Can Genuine Christians Be Trinitarian or Non-Trinitarian?

Yes. I was a Trinitarian for twenty-two years until God enlightened me through scripture that being a Christian has nothing to do with being Trinitarian. Contrary to church dogma, you don’t have to be a Trinitarian to be a Christian. And being a Trinitarian doesn’t disqualify you from being a Christian. I can prove these things from the Bible.

I was born and reared in Seattle, Washington, where I attended church Sunday school in my youth. When I was thirteen years old, one day after class I asked my teacher a theological question. He then led me in private prayer to receive Jesus into my life as my “Lord and Savior.” I was born-again.

I never heard of the doctrine of the Trinity until five years later, when I went far from home to attend college in Houston, Texas. There, at my new church, I was taught that God is a single essence existing as three co-equal and co-eternal Persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Like most Christians, I believed it because my pastor taught it. (I now think back and am certain I never would have believed that merely by reading my Bible.) And, like most Christians, I was taught that you must believe in the doctrine of the Trinity in order to be a real Christian. This determination was made long ago by post-apostolic church fathers, and both the Catholic Church and the Protestant Church made it official.

As a young Christian, I was concerned that Christianity had so many church denominations and that most of them had been formed due to theological disagreements between them. Plus, I was aware of other religions in the world besides mine. Because of all of this religious diversity, I concluded that people should try to learn and think for themselves about religion and do it objectively as much as possible, thus scrutinizing what they have been taught. But objectivity can be difficult to attain since it requires humility and self-critical thinking. So, I’ve made it a primary prayer request throughout my life that God would humble me and teach me his truths in the Bible. And I’ve constantly asked him that if I believe some theology that is wrong, especially if it is important, that he would show me the truth.

I never questioned my belief that God is three Persons, in which Jesus is God, until one day when I was reading Jesus’ Olivet Discourse in my Bible. I came to the place where he said concerning his second coming, “But about that day and/or hour no one knows, neither the angels of/in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Matt. 24.36/Mark 13.32). I knew that verse quite well. Along with the doctrine of the Trinity, I also had been taught that Jesus had both a divine nature and a human nature, called “the hypostatic union,” and when he said in his Olivet Discourse that he didn’t know the time of his return, he was speaking only from the perspective of his human nature. Thus, he really did know it in his divine nature because he is God and God knows everything. But for the first time in my life I said to myself, “that makes Jesus look like a liar. He said he didn’t know, but he really did know.”

That caused me to undertake a very serious, in-depth study of the identity of Jesus in the Bible that lasted for decades. Besides studying scripture, praying, and reading many Bible commentaries, I estimate I eventually read about a thousand volumes on the identity of Jesus. Most of these books were authored by distinguished Bible exegetes or theologians. During this intense quest, I concluded that the Bible does not teach that Jesus is God or that God is three persons; rather, it declares only the Father is God.

So, I was a saved, born-again Christian for five years before I ever became a Trinitarian. And in being a Trinitarian for twenty-two years, I didn’t stop being a genuine Christian. Jesus was still my Lord and Savior. Thus, I still tried to live by his teachings.

Some people who believe like I do now–that only the Father is God–do like Trinitarians. They contend that a person who believes in the doctrine of the Trinity believes in three Gods and therefore is not a real Christian, but a polytheist. Some even insist that Trinitarians are idolaters. Two of my favorite Christians who believed much like I do now—the martyr Michael Servetus and the scientist Sir Isaac Newton, who discovered gravity—alleged in their writings that Trinitarians are idolaters. But what does the Bible say? Trinitarians and anti-Trinitarians deem it the final arbiter. Does the Bible allow a Christian to be Trinitarian or not?

Jesus Said that to Believe in, Receive, and Love him Is to Do likewise Regarding God the Father

  • “he who receives me receives the one who sent me” (Matt 10.40 NIV).[1]
  • “anyone who hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life” (John 5.24).
  • “My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life” (John 10.27).
  • “Whoever believes in me believes not in me but in him who sent me” (John 12.44).
  •  “whoever receives me receives him who sent me” (John 13.20).
  • “those who love me will be loved by my Father” (John 14.21).
  • “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them” (John 14.23).

Evangelistic Messages and Definitions of the Gospel in the New Testament

  • “these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name” (John 20.31).
  •  “‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ They answered, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus and you will be saved’” (Acts 16.31).
  • “if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10.9).
  • Paul – “I handed on to you as of first importance … that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day” (1 Cor 15.3-4).
  • “God abides in those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God, and they abide in God” (1 John 4.15).
  • “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God” (1 John 5.1).

Christians Living Right and Loving One Another Proves they are Genuine Disciples of Jesus

  • Jesus said of false prophets, “you will know them by their fruits” (Matt 7.16, 20).
  • Jesus said to his disciples, “By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be my disciples” (John 15.8).
  • “you may be sure that everyone who does right has been born of him [Jesus]” (1 John 2.29).
  • Jesus said to his disciples, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another…. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13.34-35).
  • “Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love” (1 John 4.7-8).

Many church divisions are due to too much narrowing of theological doctrine. Churches often require belief in these peculiar teachings for church membership, and some make them essential to believe for salvation even though the Bible doesn’t. The New Testament criterion, much of it quoted above, is that a person is saved by (1) believing God sent Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God, and Savior who died for our sins and arose from the dead, and (2) confessing Jesus as Lord and living for him.

So, with this biblical criterion established, it is evident that being a Trinitarian or not being one does not disqualify a person from being a real Christian if he or she professedly believes all of the above bulleted items.

This is very important. Why? The New Testament says that after loving God and Jesus the next most important thing Christians are to do is “love one another.” But, if Trinitarians condemn anti-Trinitarians who believe in Jesus, and anti-Trinitarians condemn Trinitarians who also believe in Jesus, both are condemning their spiritual brothers and sisters and thereby not proving to be Jesus’ disciples by loving one another. And the most sobering words we can read on this subject in scripture are these: “Those who say, ‘I love God,’ and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen” (1 John 4.20).


[1] All scripture references are from the New Revised Standard Bible, which is preferred by scholars, unless otherwise noted.

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