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The Trinity is Not a Contradiction

January 27, 2013

Christians sometimes call the Trinity one of God’s “holy contradictions.” They say that claiming that the Trinity is a contradiction is not a problem because God is bigger than we are. Therefore, we should not be surprised if what is a contradiction to us can somehow be true for God. If you have ever watched a debate between a Muslim and an orthodox Christian, one of the most repeated attacks against the Christian faith is the “fact” that Christianity at its core requires faith in a contradiction. Since contradictions are not true, Christianity must be rejected.

What should we think about the claim that the Trinity is a contradiction? Is it? Can a contradiction ever be true? Should we tell curious non-Christians that it is ok to believe a contradiction since God is bigger than we are? I believe we should not tell this to people for two important reasons.

First, contradictions can never be true. One of the most (if not the most) basic and essential principles of logic is the law of non-contradiction. The law of non-contradiction simply states that “a can never equal non-a.” An apple can not be an orange at the same time. The number one can never equal the number two in the same sense. Simply stated, contradictions are always false. If the Trinity is a contradiction then we should reject it along with Christianity.

However, the second reason that we should not tell people that the Trinity is a contradiction that should be taken by faith is that the Trinity is in fact not a contradiction. If I were to tell you that 1 = 2.54, I would be guilty of breaking the law of non-contradiction. I would be wrong. But if I told you that 1 inch equaled 2.54 centimeters I would not be guilty of a contradiction. You see in this latter formula I am not claiming that the number 1 equals 2.54 in the exact same sense. I am using the number 1 in a different sense than the number 2.54, not only saving me from error, but causing me to be correct in my assertion. What we see Unitarians do in debates all the time is say “One does not equal three, therefore orthodox Christianity is wrong.” If we mean “one” and “three” in the same sense than they would be correct. The key is, as Christians we are not asserting that God is one and three in the same sense. What orthodox Christianity has always maintained is that God is three in a different sense than which He is one. We say that God is three persons, yet one Being. We are not saying that God is three persons and one person, or three beings and one being. Those statements would be contradictions and should be rejected. We maintain that He is one substance with three subsistences. We say He is three persons, yet one being.

Is this truth mysterious? Yes it is. Can we fully grasp how God subsists in three persons? No we cannot. Is this teaching a contradiction? No it is not. The key is that Scripture does not say that God is one in the same sense in which it asserts that God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Trinity is true. The Trinity is Biblical. The Trinity is wonderful and should elicit majestic praise from our hearts. The Trinity is NOT however, a contradiction. Praise be to God!

From → Theology

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