Sunday, 15 August 2010

Is the God of Christianity the God of the Bible?

A summary of the Bible Hour presentation at the Christadelphian Hall, Blackpool Street, Burton-upon-Trent on Sunday 15th August 2010.

A prominent Christian, trying to build a bridge with the Muslim community, said, “We worship the same God as you do.”

His Muslim audience retorted, “Our God is the God of Abraham, and Noah, and Jesus – the God Allah.”

This Christian, along with the majority of modern Christians, subscribes to the orthodox ‘Trinitarian’ view of God, which views him as one God in three persons: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. This view is incomprehensible to Muslims – and also to Jews, and to many Christians.

Another orthodox Christian has said, “The Trinity is not simple to express briefly, and it is impossible to explain fully.” We have to ask the question, is the Trinity the God of the Bible?

Three questions which Trinitarians find it very difficult to answer:

1. Who was tempted in the wilderness?

2. Who died on the cross?

3. Who ‘learned obedience by the things which he suffered’? (Hebrews 4)

Bible passages which are claimed to support the doctrine of the Trinity

Genesis 1 verses 1 to 5. When God created the world, the Hebrew word ‘Elohim’ which the Bible writer uses is actually plural – “In the beginning Gods created the heaven and the earth.”

Is this really talking about a ‘triune godhead’? Genesis is the Jewish Bible, and the Jews have never taken the word ‘Elohim’ to mean a trinity. Instead they generally interpret it as God being addressed in the plural – an idiom of the Hebrew language. (Another explanation is that god is talking to the angels who worked in the creation of the world (Job 38:7).)

John 1 verses 1 to 5: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him …” In the King James version and most of the versions which have followed, this reads very much as though Jesus was the Word. However, the King James version, along with most of its successors, have been translated by people with a distinct Trinitarian bias. Earlier translations such as Tyndale’s refer to the ‘word’ as ‘it’, with apparently no implication that it refers to Jesus.

Jesus was the ‘word made flesh’ (verse 14), i.e. God’s son brought to birth in the purpose of God. See Luke 1:35, John 17:3.

(There is also a school of thought which says that actually John chapter 1 is entirely speaking about Christ, and not at all about the creation of the world. This is another subject.)

John 17 verse 5: “And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.” Surely this is a reference to Jesus’ pre-existence as part of the ‘godhead’? However, passages such as 1 Peter 1:19-20 teach that Jesus was in the purpose of God from the beginning – he did not exist until he was born.

The history of the Trinity

The Bible itself says nothing even remotely about ‘one God in three persons’.

However, from the early days of the Christian community people were speculating about the nature of Christ, and suggestions soon arose that he was perhaps part of the ‘godhead’. The Nicene Creed in 323 AD was the first time that the idea was formalised. The Creed was steered through by the emperor Constantine in order to head off disunity between opposing theological factions in the church.

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