Monday, July 21, 2014

Guest Post: What About the Trinity?

In Defense of the Faith
—  An excerpt from In Defense of the Faith (pp. 56-60)  by  Dave Hunt

What About the Trinity?
Question: Christians generally believe in the Trinity, a “God” who is three Persons and yet one Supreme Being. But the word “Trinity” doesn’t appear even once in the Bible, which plainly declares that there is only one God, not three. How can you possibly justify a belief in the “Trinity” from the Bible?
Response: There are only two basic concepts of God: 1) pantheism/naturalism—that the universe itself is God; and 2) supernaturalism—that God or gods exist distinct and apart from the universe. We have already shown the folly of the first concept, which leaves us only with the latter. Within supernaturalism are two opposing views: 1) polytheism—that there are many gods (Mormons as well as Hindus are polytheists); and 2) monotheism—that there is only one God. We have shown that polytheism, too, has fatal flaws. Its basic problem is diversity without unity.

There are also two opposing views within monotheism: 1) the belief that God is a single personage, as in Islam and Judaism, which insist that Allah or Jehovah is “one,” meaning a single being. The same belief is also held by pseudo-Christian cults such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Oneness Pentecostals, who deny the Trinity and claim that Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are God’s three “titles” or “offices.” Here, the fatal flaw is  unity without diversity.
The Necessity for Both Unity and Diversity
That God must have  both unity and diversity  is clear. The Allah of Islam, or the Jehovah of Jehovah’s Witnesses and Jews, or the God of unitarian “Christian” groups would be incomplete in Himself. He would be unable to love, commune, or fellowship before creating other beings capable of interacting with Him in these ways. The quality of love and the capacities for fellowship and communion, by their very nature, require another personal being with which to share them. And God could not fully share Himself except with another Being equal to Him. Yet the Bible says that “God  is  love” in Himself alone. This could only be true if God himself consisted of a plurality of Beings who were separate and distinct, yet one.

Although the actual word “Trinity” does not occur in the Bible, the concept is clearly expressed there. The Bible presents a God who did not need to create any beings to experience love, communion, and fellowship. This God is complete in Himself, existing eternally in three Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, individually distinct from each other yet at the same time eternally one. These three loved, communed, fellowshiped, and took counsel together before the universe, angels, or man were brought into existence.

In contrast, the god of Islam and contemporary Judaism could not  be  love in and of himself, for whom could he love in the solitude predating his creation of other personal beings? Such a deficiency in God would affect man, who is made in His image, at every level of his being.
Plurality and Singularity: Both Apply
The very first verse in the Bible presents God as a  plural  being: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” If God were a single personage, then the singular word for God,  Eloah,  would be used. Instead of the singular form, however, the plural,  Elohim,  which literally means  Gods,  is used. Yet a singular  verb, bara,  is used with  Elohim.  This  plural noun (Elohim)  is used for God more than 2500 times in the Old Testament and almost always with a singular verb, thus indicating both unity and diversity and both singularity and plurality in the God of the Bible. It was Elohim (Gods) who later in this first chapter of Genesis said, “Let  us  make man in  our  image, after  our  likeness” (verse 26).

At the burning bush God ( Elohim —literally  Gods)  said unto Moses, “I AM THAT I AM . . .” (Exodus:3:14). Here  Gods  speak but do not say, “We are that we are” but “ I AM THAT I AM.”  Nor is the word  Elohim  the only way in which God’s plurality is presented.

Consider, for example, Psalm:149:2 nkjv: “Let Israel rejoice in their Maker” (in the Hebrew, “makers”); Ecclesiastes:12:1: “Remember now thy Creator” (Hebrew, “creators”); and Isaiah:54:5: “For thy Maker is thine husband” (Hebrew, “makers” and “husbands”). Unitarianism has no explanation for this consistent presentation of both God’s unity and plurality throughout the Old Testament.

At the very center of Israel’s confession in Deuteronomy:6:4 of God’s oneness (known as the  shema ) is the plural form for God  (elohenu): “ Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord” ( Shema yisroel adonai elohenu adonai echad ). The word used for “one,”  echad,  often means a unity of more than one. Were that not the intention, then  yachid,  which means a single and  absolute one,  would have been used. The word  echad  is used, for example, in Genesis:2:24, where man and woman become “ one  flesh”; in Exodus:36:13, when the various parts “became  one  tabernacle”; in 2 Samuel:2:25, when many soldiers “became  one  troop”; and elsewhere similarly.
The great Hebrew prophet Isaiah declared of the birth of the Messiah: “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder; and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor,  the mighty God, the everlasting Father . . .”  (Isaiah:9:6). Such a concept is found nowhere else in the world’s religious literature but is unique to the Bible: A Son would be born into this world who, though a man, would be the Mighty God. And though a Son, He would at the same time be the Everlasting Father.

Isaiah clearly presents the  deity  of Christ, the Fatherhood of God, and the oneness of the Father and the Son. All three Persons in the Godhead (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) are clearly seen in the following: “ . . . from the beginning . . . there am I; and now the Lord God and his Spirit hath sent me” (Isaiah:48:16). It could only be God who is speaking, this One who has been in existence from the beginning; yet He says that He has been sent forth by God and His Spirit. In the Trinity, two Persons are invisible (God the Father and the Spirit of God), while one is visible, the Son of God who became man.
Some Helpful Analogies
How can we fully understand this concept of three Persons, each separate and distinct (the Father is not the Son and the Son is not the Holy Spirit) yet which are all encompassed by one God? We can’t. Critics argue that because the Trinity can’t be fully explained by human reasoning, it therefore cannot be true. Yet who can fully explain God even if He is only a single entity? No one. We can’t even explain the  human  soul and spirit, much less the Spirit of God, yet these terms are used repeatedly in the Bible.

We can, however, see analogies to the Trinity everywhere. The universe comprises three elements: space, time, and matter. The first two are invisible, but matter is visible. Each of these is itself divided into three: length, breadth, and height; past, present, and future; energy, motion, and phenomena. Length, breadth, and height are each separate and distinct from each other, yet they are one because each is the whole. The length takes in all of space, as do the width and height. So it is with time: past, present, and future are each distinct from one another, and yet each is the whole. And here again, two (past and future) are invisible while the present is visible.

Man himself, who is made “in the image of God” (Genesis:1:27; 9:6, etc.) is composed of three elements: body, soul, and spirit, of which again two (soul and spirit) are invisible and one, the body, is visible. The way man functions as a being also reflects the same analogy to the Trinity. We conceive something in our minds (invisible), perhaps a poem or a symphony; we express it in speech or writing or in music and it enters the present, visible world; it is then appreciated in the emotions, once again invisible.

We could offer more analogies, but these should be enough. There is no doubt that the Bible clearly presents three Persons who are distinct, yet each is God. At the same time, we repeatedly have the clear statement that there is only one true God. Christ prays to the Father. Is He praying to Himself? We are told, “The Father sent the Son to be the Savior of the world” (1 John:4:14). Did He send Himself? Or did one “office” pray to and send a “title,” as the United Pentecostal Church would have us believe?

Christ said, “The words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself [on my own initiative], but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works” (John:14:10); “I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, even the Spirit of truth” (John:14:16–17). Throughout the New Testament, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are each separately honored and act as God, yet only in concert with one another.

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