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Were God to re-create the world, I doubt if He would give man a mind: it has led (perhaps misled) him to speculate on the unknown, so much so that he is confused than a naked Adam grappling for cover. From the very genesis of things, it seems God never planned for man to know anything beyond his physical environment, hence the restrictions to the fruit of knowledge, and the solemn warning that he will die upon eating it. Well, he did eat, and the eyes of his mind were opened: to hypothetical possibilities that lead to confusion, estrangement and destruction; the death promised at the time of the fall. Throughout history, he has tried to attach meaning to that which is metaphysical in nature: the curved idols for a God, the varied and weird rituals of worship and finally, the many beliefs and ideologies about the person of God; the created seeks to recreate the creator!
And so man read the scriptures, contemplated, speculated and then decided that there is one God, yet not one: He is three at once- God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Upon this basis is founded the concept of The Trinity among Christians. The paper aims to explore the development of this belief as held by Christianity.
An analogy will be in order to capture the concept of the trinity. When we talk of the Los Angeles Lakers, we are referring to a team of players; Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest, Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom etc. They share many attributes, e.g. identity of belongingness (in the Lakers team) sporting ambitions (as a career, hobby, etc), team objectives and goals (to win trophies). For these reasons, they are collectively referred to as ‘The Lakers,’ though there are distinct individuals in the team. As noted, it becomes an identity. So even in the street, Brant is still a Laker, Artest a Laker and so forth. In like manner, Christians talk of the Trinity as a team; the Godhood of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Even in a family, the name of the head figure is used in referring to other members. Thus, in the Bush family, George is a Bush, Laura a Bush, Barbara a Bush etcetera. Equally, in the God family, the Father is God; the Son Jesus is God and the Holy Spirit is God. They are three personas in one person; three Gods in one God and collectively, the trinity.
Sadly, that is as far as the analogy can go: we know that Bryant is not and will not be Artest; they share a team name, but each has his own life and identity outside the court. Likewise, George is different from Laura outside the Bush tag: we can’t call one ‘former president’ because the other is on grounds of Bushiness, so to speak. However, the question of the Trinity is complex, as it is based on divine writings and with a history spanning many centuries. But most important, it encompasses entities of which empirical evidence is impossible, and is more of a belief than a fact. In the next paragraphs, we examine some of the religious writings whose interpretations support the belief of the Holy Trinity.
In the first chapter of the book of Genesis, the 26th verse (KJV), God said that “let us make man in our own image, after our likeness.” The use of the plural pronouns ‘us’ and ‘our’ points to the fact (or possibility) that the speaker (God himself), is addressing persons of similar qualities. So it is not Him the one God who did the creation work, but Them, though the number of Gods at this point is not specified: in fact no where is it stated in the whole bible. As noted before, the tri-concept is a matter of interpretation. Well, since we know (read ‘it is thought’ in case you are an atheist) that man is the image of the Creators, then the said creators must be alike in all respects to make it possible for man to represent their image, physically, mentally and spiritually. If so, then the Father, the Son and the Spirit must be the same and one, just as Oedipus was the father, son and husband at once: Oedipus is a character in the play Oedipus the King, who had children with his mother. So he was husband and son to his mother, brother and father to their offspring, all in the same person. The father was son, and the son was father; likewise in the trinity, though from a different perspective.
While on earth, Jesus was asked by one of his disciples (Philips) to show them God. He responded that whoever had seen Him had seen God (John 14: 9). This assertion by Christ himself is interpreted by Christians to mean that Jesus was God; the Word that became flesh. Prior to his birth, the prophecy that his name will be Immanuel-God among men- furthers the argument for the trinity. “I am He,” were his words: the pronoun perhaps in reference to I AM WHO I AM in the Old Testament (Moses had asked God for a name to take to the Egyptian king. See Exodus 3:14).
So far, the son-father relationship seems to tick: the Holy Spirit is yet to fit properly in the triangular axis of Godhood. This brings us to the pregnancy of the Virgin Mary, and Jesus of Nazareth, the son of a carpenter. The angel who appeared before Mary told her she would conceive of the Holy Spirit, be pregnant and give birth to a son-Jesus; and it happened so (Matthew 1:18). Whose Son then, is He, the Father’s or the Spirit’s? In John 3: 16, God is said to have given his begotten son to save mankind. What all these religious teachings reveal (or their interpretations) is that the Spirit by whose pregnancy Jesus was born is the same God who sent him. It then boils down to the conclusion that the three are inherently related in essence: the Son is the Father, and the Holy Ghost is manifested in both.
Nevertheless, what looks like biblical contradictions has laid the foundation of criticism against the trinity. Among the religious groups, Jehovah’s Witnesses regard the trinity as undermining the supremacy of the one true God, the one Father of all. Jesus himself prayed to God as the only true God, even referring to him as Father. See John 17: 3, 24). It therefore cannot be that Jesus as God would pray unto himself: he would have simply done what he asked the Father to do. The trinity concept becomes complex when one questions, as I do know, whether Jesus came to this world in the capacity of God per se, or as a sent Son. In one of his arguments with the Pharisees, he said that his Father who is in heaven sent him, at the same time claiming he is God. In a letter to the
Islam’s position is an outright rejection of the trinity. So much is it resented that when I challenged a follower that it is true on biblical grounds (I wanted him to counter with teachings from the Holy Koran to serve my purpose), he dismissed Jesus himself as fiction or at the very best, a legendary figure. Two hundred years from now, he said, one can as well rise up in Iraqi and claim that Hussein Saddam was a prophet from Allah, whom the Americans hanged for condemning their injustices against the Arab world. He can then start a ‘Saddamist’ religion that puts a resurrected Hussein at the right hand of Allah! He couldn’t get a verse immediately, but later sent one from the Holy Koran (5: 116-117) which identifies Iesa (Jesus), as simply the son of Mary, who deceived the world into worshipping him. In this light then, the trinity is not possible.
Away from religious teachings, Robert Ackermann (1985, 39) dismisses the trinity as a tactical device designed to hold Christianity together. He points out that Judaism, which was in existence during Jesus’ time disapproves of it. The concept, he observes, is a brilliant theological maneuver to elevate the figure Jesus above the mere prophet he was, to give Christianity a leverage to advance its beliefs on a universal forum. It is a tactic that fits Christianity into a polytheistic context and the monotheistic aspect of Judaism; so it was an effort to compromise two opposites: one God; acceptable to Judaism, and three Gods: which fitted into the early Greek pluralistic Philosophy about the gods.
In Living Religions (Fisher 1997, 285), the trinity is portrayed as a Christian doctrine that expresses the mystery of God. The first chapter of
Perhaps it is John Reumann (1991, 40) who presents the subject more critically. Jesus was born among the Jews, and revealed himself as the promised messiah. If he was of God and from God, it is expected that He would have upheld the Mosaic teachings which God gave to the children of
Nevertheless, when everything else seems to make no sense, there is only one Truth: God is one, and His name is I AM THAT I AM. He created the heavens and earth. He died on the cross and on the third day arose from the dead. He dwells among men in the Holy Ghost. The same Spirit; the very Jesus; is the one true God and Father of all. For He says: “Everything on earth and heaven has been given unto me. So go forth into the world, and preach the gospel to every nation and tongue, baptizing them in the name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. And behold, I am with you to the very end of time” (Matthew 28: 18-20).