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Problems People have with
the "Trinity" Doctrine

(Part 3)

Copyright©2020 by Daniel B. Sedory

 

    In the last part we concluded from Scripture there is only one God; infinite in both power and wisdom, among His other attributes. See, for example, Psalm 147:5 ("Our Lord is great and has awesome power; there is no limit to his wisdom." NET); Daniel 2:20 ("Let the name of God be praised forever and ever, for wisdom and power belong to him." NET) and Romans 11:33. Before moving on from those statements about God in Scripture, I want to add the following: All of God’s attributes are constantly functioning together in unison! Though we as humans often focus on a particular thought or action, within God, none of His attributes take precedence over another. He has, and always will be, just as holy and righteous in dealing with sin as He is loving and merciful. He is just as compassionate as He is full of righteous anger.

 

What does “is” mean?

    Sometimes the verb “is” may be used to establish one’s identity. For example, a witness in court points at a particular person and states, “That’s [that is] him!” in order to identify that person as being the accused. (But keep in mind, this certainly does not mean that’s all we could say about that person; it may be true that he is also the husband of a particular woman, father of a particular child. Or, the owner of that car, etc.) On the other hand, a teacher in some school might say, “And 1 plus 2 is 3” (where “is” is being used as an abbreviation for “is equal to” or simply “equals”; the teacher expecting the students to understand “is” in the mathematical sense of: 1 + 2 = 3).

    However, most of the time, we use the word “is” to describe an attribute that something or someone has; or, we may use “was” of an attribute (or condition) we know they had in the past. When someone tells a child, “The sky is blue,” does that mean anything blue is also the sky? Of course not! We are not saying sky equals blue! We are stating an attribute about the sky; just like saying “The sky is cloudy!” (And we obviously expect people to understand we mean only a part of the sky which we can see at that particular time.) We could also say at a different time, “The sky is red and orange,” but you certainly wouldn’t expect anyone to think you meant everywhere on earth. By viewing the nature of the world around us and the many states of being people find themselves in, we learn that unlike God,[1] both objects in our physical universe and human attributes are often changing!

Unfortunately, many have twisted Scripture by either misunderstanding or purposely throwing out the fact; as explained above, that the word “is” often means an attribute will follow; not that an identity is being made.

    In John 3:33, we read, “God is true.”[2]  Does this mean that anything true is God? No; of course not. Does it mean that someone is witnessing for or praising or glorifying God in what is being said, if a statement is true? No, not necessarily. But since God does not change, we do know from this statement that God will always be truthful and true! (We could have also concluded this from previous passages which state that God never lies, but as humans we don’t seem to remember — or learn — very well, so need to hear things over and over.)

Likewise, 1 John 4:8 and 4:16 both state that “God is love.”[3] Does this mean that anytime someone shows “love” that God must be actively involved? (God certainly blessed humanity with the capability of showing true love; by which I mean sacrificial — with no kind of expectation or reward; simply performing an act of love with no thought about what may follow.) I can only answer: Possibly. Do the words “God is love” mean that God = Love and Love = God? No! That would be ripping this statement out of context, and ultimately it is the context of a writing we must look to in order to understand its meaning:

First, the context of the whole chapter shows John is talking only about Christians here and that they must love each other. We must also see John’s statement in light of the fact that he provided an additional explanation for what he meant by writing in 2 John 1:6 (and elsewhere): “Now this is love: that we walk according to his commandments.”  And in regards to salvation, John 3:36 states: “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” The obedience John mentions is an outward display of the love that a Christian has for God, for the Holy Spirit working in their lives.

Furthermore, John stated in 1 John 4:9-10: “By this the love of God is revealed in us: that God has sent his one and only Son into the world so that we may live through him. In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.” So, we know there is a lot more than simply loving someone involved in salvation from the penalty of sin.

 

There are some Identities in Scripture

    Before moving on to other words, let’s cover a few identities which are mentioned in the Gospel of John:

    In John 8:12 (and 9:5), Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. The one who follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” Because this is an identity, it is just as valid to say: The light of the world is Jesus Christ. Notice how the statement in John 8 uses the word “the” (in the English translation) to refer to a specific meaning of this phrase containing the word “light” rather than light in general. This is an example where the Greek article precedes the word for “light.”[4] As noted earlier, when a writer states that someone or something “is” some word or phrase, it’s often declaring something about that person or thing. For example, 1 John 1:5 contains the phrase “God is lightwithout “the” in front of “light,” so you cannot say that any kind of “light” is God! It’s describing an attribute about God in that context, not an identity.

Likewise, after reading various passages in John (chapters 10, 14 and 15), we could also say that “the door of the sheep,” “the good shepherd,” “the true vine” and “the way, the truth and the life” (in the context of each of those chapters) are all ways one could refer to Jesus Christ, because he said, “I am...” followed by each of those phrases using the Greek article (and also supported by the context). “The way” he spoke of in John 14:6 being that of salvation from sin, and the reason why Peter said in Acts 4:12, “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”

 

Some Notes on the Greek Article

    Unlike English, there are at least 17 different ways to write the Greek word sometimes translated as “the” (though often left untranslated) in English! How can there be so many different ways to write a single word? First, just like German, Russian and some other languages (including Latin and Sanskrit), Greek uses one of its grammatical genders (which has nothing to do with biology) of masculine, feminine and neuter for each of its nouns. And when the article is used with a noun, it must agree with the “gender” of that associated noun.

    Furthermore, there are different forms for both nouns and the Greek article depending upon how the words are used grammatically in a sentence; that is, whether the noun is the subject (usually in the nominative case), direct object (usually in the accusative case), etc. Here are both the singular and plural forms of the article; in 24 of the (let’s call them) grammatical usages those 17 different spellings can represent:

And as strange as it may seem to an English only speaker, the gender of words in other languages is rather arbitrary. For example, in both German and Spanish, a book and a pencil are both masculine, but a pen is feminine, and one must memorize all the genders for each noun. By now, you might see why it could actually be easier for children or immigrants from some countries to learn English than for English speakers to learn another language.

    The facts above should also provide you with a greater understanding as to why someone who was raised in a Spanish speaking home may sometimes refer to a car, boat or some other “thing” as “he” or “she” instead of “it” (because not only had they already learned to refer to something as having a male or female gender, but in Spanish they never called anything an “it”).[5]

    So unlike English, this expected agreement in grammatical gender and case makes what was written in Scripture (in both the Greek of the New Testament and the Hebrew and Aramaic of the Old Testament) much less ambiguous than English.

In our next part, we’ll attempt to examine every detail of John 1:1; which was written by one who knew Jesus very well, one of His disciples and one of the few of the earliest Christians who lived to an old age.  He was also the pastor of a number of churches and one of The Way’s early apologists against various heresies which had already arisen and continued to exist beyond his lifetime; as well as being led by the Spirit to address some false teachings which were yet to come.

 

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The "Trinity" - Part 2       Index Page       The "Trinity" - Part 4

 

 


Footnotes

1[Return to Text] See James 1:17 (“... the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or the slightest hint of change.” NET — Note: Greek “variation or shadow of turning” refers to the motions of heavenly bodies causing variations of light and darkness.) Compare: Malachi 3:6.

2[Return to Text] “He who has received His testimony has set his seal to this, that God is true.” (John 3:33; NAU)

3[Return to Text] “The person who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (1 John 4:8), and “God is love, and the one who resides in love resides in God, and God resides in him.” (1 John 4:16b).

4[Return to Text] This work uses only "the Greek article" or simply "the article" to refer to the Greek word which most Greek grammar books call the Definite Article. Unlike English though, which has both definite ("the") and indefinite ("a" or "an") articles, Greek has only one (so that’s why I decided to use a different and simpler term). Note: Although the Greek article is sometimes translated into English as "the" when necessary (as seen in the text above; though it’s often not translated at all), it has a much wider meaning than the English word "the" in many of its uses in the Greek New Testament.

5[Return to Text] Note: Spanish along with Arabic, French, Hebrew and a number of other languages (including Ancient Egyptian, Aramaic and Coptic) have only the masculine and feminine grammatical genders. (See here: For a dynamic list of languages by type of grammatical genders.)


First published on: July 15, 2019 (2019.07.15);
Updated on: July 18, 2019 (2019.07.18); and
Revised on: June 23, 2020 (2020.06.23); June 26, 2020 (2020.06.26).

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