originally posted by: DISRAELI
a reply to: GBP/JPY
This is all explained in the Athanasian creed, printed in the Anglican prayer-book sitting on my bookshelves.
Talking about the Athanasian Creed...first a bit of background (see bolded part concerning the Athanasian Creed):
How Did the Trinity Doctrine Develop?
At this point you might ask: ‘If the Trinity is not a Biblical teaching, how did it become a doctrine of Christendom?’ Many think that it was
formulated at the Council of Nicaea in 325 C.E.
That is not totally correct, however. The Council of Nicaea did assert that Christ was of the same substance as God, which laid the groundwork for
later Trinitarian theology. But it did not establish the Trinity, for at that council there was no mention of the holy spirit as the third person of a
Constantine’s Role at Nicaea
For many years, there had been much opposition on Biblical grounds to the developing idea that Jesus was God. To try to solve the dispute, Roman
emperor Constantine summoned all bishops to Nicaea. About 300, a fraction of the total, actually attended.
Constantine was not a Christian. Supposedly, he converted later in life, but he was not baptized until he lay dying. Regarding him, Henry Chadwick
says in The Early Church
: “Constantine, like his father, worshipped the Unconquered Sun; . . . his conversion should not be interpreted as an
inward experience of grace . . . It was a military matter. His comprehension of Christian doctrine was never very clear, but he was sure that victory
in battle lay in the gift of the God of the Christians.”
What role did this unbaptized emperor play at the Council of Nicaea? The Encyclopædia Britannica
relates: “Constantine himself presided,
actively guiding the discussions, and personally proposed . . . the crucial formula expressing the relation of Christ to God in the creed issued by
the council, ‘of one substance with the Father’ . . . Overawed by the emperor, the bishops, with two exceptions only, signed the creed, many of
them much against their inclination.”
Hence, Constantine’s role was crucial. After two months of furious religious debate, this pagan politician intervened and decided in favor of those
who said that Jesus was God. But why? Certainly not because of any Biblical conviction. “Constantine had basically no understanding whatsoever of
the questions that were being asked in Greek theology,” says A Short History of Christian Doctrine
. What he did understand was that religious
division was a threat to his empire, and he wanted to solidify his domain.
None of the bishops at Nicaea promoted a Trinity, however. They decided only the nature of Jesus but not the role of the holy spirit. If a Trinity had
been a clear Bible truth, should they not have proposed it at that time?
After Nicaea, debates on the subject continued for decades. Those who believed that Jesus was not equal to God even came back into favor for a time.
But later Emperor Theodosius decided against them. He established the creed of the Council of Nicaea as the standard for his realm and convened the
Council of Constantinople in 381 C.E. to clarify the formula.
That council agreed to place the holy spirit on the same level as God and Christ. For the first time, Christendom’s Trinity began to come into
Yet, even after the Council of Constantinople, the Trinity did not become a widely accepted creed. Many opposed it and thus brought on themselves
violent persecution. It was only in later centuries that the Trinity was formulated into set creeds. The Encyclopedia Americana
full development of Trinitarianism took place in the West, in the Scholasticism of the Middle Ages, when an explanation was undertaken in terms of
philosophy and psychology.”
The Athanasian Creed
The Trinity was defined more fully in the Athanasian Creed. Athanasius was a clergyman who supported Constantine at Nicaea. The creed that bears his
name declares: “We worship one God in Trinity . . . The Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God; and yet they are not three gods,
but one God.”
Well-informed scholars agree, however, that Athanasius did not compose this creed. The New Encyclopædia Britannica comments: “The creed
was unknown to the Eastern Church until the 12th century. Since the 17th century, scholars have generally agreed that the Athanasian Creed was not
written by Athanasius (died 373) but was probably composed in southern France during the 5th century. . . . The creed’s influence seems to have been
primarily in southern France and Spain in the 6th and 7th centuries. It was used in the liturgy of the church in Germany in the 9th century and
somewhat later in Rome.”
So it took centuries from the time of Christ for the Trinity to become widely accepted in Christendom. And in all of this, what guided the decisions?
Was it the Word of God, or was it clerical and political considerations? In Origin and Evolution of Religion
, E. W. Hopkins answers: “The
final orthodox definition of the trinity was largely a matter of church politics.”
THIS disreputable history of the Trinity fits in with what Jesus and his apostles foretold would follow their time. They said that there would be an
apostasy, a deviation, a falling away from true worship until Christ’s return, when true worship would be restored before God’s day of destruction
of this system of things.
Regarding that “day,” the apostle Paul said: “It will not come unless the apostasy comes first and the man of lawlessness gets revealed.” (2
Thessalonians 2:3, 7) Later, he foretold: “When I have gone fierce wolves will invade you and will have no mercy on the flock. Even from your own
ranks there will be men coming forward with a travesty of the truth on their lips to induce the disciples to follow them.” (Acts 20:29, 30,
) Other disciples of Jesus also wrote of this apostasy with its ‘lawless’ clergy class.—See, for example, 2 Peter 2:1; 1 John 4:1-3;
Jude 3, 4.
Paul also wrote: “The time is sure to come when, far from being content with sound teaching, people will be avid for the latest novelty and collect
themselves a whole series of teachers according to their own tastes; and then, instead of listening to the truth, they will turn to myths.”—2
Timothy 4:3, 4, JB
Jesus himself explained what was behind this falling away from true worship. He said that he had sowed good seeds but that the enemy, Satan,
would oversow the field with weeds. So along with the first blades of wheat, the weeds appeared also. Thus, a deviation from pure Christianity was to
be expected until the harvest, when Christ would set matters right. (Matthew 13:24-43) The Encyclopedia Americana comments: “Fourth century
Trinitarianism did not reflect accurately early Christian teaching regarding the nature of God; it was, on the contrary, a deviation from this
teaching.” Where, then, did this deviation originate?—1 Timothy 1:6.
What Influenced It
THROUGHOUT the ancient world, as far back as Babylonia, the worship of pagan gods grouped in threes, or triads, was common. That influence was
also prevalent in Egypt, Greece, and Rome in the centuries before, during, and after Christ. And after the death of the apostles, such pagan beliefs
began to invade Christianity.
Historian Will Durant observed: “Christianity did not destroy paganism; it adopted it. . . . From Egypt came the ideas of a divine
trinity.” And in the book Egyptian Religion, Siegfried Morenz notes: “The trinity was a major preoccupation of Egyptian theologians . . .
Three gods are combined and treated as a single being, addressed in the singular. In this way the spiritual force of Egyptian religion shows a direct
link with Christian theology.”
Thus, in Alexandria, Egypt, churchmen of the late third and early fourth centuries, such as Athanasius, reflected this influence as they
formulated ideas that led to the Trinity. Their own influence spread, so that Morenz considers “Alexandrian theology as the intermediary between the
Egyptian religious heritage and Christianity.”
In the preface to Edward Gibbon’s History of Christianity, we read: “If Paganism was conquered by Christianity, it is equally true
that Christianity was corrupted by Paganism. The pure Deism of the first Christians . . . was changed, by the Church of Rome, into the
incomprehensible dogma of the trinity. Many of the pagan tenets, invented by the Egyptians and idealized by Plato, were retained as being worthy of
A Dictionary of Religious Knowledge notes that many say that the Trinity “is a corruption borrowed from the heathen religions, and
ingrafted on the Christian faith.” And The Paganism in Our Christianity declares: “The origin of the [Trinity] is entirely
That is why, in the Encyclopædia of Religion and Ethics, James Hastings wrote: “In Indian religion, e.g., we meet with the
trinitarian group of Brahmā, Siva, and Viṣṇu; and in Egyptian religion with the trinitarian group of Osiris, Isis, and Horus . . . Nor is it only
in historical religions that we find God viewed as a Trinity. One recalls in particular the Neo-Platonic view of the Supreme or Ultimate Reality,”
which is “triadically represented.” What does the Greek philosopher Plato have to do with the Trinity? (I'll come back to that in my next
The Bible was completed in the first century C.E. Teachings that led to the development of the Trinity began to be officially formulated in 325
C.E.—more than two centuries later—at a council in the city of Nicaea in Asia Minor, now Iznik, Turkey. According to the New Catholic
, the creed attributed to the Council of Nicaea set out the first official definition of ‘Christian orthodoxy,’ including the
definition of God and Christ. Why, though, was it deemed necessary to define God and Christ centuries after the Bible was completed? Is the Bible
unclear on these important topics?
What the Nicene Creed says:
“We believe . . . in one Lord Jesus Christ . . . that is of the substance of the Father, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God.”
“The Nicene Creed is actually not the product of the First Council of Nicea (325) . . . but of the First Council of Constantinople
(381),” says The New Westminster Dictionary of Church History. (what's up with all these misleading labels for their Creeds? The Athanasian
Creed isn't actually from Athanasius, the Nicene Creed isn't actually from Nicaea)
“The Council of Nicea in 325 stated the crucial formula for [the yet future Trinity] doctrine in its confession that the Son is ‘of the
same substance . . . as the Father.’”—Encyclopædia Britannica.