The Trinity: One God, or three?

One God or Three?

Christianity can be defined as discipleship in Jesus Christ. We worship Jesus. But wait, isn’t the first commandment, “Thou shall have no other God except me”? And if that’s true, and Jesus prayed to his father in heaven, doesn’t that mean Jesus is not God, or that if Jesus is the son of God, that there are at least two or three Gods if we include the Holy Spirit?
I am not sure if you had these questions, but if you did not, I hope this can only bring better understanding to the Holy Trinity. If you had these questions, I only hope to bring understanding through this chapter. There might be “Christians” that disagree with me on this. Some of the very arguments within our own worldview are sometimes, “wait, the bible does not mention the trinity anywhere”. And while it is true that the word “Trinity” is not used anywhere in the bible in any translation that I am aware of, much less the original Hebrew and Greek, we can infer the trinity from the text. I will attempt to break it down as best I can.

I’ll begin with first establishing a big picture of how the biblical triune God exists. Here is one way in its simplest form to help understand three in one, one in three. Think of the biblical God as the U.S. Government in terms of how it is divided. Putting aside their governmental functions, we have the Executive branch, the Judicial branch, and the Legislative branch. Each individual branch is the Government, but also, all three branches are the Government. They exist as one government, but the judicial branch cannot be or perform the function of the executive branch or the legislative branch. In the same way, the executive branch cannot be or perform the function of the legislative branch or the judicial branch. Lastly, the legislative branch cannot be or perform the function of the executive branch or the judicial branch. So, while this is on purpose also to exercise checks and balances, in contrast, God is the perfect communion in relationship between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

In a lecture, Nabeel Qureshi, famous and late Christian apologist, formerly devout Muslim apologist, and author of “seeking Allah, Finding Jesus”, he explains the Holy Trinity in this way:
“God is one being, three persons. The same way that I am…what am I? I am human in being, but I am also Nabeel Qureshi in person. Being explains what I am, person explains who I am.”

In his book, “Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus”, Nabeel mentions that one of the things about Christianity that was the hardest for him to understand and accept was the Trinity. It just didn’t make sense to him. In fact, it didn’t make a lot of sense to me either growing up and later as a “Bootleg Christian”. I always knew it was one God. So many verses confirm that, and the idea of a triune God almost implies three Gods. I had the same question as Nabeel, “How could God be one and three?” Well, Nabeel tells us in his book that he was in science class one day and the teacher was talking about Nitrate Resonance Structures and it hit him. “If NRS could exist as three and as one at the same time, then why couldn’t God?” I never cared for academia in any way, shape, or form, so when I read that, I was just as clueless as some of you reading this may be at this moment. I will try to explain it the way I understand it and try not to get too technical in terms. Resonance structures are necessary to show how electrons are distributed in chemical bonds in a molecule. The chemical bond can be drawn with a Lewis structure because of our two-dimensional limitation to show where the double bond between oxygen and nitrogen exists. Because the double bond can come from anyone of the three oxygen molecules, they can be two-dimensionally drawn in three different ways. In reality, with NO3-, the three bonds are equivalent to each other, but also 1/3 of the actual bond. God persons however, are not 1/3 of God, each is fully God.

Now, I am no science major, but after researching what Nabeel mentioned, it totally makes sense and adds support to the doctrine of the Trinity. I remember reading the bible before getting deep into it and getting to know God. I would think, “it is a fact that there is only one God according to the bible.” Then I would read verses where Jesus prayed to the Father, and I was like, “wait, what?” After searching for a resolve in scripture here is what I understand. The reason Jesus prayed to the Father is not because the Father is greater than Jesus, which some people wrongfully interpret. I say wrongfully, because if the Father was greater, then there would be a hierarchy within the God head which would contradict God’s perfect nature, and it would contradict scripture where it also shows equality between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Father is God being, Jesus is God being, the Holy Spirit is God being. There is only one God being. This is the simplest way to explain it. When we dive into the bible, we see that while all three represent the single God being in themselves, the Father is not the Son or the Holy Spirit, the Son is not the Father or the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit is not the Father, or the Son, much like the U.S. Government as I explained above. In the God being, all three are God, just like the NRS (nitrate resonance structures) that are all equal, but each God person has his own function, much like the branches of U.S. Government.

Kent Hovind, in a debate, where he faced off against a panel composed of 3 atheists, argued for the existence of God, and made his point while inadvertently pointing out evidence of the trinity in creation. As we briefly observed earlier in the book, Genesis 1:1 says, “In the beginning, that establishes time, God created the heavens and the earth, that establishes space and matter. Here we have a trinity of trinities. We have time, made up of past, present, and future. We have space, made up of length, width, and height. And we have matter, made up of solid, liquid, and gas”. This is probably one of my favorite points ever made by anyone where natural science points to the trinity.

I’d like to point out that while it may be possible that the trinity is false, it is not probable. The Trinity must be true because logic dictates. Can God be one God being and one God person? At a glance, he can. But the problem with one God being also being one God person is that it does not fit with the transcendence of God over us. What I mean is, we all have a strong desire to be a part of something. We can’t explain it, but that doesn’t stop us from trying. We have a deep desire for community, companionship, and communication. In essence, we crave relationship. Some relationships we crave more than others of course, but we have that inherent need for some kind of relationship(s). That is why solitary confinement is one of the worst punishments. Here is some science behind it I found in an article that referenced work by Roy Baumeister and Mark Leary:

The importance of the need to belong was documented by Baumeister and Leary when they detailed the emotional, cognitive, and physical aspects of the need to belong. One way to look at the importance of the need to belong is to document what happens when the need is unmet. The reason that scientists would examine the consequences of an unsatisfied need to belong is the same reason that scientists would need to study what happens when people fail to get enough food or water; not having enough of something and seeing the negative outcomes that follow gives meaningful scientific information that the missing piece (in this case, relationships with others) is essential for healthy functioning.

Our need to belong is so important to our mental health that solitary confinement in prisons for prolonged periods of time are being fought against and some consider this form of punishment inhumane. Is this true? Can we come to terms with the science and emotion behind it all and decide where we stand? Is everything that entails relationship that is beneficial, or detrimental to one’s mental health, dependent on which side of the fence you stand?

I can tell you from personal experience that being alone or having extremely limited contact and communication with others can drive you mad. As you may recall, I was in the Marines. And as such, I have been in the field more times than I care to count, for training or because the situation called for it. I have had plenty of moments where it was essential to the mission to have limited or no communication with anyone. I found that even if I had at least one person next to me and communication was extremely prohibited, we could not help but interact in one way or another with each other. We did it in writing, we did it with hand gestures and signals; Thinking back now, we could not help ourselves, no matter how important not communicating was. In the cases where no one was around me and the only form of communication was through radio, it was even worse because then, I had no choice.

After doing the research for this subject, I have learned that any form of prolonged solitary confinement or state of being has psychopathological effects. In a study done on 14 inmates in the Walpole State Prison, in Massachusetts, in 1983, Stuart Grassian and Nancy Friedman concluded that prolonged solitary confinement led to a list of syndromic symptoms:

“1. Massive free-floating anxiety.
2. Hyper-responsivity to external stimuli.
3. Perceptual distortions and hallucinations in multiple spheres (auditory, visual, olfactory),
4. Derealization experiences,
3. Difficulty with concentration and memory.
6. Acute confusional states, or times associated with dissociative features, mutism, and subsequent partial amnesia for those events.
7. The emergence of primitive, ego-dystonic aggressive fantasies.
8. Ideas of reference and persecutory ideation, at times reaching delusional proportions.
9. Motor excitement, often associated with sudden, violent destructive or self-mutilation outbursts.
10. Rapid subsidence of symptoms upon termination of isolation.”

The good news is that the syndromic symptoms can be reversible, or at least they showed to be reversable in the Walpole study.

Back to the question. Though God can be, however briefly, construed as one God being, one God person, our intrinsic need to belong is best explained by a triune God that has been in perfect relationship with himself: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We are made in his image, according to Genesis 1:26, “And God said, let us make man in our image, after our likeness”. Interestingly enough, this particular verse says, “let US” make man in “OUR image”. Singular and plural in the same sentence. I won’t get into the specifics of the original Hebrew translation and etymology of the original text as plenty of scholarly study can be found on this topic and verse, but this English translation is accurate and does tell us that the God being said, “let God persons”, make man in “God persons” image. So, to reiterate, the being, God, decided to make man in the image of the God persons.
Scripture also calls us to go and make disciples of nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and The Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19). Plenty of other verses show us God is three in one, but it is important to understand that, in our limited human capacity, we cannot fully understand this.

We are a single conscious being. God is a tri-conscious being. While there are human beings that have multiple personalities, we identify them as having a disorder because the multiple personalities are never in perfect relationship and are always in conflict. According to an article written by, Philip Wang, M.D., Dr.P.H., August 2018, in Psychiatry.org, he says, “For people with dissociative identity disorder, the extent of problems functioning can vary widely, from minimal to significant problems. People often try to minimize the impact of their symptoms.” He continues to explain that because of this conflict amongst personalities, in what is no longer referred to as multiple personality disorder, but instead dissociative identity disorder, “People who have experienced physical and sexual abuse in childhood are at increased risk of dissociative identity disorder. The vast majority of people who develop dissociative disorders have experienced repetitive, overwhelming trauma in childhood. Among people with dissociative identity disorder in the United States, Canada and Europe, about 90 percent had been the victims of childhood abuse and neglect.” Furthermore, Dr. Wang concludes his article, by informing us that, “suicide attempts and other self-injurious behavior are common among people with dissociative identity disorder. More than 70 percent of outpatients with dissociative identity disorder have attempted suicide.”

I recently watched a short video of Carl Sagan called “Tesseract, 4th Dimension Made Easy by Carl Sagan on YouTube, where he explains the fourth dimension in a way that anyone can understand. He explains dimensionality as a notion, expanding from a two-dimensional "flatland" to our three-dimensional world, and onward to the fourth dimension. He explains that “if you have a line segment and move it at right angles to itself in equal length to create a square, then move that square in equal length and right angles to itself, you have a cube. He goes on to say that we understand that the cube casts a shadow. When we do that, we see two squares with their vertices connected. When we observe the shadow of a three-dimensional object in its two-dimensional shadow, we notice not all the lines appear equal and not all the angles are right angles. The three-dimensional object has not been perfectly represented in its projection of two dimensions, but that’s part of the cost of loosing a dimension in the projection.” He continues to very clearly explain that if we try to take that same three-dimensional cube and try to project it into a fourth physical dimension it would be impossible because we are all part of a third physical dimension. In the video, the best Carl Sagan can do is show us the projection of a shadow of a four-dimensional cube, known as a Tesseract, or Hypercube. His prop showed a small cube inside a bigger cube where the vertices were all connected. He then says that “while we cannot imagine the world of four dimensions, we can certainly think about it. Carl Sagan’s help in understanding projections from one dimension to another helps me understand the relationship between a tri-conscious being and his single conscious creation.
C.S. Lewis uses a similar, yet intentional example to explain God in his book, “Mere Christianity”. “Now the Christian account of God involves just the same principle. The human level is a simple and rather empty level. On the human level one person is one being, and any two persons are two separate beings—just as, in two dimensions (say on a flat sheet of paper) one square is one figure, and any two squares are two separate figures. On the Divine level you still find personalities; but up there you find them combined in new ways which we, who do not live on that level, cannot imagine. In God's dimension, so to speak, you find a being who is three Persons while remaining one Being, just as a cube is six squares while remaining one cube.”

He also helps us understand the trinity by explaining our relationship to God by saying,

We don't use the words begetting or begotten much in modern English, but everyone still knows what they mean. To beget is to become the father of: to create is to make. And the difference is this. When you beget, you beget something of the same kind as yourself. A man begets human babies, a beaver begets little beavers and a bird begets eggs which turn into little birds. But when you make, you make something of a different kind from yourself. A bird makes a nest, a beaver builds a dam, a man makes a wireless set—or he may make something more like himself than a wireless set: say, a statue. If he is a clever enough carver he may make a statue which is very like a man indeed. But, of course, it is not a real man; it only looks like one. It cannot breathe or think. It is not alive. Now that is the first thing to get clear. What God begets is God; just as what man begets is man. What God creates is not God; just as what man makes is not man. That is why men are not Sons of God in the sense that Christ is. They may be like God in certain ways, but they are not things of the same kind. They are more like statues or pictures of God. A statue has the shape of a man but it is not alive. In the same way, man has (in a sense I am going to explain) the "shape" or likeness of God, but he has not got the kind of life God has.”

The best way I can explain what Carl Sagan and C.S. Lewis so eloquently explain in relation to us and God is to use a dog analogy. For example, when I leave my house, my dog looks at me and does not understand why I am leaving, even though I do it most of the week; I wake up, take him out, feed him, refill his water, get ready and go to work. He does not understand where I leave to, let alone why. If I sat there and tried to explain to my faithful companion, Tyson (Black Min-pin), that I have to go to work so that I can have enough money to pay rent for the house he spends every day at, so that I can also buy the food he eats, so that I can pay the bills I have, etc., he would do that funny side head tilt dogs do when humans act weird or make weird noises in front of them. My dog would not respond verbally in any way, and if I got up at the end of explaining it all and went to leave for work, he would still follow me to the door with the expectation that I will either let him out, bring him with me, or both. And if I told anyone that I explained these things every day to my dog in hopes that he will one day understand, people would laugh at me, and understandably so. The reason the thought of it is so comical is because there is no way that my dog will ever understand me. The reason is because my dog is not on the same realm of understanding that I am, or that my 13yr old is at. If I explained it to my daughter, no problem, she gets it, in fact, I have never had to explain it to her. She picked it up on her own. Her realm of understanding is aligned with mine and above our dog Tyson’s. Well, it is the same way with God. How can we, beings of single consciousness, understand a tri-conscious being? It is impossible. What we know and understand about God compares to what Tyson knows and understands about me.

The Holy Trinity is all about relationship, perfect relationship in fact. That is why the Trinity makes sense and the rejection of it leaves more to question. How could we explain the intrinsic feeling and need to belong? And, how could God pray to God about saving God, so that God could later resurrect God and leave God as a counselor for everyone while God ascended to the right hand of God until the return of God? That’s easy, the Holy Trinity, that’s how.

Excerpt from unpublished title, "Hope Starts At The Grave", by Stevens Atehortua
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