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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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2 Answers 2

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
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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
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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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