Category: Columns

The Trinity and other gods

This is the 10th in a series of articles on the Trinity, excerpted from “What Every Christian Should Know About the Trinity,” available through Amazon and other booksellers.

In Scripture, the Hebrew word elohim is used thousands of times for the singular God of Israel, but not exclusively. The biblical writers also employ elohim to refer to members of God’s heavenly council or assembly (Ps. 89:5-7); gods and goddesses of nations surrounding Israel (Judg. 11:24); territorial spirits (Hebrew: shedim, often translated “demons,” Deut. 32:17); and the spirits of deceased people (1 Sam. 28:13).

In other words, biblical writers used elohim to label any entity that is not embodied by nature and is a member of the spiritual realm.

In every case, these other “gods” are created beings, none of whom shares the unique qualities of Yahweh (omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence, transcendence, immutability, etc.). They owe their existence, power, knowledge, and authority to Yahweh and ultimately are accountable to Him.

So, when Scripture states there is no God but Yahweh, and also speaks of other gods, we should not see this as a contradiction. Rather, we should see it as a way the biblical writers describe residents of the spiritual realm.
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Hebrew Scriptures and the Trinity

This is the ninth in a series of articles on the Trinity, excerpted from “What Every Christian Should Know About the Trinity,” available through Amazon and other booksellers.

While most arguments for the Trinity are grounded in the New Testament, God begins revealing His triune nature in the Old Testament. One hint at the plurality and unity of the Godhead may be found in several passages where God speaks.

For example, Genesis 1:26 reads, “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness.’” Here, the verb “said” is singular, but the verb “let us” is plural, as are the possessive endings of the nouns “our image” and “our likeness.” Then, in the next verse we read, “So God created man in his own image; he created him in the image of God; he created them male and female” (v. 27).

Genesis 3:22-24 provides a similar clue: “The LORD God said, ‘Since the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil, he must not reach out, take from the tree of life, eat, and live forever.’ So the LORD God sent him away from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove the man out …”

Other examples include:

Genesis 11:7, where the LORD says, “Come, let’s go down there and confuse their languages so that they will not understand one another’s speech.” Then, in verses 8 and 9, the LORD “scattered them” and “confused the language of the whole earth.”

Isaiah 6:8 – “Then I heard the voice of the Lord asking: Who should I send? Who will go for us?”
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The LORD our God is one

This is the eighth in a series of articles on the Trinity, excerpted from “What Every Christian Should Know About the Trinity,” available through Amazon and other booksellers.

The Bible consistently declares there is one true and living God, the self-revealed Creator who alone must be loved and worshiped. All other gods are false. The physical depictions of these gods, as carved images or naturally occurring phenomena such as stars and trees, in fact represent demons (see Deut. 32:16-17; 1 Cor. 10:19-20).

Perhaps nowhere is the exclusivity of God stated more clearly than in the Shema, an affirmation of Judaism and a declaration of faith in one God. It is the oldest fixed daily prayer in Judaism, recited morning and evening since ancient times. It consists of three biblical passages, two of which instruct the Israelites to speak of these things “when you lie down and when you rise up.”

The best-known part of the Shema is from the first biblical passage: “Listen, Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength” (Deut. 6:4-5).

The prophet Isaiah echoes this cry as he calls the Israelites to return to the LORD. Isaiah 44:6 – 45:25 is a powerful reminder from Yahweh that He alone is God. Consider just a small portion of this passage:

“This is what the LORD, the King of Israel and its Redeemer, the LORD of Armies, says: I am the first and I am the last. There is no God but me” (44:6).

“I am the LORD, and there is no other; there is no God but me” (45:5).
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How Scripture uses the word “God”

This is the seventh in a series of articles on the Trinity, excerpted from “What Every Christian Should Know About the Trinity,” available by contacting the MBC or through Amazon.

To avoid confusion when exploring the Trinity, we need to understand three different ways the Bible employs the word “God” and the way we use it in our theology. Otherwise, we may be tempted to see the Trinity as three gods.

First, there are references to God as Father. The New Testament often uses this approach to distinguish between God the Father and Jesus. For example, 1 Corinthians 8:6 reads, “… yet for us there is one God, the Father. All things are from him, and we exist for him. And there is one Lord, Jesus Christ. All things are through him, and we exist through him.”

For Paul to declare Jesus “Lord,” using the Greek kyrios, is to affirm His deity. In the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures, the translators used kyrios as a rendering for Yahweh, the unique name of God. So, Paul is not calling the Father “God” and Jesus a lesser being. He is simply distinguishing these two members of the Godhead.

Paul further writes in 2 Corinthians 1:3, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort.”

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The failure of analogies

This is the sixth in a series of articles on the Trinity, excerpted from “What Every Christian Should Know About the Trinity,” available by contacting the MBC or through Amazon.

In seeking to simplify the complex truth of one God in three persons, Christians sometimes resort to analogies – the comparison of two things for the purpose of explanation or clarification. While analogies applied to the Trinity seem helpful on the surface, they fail to do justice to our infinite and eternal God. Worse, “each represents an ancient heresy,” according to Nathan Jacobs, visiting scholar of philosophy at the University of Kentucky.

As Jacobs points out, Trinitarian analogies typically fall into three groups:

Parts-whole. In parts-whole analogies, the Trinity may be likened to an egg, which has a shell, egg white, and egg yolk. Each part is fully egg but not the whole egg, and thus each part is distinct from the others. As another example, the Trinity sometimes is said to be like a three-leaf clover. Each leaf is distinct from the others, but the clover is incomplete without all three. One other example, from ancient times, is that the Trinity is like a single lump of clay divided into three parts.

Parts-whole analogies are similar to the heresy of Tritheism, which takes two basic forms: (1) the belief that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three separate divine beings, and (2) that the divine nature may be divided into three parts. This reduces God to the sum of His parts.
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