“Colorless Green Ideas Sleep Furiously” as Reasonable as the Trinity

“Colorless Green Ideas Sleep Furiously” as Reasonable as the Trinity July 23, 2016

christian trinity atheismLinguist Noam Chomsky suggested “Colorless green ideas sleep furiously” as an example of a sentence that is grammatically correct but logically ridiculous, but it is no more ridiculous than the Trinity.

The Christian doctrine of the Trinity claims one God in three persons. The Catholic Encyclopedia defines it this way: “In the unity of the Godhead there are Three Persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, these Three Persons being truly distinct one from another.”

Unity but also distinct? Three but also one? That makes no sense, so let’s go to the source and read about it in the Bible.

And the Bible says …

Though the Trinity is one of the most fundamental doctrines of Christianity, the Bible says nothing about it directly. Did Paul and the apostles define God in a trinitarian fashion? Nope. If the Trinity is essential to a proper understanding of Christianity as the modern church claims, the ancients’ silence on the matter makes clear that it is a later invention.

That’s not to say that one can’t use the Bible to form arguments in favor of various relationships between God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. Several interpretations competed in the early centuries of the church.

  • Was Jesus merely a good man, adopted by God (Adoptionism)?
  • Are Father, Son, and Holy Spirit just labels for the different roles of one being (Sabellianism or Modalism)?
  • Was Jesus created by God and subordinate to him (Arianism)?

These are all plausible interpretations, justifiable with Bible passages, but they are heresies today. It took about two centuries for the doctrine of the Trinity to enter the debate (through Tertullian), and it took almost two more centuries of haggling for the doctrine to mature into its present form and sweep away its competitors at the First Council of Constantinople (381).

While still a cardinal, the man who would become Pope Benedict XVI was asked if he was bothered by many Catholics ignoring papal dictates. He said that he was not, because “truth is not determined by a majority vote.” But a majority vote is exactly how doctrines like the Trinity came into being.

See also: Bible Contradictions to the Trinity

Comma Johanneum

You know how I said that the Bible says nothing directly about the Trinity? For completeness, we should address this:

For there are three that testify in heaven: the Father, the Word and the Holy Spirit, and these three are one. (1 John 5:7)

The part in italics is called the Comma Johanneum (a “comma” is a short clause). The oldest and most reliable manuscripts do not show the Comma. It appears first in a few seventh-century Latin manuscripts and only centuries later in Greek manuscripts. Unlike much of the rest of the New Testament, it doesn’t appear in the letters of early church fathers, many of whom would’ve delighted to support their position with such a quote.

It is agreed by scholars to be a later addition to the original.

What is the Trinity?

Lots of analogies have been proposed for the Trinity. Maybe it’s like water, which has the three states of solid, liquid, and gas. Or like a person who can be spouse, parent, and employer. But this is modalism—God acts in different modes at different times.

Okay, then maybe it’s like an egg, which has shell, white, and yolk. Or like time, which has past, present, and future. Or like the Borromean rings above—three unlinked rings that make a linked whole only when all three rings are present. But this is Partialism, the heretical claim that the three persons of God are three separate parts.

Even world famous apologist William Lane Craig commits this heresy:

[The Trinity] is the claim that the one entity we call God comprises three persons. That is no more illogical than saying that one geometrical figure which we call a triangle is comprised of three angles. Three angles in one figure. Three persons in one being.

Given the clear history of conflict on this question and the many discarded explanations, you’d think that heretical analogies wouldn’t be offered.

Many careful Christians simply say that it’s a mystery and admit that we can’t understand it. Contrast that with the monotheism celebrated by Islam. The shahadah, the basic creed of Islam, says, “There are no deities but Allah, and Mohammed is his prophet”—simple and unambiguous.

A few questions raised by the Trinity doctrine

Instead of the convoluted and unintelligible Trinity, why not simply embrace the polytheism? My guess is that first-century Christians so valued Jewish monotheism that this tenet couldn’t be dropped. As the stature of Jesus increased over time, from a good man adopted as messiah by God (as told in Mark) to a being who was there at the beginning (John 1:1), they were stuck with fitting the square peg of the divinity of Jesus into the round hole of monotheism.

Why not then have a duality, Yahweh + Jesus? The problem is that two is the number for male and female, which was not the symbolism they were going for. Perhaps the Holy Spirit, initially just a bit player or merely a synonym for God, was elevated into the Trinity. And even this is flexible. While the idea of Mary as Co-redemptrix is not Catholic doctrine, it has threatened to become so at various periods in the church’s history.

And now let us close …

The typical Christian response to a contradiction is to find a way to make both claims true. This is never clearer than with the Trinity. The Bible says that there is one god, but it also says that Jesus existed since the beginning of time. So they must both be true! But what first-century Christian would rationalize this with the doctrine of the Trinity?

Or, take this from the other direction. Explain the Trinity to first-century Christians and ask if that matches their understanding. If you imagine that they do, you have a new problem: why the vitally important doctrine of the Trinity wasn’t explained in the New Testament. And if they don’t, then why is the Trinity dogma today?

The Trinity is a Christian mystery—something that can’t be explained by reason alone. A supernatural explanation is necessary. (This raises the question: If it doesn’t make sense, why accept it? But let’s set that aside.) Apologists often admit that they will just have to ask God about it when they get to heaven.

That humility is laudable, but how about some of that in other areas? If you don’t trust yourself to make sense of the Trinity, why imagine that you correctly understand God’s position on polygamy, slavery, and genocide when the Old Testament gives clear support for them? Why imagine that your evaluation of abortion and gay marriage is correct when the Bible doesn’t address these topics directly?

If only the Trinity were a frequent reminder for Christians to be humble in their claims, it would be valuable for everyone.

See also:God Has Many Names, But Do We Need One More?

It is too late in the day for men of sincerity
to pretend they believe in the Platonic mysticism
that three are one and one is three,
and yet, that the one is not three, and the three are not one.
— Thomas Jefferson (letter to John Adams, 1813)

(This is an update of a post that originally appeared 6/10/13.)

Image credit: Wikipedia


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  • Michael Neville

    Several Christian churches don’t accept trinitarianism. The Mormons hold that Dad, JC and The Spook are three separate gods, the latter two being “Heavenly Father’s” children. Jehovah’s Witnesses believe Jesus is not divine but is the High Priest of the one god, Jehovah (the Holy Spirit doesn’t exist for JWs). Christian Scientists, Christodelphians, and other, smaller churches are also non-trinitarian.

    • And Unitarians, obviously.

      • Michael Neville

        I purposely left Unitarians off the list because they believe in almost anything including no gods at all.

        • Michael

          Originally, “unitarian” referred to Christians that believed God was one, and that would include the Mormons. What is called Unitarian now is the Unitarian Universalist Church. It combined this with the view that everyone would eventually be saved (universalism) and from there it was basically just anything goes.

    • Gregory Mullaley

      It’s all nonsense; folks trying to decipher the various writings of semi-nomadic bronze people is an exercise in futility.

      • Michael Neville

        As Bob explains, the trinity didn’t become dogma until around 380 CE. But as I recently explained on another thread, theologians make it up as they go along.

    • Jack Baynes

      In Confirmation class (Lutheran), not accepting the trinity was presented to us as one of the hallmarks of a cult. Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses were presented as examples.

      I couldn’t imagine how such an idea could possibly be so important to understand, but I was naive and still sticking to the idea (despite what I’d been taught) that God MUST care most that we try to be good people, not just believe the right things.

  • smrnda

    A long time ago, I observed one of those traveling preachers doing his spiel on a college campus. A listener (who perhaps was Sikh) obviously found this notion that Jesus is both totally a god and totally a man absurd, as well as that one god can be three people but yet this isn’t polytheism. The preacher got pretty flustered but it’s one of those ideas where, for people immersed in it, it’s just accepted because it’s repeated over and over again and everybody else believes it too. It sounds absurd to outsiders.

    Jesus as ‘the son of a god’ could fit within the Greco Roman world, as many gods had mortal children who became heroes. That probably was a great way to sell a failed messiah from 1st century Palestine to people influenced by the Greco-Roman pantheon. The only problem happens once people sit and and realize that, they can’t put together a new holy book with all those contradictions.

    It’s kind of like someone deciding to make a movie based on a comic book character. Comics tend to have different ‘continuities’ and such, but when they sit down with a movie they have to decide which one they will pick.

    • Michael

      Did he have a turban and beard? If so, likely he was a Sikh. Sikh doctrine preaches the oneness of God, like Islam. I’m not aware of any other religion which tries to split the difference between “one” and “many”.

      • Matthew46

        Judaism also teaches that God is one – “I am the first, I am the last and beside me there is no other god”. Meanwhile, Jesus said, “Touch me not for I have not yet arisen to my father, and your father, my God and your God” – clearly he doesn’t elevate himself above other people.

        • Michael

          John also says this: “You believe that God is one-you do well.” (John 2:19) I think when they said “Son of God” it meant just that-not God, his son.

        • Matthew46

          Absolutely. Jews all believe they are sons of God.

      • smrnda

        Yes. That was the reason why I thought so. I was not able to see if he had a kirpan. The preacher also seemed kind of snippy, but I was thinking “hey, this guy is just honestly curious about these strange ideas you’re raving about, try to give him an explanation. Do you realize how wacky a monotheist with a god who has a son who you worship is?”

        • Michael

          I believe most Sikhs nowadays carry the kirpan under their clothing, so as not to alarm others (there have been some unfortunate incidents). Even me, being raised nominally Christian, found these ideas bizarre or appalling once they were actually detailed. I can only imagine how they must seem for someone from another view entirely.

        • smrnda

          I wonder how many people abandon the faith once they have to sit through a confirmation class. I’ve also heard that the real deal with the class is just to memorize answers, no matter how absurd. “So class, explain the trinity.” [insert rote answer here.]

        • Michael

          Confirmation was the last straw for me, though I already didn’t believe in the Virgin Birth and Resurrection. The minister explained that only Christians go to heaven, no matter how good the rest are. I knew right then I’d never agree to that.

        • MNb

          That did it for me as well when I was 13 of 14. Two students from Youth for Christ attended my class and a girl asked the smart question whether good catholic president and military dictator Augusto Pinochet (it was late 1970’s) would go to Heaven. The answer was yes, while the good folks who happened not be christians wouldn’t.
          Indeed, at that moment I was lost for christianity.

        • Michael

          Yep, those no doubt including many of Pinochet’s victims that were godless leftists.

        • Jack Baynes

          In my experience virtually my whole Confirmation class disappeared from church after we were confirmed. I held out for the rest of the year till I went to college.

        • MNb

          Somewhere I read something like “the most effective way to lose your faith is attending a seminary”. When googling a bit around I found this and could not help smile when reading the title:


        • “How to Stay Christian in Seminary”

          Fantastic! It’s amazing that looking behind the curtain, even in a setting that’s not supposed to challenge your faith, is dangerous.

          Keeping one’s kids Christian after the ordeal of college is another interesting issue. My thought: if Christianity actually benefits from evidence, then what’s the problem? Your kids will leave college smarter, and Christianity can only look better to them, right?

        • Greg G.

          Just considering preparing for seminary did it to Matt Dillahunty.

        • Jonathan Morgan

          Bob, the problem with this is that (as we all know) college is biased against Christianity, and so is designed almost solely to mislead people. Not everyone stops to rationally consider how much stronger Christianity is with evidence after they’ve recovered from the evil professors rejecting their correct but unpopular point of view.

        • adam

          “Bob, the problem with this is that (as we all know) college is biased
          against Christianity,”

          No we dont know that, and your CLAIM doesnt demonstrate that.

          Care to try again.

        • Jonathan Morgan

          Oh, I agree. I didn’t lose my faith till many years after college. However, what the science side in particular is biased towards is “methodological naturalism” (call it what you will), and I think much of Christianity feels threatened by this, and thinks it an unjustifiable bias. I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the “The only reason they reject God is that they start by assuming he doesn’t exist – and of course then they conclude he doesn’t exist”.

        • adam

          I just heard something just like this yesterday, something to the effect that some people, intellectual types, try to hard to reason ‘God’ when all they need to do is accept on ‘faith’ to understand the ‘truth’.

          This was in a conversation about how ‘God’ punishes everyone for Adam’s sin, how ‘God’ drowned everyone except for Noah and his incestuous family, and how so few are going to Heaven, while most will get tortured for eternity and THIS is “God’s Love”

        • MNb

          Methodological naturalism is the very definition of the scientific method.
          If much of christianity feels threatened by this it’s because they don’t understand the difference with philosophical naturalism.
          Methodological naturalism doesn’t assume that god doesn’t exist. It assumes we can do research without assuming god.

        • “There is no supernatural” is quite a reasonable starting point. Shouldn’t trouble you, right? If Christianity has all the evidence, it should be a cake walk to have college graduates accept the Christian claims.

        • MNb

          College is about teaching science.
          Science doesn’t care about gods, including christian ones.

        • No, we don’t all know that college is biased against Christianity. You’ll have to justify this claim. What you may mean is that students aren’t coddled, and their beliefs are challenged with reality. If Christian beliefs can’t stand up to a critique by reality, then they should be jettisoned.

          But going down the path you indicate, when students come out of college smarter, the arguments for Christianity should be all the more compelling, right? You must explain why it doesn’t work that way.

        • Jonathan Morgan

          Well, I realise my first mistake was assuming that any sarcasm I could try would be sufficiently distinguished from what a real supporter would say.

          Anyway, speaking seriously now, I’m not sure I agree with you. Your argument would work if people made decisions based on rational argument. But do they? Anecdotally, I suspect some of it is “Everyone here thinks this, so I guess I’d better accept it to fit in.” or even “People dismiss my beliefs as stupid – I guess they must have some good reason for that, though I don’t know that reason myself.” The majority or prevailing opinion has a lot of power which is entirely distinct from whether it’s true or not (though equally I think it’s dangerous to just dismiss consensus because it doesn’t suit you).

          If people believe for over-simplistic reasons and then leave for over-simplistic reasons, I don’t think reason has won either time (this thinking is probably why I took longer to leave than some of my friends).

          Of course, if Christianity has strong arguments based on reason, it is their obligation to make sure their vulnerable college students are made aware of these arguments. They can’t expect the college to do it for them, nor do I think they can really expect the average student to find them on their own. Too often Christians go the opposite way, condemn learning and “knowledge so called”, and present their students with a black and white choice of rejecting much of what they have learned in college or rejecting Christianity. Then all they are left to do is lament how many students take the “wrong” way.

        • Ah, yes—I see now how you meant it.

          Your argument would work if people made decisions based on rational argument. But do they?

          Of course not, but it’s a way to highlight the emptiness of their argument that Christianity is based on reality.

          Of course, if Christianity has strong arguments based on reason, it is their obligation to make sure their vulnerable college students are made aware of these arguments.

          I don’t think it does. More important, the parents don’t think that it does. They know it’s all just indoctrination, even if they talk a good evidence-based story.

        • Jonathan Morgan

          I think once again that I don’t agree. Yes, I don’t find the arguments for Christianity based on reason convincing myself. But I think many accept them genuinely and sincerely, and truly can’t understand why people like you or me won’t or can’t accept them.

          More important, the parents don’t think that it does. They know it’s all just indoctrination, even if they talk a good evidence-based story.

          No, I think this comes back to the start of our discussion. The parents do think that the arguments are strong and correct, so they have to look for other reasons why they are not accepted. Those reasons may be a biased college system, a scientific method that starts off from wrong assumptions, or just the natural human tendency towards “sin” and rejecting God despite how obvious he is.

          It’s also noticeable that some who deconvert in college for shallow reasons can be easily reconverted by shallow apologetics (you could even apply that description to someone like CS Lewis, though I don’t think he was a shallow character).

        • I don’t find the arguments for Christianity based on reason convincing myself. But I think many accept them genuinely and sincerely, and truly can’t understand why people like you or me won’t or can’t accept them.

          But then you’re left having to explain parents’ and Christian leaders’ fear of college (“I must steel little Johnny so that he stays strong in the faith at that evil college!”)

          The parents do think that the arguments are strong and correct, so they have to look for other reasons why they are not accepted. Those reasons may be a biased college system, a scientific method that starts off from wrong assumptions, or just the natural human tendency towards “sin” and rejecting God despite how obvious he is.

          I guess. I could be convinced either way, but I’m still unclear why your hypothetical parent isn’t delighted for little Johnny to go off to college, since he’ll come back much shrewder and better educated, and Christianity’s arguments should then be all the more compelling.

        • Jonathan Morgan

          I think the answer to both is the same: they have seen or heard of 20 little Johnnys who have gone astray, and that has more weight than an abstract concept of coming to a better understanding of reasoning and faith. Given (I think) they are assuming this going astray is misguided and wrong, college itself must be the weak link, doing something wrong. So it should be feared. And so it is, at least in some Christian circles.

          That’s of course making no statement about whether it should be that way in some hypothetical rational world.

        • MNb

          “my first mistake”
          Yup – I only got it after reading your second comment. Hint: add .

        • smrnda

          If we are taking about the USA though, many colleges (including secular private and state schools in very secular regions of the USA) are full of Christian organizations and fellowships. So, it’s quite possible for a Christian college student to decide to mostly associate with like minded people who will spend hours each week talking about the wonderful apologetics of CS Lewis or Lee Strobel.

          Now, there is an issue when Christians like Ken Ham insist that you cannot be Christian without a belief in a 6000 year old earth and that Genesis is literal – those ideas don’t hold up to even the slightest bit of scrutiny, the ‘all or nothing’ view means that as soon as those are dispensed with, the rest collapse. For people who have less fundamentalist beliefs, they may weather the experience better.

          With college, I think something worth noting is that, religion usually gets transmitted through family and community pushing the next generation to conform. College takes people away from that, typically in a social environment which is diverse and where an individual person has a high degree of anonymity. So, people who might have stuck with it out of conformity or inertia simply leave.

        • Jonathan Morgan

          Fair point: You can blame college for encouraging independent thinking and try and keep your children safe and protected, but ultimately children do have to separate from parents and make their own independent decisions.

        • adam

          “keep your children safe and protected,”

          From independent thinking?

        • Jonathan Morgan

          Not at all. You can think as independently as you like, so long as you come to exactly the same conclusion.

        • adam

          What conclusion is that?

        • Kingasaurus

          I thought everyone knew that old saying, “Seminary should be called Cemetery, because it’s where your faith goes to die.” 🙂

        • Ignorant Amos

          Ehrman makes the claim in one of his books, can’t remember which off the top of ma head, that quite a number of seminary students drop-out of seminary early on because they can’t handle the contradictions between what they thought they knew and what scholars were now tutoring them in. Challenging faith with knowledge, they don’t enjoy it much.

        • Schadenfreude!

        • The_L1985

          I honestly went through with Confirmation partly out of fear of hell, partly out of fear of my parents, and partly because I was so sheltered as to think I had no other palatable options.

  • Clover and Boxer

    To play around with this, I sometimes quote Yahweh but put it in the words of Jesus. For example, I might say, “Jesus said, ‘If two men are fighting and the wife of one of them comes to rescue her husband from his assailant, and she reaches out and seizes him by his private parts, you shall cut off her hand. Show her no pity.'” If someone points out that it wasn’t Jesus but the Father, then I ask if they aren’t one in the same since there is only one god. After all, Jesus and the Father are THE SAME, aren’t they?

    • Giauz Ragnarock

      We think alike. Amazing how some Christians conveniently forget they claim of Jesus the Bible quote, “I and the Father are one.”

  • Clover and Boxer

    Hi Bob or anyone interested in answering since it is off topic. I got into a discussion with someone about slavery in the Bible, and they insisted that, from the perspective of the Biblical story, slaves in ancient Israel (even foreigners) must have been treated very well since they could simply run away and not be returned to their masters–also, they could just leave whenever they wanted. The person cited Deut. 23:15-16 “If a slave has taken refuge with you, do not hand them over to their master. Let them live among you wherever they like and in whatever town they choose. Do not oppress them.”

    I checked a slew of footnotes on Bible Gateway (about a dozen or so), and all of the footnotes from the translators noted that this refers to slaves that escaped to Israel from other countries, not slaves within Israel. When I mentioned this, the other person simply responded I was making an argument from authority and did not accept the assertion that it referred to runaway slaves from foreign countries.

    So, what is the reason that nearly all Bible translations with footnotes for the passage say it refers to slaves from foreign countries? Also, is it legitimate to simply reject this as an argument from authority. (I think the original Hebrew mentioning “gates” may be the reason it is thought that this refers to foreign slaves, but I don’t know for sure.)

    • Michael

      I don’t think the argument from authority applies here, since they used the same authority to begin with. Thus it’s hypocritical for them to reject this. Plus the Bible also says foreign slaves could be held for life and inherited.

      • Clover and Boxer

        Well, he was simply referring to the verse itself and said there is nothing in the verse that clearly indicates runaway slaves from foreign countries and not runaway slaves from within Israel who escaped from Hebrew masters; and that relying on Biblical translators’ explanation that the verse refers to runaway slaves from other countries is an argument from authority.

        • Michael

          Well, the argument from authority applies only when the person lacks actual authority. So if you cite Joe Schmo to say what the Bible says, then yes. Citing actual Biblical translators is valid. So he’s committed the fallacy fallacy himself ironically.

        • I’d say that another version of the fallacy is: “Dr. Jones is super smart and he agrees with me. So I win.”

          Dr. Jones’ input is a data point, but that doesn’t carry the day. There is a chance that Dr. Jones is wrong.

        • Michael

          Yep, especially if his opinion isn’t the consensus.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Or even if the consensus is based on nothing more than opinions.

        • Michael

          Well of course it is.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Seems obvious a know…but much of what is getting punted about in biblical scholarly circles is very much consensus of opinion.

        • Michael

          Yeah, not all will be right (though I don’t know much about biblical studies). It was scientific consensuses here I was thinking of though.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Ah, right I see, apologies….by a stroke of coincidence, I’ve just started re-listening to a set of courses I have on audible that I had all but forgotten and hadn’t heard in a while…

          “Lost Christianities: Christian Scriptures and the Battles over Authentication”


          In the first lecture Ehrman sets out his stall and defines a few of the terms he will be using throughout the course, orthodox, heterodox and heretical. The term “orthodox” he defines as “right opinion” or “right belief”, which he further clarifies as ironic because during the first three centuries of Christianity, because all the various Christianities believed they held the “right opinion” on the cult. Furthermore, the Ebionites, later declared heretics, held beliefs more in line with the Christian message than those of the later orthodox cults of the Nicene Creed that won the fight. Go figure.

          It seems that from the get go, Christianity is just a matter of opinion…and opinions that are wide and varied…many that would be considered as absurd, even by today’s many flavours of the cult standards.

          Early Christians — the ones that didn’t win the haggles with the likes of Tertullian, Justin, Irenaeus, and Hyppolytus — conceived of two, three, seven, and, in one case, 365 gods.

          Orthodoxy triumphed. Those who opposed the party line were denounced as “heretics;” those who looked around and saw a world awash with sickness, greed, jealousy, poverty and woe — who saw humanity alone in a “cesspool of misery” — found their characters assassinated for not buying into the strange concept of a divine who, it was written, made the world, and — despite the obvious poverty, disease, injustice, rapine and pillage — “it was good.”


        • That’s indeed a great course. I listened to it as well.

        • Greg G.

          Orthodoxy triumphed.

          That sounds presumptive. Orthodoxy didn’t triumph. The one that just happened to triumph was then deemed orthodoxy.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Yeah, Ehrman goes into that too. The term orthodox is problematic for historians. The orthodox weren’t the orthodox until they won. He terms the phrase of proto-orthodox to define the groups that will become the winners and ergo, have the right opinion….everything is explained in hindsight. If the Ebonites had not been heretical, they’d be the orthodox gang and the Pauline crowd a bunch of heretical fuckwits. It’s all very subjective…a bit like today in fact.

          But ya knew all that and are just playing DA.

        • Greg G.

          I expected that ya knew that. I just wanted to say it anyway.

          I think “proto-orthodoxy” is little better. All the others were proto-orthodoxy, too, with a few breaks.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Aye… that’s the problem, the words only have relevance with the benefit of history.

        • Greg G.

          It’s much easier to see history through the eyes of those with the spoils.

        • Ehrman says that there were several concurrent versions of Christianity, with “proto-orthodox” being the winner. I’ve heard Robert Price give another interpretation. He says that the resulting Christianity drew from lots of other separate domains of thought. You can find Apocalypticism, Marcionism, Gnosticism, and so on in it. His view is more an amalgam view.

        • Michael

          Well by opinion I meant the informed opinions about what the facts mean. In these things, there’s much less facts to begin with. A lot of that I already knew, in general. The Gnostics always seemed more logical than the “orthodox”.

        • Ignorant Amos

          If only we had the texts of all the opinions to work from… unfortunately a lot of history is written by the victors and a lot of censorship has taken place over the millennia.

          Facts are worse than scarce on this subject and a lot of lies have been told.

        • Michael

          Yes, unfortunately so.

    • Yet more evidence that the Bible is a sock puppet that can be made to say just about anything. As Michael suggestions, Lev. 25:44-46 makes clear that foreign slaves can be held for life. If they want to go with the Deut. passage, they’ve also got to clean up the mess that the Bible is clearly contradictory.

      The footnotes that you’ve found are another way to destroy that argument. Here you’re simply trying to take the Bible at face value, as interpreted by a majority of authorities.

      The footnotes are your presentation of the facts. There’s no fallacy there; it’s just your contribution to the conversation. Does the other guy have anything that he’d like considered as well? If so, you can weigh the evidence to see which is more compelling. If not, then he’s conceded the argument to you.


      • Clover and Boxer

        Yes. Especially given Lev. it is nonsensical to argue that Biblical slavery was essentially voluntary (i.e. the slave could just run away whenever they wanted with no consequences). The most annoying part was that this person claimed to be an atheist but not anti-theist and was arguing that the god of the Bible (when considering the Bible as a whole) clearly didn’t support slavery. One main problem is to simply grant the Bible is a whole unit when it is a compilation of many different writings spanning hundreds of years. Additionally, what he basically did was cite verses that were friendly toward slaves, and called those as trump against any other verses that were harsh toward slaves. Whenever I would mention things like Lev. and Ex. (where masters could beat their slaves harshly as long as they lived or did not lose an eye or tooth), he would simply reply, “but the slaves could just run away from those masters. Clearly the god of the Bible didn’t believe in chattel slavery.” So it sort of hinged on the verse in Deut. about runaway slaves I mentioned originally, at least for him.

        For some reason, he was intent on defending the idea that the god of the Bible was clearly against slavery if you take into account the whole Bible, when to me it is clear that the Bible is at best inconsistent in how it treats the topic of slavery. Perhaps in those encounters it’s just best to drop it fairly quickly and move on.

        • I’m pretty sure I’ve read everything in the Bible about slavery (many times), and I don’t remember anything about it being OK if you run away. That’s certainly not what Paul said in Philemon–he begged that his buddy Onesimus be freed, but he certainly didn’t draw attention to the law that said that slaves should be set free.

          was arguing that the god of the Bible (when considering the Bible as a whole) clearly didn’t support slavery

          Sorry–that’s laughably wrong. Only by picking and choosing could you make an anti-slavery argument.

          If he was aware of both anti-slavery verses (I’d be curious to see this list) and pro-slavery verses, then he still has to deal with the contradictory Bible.

          It’s fascinating when someone uses 21st-century morality (“of course slavery is wrong!”) to correct the Bible but then doesn’t think about the obvious consequences (“Gee … maybe modern morality is actually better than the morality God is claimed to accept”).

          Sure, you can drop it, and that may be the most efficient move given the value of your time. But when you have so many unpleasantries that this guy is running away from, it might be fun to rub his nose in some of them–not that he’ll admit that he was wrong right there but so that these problems might eat away at his Christian confidence slowly over time.

        • evodevo

          It sounds like one of the parties is trying on the current rightwinger fundagelical meme that Christians ended slavery in this country (see Michelle Bachmann for a particularly garbled version) and that the bible condemns slavery, and even if it doesn’t, then, then, slavery wasn’t so bad, and, and the bible is TOO a moral guidebook. It’s very common among the fundie segment. They just parrot what they hear from their talk radio pastors LOL.

        • I found a summary of Bachmann’s unhistorical blatherings about slavery here.

        • Greg G.

          Bible thumpers don’t perceive the difference between indentured servants and slaves bought with money. Some former Christians continue to believe that. The following verses show that there is a difference between them and how they are treated:

          Exodus 12:43-45 (NRSV)43 The Lord said to Moses and Aaron: This is the ordinance for the passover: no foreigner shall eat of it, 44 but any slave who has been purchased may eat of it after he has been circumcised; 45 no bound or hired servant may eat of it.

          Leviticus 22:10-11 (NRSV)10 No lay person shall eat of the sacred donations. No bound or hired servant of the priest shall eat of the sacred donations; 11 but if a priest acquires anyone by purchase, the person may eat of them; and those that are born in his house may eat of his food.

          That distinction makes it clear that the restriction against treating servants harshly applies only to Hebrew indentured servants. Treating the others as slaves is expressly permitted.

          Leviticus 25:44-46 (NRSV)44 As for the male and female slaves whom you may have, it is from the nations around you that you may acquire male and female slaves. 45 You may also acquire them from among the aliens residing with you, and from their families that are with you, who have been born in your land; and they may be your property. 46 You may keep them as a possession for your children after you, for them to inherit as property. These you may treat as slaves, but as for your fellow Israelites, no one shall rule over the other with harshness.

        • Clover and Boxer

          His main contention was that slaves in Israel could just leave bad owners if they wanted, citing Deut. 23:15-16 “If a slave has taken refuge with you, do not hand them over to their master. Let them live among you wherever they like and in whatever town they choose. Do not oppress them.”

          However, the issue was whether this applies to all slaves (including foreign ones who belonged to Hebrew masters in Israel) or only runaway slaves escaping from other cities/countries seeking refuge in Israel. What are your thoughts?

        • Greg G.

          That passage is on the cusp of encampment laws and some miscellaneous laws.

          Deuteronomy 23:9When you are encamped against your enemies you shall guard against any impropriety.

          The verses following that down to verse 14 are for encampment against an enemy. It seems likely that verses 15-16 are about slaves escaping from the enemy. The verses following that are about temple prostitutes.

        • Clover and Boxer

          That is true, but he could also say that it plausibly applies to inside Israel since all the verses after it talk about things in Israel (such as the temple prostitutes). If you look at all the references from study Bibles on Bible Gateway, every single one that has a footnote for those verses say they refer to foreign slaves escaping from foreign countries. I wish they would give their reasons why.

        • Dys

          Out of curiosity, this wouldn’t have been Travis Wakeman, would it?

          I pointed out the numerous Christian scholars who rightfully reject the “slaves could just escape, therefore it was voluntary” notion because it makes absolutely no sense, but he had his mind made up that his interpretation was correct regardless. Basically he went with “I really want to believe this, because it makes the whole pesky slavery thing disappear. Who cares that it’s a completely irrational and illogical interpretation?”

        • Clover and Boxer

          No, it was some random commenter whose name I don’t remember. Do you have any links to Christian scholars rejecting that interpretation of Deut. 23:15-16?

        • Dys

          Sure…Biblehub has plenty of commentaries making the point:


          Along with many of the commentaries here:


  • Michael

    The Muslim idea of “shirk” (adding “partners” to God) is pretty clearly a slap made against the Christians’ Trinity. It’s considered an unforgivable sin. Many Muslims also believe Christians are polytheists (although some have the mistaken idea that it’s God, Jesus and Mary which are the Trinity.

    I’m not sure these heresies matter in regards to Protestants like Craig, since from a Catholic view, they are already heretics. What’s one more heretical doctrine?

    • The Muslims’ argument is very simple and compelling: the Christians are polytheists.

      I would think that WLC has strong views of correct belief and false belief. His view is clearly Partialism–is it not clear that this conflicts with the idea of the Trinity?

      • Michael

        The Muslim is much more logical certainly.

        As they can’t really say what the Trinity is, I’m not sure. It’s a heterodox formulation.

        • Matthew46

          Pope Joseph Ratzinger stated that the origin of the chief Trinity text of Matthew 28:19. “The basic form of our
          (Matthew 28:19 – Trinitarian) profession of faith took shape during the course of the second and third centuries in connection with the ceremony of baptism. So far as its place of origin is concerned, the text (Matthew 28:19) came from the city of Rome.” The Trinity baptism and text of Matthew 28:19 therefore did not originate from the original Church that started in Jerusalem around AD 33.
          It was rather as the evidence proves a later invention of Roman Catholicism.
          ” In the The Demonstratio Evangelica”, Eusebius, church historian and Bishop of Caesarea, quotes the early book of Matthew that he had in his library in Caesarea, an unaltered Book of Matthew that could have been the original book or the first copy of the original of Matthew. Eusebius tells us that Jesus’ actual words to his disciples in the original text of Matthew 28:19 were: “With one word and voice He said to His disciples: “Go, and make disciples of all nations in My Name, teaching them to observe all things whatsover I have commanded you.”……. That “Name” is Jesus.

        • Michael

          So when was Matthew supposedly altered? After Eusebius, who died in 339, and was notorious for altering texts himself?

        • Matthew46

          I don’t think it’s known. The church denies it was altered at all. Eusabius is writing about reading it in the old form. . It is missing in the earliest versions, and, in both the Syriac versions – one of which was made probably in the first century; in the Coptic, Armenian, Slavonic, Ethiopic, and Arabic.
          Quote (saved old quotes) ; “It is never quoted by the Greek fathers in their controversies on the doctrine of the Trinity – a passage which would be so much in point, and which could not have failed to be quoted if it were genuine; and it is not referred to by the Latin fathers until the time of Vigilius, at the end of the 5th century.

        • Matthew46

          Read; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triple_deity#Historical_polytheism
          The only difference is that Christianity won’t admit to being other than monotheistic and so must explain the contradiction. That nebulous explanation is the trinity.

      • Phurbiefee

        But even Muslims and Jews believe in angels. And aren’t angels just minor gods, in a way. And isn’t Satan a god, in his way? So wouldn’t a truly monotheistic religion have just one supernatural entity. Period.

        • Islam is monotheistic because they worship just one god. Yes, their idea of the supernatural is populated by more than one being, but they only worship the one.

        • Phurbiefee

          I’m going to suggest, then, we use the term “henotheism” – acknowledging the existence of other deities or supernatural forces, but worshiping only one. And I was wondering, the superstitious reverence for the Quran, say, and Mohammed could be seen as a form of idolatry; same with fundamentalists and the bible, I suppose (and the American flag, maybe), and of course, the Catholic veneration of saints and Mary, and relics and whatnot — So at the end of the day only deists seem to be true monotheists.

        • Greg G.

          I see it that way, too. If you are going to call one religion polytheism but insist your religion is monotheism with angels than are at least as powerful as the gods of the polytheistic religion, it is just word games. Satan of the Abrahamic religions seems to be more powerful than any of the gods of the Greek Pantheon. He would have to be in the God Class, if logic was permitted into the discussion.

        • SparklingMoon,

          But even Muslims and Jews believe in angels. And aren’t angels just minor gods, in a way.
          Muslims and Jews worship One God Almighty who is the Creator and Sustain-er of whole universe. It is certainly a part of the faith of Muslims (and I think of Jews also) to believe in the existence of angels but it would be wrong to consider that angels ever have been worshiped by Muslims (or Jews) with God Almighty.Angels,according to the Quran, are creation of God Almighty and they have been created to work as a middle source between God Almighty and His creation. They have no will of their own to do anything. Mirza Ghulam Ahmad has explained the creation and purpose of angles in following words:

          ”God Almighty, Who in His Transcendence and Holiness is above everything, employs appropriate agencies for His signs and manifestations. Bodies and material things confined as they are to their personal characteristics, and conscious of their existence and characterized by their designs and natural actions, and having a permanent existence, which comprises self and excludes non-self, they have drawn far away from the Cause of causes and the Absolute Benevolent. They are shut off by a thick veil of their own existence and ego and their having been created. They are not worthy that those graces of the Almighty should descend upon them directly which can only descend if the veils that have been mentioned did not intervene and their existence wholly resembled nonexistence.

          As their existence does not resemble nonexistence, everything of this kind of creation loudly proclaims its existence. The sun proclaims that it is a body that is the source of heat and cold that affects the world in three hundred and sixty-five forms and creates heat by its rays and causes cold by their diversion and rules over bodies and their matter and their shapes.The earth proclaims that it is a body divided into a thousand countries, that it produces vegetation of diverse types, that it prepares various types of minerals inside it and that it accepts heavenly effects like a woman. The fire proclaims that it is something that burns and possesses the quality of combustion and is a substitute for the sun in the dark. Thus everything in the earth praises itself….

          All these things proclaim their praise and are veiled in the screen of their characteristics and have drawn away from the Source of Grace and, without the intervention of such things as are free from these veils, no design of the Fountainhead of Grace can establish a relationship with them inasmuch as the veil steps in between.

          The Wisdom of God Almighty, therefore, demanded that to be the primary manifestation of His designs, there should be a form of creation which should not be veiled by self, but should possess a form which, contrary to other things, should by its nature be free from intervening self and should serve God Almighty as His limbs, and its numbers should correspond to the designs of God Almighty which are related to the whole of creation.

          That unusual creation should possess a nature like a transparent mirror and should be ever present before God Almighty. It should have two directions. One direction should be that of uniqueness and transcendence and, being imperceptible and free from veils, it should be different from the other forms of creation and should resemble closely by way of reflection the Being of God Almighty and should not be veiled by self. The other direction should be that of being created, on account of which they should have a relationship with the rest of creation and should be able to approach them.

          Thus, through this design of God Almighty, this wonderful form of creation came into being which is called angels. They are so lost in obedience to God that they have no will or fashion or design of their own, and no personal faculties whereby they could be kind to anyone on their own, or could be angry with anyone on their own, or could desire something on their own, or could dislike something on their own. They are wholly like the limbs of the Divine. All the designs of God Almighty are first reflected in their transparent mirrors and through their mediation are spread in the whole of creation.

          God Almighty, on account of His Perfect Holiness, is in extreme uniqueness and transcendence, therefore, those that are not free from ego and from the opaqueness of veiled existence and are conscious of their existence have no relationship with the Fountainhead of Grace. Thus, the need arose for a form of creation which on the one side should be related to God Almighty and on the other to His creation so that they should obtain grace from one side and communicate it to the other”.

        • Phurbiefee

          All I can say in response to this very imaginative cosmology, is that the world you live in is surpassingly strange. You seem to be at peace with it, so let us leave it at that.

        • SparklingMoon,

          Causes and effects of this Physical world lead to a world small in size, particles to sub particles that gradually become invisible and finally change into energy.

        • You have a remarkable understanding of the physical world. But why should I believe this?

        • SparklingMoon,

          Thanks for your complement but I know personally that I have not much knowledge of the physical world.

        • You may well not have much knowledge of the physical world, but you certainly claimed quite a bit.

        • Ignorant Amos

          SM doesn’t seem to get what yer driving at…and I don’t think SM does sarcasm very well either.

        • Greg G.

          SM’s mind doesn’t work well outside the box of religion.

    • SparklingMoon,

      Jesus(as) is mentioned in the Quran just a reformer prophet who was sent for the followers of Moses: (5:73) It is admonished by God Almighty in the Quran:

      ”The Messiah, son of Mary, was only a Messenger; many Messengers have passed away before him. His mother was a paragon of truth and they both were in need of and ate food. Observe how We explain the signs for their benefit, then observe how they are led away. Ask them: Do you worship beside God that which has no power to do you harm or good? It is God Who is All-Hearing, All-Knowing. Admonish them: People of the Book, exceed not the bounds in the matte r of your religion unjustly, nor follow the vain desires of a people who themselves went astray before and caused many others to go astray, and who strayed away from the right path. (5:76-78)

      God is none but the Messiah, son of Mary: whereas the Messiah himself taught: Children of Israel, worship God Who is my Lord and your Lord.”

      Jesus was just a human being like other prophets of God Almighty as born by a mother and used to eat like other human beings:(5:76)”The Messiah, son of Mary, was only a Messenger; many Messengers have passed away before him. His mother was a paragon of truth and they both were in need of and ate food”.

      • Greg G.

        If a “God Who is All-Hearing, All-Knowing” can communicate to one person, why can he not communicate to every person individually without having to rely on hand-made copies?

        • SparklingMoon,

          It is not correct to say that God spoke in the past but does not speak now. We cannot limit His Word or His discourse to any particular time. He is as ready today to enrich His seekers from the fountain of revelation as He was at any time, and the gates of His grace are as wide open today as they were at any time. True knowledge about God depends upon this that we should reach the Living God Who speaks clearly to His favorites and bestows satisfaction and contentment upon them with His Majestic and delicious speech. He speaks to them as one man speaks to another and converses with them as a certainty that is beyond doubt or suspicion. He listens to them and responds to them and hearing their supplications He informs them of their acceptance. (Ruhanikhazain)

  • Jonathan Morgan

    Well, I was a Christadelphian, so yes, arguments on how terrible
    (and man-made) the Trinity is are quite familiar. And I think like you
    say a big factor is “This is the way we have chosen to reconcile
    potentially conflicting verses”. The way I would have argued it,
    particularly from the gospel of John, was that Jesus was one with God in
    the sense that he had a shared purpose and goals, but that he does
    present himself as less than God. That’s one way to reconcile “I and the Father
    are one” with “The Father is greater than I” (I think the official,
    Trinitarian way would be drawing a distinction between the “human” side
    of Jesus and the “divine” side of Jesus. As we were told often enough
    in school, he was 100% human and 100% divine).

    It certainly troubled me that I could not make a water-tight case against the Trinity (or, more specifically, against the divinity of Jesus). Yes, I could argue that the balance of scripture pointed towards the unity of God and the humanity of Jesus. But I knew there were rationalisations which covered these things, and
    while I didn’t think they were convincing, I also thought some of my rationalisations for passages that didn’t fit my point of view were a stretch.

    You are assuming understandability a good thing. Here (from memory) is a comment I read on the topic some years ago that stuck with me:

    “Jehovah’s Witnesses are wrong because they want to reduce God to something they can understand rather than accepting God as he has revealed himself.” (probably quoting Isaiah 55:8 – 9, because when is it not appropriate to
    quote from Isaiah 55?)

    So you see, not being able to understand it is actually a good thing, because how could us mere mortals expect to understand the creator of the universe?

    And as for the Trinity analogy question, I’m sure you can’t go past
    Patrick’s analogies: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KQLfgaUoQCw

    • SparklingMoon,

      A seeker after truth would surely require the testimony of the Jews in this matter, for they are the primary witnesses and have been memorizing the Torah for hundreds of years. It surely does not behove righteous people to entertain absurd and irrational beliefs such as considering a humble human to be God without the testimony of the earlier law and it’s followers,

      Every sensible person should reflect with fairness and justice that if God Almighty had indeed pronounced Jesus Christ to be His son and had transferred the curse of others to him, and had pronounced this sacrifice to be the means of man’s salvation, and this was the teaching that had also been given to the Jews, why have they concealed it to this day and why do they oppose it so vehemently?

      This objection is further strengthened when we find that there was a long line of Prophets who came to revive the Jewish teachings, and Moses himself conveyed it to hundreds of thousands of people. How then did the Jews forget a teaching that was communicated to them by such a continuous line of Prophets, particularly when they had been instructed to inscribe these Divine commandments on their gates, doorposts and shirt sleeves, and teach them to their children, and memorize them? This is totally inconceivable. Can anyone who has a pure conscience assert that, despite these warnings, all the Jewish sects forgot the beautiful teachings of the Torah on which their very salvation depended? (Ruhanikhazain)

      • Greg G.

        The Christian response would be that the primary witnesses did write about it but those who continued in the old practices rejected the new, hence, they are still Jews.

        OTOH, none of the primary witnesses wrote about Jesus, either.

        • SparklingMoon,

          The Bible of the followers of Trinity also contain Old Testament that is revelation of prophet Moses and Israel prophets and the sayings of their followers. Jesus(as) was also Israel and his mission as an Israel prophet was to maintain Mosaic Law among the lost sheep of Israel.

        • Greg G.

          The most Trinity-friendly bits in the New Testament, Matthew 28:19 and 1 John 5:7-8, have textual evidence that they were interpolated.

      • Jonathan Morgan

        I would say that the Jews are just as far away in time from the start of Judaism as the Christians are. And you don’t need to accept Jesus’ criticisms recorded in the NT to recognise that, like the Christians, they have evolved a long way from those roots.

  • Matthew46

    Re: “For there are three that testify in heaven: the Father, the Word and the Holy Spirit, and these three are one. (1 John 5:7)

    Philo came up with “logos” to represent “the actions and thoughts of God’ and this was interpreted as ‘the Word”. “The Word” was never meant to represent a person/entity. The above sentence seems to make perhaps more sense as:
    “For there are three that testify in heaven: God, the actions and thoughts of God, and the Holy Spirit, and these three are one. (1 John 5:7)

    • Greg G.

      To Philo, God was transcedent, pure, and unmoving. The earth was none of those things. The Logos was an intermediary demiurge. The Gospel of John described that Logos in John 1:1-5 and connected it with Jesus in John 1:14 with “The Logos was made flesh.”

      1 John 5:7-8 was apparently added centuries later by early Trinitarians along with Matthew 28:19. The Comma Johanneum would have been added for the purpose of representing a person.

      • Matthew46

        Right. “Philo’s doctrine of the Logos is blurred by his mystical and religious vision, but his Logos is clearly the second individual in one God as a hypostatization of God’s Creative Power – Wisdom. The supreme being is God and the next is Wisdom or the Logos of God ”
        http://www.iep.utm.edu/philo/#SH11m (encyclopedia of Philosophy).

  • Herald Newman

    > The oldest and most reliable manuscripts do not show the Comma

    The written Greek language, at the time of the New Testament writings, sentence punctuation, and even word spaces, were not yet invented. If you were to look at a very old Greek manuscript of the NT you see it written something like (using English as an example) “inthebeginningwasthewordandthewordwaswithgodandthewordwasgod”

    • Greg G.

      Hebrew was kind of like that but without the vowels.

    • MNb

      Yeah, but that has nothing to do with the Comma. Quoted from Bob’s article:

      “a “comma” is a short clause”

      Given the capital I’m pretty sure Comma means Comma Johanneum.

      • Herald Newman

        My misinterpretation. Upon reexamining, it appears you are correct.

  • RichardSRussell

    You may recall the old joke about the definition of a camel: a horse designed by a committee.

    Well, as it happens, that’s exactly how we got the Bible, too!

    • Michael Neville

      The King James Version of the Bible is generally considered a masterpiece of English literature which is quite surprising considering it was written by committee.

      • RichardSRussell

        The Bible is an anthology originally selected by a committee, but you’re right that the translation into English under the imprimatur of King James was performed by competent scholars with an obvious love for and facility with the English language. It is indeed a masterwork of translation.

        • Michael Neville

          The KJV is generally considered a poor translation but an extremely well written poor translation.

        • Dys

          I don’t believe it’s considered a poor translation as much as that we have better sources now than the ones the KJV is based on.

      • Ignorant Amos

        I think it is deemed so because it influenced so many great writers and their masterpieces.

        As Richard Dawkins puts it…

        Ecclesiastes, in the 1611 translation, is one of the glories of English literature (I’m told it’s pretty good in the original Hebrew, too). The whole King James Bible is littered with literary allusions, almost as many as Shakespeare (to quote that distinguished authority Anon, the trouble with Hamlet is it’s so full of clichées). In The God Delusion I have a section called “Religious education as a part of literary culture” in which I list 129 biblical phrases which any cultivated English speaker will instantly recognise and many use without knowing their provenance: the salt of the earth; go the extra mile; I wash my hands of it; filthy lucre; through a glass darkly; wolf in sheep’s clothing; hide your light under a bushel; no peace for the wicked; how are the mighty fallen.

        • But where does the credit go for that? To the authors/editors of the original books? To the KJV translators? To the simple fact that the Bible was very important to Europeans, and so very familiar?

        • Ignorant Amos

          King James get’s the credit for bucking the trend and getting a somewhat ecumenical committee to get their heads together and knock something out that a consensus could agree on.

          What we got was a story book redacted version of a compilation of other story books, which originated from a compilation of a pile of other committee selected story books.

          Sleeping Beauty aka Princess Aurora was originally known as the Briar Rose ya know?

        • No, I’m pretty sure that the Disney version is authoritative.

        • Michael Neville

          It is now.

        • Michael Neville

          That’s the problem with the KJV and Shakespeare’s plays. They’re just a whole series of famous quotes strung together.

        • Greg G.

          They were in a pickle because there is nothing new under the sun.

  • Cygnus

    One can reason Noam Chomsky sentence “Colorless Green Ideas Sleep Furiously” as …any matter solid, liquid, or gaseous that (1) is white, (2) is environmentally friendly, (3) is the idea of another living being, (4) has the ability to sleep, and (5) can express anger, thus basically, a colorless green idea must be a white animal that helps the environment.

    However, “Trinity” The Christio-Religio Ladderal Hiearchy is soooo stupid and unreasonable that even Christians (some of them, most of them, whatever fuck proportion of them) rejected.

  • Khanada

    Re: “Partialism, the heretical claim that the three persons of God are three separate parts”

    In all seriousness, would this mean that the legend that St Patrick explained the Trinity to the Irish by using a shamrock is in fact St Patrick committing the heresy of Partialism? (I don’t believe, and consider the legend just that — a legend, a charming story. But now I’m curious… )

  • Ignorant Amos
  • Matthew46

    It’s the problem caused by an attempt to syncretize two completely opposite stories. In creating Christianity, Paul was using a pagan base with the very common triple diety set but in order to gain authority for his preaching, he also needed to use the scriptures of the Jews but the Jews worshiped one indivisible god. The only way to do that was to lump the three together and explain that they were actually one. From that came the trinity. Scriptures were edited, i.e. Matthew 28:19, probably in the fourth century, to reflect this.

  • Sophia Sadek

    The Nicene council came up with the idea that Jesus and his virtual father were “consubstantial.” This was a technical term that was used to resolve cultural differences between deities. For example, one particular school of philosophy may want to resolve the differences between Greek and Roman priests by claiming that Jupiter and Zeus were consubstantial. That would imply that they were two names for the same entity: the deity of thunder. A different school of philosophy might argue that Jupiter and Zeus are culturally distinct entities with differing properties. Such a school would see the priests of Zeus and the priests of Jupiter as mutually exclusive.

  • SparklingMoon,

    Jesus (as) told his disciples:

    ”But I say unto you, verily, that whatsoever ye shall give and shall forsake for love of God, ye receive it back an hundred-fold, and life everlasting. See then how much ye ought to be content to serve God.

    When Jesus had said this, Philip answered: ‘We are content to serve God, but we desire, however, to know God, for Isaiah the prophet said: “Verily thou art a hidden God,” and God said to Moses his servant: “I am that which I am.”

    Jesus answered: ‘Philip, God is a good without which there is naught good; God is a being without which there is naught that is; God is a life without which there is naught that liveth; so great that he filleth all and is everywhere. He alone hath no equal. He hath had no beginning, nor will he ever have an end, but to everything hath he given a beginning, and to everything shall he give an end. He hath no father nor mother;he hath no sons.nor brethren. nor companions. And because God hath no body, therefore he eateth not, sleepeth not, dieth not, walketh not, moveth not, but abideth eternally without human similitude,for that he is incorporeal, uncompounded, immaterial, of the most simple substance. He is so good that he loveth goodness only; he is so just that when he punisheth or pardoneth it cannot be gainsaid. In short, I say unto thee, Philip, that here on earth thou canst not see him nor know him perfectly; but in his kingdom thou shalt see him for ever: wherein consisteth all our happiness and glory.’

    Jesus answered: ‘There are written in the prophets many parables, wherefore thou oughtest not to attend to the letter, but to the sense.

    Philip answered: ‘Master, what sayest thou? It is surely written in Isaiah that God is our father; how, then, hath he no sons?’

    Jesus answered: ‘There are written in the prophets many parables, wherefore thou oughtest not to attend Jesus answered: ‘There are written in the prophets many parables, wherefore thou oughtest not to attend to the letter, but to the sense. (Gospel of disciple Barnabas)

    • Ignorant Amos

      Jesus said feck all….in a story someone wrote that a character called Jesus said stuff…like Arthur Conan Doyle wrote that Dr. Watson wrote that Sherlock Holmes said “elementary my dear Watson”…except he didn’t.

      • SparklingMoon,

        The religions which have spread and are firmly established in the world through Prophets, holding sway over a part of the world and achieving survival and long life, none was false in its origin. Nor was any of those Prophets false, because it is the eternal practice of God that a false prophet who lies against God (who is not from God, but dares to forge things from himself) never prospers. God destroys such an audacious person who says that He is from God while God knows full well that he is not from Him.All his machinations are shattered, all of his followers are disbanded,and his future is worse than his past because he told a lie against God and brazenly maligned God.God does not give him the honor that is given to the righteous, and neither does He grant him the acceptance and stability,which is reserved for the true prophets (Ruhanikhazain)

        • Ignorant Amos

          Blaah, blaah, blaah, Ahmadiyya mumbo jumbo nonsense, blaah, blaah, blaah!

        • Michael Neville

          Were you expecting anything else from SparklingMoon?

        • Ignorant Amos

          Nope…SM gives absolutely no reason why I should give any credence to the Ahmadi muck, as opposed to the muck of any other religion…or the reason why SM does. Just noise.

        • Greg G.

          The religions which have spread and are firmly established in the world through Prophets, holding sway over a part of the world and achieving survival and long life, none was false in its origin.

          Whether any religion was true in its origin is a good question to ask. But they cannot all be true now which shows that false religions can “spread and become firmly established in the world.” If false religions can spread, they needn’t have been true in their origin. If a religion was true, it should not have changed. Yet all of them have changed. If prophets can give a true religion, they should all have agreed and given a true religion in prehistoric times. It really looks like all religions are false and always have been.

        • SparklingMoon,

          If a religion was true, it should not have changed. Yet all of them have changed. If prophets can give a true religion, they should all have agreed and given a true religion in prehistoric times.

          It is extremely difficult for pious people to bequeath their piety to subsequent generations for a long time. Seldom does it happen that the righteousness of the forefathers runs deep and long into the following generations. A vast majority of the first generation, ushered into light, never returns to the previous state of darkness. Faith however, gradually weakens over successive generations. It does not happen overnight. It is a long slow process of decadence set in after the demise of a prophet which ultimately erodes the hard-earned belief in the Unity of God. Whenever belief dwindles, superstitions begin to encroach and take over. Firm faith in a single Omnipotent God splinters into fragments of a shattered image of Godhead. Oracles begin to be concocted from temple to temple and a dishonest religious clergy feels free to deceive the common masses.

          It is explained by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad that both reason and tradition testify that when the world is engulfed by the darkness of sin, the earth is filled with evil and vice, spirituality falls to its lowest ebb, the land becomes polluted with sin, love for the Almighty grows cold, and a poisonous wind blows over the land, at such times Divine mercy desires to resurrect the earth once again.

          In accordance with this time-honored law,God has already foretold through His Prophets that, at the end of the sixth millennium after Adam when a great darkness would envelope the earth, and the deluge of sin would inundate the land,and hearts would become devoid of love for God-He will breathe into a man the spirit of truth and love and awareness, just like in the case of Adam, without resorting to any physical means. And this man will also be called the Messiah because God shall Himself anoint his soul with His love.This Messiah,whom the scriptures also call the Promised Messiah, shall be made to stand up against Satan, and the final battle between the legions of Satan and the Messiah shall ensue.

          For this spiritual battle,Satan will come prepared with all his powers and all his progeny and all his resources.Never will the world have seen such a fierce clash between good and evil,for on that day the Satanic schemes and devices shall be at their deadliest, and all possible means for misleading mankind shall be at Satan’s disposal. Then, after a great fight —which, you must remember,will be a spiritual one— God’s Messiah shall emerge victorious,and Satanic forces shall be annihilated.

          Thereafter, for a thousand years, which have been described as the ‘seventh day’, God’s majesty, glory, holiness and oneness shall prevail upon the earth. And this shall be followed by the end of the world. Let it be known that I am that Messiah. Let him who will, accept me.

        • Greg G.

          It is extremely difficult for pious people to bequeath their piety to subsequent generations for a long time.

          What’s with subsequent generations? God should be able to communicate with each and every person directly.

        • Ignorant Amos

          God only seems to be able to do the one-on-one thing to a select few. Hence the need for prophet’s. He doesn’t do that anymore…depending on who ya ask. Mainstream Muslims think that last prophet was Mo, Mormons think it was someone more recent. Many other cults think it is someone else, many of them some punter even more recent than the Mormons.

          God is a wanker when it comes to the issue of comms with his creation. He picks wankers as prophets too. He pulls them to the side and whispers his message in their ear and nary a one of them seems to remember it properly. On the one occasion he thought to write something down, the dickhead he chose to look after it only went and destroyed it, then the 2.0 version got mislead…all too conveniently if ya ask me. The prophets all seem to struggle with the message and how to get it across in any universal way. God does nothing anymore these days to get it sorted. To be frank with ya, I don’t think God ever existed and it is all a loada shite made up by a bunch of bozo’s with control freak tendencies…but what to I know, when ya can read the illuminating passages folk like SM pitch up here with to explain it all?


        • Greg G.

          If God told everyone the same thing, there would be no need for priests, preachers, rabbis, and imams, who live off the offerings to God. If God provides for the birds of the air without offerings, why does he need offerings for the speakers of hot air?

        • Kodie

          They’re unqualified for any other work. I know that’s sad and cold for those escaping their delusion, raising need for such things as the clergy project, etc., but sometimes I think, maybe in the old days, “how can I get out of doing a lot of work without losing respect in the community?” was a huge incentive. And perhaps the rules against clergy being women is to save these choice positions for men who were clever enough to get away with it, and the rule against them getting married was the societal trade-off for not having to be a heavy laborer in the tribe. You don’t really need a wife, after all, if you have people cooking your meals and cleaning your quarters for you.

        • Ignorant Amos

          And perhaps the rules against clergy being women is to save these choice positions for men who were clever enough to get away with it, and the rule against them getting married was the societal trade-off for not having to be a heavy laborer in the tribe. You don’t really need a wife, after all, if you have people cooking your meals and cleaning your quarters for you.

          Especially if holding a clerical position permitted the holder to be as decadent and hedonistic as was their want, shagging what they wanted, when they wanted and without much reproach, if any…covertly of course, but in many cases quite overtly and going right to the top.

        • Greg G.

          Especially if holding a clerical position permitted the holder to be as decadent and hedonistic as was their want,

          I think they have to get pretty high up the chain of command for that. Wherever I have gone, I have noticed that the temples and churches are grander than the surrounding neighborhood, whether in poor areas of Asia or wealthy American suburbs.

          In rural Asian villages, the temple seems to be nice because of the work of the monks. In urban areas, it appears that craftsmen have been hired. They seem to try to get larger and larger statues so that they can lure tourists and then build larger and larger temples. Even the Catholics do it. They seem to have the same strategy.

          Buddhist statue in Da Nang

          Jesus statue in Rio de Janeiro

          We were guests of a monk in Norway. He was happy and generous. It seemed ironic that I felt jealousy at the technology at the fingertips of someone who has taken a vow of poverty.

          Driving toward Washington DC from Baltimore, it is impossible to miss a huge temple in an upper middle-class neighborhood.

        • Ignorant Amos

          I think they have to get pretty high up the chain of command for that.


          The British Library has under its care the original 16th century papal Tax Books which list certain crimes and the cost of indulgences for absolution of these crimes. Below is a partial list of crimes which may be pardoned for pay:

          1. sex in church with a female

          2. priests who keep concubines

          3. incest committed by a man with his mother, sister or female relative

          4. raping a virgin

          5. perjury and false testimony

          6. forgerers of false testimony

          7. priests who divulge others’ confessions

          8. laymen who kill clergy, or other laymen

          9. priests who commit homicide

          10. men who kill their fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters or relatives

          11. if murderer be a priest

          12. men who beat their pregnant wives, and those who cause miscarriage

          13. women who have abortions

          14. abortions instigated by priests

          15. simony

          16. priests who violate women at confession

          17. priests who fornicate/rape nuns in the convent

          18. rape of girl or married woman

          19. him who has child by his nurse

          20. any unnatural lewdness


          Until fairly recently a lot of the clergy at all levels got away with blue murder because of an undeserved respect afforded their position.

        • I just got my paycheck! Let’s see how much these cost. Say–how much for sex in church with a female? That sounds like fun.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Say–how much for sex in church with a female? That sounds like fun.

          Whatever floats yer boat big lad.

        • SparklingMoon,

          God should be able to communicate with each and every person directly.
          There are two kind of revelations; one that can be received by all people who use their abilities in the way of God and second is the revelation of Law that is bestowed by God Almighty to His selected prophets.

          It is explained by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad that as the soul of a man who possesses a true nature is hungry and thirsty for the understanding of God. When it is agreed that a true man naturally seeks understanding of God, and it is established that the perfect manner of the understanding of the Divine is Divine revelation and nothing else, then if that means is impossible of attainment and to seek it is disrespectful, God’s wisdom would be open to the criticism that He bestowed upon man eagerness for His Own understanding but did not bestow upon him the means of acquiring such understanding. In other words, He afflicted man with hunger but would not bestow upon him bread enough to satisfy his hunger, or that He afflicted ma n with thirst, but would not bestow upon him water enough to quench his thirst. Wise people will understand that such a notion amounts to failure to appreciate God’s great mercies.
          Secondly, Divine revelation is conditional upon the recipient’s potential and eligibility. It is not possible for all people to become Messengers of Almighty God or for divine revelation to descend upon everyone. Allah the Almighty refers to this in the Holy Quran that when a Sign is shown to the disbelievers to demonstrate the divine origin of the Quran, they say, ‘We will never believe until the Book of Allah is revealed to us directly’. God knows best where and when to confer prophet-hood; that is, He knows who is and who is not able [to receive revelation]. In other words, He bestows the grace of revelation only upon him who possesses the requisite ability and capacity.

          To elaborate, the Eternally Wise has created all individuals different from one another for various reasons, so that the whole chain of the children of Adam resembles a line rising to the loftiest heights on the one end, and descending to the lowest depths on the other. At the higher end are the pure souls whose capacities are perfect in regard to their own distinct ranks, while at the lower end are those who are more akin to animals, devoid of all reason. In the middle are people with average faculties of intelligence etc. Observation of the diversity of capacities in different people is a sufficient argument to prove this point. No sensible person can deny that human beings are divided into different levels with respect to intelligence, righteousness, fear of God, and love of God.

          If there were no such differences in intellect, why would different people differ in their acquisition and grasp of knowledge, and why would some outshine others. Those belonging to the teaching profession must be well aware of the fact that some students are so intelligent that the slightest hint or gesture is sufficient to make them understand, and some are so ingenious that they even come up with wonderful ideas of their own. Conversely, some are inherently so dull and slow-witted that no matter how much you exert your mental energies on them, they will not understand. Even if they come to learn something, after you have worked yourself very hard to teach them, their memory is so weak that, in a moment, everything is erased from it like a mark of water [on something] which disappears in no time

          Now that it has been established that individual human beings possess a diversity of intelligence, moral qualities, and nur-e-qalb [the light of the heart], this should serve as proof that divine revelation is confined to certain individuals, who are perfect in every respect. It is clear to every reasonable person that each soul can only receive the light of Allah according to its capacity and ability—and no more. The sun is a brilliant illustration of this principle. Even though it sheds its rays in every direction, not all places receive its light equally. A house, the doors of which are closed, cannot receive any light; and one which has a small window or hole in the direction of the sun receives some light,but not enough to dispel the darkness completely. But a house with all doors open in the direction of the sun, and walls built not of opaque material but of clear and transparent glass, will not only receive the full light of the sun, but will also spread it in all four directions, thereby conveying it to others.

          The same is the case with the pure souls of the Prophets. These blessed people, whom God chooses to be His Messengers, are like a clear, transparent, glass palace on account of their removal of veils and attainment of perfect purity. It is therefore obvious that those individuals who do not possess such an absolute perfection can never achieve the rank of Allah’s Messengers. This rank is bestowed by the Eternal Distributor upon those whose holy souls are completely pure of darkening veils, and are entirely free from physical coverings, and whose transcendent holiness is beyond imagination. Such perfect and impeccable souls are the means of guidance for all mankind—just as the bounty of life is conveyed to all the limbs by the heart, the All-Wise has appointed the bounty of guidance through them. For, they alone are bestowed the perfect relationship that ought to subsist between the Source of Grace and its recipient. It is absolutely impossible that God Almighty, who is absolutely Unique and Transcendent, should bestow the grace of His holy revelation upon people, the greater part of whose nature is dark and opaque, and is also very narrow and constricted, and whose mean natures are steeped in, and polluted by, base impurities. Unless we are willing to deceive ourselves, we would certainly have to concede that to establish a perfect relationship with the Eternal Source, and to enjoy converse with His Great Holiness, one requires a special ability and brightness, which is appropriate to this great rank and dignity. It is certainly not the case that every person who is in a state of loss, lacks merit, is tainted, and is covered up in manifold dark coverings,should (notwithstanding his low nature and lack of resolve)achieve this great rank.

        • Greg G.

          There are two kind of revelations; one that can be received by all people who use their abilities in the way of God and second is the revelation of Law that is bestowed by God Almighty to His selected prophets.

          If God were Almighty, there would be a third kind of revelation where revelation can be bestowed on all people no matter what abilities humans have.

          It is explained by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad that if the soul of a man who possesses a true nature is hungry and thirsty for the understanding of God.

          Where does one get a nature that is hungry and thirsty for the understanding of God if not from God? Your explanation is what we would expect from someone gullible enough to believe there is a god and arrogant enough to think he has found it when everybody else who thinks they have found a different god.

        • SparklingMoon,

          Your explanation is what we would expect from someone gullible enough to believe there is a god and arrogant enough to think he has found it when everybody else who thinks they have found a different god.
          Firstly, there is really no arrogance as God Almighty is not a personal possession of me or of the followers of any particular religion. He is Creator of all particles of this universe and of all mankind equally. He is as much of your God as of me or any other person. All prophets had been sent by Him and all prophets had called their followers for His worship. It was the task of the Divine Books and the Prophets to appear whenever people become unmindful of the belief in the existence of God and His Oneness and fell victim to all kinds of polytheistic tendencies. It was revived thousands of times but it lost its luster as many times and became hidden from people’s eyes. But whenever it was lost, God sent a servant of His to rediscover it in its pristine purity. In this manner, darkness and light have alternately held sway in the world.

          The truth is that since man is prone to error and forgetfulness and is unable to show steadfastness in his practice of Divine injunctions, he is always in need of someone to remind him and revive his faith. In this age God Almighty has appointed Mirza Ghulam Ahmad to fulfill this purpose. He has told: The actual mission for which God has appointed me is to remove the estrangement that has come between man and his Creator and reestablish a relationship of love and sincerity between him and his Lord. He has also appointed me to put a stop to religious wars by proclaiming the truth, to create religious harmony, to reveal the religious truths that have long remained hidden from mortal eyes, and to display the true spirituality that lies submerged under the darkness of selfish passions. I have also been sent to demonstrate practically, and not just in words, how Divine powers enter man and how they are manifested through prayer and concentration. But, first and foremost, I have been sent to reestablish forever the lost belief in the Unity of God (Tauhid) which is pure and luminous and unadulterated by any form of idolatry— Shirk. All this will not come about by my power, but by the Mighty hand of the Lord of heaven and earth. While God has taken upon Himself the task of my spiritual training and has inspired me, through His revelation, with a zeal to bring about this reformation, He has also prepared hearts that are ready to accept my words. My advent in the present age is not for the reformation of the Muslims alone, but I have come to reform the people of all the three religions: Muslims, Christians and Hindus. Just as God has appointed me the Promised Messiah for the Muslims and Christians, so am I the Avatar for the Hindus. This is no fancy or speculation on my part. The God of heaven and earth has revealed to me, not once but a number of times, that for the Hindus I am Krishna and for the Muslims and Christians I am the Promised Messiah.This revelation is from God and I have no choice but to proclaim it.

        • Ignorant Amos
        • Whaaaa … ? Moon copied this from someone else?

          Well, that’s a first!

        • Ignorant Amos


          SparklingMoon’s version is a prime example.

          Don’t get me wrong, if we must have Islam in the the world, Ahmadiyya mumbo jumbo nonsense is the one I want, but to the other flavours of Islam, this namby-pamby version is frowned upon intensely as heretical. It is considered not to be Muslim at all and its followers are persecuted by their fellow Islamist’s, to the point of being murdered.


          Followers of the Muslim Ahmadi sect, which preaches a message of peace and tolerance, have long been subject to violent attacks and persecution in Pakistan, where they are branded worse than apostates by hardliners and forbidden by the state to call themselves Muslims.


          Back in my RDFRS days I had some great interactions with an Ahamadi Muslim, really nice “Muslim”, but somewhat naive…a bit like SparklingMoon, only he could think for himself and write most of his own arguments.

  • Tyler Willis

    The trinity is a weird concept but I wouldn’t go as far as you in saying it makes no sense at all.

    • I’m sure we’d all be curious to hear about how it makes sense.

      • Tyler Willis

        I was referring to what you said here, Bob

        “Unity but also distinct? Three but also one? That makes no sense,”

        As I was reading this I was thinking about relatable examples that made SOME sense to me from everyday life. I’m an example of a unity of many (I’m human) and at the same time I”m also distinct (I’m Tyler the human). That makes sense if you view these different concepts from different perspectives. Another one from physics is that solid matter is both very solid and 99.99% empty space.

        • adam

          Yep, it makes sense, EXCEPT in the way religion TRIES to explain it.

        • Tyler Willis

          You got me thinking about this puzzle. If Bill is a human and if Jim is a human then they are examples of the same thing – they are both examples of a human. Which human? Bill is nothing like Jim, even down to his DNA so what is the same about Bill and Jim? If you’re speaking in the general sense, then why can’t the same be done with God? Jim and Bill are human. Jesus and Father are God.

          Just a few musings. I don’t expect it to resolve anything.

        • adam

          “If Bill is a human and if Jim is a human then they are examples of the same thing – they are both examples of a human. ”

          But they are not both examples of the SAME human.

          I dont see any brain twisting necessary or desired.

          Jim and Bill are human(s) by nature yet individuals and Jesus and Father are God(s) by nature yet individuals.

          Still leaves us with 3 humans and 3 “Gods”

          I dont see any brain twisting necessary or desired.

        • Tyler Willis

          I was using symmetrical language for both sides. Whether the god part is heretical or not I would not know.

          3 individual humans that are human by nature.
          3 individual gods that are god by nature.

          “But they are not both examples of the SAME human.”

          This is the brain twisty part for me. We’re talking about the same human nature. Both Bill and Jim are humans by nature. In what sense are they the same when they are not the same at all. Is human nature a fiction?

        • adam

          “We’re talking about the same human nature.”

          But not the same human

          ” In what sense are they the same when they are not the same at all.”

          Same classification of species.

          “Is human nature a fiction?”

          Seems like a fact here:

          human nature


          The sum of qualities and traits shared by all humans.

        • These two examples are interesting, but they look like Modalism and a paradox (though others might evaluate them differently). Give me an example that clarifies the Trinity without also being a heresy.

        • Tyler Willis

          I can’t do that because I know very little about the trinity except the basics. I was only saying that it made SOME sense rather than NO sense. It’s relatable but not completely.

        • But you can’t say that the Trinity is like X if X is heretical and therefore doesn’t count. I agree that giving parallels to the Trinity are helpful, but only if those parallels are legitimate.

        • Tyler Willis

          I don’t see why a person can’t say “is like X”. Isn’t that the point of an analogy? Jesus is like a human being, but he’s not just human being as that would be heretical. Photons are like particles but they are not just that. Solid objects are like things without any empty space but the are not just solid.Etc. etc.

        • Do you not understand what we’ve been talking about all along? You can’t make an interesting analogy without also making a heresy.

  • Geena Safire

    My favorite video about the trinity doctrine is St. Patrick’s Bad Analogies.