A Brief Survey of Anti-Trinitarian Religions
Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.
Though man by nature knows that there is a God (from the existence of the world and the testimony of his conscience), yet he does not know who the true God is. And even though certain things about God can be learned from His creation (such as His power and wisdom) as well as from man’s conscience (that He will judge and punish evil-doers), yet none of these things would lead a person to conclude that God is the Holy Trinity—three distinct persons (Father, Son, and Holy Ghost) in one divine being. On the contrary, when guided by their own sin-corrupted imaginations, humans have invented many different kinds of gods (and demi-gods) that are no where close to being even approximations of the one true God. Some have even imagined that God is of the same basic form and substance as His creatures, and have thus “changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things” (Romans 1:23). The only people who know and believe in the Holy Trinity are those who have received instruction about who God really is from the Bible.
But how do we Christians know that our God is the only true one and that every non-Christian religion is wrong in its teachings about who God is? The adherents of the various world religions may all appear to be equally zealous (even willing to die for their beliefs); and they may all be able to point to a great deal of humanitarian works performed in the name of their gods. Anti-trinitarians may cite examples from history (or from their own personal experience) that they believe give evidence that their gods are true. Furthermore, if the Bible’s description of our Triune God were placed side by side with descriptions of the various false gods of the other religions in the world, a person with no religious training would not necessarily conclude that the Trinity is the most “reasonable” presentation of who the true God is. In fact, because the Bible’s description of the Trinity surpasses human understanding and logic, it might be dismissed as the most “unreasonable” choice. Though, of course, it could also be counter-argued that it is most reasonable to assume that the essence of God would far transcend human reason (as the doctrine of the Trinity certainly does).
The reason why we Christians believe in the Triune God is not because the rules of logic or the preponderance of empirical evidence lead us to that belief, but because the doctrine of the Trinity is clearly taught in Scripture, and belief in the Holy Trinity is inextricably connected with the Christian faith in which the Lord our God has graciously established us. When we were made Christians by the grace and power of the Holy Ghost (I Corinthians 12:3), we were moved to trust in the Gospel of salvation (Ephesians 1:12–13) and were brought to a saving knowledge of and communion with the Triune God (John 17:3; Matthew 28:19). As a fruit of our Christian faith, we respect God’s Word and conform our thinking to what it teaches (John 8:31, 47; II Corinthians 10:5). Consequently, we know that there is only one God (Deuteronomy 6:4; I Corinthians 8:4); and we also know that there are three divine persons in the Godhead —the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost (Matthew 28:19; II Corinthians 13:14; I John 5:7). We know and accept these things to be true because this is what the Scriptures clearly teach.
Because the Bible is the sole source and norm of Christian doctrine and is the foundation upon which the Christian faith is built (Ephesians 2:19–20), and because the true God revealed in the Bible is the Holy Trinity, every anti-trinitarian religion is also anti-Christian. Strangely, however, certain anti-trinitarian religions are sometimes incorrectly regarded either as being denominations within the pale of Christianity, or as following in a different way the very same God that the Christians follow, or as being at least compatible with the Christian faith. Contributing to the confusion is the fact that some anti-trinitarian groups use the name “Christ” or “Christian” in their official names, such as “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints” and “Christian Science.” (The designation “Christian Science” is especially misleading, because it is a religion that is patently neither Christian nor scientific in its teachings.)
The anti-trinitarian religions that are most commonly misidentified as being “Christian” denominations are so-called Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Mormons. Both of those groups claim to respect what the Bible teaches; but the religious books they write, publish and recommend show that they do not actually hold to what God teaches in the Scriptures. In the case of Jehovah’s Witnesses, they only regard their own version of the Bible to be correct. It bears the title, “New World Translation;” but it is not even a real translation as much as it is a biased rewrite of the Scriptures containing wording specifically chosen to express their own anti-Scriptural beliefs (especially their teaching that Jesus Christ is not true God). In the case of the Mormons, they do use an excellent English translation of the Bible (the King James Version); but they also add an entirely new book written by Joseph Smith, namely, “The Book of Mormon,” which they say is just as much God’s Word as the Bible itself. They actually give the Book of Mormon greater authority than the Bible, because in all places where those two books conflict (concerning who the true God is, how sinners are saved, etc.), The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints aligns itself with the Book of Mormon rather than Holy Scripture. Thus they bring upon themselves God’s curse, as St. Paul writes to the Galatians: “Though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed” (1:8–9).
While not claiming to be Christians, the Muslims and the Jews do claim to worship the God of the Old Testament (the God of Abraham); thus it is sometimes erroneously asserted that Christians, Jews, and Muslims really all worship the same God. Of course, since the Holy Trinity is the only true God as revealed in both the Old and New Testaments (Genesis 1:2, 26; Psalm 45:6–7; 110:1; Isaiah 9:6; 48:16–17; 63:9–10; Micah 5:2; John 8:56–58; I Corinthians 10:1–9; etc.), and since the followers of Islam and Judaism clearly deny the Trinity, it is certainly not accurate to say that they worship the same God as the Christians. Nor would it be accurate to say that they worship the first person of the Trinity (God the Father) while denying the second (God the Son) and the third (God the Holy Ghost). “Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father” (I John 2:23). Neither Islam nor Judaism deny that Jesus existed as a man; but they do deny that He is God. Consequently, those religions deny who the true God really is.
Now it could be said that some anti-trinitarian groups give a certain measure of “honor” to the Lord Jesus. Muslims honor Jesus as one of the prophets of their god (Allah), though they do not even consider Him to be the greatest prophet. That distinction they give to Muhammad. Jehovah’s Witnesses honor Him more highly than the Muslims do, saying that Jesus is the greatest human being ever to live. However, they adamantly refuse to honor Him as God, though they do refer to Him as “a god” (in a figurative sense), the first and most excellent of God’s creatures, through whom everything else was created. However, by withholding from God the Son the exact same honor as they ascribe to God the Father, they actually dishonor both. “All men should honor the Son, even as they honor the Father. He that honoreth not the Son honoreth not the Father which hath sent Him” (John 5:23).
While they do not at all represent themselves as “churches” or even “religions,” the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts do push a religious/spiritual experience upon their members; and their religion is an anti-trinitarian one. Consider the following quotation taken from a document published by the World Organization of the Scout Movement in 1992:
Under the title “Duty to God,” the first of the above-mentioned principles of the Scout Movement is defined as “adherence to spiritual principles, loyalty to the religion that expresses them and acceptance of the duties resulting therefrom.” It should be noted that, by contrast to the title, the body of the text does not use the word “God,” in order to make it clear that the clause also covers religions which are non-monotheistic, such as Hinduism, or those which do not recognize a personal God, such as Buddhism. (Fundamental Principles—The Basic Ideas Underlying the Scout Movement, copied from http://scoutdocs.ca/Documents/Fundamental_Principles.php.)
Christian parents should understand the danger of letting their children fall under the influence of religious and spiritual guides that teach a moral equality between the one true God and all the false gods in the religions of the world, saying that a scout’s “duty to God” can be faithfully carried out by those who do not even believe in the Triune God.
The same kind of generic theistic belief system is also found in the Masonic Lodge (and similar lodge organizations). Freemasonry calls its deity the “Great Architect of the Universe,” and stays intentionally vague enough that basically all religious groups (Christians, Muslims, Jews, Mormons, etc.) can say that their gods are referenced by it. Masons are encouraged to believe that the very same god is worshiped by Christians, Muslims, Jews, and all other religious groups. Freemasonry emphasizes the importance and authority of a “Volume of Sacred Law,” which is the Bible for those who identify themselves as Christians, the Quran for Muslims, the Tripitaka for Buddhists, the Rigveda for Hindus, and so on. Thus all world religions are placed on the same level, and all their different opinions about who God is are given equal credibility.
Such a belief is quite similar to what is taught in “Baha’i Faith,” which may be a religion that is not yet commonly recognized by name, but which is rapidly growing in popularity throughout the world. Here are a couple quotations taken from their official U. S. website (www.bahai.us): “Although God may be called by different names in different languages —be it Yaweh, Allah, Brahma, or God— in actuality, these names all refer to the same singular force and being.” “God, the Creator, has intervened and will continue to intervene in human history by means of chosen Messengers. These Messengers…are principally the Founders of the major revealed religions, such as Abraham, Moses, Buddha, Zoroaster, Jesus, Muhammad, and so forth.” Those tenets of Baha’i Faith contradict what the Bible teaches about Jesus being the only way of salvation (John 14:6; Acts 4:12) and that the Scriptures alone (not including the writings of non-Christian religions) are the only source and norm of true religious teachings (II Timothy 3:15–17; Galatians 1:8; Isaiah 8:20).
Now the Scouts, Lodges, and Baha’i Faith would object to being classified as “anti-trinitarian” (since they present themselves as being very welcoming to all faiths). They would prefer to be called “non-trinitarian” (since they do not limit their conception of God to the Trinity). But because they do not teach that the Triune God is the only true God (as the Bible does), they are setting themselves against the Scriptures and against the Lord God. To His disciples whom He sent to preach His Word, Jesus said: “He that heareth you heareth Me; and he that despiseth you despiseth Me; and he that despiseth Me despiseth Him that sent Me” (Luke 10:16). And speaking to those who did despise Him and His Word, Jesus declared: “He that is not with Me is against Me; and he that gathereth not with Me scattereth abroad” (Matthew 12:30). Accordingly, the term “anti-trinitarian” is completely appropriate for all those who do not teach that the only true God is the Holy Trinity.
Since the Triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Ghost—is the only living God, any religion that denies the Trinity is necessarily a false religion that advances a belief in a fictitious, non-existent god (I Corinthians 8:4; Galatians 4:8). All anti-trinitarian groups share the same basic teaching of work-righteousness (the opinio legis), which can never save, but only leads to damnation (Galatians 3:10; 5:4). Only the Christian religion teaches that sinful men are saved through the gracious working of the Holy Trinity without any merit or worthiness of their own. In the Gospel we learn that the first person of the Trinity (God the Father) sent the second person of the Trinity (God the Son) to save us (I John 4:9), that through the miraculous working of the third person of the Trinity (God the Holy Ghost), the second person of the Trinity received a true human nature in the womb of the virgin Mary (Luke 1:35) in order to be our Savior and Substitute under God’s Law (Galatians 4:4–6). The salvation secured for us by our Triune God is the only salvation available for sinful mankind. “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). If not for the enlightenment worked by the Holy Ghost through the Scriptures, we would also be ignorant of the true God and of the Gospel of salvation—“without Christ…having no hope, and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12). But, thankfully, in order to save us from the wages and slavery of sin, “God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (II Corinthians 4:6)!
— P. E. B.
“These Three Are One”
“There are three that bear record in heaven:
the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost;
and these three are One.”
—I John 5:7