One And One And One Is Three....Discussing The Trinity

Pax Christi, everyone!

I remember hearing an interesting argument the other day from a Neo-Pagan about The Trinity and why he believes it is polytheistic.

He points to the triquetra as proof of this; because it was used to represent a triple goddess before representing The Trinity, this means that The Trinity is compatible with this form of polytheism and is therefore polytheism as well.

I have linked his polite and well-articulate video below. Does his argument follow?

Pax,
Charles

My basic objection is to the idea that you necessarily have to be able to get your head around something for it to be true. God is called ‘inscrutable’ in English translations in a couple of places in the Bible, and it might as well apply to the reality of the Trinity. Labeling something ‘irrational’ just because we cannot fully understand it may just be hubris, even if it is done respectfully. There are maths and electronics I do not fully understand, but that does not make them untrue or irrational. :slightly_smiling_face:

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No pagan before the church created it had a sense of “trinity” in his mind. If he created one thats ok. But the first time the word was used was in Christian theology .
If not please feel free to correct me

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Agreed. it would not be difficult for me to take his argument, substitute “quantum superposition” for “trinity” and it would flow just as well. Plenty of physicists describe and embrace things about our universe that strike me as utterly paradoxical and which, to use the video narrater’s language, “can’t be described logically.” and this doesn’t keep us from believing that they yet remain the best description of reality.

A few other observations… @Combine_Advisor, please let me know if any of this is helpful or if i might answer anything else if by chance it is helpful.

  • He took lots of effort to deconstruct the trinity with his A=B, etc. formulation. but again, neither does that work for even quantum physics. try deconstructing the wave/particle nature of light, or aspects of observation, and the like, and neither does that work in neat logical categories that don’t entail paradoxes

  • He said quite specifically that he could not believe in a deity that entailed any “mystery” whatsoever, or any aspect that he couldn’t personally comprehend. in other words, he could only believe in a deity that completely fit within limited human understanding. what kind of God would that even be? If God is bigger than us, there will be aspects about his being that exceed our understanding. any God that easily fit within our own understanding would not be particularly impressive, and my suspicion would be that it would thus be one of human invention.

  • he emphasized that we should be able to rationally examine the deity. that is absurd. like saying a bacteria, were it somehow sentient, should be able to rationally examine humanity and human existence. and if there were any aspects about humanity in a bacteria’s mind that doesn’t make sense, it should conclude that humans don’t exist. This doesn’t mean there can’t be some overlap, and thus some things that do fit in our mind and which we can grasp as genuinely true… but if there is a God of the sort Christians embrace, then there will be aspects of his beyond that surpass our ability to comprehend.

I mean, if God exists and is as far above us as we understand him to be, then us trying to understand him is like a three year old trying to understand quantum physics. not understanding it, certain things seeming paradoxical, or it being “mysterious” _is exactly what we should expect to encounter when examining something that exists in a reality so far beyond our own.

I’ve always like C.S. Lewis’s illustration, where he imagines people who lived in a two-dimensional reality trying to conceive of someone trying to describe a cube…

Christian theology does not believe God to be a person. It believes Him to be such that in Him a trinity of persons is consistent with a unity of Deity. In that sense it believes Him to be something very different from a person, just as a cube, in which six squares are consistent with unity of the body, is different from a square. (Flatlanders, attempting to imagine a cube, would either imagine the six squares coinciding, and thus destroy their distinctness, or else imagine them set out side by side, and thus destroy the unity. Our difficulties about the Trinity are of much the same kind.)

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Reality is strange. Existence is strange. God is strange. Explanations beyond the trivial - and even then - always run out sooner or later. There is no end to questions and less answers. Do you understand quantum mechanics?

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“I mean, if God exists and is as far above us as we understand him to be, then us trying to understand him is like a three year old trying to understand quantum physics. not understanding it, certain things seeming paradoxical, or it being “mysterious” _is exactly what we should expect to encounter when examining something that exists in a reality so far beyond our own.”

This is particularly interesting to me, because he also has a video about defining the gods, and discusses how they are disembodied consciousnesses and inherently greater than we, which in of itself is already beyond our experience and comprehension. Thanks for this!

well yes, Nickolaos…the word “trinity” was first used in Christian theology…there were some pagan religions or theologies that had some three-sort of-but-not-entirely-in-one notion. That would hardly have influenced Christian thinking. But Judaism had developed some “complex” concept of God…based on Daniel’s “son of man” vision and some of the images in 1 Enoch…I have gotten this from modern Jewish writers who noted that their faith, while monotheistic, wrestled with some of that. And thus, it may not have passed entirely into Christian thinking, but it was helpful in enabling that (I suppose). Of course, from what I have read, Judaism dropped that two-in-one thought by the 2nd century A.D./C.E.

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Sounds like the sort of simplemindedness which says that storytellers are all liars or that liberals are all communists.

Frankly the real problem is the inappropriate labeling of many other religions as polytheistic when they are not, such as Hinduism. Yes there are polytheistic Hindus just as there are Christians who are effectively polytheist because of their poor understanding of the Trinity.

LOL poison well fallacy and contamination rhetoric. There is a long list of cultural influences of paganism on Christianity. And no, none of them makes Christianity polytheistic.

The plain fact is the definition of polytheism, which is the belief in or worship of more than one god. But Trinitarian Christians do not believe in more than one God. They believe there is only one God. PERIOD. It is not a god made in the image of man. It is a God who not like us in many ways. It is a God who is known to us in three different and distinct persons. That is certainly very different from us. But it doesn’t change the fact that Christians believe in one God only.

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To the OP, ever wonder why John Lennon sang otherwise in Come Together?

The Trinity is the ultimate human economic [, essential>] metaphor for an [ ] ontological, immanent God substance of Persons. Do all intentional species have fathers and sons?

I trust that helps.

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Translator wanted.

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Sounds like the beginning of the joke: “A Neo-pagan, a Hindu, and a Muslim meet in a bar …” which ends with the Neo-pagan’s mouse popping out of his shirt-pocket and hollerin’: “That goes for fer yer d**n cat too!”

Forgive my quibbling, but … I struggle to imagine a world in which Ocean Keltoi, a self-described “Omnipotent Beard, #Polytheist, #Heathen, Reconstructionist. Professional Wizard with a Barbarian soul” carries on a sustained “polite and well-articulated” diatribe against the Doctrine of the Trinity. If you wanna read a polite and well-articulated diatribe, check out my rant against Einstein’s Theory of Special Relativity.

???

  • Ocean Keltoi: The Christian Trinity is polytheistic.
    • Proof:
      A. The Triquetra was used to represent a triple goddess.
      B. Before/With the introduction/Or after the introduction of the Doctrine of the Trinity, the Triquetra was used to represent The Trinity.
      C. Ergo: The Christian Trinity is (compatible with, i.e. “kindda like”) Polytheism.

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. huh? whadja say?

In my non-humble and polite Christian opinion, Ocean Keltoi’s video, like durn near all anti-Christian fantasies is “a load of malarkey.” Anybody that has a lick of imagination and Spirit-inspired commonsense can see that the Christian Doctrine of the Trinity has Judaic orgin, even if the Jews themselves are too blind or stubborn to see it.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triquetra

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I will have to “second” Dale on this one. I know that there are — and have been – some ancient “trinity” deity groupings. Just read old bios on ancient Greek, Egyptian, Roman gods. The Osiris-Seth-Horus trio comes to mind. Of course, no one is saying they are “three in one.” They are just three deities (or once believed so) who operated jointly (even if not always in the best interests of each other). This sort of “triplet” grouping is not a “trinity” in the biblical sense. My understanding is that Judaism began to ponder some “complex” image of God as it mulled over the “son of man” concepts of the book of Daniel. You can read various modern Jewish writers for more on that if you want. And some of them have noted that this sort of duality gave opening or opportunity for Christians to later on develop a Triune Deity — that is, three in One. (Note to all: Judaism later revamped their thinking once they saw where followers of Jesus took it. For example: " Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also" – 1 John 2:23…and this one from Matthew 3:16-17: “…Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descendin as a dove and lighting on Him, and behold a voice out of the heavens said, 'This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased”). and there is more… So yes, the concept that God has some complexity is, well, where we must leave it.

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My apologies if I may be misunderstanding you, but from what i understand you to have said here I humbly but deeply object… and I find this entire principle rather disturbing (and insulting, actually), that we Christians worship a God whose core characteristics were invented by the slow process of Christians “developing” a “triune deity”,

If i believed that the God Christians believed in, or the idea that there was a “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” was the result of some historical process of religious-sociological development, the end result of the evolving speculations of men, i would never embrace the idea.

Speaking for myself, I embrace and believe in God as existing as a trinity because it is what Jesus taught, and for no other reason. Granted, of course, the specific understanding of exactly what Jesus’s teaching meant, clarifying exactly how we should (and should not) formulate, understand, and define the specific delineation of what this trinity meant was something that developed as men tried to better clarify and understand Jesus’s teachings… but the earliest Christians who began to believe in and teach of a triune deity did so because the very incarnated second person of said trinity said so, and for no other reason. the idea itself was revealed from the mouth of the very deity being discussed, not “developed” by evolving speculations of men, seizing on an opportunity arising from earlier speculation.

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What, all of Him?

They were coterminous once for eternity in infinity?

Thanks, Daniel. I think you and I essentially agree. But what I said, or meant, is that there is enough information for scholars of religious history (or theology) to know, to some extent, what followers of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were pondering around the era in which the gospel accounts were set. So it is best to say (simply, if possible) that a “complexity” in the nature of the One God was already being discussed. It is not new to the Gospels and the New Testament. The “nature of His Nature” --sort of a two-in-One without sacrificing the idea of One God – was part of the theological atmosphere in that era. It may not have been discussed around the fishermen’s nets, but it was discussed and written about in theological circles of those times. This is said to have emerged from their ponderings of the “son of man” images in Daniel, plus First Enoch. Yes, you would be right in pointing out that First Enoch is not in the biblical canon. It WAS, however, initially considered canonical (another long story)…and it did toss about a lot of ideas. Certainly Jesus did say things that referenced a trinitarian thought. So OK…and there also was a “Suffering Servant” concept tossed about-- aside from what we see in Isaiah 53.

In short, ancient Judaism puzzled about God’s nature (then as now!) as much as we do! Blessings!

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Perhaps i shall rephrase, if for some reason you object to my language above or find it ambiguous or imprecise…

because the Word, who was with God and who was God, through whom all things were made and without whom nothing was made that has been made - and who became flesh and dwelt among us - this only God, who is at the Father’s side, has made the otherwise unseeable God known.

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That’s a very good paraphrase adding no clarification whatsoever, which is just as ambiguous, imprecise. Do you believe that a perichoretic Person of God, after eternity, once, in all infinity, solely and completely became a person? Here*

It would seem so as the literary ambiguities and imprecision of the quote pose more questions than they answer.

because the Logos, who was with the monadic ground of being substance and who was the monadic ground of being substance [that’s a logical impossibility, but literarily allowable, or ‘John’ meant two different things by God? God the substance and then one of its Persons?], through whom all things were made and without whom nothing was made that has been made - and who became flesh* and dwelt among us - this [Person of] only God, who is at the Father [Person of God]’s side, has made the otherwise unseeable God [substance] known.

Again, did the Son Person of the God substance inclusively, totally, wholly, solely, completely, uniquely, once, for all time, all space, all worlds, all creation, exclusively, coterminously collapse in to an ovum, a germ of creation, dirt, star dust?

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@Daniel_Fisher, you make a good point. We believe in God as Trinity, because Jesus was God incarnate. That is first and foremost, but it is not as simple as that. Christianity marks the coming together of two great traditions, Jewish covenantal theology and Greek philosophy based on Being.

The Jews (Barbadians) and the Greeks (Pagans) were a loggerheads on most everything, but great theologians, such as Paul, John, Tertullian, Athanasius, and Augustine were able to find common ground through the Logos to reconcile the message of Jesus with both philosophy and Jewish monotheism.

Even though there are significant differences between different traditions, the basic outline of the Trinity is the same. Yet as I write this, I must note that a significant challenge to the Trinity is taking place in the Evangelical tradition in the form of the Eternal Subordination of the Son You might want to check that out.

Theology does not stay static, not because God changes, but because our understanding of God does.

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My conjecture regarding the Judaic Origin of the Christian Doctrine of the Trinity:

  • In Acts 17, Paul addresses men at the Areopagus, beginning with his observation that there was, in Athens, an altar to an unknown God. Citing Epimenides and Cleanthus, Paul explained that “the unknown God” was none other than "The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things; and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His children.’ Being then the children of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and thought of man. Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.”

    • I say that Paul’s ability to speak about the Unknown God, was his ability to draw on the Jewish concept of God the Father, creator of heaven and earth, and Paul’s familiarity with the poetic claims of Epimenides–according to whom God is He in whom we live, move, and have our being–and Cleanthus–according to whom the same God is our Father.
  • Of the Second Person of the Trinity, I say the Jews spoke of the Shekinah, the physical presence of God, said to have spoken with Moses face to face.

  • Of the Third Person of the Trinity, the Jews spoke of Ruach ha-Kodesh, the Holy Spirit.

  • The Shekinah is not the Father, nor is the Father the Shekinah. Neither the Father nor the Shekinah are the Ruach ha-Kodesh, nor is the Ruach ha-Kodesh the Father or the Shekhinah.

The Jews avoid a trinitarian concept of God by affirming that the Shekhinah and the Ruach ha-Kodesh are neither God nor Gods. Early Christians, IMO, affirmed that the Father is neither the Shekhinah nor the Ruach ha-Kodesh, that the Shekhinah is neither the Father nor the Ruach ha-Kodesh, and that the Ruach ha-Kodesh is neither the Father nor the Shekhinah, but that the three distinctly different persons were not the same and yet were and are One God.

(See

  • ENCYCLOPAEDIA JUDAICA, Second Edition, Volume 18, Pages 440-444 [Shekhinah]
  • ENCYCLOPAEDIA JUDAICA, Second Edition, Volume 17, page 506-509 [Ruach ha-Kodesh])
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I’ll be sure to let John know of your objection to his language at my earliest opportunity.

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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