By Robert F. Beaudine
Most of the great thinkers of the past agreed on two aspects of truth: Truth was difficult to ascertain and rarely dwelt in the crowds. Humorist Josh Billings observed that as scarce as truth is, the supply always exceeds the demand.
There are different paths to truth, through logic, through the senses, and through the soul. This last path, mentioned as “the key to knowledge” in Luke’s gospel, builds upon the rock of revelation with its cornerstone truth that Jesus is the Messiah. Once these revelatory truths have been established, it is easier to discern the truths in the other branches of knowledge, namely the arts and sciences, philosophy, and history.
The search for truth is never easy because throughout history many truths have been lost.
Before the invention of the Gutenberg printing press, books had to be regularly hand copied to survive the ravages of time. Many disappeared from the human record through neglect. Even books mentioned in the Bible have been lost, including the Books of Jasher, Jehu, Gad the Seer, Nathan the Prophet, the Prophecy of Ahijah, and the Visions of Iddo the Seer, to name a few.
Throughout history, the truth has also been distorted or robbed of its validity. Many times propaganda was the culprit. Today, because of the psychological discoveries in mass-persuasion, propaganda is epidemic and embraced without critical judgment.
Propaganda is always masked as truth. It is more effective when the populace has little historical understanding, because history puts our world in its proper perspective. Without historical awareness, the populace can be misled down false paths and pursue trivialities instead of truth.
In today’s complex world, the second most important branch of knowledge behind theology is world history. History not only broadens awareness, it also broadens the range of human possibilities as it expands exponentially the number of potential role models. It is vital to develop a valid world view. History reveals the hand of God and how He interacts with humanity. It shows the relentless attacks of our eternal adversary and how quickly truth is lost or distorted. It is both fascinating and essential to begin understanding the world. History opens up a panoramic view of the never ending battle between good and evil, of the many triumphs, but also – and more importantly – the many deceptions and wrong turns humanity has taken throughout the years.
Unfortunately, history is often revised to serve the interests of the State. Even in the absence of state propaganda, almost every aspect of history is in dispute with sometimes four or five differing accounts. To ascertain the truth, it is necessary to cultivate the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Otherwise, errors will arise which will mire any world view in a flawed foundation.
The study of world history is essential to understand the modern world, because everything existing today developed in the past. To better understand any tradition or institution, it is necessary to first study its creation and then trace its historical development to determine how and when the fundamentals were changed. This is critical because traditions and institutions rarely remain constant.
The creation of the Apostolic Church is unique and ushered in a new era in world history. This unworldly institution was not created by humanity, but by our Lord Jesus. Tracing its historical development can be unsettling, especially after the Council of Nicaea of 325 AD, because its subsequent history reveals a worldly preoccupation, which at times was ruthless and morally reprehensible.
It is tragic this history is a stumbling block that dissuades many intelligent seekers of truth from a conversion to Christianity. They’ve read the scholars who mock our “simple superstition.” These scholars claim this institution proclaimed love but practiced something different. They recount the Inquisitions, the wholesale massacres of Albigensians, Anabaptists, and Huguenots, all sanctioned by the Church. They mention the unparalleled torture of thousands of innocent women and children forced to admit to witchcraft to end their sufferings, and then condemned to die. They recall the scheming of the Dominicans and Jesuits, and the hypocrisy of the Crusades. They scoff at an institution that once claimed divine revelation proved the earth was the center of the universe, disease was caused by demons, the stars were hung at night by the Almighty, et cetera.
And when the scientists proved the Church was wrong, the Church silenced many by strapping them to a stake and setting them ablaze. To thwart the advance of science, the Church condemned the study of Nature and claimed those who studied the works of God were in league with Satan. By this decree the Church stagnated knowledge and long delayed the modern era.
Many Christians cringe with fear whenever this history is mentioned, but surprisingly it does not arouse their curiosity. They seem unconcerned about the ramifications, because this prompts a natural question: What else is the Church wrong about?
This article will examine one wrong turn in the distant past, an epochal turning point in the history of the Church, called the Council of Nicaea, which sanctioned a technical term considered today an unquestioned theological truth. The term is Greek, “homoousios,” which can be rendered “of the substance of the Father,” or interpreted as “consubstantial” or “one in essence.” This one word changed the original Apostolic conception and established the untruth called “the trinity,” which has no precedence in the Bible.
The Heresy of Arius
In the early 4th Century AD, a popular Libyan preacher named Arius was confronted by confusion about the metaphysical relationship between Jesus and His Heavenly Father. Arguments arose over passages in John’s gospel, primarily where our Lord said, “I and my Father are one.”
The contention was caused by the ambiguity of language and the problems inherent in translation. As the early ante-Nicene Church Fathers stated, the original Greek text used the neuter form of “one.” Hence, there is only one explanation. “One” refers to a oneness in divine harmony, a unity of will and purpose. If the oneness was a consubstantial unity of person, the masculine form would have been used. This linguistic argument alone destroys the concept of a trinity. But there is much more evidence.
A century before Arius entered the stage, another Libyan theologian named Sabellius preached a new doctrine. He claimed that John’s words meant that Jesus and God the Father were literally the same being. He invented a word to express this one being, “son-father.” This fabrication flourished not only in Libya, but also in 3rd Century Rome where he later resided and taught.
At that time, the Roman bishopric had become a political office filled by unscrupulous men who spoke Latin, rather than the Greek or Aramaic of their predecessors. The first Latin-speaking bishop of Rome was Victor from 189-199 AD, and all his successors followed suit. To their discredit, Sabellianism was embraced by Victor’s successors and soon thrived in Rome.
A century later, Arius was outraged that some bishops in Libya no longer preached the Son of God. Jesus was said to be the same as God the Father, so these bishops preached God only. When Arius proclaimed the established Apostolic doctrine, he created a rift in the eastern Church.
Arius taught that before the eons of time, the unbegotten God the Father had created His Son, Jesus, who was His first begotten or first creation. Arius said in this way Jesus is subordinate to His Father, as a creature is subordinate to its creator, as a son is subordinate to a father. Jesus is literally the Son of God.
Contrary to most histories of religion, Arius never contested the divinity of our Lord. A son would share the divine attributes of His divine Father. Arius claimed Jesus is a perfect creation, which also implies divinity.
Arius’ doctrine offended Bishop Alexander of Alexandria who called a council of bishops from Egypt and Libya. There, he commanded Arius to renounce his views. When Arius refused, the bishop excommunicated him. Because Arius had a lot of support among the Eastern bishops, the contention escalated.
Roughly forty years earlier, the emperor Diocletian had divided the Roman Empire in two regions, East and West. Constantine had risen through the ranks and became the sole emperor of the West in 312 AD, not long after his stunning victory at Milvian Bridge. In 324 AD, upon his defeat of the Eastern emperor, Licinius, Constantine consolidated the empire. As he surveyed his newly acquired Eastern half, he was enraged by the religious dissension.
In 325 AD, Emperor Constantine called together a general Church Council to settle this dispute as well as some minor disagreements. This betrayed a lack of courage on the part of the bishops because only the bishops had the power to call together Church Councils.
Constantine felt entitled. Before his decisive battle at Milvian Bridge, he had a dream where he was commanded to paint the sign of Christ on the shields of his soldiers. His subsequent victory sanctioned him as the protector of the Christian faith. From then on, Constantine portrayed himself as the first Christian emperor. Yet, he refused to be baptized until he was on his deathbed. Both claims – the dream and his conversion – are more likely fabrications, as Constantine was a master of propaganda, in the Roman tradition.
Christians reveal their faith through their example. Historian Jacob Burckhardt called Constantine a “murderous egoist,” who murdered his son, Crispus, his wife, Fausta, his nephew and a number of friends, not to mention his enemies. By most accounts, Constantine had an irrational temper and an overwhelming ego. Burckhardt wrote, “In a genius driven without surcease by ambition and lust for power there can be no question of Christianity … such a man is essentially unreligious.”
Even in death, Constantine attempted to preserve the memory of his glory. He built the Church of the Holy Apostles, a shrine and mausoleum with twelve empty sarcophagi for each Apostle. Standing in its midst would be the adorned sarcophagus of Constantine, the hero and center piece of the Christian faith.
Most secular historians claim Constantine was motivated politically to embrace Christianity. At the time, Christians comprised the largest religious sect in the empire, about 20% of his subjects. There was an additional benefit: The Christians had a ready-made hierarchical government that could be exploited if the bishops were weak enough and the emperor strong enough, a condition confirmed when the bishops submitted to a Church Council organized by an emperor.
Originally this first ecumenical or churchwide council had been slated for Ancyra. Historian Timothy Barnes speculated that Constantine changed the setting to divert attention from his execution of the previous Eastern Emperor, Licinius, who posed a threat as long as he lived. Licinius was imprisoned and later strangled in Thessalonica shortly before this council met. Publicly, Constantine promised clemency. With an oath he promised his sister – who was married to Licinius – that he would spare his life. Privately, Constantine was shrewder, and obviously disdained the protection of our Lord. So, he showed up at Nicaea with fresh blood on his hands.
For several months, Constantine and the church leaders met in the main audience hall of the imperial palace in Nicaea. There were approximately three hundred bishops, almost exclusively from the Eastern Empire, but there were also two delegates from Rome. Although the historical records are mysteriously missing, it is likely that Constantine not only attended but also participated in these meetings. Some scholars claim Constantine presided. Others speculate that his court theologian, Hosius Bishop of Corduba presided. The truth doesn’t matter, because Constantine was without question the dominating presence.
This illustrates an historical anomaly. Considering the importance and length of time of this historical event, it is surprising that the proceedings are shrouded in mystery. No recorded minutes have survived. We’re not sure how many bishops attended, who presided, or how the meetings were conducted. We do know that petitions were burned and other documents were ceremoniously ripped apart. It’s as if Constantine covered up the truth.
The surviving documents were preserved in a few histories: a letter issued from the Council, the approved Creed, and its twenty canons. We also have the biased eye-witnessed accounts of Athanasius – the deacon of Bishop Alexander – and Eusebius of Caesarea. Then we have three 5th Century histories, that may or may not be true, based on these sources, the oral traditions, and perhaps a few written records that are now lost.
From these sources, it is certain that the anti-Arian faction was led by Hosius and Bishop Alexander. According to historian Timothy Barnes, these two agreed up front that “homoousios” must be sanctioned and Arius banished.
Eusibius of Nicomedia represented the Arian position. As he read his formula of faith, he was shouted down by the anti-Arians. His speech was snatched and ripped apart.
When Eusebius of Caesarea suggested a traditional baptismal creed for approval, it was dismissed as too vague. Eventually, “homoousios” was proposed. Eusebius later wrote that Constantine suggested the term. Historian AHM Jones claimed it was probably done at the bidding of Hosius.
When seventeen bishops refused to sign the new creed, Constantine threatened to banish any bishop who didn’t sign it. To the discredit of the Church, all but two bishops submitted, both from Libya, who were then stripped of their bishoprics and exiled. Arius didn’t attend, but was excommunicated, banished, and his books were burned.
This formula that Jesus was one in essence with the Father, consubstantial in an incomprehensible mystery, was established for the next sixteen years. This logical conundrum was compounded when “begotten not made” became part of the creed. In addition, the terms “created” and “firstborn” no longer applied to Jesus. They were now heresies.
Then in 341 AD, at a Church council in Antioch, the “one in essence” clause was omitted: “He was the Glory of the Father and firstborn of all Creation.” There were three persons, but they were one in will. Then at Sirmium in 357 AD, the council concluded that the Son was “unlike” the Father: “And no one is ignorant that it is Catholic doctrine that there are two Persons of the Father and the Son, the Father greater and the Son subordinate to Him.” Later it was declared they were “of similar substance” and still later, the Son was “like” the Father.
Finally, in 381 AD the second ecumenical council met at Constantinople, the Nicene Creed was approved, and the Trinity became gospel. The delay behind its acceptance – as the Church and its scholars have explained – was due to the heretical meddling of Arians.
Heresy is a serious offense inspired by our eternal adversary to distort the truth and pervert the divine principles and ordinances. Throughout the New Testament, the Apostles warned their flock of heresy, which had already crept into their churches. Upon their death, the heresies multiplied.
But not all historical charges of heresy are criminal in the sight of God. The Apostolic truths were considered heretical by orthodox Jews. Our Lord Jesus was crucified as a blasphemous heretic of His nation. To determine true heresy from an unjustified charge requires the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes those who made the charges were the servants of deception and sin. Sometimes heretics were heroes of their age, men like John Wycliffe, William Tyndale, and William Whiston.
Many modern church scholars promote a concept that is rarely questioned but seems counterintuitive. These scholars claim that Apostolic and Ante-Nicene theology was not very developed. Supposedly, there was not a formal standard of faith, which explains why many writings of the ante-Nicene Fathers would later be considered heretical.
It seems illogical that the eyewitnesses to Jesus, those taught directly by Him, were not privy to a fuller knowledge than those who followed. The religious scholars are forced into this position, because otherwise, the development of post-Nicene dogma loses validity.
The Apostle Paul wrote in the first chapter of Hebrews, “And again, when he bringeth in the firstbegotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him.” In the twelfth chapter he wrote, “To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven … ” In the first chapter of Colossians, Paul referred to Jesus when he wrote, “… Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature.” (Italics added.)
In the third chapter of Revelation, the Apostle John wrote, “And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; these things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God.” (Italics added.) Using post-Nicene theology, it seems the Scriptures weren’t developed enough to prevent heresy.
In John 14:10, Jesus said, “I am in the Father and the Father in me.” Referring to His Apostles, He added, “I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you.” A few chapters later, Jesus prayed, “Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.” He then added, “That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us … ” If oneness meant consubstantial, these passages would imply that oneness was not restricted to a Trinity, but could lead to an infinity with humanity included, something many mystics have claimed will be the condition in heaven.
There are references throughout the New Testament that speak of God as the Father only. The Trinity is never mentioned, nor is there a reference of God as “the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.” If there is an appendage, it is always “the Father.” The Apostle Paul used a similar salutation in all his letters except Hebrews. “Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.” Linguists have said that using the conjunction “and” designates a separation.
This last point is clarified in Ephesians 4:4-6. “There is one body, and one spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” Every term is a distinct entity.
One of the most heart-rending passages in Scripture is Matt 27:46. Jesus was about to take in His last breath of air as He died on the cross. He cried out, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” In the context of a Trinity, this is incomprehensible. In the context of the truth, our Savior was dismayed, and He cried out in lonely agony for the comfort of His Father. Most likely, Jesus had never been without the attending sustenance of the Spirit of God. Then, at the most critical moment the Spirit withdraws. This was His last test, a powerful conclusion to His sufferings, to die on the cross utterly alone.
Early Church Fathers
Ignatius ( 30 – 107 AD.) was the bishop of Antioch and one of the early martyr’s. His writings are problematic, because we have two versions, the longer and the shorter. This illustrates the problem with transcription, because it was the post-Nicene theologians who copied the early Christian literature and preserved it for later generations. Most religious scholars agree that the shorter version is more reliable, perhaps because the longer version contains post-Nicene heresies.
The shorter version does not support or mention a Trinity, but passages in the longer version proved otherwise and were deleted. Ignatius’ writings were tampered with, but the longer version is consistent with Apostolic doctrine.
In his Epistle to the Ephesians, Ignatius wrote, “But our Physician is the only true God, the unbegotten and unapproachable, the Lord of all, the Father and Begetter of the only-begotten Son. We have also as a Physician the Lord our God, Jesus the Christ, the only-begotten Son and Word, before time began, but who afterwards became also man.” (Italics added.) He quoted John’s gospel where Jesus said, “Grant unto them, Holy Father, that as I and Thou are one, they also may be one in us,” and then explained, “Do ye, man by man become but one choir; so that, agreeing together in concord, and obtaining a perfect unity with God, ye may indeed be one in harmonious feeling with God the Father, and His beloved Son, Jesus Christ our Lord … It is therefore profitable that you, being joined together with God in an unblameable unity … ” (Italics added.) In Trallians, he warned against heresy, “They suppose Christ to be unbegotten; and as to the Spirit, they do not admit that He exists. Some of them say that the Son is a mere man, and that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are but the same person.” Ignatius also referred to Jesus as the firstborn throughout his work.
Justin Martyr (100-165 AD.) was a brilliant theologian who sealed his faith as a martyr. In his First Apology he wrote, “He (Jesus) is the Son of the true God himself, and holding Him in the second place, and the prophetic Spirit in the third, we will prove. For they proclaim our madness to consist in this, that we give to a crucified man a place second to the unchangeable and eternal God.” (Italics added.) Throughout his writings, he referred to Jesus as the firstborn, the first begotten, or first creation of the unbegotten God, the Father. In Dialogues with Trypho, he wrote, “He (Jesus) is the first begotten of all creatures.” Later, he wrote, “This Offspring was begotten by the Father before all things created; and that that which is begotten is numerically distinct from that which begets.”
Melito was bishop of Sardis during the latter half of the 2nd Century. Unfortunately, all his books are lost to history. Most likely, they were systematically eradicated, because over time his works became heretical. Using post-Nicene standards, one book contained a heresy in the title, Concerning the creation and genesis of Christ. Historian Adolph Harnack explained, “Melito was very quickly forgotten in the Greek church, and this can be explained only by the fact that his writings were no longer suited to the later dogmatic taste.”
Irenaeus (120/130-202 AD.) was the bishop of Lyon and helped establish the canon of Scriptures. In Book 3 of Against Heresies, he wrote, “There is therefore, as I have pointed out, one God the Father, and one Christ Jesus.” After quoting Gal 4:4,5, he said that this is “plainly indicating one God, who did by the prophets make promise of the Son, and one Jesus Christ our Lord …and that Jesus Christ was appointed the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead, as being the first begotten in all the creation.” (Italics added.) Throughout his writings he proclaimed God as the Father. In a surviving fragment called LII he wrote, “And as He (Jesus) was born of Mary in the last times, so did He also proceed from God as the First begotten of every creature.”
Tertullian (155/160-220 AD.) was a prolific theologian and a leader of the western church. According to religious scholars, he wrote a brilliant defense of the Trinity called, “Against Praxeas.” A few quotes disputes the logic – or honesty – of these scholars. In the 4th chapter, in reference to 1Cor 15:24-28, he wrote, “Now from this one passage of the epistle of the inspired apostle, we have been already able to show that the Father and the Son are two separate Persons … by the fact that He who delivered up the kingdom, and He to whom it is delivered up – and in like manner, He who subjected (all things), and He to whom they were subjected – must necessarily be two different Beings.” In the 9th chapter, he wrote, “My assertion is that the Father is one, and the Son one, and the Spirit one, and that they are distinct from each Other … Thus the Father is distinct from the Son, being greater than the Son, inasmuch as He who begets is one, and He who is begotten is another … Besides, does not the very fact that they have the distinct names of Father and Son amount to a declaration that they are distinct in personality?”
According to the scholars, Tertullian was the first theologian to develop a systematic doctrine of the Trinity and the first to use the Latin word “Trinitas” to describe the Godhead. Trinitas is the abstract noun of “trinus” which means triple or three. Trinitas correctly expresses the Triad that rules the Kingdom of God. After the Council of Nicaea changed the conception of the ruling Godhead, “Trinity” meant something entirely different from its prior usage.
Hippolytus (170 – 236 AD.) was a leader of the Roman Church during the Roman Bishopric of Zephyrinus (199-217). Some scholars consider Hippolytus the first antipope, because he opposed the Bishop of Rome, and led a faction against him. Hippolytus railed against Zephyrinus for his corruption and lack of theological wisdom – Zephyrinus sympathized with the Sabellian conception that Jesus and His Father were the same being.
Hippolytus was further outraged when Callistus, whose immorality was widely known, assumed the Bishopric of Rome. To compound Hippolytus’ righteous anger, Callistus condoned bad behavior when he extended absolution to adulterous clergy. Back then, adultery was one of the three “sins unto death” and only forgivable by God. Additionally, in open violation of Scripture (1Tim. 3:2), Callistus allowed twice-married men to become bishops. (Much later, the Bishop of Rome would again openly defy Scripture (1Tim. 4:3) and forbid their clergy to marry. This helped produce the shame of the Middle Ages when the local priest would walk through town trailed by his concubine.)
Tertullian also condemned Callistus for his shameful character and his actions as Bishop. The modern scholar WHC Frend used tact when he described him as sordid with an unenviable past.
Hippolytus ultimately sealed his testimony as a martyr of the faith. In “Against the Heresy of one Noetus,” he wrote, “He did not say ‘I and the Father am one, but are one.’ For the word ‘are’ is not said of one person, but it refers to two persons, and one power.” Later, he explained, “And that these, therefore, are three. But if he desires to learn how it is shown still that there is one God, let him know that his power is one.”
Origen (185-254 AD.) was perhaps the most important theologian of the early Greek Church. His writings are also problematic, because a post-Nicene theologian, Rufinus, translated his work from Greek into Latin, and Rufinus admitted to editorial license in his translation.
A few passages slipped through his censor. In Book 8 of Against Celsus Origen wrote, “We worship, therefore, the Father of truth, and the Son, who is the truth; and these, while they are two, considered as persons or subsistences, are one in unity of thought, in harmony and in identity of will.” After he quoted John 14:28, “I go unto the Father: for my Father is greater than I,” he explained, “The Son is not mightier than the Father, but inferior to Him.” In Book 7, Origen wrote, “And he (Celsus) is unwilling that He who submitted to death for the sake of men, He to whom God bore testimony through the prophets, and who has done great things in heaven and earth, should receive on that ground honor second only to that which is given to the Most High God.” In both Book 5 and 6, he wrote of Jesus as a “second” God. And in a commentary on John’s gospel, Origen called Jesus “the first-born of all creation.”
Novatian (200-258 AD.) was ordained in Rome and has been called the second antipope. He was a champion of rigorism uncompromising in his devotion to our Lord, and like Hippolytus, he sealed his testimony with a martyr’s fate. He wrote a book titled On the Trinity, but his conception is nothing like the post-Nicene definition.
In Chapter 26, he stated that Jesus is secondary to the Father. In the next chapter, he discussed John 10:30 and elaborated, “And since He (Jesus) said ‘one’ thing, let the heretics understand that He did not say ‘one’ person. For one placed in the neuter, intimates the social concord, not the personal unity … Moreover, that He says one, has reference to the agreement, and to the identity of judgment, and to the loving association itself, as reasonably the Father and Son are one in agreement, in love, and in affection.” (Italics added.) Later, referring to John 10:36 he wrote, “In receiving, then, sanctification from the Father, He is inferior to the Father.” Novatian did not believe in a Trinity as it is defined today.
The Great Thinkers of the Past
One of the most brilliant thinkers of all time, Sir Isaac Newton, had an insatiable curiosity about the natural world. He studied natural philosophy not in the Baconian tradition to improve humanity’s earthly condition, but to better understand and worship God. Theology consumed more of his time than any other branch of knowledge, as evident in his writings – he wrote more than a million words on this field of inquiry. John Locke wrote, “In the knowledge of the scriptures I know of but few men who are his equals.” Newton also studied all the available ante-Nicene Church writings.
It is evident Newton could not reconcile the popular conception of a Trinity with the individuality expressed throughout the Scriptures and the ante-Nicene literature. According to theologian historian William Whiston, who was also a mathematician mentored by Newton, Newton thoroughly examined the Church at that most critical juncture – the 4th Century – and concluded that Arianism was no other than old uncorrupted Christianity.
Because the Anglican Church condemned this as heresy, Newton never published or publicly announced his views. Among his writings published upon his death, his position was clear. Whiston, who succeeded Newton in his Chair at Cambridge, felt compelled to publicly fight this delusion to enlighten his fellow Englishmen. He railed against the scholars of his day. He even formed a society to resurrect primitive Christianity. And like most champions of truth, he paid dearly for his “official” heresy. He was persecuted, expelled from Cambridge, never admitted to the Royal Society, and lost the respect of orthodox society.
Many religious intellectuals were anti-Trinitarians including John Milton and John Locke. Dutch Renaissance scholar, Desiderius Erasmus, wrote that “according to dialectic logic it is possible to say that there are three gods, but to announce this before the untutored multitude would cause great offense.”
Both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson wrestled with this question. They studied the great English empiricists and also rejected the notion of a Trinity. In 1813, Jefferson wrote to Adams, “It is too late in the day for men of sincerity to pretend they believe in the Platonic mysticisms that three are one, and one is three.”
Adams replied, “This revelation has made it certain that two and one make three, and that one is not three nor can three be one.” At that time, there was a bill in the English Parliament for the relief of the anti-Trinitarians. Adams wrote in the same letter, “I should be very happy to hear that the bill is passed.”
Animal Sacrifice, Human Sacrifice, and Abraham’s Ultimate Test
Learning rarely begins without curiosity, which sparks inquiry. Curious Bible readers should question the purpose of animal sacrifices under the Mosaic law of ancient Israel. Why was an unblemished firstborn male used for their burnt offerings? Why, after Jesus’ ministry, did the Christian Jews end them?
The symbolism is clear. The animal sacrifices were symbolic of the ultimate atoning sacrifice of our Lord Jesus. The purpose was to instill knowledge and develop faith in this future event for inquisitive minds who questioned why they were commanded to perform these rituals.
This explains the seemingly bizarre command from God to Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac, an incident that is sometimes mocked by secular scholars today. Our Heavenly Father would eventually send his most beloved firstborn Son to be sacrificed on a cross by Abraham’s progeny. He understood the suffering and humiliation his Son would have to endure. Jesus would culminate his life as an innocent victim without blemish. He would be mocked, spat upon, scourged, and then hung on a cross to die.
Abraham was destined to understand the ultimate sorrow, Godly sorrow, as he was asked to sacrifice his firstborn son, or rather, the firstborn of his wife. This was another symbolic event for future generations to contemplate, as long as they asked “why?” For Abraham it was the supreme test. Would this brilliant patriarch first heed the divine voice and then be willing to sacrifice his most precious possession, the son he waited one hundred years to rear?
Abraham’s answer was, yes. Even the details are striking. Throughout the Genesis account, Isaac is referred to as Abraham’s only begotten son, although at the time, Abraham had already sired Ishmael through Hagar. In his letter to the Hebrews, Saint Paul also called Isaac the only begotten son of Abraham. And like Jesus, Isaac was the son by promise. The mountain chain was named Moriah. Either, they went to Mount Moriah where the Jewish Temple would one day stand, where the Mosaic sacrifices would be symbolically offered, or they would have been on the neighbor mount, Mount Calvary, where Jesus Himself was sacrificed on the cross.
According to the ancient Jewish historian, Josephus, Isaac was at least twenty five years old, certainly old enough to escape. And yet, Isaac humbly submitted to his father’s will, as did Jesus. Isaac carried the wood as Christ carried the cross. Eventually, a sheep was sacrificed in Isaac’s stead, specifically a ram or male sheep, which leads the flock. It took three days to get to their destination, a rather long journey. This implies that after the sacrifice it took three days to return. Abraham named the place “Jehovah-jireh,” or “the Lord will provide.” He marked the spot where in the meridian of time God would provide us a Lamb as the ultimate sacrifice to redeem us of our sins.
The Jewish nation cannot explain this history because they misunderstand the sacrificial role of their Messiah. Back then, they were looking for a Messiah to rule them in a temporal kingdom on Earth, not a spiritual kingdom of God established through a divine sacrifice. What should be curious to this nation is the lack of explanations given by their prophets. They didn’t need to apologize for their God’s command for a human sacrifice, because they knew Jesus and understood the symbolism.
This explains why Cain’s sacrifice of old wasn’t accepted. He lived before the Old Testament was written, but our first patriarch and his family did not live in ignorance of their existence. Adam and Eve had faith in the eventual atoning sacrifice and taught their children. Why else would Abel sacrifice the firstborn of his flock? Cain brought the fruit of the ground for his sacrifice which revealed his lack of faith and understanding, and hence was totally unacceptable.
Curiosity – A Key to Knowledge
Curiosity is the essential spark that fires up a chain reaction of lifelong learning. Inquiring minds are not easily doused by simple explanations, or dissuaded by authorities who claim humble ignorance is needed in the face of unknowable mysteries. There are many unknowable mysteries, but there are also many mysteries that can be unraveled through diligence.
The suppression of curiosity seems to be a feature of American life. Many of us no longer question the world at large or the eternal world which beckons us through the Spirit. Without curiosity, the desire to seek out temporal and eternal truths is quenched.
For those whose curiosity is still alive, hopefully this article has raised a serious question: Why would our Heavenly Father allow this perversion of a sacred truth?
Perhaps that neglected branch of knowledge, history, provides an answer. It confirms what the great thinkers have said, that truth rarely dwells in the crowd. History reveals how the truth has fared throughout the centuries.
During Noah’s day, only eight people knew the truth of our existence, or enough of the truth to effect a change in their lives. Generations later, Abraham passed the truth through his posterity to Moses, who passed it on to the ancient Israelites. This small nation alone among a world of pagan nations possessed the truth, and yet, more often than not the Israelites rejected this truth, changed their traditions, and murdered their prophets. Isaiah wrote, “For the leaders of this people cause them to err; and they that are led of them are destroyed.” Even among the chosen people, the truth was rarely held by the crowd.
This nation eventually rejected the ultimate truth and crucified their Messiah as a heretic of their nation. Not long afterwards, the Apostolic truths were attacked by a number of heretics, and their leadership – the Apostles – were destroyed.
Eventually, the Council of Nicaea arrived and a new conception of God was born, a consubstantial convoluted three-in-one incomprehensible mystery established by a murderous emperor. Even theologians have struggled with this doctrine. It is a mystery that no one can understand. This complicates the supreme commandment. How can you fully love God the Father with all your heart when you have a false understanding of His nature?
There is not a Trinity but a triumvirate in Heaven. God our Father is the executive; Jesus His Son is our intercessor, and the Holy Spirit is our inspiration.
Centuries later, Medieval mythology had replaced many truths of the natural world. The Medieval Church also forbade the laity from reading the Bible. By this decree, the word of God with all its eternal truths was cut off from the crowd. Surprisingly – or perhaps not – the only people who brought the Word to the masses were a few righteous heretics. Under the threat of death, devout men like John Wycliffe and William Tyndale translated the Bible into the common language, did the Lord’s work, and brought the truth to the crowd.
The Renaissance was supposedly a renewal of truth, facilitated by the invention of the printing press. It was enhanced by the dissemination of classic Greek thought that was unleashed through the downfall and ultimate destruction of the Byzantine Empire.
Plato became popular, but so too, the philosophy and fables of Hermeticism. The Hermetical writings were purportedly authored by Hermes Trismegitus, an Egyptian priest thought to predate the Israelite religion. This misconception led to the assumption that Hermeticism was the one true religion which was corrupted over time. In the early 17th Century, it was determined that these books originated with 2nd Century Gnostics who had tried centuries earlier to subvert Christianity with their mysteries. But the love of esoteric secrets prevented this truth from common knowledge.
Hermeticism infected many brilliant minds with untruth. From Giordano Bruno – considered the first modern philosopher – through Spinoza to the great German poet, Goethe, thousands turned from Christ. Even today, Hermeticism thrives within the New Age movement, which is based on mysteries that elevate humanity and devaluate God.
The Enlightenment ushered in an era of reason that produced a reaction against Christianity that is still felt today. Scientists had proven many “revelations” of the Medieval Church as false. Because of this, many intellectuals rejected all revelation.
Eventually, the modern age arrived. Today, science reigns supreme as a source of truth, a belief supported by its continual discoveries and inventions. Science has blessed humanity with greater ease. It continually develops newer distractions and better toys to amuse ourselves. It has fostered the mistaken notion that we live in an enlightened age. It is beyond the scope of this article to prove the opposite, but the truth is, more myths prevail today than perhaps at any other time in history.
When you study world history, you realize there are few bright spots because humanity has been given intelligence to determine good from evil and truth from fables. Humanity has also been given free will to then choose good or evil. Throughout history, the crowds rarely chose to studiously search for truth, which would have enlightened their choices. So evil flourished and truth was often lost because our heavenly Father would not negate our free will.
Those who neglect the two most important branches of knowledge, theology and world history, are unaware of the glory of the first century of the Church, as the Apostles fought pagan delusions and Jewish intrigues, and ultimately lost their lives in defense of the truth. They are unaware of the heritage they’ve left us, their devout examples, their chronicles, letters, and other religious writings. They are unaware of the many heroes throughout the ages who were inspired by their example, fought for truth, and were sometimes persecuted as heretics. They’ve left the past behind and compromised their future – their eternal future.
Jesus commanded us to seek. He also promised that we would find. If we choose to ignore His command, we will remain unenlightened. Myths proliferate because our eternal adversary is ever vigilant to destroy or twist the truth, to lull souls to sleep or lead the unwise down false paths unto destruction.
Jesus warned us, “For wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go thereat: Because strait is the gate and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.”
Throughout history, many experts, kings, religious leaders, court historians and advisors were the most in error. Sometimes they were deceived. Other times they used deception to further their agenda. It is imperative that we develop an independent world view and question the authorities, the news anchors, the scientific experts, the cajoling politicians, conniving advertisers, and devious scholars.
And it is most imperative that we develop an independent relationship with God our Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ relying on the inspiration of His Holy Spirit.
The Moral Liberal Associate Editor, Robert F. Beaudine, has written authoritative articles on public education, the financial crisis, and the myth of global warming. He’s also the author of the life-affirming novel, “Based Upon a Lie,” a theological conspiracy thriller. He resides in the upstate of South Carolina.
Copyright © 2011 Robert Beaudine. Previously published at The Moral Liberal on March 09, 2011.