Professor Paine On The Ethnic And Christian Trinities -- By: Frank Hugh Foster

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 059:233 (Jan 1902)
Article: Professor Paine On The Ethnic And Christian Trinities
Author: Frank Hugh Foster


Professor Paine On The Ethnic And Christian Trinities1

Prof. Frank Hugh Foster

In this new volume, Professor Paine has carried a step further the work begun in the “Evolution of Trinitarianism.”2 That work was an effort to show that the Christian doctrine of the trinity was no part of primitive and pure Christianity, but had originated by a process of evolution, marked by the importation of foreign and unsound materials, and tending already to an end in Pantheism which must necessarily condemn it. He now advances to the position that all religions have trinities, which result necessarily by processes of evolution, and are all alike worthless. Hence the condemnation of the Christian doctrine is complete.

After a “preliminary survey” in which he affirms the universality of the law of evolution, and its strict application to human affairs and history, to the exclusion of all exceptions and, in the sphere of religion, of all divine revelation, Professor Paine discusses the “causes of the rise of the ethnic trinities.” He finds these in the sacredness of numbers, particularly of the number three, in the idea of generation, and in the general feeling among men of the “need of a mediating and intercessory being between man

and God.” Beginning the study of the several examples of trinitarian doctrine with the “Hindoo Brahmanic trinity,” he passes in review successively the Persian Zoroastrian, the Greek Homeric, the Greek philosophical, and the Greek Plotinian trinities. The Vedic trinity was Dyaus, Indra, and Agni; the later Brahmanic Brahma, Vishnu, and Civa. Upon Brahmanism follows Buddhism, and here we have “the only clear and complete historical counterpart to that of dogmatic Christianity.” Gautama, like Jesus, “was not a dogmatist but a moral teacher.” Their teachings have a “striking similarity.” The lives of Buddha also possess a great correspondence to the lives of Christ Buddha begins his career with a fast and a temptation. Legends of miracle begin early to gather about him. He became deified in the belief of his disciples, and was finally made the supreme deity incarnating himself in Buddha, and his birth was made miraculous, and from a virgin. When we pass to the later trinity, Vishnu incarnates himself in Krishna, the god-man. Krishna was, however, a purely mythical being, whereas the Christian doctrine of the incarnation begins with an historical person, Jesus. Thus two general classes of incarnations may be distinguished: (1) that “which starts with deity, and by an incarnation reduces deity to humanity”; (2) that “which starts with a real human being...

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