Tonight, I don’t plan to critique Mormon theology so much as I plan to emphasize true Christian theology. This comes after being in an online discussion with a Mormon who is making fundamental mistakes in understanding the Trinity. I’ve had the missionaries over at our apartment discussing the Trinity and I find it amazing the mistakes that are made.
I’m not asking everyone to immediately convert to Trinitarianism if they’re a Mormon. Naturally, I’d have no complaints if you did. That is my ultimate goal. However, I realize the Trinity is a complex subject. My first goal then is not to have you accept orthodox Trinitarianism but to at least help bring some understanding to what is really meant when Christians use the word “Trinity.”
The first mistake often made in the understanding of the Trinity is what I call the assumption of unipersonalism. Truthfully, this came from a friend a long time ago and I have stuck with it so kudos to him. This is the mistaken assumption that whenever one sees the mention of God in text, they will automatically assume God must be one person.
Thus, whenever they see God communicating with Jesus then it’s time to jump up and down. “See? There you have it!” Um. No. It’s in fact what we would expect in the Trinity. I have no problem with Jesus referring to his Father as God. Why would I? Does Jesus deny the deity of the Father? Was Jesus secretly an atheist as he lived on Earth?
If we see a passage like John 20:17, it does not affect us. It is what we expect to happen instead. The problem is so many Arians will come to us and think that we are crippled. No. Your straw man version of the Trinity is crippled. Fortunately, it’s not the Trinity I hold to. When you’re ready to approach the Trinity I believe in, come back and we’ll talk.
The second major problem is in saying separate and distinct. You can say separate if you want. I would prefer distinct instead. Separate implies physicality. (For Mormons out there, remember that we do not believe that God is physical in his essence including the Father. While the Son dwells in a body today, it is an aspect of his humanity and not his deity and is not essential to his deity.)
To say both is simply redundant and does imply physicality. Note that we insist that they are distinct persons. There are some Mormons, like the one I’m in a debate with right now, that think that as soon as they show the Father and the Son are not the same person, that they have refuted Trinitarianism. In fact, they have helped establish it. (Meanwhile, check Mosiah 15 in the BOM and see how the heading says Christ is both the Father and the Son.)
The final mistake I wish to address is the idea that the persons of the Trinity are individuals. There is a fine distinction here in that an individual would mean one that exists independently of the others. That is not the case in Trinitarianism. The Son is eternally begotten from the Father and being a good Protestant, I see the Holy Spirit as proceeding from them both.
The way we arrive at Trinitarianism is simple also. We look at the whole of Scripture and notice it teaches a number of things.
There is one God.
The Father is God, The Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God.
The Father is not the Son or the Spirit, the Son is not the Father or Spirit, and the Spirit is not the Father or Son.
Please note also what is going on when we say “X is God.” We do not mean, for instance, that Jesus is the Trinity. We simply mean that Jesus fully partakes of the divine essence. It is simply theological shorthand to say “Jesus is God.” This also gets into Greg Stafford’s argument against the Trinity. Stafford is the author of such works as “Jehovah’s Witnesses Defended.” He has a syllogism as follows:
God is a Trinity.
Jesus is God.
Jesus is a Trinity.
It’s a fallacy of equivocation on God. In the first premise, God refers to a being. In the second, God refers to a nature. In a valid syllogism, all the words must maintain the same meaning. Granted, refuting that argument does not prove Trinitarianism true. In fact, it’s not my goal here to prove that it is. It’s simply my goal to state what it teaches.
The Trinity is also what sets Christianity apart from every other system. You won’t find anything else like it anywhere else. If there is no Trinity, there is no Christianity. For this writer, the Trinity is not only a strong reason for believing in Christianity, but the concept itself is one of the strongest reasons for believing in the existence of God himself, but that is another post.
Again, I have not sought to prove Trinitarianism to be true. There are a number of Scriptures I could go to to argue for it and that is another blog. I have not sought to prove the Mormon conception false. That has been done in other blogs and could be done again. I have simply wanted to clear the air so that all may know what is really at stake and what is really being taught. If you wish to argue against a view, do try to understand it first after all.