The Christian Trinity is a belief that has caused debate for many
centuries. The central statement of it, that there is One True God,
seems to often get lost by readers!
The concept of anything being One and Three at the same time
is pretty tough to deeply understand. For most Christians,
the whole subject is often just considered too complicated to think
much about, so the Trinity is just accepted on Faith. That may not
actually be a bad thing! Other religions, like Judaism and Islam,
even think that Christianity worships more than the One True God
they know, an unfortunate misunderstanding, since Christianity
definitely believes the First Commandment and always
confirms that we have One True God! It even seems possible
that, had Muhammad realized the consequences of the Trinity,
and realized that Christians did NOT believe in a SECOND God (Jesus),
he might have felt that Allah Himself had spent 30 years on Earth,
and Islam and Christianity would then have been relatively identical!|
Consider these three views of a man. How many men are ACTUALLY present? One, without the slightest doubt! But how many rather different "perceptions" seem to be present, which are SO different as to possibly appear to be distinctly different people? Apparently, three! This analogy is an example of the premise being offered here.
Many Christians seem to think of the Trinity as a "team" concept, where Three are somehow "working together". It may be an unfortunate aspect of the word "TRI-nity" that inspires such three-centeredness. But always remember the First Commandment, that there is ONE God. And, often overlooked, did you realize that no "group activity" of the Members of the Trinity was ever recorded in the Bible? The experiences regarding the Father all occurred to Jewish witnesses many hundred years before Jesus was born. Even then, Moses and the others apparently never actually "looked at" God. Then, much later, there was Jesus. Then, weeks AFTER His Crucifixion, the Holy Spirit arrived. Yes, we all agree that the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit all exist today (and always have). The point being made here is that the historical record of the Bible presents them more as a "sequence" than as a concurrent "team". Do you see the motivation for considering this premise of our One God as three different perspectives? It seems important to make sure that both Christians and others realize that Christianity is based on the First Commandment statement that there is One God, and this seems to be beneficial in that regard. It even seems to represent a wonderful assurance that the Bible is reliable, because it never "messes up" by actually presenting more than One of the Trinity at any moment.
A new and unique approach to better comprehending the Trinity is presented here. It does not challenge or alter ANY of the traditional knowledge that has been developed over the centuries by Christian scholars. The concept of God being One and Three at the same time has always been a difficult idea. This new approach presents a nice way of visualizing and understanding how this is possible. This new approach appears to have several additional insights as well.
Given these areas to explain, the Christian leaders who met at the Council of Nicaea three hundred years after Jesus felt the need to agree on some explanation. After arguing for a while, they settled on what is called the Trinity as being the "best" available explanation. They meant it as a way of both confirming that the First Commandment was absolutely true, that there is One God, and also presenting a possible explanation of how Jesus could apparently have been talking to the Father. (An implied aspect of this Trinity concept is that the Earthly Jesus was not then fully aware of His Own Divinity, in that He felt He needed to consult the Father about some matters.) (Another consideration regarding these "conversations" is that the human authors of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John could not have been firsthand witnesses to these communications, and so their Texts must certainly have been based on things that Jesus had told them regarding such conversations.).
In any case, the concept of the Trinity was introduced in order to provide a possible explanation regarding Jesus' references to the Father and the Holy Spirit as distinctly separate Divine Beings, while still ensuring absolute adherence to the First Commandment about there being One God.
As far as the author knows, none of the conceptualizations presented before takes the following perspective, so it is humbly offered here for consideration. These thoughts are not meant to challenge in any way the previous thoughts of Biblical scholars. On the contrary, these thoughts are actually meant as supporting structure, merely being a way to better visualize the possibility of seeing three apparently very different and distinct personalities from a single entity, God. The author believes that this concept is totally compatible with all rational previous thought.
A self-conscious person might "argue with himself" over some ethical dilemma. As a husband, father, employee, Church-goer, neighbor, he has various demeanors to others, and has various internal thought processes and attitudes. As father, there is often the responsibility for establishing and enforcing rules, but as employee, the responsibility is to follow the rules of others. This sort of analogy seems to emphasize "oneness"
Another common type of psychology analogy is regarding identical twins or triplets. Such an analogy seems to emphasize "threeness".
Many of the analogies that have been used by scholars have been
based on "physical realities" that we all accept:
Extensive criticism has been written which finds fault in such examples, mostly because they seem to always tend to be either tritheistic or modalistic, and not truly an example where both situations (one and three) are simultaneously and continuously true. It is believed that current premise overcomes this problem. It appears to totally support the universal, continuous and permanent presence of both Three and One, with no "preference" for either perception.
Your curiosity is such that you want to explore more of the building. In order to do this, you quickly see that you would have to climb all the way back down the mountain and then back up a different path, to be able to come up to the building from a different side. Because you are such an inquisitive person, you choose to do this, even though you know it will involve many more days of very difficult climbing, first down, then up. As you finally approach the building again, you notice that there is also a small window centered on this wall. Excitedly, you run up to the window to look in, pretty much expecting to see the same lone, round, brown, apparently old, wooden object in the center of the room. Instead, you are surprised to find a single beautiful bright green rectangle, which seems reflective as though it is made of smooth metal. Rectangular and not round? Green and not brown? Shiny and not dull? Apparently metal and not apparently wooden? You are REALLY confused now!
Have you gone mad? Are you now a raving lunatic? Are you really looking into the same building at the same object? You saw before with your own eyes. And this is so very different! Could it really be the same object? But that seems impossible!
You even start to question exactly what you saw the week before from that other window! Your logic clearly tells you that this obviously could not be the same object.
OK! You are a truly persistent person! On the way up, you had noticed
yet another path up the mountain, so you climb all the way back down
again and then take that third path up. This again is a very
difficult and time-consuming climb, and you again get near the
building a week later. This path arrives at
the building with access to only
the roof of the building, which is flat like the walls and has one small
skylight-type window in the center of it. Apprehensively, not knowing
what to expect to see, you approach the window to look down in.
You look in to see a single grayish rectangular, almost squarish, object that appears to be made of some kind of linen or other cloth.
You will certainly spend a lot of time afterwards trying to figure out just what you actually saw. Could you have been mistaken in seeing the round, brown, old wooden thing? But you are really sure you actually saw it. What about the other memories you had of what you saw in the building. It just doesn't seem logical! Over and over, you mull through what you know. In each case, you confirm to yourself that you always saw just ONE object present. But, WOW, the differences! It seems absolutely clear to you that you have looked at THREE DIFFERENT objects! How could you question THAT? Otherwise, you couldn't even consider the most basic of things about it, like its color. (What color IS it, anyway?) But then there is that Book that absolutely says that there is One object in the building! You later even feel the need to retrace your arduous climbs to each window, to confirm that it wasn't a hallucination and it actually was the one and same building and that there was only one object in the center of the otherwise bare room. Gee, you wish you had a camera!
Add to this situation, you happen to have that Reference Book, which you had come to previously believe is accurate. That Book does not actually offer explanations for the differences you see but it DOES assure you that there is only One object in the room.
Eventually, you will either get so frustrated that you will probably try to forget (or ignore) the whole experience, or you might eventually come upon the actual truth of the matter.
You might come to realize that there actually IS a single, real three-dimensional object in the room that could give each of the three very different appearances you had witnessed through the different windows. What if it was most of a 55-gallon oil drum, lying on its side, with the (complete) top (round, brown, old, wooden) surface facing the first window. The view through the second wall window was of the green painted outside of the shiny new metal sidewall of the drum but it was not as tall as the round view because most of the top half of the drum had been cut away. That made it appear very rectangular and not very tall. (You may or may not have noticed this apparent difference in height.) The view through the roof skylight window was actually looking at the interior of the bottom half of the drum, which had been lined with gray cloth. The materials, textures and colors of the drum's side and top and interior lining are different, which explains the other disparate findings of the three views.
Each view made sense in itself and did not appear to be incomplete in any way. Nothing seemed to be missing. But, with just the information from the view through any one window, you could never actually figure out what it really was.
Once you came to accept this more comprehensive concept of the object, you could then probably learn more by comparing the similarities and differences you saw through the three windows. Unfortunately, because of the location and position of the building, you could never look in more than one window at a time. But you could start to compare your notes on the various views and ask yourself productive questions to refine your understandings of the actual object. For example, you might now notice the apparently insignificant vertical line above the right hand edge of the second view, and realize it must represent the edge of the round disk you saw from the first view. You might come to realize that the third view must be concave. Will all of your resultant conclusions be absolutely correct? Probably not, particularly since you would never be able to actually access the object. However, your conclusions will certainly be a LOT more correct and complete than would otherwise have been possible. You have certainly noted that there was ONE object in the room, but it looked like THREE very different objects through the small windows.
This is centrally important here. How many actual objects are in that room? Without a doubt, we know it is One. But how many VERY different appearances did we see through the windows we could get to? Three. This analogy is meant to suggest that the One actual object certainly can convince us that there are Three, rather different objects in there.
Let us now extend our analogy and say that, instead of part of a 55-gallon drum in that room, there was a Person (Substance?), God, sitting at that same spot, in a chair in the center of that room.
Above this window might be a sign saying "The One God" or "Father" or "YHWH" or "Jehovah".
The testimony from Moses established absolutely that there was but One God in that building.
Seeing this view did not invalidate the "original" view of God. At any time, it was still possible to look in that first window and see the profile view of the Powerful Person. This second view just added some additional information, in a sense of progressive illumination or possibly progressive revelation. In addition, it is important to note that the perspective and knowledge gained through EITHER window gives a COMPLETE view of the Person in the room and is not actually "dependent" on the view from the other window.
This has turned out to be important because we humans have concluded that the two Images we have "seen" are apparently SO incompatible, that we be believe we are looking at two distinct Persons. We have then come to consider the Father to be a unique Person and Jesus to separately be a unique Person, when we view through the appropriate window. (No one has EVER witnessed the Two simultaneously, even though all of Christianity accepts that They simultaneously exist! Incidents such as Matt. 3:16 say that Jesus saw the Spirit of God, but no human apparently did. There are a number of other such Scriptures. There seems to be a single reference in Acts 7:55-56 where the First Commandment seems to be violated. I have no explanation for that. In the nearly 800,000 words of the Bible, that seems to be the lone "challenge" to there being One God.)
In the same way that the color brown had no relevance or even meaning through the second window of our earlier analogy (even though it actually still had an unseen validity), the Authority and Might of the Father do not seem to be very relevant to us when we view Jesus and His Gentleness and Love. [Note also that Gentleness and Love were also unseen Attributes of the God seen through the first window by the Jews, but that such characteristics might have been perceived as signs of "weakness" at that earlier time.]
Such characteristics are certainly actually all present, of course (but generally unseen), because it is, after all, One Essence. But the individual views we have, of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, are independent views.
However, this premise clearly suggests that the Holy Spirit shares the Power and Authority, and the Love and the Gentleness, witnessed through the other windows. Those characteristics just are not obvious from this view. There are some references in the Old Testament to the Spirit, and there are certainly examples of Helpfulness and Guidance.
This approach does not appear to give "preference" to either the One or the Three conceptualization. At the same time, it presents a logical harmonization of these two apparently disparate perceptions.
Christians (actually, ancient Jews) would look in one window and see the Powerful and Stern Father; in another, and see the Loving Jesus; in the third, and see the Helpful Holy Spirit. In each case, we are clearly actually looking at the One, True God, as the Bible clearly tells us! Instead of just seeing different colors or textures on a simple object in my simplistic first analogy, we see really complicated images and sensations with complex differences. In other words, under certain circumstances, we find ourselves looking in one or another of the windows, and seeing that "Person". Since it is an impossibility for any one person to simultaneously look in through all three windows, our perception must necessarily be concluded as being of Three Persons. Our guidebook, the Bible, confirms to us that there is actually only One (Substance?) God actually there.
The author is essentially claiming that a "group portrait" of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit would be impossible!
This building analogy seems to have another helpful feature. Our views of the Father and the Holy Spirit have been at a distance and through a small, dirty window. This situation would explain how our scholars have sometimes come to different conclusions from each other.
Our example images have each seemed to show "depth" which might easily lead an inquisitive mind to speculate about edgeways views. The wonderful artistic images here have helped us see the inter-relationships between the three images. But what if we only had these "flattened" images available to us? (The drawings of the views of the drum object did not include shadows or any other evidence of "depth" in any of the images, which caused them to seem especially incompatible with each other).
|the Father||the Son, Jesus||the Holy Spirit|
When we look at these views, there might not seem to be any obvious clue that an image includes a "depth". They each appear to be "flat". If they are flat, AND THEY EACH SEEM TO BE COMPLETE IN THEMSELVES, then why even think about what the edge view would be? The author thinks that THIS is the reason why many scholars had not earlier considered the present premise. Without third-dimensional clues in each of the views, there would be little reason to even consider such a possibility, and the three views would be considered (confusingly) absolutely independent of each other.
If scholars had been able to effectively look into nice large picture-windows, they could have moved around to see slightly different perspectives through different parts of the large window, and they might then have been able to better sense a depth of each view, and possibly more fully understand what they were seeing. In that case, the current conceptualizations of the Father and the Holy Spirit would be far more comprehensive than they are. Of course, if the scholars could have somehow gotten INTO the room, they would have been able to walk around and again get various, even better perspectives. (That last opportunity would not be available until we experience physical death.)
Instead of these things, scholars have had to work with a rather limited view of God, particularly the Father and the Holy Spirit, just like our analogy's person looking through small, dirty windows at a moderately distant Person. It is therefore easy to see how scholars might come to disagree about some aspects of the Trinity. Hopefully, this new perspective might help in that regard.
This approach has many apparent additional advantages over previous ideas. For example, it is easy to see how Jews and Muslims, who have only had access to that first window, would devoutly believe in the same God/Jehovah/Father/Allah/YHWH as Christians do, and yet not see significance in Jesus or the Holy Spirit. They see a view that appears to be complete (it is) and without internal contradiction (it is).
Even though their cultures have come to different conclusions and their beliefs are therefore very different from Christian beliefs that center on Jesus and the Trinity, this conceptualization offers an opportunity to find compatibilities between the three God-centered belief systems. In our own ways, we are each worshipping the One God, the best we can! And, since Muslims do not accept or understand the concept of the Trinity, Jesus seems to them to be perceived by Christians as a SECOND God, while they KNOW that there is ONLY ONE! Is it any wonder that they have little respect for Christianity, that, in their minds, worships an obviously "false" God, Jesus? Muslims have tremendous respect for Jesus, Whom they consider a Prophet, but they do not respect Christianity because it seems to them to Worship a second God! (Interestingly though, Muslims fully expect Jesus to Return in a Final Judgment, and I have never heard of any (human) Prophet doing that!)
This premise suggests that Muslims are wrong about that, that Jesus actually WAS God (Whom they call Allah) walking the Earth 600 years earlier.
Christians might try to comprehend what conclusions they would have come to had they not had access to the second and third windows. Realistically, they might have come to conclusions very similar to those of Judaism or Islam. Muslims and Jews might try to see how Christians, who believe they have additional perspectives on God, might have come to differing conclusions based on those perspectives. There may be further extensions of this concept to even better encourage dialogues between different God-centered belief groups.
As briefly mentioned earlier, had Muhammad fully comprehended the concept of the Trinity, specifically the "One God" part, he might easily have realized that Allah had Personally visited Earth 600 years earlier, in the form of Jesus. With this adjustment, Christianity and Islam are astoundingly similar!
When there are characteristics of Two of Them that appear to be incompatible with each other, then that just seems to confirm that it is not possible to "look in two of the windows" at the same time! The views are greatly INDEPENDENT! Trying to enforce some meaning of the concept "brown" in our second view of the shiny green object would be artificial and inappropriate, even though "brown" actually had an invisible meaning.
An additional point: It is common for people to refer to the three "Persons" of the Trinity. This has even been done in this essay to match the common descriptions, including the images of the man. This has always caused the author distress. First of all, none of the Three are likely to be actual people in any sense that we normally apply the term. Second, this presentation is meant to suggest that there is actually only a single Entity (Essence???) (Substance???) (Person???) who is God, and that the three separate Persons that we have come to be aware of as the Trinity are actually just extremely different appearances or perceptions of this one truly remarkable God, because of the various perspectives we might have from our three windows. And, yes, I know that God made Adam "in His own image" (Gen. 1:26-27).
This approach has some interesting implications on a number of other Christian subjects. An example is the Pre-existence of Christ. Scholars have long argued about whether Christ had existence before he was born of Mary. This perspective makes it obvious that He did (since He and the Father share the same actual existence as God), and that the Trinity has therefore been in existence forever.
Many other areas of Christian debate and conflict, such as Subordination, Arianism, Monarchianism, Adoptionism, Sabellianism, the Council of Nicaea, Modalism, Kenotic Theology, Unitarianism, Deism, and many other topics are equally impacted. In nearly every case, very clear and obvious resolutions to these various controversies seem to present themselves. The new, seemingly obvious conclusions are quite compatible with mainline modern Christian thought. There would no longer be any need to consider questions of the co-equality or co-eternality of the Three. They are and always have been One and so such questions become superfluous. Deut. 6:4: "The Lord our God is one Lord."
The debate over seeming plural references in Genesis and elsewhere (Gen. 1:26, Gen. 11:7, Gen. 18, Isa. 48:16 .) could suddenly make obvious sense. God early realized that our limited minds could never comprehend His Fullness, and that we would certainly perceive aspects of Him in Three different senses.
The whole concept of Subordination loses all significance if one recognizes that Jesus actually WAS God while He was on Earth. How could He have then been "less than God"? Ancient Arianism and modern-day Jehovah's Witnesses (and others) believe that Jesus is/was not fully God. This premise shows they are/were clearly wrong in that opinion.
The whole concept of Adoptionism also loses all significance. This premise clearly establishes that God did not just choose to "Adopt" a particularly virtuous Galilean to become the Son. He didn't NEED to be "Adopted" because He WAS ALREADY the Son of the Trinity, essentially the Person in my room analogy. Ancient Adoptionism and modern-day Unitarian belief systems hold this view, which this premise clearly shows to be incorrect.
It may be unfortunate that we humans have elected to use the word "Son" to refer to Jesus. Our normal understanding of the meaning of that word is involved with immaturity, subordinate existence, and derivation from a father figure. The present premise establishes that this approach is inappropriate. If we humans had somehow chosen to think of the Father and Jesus as "Brother One and Brother Two" we may have never been faced with some of those debates! (The author realizes how arrogant it would have sounded to others if Jesus had referred to God as His brother! His Humility must certainly have required that He use the term Father, to intentionally imply an inequality, even though that inequality didn't actually exist.
As to the subject of the Pre-Existence of Christ, again, this premise shows that the subject does not even need to be debated! There can be no doubt that the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit MUST be co-eternal and co-equal, because they are actually one and the same Being (in the room)! Jesus therefore Pre-Existed, where no argument could possibly claim otherwise.
If this premise is valid, the primary reason for the Great Schism, which broke apart the Catholic and Orthodox branches of Christianity, might become meaningless. Catholic (and therefore Protestant) belief is that the Son is exactly equal to the Father and that BOTH of them initiated the Holy Spirit (called filioque). Orthodox belief is that the Son is, well, a son, and therefore less than equal to the Father. The "Filioque Clause" addition to the Nicene Creed by the Catholic Church (by a Pope around 600 AD) formalized this difference of opinion. The Orthodox Church has always insisted that the Holy Spirit "proceeded" from the Father (called single procession) while the Catholic Church has insisted that the Holy Spirit "proceeded" from the Father and the Son (called double procession). This premise suggests that the Holy Spirit has existed since before Genesis, and therefore did not need to "proceed" in either way, because It already existed!
The Filioque clause eventually greatly contributed to the Church breaking apart. This current premise is that the Three are actually just different perceptions (on our part) of the One, True God, and that this situation has forever been true. This would therefore mandate an exact, permanent equality and identity between all Three. With that hurdle removed, Catholic and Orthodox beliefs become quite similar, and a final resolution of the Schism might be possible!
Some concepts related to the Nature of Jesus may need to be reviewed, as a result of this new approach. This premise might seem to necessitate a Kenotic, "emptying" type of understanding regarding a previously existent, all-knowing Son being able to become "truly human". That situation would permit the mortal Jesus to have human experiences, without the Divine knowledge that He was actually immune to pain, suffering and Death. But that is a separate matter from this premise and will not be considered here.
Any concept as complex as the Trinity necessarily involves a vast multitude of consequences. The author has studied many of the potentially affected areas and is convinced that this approach is absolutely Christian and strictly Scriptural. It is certain that there will be some who will see real or imagined dangers in these thoughts. If so, and if anyone feels that this is a heretical concept, it would be appreciated to receive a (non-passionate) note which presents such challenges. The author feels confident that this concept does not impugn any previous reasonable Trinity conclusions, and is solid enough to withstand any and all such attacks.
It includes a more comprehensive discussion on how seemingly contradictory things might actually be compatible, including an historic example involving Einstein that proved that it is possible. That essay also presents how "parallel perceptions" might be a valid way of understanding such subjects that appear to include incompatible known facts.
more directly addresses this premise's application to those areas.
The author asks your patience and tolerance regarding these presentations.
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Pastor C Johnson
A Christ Walk Church