One of the most fundamental Christian doctrines is that of the Trinity. It separates genuine Christianity from the cults and from other religions and is essential to understanding the Gospel. We recently received a message challenging an article I had written responding to a critic who denies the third Person of the Trinity: The Holy Spirit. Below is John’s message in purple font with my response in black. Curiously, some of John’s claims were already refuted in the original article. Repeating an already-refuted claim contributes nothing to rational dialog since I can refute the claim again by merely restating the reason why such a claim did not stand up to scrutiny in the first place. I will use green text when I quote the original article.
John: Hello Jason. I just watched your YouTube video about the Mandelbrot Set and must say it was one of the most interesting and compelling videos I’ve ever seen on any topic. It caused me to follow you on Twitter which led me to your website – the Biblical Science Institute.
Lisle: I’m glad John liked the video. “The Secret Code of Creation” is available in our web store.
John: While browsing the site I came across a page titled “Denying the Holy Spirit” written by you, dated February 28, 2020 with sub-heading Refuring the Critics, Theology. In it you highlight a “critic” named Ned. I couldn’t help thinking of Flan diddly anders but I digress.
Lisle: That article was itself a response to another critic who disagreed with my three-part series on the Trinity, the first of which is here. Ned’s criticism with my responses are posted here.
John: I suspect even Ned Flanders could’ve put forward a better critique of the Trinity Doctrine than your guy but please allow me to make an attempt. To start with, denying belief in a Catholic (Universal) Doctrine of a triune god is not the same as denying the reality of God’s Holy Spirit. (HS)
Lisle: The Trinity is not merely a Catholic (Universal) Doctrine. Rather, it is the clear teaching of Scripture. I am a biblical Trinitarian because my conviction about the nature of God is derived from the Scriptures. In fact, in my three-part series on the Trinity, I made no reference to creeds or confessions of any church. I did not cite any councils or statements or faith – not that there is anything wrong with these. Rather, I demonstrated the Trinity from the Scriptures and from them alone.
The Holy Spirit is not some impersonal aspect of God’s power. Rather, the Holy Spirit is God. We know this because when Ananias lied to the Holy Spirit, he was lying to God (Acts 5:3-4). The Holy Spirit has attributes that can only be applied to God. For example, He is omni-present (Psalm 139:7-9), all-knowing (1 Corinthians 2:10-11), all-powerful (Job 33:4; Luke 1:35; Romans 15:19; 1 Thessalonians 1:5), and eternal (Hebrews 9:14).
John: Ned does make the point that Paul would likely have praised 3 persons in his letters if God was in fact 3 persons,…
Lisle: I already refuted that error in reasoning. It’s the fallacy of the argument from silence. As I already wrote:
This is a classic example of the fallacy of the argument from silence. This is the error of making assumptions based on what is not written in the text. However, just because something isn’t mentioned doesn’t mean it isn’t there. After all, the Bible never says that John the Baptist ever went to sleep. Can we therefore conclude that he didn’t? Of course not. We should not build our theology on what is absent in the text of Scripture, but rather on what is present in the text of Scripture….
The Apostle Paul often introduced his epistles with a greeting in the name of God the Father and the Lord Jesus without mentioning the Holy Spirit by name. Of course, Paul does mention the Holy Spirit throughout His letters (e.g. Romans 8:16, 26-27, 9:1, 14:17, 15:16). And we can speculate on why Paul usually mentioned only the Father and Son in his introduction. But how does that even remotely suggest that the Holy Spirit is not God? Could it be that Paul recognized that the people he was addressing in his letters already had the Holy Spirit present with them (John 14:16-17; Romans 5:5; 1 Thessalonians 4:8)?
To illustrate the absurdity of John’s claim, consider Romans 9:1. In this passage Paul mentions two Persons of the Trinity as the basis for His telling the truth. These Persons are Christ (the Son) and the Holy Spirit. The Father is not mentioned in this verse. By John’s reasoning, we would have to deny that the Father is a Person. Likewise, in Romans 8:16, Paul mentions only the Holy Spirit and God the Father. Shall we then conclude that the Son is not a Person of the Godhead? But that would contradict passages like Hebrews 1:8-12.
John: …but that is far from the only reason one should question the validity of the Trinity Doctrine adopted and made official by Council of Roman Emperor Constantine in 381 AD.
Lisle: Again, the Trinity is a biblical doctrine and we have already examined the Scriptures on this issue. What Constantine did is utterly irrelevant to this topic. To deny the Trinity is to deny the Bible.
John: In three of Paul’s letters, God the Father and Jesus Christ are referred to as persons but the Holy Spirit is never referred to as a person (Colossians 1:3; I Thessalonians 1:1 and Hebrews 1:1-2)
Lisle: Not true. And there are several problems with John’s reasoning here. First, this is again an argument from silence. Of the twelve disciples, only four are ever explicitly referred to as persons/men (ἄνθρωπος). Should we conclude that the others are not? This is the absurdity of the argument from silence. John is drawing conclusions based on his personal speculations as to why something is not mentioned in Scripture. Proper hermeneutics is to build our theology on what is stated in Scripture.
Second, the Greek word normally translated “person” or “man” is ἄνθρωπος. This Greek word normally refers to human beings. And since Jesus is the only Person of the Godhead who took on human nature at the incarnation, only Christ is specifically referred to as ἄνθρωπος (1 Timothy 2:5; Romans 5:15). Indeed, God is often contrasted with ἄνθρωπος (e.g. Matthew 16:23, 19:26; Mark 7:8; Romans 3:4; 1 Corinthians 2:5). Thus, neither the Father nor the Holy Spirit are ever explicitly referred to as ἄνθρωπος. By John’s reasoning, we should therefore conclude that the Father is not a Person. But of course, that would be absurd.
When we refer to the three Persons of the Trinity, we do not mean three humans. Rather, we are using the biblical principle that one person counts as one witness when giving testimony, and that two witnesses are necessary to confirm a matter. Jesus affirms this biblical principle in John 8:17 where He says, “Even in your law it has been written that the testimony of two men [ἀνθρώπων] is true.” Jesus uses the plural form of ἄνθρωπος in confirming that two persons giving testimony will confirm a matter. Under biblical law, only a person can give eyewitness testimony.
By this biblical criterion, Jesus is a Person since He gives testimony and so does the Father (John 8:18). But there is a third member of the Godhead who also gives testimony: the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:16). Jesus promised that after He departed, He would send a Helper (the Holy Spirit) to testify about Christ (John 15:26). Indeed, the Holy Spirit testifies (Acts 20:23; Romans 8:16; Hebrews 10:15; 1 John 5:6) and is therefore a Person by the biblical criterion (John 8:17).
John: There are many Scriptures where three persons could’ve been made clear but they don’t.
Lisle: There are many Scriptures where the three Persons are made clear (Matthew 3:16-17, 28:19; Galatians 4:6; Mark 12:36; 1 Peter 1:2). Consider Matthew 28:19 in which Jesus says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” Notice that Jesus says “name” not “names.” That is, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit have one name: Yahweh. Each Person of the Trinity is the one and only God.
Frankly, John’s reasoning makes no sense. The Trinity does not have to be mentioned in every verse of the Bible to be a true, biblical doctrine. After all, there are many Scriptures where the fact that God is Creator could have been made clear, but it isn’t. For example, Matthew chapter 1 does not mention God as Creator. Now, Matthew certainly could have made it clear in that chapter as John did in the first chapter of his Gospel. Since there are many verses that do not make clear that God is the Creator, does that mean He isn’t? Of course not. This is because there are other verses that do make clear that God is the Creator – like Genesis 1:1.
John: There are many reasons to question the Trinity teaching: the word is not in the Bible;
Lisle: It’s hard to take such a comment seriously. The word “omniscient” (meaning all-knowing) is not found in the Bible. Is that a good reason to question God’s omniscience? The term “omni-present” (meaning that God’s power is available everywhere) is likewise not found in the Bible. Should we therefore question this doctrine? The term “hypostatic union” (meaning that Jesus is both God and man) is not found in the Bible. Is that a good reason to question that fundamental doctrine? Of course not. These are modern, concise terms that refer to biblical doctrines.
The term “trinity” is used to succinctly convey the biblical teaching on the nature of God. And it is unique to Christianity. That is, all other religions and cults are either polytheistic (having many gods) or a non-triune god, such as unitarian (having one god who is only one person).
John: in Acts 2:3 the HS appears as visible cloven tongues of fire not a person; it was “poured out” upon Peter and the Apostles in Acts 2:18 and on Gentiles in Acts 10:45 – persons cannot be poured out;
Lisle: Where does the Bible say that “persons cannot be poured out?” Or is that simply a prejudicial conjecture on John’s part? I would certainly grant that a physical human being is not so easily poured out due to our physical nature. But God is an omni-present, immaterial Spirit (John 4:24; Jeremiah 23:24). Why would He be limited in that way? Can’t God do whatever He pleases? Likewise, mortal, physical persons such as us cannot “fill heaven and earth.” Does that mean that God cannot do so? See Jeremiah 23:24.
John: In Matthew 1:18, 20 Christ was conceived by the Holy Spirit. If the Holy Spirit were a person, then He would’ve been Christ’s Father; …
Lisle: That’s an interesting idea, but it stems from an equivocation fallacy. The word “son” can refer to a biological male offspring. But that is not the meaning behind the phrase “Son of God.” That is, God the Son is not the Son merely due to the incarnation; that is not what makes God His Father. Rather, the Son has always been God the Son – even before the incarnation (John 1:1). He is mentioned as the Son in Psalm 2:12; Daniel 3:25; Psalm 2:7, and so on. Christ’s title as the Son of God is not because God the Father biologically reproduced in time – this cannot be the case because the Son has always existed as God (John 1:1). Rather, God perhaps uses terms like “Father” and “Son” by way of analogy to help us better understand some aspects of the relationship between these two divine Persons.
Namely, the Father loves the Son (John 3:35, 5:20), gives Him all things (Luke 10:22; John 3:35), sends the Son into the world (John 5:36, 17:25), glorifies the Son (John 17:5), testifies of the Son (John 5:37), and gives the Son authority to execute judgment (John 5:26-27). Whereas the Son obeys the Father (Romans 5:19; Hebrews 5:8), does what the Father does (John 5:19), glorifies the Father (John 17:1), receives glory and honor from the Father (2 Peter 1:17), seeks the Father’s will (John 5:30), and pleases the Father (Matthew 3:17). Mary immaculately conceived Christ in her womb by the miraculous power of the Holy Spirit. But Jesus had already been a Son to God the Father from eternity. That doesn’t change at the incarnation.
John: …in John 10:30; 17:21-22 Jesus says He and the Father are one but does not include a third person – its [sic] no fallacy – sometimes omission means nonexistent;
Lisle: It’s still a fallacy – the argument from silence. Repeating an error does not suddenly make it not an error. And such reasoning leads to absurdity. After all, our critic John is himself not mentioned in this passage. Does that mean he is not a person? Absence of evidence is not the same as evidence of absence. That’s why the argument from silence is fallacious. There is an infinite number of things that are not mentioned in the Gospels. That doesn’t disprove their existence or imply that people not specifically referred to as “persons” in Scripture are not in fact persons.
In Matthew 12:31-32 Jesus speaks of Himself and the Holy Spirit. But He doesn’t mention God the Father at all in this passage. So, should we therefore conclude that the Father is not a person? That would be an irrational inference based on speculation, not on Scripture.
John: Daniel 7:13 only speaks of two persons; Psalm 110:1 “The LORD said to my Lord, ‘Sit at My right hand …”
Lisle: By Whom is David speaking? In Mark 12:36 Jesus says, “David himself said in the Holy Spirit, The Lord said to my Lord, sit at My right hand until I put Your enemies beneath Your feet.” All three Persons are mentioned in Mark 12:36. David doesn’t explicitly mention the Holy Spirit here because it is the Holy Spirit who is speaking through David, as Jesus clarifies.
John’s argument is like claiming a photographer must not exist because he doesn’t show up in any of his own photographs. On the contrary, the photographs are proof that the photographer does exist. Aside from the occasional selfie, we do not expect to explicitly see the photographer in his own photographs because he is the one taking the pictures. Likewise, it is primarily the Holy Spirit who teaches us about the Father and the Son (John 15:26). Indeed, it was the Holy Spirit who wrote the Bible using men (2 Peter 1:21; Acts 4:25; Acts 1:16). The Bible is thus God’s Word because the Holy Spirit is God.
The Holy Spirit is not mentioned in every verse. Nor is the Father. Nor is the Son. That doesn’t mean these are not divine Persons. For example, in Genesis 6:3 the Lord is mentioned along with the Holy Spirit, but the Son is not mentioned. Does that mean the Son isn’t a Person?
Indeed, there are many passages in the Old Testament where only the Lord and the Spirit are mentioned, but not the Son (Numbers 11:25, 11:29; Judges 3:10; 1 Samuel 16:14; 1 Kings 18:12; 2 Chronicles 24:20; Isaiah 11:2; Isaiah 30:1, 34:16, 48:16, 59:21, 61:1; Ezekiel 3:12, 14, 11:5, 37:1, 14, 39:29, 43:5; Zechariah 4:6, 7:12). Now, by John’s reasoning, we should therefore conclude that the Son is not a Person of the Godhead since He isn’t mentioned in any of these verses. But that also would be the fallacy of the argument from silence.
John: David, a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22) only spoke of two members of the Godhead;
Lisle: Not true. David often spoke of the Holy Spirit (Psalm 51:11, 139:7, 143:10). Moreover, it was the Holy Spirit indwelling David that moved Him to pen the Scriptures (2 Peter 1:21; Mark 12:36). The Holy Spirit was the one who spoke through David (Acts 1:16, 4:25, Matthew 22:43). Persons speak.
John: the word Elohayim is not in the bible…
Lisle: That’s the point! In Hebrew the plural form of a word is used for three or more. Two of something has a unique form called the “dual.” If there were two and only two Persons in the Godhead, then Elohayim (the dual form) would be the term for God, not Elohim (the plural form).
John: …and Elohim refers to more than one including just two;
Lisle: Nope. And I already refuted that when I wrote the following:
Incidentally, the Hebrew term for God (Elohim) itself indicates that there cannot be merely two Persons in the Godhead, but three. This is because Elohim is plural (literally meaning “Gods”), yet used with singular verbs. Unlike English, in Hebrew the plural form indicates three or more. To indicate two of something, there is a separate form called the “dual.” If the Holy Spirit were not a Person of the Godhead, if the Godhead were only a “binity” of the Father and the Son, then the term for God would be the dual form (Elohayim).
If you want to see an example of this, look at Numbers 11:19 which states, “You shall eat, not one day, nor two days, nor five days, nor ten days…” The expression for one day uses the singular form of the word “day” – namely, yom (י֥וֹם). The five days and ten days both use the plural form of “days” namely, yamim (יָמִ֗ים). But what about the phrase “two days?” This is translated from the single Hebrew word for the dual form of days: yomayim (יוֹמָ֑יִם). Likewise, the dual form “Elohayim” would be used for God if He were a “binity” rather than a Trinity.
John: In Revelation 4-5 John saw in vision the throne of God and records that he saw the Father and the Son he didn’t see a third person nor did he claim there was “God, the Holy Spirit.”; But there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things and one Lord Jesus Christ …
Lisle: Again, we have the fallacious argument from silence. It doesn’t seem to occur to our critic that the Holy Spirit isn’t in the picture because He is taking the picture. The Apostle John is “in the Spirit” when he is given a vision of the throne of heaven (Revelation 4:2). The Holy Spirit is the one who gave John this vision (Revelation 1:10) and who seven times says, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 29, 3:6, 13, 22). So, the Apostle John was well aware that the Holy Spirit was the Person who gave him this vision.
John: Many false doctrines have been taught by the God of this world who, as you know, can appear as an angel of light and his demons can transform themselves (perhaps literally) into ministers of righteousness and they have deceived the whole world. They are far more insidious than Evolutionists.
Lisle: A denial of the Trinity is a severe error because it strikes at the heart of the Gospel and the nature of God. All three Persons of God were involved in the incarnation and resurrection of Christ. The Father sent the Son (John 10:36) who paid the penalty for our sin (2 Corinthians 5:21) as He was led by the Holy Spirit (Matthew 4:1).
All three Persons were involved in the resurrection of Christ (Romans 8:11; Acts 2:24; John 10:17-18). But it is the Holy Spirit who regenerates our hearts and enables us to declare that Jesus is Lord; apart from the Holy Spirit, no man could say that Jesus is Lord (1 Corinthians 12:3). Perhaps this is why Jesus said that blasphemy against the Son could be forgiven, but not blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (Matthew 12:31-32; Mark 3:29).
John: It’s curious how strongly and competently you refute evolution – which is quite frankly very obvious to anyone not indoctrinated – and yet how weakly and incompetently your arguments are for biblical (as opposed to the traditions of man – primarily Roman Catholic and Judaic) doctrine.
Lisle: It would have been helpful if John had given a specific example of what he thinks is a weak argument on my part and explained why. But he didn’t. The strange thing about his claim is that I didn’t use any arguments from tradition at all. I cited no creeds, nor any statements of faith. Rather, I cited the Scriptures as the basis for believing in the Trinity in the three-part series as you can see here.
John: You mention in the Mandelbrot video intro you grew up in a Christian home. No doubt your parents were loving and sincere but they too were born into a world already in the grip of Satan the Devil and his minions – spirit and human – …
Lisle: Actually, I am convinced that Christ is in charge of the world now (Matthew 28:19-20). He allows the wicked to prosper, but only for a while. If the wicked do not repent, Christ will eventually destroy them (Psalm 2:10-12).
John: …and so few of us really question much of what we learn as children. Yet that is precisely what one must do to prove ALL things.
Lisle: I hope and pray that John will search the Scriptures more carefully for the many passages that refer to the Holy Spirit as God Himself, and not merely some unconscious or abstract power of God.
Biblically, eyewitness testimony from two persons is necessary to confirm a matter (John 8:17). Christ appeals to His own testimony and that of His Father as establishing a matter (John 8:18). This proves that He and His Father count as separate Persons under biblical law. But when Jesus returns to the Father, how are we to confirm biblical matters? Jesus therefore promised to send a Helper (the Holy Spirit) to be a witness (John 15:26). The Holy Spirit testifies of Christ (1 John 5:6; Romans 8:16; Hebrews 10:15). Therefore, the Holy Spirit is a Person according to biblical law (John 8:17).
The Holy Spirit has many characteristics of a Person that would not make sense of a non-conscious “power.” For example, the Holy Spirit speaks (1 Timothy 4:1; Hebrews 3:7-8), has a will (1 Corinthians 12:11; Hebrews 2:4), can grieve (Ephesians 4:30), loves (Romans 15:30), and so on. We honor God when we accept what He has said about Himself, and do not ignore those Scriptures that are contrary to our intuition or preferences.
 God must refer to the Father specifically in this verse because we (believers) are children of God the Father, and are considered brothers of God the Son (Hebrews 2:11-12, 17).
 Matthew (Matthew 9:9), Judas Iscariot (Mark 14:21; Luke 22:22), Peter (Acts 4:13), and John (Acts 4:13)