Must we believe in the Trinity to be Christians?

Questions about God, the Bible and the Christian culture

Question: (The full text of this question is located at the end of this article. It was too convoluted to post up front, but my restatement shows the question that I will answer. Generally speaking, it is a challenge to the doctrine of the Trinity based solely on John 1:1-3.) 

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.”
(John 1:1–3, ESV).

Answer: Let me restate your question as I understand it. Based solely on John 1:1-3, you have determined that, although Jesus was God, he was not “one with the Father” as that phrase is commonly understood. Orthodox Christianity understands that relationship to exist within the Trinity where the one essence of God is manifested in three persons: the Father, the Son (Jesus) and the Holy Spirit. But you are saying that God the Father and God Jesus were eternally coexistent as separate essences which both participated in the creation, and as such, no Trinity is apparent or necessary. But you further assert that the doctrine of the Trinity is the invention of humans rather than the revelation of God through the Scripture. I shall address these points.

You are correct in your assertion that the Trinity shows up more outside of Scripture than inside. Many statements of faith (including mine) do indeed include this doctrine, but the Bible implies it and does not state it plainly. In this, God lets us purposefully wiggle… so, yes… it is indeed a mystery — unless you are asserting that we, the finite, can fully know God, the infinite! But it is a mystery that we can explore logically.

God gave us enough biblical data to come to the trinitarian conclusion of his essence. However, he did this without leaving us direct proof texts or a comprehensive teaching on the subject. In spite of this, there are still good reasons to teach and believe in the Trinity. But you have set us up with sort of a unique problem. You postulate a relationship between God the Father and Jesus that has many of the same aspects as their relationship in the Trinity, the main difference being that you have more or less declared that the Trinity does not exist. Therefore, the verses we discuss will not likely prove nor disprove our position to your satisfaction, but let us examine them anyway.

“I and the Father are one.” (John 10:30, ESV)

In your opening arguments, you state that John 1:1-3 does not teach that Jesus and the Father are one — not in the way that we think of this phrase normally. (Your parsing is inventive, by the way.) But what of this direct statement in John chapter 10 (and from the lips of Jesus himself) that he and the Father are one. Unlike John 1:1-3, this verse is the conclusion of a well-developed thought about the relationship of Jesus to his Father, whereas John 1:1-3 is an introductory statement. Don’t get me wrong... it says some great things! But its essence is to convey us somewhere else. The result? You have chosen a non-conclusive passage, you have questionably parsed its verses and you have chosen an extremely narrow slice of Scripture to challenge a Bible full of doctrine. Let us look at another verse.

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” (Matthew 28:19, ESV)

Here Jesus shows us the exacting equality of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. When one performs an act in the name of somebody, this indicates aegis and honor. In other words, making disciples is Kingdom work, and such work is done under the protective beneficence of our king, Jesus — but note this well: one never mixes non-equals with a king. Why not? Such an action would insult the greater and exalt the lesser. Therefore, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are exactly equal in honor, glory, etc. These and similar equalities speak to the validity of trinitarian thought.

Imagine yourself as a New Testament believer who has always been under the conviction that God is monotheistic. But now you have seen Jesus’ miracles and are convinced that he too is God! Furthermore, the indwelling Holy Spirit makes it plain that he also is God! How do you make sense of all that without either ignoring God’s revealed persons or without becoming polytheistic? Christian philosopher William Lane Craig summarizes:

“…the New Testament church was sure that only one God existed. But they also believed that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, while personally distinct, all deserved to be called God. The challenge facing the post-apostolic church was how to make sense of these affirmations. How could the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit each be God without there being either three Gods or only one person?”1

People did not just invent the Trinity; the New Testament saints lived it, and therefore they wrote it. This is why Scripture reveals it… but without using the word! We should talk about that.

It is not logical to insist that if a word is not found in the Bible, then its underlying concept is also not found in the Bible. For instance, we have no problem seeing atheism in the Bible, but the word is not found there. This is true also of monotheism, but who would argue that the Bible does not teach there is only one God? Jesus came in the flesh, yet we do not find the word incarnation anywhere. And what are we discussing right now but the Bible… but the Bible does not contain the word Bible. The Trinity is like that. It is simply there; it is just not named as such. Let us look at another passage.

“And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” (Mark 2:5–7, ESV).

Not just anyone can forgive sins. Doing so is God the Father’s business. Why so? Sin offended God the Father’s holiness. Therefore it was his to forgive — and none other’s. For example, what good would it do for someone like me to forgive an assault on God’s holiness? None, since I was not the object of the offense. Only the offended can forgive. The above passage shows Jesus forgiving the offense made to his Father. They are exactly equal in essence.

The following passage is one of the countless scriptural triads where the author cannot help but include all three persons of the Trinity. This shows that trinitarian thinking is so embedded in the Scripture that it comes out through the cracks.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…In him [Jesus]we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses…In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,” (Ephesians 1:3–13, ESV, emphases mine).

We see another triad in the Lord's Prayer (Matthew 6:11-13). Jesus taught us that we receive provisions from the Father, forgiveness of sins through the Son and deliverance from temptations by the Holy Spirit. This is typical of trinitarian teaching. The elements are everywhere but rarely are they in-your-face.

Arguing for the Trinitarian point of view is a long process — longer than this venue will provide — and I’ll not likely convince you with my few words. But let me ask you this: do you believe that the aggregate of the great Christian thinkers of the last two millennia, instead of consulting Scripture prayerfully and with great care, injected a trinitarian prejudice into their results — especially when such a doctrine is anything but natural or easy to explain?

Or better yet, are you the one who will break through the centuries of “lies” and take down the Trinity? Are you that guy? Well, you might be… but before you proceed with your dissertation, do what I have done: flee all prejudice.

Since I believe that our ancient scholars were godly and honest, I imagined myself in their shoes — being among the first to expound on God’s special revelation. So, I made a pact with God; I would read his Scripture without prejudice. That is, I would put aside (as much as possible) everything that I have “learned” to see what God’s word really said… at least, more than what other people have said that it said — and it’s been a wonderful journey!

Don’t get me wrong. I fight against giants every day! But I have great clarity! So, try that. Read the Scripture prayerfully and without prejudice; then see where you wind up on this trinitarian issue. You might wind up in the same place! But it will be your place — and if you are truly saved, we can maintain a disagreement among brothers. As you can see, I am of the opinion that a person’s view of the Trinity is not a deal-breaker for salvation. But (and this is a huge but) one cannot be saved by a non-God Jesus, so tread carefully concerning the Trinity.

Although you have shown disdain for extra-biblical sources, I am going to include one in closing. The Athanasian Creed gives the most comprehensive statement concerning the Trinity that I’ve ever encountered, and I would be remiss not to include it. Perhaps it can clear up a few objections where I could not.

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The Athanasian Creed 

(Reader’s caution: The term “catholic” does not refer to the Roman Catholic Church. The word catholic merely means “universal” and represents the biblical Church, which is the Body of Christ worldwide, as opposed to a local church or to any organization, no matter how large.)         

1. Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic faith;

2. Which faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly.

3. And the catholic faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity;

4. Neither confounding the persons nor dividing the substance.

5. For there is one person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Spirit.

6. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit is all one, the glory equal, the majesty coeternal.

7. Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Spirit.

8. The Father uncreated, the Son uncreated, and the Holy Spirit uncreated.

9. The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible, and the Holy Spirit incomprehensible.

10. The Father eternal, the Son eternal, and the Holy Spirit eternal.

11. And yet they are not three eternals but one eternal.

12. As also there are not three uncreated nor three incomprehensible, but one uncreated and one incomprehensible.

13. So likewise the Father is almighty, the Son almighty, and the Holy Spirit almighty.

14. And yet they are not three almighties, but one almighty.

15. So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God;

16. And yet they are not three Gods, but one God.

17. So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son Lord, and the Holy Spirit Lord;

18. And yet they are not three Lords but one Lord.

19. For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity to acknowledge every Person by himself to be God and Lord;

20. So are we forbidden by the catholic religion to say; There are three Gods or three Lords.

21. The Father is made of none, neither created nor begotten.

22. The Son is of the Father alone; not made nor created, but begotten.

23. The Holy Spirit is of the Father and of the Son; neither made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding.

24. So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Spirit, not three Holy Spirits.

25. And in this Trinity none is afore or after another; none is greater or less than another.

26. But the whole three persons are coeternal, and coequal.

27. So that in all things, as aforesaid, the Unity in Trinity and the Trinity in Unity is to be worshipped.

28. He therefore that will be saved must thus think of the Trinity.

29. Furthermore it is necessary to everlasting salvation that he also believe rightly the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

30. For the right faith is that we believe and confess that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and man.

31. God of the substance of the Father, begotten before the worlds; and man of substance of His mother, born in the world.

32. Perfect God and perfect man, of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting.

33. Equal to the Father as touching His Godhead, and inferior to the Father as touching His manhood.

34. Who, although He is God and man, yet He is not two, but one Christ.

35. One, not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh, but by taking of that manhood into God.

36. One altogether, not by confusion of substance, but by unity of person.

37. For as the reasonable soul and flesh is one man, so God and man is one Christ;

38. Who suffered for our salvation, descended into hell, rose again the third day from the dead;

39. He ascended into heaven, He sits on the right hand of the Father, God, Almighty;

40. From thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

41. At whose coming all men shall rise again with their bodies;

42. and shall give account of their own works.

(End of creed)


1. For an extensive explanation of the Trinity, read William Lane Craig’s Defense of the Doctrine of the Trinity, at:

2. For overview information on the Trinity visit Got Questions Ministries at the following link:

(Note to reader: Following is the original text from a man in Asia. I cannot tell if the translating device made it so convoluted, but I restated the question at the beginning of this article as I understood it.)

"we cannot deny jesus' God being because of john's description " in the beginning (talking about our beginning not god) was the word (his talking about how are we created by god through words or shall i say through yeshua) and the word was with GOD (yeshua was with GOD in the creation) and the word was GOD (see the tense he used "was" past tense saying and showing the he was a god being before he became flesh), He was with God in the beginning (we cannot deny and twist this simple sentence stating that jesus was with his FAther during creation and this is not definitely not saying that jesus and the father are one). and the word became flesh (see the connection from was GOD to become a human flesh? yeshua was a god being humbling himself becoming flesh in accordance to his obedience to his FATHER GOD to purchase us from sin.) you see jesus always lift the glory to his father our GOD and his GOD as well. now look at the origin of the trinity your beleiving and be shock on who started it why it was started and how it was started it is being based completely on human philosophy and human beleif and human traditions. please do your research first do not buy comments saying that we would not understand it becaus it's god's mystery."