Do Christians Believe in Three Gods or One?



Speaking through the  prophet Isaiah, God  said:  ``My thoughts  are not  your
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.