Wednesday, 27 October 2010

How can God be three in one?

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?
Jimbo: Duh!
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.


Dean said...

I like this Martin. I think it's great that you break down the articles as opposed to one very long piece with a tonne of depth and angles. Depth that I know you're capable of. It's like philosophy in bitesize.

I find the trinity an essential and fascinating doctrine. What I find almost as interesting is the way in which we perceive and logically understand it as people.

Looking forward to your next post.


Martin said...

Thanks Dean!

You're certainly right on both how essential AND how fascinating the Trinity is. Mike Reeves (UCCF's head guy on theology) says that it is THE doctrine that makes Christianity truly unique among other religions.

Adam Pastor said...

Greetings Martin Smith

On the subject of the Trinity,
I recommend this video:
The Human Jesus

Take a couple of hours to watch it; and prayerfully it will aid you to reconsider "The Trinity"

Yours In Messiah
Adam Pastor

Martin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Martin said...

Deleted my previous comment because it seemed unnecessarily rude. Sorry Adam. I don't really have a lot of time so I wasn't too keen to give a 2 hour vid a watch.