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I don't understand the concept of God in Christianity. Based on what I do know, there is God, the Son of God and the Holy Spirit -- doesn't this add up to 3 Gods?

In Christianity, is there there One (True God) or are there three gods? If there are three gods, what is the role of each one? And who was the original God? Who is the father to the "Son of God"?

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Christianity is definitely Mono Theistic. –  Neil Meyer 1 hour ago

5 Answers 5

Firstly, the Trinity is not Tritheism. This is the classic argument of the Muslim against Christianity, but it is not valid. It is not valid, because the formulation of the Trinity specifically states that God is one being who exists in three persons.

The Athansian Creed (a very ancient creed dating to the fourth or fifth century predating the Orthodox / Catholic / Protestant schims and accepted by at least 97% of all Christians) in particular states:

we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; Neither confounding the Persons; nor dividing the Essence. For there is one Person of the Father; another of the Son; and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is all one; the Glory equal, the Majesty coeternal.

The problem is not in the formulation, but rather in attempts to make an analogy to explain it. There are great light-hearted attempts at analogy, but each suffers from a defect of some kind. No analogy is possible, because there is no terrestrial equivalent that properly holds the tension of the fact that three people with distinct energies, capable of perfectly relating to each other, are thus so close as to be One being. Every Trinitarian heresy comes out of an attempt to force such an analogy.

  • Tritheism in particular was endemic to those areas of Christianity that are now under Muslim control. Tritheism emphasizes the distinct personalities to the detriment of their unity. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are indeed so close as to be one, in the same way a Muslim would agree that a man and wife are one flesh. Sometimes the analogy of the egg (shell, yolk, and white) is used to describe this relationship, but really it doesn't convey the simultaneous distinction and sameness of personality.

  • Modalism, on the other hand, makes the opposite mistake. It says that the Three manifestations of God are just different aspects of the same entity. (For example, some will say water is ice, fluid, and steam, or a man is father and husband) That, however, precludes the ability of, say, God the Father to exalt God the Son (Phillipians 2:9).

That being said, the primary means of differentiating the three persons of the Trinity is by their observed actions in history:

  1. God the Father is the primary actor in the history of Israel and the Old Testament. He is identified by his love, jealousy, and protection of his people. For his own glory, he rescued his people from Egypt, and showed himself powerful on behalf of those whose hearts were perfect toward him.

  2. God the Son is known primarily through his actions as the incarnated Jesus of Nazereth. According to John, he existed from the beginning of Creation, and he made all things. By him there is nothing made that was made. He chose to temporarily give up the rights of godhood in order to become a man. Being found in human likeness, he was obedient unto death, even the death of a cross.

  3. God the Holy Spirit is known primarily through his actions in the church. God the Son sent Him to dwell amongst his people, and was most visibly manifest at Pentecost. He is the source of the gifts manifest amongst Christians and is present in His church.

None of these actors acts out of accord with any of the others, and they all have the same character and purpose. They do have unique wills, but willingly subordinate them to each other in perfect harmony.

The truth is there is no analogy because there is no terrestrial equivalent. That said, both Muslims and Christians would agree that God is so far above humans that his Nature could be incomprehensible to his creation. That God is both Three and One is the core tenet of our understanding of who God is. In no way do Christians believe there is more than one God, but how we express that remains a paradox we cannot or have not resolved since his nature was revealed.

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In no way do Christians believe there is more than one God, but how we express that remains a paradox we cannot or have not resolved since his nature was reveled. helps just a bit and I will explore more on the topic. Thanks for your answer –  Sarfraz Aug 3 '12 at 11:01
If you refer to God as one nature rather than one "being" then an analogy is simpler. We all share the same created nature yet we are distinct persons. God is the uncreated nature yet distinct persons. –  kurosch Aug 3 '12 at 17:29
Great answer, but I would suggest two edits. The Son did not temporary give up the rights of Godhood. The mystery of the incarnation, defended to the death for 2000 years, is that Jesus is simultaneously fully human and fully God. It is precisely because of this that humanity is bridged into heaven. I might also add that trinitarian language is intentionally confusing: We cannot fully comprehend God, who is Himself a relationship of three. –  svidgen Nov 15 '12 at 15:43
@svidgen I agree, but wasn't really sure how to phrase that. I was alluding to Phillippians 2 5 -12 there... –  Affable Geek Dec 10 '12 at 16:47

It is as complex as God:

Just as Theists are unable to give logical explanation to Atheists about the existence of God, so is the case with Christians, where it is impractical to give a logical explanation of Triune nature of God because that which is being attempted to explain (in both instances) refer to same Entity called God. The concept of Trinity is as enigmatic as the existence of God and it is obviously so, because ultimately we are discussing about the same God.

The "Trinity" is an expression used to articulate one of many attributes of one and only one God based on the various references found woven through all of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation, which is why the doctrine was formulated. There is equally clearly only one true God in the Bible. Numerous references are available for both. It is simple logic to end up with the Trinity, although how it works in practice must remain to a degree a mystery, since if we fully understood God in His entirety, He would not be God.

The search for proof of existence of God is inconceivable in our finite mind and beyond the ability of limited conception of human intelligence & imagination. With this presumption, we get our belief in God and same is true for Trinity since with Trinity we are trying to define same God. In other words just like you cannot define God by your logical and scientific mind, the same is true of Trinity because we are trying to define the same God.

You and I are individual personalities, just like every other god of the major religions. The idea of the Trinity has plurality Within unity, a composite unity. This isn’t saying there is more than one God.

Way out for accepting it:

For Atheist it is the non-belief in (existence) God that keeps him from becoming a theist. For theist it is the “constituents, frame and state” of mind, not the proof, which makes him accept the belief in existence of God. However, in some cases with a presupposed mind, like a person with Islamic background, it does prevent them from accepting the Christian faith because of his inability to accept Trinity in the same “constituents, frame and state” of mind as he is accepting the existence of God.

Trinity is woven in scriptures:

Some argues that when it is not specifically stated anywhere in the Bible about the triune nature of God then why to formulate a Doctrine for it? Why not live and practice Christianity without it?

The answer lies in the truth that one cannot be a follower of Jesus if you do not believe in what He said and preached. When Jesus came into this world and preached the Good News about God’s kingdom, the true nature of One Almighty God was also revealed. Most obvious and direct evidence for Trinity emanated from Bible, depicting Jesus Christ and Holy Spirit with Nature of God. Therefore, if Father is God, Son is God and Holy Spirit is God than that’s it. Bible gives us irrefutable references about these claims in amorphous manner in OT and explicitly in NT. It was amorphous in OT, the reason being that it never became that clear until the Son was revealed in NT.

The central issue is, do we believe the Word of God? Despite what many non-Christians believe, Christians – (Mainstreams Christians) – believe that there is only one God. Yes, the Trinity is an odd doctrine, and many don’t like it. But who would make it up? We humans like things to make sense. Only the Trinity is an idea so odd that even after two millennia we still can’t properly understand it.

That there is one God, and yet, someone, there are three personalities who are deity, and yet there aren’t three gods but one. It sounds weird, crazy even. Does it seem that humans would make something like that up, or that the devil would? Satan knows that we like things to make sense; he wouldn’t create such a puzzling doctrine, neither would we humans and St. Constantine included.

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Is the concept of God in Christianity (the Trinity) three Gods or One

Yours is an age old question, which stems from a basic misunderstanding.

We have one God in three persons, but that is confusing unless we also understand that God is a Spirit. To explain that we must also understand the difference between the Spiritual realm and the Material realm.

In our material realm certain rules apply which do not apply in the Spiritual realm. For example; in the Material realm things have mass, which means that according to the laws of physics two objects cannot occupy the same space at the same time; that is not true in the Spiritual realm. The following Scripture shows this as effectively as anything I could say:

All scripture is quoted from the King James translation, unless otherwise noted.

Mark 5:2 through 10 And when he was come out of the ship, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit, 3 Who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no man could bind him, no, not with chains: 4 Because that he had been often bound with fetters and chains, and the chains had been plucked asunder by him, and the fetters broken in pieces: neither could any man tame him. 5 And always, night and day, he was in the mountains, and in the tombs, crying, and cutting himself with stones. 6 But when he saw Jesus afar off, he ran and worshipped him, 7 And cried with a loud voice, and said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of the most high God? I adjure thee by God, that thou torment me not. 8 For he said unto him, Come out of the man, thou unclean spirit. 9 And he asked him, What is thy name? And he answered, saying, My name is Legion: for we are many. 10 And he besought him much that he would not send them away out of the country.

Here we see that many spirits were inhabiting the body of one man, and if we continue with the Scripture we find that there were about two thousand of them.

Mar 5:11 through 13 Now there was there nigh unto the mountains a great herd of swine feeding. 12 And all the devils besought him, saying, Send us into the swine, that we may enter into them. 13 And forthwith Jesus gave them leave. And the unclean spirits went out, and entered into the swine: and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the sea, (they were about two thousand;) and were choked in the sea.

We also need to look at the words, Jesus said " What is thy name?" and the devils answered, " My name is Legion: for we are many."

It is noteworthy that Jesus used the singular form 'thy' in asking the name, and it is likewise notable that the devils (plural) used the singular form 'my' in answering even though adding that they were many.

There is no difference between those many spirits being one (legion) and God being three; Father, son, and Holy Ghost.

In the Spiritual realm more than one can occupy the same space at the same time, and be known by a single name.

Hope this helps.

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The Trinity is the teaching that there are "three persons in one Godhead."


The Greek word theotetos denotes “the state of being God.”

This is literally translated in English as “Godhead” (God-ness/God-hood).

Colossians 2:9 (KJV)

In him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily

The nature of God is not material but spiritual (John 4:24) and hence, it is indivisible (without any parts).


The Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit are not three Gods because of their one spiritual nature. These three persons possess the whole nature of being God. The reason is that the divine nature cannot be divided. We humans possess a nature that is immaterial per se and hence, divisible.

Man has one nature and yet we call individual persons collectively as “humans” because their one nature is divisible (has parts) but we cannot call the Trinity as “gods” (plural) because the name 'god' signifies the nature of the persons and that nature is singular and spiritual (without parts and hence, indivisible).

Hence, it is not just the issue of one nature but also of what kind of one nature are we talking about. It is something that is an indivisible unit or divisible? Is it flesh or spirit? In other words, this goes to the question of is it of the Creator or of the creature?

Furthermore, the name of the Trinity signifies God's oneness just as the name of Adam and Eve signifies their oneness.

Matthew 28:19 (NIV)

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

Genesis 5:2 (KJV)

Male and female created he them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created.


In the Hebrew Text, the Shema literaly reads: "Hear O Israel YHWH our Gods [are] one YHWH."

So, here we see that YHWH is both singular and plural.





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All of the other answers so far have presented the Trinity as a belief in one God. And this, of course, is what all Christian churches and denominations that hold to the doctrine of the Trinity say.

In the interest of balance, I will offer a countervailing view based on the Athanasian Creed and the theology of Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772).

The situation is more complex than simply saying that the Trinity is one God, as evidenced by this statement in the Athanasian Creed, which is accepted as authoritative by the vast bulk of Christians and Christian denominations:

For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity; to acknowledge every Person by himself to be God and Lord; So are we forbidden by the catholic religion; to say, There are three Gods, or three Lords. (Source: Athanasian Creed, from Wikipedia)

This statement perfectly encapsulates the fundamental contradiction in the doctrine of the Trinity, and the reason why every Christian theologian who expounds on it admits that it is a mystery that cannot be understood by the human mind, but that must nevertheless be believed.

The practical reality is that in thinking of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit each as distinct "persons" of God, the mind of the believer inevitably thinks of them as three different beings. This is tantamount to thinking of three gods, no matter how vigorously the believer says "one God" with the lips. Each person of God is given a distinct role, and they are conceptualized as interacting with one another as distinct personalities.

To illustrate this picture of three gods in the minds of those who believe in the Trinity, in Christian artwork the Trinity is commonly pictured as three distinct beings. In Western Christianity, most commonly the Father is pictured as an old bearded man, the Son as a young bearded man (often on the cross or associated with the cross), and the Holy Spirit as a dove. For example:

enter image description here Holy Trinity, fresco by Luca Rossetti da Orta

In Eastern Christianity, artwork depicting the Trinity often simply has three human figures. For example:

enter image description here Trinity (Andrei Rublev)

Clearly, though the lips are saying "one," the mind is thinking "three." But as the Athanasian Creed says, the church forbids the faithful from saying "There are three Gods." Therefore faithful Christian trinitarians will always say, "There is one God."

Here is how Emanuel Swedenborg articulates this contradiction between what the mind is thinking and what the lips are saying, based on the Athanasian Creed. This is from Swedenborg's True Christianity, #172:

At a conceptual level, the idea of a trinity of divine persons from eternity (meaning before the world was created) is a trinity of gods. This idea is impossible to wipe out just by orally confessing one God. The following words in the Athanasian Creed make it very obvious that a trinity of divine persons from eternity is a trinity of gods:
The Father is one person, the Son another, and the Holy Spirit another. The Father is God and Lord, the Son is God and Lord, and the Holy Spirit is God and Lord. Nevertheless there are not three gods and lords; there is one God and Lord. Just as Christian truth compels us to confess each person individually as God and Lord, so the catholic religion forbids us to say three gods or three lords.
This creed has been accepted by the entire Christian church as ecumenical or universal. Today everything known and acknowledged about God comes from it. Those who took part in the Council of Nicaea that gave birth to this posthumous child called the Athanasian Creed had no other concept of the Trinity except a trinity of gods, as any can see who merely keep their eyes open as they read it. Since then they have not been the only people thinking in terms of a trinity of gods; the Christian world thinks in terms of no other Trinity because its whole concept of God comes from that creed and everyone now lives in a faith based on those words. I submit it as a challenge to everyone—both laity and clergy, laureled professors and doctors as well as consecrated bishops and archbishops, even cardinals robed in scarlet and in fact the Roman pope himself—that the Christian world nowadays thinks of no other Trinity except a trinity of gods. You should all examine yourselves and then speak on the basis of the images in your mind. The words of this creed—the universally accepted teaching about God—make it as clear and obvious as water in a crystal bowl. For example, the creed says that there are three persons, each of whom is God and Lord. It also says that because of Christian truth, people ought to confess or acknowledge that each person is individually God and Lord, but that the catholic or Christian religion or faith forbids us to say three gods or lords. This would mean that truth and religion, or truth and faith, are not the same thing; they are at odds with each other. The writers of the creed added the point that there is one God and Lord, not three gods and lords, so that they would not be exposed to ridicule before the whole world. Who would not laugh at three gods? On the other hand, though, anyone can see the contradiction in the phrase they added.

Certainly, due to the insistence of the Bible and the church that there is one God, Christians who believe in the Trinity will always and emphatically say that there is one God.

But no matter how many times this is said, the concept in the minds of those who believe in the Trinity is of three divine beings. This amounts to thinking of God as three gods, regardless of any abstract metaphysical statements about their being "one in essence," and regardless of the continually repeated statement that the three are one God.

All of this is why Jews, Muslims, and other strict monotheists commonly consider Christians to be tritheists rather than monotheists.

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