The Evangelical Universalist Forum

How Many Gods Are There?

Does it matter that one believe such a thing? Does it change your faith in such a way that you can now live the victorious Christian life, whereas before you couldn’t?

qaz, neither of these even imply a “Trinity.” Trinitarians believe in a compound God consisting of 3 divine Persons.

The fact that Jesus existed before Abraham doesn’t imply that He was part of a Trinity. Nor does it imply that He was the great “I AM” as some supposed.

Also John 1:1 doesn’t say that the Word was the God. It does say that the Word was with the
God.

This phrase is usually translated, “and the word was God”. Some people read it emphasizing the word “was”. In doing so, they imply that the “word” and “God” are identical. But this is not the case since
“θεος” is not preceded by the article. In addition, the word order is changed: “θεος ‘ην ‘ο λογος” (God was the word). This word order is used elsewhere in the New Testament. For example:

God is love [ I John 4:16] “‘o θεος ‘αγαπη ‘εστιν” (God love is). Love is the kind of thing God is, the kind of “stuff” of which He consists ---- His essence.

Your word is reality. [John 17:17]. “‘o λογος ‘ο σος ‘αληθεια ‘εστιν” (The word of you reality is) Reality is the kind of thing God’s word is. It’s the stuff of which His word consists — the essence of His word.

Thus: The Expression was Deity [John 1:1] “θεος ‘ην ‘ο λογος” (Deity was the Expression). Deity is the kind of thing that the Expression of God was. It is the stuff of which He consists ---- His very essence.

Martin Luther concurred with this understanding. Whatever else he might have been, Luther was a good Greek scholar. He put it quite succinctly, saying that the lack of an article is against Sabellianism and the word order is against Arianism.

Sabellianism was a form of modalism or “oneness”, the idea that God is a single divine Individual who reveals Himself in three modes, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Arianism may have originated from the early Christian teaching that the Son of God was begotten by God before all ages, and being God’s only begotten Son, he was therefore fully deity. Arius himself, when writing in 321 A.D. to Eusebius bishop of Nicodemia, referred to the Son as “fully God”:

Ancient Greek used a definite article more frequently than we do in modern English–the way to say God would be ό θεος: the God. The same usage is replete in genealogies, take in Matthew 1:2: "Abraham begat “the Isaac”, then begat “the Jacob”, and is used in Matthew 14:29: “the Peter” walked upon the water and came to “the Jesus”. ό preceding θεος is in no way indicative of anything theological–it’s a plain grammatical rule.

More theologically, it is important to note the implications of calling Jesus LORD (small caps). Take Romans 10:9 (see also Rom 1:3-4, 1 Cor 12:3, Phil 2:11)

9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved… 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

This passage references Joel 2:32, which reads:
32 And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the Lord has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the Lord calls.

Lord, often rendered LORD (small caps) is used instead of the divine name “YHWH”, reading (in English script) “Kyrios” in Greek. Stunningly, the divine name is applied to Jesus. Everyone who confesses that Jesus is Kyrios, calls on the name of YHWH. It would be blasphemous to confuse the divine name to someone other than Israel’s God. Thus, the logic of the verse suggests that Jesus, the man who walked among us, IS God, just as the Father in heaven is.

I find this biblical evidence irresistible. It makes clever sense of the biblical language to simultaneously affirm that Jesus is not another God, yet is divine with the Father. In the NT, theos is most used of the Father, while Kyrios of the Son. The NT writers were careful to confirm their monotheism while faithfully affirming the Jesus Christ is LORD, in accordance with the Scriptures.

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Gabe, my comment about the idea of God being a Trinity was in response to a comment about Islam:

It certainly matters to Muslims if someone believes God is a Trinity. Some Muslims think the sin of “shirk” (asserting that Jesus is divine) would be worth killing for.

So, in some circumstances it may be a matter of life or death if a person argues that Jesus is really the Second Person of the divine Trinity…through whom we were all created…whose perfect Blood alone provides redemption from death, the entrance of the Holy Spirit into our hearts, and intimacy with his Father.

  • Our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13).
  • “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit? You have not lied to humans, but to God” (Acts 5:3,4).
  • “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2 Corinthians 13:14).
  • “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19).
  • “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me" (John 15:26).

To me, Jesus was not God, nor is the Word a person. Jesus was the personification of God’s word-" Love others as yourself."

The words that Jesus spoke did not come from himself, they were the words of Abraham, “The father of all who believe.” However, just as man did not create/invent the laws of physics, math etc., neither Abraham nor Jesus created/ invented the word. The word was from God who came before all things.

It may be so that the article is used more often than in English. However, even in Greek “the Isaac” may be used to specify that particular Isaac who begat “the Jacob” and no other.

It is the case throughout the New Testament that where “ό θεος” occurs with no other modifiers of “θεος” the referent is always the one and only “true God”, that is the Father. NEVER is “ό θεος” with no other modifiers of “θεος” used to denote the Son of God or any other being.

I think you have confused the divine name with the name of the Lord Jesus. “κυριος” is applied to Jesus because He is the lord or master of every true disciple of His. The divine name YHWH which is used of “the only true God” (as Jesus called His Father in prayer) was changed to “LORD” by the Hebrews. Why? Because to make certain that they wouldn’t take “the name of YHWH” in vain, they decided never to utter that divine name, but use “LORD” in its place.

In the following verse, the only “modifier” I see Thomas using to qualify Jesus as “God” (the Son) is the possessive pronoun “my”:

John 20:28
Thomas said to him [Jesus], “My Lord and my God [ὁ θεός μου] !”

So, are you saying Thomas was mistaken in addressing Jesus of Nazareth as his “God”–on philosophical grounds (since you don’t believe Jesus is the Second Person of an eternal divine Trinity)? Or, are you saying that Thomas’s use of the possessive pronoun “my” with “God,” in reference to Jesus of Nazareth, somehow negates “God” meaning “God”—on grammatical grounds?

We see the same possessive pronoun “my” similarly used with “God,” this time in reference to God (the Father), here:

Philippians 4:19
And my God [ὁ θεός μου] will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.

Further, if you do believe Thomas was mistaken in identifying Jesus as “God” (the Son) in the above verse, then presumably you also believe that the (non-Trinitarian) Jews were mistaken in their offense against Jesus, here:

John 10:33,39 AMP
The Jews replied [to Jesus], We are not going to stone You for a good act, but for blasphemy, because You, a mere Man, make Yourself [out to be] God.

…They sought again to arrest Him, but He escaped from their hands.

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In this verse the word “θεός” does have a modifier besides the article—namely the adjective (or “possessive pronoun”, as you say) “μου” (my).

Yes, but that is irrelevant to whether or not there is an eternal divine Trinity comprised of,

  • God the Father
  • God the Son
  • God the Holy Spirit

Again, I ask you,

I haven’t claimed a relevancy. But what is your reason for believing in a Trinity? The word “God” throughout the New Testament NEVER refers to a Trinity. Over 95% of the instances, it refers to the Father alone.

Thomas didn’t identify Jesus as “God the Son.” To imagine that he did seems to be a desperate attempt to find the Trinity in the Bible. The fact is that it just isn’t there!

Read the context carefully:

24 Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came.
25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”
26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.”
27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.”
28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”
29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

What was it that Thomas did not at first believe, but came to believe? It was not whether or not Jesus was God. Rather he didn’t believe that God raised Jesus from the dead. Then the risen Lord Jesus entered through closed doors and had him put his fingers into the mark of the nails, and thus he came to believe that Jesus had been raised from the dead.

Some believe that Thomas was so amazed to find Jesus alive again that he exclaimed, “My Lord and my God” in much the same way as surprised people today exclaim, “Oh my God!” when they have been surprised. Personally, I don’t see it that way. I think he was indeed exclaiming and calling Jesus his God, but in no way thinking of Him as part of a Trinity. Trinitarianism didn’t actually develop until the 4th century.

I have never denied that Jesus is divine since He was God’s only begotten Son, just as you are human since you are the offspring of a man.

Jesus is “God” in the generic sense of having been begotten by the Father (the only true God). Just as you are “man” in the same sense having been begotten by a man.

That is the sense in which it is affirmed in John 1:1 that the Logos was God. Not “the God.” That same verse affirms that he was with the God.

(1Ti 2:5) For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.

If the Son of God were part of a Trinity the above statement would not make sense. Clearly, in this verse, the “one God” is the Father alone.

Jesus prayed the following to the Father:

John 17:3 And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

How could Jesus have regarded His Father as “the only true God” if God is a Trinity of three divine Persons?

Is each ‘Person’ omniscient - do they each know everything? That would mean that all knowledge and wisdom is complete in each person. There would be NO difference in knowledge. The same with omniscience. The same with omnipresence. The same with omnipotence.

It’s not like we would add the 3 together to get one god, right? If each knows everything, can do anything, is everywhere - you might ask - why 3? Why ‘talk’ to One another? Not to share information, or insight etc. - none of the 3 needs anything from the ‘others’. In fact, if they are each gods, do we call the group of them ‘God’? Or is the term ‘God’ meant to mean three exactly the same ‘persons’?

I would argue that Thomas exclaimed "My Lord and my God" because he recognized irrefutable evidence of Jesus being God (the Son) --both by virtue of seeing Jesus alive again with his own eyes, and thus seeing the authority of Jesus over death; and by seeing Jesus walk into the room through closed doors. Thomas’s reaction was in the vein of Nathanael’s epiphany:

“How do you know me?” Nathanael asked. Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.” Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! you are the king of Israel!” John 1:48-49.

No, I would argue Jesus is God because he is uncreated, eternal, and co-equal with the Father and the Holy Spirit:

John 1:1,2 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word WAS God; this one [“Jesus,” the Second Person of the Trinity] was in the beginning with God; YLT.

Perhaps Jesus’ subordinate Sonship began in his subsequent rôle as a human being, after he had been “begotten” by the Father, through the Holy Spirit’s work in the womb of his obedient servant, Mary (Luke 1:35), foretold in Scripture (Isaiah 7:14).

No, the Scriptures themselves had already pointed to a God comprised of Three Persons, e.g.,

  • Genesis 1:26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness;"
  • Matthew 28:19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,"
  • 2 Cor. 13:14 “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.”

And, of course,

Matthew 3:16-17
"As soon as JESUS was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw THE SPIRIT of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a VOICE FROM HEAVEN SAID, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased”

vis-à-vis

John 5:18
Because of this, then, were the Jews seeking the more to kill him [JESUS], because not only was he breaking the sabbath, but he also called God his own Father, MAKING HIMSELF EQUAL TO GOD.

and

John 8:58-59
Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.” Then they took up stones to throw at Him; but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.

“Trinitarianism” was formally ratified in the 4th century, but it cannot be said that that is when it originated.

If I confused the divine name with the name of the Lord Jesus, seems like the author of Romans did the same. Sure, YHWH changed to LORD (small caps), but the referent is still the same–the divine Name. Verses referring to YHWH are quoted in the NT referring to Jesus.

Romans 10:13 (to Joel 2:32), Hebrews 1:8-9 (Psalm 45:6), Hebrews 1:13 (Psalm 110:1), et al.

8 But of the Son he says,

“Your throne, O God, is forever and ever,
the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom.
9 You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;
therefore God, your God, has anointed you
with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.”

and

13 And to which of the angels has he ever said,

“Sit at my right hand
until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet”?

By implication, a doctrine of the trinity comes to the fore to reconcile the simultaneous assertion of monotheism with the inclusion of Jesus as fully divine alongside the Father (mutatis mutandis for the Spirit).

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But, in defence of your position that Jesus is not the one and only true God you said:

If that isn’t relevancy, then I don’t know what is.
The idea that the modifier ‘my’, in the context given, relegates Thomas’ declaration to something less than Jesus being the one and only true God just doesn’t hold water IMO.

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Dave, good points. It seems that whoever came up with the doctrine of the Trinity didn’t think it through very well. They also failed to include wisdom which would make it 4 persons as she was there with God as well. Revelation mentions the seven Spirits of God. Shouldn’t they be included too?

Perhaps! But ONLY if they aren’t zombies from Z-Hell (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9)…

Perhaps we also need a song, to reinforce folks theme of “one God”? Much like faiths like Judaism, Sikhism, the Bahia faith and Islam - talks about!