Monarchian Trinitarianism states that if Jesus is really, truly, or properly God’s Son, this must entail the Son sharing a generic nature, genus, or species with God the Father, since this is the case in all generation that takes place within creation; men beget men, horses beget horses, and thus God must beget God. But while insisting that Jesus’ sonship to the Father must entail a shared nature because of the parallel with begetting in creation, they deny almost all other elements of generation of offspring that we see in creation, including all notions of corporeality, sexuality, and temporality.
Monarchian Trinitarians present their christology as being very simple and natural- just the plain, obvious meaning of what it means for Jesus to be God’s Son. Yet, this isn’t actually the case; really, they want to use only one aspect of human procreation, namely, that a son shares a nature/species with his father, and reject most other significant parallels, like the temporal implications that a father is prior to his offspring, or the corporeal and sexual connotations that accompany taking such language literally. This decision to say that some parallels with generation in creation must also be true in the case of God and His only-begotten Son, while freely disregarding others, seems totally arbitrary.
If the generation of the Son is literally the same as that of humans, then it must be bodily, sexual, and temporal, as well as communicate a species. But if we can say that three of those things cannot apply to God, because of how different God is from men (being incorporeal and eternal), then why not say the same for the fourth category, communication of a nature/species, as well? Monarchian Trinitarian views on the Son’s generation seem to arbitrarily pick one aspect of generation to apply to God and Jesus, while arbitrarily rejecting all others, with no scriptural or rational justification for these decisions.
One significant hidden assumption of Monarchian Trinitarianism that plays into this is the assumption that the one God has a kind, or species, like creatures do, which may be passed on to an offspring. But this assumption appears to have no greater warrant than assuming that God is corporeal, which Monarchian Trinitarians rightly reject. This hidden assumption that God has a nature He passes on to others should not be taken for granted, as it runs directly contrary to the scriptural revelation that God is incomparably greater than all; His greatness is not merely that he is, like Adam to mankind, the first of a given species, but He is rather said to have none like Him, none with whom He can be compared. This must certainly prove false if God has a Son which is essentiality identical to Him, the way Seth was to Adam.
But this notion that God has a species to be passed on by procreation is, at the end of the day, simply assuming that God is like men. Why would the one God, who has neither beginning nor end, and is unlike His creation, Who has no need for procreation, have a species or a nature to pass on to offspring? Certainly, a lot of philosophers and theologians have speculated that this is not the case. For instance, an important element of ‘classical’ Greco-Roman theism is that God is simple, meaning, He is uncompounded of parts and there exists no real distinction within Him between any one part of Him and another (because there are no such parts). If such a theory holds true, then it follows that God could not be divided into ‘person’ and ‘essence’, such that a distinction could exist within Him between that which constitutes His individual identity and that which constitutes His generic and sharable nature or species. Without such an internal distinction in God, eternal generation will be impossible; for without a distinction between God’s personal identity and God’s nature, it would not be possible for God to share the latter with His offspring while retaining the former exclusively to Himself. Either both would be shared, making the Son the same individual identity as the Father and thus no son at all, or else neither could be shared, since they are indistinguishable and inseparable, actually being one and the same thing within a truly simple being.
Of course, the idea that God is simple is more philosophical than biblical, and many have challenged it on rigorous philosophical and exegetical grounds. But even if the doctrine of divine simplicity is not correct, even the fact that it may exist as a possibility serves to illustrate the point that we aren’t justified in simply assuming that God has a nature or species or essence distinguishable from His person. While it certainly true that it is universal among creatures for a father to pass on a species to a son in procreation, there is no reason that the same must be so for God (just as we would say in respect to the corporeal, sexual, or temporal nature of creaturely generation). We must recall that God created various beings, men, and animals, to reproduce each after their kind, just as He made them male and female with the ability for sexual reproduction, and gave them bodies. All of these things are part of the way they are designed, and the reproductive aspects exist for the continuation of these species upon the death of their parents. But an immortal, eternal, uncreated, and incorporeal God has no need for any of these features, including a communicable species.
When we further consider how differences between God and His creatures might impact the possibility of God having and passing on a communicable species to a literal offspring of some sort, we find the idea appears quite improbable. Firstly, we must consider that if it is indeed necessary and proper to the Father to generate the Son, as Monarchian Trinitarians claim, then it would seem that this necessity to generate another would be quite essential to Him. If that is so, then when His essence is communicated to another, it would appear that it must include this necessity of begetting another; which should lead to the offspring likewise eternally generating another offspring, and so on and so on infinitely. This infinite chain of gods will result in far more than a trinity of persons. If the Father’s generation of the Son were merely a voluntary act of will (as such generation is with creatures), then we might well be able to imagine the process stopping, due to God’s willing it to, at only one Father and one Son. But since Monarchian Trinitarians deny that the Father’s generation is an act of will, and instead make it a necessary and eternal function of the Father, this solution will not be available to them.
Secondly, we must consider that there is no obvious sense in which all the “essential” attributes of God are communicable. Many a theologian and philosopher have argued convincingly that it is an impossibility for there to be more than one infinite entity, for example, making the property of infinitude incommunicable; but of course, the Father generating a Son that is equally infinite, makes two infinites. ‘Classical theism’ argues this is impossible according to the very nature of infinitude, but Monarchian Trinitarianism proposes exactly this anyway. Because humans were designed by God to have a communicable kind or species to pass on to their offspring, of course all essential human properties are communicable; but we have no reason to think this is the case with God, Who has properties (like infinitude) that are far different than those found in creatures.
In sum, then, we find that the “plain and simple” christology of Monarchian Trinitarianism is anything but that. There is nothing straightforward about insisting that God must father a son in exactly the same fashion as a man begets a son, and then turning around and denying almost all similarities between the two. There’s nothing ‘so simple a child can understand’ about the one God having a communicable species like men do that He passes on in the generation of the Son, while this generation is totally unlike that of men in so many other respects, that really, if anyone extends the analogy the slightest bit further, such as proposing that God is corporeal or that the generation is temporal, they are cast straight into the realm of heresy. A child would not make such distinctions so as to arbitrarily pick out co-essentiality from sonship while leaving aside all the other connotations sonship carries. We can’t say it’s a simple matter of looking at what a father-son relationship is in creation, and then go and say it isn’t really anything like the father-son relationships we see in creation. Yet this is precisely what many Monarchian Trinitarians appear to do.
We would do well to recall that the inspired writings of the Old Testament, which should provide our background for understanding the New, never present divine sonship as ontological; men like Solomon and David were called ‘the son of God’ as well as the future Messiah (who was always foretold to be a man, a descendant of David). Yet obviously David and Solomon are not eternally begotten by God, even though they’re each able to be plainly spoken of as God’s son. That’s because ‘son of God’ was a kingly title, indicating the position of Israel’s king as God’s ‘right hand’ ruler, himself subject to the God of Israel, but after Him exalted by God over the whole earth. Thus the coming Messiah was foretold to be, like David, God’s Son; not as being eternally begotten by God as some sort of identical clone of God, but as God’s specially appointed human king over the earth. When we look at what the scriptures mean by the title ‘son of God’, it becomes clear that there is in fact no implications of a shared nature or ontological generation from God at all.
I recently had the pleasure of being interviewed by Dr. Dale Tuggy for his podcast, Trinities. For those not already familiar with Dr. Tuggy:
“Dr. Dale Tuggy served as Professor of Philosophy at the State University of New York at Fredonia for some 18 years. He has taught courses in analytic theology, philosophy of religion, religious studies, and the history of philosophy. Dale Tuggy has a PhD from Brown University. He has authored about two dozen peer-reviewed articles and book chapters relating to the Trinity and other topics in analytic theology and philosophy of religion. He is the producer and host of “The Trinities” podcast which explores theories about the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Dr. Tuggy is the author of the book “What is the Trinity? Thinking about the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” and has published an extensive collection of literature including writings from the early biblical unitarian movement in the United States.” 
If you aren’t already familiar with the Trinities podcast and the accompanying blog, they are well worth your time, as Dr. Tuggy covers a wide range of trinity-related topics including the development of the doctrine of the trinity and logical and exegetical problems for various trinity theories. It’s excellent material and I highly recommend it, along with his book and papers.
The podcasts are available here (and can also be found on Youtube):
In the interview, we talked about my personal background coming from a nominally Christian family, through my rejection of God and Christianity in favor of ‘science’ and atheism and my dabbling in Buddhism, before being exposed to the Bible and the biblical gospel for the first time in my early teens, when I believed, repented, dedicated myself and my life to God, and was baptized in 2009 at the age of 15. Following that we discuss the many twists and turns of my theological journey as a Christian, from my time as a confused but basically unitarian new believer, to being a modern semi-modalistic trinitarian, to my time as a monarchian trinitarian following the beginning of my in-depth study of the trinity in 2014, sparked by my discovery of Justin Martyr’s unorthodox views on God and Jesus. Following that we talked about my journey through ‘catholic’ Reformed Presbyterianism to my near-conversion to Eastern Orthodoxy, and my return to Protestant principles like sola scriptura, leading to my abandonment of Nicene trinitarianism at first in favor of Homoian/Logos-theorists views, and then finally to adopting the purely human christology of Biblical Unitarianism. Along the way we discussed numerous theological issues related to these various theologies.
If nothing else strikes you in listening, I hope that in my testimony you see God’s glory displayed in how gracious he has been to someone so undeserving as myself. I also hope that my own journey and observations on various views about God and Jesus might be helpful to others who are currently working through the same issues.
 The biography provided for Dr. Tuggy on the 21st Century Reformation website for the recent debate between Dr. Tuggy and Chris Date.
Something I’ve long noticed in popular trinitarianism is that one of the worst and most damaging effects of much trinitarian doctrine is that the Father is dishonored. Not only does trinitarian doctrine do all it can to deny the uniqueness of the Father as the one God of the Bible, the Almighty, the Maker of all things, by instead ascribing all of these glories to a triune being of which the Father is but one person among three equals, but also, there is a trend caused by this to simply ignore the Father, and to exalt the Son above the Father. While it is insisted that absolute and unqualified equality between the persons of the Trinity is of the utmost importance, in fact, this is almost never the case- one person ends up practically, if not officially, being treated and thought and spoken of as supreme and more central than the others; for the average trinitarian, this person is Christ, who is for them “God the Son”.
This can be seen in all sorts of things; in worship songs and hymns, in prayers, in sermons, in books, in systematic theologies, in doctrinal statements of churches; in all these, a clear trend can be seen: one person of these three supposedly equal persons get’s the bulk of the attention, praise, and thought of modern professing Christians- Christ.
This can just easily be observed by the reader for themselves- in any average trinitarian church, the worship songs, whether hymns or contemporary, will generally almost exclusively focus on the person of Christ. Sometimes other persons will get thrown in as well, but this is to disastrous effect just as often as not- modalism, or confusing the Father and Son with each other as though one person, abounds in such songs. Even when the Son is not being thanked for being our loving Father who died on the cross for us, and the songs more strictly focus on Jesus, the results are still problematic: Jesus is exalted with the highest exaltation possible. He receives every name and title of the Father, and is frequently spoken of in supreme and exclusive terms: for example “you alone have saved us”, “you alone have made us”, ascribing absolute supremacy to Christ and ‘most high’ and ‘incomparable’, etc. These sorts of statements, when left totally unqualified, actually elevate the Son over the Father- unless the Father and Son are simply rolled into one person. But so long as some real personal distinction is admitted between them, ascribing absolute supremacy to the Son without any qualification implicitly places the Son over the Father.
The same problems exist in prayers, but sometimes seem even more pronounced. I long ago lost track of how many times I have heard some well-intentioned trinitarian thank the Father for dying for us. And the same problem of exalting Christ to the very highest possible position often comes up in prayer as well, and with it, the same problem: if Christ is absolutely supreme over all, is he another besides the Father, or are they the same person? If they are the same person, then it’s pure modalism we are dealing with; if they are distinct, then the Son has been, at least implicitly, elevated above the Father.
In sermons and books, it’s again easy to observe the centrality of Christ, often to the near exclusion of the Father. I don’t have any formal study showing this, but it would be my educated guess that if trinitarian churches were polled, it would be found that the vast majority of sermons focus on Jesus with very little focus on the Father. The same can be said for Christian books.
When we come to systematic theologies and doctrinal statements, it becomes clear that Jesus receives far more focus than the Father. The standard breakdown of such books and statement is this (and feel free to crack open a couple systematic theologies and see what I’m saying): a long section is devoted to ‘God’; under which is treated the existence and attributes of God, and then the trinity, or, how this God that was just spoken of as if He were as single person for many chapters is in fact not a single person, but three persons. Then, the systematic theology or doctrinal statement will either move directly on to christology, the section on the Son, which is followed by pneumatology, the section on the Holy Spirit, or, on rare occasion, a small section will appear between theology and christology on the Father. The difference in length of this section compared to the others, when it exists at all, speaks volumes to the point I am making here: the Father, robbed of His true identity as the one God of the Bible, and made out to merely be one of three equal persons within the one God, is practically ignored. Sometimes He basically gets a brief ‘shout-out’ as the one Who plans and sends, but then that’s about it, usually. In more archaic systematic theologies and older statements, there may also be some statement that the Father is the source of the other persons of the trinity by eternal generation and procession, but these are often not given much attention or well explained, and on the popular level, these doctrines are frequently rejected and/or totally unknown.
All this means, to sum up, that Christ is worshipped by song, prayed to, preached about, written about, systematically studied, and defined in theological detail far more than the Father or the Holy Spirit. While the persons of the trinity are insisted to be absolutely “equal”, in practice this simply is not the case. The Father is practically forgotten, eclipsed by the Son, and often only bothered to be mentioned at all for sake of His roles in relation to the Son. Meanwhile Christ is central and treated as absolutely supreme.
Christ’s centrality is typically seen as a good thing, and to an extent, it is a good thing according to the Bible. God has exalted Christ, and wills that to him, as to God, every knee should bow. But the key difference is that in New Testament Christianity, Christ is exalted to the glory of the Father, and it is always the Father Who remains ultimately central and supreme (Phil 2:11). It is Christ who is exalted by God to the Father’s right hand, not the Father to Christ’s right hand; it is the Father Who sends the Son and Spirit, not the others sending Him; and the Son has the Father as his God, not the other way around. Whether the subordination of Christ be ascribed to economic differences in the trinity, or to an incarnation, or to Christ simply being a human Messiah and Son of God as is actually the case, it’s undeniable that a clear subordination of Christ to the Father exists throughout the New Testament; one that does not end with Christ’s exaltation to God’s right hand, either. On this point we may firstly note that ‘the right hand of God’ is obviously a position that is exalted above all else, yet subordinate to God. But secondly, we may consider that it was well after the ascension and exaltation of Christ that Paul the apostle wrote that “God is the head of Christ” (1 Cor 11:3), and tells us that in the end, Jesus, though greatly exalted by God, will be perfectly subject to God (1 Cor 15:28), the Father forever being supreme over all. In the New Testament, like in modern churches, there is no equality of Father and Son: but the great difference that in the New Testament, the Father is supreme, and the Son subordinate to Him- something modern trinitarians turn on it’s head, in practice, if not in official doctrine.
The result of all this is that the one God of the Bible is horribly neglected by most professing Christians. Since they have Christ as their one God, as the second person of God, what need is there for them to go to the Father? The one God is the one God, and if Jesus is the one God, then why go to the Father at all? Whereas the New Testament presents us with Jesus as the way by which men can approach God the Father, today’s trinitarians seem to have no desire to do so; for them, the Father is not the ultimate destination and Jesus the one who makes it possible for us to get there, but is himself the final destination in place of God. All of this results in people generally having a horribly muddled view of God, Christ, and Christianity. By exalting Christ above God, they effectively present Christ a rival to God, rather than as the loving and obedient Son and Servant of the one God, who always does what is pleasing to the Father and is perfectly subject to Him. The real Jesus Christ is our perfect example of love and obedience to God, our human king anointed by God, our High Priest who by the sacrifice of his own blood brings us to God- it is this Jesus who is worthy of all the praise, honor, and glory we see him receive in the New Testament. A Jesus who instead of being the humble and obedient Messiah, Servant, and Son of God acts as God’s rival and is worshipped and honored in place of Him is not the real Jesus, has no basis in the Bible, and is more a monstrous idol than a fitting object of love and praise. Trinitarians need to stop presenting Jesus as the usurper of God’s throne, worship, and glory, and go back to the Bible to see that while Jesus is absolutely worthy of worship and honor, his role is not that of the Father, but that of the one by whom we approach the Father. “This is eternal life, that they may know You [Father], the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” (Jn 17:3 NASB).
Trinitarianism has long championed the formula that there is “one being in three persons”, arguing that an important distinction exists between “being” and “person” in respect to God and the trinity. Without this distinction, we are told there is no understanding the orthodox doctrine of the trinity. Here, I want to ask some questions about this important subject, that trinitarians should be able to provide good answers for. If good answers do not exist, then I suggest that this indicates the falsehood of the doctrine of the trinity.
Individual, or Generic Being?
Is the being of God an individual being, or a generic being? That is, is this single being an individual, concrete entity, or is this being an abstract, impersonal nature, such as can be shared by many individuals? An example of the former is an individual man; the latter, human nature, the set of properties which define an individual as being human.
For Those Who Answered ‘Individual Being’:
To those who answer that the being is individual, I ask:
Firstly, are the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit each this one individual as each being a distinct part of the whole being, or is each person equal to the entire individual being?
If one answers that each person is only a part of this one being, then they are a partialist, not a trinitarian, and these questions are not aimed at them; I would ask them only how it can be that the Father is repeatedly equated to the whole one God (Jn 17:3, Eph 4:6, 1 Cor 8:6), if He is only the third part of the one God?
If one answers that each person is equal to the entirety of this one individual being, then I must ask how the three persons are three persons, and not all one another? That is, if each of the three persons, Father, Son, and Spirit, each are the whole individual divine being, then it must follow that each person is each other, must it not? For if A=C, and B=C, then it follows necessarily that A=B; and so, must it not be true, by this sound logic, that the Father will be the Son, and the Son the Spirit, and the Spirit the Father? If this is so, the I must ask in what sense there are three persons at all, inasmuch as if three things are numerically identical to each other, they are not numerically three things at all, but only one thing? Will this not make the whole Trinity one person who is called Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?
I further ask, is this one individual being impersonal, or personal?
If the being is impersonal, then this one being cannot be the YHVH presented in the Old Testament scriptures, can it? For YHVH is always presented as personal: speaking and hearing, knowing, seeing, loving and hating, acting, reasoning, etc; how can an impersonal being do all these things? Is such an impersonal divine being ever mentioned in the Bible?
If then it is answered that this one being is a personal being, then I will simply ask, is there any term we have to denote a personal being? Surely the word ‘person’ denotes just this; how then is this being, which is supposed to be a thing categorically distinct from ‘persons’, not itself a person? Wouldn’t this overthrow the entire person-being distinction within the trinity, making the trinity one person in three persons, which is an obvious falsehood as it is a contradiction?
Perhaps a trinitarian will answer that the being is a person according to the normal meaning of the term ‘person’, but the three “persons” of Father, Son, and Spirit are not really “persons” according to the normal definition of the term ‘person’, but are something else, and thus there is no contradiction; I will ask what they are then? Are they modes of manifestation, or of subsistence? Are they mere causal relations? Are they just a part of a person, like a center of consciousness? Whatever they are, if they are not ‘persons’ according to the actual meaning of the word ‘person’, then why bother calling them persons at all? Is this not deceptive? Would it not be more honest and clear to simply call them three modes, or three subsistent relations, or three consciousnesses, of this is what they are actually believed to be?
If the belief actually held is that God is one person with three modes or personalities, is this not modalism, rather than trinitarianism?
If the actual belief is that there is one person in which there are three consciousnesses, modes, or causal relations, then why not make this your formula, instead of using the formula “one being in three persons”? Why keep using this orthodox trinitarian language, if it does not represent what you believe? Would this equivocation not seem to present one as a lying modalist, who simply does not want to be called a modalist while in fact they are one?
Finally, I will ask, is not the proper definition of a person ‘a rational individual being’? If this is admitted, then is it not an obvious contradiction to say that one individual being is three rational individual beings? Would this not mean that, when ‘person’ is used according to its normal meaning, that there must always be a 1:1 being-person ratio, when by ‘being’ we mean individual being? For instance, is there any discernible difference between a human being and a human person?
For Those Who Answered ‘Generic Being’:
To those who answer that the one being which is in three persons is a generic being, a nature, I ask:
Is this nature the one God, or is the one God one person of the Trinity, the Father?
To the one who responds that this nature is itself the one God, I ask:
If the nature, which is an abstract and impersonal set of properties, is the one God, then isn’t the one God impersonal? Can such a belief in an impersonal God be reconciled with the Bible, which speaks of the one God as personal? The one God, YHVH, speaks and hears, acts, loves, hates, lives, knows, and is always portrayed as a rational and personal being- how then can one say that YHVH is an impersonal nature?
To the one who responds that the one God is one person of the Trinity, the Father, I ask:
What reason do we have to think that the one God has a nature? Perhaps some reference to a “divine nature” in the Bible will be referenced as proof; but I then ask, how do we know that this is not a mere anthropomorphism, like so much other language in scripture which applies human and bodily characteristics to God in a strictly figurative sense? Do we actually have any biblical basis for supposing that within God, as within us, there is a true distinction between person and nature, individual and universal?
If this difficulty can be overcome, then I ask how can this nature be shared by three distinct individuals, when scripture tells us that the one God is unique, having none alike to Him, and is incomparably greater than all (Isa 46:5, Job 23:13, Ps 40:5)? How will YHVH be unique, with none his equal, as the scripture says, if He is actually one of three of a kind, having two others who are exactly identical to Him in all essential properties?
I will also ask, how can there be three infinite persons? For infinitude is always said to be one of the properties included in the divine nature; how then can multiple individuals possess this nature, when, according to the very nature of things, there can only be one infinite? Is not the property of infinitude (like so many other attributes of God) such that it may only be possessed by one person? And if this is so, then would this not prove that even if God has a nature as distinct from His person, that this nature is incommunicable?
I will also ask how a person who shares the nature of God could become incarnate and take on a second nature, a human nature, when one property of the divine nature is immutability? Now a nature, being a set of properties, has no concrete existence in itself, but simply defines the qualities of an individual entity, such as a person. Therefore, whatever properties are proper to a nature, must characterize the individual person who possesses that nature; and therefore, to have a nature of which one property is immutability, must mean that the person possessing the nature is himself immutable. How then, if the Son possessed the same nature as the Father, and is therefore a person characterized by being unchanging, can he have taken on a human nature which he did not previously possess, without changing? Is there any reasonable definition of ‘change’ which could allow an individual to go from having only one set of ontological properties, to then having an additional set of ontological properties which he did not previously possess, and not count this as a change to that individual? How can one go from not being human, to being human, without changing?
If this generic being, as a nature, is shared among the three persons of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, then how can we understand the Son to possess this nature, when He has become a man, adopting another set of ontological properties in addition to those he previously possessed? What keeps these two sets of properties in Christ distinct, as two sets of properties, two natures, rather than one? After all, it is confessed that the person of Christ is only one individual who possesses each of these natures- if then each nature exists not in two distinct entities, but in the very same individual, why are they not simply counted as one set of properties, as one nature? When we assess the nature of any individual creature, we ascertain its nature by seeing what set of properties that individual possesses, do we not? And the sum of all the definitive ontological properties that any creature possesses, are its nature, are they not? Why then do we not look at the one individual person, the incarnate Jesus Christ, and do the same, seeing him as having one nature encompassing all the ontological properties he has in common with both God and with man? On what basis may these two sets of properties be said to remain two sets, when they both exist in one and the same individual? And if they are only one set (since no individuating principle can be found to make them two distinct sets), then wouldn’t the Son only actually possess one nature, which is neither identical to that of God, nor to that of man? Or all that to say, how can one mix red paint and blue paint together in one can, and claim that this can of paint is dual-colored, having both red and blue paint, rather than purple?
If the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit share the same natural properties, including invisibility (for the Father is plainly declared to be invisible many times), then why do trinitarians say that Jesus was seen prior to his incarnation as the angel of the LORD, and as the “word of the LORD”? How can Jesus be a “visible YHVH” as compared to the Father as the “invisible YHVH”, if the Son shares the Father’s nature, and with it, the attribute of invisibility?
If the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit share the same natural properties, including omniscience, then why did no one but the Father know the day or hour of the Son’s return? If the Son knew from one nature but not the other, then as a person possessing both natures, how did he still not know, based on his divine nature? Does this not indicate that Jesus did not possess any nature which has the quality of being omniscient, or else he would have known? Perhaps one will say that this can be explained by the incarnation somehow- very well, then why did the Holy Spirit, who was not incarnate, also not know the day or hour of Christ’s return, if he possesses the same omniscient nature as the Father? For the passage says that no one knew but the Father alone, necessarily excluding all other persons.
Finally, if the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three individuals sharing one universal nature or property which is Godhood, then how are the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit not three Gods? Notwithstanding that the Father is unique as the uncaused Cause and Fountain of divinity, and that He alone is Most High, having authority over even the Son and Spirit, must there not still be at least one sense, (viz, according to nature or essence) in which the three persons constitute three Gods, even if in some other senses (viz, according to causation and authority) there is only one God, the Father?
All in all, I’ve asked a lot of questions here. But I’m convinced they are good questions, worth answering. More than that, I am convinced that hidden in the answers to these questions is the reality that the trinity is false, and no attempt to avoid criticism by distinguishing between persons and being can save it. The Bible does not present us with such a convoluted mess of fine distinctions to try to figure out Who God is- rather it tells us plainly that He is one, YHVH, God Almighty, the God of Israel. This God is clearly one person, one rational individual being- and He is Father to another rational individual being (that is, another person), His Son, the man Jesus Christ our Lord.
What is Biblical Unitarianism?
In the name “Biblical Unitarianism”, “Biblical” denotes faith in the Bible; serving to distinguish from Unitarian Universalists, a liberal non-Christian group. “Unitarian” simply refers to the belief that the one God of the Bible is only one person, the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. A “Biblical Unitarian” then is a Bible-believing Christian who believes that the God of the Bible is one person, the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ, rather than a Trinity of three persons. Biblical Unitarians believe in God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, but do not believe that they are all one God; rather, the one God is the Father alone.
Biblical Unitarians note that in the Bible, God is never spoken of as being a Trinity, or as being multiple persons. Rather, they note that all throughout the Bible, God is always spoken of as a single person, indicated by the use of hundreds of singular personal pronouns, and that the one God is expressly equated with the person of the Father alone several times:
Therefore concerning the eating of things offered to idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is no other God but one. 5 For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as there are many gods and many lords), 6 yet for us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and through whom we live.1 Corinthians 8:4-6 NKJV
Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You, 2 as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.John 17:1-3 NKJV
Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, 25 to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.Jude 1:24-25 NASB
There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.Ephesians 4:4-6 NASB
These passages of scripture all expressly equate the one God of the Bible with only one person, the person Jesus calls His God and Father. Biblical Unitarians note that Jesus never claimed to be the one God, but rather taught things which clearly distinguish Him as another person or being besides God:
“Believe in God, believe also in me.” -Jesus, John 14:1 NKJV
“Jesus answered, “If I honor Myself, My honor is nothing. It is My Father who honors Me, of whom you say that He is your God.” -Jesus, John 8:54 NKJV
“I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.” -Jesus, John 20:17 NKJV
Biblical Unitarians thus conclude that Jesus is not the one God of Israel, but another person and being besides the one God- His only-begotten Son, His appointed Christ, the one mediator between God and man, as the following texts say:
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” -John, John 3:16 NASB
“The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified His servant Jesus, the one whom you delivered and disowned in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release Him.” -Peter, Acts 3:13 NASB
“Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ—this Jesus whom you crucified.” -Peter, Acts 2:36 NASB
“For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” -Paul, 1 Timothy 2:5 NASB
Biblical Unitarians note that the apostles call Jesus a man, repeatedly, and without qualification; for this reason, Biblical Unitarians confess that Jesus Christ is a true man, fathered uniquely by God in the womb of Mary, by the agency of the Holy Spirit. Not only did Jesus’s apostles call him a man, but he also called himself a man -and so do the Old Testament scriptures:
“But as it is, you are seeking to kill Me, a man who has told you the truth, which I heard from God; this Abraham did not do.” -John 8:40 NASB
“Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know—” -Peter, Acts 2:22 NASB
“Because [God] has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.” -Paul, Acts 17:31 NASB
“He was despised and forsaken of men, A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” -Isaiah 53:3 NASB
Thus the simple confession that the one God is one person, the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ, and that Jesus is the human Son and Christ of God, forms the heart of Biblical Unitarian faith in God and Christ.
But what about the traditional doctrine of the Trinity? That there exists one God in three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?
Biblical Unitarians note that besides the fact that this doctrine is absent from the Bible, it also conflicts with several things the Bible teaches. If we have to choose between tradition and scripture, “We must obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29 NASB). We must “Test all things, and hold fast that which is good.” (1 Thess 5:21) rather than simply believing something because it is traditional. Biblical Unitarians note that the doctrine of a triune God is incompatible with some of the Bible’s clear teachings about God and Jesus. Where the doctrine of a triune God teaches that the Father and Son are equal and identical, the Bible repeatedly marks God and Jesus as distinct and different from one another:
- God is the Almighty (Greek “Pantokrator”, meaning, ‘Ruler over all’); He is supreme in authority over all (Rev 4:8, 2 Cor 6:18). Jesus is subject and obedient to the Father as His God, and so is not supreme over all in authority (1 Cor 11:3, 1 Cor 15:28).
- God is uncaused, the Maker of all things. Jesus is caused by the Father, as the very name ‘Son’ implies; He also expressly declares that He lives because of the Father (Jn 6:57).
- God is immutable, meaning He is eternally unchanging. He is also not a man, for the Bible says “God is not a man” in Numbers 23:19, and “For I am the LORD, I do not change” in Malachi 3:6. Thus it is impossible that God would have gone from not being a man to being a man, as this would obviously be a change in God. This contradicts the Trinitarian teaching that the one God became a man.
- God is invisible, having never been seen by man, and is declared to be incapable of being seen (1 Tim 6:16). “No one has seen God at any time.” -1 John 4:12 NKJV. Yet Jesus Christ was seen.
- God is omniscient; He knows all things absolutely (1 Jn 3:20). Jesus declares plainly that He did not know something, which only the Father knew: “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” -Mark 13:32 NKJV. If only the Father and no other person knows this, then the Father alone knows all things; and so, the one God, Who knows all things, must be only one person, the Father, and no other.
- God is immortal; He is not subject to death (1 Tim 1:17). Whatever death is, an immortal being, by definition, cannot experience it. Yet Jesus Christ died (and rose from the dead); and this is a central part of the gospel. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” -Romans 5:8 NKJV
- “God cannot be tempted by evil”; yet Jesus “was tempted in all things” (Ja 1:13, Heb 4:15).
- Jesus is the Christ of God; that is, the anointed king, prophet, and priest of God, sent and empowered by God. Is the one sent by God the same as He Who sent? Is the one who is anointed the same as He Who anoints?
- Jesus is the Son of God; and no son is the same individual being as their father.
- Jesus is the one mediator between God and man, and by definition, no mediator is a party to their own mediation. “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” -1 Timothy 2:5 NKJV. Notice, Jesus is simply described as a “man”, not a “God-man”, as trinitarianism says.
- Jesus is the Lord appointed by God over the universe, subject to God. “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” -Acts 2:36 NKJV. A person who is the one God has no need to be made Lord by God, for God has always been Lord.
- Jesus is the High Priest of God; a high priest worships His God, and is necessarily distinguished from the God whose priest he is. “Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.” -Hebrews 4:14 NKJV.
Biblical Unitarians note that these truths about God and Christ make it impossible to reasonably believe that they are together one being or one God. Rather, the one true God, the God of the Bible, is only one person, the one Jesus Christ calls His God and Father.
The personhood of the Holy Spirit is something many Christians assume. Because we are well used to the idea of the Trinity being a group of three persons, many people come to the texts of scripture with an a priori assumption that the Holy Spirit is person, and that wherever the Spirit of God is mentioned, that is understood to refer to a distinct person from the Father and the Son.
That the Father is the one God is important to know, for scripture reveals it; but it is important to know not only that these words are true, but what those words mean according to the scriptures. How, after all, can the Father be the “one God” (1 Cor. 8:6), while the Son is also called God (Jn 1:1)?
To answer this question it is important to understand what the term “God” even means in itself. It is a term used very frequently throughout the scriptures, not only for the Supreme God, the Father, the “Lord God Pantokrator” (Rev 4:8), but also for beings as low as men and angels. As Jesus noted in John 10:35 “He [God] called them gods, to whom the word of God came”, speaking of a psalm where the men of Israel were called “gods”. In Psalm 82:1 “God stands in the congregation of the mighty; He judges among the gods”, calling created angels gods. Paul is well aware of this when he writes “For even if there are many called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as there are many gods and many lords), 6 yet for us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and through whom we live.”
(From Clarke’s answer is recorded in the the fourth edition of Samuel Clarke’s Scripture Doctrine of the Trinity and Related Writings.)
OBJ. “Three Divine Beings – must needs be conceived as Three Gods, notwithstanding any Subordination of the Second and Third Being to the First; or else we must free the Pagan World from the Absurdity of Polytheism, and the Guilt of Idolatry; these being generally, if not always, founded upon a Subordination of many Deities to the One Supreme.”
Semi-modalists such as Cornelius Van Til, who present the Trinity itself as a person who is three persons, naturally use singular personal pronouns for the Trinity, such as “He” and “Him”. This is consistent with their belief that the Trinity is a person; “God the Trinity”, “the triune God”.
Biblical trinitarianism stands at odds with such language, however, since it teaches us to believe in three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The titles “one God”, and “only God” are reserved by scripture for the person of the Father alone (see I believe in one God, the Father Almighty.)