Thursday, July 7, 2011

Objections Against the Doctrine of the Trinity

Having asserted the importance of the doctrine of the Trinity in our previous post, we would now like to dispatch with the objections heretical sects seek to use against the doctrine. We should perhaps pause here and give the simplest explanation of the Trinity. The commonest way the Church has explained the Trinity is to affirm that God is one in essence, i.e., God is one divine Essence; yet this One divine Essence subsists in Three Persons.

Having put that definition is place we are now prepared to look at the objections frequently made against our doctrine.

1. How can one essence be three persons? One being three is a contradiction, isn’t it? If God is one essence, He can’t be three persons.
Reply: This objection hold true for created, and therefore finite, essences which cannot be one and the same in three persons. However this does not hold true with God who is infinite. God’s essence is not divided among the Persons of the Trinity. Hence the simplicity (meaning that it is not a composition of many different elements) of God’s essence is not impaired by the number and distinction of the Persons. That may sound like an overly intellectual, obtuse answer, but we are not dealing with a pulp fiction deity. This is the infinite, ineffible, inscrutable God if the Bible.

2. Three and one make four distinct things. If, in God there are three persons and one essence, there are then four things in God, which is absurd.
Reply: Where there are three and one really distinct, - yes there are four things. But in God, the Persons are not distinct from the Essence, for the three Persons of the Godhead are one divine Essence. They differ only in the mode of subsisting.

3. Giving three names to one substance is Sabellianism. The doctrine of the Trinity ascribes three name to one substance. Isn’t it therefore the heresy of Sabellius?
Reply:  This syllogism switches the meanings of its terms. If substance means “person” then the objection vanishes. It only holds if by substance one means essence. The former is the orthodox Christian doctrine; the latter is Sabellianism

4. He who is the whole Deity, beside him there is no person, in whom the whole Deity is, in a like manner. If the Father is the whole Deity, then the whole Deity is not in another person.
Reply: We deny the major premise of this objection. The same Deity whichis entire in the Father, is also entire in the Son and Holy Spirit. There is neither more or less of the divine essence in one person than in two or three Persons.

5. Persons to whom distinct operations are ascribed must have different essences. There are affirmed different internal operations in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Therefore their essences are distinct.
Reply: The main gist of this objection holds against finite essences, but it is false when understod of the infinite divine Essence.

6. The divine essence is incarnate. The three persons are the divine essence. But it is absurd to say that the three persons are incarnate.
Reply: The basic premise of this objection has no bearing at all on the divine nature, because the divine Essence is incarnate in the Person of the Son alone.

7. Jehovah, or the true God, is the Trinity. The Father is Jehovah, therefore, He is the Trinity.
Reply: Again we have a premise without any bearing on the divine nature at all. It is not accurate to say that whatever is Jehovah is the Trinity.

8. No abstract term signifies substance. “Trinity” is just such an abstract term. Therefore it signifies no substance.
Reply: The premise of the objection is false. Deity and humanity are abstract terms which most definitely signify substances.

It may be noted that all of the objections made against the Trinity are objections which intend to produce a contradiction. We have not here even considered the various arguments defending the Godhead of the Son and the Spirit; we have simply looked at the objections against the doctrine of the Trinity in general. These are the kind of arguments advanced by modalists like T.D. Jakes, the so-called “Oneness” Pentecostals, and the Jehovah’s Witnesses.


  1. Awesome. Have you read Dr. White's The Forgotten Trinity? Excellent treatment of the doctrine. So important to lay out the heresies and explain why they are each wrong. Thanks for posting this!

  2. PaulandJen, Thanks for your kind comments. I have not read the book yet. Most of my reading on the Trinity has been in the writings of the Church Fathers because Patristics is my field. I have, of course, read what writers like Calvin, Owen, Witsius,Smeaton, etc. have written on the subject. The Church seems to suffer from occasional amnesia and has to be reminded from time to time what heresies are and why they are heresies.


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