You don’t have a single verse that explicitly says that God exists in the Nicene definition of one essence and 3 persons, or “one What, three Whos”. How can you say the Trinitarian conception of God is true without such a verse?
Ah, this is one of my favorite Unitarian objections, because the inconsistency of argumentation is quickly demonstrated and refuted in 4 simple steps.
It must be pointed out that, though it is true that the Trinitarian cannot produce a text which states the nature of God in these words: “God is three Divine persons in one Being” (notice we are not saying “3 persons in 1 person” or “3 beings in 1 being” – such would be contradictory), neither can the Unitarian point to a text which states the nature of God in these words: “God is one person in one Being” or the equivalent. Therefore in the above argument the Unitarian is using a standard of proof which his own position cannot meet.
As wiser men than I have said, “Inconsistency is the sign of a failed argument.”
The above statement betrays a lack of understanding as to how serious and reasonable inquiry into the nature of things is done. One cannot impose one’s own arbitrary standards of proof onto a matter and decide that unless those arbitrary standards are fulfilled the thing is thereby disproven. What do I mean?
For one, I ask you to remember what was discussed at length in AU2, that absence of evidence for the positive does not constitute proof of the negative. This does not mean that I can simply speculate, “I believe we all actually live in the imagination of an 86 year old narcoleptic polar bear” and say, “absence of evidence for my theory does not constitute proof that I’m wrong, therefore I must be right.” Absence of evidence for the positive does not constitute proof of the positive any more than it constitutes proof of the negative, after all (which is why arguing from silence is just never a good position to find yourself in). What it does mean, however, is that the Unitarian has not disproven the Trinity by pointing out the fact that the Nicene creed is not found in the Biblical cannon. They have simply pointed out that one line of evidence is missing, but that’s a far cry from providing counter-evidence.
For two, consider the person who says to you, “Look, I won’t believe in gravity unless you bring it to me in a box.” What would you say to them? Obviously, gravity will never be proven to such a person because they have arbitrarily selected a standard of proof that is guaranteed never to be met. You can do this with all kinds of things: “I won’t believe in the human soul unless you bottle it for me”; “I won’t believe in porcupines unless I give birth to one”; “I won’t believe in Abraham Lincoln unless you introduce me to him in person”; “I won’t believe in fire unless I can eat it”… so on and so forth. That’s essentially what the person who says “I won’t believe in the Trinity until you give me a Biblical text that says ‘God is 3 Whos and 1 What’” is doing.
The point is that selecting an arbitrary standard of evidence and then making the statement that you have to have that standard met in order for something to be true is as bogus as it gets.
So then how should we pursue such knowledge? It’s very simple, and we’ll again use the example of gravity for continuity. Because of what we’ve observed, we postulate the existence of gravity as a force which draws objects with mass towards one another, most often proportionally to the mass in question.
Now, to validate our hypothesis, we do not then say, “Okay, bring it to me in a box.” No, instead we determine what kinds of things we would expect to see if indeed gravity exists. This might include: apples falling from trees, basketball players coming back down to earth again after a jump-shot, rocks thrown straight in the air spontaneously reversing direction and coming back our way instead of continuing their upward trajectory indefinitely, etc. If we wanted to really get crazy we might start looking at the orbits of planets or the curvature of light as it passes by the sun. We look around and sure enough we see these things; we also see the absence of counter-evidence that would prove that gravity is not real (such as floating dogs and cats), and therefore we reasonably conclude that gravity is in fact true. Now, doesn’t that seem fair?
We do the same thing with the Trinity. Instead of saying, “You must bring me a Bible text which gives the Trinity in a mathematical formula” we say, “If the Trinity were true, what kinds of things might we expect to see?” Then we look for these things, also keeping an eye out for things we would expect to see if the Trinity were not true (counter-evidence), and come to some sort of conclusion.
So what kinds of things would we expect to see if the Trinity is true? Let’s take the 3 foundational things we would have to see for us to assert that the Doctrine of the Trinity is correct and compare them with Scripture.
3 Foundations of the Trinity – 3 things that must be in place for the Doctrine of the Trinity to be proven
“You are my witnesses,” declares the LORD,
“and my servant whom I have chosen,
that you may know and believe me
and understand that I am he.
Before me no god was formed,
nor shall there be any after me.” – Isaiah 43:10
One God only – all agreed? Then let’s move on.
The Father is God: John 17:3, 20:17
The Son is God: John 1:1, 18; 20:28; Romans 9:5; Titus 2:13
The Holy Spirit is God: Acts 5:3-4; II Corinthians 3:17-18
*There are many, many more verses that could be given. Since my goal is to make these answers as bite-sized as possible I will not be doing an in-depth study of the Godhood of each person at this point in time. There are many resources on this you can consult, and in future posts we will explore each in greater detail. This is just an overview.
In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” – Mark 1:9-11
At Jesus’ baptism we see each person distinct from the other – not 1 Divine Person putting on different masks, but 3 Persons with distinct roles and a relationship to one another.
“I and the Father are One.” – John 10:30
This is a favorite verse of Oneness Pentecostals who seek to argue that there is only 1 Divine Person who merely assumes different roles at different times. However, this verse in the Greek makes it clear that Jesus and the Father are separate persons. Translated literally, the verse says, “I and the Father, WE are One.” This as opposed to “I am the Father, I am One.” Therefore the Father and the Son are distinct persons, as is also the Holy Spirit a person distinct from the Father and the Son (John 14:16-17; 16:13-14).
Now we see that the three foundations of the Trinity that must be present to assert the truth of the doctrine are in fact found in scripture. This by itself is enough to show the Trinity to be the Biblical revelation of the nature of God without “gravity in a box”. In light of this, it would appear that the Doctrine of the Trinity can be reasonably established from the Scriptures themselves without a prooftext of arbitrary Unitarian choosing.
Oh yeah, by the way…
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” – Matthew 28:18-20