I have a friend who I used to see more often and who I used to have many deep discussions with about politics, philosophy, and religion. This person politically and philosophically agreed with me, and where we didn’t agree we usually found the disagreements based on superficial details, not on fundamentals. When it came to religion and faith, however, we disagreed almost entirely. My friend was not atheist, he entirely believed that there is a God and that he created the universe. He believes in adaptation, not evolution (much as I do). As far as morality, we agreed that God is the basis and he holds us accountable. But, my friend could not accept that Christ was the son of God. He could not accept Christianity because of a detail which he could not wrap his head around. It’s a detail which many who have grown up in the faith have always accepted, and one which few of us have given real thought to.
It is a detail at the very heart of what we believe. It is not a superficial detail such as the necessity of baptism for salvation, or fulfilling certain sacraments or rites. It is a fundamental which exists at the core of our faith. It is what the Council at Nice debated on 1700 years ago. It is the question Peter answered in Matthew 16. The detail that my friend would not accept, and therefore could not accept Christianity, is the existence of the Trinity. That God could exist in three equal parts, all sharing one consciousness. And therefore, he could not accept that Jesus Christ is both God, and the son of God.
The detail of the Trinity is one that, if thought about, is hard to grasp. We are literally expected to believe that one being can separate himself into three parts at the same time, ant that all three parts are individually him in his entirety. That all three exist and act in one consciousness, yet all act independently. It’s important to remember that these three are not separate yet equal. They are separate yet single. Christianity is not polytheistic, all three are one God. It’s not like the Greek or Roman gods, where one god took many forms. It’s not like a holy triumvirate, where each is a separate being but all must collude together to take action. God is one being. Jesus Christ is God. Jesus Christ is the son of God. The Holy Spirit is God. The Holy Spirit is Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Jesus Christ and God. They have always been with God, and they have always been God (John 1:1).
Even a lifelong Christian will read this explanation as I have laid it out and will scratch their heads wondering if I have said it correctly. And then again to see if it makes sense. You will realize that this is a detail that cannot be fully grasped, but must be taken on faith. We must accept that it is possible even when it cannot logically make sense. Our minds are so focused on logic and evidence based fact. We come to conclusions based on what we see and hear and what we can assume or be assured is factual. Faith itself goes against this grain, and for many too much so. Thus we have atheism.
This is the way I thought when my friend and I would discuss religion and faith. It would try to explain the trinity in a way that made sense. It is impossible to do, yet still I tried in various different ways. I even once tried to use the example of Hive Mind theory (If you’ve read Ender’s Game you’ll understand this theory well, and you will know it’s a terrible example for explaining the trinity). No matter what I said, or how I presented the trinity, my friend could not accept it.
It was not until recently that I realized that I cannot defend the trinity. No one can. It’s not something humanity can grasp. It is a concept so lofty and so out of this world we can never expect to understand it. But it was as I realized this that I found the greatest defense, perhaps the most effective way I could have gotten to my friend’s sense of logic. I am using the term logic loosely here, but it applies.
My friend accepted that God existed. He accepted creation. He accepted that there is an eternity, a supernatural, and that they are connected to Earth. He simply could not accept the trinity. What I never argued was that when compared to Creation and Eternity, the existence of the Trinity is trivial (in comparison, not trivial in itself). I never (until now) thought to ask my friend how he could believe that God was all powerful, all knowing, and omnipresent; how he could literally speak the universe into existence, and how he could do literally anything he wanted except make himself into separate entities in one consciousness. I never thought to ask my friend what it was that stopped God from being able to do this. If he can breathe creation, if he can exist beyond dimension and time who or what is stopping him from being able to do anything he wants. If you believe God is the greatest and all powerful, how can you put a limitation on what he can do. Once you put a limitation on him, he is by definition no longer God.
Now you see why I use the term logic loosely. And you see that this argument cannot prove the existence of God, but only point out the flaw in believing in a God with limitations. The logic is in that to believe in God, you cannot believe he has limitations. To put a limitation on him means that you no longer believe in God.
This is a great conclusion to your post…”Once you put a limitation on him, he is by definition no longer God.” It’s like who would want to believe in a god that they could completely understand? I did read once about how string theory and multi-dimensional physics could explain the Trinity mathematically, but that was way beyond my level of comprehension as well! (May need to look for that again though and see if it makes more sense to me now!)
You nailed it! “Who would want to believe in a god that they could completely understand?” A really good book, “No argument for God,” encouraged me in the idea that while much of the faith “makes sense” to us humans, we should expect there to be things that do not make sense – that are over our heads – that our heads were not designed to be able to comprehend. If everything in the Bible sounded like what a human would make up, then I’d be worried. It’s a point in its favor that it often includes things we do not like and things that we can’t quite grasp! I’m sure Israelites were wondering why they should religiously wash their hands after touching blood or anything dead, finding mold, going to the bathroom – and then we discovered germs and it all made sense. 🙂
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It is true if people do not bother to read the Bible and do not want to consider what is really written in the Holy Scriptures, giving deliberation of God Words and weigh and take them as they stand, it is very easy to take the three-unity doctrine of the human race .
Your friend may not not accept that Christ was the son of God, but in Christendom lots of name Christians do not want to accept that either and take Jesus to be their god son. they also do not want to see that Jesus is the Way to God. They consider him to be God incarnated, which is an abomination in God’s eyes.
Christianity may not polytheistic, but in Christendom there is polytheism, even more than by the Hindu or certain other pagan gods, who have much more equality than the name Christians their god Jesus, who is not omniscient and not omnipresent like the God the Father.
For many Christians it is much easier to accept the false human doctrine of the trinity so that they do not have to think to much and so that they can handle everything how they like it and keep to the many pagan rites and festivals.
When they would take Jesus as the way to God, the mediator between God and man, they would know how important it is to get through the small gate of the Kingdom of God and how man therefore should keep to the teachings of this son of man and son of God and to the teachings and commandments of Jesus his God, the god of Israel Who is One and not three.