What Does “God” Mean? The Answer Undercuts the Concept of the Trinity.

What Does “God” Mean? The Answer Undercuts the Concept of the Trinity. July 25, 2016

Why can’t Christianity think of a better name for its god than “God”? A god named “God” is like a cat named “Cat.”The fourth name of God

While we’re talking about names, if Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are the persons, what do you call the union of these into one god? Shell, white, and yolk form an egg. Ice, water, and steam are three states of H2O. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit form whom?

You need a fourth name. Do you call it “God”? That won’t do because the Bible tells us that “God” is the one who created everything, and that’s supposed to be the Father. The Father can’t be both the first person of the Trinity and the overall god at the same time.

Calling this union the Trinity would emphasize the separateness of the three and risk the heresy of Partialism. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are supposed to form a single, unified who. Another problem with “the Trinity” is that’s an odd name for a monotheistic god. It’s a label, not a name. Call the three persons “a council of three” if you want, but that doesn’t make clear the unity like a proper name would.

That the Old Testament uses one name for God (okay, it uses several names—Yahweh/Jehovah, Elohim—but that’s a different issue) makes clear that God the Father was no Trinity. Without this distinction, it’s clear that there is no Trinity in the Old Testament.

Let’s see this another way. Consider this passage from Isaiah 45:5–6:

I will gird you, though you have not known Me; that men may know from the rising to the setting of the sun that there is no one besides Me. I am Jehovah, and there is no other.

There are two interpretations of this passage, neither of which supports the Christian interpretation.

  • If Jehovah is a synonym for “the Father,” this means that he reigns alone (since “there is no other”), and we must discard the Trinity.
  • If Jehovah is a synonym for “the Trinity,” then it makes nonsense of the singular pronouns (Me and I) in these verses and confuses passages such as “Then Jehovah spoke to Moses” (Ex. 40:1) or “After Jehovah had spoken these things to Job” (Job 42:7).

The problem, of course, is demanding a Christian interpretation of a Jewish text. There’s nothing confusing here from a Jewish viewpoint, and that was the intended audience. There is no Trinity, and the only god that exists is Jehovah.

Well, at least the only god at this time in the evolution of Judaism. It’s a little more complicated because Old Testament Jews didn’t begin as monotheists. The Old Testament documents their evolution from a kind of polytheism (that’s an aside that I explore more here).

Admittedly, one handy feature of the Trinity is that it gives Christians a way to reinterpret some embarrassing passages from the Old Testament.

Let us make mankind in our image (Gen. 1:26).

The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil (Gen. 3:22).

Let us go down [to Babel] and confuse their language so they will not understand each other (Gen. 11:7).

These are no problem if “us” refers to, not a council of gods as a careful reading of the Old Testament reveals, but the three persons of the Trinity. But if understanding God as a trinity were important, he would’ve made this clear from the beginning. Judaism’s evolution from polytheism explains this nicely. The conflation of “God” to mean both “the Father” and “the Trinity” reveals the Trinity as a clumsy later addition.

See also “Colorless Green Ideas Sleep Furiously” as Reasonable as the Trinity

Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used 
against unintelligible propositions.
— Thomas Jefferson

(This is an update of a post that originally appeared 6/12/13.)

 


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  • busterggi

    MPD.

    • GubbaBumpkin

      Methyl-pentanediol?

      • busterggi

        multiple personal disorder.

  • raylampert

    I think when early Christians were trying to unite the various sects that had popped up, they left a lot of things deliberately vague. Like, how is Jesus both the “Son of God” and “God in the Flesh”? Like a lot of religious doctrine, it’s easier just not to think too hard of it.

    The men who actually wrote the Old and New Testaments never mentioned the Trinity, nor did they even seem to be aware of the concept. Also, they didn’t seem to have a unified idea as to who Jesus actually was. Paul seemed to think Jesus was a purely angelic being who never had an earthly incarnation. The Synoptic writers believed that Jesus was a man whom God had adopted as his son and prophet, or some sort of new Moses. John’s author was the only one who seemed to think that Jesus was a physical manifestation of Yahweh.

    • busterggi

      “I think when early Christians were trying to unite the various sects that had popped up, they left a lot of things deliberately vague.”

      Riiiiight – that’s why they spent centuries killing one another off in religious dogma inspired wars.

      • raylampert

        I was referring to pre-Council of Nicea, the 2nd and 3rd centuries. We don’t have a lot of information about the various groups and sects that were around during that period.

        • Greg G.

          They were vague and ambiguous so they could all be seen in agreement to the rest of the world trying to make Jesus prayer be true. John 17:20-23, the biggest prayer failure, ever.

        • busterggi

          Try reading Jenkins’ ‘The Jesus Wars’ – you’ll find we know enough to see how political and bloodthirsty things were in forming ‘the church’.

    • Ignorant Amos

      The Ebionites thought he was a man, the Jewish messiah, not divine, but was adopted by God when he was baptised….or something like that.

  • alverant

    I think they picked the name God for marketing reasons, kind of a reverse gentrification of a word into a brand name instead of the other way around.

  • Uzza

    I can only explain it the way it was explained to me, following the unbroken Apostolic Succession from Jesus Christ through the First Apostle Saint Peter right down to Father Gallegher.

    “It’s a Mystery of Faith; now hold out your knuckles for the ruler.”

  • Kevin K

    Well, in truth there is a different name for the three-in-one god; but it’s kind of embarrassing.

    Millard. God’s real name is Millard.

    • (Ix-nay on the ame-nay! He’s in the witness protection program.)

  • Myna A.

    …one handy feature of the Trinity is that it gives Christians
    a way to reinterpret some embarrassing passages from the Old Testament.

    This suddenly reminds me of an episode from, “All in the Family”, where Gloria one day buys a wig and when taking it off that night, Mike begs her to put it back on. They argue until it dawns on Gloria what he’s really asking, and says something to the effect of: “You want me to wear the wig so you can have an affair without cheating on your wife! Well, that’s just sick.”

    The problem, of course, is demanding a Christian interpretation of a Jewish text.[…]The conflation of “God” to mean both “the Father” and “the Trinity” reveals the Trinity as a clumsy later addition.

    Just one of many lessons Christianity learned from the Empire…how to thieve from one and all, extract a bit of this, add a bit of that, and ultimately claim it as your own inspiration. Even given the evolution in the rise and fall of institutions, the Romans did take thievery and conquest to an art form, and Christianity is a true child of that grandiosity. I think the clumsiness comes in with the example of Gloria’s wig. The impulse to progress from something one might view as having become stagnate is inevitable. The first attempts are always clumsy, but a lie told often enough, as the saying goes, becomes a strangely justifiable truth. The alternative might be chaos.

    [Ed.]

  • AG

    When I read the NIV Old Testament, the name given in English for Yahweh is always “Lord” not “God.” God is usually the English translation of Elohim, arguably “The gods.” I’ve been studying Job and in the beginning of the book, the Lord (Yahweh) says Job fears God (Elohim. ) That is a pretty odd statement if he is referring to himself. The Angels that come into the presence of Yahweh, “Satan”included, are actually the children of the gods, if translated literally. The big problem is most bible readers have no idea that “the Lord” and “God” are not equivalent. The study bible footnotes and commentary, not to mention theologians who know better, perpetuate the fiction that they are.

    The main central portion of Job, 30+ chapters, does not use Lord(Yahweh) at all. It is God (Elohim) who is being extolled as the creator. Not only that, God (Elohim) creates trouble as well as good. “Trouble” being a dishonest translation of a word that literally means “evil.” But I imagine that was a bit too uncomfortable to allow.

  • RichardSRussell

    I once heard that the only people entitled to use “we” when referring to themselves were royalty, editors, and people with tapeworms.

    • Argus

      I mean..we…I, the royal we..you know the editorial, man”

      The Dude saith

  • Joe

    This was something I never considered. Why would god refer to himself as a trinity? How can a son be his father? I know apologists love to use semantics. I wonder how they’d react to this?

    • adam

      Literally UNBELIEVABLE, if you think about it.

      • Rudy R

        “Religion easily has the best bullshit story of all time. Think about it. Religion has convinced people that there’s an invisible man…living in the sky. Who watches everything you do every minute of every day. And the invisible man has a list of ten specific things he doesn’t want you to do. And if you do any of these things, he will send you to a special place, of burning and fire and smoke and torture and anguish for you to live forever, and suffer, and burn, and scream, until the end of time. But he loves you. He loves you. He loves you and he needs money.” George Carlin

    • Michael Neville

      In Egyptian mythology Osiris and Set are each other’s fathers.

  • Khanada

    I was a very questioning child… We were nominally Methodists, and having Bibles in the house and believing was supposedly super-important, but going to church just wasn’t important at all until I was about eleven (and then primarily for social reasons — you go to “fit in”, not because you share the beliefs).

    Anyway… I really didn’t “get” the idea of the Trinity. I understood the concept of Evolution just fine, but I did *not* understand one bit how Jesus could be God’s kid, and yet also be God. Add in the Holy Spirit (who my family always called the Holy Ghost), and I really, really didn’t understand. Rather than sit me down with what *might* have made sense — the Ray Stevens’ classic “I’m My Own Grandpa” — I got told that Jesus was born human but then when he died, he was special, so he was promoted. Like at a job. And the Holy Ghost was the part of God that God sent to watch you to see if you were bad.

    I read a lot of what is commonly referred to as “Mythology” as a kid — Greek was my favourite, and later Norse — and when I started questioning how a Trinity is still one god instead of a group of them like the Greeks had, there was a lot of upset and pearl-clutching displayed, but not a single real explanation. I suppose I shouldn’t hold it against the family adults of the time, since they just plain didn’t have an explanation, because there really isn’t a coherent one, and they had never been troubled to think about the topic… But unfortunately (for them), they thought it was a good idea to encourage me to trouble to think — then didn’t like the results. =D

    • Kodie

      Like Bob S likes to point out often, God used to walk around on earth and talk to men like he was a man. For some reason, later, that wasn’t an option. He magically impregnates a girl-woman without her physical awareness, so the born son becomes a human with magicalness embedded in his DNA. God turns himself into magical sperm and grows into a person and while Jesus walks the earth, he’s cursing his stupid idea and counting down the days until he can return home. Maybe the idea that god is his father is something he just tells himself, or something to explain to other people, but really he’s just another cult leader who thinks he’s god or directly in contact with god. It’s hard to tell if Jesus neglected god’s duties while Jesus or what. He still needed to be on the ball, I think, if Jesus is trying to sell himself as the messiah savior, but don’t you ever feel like you could divide yourself into two people for a while and catch up with stuff? Like two bodies that share a brain, a hive mind, there are no secret thoughts. I feel like the holy spirit isn’t a 3rd personality within the trinity but the electrical current or somesuch that makes this shit occur. I don’t really find the trinity to be thoroughly illogical as some people do, I mean it’s weird but having 3 separate bodies isn’t a deal breaker to me on one god. The deal breaker is the whole operation is a fictional story based on wishful thinking. Whatever dimensions they want to add to the story to give it more meaning or mystery to them is fiction. The suspension of disbelief applies even to me. It’s not an argument against the belief that I think is really worth pursuing. I guess former Christians feel differently, I’m not one of those either, not a biblical student, or reader, just you tell me the trinity is a thing, holy shit how does it even work? It’s not that hard to make it work in the ways that fiction usually works. Not great fiction, mind you.

      • I feel like the holy spirit isn’t a 3rd personality within the trinity but the electrical current or somesuch that makes this shit occur.

        That’s my view as well. The Spirit is God’s breath or personality or life force or something, not really anything separate from God. God and Jesus each have a Testament written about them. And then all of a sudden, this not-a-character suddenly becomes one of the Three? Weird.

        I don’t really find the trinity to be thoroughly illogical as some people do, I mean it’s weird but having 3 separate bodies isn’t a deal breaker to me on one god.

        Just make sure you avoid both Partialism and Modalism. That’s the trick.

        • Kodie

          I don’t really follow the terminology often used for this confusion. It’s an elaborate prequel for the Scooby-Doo series. The ghoul haunting the gang is just the amusement park owner in a mask.

  • Len

    The three names of God: Larry, Mo, and Curly Joe.
    I remember a book from way back way back called The Nine Million Names of God. Good read 🙂

    • Greg G.

      Either Curly or Shemp, please.

    • Michael Neville

      You’re thinking of an Arthur C. Clarke short story “The Nine Billion Names of God” (PDF).

      • Len

        Indeed. That’s the one 🙂
        Great story. Of course, it would only take minutes now, not the thousand days they mention.

  • Without Malice

    Throw in the two natures doctrine and it gets even worse. Jesus was both God and man but he two never mixed, which kind of throws the old “the word became flesh” thing right out the window. If the God part doesn’t mix with the man part then it cannot rightfully be said that the word (Logos) “became” flesh. And to top that off they say that Jesus got 100% of his humanity from his mother. Now we all know that if that were the case he would be nothing but a clone of his mother, but back in the day they knew nothing of genetics and thought it was the woman who was responsible for the sex of a child and not the father. The whole thing is one big fucked up mess.

  • Cygnus

    God, (who also goes by the aliases Yahweh, Allah and Jehovah to evade debt collectors) is the supreme Holy Lord. Jesus is happy that you now know more about him.

    • Argus

      caaan’t tell if it’s sarcasm…

      • Greg G.

        It is.

        • Cygnus

          You know me 🙂

      • Annerdr

        “to evade debt collectors” is kind of a giveaway.

        • Argus

          I can be kinda thick, alas.

  • Sophia Sadek

    There was a time when Christians considered their virtual father to be a deity. They did not consider Jesus to be a deity. There appears to have been a concerted effort to corrupt the letters of those Christians to bring them into conformity with the Nicene formula equating Jesus with his own father. The Trinity did not exist before the fourth century. It was created by corrupt bishops who saw material benefit in creating a bogus test for orthodoxy using the full weight of state enforcement.