Both the Old and Testament repeatedly declare "There is one God; and there is none other but he" (Mark 12:32). And yet, Christians also firmly believe that there are three persons - the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost - who make up this one God. However, even though each of them are fully God in their own right there are not three gods but one. This seeming contradiction is what Christians refer to as "the mystery of godliness" (1 Timothy 3:16) and the term they have coined to describe this three-in-one God is "the Trinity."
While they admit they can't fully explain it, Christians generally acknowledge that they nonetheless still believe in the Trinity because that is what they say the Bible teaches. It is common to hear Christians state that since God is unlike anything we have ever seen or experienced it is therefore almost impossible for the imperfect, human mind to grasp how three divine people can be one. They furthermore contend that this incomprehensibleness of God could not be the product of man's imagination because we would have imagined Him to look like something we are familiar with, such as the sun or a cow, or even an animal that is half bird and half reptile. Therefore they contend that the incomprehensibleness of God is evidence that such a concept could only have come from God Himself.
Yet, having said this, there have been numerous attempts by Christians to explain this most puzzling and mysterious Being. Here is how one person put it: "Sacred Scripture tells us that there is only one God (Dt 4:35; Isaiah 45:5; 46:9). Yet it also refers to three distinct persons as 'God': God the Father (Gal 1:1), Jesus Christ His Son (Jn 1:1; 20:28) and the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:3,4). Since God cannot lie or contradict Himself, His Word cannot contain discrepancies. This seeming contradiction is easily reconciled by the belief that the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are Three distinct Persons in One God. This is the truth which God was conveying through Scripture, a truth which Christians later labeled The Trinity (literally tri-unity).
"The Persons of the Trinity are not exactly like human persons. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are not three separate 'consciousnesses' in God, each with His own intellect and will. Rather they are three distinct subjects of consciousness who share one Intellect and one Will…. God is not a solitary Monarch, reigning all alone in Eternity. Rather, God is a 'Family', so to speak." (http://home.nyc.rr.com/mysticalrose/trinity.html)
Another minister explained it this way: "This doctrine teaches that God exists in three persons who share the same essence or being. What this means is that God exists in the distinct and co-equal persons of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, but they share a fully divine essence or being, such as uncreatedness, eternality, simplicity (non-composite or indivisible), immutability (unchangeableness), omniscience (all wise and knowing), omnipotence (all powerful), goodness, mercy, holiness, will and freedom, and so on. Thus, in God, the attributes of his essence are fully shared by three persons, making each person fully God.
"Yet, the three persons are distinct. The Father is neither the Son nor the Holy Spirit; the Son is neither the Father nor the Holy Spirit; and the Holy Spirit is neither the Father nor the Son. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are equally wise and merciful and holy; one is not more wise or merciful or holy than the other. Augustine says: "These three have the same eternal nature, the same unchangeableness, the same majesty, the same power" (On Christian Teaching I.12).
"The co-equal and distinct persons of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are not three Gods because they share the same essence in complete unity. This is difficult to grasp because we have no comparison that we can experience empirically or with our five senses.
"To clarify further why there are three persons, but not three Gods, God's essence is not divided equally into three parts; it is not one-third, plus one-third, plus one-third. Also, the three persons are not added on to God's essence or being, as if they are tacked on to the outside of God. Rather, all three persons share the same essence, fully God in one being, in total and perfect unity."
Yet another minister had this to say: "About 20 years ago, Dr. Harold Willmington (Liberty University) shared an analogy he had heard with his students, comparing the Trinity to a book. For example, a book has length, width, and thickness. The length is not the book's width, the width is not the book's thickness. These three dimensions can be described separately, yet they are connected together. If you remove one dimension, you are no longer describing a book. In the same way, the Godhead has three separate members that are connected together, and if you try to remove one you no longer have the Godhead.
"Other passages are examples of conversations within which God uses the word 'we' or 'us.' However, God is not referring to any others (people, angels, etc.) in these verses. Since God is having a conversation, the 'we' and 'us' must therefore refer to the Trinity. You might say that God speaks to Himself in the plural form." (http://www.clarifyingchristianity.com/trinity.shtml)
Another analogy that has been given to explain this mystifying concept involves the use of math. Usually we think of one person plus another person plus one more person as equaling three people, (1+1+1=3) however there are those who say that is not the way God operates. Rather, they explain that the Godhead is more like one person times one other person times one more person equaling one (1x1x1=1), or one person to the third power (13 = 1).
However, despite all these valiant attempts to explain the inexplicable, Christians still admit that the human mind can never fully comprehend the mystery of godliness any more than we can completely grasp the concept of infinity because it is something far beyond our ability to fathom. But what Christians do understand is that God is composed of three distinct and separate people who share the same divine "essence" which cannot be divided. Thus, it is impossible for them not to be "one." In addition to this, they each possess the same divine nature, which is what makes each of them God. Since no one else but them possesses this divine nature, then it is obvious that no one else can be like them. That is why there is only one God.
Furthermore, there is only one God because these three people share the same consciousness. That is to say, there are not three wills but one. What one thinks, the other two similarly think; what one desires, the other two equally desire; what one does, the other two likewise do. Therefore, they are one because they think, act, and behave in unison as though they were one. And because of this, each of them are "co-equal" meaning that no one member of the Godhead is any better or greater in wisdom, knowledge, mercy, or holiness than the other two. As such, they each have the same power and authority and reign together as one. As we have already seen one Christian explain, God is not a monarch, ruling by Himself but rather the godhead rules together as a Family, so to speak.
This is what Christians believe about the Trinity because they say this is what the Bible teaches. But does it?
While the doctrine of the Trinity declares that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are all equal in power and authority, Jesus taught "my Father is greater than I. (John 14:28). However, those who believe in the Trinity seek to explain this scripture by saying that the Father is only greater than the Son while Jesus was on earth and the Father was in heaven. But Christians contend that when Jesus returned to heaven He again became equal with the Father. However, even this explanation is contradicted by the scriptures.
Jesus taught, "The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he (the Son) seeth the Father do: for what things soever he (the Father) doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise. For the Father loveth the Son, and sheweth him all things that himself (the Father) doeth: and he (the Father) will [yet] shew him (the Son) greater works than these, [so] that ye may marvel." (John 5:19,20).
This scripture tells us several important things about the Trinity. The first is that Jesus declares He is the Son of God thereby making Himself equal with God. At least, that is how the Jews interpreted His remarks and therefore sought to kill Him because of His statement (John 5:18). But, rather than correct them for their misunderstanding, Jesus went on to reinforce what they beleived.
The second thing this scripture tells us is that "the Son can do nothing of Himself." The New International Version of the Bible (NIV) translates it this way: "the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing." This strongly implies that the Son is not allowed to do anything except that which the Father has shown Him. However, if the Son is co-equal with the Father and they both possess the same consciousness and the same will, then this statement by Jesus makes no sense because it implies that Jesus has surrendered His will to that of the Father.
And, in fact, in many other places of scripture, Jesus clearly and unambiguously makes that point very clear. He emphatically stated, "I can of mine own self do nothing… because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me" (John 5:42). "For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me" (John 6:38). When He was in the garden of Gethsemane He pleaded with His Father saying "if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt. (Matthew 26:39).
These and many other similar scriptures clearly shows that the Son has a will of His own that can be different from that of the Father but that He voluntarily surrendered His own will to comply with that of His Father. And it is for this reason that He can do nothing else except that which His Father commands Him. But this is contrary to the doctrine of the Trinity that states that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are one God because they have no separate will but all share the same consciousness.
The third thing we learn from this scripture is that the Father has shown Jesus what He, the Father, has done and then says, in effect, "Go and do ye likewise." The fact that the Father has to show His Son what He Himself has done clearly implies that the Son does not possess this information, otherwise there is no reason to show Him something He already knows. But that is impossible if both the Father and the Son share and possess the same mind. That would be like someone being shown what he himself had done so that he would then know what he is supposed to do. The only way this scripture makes any sense is if Jesus didn't know something the Father already knew.
This idea is further reinforced when Jesus said that the Father will yet show Him (the Son) even greater things so that the people will be even more amazed. What that clearly implies is that the Father had not yet shown Jesus all that He intended to and that Jesus is aware that the Father intended to show Him even more and greater things. But there is no sense to showing the Son more things if He already knows what the Father knows. Therefore, this further illustrates that the Father knows things that the Son doesn't, which is at odds with the Christian doctrine of the Trinity.
The fourth thing this scripture tells us is that the Son is following the example of the Father, or, in other words, is doing what the Father wants done. In verse 43 Jesus states, "I am come in my Father's name," not in the name of God or in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, or in His own name. As we have already read in verse 42, Jesus taught that the Father sent Him. He further declared that "the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son (verse 22), that the Father has "given to the Son to have life in himself" (verse 26) and has "given him (the Son) authority to execute judgment" (verse 27).
It is not possible for the Father to give the Son anything if the two of them are co-equal because, by definition, to be co-equal means they both have everything in common. Yet, throughout the New Testament the scriptures clearly and repeatedly teach that God, the Father, sent His Son to earth with instructions to follow. If the two of them were truly equal in power then the Father would have no authority to tell the Son what to do. Rather the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost - who all share the same consciousness, the same mind, and have the same will - would automatically agree among themselves that the Son should go to earth. In that case, it could not be said that the Father sent Him because it would be just as much the Son's decision to come as it was the decision of the Holy Ghost and the Father. Instead, it would be more accurate to say that the Father agreed with Jesus coming to earth in the flesh. In that case, Jesus would have come in the name of the triune God or in His own name.
Furthermore, if the Father and Son were truly equal then the Son would have just as much authority to tell the Father what to do as the Father has to tell the Son what to do. However, there is not one place in the Bible where we see the Son giving commandments to the Father. In every instance, it is always the Father who is shown to be in charge with the Son acting in a subservient position. This is hardly the definition of being co-equal.
The scriptures also tell us that "Though he (Jesus) were a Son [of God], yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered" (Hebrews 5:8). If the Father and the Son are equal in ruling authority then there is no reason for Jesus to be obedient to the will of the Father, especially unto suffering. When two people have equal authority, they agree among themselves to do something, in which case, neither one tells the other what to do. But the very act of being obedient to someone else automatically places such a person in a lower position of authority to the person giving the orders.
What this shows is that while Jesus lived in heaven, before He ever came to earth, He subordinated His will to that of the Father and voluntarily submitted Himself to doing whatever His Father required of Him. To say that the Father was only greater than the Son while He lived in the flesh is not consistent with what the scriptures teach.
We also learn from this scripture that the Father "committed all judgment unto the Son" and that He "gave him authority to execute judgment." The Father cannot give something He does not possess, so clearly the Father not only has the power to judge all men, but also has the authority to execute the decisions of that judgment. But, if the Son is co-equal with the Father, then the Son already has the same power to not only judge but to execute that judgment as well, in which case it would not be possible for the Father to give something to the Son that the Son already has.
In the same way, if the Father has life in Himself and has "given to the Son to have life in himself" then that clearly implies that the Son received something from the Father that He did not already possess, otherwise the Father could not have given the Son life.
In other scriptures we are told that the Father appointed the Son to be "heir of all things" (Hebrews 1:2) "and God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church" (Ephesians 1:22, emphasis added).We're further told that God "made" Jesus "both Lord and Christ." (Acts 2:36) and that after He was crucified, died, and rose from the grave He was "Exalted to the right hand of God, [where] he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured" (Acts 2:33).
It is not possible to appoint someone to something they already had authority over, nor can someone be placed in charge of something that they are already in charge of. Neither can someone be "made" Lord and Christ if they have already held that title from eternity and neither can they receive something they already possess.
Furthermore, people do not receive power, prestige or authority from someone of equal or lower status, nor does someone give power, prestige or authority to someone of an equal or higher status. The scriptures already quoted and many more that could be cited, make it abundantly clear that the Father has greater knowledge, wisdom, power, and authority than the Son possesses otherwise Jesus could not have received these things from the Father.
But there is yet more evidence of this. When the disciples of Jesus asked Him to teach them how to pray, He taught them to say, "Our Father which art in heaven" (Luke 11:12). Jesus didn't tell us simply to pray to "God" nor did He tell us to pray to Himself as God and He certainly didn't teach us to pray to the Holy Ghost. Yet, if the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are each fully and equally God then it should make no difference which of these three we pray to. And, in fact, many Christians today address their prayers directly to Jesus. However it was Jesus Himself who clearly and specifically told us that we are only to pray to our Father in heaven.
There are those who say He told us this only because He was still living on the earth and was therefore inferior to the Father who was living in heaven. However, this explanation doesn't make sense since Jesus would shortly be returning to heaven as God. Then why didn't He instruct us to pray to Him after He was resurrected? The answer is because the Father is always greater than the Son and will be throughout all of eternity. To understand why, we need to understand the Son's relationship to the Father.
On the day Jesus rose from the grave, the first person He met was Mary Magdalene. When she recognized Him, she ran to embrace Him but He "saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God" (John 20:17).
We don't worship someone who is our equal. Therefore, one of the reasons why we worship God is precisely because He is greater than us. Yet when talking to Mary Magdalene Jesus referred to His Father in heaven as "my God" and then let her know that that was the same Being who is "your God." In other words, the Father is not only "God" to us, but He is also "God" to Jesus. Notice that Jesus didn't say He was going back to heaven to resume being God with His Father but rather He was going back to be with God. But this is not possible if the Father and Son are equal. The Father can only be God to Jesus if the Father is greater than Him.
There will be those who will say that this is not what Jesus meant by these words. However, throughout the New Testament we are repeatedly told that the Being we worship is not only our God and Father but He is both the God and Father of Jesus Christ. We are told to "glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Romans 15:6), "Praise… the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Corinthians 1:3), and to "always thank God [who is] the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Colossians 1:3).
When speaking about the resurrected Christ, who is "the first begotten of the dead and the prince of the kingdoms of the earth… and [who] washed us from our sins in his own blood " the scriptures tell us that it is He who has "has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father" (Revelation 1:5,6, NIV, emphasis added).
While dictating a letter that was to be sent to the seven churches in Asia, the resurrected Christ told John, "Behold, I come quickly: [therefore] hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown. Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God" (Revelation 3:11-12, emphasis added).
Notice that Jesus does not say He will make us pillars in the temple of "God" (generically speaking, making it the temple of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost) nor does He say He will make us pillars in His temple. He specifically states that this temple belongs to His God, not to Him. And the same is true of the city where this temple is located. It is named, not after Jesus or a triune God, but after that Being whom Jesus refers to as "my God." Furthermore, when we get to heaven, Jesus intends to write a name upon us, but that name is not His own but is the name of His God.
And there is a reason why Jesus said this. Not only are we commanded to worship the Father as our God but Jesus also worships Him as His God as well. As we have already seen, Jesus did not come to earth to do His own will but the will of His Father and He learned to be obedient to the Father by the things He suffered. Just as we are to obey the words of God so likewise Jesus obeys the words of God, even before coming to earth as well as after ascending back to heaven. In other words, the Father is both "God" to us and to Jesus Christ.
The apostle Paul explained "that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God" (1 Corinthians 11:3). As has already been cited, God appointed Jesus to be the head of the church. As members of His church, we are to be in subjection to Jesus because He is our head, just like the wife is to be obedient to her husband because he is her head. In the same way God, the Father, is the head of Christ, not just while He lived here on earth, but after He rose from the grave and ascended to heaven. That is why Jesus obeys the Father just as we have to. And in the resurrection, after the final judgment, the Father will continue to be the God of Jesus. Therefore, Jesus is eternally in subjection to the Father, just as we will be.
Jesus has told us "To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne." (Revelation 3:21).
There are three things we learn from this scripture. The first is that Jesus Himself not only sits on a throne but that He sits on His Father's throne. What this clearly implies is that the Son did not sit on a throne until the Father appointed Him to do so and then He rules with and shares the authority of His Father. What this also shows is that the Father is the supreme Being, even to Jesus. Hence, the Father is greater than the Son, not equal to Him, even after the final resurrection of mankind.
The second thing we learn is that the reason why Jesus has been permitted to sit with the Father in His throne is because He overcame all things by being obedient to the will of the Father. And the third thing we learn is that if we also overcome all things as Christ did then we too can have the same privilege of becoming kings and priest to God the Father to reign with Christ on earth just as He is a King and Priest and reigns with His Father (Revelation 5:10).
But if that is the case, then that means we too will be gods just as Jesus is God.
Those who believe in the Trinity say that such a thing is impossible because there is and can only be one God. Therefore, even if we do become kings and priests and sit with Christ in His throne that would still not make us gods in the same sense that the Father and Son are. Furthermore, they contend that it is not possible for us to become like God because we can never possess the same divine nature that makes God who He is. After all, according to the doctrine of the Trinity, what makes the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost one, rather than three persons, is that they all equally share in the same divine nature.
However, that is not what the scriptures teach.
When Jesus declared to the Jews that He was the Son of God, they were outraged because they understood Him as saying that He was equal to God. Yet Jesus taught us to address God as "our Father" which then makes us sons or daughters of God as well. And indeed, the scriptures are replete with references to us being the sons of God. If the Jews considered calling oneself a son of God as being equal with God, and Jesus agreed with that sentiment, then when we become spiritually begotten sons of God we are also equating ourselves with Him, in the same way Jesus did.
As we've already quoted one person as saying, "God is not a solitary Monarch, reigning all alone in Eternity. Rather, God is a 'Family', so to speak." When we accept Christ as our Savior we "are no more strangers and foreigners, but [have become] fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God" (Ephesians 2:19, emphasis added). That means, when we accept Christ into our life He accepts us into His family whereby we then have the right to call God "Abba, Father" (Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:6). If God can be one yet reign with two others as a "family" then there is no reason why He still can't be one and reign with many more than just two who likewise belong to His family.
But there are those who will argue that this doesn't mean we have inherited God's divine nature. However, the scriptures tell us that "His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires." (2 Peter 1:3-4, NIV).
God wants to give us "everything we need for life and godliness." His purpose for our life is to bring us to the point where we walk in all perfect holiness and godliness before Him (2 Cor. 7:1). God wants to transform us into a new man which is created after the image of God in righteousness and true holiness (Ephesians 4:24). He wants us to be partakers of His holiness (Heb 12:10). And because of this, "He has given us His very great and precious promise" that we can "participate in the divine nature."
Just before His death, Jesus prayed unto the Father asking "That they all [who believe on me] may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one" (John 17:21-22).
Jesus wants us to be one with Him in the same way that He is one with the Father. That means He wants us to be obedient to the will of the Father as He is obedient. He wants us to overcome all things as He did so we can share in His glory and become exalted kings and priests to reign with Him. He wants us to be partakers of His divine nature and be truly righteous and holy as He is. He wants to bring us to an eternal life of godliness. In short, He wants us to become god-like in the same way He and His Father are.
Those who say they believe in the doctrine of the Trinity because that is what the Bible teaches have a problem. While it is true there are certain scriptures that can be interpreted as showing God to be a unique, triune Being, there are many other verses of scripture that contradict such a belief. In 1820 a young boy by the name of Joseph Smith was confused by all the different Christian doctrines that were being preached in his day and went to God in prayer to know which church taught the true gospel of Jesus Christ. In answer to that pray Joseph saw with his own eyes that God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ were two separate and distinct individual Beings who had a human form and learned for himself that the doctrine of the Trinity was wrong.
Today, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches that there is one godhood that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost share, that the Father is supreme and that the Son serves under His direction. They further teach that man was literally made in the form, likeness and image of God, and that we can inherit all that God has, even to partaking in the same godhood that He shares with the Son and the Holy Ghost.
While those of other Christian faiths claim that such beliefs are unbiblical, it is they who have a hard time reconciling the Bible with their beliefs about the Trinity.