Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Trinity

by Annmarie Worthington
first-vision
Recently, one of my favorite homeschool companies came out publicly stating that Mitt Romney should not be elected because he is accursed by God. This was based on the fact that he belongs to a church that does not hold to the traditional (and in their minds, Biblical) view of the trinity, and therefore is a member of a cult.
Now, I don’t care who you vote for (well….maybe I do, but I will allow you agency to choose for yourselves), however, I do hope you’ll take the election seriously, both thoughtfully and prayerfully choosing your preferred candidate. However, I want to address the idea that Mormonism does not hold to the Biblical view of the Trinity.
Many evangelical churches teach that not holding the traditional Trinitarian view is one of the key warning signs a group is a cult to be considered heretical, and therefore accursed. Now, if you’ve read my conversion story you know that I did not enter this church easily or lightly. I studied diligently for three years before joining at great sacrifice to my personal and emotional life. The Latter-Day Saint view of the Trinity was one of the first things I addressed with the ever patient missionaries.
In modern protestant thought, God the Father, His Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost are believed to be one in substance and being. Anything else is considered a heresy. Many protestants don’t realize this view wasn’t officially adopted until the Nicene Creed, around A.D. 325. Those that do, believe the creed saved the church from a developing heresy. I want to examine that line of thought to see if it is the Scriptural view. I don’t want my theology to be given to me by the popular vote of bishops in the fourth century. Instead, I want to examine carefully, to make sure my beliefs are in line with what my Father in Heaven really taught.  After all, the Savior Himself said, “….this is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent.” John 17:3.
In order to have eternal life, we must know God correctly. It is easy to call something heretical without taking the time to carefully examine the issue. Good people, committed to their faiths, have been doing that for centuries. Who was it that called the Savior Jesus Christ a heretic? Was it the riotous rabble who wanted to rule their own lives? Was it the quiet peaceful citizens of Jerusalem just trying to keep their head down and survive the Roman occupation? Sometimes. But the ones who were most adamantly opposed to the “heretic” Jesus Christ were the religious leaders. It was the ones trained in the Scriptures that seemed to know them the least. So, please read this with an open mind. Pray. Ask God in Heaven to help you know what is true.
If I’m writing something that isn’t true, I beg God in Heaven to help me know that. My goal is to love and serve God as He desires, not as I desire.  It is my prayer that the same is true of you. With that in mind, let’s see what the Bible says about the Trinity.
There are two issues addressed by the Nicene Creed that I call into question. The first is the issue of plurality. Is God is one or three? The second is whether He is immaterial.  I’ll only address the first one today.

One or Three?

In John 10:30 our Savior makes a remarkable statement: “I and My Father are one.”  Well, there you go. He’s answered it. No need to look any further, right? They are one. But was that meant as a  literal number of persons, or as an illustration of who They are and how They work with one another? I believe it is the latter.
Also, in the Book of John, Jesus calls Himself “the vine”. No one questions the use of allegory in that passage. We know He is not literally calling Himself a vine. Instead, it is a word picture designed to help us understand part of His function in our lives. I believe the John passage about them being one is illustrative as well. Why? Well, let’s look at the Scriptural evidence, beginning in Genesis.
“In the beginning, God created the Heaven and the earth.” Genesis 1:1
The Hebrew word for God in this passage is Elohim. ‘El’ means ‘mighty, strong’.  It is often used in reference to any God, not just the God of Heaven. Things get interesting in the ‘him’ ending. ‘Him’ is plural. This seems to indicate more than one ‘mighty, strong’ being. Genesis says it directly just a few verses later.
“Let Us make man in Our image.” Genesis 1:26, emphasis added.
He doesn’t say, Let me make man, but us. There is more than one. If that is the case and they really are separate, they would relate to one another as separate individuals, rather than one being throughout the Scriptures.
We see that very clearly in the way Jesus the Christ prayed to and spoke of His Father in heaven. Even the fact that He prayed shows they are not one substance. If so, He would be having more of an internal dialogue, just as we do when trying to work out a problem. Instead, His was real prayer. Sometimes pleading as He did in the garden,
“And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me:” Matthew 26:39
Other times in intercession for those He loved.
“But I have prayed for thee [Peter], that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.” Luke 22:32.
Ask yourself, why was He praying to begin with?  If they are one in substance and being there would be no need for Him to pray. He wasn’t doing it just to give an example to the rest of us, because He would most often go off alone to pray. He was praying because He needed to communicate with His Father.

The testimony of Jesus

   To me, however, the most important evidence comes from the words of the Savior Himself. What did He have to say about the relationship between He and His Father?
“My Father is greater than I” John 14:28
and
“I seek not Mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.” John 5:30
There are many, many other passages I could write, but this post has to end sometime. I think these Scriptures clearly show they are distinct beings. However, we cannot ignore the John 10:30 passage where Jesus states they are one. What does He mean by that? Fortunately, the Scriptures have a great way of interpreting themselves. One of my favorite passages is of Jesus’s High Priestly Prayer in John 17. His time on earth was coming to a close. He was about to endure some of the most horrific agony anyone could experience. So He set Himself apart and prayed for us. Look carefully at verse 22.
“…that they may be one, even as we are one:” John 17:22, emphasis added.
It does not make sense that He would pray that we would become melded into one being. In this prayer He was praying for our unity. He wanted us to be one in purpose, just as He and His Father are one. Like-mindedness-- that is how they are one.
I wanted to write the many quotes of the ante-Nicene leaders, those who were closest to the time of Christ and the teachings of the original twelve apostles, such as Justin Martyr and Tertullian. However, I intentionally limited myself to the words of the Old and New Testament, because I realize those are the words that will hold validity with the evangelical community.
I hope this came across in the spirit intended. I know what a struggle it was for me to re-examine my belief system while I was studying Mormonism. All I ask is that you come at it with an open heart and mind. Maybe one day the Savior’s prayer will come to fruition and we will all be one as He and His Father are.
I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

6 comments:

Crystal said...

Very well written. It was these things you have written that was my first step in joining the church, because the trinity no longer made sense to me.

Dana ♥ said...

Wonderful.

Eve | Inchworm Chronicles said...

Excellent points made here--I feel you addressed this question so clearly.

Actually, I am really, really happy you took the time to write a blog post about this, because it's so meaningful to me, to know who God is, and to read another Mom discuss these things so openly is just so...cool!

I am a member of the LDS church, too. I often think about this subject and, you know, the bible passages that can teach us who God is.

One that stands out to me the most is chapter 3 of Matthew, verses 16 and 17:

16 And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a ddove, and lighting upon him:

17 And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

That's the "trinity" right there. Jesus, the Son, was baptized. The Holy Ghost, like a dove, descended from heaven to rest on Jesus and then the Father spoke approving words from heaven about His son.

When I read those verses, it speaks to my spirit--it witnesses to me that they are separate beings but one in purpose. I know it's true.

Thanks for a wonderful post to consider. Blessings to you today!

Eve

Rachel Worthington (your wonderful daughter) said...

I remember in the bible when Jesus was baptized, the spirit was also there in the form of a dove, and Heavenly Father says "This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased."

Rachel Worthington (your wonderful daughter) said...

I remember in the bible when Jesus was baptized, the spirit was also there in the form of a dove, and Heavenly Father says "This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased."

Michael Brinson said...

I loved your closing insight with John 17:22 Annmarie. For me that is very clear and is also the most salient point that you make (among many other salient points.)

Thanks for taking the time to share it.