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Thomas Jefferson and Others on the Trinity!

Thomas Jefferson and Others on the Trinity!

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Published by acts2and38
No historical fact is better established, than that the doctrine of one God, pure and uncompounded, was that of the early ages of Christianity . . . Nor was the unity of the Supreme Being ousted from the Christian creed by the force of reason, but by the sword of civil government, wielded at the will of the Athanasius. The hocus-pocus phantasm of a God like another Cerberus, with one body and three heads, had its birth and growth in the blood of thousands of martyrs . . . The Athanasian paradox that one is three, and three but one, is so incomprehensible to the human mind, that no candid man can say he has any idea of it, and how can he believe what presents no idea? He who thinks he does, only deceives himself. He proves, also, that man, once surrendering his reason, has no remaining guard against absurdities the most monstrous, and like a ship without rudder, is the sport of every wind. With such person, gullibility which they call faith, takes the helm from the hand of reason, and the mind becomes a wreck." -- Thomas Jefferson: Letter to James Smith, Dec. 8, 1822
No historical fact is better established, than that the doctrine of one God, pure and uncompounded, was that of the early ages of Christianity . . . Nor was the unity of the Supreme Being ousted from the Christian creed by the force of reason, but by the sword of civil government, wielded at the will of the Athanasius. The hocus-pocus phantasm of a God like another Cerberus, with one body and three heads, had its birth and growth in the blood of thousands of martyrs . . . The Athanasian paradox that one is three, and three but one, is so incomprehensible to the human mind, that no candid man can say he has any idea of it, and how can he believe what presents no idea? He who thinks he does, only deceives himself. He proves, also, that man, once surrendering his reason, has no remaining guard against absurdities the most monstrous, and like a ship without rudder, is the sport of every wind. With such person, gullibility which they call faith, takes the helm from the hand of reason, and the mind becomes a wreck." -- Thomas Jefferson: Letter to James Smith, Dec. 8, 1822

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Albrecht Ritschl (1822-89) saw the Trinity doctrine as flagrantly Hellenistic. Ithad corrupted the Christian message by introducing an alien "layer of metaphysicalconcepts, derived from the natural philosophy of the Greeks," and it had nothingto do with early Christianity."The Chalcedonian formula [the council's decision declaring Jesus both God andman] makes genuine humanity impossible. The councilor definition says that Jesusis true man. But if there are two natures in him, it is clear which will dominate.And Jesus becomes immediately very different from us. He is omniscient,omnipotent, omnipresent. He knows the past, present and future...He knows exactlywhat everyone is thinking and going to do. This is far from ordinary humanexperience. Jesus is tempted but cannot sin because he is God. What kind oftemptation is this? It has little in common with the kinds of struggles we arefamiliar with." To Know and Follow Jesus, Roman Catholic writer Thomas Hart(Paulist Press, 1984), 46.Historian Will Durant: "Christianity did not destroy paganism; it adopted it. . .. From Egypt came the ideas of a divine trinity." And in the book EgyptianReligion, Siegfried Morenz notes: "The trinity was a major preoccupation ofEgyptian theologians . . . Three gods are combined and treated as a single being,addressed in the singular. In this way the spiritual force of Egyptian religionshows a direct link with Christian theology.""The doctrine of the Trinity has in the West come into increasing question...therehas for long been a tendency to treat the doctrine as a problem rather than asencapsulating the heart of the Christian Gospel."The Promise of the Trinity, Gunton, p.31"Despite their orthodox confession of the Trinity, Christians are, in theirpractical life, almost mere monotheists. We must be willing to admit that, shouldthe doctrine of the Trinity have to be dropped as false, the major part ofreligious literature could well remain virtually unchanged." Karl Rahner, TheTrinity, J. Donceel, trans, p.10"But how can such weak creatures ever take in so strange, so difficult and soabstruse a doctrine as this [the Trinity], in the explication and defence whereofmultitudes of men, even men of learning and piety, have lost themselves ininfinite subtleties of dispute and endless mazes of darkness? And can this strangeand perplexing notion of three real persons going up to make one true God be sonecessary and important a part of that Christian doctrine, which, in the OldTestament and the New, is represented as soplain and so easy, even to the meanest understandings."William G. Eliot, Discourses on the Doctrines of Christianity (American UnitarianAssociation, Boston,1877), pp. 97, 100The Eastern Theologian John of Damascus (c. 675-749) once used a very curiousargument in favor of icons...John replied to the criticism are unscriptural byadmitting the fact, and adding that you will not find in scripture the Trinity, ofhomousian or the two natures of Christ either. But we know those doctrines aretrue. And so, having acknowledged that icons, the Trinity and the incarnation areinnovations, John goes on to urge his reader to hold fast to them as venerabletraditions delivered to us by the Fathers...He was not the only one to use thisargument: Theodore the Studite (759-826) adopted it too. It brings out an oddfeature to Christianity, its mutability and speed with which innovations come tobe vested with religious solemnity to such an extent that anyone who questionsthem find himself regarded as the dangerous innovator and heretic." The Christ of
 
Christendom by Don Cupitt, as used in The Myth of God Incarnate, p. 133"In brief, the ante-Nicene Fathers taught the real distinction and divinity of thethree persons . . . but in their attempts at a philosophical interpretation of theDogma, the ante-Nicene Fathers used certain expressions which would favorsudordinationism. In the late 17th century, the Socinians cited these expressionsthat the ante-Nicene tradition agreed rather with Arius than with Athanasius . . .Catholic theologians commonly defend the orthodoxy of these early Fathers, whileadmitting that certain of their expressions were inaccurate and eventuallydangerous." -- Colliers Encyclopedia"No historical fact is better established, than that the doctrine of one God, pureand uncompounded, was that of the early ages of Christianity . . . Nor was theunity of the Supreme Being ousted from the Christian creed by the force of reason,but by the sword of civil government, wielded at the will of the Athanasius. Thehocus-pocus phantasm of a God like another Cerberus, with one body and threeheads, had its birth and growth in the blood of thousands of martyrs . . . TheAthanasian paradox that one is three, and three but one, is so incomprehensible tothe human mind, that no candid man can say he has any idea of it, and how can hebelieve what presents no idea? He who thinks he does, only deceives himself. Heproves, also, that man, once surrendering his reason, has no remaining guardagainst absurdities the most monstrous, and like a ship without rudder, is thesport of every wind. With such person, gullibility which they call faith, takesthe helm from the hand of reason, and the mind becomes a wreck." -- ThomasJefferson: Letter to James Smith, Dec. 8, 1822"The doctrine is not taught explicitly in the New Testament, where the word Godalmost invariably refers to the Father" -- MS Encarta 99"The word itself does not occur in the Bible...The explicit formula was thusformulated in the post-biblical period, although the early stages of itsdevelopment can be seen in the NT. Attempts to trace the origin still earlier (tothe Old Testament literature) cannot be supported by historical-criticalscholarship, and these attempts must be understood as retrospectiveinterpretations of this earlier corpus of Scripture in the light of latertheological developments." The Harper Collins Study Bible Dictionary"We are judged to be heretics because we can no longer believe in essence, person,nature, incarnation, as they want us to believe. If these things are necessary forsalvation, it is certain that no poor peasant Christian be saved, because he couldnever understand them in all his life." -- Francis David (1510-79)Catholic theologian Hans Küng in Christianity and the World Religions, "Even well-informed Muslims simply cannot follow, as the Jews thus far have likewise failedto grasp, the idea of the Trinity . . . The distinctions made by the doctrine ofthe Trinity between one God and three hypostases do not satisfy Muslims, who areconfused, rather than enlightened, by theological terms derived from Syriac,Greek, and Latin. Muslims find it all a word game . . . Why should anyone want toadd anything to the notion of God's oneness and uniqueness that can only dilute ornullify that oneness and uniqueness?""The word Trinity is not found in the Bible . . . It did not find a place formallyin the theology of the church till the 4th century." -- The Illustrated BibleDictionaryThe Catholic Encyclopedia also says: "In Scripture there is as yet no single termby which the Three Divine Persons are denoted together. The word [tri'as] (ofwhich the Latin trinitas is a translation) is first found in Theophilus of Antioch
 
about A. D. 180 . . . Shortly afterwards it appears in its Latin form of trinitasin Tertullian." However, this is no proof in itself that Tertullian taught theTrinity. The Catholic work Trinitas - A Theological Encyclopedia of the HolyTrinity, for example, notes that some of Tertullian's words were later used byothers to describe the Trinity. But then it states: "But hasty conclusions cannotbe drawn from usage, for he does not apply the words to Trinitarian theology."The New Encyclopedia Britannica: "Neither the word Trinity nor the explicitdoctrine appears in the New Testament."Yale University Professor E. Washburn Hopkins: "To Jesus and Paul the doctrine ofthe trinity was apparently unknown; . . . they say nothing about it." -- Originand Evolution of Religion.Tom Harpur states, "As early as the 8th century, the Theologian St. John ofDamascus frankly admitted what every modern critical scholar of the NT nowrealizes: that neither the Doctrine of the Trinity nor that of the 2 natures ofJesus Christ is explicitly set out in scripture. In fact, if you take the recordas it is and avoid reading back into it the dogmatic definitions of a later age,you cannot find what is traditionally regarded as orthodox Christianity in theBible at all." --For Christ's Sake.Historian Arthur Weigall: "Jesus Christ never mentioned such a phenomenon, andnowhere in the New Testament does the word 'Trinity' appear. The idea was onlyadopted by the Church three hundred years after the death of our Lord." -- ThePaganism in Our ChristianityThe New Encyclopedia Britannica: "Neither the word Trinity, nor the explicitdoctrine as such, appears in the New Testament, nor did Jesus and his followersintend to contradict the Shema in the Old Testament: 'Hear, O Israel: The Lord ourGod is one Lord' -- Deut. 6:4. . . The doctrine developed gradually over several centuries and through manycontroversies . . . By the end of the 4th century . . . the doctrine of theTrinity took substantially the form it has maintained ever since." -- Micropædia,Vol. X, p. 126. (1976)The New Catholic Encyclopedia states: "The formulation 'one God in three Persons'was not solidly established, certainly not fully assimilated into Christian lifeand its profession of faith, prior to the end of the 4th century. But it isprecisely this formulation that has first claim to the title the Trinitariandogma. Among the Apostolic Fathers, there had been nothing even remotelyapproaching such a mentality or perspective." - (1967), Vol. XIV, p. 299.The Encyclopedia Americana: "Christianity derived from Judaism and Judaism wasstrictly Unitarian [believing that God is one person]. The road which led fromJerusalem to Nicaea was scarcely a straight one. Fourth century Trinitarianism didnot reflect accurately early Christian teaching regarding the nature of God; itwas, on the contrary, a deviation from this teaching." -- (1956), Vol. XXVII, p.294L.The Nouveau Dictionnaire Universel, "The Platonic trinity, itself merely arearrangement of older trinities dating back to earlier peoples, appears to be therational philosophic trinity of attributes that gave birth to the three hypostasesor divine persons taught by the Christian churches . . . This Greek philosopher's[Plato, fourth century B.C.E.] conception of the divine trinity . . . can be foundin all the ancient [pagan] religions." -- (Paris, 1865-1870), edited by M.Lachâtre, Vol. 2, p. 1467.

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