God: Three gods?

Does the Trinity doctrine say that there are three gods?

Some mistakenly believe that the doctrine of the Trinity teaches that three gods exist when they use the term "persons." They say that if God the Father is really a "person," then he is a God in himself (because he has the attributes of divinity). He would count as "one" god. The same could be said of the Son and the Holy Spirit. Therefore, there would be three separate gods.

This is a common misconception about trinitarian thinking. In fact, the doctrine of the Trinity would certainly not assert that either Father, Son, or Holy Spirit each fill in themselves the complete essence of God. We must not confuse Tritheism with the Trinity. What the Trinity says about God is that God is one in relation to his being, but three in relation to the internal distinctions of that nature. The Christian scholar Emery Bancroft has described it in his book Christian Theology, p. 87-88, as follows:

"Der Vater as such is not God; for God is not only the Father but also the Son and the Holy Spirit. The term father denotes this personal distinction in the divine nature, according to which God is in relationship with the Son, and through the Son and the Holy Spirit in relation to the Church.

The son as such is not God; for God is not only a Son but also a Father and Holy Spirit. The Son marks this distinction in the divine nature, according to which God is related to the Father and sent by the Father to redeem the world, and he sends with the Father the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit as such is not God; because God is not only Holy Spirit, but also Father and Son. The Holy Spirit characterizes this distinction in the divine nature, according to which God is related to the Father and the Son and sent by them to fulfill the work of renewing the ungodly and sanctifying the Church. "

When we try to understand the doctrine of the Trinity, we have to be pretty careful about how we use and understand the word "God." For example, whatever the New Testament says about the unity of God, it also makes a difference between Jesus Christ and God the Father. At this point, the above formula from Bancroft is helpful. To be precise, we should speak of "God, the Father," "God, the Son," and "God, the Holy Ghost," when we refer to any hypostasis or "person" of the Deity.

It is certainly legitimate to talk about the "limitations", to use analogies or to try in some other way to explain the nature of God. This problem is well understood by Christian scholars. In his article The Point of Trinitarian Theology, 1988, Toronto Journal of Theology, Roger Haight, a professor at the Toronto School of Theology, talks about this limitation. He openly reveals some of the problems in the theology of the Trinity, but he also explains how the Trinity is a powerful explanation of the nature of God - as far as limited human beings can understand this nature.

Millard Erickson, a highly respected theologian and professor of theology, admits this limitation. In his book, God in Three Persons, on page 258 he refers to the admission of another scholar's "ignorance" and to his own:

"[Stephen] Davis has examined the prevailing contemporary statements [of the Trinity] and by realizing that they are not achieving what they claim to achieve, he was honest in acknowledging that he feels he is dealing with a mystery , He has probably been more honest with it than many of us who, when they are hard pressed, have to admit that we really do not know how God is one and in what different ways he is three. "

Do we really understand how God can be one and three at the same time? Of course not. We have no experiential knowledge of God as he is. Not only our experience is limited, but also our language. The use of the word "persons" instead of hypostases of God is a compromise. We need a word that emphasizes the personal nature of our God and somehow contains the concept of difference. Unfortunately, the word "person" also includes the notion of separateness when applied to human persons. Followers of the Trinity doctrine understand that God does not consist of the kind of person as is the case with a group of people. But what is a person of the "divine nature?" We have no answer. We use the word "person" for every hypostasis of God, because it is a personal word, and above all, because God is a personal being in his dealings with us.

If one rejects the theology of the Trinity, he or she has no explanation that preserves the unity of God - which is an absolute biblical requirement. That is why Christians formulated this doctrine. They accepted the truth that God is one. But they also wanted to explain that Jesus Christ is also described in Scripture in terms of divinity. Just as it applies to the Holy Spirit. The doctrine of the Trinity was developed with the precise intention of explaining, as well as human words and thoughts permit, how God can be one and three at the same time.

Other explanations of the nature of God have been produced over the centuries. An example is Arianism. This theory asserts that the Son was a created being, so that the unity of God could be preserved. Unfortunately, the conclusion of Arius was fundamentally flawed because the Son can not be a created being and still be God. All the theories that have been put forward to explain the nature of God in terms of the revelation of the Son and the Holy Spirit have not only proved to be deficient, but deadly erroneous. That is why the doctrine of the Trinity has survived for centuries as an explanation of God's nature, which preserves the truth of the biblical testimony.

by Paul Kroll


pdfGod: Three gods?