Is Jesus God? Is the Holy Spirit a person? Is God triune? ...

Is the Doctrine of the Holy Trinity obsolete?

Definition of "The Trinity"

  1. There is in the Divine Being but one indivisible essence (ousia, essentia).

  2. In this one Divine Being there are three Persons or individual subsistences (hypostaseis), Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

  3. The whole undivided essence of God belongs equally to each of the three persons.

  4. The subsistence and operation of the three persons in the divine Being is marked by a certain definite order.

  5. There are certain personal attributes by which the three persons are distinguished.

  6. The Church confesses the Trinity to be a mystery beyond the comprehension of man.

Louis Berkhof (1941) Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdman. p. 87-89

1 John 5:7: For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.
This verse is sometimes used to support the Trinity. It was added to a Latin translation of 1 John sometime after 350 A.D. and first appears in Greek in 1215 A.D. - well over 1,000 years after 1 John was written. This verse is a pious speculation by a copyist, not Scriptural evidence from John himself.

Is God one?
Yes. "Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well:" (James 2:19)

Is Jesus a God-level being?
Yes. "And Thomas answered and said unto him [the risen Christ], My Lord and my God." (John 20:28)

Is Jesus separate from the Almighty God, the Father?
Yes. Jesus cried out from the Cross, when he became sin for us (2 Cor. 5:21), "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" (Matt. 27:46)

Are Jesus and the Father equal as the Athanasian Creed claims?
Another website presents this list:
1 Tim. 2:5 - the [divine] man Christ is mediator between us and God;
John 14:28 - the Father is greater than the Son;
John 20:17 - The Father is God over the Son;
Mark 13:32 - The Father knew something that the Son did not yet know (i.e., the day and hour of the Second Coming);
Matt. 20:20-23 - Deciding who will sit at the side of Jesus is the right of the Father only, not the Son;
John 5:19; 7:16-18, 8:38, 12:49,50, and 15:15 - Christ said He did not teach His own doctrines, but only those that He had heard or seen from the Father.

Did Jesus ever cease to exist?
"I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen;" (Rev. 1:18)

Is the Holy Spirit a person (in the modern sense)?
No. "Now the birth of Jesus Christ ... she was found with child of the Holy Spirit" (Matt. 1:18) - if the Holy Spirit is a person, then the Holy Spirit is the father of Jesus! (This also refutes claims that the Holy Spirit is a created being, like an angel.)

How does the New Testament define the Holy Spirit?
Luke 24:49 "stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high." (NRSV)
2 Timothy 1:7 "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind."
The Holy Spirit is the presence and power of God, the mind of God, the essence of God. See Knowing God: Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.

Is the Doctrine of the Holy Trinity obsolete?
Yes. "God in three persons, Blessed Trinity" is an outdated and inaccurate statement of the nature of God.
(a) The meaning of the word "person" has changed.
(b) Our understanding of relationships has changed.
(c) Our understanding of the "substance" of which God is composed has changed.
(d) The divine self-revelation has continued.
(e) The theological problems the Doctrine was intended to solve are no longer of prime concern.

All this is well-understood by theologians, but has not yet permeated down to the broad mass of Christians. Many still feel that "belief in the Trinity" is required - but, when pressed, no one is able to explain the Doctrine! It has been called a "strict mystery" (in "My Catholic Faith") - a hidden truth that is still hidden even after it has been revealed!

"The Trinitarian doctrine of the Church is the higher mathematics of theology." Wolfhart Pannenburg, University of Chicago, 3-7-2001

Dart's personal Creed on what the Bible means by the Oneness of God:
I believe that the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit [and whatever else is yet to be revealed] are all God and are one in the sense that they are united in spirit and in purpose.
Ronald L. Dart, evangelist, 8-22-2002
From the [Roman] Catholic Encyclopedia article on the "Trinity":
There is therefore nothing created, nothing subject to another in the Trinity: nor is there anything that has been added as though it once had not existed, but had entered afterwards: therefore the Father has never been without the Son, nor the Son without the Spirit: and this same Trinity is immutable and unalterable forever.
quoted from Patrologiae Graecae Cursus Completus, X, 986, Jacques-Paul Migne (1800-1875)

History of the Trinity

The Mithraic Trinity in a pine tree

Mithras, the unconquerable sun, and his two torch-bearers, Cautes, sunrise, and Cautopates, sunset, in a 3-branch pine tree form a Mithraic "Trinity". Mithraism thrived in Cappadocia (Turkey) until 300 A.D., then around 350 A.D. the Cappadocian monks defined the "Christian" Trinity.
"Triplicity is a symbol of godhead, and it means that god is the origin of all life." says the ancient Greek author, Plutarch, speaking of the pagan god, Osiris.

The Doctrine of the Trinity is not stated in the Bible, but was composed much later. It has been claimed that "The formal statement, however, is legitimately and necessarily deduced from the Scriptures of the New Testament" (Unger's Bible Dictionary, art. Trinity. Chicago: Moody Press, 1966). The nearest thing there is to a "formal statement" is the Athanasian Creed (which is neither a creed nor composed by St. Athanasius!). It presents a long and obscure argument about the divine nature. Further, the Creed informs us, "One cannot be saved without believing this firmly and faithfully." But its vehemence merely highlights its flimsy substance.

The early Christians came out of the strictly monotheistic world of Judaism into the rampantly polytheistic Roman Empire. The Doctrine of the Trinity, "God in one substance, but in three persona, Gk. hypostaseis" was an attempt to position themselves theologically between these extremes.

Starting from the "Baptismal Formula" of Matt. 28:19, "baptizing them into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit:", Theophilus of Antioch utilized the Greek term trias for three-in-one-ness. This was translated by Tertullian (ca. 200 A.D.) as trinitas, explained as "three persons in one substance". This was adopted as the viewpoint of main-line Christianity at the Council of Nicea (325 A.D.). It was then further developed by the Cappadocian monks (Basil, Gregory of Nazianzus, Gregory of Nyssa), and formally proclaimed at the Council of Constantinople (381 A.D.). Augustine of Hippo's De Trinitate became its authoritative explanation.

The doctrine of the Trinity was not based on the Bible, but was formulated apart from the Bible. For instance, "Two of the Cappadocians, Basil and Gregory of Nazianzus, admit silently that the Scriptural evidence for the Spirit as a distinct hypostasis within the Godhead is inadequate. Basil in his De Spiritu tries to take refuge in a most unsatisfactory doctrine of secret unscriptural tradition on the subject. Gregory, though he tacitly rejects Basil's device, in effect appeals to the experience and practice of the Church to supplement Scripture at this point." (R.P.C. Hanson, "Studies in Christian Antiquity", Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1985, p. 245)

Here is what Gregory of Naziansus (Orat. 31:27) writes:
"... the Deity of the Spirit himself, being made clear later [than the NT] when such knowledge should be seasonable and capable of being received after our Saviour's restoration [to Heaven], when it should no longer be received with incredulity because of its marvellous character."

In the past 1800 years, the Doctrine has been adopted as a requirement of normative Christianity (e.g., in the Lausanne Covenant), but it has also been both elaborated and criticized. Many early protestants rejected it as part of Catholic hocus pocus, but they were unable to formulate a satisfactory alternative.

In recent centuries, the concepts of personhood, self-expression and the rights of individuals have become ever more pronounced in our society. Consequently, the conventional formulation of the Trinity is ever more misleading as an expression of the nature of God, whatever one's theological position on the subject.

What is the Trinity?
Current Doctrines of the Trinity

There are two main perspectives:
(a) The "Immanent" Trinity: God's own nature, apart from any reference to us, an example is 1. below.
(b) The "Economic" Trinity: God as revealed to us, or God in salvation history, an example is 2. below.

1. "God in three persons, blessed Trinity"
"The doctrine of the Trinity says that there is one God who exists eternally as three distinct persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. ... Yet the New Testament also makes the distinction between the Father and the Son as two very different persons. In fact they tell us that they love one another, speak to each other, and seek to glorify each other (e.g., John 17: 1-26). ... Thus, the Holy Spirit is revealed by Christ [John 14-16] to be a third person distinct from the Father and distinct from the Son." CRI Perspective CP0704 - Hank Hanegraaff

"The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He is not some vague, ethereal shadow nor an impersonal force. He is equal in every way with the Father and with the Son. All divine attributes are ascribed to the Holy Spirit. He has infinite intellect (1 Cor. 2:11), will (1 Cor. 12:11), and emotion (Romans 15:30)." Bill Bright of Campus Crusade:

"God is one What and three Whos."

But modern Christian theologians say:
"Most recent attempts to express meaningfully the idea of three-in-oneness of God recognize that the traditional terminology is often misleading to modern man. This is particularly true of the translation of the Latin persona as "person". The Latin word did not mean what the English "person" means in common parlance. The latter would suggest three personal divine beings in God, hence tritheism. In contrast to this, the doctrine of the Trinity is intended to affirm, not deny, the oneness of God." (Claude Welch, art. Trinity in "A Handbook of Christian Theology", New York: Living Age Books, 1958.)

2. "The linear Trinity: Father, then Son, then Spirit."
The Trinity represents the revelatory action of God. God's self-revelation began with the Father, continued historically with the Son, but is now performed through the Spirit. Yet the Father remains senior to the Son and the Son to the Spirit. The "other comforter" of John 14:16 essentially replaces Christ in action. Irenaeus and the Cappadocian monks. Sabellius (3rd. Century) espoused a doctrine like this.

"Oneness", "Jesus Only" parallels "linear" Trinitarianism.
"This one true God has revealed Himself as Father in creation, through the Son in redemption, and as the Holy Ghost by emanation."
"This one True God manifested Himself in the Old Testament in divers ways, in the Son while He walked among men; as the Holy Ghost after the ascension."
Assemblies Of The Lord Jesus Christ: Articles of Faith

3. "The Trinity of the Cross: the Spirit holds the Father and Son together."
During the Crucifixion, Christ experienced the "loneliness of the sinner who has rejected God", but despite this, "the Spirit unites Father and Son while stretching their mutual love to the point of unbearability" (von Balthazar, 1961). Pannenberg.

4. "The relational Trinity"
"Richard of St. Victor argues that perfect love must occur in a relationship of perfect equality (requiring two persons) but also that such a relationship (if perfect) must necessarily be outgoing, overflowing to a least one other as a shared communitarian benefit (and so the 'third' is needed)" (Sarah Coakley, "Why Three", 1993, in S. Coakley & D. Pailin, "The Making and Remaking of Christian Doctrine", Oxford: Clarendon Press).

5. "The incorporating Trinity"
The Father is the originator. The Son is the transformer. The Spirit is the incorporator. "The 'Father' is both source and ultimate object of divine desire; the 'Spirit' is that (irreducibly distinct) enabler and incorporator of that desire in creation - that which makes the creation divine; the 'Son' is that divine and perfected creation." (Sarah Coakley). Origen. Cyril of Jerusalem. John of the Cross.

6. "The Trinity as metaphor for communication"
"The Holy Spirit is just the 'being of God' in the Church" (Schleiermacher). "The Spirit is 'God-in-God's-communication-to-the world'" (Geoffrey Lampe).

7. "The Trinity as divinization of male and female"
"In [Roman Catholic theologian Leonardo] Boff's theology Mary is part of the Trinity, but does not make it into a `Quaternity' because she is identical with the Holy Spirit. Jesus is the divinization of the male, Mary of the female. Mary's union with the divinity is of a hypostatic order." (Stephen Benko, "The Virgin Goddess", Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1993).

8. "The Trinity as modes of God's existence"
"They [the Cappadocians, etc.] developed a doctrine of God as Trinity, as one substance or ousia who existed as three hypostaseis, three distinct realities or entities (I refrain from using the misleading word `Person'), three ways of being or modes of existing as God." (Hanson, p. 244).
"There are three centers of activity within God. The Father creates. The Son obeys and proclaims. The Holy Spirit glorifies." (Cappadocians according to Wolfhart Pannenburg, 3-7-2001)
"The Godhead is 3 states of one thing, like water, ice and steam." (an emailed comment)

9. "The Trinity as attributes of God's existence"
"In the Father lies the transcendency of God; in the Son, his manifestation; in the Holy Spirit, his immanence - this is the meaning of the Holy Trinity." (Toyohiko Kagawa, 1935)

10. "The Processional and Return Models of the Trinity"
[Processional model:] "the Father's gift of the Holy Spirit to Jesus, appropriated by Jesus with increasing intensity up to the climactic point of his passion and death, perfectly manifests in time the Father's eternal gift of the Spirit to the Son, [Return model:] fully returned by the Son; this mutual gift of personal love is the very life of the triune God." (David Coffey, summarized by Bruce D. Marshall, 2000.)

"Today, there are no controversies between Christian confessions about the central content of faith concerning the doctrine of the Trinity. It is thus a part of the basic Christian consensus." p. 725 of the Handbook of Catholic Theology, Crossroad, New York, 1985.
This is either wishful thinking or because everyone is too confused to argue!

The Shema

How does the statement "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD:" (Deut. 6:4) relate to Christian theology?

As Paul says, "we see through a glass darkly!"
A useful analogy is to think of a distant star. When Jesus arrived on Earth, He brought a spiritual telescope with Him. When we look through the spiritual telescope we now see that what we thought was one star is a binary star.
The original intent of the Shema was something along the lines "We Jews only worship one God, while you heathen worship lots of gods (depending on the situation)."
Christians also worship one God. Everywhere in the Gospels, Jesus tells us to worship the Father. The Shema does not mean there are no other gods (as I've heard Jewish scholars admit).

In the ancient world there were basically two perspectives:
(a) God is an isolated all-powerful individual - the best modern equivalent is Allah
(b) The Gods are a bunch of arguing, powerful beings - like the Greek Gods on Mt. Olympus.
But modern theologians present a third viewpoint:
(c) God is a cooperating family, of which the Father is the undisputed head. It seems that this was the option that the very early Trinitarians (called Triadists) were trying to express, but they soon got tangled up in theological niceties and ended up with an isolated group of three, rather than a family relationship.

Question: Was the Word the Creator?
The KJV in John 1: "All things were made by him" is misleading. The Greeks says "All things were made by means of him". In other words, "God spoke" and His Word (which carried through on God's intention) was Jesus.

Question: When did Jesus become the "Son"?
References to the "Son" in the OT (e.g., in the Psalms) appear to be prophetic, rather than reporting the then current situation.
The statement "You are my Son, this day I have begotten you." has been assigned to various points of time, for instance, at the announcement to Mary.
Jesus was "declared to be God's Son by the resurrection from the dead." So it seems to be then that Jesus fully became the Father's eternal, spiritual Son.

Is God a "Community"?

There is a movement among modern theologians of many denominations away from the analogy of God as "Trinity" towards that of God as "Community". Here is their trajectory:

Randolph Crump Miller, Empirical Theology: a handbook. Birmingham, Alabama: Religious Education Press, 1992. p.287
"Christians still need to face the question of interpreting such ancient doctrines as the Trinity from an empirical base. Although many people now object to the patriarchal use of 'Father' and 'Son,' these models are part of the tradition and need reinterpretation. We may say that God as Father is the power who is the unchanging source of values; as Father, God is primordial and everlasting, the source of creativity, potentiality, and emerging novelty; it is God's aim to which we should attempt to align ourselves. God as Logos and Sophia is the Word and Wisdom, that mode through which God is revealed to us in experience. The human personality of Jesus was the point at which the Word and Wisdom became a unique ingredient in the world, so that we can say that Jesus' human aim and the aim of God came freely into union. God as Spirit (Ruach) is the indwelling of God as consequent in human nature, giving us both life and hope. This keeps the essential meaning of God as Trinity, for the three aspects of God should be considered as three 'faces' or 'modes' or 'masks.' This is to be understood as an analogy and a model and not as literal truth."

Ingolf U. Dalferth, "Chapter 7. The Eschatalogical Roots of the Doctrine of the Trinity" in "Trinitarian Theology Today", Christoph Schwöbel, Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1995, p. 167:
"... the trinitarian rule [is] that no general terms are to be used of Father, Son and Spirit. Not even 'person' (or an equivalent term) can be used of them in exactly the same way." [i.e., Father, Son and Holy Spirit are qualitatively different from each other].

"On Communitarian Divinity" by A.O. Ogbonnaya, New York: Paragon House (1994): "It is almost a truism to say that how one conceives and speaks of God affects the way one lives with other human beings" (p. ix). Ogbonnaya perceives three options: monotheism, polytheism and a community of Gods (p. xii). He sees Tertullian arguing for "God as community". "Tertullian never refers to the Trinity as a mystery. In his view, there is nothing mysterious about a god having a child or children" (p. xiii).

Ted Peters, Professor of Systematic Theology, Pacific Lutheran College, with admiring support from Professor Catherine Mowry LaCugna at Notre Dame, writes in "God as Trinity", Louisville Ky: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1993:
"There is no inherent reason for assuming that the three persons have to be identical or equal in nature. There is no reason to think that trinitarianism must constitute a civil rights movement for the Holy Spirit. The notion of one being in three persons is simply a conceptual device for trying to understand the drama of salvation that is taking place in Jesus Christ. It does not imply that each of three persons is the same in every way." (p. 70)

"The import of Augustine's point here is that the Holy Spirit is itself the relationship between the Father and the Son. The Spirit is not an additional entity that sponsors a relationship as if in itself it were independent of the relationship... Rather, as the communion of love itself, the Spirit - the giving and the binding power of reciprocity in relationship - is itself the presence of God." (p. 67)

"[Wolfhart] Pannenberg even goes to the extreme of describing the Spirit in terms of a dynamic force field within which the Father and Son become concrete expression of a previously unutterable communion of love." (p.70).

"I press this interpretation as a more adequate explication of the biblical symbols in light of trinitarian thought. The symbol of the Father communicates the sense of the beyond, the eternal and ineffable abyss. The symbol of the Son communicates a sense of the intimate, of Emmanuel, of God subjected to the vicissitudes of ordinary existence just as we are. The Holy Spirit as love binds the two, assuring that we are speaking here of one divine reality, not two. And in the process of binding Father and Son, the Spirit incorporates us. We are incorporated presently through faith. The promise in which we live and hope looks forward to the future, wherein the whole history of nature will be transformed and incorporated into the everlasting Father-Son unity of love." (p. 174).

Isn't that "Father-Son unity of love" what is meant by the symbol "family"?

"The Holy Spirit will make us one with Christ and, hence, one with God to live everlastingly in the kingdom of God. What is true about the Jesus of the past will become true for us in the future. By the power of the Holy Spirit, we will come to enjoy the relationship with the Father that Jesus enjoys. This is the eschatalogical promise..." (p. 25)

Doesn't this turn "Trinity" into "Community", and us into potential "gods"? "If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, ..." (John 10:35).

John D. Zizioulas, "Chapter 2. The Doctrine of the Holy Trinity: The Significance of the Cappadocian Contribution" in "Trinitarian Theology Today", Christoph Schwöbel, Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1995, p. 55:
"Man, for the [Church] Fathers, is the 'image of God'. ... Living, on the other hand, according to the image of God means living in the way God exists, i.e., as an image of God's personhood, and this would amount to [man] 'becoming God'."

Peters on using the concept of Trinity as a spur for Christian action:
"In sum, the biblical symbol of the kingdom of God is preferable to that of the Trinity when seeking to enlist religious fervor in behalf of social justice and equality. This is the case because the kingdom of God is a primary symbol in which communal justice already inheres. The Trinity, in contrast, is a second order symbol constructed for the purpose of clarifying the relation between three more basic symbols for God at work in salvation. The kingdom of God is a ready-made symbol for exerting social responsibility." (p.186)

So, the symbol of the Divine community is not "the Trinity", but the "Kingdom of God"!

John D. Zizioulas, "Chapter 2. The Doctrine of the Holy Trinity: The Significance of the Cappadocian Contribution" in "Trinitarian Theology Today", Christoph Schwöbel, Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1995, p. 60:
"The Trinity is revealed only in the church, i.e., the community through which we become sons of the Father of Jesus Christ. Outside this it remains a stumblingblock and a scandal."

Doesn't that remark remind you of The Emperor's New Clothes? Apparently, only those in the church can "see" the Trinity - so no one inside the church dare admit to blindness.

Theologians! Disown the Trinity! No longer "put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in your brother's way" (Rom. 14:13). It is Christ crucified who is the true stumblingblock and scandal (1 Cor. 1:23).

Here is an earlier assessment by John W. Graham (1920) The Faith of a Quaker. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 64-5.

This discussion has left outside the Doctrine of the Trinity in its complete theological form. It is better so. The doctrine of Nicaea may have been a useful thought-form for the time when it arose; it may have crystallized experience and speculation in the best shape then possible - but it is not a living part of contemporary thought; and I doubt the usefulness of the washed out or attenuated forms of the doctrine in which triple manifestations of some kind can be noted or discerned in God. These are really only more polite and less dangerous ways of denying the old conception. This reduced doctrine really darkens counsel, and is to most people unintelligible, though it is doubtless convenient to keep the traditional word, even if you alter its meaning. It has, of course, no more authority than a Roman Emperor [Constantine] and a Church Council [Nicea] under his presidency and control can give it. It was no part of the thought of Jesus nor of Paul.

ABCOG invites readers to react to the suggestion that the Doctrine of the Trinity is obsolete, using the comment form below.

The Holy Spirit and Personhood

After reading this, an inquirer asked:
1. Didn't Jesus refer to the Holy Spirit as "he," and "another Comforter"?
2. If the Holy Spirit is not a person, then how could he:
 i. speak to individuals (Acts 8:29;10:19-20;20:28;16:7,9)?
 ii. be lied to (Acts 5:3)?
 iii. or be grieved (Eph. 4:30)?
 iv. or be blashemed against? (Mark 3:29)

You are presenting a strong argument. Indeed, if that was all the Bible had to say, there would never have been any dispute. Here are some thoughts:

Your point 1: Didn't Jesus refer to the Holy Spirit as "he"?
Sorry, Jesus didn't! Jesus spoke Aramaic. In this language, the word "Spirit" is feminine, so Jesus, in conversation, called the Spirit "she"! The New Testament is written in Greek. In this language, the word "Spirit" is neuter, so Jesus in the written New Testament, calls the Spirit "it". Only in Latin is the word "Spirit" masculine, so in the Latin translation, the "Vulgate", Jesus is reported to call the Spirit "he". When translators write "he" for the Spirit in English, they are following the Latin, not the Aramaic which Jesus spoke, nor the Greek in which the NT is written. For examples of how the Spirit is called "she" by early Christians writing in Aramaic see odes.htm

Again your point 1: Jesus referred to the Holy Spirit as "he" and "another Comforter."
 John 14:16-18 "another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; ... I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you."
In John 14:16, the Greek word for "Comforter" (parakleetos = "Counsellor") is masculine, so the translators use the word "he" to refer to him/it. In v.18, Jesus says "I will come to you." These verses are ambiguous, so cannot be decisive. We must look elsewhere in the Bible. But here are some possibilities for these verses:
(i) The "Comforter" is a separate divine person, "the Spirit of Truth".
(ii) The "Comforter" is the gift of an increase in our own mental/spiritual faculties to provide the guidance that Jesus would do if he was physically present with us.
(iii) The "Comforter" is Jesus appearing to us in a different way. The Greek word for "another", heteros, can mean "another of two of the same kind", instead of the more familiar "another of a different kind." Jesus could be refering to another manifestation of Himself, interacting in a different way with the disciples. In I John 2:1, Jesus is called the "advocate" = parakleetos = "comforter".
(iv) The "Comforter" for each of us is another Spirit-filled Christian. There will always be Christians, filled with the spirit of Christ, able to comfort other Christians.

Your points 2: "be grieved" etc.
Here we come to "personification". We often personify non-people. For instance, "My conscience told me not to do this". "The Law says ...". "The Bible says ...". In the Book of Proverbs, "Wisdom" is repeatedly personified: "Wisdom cries out ...". Abel's blood also "cried out".

Here are some examples to match yours:
2.i. Can non-persons speak?
"But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven?" (Rom. 10:6)
"the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel." (Heb. 12:24)
2.ii. Can non-persons be lied to?
"your heart be not deceived" (Deut. 11:16, Job 31:9, isa. 44:20, Rom. 16:18, James 1:26) - deception is "believing a lie."
2.iii. Can non-persons be grieved?
"to grieve thine heart" (1 Sam. 2:33)
2.iv. Can non-persons be blasphemed against?
"I have heard all thy blasphemies which thou hast spoken against the mountains of Israel," (Ezek. 35:12)
"This man ceaseth not to speak blasphemous words against this holy place, and the law:" (Acts 6:13)
"..., that the name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed." (1 Tim. 6:1)
"And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven." (Rev. 13:6)

More important are the problems we get into when we think of the Holy Spirit as a person. That leads to many questions. How can we be "filled" with a person (Luke 1:15, 41, 67; Acts 2:4, 4:8, 31, 9:17, 13:9, 52)? How can a "person" flow through us like "rivers of living water" (John 7:38-9)?

What about the "spirit of this world" (1 Cor. 2:12), "spirit of jealousy" (Numbers 5:14), "spirit of burning" (Isa. 4:4) and the "spirit of error" (I John 4:6) - are they also persons?

It is considerations like this that have caused many theologians to have serious doubts about defining God as a Trinity.

An alert reader emailed:
In questioning the personality of the Holy Spirit you ask: How can we be "filled" with a person (Luke 1:15, 41, 67; Acts 2:4, 4:8, 31, 9:17, 13:9, 52)? Perhaps the same way we are filled with the "person" of Jesus through his body and blood? The Bible states Jesus lives in us. He is a person. So I presume we can be filled with the "person" of the Holy Spirit similarly. Your argument against the Holy Spirit goes against the personality of Jesus.

Excellent! ABCOG encourages thoughtful responses! Let's look at some verses:
Col.1:27 ... which is Christ in you, the hope of glory:
Here's what a pro-Trinitarian Commentary says (obviously not written by us!): "This should be Christ among you. Christ who by His Spirit reigns in the hearts of believers (Rom. 8:10, Eph. 3:17, Gal. 2:20, 2 Cor. 3:17, et al.) is present and active among them" (Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Handbook to the Epistle to the Colossians.)

Gal.2:20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me:
Another pro-Trinitarian source, "The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia" says: "The sanctified life is thus a life of personal fellowship lived out with the Father in the spirit of Christ in loving trust and obedient service. ... So completely is [Paul's] life filled by this fellowship that he can say, "It is no longer I that live, but Christ liveth in me."

So, in fact, it is not the "person" of Jesus but His spirit that lives in us. These verses are confirming, in different words, that the Spirit is the power and presence of God or Jesus, not a separate person!

Another alert reader emailed:
Romans 8:26 causes me to think that Holy Spirit may be third person in the Godhead:
Rom 8:26 Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.

"groanings which cannot be uttered" means "groanings which cannot be put into words."

This is a verse about communicating with Our Father in Heaven. In ancient times, they thought that the way a message could be passed along was by a living being, such as a human or a carrier-pigeon, though they occasionally used smoke signals and other devices. So this verse seemed to be strong evidence that the Holy Spirit is a living being. In modern times we no longer think this way. We all encounter many messages which "cannot be put into words". Here are some examples: the data stream by which this message reached you, the silent alarm at a Bank, the transponder in the tail of an airplane, the signal from a satellite to a GPS device.

So, in modern terms, Paul is saying that the Spirit acts as a corrective filter and amplifier for our prayers. This is rarely the role of a person in a modern communication system.

Athanasian Creed

Whoever wants to be saved should above all cling to the catholic [worldwide] faith. Whoever does not guard it whole and inviolable will doubtless perish eternally. Now this is the catholic faith:

We worship one God in trinity and the Trinity in unity, neither confusing the persons nor dividing the divine being. For the Father is one person, the Son is another, and the Spirit is still another. But the deity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is one, equal in glory, coeternal in majesty.

What the Father is, the Son is, and so is the Holy Spirit. Uncreated is the Father; uncreated is the Son; uncreated is the Spirit. The Father is infinite; the Son is infinite; the Holy Spirit is infinite. Eternal is the Father; eternal is the Son; eternal is the Spirit:

And yet there are not three eternal beings, but one who is eternal; as there are not three uncreated and unlimited beings, but one who is uncreated and unlimited. Almighty is the Father; almighty is the Son; almighty is the Spirit: And yet there are not three almighty beings, but one who is almighty. Thus the Father is God; the Son is God; the Holy Spirit is God: And yet there are not three gods, but one God. Thus the Father is Lord; the Son is Lord; the Holy Spirit is Lord: And yet there are not three lords, but one Lord.

As Christian truth compels us to acknowledge each distinct person as God and Lord, so catholic religion forbids us to say that there are three gods or lords.

The Father was neither made nor created nor begotten; the Son was neither made nor created, but was alone begotten of the Father; the Spirit was neither made nor created, but is proceeding from the Father and the Son. Thus there is one Father, not three fathers; one Son, not three sons; one Holy Spirit, not three spirits.

And in this Trinity, no one is before or after, greater or less than the other; but all three persons are in themselves, coeternal and coequal; and so we must worship the Trinity in unity and the one God in three persons. Whoever wants to be saved should think thus about the Trinity.

It is necessary for eternal salvation that one also faithfully believe that our Lord Jesus Christ became flesh. For this is the true faith that we believe and confess: That our Lord Jesus Christ, God's Son, is both God and man. He is God, begotten before all worlds from the being of the Father, and he is man, born in the world from the being of his mother -- existing fully as God, and fully as man with a rational soul and a human body; equal to the Father in divinity, subordinate to the Father in humanity. Although he is God and man, he is not divided, but is one Christ. He is united because God has taken humanity into himself; he does not transform deity into humanity. He is completely one in the unity of his person, without confusing his natures. For as the rational soul and body are one person, so the one Christ is God and man.

He suffered death for our salvation. He descended into hell and rose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again to judge the living and the dead.

At his coming all people shall rise bodily to give an account of their own deeds. Those who have done good will enter eternal life, those who have done evil will enter eternal fire.

This is the catholic faith. One cannot be saved without believing this firmly and faithfully.

Ecumenical Creeds Text prepared by the International Consultation on English Texts (ICET) and the English Language Liturgical Consultation (ELLC). Text arrangement and italics are ABCOG's.

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