L. Ray Smith's "bibletruths.com" on the Trinity -- A Critique

Now for our next critique of the work of L. Ray Smith, and his article, "Is God a Closed TRINITY or an Open FAMILY? [A Scriptural Refutation of the Trinity Theory]". I hardly need note that Smith has no knowledge of Wisdom theologyIndeed you may expect he'd merely address our study with the decontextualized answer, "You're using stuff outside the Bible!" for he says to start:

Learn something important and profound: Whenever someone tries to teach you a doctrine that is UNscriptural, he will always be forced to use words that are unscriptural.

The extremes are not just that "trinity" is not in the Bible, but also such as that, God is never called or referred to as "a person." Presumably Smith has other ways to assure us that God is not impersonal. God is also never said to be "conscious", so does this mean God is not conscious? It also never says Jesus wore "clothes" when he preached so does that mean he preached naked?

Making too much of silence is never a god argument, but Smith's bigger problem is that he has no conception of difference between ontological and functional subordination. Hence, the usual proof texts such as "My Father is GREATER than I" (John 14:28) are offered for anti-Trinitarian service, without awareness of how they in fact meld with it, and mere declarative statements without argument,from outdated sources, are what is offered: It seems unlikely that the outdated, thousand page "Hastings Dictionary of the Bible" knew of the Wisdom background that gave the demonstrable logical and Scriptural proof, and Smith seems uninterested in anything more recent, despite the likelihood of more findings since those writings were produced.

Smith also objects that God is not called a "substance" anywhere, but he is thinking of "substance" in the modern sense of "material," not "substance" in terms of, "the substance of what was said," which is closer to what Trinitarianism means when it uses that word (ie, basis of being and existence, not material). In any event, Smith goes on for some time irrelevantly about the hypothetical nature of the Trinity, quoting such theological non-authorities as the Encyclopedia Britannica on the subject, though even that he dismisses as "nothing but a hodgepodge of unintelligible, dubious, theological, intellectual gobbledygook" and tells his readers: "Don’t ever feel inferior or put down by the intellectual vanity of writers like this who haven’t a clue as to what they are talking about."

Yet whether they do indeed know what they are talking about is precisely the issue. We may rightly doubt that Smith does, for it takes him quite some time to get to actual arguments, and when he offers some criticism of a scholar's website he found at random, he admits he only read the first page of it before dimissing it as "inane scholarship" and "assuredly a religious work of fiction". This is not the sign of a thorough researcher, nor of one able to understand his sources.

Atfer dispensing (correctly) with 1 John 5:7, we get this, the first actual argument against the Trinity:

One plus one plus one DOES NOT equal one!
One God plus one God plus one God DOES NOT equal one God!
One third of a God plus one third of a God plus one third of a God DOES NOT equal one whole God!

That's all true, but what the Trinity means is expressed mathematically this way: 3A = B; or, three persons comprise one being. That Smith does not know this is evident in further comments:

The Holy Spirit of God cannot also be that same God! ANYTHING that is either "from" or "of" something ELSE cannot also "BE" that something else no matter what or who it is!

We agree. The Holy Spirit of YHWH is not the same as YHWH; the Spirit is a hypostasis of YHWH -- it is like this: Our arm is not us; it is of us, but it is not the same as us. And:

A "Father" and a "Son" CANNOT ALSO BE THE SAME PERSON!

We agree; that would be the modalist heresy. The Father and Son are of one being, but not the same person.

Smith goes on with more in which he says the same thing many different ways:

God the Father is the first cause of all and ALL IS OUT GOD, even Jesus Christ is "OUT of God."
"...I [Jesus] came OUT from God. I CAME OUT FROM the FATHER..." (John 16:27-28).
Now if Jesus came out from the trinity, why doesn’t the Scripture say so? He didn’t come out of the trinity and He didn’t come out of the holy spirit, but HE DID COME, "...OUT FROM THE FATHER!"

I have no idea how Smith thinks we ought to say "Jesus came out from the trinity" but "came out from the Father" is precisely what we would expect of hypostatic Wisdom in the Trinitarian model.

Smith goes on to quote Col. 1:14-17, which is ironic given how well it also fits that model (as our article shows). And on it goes, with more of the same failure to distinguish between functional and ontological subordination, which allows perfectly for the Father to be the God of Christ in Trinitarianism, for example.

Smith even thinks Matt. 28:19 is the "main Scripture used by Trinitarians to try and make people believe that God is a trinity" -- but no, not by us. He also briefly touches on the personhood of the Spirit (our answer to that, of course, here and the same Wisdom template). Smith also offers an odd list of names that he supposed we would take to prove that God has up to 20 persons, though the list overlaps titles given to the same persons ("The Holy Ghost," "The Holy Spirit") and it is hard to say what he thinks he is proving or trying to prove.

But after more repetition of the same points, Smith does admit a "close relationship between the Father, the Son, and the holy spirit" (though the nature is not defined), then spends a bit more time om Matt. 28:19, then appeals thusly:

Yes, God is a growing family.
"Consequently, then, no longer are you strangers and sojourners, but are fellow-citizens of the saints and belong to God’s FAMILY..." (Eph. 2:19).
The trinity is like a closed triangle where no one gets in. That is what Satan would like people to believe. But, dear reader, God desires a very large family wherein you and I are family members! When were you ever taught such a marvelous truth in Sunday school? Ultimately, everyone in the entirety of the Universe is going to be one, holy, united, happy, glorious, giant, FAMILY OF GOD!!!

So it seems Smith is closest here to Mormonism's ideas: a social trinity alone. And after blaming Satan for the whole doctrine, and extended commentary about the believers being the "family of God" that (in principle) isn't particularly disagreeable, we get back to the Trinity again with:

"...the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is CONCEIVED IN HER IS OF THE HOLY GHOST" (Mat. 1:20).
Here is a Scripture so simple that any child above the age of seven can surely understand. And with its understanding comes the total demise of the trinity theory. We learned in Eph. 1:17, that God is both the GOD AND FATHER of our Lord Jesus Christ,
"...the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, THE FATHER of glory..."
Okay, then, here it is--you’re going to love this. If the holy ghost is actually and literally "God" as Trinitarians maintain, and Jesus was "CONCEIVED" by the Holy Ghost, then Jesus would have to be "The Son of the Holy Ghost" and not the Son of God the Father! It is not physiologically or Scriptural possible to be "conceived" by one person and then when born, be the son of another person! Whoever causes a women to conceive is also the FATHER of the child conceived, NOT ANOTHER AND DIFFERENT PERSON! Jesus was conceived by the holy spirit "OF" God. It was the spirit OF the Father, not some other spirit or ghost that caused Mary to conceive. Therefore "God," not the "spirit of God," is the FATHER of Jesus. So much for the trinity theory.

To begin, "of the Holy Ghost" is not the same as "by the Holy Ghost" -- Smith has no understanding of the Spirit as God's active principle of creation (see our link, again) and so his entire objection is once again beside the point. The answer is that the incarnated Jesus was conceived BY the Father OF the Holy Spirit. The two little words make a big difference.

Smith goes on to repeat some the same things he has already said multiple times, though with reference to how the Spirit cannot be part of a Trinity rather than how Jesus cannot be. He argues that the "holy ghost [spirit]" and the "spirit of God" are one and the same, which no one I know of in Trinitarianism disagrees with, so it is hard to say why he thinks this connection refutes Trinitarianism.

Then, after some random prooftexting that doesn't seem to serve any purpose, we get to an interesting place where it is said:

Is Christ God? YES HE IS!
"Yet to the Son [this is GOD speaking]: ‘Thy throne, O GOD, is for the eon of the eon..." (Heb. 1:8).
And also
Who [Jesus], being inherently in the form of God, deems it not pillaging [taking by force or plundering] to be EQUAL WITH GOD" (Phil. 2:6).

It is asked likewise, "Is Christ worthy of worship? YES HE IS!" and texts are provided.

So what now? Is Smith a Trinitarian after all? No, instead:

So Christ is called "God," and did not consider it pillaging to be "equal" with God, and was often "worshiped." So surely, even if Christ is not the third person of a trinity, He must at least be the second person of a duet! SURELY, HE IS NOT! Let me explain.
Jesus IS God! True, but this fact does NOT make Him the FATHER!

Well, Trinitariansim agrees with that -- Smith is nicely refuting the modalist heresy, but not Trinitarianism. Smith also stresses:

Jesus never came out and said "I AM GOD!" He always called Himself, "The Son OF God." Recall that Jesus did not consider it "pillaging" to be equal with God. That is, he didn’t need to steal, or take His office by FORCE, because His God, the Father, GAVE ALL THINGS TO HIM FREELY! Though Jesus is certainly "God," we must always remember that everything that made Him "God" (like His Father), WAS GIVEN TO HIM! Is there anyone who would suggest that someone GAVE God the Father all that He possesses? I think not. There is clearly a distinction--we have a "Father" and a "Son," NOT two equal Gods of a so-called trinity.

But Trinitarianism DOES hold that the Father gives Jesus all his power and authority; so what is Smith arguing against? The answer is, he is arguing against a strawman version of the doctrine. We agree that, as he says:

The Father is GREATER than His Son, and the Son will ALWAYS be subjected to His Father.

In light of this, there is continued irony in Smith's profession, "It is not difficult to understand if one will simply believe the Scriptures." Yet it is clear that he does not even have a rudimentary "understanding" of the very position he claims to refute.

But back again to the Spirit, and Smith presses silence into service again:

Our Lord gives us a beautiful metaphor in these same chapters of John. Jesus says,
"I am the true Grapevine, and My father is the Farmer...I am the Grapevine. You are the branches" (John 15:1 & 5).
Notice that the holy spirit is NO PART of this analogy. Now seriously, if the holy spirit were a third personality or god of the trinity, then why does it have NO PART in so many dozens and dozens of Scriptures like this one? Surely if there is a trinity, the holy spirit could represent maybe the soil, or the sunshine, or the rain, or at least be some part of this analogy with the Father, the Son, and the Saints, don’t you think?

No, I don't --- the Spirit could have no part in an analogy like this; as a mediator of the patronage relationship, there is no parallel spot in the vine metaphor. Soil, sun, or rain make no sense in that context for the parallel. Smith has an objection only because he is oblivious to the Spirit's role.

The comforter does not come until Christ departs to the Father, because the comforter IS THE SON returning in the form of "spirit," "holy spirit."

This even though he admits as well:

"Now, whenever the consoler [comforter] which I shall be sending you from the Father..." Notice that Christ sends the comforter from the Father.

So here's what Smith's position amounts to: Binary modalism, and Jesus sends himself from the Father. Smith never explains this patent contradiction; he does try to justify it with unjustified prooftexting, in which he adds his own commentary to texts to make them say what he wants them to say:

"I will NOT leave you bereaved [comfortless], I am coming to you [in the form of the comforter and spirit of truth]." (Jn 14:18).
Now notice how clear Jesus makes this. Who or What is this spirit, holy spirit, holy ghost, spirit of truth, comforter? Is it really the third person of a triune God? Let Jesus Himself answer:
"IN THAT DAY [the day when the comforter comes] you shall know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I IN YOU" (Jn 14:20)! "Now the consoler [comforter], THE HOLY SPIRIT, which the Father will be sending IN MY NAME, that will be teaching you all, and reminding you of all that I said to you" (Jn 14:26).
"I am going, and I AM COMING TO YOU" (Jn. 14:27).
JESUS CHRIST BY MEANS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT OF GOD WHICH HIS FATHER GAVE TO HIM IS THE COMFORTER!

John 14:27 says no such thing; it says, "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid." As for 14:18, it seems that Smith has forgotten the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus -- to apply that verse to the Spirit of truth is an artificiality based on what Smith wants the text to say.

Then Smith offers this:

In the Greek, the "comforter" or consoler is translated from parakleetos. Now, is there any Scriptural proof that Jesus Christ is called "parakleetos?" Yes there is. In I John 2:1 we read,
"And if anyone should be sinning, we have an Entreater with the Father, Jesus Christ, the Just."
In the King James it says we have an "advocate" [with a small "a"]. King James ALWAYS capitalizes the Greek word "parakleetos," so why don’t they capitalize it here? You see, "advocate" or a better translation "Entreater" is translated from the GREEK WORD "parakleetos!"
HERE IS PROOF POSITIVE THAT JESUS CHRIST IS THE "PARAKLEETOS!"

No, it is proof positive that Jesus Christ is A parakletos. This is where Smith's lack of knowledge of the brokerage role of Christ in our patronage relationship with the Father fails him: Spirit and Jesus alike act as mediators or brokers in this relationship; nowhere is there any reason to say that parakletos is a title set aside for one person. Ancient clients could deal with numerous brokers in their relationships with patrons -- there was no rule that there was only one broker.

It speaks for itself that Smith closes with this:

Isn’t is just amazing what we can learn when we just read and truth of God’s Word instead of the strange and unscriptural teaching of theologians?

Smith has never learned the lesson we note here. Smith has not merely relied on God's Word himself: He has appealed to meanings in Greek, and God's Word did not teach him Greek. But Smith no doubt will continue to take consolation in his own inconsistencies even as he fails to see them.

-JPH