A really bad argument from silence is the claim that the Holy Spirit is not a person because he is not mentioned in certain passages. Chief among the offending texts are the salutations—the opening greetings in the New Testament epistles that usually read something like “Grace and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Anti-Trinitarians commonly infer from the “absence” of the Holy Spirit in these texts that he is not a person.

Besides being an obvious argument from silence, this argument overlooks contrary evidence. The Holy Spirit is mentioned in one of the New Testament epistle salutations:

“Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you” (1 Peter 1:1-2 ESV).

Here the Father, the Spirit, and Jesus Christ are all mentioned together in the salutation.

There is no end of arguments appealing to the “missing” Holy Spirit. Why isn’t he mentioned in John 1:1? The better question is, Why should he be? John 1:1-18 is an introduction to a Gospel account of the teaching, death, and resurrection of the Son, Jesus Christ. Such objections are worthless as evidence against the personhood of the Holy Spirit.

Some anti-Trinitarians read a lot into the fact that there are passages that mention the Father and the Son together but not the Spirit (e.g., John 1:1; 1 Cor. 8:6; 2 John 3). But the omission of the Spirit in such texts proves nothing. There are also passages that mention the Father and the Spirit but not the Son (e.g., Luke 11:13; 1 Thess. 4:8) and others that mention the Son and the Spirit but not the Father (e.g., Matt. 12:31-32; Acts 9:31; Gal. 3:13-14; 1 Peter 1:11-13). No theological deductions may be drawn from the “omissions” in such texts.

In a recent article on the Trinity, I made the following observations of relevance to this argument from silence:

Viewed historically, confessions of Jesus’ followers probably began as simple Christological statements such as “Jesus is Lord” (cf. Rom. 12:9; 1 Cor. 12:3; Phil. 2:11). As the gospel was taken to Gentiles who often did not know much or anything about the God of Israel, the message would typically have a dyadic structure of faith in God and in his Son Jesus (e.g., Acts 17:30-31; 1 Thess. 1:9-10), reflecting Jesus’ own references to the Father and the Son (Matt. 11:27; John 5:17-26; etc.). The more elaborate triadic or Trinitarian statements are often associated with baptism and the church’s corporate worship and ministry (e.g., Matt. 28:19; 1 Cor. 12:4-6; Eph. 4:4-6). The point is that there are historical and contextual reasons why some passages refer to all three divine persons and others do not. (“Triadic New Testament Passages and the Doctrine of the Trinity,” Journal for Trinitarian Studies and Apologetics 1, 1 [Jan. 2013].)

The arguments from silence discussed in this and previous posts probably don’t exhaust the anti-Trinitarian arsenal of such arguments, but they illustrate the problems with such arguments. Don’t fall for them.


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This entry was posted on Monday, March 18th, 2013 at 9:30 pm and is filed under Biblical studies, Jehovah's Witnesses, New Testament, Trinity. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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