Instigator / Con
Points: 7

Is the trinity pagan?

Finished

The voting period has ended

After 3 votes the winner is ...
sylweb
Debate details
Publication date
Last update
Category
Religion
Time for argument
Two days
Voting system
Open voting
Voting period
Two weeks
Point system
Four points
Rating mode
Rated
Characters per argument
10,000
Contender / Pro
Points: 21
Description
No information
Round 1
Published:
There is no evidence that the trinity is pagan. And, it didn't came from the Council of Nicea.

Published:

This will be a Devil's Advocate debate for me.

The Trinity is not explicitly found in the Bible, and in fact it’s basically impossible to logically understand. Yet, mainstream Christians insist that to be a Christian, you must believe in the Trinity. This, we shall see, is because Christianity has been deeply influenced by the ideas of Greek philosophy and paganism, and has become distanced from its original theological roots. 

Rebuttal

Con provides no analysis beyond a link to the Evangelical apologetics website CARM. In this link, apologist Matt Slick cites several quotes from early Church Fathers that he argues show the Trinity has deep roots in the primitive Church.

This, however, is far from sufficient. 

Firstly, the first four earliest quotes do not specifically state the core claims of trinitarianism: that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are co-eternal, co-equal persons of the same substance. Instead, they merely make reference to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.[1] This is not specific enough, since the heresies that oppose trinitarianism, such as Arianism, subordinationism, tritheism and modalism, also say that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit exist; what makes them different from the orthodox view of the Trinity is that they deny that they are equal, co-eternal, and/or consubstantial.

Secondly, simply showing that some early Christians believed in the Trinity does not make it an authentic doctrine, and it does not make it non-pagan. Early Christians held a variety of heretical beliefs, including gnosticism and Arianism. Just decades after Jesus’s death and resurrection, Paul was writing epistles to condemn heresies. What must be shown is that the consensus of Early Christianity was trinitarianism. 

This consensus is nowhere to be found. Many of the earliest Christians held beliefs that hardly resemble any modern branch of Christianity, such as gnosticism [2]. While some early Christian writers used the term “Trinity”, the doctrine had not yet developed, so they sometimes actually meant other ideas, such as a subordinationist conception of God [2]. 

Positive Case

The Trinity developed over time

While Con does provide examples of isolated Christians who believed in the Trinity, he does not show that this was a majority consensus. The fact is, the Trinity became a widely-accepted doctrine over time through ecumenical councils. 

At Nicea in 325 CE, Constantine intervened in favour of the divinity of Christ [3]. However, Nicea did not solidify the Trinity, since it said little about the divinity of the Holy Spirit. Later, at Constantinople, the full Trinity doctrine was affirmed, though not without resistance [3]. Those who opposed the Trinity were violently repressed [3], since this was a political matter (both councils were convened by the Emperor to settle disputes and ensure political unity through religious unity. 
Influences on the Trinity

The Trinity adopts ideas from the Greek philosopher Plato and pagan religions. Egyptian gods were frequently conceived as three beings in one, and Plato used this idea in describing “Ultimate Reality” [3].

This fact is especially apparent when we consider the philosophical phrasing needed to describe the Trinity. The Trinity is far from intuitive; it claims that there are three separate persons that are all completely God (and not a part of God), yet these three separate persons are not the same as each other. This does not make common sense, since from this claim, we can arrive at an absurd conclusion:

Jesus = God
Father = God
Jesus ≠ Father
∴God ≠ God

The Trinity only makes sense as a philosophical construct, requiring vague philosophical terms like “person”, which, beyond the fact that it is some sort of division lower than the level of the substance, has an unclear meaning. This is because the Trinity is illogical on its own and required Christianity to adopt prepackaged Platonic constructs, like the term trias, to make sense of it with the Platonic system’s own internal logic.[4]

[1] “Early Trinitarian Quotes | CARM.org.” [Online]. Available: https://carm.org/early-trinitarian-quotes. [Accessed: 15-Nov-2019].
[2] “Trinity > History of Trinitarian Doctrines (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy).” [Online]. Available: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/trinity/trinity-history.html#Up325CE. [Accessed: 15-Nov-2019].
[3] “How Did the Trinity Doctrine Develop? — Watchtower ONLINE LIBRARY.” [Online]. Available: https://wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/1101989303. [Accessed: 15-Nov-2019].
[4] “Greek Philosophy’s Influence on the Trinity Doctrine | United Church of God.” [Online]. Available: https://www.ucg.org/bible-study-tools/booklets/is-god-a-trinity/greek-philosophys-influence-on-the-trinity-doctrine. [Accessed: 15-Nov-2019].

Round 2
Published:
The Council of Nicea was only about Arianism. Also, the trinity can be found in the Bible, in both Old and New testament. Do you know that God that is outside our space and time, right? And, there is no evidence of paganism in the trinity. In fact, if you look into it, you would know that that those gods don't represent the Trinity in Orthodox Christianity (3 Persons in 1 God). Also, arguing that the number 3 means that the Trinity is pagan, is an association fallacy. Also, I notice you're citing a Jw.org link, which is telling on where you're getting these ideas from. And, you do know that trinity doctrine is beyond our comprehension, right?

Published:

Introduction

The story of Early Christianity is the story of many divergent groups, including gnostics and the precursors of Roman Catholicism, proposing divergent beliefs and even different gospels. In the first and second century Anno Domini, many gnostic “gospels” floated around [1]. It was amidst these theological power struggles that the trinitarian view eventually won out. This raises the compelling question of whether the Trinity was originally taught by Jesus — a question that the evidence Con has provided has, thus far, failed to answer.

Rebuttal

Con briefly responds to my first round by making several points that are not grouped into individual arguments. Thus, I will respond one by one to the individual pieces of analysis that he provides.

The Council of Nicea was only about Arianism.

It is true that it was about Arianism. But it’s equally true that it cemented the position of the Trinitarian doctrine. Following the victory of the Trinitarian side at Nicea and later councils, ecclesiastical and governmental authorities were able to suppress dissenting views [2]. The councils also allowed for the Trinity doctrine to be gradually fleshed out: Nicea affirmed the Son’s Divinity, and then Constantinople affirmed the Holy Spirit’s Divinity [3]. Sure, some isolated writers may have held something close to the Trinitarian view, but basically every possible permutation of the relationship among the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit was held by some writers, from monarchianism to Arianism to subordinationism to modalism. Only through the councils’ work in enforcing the Trinity did the Trinity begin “to gel into a recognizable form [2].” 

Thus, it is clear that the councils did influence the development and spread of the Trinity doctrine. My argument in the first round was that the councils, held by the originally-pagan Roman government, allowed emperors like Constantine to step in and influence doctrine in favour of the Trinity [4], which Con does not refute. 

Also, the Trinity can be found in the Bible, in both Old and New testament.

Con does not cite any Bible passages to demonstrate this claim. While there are some Bible passages that appear to support parts of Trinitarian doctrine (e.g. John 1:1), there are also other passages that seem to oppose it (e.g. Matthew 24:36 seems to indicate that Jesus does not know everything that His Father knows.) A detailed study of the Bible is required to prove any specific variation of the relation between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, which Con fails to provide.

Furthermore, the Bible is not like a Full-HD unbiased videotape of everything Jesus and His apostles did. The New Testament was compiled by people with specific beliefs over the first and second century, and the reason why we have the current NT today is because the group of Christians that supported the current set of books—rather than the gnostic “gospels”—won out. So even if the Bible does support the Trinity, it does not follow that Jesus originally taught it, since it could be that the gnostic gospels reflect Jesus’s teachings more accurately.

Those gods don't represent the Trinity in Orthodox Christianity (3 Persons in 1 God). Arguing that the number 3 means that the Trinity is pagan, is an association fallacy.

In fact, the Trinity does correspond to both pagan Greek philosophy and pagan deities. 

Plato’s metaphors and his concepts like the logos were frequently drawn upon to describe the Trinity [2]. As I described in my previous round, the Trinity is not logical, so the internal logic of Platonic ideas had to be borrowed to describe it. 

In terms of pagan deities, Con argues that a mere similarity in number does not justify drawing a link between the Trinity and pagan deities, stating that that would be an “association fallacy”. This is true, and indeed, the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy notes that certain alleged connections between the Trinity and paganism are far-fetched and implausible [2]. However, the link between pagan deities and the Trinity is not a mere connection in number, and some specific alleged connections are quite strong. For instance, Platonist philosophers like Numenius and Moderatus both taught triads of gods [2]; their influence on Christianity is plausibly demonstrated by the Platonist philosophy drawn upon by early writers who subscribed to a near-trinitarian view, such as Justin Martyr [2]. 

It must be noted that the process by which the Trinity was promulgated was ultimately the councils led by Constantine and later emperors, who had influence over their outcome [4]. Constantine was most likely not genuinely a Christian, and regardless had been influenced by Roman paganism [4]. With the declaration of Catholicism as the state religion in Rome, many former pagans entered Christianity and brought their Pagan influences with them. Thus, the connection between the Trinity and pagan gods is not merely a numerical one, but rather there is a plausible historical and causal link.

Then what about the fact that the Trinity does not exactly correspond to pagan triads? That’s not sufficient evidence to distance them. It very well could be that pagan ideas pulled away from monotheism while Christianity’s Jewish roots pulled towards monotheism, creating the Trinity as a compromise.

Also, I notice you're citing a Jw.org link, which is telling on where you're getting these ideas from.

This argument comes close to an actual ad hominem fallacy: just because it is from Jw.org does not make it wrong. I could just as well say that CARM is a biased source. 

And, you do know that trinity doctrine is beyond our comprehension, right?

The link between this argument and the debate is unclear. Con concedes that Trinitarianism is incomprehensible, which I have argued is the reason why Platonic ideas had to be borrowed in order to make use of their internal logic. 

Incomprehensibility is an excellent way to defend bad ideas. It’s a form of special pleading: our idea is impossible to logically examine, so it cannot be refuted. 

Conclusion

Over this debate, Con has not demonstrated that the Trinity was the consensus of the primitive Church founded by Jesus. While he has provided a source with some quotes that appear to support the Trinity, many of the quotes are ambiguous, as stated in the previous round. Overall, the evidence suggests that the primitive Church did not uniformly believe in the Trinity, that it developed over time. Despite using some Trinity-like language, both Origen and Justin Martyr had a subordinationist proto-Trinity:

The God and Father, who holds the universe together, is superior to every being that exists, for he imparts to each one from his own existence that which each one is; the Son, being less than the Father, is superior to rational creatures alone (for he is second to the Father); the Holy Spirit is still less, and dwells within the saints alone. So that in this way the power of the Father is greater than that of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and that of the Son is more than that of the Holy Spirit… (Origen, First, 33-4 [2])

On the other hand, Pro has made several lines of reasoning that show that the Trinity had a pagan origin:
  1. The development of the doctrine was influenced by Pagan Roman Emperors
  2. The doctrine draws heavily from Platonic Greek philosophy
  3. The Trinity doctrine developed over time, and there was no consensus within the early Church
Thus, it can be concluded that the Trinity is most likely of Pagan origin, concocted over the course of several councils centuries after Christ and His apostles spoke their words. It is only due to tradition and religious authority that Christianity was taken hostage and made to accept a doctrine that is supposedly both true and incomprehensible. 

[1] “The Gnostic Gospels,” FRONTLINE. [Online]. Available: https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/article/gnostic-gospels/. [Accessed: 16-Nov-2019].
[2] “Trinity > History of Trinitarian Doctrines (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy).” [Online]. Available: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/trinity/trinity-history.html#Up325CE. [Accessed: 15-Nov-2019].
[3] “Greek Philosophy’s Influence on the Trinity Doctrine | United Church of God.” [Online]. Available: https://www.ucg.org/bible-study-tools/booklets/is-god-a-trinity/greek-philosophys-influence-on-the-trinity-doctrine. [Accessed: 15-Nov-2019].
[4] “How Did the Trinity Doctrine Develop? — Watchtower ONLINE LIBRARY.” [Online]. Available: https://wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/1101989303. [Accessed: 15-Nov-2019].

Added:
--> @Dynasty, @DynamicSquid, @sylweb
**************************************************
>Reported Vote: DynamicSquid // Mod action: Removed
>Points Awarded: 0:5; 5 points to Pro.
>Reason for Decision: See below
>Reason for Mod Action:
In essence, this vote was just too vague. This can be avoided in future by just naming the core contention (and the main counterpoint or the lack thereof), listing a single source you found important (if voting sources), saying what conduct violation distracted you (if voting conduct)... You need not write a thesis but some minimal level of detail is required to verify knowledge of what you're grading.
To award argument points, the voter must (1) survey the main argument and counterargument in the debate, (2) weigh those arguments and counterarguments against each other, and (3) explain, based on the weighing process, how they reached their decision.
To award sources points, the voter must (1) explain how the debaters' sources impacted the debate, (2) directly assess the strength/utility of at least one source in particular cited in the debate, and (3) explain how and why one debater's use of sources overall was superior to the other's.
**************************************************
#23
Added:
DynamicSquid
4 days ago
Criterion Con Tie Pro Points
Better arguments ✗ ✗ ✔ 3 points
Better sources ✗ ✗ ✔ 2 points
Better spelling and grammar ✗ ✔ ✗ 1 point
Better conduct ✗ ✔ ✗ 1 point
Reason:
Hmm... it pains to see the contrast between a lenghy text and a short text. I feel like this is time wasted.
Therefor, I shall judge this debate based on quantity.
#22
Added:
--> @PressF4Respect, @sylweb, @Dynasty
**************************************************
>Reported Vote: PressF4Respect // Mod action: Removed
>Points Awarded: 0:5; 5 points to Pro.
>Reason for Decision: See below
>Reason for Mod Action:
In essence, this vote was just too vague. This can be avoided in future by just naming the core contention (and the main counterpoint or the lack thereof), listing a single source you found important (if voting sources), saying what conduct violation distracted you (if voting conduct)... You need not write a thesis but some minimal level of detail is required to verify knowledge of what you're grading.
To award argument points, the voter must (1) survey the main argument and counterargument in the debate, (2) weigh those arguments and counterarguments against each other, and (3) explain, based on the weighing process, how they reached their decision.
To award sources points, the voter must (1) explain how the debaters' sources impacted the debate, (2) directly assess the strength/utility of at least one source in particular cited in the debate, and (3) explain how and why one debater's use of sources overall was superior to the other's.
**************************************************
#21
Added:
PressF4Respect
2 days ago
Criterion Con Tie Pro Points
Better arguments ✗ ✗ ✔ 3 points
Better sources ✗ ✗ ✔ 2 points
Better spelling and grammar ✗ ✔ ✗ 1 point
Better conduct ✗ ✔ ✗ 1 point
Reason:
Con provided ample evidence for his arguments, and soundly rebutted the only claim that Pro presented.
Many sources vs one source, it’s self-evident who wins here.
#20
Added:
--> @sylweb
The reason why the father knows that day, is because Jesus was both fully God and fully man, and have to willingly cooperate the limitations of being man. Also, I heard that Eusebius and Justin Martyr have argued that Plato was influenced under the teaching of Moses. So, meaning that the connection could be the other way around.
Instigator
#19
Added:
--> @Ragnar
"Pro literally schooled con."
Wishful thinking are there, kid.
Instigator
#18
Added:
--> @Swagnarok
I agree that the Bible supports the Trinity, but I think it's untrue that it's explicitly found in there. Matthew 18:19 lists the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, but it does not explain the relationship between each person. Arianists, subordinationists, and others also believe in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; it's just that they would understand the relationships differently. To prove the Trinity from that verse, you would have to use other verses to make inferences and deductions, meaning that it's not explicit but rather implicit.
Contender
#17
Added:
Jesus ordered his disciples to baptize people "in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit" (Matt. 28:19). Jesus understood "the Father" to be God the Father (generally thought to be synonymous with YHWH of the Old Testament), Himself being "the Son", and the Holy Spirit is described in the Bible as He who came to believers after the end of Jesus's earthly ministry. Besides "The Word" (generally understood to be either an alternate name for The Son or for Scripture, which was divinely inspired by God), God is only understood in these three terms in the Christian canon, thus comprising a Trinity. This doesn't answer the question of whether the idea of the Trinity is pagan, but Pro's claim that the Trinity "is not explicitly found in the Bible" is false.
#16
Added:
--> @blamonkey
Thanks for letting me know.
#15
Added:
--> @SirAnonymous
What you just wrote was sufficient.
#14
Added:
--> @SirAnonymous
It was weird cause we had just been talking on another thread in the forums. OK. Thanks for the heads up.
#13
Added:
--> @ethang5
I don't know what you mean. I saw your comment as I was reading the debate so I could vote on it.
#12
Added:
--> @blamonkey
Would my RFD be sufficient if I added some evaluation of Pro's arguments?
"Con dropped most of Pro's R1 arguments. He failed to show how the Trinity is a Biblical doctrine. In fact, he hardly presented any arguments. On the other hand, Pro actually took the time to explain how the doctrine of the Trinity was pagan. He showed how pagan emperors influenced the Nicean Council. He argued that the pagan Platonic philosophy was added to the Trinity and that the doctrine developed over time rather than being the beliefs of the earliest Christians. He refuted Con's argument that the Trinity is Biblical by providing a verse hinting at the opposite. I don't think he proved that the Trinity was pagan, Con failed to establish the BoP required. Pro's arguments suggest that the doctrine of the Trinity could have pagan roots. Con failed to refute those arguments. Consequently, arguments go to Pro.
There were no issues with spelling, grammar, or conduct. While Con did try to discredit one of Pro's sources, he didn't provide any reasoning for discrediting it. Thus, sources are a tie."
#11
Added:
--> @SirAnonymous
*******************************************************************
>Reported Vote: SirAnonymous // Mod action: [Removed]
>Points Awarded: 3 points to Pro
>Reason for Decision:
"Con dropped most of Pro's R1 arguments. He failed to show how the Trinity is a Biblical doctrine. In fact, he hardly presented any arguments. On the other hand, Pro actually took the time to explain how the doctrine of the Trinity was pagan. While I don't think he proved that the Trinity was pagan, Con failed to establish the BoP required. Pro's arguments suggest that the doctrine of the Trinity could have pagan roots. Con failed to refute those arguments. Consequently, arguments go to Pro.
There were no issues with spelling, grammar, or conduct. While Con did try to discredit one of Pro's sources, he didn't provide any reasoning for discrediting it. Thus, sources are a tie."
>Reason for Mod Action: To award points for arguments, the voter must survey the main arguments of the round, weigh them, and come to a conclusion based off the gravity of the arguments per the CoC and Voting Guidelines. There was a surface-level attempt to do this, and I do agree from my cursory evaluation that Con essentially drops this debate, but Pro's arguments and counterarguments must be evaluated as well. Sorry, my hands are tied.
************************************************************************
#10
Added:
--> @oromagi
>"the trinity can be found in the Bible" =appeal to authority, false authority
You were on point except for this one. For this argument, the bible was an acceptable authority, and the concept of the trinity being found in the bible would be consistent with con's position that the trinity was not pagan. Requiring con not to appeal to the bible was illogical. He just needed to correctly do so, and show it in his argumentation.
Interesting arguments to support the conduct point.
#9
#3
Criterion Con Tie Pro Points
Better arguments 3 points
Better sources 2 points
Better spelling and grammar 1 point
Better conduct 1 point
Reason:
This largely boils down to a BoP failure, and almost no contest. As the instigator, con should be providing enough reason to doubt the validity of the resolution (unless specified otherwise in the description); instead he merely makes two assertions (each literally a single sentence). He also completely dismissed his EoF when making a counter claim.
Pro literally schooled con. He dismantled con's case (at far greater lengths than it existed), he built his own showing the historical connections to pagan cultures (I am somewhat amused that con complained that pro provided a link, rather than trying to refute any aspect of it). And he even walked con through what he would need to do to support his claims and win the debate (but con was uninterested).
Con's assertion "that trinity doctrine is beyond our comprehension" basically amounted to an accidental concession, as he needs to prove something about it, thus comprehend it (not even getting into the problems of that 8th century anti-educational viewpoint).
Sources:
Pro had an overwhelming advantage here from bothering to research their case, and then line up the sources with the arguments via numbering them. The one that takes to cake for me was con's LogicallyFallacious source, which he leveraged against his own final round (/guilt by association is a fallacy!/ ... "Also, I notice you're citing a Jw.org link, which is telling on where you're getting these ideas from").
Conduct:
Con's refusal to engage with the debate was a problematic to say the least; however this is already well punished under other areas, and he did not get nasty. ... This still leans heavily in pro's favor, such that I am on the fence about giving the point or not.
#2
Criterion Con Tie Pro Points
Better arguments 3 points
Better sources 2 points
Better spelling and grammar 1 point
Better conduct 1 point
Reason:
Con dropped most of Pro's R1 arguments. He failed to show how the Trinity is a Biblical doctrine. In fact, he hardly presented any arguments. On the other hand, Pro actually took the time to explain how the doctrine of the Trinity was pagan. He showed how pagan emperors influenced the Nicean Council. He argued that the pagan Platonic philosophy was added to the Trinity and that the doctrine developed over time rather than being the beliefs of the earliest Christians. He refuted Con's argument that the Trinity is Biblical by providing a verse hinting at the opposite. I don't think he proved that the Trinity was pagan, Con failed to establish the BoP required. Pro's arguments suggest that the doctrine of the Trinity could have pagan roots. Con failed to refute those arguments. Consequently, arguments go to Pro.
There were no issues with spelling, grammar, or conduct. While Con did try to discredit one of Pro's sources, he didn't provide any reasoning for discrediting it. Thus, sources are a tie.
#1
Criterion Con Tie Pro Points
Better arguments 3 points
Better sources 2 points
Better spelling and grammar 1 point
Better conduct 1 point
Reason:
CON made one argument in R1- the trinity didn't come from CoNicea. OK. nobody said it did and non-sequitur to question of pagan origins. Truly terrible, lazy argument.
PRO took the high road and offered some Platonic, Roman, and Egyptian origins, correctly pointed out that some early Christian support for trinity does argue against pagan sources and points out that Nicea was, in fact, a milepost on the road to Trinitarian acceptance. Nice work.
CON comes back with unsupported declaration and bizarrely insisting that his topic lies beyond our capacity to understand- which suggests that CON has no hope of proving his argument since he admits to not understanding the subject.
ARGUMENTS to PRO
SOURCES to PRO. CON offered no sources in support of claim. Worse, PRO fronts one specific religious source and condemns CON's use of a specific religious source (one assumes because it is the wrong kind of religious source), ignoring that PRO, at least, pulled from multiple religious and secular sources.
CONDUCT to PRO.
CON set up 5 rules for the debate and then broke 3 of them in his tiny arguments.
1. Don't uses logical fallacy.
"There is no evidence that the trinity is pagan." =arg from ignorance
" it didn't came from the Council of Nicea" =straw man
"the trinity can be found in the Bible" =appeal to authority, false authority
God that is outside our space and time, comprehension = arg from incredultiy
arguing that the number 3 ... is an association fallacy =fallacy fallacy
I notice you're citing a Jw.org link =appeal to authority
3. Give your opponent evidence.
CON gave zero evidence relevant to topic.
4. Don't mock or call someone names.
CON's source called Jehovah's Witnesses a cult and then CON irrationally inferred PRO's participation in that org because CON cited a JW website.
CON's conduct was thoroughly hypocritical and anti-engagement.