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  • Print publication year: 2010
  • Online publication date: May 2010

6 - Reason, religion and the doctrine of the Trinity


Socinus' understanding of human nature and religion, of mankind and God, had no place for the doctrine of the Trinity. Indeed, his rejection of this fundamental doctrine was closely bound up with his re-interpretation of Christianity and its relationship to nature. After Parliament's victory in the First Civil War, attention turned to the problem of church settlement and here the Socinians' anti-Trinitarianism became increasingly important. All plans for church settlement in England required a broad commitment to the Trinity, on the grounds that it was an intrinsic part of the Christian religion without which men could not have any meaningful relationship with God. During the 1640s and 1650s, however, a growing number of people began to argue that the Trinity had not been part of the original message and that human beings could in fact worship God in an acceptable way without subscribing to the Trinitarian Creeds. They suggested that true religion was not inherently Trinitarian, and that God revealed himself in different ways at different times. We have seen how the issues of resistance and church government forced people to consider whether the advent of Christ had altered the relationship between God and humankind, but this question was also important as the Parliamentarian victors struggled to construct a church settlement. They wanted to include in this settlement the fundamental principles of religion, but the controversy over the Trinity revealed deeper divisions over just what those principles were.