Grill a Christian – The Trinity

Hi there. I’m just an architecture student, but I like philosophy and religion. Or in other words, I like discussing the big issues in life. I’m in no way any expert on this. This is my second apologetics speech revised. My first you can read here. So this is me pulling together ideas and reasoning to support the trinity.

Isn’t the Trinity polytheistic and incorrectly professes one God?

This may be one of the many ways to phrase how confusing the trinity is. In my talk I will uncover assumptions of the trinity, conclude that it is not polytheistic, but the belief in one God and why to me it makes reasonable sense.

Before that I want to briefly go over why polytheism is not plausible; what monotheism is all about and what is the basic doctrine of the Trinity.

Polytheism is the worship or belief in more than one god. I want to show that it is not possible for there to be more than one god. But what is God? If we define God to be a being of supernatural power or some higher being in relation to us humans to worship, then yes polytheism is possible. However, that means they cannot possibly have created the universe. It seems we have rendered them as mere spirits with super powers. Much of the early polytheistic religions have gods who are very much anthropomorphized and have the same weaknesses as humans. They are able to pro-create, but then that leads us to question the origins of these ‘gods’ since they are just like us. For example, Zeus the greek god had cheated on his wife Hera several times and this contrasts the perfectly selfless unity of the Trinitarian God. Just imagine the disorder as well, if there were to be more than one god, the universe would be in disorder and doesn’t quite fit the puzzle as the gods would be jealous and I wouldn’t imagine they would want to share the creation if they were to be different separate entities. For that to happen, they would have different personalities but for God to have an ounce of evil or selfishness like Zeus would mean He is not perfect.

If God is the creator of the universe, He has to be a perfect being or else he would be on the same level as us. How then can we worship such a God? We might as well be gods. If He is just a mere spirit, He can be defeated and therefore cannot be God – for he would have a weakness.

So there must be one God. But is the Trinity truly claiming to be one God or have the Christians got it all wrong and it is in fact 3 gods? The Trinity most simply put is a term used to denote the Christian doctrine that God exists as a unity of 3 persons: the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Each are fully divine in nature but distinct as particular forms. The Father commands and sends; the Son obeys and goes and the Holy Spirit hovers over creation, indwells, teaches and empower human beings. But they are one God. And so… the hard part. I’ll be doing my best to affirm why the trinity makes sense.

Let’s begin with what God’s attributes are: He is all powerful and cannot be defeated, so He must be all knowing. If He is all knowing He is everywhere and if He is everywhere He is greater than 3 dimensional beings. Humans are 3 dimensional beings and we cannot be everywhere. Therefore God is hyper dimensional.

C S Lewis once said that as you increase dimensions, it adds greater capacity and greater possibilities that can be actualized. Since God is greater than our dimension, it wouldn’t be strange for Him to comprise of more than one being.

I’ll provide a metaphor … so imagine from our 3D perspective, we introduce the concept of a cube to a 2D world.
The 2D person would only see a square. To help him understand where we’re coming from, we change the cube’s sides. The 2D person, unfortunately, cannot comprehend the changing of this cube because the square disappears for him and it reappears a different side. He would say it’s a different cube. We can tell him all the 6 squares belong to one cube but he would only see 6 squares disappearing and reappearing before him.

Here is how the concept of cube for 2D people can be understood:
1. Refusal to acknowledge there’s only one cube – seeing 6 squares = 6 cubes
2. If the cube really is 1 cube the guy probably only just saw the same  square each time not a new side
3. Cannot understand the physics of a cube … but perhaps the cube is just 1 but it has 6 squares.

The term trinity was coined after the completion of the compilation of the bible and it’s used to give a label to this concept of 3 persons in 1. When man makes up a god he makes one he can understand and even completely relate to, where as the God of the bible is another story.

What does the bible say about this? If it is not even evident in the bible then how can we claim that the one God has 3 persons? I want to show very briefly that there is evidence of this in the Old Testament and the New Testament.

First looking in the Old Testament,

Genesis 1:26 “Then God said, Let US make man in OUR image, after OUR likeness..”

Why is God describing himself ‘us’ and ‘our’?

One can question then what it means in Deuteronomy 6:4 “Here, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one!”

When interpreting the verses, we need to look in context. From the chapter, it doesn’t mention anything about God internally or his character rather it is used against the possibility of other gods existing with Him. It mentions later on in the chapter not to follow other gods as the other people around the Israelites did.

The word used for ‘one’ is Echad, which doesn’t absolutely mean entirely singular.

Dr. Michael Brown in his book ‘Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus’  says: “Actually, ‘echad’ simply means ‘one’, exactly like our English word ‘one’. While it can refer to compound unity (just as our English word can, as in one team, one couple, etc.), it does not specifically refer to compound unity. On the other hand, ‘echad’ certainly does not refer to the concept of absolute unity, an idea expressed most clearly in the twelfth century by Moses Maimonides, who asserted that the Jewish people must believe that God is yachid, an ‘only’ one. There is no doubt that this reaction was due to exaggerated, unbiblical, ‘Christian’ beliefs that gave Jews the impression Christians worshiped three gods. Unfortunately, the view of Maimonides is reactionary and also goes beyond what is stated in the Scriptures. In fact, there is not a single verse anywhere in the Bible that clearly or directly states that God is an absolute unity.”

Other instances where Echad is also used is Genesis 2:24 ‘and they shall become one (echad) flesh’, Genesis 11:6 … the people are one (echad) and they all have one (echad) language.

Therefore ‘Echad’ can be used to describe multiple things as one.

I also want to discuss about the ancient Hebrew word God (Eleinu) — INU is the plural possessive pronoun-suffix denoting things which belong to us.

— Numbers 20:15 Abth’inu (our fathers)

— Isaiah 53:5 Aunth’inu (our iniquities)

— 1 Samuel 12:19 Chtath’inu (our sins)

In the Old Testament, we can also observe there are three ‘persons’ that act as God. The Lord (God), Angel of the Lord and Spirit of the Lord.

The interesting thing is, the precise identity of the ‘angel of the Lord’ is not given in the Bible. There are many clues to his identity.  The word ‘angel’ in Hebrew doesn’t mean a winged being of heaven. It just means messenger or representative. Angel – Mlak. There are Old and new Testament references to ‘angels of the Lord, ‘an angel of the Lord’, and ‘the angel of the Lord’.

The use of ‘the’ establishes a unique being as ‘the angel of the Lord’ is separate from other angels. This angel speaks as God, identifies Himself with God, and exercises the responsibilities of God.

In several of these appearances, those who saw the angel of the Lord feared for their lives because they had ‘see the Lord’. Therefore it is clear that in at least some instances, the angel of the Lord is a theophany, an appearance of God in physical form.

The appearances of the angel of the Lord cease after the incarnation of Christ. Angels are mentioned numerous times in the New Testament, but ‘the angel of the Lord’ is never mentioned in the New Testament after the birth of Christ. Jesus declared that he existed “before Abraham” (John 8:58), so it is logical that He would be active and manifest in the world.

*There are no passages in the OT where the phrase the ‘Angel of YHWH’ appears and the surrounding context implies it is an ordinary created angel.

Dr. Michael Brown also mentions hows the Angel of the Lord is also referred to as the Word of the Lord. This relates to John 1:1-3 – “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has that has been made.”

Here is one instance among the many that shows how the angel of the Lord can be identified as the Lord himself:

Judges 13:3-22

The angel of the Lord appeared to her and said, “You are barren and childless, but you are going to become pregnant and give birth to a son. Now see to it that you drink no wine or other fermented drink and that you do not eat anything unclean. You will become pregnant and have a son whose head is never to be touched by a razor because the boy is to be a Nazirite, dedicated to God from the womb. He will take the lead in delivering Israel from the hands of the Philistines.”

Then the woman went to her husband and told him, “A man of God came to me. He looked like an angel of God, very awesome. I didn’t ask him where he came from, and he didn’t tell me his name. But he said to me, ‘You will become pregnant and have a son. Now then, drink no wine or other fermented drink and do not eat anything unclean, because the boy will be a Nazirite of God from the womb until the day of his death.’”

Then Manoah prayed to the Lord: “Pardon your servant, Lord. I beg you to let the man of God you sent to us come again to teach us how to bring up the boy who is to be born.”

God heard Manoah, and the angel of God came again to the woman while she was out in the field; but her husband Manoah was not with her. 10 The woman hurried to tell her husband, “He’s here! The man who appeared to me the other day!”

11 Manoah got up and followed his wife. When he came to the man, he said, “Are you the man who talked to my wife?”

“I am,” he said.

12 So Manoah asked him, “When your words are fulfilled, what is to be the rule that governs the boy’s life and work?”

13 The angel of the Lord answered, “Your wife must do all that I have told her. 14 She must not eat anything that comes from the grapevine, nor drink any wine or other fermented drink nor eat anything unclean. She must do everything I have commanded her.”

15 Manoah said to the angel of the Lord, “We would like you to stay until we prepare a young goat for you.”

16 The angel of the Lord replied, “Even though you detain me, I will not eat any of your food. But if you prepare a burnt offering, offer it to the Lord.” (Manoah did not realize that it was the angel of the Lord.)

17 Then Manoah inquired of the angel of the Lord, “What is your name, so that we may honor you when your word comes true?”

18 He replied, “Why do you ask my name? It is beyond understanding.[a] 19 Then Manoah took a young goat, together with the grain offering, and sacrificed it on a rock to the Lord. And the Lord did an amazing thing while Manoah and his wife watched: 20 As the flame blazed up from the altar toward heaven, the angel of theLord ascended in the flame. Seeing this, Manoah and his wife fell with their faces to the ground. 21 When the angel of the Lord did not show himself again to Manoah and his wife, Manoah realized that it was the angel of the Lord.

22 “We are doomed to die!” he said to his wife. “We have seen God!”

Spirit of the Lord

I want to point out how in the following passages, the Spirit of the Lord is described as a person – who holds attributes that of God.

  • 1 Samuel 10:10 — When they came there to the hill, there was a group of prophets to meet him; then the Spirit of God came upon him, and he prophesied among them.

Other verses where the Spirit of the Lord entered into people: Exodus 13:3; Numbers 24:2; Judges 3:10; 1 Samuel 19:20.

This is just what Paul said would happen if you accept Christ as saviour. Romans 8:9 But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.

Isaiah 63 – term Spirit of the Lord and Holy Spirit are used interchangeably

Holy Spirit is also distinct from God. Isaiah 63:11 — Where is He who put His Holy Spirit within them, who led them by the right hand of Moses, with His glorious arm, dividing the water before them to make for Himself an everlasting name

Ezekiel 11:5 “Then the Spirit of the Lord feel upon me, and said to me, ‘Speak!’ Thus says the Lord: ‘Thus you have said, O house of Israel; for I know the things that come into your mind.’ ”

Psalm 104:30 “You send forth Your Spirit, they are created…

2 Sam 2-3 “The Spirit of the Lord spoke by me, And His word was on my tongue. The God of Israel said…

Job 33:4 “The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.” – only God can give life.

Isaiah 48:16 “Come near me and listen to this: ‘From the first announcement I have not spoken in secret; at the time it happens, I am there.’ And now the Sovereign LORD has sent me, endowed with his Spirit.

* Then tie it up with the roles of the Lord, how he sends the angel of the Lord and how His Spirit works.

TEACHING of the TRINITY in the NT

Here are passages that clearly describe the three persons of the trinity:

Matthew 3:16-17 When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

Matthew 28:19 (Jesus says) Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Titus 3:4-6 But when the kindness and the love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour,

Holy Spirit comes upon characters for example such as Elizabeth, Zechariah in Luke’s gospel: Luke 1:41, 1:67

Acts 5:3-4 Where Peter where he mentions when someone was lying to the Holy Spirit, he continues to say it ultimately means not lying to men but God.

We can see clearly that the Old Testament has the Angel of the Lord who although is directed to perform acts on earth, acts and exercises the very nature of God. The ‘Father’ God, sends the physical manifestation of Himself (the Son) to carry out His will. The Spirit of the Lord (His presence), guides and instructs prophets and His people. We can see parallels in the Old Testament and the New Testament.

So this is a really strange concept of how we can have unity and diversity simultaneously. The Trinity offers an explanation to this phenomenon in our world. In a monadic concept (without the trinity), if God said he loves, who did he love before the creation and if he speaks who was he speaking to before?

In Christianity, love precedes life. In every other faith life precedes love.

I want to talk about how God can be this amazing perfect love. The mysterious being of God having 3 persons, each one must empty themselves for the other two. In other words it means willingly submitting and selflessly giving to the other two persons. Therefore there is this on going out pour of love. This beautiful cycle is the most fundamental essence of who God is. This is also the only way in which God can selflessly glorify Himself as each person glorifies the other two.

I want to conclude that the Old Testament does provide evidence of the trinity and the New Testament establishes the relationships between the persons in the trinity. This relationship is so crucial because in no other religion or belief in god has the concept that relationship precedes life. This is why God is so amazing because He is love and that lies in relationships. Out of love, He created this world and us, and in giving us companions we are not meant to be alone but to live our lives through pouring out our love for others.

References:

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One thought on “Grill a Christian – The Trinity

  1. Thank you Hilda for your very insightful and revealing thoughts on a basic but yet very difficult truth in our Christian faith. May God bless you always in your life journey on the righteous path.

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