Development of Trinity Doctrine: 100-325 AD

Post-Biblical development of Trinity Doctrine: 100 AD - 325 AD Nicene era

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Watchtower Hypocrisy: Doctrinal development of Jehovah's Witnesses

Jehovah's Witnesses, like Catholics firmly believe in the false doctrine called "doctrinal development". Both groups promote and believe things that are not found in the Bible. Both are "salvation by organization" religions whose leaders have exclusive direct channels to God. Jehovah's Witnesses have a "new light" or "brighter light" theology where God reveals through the Watchtower new things never before understood. But herein lay the hypocritical paradox for Jw's in regard to Trinity doctrine. How can Jw's reject "doctrinal development" of the first 3 centuries yet teach they have the doctrinal development in the 20th century? JW's have shot themselves in the foot so often in the last 75 years, their only escape from absolute ridicule is to claim Doctrinal development like the Catholics! Why did God only start "new light getting brighter" when Charles T Russell proclaimed it so in the late 1800's. In other words, Jw's firmly believe in doctrinal development in the 20th century, how can they deny it at Nicea in 325 AD? We of course maintain that doctrinal development is a false teaching and believe the Bible is all sufficient and complete! Therefore, we do not defend the Nicene creed or the Athanasius creed, but are content to simply prove the deity of the uncreated Christ and the personality of the Holy Spirit. But for Jw's the rejection of Catholic doctrinal development, while teaching the identical thing themselves, is typical of the wild contradictions that exist within Watchtower theology and in the end is utterly hypocritical!



The "slight of hand" tactics of Jehovah's Witnesses.

This slight of hand tactic is missed by most first time readers (and all JW's) of their book of deceptions, it is quite obvious to the true students of the Bible.

We must take this time to make an important observation about the "slight of hand" tactics of Jehovah's Witnesses as they try to convince you trinity is not taught in the Bible.

  • When the Watchtower says, "the word trinity is not found in the Bible." They are right, but neither are a lot of the words JW's use in their religion, yet they think the concept behind the word is taught in the Bible.
  • When the Watchtower says, "trinity is not EXPLICITY taught in the New Testament", they are right and all Trinitarians would agree! The key word is "explicit", for it means: "trinity, as defined in the Nicene or Athanasius creeds is not taught in the Bible.". Explicit implies "ontology". But the Biblical trinity (uncreated deity of Christ and personality of the Holy Spirit) are taught in the scripture.
  • The Watchtower will quote Trinitarian sources who will say trinity is not "explicitly" taught in the New Testament, these same sources all clearly state that "trinity" IS TAUGHT in the New Testament.



Why Trinity Doctrine developed from 100-325 AD?

  1. First it is important to note that we do not defend anything but the concept of trinity as taught in the New Testament. We do not defend the developed Nicene concept of the trinity.
  2. The necessity to formulate the doctrine was thrust upon the Church by forces from without, and it was, in particular, its faith in the deity of Christ, and the necessity to defend it, that first compelled the Church to face the duty of formulating a full doctrine of the Trinity for its rule of faith." (New Bible Dictionary, J. D. Douglas & F. F. Bruce, Trinity, p 1298)
  3. In the immediate post New Testament period of the Apostolic Fathers no attempt was made to work out the God-Christ (Father-Son) relationship in ontological terms. By the end of the fourth century, and owing mainly to the challenge posed by various heresies, theologians went beyond the immediate testimony of the Bible and also beyond liturgical and creedal expressions of trinitarian faith to the ontological trinity of coequal persons "within" God. The shift is from function to ontology, from the "economic trinity" (Father, Son, and Spirit in relation to us) to the "immanent" or "essential Trinity" (Father, Son, and Spirit in relation to each other). It was prompted chiefly by belief in the divinity of Christ and later in the divinity of the Holy Spirit, but even earlier by the consistent worship of God in a trinitarian pattern and the practice of baptism into the threefold name of God. By the close of the fourth century the orthodox teaching was in place: God is one nature, three persons (mia ousia, treis hupostaseis). (The Encyclopedia of Religion, Mircea Eliade, Trinity, Vol 15, p53-57)
  4. In the New Testament affirmations about the Son were largely functional and soteriological, and stressed what the Son is to us. Arians willingly recited these affirmations but read into them their own meaning. To preclude this Arian abuse of the Scripture affirmations Nicea transposed these Biblical affirmations into ontological formulas, and gathered the multiplicity of scriptural affirmations, titles, symbols, images, and predicates about the Son into a single affirmation that the Son is not made but born of the Father, true God from true God, and consubstantial with the Father. (The Triune God, Edmund J. Fortman, p 66-70)
  5. Economic and essential trinity:- (a) The transition from the Trinity of experience to the Trinity of dogma is describable in other terms as the transition from the economic or dispensational Trinity [Greek] to the essential, immanent or ontological Trinity [Greek]. At first the Christian faith was not Trinitarian in the a strictly ontological reference. It was not so in the apostolic and sub-apostolic ages, as reflected in apostolic the NT and other early Christian writings. Nor was it so even in the age of the Christian apologists. And even Tertullian, who founded the nomenclature of the orthodox doctrine, knew as little of an ontological Trinity as did the apologists; his still the economic or relative conception of the Johannine and Pauline theology. So Harnack holds, and he says further that the whole history of Christological and Trinitarian dogma from Athanasius to Augustine is the history of the displacement of the Logos-conception by that of the Son, of the substitution of the immanent and absolute Trinity for the economic and relative. In any case the orthodox doctrine in its developed form is a Trinity of essence rather than of manifestation, as having to do in the first instance with the subjective rather than the objective Being of God. And, just because these two meanings of the Trinity-the theoretical and the practical, as they might also be described-are being sharply distinguished in modern Christian thought, it might be well if the term 'Trinity' were employed to designate the Trinity of revelation or the doctrine of the threefold self-manifestation of God), and the term 'Triunity' (cf. Germ. Dreienigkeit) Adopted as the designation of the essential Trinity (or the doctrine of the tri-personal nature of God). (Encyclopædia of Religion and Ethics, James Hastings, Trinity, p 461)
  6. Of course the doctrine of our Lord's divinity itself partly implies and partly recommends the doctrine of the Trinity ... First, the Creeds of that early day make no mention in their letter of the Catholic doctrine at all. They make mention indeed of a Three; but that there is any mystery in the doctrine, that the Three are One, that They are coequal, coeternal, all increate, all omnipotent, all incomprehensible, is not stated and never could be gathered from them. Of course we believe that they imply it, or rather intend it. (Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, John Henry Newman, a cardinal by Pope Leo III in 1879, 1878, p40-42)
  7. "The ideas implicit in these early catechedical and liturgical formulae, as in the New Testament writers' use of the same dyadic and triadic patterns, represent a pre-reflective, pre-theological phase of Christian belief. It was out of the raw material thus provided by the preaching, worshiping Church that theologians had to construct their more sophisticated accounts of the Christian doctrine of the Godhead." (J. N. D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines, p 90.)
  8. First, it is important to note that the doctrine of the Trinity does not go back to non-Christian sources [pagan], as has sometimes been supposed in the past. There has been no lack of attempts to find the initial form of the doctrine of the Trinity in Plato, or in Hinduism, or in Parsiism. All such attempts may be regarded today as having floundered. It is another question, of course, whether or not the church, in developing the doctrine of the Trinity, had recourse to certain thought forms already present in the philosophical and religious environment, in order that, with the help of these, it might give its own faith clear intellectual expression. This question must definitely be answered in the affirmative. In particular cases the appropriation of this concept or that can often be proved. Unfortunately, however, it is true that particularly in reference to the beginnings of the doctrine of the Trinity there is still much uncertainty. In this area final clarity has not yet been achieved. As far as the New Testament is concerned, one does not find in it an actual doctrine of the Trinity. This does not mean very much, however, for generally speaking the New Testament is less intent upon setting forth certain doctrines than it is upon proclaiming the kingdom of God, a kingdom that dawns in and with the person of Jesus Christ. At the same time, however, there are in the New Testament the rudiments of a concept of God that was susceptible of further development and clarification, along doctrinal lines. ... Speaking first of the person of Jesus Christ ... In other passages of the New Testament the predicate "God" is without a doubt applied to Christ (A Short History of Christian Doctrine, Bernard Lohse, 1966, p37-39)

Further discussion about Watchtower's use of False Dilemmas!

In absolute deception, the Watchtower writers, who understands the difference between economic and ontological trinity, create a false dilemma in the mind of the reader by projecting the thought that if the Ontological trinity is not in the Bible, that Jesus is therefore a creature and the Holy Spirit is nothing more than electricity! (The average Jehovah's Witness has never even heard of the terms "economic and ontological trinity" but the Governing body knows better and aims at deceiving by deliberately leaving that important qualifying term out of the quote.

Trinitarians agree! Surprise! Trinity is used in this quote to refer to the creedal definition of the trinity of the Nicene era 325 AD. All theologians (except for Arians/Jw's and modernists) agree that the New Testament and the earliest Christians viewed Jesus as God.

Although Christians correctly says that the "Nicene concept of Trinity" is not in the Bible, they would say that early Christians and the scriptures clearly taught that Jesus was both pre-existent and fully divine!

The deception is in creating a false dilemma that attempts to say: If Nicene trinity is not taught in the Bible then that proves the Bible doesn't teach Jesus is divine.

But we could just as easily say this to Jw's: "The doctrine of the prohibition against blood transfusions did not form part of the apostles' preaching, as this is reported in the New Testament, but developed only in the 20 century, when transfusions were invented!"

"The doctrine the church being governed from one world headquarters did not form part of the apostles' preaching, as this is reported in the New Testament, but first developed in 606 AD in Rome. (1300 years before Brooklyn and 2000 years to late to be in the Bible!) Jw's use this quote to create a false dilemma: They think that this quote proves trinity wrong. Actually the quote is right and the same encyclopedia openly states that Jesus was considered God in the Bible!

Trinitarians agree! Surprise! We also argue that Baptism, the Lord's supper and the second coming of Christ was not revealed to the Jews!

But that does not mean that there were not pieces of Trinitarian theology that could only be discovered under the light of New Testament revelation. For example Trinitarians could say, "It seems unquestionable that the revelation of the mystery of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, as the Rock that followed the Jews through the wilderness, was not made to the Jews."

They dishonestly and irresponsibly imply that if a doctrine is not found in the Old Testament, that it must be borrowed from the Pagans. Using their own logic, they must conclude that the Lord's Supper and the second coming were borrowed from the Pagans!

Click to ViewAlso see outline on: Progressive revelation between the Old and New Testaments.


By Steve Rudd

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