Our essential belief is in that Source of Reality - God - Who is the Creator of all things and the Revealer of His own signs. The debate between Christians and atheists about the existence of God, and with other religionists about the nature of His revelation, will be won by the party that provides the most illuminating arguments. To the victor will go the allegiance of all mankind and the prerogative to reshape the world. The losers will be consigned to the dust-heap of antiquated superstitions.
When we review present beliefs about God we see that the trinity is basic to orthodox Christianity, though it is not a teaching of Jesus, nor does the word ever appear in the New Testament. The doctrine that shaped this belief was formulated at the Council of Nicaea in A.D. 325. That the trinity doctrine has caused so much Christian division and bloodshed is not surprising, as the doctrine divides the Godhead and both contradicts scripture and defies simple reason. There is certainly nothing simple about the 23 volume explanations of the trinity by it's first apologist, St. Augustine. This work of fifteen years didn't satisfy Hilary, who wrote a further 12 volumes, still unsuccessfully resolving the mystery. A Muslim tradition says: "knowledge is a single point, but the ignorant have multiplied it." So perplexing is the problem of the three persons of one god that it has been something of a selling point for Christianity amongst the credulous, as with Tertullian who wrote: "I believe because it is impossible."
Complimenting the trinity is the doctrine of the incarnation - God become man. As shocking
and pagan as this sounds in Jewish and Islamic ears, it certainly exalts our Prophet
over theirs.(5) But it is wrong to assume that deification of Jesus does
Him honour. It justifies the protests of His enemies ("...because You, being a man, make
Yourself out to be God"), and overlooks His disclaimers.(6) Ebionite writings report this
dialogue between St. Peter and Paul:
"Our Lord neither asserted that there were gods except the Creator of all, nor did He proclaim Himself to be God, but He with reason pronounced blessed him [Peter] who called Him the Son of that God who has arranged the universe. And Simon answered: Does it not seem to you, then, that he who comes from God is God? And Peter said: Tell us how this is possible, for we cannot affirm this, as we did not hear it from Him."
It is not only the Apostles at the Church of Jerusalem who objected that the Pauline
doctrine of the trinity and incarnation are indecipherable. At the beginning of the industrial
era Gibbon pointed out that reason balks at the belief...
"that God himself, the second person of an equal and consubstantial trinity, was manifested in the flesh; that a being who pervades the universe had been confined in the womb of Mary; that his eternal duration had been marked by the days, and months, and years of human existence; that the Almighty had been scourged and crucified; that his impassible essence had felt pain and anguish; that his omniscience was not exempt from ignorance; and that the source of life and immorality expired on Mount Calvary." (7)
To better see the thorny problems that stem from the trinity consider this analogy: A sun
that doesn't shine is axiomatically not a sun, but something else. If God - the Uncreated,
Eternal, Transcendent source of reality - becomes created, temporal, or comparable, His unique
divine qualities are undone, and he is not God. To believe otherwise leaves the door open to
such paradoxical questions as "If God is all-powerful, could He make a rock that is so
heavy that even He couldn't lift it?" There is no good answer for a bad question. This
question betrays certain defective assumptions about God - namely that He is a thing (8) that can act and be
acted upon, and that His inability to be other than perfect is an imperfection. Unfortunately,
such assumptions are implicit in our dogmatic belief in the incarnation.(9) The Ebionites had a much stronger
position as regards incarnation:
"...it is the peculiarity of the Father not to have been begotten, but of the Son to have been begotten; but what is begotten cannot be compared with that which is unbegotten...' And Simon said: 'Is it not the same on account of its origin?' And Peter said: 'He who is not the same in all respects as someone, cannot have all the same appellations applied to him as that person" ... "Learn this also: The bodies of men have immortal souls, which have been clothed with the breath of God; and having come forth from God, they are of the same substance, but they are not gods."
According to reason, God must exist. Once the cumbersome Pauline teachings are
constructively replaced it becomes easy to logically argue against atheists. Professor William
Thacher's "The Science of Religion" is an excellent effort from which some excerpts
"the human brain is the most complex physical structure known to us in the universe... Now, one well-known feature of the human organism is its self-awareness. Furthermore, scientific investigation has confirmed what man has always suspected: he did not create himself... Rather man awoke to his self-awareness and his subjectivity... Is it more reasonable to assume that a force capable of producing an effect (man) which is endowed with subjectivity and intelligence has also such characteristics, or is it more reasonable to assume that this force is deprived of such features? It is clearly more reasonable to suppose that such a force is at least as subtle as the effect that it has produced... Moreover, this force has produced other effects that man cannot produce (namely, it has produced man as well as the universe). Thus we are inevitably led to hypothesize that this force is, in fact, even more subtle thin man himself... we call this force God..."
Both scripture and reason indicate that God is transcendent and unapproachable. Beyond a
purely intellectual acknowledgement of God's existence, how are we to commune with Him? As man
is the crown of creation, it would only be logical that God might choose a man in which to
reveal something of His personal and subjective nature in a way that we could relate to.
Returning to the "Proclamation of Peter":
"He... is called the true Prophet, who alone can enlighten the souls of men, so that their eyes may plainly see the way, for otherwise it is impossible to get knowledge of divine and eternal things, unless one learns of that true Prophet."
What really is the relationship between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? We know that God is transcendent, incomparable, and superior to the most perfect person. When we call Him "Omniscient, Omnipotent, and All-Merciful" we are not describing His knowledge, power, or mercy (which can't be known by man) but, rather, denying the possibility of His imperfection. As St. Peter says: "Be it so: you cannot know what God is, but you can very easily know what He is not." God's perfections transcend any description or conception. The Names and Titles of God actually apply to His Son - the perfect man.(10)
Specific spiritual virtues (such as knowledge, power, mercy, love, justice, sovereignty,
etc.) are as "letters" of God's "Word" - which is the Holy Spirit. Just as
the colours of the rainbow are contained within the pure light so are all spiritual virtues
contained in the Holy Spirit. That is why Jesus said that blasphemy against the Son and the
Father will be forgiven (for they know not what they
do. Luke 23:34) but blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (goodness itself) will not
be forgiven.(11) The trinity can be logically accepted if it is
understood that the one God is the Speaker, the Holy Spirit is the Word, and Christ is the
Messenger of God's eternal truth.(12) St. Peter explains that...
"the Prophet of truth is He who always knows all things - things past as they were, things present as they are, things future as they shall be; sinless, merciful, alone entrusted with the declaration of the truth... For this is peculiar to the Prophet, to declare the truth, even as it is peculiar to the sun to bring the day."
Just as a sun that doesn't create light cannot be called a sun, a god who is not the source of the Holy Spirit is not God. The Holy Spirit (the sum of all goodness) is an essential emanation of God, and is reflected in the perfect mirror of Jesus Christ's soul. When Jesus said "I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me" (13) it was like saying that a mirror is in the sun's light - reflecting the sun's image and radiation. The sun doesn't itself descend to the mirror and reside therein, though it's image appears there and sunlight reflects therefrom. This simple analogy clarifies countless volumes seeking to justify spurious scripture which melds pagan beliefs with the revelation of truth. Reliance on this analogy requires only the bold belief that "our God is One Lord" and that His names and attributes were reflected in the ideal mirror of Jesus' soul.(14) Christ is God's Manifestation - not incarnation.
Author - John Roncalio. © 1983, 2003, John Roncalio.
The views expressed herein are those of the author who is solely responsible for their contents.