Anthropological Perspective About The Doctrine Of Trinity Theology Religion Essay Example
Anthropological Perspective About The Doctrine Of Trinity Theology Religion Essay Example

Anthropological Perspective About The Doctrine Of Trinity Theology Religion Essay Example

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  • Pages: 16 (4210 words)
  • Published: October 24, 2017
  • Type: Research Paper
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During my yearlong stay in Australia in 2009, I had the opportunity to visit St Mary's Cathedral in Sydney and attend Sunday Services. These services included hymn singing, readings from Holy Scriptures (including poems and a Psalm), a sermon by the Archbishop, and Baptisms of young believers. After the services, there was a guided tour of the Cathedral that provided insight into Christianity's history in Australia and specifically St Mary's Cathedral.

Impressed by Christianity's rich history and fascinated by how prayers were offered by the Catholic community in an organized and compassionate manner during my visit to St Mary's Cathedral in Sydney, it led me to further explore its various aspects. However, what particularly intrigued me was understanding and analyzing the controversial Christian doctrine of Trinity. Hearing sermons and hymns that praised God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit as equals despite Christia


nity being a Monotheistic faith believing in only one God (along with Judaism and Islam) while visiting St Mary's Cathedral prompted me to write this paper.

To fulfill my strong desire to understand and study Christianity, especially focusing on the Doctrine of Trinity, I have read various books and research articles written by different authors who offer diverse perspectives on this subject.

Despite my initial confusion about the Doctrine of Trinity, I gained a clearer understanding by approaching it from an anthropological perspective as a student pursuing my MPhil in Socio-Cultural Anthropology. In my research and writing, I relied on secondary information and received continuous support from my teachers, classmates, and the library staff at Bahria University.
The mystery surrounding the Trinity has been a subject of extensive debate within Christianity. It portrays God as a triune

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being consisting of three divine entities: God the Father, God the Son (Jesus Christ), and God the Holy Spirit.

The Trinity is a belief in the interconnectedness and eternal nature of three distinct entities. These entities are visually and symbolically different but possess equal power, integrity, and substance. Supporters argue that this philosophy aligns with teachings from the Holy Scripture and longstanding spiritual traditions. However, critics disagree as the Bible does not explicitly state that God is Triune. They argue that Jesus Christ has never been portrayed as equal to God in any aspect; instead, he has always shown submission to God Almighty.

Their argument asserts that the Holy Spirit is not a separate entity but rather the essence of God itself. They argue that the doctrine of the Trinity, which has been a subject of intense debates in Christianity for centuries, is a belief system created by humans and influenced by pagan beliefs among early Christian converts. Despite its contentious nature, numerous Christians have unquestioningly embraced the teachings of the Trinity as truth. This acceptance arises from their conviction that criticizing a spiritual belief contradicts Christian values.

Although many Christians believe in the Trinity doctrine and include it in their spiritual teachings, they often find it challenging to fully grasp and defend its mysterious nature when faced with examination. Their ultimate argument is that the Trinity surpasses human understanding because of God's transcendent nature. Additionally, there are currently different explanations and interpretations being discussed regarding the validity of the Trinity doctrine.

There is a belief among many Christians that God exists in three different forms: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. This belief

can be compared to water, which can exist as liquid, ice, or steam. Another interpretation of the Trinity doctrine suggests that God is composed of three distinct entities who have always existed, possess equal power, share a unified character and are made up of the same substance.

The primary goal of this paper is to examine and understand the Christians' Doctrine of Trinity from various angles, including the anthropological perspective. To achieve this aim, I will initially present a brief summary of Christianity as a religion, covering its beginnings, historical background, and core principles. Afterward, I will explore one of Christianity's most disputed doctrines - the concept of Trinity. In this portion of the paper, I will tackle several significant questions about the Doctrine of Trinity and strive to unveil their responses through available texts and writings.

Applying Michael Foucault's concept of 'knowledge is power', I will analyze the philosophy discussed from an anthropological standpoint. Furthermore, I will examine the perspectives on religion provided by influential philosophers such as Ludwig Feuerbach, Karl Marx, Emile Durkheim, and Sigmund Freud. Ultimately, I will formulate my own conclusions.

An Overview of Christianity: Its Origins, Brief History, and Fundamental Beliefs

Christianity emerged as a branch of Judaism approximately two millennia ago and remains a monotheistic faith. It is centered around the teachings of Jesus Christ (Yeshua), a Jewish preacher who resided in Nazareth within the Roman province of Judaea.

Yeshua, born to a Virgin Mary between 7 and 4 BCE, started preaching the genuine teachings of the Hebrew Bible at a young age. However, these teachings were not well-received by Judaic priests and Roman rulers as they challenged their authority and social status. Eventually,

in 30 CE, Yeshua was accused of causing unrest and was executed in Jerusalem by Roman authorities under Pontius Pilate's orders.

After Yeshua's death and Divine Resurrection, his twelve apostles initiated a Jewish reform movement led first by Saint Simon Peter and later by Saint James. Their objective was to propagate Yeshua's authentic teachings related to Judaism.

Around 34 CE, Saul of Tarsus, who was oppressing Judaic Christians, had a vision of the resurrected Jesus while traveling from Jerusalem to Damascus. His mission was to understand the Judaic Christians who had escaped prosecution. In this vision, Jesus appeared in a radiant form and Saul immediately converted to Christianity, changing his name to Paul. He then began preaching a new form of Christianity called Pauline Christianity, which focused mainly on converting Gentiles residing in the Mediterranean region.

The emergence of Gnostic, the third major Christian belief system, was based on the idea that God sent Jesus to Earth to alleviate suffering through imparting knowledge to humans. Alongside Judaism and Pauline Christianity, there were other Christian beliefs being practiced. However, the destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman army during the first Jews-Roman War in 70 CE led to the dispersal of the Jewish reform movement to distant areas. This caused rapid growth of Gnostic and Pauline Christianity within the Roman Empire, with Gentiles occupying positions in Churches. Compared to other belief systems, Pauline Christianity flourished and gained recognition as a lawful religion by Roman Emperors in 313 CE. By 387 CE, it became the sole official religion of the Roman Empire, replacing all previously observed religions. Consequently, all other Christian belief systems including Gnostic faced severe oppression.

Christianity has spread widely

across Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East for 12 centuries. However, it began expanding to South and North America, Africa, Asia, Australia, and other regions around the world in the 16th century. Currently, Christianity is the largest religion globally with approximately 2.34 billion followers, accounting for about 33.35% of the global population. Its followers are growing annually by 1.38%. Christianity maintains its dominant position in Europe, North and South America, Australia, and Southern Africa; it also serves as the sole state religion in various countries.

In the 7th century CE era , power became centralized in Rome and Constantinople within Christian society.

The beliefs and practices of Christianity began to differ among its main centers, leading to the establishment of the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches in 1054 CE. This divergence later caused various divisions, such as the Protestant Reformation in the sixteenth century. Consequently, the Roman Catholic Church underwent further fragmentation, resulting in the emergence of different Protestant denominations. As a result, there are currently three major global groups that adhere to Christianity: the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Roman Catholic Church, and the Protestant Churches.

Despite variations in interpreting the Holy Bible, Christians, including Roman Catholics and other denominations like Oriental Orthodox and Assyrian Church, share common core beliefs. The central belief of Christianity is acknowledging Jesus as both the Son of God and the Messiah. Christians firmly believe that God sent Jesus to redeem humanity and fulfill his promise as foretold in the Hebrew Bible.

Investigating the Doctrine of Trinity The Doctrine of Trinity, in Christianity, is the notion that God comprises three divine entities: God the Father, God the Son (Jesus Christ), and God

the Holy Spirit. Regardless of their distinct forms and appearances, these entities are co-eternal with no origin, possess equal power, and exist with integrity and consubstantiality. This philosophy affirms that one eternal God exists as three separate entities.

The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are all equally powerful and none is greater or lesser than the others. Each possesses complete divinity in every aspect: power, place, cognition, and clip (??). Together they are referred to as the Godhead. According to the Athanasian Creed, the Trinity is defined as follows: "the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God; yet there are not three Supreme beings but one God". This Doctrine states that although they appear and exist in different forms, the three entities cannot be separated from each other.

In simpler terms, God is indivisible but can exist as separate entities. Another perspective suggests that each entity represents a complete God. However, these entities have distinct relationships: the Father is un-begotten, the Son is begotten from the Father, and the Holy Spirit emanates from both the Father and, according to Roman Catholic belief, from the Son as well. Despite their unique relationships, all three entities possess equal power and coexist harmoniously. Early theologians used this basic diagram to illustrate the concept of the Trinity. It should be noted that although the word "Trinity" does not appear in religious texts, ancient Christian theologians employed it to explain how God's unity manifests through three distinct Persons.

The origins of the English word "Trinity" are disputed by historians. Some argue that it came from the Greek word "trias," which means "the figure three" or

"a set of three." The first known usage in Christian theology was by Theophilus in 170 CE. However, others claim that "Trinity" originated from the Latin word "Trinitas," meaning "the figure three, a three." Latin theologian Tertullian used this term for the concept in 220 CE.

How did the Doctrine of Trinity develop into a Christian Faith?
By the end of the second century CE, most Christians agreed on one central belief: God the Father's omnipotence. They considered God the Father as all-powerful, the sole absolute being who is indivisible, indefinable, and eternal without any beginning.

During the transition of clip, heathen spiritual traditions infiltrated Christianity and caused a gradual yet important shift from monotheistic beliefs to a belief in the triune divinity. Some scholars argue that this trinity philosophy originated from a dispute called the "Arian contention" in Alexandria, Egypt at the start of the 4th century CE. The bishop of Alexandria aimed to clarify the concept of the Holy Trinity but faced opposition from Arius, a presbyter.

Consequently, a dispute emerged between the two factions and eventually transformed into a major confrontation. To resolve this issue, a synod was called in Alexandria in 321 C.E. The bishops sided with Alexander's position, resulting in Arius' expulsion for questioning Alexander. Nevertheless, many other bishops who adhered to scriptural teachings continued to offer substantial backing to Arius.

The topic of debate in the Roman Empire caused unrest, leading Constantine the Great to invite approximately 300 bishops of the Christian Church to meet at Nicaea in May 325 CE. At this gathering, 218 bishops signed the Nicene Creed, which confirmed Jesus Christ as God the Son and equal to God the Father.

Later, another council was held in Constantinople in 381 CE where it was declared that God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are equal in power, eternal, and of the same substance - further establishing the doctrine of the Trinity. The Roman Emperors proclaimed punishment for those who did not believe in this concept. As a result, belief in the Trinity became central to Christianity for over 1500 years.

What led to the formulation of the Doctrine of Trinity? Many researchers suggest that its ties to pagan religion greatly influenced the development of Trinity as a central belief within Christianity.

Throughout history, different civilizations have worshipped triads of Gods. This was especially common during the time of Christ. For instance, the Babylonians worshipped Ishtar, Sin, and Shamash as their three deities. Likewise, the Indians revered Siva, Brahma, and Vishnu as their trio of Gods. The Egyptians also had a tradition of worshipping Horus, Osiris, and Isis.

As Christianity spread in the Mediterranean region through Pauline's ministry in the first two centuries CE, many pagans converted to Christianity while retaining their ancient socio-cultural traditions and spiritual beliefs. These heathen beliefs began to influence Christianity after the death of the Apostles.

Some scholars propose that Roman emperors' personal desire for control over people impacted Christian beliefs. They utilized religion as a tool through the Church to maintain maximum control over individuals. This factor may have contributed to the development of the Trinity doctrine as a central belief among Christians.

After gaining power in 312 CE, Constantine the Great ended the persecution of Christians that had been occurring under previous Roman Emperors since the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Instead, he adopted a different political strategy and offered various

benefits in terms of society, politics, and the military to those who converted to Christianity. This approach proved successful as thousands of pagans embraced the religion, allowing Constantine to exert more control over Church affairs. Constantine's involvement in religious matters was so significant that he personally presided over the Council of Nicaea and used his political influence to persuade bishops to support his belief in the Trinity.

What are the justifications that Trinitarians give for the Doctrine of Trinity?

Supporters of the Doctrine of Trinity, commonly known as Trinitarians, defend it by pointing out that certain verses in the Holy Bible mention three entities as distinct entities within a single narrative. Trinitarians interpret these verses from the Holy Scripture to support their claim that the concept of Trinity is divinely inspired, representing three divine entities in one being. They argue that although the word Trinity does not appear in the Holy Scripture, there is enough evidence and guidance on which the doctrine of the Trinity can be formulated.

On what grounds do non-Trinitarians reject the Doctrine of Trinity?

There are several groups within Christianity, commonly referred to as non-Trinitarians, who reject the concept of Trinity and how God is described as three entities and His relationship with Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. Non-Trinitarians also have differing positions regarding the nature of Jesus Christ, with some believing he is a divine being subordinate to God, others viewing him as the Son of God the Father, others considering him a human Messiah or Jesus, some seeing him as a prophet or messenger of God, and some simply regarding him as

a holy man.

The non-Trinitarians reject the concept of the Trinity because Jesus Christ and his Apostles never professed or preached the terms "God the Father", "God the Son", and "God the Holy Spirit". They believe in One Almighty God who deserves all worship. There is also disagreement among Christian history researchers and religious scholars regarding the validity of the Trinity doctrine. They argue that the doctrine was formulated by Christian theologians more than three hundred years after Jesus' Resurrection.

The four Canonical Gospels, written by John, Luke, Mark, and Mathew between 70 and 115 CE, do not mention the Trinity. Even Paul the Apostle, who introduced many foreign ideas into Christianity, never advocated for the Trinity. According to the Islamic Holy book, the Qur'an, the concept of Trinity held by Christians is man-made and not in accordance with the monotheistic teachings of God's Prophets, including Jesus. Instead of being called the Son of God, Jesus is described in the Qur'an as an important and respected prophet of Islam, who was born to Virgin Mary by God's will.

According to the teachings of the Qur'an, Jesus is the Messenger of God who was chosen to deliver the true teachings of the Hebrew Bible to the Jews and to revive and reiterate God's original message, the Ten Commandments, which had previously been revealed to Prophet Moses. The Qur'an explains that Jesus, like Adam, was created by the will of God from dust without any human interaction. The Qur'an defines God as the All-Powerful and transcendent being, who has always existed and has not begotten anyone, and there is no one equal to Him. Therefore, Jesus, being a creation of

God, can never be considered as God Himself, equal to God, or a part of God.

So, in Islam, any belief in the construct of Trinity is considered blasphemy. Anthropological Position about the Doctrine of Three In the preceding paragraphs, I have attempted to examine the Christians' Doctrine of Trinity from various historians' and researchers' perspectives. The study confirmed that this philosophy did not originate from the teachings of Jesus Christ, his Apostles, or the early Christian theologians. It gradually evolved and was formulated at least three hundred years after Christ's Resurrection. Undoubtedly, this philosophy has been a topic of heated discussion in the Christian world for centuries and remains at the core of Christian theology. Although numerous works have been written to analyze this Trinitarian philosophy, its understanding remains as perplexing as ever before.

To comprehend this philosophy from an anthropological standpoint, I will deconstruct it by examining its contents and utilizing Michael Foucault's theory on the power of knowledge. To achieve this, I will employ Foucault's structural theory to analyze cognition, specifically the construction of dianoetic formations. Foucault provides a unique perspective on the world, societies, and various establishments, using his own understanding of knowledge and power. According to Foucault, all relationships are relationships of power, which pervade society intrinsically and exert control over others, individuals, and everything else.

The author argues that throughout human history, regardless of time and space, it is inherent for humans to desire control. Foucault categorizes human history into three separate epochs: pre-historic, spiritual, and scientific. He views religion as a means to exert control over individuals. According to Foucault, knowledge such as religious texts, symbols, myths, and rituals serve as

crucial elements in legitimizing any religion. Knowledge encompasses information and skills obtained through personal experiences and education. Foucault also identifies four different types of conflicting knowledge that coexist within a society.

According to Foucault, dominant cognition is a powerful tool used by those in control to manipulate the thoughts of individuals. In the Marxist paradigm, these dominant cognition leaders are seen as the ruling elite of society. They shape knowledge as discourse to favor certain individuals, giving them authority and respect in society. As a result, society becomes panoptical, with individuals constantly watched and evaluated in their actions.

According to Foucault, if individuals deviate from their designated roles, the system deems them unsuitable and places them in exile. In Foucault's viewpoint, society is trapped in an illusion and misguided thinking. He challenges established beliefs, norms, traditions, and regulations as products of dominant intellectual forces that are forcefully imposed on society. Foucault argues that "no knowledge can be trusted; they are all products of social construction."

According to Foucault and other postmodernists, there is a distinction between surface cognition and life cognition, which creates a divide in understanding. Foucault's theory suggests that governance is based on using cognition as a form of power to shape societal ideas. Applying Foucault's theory to the Doctrine of Trinity allows us to assess whether it is a divine revelation or a socially constructed belief. As we have previously examined, the philosophy of Trinity evolved over a period of two centuries.

The early Christianity, originally a belief in one God, gradually adopted polytheistic ideas influenced by heathen practices and the Roman emperors. Theologians such as Gnostic (50 CE), Justin Martyr (150 CE), Theophilus (169 CE),

Irenaeus (177 CE), Tertullian (192 CE), Clement (215 CE), Hippolytus (220 CE), Origen (230 CE), Sibellius (255 CE), and Arius (320 CE) contributed to the development of the Trinity concept by continually defining and redefining the nature of God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit, as well as their relationships. During this process, the ruling class of that time used its political power to maintain alignment between the philosophy and the state's interests.

In summary, the collaboration between spiritual theologians, scholars, and the ruling class resulted in the use of cognition to exert maximum power and control over the masses. We will now approach this philosophy from the perspective of other influential philosophers of the 19th and 20th centuries, in addition to Michel Foucault. Karl Marx, a renowned social philosopher and political atheist, offers a distinct mercenary worldview to analyze societal processes. He describes religion as "the physiological reaction of the real world," "the illusory happiness of men," "the sigh of the oppressed creature," "the opium of the people," or "the opiate of the masses." According to Marx's theory of class, religion is utilized by the ruling ideology to maintain dominance, and its beliefs and rituals serve a crucial purpose in justifying the advancement of its followers. Another German philosopher and anthropologist, Ludwig Feuerbach, in his book The Essence of Christianity, defines religious beliefs as a "sole projection of elements of human experience into objects of worship."

Sigmund Freud, an Austrian brain doctor often referred to as the founding father of depth psychology, presented a psychoanalytical perspective on religion. According to Freud, spiritual beliefs are seen as truly believed in society, akin to a hypnotic condition, while

the supernatural is viewed as an illusion and a powerful paternal figure. On the other hand, within the sociological tradition, Emile Durkheim, a French sociologist widely regarded as the primary architect of modern social science and the father of sociology, characterizes religion as essential for the survival and unity of society. In his work "Elementary Forms of Religious Life," Durkheim defines religion as "an integrated system of beliefs and practices related to the sacred." Different schools of thought hold various perspectives on religious beliefs, ranging from materialistic or conflicting views to functionalist perspectives, as well as some blindly accepting them as illusions.

However, the majority of these philosophers share the belief that faith is not preternaturally inspired but rather an illusory concept that is socially constructed in society for various reasons. Societies create and mold their faiths based on the interests of those in power and the dominant class. Among these philosophers, including Michael Foucault, there are numerous perspectives and forms of knowledge that we are currently trying to explore. While we are familiar with some of them, there are still many that we are ignorant of.

Here I want to express the Socratic saying that "I am aware that I have no knowledge."


Christianity, a faith that emerged from Judaism around 2,000 years ago, initially adhered to a strictly monotheistic belief in one God. There is no evidence in the Gospels or the Acts of the Apostles suggesting any attempt to introduce a different theological concept regarding the Unity of God than what had long been recognized by the Jewish people. During the first two centuries, Christianity maintained its inherent simplicity and was defined by a small

number of doctrines. However, starting from the 3rd century, elements of pagan religious deities began to infiltrate Christianity, and in the following decades, many fabricated gods including the concept of the Trinity infected the religion. Since its inception, there has been an ongoing debate between proponents and opponents of this doctrine regarding its authenticity. The proponents, known as Trinitarians, argue that the doctrine of the Trinity is based on references within the Holy Scripture concerning the nature and relationships of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

On the other hand, non-Trinitarians reject the philosophy of Trinity because they believe it was not based on the original teachings of Jesus Christ, his Apostles, or the earlier Christian scholars. Instead, it was developed later by religious scholars and theologians. For the past 15 centuries, the Trinity has been a fundamental belief in Christianity. However, many Christians believe in the concept of Three, but do not fully comprehend its complexity and struggle to defend it when challenged. Therefore, in order to understand this philosophy, we have analyzed it from an anthropological perspective.

The philosophy of Trinity was developed by Christian scholars in the late 4th century at the council of Nicaea and later at the council of Constantinople. This development was influenced by pagan theologians and the Roman ruling class, who had their own vested interests. Many philosophers in the 19th and 20th centuries, such as Michael Foucault, viewed religion as a tool for exerting power and control over people. It was within this context that the philosophy of Trinity was created 15 centuries ago, as a means of exercising power and control over the masses. However, the

world has changed, and advancements in science have disproven many religious beliefs based on artificial ideologies. Now is the time for Christian theologians and religious scholars to come together and reassess their faith beliefs, including those related to the philosophy of Trinity.

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