I recently heard a Christian teacher say that the trinity doctrine was the one thing that sets Christianity apart from all other religions. In teaching in such a way, teachers like this set the trinity doctrine as a fundamental basis for Christianity – essentially saying that whoever does not accept the trinity doctrine is not a Christian. But is this true?
To understand whether or not this is true, we need to look back into the Bible. Before Jesus came to Earth, no one on Earth knew who Jesus was, and Israel worshiped God as the One True God. Since no one knew who Jesus was, and with Jesus being crucial to trinitarian doctrine, there most certainly could not be anyone who believed in the trinity doctrine.
Progressive revelation and salvation before Jesus came to Earth
How then could ancient Israel be saved then if they did not believe in the trinity? According to Christianity, there is a doctrine called “progressive revelation”. What this means is that as history unfolds, more about God and the nature of God and the universe is revealed to the people.
For example, ancient Israel did not know about Jesus (although the prophets did allude to the Messiah but the people did not know this was Jesus yet), so they could not believe in Jesus. Yet Jesus said that the only way to heaven is through Jesus, in John 14:6 when he said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Does this mean that no one who was alive before Jesus came to Earth is in heaven? We know that isn’t true because the Bible explicitly described Abraham as being in heaven (Luke 16:22), and Elijah was taken up to heaven (2 Kings 2:11).
If people could get to heaven without accepting Jesus as their personal savior before Jesus came to Earth (although not after), then this is an expression of what we call “progressive revelation”. Likewise, if God really is a trinity, then it is okay that the ancient Israelites did not believe in the trinity, because it had not yet been revealed. Now that we have that sorted out, what we really want to know is what sets Christians apart from other religions.
What set the ancient Israelites apart from other world religions?
So what we gather from this is that 1) people could get to heaven without accepting the trinity doctrine, before it was revealed; and 2) there was a time when no one believed in the trinity. If there was no trinity doctrine in ancient times, then what was it that set ancient Israel apart from the heathens and pagans? It most certainly was not the trinity doctrine since that did not exist yet.
What set ancient Israel apart from all the other world religions was not the belief in some or other doctrine, but rather the sole fact that the God they worshiped is the One True God, and all other world religions worshiped false gods. This is pictured very well in 1 Kings chapter 18.
In 1 Kings 18, the Israelites had strayed away from God, under the ungodly leadership of King Ahab, a godless king who disobeyed God and led Israel astray. At that time, the Israelites worshiped false gods, namely Baal. There were only a few priests for the One True God of Israel and Abraham and Isaac; and there were hundreds of false prophets – 450 to be exact – serving the false god Baal.
Elijah proves who the real God is
Long story short, one day Elijah came up with a plan. Elijah built two altars, one an altar to God and one an altar for the false god Baal. On it were laid the traditional animal sacrifices. Elijah’s plan was to have the hundreds of false priests and false prophets and all their followers pray to the false god Baal and have it send fire from heaven to burn up the altar, if their gods were real. And if the One True God was the real one then Elijah would pray and God would send fire from heaven to burn up the altar to God.
So the people agreed and spent all day praying to their false god Baal. Sure enough, nothing happened. Elijah mocked them, said, “maybe he is on vacation or was sleeping and didn’t hear you” and gave them more time to pray to their false god Baal to send fire from heaven to burn up their altar. They frantically danced and cut themselves and prayed so hard to their false god to send fire. Of course, no fire came.
Then Elijah prayed and even asked for lots of extra water to be poured over the altar until even the trench around the altar was filled with water. Then Elijah prayed and immediately the real God sent fire from heaven and it burned up the altar and all the water and everything. Not a drop of water was left, the fire consumed it all (1 Kings 18:21-46).
What is the moral of this story? Well there are several morals, but one dominant moral to this story is that God is the only true God. This is what set the religion of Israel apart from all the other religions of the world – that the God they worshiped is the only true God, all the other gods were false.
What sets Christians apart from other religions today?
Nothing has changed today in this regard. It is not the trinity doctrine which sets apart Christianity from the rest of the world religions. What sets us apart is that our God is the true God, the true Creator; and all other religions follow after false gods. It is not a matter of doctrine.
What sets Christians apart from Mormons? Is is that Christians believe that Jesus is divine and Mormons do not? No, what sets Christians apart is that our God is the true God, and the god of the Mormons is a false god.
What about Islam? What sets Christians apart from Islam? Of course, there are many things, but fundamentally, what is the biggest thing that sets us apart? Is it the trinity doctrine? Is it because Allah is just one god, while our triune God is 3 in 1? Nope. What sets us apart is that the God we worship is the One True God, the true Creator of the universe. Islam worships a false god, Allah, who is really Lucifer. Islam worships a false god, Christians worship the true God.
Focusing on doctrine takes focus away from God
The same is true for all other religions. Doctrines are a work of Man. Humanity created doctrines, which are effectively interpretations of scripture; and believing that any doctrine is what sets Christianity apart from other religions takes the focus away from God.
While God being the true God makes God the reason that Christians are set apart from all other religions, many Christians today [unintentionally] take away this focus from God and put it on themselves and their doctrines. They want to feel good about being “right”. They are effectively saying, “I’m better than [the other religions].”
By saying that belief in some or other doctrine is what sets Christians apart, this really just takes the focus off God and onto doctrine. This is false because it is not any man-made doctrine or scriptural interpretation that sets Christians apart. What sets us apart is we worship the true God.
What sets Christians apart from other world religions
Of course, the real truth is that it is not trinity doctrine which sets apart Christians from the rest of the world religions. The real truth is that what sets us apart is Who we worship. We worship the One True God, who was the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; and who is the Creator of the universe.
While all other religions follow after false gods, we worship the One True God. This is the one most important thing that sets Christianity apart from all other religions.