Varieties of Trinitarian and Non-trinitarian Beliefs
Jerry Bergman, Ph. D.
(Investigator 89, 2003
different beliefs exist even about the basic Christian doctrines. For
example, the doctrine of the trinity now exists in a number of
varieties most of which have been popular in certain circles at one
time or another throughout history. Some of the major historical views
are briefly outlined below. Other variations, aside from the
classifications listed here, exist, and only the more important
positions are given here.
only the Father is God and the Son and the Holy Spirit are angels who,
because of their good work, have been promoted to a higher position
among angels but are still identical in substance to other angels.
party that opposed not only the Homoiousian but also Heterousian and
Homoian descriptions of the relation of the Son to the Father (see
below). This school of thought held that the Son was not only of
different essence and substance from the Father, but also was in other
ways unlike him in such areas as personality, purpose, etc.
expounded by Apollinaris of Laodicea which taught that Christ had both
a human body and a human soul, but not a human mind or spirit. For
Christ, the divine logos replaced the "human rational soul" as the
source of His self-consciousness.
the name Arius)
movement, led by
Eusebius of Nicomedia, that taught Christ was in some ways less or
lower than the Father and he did not exist from forever in the past.
The main divisions of Arianism, are the Anomonians, the semi-Arians or
the Momoiousian party, and the Homoians. Arius famous saying is
that there was a time when the Son was not, since the Father who begets
must have existed before the Son, who was begotten. Therefore, he
concluded, the Son could not be eternal with the Father.
Jesus and God are co-equal and both Jesus and God are equally the
Supreme God. This is a very common belief today. The Holy Spirit is
often not included as part of the Godhead.
the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are only different names for the same
person, much as most people in Western society have a first, a middle,
and a last name. God likewise has a first name (Jesus), a middle
name (Holy Spirit), and a last name (God). According to this
belief neither three persons nor three of anything except names exist.
opposed to using the term Homousioua (meaning of the same substance) to
describe the relationship between the Father and Son. They affirm that
the Son is like the Father, but not identical. Furthermore, they
do not specify the exact metaphysical relationship, only that Father
and Son are similar.
meaning like or similar referring to the belief that the Son is like
but not of the exact same essence as the Father.
consubstantial or of the same essence or substance. This refers to the
belief that the Father and the Son are of the same substance,
numerically identical, and indivisible, in contrast to the belief that
they are of a different substance.
the members or persons of the trinity are not three distinct
personalities, but simply different manifestations and/or different
names or titles for one and the same divine being. Thus, a distinction
of persons in the trinity would exist only when the Creator or another
specific role is being performed. God is Jesus in some situations, but
He would be the Father when performing another task. The first
well-known advocate of Modalism was Sebellius, a Presbyter of Ptolemias
who lived in the middle of the third century. This view is
similar to monarchianism as first taught during the time of Origin.
in the second and third century church, stressing the unity (monarchia)
of the divine nature as opposed to the tendency to affirm personality
differences within the trinity. Two basic types of Monarchianism
include a Dynamistic form, or the teaching that Christ was a mere man
who was adopted by God, and thereby became a son of God, and Modalism,
which taught that the three persons of the trinity were but modes or
different manifestations of the one God. McClintock's and Strong's
Cyclopedia (pp. 448, Vol. 6) claims that Monarchianism can be
traced to the very earliest times of Christianity.
teaches that Christ was both totally divine and human, and that both
natures were fused during His physical life on Earth. The doctrine
arose in objection to the two-nature doctrine of Christ's nature, and
stresses that Christ does not have a human and a divine nature, but
possessed only one nature during his physical life. Also, Christ’s
earthly body, being the body of God, was not the same as a human body.
The two natures were so united that, in essence, they became one.
humans can never fully understand such concepts as God or the trinity;
furthermore it is impious to assume that one can, and thus it is wrong
to even try. These areas will remain everlasting mysteries and we
should not attempt to dissect them. We should rather, accept the
fact that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one God. It is
appropriate to discuss this issue to realize that to understand their
nature and relationship is fruitless.
teaches since Christ and the Father are the same person, both the
redemptive suffering, and all suffering of Christ was also the
suffering of God the Father. This doctrine flourished during the second
and third centuries, C.E.
system was first expounded by Charles Taze Russell, and is believed by
scores of different religious groups today including the Jehovah’s
Witnesses. Essentially it teaches that the Father is the Supreme God,
Christ is a lesser God, a mighty God not the almighty God the Father
(thus this view is polytheistic) and the Holy Spirit is God's active
force. It is believed that Christ preexisted his earthy existence but
was God's first creation, thus is a god and will always exist as
such. Christ and God are not equal in substance, but united in
purpose they are both perfect God just is, but Christ earned and
merited the role and glory that he now possesses.
A set of
that took the name of one of its most influential thinkers Faustus
Socinus. Socinianism is the belief that Jesus was in many ways a
typical man, but yet was also a unique man, displaying in an
unprecedented manner the higher characteristics of human nature that,
in essence, made him a shadow of the divine nature. He was thus
properly called the Son of God. His full commission was given during
one or more extensive personal interviews with God, such as during the
forty days in the wilderness. He was then anointed to the
position Son of God, and later raised from the dead by God and
delegated to a supreme authority over men and angels. He is a created
being and worship should be rendered to him only as a representative of
God, not from his own right. Although he is a very exalted saint and
moral teacher, he is still a man, and nothing more.
Theodtus who lived during the last part of the 2nd century, this
position teaches that Jesus was born fully a man and remained such
until his baptism when the higher Christ descended upon Him. He then
became God, the Supreme God, who is separate from Christ, the Creator
of the world. Some theodtians also taught that God the Father was
superior to the God of the Jews, i.e., Jehovah was a weaker God than
the Supreme God or the Father.
only one nature exists in both Christ and God; thus when Christ was
crucified, God was also crucified, but yet they are different beings.
(Athanasian Creed formulation)
God eternally exists in three separate persons, the father, Son, and
Holy Spirit. The three persons, according to the Athananasian Creed,
are three persons in actions but not in body. The persons are
eternally co-existent, omnipotent, and omnipresent.