God is not a 3 headed being!
Just think about it – a being that is three and one? Its illogical! Makes no sense.
The Bible clearly teaches that God is one. There are not three God’s in the Bible!
These are some of the most common anti-Trinitarian comments I have heard over the years. The argument seems to be set up like this:
- A being cannot be three separate people and yet one. (It is self-contradictory, illogical.)
- The Trinity says God is three separate people and yet one.
- Therefore the Trinity cannot be true.
From this position, a flurry of other arguments emerge. Where does this doctrine come from if it’s so illogical? Paganism of course. And what do you know—it was popularized by Catholicism as well. But the doctrine itself is not in the Bible. You can’t find it anywhere!
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Now, of course, this is not the only argument anti-Trinitarians make nor is it necessarily the main argument for all anti-Trinitarians. From my experience, anti-Trinitarians are a very diverse group with very diverse ideas, angles, and perspectives. I honor them because I believe it is important to respect all opinions. However, I want to take a few moments to respond to this common argument I have encountered in my conversations with anti-Trinitarians and provide a personal reason why it’s not convincing for me.
Where we Agree
Let’s begin our exploration in an area of mutual agreement between Trinitarians and non-Trinitarians. That area is this—that God is. That is, he is real and he exists. God, according to the Bible, is the creator of everything so that nothing that exists was made without him. This means that our universe—time, space and gravity—is his design. Matter, atoms, protons and neutrons and the countless other molecules I can’t even name (I am not a scientist by any stretch) were all created by God.
Now if this God created the universe and the laws that govern it then it follows naturally that before the universe existed God already was. This is another area both pro and anti-Trinitarians affirm. What exactly does it mean that God exists outside the created universe? We don’t know. Does it mean God exists in another universe? If so, when did he create that one? And if not, then what does he exist in? Perhaps he exists within nothing, that is—he is not contained by anything. So then, where does God live for all eternity?
Let’s suppose we agree that God does not exist within a containment (a planet or realm that contains him) but rather that he transcends all containment. What does that look like? We seriously have no idea. It is beyond our imagination to even begin to grasp what that reality would look like in any way. This is yet another tension that pro and anti-Trinitarians can agree on.
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The Eternal Nature of God
There is also the eternal nature of God. That is, Trinitarians and non-Trinitarians both affirm that God has no beginning. But what does that look like? At what moment did God realize he was God? Is there no starting point? Does this mean God’s thoughts go back toward infinity? And if they do, how can he ever arrive at today’s thoughts? Infinity is a ludicrous concept.
It’s like running from one corner of your block to the other. You take your first step forward only to find there was a previous step you had to take first. You take that previous step (we are already in the realm of nonsense here) and you find there was a step before that one that you had to take too. You take that one and the process repeats. Suffice to say, if you had an infinite number of steps to take before taking your first step, you would never arrive at your first step. Consequently, you would never reach the other corner. And if God’s thoughts go back toward infinity, how did his thoughts ever arrive at the moment of creation?
Now for the sake of forward movement let’s say that we will simply stick to what the Bible says. The Bible says God is real and everything that exists was made by him. Now we don’t understand all that other stuff. We can’t explain how he has no beginning or whether he is contained by some supra-reality or whether he is the supra-reality itself. It’s all just too much for us to comprehend because we exist within a containment (our universe) which is in a lower realm (temporal not eternal) with a particular set of laws (physical limitations). Everything in our universe operates by these laws and it’s impossible for us to think of a dimension or universe in which these laws don’t apply. Therefore, let’s leave that alone for now.
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Gravity Warping Time
We are now in our universe. We agree that God exists and that he created all things. The universe in which we dwell is his creation. It is not eternal or self-existent but was brought to being by him. Time, space, and gravity were his design through which the universe functions accordingly (OK, it’s more complex than that but let’s leave it there). Time enables us to move from the corner of the block to the other, space likewise enables us to move from the corner of the block to the other and gravity keeps us firmly planted on the ground as we move from one corner of the block to the other.
But then something strange happens. We discover, through study, experimentation, and observation, that the universe is a bit more complicated than we had imagined. For example, we discover that the building blocks of the universe are intertwined somehow. This means if you mess with one, you mess with the others. For example, gravity can actually warp time so that if you come close to something with a super powerful gravitational pull, time actually slows down.
Imagine you crossing your block once more from one corner to the next. Suppose it takes you 2 minutes to do it. If you moved that block to outer space and placed it next to something with a super gravitational mass (like a black hole for example) you might walk across the block in what feels like 2 minutes only to discover that 12 years have passed back on earth—far away from the gravitational mass.
Or suppose you have a friend waiting for you at the other corner and you both throw a ball at each other at the same time. If your friend is close to a source of mass gravity his ball will reach you later than your ball would reach him even if you both threw at the same exact velocity. So gravity can bend and warp time.
Likewise, if you were to travel at a fast speed (like near the speed of light) you actually age slower. But if you fly in an airplane, you are so far from the gravitational pull of the earth that time actually goes slower and faster. Slower because you are traveling really fast. Faster because you are further away from earth’s gravitational pull. So if you are a frequent flier you age faster than those you left behind at home.
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Now, what is it that combines the universal elements this way? What is the thing that enables the universe to work so flawlessly? No one knows, but there are two theories. The first has to do with gravity—as we briefly spoke of above—which basically attempts to understand the universe looking at really big things. The second theory has to do with really small things and trying to understand the universe looking at the stuff below the microscopic level–things such as subatomic particles. Now if you are a non-scientist like me you might be tempted to exit this article now. But don’t. I’m not a scientist and subatomic particle is about as big a word as you are going to get from me today. All you need to know is this, a subatomic particle is really, really, really small. Think of an e-coli bacteria that you can only see in a microscope (those are very small), which are made up of about 25 billion atoms (way smaller than the bacteria itself). Well, a subatomic particle is even smaller than an atom. So yeah—they are very, extremely small.
Contradictions Observed in Physics
Now things get a bit weirder. Not only do we not know how the universe is strung together. We don’t even know how the subatomic realm works. It’s so bizarre that Albert Einstein referred to it as “spooky” and for the past 50 years scientists have been unable to figure it out. The subatomic realm (also known as the quantum realm) defies many of the laws of physics we have come to accept as self-evident. In fact, in many ways, the way the quantum realm works totally contradicts the way time and gravity work in our realm. It’s super weird.
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Let me give you three quick and slightly (or not so slightly) oversimplified examples. Imagine for a moment that you are sitting on a white couch in your home and I am sitting on a white couch in mine. Now suppose I take my couch in my house and flip it upside down and when I do, at that very moment your couch in your house also flips upside down as if it were somehow connected to mine.
Now apart from being angry at all the nachos that were spilled, what would you say about this scenario in the physical world? Wouldn’t you say that it’s impossible? Wouldn’t you be tempted to think some shady demonic stuff is going on? Of course, you would, because there is no conceivable reason why something like that would happen in our physical universe. According to the laws of physics, you need to physically touch something in order to affect it that way. At the very least, some other physical property needs to interact with your couch in order to flip it upside down. But for yours to flip upside down just because, thousands of miles away, I flipped mine upside down? Ludicrous.
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And yet, this kind of mysterious entanglement has been repeatedly observed at the quantum level where two particles can remain connected even while separated at great distances. This basically means that if you do something to one of the particles in New York, its connected particle being held in a secret lab on the moon will immediately be affected. There is no observable physical connection between the two. Whatever connects them, therefore, defies and possibly transcends the laws of physics. And no one fully understands how it happens.
Here is another scenario. Suppose every time you walk into your living room, you see a white couch made of solid fabric. What would you do if I told you that after many experiments we discovered the couch was only solid fabric when you looked at it? But if you weren’t looking at it, it was simultaneously made of water? You would say I was crazy. A thing cannot be liquid and solid at the same time. It defies the laws of physics. It’s either one or the other! But it’s even weirder because not only did I tell you your couch can be two contradictory compositions at the same time but I also said that somehow, the couch only becomes one of those elements when you look at it. How does the act of you looking at the couch change its composition? Absurd.
And yet, once again this sort of thing is repeatedly studied at the quantum level. According to quantum superposition, certain particles exist in contradictory states at the same time (like the couch example—only different and way more complex) and become one of the two only when a human being observes them.
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Now, what if I told you that your white couch sitting comfortably in your living room was simultaneously sitting in mine so that your couch was in two places at once? How could you possibly explain that using the laws of physics? You can’t, but in the quantum level, a single particle can exist in more than one place at the same time.
One more! Suppose you took an elevator down to the quantum realm on your white couch. When you arrive you discovered you were already there and when you turned around to leave you discovered you were just arriving. More confused? Good.
Here’s the thing. These scenarios—as impossible as they seem—are the kinds of things physicists have been able to repeatedly record taking place in the subatomic quantum realm. And it baffles them! No one quite understands it. But in the quantum realm time works differently so that before and after can happen simultaneously instead of causing each other, molecules are connected by some mysterious force that no one understands, and a particle can be in more than one place at once and even exist in two different states at once swapping over to one state only when a conscious human being observes it.
What are we supposed to do with this? I don’t know. I told you I’m not a scientist.
Now, none of this proves the Trinity of course. Science is not the interpreter of scripture so it would be silly for me to use science to prove the Trinity is real. However, here is what Trinitarians and anti-Trinitarians can affirm together. First that God is. Second, that God created all things. Third, that God’s creation is mysterious. Fourth, God’s creation is so mysterious that even our brightest minds can’t make sense of them. If we can agree on those four points, then I think it’s a lot easier to explore where we disagree.
Where we Disagree
God’s eternal nature, his omnipresence, and omniscience, as well as his Triune nature, are all things no one fully understands. All throughout Christian history thinkers, theologians, and scholars have tried to make sense of these mysterious elements of God and so far, no one has succeeded. And here is my suggestion: We keep trying to make God into a being that makes sense within the physical laws that govern our universe. But God created our universe which means the laws that govern it don’t apply to him. He transcends them. So any attempt to make sense of God in a way that matches the limitations of our physical universe is a foolish attempt indeed.
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So here is my question to the anti-Trinitarian. If the created universe that God himself designed is so baffling, why do we expect God to be comprehensible? In other words, how can we pretend to decipher the God who wrote the laws that we can’t comprehend when the God who wrote the laws we can’t comprehend himself transcends those very laws and is not bound by them?
For example, time in the quantum level does not necessarily work in before and after. This is baffling but the truth is, God’s relationship to time is even more mysterious–he doesn’t even have a beginning! In the quantum level, two particles can be connected by an unseen force that doesn’t match physical explanations. As mysterious as that is, it’s nowhere near as strange as an immaterial being saying “let there be light” and suddenly, light—with all of its complex properties–appears. A quantum particle can be in two places at once and yet God can be everywhere at once. A quantum particle can have two contradictory attributes at once and yet God is one being who is simultaneously three distinct, autonomous persons. What are we to do with such mysteries?
To this, I would say that every attempt to understand God is, in my opinion, ultimately silly because most are trying to make sense of God within the boundaries imposed by the laws of physics. For example, I’ve heard Christians argue that God can’t really tell the future because the future doesn’t exist yet (according to human theories of time). Others argue that God is not omnipresent because it’s impossible to be everywhere at once (for a created being bound by physical laws, yes). And others try and argue that God is eternal because he is timeless which they then describe as existing in a frozen state where all events are simultaneous—an eternal now–that paints God as a static, emotionless consciousness because it’s impossible for us to conceive of God within time and yet simultaneously eternal. In the same way, all models of the Trinity that people have fought over throughout history are nothing more than childish attempts to make sense of God within the limitations of the physical realm.
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Three Models of the Trinity
For example, the Monarchian interpretation of the Trinity suggests that God is one person, not three (that’s impossible! Or else God would be like a three-headed being right?), which means Jesus isn’t God. We find the Arian view in this camp where Jesus is a created or “begotten” being from eternity as well as the Modalist interpretation where Jesus is God but God is one person who shows up in three different modes. He is not one being in three persons (that’s impossible! Or else God would be like a three-headed being right?) but one person who shows up in three different ways (basically wears different hats at different stages of human history).
The Tritheist interpretation suggests that there are three separate gods. So in this model, it’s not one being in three persons (that’s impossible! Or else God would be like a three-headed being right?) but three separate persons altogether. Likewise, the Subordinationist view does not view the Son and Spirit as one essence with the Father but as deriving their existence from him because–once again–a being cannot be three and one at the same time. Or else God would be like a three-headed being right?
A brief overview demonstrates that each of these models of the Trinity is attempting to make sense of a trans-physical being within the laws of physics which he inherently transcends. But what if we tried to make sense of God using the laws of quantum physics? What would we end up with there? Someone might protest this and say, “You can’t use science to interpret the Bible!” But newsflash, every time we claim the Trinity is illogical or impossible we are already using science to interpret the Bible. Every time we claim God is not a three-headed being we have taken a being that transcends physical boundaries and forced him within those boundaries. So then, what makes one set of laws OK to use to try and understand God (macro-level laws of physics) and the other (subatomic level quantum laws) not?
Things are super messy now, aren’t they? So allow me to clear the table a bit with my personal suggestion—we shouldn’t use either the laws of physics or the quantum realm to understand God because God transcends them both which means that even though we know God is, his how is altogether beyond us. Within our universe, a being cannot be three and one. If there were, it would certainly be a three-headed being. But in the quantum realm, molecules can certainly be three things at once.
What does a being that is greater than the quantum realm and which, in fact, gave birth to it, look like? All we can say at this point is that whatever God is in essence, he is beyond not only our imagination but even our human language. How can we describe God using our limited language bound by the realities we can comprehend when God transcends those realities and is the author of the parts of the created order we still can’t explain?
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The Mystery of God
To me, all Trinitarian positions—both the anti-Trinitarian and the Trinitarian—are presumptuous attempts at making sense of a God who is far beyond our language and imagination. Even the Bible, written in human language, cannot adequately describe the supra-quantum God. What the Bible authors attempt to do is explain a trans-human mystery of consciousness in which the creator of the cosmos is three persons but one being, and yet there are not three gods and neither is this one god in three different modes but each of the members of the Godhead (itself a weak human phrase) are individuals (another weak human phrase) that coexist autonomously as one (another weak human phrase).
They (he) are (is) a simultaneity of personhood, a singular-plurality, a communal oneness and I cannot for the life of me explain that any more than our brightest minds can explain the laws that this God designed to govern our lesser created realm. The best I can say is what Scripture affirms—that Jesus is God, but he is not the Father and that the Father is God but he is not Jesus. And that the Holy Spirit is God but he is neither the Father nor Jesus and that neither of them, in turn, is he. All three are individual, personal, and possess autonomy and personhood and yet, in some mysterious way—they are one God.
So then, what happened when Jesus entered physical time and space? What happened when he made himself a man and subjected himself to the laws of physics? Did God suddenly become two? How does that work? I have no idea. The incarnation is, to borrow from Ellen White, “an unfathomable mystery, that the human mind cannot comprehend.” And here’s the best part—I’m not told I have to understand it.
There is a slew of mysteries from God’s eternal nature, his omnipresence, and his omniscience, his singular-plurality, and even his incarnation that I just don’t get. And that’s OK. I don’t even understand how the quantum level works–and its created! I’m sure understanding how the uncreated-creator himself works is further beyond my grasp. Thus I have chosen instead to embrace what Ellen White refers to as, “The most humbling lesson” which is the realization of “the nothingness of human wisdom”.
While speaking of the incarnation, White captures the overarching human “folly” that is on display when a man attempts “by his own unaided efforts, to find out God.” And of the nature of the Holy Spirit she says, it is “a mystery not clearly revealed” that we temporal beings “will never be able to explain.” For those whose curiosity overwhelms them, White goes on to say that the mystery of God is “not essential for [us] to know” and is in fact, “too high for me, and too high for you.”
In conclusion, I take the Trinitarian position as the best possible explanation within the limitations of human language and understanding. I admit that the Bible never fully explains it. I believe this is the case for two reasons.
- The Bible relies on human language which cannot adequately explain such a great, alter-dimensional mystery.
- Although God has revealed that he is three in one, he has not seen fit to attempt to decipher this for us.
In the end, “The secret things belong to [him]” (Deut. 29:29). But I also affirm that the Biblical authors are straining toward a picture of God and divine oneness that far transcends their capacity to explain and even their human capacity to understand. All of the other Trinitarian models (Monarchianism, Arianism, Modalism, Tritheism, Subordinationism, etc.) all do a far worse job by attempting to explain God using the language and limitations of the physical universe which he created and transcends.
Ultimately, all of these anti-Trinitarian positions depend on one thing–the exploitation of the weakness of human language to describe something indescribable. But God is not bound by our language or laws and in fact, if the things we now observe at the quantum level and find impossible to understand are any indication, it’s that the God of scripture who created the quantum level is way more mysterious than we have ever imagined and far more astonishing than our words could ever adequately describe.
 William Lane Craig, “Is It Possible for an Infinite Number of Past Events to Exist?”
 Joanne Kennell, “How Gravity Changes Time: The Effect Known as Gravitational Time Dilation.”
 Cynthia Dillon, “Physicists race to demystify Einstein’s ‘spooky’ science.”
 Ellen G. White, The Signs of the Times, July 30, 1896.
 Ellen G. White, The Review and Herald, April 5, 1906.
 Ellen White, June 11, 1891, Manuscript Releases, vol. 14, p. 175-180.