Christians have a rather unique belief about what God is like. A belief that is often misunderstood by both Christians and skeptics alike. It's the belief in the divine Trinity. Attacks on this doctrine generally come in two different types. One attack consists of the claim that the Christian's own Scriptures do not actually teach the concept of the Trinity. The other questions whether the Trinity is a logically coherent concept. I don't believe either attack succeeds, but I want to focus in the next couple entries on showing that the Trinity is a logically coherent concept.
How can God be three in one?
We better start by explaining what exactly the doctrine of the Trinity is. Wayne Grudem, in his 'Systematic Theology', sums up orthodox Trinitarian belief in this statement; "God eternally exists as three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and each person is fully God, and there is one God."
People who have some vague familiarity with the Trinity might think that there is a problem with the claim that God is three in one. They say that's a contradiction. But it's only a contradiction if the claim is that God is one and three of the same thing...
Jimbo: Benny, Benny, Benny ... I know I haven't had much success refuting your theism. But I know one thing I can refute about your specific brand of theism! Lad, the doctrine of the Trinity is logically contradictory!
Benny: That's a strong claim mate. Why do you think that?
Jimbo: Because God can't be three and one! That's clearly impossible.
Benny: Do you think thousands of ants can also be one colony?
Jimbo: Yes, of course ...
Benny: But it would be impossible for a thousand ants to be just one ant, right?
Benny: It's the same with the Trinity. We aren't claiming that God is three Gods and one God. We are claiming God is three PERSONS in one God.
We can clarify by saying that God is three persons in one being. I, as a human, am one being. But I, Martin, am the only person within this being. God however, has three persons in the one divine being. It is hard to imagine but it isn't logically impossible! And it's certainly pretty cool, at least in my opinion. Next entry will discuss another potential 'logical issue' with the Trinity.