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Friday, April 16, 2010

Can the Doctrine of the Trinity be defended as a mystery?

The Mystery Of the Trinity

I was recently asked during an Internet Discussion about the Orthodox Christian Doctrine of the Trinity with several people. Through this discourse, it ended up helping readers gain some valuable tools to understand and defend this doctrine. It is my prayer that you may likewise be helped and grow in the knowledge of the Lord.

One person involved asked the question – how can God be one and yet three? Another was opposed to the doctrine of the Trinity. Then another participant ‘Bart’ stated the following truth:

The Trinity or Godhead reconciles all the elements you're noting with the understanding that God is three, yet one in essence. There's an element of mystery to it that transcends human experience…

The truth of the Trinity as being a mystery is a very biblical factual position. Below is my response and may it help you gain insight into the Doctrine of the Trinity justified from the perspective of being a mystery continued below:

…Adding to what Bart says about 'there being in the Trinity (the Godhead) an element of mystery to it that transcends (our own) human experience,' let us look at these two scriptures:

Isaiah 40:18 - To whom then will you liken God? Or what likeness will you compare to Him?

Isaiah 40:25 - "To whom then will you liken Me, Or to whom shall I be equal?" says the Holy One.

Notice how the bible proclaims that there is none like the Lord as it is written elsewhere:

2 Samuel 7:22 - Therefore You are great, O Lord GOD. For there is none like You, nor is there any God besides You, according to all that we have heard with our ears.

Psalm 86:8 - Among the gods there is none like You, O Lord; nor are there any works like Your works.

Psalm 89:6 - For who in the heavens can be compared to the LORD? Who among the sons of the mighty can be likened to the LORD?

Now think upon this for a moment :

If God is in the same likeness of oneness as any other false god or thing, then these bible verses are in error as this cannot be because there is none like God! There is no likeness that can adequately compare with God (see Isaiah 40:25).

That is why the Orthodox Doctrine (Christian) of the Divine Trinity is termed as a mystery because it retains and proves that there is none like God: One God in three distinct persons of one divine essence. Truly, None like Him!

If God were in the same image of oneness as any other false gods, items, or things then that would be in conflict with what Exodus 20:1-5 says. God is unlike all and therefore His oneness is unlike all other oneness’s out there. That is why the mystery of the Trinity retains the biblical injunction from Exodus 20:1-5 and is in no violation of this.

Further Evidence

This is in keeping with how in the bible God describes and how God reveals himself to be within the very pages of the bible. For a few more examples see below:

Read Isaiah 40:1-31 - on your own and note the usage of third person speech God uses when speaking of himself. Note verse 10 and 11 as well who is speaking in throughout this chapter and then note transition in verses 25-31 (Isaiah 40:25-31) noting the types and parts of speech used by the Lord when referring to himself)

Note Isaiah 59:16, “He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor; Therefore His own arm brought salvation for Him; and His own righteousness, it sustained Him.”

Isaiah 52:10, “The LORD has made bare His holy arm In the eyes of all the nations; And all the ends of the earth shall see The salvation of our God.”

Isaiah 53:1, “…Who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?”

Isaiah 63:12, “Who led them by the right hand of Moses, With His glorious arm, Dividing the water before them To make for Himself an everlasting name…”

Psalms 98:1-9, "Oh, sing to the LORD a new song! For He has done marvelous things; His right hand and His holy arm have gained Him the victory.2 The LORD has made known His salvation; His righteousness He has revealed in the sight of the nations.3 He has remembered His mercy and His faithfulness to the house of Israel; All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God..."

Psalms 89:13-18

Look at Psalms 89:13- 15, You have a mighty arm; Strong is Your hand, and high is Your right hand. 14 Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne; Mercy and truth go before Your face (pāniym). 15 Blessed are the people who know the joyful sound! They walk, O LORD, in the light of Your countenance (pāniym).”

Note that the Hebrew word pāniym: is a masculine plural noun with dual meaning. It can denote face(s) or countenance(s). Pāniym used here looks like it refers to the distinct attributes of the Son and Holy Spirit. (See reference notes below)

Notice in verse 14 how two words are used – 'mercy and truth' in NKJV and note verse 13 that three distinct parts from one essence is being revealed within the context of biblical symbolism: You Have (denoting essence), then strong is your hand/arm and then another hand also mentioned as being distinct by the phrase ‘High Right Hand.’

Next note how Mercy and Truth being mentioned in the NKJV text. After this explore what is recorded in John 1:14 about Jesus and what John 14:26, John 15:26, and John 16:13-15 says. Look at what Isaiah 53:1 states – to whom has the Arm of the Lord Revealed – then look at what Jesus says about the Spirit of Truth.

Yes, God is One and there is none like him in the type – essence - of his own oneness! There is in the Trinity (the Godhead) an element of mystery to it that transcends our own human experience... which is very scripturally founded.

Psalms 89:6 , “ For who in the heavens can be compared to the LORD? Who among the sons of the mighty can be likened to the LORD?

There is no likeness that can adequately compare with God. The Lord is unlike all and therefore His oneness is unlike all other oneness’s out there conceived by man. That is why the Orthodox Doctrine (Christian) of the Divine Trinity is termed as a mystery because it retains and proves that there is none like God: One God in three distinct persons of one divine essence. Truly, None like Him!

Reference notes:

Bible quotes are all from the NKJV (New King James Version)

Regarding Pāniym – AMG Complete Word Studies Old Testament and from Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (re: face – Pāniym)

Also explore what the symbolism of Hand and Arm had as used in the Old Testament – what these represent. Is there anything too difficult for God?

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Blogger B. W. Melvin said...

Here is more to ponder written in two parts:

Part One

In Joshua 5:13-15 we have another example of incarnate Christ, second person of the divine Trinity, appearing before Joshua as a man. This is an common theme in the Old Testament writings of God appearing in the form of a man. He did so with Abraham (Genesis 18:2), Isaac (Genesis 26:2), Jacob (Genesis 32:24-30), Moses (Exodus 3:2, 6), and Manoah (Judges 13:22) as well as with others.

Objectors of the Trinity point out that these manifestations concern angels acting on God's behalf but neglect to answer why during such angelic manifestations that these very angels allowed themselves to be worshiped!

There are specific examples in the bible which reveal true angelic beings never permitting themselves to be worshiped as well as stopping such worship of themselves. We see this is the following two passages of scripture:

Revelation 19:10, "Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, "You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God." For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy." SV

Revelation 22:8-9, "I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I heard and saw them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed them to me, 9 but he said to me, "You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers the prophets, and with those who keep the words of this book. Worship God." ESV

Even after speaking on God's behalf, as Peter did to Cornelius, Peter himself refused such worship as recorded in Acts 10:25-26: "When Peter entered, Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet and worshiped him. 26 But Peter lifted him up, saying, "Stand up; I too am a man." ESV

In Joshua 5:13-15 we have the account of Joshua seeing a man standing before him with a drawn sword. When this man identified himself as the Commander of the Armies of the Lord, Joshua prostrated himself and worshiped this person he stood before. After Joshua calls him lord, the man told him to take off his shoes for he was standing on holy ground.

If this were merely a man, or an angelic being, why did he not stop Joshua from worshipping himself when in other scriptures such angelic beings forbade this practice? The bible even proclaims that we only worship God and none other (Exodus 20:3). If this were but a mere mortal man, would not such worship constitute a violation of these scriptural principles?

Continued Below…

Friday, 16 April, 2010  
Blogger B. W. Melvin said...

Part Two

Joshua 5:13-15
, "When Joshua was by Jericho, he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing before him with his drawn sword in his hand. And Joshua went to him and said to him, "Are you for us, or for our adversaries?" 14 And he said, "No; but I am the commander of the army of the LORD. Now I have come." And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped and said to him, "What does my lord say to his servant?" 15 And the commander of the LORD's army said to Joshua, "Take off your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy." And Joshua did so." ESV

Joshua saw the pre-incarnate Christ - known as the Word (John 1:1-3) and also called the Commander of the Armies of the Lord in Revelation 19:11-13:

"Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. 12 His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. 13 He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. 14 And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses." ESV

Who else can the commander in chief of the Armies of the Lord be except the Lord himself? Therefore, we have a strong Trinitarian proof in Joshua chapter five listed. In Joshua 6:2 we have this man speaking and identified as no other than Yahweh. After all, in Joshua 5:13 there is no other personage identified along with or with the one speaking and revealed! The Commander of the Lord's Armies is identified as none other than Yahweh.

You can even say from the force of the text that two distinct persons of one divine essence are being revealed here: the Son as the Commander of the Lord and the Father (Joshua 6:2) granting the taking of Jericho through the Son. Have trouble understanding this? Then take it up with Jesus by noting John 5:19, 23 and John 14:10-11 as examples of this principle.

In conclusion, we have another reference pointing out God's divine nature existing as the Holy Trinity. Truly, there is none like him!

Friday, 16 April, 2010  
Blogger Detroit Esquire said...

When I was younger, I heard one particular concept of the Trinity that stuck with me. This idea tried to relate the aspects of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit to the three aspects of human beings, which are: Body, Soul and Spirit. Most people would understand how one individual could be perceived as three parts using this example.

You could even go as far as using psychoanalytic theory with this concept: ego, superego and the id. In this way, another set of people might be able to comprehend the notion of three things that make up one person, only this time, the subject of consciousness is being used.

Recently, I read writings from the ministry of Peter Tan, who tried to brief others on the matter by comparing the Godhead to the expressions of the sun in our solar system. Here's how it went:

The visible light of the sun would represent Jesus (You've seen me, you've seen the Father). The heat of the sun would represent the Holy Ghost. And the invisible ultra-violet rays from the sun would represent God the Father (no one has seen the Father, save the Son). One sun, articulated in three ways. Light, Heat and radiation that is virtually unrecognizable to the senses.

Another analogy could be Myspace.com. This might sound silly but in this example, the Godhead could be seen as one User with multiple accounts. Heaven would be a separate and restricted website, and the mypsace profile titled Jesus would be the only thing on the web with an accessible link to it.

I'm not trying to say the Trinity is elementary to human thinking, but sometimes I think complaints about this subject are just excuses to slam Christianity.

Also, some people criticize how Jesus could have been God on Earth while God performed tasks from Heaven. To me, this simultaneous feat was just a demonstration of God's omnipresence. Why should God not be able to function efficiently in one or more forms, at once? He's God! How do people think the Holy Spirit fills the Earth and deals with the innumerable things that He deals with? Well you can only imagine that the same was in effect when God became the man Jesus... He was still everywhere at the same time, and able to comprehend and deal with all things as though He were giving each His undivided attention.

Monday, 01 November, 2010  
Blogger Detroit Esquire said...

Also, the part wrote about the book of Joshua is fascinating, too. I also believe it was a manifestation of Christ before His incarnation.

Tuesday, 02 November, 2010  

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