Believe in Three Gods or One?
Speaking through the prophet Isaiah, God said: ``My thoughts are not
thoughts, neither are your ways My ways... For as the heavens are higher than
the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your
thoughts.'' [Isaiah 55:8-9]. God is infinite, man is finite, and there are
mysteries about God that man cannot fully understand. One of these mysteries
is the ``Trinity,'' the tri-personality of God. It defines God as ONE GOD in
being, essence, power, and authority, but manifested as three distinct,
co-eternal, co-equal Persons. These three Persons are the Father, the Son
(Jesus Christ), and the Holy Spirit. This does not mean that Christians
believe in three gods (polytheism). Rather it is saying that there is only ONE
God but that He has revealed Himself to the human race in three distinct
characters (or persons). All of these three revelations are of the ONE God.
Understanding exactly how this union occurs is beyond human comprehension and
has no human parallels -- although various analogies have been presented. One
such analogy is the three physical states of water. In this analogy, water is
shown to be not only liquid, but also a solid (ice) and a gas (vapor). Yet its
chemical composition (i.e. substance or being) never changes in all three
forms (2 parts Hydrogen and one part Oxygen). The form of water is simply how
it is presented to us. How we can feel it and comprehend its existence.
Although such an analogy helps to explain the concept of the Trinity, it falls
short of aiding us in comprehending just how God can be manifested as triune.
In the water analogy, although water can be liquid, solid, or gas, it is never
all three at one time. In the Trinity, on the other hand, all three
manifestations of the ONE God can be felt and are co-existent at any point in
Last summer, a very dear friend of mine asked some questions about the
trinity. To try to explain it, as much as my limited knowledge about it can
help me, I used a different analogy, which seemed to make a lot of sense to my
friend. I used the following story:
Adam and Eve are hard-working employees of a company called ``WorldWide Inc''.
When they joined this company, they heard a lot about its founder and owner,
Mr. Great. Everybody in the company spoke of Mr. Great and his incredible
capacities and how he managed to start this incredibly successful venture from
nothing. Everybody feared Mr. Great because he represented the ultimate
authority: a word of his would be enough to hire or fire! Nevertheless he was
fair. Nobody has really seen or even had the courage to find Mr. Great. Only a
select group of representatives from WorldWide Inc were given the chance to
communicate with Mr. Great. Every now and then, some of these representatives
would simply forward Mr. Great's orders regarding the management of WorldWide
Inc to all employees. Everybody simply listened and acted accordingly. Well,
one day, while on a lunch break, Adam and Eve ran into a very meak and humble
young man, who introduced himself as Mr. Love. This individual was so sweet
that Adam and Eve loved his company and asked him to spend some time with
them. During that time they ate and drank; they talked about almost
everything, even about the incredibly powerful Mr. Great. As a matter of
fact, Mr. Love explained many of the orders that were given by Mr. Great and
which didn't make any sense to Adam and Eve. For example, Mr. Love explained
that while Mr. Great ordered his employees to observe the law to the letter,
it was much better to follow the spirit of the law. So, while an eye-for-eye
is OK, loving even one's enemy is far better! At the end of Mr. Love's stay
with Adam and Eve, he revealed to them a secret. That he is nobody other than
Mr. Great! Love was simply his middle name! So, Mr. Great Love departed but
he promised that he will empower both Adam and Eve with his Spirit, which they
should call on to help them and act on their behalf.
In the above story, Adam and Eve got introduced to three quite different
aspects of the same being: the authority and might of the founder and owner of
their WorldWide Inc., his love and understanding, and his will and power. When
Adam and Eve want to think about this being, they will envision and address
one of his three distinct characters. But these three characters are only
projections or revelations of the same individual being.
The word ``Trinity'' is not used in Scripture to define the doctrine of the
Trinity. rather it is a word theologians have adopted to summarize a concept.
Difficult as it is to understand, the Bible explicitly teaches the doctrine of
the Trinity, and it deserves to be explained as clearly as possible,
especially to non-Christians who find the concept a ``stumbling-block'' to
belief that Jesus is God and that the Holy Spirit is God acting in His Church.
What is the role of the Virgin Mary in the Trinity?
The Virgin Mary is not a member of the Trinity; she is fully human. Christians
do not "worship" her. Nevertheless, they hold her in a very special place in
their hearts and in their minds.
The following are the words of the Virgin Mary, which she said in response to
Elizabeth's greetings [Luke 1:46-48]: ``My soul magnifies the Lord, and my
spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For He has regarded the lowly state of
His maidservant; for behold, henceforth all generations will call me
blessed.'' From these very words, it can be seen that the Virgin Mary calls
God her "Savior". Therefore, like all human beings, she needed His mercy and
salvation through her own Child Jesus Christ, the incarnate word of God.
The Coptic Orthodox Church does not believe in the notion of an "immaculate
conception". The Virgin Mary was not created to bear our Lord Jesus Christ.
Rather, she was chosen by God from amongst all women to serve that purpose,
and she accepted to serve God saying ``Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let
it be to me according to your word'' [Luke 1:38].
As the prophecy "henceforth all generations will call me blessed" indicates,
Christians bless the Virgin Mary for she has achieved a status that even the
Angels and Archangels admire. She is venerated much more than any prophet,
apostle, or martyr because she was ``chosen'' to be the Mother of God.
Christians call the Virgin Mary "Mother of God" (Theotokos) because she
conceived and brought to our world God in the flesh. Elizabeth was the first
to use that term: ``Then she spoke out with a loud voice and said, "Blessed
are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! But why is this
granted to me, that the MOTHER OF MY LORD should come to me?'' [Luke 1:42-43].
Like any mother, she cared for her Baby, nursed Him, and nurtured Him!
To fully understand how a "creation" can give birth to its "creator" is beyond
human comprehension. Even the Virgin Mary had to accept the work of the Holy
Spirit without comprehending it: ``Then Mary said to the angel, "How can this
be, since I do not know a man?" And the angel answered and said to her, "The
Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow
you'' [Luke 1:34-35]. From these verses, it becomes clear that the Virgin
Birth is an incomprehensible work of God -- an act of the Holy Spirit.
Nevertheless, this Virgin Birth has been the subject of a prophesy by Isaiah
``Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall
conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel'' [Isaiah 7:14].
This prophesy, which came hundreds of years before Christianity, speaks of the
Virgin Birth as being a ``sign from the Lord'' about the birth of ``Immanuel''
[Immanuel translates to God among us (humans)].
Does the Christian Trinity resemble the Isis-Osiris-Horus Triad?
There is absolutely no relationship or resemblence between the Christian
Trinity and the Isis-Osiris-Horus triad (or any other pagan gods or beliefs).
As we explained earlier, the Trinity of God is a three-way reflection of an
undivided ONE and only God. While it makes sense to talk about Isis as a
loving wife, Osiris as her slain husband, and Horus as the result of their
marriage, no such thing can be said about the Christian Trinity.
While Christians use words such as "Father" and "Son" to identify the first
and second characters of the Trinity, they do not think about these characters
as being masculine characters in the sexual sense (like the Osiris-Horus
relationship). Rather, these terms are used to underline that Jesus Christ is
"of" God. Christians also call Him, the "word" of God who came to us. This
notion of the "Incarnate Word" is clear in [John 1:1-2,14]: ``In the beginning
was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And the Word
became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the
only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.''
The earlier pagan beliefs of Egyptians might have made the concept of the Holy
Trinity easier for them to accept. This, however, does not make the Christian
Trinity in any way even related to the Isis-Osiris-Horus triad. As a matter
of fact, early Christians in Egypt suffered considerably as a result of their
Christian beliefs. Much of the suffering came as a result of adopting
teachings that were "foreign" to Pagan Egyptian beliefs. The martyrdom of St.
Mark, the one who brought Christianity to Egypt, and the thousands of early
Christians in Egypt, can only serve as a reminder of how "foreign" the newly
born Christian faith was in relation to the well-established pagan religions
of Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans.