The United Pentecostal Church International produces a tract called 60 Questions on the Godhead with Bible Answers in which it seeks to debunk the doctrine of the Trinity and defend the Oneness position of Modalism. I’m going to take the next week and a half to post and respond to all of their questions as well as the answers that they have provided. Expect 5 questions per post.
*Note that their questions are immediately followed by their answers. My answers will appear afterwards in red lettering.
1. Is the word trinity in the Bible? No.
This is absolutely true, the word ‘Trinity’ is not in the Bible—in the same respect that a plethora of other words we use to describe Biblical doctrines are not in the Bible (e.g. monotheism, incarnation, millennium, etc.). To quote F.F. Bruce, “Let us not be misled by the foolish argument that because the term ‘Trinity’ does not occur in scriptures, the doctrine of the Trinity is therefore unscriptural.”
2. Does the Bible say that there are three persons in the Godhead? No.
This question is ambiguous. Do they mean does the Bible explicitly use the phrase, ‘there are three persons in the Godhead’ or are they asking if such a concept can be found in Scripture? In response to the former question, of course not—this phrase occurs no more in the Scriptures than does a statement from Jesus saying, ‘I am God almighty, maker of heaven and earth.’ But if they are asking if the Bible teaches the doctrine that within the one being of God there exists three eternally distinct Persons, then yes! The Bible does say such a thing! The doctrine of the Trinity is derived logically from observing no less than three self-evident truths of scripture:
1. Monotheism: There is only one eternal and immutable God that actually exists.
2. There are three distinct Persons all shown to be eternal, namely the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
3. Each of the three Persons is identified as God (i.e. Deity).
The Hebrew Scriptures plainly declare that ‘Yahweh is God; there is no other besides him’ (Deut. 4:35). Israel’s declaration of faith the Shema says, ‘Hear O Israel, Yahweh our God, Yahweh alone’ (Deut. 6:4) in order to assert that Yahweh alone is the God of Israel and subsequently the rest of the universe. The book of Isaiah is replete with such comments as ‘I am the first and I am the last, beside me there is no God… Is there a God beside me? Yea, no Rock, I know not any’ (Is. 44:6-8 ) and ‘I am Yahweh there is no other; besides me there is no God…I am Yahweh, there is no other’ (Is. 45:5-6).
Father: In a prayer for help Isaiah speaks on behalf of Israel saying, ‘…Yahweh our father, our redeemer, from everlasting is thy name’ (Is. 63:16). Likewise the psalmist speaks of God saying, ‘from everlasting to everlasting, you are God’ (Ps. 90:2). From this we conclude that the Father is indeed eternal.
Son: Likewise the Son has been with the Father from all eternity as is seen from John 1:1; 17:5. John 1:1 tells us that ‘in the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.’ The verb was (Gk. ēn) is the third person imperfect of the verb to be (Gk. eimi). The imperfect tense denotes continuous action in the past so no matter how far back our minds can conceive, the Word existed before that. But its use in all three clauses tells us three different things about the Word: (1) The Word pre-existed the beginning; (2) The Word was always with God (the Father); (3) The Word was always as to his essential nature God. John 17:5 again utilizes the imperfect tense when Jesus says, ‘Father glorify me alongside yourself with the glory that I possessed (Gk. hē eichon) with you before the world existed. The imperfect tense of I possessed (Gk. hē eichon) shows us that Jesus has always possessed this glory alongside the Father.
Holy Spirit: Hebrews 9:14 clearly calls the Holy Spirit the Eternal Spirit (Gk. pneumatos aiōniou), but this can further be substantiated in that the Holy Spirit was present in the beginning (Gen. 1:2). For the Spirit to be present in the beginning he must have existed prior to the beginning.
Each of the three persons is called God and performs the actions of God in Scripture, but this is not a point of disagreement as the Oneness Pentecostal acknowledges that all three are God, they simply believe these three persons to be manifestations of one person.
3. Does the Bible speak of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost? Yes.
Obviously—and it speaks of them in terms of eternally distinct persons as indicated in the answer to question #2.
4. Do these titles as used in Matthew 28:19 mean that there are three separate and distinct persons in the Godhead? No, they refer to three offices, roles, or relationship to humanity.
The unorthodox language of ‘separate’ must first be discounted. We certainly do not believe that any separation exists within God—we do however recognize the distinction in persons which Matthew 28:19 clearly shows in its use of the definite article the (Gk. tou) before listing each person as well as the use of the conjunction and (Gk. kai) which connects all three. The claim that these are merely offices, roles, or relationships to humanity is unfounded. Fatherhood and Sonship are personal relationships. These relationships do not exist apart from persons. We have already established the eternal relationship between the Father and Son above in the answer to question #2. Likewise, the Son and the Holy Spirit’s pre-existence negate the claim that these are mere titles used in reference to their relationship to humanity. God enjoyed perfect fellowship within himself before the creation of all things.
5. Does the Bible use the word three in reference to God? Only one verse in the entire Bible does so-I John 5:7. It speaks of the Father, the Word (instead of Son), and the Holy Ghost, and it concludes by saying, “These three are one.”
The Bible doesn’t need to use the word three in reference to God for it to teach the doctrine of the Trinity. This argument is akin to question #1 in regards to the word Trinity being found in Scripture. We don’t need the word three to count three divine persons. The answer provided for question #2 nullifies this argument.