Trinity and polytheism

Back again with something else regarding the trinity.

This was one part of a debate subreddit on Reddit where a Muslim argued that the trinity was polytheism, and also some other stuff if you scroll down and read more comments. I was stumped when reading this and didn’t know what to think about it, as I thought they made some pretty good points. So I brought it here.

So in short, Is the trinity polytheism? And do you have to accept the trinity to be a Christian?

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Muslims have a HABIT of accusing other religions of polytheism to give them an excuse for condemnation even violence. They are founded on an effort to overcome problems and abuses in a previously polytheistic society. And for this reason the Quran is very opposed to polytheism.

The Muslims typically accuse Hindus of being polytheistic when it simply isn’t true. The difficulty with Hinduism is that it the most inclusive umbrella religion on the planet accommodating a vast variety of ideas about God and the world. But that doesn’t mean that Hindus believe in all of those ideas, juggling these different notions of God in a polytheistic pantheon. And one of the ideas in Hinduism is that all these different names and pictures are about a singular God.

The statistics are…
56% say there is one God alone.
about half say there is one God with many manifestations
7% say there are many gods.

No. That is in fact the whole point of the doctrine. One God.

But of critical importance here is to understand what the doctrine actually says: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are distinct persons, but only one God.

This is not a God made in our own image - a personal God which is nevertheless very different from ourselves. And yet this is a God who is different by being more than we are and not less than we are.

Pretty much. It is how Christians defined the religion different from other religions. This is not Islam.

If you say Jesus was a prophet not God, that is Islam.

The first declaration of Christian belief in Nicea 325 AD was…

We believe in one God, the Father almighty,
maker of all things visible and invisible;
And in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the Son of God,
begotten from the Father, only-begotten,
that is, from the substance of the Father,
God from God, light from light,
true God from true God, begotten not made,
of one substance with the Father,
through Whom all things came into being,
things in heaven and things on earth,
Who because of us men and because of our salvation came down,
and became incarnate and became man, and suffered,
and rose again on the third day, and ascended to the heavens,
and will come to judge the living and dead,
And in the Holy Spirit.
But as for those who say, There was when He was not,
and, Before being born He was not,
and that He came into existence out of nothing,
or who assert that the Son of God is of a different hypostasis or substance,
or created, or is subject to alteration or change
- these the Catholic and apostolic Church anathematizes.

Accordingly you might fit the definition if you don’t buy into the Holy Spirit being a separate person of God, but the creed is pretty clear about Jesus and the Father.

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I think Mitchell has covered a lot of the bases in his post above. I would say though, that the internet, generally speaking, is a rubbish place to learn theology (BioLogos being the exception, of course, :innocent:) and places like Reddit and YouTube are the worst.

Online anyone can pass themselves off as an expert, which is why you’ll often see people here on the forum asking posters about their professional knowledge and expertise in a subject. Also just because a post gets lots of likes doesn’t mean it is correct. I often have to remind myself that having unlimited access to information online is not the same as having unlimited access to wisdom and knowledge.

If you’d really like to understand the Trinity then the best place to start a with a book. Here are my top picks on where to start:

  • What is the Trinity (2011) - RC Sproul. Short, readable, no prior knowledge required and teaches the classic formation of the doctrine and only 60 pages.

  • Making Sense of the Trinity (2000) - Millard J. Erickson. Same as above, slightly more technical IIRC and slightly longer at 100 pages.

Both should be available from all good online book stores.

I hope that helps. I didn’t want to assume too much, however, if you’d prefer something a bit more technical to sink your teeth into then let me know.

EDIT: ‘What is the Trinity’ is available for free from the Ligonier Ministries website.

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It is not just about the creeds. It is about God and salvation. For God to be personally involved He has to have a drect connection with Christ the instrument of it. If Christ was just a man then salvation comes from just a man. If Christ is not the direct son of God then God has just sacrificed a loyal puppet not His own son.
For God so loved the world that He sent His son
So Christ has to be divine, ie God in human form. And as there is only one God Christ has to be somehow a part of God and not separate. The Trinity rectifies this paradox. Whehter it actually works is possibly open to debate, but fr now it is the best resolution Humans can think of. (Where have I heard that before?)

Richard

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I was kinda looking for someone to just break down the person’s argument and show how it was wrong, as I can’t pay for any books at the moment.

Edit: just saw your edit, I’ll check that out.

:+1:

Of course, and I am sure some folks here will do that for you. Even so I am very much a ‘teach a person to fish’ kinda guy. If someone breaks down the argument for you all you have are two opposing arguments. Who to say which is right and which is wrong? You just have to take our word for it.

However, if you look into the scholarship behind the arguments, then you equip yourself to navigate the discussions for yourself. Then the next time you are browsing Reddit, you’ll be able to breakdown AverageDeb8r09’s arguments for yourself.

Books, especially theology books, can be prohibitively expensively. However, most church leaders will have a personal theology library and will likely (should be!) delighted to lend your resources. Lots of churches have their own bookshelves from which you can borrow.

Failing that, as BeagleLady often helpful points out, local libraries can order or transfer books upon request.

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Also, organisations like Desiring God, Ligonier Ministries, and Monogism.com* have tons of free resources around more systematic theology topics like the Trinity.

—-

*I appreciate my that roots are showing now. So if anyone else knows of any other sites offering free resources, I encourage you to post them too.

The argument is trying to use the bible against the Trinity, but it does so by taking things out of contextt.
What you need to understand is that God is in Heaven, with all the dynamics of that realm. Jesus came to live on earth and as such lived within the dynamics of this realm, and the Holy Spirit is not corporeal which gives it a different set of dynamics again.
The biblical quotes about Jesus present Him as He was seen which is human. The Trinity sees past the physical and identifies the nature within. Furthermore, the use of the word “person” is very specific within Trinitarian language. A “Person” in the Trinity" is closer to a “personality” inasmuch as it is not a separate being.
So the Muslim is deliberately misunderstanding and misquoting Scripture just as the Devil does in the Temptations of Jesus.
The Trinity is monotheistic. There is only one God.

Richard

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@Ravetastic and @LM77
Older theological books are available at the Christian Classics Ethereal Library.
https://www.ccel.org/

Also try Internet Archive:
Www.archive.org

Worldcat’s free public interface can help you locate library books

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Yes! Forgot about this site - thanks for the reminder.

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You never see the Bible suggesting Jews, or Christians worshipping more than one god. They always are told to worship just one god. You don’t have to believe in the Trinity. In the end there is really no difference between saying God the father, God the son, and God the Holy Spirit vs saying there is one God Ashe has one begotten since who is the Lord of Lords that his father endowed with all power and authority through the power of his Holy Spirit.

I doubt when we are facing Yahweh he’s going to bring out Jesus and say “ is that me? Is that my power incarnate? Is that my son I haven’t power and authority to? Is it a combination of answers? Hurry up your soul depends on getting this right?

So a god revealed to mankind in multiple indecent conscious beings is incarnations, not multiple separate gods.

“The reader of these reflections of mine on the Trinity should bear in mind that my pen is on the watch against the sophistries of those who scorn the starting-point of faith, and allow themselves to be deceived through an unseasonable and misguided love of reason.”

Augustine, On the Trinity

I haven’t read the book, but I read the passage where Augustine ponders the great mystery of other people’s existence.

Which ties nicely into the beauty and absolute otherness of a triune God. One that would not know what it is to be alone, and depending on your theological tool set, he then became that in the person of Jesus Christ on the cross.

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That happens.

In short, emphatically not. It is monotheism. It is specifically intended to be monotheism. One God.

It is vital for us to realise, with Augustine, that the Trinity starts as a statement of faith. It is only secondarily something to be reasoned about. Yes, there can be great, lively discussions about the mystery of the Trinity. But it is fundamentally a statement of faith in One God in Three Persons.

So however far “reasoning” may take you (and enjoy the journey!) always keep one foot rooted in that “statement of faith” aspect.

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As a reddit user can confirm.

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