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Questions about the Trinity

(Monotheism Versus Tritheism)

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Many Christians have different perspectives about the Trinity and the role of the Holy Spirit, so I decided to dedicate this Wake Up Report! To my understanding of this topic. Questions regarding the Trinity have long roots in Christian history and Christian views are widely divided on the nature and properties of the Godhead! As I discuss this topic, please understand that my conclusions may be different than your own. My goal is for you to take this information and use it as a stepping stone for your own personal study.

Monotheism versus Polytheism

To be clear and direct as possible, I believe the Bible teaches that Jesus Christ is a separate, distinct, co-eternal member of the Deity. Jesus is not the Father and the Father is not Jesus.  Both Deities are separate persons having separate wills. They are also equals in substance.  By definition, this understanding makes me a polytheist, an individual who believes there is more than one deity. I also believe the Holy Spirit is a separate, distinct, co-eternal member of Deity. The Holy Spirit is not the Father or Jesus. The Holy Spirit is a Deity who can hear and speak on His own. He has a will of His own. He is equal with the Father and Jesus. As you can see, I believe the Bible teaches there are three distinct, separate, co-eternal beings that make up the Godhead and this makes me a tritheist. (A tritheist believes there are three separate deities.) I believe the Bible teaches these three Gods are so closely united in purpose, plan, and action that they function and/ or speak singularly as one God. Their role, separateness, and perfect union make the Godhead a fascinating, yet controversial, study.

To me, separate Gods functioning as one deity is similar to a husband and wife (to separate individuals) functioning as one flesh. (Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19: 4-6) many Christians believe in God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit without serious consideration. Hopefully, this presentation will help you think through this topic and decide what you believe based on Scripture. In an effort to be as fair as possible, I should mention that many Christians disagree with tritheism.  They believe the Bible upholds the doctrines of monotheism, that is, there is one God who manifests Himself as three persons. In doing so, they deny that Jesus and the Holy Spirit are separate and distinct members of deity. Therefore, they reason that if a person worships Jesus or the Holy Spirit, he or she is actually worshipping the Father because the Father is in Jesus and the Father is in the Holy Spirit and all together, they are the Father. This discussion dates back to the beginning of the Christian Church: Are there three separate co-eternal Gods or is there one God manifesting Himself as three persons?

The Nature of Jesus in Church History

During Christ’s ministry on Earth, the Pharisees found His teachings to be blasphemous because Jesus claimed to be the Son of God and they viewed His claim as being equal with God to be blasphemy. The Pharisees were incensed because Judaism is strictly a “one God” religion which rejects the possibility of three separate co-eternal Gods. Judaism also rejects the possibility of a Godhead in which one God manifests Himself as three persons. Therefore, when Jesus appeared in A.D. 27, He seriously challenged Israel’s monotheistic tradition.

The first converts to Christ’s teachings were Jews (His disciples). Then, during His ministry, the number of Jewish believers grew, but the number of His followers remained small. Then, a few days after Christ’s ascension, 3,000 Jews were baptized at Pentecost. (Acts 2) As the number of Jewish converts swelled, they became divided over the nature of Jesus. Some Jewish converts believed that Jesus was a separate God, separate and distinct from the Father. Others believed that God created Him and still others believed that Jesus was an incarnation of the Father. Later, after Paul converted to Christianity, Gentiles joined the Christian Church in increasing numbers and seeds of a stubborn controversy began to sprout. Gentiles generally came from polytheistic backgrounds and arguments between monotheistically biased Jews and polytheistically biased Gentiles began over the nature of Jesus. The core of their argument was whether Christians should be monotheistic or polytheistic.

Conflict over the nature of Jesus roiled the body of Jesus for several centuries and many ideas and divisions followed. During the fifth and sixth centuries A.D., the church at Rome gained religious and political powers. Once the Catholic Church held sufficient standing within the Holy Roman Empire, the church moved to “settle forever and end” the argument over the nature of Jesus and the Godhead. The Eleventh Synod of Toledo (in Spain) in A.D. 675 formally declared the Church’s position on the trinity. In brief, church leaders said: “We confess and we believe that the holy and indescribable Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is one only God in His nature, a single substance, a single nature, a single majesty and power…. The three are one, as a nature, that is, not as person. Nevertheless, these three persons are not to be considered separable, since we believe that no one of them existed or at any time effected anything before the other, after the other, or without the other.” (Source: Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J., Catholic Doctrine on the holy Trinity, http://www.therealpresence.org/archives/Trinity/Trinity 001.htm, emphasis mine)

With this declaration, the Roman Catholic Church modified the strict monotheism of the Jews. Later, Abbot Joachim (1135-1202), who was an influential monk, promoted the idea that the Trinity was made up of three separate, distinct Gods. Because Joachim was widely respected, his views gained some traction. After he died, the church silenced Joachim’s teaching during the Fourth Lateran Council (1251).  The council affirmed that there is one God, manifested in the Bible as three persons. Nearly 200 years later at the Council of Florence (1445), the church reaffirmed monotheism: The Trinity is One God who manifests Himself as three persons. This position remains unchanged and many protestant churches embrace this understanding today.

Textual Conflict

Sometimes, the Bible presents a topic that seems to have opposing views. For example, the Bible indicates in one place that Hell will burn forever and in another place, that Hell will not burn forever. When the Bible presents an apparent conflict a controversy can occur because people will typically sample some of the evidence a reach a premature conclusion. Human nature loves to magnify what it wants to believe and diminish the importance of what it does not understand or wants to believe.  The doctrine of the Godhead has been controversial for centuries because the Bible appears to present conflicting ideas on this topic. However, the honest and heart, an apparent conflict in the Bible is an invitation for careful and thorough study because the mature Christians know there is no internal conflict within God’s Word. The Godhead is true and changeless and the Word of God accurately reflects their character. Therefore, an apparent conflict in the Bible means there is a lofty solution that, when found, will harmoniously encompass all the apparent conflicts. The Bible has to make sense just as it reads or it cannot speak for itself. With this promise in mind, please consider these seven issues:

1. If the Catholic position on the Trinity, “One God manifesting Himself as three persons,” is valid, how can one God have two wills? Did Jesus petition another manifestation of Himself in the Garden? “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42, emphasis mine)

2. Did the Father send a manifestation of Himself to earth or did He send another Deity who had a will of His own, a Deity who was separate and distinct from Himself? Jesus told the Jews, “For I have come down from Heaven not to do My will but to do the will of Him who sent Me.” (john 6: 38, emphasis mine

3. Did the Father speak about His love for Himself when Jesus was baptized or did the Father speak about His love for another member of Deity? “Then a cloud appeared and enveloped them, and a voice came out from the cloud: ‘This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!’” (Mark 9:7. emphasis mine)

4. During His final moments on the cross, did Jesus cry out to another manifestation of Himself with a question? “And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?’ – which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’” (Mark 15:34, emphasis mine)   

5. Paul said that God the Father raised Jesus from the dead. Did the Father raise up a manifestation of Himself or did the Father restore life to a member of Deity who willingly gave up eternal life so that sinners could have it? “Paul, an a apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him [Jesus] from the dead ;)” (Galatians 1:1-KJV, insertion mine)

6. Jesus said that He was once dead and now is alive forever more. (Revelation 1:18) If Jesus is a separate member of Deity who willingly gave up His eternal life so that sinners could have it, the price of redemption exceeds calculation. On the other hand, If Jesus is a mere manifestation of the Father, God’s sacrifice for our sins amounts to just suffering. Said other way, if the penalty for sin is death, God did not pay the penalty for our sins because God Himself did not die on the cross.

7. Finally, I have to ask this question. If there is one God who manifests Himself as three persons, why did the Father search through the whole universe only to determine that another manifestation of Himself (Jesus) was worthy to receive the book sealed with seven seals? (See Revelation 5.) This prophetic story highlights the core issue between the doctrine of monotheism (one God) and tritheism (three Gods). What would be the point of the Father searching throughout the universe for someone worthy to take the book sealed with seven seals only to give it to Himself? If monotheism is true and there is only one God, then Revelation 5 becomes a divine sham and we know this is not possible! “..Let God be true and every man a liar…” (Romans 3:4) God is honest and always above any hint of reproach.

When considering the previous seven issues, the idea of one God manifesting Himself as three persons creates several textual problems for which there is no solution. The greatest problem I have with monotheism and the Catholic’s modification of that monotheism is that the Bible is put into a position where it cannot be understood just as it reads.

If a Bible student is willing to consider the idea that the Godhead (the Trinity) is made up of three separate Gods who are united as one Deity, serving creation as one God in purpose, plan, and action, the entire Bible will make perfect sense just as it reads. When people reach or support conclusions built on religious bias, insufficient samples, inadequate knowledge, or maligned opinions, they create many insurmountable problems and questions resulting in confusion and more division.

A Good Question

At this point, you may be asking yourself, “If the Godhead functions as one in purpose, plan and action, What difference does it ultimately make if there is one God or three separate Gods? Let me emphasize why I believe this topic is important by listing four reasons.

1. When people know the truth about the Godhead, the Bible will make sense just as it reads. Every truth is a stepping stone for understanding greater truth. For example, Paul said the Father is “King of kings and Lord of lords.” (1 Timothy 6:15) However, when Jesus appears at the Second Coming, John sees Him wearing the title, “king of kings and Lord of lords.” (Revelation 19:16) Can the Father and the Son be the same person or is there much more to this story? I believe Jesus was found worthy in 1798 to receive sovereign power. (For further study on this topic, please see Prophecies 3 and 6 in my book, Jesus’ Final Victory.) In essence, the Father gave His throne and power to Jesus and this is how Jesus became “King of kings and Lord of lords.” Paul tells us that once Jesus has accomplished everything that needs to be done, Jesus will return the sovereign power and throne to the Father. (1 Corinthians 15: 25-28) At the end of sin’s drama, the Father will reveal to everyone that Jesus is the Father’s equal in every way!

2. The behavior of three separate but equal deities is defining. Three separate co-eternal Gods living in perfect harmony define what love is and is not to all observers. They live and function according to the laws of love, thus their lives are a comprehensive demonstration, a living laboratory for all creation to study.

 

3. If we understand that Jesus is deity, a separate, distinct co-eternal member of the Godhead, then the enormous price which our salvation required is shocking. Think about this: A co-eternal member of the Godhead was willing to cease to exist forever so that we might have His eternal life. Because Jesus was willing to forfeit His life for sinners and willing to fulfill the Father’s will perfectly for our salvation, the Father, by His own authority, raised Jesus from the dead so that He could later exalt Jesus as His equal! (Why is this important to know? The character of Jesus mirrors the character of the Father. Thus, Jesus said, “…Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father…” (John 14:9)

 

4. The presence of three independent members of deity and an expanding universe of created beings requires government. Three Gods and billions of free moral agents having the power of choice could not live together harmoniously without a government based on the laws of love. This is why monotheism is a deficient doctrine: If there is one God as Judaism claims or one God having three manifestations as Catholicism claims, then what is love? If Lucifer and his followers had to wait for “a manifestation of God” to die on the cross in A.D. 30 to see what love is, then their complaints against God before the Earth was created could be justified. If there is only one God, there is no example of love to emulate and no definition of love other than what God says. On the other hand, if there are three distinct, separate, co-eternal members of the Godhead, their daily submission to each other is a divine example which created beings can study and emulate throughout eternity. God never asks His children to do or experience something that He has not first experienced.

 

 

 


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