Discovering the true Christian faith

Who or What is responsible for our existence?
I believe that it is crucially important to uncover the correct answer to this question. In a previous post, I shared my thoughts on the question of Design versus Evolution and attempted to elucidate a previously unrecognized challenge within the prevailing evolutionary framework. If the previous post centered on biology, this one focuses on Christian theology and is specifically intended for individuals who identify as Christians. I regret that the post is quite lengthy.

The Bible had forewarned that “…there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies…" [2 Peter 2:1].
Has this prophecy fulfilled? The very existence of numerous Christian denominations worldwide, each with its distinct set of beliefs and practices, serves as undeniable evidence that the prophecy has indeed been fulfilled.

The million-dollar question is: which belief system holds the truth? Which one has the approval of God? Supporters of various denominations claim that their faith is the authentic one, asserting that their understanding of scripture is accurate. However, the crucial question remains: Is there an impartial and reliable method to ascertain the genuine faith?

In my opinion, there is a straightforward and powerful approach to identify it. The key rules of this approach are:

  • Derive fundamental doctrines based on explicit scriptural passages from the Bible, whenever they are present.
  • Interpret the implicit scriptures of Bible in the light of explicit scriptures.
  • There is no issue in formulating teachings based solely on implicit scriptures. Nevertheless, the crucial aspect is ensuring that those teachings do not contradict any of the explicit scriptures found in the Bible.

Explicit means stated clearly and directly, leaving no room for confusion or doubt. Readers don’t need any special knowledge or training to understand those Bible verses.
Implicit means implied, rather than clearly/directly stated.

All we need to do is, apply the aforementioned principle to the varied and contradictory beliefs among Christians. Certain beliefs are of vital importance for our salvation, while others are not. For instance, the lifelong virginity of Mary, the mother of Jesus, is a matter that, even if misunderstood, may not carry significant weight in the eyes of God. However, this is not the case when it comes to the fundamental teachings of the Bible. A church cannot attain God’s acceptance if it holds erroneous views regarding these foundational doctrines. Let’s begin the analysis with the most fundamental teaching of God’s word: the true identity of God Himself!

To the best of my knowledge, it is commonly accepted among all Christian denominations that there is only One God. However, where they differ is in their varying interpretations and perspectives on the nature and characteristics of this ‘One God’.

In relation to this matter, the belief in the Trinity stands as the most widely embraced doctrine among Christians. A substantial majority, at least 90% of the global Christian population, identifies with various denominations that affirm the concept of the Trinity.
What is the doctrine of Trinity? It’s the belief that One God exists as/in three distinct equally divine persons namely the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Is there an explicit scripture in the Bible that teaches the doctrine of Trinity? No! Not even a single verse. Keep in mind that I’m not speaking about a particular word ‘Trinity’ but the doctrine itself.

Nevertheless, there exists a semi-explicit Trinity verse in the King James Version(KJV) of the Bible. In the KJV, 1 John 5:7 reads as follows: “For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.” However, it is noteworthy that this particular verse is omitted from all other major modern Bible versions, even those published by Trinitarian publishers. This omission stems from the realization that the verse was added to the Bible centuries after the original texts were written.

Let me give some references:

(1) “No trinitarian doctrine is explicitly taught in the Old Testament.”
“The New Testament contains no explicit trinitarian doctrine.”
(Trinity > History of Trinitarian Doctrines (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy))

(2) “Neither the word “Trinity” nor the explicit doctrine appears in the New Testament…”
(Trinity | Definition, Theology, & History | Britannica)

(3) “The point, then, is simply this: While the term Trinity is never specifically used nor the doctrine explicitly explained in Scripture, it is nevertheless implicitly stated.”
(The Trinity (Triunity) of God | Bible.org)

Is it possible to arrive at the doctrine of the Trinity solely through implicit verses? Yes. In fact, this is precisely how Trinitarian bible scholars and Christian apologists endeavour to illustrate the concept of Trinity. Here is a breakdown of the steps they typically follow:

Step 1: Present a verse that affirms the existence of only one God. E.g. James 2:19
Step 2: Present verses that identify the Father and the Son as God. E.g. Romans 1:7 & Isaiah 9:6 respectively.
However, there is no explicit verse that directly states the Holy Spirit as God. In this case, implicit verses are employed to establish the divinity of the Holy Spirit.
Step 3: Present a verse that highlights the distinctiveness of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. E.g. Luke 3:22
Conclusion: Based on these cumulative verses, the belief is drawn that one God exists in/as three distinct persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Thus far, it is evident that the doctrine of the Trinity is not explicitly stated in the Bible << and it can be derived only through implicit way.>>. Now, the crucial question arises: Does the Bible explicitly states the identity of ‘One God’? Yes, it does! The noteworthy point is that those explicit verses are in direct contradiction with Trinity doctrine.

<< Indcates Mod insert and the request of Midhun >>

Explicit scriptures from Old Testament[OT]:

(1) “I am Yahweh your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You must not have any other gods besides me." - The first of ten commandments. [Exodus 20:1]

(2) “May people know that you, whose name is Yahweh, You alone are the Most High over all the earth” [Psalms 83:18]

(3) “O Yahweh, there is no one like you, and there is no God except you” [1 Chronicles 17:20]

Explicit scriptures from New Testament[NT]:

(1) Jesus’ prayer to Father:
“Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” [John 17:3]

(2) “For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”—yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.” [1 Corinthians 8:5,6]

(3) “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” [Ephesians 4:4-6]

Therefore, the OT explicitly teaches that Yahweh is the One God, while the NT explicitly affirms that the Father is the One God. But another question arises: Is the Yahweh of the OT the same entity as the Father depicted in the NT?

Yes. Indeed, the practice of addressing God as Father did not originate in the New Testament. Even in the times of the Old Testament, the people referred to the One God, Yahweh, as their Father. Some examples:

(1) “You, O Yahweh, are our Father” [Isaiah 63:16]

(2) “I also thought that you would call me, ‘My Father!’ and that you would not turn away from following me” [Jeremiah 3:19]

(3) “Do we not all have one father? Has not one God created us?” [Malachi 2:10]

The Jewish community during the New Testament period continued this practice, which is why they responded to Jesus by saying: "We were not born from immorality; we have one Father, God.” [John 8:41]

In the same chapter, Jesus himself made it explicit that his Father and the One God worshiped by Jews are one and the same. He said to jews:

“It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’ " [verse 54]

Let’s examine two additional explicit verses that portray the relationship between the One God, Yahweh, and Jesus.

(1) “The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead” [Acts 5:30]

(2) “The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus” [Acts 3:13]

Who is the God of their OT ancestors? One God Yahweh. What is the relation between God of ancestors and Jesus Christ? Father-Son or Master-Servant relation. Now its evident that
One God of the Bible=Yahweh=Father of Jesus Christ, Jews and Christians.
This is the explicit teaching of bible.

At this juncture, two significant observations have been established:
(1) At the core of the Bible’s teachings lies the utmost importance of understanding the true identity of God and a precise understanding of this concept is essential for our salvation. However, it is remarkable that there is no scripture that explicitly states the concept of the Trinity.
(2) The Bible contains numerous explicit verses that explicitly states the identity of one God. The doctrine of the Trinity directly contradicts all these explicit scriptures.

Hence, it is a definitive conclusion that the doctrine of the Trinity is a human invention and lacks scriptural basis.

THEN WHY ARE CERTAIN VERSES IN THE BIBLE REFERRING TO JESUS AS ‘GOD’?

To understand this, we need to address another question: Is Yahweh, the One God, the only person in the Bible who is addressed as ‘God’? The answer is no. The original Hebrew and Greek words, typically translated into English as “God,” were also used to describe individuals who displayed great power or acted as representatives of One God Yahweh. Examples:

(1) Human judges of Israel
God presides in the great assembly; he renders judgment among the gods
“I said, ‘You are “gods"; you are all sons of the Most High.’
[Psalm 82:1 and 6].
“gods” in the above verses refer to humans judges of Israel.

(2) Angels
Compare Psalm 8:5 and Hebrews 2:7.

Undoubtedly, Jesus surpasses human judges of Israel and angels in rank and authority. If God’s word refers to humans as ‘gods’, wouldn’t it be reasonable to call Jesus ‘God’, who is far superior to them? Absolutely. Jesus has every rightful claim to be recognized as ‘God’ even though he is not the almighty God.
Interesting fact is that, Jesus himself employed this very logic when confronted by Jews who accused him of blasphemy for claiming to be God. Let’s read that passage:

" “I and the Father are one.” Again his Jewish opponents picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?” “We are not stoning you for any good work,” they replied, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.” Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are “gods”’? If he called them ‘gods,’ to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be set aside— what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’?” [John 10:30-36]

Did you grasp the logic presented by Jesus? He referenced Psalm 82:6 << (where human judges of Israel were referred to as “gods”) >> to defend himself, indicating that there is no error in calling the person “whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world” as ‘God’. However, he demonstrated humility and explicitly affirmed that he is the Son of God.

<< Indcates Mod insert at the request of Midhun >>

Throughout the entire Bible, there is no instance where superlative titles such as “One God,” “Almighty,” “Most High,” or “Supreme” are attributed to Jesus. Those titles were exclusively bestowed upon his Father, Yahweh.

DID JESUS HAVE A PRE-HUMAN EXISTENCE IN HEAVEN?

Jesus himself explicitly confirms that he existed in heaven prior to his earthly life. Some of his statements:

(1) “For I have come down out of Heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of Him who sent me.”
(2) “What then if you should see the Son of Man ascend where He was before?”
(3) “I came forth from the Father and have come into the world. Again, I leave the world and go to the Father.”
(4) “And now, O Father, glorify me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world existed.”

WHY IS JESUS CALLED THE “SON OF GOD”?

When a man brings forth a child, he takes on the role of a father to that child. In the Bible, Adam and angels were referred to as “son(s) of God” because they were brought forth or created by God. It is important to note that Jesus shared a unique son-father relationship with God Yahweh in three distinct phases: (1) his pre-human existence, (2) his earthly life, and (3) his post-resurrection life. Why Is Jesus called the “Son of God”?

Let us turn to Jesus himself for the answer. In Revelation 3:14, Jesus explicitly referred to himself as “the beginning of God’s creation.” Another verse, Colossians 1:15, designates Jesus as “the firstborn of all creation.”

Yes, the Son of God is a created being. In fact, the very first creation of God. God is the only uncreated being in the whole universe.

The passage in Colossians reveals an additional significant detail about Jesus. It states: “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him” [verse 16]. What is the meaning of the expression “all things were created through him”?

We can observe parallel affirmations concerning Jesus in John 1:3, 1 Corinthians 8:6, and Hebrews 1:2. In all these four verses, the Greek word used is ‘dia’, which is commonly translated into English as “through.” According to a Greek lexicon, this word carries the meaning of “the instrument used to accomplish a thing.”
(Reference: Strong's Greek: 1223. διά (dia) -- through, on account of, because of)

Once more, a clear understanding emerges, doesn’t it? Jesus is the firstborn son of God and God utilized His firstborn son as the instrument or agent through which all things were brought into existence. Whether in the realms of heaven or on the earth, every element of creation owes its origin to Jesus. << This explains why the plural pronoun “us” is present in Genesis 1:26. The verse states, “And God said, Let us make man in our image.” God was not alone during the act of creation. His firstborn was alongside Him, acting as an agent or instrument of creation.>> It is crucial to acknowledge that there is only one entity that came into existence without the agency of Jesus i.e. created directly by God and that is Jesus Himself! This unique aspect of His sonship is precisely why the Bible refers to Him as the only begotten Son.

<< Indcates Mod insert at the request of Midhun >>

WHO/WHAT IS HOLY SPIRIT?

If the Holy spirit is indeed God and deserving of our worship, it would be reasonable to expect the Bible to explicitly state so. However, there is no such explicit statement found in the scriptures. Instead, there is a semi-explicit verse in the Bible that sheds light on the nature of the Holy spirit. It reads: “In answer the angel said to her: “Holy spirit will come upon you, and power of the Most High will overshadow you.” [Luke 1:35]
Old Testament refers to Holy spirit as the “spirit of Yahweh” and “spirit of God”.

WHAT CAN WE CONCLUDE BASED ON THIS ANALYSIS?

With absolute certainty, we can exclude the majority of Christian denominations, around 90%, which adhere to the doctrine of the Trinity, from our pursuit of discovering the true Christian faith. To determine if a specific denomination aligns with the Trinitarian belief or not, I recommend you to refer to its official website or published materials to review its statement of faith. I don’t want to name any particular church or denomination.

This analysis isn’t over yet. Multiple denominations worldwide share a teaching about the identity of God that aligns with the explicit teachings of the Bible. The question then arises: among these churches, which ones truly have the acceptance of God? By applying the principle of interpreting implicit scriptures based on explicit ones, we can explore other key doctrines and uncover the truth. I plan to delve into this topic further in a separate post. For now, I invite you to share your thoughts and reflections on this current post.

Another pointless exercise.

You’ve just ensured that if the genuine faith is non-Biblical, you won’t identify it.

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While the search for the true Christian faith may seem challenging at times, it is certainly not a “pointless exercise”. I believe that it’s through these kinda discussions and debates that we grow & deepen our understanding.

I agree that the doctrine of the Trinity cannot be derived from the Bible. But you haven’t demonstrated that every believer in that doctrine is not following “the true Christian faith.”

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Seems like you skipped reading the title and first two paras and jumped straight to the final part of third para. :grinning:
When I referred to “genuine faith” in my writing, I meant ‘genuine Christian faith’.

Define “genuine Christian fatith”.

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Technically, you could have a “Christian faith” that was solely based upon non-canonical New Testament apocrypha and so was “non-Biblical”.

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I think you skipped the part where you determined that the genuine faith had to be some version of Biblical Christianity.

How do you know you aren’t doing the equivalent of trying to decide which African country contains the world’s highest mountain?

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@Midhun, I think you should consider the following possibility: the majority of Christian denominations adhere to the doctrine of the Trinity because the belief that God is a Trinity (although not explicitly formalized until later) arose very early in Christianity, and it did so precisely because it actually is a natural interpretation of Scripture understood in context.

What looks implicit to you may look more explicit to someone immersed in a different context. You for example, look at verses in the NT where God is identified as the Father. Certainly, in that context, “God” and “God the Father” were basically synonymous, the latter being merely an elaboration of the former (as is perfectly natural given the OT verses you consider). But you ignore the way that Jesus is explicitly called “Lord” in those same verses - and in that context, it is being used in a way that would only have been applied to the God of the OT, where “Lord” was substituted in place of the divine name “Yahweh”. (An example of this is Romans 10:13, which references Joel 2:32 - something that is said of Yahweh in the OT is attributed to Jesus in the NT.)

It seems to me you are looking at things very shallowly. There is a wealth of indications in the NT that Jesus is divine; not only because he directly referred to as God in several passages, but more broadly he is referred to in ways that in the OT only referred to God. You basically try to explain these things away. But most strands of Christianity throughout history have taken them to be among the explicit teachings of scripture, and derived from them the doctrine of the Trinity. How can you be so sure you are right, and they are wrong?

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I’m glad you agree

I’m not sure I understand your point correctly. Could you please elaborate?

Nothing written here detracts from my earlier comment. The historical and current discussions and debates have done nothing concrete in determining the true Christian faith. Instead, schisms within Christianity have been important consequences of these discussions and debates.

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That verse implies that there are other gods beside the Abrahamic God. The commandment is to worship just the Abrahamic God instead of worshipping the other gods. If there is only one God then the commandment would have said so, but it doesn’t. To use an analogy, if your wife says that you can love no other woman that does not imply that there are no other women in the world.

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“Implies” is too strong. The Hebrew, and also the Greek rendering of the Septuagint, makes that a possible reading, but not a necessary one. “There shall not be to you other gods before (or beside) me.” All that says is that Israel must worship only the Lord, and no other gods. It is silent on whether any other gods actually exist. So the meaning could be, “There are other supernatural beings, but I am the only one you are to worship”, or “Do not worship any other purported gods, for they are non-existent; worship only me”. The Hebrew and Greek grammar and vocabulary under-determine the meaning.

So one must turn to the broader context. And while there are a handful of passages in the OT which allow the interpretation that there are other “gods” (inferior to the Lord, but still gods), the general drift of the OT teaching is that all other purported gods are illusory and those who worship them are worshipping only lifeless images and statues.

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Following up on the issue that @Roy and I have raised on the relationship between “genuine Christian faith” and the Bible, I would like to raise the issue of the Antilegomena – those early Christian works whose canonicity was disputed within the early Christian Church. These works included the Epistle of James, the Epistle of Jude, 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, the Book of Revelation, the Gospel of the Hebrews, the Epistle to the Hebrews, the Apocalypse of Peter, the Acts of Paul, the Shepherd of Hermas, the Epistle of Barnabas and the Didache.

It can therefore be argued, with some degree of validity, that proto-Orthodox Christianity created the Bible as well as that the Bible created Orthodox Christianity.

Add to that the fact that a number of the canonical Pauline Epistles are now widely considered to be pseudepigraphic.

This all makes it decidedly less clear that claiming the Bible as the bedrock for determining “genuine Christian faith” is a self-evident truth as opposed to a mere assumption. Of course relaxing that assumption likely means that determining what the singular “genuine Christian faith” is, if it even exists, may not be possible. This possibility may be very uncomfortable for some people.

What if it were possible to love fictional women? Would that change the answer? And I presume we are agreed that it’s possible to have fictional gods, and that the writers of the bible knew that too.

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You claim that believers in the Trinity are not true Christians, but you haven’t provided evidence for that. There’s nothing that says true Christians can’t believe in extrabiblical doctrines; I’m sure you believe in a few yourself, even if you don’t recognize it, and the same is almost certainly true of me.

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Also in Exodus you have the magical showdown:

Perhaps Exodus is an older tradition which was given a new context by subsequent prophets and OT works. However, there was every chance in Exodus for God to pronounce that no other gods exist but that isn’t seen.

I would agree with this. Other gods were identified with their images, and the idols obviously existed. The OT could have been more explicit about monotheism, but that reflects the prophetic nature of the literature which is very removed from abstractions of systematic proper theology.

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The relationship between tribe and religion was also different in those times than it is now. The God of the OT was the God of the Hebrew people. They were closely tied together. In much the same way, we often describe Jews as both a group of people and a religion, even though people of non-Jewish ancestry convert to Judaism. In the same way, gods like Baal were the gods of other tribes.

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