The Argument for the Triune God

The concept of Trinity is an accepted tenet of Christianity. The concept is widely accepted among almost all groups of Christianity. It is supported by the Bible – normally accepted by all those groups of Christianity. Christians accepting this concept are lumped into the heading of Trinitarians.

The opposition to this concept is the doctrine of Arianism. This should not be confused with Aryanism – the racial theory behind the NAZI ethnic purity belief. Arianism stems from the teachings of Arius; a Christian living about A. D. 250-336. This belief teaches Jesus, called the Christ, was not a person of the God-head, but a created being. (The same teaching dismisses the Holy Spirit or Holy Ghost in similar manner.)

The conflict between the Trinitarian and Arian or Non-Trinitarian faction of Christianity is long and detailed in various records. I shall not pursue it further other than to acknowledge the conflict.

The term ‘Trinity’ does not appear in the Bible. Not in Hebrew, Aramaic or Greek. It is a term later adopted by the aggregate followers of Christ to describe a number of concepts described in the Bible. This is seized upon by the non-trinitarian faction as ‘evidence’ supporting their position.

For clarity, the concept of the Trinity does NOT assert or imply more than One Single God. In actual fact, the Trinity states there is only One God. However, Trinitarians recognize God in Three “Persons”.
God the Father
God the Son
God the Holy Spirit (Ghost in the King James Version).

All three are God in God’s entirety; yet they are individual in perception and function to some degree. (I refer those who do not grasp this or find it contradictory to the modern physics problem of the photon’s nature; is the photon a particle or a wave form?)

I personally have a problem with the term ‘persons’. In modern English (which may be the problem) ‘persons’ implies three different beings, people or entities. Assuredly a superficial view agrees with this implication. (As is the case with Islam and many other of the non-trinitarian views on the subject.) But it is the accepted term and I’m not going to change it here. The usage has a long tradition behind it and probably no other word fits, either. “Facets” or “parts” are even more likely to imply separate existences.

Christians recognize the Bible – in its entirety – to be the message (‘word’) of God to mankind. Therefore, the entire Bible is to be considered in determining the validity of the Trinity. Any faction, denomination or sect refusing to accept the entirety of the Bible are suspect in terms of Christian adherence.

Starting with the Creation account recorded in Genesis, one finds:

Genesis 1:1 In the beginning  God*  created the heavens and the earth.
This frequently used Hebrew word – God (אֱלֹהִים,’elohim ) is plural. When it refers to the one true God, the singular verb is normally used, as here. The plural use in Hebrew does NOT indicate either a committee of gods, or God and angels, nor does it indicate the Trinity. The plural form indicates majesty much the same as various secular Kings and Queens use the “royal ‘we’ “.

Then in Genesis 1:2 …but the Spirit of God* was moving over the surface of the water.
Yes, I did take only a selected part of the verse using the phrase “Spirit of God”. Those desiring to check, please read Genesis 1:2 in situ and note the meaning is not changed nor altered.
Spirit of God is a much discussed phrase. The word in Hebrew translated ‘spirit’ in many translations of the Bible, in Hebrew also can be translated ‘wind’ or ‘breath’. In some translations this phrase is translated into English as “wind from God” (the Jerusalem Publication Society in their 1985 translation of the Tanakh – the traditional Jewish rendering of what is termed the “Old Testament” in English language use Christianity – translates the phrase in this manner. But a footnote indicates other translations render the same phrase “Spirit of God”.) Of value in this difference of translation is to be seen in other parts of the Hebrew Tanakh where the same Hebrew word (transliterated ‘ruwach’) refers consistently to the divine spirit that empowers and energizes individuals (see Gen 41:38; Exod 31:3; 35:31; Num 24:2; 1 Sam 10:10; 11:6; 19:20, 23; Ezek 11:24; 2 Chr 15:1; 24:20).

Here now, there is a problem. In the first two verses of the Bible, “God” creates “…the heavens and the earth” (which is no stretch to consider the entire Universe), BUT, the “Spirit of God” is moving over the surface of the earth. The wording suggests, implies, two entities. But Christians and Jews at least superficially agree the God of Creation is One.

In Genesis 3:8, (please read the entire section, Genesis 3:8-19) the “Lord God” walks in the Garden with Adam and Eve. Not only does the “Lord God” walk, but He makes noise – evidenced by Adam and Eve hearing movement of the “Lord God”. A conversation (rather uncomfortable for Adam and Eve) transpires.

Which indicates God was present with Adam and Eve in a physical form. God uttered sounds – it seems – which registered on Adam and Eve as conversation and words.

This record of God is surely not the ‘Spirit of God’ mentioned other places in the Bible. Nor does it seem to be the Creator God who created the Universe.

Switch attention to John 4:23-24 Jesus, in speaking the Samaritan woman, tells her (23) But a time is coming – and now is here – when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such people to be his worshipers. (24) God is spirit, and the people who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”
The full account is from verse 4 to 24; at least verse 19-26 to avoid charges of taking the quotation out of context.

Jesus states God – the Father, the first Person of the Trinity – is a Spirit. Not physical. Which is problematic for those who claim God appears in person in various sections of the Old Testament. (See following.)

Genesis 32:24-30 recounts the incident of Jacob (son of Isaac, son of Abraham) ‘wrestling’ with “…a man”. The word in the text (verse 24) leaves no doubt; Jacob and ‘the man’ (as Jacob thought at the time) were in fact flopping about on the ground, pushing each other around and getting sweaty and dirty. When Jacob’s adversary in this decided to leave, ‘the man’ dislocated Jacob’s hip, putting Jacob out of serious action. But Jacob will not let go. Jacob refuses to allow ‘the man’ go free. Jacob demands a blessing.

‘The man’ tells Jacob his name (Jacob’s) name is changed to Israel. The name is a play on words in Hebrew and means – at least in one form – “Strives with God”. At this point, Jacob demands to know ‘the man’s’ name; One could interpret this question of Jacob as “Who (in the world) ARE you?”

‘The man’ refuses to give his name – other than the above- but does bless Jacob and leaves. Jacob names the place of the encounter “Penuel” literally meaning “Face of God”, and explained “Certainly I have seen God face to face and have survived.”

So either Jacob met God face to face (and hand to hand), or ‘the man’ lied to Jacob and Jacob was in error. Or the Bible was made up much later and fraudulent. Take your pick.

As a Christian, one must presume the Bible is correct and accurate in the records of what participants saw, did and understood.

However, this appearance of God does not agree with the appearance of God in Genesis 1:1. This was apparently a man. A human being. (The text gives no hint of Jacob wrestling and talking with anything else.) However, this cannot be the First Person of the Trinity according to Jesus’ statement in the Gospel of John.

This also applies to several other sections of the Old Testament. Specifically Judges 13, where the ‘messenger of the Lord’ appears to Manoah and wife. The messenger announces the birth of Samson (not yet identified by name) to the yet infertile couple. Later, Manoah tells his wife (Judges 13:22) “We will certainly die, because we have seen a supernatural being!” This verse is translated And Manoah said unto his wife, We shall surely die, because we have seen God. This from the KJV. The word translated ‘God’ is ‘elohim’ and can be translated into English in various ways, all dealing with supernatural beings; most commonly “God”.

One is reminded of the statement made to Moses on the mountain in Exodus 33:20 “You cannot see my face, for no one can see me and live.” Other passages that teach this are Deut 4:33, 5:24, 26; Judg 6:22, 13:22, and Isa 6:5. Manoah has the idea that he will die, having seen God.

Probably the over-riding teaching of the idea of the Trinity is Jesus claiming to be God. Either Jesus is telling the truth, or He is not.

If Jesus is telling the truth, the discussion is over.

If Jesus is not telling the truth, then Jesus is in the same category as those who claim to be Napoleon or a chocolate cream pie. Or the text is so contaminated by additions, edits and fabrications the whole fabric of Scripture is useless.

On a sidenote, but related, those who claim to worship God yet question the authenticity of the Bible are very curious. Claiming to believe in God, an Infinite, Omnipotent and Omniscient being and simultaneously thinking He fails or is incompetent to preserve His message to mankind is self-contradictory. Either God keeps what He claims to be His message as He intended, or He is less than omnipotent and omniscient.

John 10 (22-39) Jesus claims to be God. In a confrontation with the Jewish leaders, Jesus announces (verse 30) “…The Father and I  are one.” The NET has a foot note on this verse and word ‘one’ as follows: The phrase ἕν ἐσμεν ({en esmen) is a significant assertion with trinitarian implications. ἕν is neuter, not masculine, so the assertion is not that Jesus and the Father are one person, but one “thing.” Identity of the two persons is not what is asserted, but essential unity (unity of essence). (Provided by bible.org)

This is NOT one single person, not the same person, not the same purpose or goal, but the same essence. To spell it out, the essence is Divinity.

In John 8:57-59 Jesus is hounded by the Judeans (Jewish people in Jerusalem at the time), challenging Jesus’ claim of elating Abraham by stating Jesus is too young; Jesus replies “I tell you the solemn truth, before Abraham came into existence, I am! “ The term “I am” is a direct quote from Exodus 3:14 and is therefore Jesus statement He is God. If anyone doubts this, the next verse removes all doubt: Then they [the Judeans] picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out from the temple area.

The Judeans took Jesus’ statement as claim to Godhood and were going to stone Jesus for blasphemy. Please note Jesus ‘hid himself’, while speaking to a group of people who were in the process of stoning Him to death. Harry Houdini couldn’t do that without some preparation and equipment.

In Matthew 16 (verses 13 to 20) Jesus asks His disciples their opinion or belief as to Jesus’ true identity. Peter answered (verse 16) You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. Rather than deny or correct Peter’s bold statement, Jesus tells Peter You are blessed, Simon son of Jonah, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but my Father in heaven!

Note in Hebrew usage, the term “… son of …” was an idiomatic phrase meaning ‘the same as’ (similar to the modern English idiom of ‘chip off the old block’) and does not denote family or genetic relationship. The missionary and partner of Paul “Barnabas” means “son of Encouragement”. Not that Barnabas’ daddy was named ‘Encouragement’, but that Barnabas was a great encouragement to other Christians. When Peter identified Jesus as ‘Son of the Living God’ Peter is saying Jesus IS the Living God.

It is interesting to note that while Jesus is accepting Peter’s recognition of Jesus as God, Jesus is simultaneously speaking of ‘my Father’. Either Jesus has multiple personalities or Jesus is speaking of the Father as the First Person of the Trinity, with Jesus being the Second Person.

I leave out much. However, what I have presented here is enough information to show the reasoning behind the Trinitarian view of God.

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2 Comments

Filed under Bible, Christianity, God

2 responses to “The Argument for the Triune God

  1. Thomas Chumley

    A good rendering of a most difficult concept (at least for some). Sometimes I doubt my capacity as a human being to understand the omnipotence of God. But this is a good discussion of what some denominations (including mine) refer to as “one God, appearing in three aspects”. The Koran (or however we spell it now days) speaks to Moses, Issac, Abraham, Noah and Jesus, and actually includes reference to Mary and the virgin birth. I have no explanation for this, only suppositions and questions. Clearly Muslims aren’t trinitarians. As a historical note I find it interesting that the Jews of old Mecca foretold of a prophet coming to the Arabs (who were pagans). I am not altogether convinced they were referring to Mohammad.
    Well this is too deep for me tonight (taking pain meds for a ruptured disc), so I will sign off.
    p.s. thinking about getting a .32 auto cylinder for my 7.72 mm Nagant revolver. Have any experience with these?

    Date: Mon, 4 Jan 2016 22:10:39 +0000
    To: tp_chumley@hotmail.com

  2. Thank you for the kind word, Chum. Islam, being the conflation of Jewish and Christian teachings (in a ‘take your pick’ sort of manner) and Arab paganism recognizes many Biblical characters. They are all altered to some extent. Jesus is a prophet, not Deity, for instance.

    The “three aspects” of God is in my mind proper. As I said, the term ‘persons’ is troubling to me, largely because it is a use of person in a manner we do not normally use. “Aspects” is somewhat misleading in the same manner; it sounds like ‘how one looks at God’ makes a difference. Again, the limitations of words.

    Sorry to hear about your ruptured disc, man. As I get older, my pains collect also. Sheesh.

    No experience with the .32 auto cylinder for the Nagant revolver. Sorry.

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