This is moved over from Forgotten Prophets. It was originally posted as a response to a series of exchanges between myself and Youssef, a Moslem advocate based in the Middle East. Here's an excerpt from one of my own little efforts, The Serpent in Babel (which deals with the very most ancient of ancient history). The following was a bit of a digression from the major theme, but it seemed relevant, and is more relevant, here, given some of our conversations. So:

The earliest line-writing, on pre-cunei­form tablets, repre­sented the idea of God by using the symbol of three stars; this was sim­plified over time as a single star, which was further stylized into the precise form of a cross, which again was sim­plified into a sin­gle line. It takes no imagination at all to find here the Trinity, the Crucifixion, and the One God.

God manifests Himself in this universe as One God, who makes Himself known in three Per­sons. These three Persons, who are One, are known as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This is, to our nat­ural minds, a par­adox: how can one God be three persons? Shod­dy objec­tions abound, such as "one plus one plus one do not equal one"; to this, we need only reply that "one times one times one does equal one." But the issue tran­scends mere fal­lacious reasoning. We cer­tainly cannot compre­hend the true subtlety of the Trini­ty, any more than we can com­prehend that light is both a particle and a wave. But we can appre­hend it. We do not master this idea, but we can recognize that it is true.

The idea of incomprehensible, un­provable truths is not in the least a religious one. It is the very heart of modern mathematics and physics, as demon­strated by, say, Gödel's In­completeness Theorem (which says the axioms of a system cannot be used to prove itself — a higher set of axioms must always be appealed to), or by Heisenberg's Uncer­tainty Principle (which says that either the velocity or the location of a specific elec­tron at a given moment can be known, but not both — by choosing one, you exclude the possi­bil­ity of knowing the other). Singu­lari­ties and quarks and virtual parti­cles, and the square-root of negative one and non-Eu­cli­dian geome­try and the concept of infin­ity — all partake of the nature of things that are true, but not compre­hendible.

On a more mundane level, we find the very fundaments of the universe affirm­ing the Trin­ity. In its broadest aspect, na­ture is a tri­nity, of space, matter and time. There is no universe without these, and these do not exist without each other. Again, each of these is itself a trinity. Space is height, width and depth; each is fully and completely it­self, and total­ly per­vades space, yet space is not any one of these things, but all of them together. Matter is energy, movement, and phenomena — power, action and effect — motive, motion and mani­festa­tion. Time is past, present and fu­ture; it is not any abso­lute division of these, but the fluid interac­tion of all three.

As for human existence, it is experi­enced in space, exhib­ited by matter, and understood through time. We are body, mind or soul, and spirit; not mere matter, but some animating force; not mere mind, but tangible and eter­nal; not spirit alone, but physical and con­ceptual. Even our minds are a trinity, of in­tellect, emotion and will.

It is certainly true that the Bible no­where uses the term "Trinity", but we must dismiss out of hand such a vapid argu­ment, since nowhere does the Bible use the word "toenail" — yet of course there are such things. An argument from silence is a logical fallacy. Compe­tent study, in fact, reveals that the concept of the Trinity is spread throughout scripture in an unmistak­able way.

Whatever it is that a man worships, and prays to, and turns to for deliv­er­ance, this is his god (Is 44:7,17). The Bible tells us to worship Jesus, and He receives it (Phili 2:10, Heb 1:6; Lk 24:52). Steven prays to Jesus (Acts 7:59), and of course Jesus is the Deliv­erer. We are told in many places, expli­citly, that Jesus, the Word, is God (Jn 1:1,14). Witness the fol­lowing: “Christ, who is God over all, forever praised” (Rom 9:5); the “righteousness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ” (2P 1:1 — compare with 2P 3:18); the “glo­rious appear­ing of our great God and Sav­ior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13); about the Son, God (the Father) says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever” (Heb 1:8); doubting Thomas finally answered Jesus by calling him “My Lord and my God” (Jn 20:28). We are told that it is the blood of God that was shed (Acts 20:28), redeem­ing the lost. Of the Mes­siah, we are told: “Be­hold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel, which is trans­lated, 'God with us.'” (Mt 1:23, cf. Is 7:14). Con­si­dering the fact that here we have Matthew, Luke, John, Peter, Thomas, Paul and the writer of He­brews, all teaching the doctrine that Jesus is God — surely this is sufficient testimo­ny.

As for the Holy Spirit, He is called God in a number of places (Acts 5:3-4; 1Cor 6:19,21; Lk 1:68,70 compared with Acts 1:16; 1Cor 3:16 with 2Cor 6:16, Jer 10:10; Ps 78:17‑18 with Is 63:10; Deut 32:12 with Is 63:14; Is 6:8-9 with Acts 28:25‑26; 2Cor 3:17). He is the Creator (Gen 1:2, Ps 33:6, 104:14-16,30, Job 26:13). He is eternal (Heb 9:14), sovereign (Jn 3:8, 1Cor 12:11), omnipres­ent (Ps 139:7), omni­scient (1Cor 2:10), and omnipotent (Micah 2:7). He is holy (Rom 1:4) and good (Neh 9:20, Ps 143:10 com­pared with Mt 19:17), and can be blasphemed (Mk 3:29‑30).

He is so much identified as a person of the Godhead, that against the rules of Greek grammar, He is called ‘He’, instead of by the neuter pronoun, as proper gram­mar would demand (Jn 15:26, 16:13-14). The Spirit speaks with a voice (cf. Heb 10:15; Act 10:19, 13:2; Jer 31:31; Eze 2:1‑3, 3:24, 8:11,43‑44). He has a sense of self-identity (Acts 13:2), and He has the three at­tributes of personali­ty, in mind, emotions and will. Thus, the Father knows the mind of the Spirit (Rom 8:27), and the Spirit searches, and knows the depths of the mind of God (1Cor 2:10-11). The Holy Spi­rit loves (Rom 15:30), grieves (Eph 4:30), is vexed (Is 63:10), kind (Ps 143:10), and de­sires (Jn 3:8). He wills (1Cor 12:11), is obeyed (Acts 10), and forbids (Acts 16:6,7). I have counted at least 39 separate types of actions which the Spirit is explicitly said to have done, all of which demand His being a person and / or God.

So, a fair understanding of the teaching of the Bible rec­og­nizes that the Father, the Son, and the Spirit are all identi­fied as God. Yet there is only one God, who somehow par­takes in some sort of plurality. We know this from the Bible, as in the very word for God, Elohim, which is a singular root with a plu­ral ending; this ending is not that Hebrew parti­cle which indi­cates a plural of two, but rath­er of three or more. Now, while elohim is used of mere men, as of judges or rul­ers, this use is employed only long after the word was used of God. If this were the only example of an indi­cation of the Trinity, we would cer­tainly dismiss it as an example of the semitic usage of the "plural of majes­ty" — something like the royal "we", to indicate "I". But taken in context, we cannot escape the plural­ity of God.

In Deut 6:4, we have the great declaration of Hebrew monotheism, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is One.” What could be more plain? Yet the word for ‘one’, here, is 'achad. In Hebrew there is a word for an abso­lute unity, 'iysh, used of an individual — an in-divide-able. Then there is the word of a composite unity, a single thing which in some manner is made up of parts. Thus a mar­ried couple, which becomes one flesh, is 'achad flesh; a bunch of grapes is an 'achad of grapes. And "the Lord our God, the Lord is 'achad — a composite unity." When we consider that a much better word was available, if the intent had been to indicate a God of the Mos­lem type — utterly monolithic — then we are safe in concluding that 'achad, a com­posite unity, was chosen for a purpose.

So, while we cheerfully affirm that the Bible does­ not con­tain the word "Trinity", it certainly contains words which indi­cate the Trinity. Just as gravity is not in any way visible, yet its effect is everywhere — so with the Trinity: it is im­plicit, throughout the entire Bible. While this in itself is not proof that the universe actually is ruled by the Triune God, it is proof that the Bible, Old Testament and New, teaches that God is Triune.

The question may well be asked, Why must we search this out? Why isn't the Trinity explicitly stated? To this, we can reply only with reasoned guesses. Perhaps, in the pro­phets' efforts to combat idolatry and polytheism, the triunity of God was left implicit, to establish the correct concept of monotheism; there is no doubt but that apprehending the concept of the Trinity requires subtle contemplation, which not everyone is inclined to engage in. I favor another explanation: the Bible is not an encyclopedia which you can open to a page and learn all there is to know on a given topic. Rather, the Bible is like life: you learn its lessons by going through it; you pick up your knowledge piece by piece, from experience and from the contemplation of experience. The Bible is not written in out­line form, because its truths are too subtle for glib explication; no outline will suffice to reveal the hues and depths which it contains.


Here's the thing: it's not about theology. Honestly, who really cares? Is Allah simple and God complex? In comparison, I'd say yes. Is Islam simple and Christianity complex? Not at all. The five requirements, the "Five Pillars of Islam," are the reciting of the creed affirming Allah as God and Mohammed as his prophet, the keeping of the fast of Ramadaan, the giving of alms, the making of the Hajj, and the saying of the daily prayers. That's really simple. Just five things. What could be easier. For one, being Christian, which is just one thing. The one thing, the one pillar of Christianity is being forgiven through the atonement of Jesus.

Want it more complex?  "Atonement" is a pretty complex word ... and the idea that God became a man is pretty complex ... and this whole resurrection thing is sort of hard to believe, in a way. But all of that is worry about things other than your own self, your own current state of affairs. The Buddhists have the idea of 'speculation which tends not to enlightenment,' an angels-dancing-on-pinheads sort of thing. "How could I believe in a God who sends people to hell just for not even hearing about Him. Those poor pygmies in Africa." That's certainly a complex objection. But you've heard of Him, haven't you? Like just now, for instance.

Some pharisees came to Jesus (Luke 13:4) and complained about a tower falling and killing some people. Jesus said something like, "Don't you worry about them -- just you tend to your own repentance." Wow, that Jesus -- always cutting to the heart of the matter. "If I spoke the truth, why did you strike me?" (John 18:23) I'd love Jesus just for saying that. Teenagers use the hypocrisy of others to excuse their own faults. Men do the best they can, and understand that ultimate justice is in the hands of God, and simply beyond our ken.

There it is, then. One is simpler than Three, as Allah is simpler than God -- but one is simpler than five, too -- the cross, or the pillars. Given that our mandate is not to hunt down every permutation of every concept even remotely related to arcane points of theology, but rather to get saved, we don't really have any business worrying about non-essentials. And in Christianity, the essential is Jesus on the Cross.



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