faith contradictions we live by
By: The Rock Fortress Ministries
Original – 24 September 2022
The aim of this writing is to discuss the importance of dealing with contradictions that arise in the quest to define the one God of the Bible. In the first three pages, we lay out a framework that we will use to discuss contradictions that exist in the three-in-one god idea. We admit that the framework is rather too long, but we believe it is necessary to make the point of this writing clear.
So, let us start laying out the framework.
In our day-to-day life, we all need to analyse things and to make decisions. We all go through the same processes when analysing things be they ideas, events, decisions, problems, opportunities, etc. We may differ in terms of the depth of analysis, but analysis is all the same. All analysis rests on that which a human mind can do. What the human mind always does is that it looks for patterns and changes in patterns.
Let us consider a simple example, i.e. the weather. Looking up to the clouds, we observe the pattern of clouds, that includes colour, shape, size, distance, uniformity, sound, atmospheric temperature, etc. i.e. all the physical observable attributes of clouds. We also analyse how these attributes are changing over time. This we have done for many centuries and we have knowledge passed from past generations. So we know what to expect when clouds look a certain way. But all that is just the beginning.
Another thing happens in this work of analysing patterns. Sometimes we see a cloud, expect it to behave in a certain way, but it doesn’t behave as per expectation. In our minds we register a contradiction, that means there is some disagreement between what we are observing and what we are expecting based on experience. The human mind is amazing at noticing contradictions. Here are more examples.
Suppose your family member promised to buy you a present, and they don’t, that is a contradiction. How about this? You take a casual look at your car and you sense that it looks a bit tilted to one side. That’s a contradiction. A car cannot simply change height on one side. You come close to investigate and you find that your car has one flat tyre on the side it is sloping. How about mathematics? Grading a student’s exam paper is basically a process of checking for patterns and contradictions in patterns. If when grading a paper you see 2+2=5, that’s a contradiction. The correct pattern is 2+2=4.
Contradictions are everywhere, from noticing that change in dressing, the speck in your eye, to the overflowing river and snow falling in summer in the Alps, to the traffic light turning simultaneously green to opposing sides of the intersection, to a crying baby, to a cheating spouse, to an upset stomach. All these represent a change to the normal pattern, and hence a contradiction. As some would say, all these signify that “something is not adding up”.
Logically, many contradictions require resolution. It seems that often, the human mind cannot stand contradictions. It wants them fixed. Often there is not just mental but emotional reaction to the existence of contradictions. Imagine how a sudden bang on your door startles you and requires you to go to find the cause. Or how the cry of a baby takes sleep from your eyes and causes you to find solutions until the baby is still again.
The desire to solve contradictions is behind human development. It has inspired humans to seek for solutions to many profound inventions. Try the contradiction called hunger for example, which is such an overbearing contradiction, which always requires a speedy and permanent solution. That contradiction has led to the development of sophisticated agricultural and supply chain systems for feeding people.
It goes without saying that the entire health provision system is a response to a very serious contradiction called disease. Disease, defined as departure from normal body function, or in other words, departure from normal body patterns, is among the most pressing of all contradictions, one that elicits immediate attention and hopefully a lasting solution. For that, humans have developed complicated health knowledge, substances and equipment.
Yet also, solving the contradictions has sometimes led to more contradictions. Take the case of agricultural production for example. It is a huge contradiction when bugs destroy the crops and lead to hunger and diseases. Of course, urgent and permanent solution is required. It was a welcome solution when someone invented some chemicals to kill the bugs. But here is the problem, hundreds if not thousands of chemicals produced for agricultural purposes led to new, if not just as bad or worse contradictions.
Take DDT for example. According to Wikipedia, DDT is a chemical that was invented way back in 1874. By 1938, DDT’s insecticidal properties were discovered and by 1945, DDT was available for public use in the USA (EPA, 2022). By 1962, less than 20 years later, stories were emerging that DDT was raising a new contradiction. DDT was suspected of causing cancer, a disease which constitutes such as scary contradiction, if we may say.
Thus, with the example of DDT, we have before us a case whereby the solution to one contradiction leads to one or more other contradictions, just as bad if not worse. Talk of between a rock and a hard place. DDT, while potentially solving the contradiction that comes with the destruction of crops by bugs, hence upholding the food security pattern (among other things), DDT caused a contradiction which comes by the departure from normal bodily function patterns.
The question is, which contradiction should we live by. Crops destroyed by bugs or disease caused by DDT? Of course DDT has since been banned internationally, and that was officially in 2004. By banning it, we guess what they meant to say is that, “we cannot stand the contradiction caused by DDT, and in place of DDT, it is better to find another solution for the contradiction caused by bugs, without causing as much new contradiction.” There comes a time when we have to draw the line on contradictions. And more importantly, there comes a time when we have to choose which contradiction to live by, and which contradiction to eliminate.
Yet also, some contradictions can become the norm and become acceptable so much that going against the contradictions becomes unacceptable. Take the current drive towards the full acceptance of same-sex marriages. Only less than a decade ago, to most people by far, same-sex was an immense contradiction, completely unacceptable, and in need of some kind of solution, legal or otherwise. Same-sex marriage was considered a terrible disruption to the pattern of life. It is still so in many areas of the world, and in the Bible.
But in the western world, the coin has flipped over. Same-sex marriage today is considered an acceptable pattern in additions to the old patterns of life. Same-sex marriage is not a contradiction any more. We have to note that this is a different kind of solution to a contradiction. The contradictions we have discussed so far (before the same-sex contradiction) involved making something new to do away with a contradiction, for example DDT to do away with the contradiction of agricultural pests. Same-sex marriage is different. The contradiction has just been made acceptable by a change in perception. This is profound and very telling.
Speaking of acceptable contradictions, sometimes contradictions become acceptable because we have no way out. That is always because we do not have the information required to find a solution, and hence we have no capacity to deal with the contradiction. Many times long term sickness becomes an ‘acceptable’ contradiction, one we live by without a choice. Death is a typical example, a real contradiction that no one among mortal humans has yet found a solution to.
So what have we laid down so far?
- That the human mind functions by analysing patterns and changes in patterns.
- That when something happens contrary to the established patterns, we have a contradiction.
- That contradictions, by design, demand our attention, specifically to find solutions to them.
- Some contradictions we solve by eliminating them.
- Some contradictions we replace with less bothering contradictions.
- Some contradictions become acceptable when our perceptions change.
- Unfortunately, sometimes some contradictions are replaced by worse contradictions.
- And again unfortunately, some contradictions we choose to live by because we have no solution in sight.
Now that we have laid out some groundwork about how contradictions work, let us turn to the Bible in general. Anyone who has read the Bible will agree that it is a minefield of potential contradictions of all kinds. Some contradictions are directly because what the Bible says in one place seems to contradict what it says in another. Some other contradictions seem to be that what the Bible says happened is contrary to the usual pattern of human life according to what the reader has experienced before. Yet in both cases, it is the same. Let us show how.
Take this example we got from an atheist website.
Exodus 20:12 Honor thy father and thy mother.
Luke 14:26 If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.
You see the contradiction, that type where one verse seems to contradict another? We think, at face value, it is a legitimate observation. That sounds contradictory, right? If one has to honour his parents, how come Christ says hate them as a condition to coming to him? They say, there you see, the Bible is full of contradictions. This is of course because of what the reader has in mind. In this case, the reader has in mind the idea that words have a meaning in and of themselves outside of the context in which they sit. Yet, in all reasonableness, we know that a single sentence with the exact same words can have two different meanings based on the context in which the sentence sits.
We like to put it this way. Bible verses are not like cakes stacked in a delivery van. Such cakes are baked individually, each in its own baking pot, packed individually, then stacked together for transport. Even at arrival at their destination, the cakes are almost certainly going to part ways forever. The order in which the cakes sit there at the back of the van is irrelevant to the meaning of each cake. Bible verses are not like that. They are made together to make one story. The one story gives meaning to the verses, just as much if not more than the verses tell the story. Both the one story and the one verse work together to make meaning.
Thus in context, in Luke 14:26, Christ is saying if your choice to follow Christ leads to contradiction with your family, then solve the contradiction by choosing Christ. Or to put it as we have said before, Christ is saying put up with the contradiction with your family so that you are not in contradiction with Christ. By choosing peace with Christ over your family, your family will think that you hate them. The contradiction that the atheist website saw between Exodus 20:12 and Luke 14:26 is solved easily and the reader’s bias is exposed, whether that changes the reader’s mind or not.
The other example of a contradiction which is directly pitting biblical statements against human experience is that where Christ walked on water. Clear contradiction with human experience patterns, we agree. If you have not tried it before, believe us, it is not worth even trying. Humans cannot walk on the water surface of a lake, let alone on a stormy lake. Again, we agree that this is a real contradiction. But that is a human mind limiting experience to that which can be experienced by normal sensory perception. There is more in this world than the five human senses can perceive. The normal human sensory capacity or reality is not the limit of all capacities or realities.
What is more interesting is how some try to explain this contradiction. They say since no man can walk on water, Christ did not exist. In other words, since walking on water is not a reality, and Christ is said to have done it, then his existence is also not a reality. Dear reader, consider the reasonableness of that explanation. How can the plausibility of an event to human experience prove the non-existence of the person who did it? Or should we say it this way? The existence of Christ is not a function of what we think he could or could not do. Besides, a lot more perfectly humanly possible events were accounted to Christ. To be fair and rational, if the impossible acts account for his non-existence, the possible acts must equally account for his existence, right?
There is always a huge contradiction, when one tries to critique matters of the spiritual realm using laws from the physical realm. It is impossible and not sensible.
At this point we add a few more points to summarise our discussion so far. In identifying the source of the contradictions in the Bible, we have the choice of either:
- Contradictions can be between what the Bible says in one place and what it says in another, or,
- What the Bible says contrary to the patterns of our own human experience.
In terms of finding solutions to the contradictions, we can either:
- Obtain solution from concepts that the Bible itself gives us, or,
- We bring our own concepts to help find the solution to a biblical contradiction.
This brings us to the reasonableness of the three-in-one god idea. If you know a bit of history about this idea, then you know that it has its origins in a contradiction. To be fair, not just this idea but all doctrines that deal with the identity and nature of the one God of the Bible have to deal with contradictions of some sort. Let us explain.
Firstly, some obvious point. If the reader has experienced a relationship with anyone, then the reader knows the importance of identity to relationships. In short, it is a huge contradiction if you related to a person you cannot identify. More than that, the Bible requires us to identify our God separate from other gods. That is the normal pattern of both spiritual and physical life where multiple entities exists. One has to identify which one is which one.
In this normal pattern of life, in many cultures of this world, when you meet a person for the first time, you take in who they are, what they look like and more importantly, their name. You just have to be able to identify one person from another. It is a necessary prerequisite to a relationship with any person in a world where there are other people. Here are some more obvious examples to drive home this point.
You have just had a new baby. What do you do? Identify the baby. Not just a name, but you look at the baby, consider who the baby looks like, and whether it is a boy or girl. If you have experienced this, you know what we are talking about. Much discussion, happiness and sometimes conflict happens with respect to identities of newly born babies. Ask Zacchaeus the father of John the Baptist, or Jacob at the birth of Benjamin (whose dying mother, Rachel called Benoni, but Jacob overrode the decision with the name Benjamin).
Christ too, his identity was crucial. Specific instructions were given about how to identify him. He was to be called Immanuel, God with us. That’s a very distinct identity which means a lot to Christians even to this very day. We could go on and on.
Even computers have to deal with identity. Whether it be to identify another computer, a network service, a printer versus a screen, one document from another, and one item in a document from another in the same document, etc. Identity is very important in all situations that relationships exist. So it has been with our God, He has placed himself separate from other gods and has insisted on His specific identity and name, so that he may not be confused with another man-made god.
Identifying who God is by his name was very important to the Hebrews in the Bible. And they knew their God by name and as one God only. That was all fine in the Old Testament of the Bible, until Christ came and the New Testament was written. In the Old Testament, there was one God period. The Hebrews worshipped their one God and He was just one and worshipped as one with all his names and characteristics applying to Him alone. That one God was their Creator, and their Saviour, He forgave their sins, fought their wars, gave them sustenance, sent his angels to minister to them and accepted their worship. But Christ came and something ‘strange’ happened, a contradiction was born.
First the word ‘God’ [in whatever form] was applied to Christ in a few circumstances. Then Christ forgave sins, received worship and called himself by the name of God, “I am”. Not just him, but his followers too, they called him the Creator and that Christ was above angels. We don’t know if the reader is noting how mind-boggling this is. If that was all, we could simply say, OK, he is the one God, but no. Christ and his followers then went on to say that there is God in heaven, the Father of Christ, who sent Christ to the world. Christ constantly reported to and got instruction from this God. For someone who is living by the simple Old Testament understanding that there is just one God, this new information is mind-boggling, a severe contradiction.
This is a simple yet shattering departure from normal counting patterns. In normal reality, one person is one person. One God is one God. Two persons are two persons not one person. Two gods are two gods, not one god. Yet, contrary to all counting and summation norms, both Christ and his followers continue to insist that there is only one God, despite calling two persons each God. Which one is the one God? How are they two, each one of them called God, yet there is one God?
With that, we have the contradiction that was the start of the theological drama that led to the formulation of the three-in-one god creeds in Christianity. The reader will recall that this very contradiction caused the split in the church for which reason the Council of Nicea was called to solve. Athanasius and Arius struggled with each other over this contradiction. The same contradiction is still the continuation of the same and many other theological dramas. Whichever theological position a Bible reader takes, he must somehow deal with this contradiction. All Christian denominations have their ways of dealing with this contradiction. Many explanations have been formulated to explain this contradiction but it is not our intention to discuss all of them.
Here we focus on how the three-in-one god idea tries to solve this contradiction, to try to bring an expected pattern of normalcy again, in line with human patterns of experience. The question is: Is the solution offered by the three-in-one god idea reasonable? In other words which of these does it do?
- Does it eliminate the contradiction, or,
- Does it replace the contradiction with less troublesome contradictions, or,
- Does it ask us to change our perception so that we can live with the contradiction, or,
- Does it replace the contradiction by worse contradiction(s), or,
- Is there enough information to solve the contradiction without forming new ones?
We also want to classify this contradiction. Is it a contradiction whereby one part of the Bible says something contrary to another, or is it that whereby what the Bible says is contrary to the normal pattern of knowledge and understanding as we have it? And we want to find out if the three-in-one god idea brings some non-biblical concepts to solve the contradiction, or does it use only concepts found in the Bible.
The contradiction to solve is this. How do we have one God, if the Father is God, and the Son is also God? The key word here is the term ‘one God’, because this is a quest to find the one God that makes the Bible religion a monotheistic religion.
Let us start here. Is this contradiction one that comes from the difference between what the Bible says in different places? The answer is no. The Bible never tells us that Christ was called ‘one God’. No, not once. If both the Father and the Son were called ‘one God’, we would say this is a contradiction that the Bible has given us. But that’s not so. So we understand this contradiction as one that the human mind has perceived because it violates the normal patterns of thinking and understanding reality. Let us explain this further.
The human mind has perceived a departure from normal counting patterns. That is to say, the human mind is grappling with how two persons can both be called God yet there is one God. To put this in other words, instead of asking the question, “How do we have one God if the Father is God and the Son is also God?” we should be asking the question, “How can Christ be God if the God the Father is the one God of the Bible?”
That difference between the two questions is subtle but profound. The first question is purely a matter of the human mind struggling with contradiction to counting and summation patterns. The second question is about acknowledging what the Bible has given about the one God as the Father only. While both contradictions are from that departure from normal human patterns of thinking, the second question is not a counting contradiction, but a process contradiction. In other words, the process by which God the Father, has a Son who is also himself God, is a contradiction of its own. We will cover the process contradiction later.
While the first question has its basis in the idea that it is contradictory to have one God if both are called God, the second accepts the idea not as a contradiction because the Bible has not given it as a contradiction. The second question tries to understand how it is so. The former question instigates a solution around how one God can be conceptualised as having the two persons in him. The later instigates a thought process about explaining how the one God could have a Son who is also God, in other words. The later is about how the Son is as God as His Father.
This is how fundamentally opposed these two questions are. On one hand the two questions perceive the contradiction differently. On the other hand, they naturally lead to different solutions.
Let us look at the path that the three-in-one god idea takes to solve this (two gods being one God) contradiction. From where does the three-in-one god idea take the concepts it uses from? To analyse this, we have to start by looking at what the three-in-one god doctrine says. When reading it, please notice carefully how our key term ‘one God’ is defined. This key term is our focus.
“There is one God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, a unity of three coequal persons.” (emphasis added)
Notice that the definition of the term ‘one God’ is ‘a unity of three coequal persons’. So, then we ask, how has this doctrine solved the contradiction in question? Simply this; make the two persons make up one God. In other words, the concept is that multiple persons somehow can be combined to form a one personal entity and a being. This is considered a solution to the contradiction in question because remember that the three-in-one god idea is trying to find a solution to the question about how can there be one God if both the Father and the Son are called God. Thus, when the Father and the Son are combined to form one God, they have not two gods but one, i.e. one God who has multiple equal persons in him.
The statement that says ‘unity of three persons’ is a concept. In other words, it is a way of thinking which is formulated for the purpose of explaining the identity and nature of the one God. That concept is not read anywhere in the Bible, neither in one place nor in multiple places put together. This is what most readers are likely to miss. And this is what the proponents of the three-in-one god idea also do not seem to realise, i.e. that to say “a unity of three persons is one God” is to formulate and advance a way of thinking or a concept/model/framework, or a theory. It is something that has been imagined and invented by man how three persons can make up one God, or conversely, how one God manifest in three persons inside him.
Then we ask again. Is there anywhere in the Bible that this concept is found? We mean the concept that multiple equal persons can form together another entity that can be referred to in personal terms such as he, him, my, and one God? The short answer is no, there is no such concept in the Bible.
We ask the next question. Is there anywhere in the normal human patterns of thinking and understanding where we have the combination of multiple persons in any way to form another entity as described in the three-in-one god idea? The answer is no again.
We therefore conclude that the three-in-one god idea uses a concept which exists neither in the Bible nor in human patterns of understanding. The three-in-one god idea solve a man-made contradiction (if both are God how is there one God?) with a man-made concept (multiple persons can make up one being).
Now let us go back to the 5 solutions to contradictions that we saw on page 2. We hope the reader remembers that sometimes contradictions are replaced by other contradictions (to remind yourself, read again the DDT example we discussed before). Now we have to find out if the concept of combining multiple entities into one God is itself not a contradiction(s) to the Bible and normal patterns of human understanding. And the answer is that it created many contradictions. Let us go through some of them.
- It contradicts the scripture when men create their own framework to explain scripture. The normal pattern is that scripture must be explained in its own frameworks. Thus, the three-in-one concept has no role to play in solving any perceived contradiction found in the Bible. The three-in-one concept is totally alien to both the Bible and to normal human experience.
- While the fact that there is one God and Christ is also God creates some contradiction with normal human experience, the idea that two or three persons can form one God is even far more contradictory to anything that human beings know from the Bible and nature. The often-touted equation of the trinity, 1+1+1=1 is so much more a contradiction in many ways. First because it is an abuse of mathematical operators in a way which makes no logical sense. Second, because it is an equation whose units contradict themselves because on the left side of the equation the unit is person, but on the right side, no one has a clue what the unit is. That is, 1 person plus 1 person plus 1 person equals 1 WHAT?. Logic requires that the units of an equation be maintained, otherwise the sum of three oranges could equally be one apple.
- It is a contradiction when a father, a son and their spirit become equal beings of exactly the same nature. The Bible is unequivocally clear that the Spirit belongs to the Father and was given to the Son. Never does the Bible teach of material equality between a person and his spirit. Again at no time in the Bible or in natural reality is that possible.
By preaching something that has a contradiction, you can never bring human minds to rest. The contradiction must be solved, and there is no peace of mind until the solution is found. That is why there is rejection of the three-in-one god framework every time the church has no coercive power and control minds and to enforce the three-in-one god idea.
Coming back to our questions, we can now provide answers as follows:
- Does the three-in-one concept eliminate the contradiction of the Father and the Son both being God yet there is one God? The answer is no. It remains to be explained why the Bible presents the Father as the Father and the Son as the Son, and both as God if they make up one God.
- Does the three-in-one concept replace the contradiction with less troublesome contradictions? The answer again is no. The contradictions inherent in the three-in-one concept are far more troublesome?
- Does the three-in-one concept ask us to change our perception so that we can live with the contradiction? The answer is yes. The three-in-one concept requires us to switch to a perception which accepts that which God never told us.
- Does the three-in-one concept replace the contradiction by worse contradiction(s)? The answer is yes. The three in one concept attempts to replace one simple contradiction with a contradiction that is totally incomprehensible to human minds and completely missing from the Holy Writ.
- Is there enough information to solve the contradiction (Father and Son both God and yet there is one God) without forming new ones? The answer is yes. We explain below.
The Bible gives very simple explanations which result in no contradiction within the Bible itself. Some men may find contradictions with their own experiences, but the Bible can easily be harmonised on the point. And it is simply this.
“There is only one God the Father who has a Son. The Son of God is as much God as His Father because like begats like. God the Father is also Spirit and He gave His Spirit to His Son.”
This a simple understanding in which does not contradict the Bible or nature. Notice the concepts used to harmonise the contradiction. The first concept is like begats like. This concept is found as a law explicitly stated in scripture and explicitly practiced in nature. In scripture, the law of like begetting like is stated when animals are created, that each of them MUST reproduce according to its kind. In human experience, apples were designed to produce apples and cats to produce cats.
The same law is also found when Adam bore his son after Adam’s own likeness. Equally so, the law is practiced when a believer is born in Christ, to be like Christ both in nature and spirit.
The second concept is the imparting of a spirit from one being to another such that the recipient of the spirit becomes as the giver of the spirit is. That too is found explicitly stated as a law in the Bible and as explicitly practiced in natural human experience. When Elijah’s spirit settled on Elisha, Elisha continued with Elijah’s work, especially the miracles. When believers received the Spirit of Christ, they too could cry Abba to God the Father. By the Spirit of Christ, believers became like Christ, as son as Christ is to the Father. More importantly, the Bible actually states that the Father gave His Spirit to His Son (John 3:34).
Thus the statement above uses and is totally in harmony with concepts that the Bible itself has revealed to us.
The natural desire of the human mind that is operating in a contradictory framework is to add to what the Bible says while justifying the same by tradition. We can look to the many examples that Christ pointed out in Jewish thinking. For example, when a man and woman are caught in adultery, stone the woman not the man (John 8:1-11). It is a clear contradiction that if adultery involves two consenting adults, only one of them be stoned, but they did not see it.
Another one is this. When a donkey falls in a ditch on the Sabbath remove it on the very same Sabbath but when a person is suffering and in need for help, wait until the Sabbath ends (Luke 14:1-7). Again the contradiction could not be seen by their minds that human life is far more worthy before God and men than the life of a donkey. Thus if so much can be done to save a donkey, even more should be done to save a person.
How about that swearing by the gift on the altar if sign by swearing by the altar itself is Ok (Matthew 23:18). We are sure that the reader gets the point that when a human mind operates in a contradictory framework, it ceases to sense the most glaring of contradictions.
The three-in-one concept is just the same, a contradiction, created by man, whose contradictions are accepted unresolved, and its justification is in tradition.
Thus we can conclude that when a mind that is operating in a contradictory framework, i.e. a mind with misapprehension of God’s character, sees the contradictions that it has produced by its own frameworks, that mind finds comfort in its own contradictions. Contradictions cease to demand solution. Thus, many live, not by faith, but by contradiction.
The choice is whether to live with the contradictions that the Bible has given us and not resolved, or replace them by creating our own contradictions that remain unresolved. Among the unresolved contradictions created by men in relation to the Bible, it is hard to find one that surpasses the idea that one God is in three persons, a concept so contradictory that the very teachers of it admit that they cannot teach it comprehensibly, but that they just live by it regardless of its obvious foreignness to everything that both the Bible and man has ever known. As with the contradictions that the Jews created for themselves, only by faith in tradition can we live by the contradiction of the three-in-one god.
As we said before, there comes a time when we have to draw the line on contradictions. And more importantly, there comes a time when we have to choose which contradiction to live by, and which contradiction to reject.
The Rock Fortress Ministries
24 September 2022