Palmer now quoted 2 Tim. 4:6-8:
'I am now ready to be offered and the time of my departure is at hand - I have fought the good fight I have finished my course I have kept the faith; henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness which the Lord the righteous judge shall give me....when?...at that day. And not to me only but to all them also that love His appearing".....Paul, when he died was dying in the hope of the resurrection of the dead to receive his reward at that day...the appearing of his master, and so he says to the Philippians that our conversation is in heaven from whence also we hope for the Saviour the Lord Jesus Christ....so we believe that, if we are baptised into the Lord Jesus Christ - into his saving grace, we have remission of sins, and the hope of eternal life - which is eternal life upon this earth in God's kingdom - when Christ returns.' Now those may not be your beliefs - but they've been the beliefs of the churches through the centuries at some stage.....and the further back in time you go the closer you get to these doctrines - and that's demonstrative'
It is the clear testimony of Scripture that heaven awaits all who believe in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:19; Philippians 3:20; Colossians 3:1; Hebrews 3: 1; 12:22; 2 Peter 1: 10-11). Jesus promised, "If any one serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there shall My servant also be [i.e., heaven]" (John 12:26 NASB, emphasis added). All who believe in Christ are heirs of the eternal kingdom (Galatians 3:29; 4:28-31; Titus 3:7; James 2:5). The heretics that the CDs align with have believed a complete mish-mash of ideas, and in any given year there is the possibility that some group would absorb errors - the same is true today - but it is not possible to demonstrate that the historic orthodox church, as a whole, ever believed these CD teachings.
Finally, Palmer reached what remains the CDs main bone of contention:
'...the doctrine of the Trinity....because this is the touchstone of whether you're a Christian as far as many people are concerned - if you're not a Trinitarian you're not Christian. You're not orthodox therefore we don't accept you....the BBC have used that word in the past and stopped the CDs broadcasting....we're not Unitarian but we're not Trinitarian. We believe that the Lord Jesus Christ was - as Scripture says - the only begotten Son of God, born of the virgin by the power of the Holy Spirit. He was the Word made flesh, He was the perfect manifestation of the character of his Father. But he was the Son of a woman having the same nature as ourselves....just as children are partakers of flesh and blood, he likewise himself also - it says - in Hebrews Chapter 3....had the nature of his mother that he might destroy in his flesh the tendency to sin, which shall save us all. He was not a normal man - he was the son of God, filled with the holy spirit he was unique....and is elevated above all. He wasn't an angel - he was the only begotten Son of God - that's what the Bible says, and we believe it. Now the Trinity does not say that.'
Other than the sort of treatment meted out to the CDs by the BBC we are not sure why Palmer insists that 'the Trinity is the touchstone of whether you're a Christian as far as many people are concerned - if you're not a Trinitarian you're not Christian.' Again, he has made no attempt to answer our tract which laid no such emphasis. Our emphasis was on salvation and a more testing question would have been: 'Did the thief on the cross have to believe in the Trinity to be saved?' The answer is - we have no evidence that he did - he had simple faith in Christ and was saved without baptism, good works etc. The touchstone of the Trinity is that it can prevent the sincere seeker of truth from embracing error and therefore seeking an anti-Christ instead of the historical Jesus! The thief on the cross saw the Living Saviour-God dying for him - he knew who he believed in! When we read Palmer's view of the 'touchstone' of the Trinity we need remember that the CDs have declared: 'There is no more important theme in Scripture than that of God-manifestation....Brother Thomas wrote: 'Men were not ushered into being for the purpose of being saved or being lost! God manifestation not human salvation was the great purpose of the Eternal Spirit.' He has also failed to point out that Scripture says much more about the Godhead than he mentioned here! Quoting liberal theologians from the Church of England and claiming that they represent mainstream orthodoxy is not going to impress orthodox evangelicals, but Palmer still mis-represents the Christian church today by quoting sources that support the end he wishes to arrive at. Let us look at some of his evidence:
'A....process of theological exploration which lasted 300 years before the doctrine of the Trinity was formulated in its orthodox view....advanced by a system of trial and error....it would be foolish to represent the doctrine of the Holy Trinity as having been achieved by any other way'.....now I know that fundamentalists groups wouldn't accept this, but what I am saying is this - the orthodox - you call me a cult, you see, because I don't believe the orthodox! The orthodox tells me, and I can see with my own eyes, that if you look through Strong's concordance which has every word in the Bible in it, you will not find the word Trinity. That is a matter of fact. You will not find the form of words that people like to use. The only tools available to the intellectuals of the church were Greek philosophy and that's where their formulation came from - and history shows it. And if you don't know it I would respectfully suggest that you don't know the history of the doctrine you believe. I'm not wishing to be offensive but I do think that this is, as you will tell me, of fundamental importance....and I will agree.'
It is clear that Palmer does not wish to consider why the Trinitarian doctrine was formulated - and his sources are never shown to consider the reasons for the early church to set out to encapsulate the beliefs about the relationship between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit so we will consider the reasons in a moment. What he fails to realise is that the apologists who had accepted Christ wrote much of their defence of the faith to people who were still steeped in Greek philosophy and therefore their arguments and choice of words are often couched in terms and concepts that would be comfortable and readily understandable to those they were addressing. It is therefore clear why the lawyer Tertullian (before 200AD!) described the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit as the "Trinity" (Latin - trinitas) in the definition of the Godhead as being "one substance (Latin - substantia) in three persons (Latin - persona)." What also needs emphasising is the fact that the Latin persona was readily intelligible at the time but, in ordinary parlance today the word "person" has come to mean much more than the persona ever did; its theological use can therefore be misleading to people who have had no theological training. This is why, when people hear of three persons in the Godhead, they naturally tend to think of three personalities in such a way as to give colour to the charge that trinitarianism is actually tritheism - a belief in three distinct Gods! It is clear from the cults literature that they repeatedly make this mistake. Other words have also changed in the same way, e.g. substance still has a similar meaning to philosophers today - but has a material sense to physical scientists and lay people in today's world. We will return to these points later.
Palmer had to throw in more false material to strengthen his play for the sympathy vote, so he declared that 'members of my community over the centuries have died' because they denied the Trinity. This is sheer fabrication, as we have shown in his attempt to claim Rawlins White. Everyone has been persecuted at some time, but persecution complex is a cult speciality - ask JWs or Mormons if they have been persecuted for their truth. Ask them how much sympathy they get from the Christadelphians.
He continued with another false statement; 'Of course the Roman Catholic church is the original orthodox church - it invented the doctrine.' This is simply untrue. Research the early Church Fathers who expressed an opinion about this relationship - and see how many the Roman Catholics can claim as their own. To quote from a Roman Catholic book with the so-called Imprimatur (free from doctrinal error), and claim them as 'orthodox,' would be amusing if it were not sad - for the Roman Catholics began deifying Mary many years ago. The term "Mother of God" was first applied to her by the Council of Ephesus, 431 A.D. and she is now considered joint mediator with Christ - with more prayer offered to her than to the Son or the Father - despite the complete absence of Scriptural support. Hippolytus (third century writer) recorded that 'Pope' Callistus (221-227 AD) was Unitarian. 'Pope' Liberius (358 AD) embraced Arianism and anathematised the great Trinitarian defender, Athanasius, 'Pope' Zozimus (417-418 AD) embraced the Pelagian heresy, and 'Pope' Honorius (625-638 AD) specifically taught the Monothelite heresy (that Christ had only one will & therefore denied either His deity or His humanity) - which makes him a CD bed-fellow - and he was subsequently anathematised & condemned by Popes and their councils for 800 years! Rome has been an enemy of orthodoxy! Palmer continued:
'The orthodox tells me that I'm correct in my understanding about the Bible and the Trinity....and because my authority is on the Bible and not on the church...of course, you say, well how can the Catholic church say that....quite easily, because it does not require the Bible for its authority. It has another pillar on which it builds, which is the pillar of tradition. You say, well, how can the Church of England say that, well the Church of England has so far gone from the Bible that it doesn't really matter, it seems, what you believe....when you can have a bishop saying that the resurrection is a 'trick with bones' you wonder who the cults are!'
It is the poorly researched liberal writers claiming orthodoxy who give Palmer the idea that he is correct in his 'understanding.' The CDs attack Christendom's theology saying it was derived from the Greek philosophical & metaphysical approach; they forget that their own approach owes much to modern comparisons and philosophies, e.g. the Holy Spirit is compared in their writings with "electricity", "radiant invisible power or energy;" Robert Roberts believed that God has a physical body with all its organs, and that the Father is a tangible person (see "Christendom Astray', p.79), and brought into existence the Son. In this respect their doctrines are immediately found to resemble both the JWs and the Mormons. What would the ancients have made of the use of "electricity" to describe the Holy Spirit? Would they have had as much trouble understanding as we have today with persona & substance? The existence of isolated heretical bishops is particularly obvious in the high-profile Church of England - although this doesn't excuse it for lacking in discipline - but we doubt that the CDs have never had a heretic in their midst for, if you believe Palmers statements, we are all free to come to our own truth of what the Bible teaches!
'The Apostles creed is the earliest creed and Christadelphians wholeheartedly accept it. The Nicene creed - that's where we have difficulty - date? 325AD. The Athanasian creed....great difficulty - 500AD. The Apostles creed - first century, no problem at all....'The Catholic Encyclopaedia: 'the doctrine of the Holy trinity is not taught in the Old Testament' - so what did Abraham believe? What did David believe? What did all the prophets which the apostles say they are fulfilling - what the prophets taught - what did they believe?' 'The doctrine of three persons in the Godhead....a doctrine which in the three preceding centuries had happily escaped the vain curiosity of human researches.....Cardinal Newman: 'the doctrine of the Trinity had never been learned merely from Scripture'....Matthews, Archbishop of Canterbury: "the doctrine of the Trinity....no part of the original message.....Saint Paul knew it not and would have been unable to understand the meaning of the terms used in the theological formula on which the church ultimately agreed....Richardson: 'The Trinity - it is not contained formally in Scripture' - and so it goes on. Brunner - The Christian Doctrine of God: "We must honestly admit that the doctrine of the Trinity did not form part of the early Christian New Testament message." And that's all we're saying.'
Why can the CDs agree with the apostles' creed and not the later creeds? Because heretics such as Arius were easily able to practice their beliefs within the confines of the first creeds and that is why the Athanasian creed was formulated - to exclude all possible contradictions and heresies. Cults claim it is because apostasy crept, or galloped, into the church. The word trinity (or an equivalent form) is indeed absent from the pages of Scripture and does not appear in the patristic literature until Tertullian & Theophillus used it, before 200AD. Is this the end of the argument? CDs and JWs would like you to believe it is. However, the absence of the word from the Scriptures poses no difficulties for the Christian defending his faith because the term is purely a functional one. The word expresses the church's belief in the full, uncreated deity of God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit - co-eternal, co-equal, yet individually distinct. We have already seen the CDs use a term, "God-manifestation", in the same way to try and encapsulate their view of God; JWs use "theocracy" to describe their view of God's kingdom on earth - they are function words, but neither word or word-group occurs in one place in Scripture! Having researched the work of the early Fathers carefully we recognise that the emphasis on the Trinitarian doctrine developed out of the need of the church to respond to the speculative heresies (which are today represented by such as the JWs and CDs) which attempted to encroach the church. Current space does not permit us to go into this subject in depth - but it will be dealt with in due course. We will content ourselves with a few examples of the evidence for now. It is clear from the patristic literature that the ideas brought together in that doctrine - the deity and distinct personality of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit - were nearly universally accepted by church leaders during that period - but there will always be heretics in, or on the fringe of, the church (ref. 1 Tim. 1:20; 2 Tim. 1:15; 2:17; 3:1; 4:10; Titus 1:10-14) While some individual authors tended to subordinate the son to the Father, there is simply no conclusive evidence from the body of early Christian literature that the uncreated deity of Christ or the personality and deity of the Holy Spirit were ever seriously questioned much less denied. Converted philosophers such as Justin Martyr and Clement of Alexandria often tailored their theological arguments to suit their pagan audiences, which left some of their statements - when taken out of context - open to misinterpretation. However, their work, when taken as a whole, is consistent with and supportive of the orthodox faith accepted by Christians today. By contrast, no author prior to Arius in the Fourth century developed a theology of the Son and the Spirit even remotely similar to that of the JWs or CDs. No doubt they could strain to put their emphasis on some of the early writings - and this is exactly why the doctrine of the Trinity was formulated to totally eradicate any attempt by heretics of yesterday and today to force their views of the Godhead onto the orthodox church. This is clearly shown by the historical evidence.
Theophilus (died circa 181 AD.), bishop of Antioch, sixth in line from the apostles, is the first of the fathers to use the term "triad" in a recorded reference to the Godhead. In his principal work to his pagan friend, a three-volume apology, "To Autolycus," he attempts to convince him of the truth of Christianity and the nature of the Logos:
'The divine Scripture itself teaches us that Adam said he had heard the voice. And what else is this voice, but the Word of God, which also is His Son - not as poets and writers of myths tell us the sons of gods begotten of intercourse, but...This is what the Holy Scriptures teach us, as do all the inspired men, one of whom, John, says, 'In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God,' showing that at first God was alone, and the Word was in Him. Then he says, 'And the Word was God; all things were made through Him, and without Him was made nothing.' The Word, then, being God and being generated from God, is sent to any place at the will of the Father.' (Theophilus, To Autolycus, 2.22. Jurgens, "The Faith of the Early Fathers," Vol.1)
Theophilus clearly represents the voice in the garden as the voice of God, clearly identified as the Word with an unequivocal denial of any origin for the Logos who he recognises on a purely Scriptural and apostolic basis to be God, not some angelic pseudo-deity! Remember, like all the early Christian writers, Theophilus refers to the teachings of the apostles as the standard that validates his beliefs and the criterion against which they are to be measured.
Melito, the bishop of Sardis, who died about 190 A.D., was a prolific writer. Little of his writing survives, but a fragment from his work titled "Guide," makes it clear how he understood the Deity of Christ:
"The activities of Christ after His Baptism, and especially His miracles, gave indication and assurance to the world of the Deity hidden in His flesh. Being God and likewise perfect man, He gave positive indications of His two natures: of His Deity, by the miracles during the three years following after His Baptism; of His humanity, in the thirty years which came before His Baptism, during which, by reason of His condition according to the flesh, He concealed the signs of His Deity, although He was the true God existing before the ages." (Melito, "Guide," 13. Jurgens, "The Faith of the Early Fathers," Vol. 1)
What could be clearer? Hippolytus was an eminent writer who died a martyr in the mines of Sardinia in 236 A.D. A prolific writer in about 198-236 A.D., his principal surviving work is the multi-volume treatise, "Refutation of All Heresies." He portrayed the orthodox teaching of Christ appearing as God in the flesh, and there is no evidence that he believed Him to be a created being:
"Only His Word is from Himself, and is therefore also God, becoming the substance of God." (Hippolytus, "Refutation of All Heresies," 10.33. Jurgens, "The Faith of the Early Fathers," Vol. 1) "For Christ is the God over all, who has arranged to wash away sin from mankind, rendering the old man new." (ibid., 10.34) "Let us believe...according to the tradition of the apostles, that God the Word came down from heaven into the holy Virgin Mary...He came forth into the world and, in the body, showed Himself to be God, although it was as perfect man that He came forth." (Hippolytus, "Against the Heresy of a Certain Noetus," 17. Jurgens, "The Faith of the Early Fathers," Vol. 1)
The writings of Hippolytus do not support a theology that denies the deity of Christ and can be shown to be supportive of the Trinitarian position, as in this quote:
"God, subsisting alone, and having nothing contemporaneous with Himself, determined to create the world...Beside Him there was nothing; but He, while existing alone, yet existed in plurality.. If, then, the Word was with God, and was also God, what follows? Would one say that he speaks of two Gods? I shall not indeed speak of two Gods, but of one; of two Persons however, and a third economy (disposition), viz., the grace of the Holy Ghost. For the Father indeed is One, but there are two Persons, because there is also the Son; and then there is the third, the Holy Spirit..whosoever omitted any one of these, failed in glorifying God perfectly. For it is through this Trinity (triados) that the Father is glorified. For the Father willed, the Son did, the Spirit manifested. The whole Scriptures, then, proclaim this truth." (W.B. Eerdman, "The Ante-Nicene Fathers," Vol. 5, p.228)
Tertullian, who was born in Carthage about 155-160 A.D., was a lawyer who also defended the Christian faith vigorously:
"We hold that this which was uttered by God, and which was begotten in that utterance, because of the unity of substance is called God and Son of God; for God too is Spirit...[Christ] was born God and man combined." (Tertullian, "Apology," 21.13. Jurgens, "The Faith of the Early Fathers," Vol. 1). "God alone is without sin. The only man without sin is Christ; for Christ is also God." (Tertullian, "The Soul," 41.3. Jurgens, "The Faith of the Early Fathers," Vol. 1) "We do indeed believe that there is only one God...He was sent by the Father into the Virgin and was born of her, God and man, Son of Man and Son of God, and was called by the name Jesus Christ." (Tertullian, "Against Praxeas," 2.1 - ibid.)
Claims that Tertullian and Theophilus propagated and introduced the threefold unity of God into Christianity is ridiculous and hardly worth refuting, but to claim that "the Trinity" is a Roman Catholic doctrine is even more ludicrous - as the quotes from the early Church Fathers show. Any unbiased study of the FACTS will convince the impartial investigator that before Tertullian or Theophilus lived the doctrine was considered sound and that it was only when Arius and others began their heretical teaching that the Councils met to formulate a definitive creed. No one doubts that among the heathens (Babylonians and Egyptians) demon "gods" were worshipped in various forms of "trinity" - but none of these taught the truth as the WHOLE of the Bible expounds it - that there are three Persons all of the same Substance, co-equal, co-existent and co-eternal. Christians do not believe that the Trinity was incarnate in Christ and that they were "three in one" during Christ's ministry. Christ voluntarily limited Himself in his earthly body, but heaven was always open to Him. At His baptism the Holy Spirit descended like a dove, the Father spoke and the Son was baptized. What further proof is needed to show a three-fold unity? Compare the baptism of Christ (Matthew3v16-17) with the commission to preach in the threefold Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (SINGULAR NAME for threefold unity!) (Matthew28v19) and the evidence is clear and undeniable.
The fact that a simple faith was believed by the early church doesn't alter the fact that it had to provide an intellectual answer to those who began to challenge it. The apostles found it necessary to further define doctrine as a hedge against false teachers: Jude 3; 2 Peter 3v16. Paul further defined the doctrine of the bodily resurrection for the same reason (1 Corinthians 15). The writer of Hebrews attacks the idea that Jesus is an angel or lesser being (Heb 1v1-14) and John attacked the Gnostic idea that Jesus was not actually flesh and blood (1 & 2 John). The battle that John began against Gnostics and Docetists was continued by his pupils (including Polycarp and Ignatius) after his death.
While the Gnostics and Docetists had no trouble seeing Christ as God, or as an emanation from God, they denied His humanity and claimed that He materialised in some form, but was not human. Today, CDs (who could be described as modern-day Adoptionists) and Jehovah's Witnesses (who have combined such errors as Arianism and dynamic Monarchianism/Monothelitism, as well as touching on other heretical branches with strange interpretations, such as, "when Christ became Christ" - a semi-Docetic view) struggle with the same "warmed-up" heresies of yesterday.
It is clear from both his own writing and the depiction of his heroic death, that Polycarp (died 155 AD!) and his fellow believers worshipped Christ as God, and even those who killed him allude to this clearly in their fear that 'they should abandon the crucified one and begin to worship this man.' They clearly knew that Polycarp and his church WORSHIPPED CHRIST!