The Holy Trinity, by J.P Landis
This is a forgotten book, and a deservedly forgotten book, but it is likely not forgotten for the right reasons. At its heart, this is a book that is an unintentional demonstration of a wide degree of logical fallacies. The author claims to be gathering “facts” in order to make a determination of the nature of God and then proceeds to stack the deck through erroneous presuppositions. Throughout the book there are some major false dilemmas where the author pits Trinitarian thought and interpretation against a Unitarian thought which is also erroneous. There are non-sequitors galore, including familiar extrapolations from the plurality implied (or outright stated) in the Hebrew scriptures to the full-blown Trinitarian philosophy of Nicea and afterward. There is the slippery slope fallacy of claiming that all kind of Christian doctrines depend on the Trinity to hold as well as the bandwagon fallacy of pointing to other people who have believed in the Trinity as reasons why the reader should as well. As someone who reads and writes a fair amount on this subject , I found that this book was a succinct example of much of the terrible reasoning that goes on in order to justify a belief in the Trinity, such that everyone admits that the Trinity makes no sense but so many people insist, contrary to reason, that nothing makes sense without it.
After some preliminary comments in this short book of about 75 pages or so, the author discusses some erroneous thoughts on the unity of God. Appealing vainly to ignorance by arguing that there are no passages which argue for the Father and the Son being separate beings (see, for example, Psalm 110, Daniel 7, or Proverbs 30:4), the book starts off on the wrong foot and only continues to get worse from there in discussing the divine Unity. The next three chapters discuss the attributes of divinity ascribed to God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit, with the most attention being paid to Jesus Christ. The next chapter seeks to present the three as one being, stumbling pretty mightily at this point, before the author then stumbles into the inevitable problem of personhood as it relates to the Trinity. A short chapter presents some vague and shadowy statements that are often mistakenly used to argue for the Trinity in the Hebrew scriptures before the author presents some laughable “collateral supports” of the Trinity that include a reference to heathen beliefs and the misguided statements of heathen philosophers. After this the author engages in some catastrophizing of what would happen if the Trinity is denied, and closes with a wistful thought that if the Trinity isn’t in the Bible than it should be. Alas, it isn’t and it shouldn’t be.
It would be worthwhile and instructive to see what sort of reviews this book got from its readers at the time. It is unlikely that everyone else would comment as harshly on this book’s many and serious logical fallacies as I do, but it is interesting to note the existence of this book as part of the polemics between Unitarian and Orthodox positions. The author seems not to understand that there is another solution besides numerical oneness for the resolution of the apparent contradiction between the unity of God and the obvious duality of God as Father and Son that is discussed at the opening of every Pauline epistle, namely the subordination of the Son’s will to the Father’s will. God is open in inviting believers into the Family of God, such that unbelievers will be raised in the judgment and will bow down to believers who have been given Eternal life as part of God’s family as the younger brothers of our Lord and Savior, but there will be no one given Eternal life whose will is not subordinate to His own. Too bad the author has no inkling of these biblical truths.
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