texts. Let any man put it to his conscience what they do prove.
Again, it is inferred that Christ is God, because it is said that he will judge the world. To do this, it is maintained, requires omniscience, and omniscience is the attribute of divinity alone. I answer, that, whatever we may think of the judgment of the world spoken of in the New Testament, St. Paul declares that God will judge the world by A MAN (not a God) whom HE has APPOINTED.
"A man," so the original should be rendered, not "that man": Again, it is argued that Christ is God, because supreme dominion is ascribed to him. I do not now inquire what is meant by this supreme dominion; but I answer, that it is nowhere ascribed to him in stronger language than in the following passage.
"Then will be the end, when he will deliver
up the kingdom to God, even the Father; after destroying all dominion, and all authority
and power. For he must reign till He [that is, God] has put all his enemies under his
feet....... And when all things are put under him, then will the Son himself be subject to
Him who put all things under him, that God may be all in all."
No words, one would think, could more clearly discriminate Christ from God, and declare his dependence and inferiority; and, of necessity, his infinite inferiority. I say, as I have said before, infinite inferiority; because an inferior and dependent must be a finite being, and finite and infinite do not admit of comparison.
It appears, then, that the doctrine under consideration is overthrown by the very arguments brought in its support.
II. BUT further; it contradicts the express and
reiterated declarations of our Saviour. According to the doctrine in question, it was THE
SON, or the second person in the Trinity, who was united to the human nature of Christ. It
was HIS words, therefore, that Christ, as a divine teacher, spoke; and it was through His
power that he performed his wonderful works.
But, this is in direct contradiction to the declarations of Christ. He always refers the divine powers which he exercised, and the divine knowledge which he discovered, to the Father, and never to any other person, or to the Deity considered under any other relation or distinction. Of himself, AS THE SON, he always speaks as of a being entirely dependent upon the Father.
"If of myself I assume glory, my glory is nothing; it is my Father who glorifies me." John viii. 54.
"As the Father has life in himself, so HAS HE GRANTED to the Son also to have life in himself." John v. 26.
This is a verbal translation. A more intelligible rendering would be: "As the Father is the source of life, so has he granted to the Son also to be the source of life." "The works which the Father HAS GIVEN ME TO PERFORM [i.e. has enabled me to perform], the very works which I am doing, testify of me, that the Father has sent me." John v. 36.
" As the living Father has sent me, and I LIVE BY THE FATHER," John vi. 57.
"I have not spoken from myself; but He who sent me, the Father himself, has given me in charge what I should enjoin, and what I should teach ..... What, therefore, I teach, I teach as the Father has directed me." John xii. 49, 50.
"The words which you hear are not mine, but the Father's who sent me." John xiv. 24.
"If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not." John x. 37.
"The words which I speak to you, I speak not from myself; and the Father, who dwells in me, himself does the works." John xiv. 10.
"THE SON can do NOTHING OF HIMSELF, but only what he sees his Father doing." John v. 19.
"When you have raised on high the Son of Man [i. e. crucified him], then you will know that I am He [i. e. the Messiah], and that I do nothing of myself, but speak thus as the Father has taught me. And He who sent me is with me." John viii. 28, 29.
I do not multiply passages, because they must be
familiar to every one. From the declarations of our Saviour, it appears that he constantly
referred the divine power manifested in his miracles, and the divine inspiration by which
he spoke, to the Father, and not to any other divine person such as Trinitarians suppose.
According to their hypothesis, it was the divine power and wisdom of the Son which were displayed in Jesus; to him, therefore, should the miracles and doctrine of Jesus have been referred; which they never are. No mention of such a divine person appears in his discourses. But of himself, as the Son of God, he speaks as of a being entirely dependent upon his Father and our Father, his God and their God. These declarations are decisive of the controversy. Every other argument might be laid aside.
III. BUT, in the third place, the doctrine that
Christ is God is opposed to the whole tenor of the Scriptures, and all the facts in the
history of Christ. Though conceived by a miracle, he was born into the world as other men
are, and such as other men are. He did not come, as some of the Jews imagined their
Messiah would come, no man knew whence.
He was a helpless infant. Will any one, at the present day, shock our feelings and understanding to the uttermost, by telling us that Almighty God was incarnate in this infant, and wrapped in swaddling-clothes? He grew in wisdom, and in stature, and in favor with God and men.
Read over his history in the Evangelists, and ask yourselves if you are not reading the history of a man; though of one indeed to whom God had given his spirit without measure, whom he had entrusted with miraculous powers, and constituted a messenger of the most important truths.
He appears with all the attributes of humanity. He
discovers human affections. He is moved even to tears at the grave of Lazarus. He mourns
over the calamities about to overwhelm his country. While enduring the agony of
crucifixion, he discovers the strength of his filial affection, and consigns his mother to
the care of the disciple whom he loved. He was sometimes excited to indignation, and his
soul was sometimes troubled by the sufferings which he endured, and which he anticipated.
"Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say?
Father, save me from this hour? But for this I came,-- for this very hour." Devotion is the virtue of a created and dependent being. But our Saviour has left us not less an example of piety than of benevolence. His expressions of dependence upon his Father and upon our Father, are the most absolute and unequivocal.
He felt the common wants of our nature, hunger,
thirst, and teariness. He suffered death, the common lot of man. He endured the cross,
despising the shame, and he did this for THE JOY SET BEFORE HIM. "Therefore God has
HIGHLY EXALTED HIM." But it is useless to quote or allude to particular passages,
which prove that Christ was a being distinct from, inferior to, and dependent upon God.
You may find them on every page of the New Testament.
The proof of this fact is, as I have said, imbedded and ingrained in the very passages brought to support a contrary proposition. But it is useless, for another reason, to adduce arguments in proof of this fact. It is conceded by Trinitarians explicitly and fully. The doctrine of the humanity of Christ is as essential a part of their scheme as the doctrine of his divinity. They allow, or, to speak more properly, they contend, that he was a man. But if this be true, then the only question that need be examined is, whether it be possible for Christ to have been at once God and man, infinite and finite, omniscient and not omniscient, omnipotent and not omnipotent.
To my mind, the propositions here supposed are as if one were to say, that to be sure astronomers have correctly estimated the size of the earth; but that it does, notwithstanding, fill infinite space.
IV. IN the next place, the doctrine is proved to
be false, because it is evident from the Scriptures that none of those effects were
produced which would necessarily have resulted from its first annunciation by Christ, and
its subsequent communication by his Apostles. The disciples of our Saviour must, at some
period, have considered him merely as a man. Such he was, to all appearance, and such,
therefore, they must have believed him to be.
Before he commenced his ministry, his relations and fellow-townsmen certainly regarded him as nothing more than a man. "Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?" At some particular period, the communication must have been made by our Saviour to his disciples, that he was not a mere man, but that he was, properly speaking, and in the highest sense, God himself.
The doctrines with which we are contending, and other
doctrines of a similar character, have so obscured and confused the whole of Christianity,
that even its historical facts appear to be regarded by many scarcely in the light of real
occurrences. But we may carry ourselves back in imagination to the time when Christ was on
earth, and place ourselves in the situation of the first believers.
Let us, then, reflect for a moment on what would be the state of our own feelings, if some one with whom we had associated as a man were to declare to us that he was really God himself. If his character and works had been such as to command any attention to such an assertion, still through what an agony of incredulity, and doubt, and amazement, and consternation must the mind pass, before it could settle down into a conviction of the truth of his declaration! And when convinced of its truth, with what unspeakable astonishment should we be overwhelmed!
With what extreme awe, and entire prostration of every faculty, should we approach and contemplate such a being! if indeed man, in his present tenement of clay, could endure such intercourse with his Maker. With what a strong and unrelaxing grasp would the idea seize upon our minds! How continually would it be expressed in the most forcible language, whenever we had occasion to speak of him! What a deep and indelible coloring would it give to every thought and sentiment in the remotest degree connected with an agent so mysterious and so awful! But we perceive nothing of this state of mind in the disciples of our Saviour; but much that gives evidence of a very different state of mind.
One may read over the first three Evangelists, and it must be by a more than ordinary exercise of ingenuity, if he discover what may pass for an argument that either the writers, or the numerous individuals of whom they speak, regarded our Saviour as their Maker and God; or that he ever assumed that character. Can we believe, that, if such a most extraordinary annunciation as has been supposed had ever actually been made by him, no particular record of its circumstances, aid immediate effects, would have been preserved? That the Evangelists in their accounts of their Master would have omitted the most remarkable event in his history and their own? and that three of them at least (for so much must be conceded) would have made no direct mention of far the most astonishing fact in relation to his character? Read over the accounts of the conduct and conversation of his disciples with their Master, and put it to your own feelings whether they ever thought that they were conversing with their God.
Read over these accounts attentively, and ask yourself
if this supposition do not appear to you one of the most incongruous that ever entered the
human mind. Take only the facts and conversation which occurred the night before our
Saviour's crucifixion, as related by St. John. Did Judas believe that he was betraying his
God? Their Master washed the feet of his Apostles. Did the Apostles believe -- but the
question is too shocking to be stated in plain words.
Did they then believe their Master to be God, when, surprised at his taking notice of an inquiry which they wished to make, but which they had not in fact proposed (John xvi), they thus addressed him? "Now we perceive that you know all things, and need not that any one should question you. By this we believe that you came from God."
Could they imagine that he who, throughout his
conversation, spoke of himself only as the minister of God, and who in their presence
prayed to God, was himself the Almighty? Did they believe that it was the Maker of heaven
and earth whom they were deserting, when they left him upon his apprehension? But there is
hardly a fact or conversation recorded in the history of our Saviour's ministry which may
not afford ground for such questions as have been proposed.
He who maintains that the first disciples of our Saviour did ever really believe that they were in the immediate presence of their God, must maintain at the same time that they were a class of men by themselves, and that all their feelings and conduct were immeasurably and inconceivably different from what those of any other human beings would have been under the same belief. But beside the entire absence of that state of mind which must have been produced by this belief, there are other continual indications, direct and indirect, of their opinions and feelings respecting their Master, wholly irreconcilable with the supposition of its existence during any period of his ministry, or their own.
Throughout the New Testament, we find nothing which
implies that such a most extraordinary change of feeling ever took place in the disciples
of Christ as must have been produced by the communication that their Master was God
himself upon earth. Nowhere do we find the expression of those irresistible and absorbing
sentiments which must have possessed their minds under the conviction of this fact.
With this conviction, in what terms, for instance, would they have spoken of his crucifixion, and of the circumstances with which it was attended? The power of language would have sunk under them in the attempt to express their feelings. Their words, when they approached the subject, would have been little more than a thrilling cry of horror and indignation.
On this subject they did indeed feel most deeply; but
can we think that St. Peter regarded his Master as God incarnate, when he thus addressed
the Jews by whom Christ had just been crucified? "Men of Israel, hear these words:
Jesus of Nazareth, proved to you TO BE A MAN FROM GOD, by miracles and wonders and signs,
which God did by him in the midst of you, as you yourselves know, him, delivered up to you
in conformity to the fixed will and foreknowledge of God, you have crucified and slain by
the hands of the heathen. Him has God raised to life."
But what have been stated are not the only consequences which must necessarily have followed from the communication of the doctrine in question. It cannot be denied by those who hold the doctrine of the deity of Christ, that, however satisfactorily it may be explained, and however well it may be reconciled with that fundamental principle of religion to which the Jews were so strongly attached, the doctrine of the Unity of God, yet it does, or may, at first sight, appear somewhat inconsistent with it.
From the time of the Jew who is represented by Justin
Martyr as disputing with him, about the middle of the second century, to the present
period, it has always been regarded by the unbelieving Jews with abhorrence. They have
considered the Christians as no better than idolaters; as denying the first truth of
But the unbelieving Jews, in the time of the Apostles, opposed Christianity with the utmost bitterness and passion. They sought on every side for objections to it. There was much in its character to which the believing Jews could hardly be reconciled. The Epistles are full of statements, explanations, and controversy relating to questions having their origin in Jewish prejudices and passions.
With regard, however, to this doctrine, which, if it had ever been taught, the believing Jews must have received with the utmost difficulty, and to which the unbelieving Jews would have manifested the most determined opposition, -- with regard to this doctrine, there is no trace of any controversy. But if it had ever been taught, it must have been the main point of attack and defence between those who assailed and those who supported Christianity.
There is nothing ever said in its explanation. But
it must have required, far more than any other doctrine, to be explained, illustrated, and
enforced; for it appears not only irreconcilable with the doctrine of the Unity of God,
but equally so with that of the humanity of our Saviour; and yet both these doctrines, it
seems, were to be maintained in connection with it.
It must have been necessary, therefore, to state it as clearly as possible, to exhibit it in its relations, and carefully to guard against the misapprehensions to which it is so liable on every side. Especially must care have been taken to prevent the gross mistakes into which the Gentile converts from polytheism were likely to fall. Yet, so far from any such clearness of statement and fullness of explanation, the whole language of the New Testament in relation to this subject is (as I have before said) a series of enigmas, upon the supposition of its truth.
The doctrine, then, is never defended in the New
Testament, though unquestionably it would have been the main object of attack, and the
main difficulty in the Christian system. It is never explained, though no doctrine could
have been so much in need of explanation.
On the contrary, upon the supposition of its truth, the Apostles express themselves in such a manner, that, if it had been their purpose to darken and perplex the subject, they could not have done it more effectually. And still more, this doctrine is never insisted upon as a necessary article of faith; though it is now represented by its defenders as lying at the foundation of Christianity. With a few exceptions, the passages in which it is imagined to be taught are introduced incidentally, the attention of the writer being principally directed to some other topic; and can be regarded only as accidental notices of it.
It appears, then, that while other questions of far less difficulty (for instance, the circumcision of the Gentile converts) were subjects of such doubt and controversy that even the authority of the Apostles was barely sufficient to establish the truth, this doctrine, so extraordinary, so obnoxious, and so hard to be understood, was introduced in silence, and received without hesitation, dislike, opposition, or misapprehension. There are not many propositions, to be proved or disproved merely by moral evidence, which are more incredible.
I WISH to repeat some of the ideas already
suggested, in a little different connection. The doctrine that Christ was God himself,
appearing upon earth to make atonement for the sins of men, is represented, by those who
maintain it, as a fundamental doctrine of Christianity, affecting essentially the whole
character of our religion. If true, it must indeed have affected essentially the whole
character of the writings of the New Testament.
A truth of such awful and tremendous interest, a fact "at which reason stands aghast, and faith herself is half confounded," a doctrine so adapted to seize upon and possess the imagination and the feelings, and at once so necessary and so difficult to be understood, must have appeared everywhere in the New Testament in the most prominent relief.
Nobody, one would think, can seriously imagine it any answer to this remark, to say that "the Apostles doubtless expected to be believed when they had once plainly asserted anything"; or to suggest that their veracity might have been suspected, if they had made frequent and constant asseverations of the truth of the doctrine.
What was the business of the Apostles but to teach and
explain, to enforce and defend, the fundamental doctrines of Christianity? I say to defend
these doctrines; for he who reads the Epistles with any attention, will not think that the
mere authority of an Apostle was decisive in bearing down at once all error, doubt, and
opposition among believers.
Even if this had been the case, their converts must still have been furnished with some answer to those objections with which the unbelieving Jews would have assailed a doctrine so apparently incredible, and so abhorrent to their feelings. From the very nature of the human mind, if the minds of the Apostles at all resembled those of other men, the fact that their Master was the Almighty, clothed in flesh, must have appeared continually in their writings, in direct assertions, in allusions, in the strongest possible expressions of feeling, in a thousand different forms.
The intrinsic difficulty of the doctrine in
question is so great, and such was the ignorance of the first converts, and their
narrowness of conception, that the Apostles must have continually recurred to it, for the
purpose of explaining it, and guarding it against misapprehension. As a fundamental
doctrine of our religion, it is one which they must have been constantly employed in
teaching. If it were a doctrine of Christianity, the evidence for it would burst from
every part of the New Testament in a blaze of light.
Can any one think that we should be left to collect the proof of a fundamental article of our faith, and the evidence of incomparably the most astonishing fact that ever occurred upon our earth, from some expressions scattered here and there, the greater part of them being dropped incidentally; and that really one of the most plausible arguments for it would be found in the omission of the Greek article in four or five texts?
Can any one think that such a doctrine would have been so taught, that, putting out of view the passages above referred to, the whole remaining body of the New Testament, the whole history of our Saviour, and the prevailing and almost uniform language of his Apostles, should appear, at least, to be thoroughly irreconcilable with it? I speak, it will be remembered, merely of the proposition that Christ is God.
With regard to the doctrine of his double nature, or the doctrine of the Trinity, it cannot, as I have said, be pretended that either of these is anywhere directly taught. The whole New Testament, the Gospels and the Epistles, present another aspect from what they must have done, if the doctrines maintained by Trinitarians were true. If true, it is incredible that they should not have appeared in the Scriptures in a form essentially different from that in which alone it can be pretended that they do at present.
V. IN treating of the argument from Scripture, I have
thus far reasoned ad hominem; as if the doctrine that Christ is God, in the Trinitarian
sense of the words, were capable of proof. But I must now advert to the essential
character of the doctrine. It admits of being understood in no sense which is not
obviously false; and therefore it is impossible that it should have been taught by Christ,
if he were a teacher from God.
From the nature of the Trinitarian doctrines, there is a liability to embarrassment in the whole of our reasoning from Scripture against them; it being impossible to say definitely what is to be disproved. I have endeavored, however, to direct the argument in such a manner as to meet those errors in any form they may assume. That so many have held, or professed to hold them, (a phenomenon one of the most remarkable' in the history of the human mind,) is principally to be explained by the fact, that the language in which they are stated, taken in its obvious sense, expresses propositions so utterly incredible.
Starting off from its obvious meaning, the mind
has recourse to conceptions of its own, obscure, undefined, and unsettled; which, by now
assuming one shape and then another, elude the grasp of reason. In disproving from the
Scriptures the proposition that Christ is God, the arguments that have been urged, I
trust, bear upon it in any Trinitarian sense which it may be imagined to express.
But what does a Trinitarian mean by this proposition? Let us assume that the title "Son of God," applied to Christ, denotes, in some sense or other, proper essential divinity. But the Son is but one of three who constitute God.
You may substitute after the numerals the word person, or distinction, or any other; it will not affect the argument. God is a being; and when you have named Christ or the Son, you have not, according to the doctrine of the Trinity, named all which constitutes this being.
The Trinitarian asserts that God exists in three persons; or, to take the wholly unimportant modification of the doctrine that some writers have attempted to introduce, that "God is three in a certain respect." But Christ, it is also affirmed, is God, the Son is God. Does he, then, exist in three persons? Is he three in a certain respect? Unquestionably not. The word "God" is used in two senses.
In one case, as applied to the Supreme Being, properly, in the only sense which a Christian can recognize as the literal sense of the term; in the other case, as applied to Christ, though professedly in the same, yet clearly and necessarily in a different signification, no one can tell what.
Again: the Father is God. Nothing can be added to
his infinity or perfections to complete our idea of God. Confused as men's minds have been
by the doctrine we are opposing, there is no one who would not shrink from expressly
asserting anything to be wanting to constitute the Father God, in the most absolute and
comprehensive sense of the term. His conceptions must be miserably perplexed and
perverted, who thinks it possible to use language on this subject too strong or too
In the Father is all that we can conceive of as constituting God. And there is but one God. In the Father, therefore, exists all that we can conceive of as constituting the One and Only God. But it is contended that Christ also is God. What, however, can any one mean by this proposition, who understands and assents to the perfectly intelligible and indisputable propositions just stated?
Is the meaning, that Christ as well as the Father -- or, if the Father be God, we must say, as well as God -- is the One and Only God? Is it that we are in error about the unity of God, and that Christ is another God? No one will assent to either of these senses of the proposition. Does it imply, then, that neither the Father nor the Son is the One and Only God, but that together with another, the Holy Spirit, they constitute this mysterious Being?
This seems at first view more conformed to the doctrine to be maintained; but it must be observed, that he who adopts this sense asserts, not that Christ is God, but that he is not God; and asserts at the same time that the Father is not God.
Once more: if Christ be God, and if there be but one God, then all that is true of God is true of Christ, considered as God; and, on the other hand, all that is true of the Son is true of God. This being so, open the Bible, and where the name of God occurs, substitute that of the Son; and where the name of the Son occurs, that of God.
"The Son sent his beloved Son"; "Father,
the hour is come; glorify thy Son that thy Son also may glorify Thee." I will not,
for the sake of confuting any error, put a change on this most solemn and affecting
I have felt throughout the painful incongruity of introducing conceptions that ought to be accompanied with very different feelings and associations into such a discussion, and I am not disposed to pursue the mode just suggested of exemplifying the nature of the errors against which I am contending.
But one who had never seen the New Testament before would need but to read a page of it to satisfy himself that "the Son of God" and "God" are not convertible terms, but mean something very different.
But a Trinitarian may answer me, that the word
"God" in the New Testament almost always denotes either the Trinity or the
Father; and that he does not suppose it to be applied to the Son in more than about a
dozen instances. One would think that this state of the case must, at the first view of
it, startle a defender of the doctrine that Christ is God.
It is strange that one equal to the Father in every divine perfection should so rarely be denoted by that name to which he is equally entitled. But passing over this difficulty, what is the purport of the answer? You maintain that Christ is God, that the Son is God. If so, are not all the acts of God his acts? Is not all that can be affirmed of God to be affirmed of him? You hesitate, perhaps; but there is no reason why you should.
If there be any meaning in the New Testament, these questions must be answered in the negative. It is clear, then, that, whatever you may imagine, you do not use the term "God" in the same sense when applied to the Son, as when applied by you to what you call the Trinity, or to the First Person of the Trinity; or as when applied either by you or us to the Supreme Being. But, as regards the question under discussion, the word admits of no variety of signification.
The proposition, then, that Christ is God, is so thoroughly irreconcilable with the New Testament, that no one could think of maintaining it except through a confused misapprehension of its meaning. HERE, then, I close the argument from Scripture; not because it is exhausted, but because it must be useless to pursue it further. I will only add a few general remarks, founded in part on what has been already said concerning the passages adduced by Trinitarians in support of their doctrines.
In the first place, it is to be recollected that the passages urged to prove that Christ is God are alone sufficient evidence against this proposition. A large portion of them contain language which cannot be used concerning God, which necessarily distinguishes Christ from God, and which clearly represents him as an inferior and dependent being.
In the next place, I wish to recall another remark to
the recollection of my readers. It is, that the doctrines maintained by Trinitarians, upon
the supposition of their possibility and truth, must have been taught very differently
from the manner in which they are supposed to be.
Let any one recollect, that THERE IS NO PRETENCE THAT ANY PASSAGE IN SCRIPTURE AFFIRMS THE DOCTRINE OF THE TRINITY, OR THAT OF THE DOUBLE NATURE OF CHRIST; and then let him look over the passages brought to prove that Christ is God; let him consider how they are collected from one place and another, how thinly they are scattered through the New Testament, and how incidentally they are introduced; let him observe that, in a majority of the books of the New Testament, there is not one on which a wary disputant would choose to rely; and then let him remember the general tenor of the Christian Scriptures, and the undisputed meaning of far the greater part of their language in relation to this subject.
Having done this, I think he may safely say, before any critical examination of the meaning of those passages, that their meaning must have been mistaken; that the evidence adduced is altogether defective in its general aspect; and that it is not by such detached passages as these, taken in a sense opposed to the general tenor of the Scriptures, that a doctrine like that in question can be established.
We might as reasonably attempt to prove, in opposition
to the daily witness of the heavens, that there are three suns instead of but one, by
building an argument on the accounts which we have of parhelia. Another remark of some
importance is, that, as Trinitarians differ much in their modes of explaining the
doctrine, so are they not well agreed in their manner of defending it.
When the doctrine was first introduced, it was defended, as Bishop Horsley tells us, "by arguments drawn from Platonic principles." To say nothing of these, some of the favorite arguments from Scripture of the ancient Fathers were such as no Trinitarian at the present day would choose to insist upon. One of those, for instance, which was adduced to prove the Trinity is found in Ecclesiastes iv. 12, "A threefold cord is not soon broken."
Not a few of the Fathers, says Whitby, explain this concerning the Holy Trinity. Another passage often adduced, and among others by Athanasius, as declarative of the generation of the Son from the substance of the Father, was discovered in the first verse of the 45th Psalm. The argument founded upon this disappears altogether in our common version, which renders it: "My heart is inditing a good matter." But the word in the Septuagint corresponding to matter in the common version is Logos; and the Fathers understood the passage thus: My heart is throwing out a good Logos.
A proof that the second person in the Trinity
became incarnate, was found in Proverbs ix. 1: "Wisdom hath builded her house";
for the second person, or the Son, was regarded in the theology of the times as the Wisdom
of the Father. These are merely specimens taken from many of a similar character, a number
more of which may be found in the work of Whitby just referred to in the margin. Since the
first introduction of the doctrine, the mode of its defence has been continually changing.
As more just notions respecting the criticism and interpretation of the Scriptures have slowly made their way, one passage after another has been dropped from the Trinitarian roll. Some which are retained by one expositor are given up by another. Even two centuries ago, Calvin threw away or depreciated the value of many texts, which most Trinitarians would think hardly to be spared.
There are very few of any importance in the controversy, the Orthodox exposition of which has not been abandoned by some one or more of the principal Trinitarian critics among Protestants. Among Catholics, there are many by whom it is rather affirmed than conceded, that the doctrine of the Trinity is not to be proved from the Scriptures, but rests for its support upon the tradition of the Church.
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