Parsing the Trinity

What prompts this post is a post at one of my daily must-reads: Joe Carter’s the evangelical outpost. The post shows, through Biblically-based logic, that Jews and Muslims do not worship the same God as Christians.

The post, “Bait and Switch Theology: Religious Liberty and the Monotheistic Fallacy”, is not convincing. Not in the least. Joe’s logic is based on the fact that Jews and Muslims deny Christ as a member of the Trinitarian God. True. That does not, however, change the nature of God. Christ is One with God; He is God. I suggest that what distinguishes us from Jews and Muslims is not the nature of the God we worship, it is the nature of our understanding of God.

Having been raised a Jew, then receiving Christ through the agency of the Holy Spirit, my take on it is that I worshipped the exact same God as a Jew as I do now. God has not changed. I have, at least in my knowledge of the nature of God.

I maintain that no faithful Christian who holds Scripture to be the sole authority can make the statement that his God is different than the Deity worshipped by Jews. God IS. Period. I also maintain that far too much time and attention has been spent in parsing the various roles and attributes of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Sometimes losing sight of the proverbial forest for the trees.

It actually can make your head hurt, trying to discern these differences and nuances. I always recall the advice given to me by a Jesuit, to the effect that too much study of the Trinity can make you holy — or drive you insane. Still, I cling to the bedrock notion that, at the end of the day, the Sh’ma from Deuteronomy 6:4 that is still true: Sh’ma Yisrael Adonai Elohaynu Adonai Echad — Hear, Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One. I still recite this, just before going to bed, and upon rising. Just to remind myself that some things are eternal.

Make no mistake. I believe that Jesus Christ is the only begotten Son of God. And that Jesus, as the Christ, is my savior. For this I will be eternally (literally) thankful. But Christ, as the Son of God, is also God. As is the Father, as is the Holy Spirit. I suggest that to attach too much emphasis on their separate natures is to slip into addition, instead of multiplication.

Let me explain. The most linear way we humans can think about three entities is to add 1 + 1 + 1 to get a sum, 3. Hmm. Trinity. Means “three”, doesn’t it? Yes, but it also means One. A better way to imagine God’s triune nature is to know that 1 x 1 x 1 is the product, 1.

The great Unity, a prime number that is perfect. God is eternal, and has certainly not changed since He first made the covenant with Abraham, or gave Moses the Law, or chose Mary to carry His only Son to join us in the mortal realm.

One. Unity. Anything more is just talk.

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  1. Mark Hunsaker · · Reply

    John Luke,

    Awesome post. I appreciate you sharing your thoughts from your personal journey.

    Indeed, Paul seems to share your thoughts when he talks about Abraham in Romans Chapter 4 being saved by Grace rather than works. Implied in this whole discussion by Paul is that Christ’s atoning work is eternal, which obviously shows that those from the Old Testament worship the same God as us living in the New Testament era.

    As usual, your words have a refreshing quality of being founded in simple truth. Thank you.

  2. Implied in that discussion? I don’t think so. Another thing that is mentioned in the Bible is that no one goes to the Father (think Jewish God) but through Jesus Christ. Now tell me again the different paths to heaven? We are meant to love everyone, and spread the good news to all. However we should not preach false doctrine when the Bible is so clear.

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