The Trinity Doctrine

Perhaps the most complex doctrine of Christianity, the Trinity is not well defined nor is it universally accepted. How does it line up with the Bible?

Introduction

Let's face it, the Trinity Doctrine is the strangest thing in the Christian world. Why is strange? Despite being well accepted as a foundation of Christianity, it actually isn't accepted in all denominations. Majority of the people I've spoken with (both Christian and non-Christian) have no idea that there are wildly different views within the religion when it comes to the Trinity. Another oddity concerning the Trinity Doctrine is that a large number of those who profess it, can't explain it. The concept of the Trinity may be the hardest Christian concept to explain. Despite the contention on the subject and prevailing lack of understanding, it's treated as common knowledge and people don't really talk about it...
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Defining the Trinity

For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.1 John 5:7 KJV
Merriam Webster defines the Trinity as "the unity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as three persons in one Godhead according to Christian dogma." The word didn't actually exist until the 13th century.[1] The most often cited "proof-text" for this doctrine is 1 John 5:7, but we're going to come back to that later. The Trinity doctrine defines God the Father, The Son of God, and The Holy Spirit as three separate entities that are identical in essence. All three members of the Trinity are divine, and the same God exists within all 3 members. This is the basis of referring to Christianity as a monotheistic religion. It is also why many Christians conflate God the Father, The Son of God, and The Holy Spirit when speaking. Basically, it's pretty difficult to wrap our heads around.
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Different Views on the Trinity

The question that must follow, however, is what people actually believe. It's pretty hard to argue that God the Father, The Son of God, and The Holy Spirit exist in one body or that only one can exist at a time (though some people have tried, it's called the "oneness" doctrine[22]); there are too many Bible verses that disprove this. For one, all three are distinctly present at Jesus' baptism (Matthew 3:16-17). Most Christians agree that there are distinct entities, but some believe that 1 John 5:7's "these three are one" means God the Father, The Son of God, and the Holy Spirit share the same office, while others seem to believe in polytheism, and others demote one or more of these entities. The Trinity doctrine of God the Father, The Son of God, and The Holy Spirit as coequal and coeternal is where non-trinitarians usually begin to diverge from trinitarians.
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Non-Trinitarians

Non-trinitarian denominations include Jehovah's Witness, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (also known as LDS or "Mormons"), Christadelphians, Christian Scientists, Living Church of God, Oneness Pentecostals, The Church of God International, Seventh Day Remnant, and the United Church of God.[3][19][23]

Jehovah's Witnesses reject the divinity of Christ, thereby rejecting the Trinity.[2] Christadelphians believe that the Holy Spirit is not a separate being, but the power or thoughts of God. These beliefs stem from Arianism, which is named for its inventor, Arius. Arius was an Alexandrian who lived during the 4th century. During the council of Nicea in 325, the church denounced Arius' views as heretical.[20] Of course, a council is only as good as the people presiding in it, so we can't just take the council's word without proof.

Latter-day Saints and Seventh Day Remnant agree that there are 3 divine beings in the Godhead, and that God the Father, the Son of God, and the Holy Spirit are unified in purpose, but reject the Trinity concept that they are the same substance.[23][24] Most people suggest these two churches are thus declaring themselves polytheistic, though I'm not sure members of either will claim polytheism.
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Substance of God

I'm not sure if "same substance" is meant in the sense that all three members of the Godhead would have the same DNA or in the sense that you and I are made of the same substance. It's quite interesting to think about. I mean, are Trinitarians suggesting God the Father, the Son of God, and the Holy Spirit are like identical triplets, but manage to have different manifestations? Or are they suggesting that just as the universe is made up of the elements of the periodic table, the members of the Godhead are made up of the same divine elements (likely not found on our periodic table)? Are members of the Latter-Day Saints and Seventh Day Remnant churches saying neither of these are correct and that each member of the Godhead is uniquely divine? Or are they refuting the first and claiming the second? Then again, are Trinitarians suggesting a modified version of the oneness doctrine in which the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are manifestations of the same God only in this version of the doctrine all three can appear at the same time?
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"True" Christianity

2Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: 3And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.1 John 4:2-3 KJV
When I told a friend of mine that there were Christians who didn't subscribe to the Trinity and that some Christians don't recognize the divinity of Christ, he was quick to argue that these people were not Christian. Despite being agnostic, his understanding of the religion is from a Trinitarian lens. A "Christian," however, is a follower of Christ, just like a Lutheran follows the principles set by Martin Luther... One can follow Christ's teaching without believing He is God (I am obligated to point out that there are many verses in which Christ is declared God). Even in the issue of being saved, John 3:16 tells us we must believe in Jesus to receive salvation, but it doesn't specifically say we must believe He is God. The conclusion you make on John 3:16 will come from your understanding of scripture. If you genuinely believe Jesus is not God, then you would feel you "believe in Him" as a person just fine and that would make you saved. However, for those of us who do believe Jesus is God, we would likely say that rejecting His divinity is a rejection of who He is, and thus a rejection of the belief in Him as God.

As I stated in the beginning, it's quite strange...

Interestingly, however, it is the belief of whether Jesus actually came in the flesh or not that will distinguish us as being of God (1 John 4:2-3). I discuss this in greater detail below, but it seems to suggest that the most important part of our understanding of Jesus is that He was at one point a man, that He came in the flesh. This is important theologically because if Jesus came to Earth as God, disguised in a man's body (just as God often appears as an Angel and angels often appear as men in the Old Testament), He would not have overcome the temptations of the flesh because He wouldn't have had a flesh to tempt Him...

The strongest argument I've heard for the Trinity, is the harmonization of three Gods when we are plainly told there is one God in Deuteronomy 6:4, Matthew 19:17, and 1 Timothy 2:5. On the opposite side, the strongest argument I've heard against the Trinity, is that it isn't taught anywhere in the Bible.[4]
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Who is God?

Before anyone can decide which view they agree with, they have to answer the question of divinity. Whether or not there is a Trinity is only a concern if you believe all three "persons" are divine. So, let us discuss the divinity of God the Father, The Son of God, and The Holy Spirit.
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God the Father

Anyone who believes the Bible will agree that God the Father is God; this has never been a disputed point. The Old Testament clearly shows God the Father as divine; generally when Christians say "God" this is Who we are referencing. There are questions about whether it is God the Father or Jesus speaking in some passages of the Old Testament, but we'll leave that for another post.
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The Son of God

Is the Son of God, also God? We know that Jesus was fully man; 1 John 4:2-3 tells us anyone who says Jesus did not come in the flesh is not of God. Of course, if it could be said that Jesus came as something other than the flesh, it also implies He was more than just human. If John did not think that Jesus was God, and considered Him only human, would he have not said anyone who says Jesus is God and didn't not come in the flesh is not of God? To call Jesus God if He is not would be both blasphemy and worshipping an idol. I would think both Jesus and the apostles would have spoken out against this if it were the case... Laying speculation aside, let's talk about about what the disciples and apostles said concerning the divinity of Jesus.
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John 1

And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.John 1:14 KJV
John 1:1 tells us the Word was with God and the Word was God, which means the Word was both with God, and God in His own right. This implies at least two Gods... Further in the chapter, in John 1:14, John clarifies that it is Jesus who is the Word. Thus, John is telling us that Jesus is God.
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John 20

In John 20, both Mary Magdalene and the disciples refer to Jesus as "the Lord." Note, there is a great difference in calling Jesus Lord (e.g., Matthew 7:21) versus Lord in John 20:18,25,28. (Apparently the website that drives my Bible reference links doesn't support small caps, however this can be verified on sites such as BibleGateway). Lord was an earthly title given to masters and rulers, but Lord was only applied to God. Lord is the English translation given where "YHWH" was written in the Hebrew text. Because God's name is sacred, the Israelites didn't want to pronounce it; instead they substituted the name of God with the word Adonai. Adonai means "lord" in English. Today, YHWYH is translated to Lord in our English Bibles.[5] The fact that Jesus' followers called Him Lord is indicative that they believed Him to be God. When Thomas is reunited with Jesus, he says to Jesus "my Lord and my God." Jesus responds to this that those who believe without seeing will be blessed; notice that He does not deny Himself as Thomas' Lord or God, and He encourages the belief.
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1 Timothy 3

1 Timothy 3:16 tells us God was manifest in the flesh (i.e., Jesus). Manifest means to be clearly shown, made visible, recognized or easily perceived by the senses.[6] Alone, it may be argued that Jesus was simply a perfect example of God, and in His perfection it was easy to see God in Him, however, when listed with the other verses that clearly state Jesus is God, is clear that this verse refers to Jesus manifesting as God, a tangible human on Earth. Remember, when Moses saw God on Mt. Sinai and returned, the people could see the glow of God around him, but they did not describe this as a manifestation of God. This should tell us there is something more to Jesus' existence than merely reflecting God's glory.
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Matthew 19:16-17

Matthew 19, Mark 10, and Luke 18 all recount the time someone came to Jesus, calling Him "Good Master" and seeking advice. Jesus' response to the man was "Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments." Now, on first glance, it appears that Jesus is rejecting the title of good and saying that it can only be applied to God; which be a denial of divinity. There are actually two possibilities, however.

As we continue in the account, we see that Jesus tells the man he already knows the commandments. Note that when Jesus lists the commandments, He skips the first 4, all of which pertain to God. Jesus doesn't belabor the point of loving God because He knows that the man loves God. Otherwise, Jesus would have said "you have forgotten the commandments." Jesus' omission of the commands that describe our behavior toward God says this man was correct in identifying Jesus as God. Just like only those who truly believe will be ready at the second coming, only the faithful were prepared for Jesus during His first coming.

Some suggest that the rich man along with many who came to see Jesus did not know that Jesus was the Son of God, but thought Him merely a prophet. In this case it would be wrong to ascribe the title of "Good" to Him. Commentaries suggest Jesus is telling the man not to use his words so carelessly.[7]

Neither of these actually suggest that Jesus is denying Himself to be God, however.
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Other Verses

The verses mentioned above are those that are less obvious and often debated, but do not constitute a complete list. Below are a few verses that are more explicit. There are also verses that can be used in conjunction with each other, such as Isaiah 33:22 stating God is the judge and John 5:22, telling us Jesus is the Judge. Note that there are many many more verses than those listed in this post.
  1. Hebrews 1:6,8-9
  2. John 5:18
  3. John 10:30-33
  4. Colossians 2:8-10
  5. Romans 2:16 2 Timothy 4:1
  6. Philippians 2:5-6
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The Holy Spirit

As I mentioned earlier, there are some who question if the Holy Spirit is even a person, let alone divine. Many argue that the Holy Spirit is only the power of God and not a physical being. What does the Bible say?
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Matthew 12

Matthew 12:32 tells us that blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is an unforgivable sin; that means it must be important that we figure out how the Holy Spirit factors in to everything. For the full context, read from Matthew 12:22. In this passage, Jesus heals a man in the name of the Spirit of God. The Pharisees, however, accuse Him of healing in the name of Satan. Remember when Jesus said not to call good evil or evil good? That's what the Pharisees did after witnessing Jesus heal someone; they confused the Spirit of God with Satan (Beelzebub). The fact that this is an unforgivable sin definitely signals to us that Holy Spirit is of great importance.

In this example, however, it can appear that Jesus is referencing a power more-so than an entity; however, it also makes no sense to say that it is forgivable to blaspheme (or insult) God the Father and the Son of God but unforgivable to do so to an inanimate object. Of course, one could argue that being animate, God the Father and the Son of God are able to bestow forgiveness upon people, whereas if the Holy Spirit is not animate, it can't forgive. That sounds quite far-fetched, if you ask me. I think Jesus is referring to the Holy Spirit as a living being in this verse.
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John 16

12I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. 13Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. 14He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. 15All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you.John 16:12-15 KJV
In John 16, Jesus tells the disciples He will send the Holy Spirit (or the Spirit of Truth) to them. In this conversation, He constantly refers to the Holy Spirit as "he," not "it." Jesus' language suggests that the Spirit He sends is alive and has an identity. When was the last time you referred to your thoughts as a person? This verse doesn't proclaim the Holy Spirit to be God, but it does suggest the Holy Spirit is more than a thought or power. The Holy Spirit is being described as a messenger to perfectly convey God's message and prophecies. While this could refer to an angel, the fact that the Holy Spirit is within everyone suggests a level of omnipresence. Angels can only be in one place at a time.
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Acts 5:3-4

In Acts 5, Peter asks Ananias why he lied to the Holy Spirit, then refers to this as lying to God. For one, you can't lie to a thought process, only an entity. For two, this tells us that lying to the Holy Spirit is the same as lying to God. This could be used to argue the Holy Spirit is God. One could also argue that it implied the Holy Spirit was a messenger, that this verse was saying whatever lie you tell the Holy Spirit will make it's way back to God. However, that isn't the same as lying to God; thus I'm apt to believe Peter meant the Holy Spirit is God.
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1 Corinthians 12

1 Corinthians 12 tells us there are multiple administrations, operations, and gifts but they are said to be from the same Lord, God, and Spirit respectively. 1 Corinthians 12:7 says the manifestation of the Holy Spirit is given to us. It is this Spirit who gives us gifts: faith, healing, wisdom, knowledge, miracles, prophecy, discerning of spirits, tongues, and the interpretation of tongues. When Jesus heals and the Pharisees accuse Him of healing in the name of Satan, Jesus sets them straight that it is the Holy Spirit that gave Him the power or gift of healing. If the Holy Spirit is not God, but able to give to us and Jesus powers would that not make what the Pharisees said true? God tells us not to conjure spells or deal with magic (Deuteronomy 18:10-12). The only time such powers are deemed ok is when they come from God Himself. Examples of this include Jesus' healing, Moses' confrontation with the Pharaoh, and the prophets ability to prophesy and interpret dreams.
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Acts 15:28

The Holy Spirit determines doctrines in the Church. Acts 15:28 tells us the Church fathers based their interpretation of scripture on what the Holy Spirit told them. Who but God can tell us how to worship God?
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Elohim is Plural

The Old Testament uses two (well three if you want to get technical) words to describe God. In the English version of our Bibles we see this rendered as God or Lord. The word translated to God is Elohim; YHWH, is translated to Lord, which comes from the Hebrew word substituted for YHWH in the text, Adonai. The word Elohim is actually the plural of El or Eloah.[10] Arguments over whether this is indicative of polytheism or evidence of Jesus and the Holy Spirit have arisen amongst scholars concerning this matter, leaving room for interpretation of how God meant it in the first place. Note, in Genesis 1:26 and Genesis 3:22, God refers to Him self in plural. Some argue that this is the royal we, but that would also imply that all kingdoms using the royal we copied God in this manner. After all, God predates kingdoms. The royal we is not an uncommon practice for humans; it also occurs in scientific papers. The royal we originated in 1169 with King Henry II and King Richard I.[25] That's quite some time after the penning of Genesis. Even so, whether it is an accurate translation of God's original usage is still an unanswered question. This just makes it more difficult to determine if God's use of "us" is an indication of Him speaking of Jesus and the Holy Spirit, the angels, or just Himself.

Comma Johanneum (1 John 5:7-8)

You may have noticed that I didn't really mention the popular 1 John 5:7-8. I saved it for last because it is a disputed verse, often reffered to as the Comma Johanneum. As with most information God gives us in the Bible, one verse is not the only place that references the divinity of God the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. God would have known that translation errors could creep in and manuscripts could be lost, thus He made sure that you can find multiple verses to support one idea. For instance, even if you remove the verse that says we shouldn't have any other gods or commit idolatry, there are countless examples of the Israelites being punished for idolatry, inferring that idolatry is wrong. Similarly, we have many verses that support the concept of 1 John 5:7-8, whether that particular verse belongs or not. Notice that in John 10:30, Jesus says that He and the Father are one (though this doesn't include the Holy Spirit). I wanted to show that before I discussed the controversy around that verse.

7For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. 8And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.1 John 5:7-8 KJV
7For there are three that testify: 8the[a] Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement.1 John 5:7-8 NIV
If you read the King James Version (KJV) or New King James Version (NKJV), you will find the verses as quoted to the right. However, if you read the New International Version (NIV) or English Standard Version (ESV) you will see something different (quoted to the bottom right). The reason for this difference is rooted in which "original" Bible the version is based upon. There are four main versions of the New Testament in the "original" Greek (it's possible there were Hebrew versions that were lost) that our English versions are based on: Textus Receptus, Vaticanus, Alexandrinus and Sinaiticus. There's a lot of debate in the Christian world about which version is the "correct" version, since they don't necessarily agree with each other. History has also shown that these different churches held wildly different theology, as well. This is why you can also find websites dedicated to pointing out the conflicts across versions of the Bible. The Textus Receptus is the only of the four to contain the phrase "in heaven, the Father, the Word and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness in earth." Versions derived from these other manuscripts do not contain these words.[21]

Some argue the verse was put there to support the Trinity doctrine, while some argue it was removed to hide the truth.[8][9] When people cite this verse there are two different parts of the verse they base their argument around depending on what side of the fence they're on. Trinitarians generally focus on "these three are one," and insist the verse means the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are one God. Non-trinitarians generally focus on the beginning of the verse which says "there are three," arguing that this proves they are 3 different people, concluding that like verse 8, "these three are one" means they agree, or are one in purpose.

Are They Coequal?

Is Jesus equal to God the Father? Is the Holy Spirit equal to God the Father? The answers to these questions are part of what validate or invalidate the doctrine. If they are equal, must they be the same God? God tells us He is the only God in Deuteronomy 6:4, 1 Chronicles 17:29, 1 Kings 8:60, Isaiah 43:10-11, and many more. "God is not a man that He should lie" (Numbers 23:19), so if He says there is only one God, there is only one God, right? Does it also hold that if they are the same God they must be equal? Let's look at the concept of coequality in relation to the Trinity, as well as, what the Bible says on the matter.
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The Law of Associativity

Trinity Shield
If you grew up in a trinitarian church, you have heard the saying related to the illustration on the left. The Father is God, but is not the Son and the Son is God but is not the Holy Spirit... As a mathematician, this seems illogical. If we let the Father be A, Jesus be B, the Holy Spirit be C, and the office of God be D, we get the following equations:
  • A = D
  • B = D
  • C = D
  • A ≠ B
  • A ≠ C
  • B ≠ C
The Law of Associativity tells us this has to be wrong. If A=D and D=B, then B must be equal to A. People who support the trinitarian doctrine are quick to dismiss the mathematical implications of this statement. Many will say, "We can't know all the ways of God, so perhaps this is one of those times."

I find, that this is where my computer science background comes in handy. If you attempt this logic with numbers, we know it will fail, but we aren't talking about numbers. Let's look at entities instead; in computer science, we could model an entity as an object. Objects have fields, functions and parts. Objects can be derived from other objects, inheriting their functions and attributes, as well as, creating new ones. A popular example in teaching these principles to computer science students is to start with an "Animal" class. Animals would have attributes such as movement, sight, sentience, and ability to breathe. From this class we can derive a "Feline," "Primate," and "Canine" class. Felines and Canines would add features like 4 legs, while Primates would only have 2 legs, but would also have arms. Felines might add the function of purring, Canines the function of barking, and Primates the function of apposable thumbs. As you can see, the Feline is an Animal, the Canine is an Animal, and the Primate is an Animal, but a Feline is not a Canine and a Canine is not a Primate. The same may be said for the Godhead.

Thus, it is entirely logical to model the Godhead such that "God" is the base class with "God the Father," "Jesus," and the "Holy Spirit" deriving from the base class. Jesus has an Earthly body, God the Father and the Holy Spirit do not. God the Father knows the day and hour of the end of the world, Jesus and the Holy Spirit do not. Jesus and God the Father can both forgive sins (the Bible never gives us evidence that the Holy Spirit can forgive sins).

This also solves this issue of no one ever seeing God, but people seeing God. Both the New Testament and the Old Testament boast that no man has ever seen God. Of course, we know that Moses saw Him, or rather part of Him. Many people declare they have seen God after seeing an Angel of the Lord. Perhaps the statement that no one has seen God is made because people have only seen manifestations of God. It could also mean that no one has seen all three members of the Godhead, or it could reference only one member of the Godhead.

Note, however, that it is still true that these classes are not considered "equal" by the computer's definition. If we create the classes mentioned above and ask the computer if God is equal to Jesus, it will say no and if we ask if Jesus is equal to the Father it will say no. (You can see an example of this here).

In order to assert equality of persons, we have to define what we mean by equal. What does it mean when we say they are equal? Equal in power? Equal in leadership? Equal in knowledge? Equal such that they are interchangeable? I have a pack of black socks; they look exactly the same, they fit the same, and they serve the same purpose. I am completely indifferent to which pair I put on and can't tell them apart. Each sock is a separate sock, but they're all equal in the sense that they are interchangeable. Conversely, I have several pair of black shoes, which look similar though not exactly the same and serve the same purpose. I can tell the difference between these shoes and have preferences as to which pair I wear to what occasion. They are not interchangeable. Moreover, in a single pair of shoes, both the right and left foot look sufficiently similar, they serve the same purpose, and they fit the same on each respective foot, but I can't put the left shoe on my right foot. For all intensive purposes they are equal, I don't have a preference for one shoe over the other and I see them the same way, but each has it's own place. People say men and women are equal all the time, when we know that there are clear and distinct differences between a man and a woman.

The term "coequal" in the Trinity can only be considered logical if we define and accept a definition. Once a specific definition is adopted, we would validate it's truthfulness through Biblical text. Next in this section I discuss some capacities where we would expect the members of the Godhead to be the same or "coequal" in a general sense.
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What the Bible Says

The Bible talks a lot about the distinctions between God the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Does it say they are equal?
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Defining "One" God

Pastor Doug of Amazing Fact Ministries (linked above and in the Featured Links section) points out a few things that should be taken into consideration as we step through verses. One fact he points out is the confusion that will abound if we don't define the word "one."[18] One reason people demote members of the Godhead is because the Bible repeatedly states there is only one God. However "one" can also mean unity. Remember, the Bible also says man and wife are one flesh. So are Moses and the other writers, saying that there is only one God in quantity or one God in unity? In polytheistic religions, the gods are often at odds with each other. Take Greek Mythology, there was actually a war of the gods; it is called the Titanomachy. The younger gods (Olympians) fought the older gods (Titans). When the Olympians won, they were left to do as they pleased which did not always coincide with each others' desires. Can you imagine Jesus fighting with God the Father? No, because they are in perfect unity.

Another thing to wonder is how much of His divinity Christ brought with Him to Earth. Pastor Doug asks if we believe that as a baby Jesus was all knowing. Did Mary and Joseph have to potty train Him and teach Him to speak, or could He speak the moment He was born? It refocuses everything if we imagine Jesus as a baby needing His diaper changed, doesn't it? Pastor Doug suggests that Jesus gave up part of His divinity in an act of humility when He became mortal.[18] Honestly, I can't think of anything more humiliating than God choosing to go through life as a man: from pooping on yourself as a baby, to sickness and weakness, all the way through death. Philippians 2 talks about Jesus lowering Himself to the rank of servant. Philippians 2:9 says that God (assumably God the Father) gave Jesus a name which is above every name.[25] Did Jesus give up part of His divinity to walk the Earth with us?
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John 14

Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works' sake.John 14:11
Jesus tells us that He is in the Father and the Father is in Him. When the disciples ask to see the Father, Jesus explains to them that because they have seen the Son, they have also seen the Father. Jesus goes on to say that the Father will be glorified through the Son when we ask things in Jesus' name. This definitely suggests equal authority.
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Knowledge

Jesus tells us that only the Father knows the day and the hour of the second coming (Matthew 24:36). If they are coequal in knowledge, would Jesus not know all that God knows? Imagine that you and another person are ruling a kingdom. They receive all of the information regarding the kingdom, but you only receive a fraction. Are you equal? Can you equally judge the situations that arise? Should you be left to make decisions without their input? In Luke 22:42 and Matthew 26:39,42, we see that it is God the Father's Will that is to be carried out, not Jesus'. This maintains the fact that they are separate entities (they have different wills), and that the Father's will is higher than the Son's. Why? Because God the Father knows all the information. Of course, the fact that Jesus submits to the Father's Will, reiterates that fact that they are unified as one and only one Will is being carried out.

Also, now that He is in Heaven does He know the day and hour of His return? Jesus is careful to say the angels don't know, but He doesn't say the Son won't know in the future. (Again, note that the NIV includes "nor the Son" in Matthew 24:36 with a footnote that some manuscripts omit the phrase.) Similarly, was it the flesh that drove His Will to diverge from God the Father's?
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Rank

Jesus explicitly exalts the Father to a higher position in John 14:28: "the Father is greater than I." There is no question about it, Jesus is explicitly saying that He is not equal to God the Father. Was Jesus only speaking of Himself as a man? When He returned to Heaven did He become equal with God the Father? Philippians 2:5-6 says that Jesus didn't think it robbery to be equal with God. This relationship is expounded upon in Hebrews 1. In Hebrews 1:8, God the Father calls His Son "O God," affirming divinity in Christ. Yet, in Hebrews 1:9, God the Father references His Son's God. Jesus clearly prays to God and considers Himself a servant to God's plan. In Luke 2, when Mary and Joseph find Him at the temple, Jesus does not say "I must be about my business;" He says "I must be about my Father's business."[13] If the Father and Son are unified, wouldn't their business be the same? Possibly, but if you have a business where the co-founders are unified, one could have marketing business and the other financial business.

On the cross, Jesus says "Father forgive them for they know not what they do." We see many times when Jesus forgives sins Himself (more proof of His divinity), but why didn't He say "I forgive you, you know not what you do?" Some may say that when Jesus took on the sins of the world, He became separated from God, that in those moments, He chose to be mortal and to die for us. They may argue that at that moment, He was Jesus the man and unable to use the power of God to forgive. However, on the same cross, He forgave the thief beside Him. The difference was that the thief believed Jesus was the Messiah, the people Jesus prayed for, did not. Jesus cannot forgive those who do not believe in Him; that task is for God the Father. Hence Jesus praying for those who chose to crucify Him.

In John 16:23, Jesus tells us to ask of the Father in His name to receive. He does not say we can ask in the Holy Spirit's name or to ask Him in God's name. Clearly we have to ask God the Father. God the Father will make the decision about whether we should receive whatever it is we are asking for. Using Jesus' name guarantees us that God gives us whatever it is we have asked for. Should it be one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, it is the Holy Spirit that bestows that gift on you. This is more evidence that each has a specific purpose which is not the same as the other.
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Blasphemy

Which brings us to The Holy Spirit. Growing up, I was taught that blasphemy was the only unforgivable sin (well, that and taking the Mark of the Beast). Blasphemy is defined as disrespect shown unto God or something holy.[12] If God the Father, The Son of God, and The Holy Spirit are coequal, disrespect of one should be equally unforgivable as disrespect of another, correct? In Matthew 12:22-32, Jesus says that it is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit that is unforgivable. In Matthew 12:32, Jesus says that blasphemy against the Son of man, however, is forgivable. Is Jesus talking about Himself when He says Son of man? Well, Thomas did not believe Jesus was risen, but he was forgiven. For Thomas to be in disbelief about Jesus' resurrection was to call Jesus a liar, since Jesus told them He was be raised from the dead. Is that not disrespect? Is it not blasphemy to say the Son of God does not have power over death?[11] Thomas did just that and was forgiven. This again suggests an imbalance of power among these three powers.
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Prayer

Should we pray to God the Father, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit? I can't think of or find a single example where Jesus taught people to pray to Him or the Holy Spirit. He tells us to pray to the Father in His (Jesus') name.[14] There are times when it says to call upon the name of Jesus or to call upon the power of the Holy Spirit. However, the model prayer is to God the Father. Interestingly, it doesn't end with "in Jesus' name" either.
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Worship

There are multiple passages that show both God the Father and Jesus receiving worship. The Old Testament in general speaks of worshipping God the Father. Many of the examples of Jesus being worshipped have already been mentioned in this post, so I won't repeat them. The Bible doesn't tell us to worship the Holy Spirit, nor does it show examples of the Holy Spirit receiving worship. The closest thing to "worship" or praise given to the Holy Spirit is the declaration that we are to baptize in the name of the Holy Spirit in Matthew 28:19.[27]
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The Mystery of God

When I think about the how powerful God is, it makes sense that He would be so great He needed three physical manifestations. Not surprisingly, when He made us in His image, it looks like He replicated this concept; we think of ourselves as having a mind, body, and soul. Are these aspects of humanity symbolic of our divine Creator? Mind would reflect God the Father, with body reflecting The Son of God, and soul reflecting The Holy Spirit. Each of these serves a different purpose in our lives, but they must work together to keep us functional. Since we are not God, they may conflict with each other at times, and ultimate authority may traverse from mind to body to soul as the situation changes. Is this our key to understanding God?

In Ephesians 5:31-32, Paul declares it a mystery that two can become one flesh. Here we see that one is probably a reference to unity, not quantity. Paul likens this mystery to that of the Church's relationship with Christ. This concept of being one is one of the many mysteries often discussed in the New Testament with respect to how we understand God. I think there really are some things we cannot know or understand. We simply to make sure that what we can understand, matches Biblical teaching. There is God the Father who is clearly divine. There is the Son of God, who is also divine. There is the Holy Spirit who must also be divine. No matter how they are unified, we say Holy! Holy! Holy!
And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.Isaiah 6:3 KJV
And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to comeRevelation 4:8 KJV

References

  1. "Trinity". Merriam-Webster Dictionary. 2016
  2. "Should You Believe in the Trinity?". Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania; JW.org. August 2013
  3. "Nontrinitarianism". Wikipedia. 2016
  4. Spirit & Truth Fellowship International. "Do You Have to Believe in the Trinity to be Saved?. Biblical Unitarian. 2013
  5. Slick, Matt. "Why do Bibles use “LORD” instead of YHWH or Jehovah?. Christian Apologetics Ministries & Research. May 9, 2009
  6. "Manifest". Merriam-Webster Dictionary. 2016
  7. "Matthew 19:17". Bible Hub. 2016
  8. TheTribeOfJudahTeach. "The Trinity Doctrine Is False". Youtube. March 2016
  9. Pastor Nicholas. "Father, Son, and Holy Ghost". Presents of God Ministries. 2016
  10. "Elohim". Theopedia. 2016
  11. John 20
  12. "Blasphemy". Merriam-Webster Dictionary. 2016
  13. Luke 2:48-49
  14. Piper, John. "Does It Matter Which Person of the Trinity We Pray to?". Desiring God. January 2009
  15. Slick, Matt. "Is Jesus' name "Immanuel" or "Jesus?"". Christian Apologetics Ministries & Research. 2016
  16. "Why wasn't Jesus named Immanuel?". GotQuestions.org. 2016
  17. Slick, Matt. "Is Jesus' name really Yeshua?". Christian Apologetics Ministries & Research. 2016
  18. Batchelor, Doug. "Comprehending God—Understanding the Trinity Part 1". Amazing Facts. May 17, 2003
  19. Fairchild, Mary. "Faith Groups That Reject the Trinity Doctrine". About.com. January 2011
  20. The Editors of Encyclop√¶dia Britannica. "Arianism". Encylopædia Britanncia. October 9, 2015
  21. "1 John 5:7". Textus Receptus Wiki. 2016
  22. Slick, Matt. "What is Oneness Pentecostal theology?". Christian Apologetics Ministries & Research. 2016
  23. Pastor Nicholas. "Father, Son, and Holy Ghost". Presents of God Ministries. 2016
  24. Holland, Jeffery R. "The Only True God and Jesus Christ Whom He Hath Sent". The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints: General Conference. October 2007
  25. Remember that the name God gave Jesus is Immanuel or Emmanuel (Isaiah 7:4). Not only does it mean "God is with us," but it contains one of the names of God, El, from Elohim. While this was not His earthly name, it is one of the many names or titles of Jesus (just as God the Father has many names).
  26. Hale, Constance. "The Royal "We". Quick and Dirty Tips. August 2013
  27. Slick, Matt. "Should we baptize "in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit" or "in the name of Jesus?"". Christian Apologetics Research & Ministries. 2016

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About

Author Image Author Image I love reading the Word of God. With prayer God's Word reveals so much: from comfort to temperance, from perspective to affirmation. Digging into the depths of the Word, cross-referencing history, language and time differences, is a passion of mine. In March of 2015 I decided to go back through the Bible doing an in depth study on each section I read. Eventually I decided to share my journal of notes as I partake in this journey. I hope you are blessed by God and inspired to pursue a deeper relationship with Him. I love reading and learning about God, nature, and science. I am interested in how it all connects. The Creator's fingerprints are all over his creation. We can learn so much about Him and how we came to be by exploring the world around us. Join me as I explore the world and draw closer to the One who created it all.
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