Actually that is a very good question.
The Athanasian Creed, formulated a few hundred years after the death of Jesus, defined the Trinity this way: “The Father is God: the Son is God: and the Holy Ghost is God. And yet they are not three Gods: but one God.”
THE Roman Catholic Church states: “The Trinity is the term employed to signify the central doctrine of the Christian religion . . . Thus, in the words of the Athanasian Creed: ‘the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God, and yet there are not three Gods but one God.’ In this Trinity . . . the Persons are co-eternal and co-equal: all alike are uncreated and omnipotent.”—The Catholic Encyclopedia.
The Encyclopedia Americana notes that the doctrine of the Trinity is considered to be “beyond the grasp of human reason.”
Many who accept the Trinity view it that same way. Monsignor Eugene Clark says: “God is one, and God is three. Since there is nothing like this in creation, we cannot understand it, but only accept it.” Cardinal John O’Connor states: “We know that it is a very profound mystery, which we don’t begin to understand.” And Pope John Paul II speaks of “the inscrutable mystery of God the Trinity.”
Trinity believers quote John 1:1 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (King James Version) The expression “the word was God” in the origional Greek does not have the definite article “the”. In the expression “The Word was with God” the word “God” does have the definite article.
Professor C. H. Dodd, director of the New English Bible project, comments on this approach: “A possible translation . . . would be, ‘The Word was a god’. As a word-for-word translation it cannot be faulted.”
The worship of pagan gods grouped in threes, or triads, was also common before Jesus was born. “From Egypt came the ideas of a divine trinity,” observed historian Will Durant. 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.”
The late Anglican bishop John Robinson gave a thought-provoking answer to this question in his best-selling book Honest to God. He wrote:
“In practice popular preaching and teaching presents a supranaturalistic view of Christ which cannot be substantiated from the New Testament. It says simply that Jesus was God, in such a way that the terms ‘Christ’ and ‘God’ are interchangeable. But nowhere in Biblical usage is this so. The New Testament says that Jesus was the Word of God, it says that God was in Christ, it says that Jesus is the Son of God; but it does not say that Jesus was God, simply like that.”
The New English Bible does not render the verse that way. Rather, John 1:1 in that version reads: “When all things began, the Word already was. The Word dwelt with God, and what God was, the Word was.” Why did the translation committee not choose the simpler rendering? Professor Dodd answers: “The reason why it is inacceptable is that it runs counter to the current of Johannine thought, and indeed of Christian thought as a whole.”—Technical Papers for the Bible Translator, Volume 28, January 1977.
Now lets look at some scriptures that refer to Jesus and God and see what some Bible commentators have to say.
John 1:30, “I and the Father are one.”
Novatian (c. 200-258 C.E.) commented: “Since He said ‘one’ thing, let the heretics understand that He did not say ‘one’ person. For one placed in the neuter, intimates the social concord, not the personal unity. . . . Moreover, that He says one, has reference to the agreement, and to the identity of judgment, and to the loving association itself, as reasonably the Father and Son are one in agreement, in love, and in affection.”—Treatise Concerning the Trinity, chapter 27.
“The Father is greater than I am.”—JOHN 14:28.
Irenaeus (c. 130-200 C.E.): “We may learn through Him [Christ] that the Father is above all things. For ‘the Father,’ says He, ‘is greater than I.’ The Father, therefore, has been declared by our Lord to excel with respect to knowledge.”—Against Heresies, Book II, chapter 28.8.
1 Cor. 11:3, RS: “I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a woman is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.” (Clearly, then, Christ is not God, and God is of superior rank to Christ. It should be noted that this was written about 55 C.E., some 22 years after Jesus returned to heaven. So the truth here stated applies to the relationship between God and Christ in heaven.)“One God and Father of all persons, who is over all and through all and in all.”—EPHESIANS 4:6.
1 Cor. 15:27, 28 RS: “‘God has put all things in subjection under his [Jesus’] feet.’ But when it says, ‘All things are put in subjection under him,’ it is plain that he is excepted who put all things under him. When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things under him, that God may be everything to every one.”
John 14:28 . . .YOU heard that I said to YOU, I am going away and I am coming [back] to YOU. If YOU loved me, YOU would rejoice that I am going my way to the Father, because the Father is greater than I am. . .
Irenaeus: “And thus one God the Father is declared, who is above all, and through all, and in all. The Father is indeed above all, and He is the Head of Christ.”—Against Heresies, Book V, chapter 18.2.
One Catholic Church teaching that had long been shrouded in controversy was the Trinity—the belief that God is made up of three persons. In fact, historian Earl Morse Wilbur explains that it “was the subject of much debate in the Middle Ages among Catholic theologians, including even Popes themselves.”
These early Christians understood the Father as being supreme, above everything and everyone including Christ. Their comments show no hint of a belief in a Trinity.
How did the Idea of the Trinity come about?
The Trinity doctrine began its slow development over a period of centuries. From as far back as Egyptian, Babylonian and Roman religions had their trinity of Gods in an effort to get new members from the Roman populace the churches began to incorporate the idea of a trinity which mast Romans already believed.
The Church of the First Three Centuries says: “We maintain that the doctrine of the Trinity was of gradual and comparatively late formation; that it had its origin in a source entirely foreign from that of the Jewish and Christian Scriptures; that it grew up, and was ingrafted on Christianity, through the hands of the Platonizing Fathers; that in the time of Justin, and long after, the distinct nature and inferiority of the Son were universally taught; and that only the first shadowy outline of the Trinity had then become visible.”16
In 325 C.E. (common era) the Council of Nicaea asserted that Christ was of the same substane as God. This laid the groundwork for the Trinity. However there was no mention of holy spirit as part of a triune Godhead.
Over time a great debate over the Godship of Jesus began. In order to end the debate which was tearing the church apart, Roman emperor Constantine summoned all bishops to Nicaea. About 300, a fraction of the total, actually attended. 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.”
After two months of furious religious debate, Constantine 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.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.”
It took centuries 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.”
Jesuit Joseph Bracken observes in his book What Are They Saying About the Trinity?: “Priests who with considerable effort learned . . . the Trinity during their seminary years naturally hesitated to present it to their people from the pulpit, even on Trinity Sunday. . . . Why should one bore people with something that in the end they wouldn’t properly understand anyway?” He also says: “The Trinity is a matter of formal belief, but it has little or no [effect] in day-to-day Christian life and worship.”
We must ask ourselves, if this teaching is “the central doctrine” of the churches, why can we not understand it?!
Does it make sense that a teaching that is so fundamental to the Christian belief would not be clearly laid out and explained in Gods word? Instead We are told that “The mystery of the Trinity is unknowable”
After all is said done and with all the facts in hand it is up to the individual to decide if the Trinity is a teaching from God or a teaching from men.
Date of comment: Sun, Feb 12th 2012