The Shamrock Principle:

Mystery, biblical Trinitarian Monotheism and
resolving the Problem of the One and the Many

GEM 05:12:14a adj 10:03:13a.2

This briefing note explores the questions as to whether the orthodox Christian teaching that God is a complex unity, i.e. a trinity, is logically, biblically and philosophically well-warranted. But first, it pauses to address a key conceptual challenge: apparent absurdity of well founded but counter-intuitive facts. A second step is to note on the basis of the doctrine in the key warranting argumant of the Christian faith, the resurrection of Jesus as noted in Acts 17:16 - 34, as attested by 500+ C1 witnesses, and as reported in the eyewitness lifetime 55 AD record in 1 Cor 15:1 - 11, which in turn throughthe authetnicating of Jesus as Lord of life, and the fulfillment of prophecies such as the 700+ BC Is 52 - 53, validate the OT and NT as the authoritative Word of God. On that basis, it hen grounds the doctrine in Scripture. Also, while the doctrine is of general interest, it is particularly important today in the Caribbean, as various challenges to this teaching are being raised, from multiple directions [often, using the same basic arguments]. It turns out that the teaching is logically coherent, biblically justified, and uniquely and powerfully answers to a major challenge in philosphy: the problem of the one and the many. Thus, as we seek to be equipped to answer challenges and questions as to the reason for the hope we have, it is important for us to understand how the Christian teaching that God is triune is logically coherent, biblically warranted and philosphically powerful.



--> Avoiding using misconceptions to reject counter-intuitive truth

A] The Shamrock Principle

B] The Scriptural Imperative

--> The key warranting argument for the Bible-based Christian worldview

--> The significance of the Eschatological Son of Man of Daniel 7

C] The Worlview Challenge

--> Our worldview options and their comparative difficulties in light of the problem and sign of the one and the many

D] The Sign of the One and the Many


APPENDIX:  On the Scriptural Basis for the Nicene Creed

INTRODUCTION: Quite often in the Caribbean (and beyond), the orthodox Christian understanding that the God of the Bible has revealed himself as triune -- One God, manifest in three persons -- is viewed by many as an inexplicable and potentially embarrassing mystery at best, and as an illogical and stupid absurdity at worst: "1 + 1 + 1 = 1."

So, if the Christian faith is to have street credibility in the teeth of the de-christianising secularist and neopagan postmodern trends from the North, the arguments posed by Dawah advocates, and the challenges of the various sects commonly encountered in our region, we must have a robust response, one that gives the reason for the hope we have, gently and respectfully but forcefully. [Cf 1 Peter 3:15, 2 Cor 10:4 - 5.] Sadly, on this topic, such a robust answer is too often simply not articulated, lending our critics an unwarranted aura of street-credibility.


Yes indeed: in fact, not only is the triune conception of God both logically coherent and profoundly biblical, but also -- as Francis Schaeffer so often pointed out -- it is precisely the intellectual resource provided by redemptive, love based trinitarian monotheism that permits us to have the only major worldview that resolves the problem of the One and the Many, i.e. the unity and diversity of the cosmos (which among several other other forms comes out in the problem that good and evil exist and are important).

For, as Probe Ministries observes in a well-written article on why the Trinity matters:

Trinitarian theism is the only [worldview] option that contains within itself an explanation of both the one and the many while saying that people are important. In the Trinity, God has revealed Himself as the eternal, infinite reference point for His creation. Moreover, the Trinity provides the only adequate basis for understanding the problem of unity and diversity since God has revealed Himself to be one God who exists in a plural unity. Ultimately then, as Horrell concludes, "Every thing and every person has real significance because each is created by and finally exists in relationship to the Triune God." [Article, What Difference Does the Trinity Make?, emphasis, link and explanatory parenthesis added.]

Now also, if we go at the question the back-ways around in worldview terms, we run into a fairly common avoidable problem, one that we may highlight by asking a riddle:

Q: Is it possible by standing at one and the same point on the surface of the earth, to be due north of London England, Bridgetown Barbados ~ 4,000 mi SW, and Kingston, Jamaica [~ 1,000 mi NW of Barbados]?

A: To most people, it seems not. Indeed, it sounds like an absurd idea to suggest that it is possible to do just that. But, that is not because the idea is absurd, but because our mental model of the way the world is typically has key gaps in it. For, the earth happens to be a spheroid, and as a result if one is at the precise north pole, s/he is simultaneously due north of every other point on the earth’s surface. However, we either usually think effectively of a flat map-like earth, or we fail to understand the significance of the word POLE in the term north pole. Just so, if we have mis-concepts or gaps in our understanding of the reality of the world [and we are all finite and fallible . . . ], true but counter-intuitive ideas may well seem absurd, tempting us to dismiss them without consideration; but the problem is with us, not with the ideas. Indeed, that is why Jesus had to rebuke some former disciples in Jn 8:45, that BECAUSE he told them the truth, they disbelieved him.

Immediately, we can see how the common -- and quite tempting -- rhetorical tactic of targetting percieved "weak points" that can then be made to seem absurd, can easily end up attacking and knocking over a strawmannised, weakened, distorted form of the real issue to be dealt with. For, sometimes what seems "weak" or "absurd" to us is simply that which is counter-intuitive, but in fact well-founded. Therefore, a far better investigative strategy -- at least if we are interested to learn and live by what is soundly established -- is to first seek to understand the case being dealt with, then address its strengths and weaknesses in the context of credible alternatives. The best, time-tested way to do this is to use the philosophical methods of inference to best explanation and analysis on comparative difficulties.

So, we must think through first things first, then use the resulting credible, tested truth as a basis for assessing and deciding on other related matters. (Cf here.)

In practical terms in the context of the issue of the Trinitarian theology of orthodox Christian faith, it means that we must begin our main argument from the key warranting argument of the Christian faith, the resurrection of Jesus as prophesied in the scriptures centuries before and as attested by 500+ C1 witnesses, being recorded well within their lifetime. 

But first, we need to clear the field for further thought by addressing the quesrtion of a claimed outright contradiction.  

So, to expand and explain the perhaps unexpected but powerful result that the triune concept of God answers solidly to an otherrwise vexed worldview question, the problem of the one and the many, let us now first consider:

A] The Shamrock Principle and the claim of "contradiction":

It is said that when he was a missionary in Ireland, St Patrick was challenged by the Irish pagans to explain the concept of the Trinity. As a former slave-shepherd in that same country, he did the unexpected -- he reached down and plucked a shamrock leaf.

Standing back up, he then asked:

"Is this one leaf, or three? If one leaf, then why are there three lobes of equal size? If three leaves, then why is there just one stem? If you cannot explainso simple a mystery as the shamrock, how can you hope to understand one so profound as the Holy Trinity?" [Rose Publishing, The Trinity]

And that, according to the story, is how the shamrock leaf became the symbol of Christian Ireland!

Whether or not the story is true, it goes to the heart of the issue of the concept of the Trinity: that the mystery of the One and the Many lies at the core of being, and that we will find this pattern as a signature of the Godhead in many aspects of the cosmos, including in our own lives and thought-world. In particular, it at once lays to rest the jibe that Christians are fools who believe that 1 + 1 + 1 = 1, for, the shamrock leaf is both three and one at the same time, but not in the same sense, i.e. the question of logical contradiction strictly does not arise.

For, the essence of a real contradiction is that contradictory statements or implications affirm and deny the same thing in the same sense. Thus, the Christian understanding that the unity of the Godhead is complex, not simple -- i.e. that the one God is manifest in three persons who share a common Divine nature -- cannot be a contradiction, as the one-ness and the three-ness refer to quite distinct things. Instead, what is being affirmed is that the oneness of God is complex rather than simple, just as the cosmos made by that same Triune God is a unified whole that embraces the vast diversity we see around us; e.g. water manifests itself as solid, liquid and gas, but it is the one and the same substance H-O-H all along. (But, if we overlook the possibility for complex unity, we may easily "see" a contradiction where none in fact exists.)

Going further, in this principle of complex unity lurks at least some of the force in the Christian teaching of 1 Jn 4:8: God, as to his essential nature, is love -- an inherently inter-personal concept.

From this, we then see how God, having made us in his image, i.e. with the capacity to love -- the greatest of the virtues -- therefore left us the power of choice, thus necessarily the power to selfishly reject both God and our fellow man, i.e. to sin. But, in his love, God sent his unique Son into our sin-scarred world as Saviour, redeeming us from the folly of sin and the chaos that flows from it. In turn, as we respond to the One who came in love, died for our sins and rose triumphant over sin and death, we receive the Spirit sent by the Father and the Son, who empowers us in life, love, service and witness. Thus, as Matt 28:18 - 20 instructs, we are baptised in the name of the Father, Son and Spirit: the one and the many conjoined, reflecting the profoundly trinitarian roots of the whole concept and course of salvation.

At the same time, the complex unity, redemptive concept of God is strange indeed, so strange that it is such that we humans would not -- nay, could not -- have conceived it on our own: it is a wondrous mystery. That is, it must be revealed, rather than discovered by human insight and thought [cf.1 Cor 1:17 - 25!]; which is exactly what Christians have always claimed, through:

B] The Scriptural Imperative:

In order to understand and accept the Biblical teaching on the nature of the Godhead as complex unity, we first need to lay a basic framework for warranting the core Christian faith. As Acts 17 notes, that key warranting basis is the death, burtial and resurrection of Jesus as attested by over 500 witnesses, and as is recorded in 1 Cor 15:1 - 11 within eyewitness lifetime, in 55 AD.

While a more detailed development of the case is made elsewhere in this site, it is helpful to note first that the historicity of Jesus rests not only on four eyewitness lifetime biographies, and over a dozen other documents, as well as the foundation of a church based on his ministry in C1 Palestine (which rapidly spread across the Mediteraanean world and beyond; even in the teeth of fire, claw and sword), but as Paul Barnett reports in his now classic 1986 Is the New Testament History?, the basic framework of his life is corroborated by relativley early non-Christian sources:

On the basis of . . . non-Christian sources [i.e. Tacitus (Annals, on the fire in Rome, AD 64; written ~ AD 115), Rabbi Eliezer (~ 90's AD; cited J. Klausner, Jesus of Nazareth (London: Collier-Macmillan, 1929), p. 34), Pliny (Letters to Trajan from Bithynia, ~ AD 112), Josephus (Antiquities, ~ 90's)] it is possible to draw the following conclusions:
1] Jesus Christ was executed (by crucifixion?) in Judaea during the period where Tiberius was Emperor (AD 14 - 37) and Pontius Pilate was Governor (AD 26 - 36). [Tacitus]
2] The movement spread from Judaea to Rome. [Tacitus]
3] Jesus claimed to be God and that he would depart and return. [Eliezer]
4] His followers worshipped him as (a) god. [Pliny]
5] He was called "the Christ." [Josephus]
6] His followers were called "Christians." [Tacitus, Pliny]
7] They were numerous in Bithynia and Rome [Tacitus, Pliny]
8] It was a world-wide movement. [Eliezer]

9] His brother was James [who was leader of the church in Jerusalem for decades]. [Josephus]
[Is the New Testament History? (London, Hodder, 1987), pp. 30 - 31.]

Against that backdrop, it is also important to observe a cluster of so-called minimal facts about Jesus' passion and its aftermath that -- after over two centuries of contentious debate -- stand as supported by  the majority of not just conservative but also skeptical scholars (and in many cases by the overwhelming majority of such skeptical scholars). 

Habermas has identified up to twelve such consensus credible facts:

1. Jesus died by crucifixion.

2. He was buried.

3. His death caused the disciples to despair and lose hope.

4. The tomb was empty (the most contested).

5. The disciples had experiences which they believed were literal appearances of the risen Jesus (the most important proof).

6. The disciples were transformed from doubters to bold proclaimers.

7. The resurrection was the central message.

8. They preached the message of Jesus’ resurrection in Jerusalem.

9. The Church was born and grew [spreading across the Mediterranean world and beyond].

10. Orthodox Jews who believed in Christ made Sunday their primary day of worship.

11. James was converted to the faith when he saw the resurrected Jesus (James was a family skeptic [who, per Josephus, became leader of the church in Jerusalem; suffering martyrdom there in 62 AD]).

12. Paul was converted to the faith (Paul was an outsider skeptic [who became the leading Apostolic missionary]).

These facts are easily accounted for on the C1 eyewitness testimony of the church, as is reported by Paul in the 55 AD letter containing 1 Cor 15:1 - 11:

1 Cor15:1 Now I want to make clear for you, brothers and sisters, the gospel that I preached to you, that you received and on which you stand, 15:2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message I preached to you – unless you believed in vain. 15:3 For I passed on to you as of first importance what I also received – that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures [cf. the 700+ BC Is 52:13 - 53:12 & Acts 8:26 -40], 15:4 and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day according to the scriptures, 15:5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 15:6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.15:7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 15:8 Last of all, as though to one born at the wrong time, he appeared to me also. 15:9 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 15:10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me has not been in vain. In fact, I worked harder than all of them – yet not I, but the grace of God with me. 15:11 Whether then it was I or they, this is the way we preach and this is the way you believed. [Read the whole chapter to see how Paul used this core fact to address the disputed matters.]

However, the many skeptical theories that have been advanced in recent centuries simply cannot address not only the full list of twelve facts, but even significant subsets constituting 4 - 6 of the facts. In short, the best historical explanation is precisely the one reported in 1 Cor 15:1 - 11, and given the debates over the past 200+ years, that is unlikely to change.

In turn, once we see that the prophesied, fulfilled resurrection of Jesus is a credible, knowable, prophesied and fulfilled historical truth, it immediately leads us to the conclusion that Jesus is Lord of Life and the fulfiller of the prophecies of the Old Testament. Thus we have excellent reason to be confident in these scriptures, and in the New Testament scriptures written by or under the authority of the spokesmen he authenticated, his Apostles.

Thus, we have sufficiently grounded the Bible as the Word of God to treat its scriptures as Paul counselled in 2 Tim, with due cautions in light of Peter's counsels shortly before his martyrdom in Rome:

2 Tim 2: 15Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth . . .  .

2 Tim 3: 12In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13while evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

2 Peter 3:15Bear in mind that our Lord's patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. 16He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.  17Therefore, dear friends, since you already know this, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position. 18But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever!

On that basis, we may now proceed to the Biblical foundation of the doctrine of the Triune, loving, saving, redeeming Creator- God, with a particular eye to correcting certain common errors.
So, while it is true that many have attempted to show from the Bible that the orthodox Christian teaching, that God is triune, lacks scriptural warrant, there is in fact little question but that the biblical doctrine of God is plainly trinitarian, creation-based, redemption-focussed and monotheistic.

To see the force of that scriptural imperative, Jesus' habitual self-reference, "Son of Man," is an excellent place to start, in light of its underlying context, i.e. Daniel 7:

DA 7:13 "In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. 14 He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.

DA 7:15 "I, Daniel, was troubled in spirit, and the visions that passed through my mind disturbed me . . . . Then I wanted to know the true meaning of the fourth beast, which was different from all the others and most terrifying, with its iron teeth and bronze claws--the beast that crushed and devoured its victims and trampled underfoot whatever was left. 20 I also wanted to know about the ten horns on its head and about the other horn that came up . . . 21 As I watched, this horn was waging war against the saints and defeating them, 22 until the Ancient of Days came and pronounced judgment in favor of the saints of the Most High, and the time came when they possessed the kingdom.

DA 7:23 "He gave me this explanation: `The fourth beast is a fourth kingdom that will appear on earth. It will be different from all the other kingdoms and will devour the whole earth, trampling it down and crushing it. 24 The ten horns are ten kings who will come from this kingdom. After them another king will arise, different from the earlier ones; he will subdue three kings. 25 He will speak against the Most High and oppress his saints and try to change the set times and the laws. The saints will be handed over to him for a time, times and half a time. DA 7:26 " `But the court will sit, and his power will be taken away and completely destroyed forever. 27 Then the sovereignty, power and greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be handed over to the saints, the people of the Most High. His His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will worship and obey him.'

The key observation is that one like a son of man is led into the presence of the Ancient of Days, was given authority and an eternal kingdom, and received worship, even as the Most High is worshipped. [Cf. vv. 14, 27.] Thus, when Jesus was being tried, we see how the critical issue develops in light of this prophetic passage:

Again the high priest asked him, "Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?"

"I am," said Jesus. "And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven."

The high priest tore his clothes. "Why do we need any more witnesses?" he asked. "You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?" They all condemned him as worthy of death. [Mk 14:61 - 64.]

In short, it was precisely because the High Priest and his fellow Sanhedrinists could not conceive that the One to fulfill the prophecy in Dan 7:13 - 14 stood in front of them, that they thought Jesus guilty of blasphemy. The Christian reply to that, in the words of Paul, is:

Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God-- the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures regarding his Son, who as to his human nature was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord. Through him and for his name's sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith. [Ro 1:1 - 5.]

That is, as one key aspect the resurrection of Jesus is the vindication of his Divine Sonship, as we should expect, as it is the basic offer of proof for the soundness of the Christian worldview [cf. Act 17:16 - 34, 1 Cor 15:1 - 11 etc.]. This also answers to a particular challenge that is sometimes raised (especially by Muslims): how can Jesus be God if he also is man, with a mother, and siblings?

The solution lies in the diversity Paul highlights in Rom 1:3 - 4, i.e. Jesus is God incarnate, so he is both a descendant of David, and the very Root of David, the Divine Logos and Creator, without whom nothing was made that was made. 

(In short, there is no necessary contradiction beween the Son being God and his becoming incarnate within the human family, once we recognise the triune nature of the Godhead. Nor should either a miraculous virginal conception or a virgin birth -- in that context of an outright miracle -- seem absurd in that context, once we recognise the validating significance of Jesus' resurrection from the dead as attested by over 500 eyewitnesses [1 Cor 15:1 - 11]. [Cf discussion of related issues and debates here and here.] But of course, if one assumes that the Godhead must be a simple unity, the idea of God dwelling among us through becoming incarnate and being born of a woman who "knew not a man" will appear to be a contradiction. But that only reflects the impact of trying to understand the issue in the wrong conceptual frame of reference, like -- as was already noted -- not being able to spot how one can stand at one point on the surface of the Earth and be due North of London England, Bridgetown Barbados and Kingston Jamaica all at once. Ans: shift from an implicit, intuitive 2-dimensional view of the earth to a more accurate 3-dimensional one, and stand at the N Pole.)

Indeed, in Phil 2:5 - 11, Paul goes on to cite a hauntingly beautiful hymn of the very early church; one that reveals much about the Christian doctrine of God and the significance of the incarnation:

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-- even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

In this hymn, there is more than an echo of Isaiah 45:18 - 24 (and cf. as well Isaiah 53 for the power of prophecy!):

For this is what the LORD says-- he who created the heavens, he is God; he who fashioned and made the earth, he founded it; he did not create it to be empty, but formed it to be inhabited-- he says: "I am the LORD, and there is no other. I have not spoken in secret, from somewhere in a land of darkness; I have not said to Jacob's descendants, `Seek me in vain.' I, the LORD, speak the truth; I declare what is right. "Gather together and come; assemble, you fugitives from the nations. Ignorant are those who carry about idols of wood, who pray to gods that cannot save. Declare what is to be, present it-- let them take counsel together. Who foretold this long ago, who declared it from the distant past? Was it not I, the LORD? And there is no God apart from me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none but me. "Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other. By myself I have sworn, my mouth has uttered in all integrity a word that will not be revoked: Before me every knee will bow; by me every tongue will swear. They will say of me, `In the LORD alone are righteousness and strength.' " All who have raged against him will come to him and be put to shame.

Col 2:15 - 20 expands on these themes:

He [Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

Heb 1:1 - 6 provides the capstone on the doctrine of the Father and the Son, the core of the doctrine of the Trinity:

In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs. For to which of the angels did God ever say, "You are my Son; today I have become your Father"? Or again, "I will be his Father, and he will be my Son"? And again, when God brings his firstborn into the world, he says, "Let all God's angels worship him."

In this context, we also see the biblical teaching on the Spirit of God, who moved on the face of the waters at Creation, brought forth the voice of God on prophet and psalmist alike, gave power to the mighty men who delivered Israel from oppressors, and who came upon the Son with the Father's statement of approval at his baptism [Matt 3:11 - 17]; and, of whom Jesus said on the night in which he was betrayed:

"JN 14:15 "If you love me, you will obey what I command. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another [allos, not heteros, i.e. another of the SAME --not a diverse -- kind] Counselor to be with you forever-- 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you." [Jn 14:15 - 17.]

Of this same Spirit, the Apostle Peter, prophetically speaking forth God's judgement, would later say:

"Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? 4 Didn't it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn't the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God." [Ac 5:3 - 5]

In short, the Spirit is a comforter of the same kind as Jesus, is sent to us from the Father [and the Son, cf. Jn 16:7, Ac 2:32 - 33], and to lie to the Spirit is to lie to God. More -- much more -- can be added; but the above is adequate to see how the redemptive, trinitarian, monotheistic concept of God is indeed properly derived from the Bible, Old and New Testament, in light of the implications of the resurrection of Jesus.

That concept can be summed up in a creedal definition, for instance:

The Trinity is the term employed to signify the central doctrine of the Christian religion -- the truth that in the unity of the Godhead there are Three Persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, these Three Persons being truly distinct one from another. Thus, in the words of the Athanasian Creed: "the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God, and yet there are not three Gods but one God." In this Trinity of Persons the Son is begotten of the Father by an eternal generation, and the Holy Spirit proceeds by an eternal procession from the Father and the Son. Yet, notwithstanding this difference as to origin, the Persons are co-eternal and co-equal: all alike are uncreated and omnipotent. This . . . is the [biblically based] revelation regarding God's nature which Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came upon earth to deliver to the world . . . [Catholic Encyclopedia, art: "The Blessed Trinity." Explanatory parenthesis and emphasis of Athanasian creed -- common to all orthodox Christians -- added. Cf. also here, and here (this last, for a quite good general discussion by Wikipedia).]

However, the issue is not just a biblical one. For, not only is it true that the biblically derived understanding that God is Triune is central to sound Christian Theology, but it also provides the core philosophical resources of the Christian worldview, one that provides a powerful answer to the otherwise intractable metaphysical problem of the one and the many. This brings us to:

C] The Worlview Challenge:

In the Probe Ministries article cited above, it is further noted that:

When it comes to discussing worldviews the starting point is the question, Why is there something rather than nothing?{6} [BTW, philosophy is best understood as the study of such hard basic questions, the comparison of alternative answers, and the application of our findings to living based on the love of wisdom thereby discovered . . . ]  As you may already know, there are three basic answers to this question. The pantheist would generally answer that all is one, all is god, and this "god with a small g" has always existed. Second, the naturalist would say that something, namely matter [in some form], has always existed. Third, the theist holds that a personal, Creator-God is eternal and out of nothing He created all that there is . . . .When we look around at what exists, we see an amazing collection of seemingly disparate elements such as gasses, liquids, and solids, planets and stars, horses, flowers, rocks, and trees. And seeing all of these things we notice that they all exist in some sort of equilibrium or unity. How is it that such diversity exists in such apparent unity? And are we as human beings any more important than gasses or ants? [Thus, we see the problem of the one and the many, with a particular emphasis on human individuality and value of the person, which ties directly into the point that a right is a moral claim we make on others in light of our inherent dignity as human beings] . . . .

The pantheist's commitment to an all-inclusive oneness leaves no room for the real world in which people live, where I am not you and neither of us is one with a tree or a mountain. The naturalist has no problem accepting the reality of the physical world and the diversity present in it. However, there is no solid ground for understanding why it is all held together. In short, [as Francis Schaeffer often noted] there is no infinite reference point so we are left with the circular argument: everything holds together because everything holds together; if it didn't, we wouldn't be here to see it. What a coincidence! In fact, coincidence, or chance, is the only basis for anything. As a result human beings are left with an absurd existence . . . .

Trinitarian theism is the only option that contains within itself an explanation of both the one and the many while saying that people are important. In the Trinity, God has revealed Himself as the eternal, infinite reference point for His creation. Moreover, the Trinity provides the only adequate basis for understanding the problem of unity and diversity since God has revealed Himself to be one God who exists in a plural unity. Ultimately then, as Horrell concludes, "Every thing and every person has real significance because each is created by and finally exists in relationship to the Triune God." [Article, What Difference Does the Trinity Make?, emphases, links and parentheses added.]

In short the problem of balancing unity and diversity in the cosmos is a major issue in assessing the coherence of a worldview -- does it make sense? Does it account for reality? Can I live consistent with what it implies and squarely face myself in the mirror come tomorrow morning? Of the three major live options, it is trinitarian redemptive monotheism that makes best sense, for it best accounts for how the one and the many we observe around us came to be, and it promotes moral coherence, thence the significance of man, as well.

To see how that works out, let us consider:

D] The Sign of the One and the Many:

The shamrock leaf and the diverse nature of water mentioned above illustrate a pattern that exists all across nature: the cosmos reflects both the one and the many, including major cases where we simply cannot explain how the unity and diversity come together.

For instance, as we think about the everyday commonsense world we experience, we see a triad of triads: space, time and matter, in turn breaking into: space -- three dimensions [length, breadth, height/depth]; time -- three phases [past, present, future]; matter -- three states [solid, liquid, gas]. While too much can be made of this -- e.g. we could discuss matter in terms of fluids and solids, as well as raising the issue of the underlying interconvertibility of mass and energy, etc. -- it is plain that we do see a definite underlying unity in the midst of diversity, i.e. the pattern of the one and the many.

This extends to more sophisticated cases. For instance, from the 1890s on , J J Thomson and others discovered that the electron was a particle [sort of like a tiny cricket ball], and a fundamental component of the atom. (Over the past 100 years, the electron has of course become fundamental to electronics, and to cell phones, radios, TVs, computers and much more.) 

Then, as a part of the Quantum revolution, in the late 1920's, it was discovered that electrons also exhibited interference effects, i.e. they acted as waves [roughly, like disturbances on the surface of the sea]. Similarly, light is now known to act as both a wave and a particle, depending on the experimental set-up being used. 

Thus, we see underlying unified phenomena acting in quite dverse ways, and terms such as "wave-particle duality" and the whimsical term "wavicles" simply leaves us with a case of a hard to reconcile diversity -- cricket balls and wave-trains heading for beaches are quite plainly very, very different phenomena in our common-sense daily world. But, such is the strange world of Quantum Physics!

When we turn to our own human order of existence, we at once see that a human being is obviously a unity, but it is very hard indeed to account on naturalistic premises for three diverse phenomena we exhibit: minds, bodies and minds of our own -- i.e. wills. (Pantheism, hardly does better; in its classical forms being reduced to dismissing the world of personality as an illusion.) Morality, too is a conundrum: why are good and evil significant and distinct, and why do we struggle so much with a pull to do what in our better moments we know is wrong? Furthermore, why are we so convinced, intuitively, that we are more valuable than a blade of grass, or a sparrow, for that matter?

Such questions are of course often dismissed with a rhetorical quip or they may be addressed with weighty tomes and conferences, but in the end, it is the core philosophical assumptions of evolutionary materialism that end up implying that we are in effect the accidental result of chance processes, perhaps in one of an infinite array of subuniverses with randomly distributed laws of physics. All of this boils down to a simple assertion: we are just here, period, science has shown us that God has nothing to do with it as we know that we have evolved from hydrogen to humans through chance processes and blind natural forces, so there is no sense in being surprised ot puzzled by it. However, these assumptions imply that the minds we use to think about these things are driven and controlled by genetic ands environmental forces that have nothing in principle to do with logic or truth; so in effect mind is discredited. But, that immediately implies that the materialist thinker's own mind is just as suspect -- for, the system of thought refers to and absurdly undermines itself: in C S Lewis' apt observation, it becomes a proof that there are no proofs. Thus, we are best advised to look elsewhere for a sound account of the origin, significance and capability of the mind and the body.]

What a contrast, then, do we find in the biblical view that we are made in God's image [so are valuable indeed!], are equpped by our Creator with minds, consciences and senses, and are placed by him in a world that these senses and minds are designed to function in, so that we can indeed at least some of the time perceive accurately, learn and know truth, hear and understand God's revelation, and thus by God's grace turn in repentant faith towards Him who is the truth and the right himself!

In short, the pattern of the one and the many does in fact pervade the world as we experience it every day, and as we study it at more sophisticated levels -- and it often throws us into puzzles where it is very hard indeed to understand how certain things can be both one and many at the same time. Thus, in the end, it is not really a surprise to see that a logically, biblically and philosophically viable concept of God should also be similarly somewhat mysterious; indeed, the pattern of the one and the many pervading the cosmos is evidently a clue that the Creator of that cosmos is similarly a complex unity.

That is, odd as it may first appear, biblical, trinitarian, creation-based redemptive theism in the end is the system of thought that makes best sense of our inner and outer worlds, especially of that quiet but insistent whisper of eternity in our hearts.

CONCLUSION: At first, the concept that God is a complex unity seems strange, even, foolishly contradictory. But, on a closer look at the situation, logically, biblically and philosophically, we begin to see that in fact, the concept -- though so strange that it could only have been arrived at by revelation rather than our observations and speculations -- makes logical sense, is biblically warranted and uniquely answers to a fundamental (and otherwise unmet) challenge in philosophy: the unity of the one and the many. Most important of all, it is the theological foundation for the Incarnation, whereby God entered history as our Saviour, in the person of Jesus of Nazareth (who demonstrated his status as Son of God by rising from the dead) so it is the biblically rooted theological basis for our hope for salvation.




On the Scriptural Basis for the Nicene Creed

In our day the great creeds are often derided or neglected. Indeed, Dan Brown ansd many otherrs would have us believe the Nicene creed is a C4  imposition by Constantine and his lackeys, that overturned the historic Christian faith (which they imagine to have been Gnostic-pagan). This is simply false, and groundless. In fact, The Nicene Creed (an expansion of the C2 Apostles' Creed to address heresies common in C4 that threatened both church and community) of 325 and 381 AD is based in the NT scriptures, which in turn are demonstrably of C1, Apostolic provenance.  

Indeed, structurally, the heart of the creed is the keystone gospel defining AD 55 passage 1 Cor 15:1 - 11 [with backward links to esp. Isa 52:13 - 53:12 in the OT], with a preface and a sequel on the church and carrying up to the resurrection and culmination of all things at the second coming.

But, such a scriptural basis now needs to be shown (here, using the classic Book of Common Prayer English translation):

The Nicene Creed

Key, select Scriptural references


God the Father

I believe in one God

Dt 6:4, Is 40 – 46, Rm 1:18 –32, Jas 1:19 –26, 2:18 - 19

Shema & echad vs yachid

the Father Almighty,

Mt 6:6 – 14, Is 40:12 – 31, Ep 3:14 – 20

The Lord’s prayer

Maker of heaven and earth,

Gn 1:1 ff, Rm 1:18 – 25, Is 45:18 – 23

In the beginning . . .”

And of all things visible and invisible:

Heb 11:3, 2 Cor 4:16 -18

The Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God

And in one Lord Jesus Christ,

Jn 1:1 – 14, Phil 2:5 – 11 (cf Is 45:18 – 23), Jn 3:14 - 21,

Jn 3:16 monogenes, Phil 2:6 morphe,

the only-begotten Son of God,

Heb 1:1 – 14, Jn 3:16

Heb1:3: ος [WHO] ων [BEING] απαυγασμα ["THE" EFFULGENCE (= out-raying)] της δοξης [OF "HIS" GLORY] και [AND] χαρακτηρ[EXACT EXPRESSION] της[OF] υποστασεως [SUBSTANCE] αυτου[HIS] φερων[UPHOLDING] τε [AND] τα παντα [ALL THINGS] τω [BY THE] ρηματι [WORD] της δυναμεως αυτου [OF HIS POWER,] . . .

Begotten of his Father before all worlds,

Jn 1:1 – 18, 3:14 – 18, 36

God of God, Light of Light,

Jn 1:1 – 18, Col 1:15 - 20, Heb 1:3 – 4

Very God of very God,

Phil 2:5 – 11, Jn 14:1 - 11

Begotten, not made,

Jn 3:14 – 18, 36 (cf. vv. 1 – 15)

Being of one substance with the Father,

Phil 2:5 – 11, Jn 14:1 - 11

By whom all things were made;

Col 1:15 – 20, Heb 1:1 - 4

Our Saviour

Who for us men, and for our salvation came down from heaven,

Jn 1:1 – 18 & 26 – 34 (esp. 29), Heb 1:1 – 14, Is 9:6 – 7

1 Cor 15:1 – 11, Isa 52:13 – 53:12

And was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary,

Mt 1:18 – 25, Lk 1:26 – 56, 2:1 – 40, 41 - 52

And was made man,

Phil 2:5 – 11, Is 7:14, 9:6 – 7, 52:13 – 53:12, Rm 1:1 - 4

And was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate.

Mk 15:1 – 32, Jn 18:28 – 19:15, 1 Cor 15:1 - 11

He suffered and was buried,

Mk 15:33 – 47, Jn 19:17 – 42, 1 Cor 15:1 – 11.

And the third day he rose again according to the Scriptures,

Lk 24:1 – 53, Jn 20 – 21, Ac 26:1 – 26, Is 52:13 – 53:12

And ascended into heaven,

Ac 1:1 – 11, 3:11 – 26, Rev 1:1 – 20, Dan 7:9 – 14,

And sitteth on the right hand of the Father.

Ps 110:1, Dan 7: 9 – 14, Ac 7:54 – 60, Eph 1:17 - 23

And he shall come again with glory to judge both the quick and the dead:

Mt 26:57 – 64, Rm 1:1 – 4, Ac 17:22 – 31, 3:19 - 21

Whose kingdom shall have no end.

Dan 7: 9 – 14, Phil 2: 5 – 11, Col 1:15 - 20

The Holy Spirit

And I believe in the Holy Ghost,

Jn 14:15 – 18, 26, Gen 1:1 – 2, Ez 36:24 – 32, Ac 5:1 – 11

Jn 14:16: allon parakleton [cf. here]

The Lord and giver of life,

Gen 1:1 – 2, Jn 3:1 – 8, 9 – 17, (cf. 17:3), Ac 2:14 – 21

Who proceedeth from the Father and the Son,

Jn 14:16, 25, Mt 3:11, Ac 1:4 – 8, 2:1 – 41, Joel 2:28 - 32

Who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified,

Mt 28:18 – 20, Jn 14 – 16, 2 Cor 13:14, Rev 19:9 - 10

Who spake by the Prophets.

2 Pet 1:16 – 21, esp. 20 – 21, Is 61:1 – 4, Ac 13:1 - 5

The Church, baptism, the resurrection and the life to come

And I believe in one Catholick and Apostolick Church.

Mt 28:18 – 20, Eph 1:3 – 23, 4:9 – 5:21, Tit 2:11 - 14

Universal, Apostolic [C1, gospel and Great Commission/ discipleship based & holy (i.e. the apostles through the NT)]

I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins.

Mt 28:18 – 20, Ac 2:38 – 41, 10:43 – 48, 15:7 – 9, Eph 4:5

And I look for the Resurrection of the dead,

1 Cor 15:12 – 28, 1 Thess 4:13 – 18, Heb 6:1 - 2

And the life of the world to come.


Dan 7:1 – 28, Mt 24:1 – 51, Rev 19 - 22