Is There Really a Triune God?

God is one and only one, but He eternally exists in Triunity. This is a mystery. But to those who will, by faith, accept God in His great revelation to man, the Holy Bible declares that the mystery becomes a reality. In concluding this weighty matter of the Godhead, note the following quotations of Richard Starch and Christopher Gornold-Smith.

According to Richard Starch:
“There is and can be only one God—of this, all Christians are absolutely certain, just as much as Muslims. Nor can any other being be in any way compared to Him, for He is infinite and eternal while all else is finite and created. Least of all can human beings be compared to Him, as He is utterly just, loving, merciful and good, while men, even the saints and prophets, are sinners. Why then have Christians maintained that Jesus Christ is divine, and so also the Holy Spirit of God? There must have been very strong reasons for them to do something so strange.

“Let us begin with the Holy Spirit, as it may be easier to understand Christian beliefs about Him. The Bible speaks of the Spirit as a personal reality and a power (as indeed does the Qur’an); what is more, a personal reality and a power that God can and does send to inspire His prophets and His people. But He is the Spirit of God, and the Spirit of God cannot be a distinct being created by God, like a human spirit or an angel. The spirit of a man is not something separate from the man, which he might make or unmake; it is part of that man’s very being, yet not the whole of it. So also with the Spirit of God. He must be truly divine, and not a created being. Nor can He be a second God, for there cannot be any such thing. He must be in some way a part or aspect or attribute of the one God—truly God, yet not exhausting the whole meaning of the name ‘God.’

“Consider then what the Bible tells us about Jesus. In His own time many people recognized Him as a prophet, and He accepted the name. If that had been all, there would be no problem. But it was not all. He did not speak of revelations granted to Him, as other prophets did; He spoke as if He himself were the revealer or even that which was revealed. He did not only warn of judgment to come, as other prophets did; He said that He himself would be the judge. Most important of all, He said that He had come to do something that was not the work of any prophet; He had come to give His life as a ransom for many, to be lifted up on the Cross to draw all men to himself. The apostle Peter described this in words taken from the prophecies of the Old Testament: Jesus, he said, was the bearer of our sins (1 Peter 2:24).

“But these are things which only God can do. A prophet can reveal what God says to him; he can speak in the name of God, as God’s apostle and representative; but he cannot speak as if he himself had authority. Jesus did. A prophet can warn people of judgment to come; but only God can actually judge, for only He understands the inner hearts of people. And no created being could ransom sinful men for God, or bear their sins; God would never punish the innocent, nor would it do the guilty any good if He did. But if God himself took the weight of our rebellion and bore the pain of our sinfulness, that really could make the difference.

“There are (a Christian writer once said) three great barriers between God and the human race. One is the barrier of nature: God alone is God, and we are mere humans. The second is the barrier of sin: God is good, and we are not. The third is the barrier of death: God is eternal, and we are mortals. There is no way any of us could cross or break down any of those barriers. But God, who is Almighty, could and did. He broke down the first barrier by taking our human nature upon himself; He broke down the second by bearing our sin; and He broke down the third when Jesus rose from the dead.

“Yet Jesus was not the whole of God; indeed, He spoke of and to God. Therefore, as with the Holy Spirit, we seem driven to speak in terms of a part or aspect or attribute of God; not as a lesser being, not as a second god, but truly part of the One God.

“What sort of language should we use to refer to Him? Jesus himself habitually spoke of God as His Father, and hence it has been very common to use the phrase ‘God the Son’ or ‘The Son of God.’ This had one serious disadvantage; it might suggest to pagans something like one of their legends, in which a ‘god’ comes to earth and has a child, by a human woman. Such an idea seems equally blasphemous to Jews, Christians and Muslims. There is in fact only one place in the Gospels where Jesus’ ‘Sonship’ is connected in any way with His birth, Luke 1:35, which is simply indicating the truth that Jesus’ birth was by the direct will of God, that He was born of a virgin, without any human father. Elsewhere it is made clear that He always had been ‘the Son,’ from all eternity, one aspect of the one eternal God.

“The other key term that the New Testament uses is ‘The Word of God’—one especially used by the apostle John. (It is interesting that this expression is also used to describe Jesus in the Qur’an.) A human ‘word’ is something distinct from the people who use it; for one thing, any number of people may use the same word. But God’s Word is different; it is the expression of His will, and cannot be distinguished from Him except as an aspect or attribute of His; it is as truly divine as His Spirit. And since Jesus came not only to save us but to reveal the truth about God, to show God’s loving will in His life as well as His words, ‘The Word of God’ seemed particularly appropriate as a way to refer to Him; for it is through words that we are able to tell one another the truth.

“Christians have therefore felt obliged to recognize that within the eternal unity of God there are three different aspects, the Father, the Son or Word, and the Holy Spirit. Each is fully divine, but none is, by itself, exhausting what is meant by the word ‘God.’ Although in English these Three have traditionally been called ‘persons,’ this is not meant to suggest three different people; the word was actually taken over from Latin, in which it can often mean something more like ‘character,’ or even ‘mask,’ a notion quite close to what was meant earlier by the use of the word ‘aspect.’ There is no question in any way of denying the Oneness of God; it is simply a matter of doing justice to what He himself has revealed about himself in the word of His prophets and apostles and in the work of His Word and His Spirit.”

Christopher Gornold-Smith writes concerning the Trinity:
“Muslims need to know that the Christian belief in the Trinity has been misunderstood. Christians do not believe in three Gods. So what do they believe?

“First of all, Christians recognize the greatness and essential mystery of the Divine Being of God. “Saint Basil, one of the great leaders of the Early Christian Church, said it is easier to measure the entire ocean in a little cup than to grasp the greatness of God in the human mind. We can say things about God that we know to be true, for God himself has revealed them. But if we could fully understand the Nature and Being of God, we would have to be as great as God himself or He would have to be as small as we are. And both of these notions would be at once impossible and blasphemous.

“Second, Christians recognize the unique authority of Jesus Christ.

“The Injil (John 1:1-14) describes Jesus as the living Word of God. It is interesting to note that Muslims too believe that Jesus is the ‘Word from Him.’ As I write, my thoughts, which are part of me, are expressed and embodied in words. As you read my words you understand the way I think. My words are part of me. Remember, God’s Word is perfect. There is no imperfection in God. If Jesus is the living Word of God, which we agree He is, then He is the perfect expression of God. His teachings are perfect; His life is perfect; His character is perfect. This gives Him unique authority. We agree that God alone is perfect. Yet we have seen that Jesus is also perfect.

“It goes one step further. I said my words are part of me. If Jesus is God’s Living Word, then Jesus is, in some mysterious sense, part with God. In what sense we shall see later. “In the New Testament there is an important statement about this; ‘In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his Being, sustaining all things by his powerful word’ (Hebrews 1:1-3).

“These verses describe Jesus Christ in His relationship to God. Three expressions are used: Son, radiance and representation.

“When Christians describe Jesus as the Son of God they do NOT mean that God had any kind of sexual relationship with Mary and thus begat Jesus as His Son! That would be as blasphemous as it would be abhorrent. Jesus himself said, ‘God is a Spirit’ (John 4:24). In Hebrews 3:1-3 it is clear the word Son does not refer to a physical relationship, for these verses describe the Son as existing before the material universe.

“There is a clue to the meaning in the next key word: radiance. He is the ‘radiance of God’s glory.’ What radiance is to a source of light, Jesus Christ is to God. It is through the radiance that enters your eye you can see a source of light. You cannot see the source without the radiance, but without the source the radiance would not be. There is no source without radiance; no radiance without source.

“The third word is representation. Keep in mind the language of the original is Greek. The Greek word here is charakter, which we translate as representation. It refers to the impression made by a seal on wax or clay. In ancient times, for any document to carry authority it had to be sealed. The charakter gave it the mark of authenticity, so it carried all the power of the one to whom the seal belonged. Reading such a document is the same as personally meeting with the author. Because the charakter was formed directly from the seal, the two were identical in form. To see the stamped impression, the charakter, was to see the seal itself. Of course, without the owner’s seal there would be no tamp to reveal it.

“The terms radiance, representation (charakter) and Word convey relationship, but they do not convey personal, conscious existence. The closest term we have in human language is Son. A son could not exist without a father; a son may be expected to look like his father; a son may know the mind of his father; a son can officially represent his father and communicate his wishes; and a son is also a living, conscious person. Is it surprising that Jesus Christ referred to God as Father? Jesus said, ‘He who has seen me has seen the Father’ (John 14:9), and ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’ (John 14:6).

“Third, Christians believe in the Holy Spirit.

“In the Gospel (Injil) we read that the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God himself. Jesus spoke of the Holy Spirit not as an angel (not even the archangel Gabriel) nor as another prophet, but as One like himself in nature and as God.

“Jesus said, ‘I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever—The Spirit of truth’ (John 14:16). The Greek word translated another is allos. The word means another of the same kind. Jesus was saying that just as He and the Father were One in Nature, so the Holy Spirit is also of the same Divine Nature.

“What is the difference between a man and a man’s spirit? What is the difference between God and the Spirit of God? In the Holy Scriptures the terms Holy Spirit and Spirit of God are used interchangeably. The Holy Spirit is God. In the first two verses of the Bible (the first two verses of the Taurat) we read, ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,’ and ‘the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters’ (Genesis 1:1,2).

“Jesus was not describing another prophet. He said, ‘The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he [already] lives with you’ (John 14:17).

“Jesus made it very clear that the Holy Spirit was not merely an influence or force from God; the Holy Spirit is God. The Holy Spirit teaches us (John 14:26), testifies about Jesus (John 15:26), reminds us of what Jesus said (John 4:26), guides us into truth (John 16:13), and convicts the world of guilt in regard to sin, righteousness and judgment (John 16:8). The Holy Spirit has personal, conscious and divine existence.

“How can all this be brought together?

“It is beyond the capacity of man to fully comprehend God in His infinite greatness. Man himself, even within his small being, is complex and difficult to understand. Saint Augustine described man as a complex of body, soul and spirit—three, yet one. Is my body, relating to the physical world, really me? Of course it is. Is my soul, relating to the mental world, really me? Yes. Is my spirit, which responds to God, really me? Yes. Then am I three men or one? ne.

“How much more is the complexity of God beyond man’s reach! Yet God has revealed himself. In this profound complexity of God’s Being there is three-ness. Why not two-ness or four-ness? Simply because it is so. What emerges from a close study of Scripture is that God is One, yet within that unity there is a threeness of Being. Thus comes the expression Tri-unity, or Trinity. This also means there is within God—in His self-sufficient, eternal relationship—an eternal dynamic.

“When Christians speak of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, they do not mean there are three gods. Neither do they mean that these are just three modes in which God has revealed himself. No, it goes beyond that. God eternally exists in Tri-unity. The Son, the living Word of God, came to us in human form when Jesus was born, but within the Godhead He had always been. God was not silent before Jesus (the Word of God) came into the world. And God’s eternal Holy Spirit has always been moving. He is the Lord and giver of life.

“Certainly there is mystery in this Tri-unity, mystery far greater than that of man’s own being. But this is what we should expect of God. He remains above and beyond us in His essential Being, yet He has revealed himself to us in Jesus Christ, the Word of God.”

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