24 July, 2007

Bible Word - 'Mystery'

In the New Testament, the 'mysteries' of the gospel are contrasted with the mysteries of the pagan religions of the first century Roman Empire. Those who joined pagan cults were, upon initiation, entrusted with secrets that they were not allowed to disclose, sometimes on pain of death. By contrast, God revealed His mysteries by the preaching of Christ and the apostles throughout the world. The most important 'revealed mystery' was that, in Christ, all the blessings of God formerly covenanted to Israel would be extended to those who were called by God out of the pagan world. No longer would such blessings be limited to Israel (see Ephesians 3:3-6).

"Now to Him who is able to establish you by my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all nations might believe and obey Him." (Romans 16:25-26).

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11 July, 2007

This article first appeared on another Christian apologetics discussion form at the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry (CARM) where it was posted by the author himself who goes by the name "Alethia." Here he refutes standard Trinitarian answers to the question "Why didn't God mention the Trinity in His Word, the Bible?" Take careful note of his initial premise: that "The idea of God as three coequal and coeternal 'persons' is never mentioned in Scripture."

This is a problem which Trinitarians have yet to solve. Their proposed solutions are many and varied - but none of these will resist the force of a logical cross-examination.


The idea of God as three coequal and coeternal “persons” is never mentioned in Scripture. None of the creedal concepts that make up Trinitarian dogma can be found directly in Scripture. It is not just the lack of the word itself, it is the lack of any direct statement of the concept in any words whatsoever.

So why then did God fail to mention the Trinity anywhere in Scripture? I think we can safely assume that He did not merely forget to tell us about it.

Could it possibly be because it was just not important enough to bother wasting a few verses on here and there? Well, if it wasn’t important to God, why would it be important to you or me?

The most common rationalizations of this problem that I hear from Trinitarians are:

#1 You shouldn’t try to dictate to God how he reveals himself.

Indeed I do not. If He didn’t reveal himself as a Trinity, I trust he did not expect to be understood as a Trinity.

#2 You can’t describe God in a single verse.

True enough, but irrelevant. You certainly could describe God as triune in a verse or two. Men seem to have managed to figure out a statement of the Trinity, so presumably God could have managed as well or better, if He had wanted to. Most Trinitarians can give me a brief one or two sentence summary of the doctrine. Surely God could have found a way to say it if it were what He wanted us to understand.

#3 While the Trinity is not taught directly in Scripture, it can be supported from Scripture.

That is circular. It doesn’t address the question. If God intended us to understand it, why didn’t He say so? To support it from Scripture, we would first have to know what it was we were supposed to be trying to support, and without a man-made statement of the Trinity, we would never know it. People seek to support the Trinity from Scripture only because they already believe in it.

#4 The word Trinity is not in the Bible, but the concept is.

This is a red herring or straw man. It is not just the word which is not there. There is no statement of the concept in any words at all. It has to be assembled from widely scattered, fragmentary, deductions, inferences, and human reasoning. There is no statement of a three-in-one god in Scripture, regardless of words.

#5 There are lots of other doctrines that aren’t directly stated in Scripture either.

This is a great one. This is just saying that you believe lots of things that aren’t in the Bible. So, you believe lots of unscriptural things. Yes, you probably do.

A typical example of this form of illogic is in a Lutheran pamphlet entitled “Why Baptize Children?” It uses this defense:

“The objectors to the Baptism of babies say: ‘Show me a single Scripture passage in which the Baptism of infants is commanded, and we will baptize babies.’ But they cannot show us a single passage in Scripture where God is called the ‘Triune God,’ and yet the whole Christian Church believes in the Triune God.”

Actually, the Lutheran pamphlet there employs both #4 and #5 at the same time, keying in on the word ‘Triune’ rather than the concept. They defend one unscriptural teaching by referring to another commonly accepted but unscriptural teaching.

#6 Everybody already knew about, so there was no need to mention it in Scripture.

Oh? And we know this how? Since it is never mentioned in Scripture, how would one determine that everyone already knew about it? And how could they have known about it, since it was never mentioned in any recorded utterance of any representative of God? Nor in fact was it even directly described by any Christian writer for centuries afterwards.

It was certainly not mentioned by any Jewish writer, ‘wisdom Christology’ notwithstanding. There was no Hebrew Trinity. If “everybody knew about it,” they certainly did a great job of keeping it to themselves. Why? Also, does this excuse imply that Scripture speaks only of those things that Christians did not already know about?

#7 The creeds were written only in response to heresy.

Actually I’m not sure what relevance this statement has to the problem, but it is a frequent response. Much of the New Testament was written in response to various heresies. Why did it miss this one? Why should the Trinity be of importance only as a negative response to opposition?

The idea seems to be that it is not important that you believe it, only important that you do not disbelieve it. Ignorance is fine. This sounds like the Church at work alright – ignorance of the masses are fine, just don’t let them start reading the Bible for themselves.

Numbers 6 & 7 have an underlying assumption that should be strongly questioned and doubted by any reasonable person. The unstated assumption is that there was a whole hidden oral tradition outside of Scripture which is the actual means of transmission of the “real” gospel. The obvious but unspoken idea behind this is that “tradition” of the “church” is at least equally as valid a path for the transmission of the gospel as is Scripture itself.

The Roman Catholic Church of course teaches this explicitly and directly. I would think that Protestants would be more doubtful of it, but they seem to buy into it as well for this one doctrine. How they reconcile that with the rejection of Catholicism, I do not know. Actually, this idea of an unwritten oral gospel was a Gnostic tradition, argued against by other Christians in the early centuries.

It is clear that for 6 & 7 to be reasonable assertions, one must assume that “everyone” knew about this very important doctrine to the extent that it was not worth mentioning again. For that to be true, we would have to relegate Scripture to a position of a repository of trivia – a place to read about the facts of lesser importance, but not a particularly necessary or very important source of teaching. After all, it fails to mention what is the most essential dogma of orthodox Christendom (along with other such things as infant baptism).

We should therefore expect that it would fail to mention many other important doctrines, and what do you know? It does indeed fail to mention a number of other of the dogmas that Christendom today believes. I would draw a different from conclusion from that: That Christendom is in error in many respects.

Is the assumption that “everybody knew about the Trinity” at all reasonable? For it to be true, either the Jews of the first century also believed in it, but never wrote about it and totally forgot about it soon after, or else there had to have been a silent mass conversion of those Jews who were the majority of the early church, without the Apostles and Evangelists ever putting a word of it down on paper. The Apostles dealt with all other sorts of heresies and apostasies in Scripture. The bulk of the Epistles are directed at correcting errors such as Judaism, Gnosticism, and doubts about resurrection and Christ’s return.

Surely along with being wrong about the need to continue to keep the Law of Moses, some of those Jews would have been at least a little bit hazy as to finding out that God was really three instead of the One they had previously believed. But the Apostles never bothered to correct them. Jesus continued to preach “the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” The God of the New Testament is still the God of Israel, the same as the God of the Old Testament. It seems that neither Jesus nor his Apostles felt any need to directly clarify the supposedly triune God to the Jews.

Of course, there really aren’t any “Bible Only” Trinitarians. There are a few who claim to be, but that claim is patently false. It escapes me why they bother attempting to argue their doctrine from a Bible Only standpoint, when their doctrines very obviously come from their tradition rather than from Scripture. They should just do a better job of justifying tradition as their source of doctrine, and admit that the Bible is not their true source.

If anyone has any better explanations, excuses or rationalizations, I would be interested to hear them. None of these are any good at all.


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The Evolution of Catholic Doctrine and Practice

Here follows a list of Catholic beliefs and practices which – although believed and practiced earlier than the dates given – did not become binding on all Catholics until they were officially adopted by church councils and proclaimed by the Pope as dogmas of faith. The question we must ask ourselves is this: Does the record of history suggest that the Roman Catholic Church is a Spirit-guided Church, or a mutable institution of men?

(All dates are approximate.)

• Presbyter (or elders) were first called priests by Lucian...2nd century.

• Prayers for the dead...AD. 300.

• The veneration of angels and dead saints and the use of images...375.

• The Mass as a daily celebration was adopted...394.

• The beginning of the exaltation of Mary, and the first use of the term "Mother of God" by the Council of Ephesus...431.

• Priests began to dress different from the general public and to wear special clothes...500.

• Extreme Unction...526.

• The doctrine of purgatory was first established by Gregory the Great...593.

• Prayers began to be offered to Mary, dead saints, and angels...600.

• The first man proclaimed "Pope" (Boniface III)...610.

• Veneration of the cross, images, and relics authorized...788.

• Holy water, mixed with a pinch of salt and blessed by a priest was authorized in...850.

• Veneration of Saint Joseph...890.

• College of cardinals begun...927.

• Canonization of dead saints, first by Pope John XV...995.

• The Mass developed gradually as a sacrifice, attendance was made obligatory in...11th century.

• The celibacy of the priesthood was decreed by Pope Hildebrand, Boniface VII...1079.

• The rosary was introduced by Peter the Hermit...1090.

• The Inquisition of "heretics" was instituted by the Council of Verona...1184, (also legalized and promoted by the fourth Lateran Council in 1215.)

• The sale of Indulgences...1190.

• The seven sacraments defined by Peter Lombard...12th century.

• The dogma of transubstantiation was decreed by Pope Innocent III ...1215.

• Confession of sins to the priest at least once a year was instituted by Pope Innocent III in the Lateran Council...1215.

• The adoration of the wafer (host) decreed by Pope Honorius III ...1220.

• The scapular invented by Simon Stock of England...1251.

• The doctrine of purgatory proclaimed a dogma by the Council of Florence...1439.

• Tradition is declared of equal authority with the Bible by the Council Trent...1546.

• The Apocryphal Books were added to the Bible by the Council of Trent...1545.

• The Immaculate Conception of Mary was proclaimed by Pope Pius IX in 1854.

• Pope Pius IX condemns all scientific discoveries not approved by the Roman Church...1864.

• Infallibility of the pope in matters of faith and morals proclaimed by the First Vatican Council...1870.

• Pius XI condemned the public schools...1930.

• Pius XI reaffirmed the doctrine that Mary is "The Mother of God" ...1931.

• The dogma of the Assumption (8) of the Virgin Mary was proclaimed by Pope Pius XII...1950.

• Mary proclaimed the Mother of the Church by Pope Paul VI...1965

*This list has been paraphrased from Lorraine Boettner's Roman Catholicism (1962), pages 7-8

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