Trinity - How is God 3 in 1?
The doctrine of the Trinity—that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are each equally and eternally the one true God—is admittedly difficult to comprehend, and yet is the very foundation of Christian truth. Although skeptics may ridicule it as a mathematical impossibility, it is nevertheless a basic doctrine of Scripture as well as profoundly realistic in both universal experience and in the scientific understanding of the cosmos.
Both Old and New Testaments teach both the Unity and the Trinity of the Godhead. The idea that there is only one God, who created all things, is repeatedly emphasized in such Scriptures as Isaiah 45:18: “For thus saith the Lord that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; . . . I am the Lord; and there is none else.” A New Testament example is James 2:19: “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well; the devils also believe, and tremble.”
The three persons of the Godhead are, at the same time, noted in such Scriptures as Isaiah 48:16: “I have not spoken in secret from the beginning; From the time that it was, there am I; and now the Lord God, and his Spirit, hath sent me.” The speaker in this verse is obviously God, and yet He says He has been “sent both by the Lord God (that is, the Father) and by His Spirit (that is, the Holy Spirit). The New Testament doctrine of the Trinity is evident in such a verse as John 15:26, where the Lord Jesus said: “But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, He shall testify of me.” Then there is the baptismal formula: “baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” (Matthew 28:19). One name (God)—yet three names!
That Jesus, as the only-begotten Son of God, actually claimed to be God, equal with the Father, is clear from numerous Scriptures. For example, He said: “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty” (Revelation 1:8).
Some cults falsely teach that the Holy Spirit is an impersonal divine influence of some kind, but the Bible teaches that He is a real person, just as are the Father and the Son. Jesus said: “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak; and he will shew you things to come” (John 16:13).
The teaching of the Bible concerning the Trinity might be summarized thus. God is a Tri-unity, with each Person of the Godhead equally and fully and eternally God. Each is necessary, and each is distinct, and yet all are one. The three Persons appear in a logical, causal order. The Father is the unseen, omnipresent Source of all being, revealed in and by the Son, experienced in and by the Holy Spirit. The Son proceeds from the Father, and the Spirit from the Son. With reference to God’s creation, the Father is the Thought behind it, the Son is the Word calling it forth, and the Spirit is the Deed making it a reality. We “see” God and His great salvation in the Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, then “experience” their reality by faith, through the indwelling presence of His Holy Spirit.
Though these relationships seem paradoxical, and to some completely impossible, they are profoundly realistic, and their truth is ingrained deep in man’s nature. Thus, men have always sensed first the truth that God must be “out there,” everywhere present and the First Cause of all things, but they have corrupted this intuitive knowledge of the Father into pantheism and ultimately into naturalism. Similarly, men have always felt the need to “see” God in terms of their own experience and understanding, but this knowledge that God must reveal Himself has been distorted into polytheism and idolatry. Men have thus continually erected “models” of God, sometimes in the form of graven images, sometimes in the form of supposed written descriptions and false scriptures, sometimes even in the form of philosophical systems purporting to represent ultimate reality. Finally, men have always known that they should be able to have communion with their Creator and to experience His presence “within.” But this deep intuition of the Holy Spirit has been corrupted into various forms of false mysticism and fanaticism, and even into spiritism and demonism. Thus, the truth of God’s tri-unity is ingrained in man’s very nature, but he has often distorted it and substituted a false god in its place.
Furthermore, the truth of the triune nature of the Creator is clearly implied by the profoundly triune nature of the Creation. Thus the physical cosmos is clearly a tri-universe of Space, Matter and Time, and each of these is co-extensive with the entire universe. Space is the omnipresent background of all physical reality, Matter (or “Mass-Energy”) is that which is everywhere observed in Space, and Time is the ever-flowing but invisible agent through which we can actually experience the phenomena of Matter and Energy.
Each of these three entities is also itself a tri-unity. Thus, Space is three-dimensional, with each dimension comprising the entire space. Space is measured in terms of one single dimension (e.g., the foot, meter, etc.), but can be seen only in two dimensions and “lived in” in three dimensions. Just as the “reality” or volume of space is obtained by multiplying the three dimensions together, so one might say the mathematics of the Trinity is not 1 plus 1 plus 1 equals 1, but rather 1 times 1 times 1 equals 1.
Similarly Time is a tri-unity of Future, Present and Past time. The Future is the unseen source of Time, becoming visible moment-by-moment in the Present, and then passing into the realm of the “experienced” Past. Each is the whole of Time, yet each is distinct and necessary for the understanding of Time.
Finally, those phenomena and processes which take place in Space, through Time, which men call Matter, also constitute a remarkable tri-unity. Energy is the unseen source, manifesting itself in Motion, and then experienced in a particular process or phenomenon. Everything that “happens” in Space and Time is measured in terms of its particular rate or motion—how much time to move through a unit of space. But the particular Motion is inseparably linked with the particular kind of Energy which caused it on the one hand, and the particular kind of phenomenon which it produces on the other. The tri-unity of Matter thus is that of Energy continually producing and revealing itself in Motion, which is then experienced through associated Phenomena.
The physical universe is thus fundamentally a Trinity of Trinities! 2-2 Everywhere we look we see this universal tri-unity of Cause, Event and Consequence—of Source, Manifestation and Meaning. It is, therefore, not at all mathematically unreasonable, but rather intensely realistic, to believe that the Creator of this Tri-universe is a Triune God.
The doubter might well respond to the argument (from the evidence of causation) ... with such a statement as: “Well, perhaps you have shown that there must be a personal God back of the universe, but this does not mean that He is the tri-une God of the Bible. Perhaps there are many Gods, or even more likely God is a Unity rather than a Trinity. Possibly there are two Gods, one good and one bad, and they are competing with each other.”
We cannot, of course, rigorously prove that God is a Tri-unity, because this would leave no room for faith in God’s revelation. Nevertheless, the concept of God as tri-une is fully in accord with both intuition and reason.
First, however, note that polytheism is not reasonable. If there is more than one God, then none of the “gods” can be either omnipotent or omnipresent, as we have seen the true God must be. Furthermore, the universe is not a “multiverse.” Its intrinsic unity as a vast and glorious space-mass-time “continuum” is explicable only in terms of a unified First Cause, not as a conglomerate of First Causes. The very notion of a vast assemblage of individual “gods” gathering together to apportion out their several segments of creative responsibility is its own refutation.
As we have observed previously, in fact, polytheism in practice is always merely the popular expression of pantheism, which identifies God with the universe, and is experienced primarily as animism. A God who is essentially synonymous with the universe and its varied components could never be the Cause of the universe.
What about dualism, the philosophy of two equal and competing gods, one good and one evil? In effect, this elevates Satan to the position he desires, equal with God. In this belief, Satan is equally eternal with God and is the same intrinsic type of being, except that in his moral attributes, he is the opposite of God. Where God is love and holiness, Satan is hatred and evil, and the two are supposed to be eternally in conflict. Such a philosophy does have a superficial appearance of reasonableness. Evil is a very powerful force in the world; one could almost believe that evil is more potent than good, and Satan the more powerful and prominent of the two gods.
Nevertheless, there can really be only one First Cause, as we have already seen. The same arguments that militate against polytheism likewise apply against dualism. Even though there may be two competing principles in the universe, it is still a universe! And for a universe, there must be a universal First Cause. Either, therefore, God created Satan and he later became evil, or Satan created God and he later became good. They could not both be equally the First Cause of the universe.
Now even though we may believe that “truth is forever on the scaffold, wrong forever on the throne,” we still have to reckon with the strange fact that we know that truth is “better” than deception, and right is “better” than wrong. If Satan is really the creator of all men and if, indeed, he has the world mostly under his own control, how is it that all men feel they ought to do right even when they find it so much more natural to do wrong? Somehow there is built into every man the deep awareness that love and justice and holiness constitute a higher order of reality than do hate and injustice and wickedness. Even men who do not believe in a God of love and righteousness at all seem to be continually troubled at the hatred and cruelty that abound in the world. The only reasonable explanation for such phenomena is that the true creation is “good,” with “evil” only a temporary, though powerful, intruder. This in turn means, by cause-and-effect relationship, that God is the First Cause of all reality and Satan only a late-coming disturber of His creation. The Scriptures, of course, teach exactly this.
Therefore, neither polytheism nor pantheism nor dualism can meet the requirements for the First Cause. The latter must be One God, perfect in power and holiness, and none else. “I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God” (Isaiah 44:6).
How, then, can God be a trinity? To understand this, one must remember that this doctrine does not mean three gods. “Three gods” is as impossible and false a concept as any other form of polytheism. There can be only one God, and He is the great First Cause, the Author of all reality.
But if He exists only in His ineffable Unity, He could never be truly known. He is fundamentally the eternal, omnipresent, transcendent God, the great First Cause, the source of all being. Being present everywhere, however, He could never be really seen or heard or sensed anywhere. Yet, since He could not be frivolous in His creation, He must have a purpose therein and that purpose must be communicable. He must therefore somehow be seen and heard. He must be a God who is both infinite and yet finite, who is omnipresent and eternal and still comprehensible locally and temporally. He must paradoxically be both source and manifestation, both Father and Son.
Not only must the invisible and inaudible God be seen and heard objectively, however, He must also be experienced and understood subjectively. The life of the creation must be maintained in vital union with that of the Creator. The Spirit of God must move over the creation and must indwell it and empower it. The activity of the Spirit is distinct from that of the Son and from that of the Father, and yet is indissolubly one with both.
God, therefore, is one God, and yet He must be Father, Son and Spirit. He is source of all being, manifestation in all creation, experience and meaning in all reality. God is Father in generation, Son in declaration, Spirit in appropriation. The Son is the only begotten of the Father and the Spirit is eternally the bestower of both the Father and the Son.
The doctrine of the Trinity, rather than being unnatural and self-contradictory, is deeply implanted in the very nature of reality and in man’s intuitive awareness of God. Man has always felt and known in his heart that God was “out there,” everywhere, that He was somehow the invisible source of all things. But this deep consciousness of God as eternal and omnipresent Father, he has corrupted into pantheism and then eventually into naturalism.
Similarly, man has always recognized that somehow God must and does reveal Himself in human dimensions, so that man can see and discern the nature and purpose of his creator. But this glorious truth of God as Son and Word, man has distorted into idolatry, seeking continually to erect some kind of model of God to his own specifications, either from material substance or metaphysical reasonings.
Finally, man has always desired to know God experientially and thus has sensed that God indwells His creation, manifesting Himself in actual vital union with man in particular. This is the reality of God the Holy Spirit, but once again man has corrupted this glorious truth into mysticism and fanaticism and even demonism.
Man has thus always sensed, and could have understood had he desired, that God is Father, Son and Spirit, but instead he has corrupted the true God into pantheistic naturalism, polytheistic paganism, and demonistic spiritism. “When they knew God, they glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened” (Romans 1:21). “Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions” (Ecclesiastes 7:29).
The doctrine of the tri-une God is thus not only revealed in Scripture, but is intrinsic in the very nature of things as they are.
An amazing revelation of modern science is the fact that the physical universe is a tri-universe—a trinity of trinities—perfectly modeling the nature of the Triune God who made it. All true Christians believe in the doctrine of the Trinity: God is one God manifest in three divine Persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We do not believe in three gods (that would be polytheism) but one God. Yet each of the three distinct Persons is fully and eternally that one God.
How can that be? It seems impossible, and many people scoff at Christians’ trinitarian beliefs. It is contrary to sound mathematics, they say, for Christians to maintain that 1 + 1 + 1 = 1 rather than 3. Since such a system is unscientific, they say, then neither the Son nor the Spirit can really be God.
However, the fact is that the universe itself manifests exactly the same type of triune character that the Bible attributes to God. In a very real way, “the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead” (Romans 1:20). That is, His “Godhead” is understood by “the things that are made,” having been “clearly seen” from the creation of the world.
The doctrine of the Trinity is nowhere set forth in the Bible as an explicit doctrine. It appears indirectly yet perfectly naturally as the Lord Jesus speaks of Himself, the Father, and the Holy Spirit. The logical order presented is: (1) God the Father—the unseen source and cause of all things, (2) God the Son—who tangibly reveals the Father to man and who executes the will of God, and (3) God the Holy Spirit—who is (like the Father) unseen and yet reveals the Son to men, especially through the holy Scriptures that He inspired, making real in the hearts and lives of men the experience of fellowship with the Son and the Father. This order, however, is not an order of importance or length of existence. All are equally eternal and equally God—one God. The Son is eternally the only begotten of the Father; the Spirit is eternally proceeding from the Father through the Son.
The remarkable fact is that these relationships are beautifully patterned in the physical universe. Everything in this universe can be understood as functioning as a continuum of space, matter, and time. Space is the invisible, omnipresent background of all things, manifesting itself always and everywhere in phenomena of matter and/or energy, which are then interpreted and experienced through time. These are analogous to the relationships in the Godhead between Father, Son, and Spirit; the one is a perfect model of the other.
Note that the universe is a tri-universe. It is not part space, part time, and part matter (that would be a triad) but all space, all time and all matter (where matter includes energy, with matter/energy permeating all space and time). This is a true trinity.
Furthermore, each component of this tri-universe is also a trinity. Space consists of three dimensions, each of which is equally important and occupies all space. There could be no space—no reality—if there were only two dimensions. All dimensions are necessary, yet there is just one space, and each dimension comprises the whole of space. Note that to calculate the amount of a given space, one does not add its three dimensions but multiplies them. Analogously, the mathematics of the divine Trinity is not 1 + 1 + 1 = 1 but rather 1 x 1 x 1 = 1. Space is always identified in terms of one dimension but is only seen in two dimensions and experienced in three dimensions.
Similarly, time is one entity but can also be conceptualized as future, present, and past time. Each involves the whole of time, yet each is distinct—though each is meaningless without the other two. The future is the unseen, unexperienced source of time; the present is time being “seen,” or manifested; the past is time experienced but no longer seen. The unseen future becomes manifest in the present; the past proceeds from the future through the present into the realm of past experience. Again, the same interrelationships apply as for the Persons of the Godhead.
The central entity in the tri-universe is matter, which is essentially unseen energy manifesting itself in motion and experienced in various phenomena. These phenomena all occur in space through time. Unseen but omnipresent energy generates motion, the magnitude of which (velocity) is the ratio of the space to the time. Depending on the rates and types of motion, various phenomena (e.g., light, sound, texture, hardness) are experienced. For example, light energy generates light waves that are experienced in seeing light. It is always thus: unseen energy generating motion that is experienced in phenomena—this is matter, and each of its three components again comprises the whole.
Thus the physical universe is actually a trinity of trinities, a true tri-universe in the fullest sense. But this same remarkable phenomenon can be seen in the realm of human life as well. The Bible says that men and women were created in God’s image.
Note that each individual is a person with a body that can be physically heard, seen, and touched. But inside that body is the person’s nature, which is unseen and yet is the source of all that he embodies. On the other hand, the person is known to others only through his personality, which is unseen and intangible, yet is the means by which he and his nature exert influence on others. Human life thus consists of three entities—nature, person, and personality—each of which pervades the whole of his life and yet is distinct from the other two. The nature is the unseen source, revealed and embodied in the person. The personality proceeds from the person, invisible yet influencing the lives of others in regard to the person. Nature, person, and personality (or, perhaps equivalently, soul, body, and spirit) thus constitute a true trinity, reflecting in minute detail the Triuneness of the God who created the human trinity.
This same three-in-one character seems to pervade everything in life. Every moral action consists of (1) the motive, (2) the act, and (3) the consequence and meaning. Similarly, all forms of thought or reason proceed logically from the universal to the particular to the relationship of the particular thing to other things. Everything that happens proceeds from the cause to the event to its effects—from the source to its manifestation to its meaning. Always the same types of interrelatedness and of triune wholeness in three exist everywhere.1-1
Although these remarkable facts cannot be held to prove that the Creator of the universe and life is a Triune Being, it is difficult to conceive of any other cause that could account for such effects. If the universe is intelligible and the principle of cause and effect (no effect greater than its cause) really is valid (and all science is based on this assumption), then there is certainly overwhelming reason to believe in the Triune God of the Bible. The doctrine of the Trinity is not a logical absurdity, as some would claim, but a scientific living reality. God was manifested and revealed by and in His Son, who as a man was Jesus Christ. There can, therefore, be nothing in life more important for any individual than to become rightly related to this tri-universe and its Triune God. This means unreserved acceptance of the Lord Jesus Christ, for “in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily” (Colossians 2:9).
The Bible has the Answers
By Henry Morris