Not that my testimony proves anything, but I share it here to dispel the idea that seems to be common among Unitarians, that Trinitarians are just slaves to tradition, that if you just show the truth to all these uninformed Trinitarians, they will see the light and change. There are plenty of us who were raised to reject the Trinity who converted due to a study of the Scriptures.
So, I’d like to explain just how it is that a Unitarian comes to believe in the Trinity. This is a personal story of the Scriptures that revealed to me that I was wrong to reject the Trinity as unbiblical. Nothing short of a biblical case would have convinced me.
It’s hard to say exactly when things started to change, but I know it was sometime in the year after I graduated high school. The internet was a fairly new thing, only a few years old, and I had spent the previous year researching all I could about various religions. I had been raised in the Way International, but my parents had left the group when I was younger, like many others. But also like many others, my family and I had held onto the theology of the group we left behind and gathered with others in the same situation in homes and kept things going. In high school, I became very interested in arguing with my Trinitarian friends and with people online in chat rooms and on message boards, challenging their “traditions” of holding to the Trinity because of creeds and the influence of pagans. I went for hours at times with my peers, and most were not able to mount any kind of strong defense. Not that I convinced anyone that I’m aware of, but both sides remained steadfast in their previous convictions.
I knew all the prooftexts: the Father is “the only true God”, Jesus said the Father is “greater than I”, and it was just obvious to me that if there is just one difference between things, those things cannot be one thing. Jesus was tempted, God cannot be tempted. Jesus didn’t know the day or hour of His return, God knows everything. And of course it just seemed obvious to me that someone’s son cannot be himself, so there’s no way Jesus could be called the Son of God and be God at the same time. It all was so preposterous, I thought it impossible that any Trinitarian who actually looked at the Scriptures carefully could possibly still believe that Jesus is God or that there is this whole thing called the Trinity.
My last year of high school, I branched out and studied other faiths in order to engage them with the truth, looking into Mormonism, Islam, Hinduism, Roman Catholicism, etc. When I came across the Jehovah’s Witnesses, though, I ran into something unexpected. The primary area of disagreement with them from Protestant Christianity was on the doctrine of the Trinity and the Deity of Christ. Now, my own theology from the Way didn’t look much like the Jehovah’s Witnesses, but the line of argumentation taken by Christians was aimed directly at proving that Jesus is God.
This didn’t bother me at first, of course, since I had been inoculated well against most of the standard prooftexts leaned on by Trinitarians, and found those arguments unconvincing. But it became a little uncomfortable reading people I had come to trust were committed to basing their beliefs on the Bible going straight to the Bible with passion to defend the Trinity. That discomfort led me away from studying Jehovah’s Witnesses for a while. It was just a little too uncomfortable.
After some time, though, I felt a sense of moral unease. I knew that I was avoiding uncomfortable arguments, and I knew this couldn’t be okay. If what I believed was true, it should be able to stand up to scrutiny. Surely, if Jesus were not God, no amount of sophisticated argument would make it so. And, I had to admit, if somehow I was wrong, I would want to know it. I was still thoroughly convinced against the Trinity, but I knew that I am only human and could be wrong. I set out to learn, trusting God to lead me to the truth. And so I began to study in earnest.
At first, it was not difficult to find answers that were satisfactory against the arguments being made for the Trinity. There are some standard texts that Trinitarians go to first, and I knew ways to reinterpret them to avoid the Trinitarian conclusion. After a while, though, the sheer weight of texts, including many that I had no consistent answers for, began to shift my perspective.
I remember three questions, related to the Scriptures, that opened the door to my conversion. First, I was unclear as to whether I was supposed to worship Jesus. I saw that He was worshiped repeatedly in Matthew, but then He made clear, also in Matthew, that we are not to worship anyone but God (Matt. 4:10). So if Jesus isn’t God, are we supposed to worship Him? I didn’t have a good answer to this question.
Second, I saw that the Old Testament doesn’t just teach that Yahweh is the only God, but also that He is the only Savior (Isa. 43:11, 45:21). If we take Jesus to be the Savior of the world, the only way that works is if He is and has always been Yahweh.
Third, I could not explain away all of the very clear references to Jesus as Creator. It’s not just one or two places. Jesus is creator in so many texts, but the first one that I couldn’t find a way around was Colossians 1:16. I tried to get around John 1 by saying that the Word is just the expressed plan of God and that certain parts of the prologue, which are undeniably about a person, were about the Father, but I couldn’t do that in Colossians and remain consistent in the text. It was because of this text and others like it that I spent a little of my time while transitioning from Unitarianism to Trinitarianism as someone who basically believed in Arianism. I thought maybe Jesus was creator but still separate and inferior to God. Eventually, though, I couldn’t deny that everything pointed to full deity for the Son. The Scriptures simply lacked a category for a lesser being as Creator.
In concert with the Scriptures I was seeing, I also, for the first time, began to understand just what the Trinity actually was, according to Trinitarians who knew. I had spent a lot of time talking about how the Trinity clearly denies all the texts that say there is only one God, or how Jesus had human limitations, so obviously isn’t God. What I began to do was actually listen to Trinitarian apologists who engage arguments like mine. I let them define their own theology, and I found that virtually all of my favorite arguments were based on misrepresentations of the Trinity. When I allowed that, in its most basic form, the Trinity is actually not just a single doctrine, but a collection of simpler teachings that, when all affirmed, just are the Trinity, I found I had little reason anymore to deny it.
The doctrines I am speaking of are
1. There is only one God.
2. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are distinct Persons.
3. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are each affirmed to be God.
Later, I would tackle the two natures of Christ. I understood at this point that the Trinity doctrine was composed of parts. This was huge, because, by this time, I had seen how the parts of the Trinity were found in Scripture. Sure, I disagreed with Trinitarians on their interpretation of those passages, but I at least understood where they were coming from. They were saying that all the parts of the Trinity are there in plain text and that they don’t need more than that. Combine that with a few explanations to how God can be three in one sense while being one in another sense, and that Jesus has two natures, God and man, and this is why He can have attributes of both God and man, and you have a self-consistent, and, on its face, biblical theology.
At this point, I knew that the only way to prove my Unitarianism was right and the Trinity wrong was to show that it explicitly contradicted the Scriptures, but the more I studied, the less confident I became that the Trinity was unbiblical. Every passage I appealed to was shown to already have been considered and incorporated into the Trinity. While I could interpret passages in non-Trinitarian ways, I could find no Scripture that must be interpreted as denying the Trinity.
My last line of defense was the historical argument. I was still pretty well convinced that the Trinity, and specifically the deity of Christ, was invented centuries after Christ. How I was able to hold in my head both that the Trinity was biblical, yet untrue because it came later than the Bible, I don’t know. It wasn’t long that I held this view though. A few months at most. All it took was looking into what was written by the earliest Christians that we have and I knew I had been misled to think they didn’t believe Jesus is God. They most certainly did. Views may have differed somewhat, but Jesus’ deity was there from as far back as we can go.
From that point on, I’ve been a Trinitarian. Time and study have refined my views, but only strengthened my belief that God did indeed reveal Himself to be a Trinity and that the basic truths that make up the doctrine have always been believed in the church.
One of the first things that changed was that I had the very strong desire to go to church and spend time with Christians. This was a curious desire because I had always thought of this issue as one that should not divide Christians. I thought a person who believed in Jesus, whether they believed He is God or not, was saved either way. This was not based on Scripture or reason, only what I’d been told.
Logically, I think that there is no way that people on both sides of that issue can be saved. If the Unitarian is right, then the Trinitarian is worshiping Jesus as God, when He isn’t. That is idolatry, and persisting in it is unbelief. If the Trinitarian is right, then anyone who refuses to bow the knee to Jesus and worship Him as such is basically telling God, “You’re not God.” I don’t think a person needs to understand everything about the Trinity to be saved, but I don’t see how someone can get wrong who Jesus is at this point and still be in possession of the faith.
I pray this has been helpful to you, and that the Spirit would use it to guide you into the truth.