The doctrine of God is fertile ground for resources for apologetics. The more we know of what God has revealed about himself in the Scriptures, the more we are able to defend the truth. For the sake of space, we will focus on two attributes of God here–his triunity and his personality.
- God is equally three and one
God is equally three and one. He is not more one than he is three, and not more three than he is one. We speak of one essence in three persons and three persons in one essence. God as one thinks, feels, and knows as an individual being. Yet, each person of the Trinity has a unique consciousness. When Jesus cried out to the Father on the cross, he was not speaking to himself, but rather to the Father. Yet, both are God. All three persons of the Trinity are called God in the Scriptures, yet they are distinguished from one another.
The Father is called God (Rom. 1:7; 15:6; 1 Cor. 1:3; 8:6). The Son is called God (2 Pet. 1:1; Tit. 2:13), calls himself God (John 5:18) and accepts worship as God (John 20:28-29). The Spirit is equated to God (Act 5:3-4) and is the one who searches the mind of God (1 Cor. 2:10-11). Clearly, then, the Scriptures teach that each of the persons of the Trinity is God. Yet, God is one God. The unity of God was the foundation of Jewish religion, in contrast to the polytheistic religions of the nations around Israel (Deut. 6:4; Is. 44:6-8). The New Testament likewise repeatedly emphasizes that there is only one God (John 1:18; Eph. 4:6; 1 Cor. 8:6; 1 Tim. 2:5).
Some would say that the Trinity is a contradiction, but it is clearly not. A contradiction would be to say “God is one and God is not one.” The Christian doctrine of God, however, states that God is one and three, and his oneness and “threeness” are understood in different ways. This makes the Trinity a paradox (an apparent contradiction), not a contradiction. A paradox is something that is difficult, but not impossible, to reconcile logically and intellectually. Certainly, the Trinity is one of the most difficult doctrines that Christians believe; yet we do believe it because the Bible teaches it.
One of the strengths of the Christian view of God is that it can answer the fundamental question of philosophy—the question of “the one and the many.” The problem of the one and the many addresses the question of how existence (the one) relates to every individual thing that exists (the many)? This is universally recognized as the most basic question with which philosophers wrestle. While there is no room here to develop this idea, we will simply note that in the triune God the one and the many exist in perfect harmony. In other words, God’s being is the basis for an answer to philosophy’s most pressing conundrum.
- God is the absolute, personal God
The God that Christians trust and defend is a personal God, that is, he possesses rationality and self-consciousness. This is apparent in that God does things that persons do. He creates, speaks, leads, judges, gives, loves, controls, punishes, wills, and many other actions. He can be pleased, grieved, angered, betrayed, saddened, and appeased. God relates to us as a person who understands, communicates, and responds to us. God is not a force or an idea, but a personal God who is intent on pursuing those made in his image to restore relationship with him.
In addition, the Christian God is absolute. He is all-powerful, all-knowing, and everywhere at once. He does not share power with anyone else. He is the only God in the universe, and all authority resides in him.
The attributes of personal and absolute stand in sharp contrast to the impersonal gods of philosophy, Islam, Buddhism, and deism. These belief systems hold to a God who is not much different than the law of gravity—very powerful, but not a being to which one relates. On the other hand, many religions have personal gods who are not absolute. The Greek, Roman, and Egyptian pantheon of gods are a good example, as are the 330 million gods of Hinduism, and the spirit beings of Asian religions and tribal religions. All false gods are either personal or absolute, but not both. Only the Christian God is personal and absolute.
It is important, therefore, when Christians defend God, that they have these distinctive attributes of God in mind, so they are not tricked into trying to defend a God in which they don’t, in fact, believe. For example, if an unbeliever says “I can’t believe in a God who would create the world and walk away while it falls apart,” our response would be something like, “I don’t believe in that kind of God either.” We don’t want to defend a distortion of God as revealed in Scripture, but rather, the true God of Scripture.
Not only is the truth of God important for apologetics, but it is also important for the fullness of Christian faith. That is, these truths of God’s triune nature and personality are precious to believers because they show us who God is. As a result, we come to God more truly and that brings us closer to him. Knowing someone in great detail makes for a stronger relationship. The more we know God through the Scriptures, the more our relationship will strengthen our apologetics efforts. In the next post we will look at one more doctrine—the doctrine of man and his fall into sin.