The mystery of the Holy Trinity explained in four sentences

27_z3-e1366821996359-500x280The idea that God is the ultimate hat-trick—that he is, at once, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—is something that has always confused and challenged … well, anyone with a normal, binary-style brain.

But we have only to look at the opening of the New Testament’s Book of John to learn all that we could want to know about the triune nature of God:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men.

And there it is. That’s … the whole three-portion enchilada, right there.

I believe that what John is expressing there is that God exists in three ever-present simultaneous modes: Absolute and unchanging, exuberantly creative, and within the heart and soul of every person. He uses the word God to refer to the absolute and unchanging aspect of God’s reality, Word to refer to the exuberantly creative aspect of God’s existence (by which, as we shall see, he means Jesus), and light of men to refer to God as the Holy Spirit.

Badda-bing, badda-triune nature of God.

Let’s break down John’s words to look at them more closely:

In the beginning

That’s the Big God, God the Father/Mother/Everything, eternal and unchanging—the same one, if you’ll note, that with the exact same words opens the Bible: In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

was the Word

The reason that John echoes Genesis’ In the beginning, God, with his, In the beginning, the Word, is to bring home the idea that the Word, which is Jesus, is God.

Attaching a word to something—naming it—is how you individuate that thing; it’s how you separate it from the giant, all-encompassing absolute that is everything else. That’s why naming something has always been appreciated as a sacred act of consecration: it’s the moment that bestows inviolate, unique identity. The name of what God is when God individuates—when he/she steps from the absolute world to the relative world—is Jesus.

and the Word was God.

That’s to again illuminate the point that God and Jesus are one—just as I remain the same person whether I am asleep or awake.

He was with God in the beginning.

Huh? Huh? Did you catch that, the way John so artfully transformed Word into He? That’s John making sure that we’re all fully tracking the idea that God and Jesus are one.

Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.

Now this is the radical moment in … well, the entire Bible. Because it declares that Jesus is the very means by which all of life is created: it is through him that all things are made. And though that’s not usually how we think of Christ–we usually associate the act of creation with the big absolute God—it’s perfectly right that we do understand Christ as the creative agent and catalyst for life. Because if you’re a Christian, you believe that Jesus is the means by which the very nature of your life is changed, is wholly recreated. It is through Jesus Christ that you are born again.

So yes, of course, you would be born again the same way you were born the first time: through Jesus.

Perfect!

In him was life, and that life was the light of men.

God the absolute became Jesus the differentiated, became the Holy Spirit so differentiated that he/she/it exists in the heart and soul of each and every person.*

And that’s the mystical triune nature of God, explicated in four short sentences.

And people say there’s nothing wondrously miraculous about the Bible.

 

* Many Christians, of course, believe that the Holy Spirit is awakened only in those who first accept Jesus Christ as, as they say, their personal lord and savior. I’m acutely uncomfortable with that assertion, as it so readily feeds into the conviction that only some people understand the truth. That conviction is how wars are begun.

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About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. John is a pastor ordained by The Progressive Christian Alliance. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. And don't forget to sign up for his mucho awesome monthly newsletter.

  • http://wineymomma.wordpress.com wineymomma

    um…wow.

    That was very cool.

    And "the light" is one of those gifts that we are given that we cannot see its full potential until we pass it on!

  • http://skerrib.blogspot.com skerrib

    Nifty.

  • http://www.jesussite.com/blog Ty Wallace

    For those who have a hard time understanding the Doctrine of the Trinity, consider the fact that we ourselves are triune beings if you will.

    We are a soul that lives in a body of flesh and we have a spirit. Our soul can be likened to God, our body of flesh – Jesus and our spirit – the Holy Spirit.

    Not saying we are Gods but rather that if we are triune in that nature, why cannot God be triune as well – three separate and distinct entities that constitute one being?

    • Emily Kay

      I like the way you described us, but how do we give proof to body, soul, and spirit? I have been taught from a child in the trinity, but now being married to a husband who does not believe in the diety of Christ and other religious sects that keep me stumped with their questions, plus teaching a Sunday School class. I want to be able to nail this truth in the minds of children, I also want to be able to be reasonable and ready to give the "why" I believe in my heart that God is the 3 in 1. Thank you for sharing. I am up in the middle of the night and can not sleep thinking.

      • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

        Just say that God, in order to be complete (and completely interactive) must be in three places, at at once: Out in the universe (God the Father), in the world (Jesus), and in the heart (Holy Spirit). No child can’t understand that.

        • vj

          well, just totally brilliant!

        • Diana A.

          Beautiful. I either missed this the other times I read the comments or it didn’t click.

  • http://themasterstable.wordpress.com Clark Bunch

    David wrote in the Pslams “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, a light unto my path.” Jesus is the light that shines into our world to light the way to God. He is the “way, truth and the life” and says that “no man comes to the Father but by me.”

    BTW John Shore, I can’t believe I’ve never added you to my blogroll. I’ve linked to your site before. I’m going to do that right now.

  • http://www.faiththroughthestorm.homestead.com/outerspaceindex.html Tammy

    LOL I was expecting YOU to sum up the trinity in 4 sentences. ;-) I’m a bit slow. *sheepish grin* And yes, a good beginning. I love the bit about the naming of a thing being that which gives it its identity. (except for the part where it gave me flashbacks from philosophy class. *shudder*) Your post also reminded me of a poem I wrote a while back, so I went and looked it up to share with you. http://faiththroughthestorm.homestead.com/lovesdiscontentedindex.html *shy look*

  • Lynn

    I have never heard the Trinity taught the way you expressed it from those 4 sentences in John 1. Very insightful. Wonderful. Will be looking forward to more.

    • Sara

      My mother who passed away in 2009, had one of the wisest, most spiritual souls I’ve ever known. When going through her papers as I cleaned out her house, I found this beautiful document:

      1. God the Father is God the Author – the originator of all that exists. It was in His mind first that all took shape. The Idea.

      2. God the Son, our Savior Jesus Christ, is God the Artisan – the artist, the Creator of all that exists. He brought into being all that had been originally formulated in His Father’s mind. The Maker, the Spoken Word.

      3. God the Holy Spirit is God the Agent – who presents these facts to both my mind and my spiritual understanding.

  • http://suddenlyatheist.wordpress.com/ morsec0de

    This is a blatant rip off of my Bible Study. Some Christian you are…it says Thou Shalt Not Steal!

    ;)

    Just teasing. Have fun. It's an interesting book.

  • http://god-at-the-center.blogspot.com Chris

    "It’s saying that God comes in three modes: Absolute and unchanging (”God”), exuberantly creative (”Word”), and personally and specifically inside of each and every man (”the light of men”)."

    Are you espousing modalism here?

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Chris: Oh, you know, I actually began this study about a year ago; this here is actually a rewrite and repost of that earlier post. I just went and pulled it forward so I could avoid having to send everybody else back to look at that old one.

    Anything happening with Suddenly Zombie? That still cracks me up.

  • http://imintellegentlydesigned.wordpress.com/ mcoville

    You picked out one of my favorite verses. John 1:1-4 is, to me, an even more foundational verse than John 3:16. Thank you for this study.

    Chris: I would find it hard to believe that John is "espousing modalism" as defined at http://www.theopedia.com/Modalism. I would tend to believe he used the word modes as a way to separate the three ways we experience God. As I understand it, Modalism says "God does not exist as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit at the same time"(taken form the theopedia site) but I read Johns post as saying that the Trinity exists in three persons at the same time which is classic trinitarism (as I understand it).

    If any of what I said is incorrect, please let me know, and as a side note I do not pretend to know the writer of this post personally or have any extra knowledge of what he is thinking, I am purely commenting on his words as they appear on this post, man that sounded like a legal disclaimer from a lawyer(my apologies)

  • http://yahooanswers Tim

    In the beginning was the Word, Jesus

    and the Word was with God, 2 persons present

    and the Word was God. 1 person gone

    He was with God in the beginning. 2 persons present again

    a bit like fly away peter fly away paul, come back peter, come back paul

    contradiction in a verse about the trinity.

    How lost in translation are you?

  • Robert

    I don't see the contradiction. Can you expand on what you see as the contradiction? What is your translation? Thanks in advance.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    I said what translation I'm using, and don't know what "contradiction" you're talking about. Did I miss something?

  • Kancil – Indonesia

    Good explanation

  • http://www.echothefaith.com Joshua C

    WOW!.

    I came by this last night (12/30/09) by accident and How cool! i was praying for a verse on this very topic. I believe that the word of God is easy to understand, and that God desires us to know his wisdom. And here you have used 4 verses to explain a topic that I have been trying to explain to a friend for over a year LOL.

    God bless, I shall surly bookmark your site and read over some of your other postings.

  • katie

    i dont think i agree with this at all. im sorry. ive looked up about the trinity loads, john 1 verse 1, God is referred to as a almighty GOD with a capital G, however in the original scriptures which i have seen for proof, say in the beginning the word was, and the word was with (G)od, and the word was a god, when its referring to jesus as as the word it describes him as a god with a small (g), many gods with a small (g) are mentioned in the bible including false gods, in 1john 5v19 it refers satan as a god with a small g. jesus is a god but he is not the almighty GOD. check the original scriptures for proof please, you can find out for yourself. while on earth jesus wanted all the glory to be given his father not too him because he is not deserving of it because he is not the almighty god. also the reason jesus came to earth was to even out what adam (a perfect man) had messed up. However, if the trinity was real then figurativly speaking god would of sent himself down to the earth as a ransom sacrifice but this would of been a very unfair and unbalanced ransom, it had to be a perfect man which is why he sent jesus. also, when jesus went to pray to God before his death, who would he praying too……. himself!!! i dont think so. the trinity is just a misinterpretation of one little verse, and by this one little mistake it makes the bible sound like it contridicts itself.

  • http://god-at-the-center.blogspot.com Chris Coppenbarger

    @katie: No, it doesn't say a (g)od. It is using the same word, Theos, for God throughout the passage. I'm not sure what Bible you're looking at or even what original language you're looking at. And 1 John 5:19 does not call Satan a little god. I just looked at the Greek and it is the same word throughout for (G)od. You either have to translate it as a (g)od throughout or as (G)od throughout, not one or the other. The latter is the more correct.

  • Joe

    katie sounds like she is using the New World Translation, the Jehovah’s Witness bible, which DOES mistranslate that sentence. unfortunately, this translation was intentional in order to fit the doctrines of C.T. Russell and is very misleading to many people.

  • Moeketsi(south afric

    The word 'Elohim' appears over 6000 times in the bible and it is plural. It is a standardised word that can be broken down in any suitable form that will corrielate the person or thing concerned. Genesis 1 says in the beginning Elohim created… EL IS SINGULAR, FOR THE ALMIGHTY GOD ALONE, BUT ELOHIM IS AN INCLUSION OF THE WORD AND THE HOLYSPIRIT, WHOM ALL THREE CREATED EVERYTHING AS WE KNOW IT. THEREFORE Jesus is God, Yahweh(ALMIGHTY GOD) IS God, Holyspirit is God. In one word Elohim

  • Sarah

    I stumbled upon this. Very interesting. I will share with my husband tonight. As far as Katie goes, Moeketsi you are 100% correct. She is a JW using the New World Translation. I know because I used to be a JW and have read that scripture and debated it many times. I am no longer a JW. I am a born again Christian obviously and am leaning towards the trinity instead of the "one-ness" concept I was taught when becoming a Christian. Unfortunatly all they have is an old translation called the sahidic coptic used a little after Jesus had died to proove their little g theory and putting the letter A in front of GOD. I wonder how many languages there were at the same time this translation was created and how many trasnslated it different from theirs. So why then out of probably a million translations is this the one you choose?

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  • God Lover

    This topic bothers me.

    If you read the Original Greek scriptures before it was misinterpreted and erroneously recopied several times by various bibles it states that the word was a God..not "the word was God". The left out a.

    Furthermore, if you read the rest of John Jesus says he does not accpet praise from men and the there is only one God (John 5: 41-44)

    Jesus states that he cannot do anything by himself for the father loes the Son and shows him all he does. Jesus states that he does not seek to please himself but he seeks to please God. (John 5:30)

    How can God sit at the right hand of himself. Why would he pray to himself in the Garden? How can he show hiimself how to do things he already knows?

    True Jesus was with God in the beginning and everything was created through him. (Let Us make man in OUR own image) Jesus was the first born of God (onlybegotten) before he was born by the Virgin Mary. And through Jesus everything was made. God worked through Jesus but God is Supreme.

    Check out the ORIGINAL Hebrew and Greek Scriptures here before it was altered. Also Note that God's name Jehova/ Yaweh was replaced in the bible later on among other changes such as these stated above (The Devil is a liar and wants to confuse us) There is Only ONE God and it is repeated frequently throughout scripture.

  • God Lover

    Oops this is where you can find the original Greek and Hebrew scriptures translated word for word

    http://www.scripture4all.org/OnlineInterlinear/Gr

    • Levi Brinkerhoff

      Do you understand greek grammar? Even secular people, who are unbiased in their interpretations, will say that it is grammatically impossible for it to read, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god."

  • http://none Don Rappe

    Wow! An ongoing discussion of the Trinity by people who take it seriously! I'm impressed. Naturally, I'm going to express my opinions now. I once read that this doctrine was developed by the early Christians because they found a need to explain how they could worship the God of Israel and pray to Jesus. That sounds probable to me, at least it's possible. Praying to the Risen One must have been pretty natural for a pagan convert. My understanding is that Christians have come to worship three separate and distinct Divine Figures all of which reveal (to them) the same One God. Since I have no scholarly gift, I'm not sure of which would be the correct reason for burning me at the stake for this belief. As far as the Arian heresy, which Jehovah;s Witnesses have revived, which believes that Jesus was The God's highest angel, I regard the difference as being none of my business. More Heat than Light, I think.

    I too love the "hymn to the Logos" as recorded in the 1'st chapter of the 4'th Gospel. I believe this is a little older than the trinity teaching and is probably an important source. I like John's (S.) consistent explanation, but share Dr. Faust's problem with the translation of Logos. I go with "Meaning" with a capital M and Identify Rabbi Jesus Josephson of Nazareth with the Meaning of creation in my personal understanding of the divine figure The Lord Jesus Christ.

    • DonRappe

      Amazing what a computer can do with a simple apostrophe!

  • iluvGod

    Hi,

    This post is awesome!!! What else needs to be said? I am a student and doing apologetics and one of our topics this week was the trinity. Your post was a great place for me to come so that I can better present my point of view in my speeches that I will have to present. Thank you for the time and effort that you have put into this post so as to assist others in their faith. The Trinity has always been a puzzle to me (and still is), but who said we really have to understand everything there is to know about God? Anyway this article helped me to better understand this concept called "the Trinity".

    Thank you again, and God bless everyone who visits this site.

    • danfromMO

      I understand the Trinity this way – think of water. Water is water but can be represented and changed into three different forms. Water can be in a liquid state as we most often encounter it. If heated very high, water can become a gaseous or vapor state. If made really cold, water becomes a frozen solid state- yet these are all a form of water. I see God the same way. God in heaven, creator and ruler of everything. God in Jesus as a human who walked among us to relate to us in this perfect way. And God in the Spirit to dwell within our heart and thoughts and help guide us along a more perfect path. So, I see God in these different states yet all representing the same thing – our one true God in three forms.

      • iluvGod

        I have heard of many analogies for the trinity, some include: an apple, water, 3-in-1 shampoo, 1x1x1=1, a clover leaf, a triangle, and the list goes on. They help, but they only go so far. Thank you though.

        • Don Gollahon

          I think this is a good example as well, all 3 states of water at the same time:

          The Triple Point

          At 0 °C and 6 mbar pressure water can exist in a closed container as a solid, liquid and gas at the same time. This is called the triple point pressure of water. In other words at this low pressure, which is the average pressure on the surface of Mars, water can boil and freeze at the same time. Mountaineers know that the boiling point of water decreases with altitude, that is the boiling temperature decreases as the atmospheric pressure decreases. Decrease the atmospheric pressure enough and the water will boil at 0°C. Below the triple point pressure, water can only exist as a solid and a gas, not as a liquid for any length of time.

          http://www.exo.net/~pauld/workshops/weather/solidliquidgas.html

          Hard to imagine water like this. Sort of like the trinity.

  • http://mindathink.blogspot.com Minda Shultz

    I've heard a dozen different people speak on those four verses and each one is a little different and yet carries the full glory of God. Thanks for adding to that list!

  • Carl

    Do the first four verses really explain the trinity? Not by a long shot. The trinity doctrine, which is said to be Bible based, says, in part:

    1. “We worship one God in trinity and trinity in unity.” Do any of the first four verses of John’s gospel say that three persons should be worshipped as a single unit or “God”? No.

    Did Jesus teach that God should be worshipped as a trinity of persons? No. At John 4:23, he said: “But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way.” So, only the Father should be worshipped, not a tri-person deity. There is no scripture in the Bible that says that the Son and the holy spirit should be worshipped along with the Father as a single God.

    2. The trinity doctrine says: “The Father is God, the Son is God, and the holy spirit is God.” Do any of the first four verses of John’s Gospel say that the Father is God, the Son is God, and the holy spirit is God? No.

    Did Jesus teach that the Father, Son, and the holy spirit are all God? No. At John 17:3, he prayed to his Father, calling him the “only true God.” Paul added: “But we know that there is only one God, the Father, who created everything.” (1 Cor. 8:6) So, only the Father is God, not a trinity of persons.

    3. The trinity doctrine says: “In this Trinity, none is greater or less than Another. The whole Three Persons are Co-equal.” Do any of the first four verses of John’s Gospel say or imply that “in this Trinity, none is greater or less than another”? No.

    Did Jesus ever say that among himself, the Father, and the holy spirit that “none is greater”? No. At John 14:28, he said: “The Father is greater than I am.” Since the Father is greater than his Son, then the two can’t be co-equal.

    4. The trinity doctrine says: “He therefore that will be saved, must thus think of the Trinity.” Do any of the first four verses of John’s Gospel say or even imply that salvation rests on believing that God is triune? No.

    Did Jesus ever say that believing in the trinity is required for salvation? No.

    5. The trinity doctrine says: “It is necessary to everlasting Salvation that he also believe rightly the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Do any of the first four verses of John’s Gospel say or even imply that salvation is based on believing that in the incarnation of Jesus Christ? No.

    Did Jesus ever say that salvation is based on believing in his incarnation? No.

    It is more than evident that your readers believe what you say about the trinity because they don’t have all of the facts. God is not a trinity; he is a single person–the Father. (John 17:3; 1 Cor. 8:6)

    Those who believe in the trinity are in danger of having themselves classified with the religiious leaders of Jesus’ day. Of them, Jesus said: “Their worship is a farce, for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God.” (Matt. 15:9)

    • Martin

      1Jn 5:7 For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.

    • Tim

      Jesus said blaspheming Himself was forgivable, but blaspheming the Spirit was not forgivable in this age, or in the age to come (Matt. 12:32)

      If the Holy Spirit was not equal with God, why would Jesus give such a warning. Sorry Carl. Those ideas are from the Word of God, not the words of man.

      • Carl

        You’re confused, Tim. According to the trinity doctrine, the holy spirit is not equal to God. Instead, it is one of three co-equal persons that makes UP God along with the Father and Son.” The trinity is a Catholic concept of God that has been accepted by many non-catholic religions.

        FYI, no one is equal to God. As God himself said by way of a rhetorical question: “To whom will you people liken me or make me equal or compare me that we may resemble each other?” (Isa. 46:5) Nowhere in Scripture does it say that the holy spirit is co-equal with God, triune or otherwise. And consider this: If the holy spirit were co-equal to the Son, then blaspheming the holy spirit woud be just as serious as blaspheming the Son. But that is not the case, is it? No matter how you look at it, the Bible does not support the trinity.

        • justathought

          Maybe your light isn’t as bright as it should be?

    • Matthew Tweedell

      That’s not the “Trinity doctrine”. You’re quoting the Athanasian Creed, which was not backed by any of ecumenical councils and is a pseudo-epigraphic composition originally peculiar to the Latin rite. In regards to many people’s understanding of the Trinity (especially those such as Mr. Shore who aren’t likely to believe something just because somebody said that it’s the right interpretation), I believe you’re arguing against a straw man.

  • Carl

    There are two things I noticed about your replies to my last post:

    1. You had absolutely nothing to say about how the trinity doctrine blatently contradicts the teachings of Jesus that are found in the Bible.

    2. You failed to show how John 1:1-4 explains the trinity. “Trinity” means “a unity of three.” Where does it say at John 1:1-4 that God consists of three co-equal, co-eternal, co-almighty persons? Answer: It doesn’t. It merely says at John 1:1 (in some, but not all Bibles) that “the Word was God.” Nowhere in that verse does it say, “the Word AND the Father AND the holy spirit were God.” So, if God is a trinity and that “the Word was God,” where, then, is “the unity of THREE” persons that make up a single deity? Answer: Nowhere. Could you possibly be thinking of Jesus as being the Father, Son, and holy spirit, which would be modalism, another unscriptural concept of God?

    If John 1:1-4 DID explain the trinity, why would it be necessary for you to bring up 1 John 5:7 when you have not shown how John 1:1-4 explains the existence of a deity that consists of three co-equal, co-eternal, co-almighty persons? Could it be that you know that you really didn’t have a case with John 1:1-4 explaining what you initially claimed? I already showed you how the trinity doctrine directly contradicts the Bible, yet, you had nothing to say about that. Can you see now how your argument in favor of the trinity being Biblical is incorrect?

    <<>>

    I’m sure you are aware that your renderring of 1 John 5:7 does not exist in most modern Bibles. It is a spurious addition to what the verse actually says. And even if your renderring of the verse were correct, where does it say that the Father, Son, and holy spirit are three co-equal, co-eternal, co-almighty persons that make up a single deity? Answer: It doesn’t. It merely says that the three are “one.” In Scripture, “one” often means “agreement.” At Gen. 2:24, it says that a man and his wife are “one flesh.” That doesn’t mean that the two make up the same human being. It means they are in agreement. At 1 Cor. 3:6, 8, Paul says: “I planted, Apollos watered . . . He that plants and he that waters are one.” Did Paul mean that he and Apollos were one in the same person? No. He meant they were unified in purpose. That is exactly what Jesus had in mind when he said in prayer to his Father, “I and the Father are one” and that he wished that his disciples would be one “just as we are one.”(John 10:30; 17:22) Nowhere in Scripture did Jesus say or even imply that he and his Father made up two persons of a three-person God. So, 1 John 5:7 cannot help you to prove that God is a trinity.

    <<>>

    Huh? If God were a trinity, wouldn’t that make the holy spirit just one of three persons of God? Are you telling me that the holy spirit–a “person” of one–is equal to God–a deity of three persons? Doesn’t Isa. 46:5 say by way of a rhetorical question that no one is equal to God?

    Matt. 12:31, 32 says: “Every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever says a word against the Son of man will be forgiven; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.” If the holy spirit were one of three co-equal persons of God, this text would flatly contradict the Trinity doctrine, because it would mean that in some way the holy spirit was greater than the Son, since it carried a stiffer penalty for blasphemy. However, as Jesus said, a person could blaspheme him and still be forgiven. But blasphemy against the holy spirit was unforgivable. What Jesus said shows that the Father, to whom the “spirit” belonged, is greater than Jesus, the Son of man. So, Matt. 12:32 can’t help you either to prove that God is “a unity of three” persons.

    I suggest that you closely examine the trinity doctrine for yourself so that you can see it for the lie that it is. God is not a trinity. Jesus’ Father–a single person–is the “only true God.” (John 17:3)

    • justathought

      Maybe your light isn’t as bright as it should be.

      • RayC

        This is hardly a convincing reply to the persuasive argument Carl is putting forth; in fact, it’s bordering on being an ad hominem attack.

        • Marcelo

          I agree, Ray. I still haven’t read any substantive refutation of Carl’s arguments. For what it’s worth (coming from me, not much, lol), I agree with much of what Carl has written, although I do believe that Carl’s strident tone was uneccessary and perhaps off-putting to those who are convinced Trinitarians. Me, I’m more of a non-Trinitarian Christian, which puts me as very un-Christian in the eyes of most orthodoxy, so I am more receptive to Carl’s arguments.

          However, please, if any convinced Trinitarians would like to debate Carl’s points, I’m all ears (or what passes for them in cyberspace).

          Thanks.

    • Duke

      you doorknob, the blasphemy of the HS is dealing with those who turn the spirit away as He draws them to Christ. That blasphemy is really the refusal to accept Christ as Saviour which will lead a person to an eterinity in hell

  • taxedagain

    For those of you who are saying the trinity is not true…….maybe your light isn’t as bright as it needs to be.

    • Marcelo

      Hmmm….Possibly. Or maybe yours is too bright to see anything else in the room with you? Just a thought.

      Not convinced? Not surprising. Perhaps suggesting we’re dim-bulbs might be less a persuasive argument than trying to refute non-Trinitarian arguments.

  • Marcelo

    Here’s a related question for anyone who could help me. (I’m not being coy or cute, here, I’d like to hear all of your considered thoughts.)

    What is it of Jesus’ message, life, mission, and example that is undermined if Jesus in fact was something less than actually God? Is there anything that is irrevocably made meaningless by Jesus not being God, that is, co-equal with the Father and the Holy Spirit in the Holy Trinity?

    • Ember

      Not in my theology, Marcelo. I much prefer the idea that Jesus shows us our full, attainable potential, in God’s love, than he was somehow “extra” special Apollo-like being. If he’s perfect by birth, how does he even have temptation, much less struggle to deny it?

      But I’m sure there are other convincing arguments to be made, in favor of such a necessity.

  • Adam

    Easiest way to explain it is by thinking of water. Ice is solid, steam is gas and water is liquid. 3 forms of the same thing, same as God.

    • K.E.

      I’ve also heard it compared to the sun. There is the actual, physical sun, the star in the sky (God). Then there is the sunlight, which comes from the sun, by which you can see everything else (Jesus). And then there is the warmth of the sun’s rays, which you can feel but cannot see (Holy Spirit).

      • Ember

        I haven’t heard that, either. I think there’s a fun worship activity in that, somewhere. Thanks!

        • Paul

          Gosh more rubbish – and the water thing is good doctrine – Give me a break!

  • Elizabeth Potter Graham via Facebook

    I wish you had been with me Thursday when I talked to a man with a five foot high photograph of a fetus. Wow, that was a loss for scientific method.

  • Lisa Crawford via Facebook

    I really appreciated this article as I have an ongoing internal struggle trying to figure out if I’m a trinitarian or not. If I have read this correctly, the trinity you present does not include that wascaly wabbit– the Holy Spirit, a concept I, at 42 years old, still cannot wrap my puny little brain around. I can accept your explanation of the trinity. I want to be clear– I’m not anti-Holy Spirit. It’s just a concept I cannot seem to grasp. Maybe by viewing it as indenendent of the trinity, I can start to get some sort of grasp of it :)

  • Dianne Mc

    Absolutely beautiful and simple. Sometimes I think preachers/teachers make it complicated so we stay confused and dependent on them to take us to the next level of understanding. You never do such nonsense. Thank you!

  • Curt Naeve

    Beautiful John as always.

  • erika

    OK, but can i still play here even though i go to a UNITARIAN church?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      Ha! Good one!

      But no.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

        (Joke. That was a joke.)

        • erika

          i knew it was. doi.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

            Yeah, YOU knew it was (as I knew you would, of course).

            But. Well. You know.

  • AC Smith via Facebook

    I didn’t realize this was an old post. Just commenting away to ppl from years ago! ;)

  • Diana Avery via Facebook

    @ AC: That’s okay. I do that all the time!

  • Josh

    God has no religion.

  • Robert Laird

    Did God (Jesus) die on the cross? If so, if God can die, then is He really God? I have always believed that God cannot die or be tempted as Jesus was tempted by Satan? Does God have a beginning ( can He be born or die?).

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      Two different questions; yes; is that a question?; no; no.

    • Shayna

      Robert, the Bible shows us that Jesus has two natures, man and God. John 1:14 explains this by stating the Word (which was God, John 1:1) became flesh and dwelt among us. If you just take that scripture as is, you will begin to understand it better. There are other scriptures that explain this further, like Col 2:9, and Phil. 2:5-11. Here is some info on this if you want to know more. http://carm.org/jesus-two-natures. But the short answer is no, God can’t die, which is exactly why He became flesh, in order to reconcile us to Him (John 3:16)Hope this helps!

      • Dennis

        Sorry, I must differ with you. The Trinity is not true and Jesus is Gods Son, not God himself. One glaring problem that those that believe Jesus is God, is that Jesus prayed to God. Jesus was not praying to himself. This logically lets us conclude that Jesus cannot be God. The logical thing to do is worship and pray to the one Jesus prayed to, God. If Jesus told you that he had a God, would you honestly believe Jesus is God? The logical answer is no, but they throw all logic out when it comes to this. Yet most people pray to the Father in Jesus name, yet they still believe Jesus is God which is contradictory. That’s like saying the sun comes up in the east and then saying it comes up in the west. Which is it? You can’t have it both ways. Some say the Trinity can’t be explained, just believe. Well don’t, because its simply not true. The reason it can’t be explained is because it’s wrong.

        Most of those that believe Jesus is God use the phrase “God the Son”. That phrase is nowhere in the old or new testament, only “Son of God”. Those that use that phrase are adding to the Bible which we are warned not to do. Revelation 22:18-19 “For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.”

        Besides adding to the Bible with the words, “God the Son”, they are also taking away words when they ignore the words that state otherwise.

        BE careful. Believe what Word says, not what someone else says. The Bereans went to the Bible when they heard something taught to see if it was true. Acts 17:11 “Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.”

        • Elizabeth

          We believe in one God,

          the Father, the Almighty,

          maker of heaven and earth,

          of all that is, seen and unseen.

          We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,

          the only Son of God,

          eternally begotten of the Father,

          God from God, Light from Light,

          true God from true God,

          begotten, not made,

          of one Being with the Father.

          Through him all things were made.

          For us and for our salvation

          he came down from heaven:

          by the power of the Holy Spirit

          he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary,

          and was made man.

          For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;

          he suffered death and was buried.

          On the third day he rose again

          in accordance with the Scriptures;

          he ascended into heaven

          and is seated at the right hand of the Father.

          He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,

          and his kingdom will have no end.

          We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,

          who proceeds from the Father and the Son.

          With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified.

          He has spoken through the Prophets.

          We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.

          We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.

          We look for the resurrection of the dead,

          and the life of the world to come. Amen.

          Pretty much a deal breaker for Christians, including Catholics, Lutherans, Episcopalians, and Eastern Orthodox. Personally, I’m OK with “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” That, on a dark night, the text itself is enough. But if we’re bandying about the term Christian, we’re stuck with Trinity.

          • Allie

            There are a lot of Christian sects which don’t require belief in the Trinity. The Creed, while my church and apparently yours repeat it, is a latecomer to the party and not part of Scripture. It’s also important to remember the context in which it was written – to contest several specific heresies, such as the belief that Christians worshiped more than one God, and the belief that since the spirit of God couldn’t suffer, the spirit left Jesus when he was on the Cross.

          • Eric Weiss

            Well, not exactly the Eastern Orthodox. Your version of the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed includes the Filioque ([who proceeds from the Father] AND THE SON). For the Eastern Orthodox the Holy Spirit proceeds only from the Father, as the Creed originally stated; one of the causes of the millennium-long split between East and West was and continues to be the West’s addition to this clause of the Creed of “…and the Son.”

        • http://rindle.blogspot.com/ Lyn

          Not to be That Guy, but you do realise that verse in the Revelation was about the book of the Revelation and not the canon of scripture, which didn’t exist at the time of the writing of the Revelation, right?

  • Joris Heise

    Old as this is, it seems worth some current (Dec, 2013) comment because I often define myself less as a Christian and more as a Trinitarian. I tend to view the Trinity as much more Act than theology or even faith. It is what people DO that defines the situation. We respond to Creation, one way or another–say “yes,” (Dag Hammarskjold) or stay angry at “fate, luck, destiny, environment” [THE FATHER-CREATOR]; we respond to people–the “sons and daughters of men (and women)” by helping or rejecting one another, and it seems clear, after awhile that the”son of man” used that (Messianic) title to suggest the role of human beings, the family, the shared DNA of human conscience and consciousness {the SON-JESUS–how we treat one another] and finally the interior life we all have, the dialogue, self-awareness, morality, unknown motives etc. [the Spirit]. Even naming [pocketing them into a noun--as this article suggests] is a a touch of disrespect and leads people into distortions and eventually falsehood.

  • James Tucker

    I prayed and prayed about the Trinity, and this is what i believed to have received from God as my answer and it is as follows……picture a clear lightbulb, ….if you have ever looked at a light filament when it is on, it is almost unbearable bright to look at. God told Moses that he couldn’t look at him face to face because his appearance would be to much for Moses to bear,….to me the filament is the almighty God, the Father ….
    Now,…lets look at the globe of the lightbulb , that would be Jesus, the Son in human form….
    Now the light we see from the lightbulb when it is turned on would represent the Holy Spirit. ….now we have 1 lightbulb with 3 distinct characteristics same as the TRINITY

  • Neil Regan

    “people say there’s nothing wondrously miraculous about the Bible.”
    The book in itself is only miraculous in that people believe the stories as if they actually happened. The concept of ‘trinity’ is just another highlight of how badly written this work of fiction is.


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