By Eusebio Tanicala, Ph.D.
(Note: This is another article that could help increase our knowledge about the Holy Trinity and which will in turn jack up understanding about Tritheism and Unitarianism. Please don’t teach weak arguments to our young people and young preachers. These young preachers could be discouraged once they are confronted with the weakness of arguments they are initially taught. Weak arguments could easily be knocked down by those who know logic and mathematics. This is series #3).
In the study about the Godhead, about the Trinity and about the deity of Christ, a good knowledge of the word “one” which is the cardinal numeral one represented by the Arabic sign 1 is a must. Those who believe in Unitarianism focus on the word “one.” To a Unitarian, there is only one God and the manifestations as Father or Son or Holy Spirit is only one person manifesting in different modes.
Focus is also on the term “one” by those who believe that Christ is not deity but a mere human being who is endowed with heavenly powers. Siya ay tao lamang, sabi nila. There’s only one God, there’s only one person who is called God and He is the Father, they claim.
Defining the cardinal numeral “one” should therefore be an important step in any discussion of the Godhead, Trinity or Christ’s deity. When the word is properly defined and when the definition is agreed upon by the three groups (Unitarian, psilanthropist, Trinitarian), then the issues may become clearer.
Funk & Wagnalls Standard Dictionary of the English Language, Vol. 2, p. 883 says defines the word “one.”
As an adjective the term “one” has the following meanings:
1. Being a single individual or object; being a unit.
2. Being an individual or thing thought of as indefinite.
3. Designating a person, thing, or group as contrasted with another; this; that.
4. Single in kind; the same; closely united or alike.
As a noun the term “one” has the following meanings:
1. A single unit; the cardinal number preceding two; also, a symbol (1, i, I).
2. A single thing or person.
As a Trinitarian, you should be very observant and analytical on your material. Watch carefully #1 meaning on both adjective and noun usages. The term one could refer to a “unit.” Unit refers to a group or several individuals in a group. In military language, a squad or a platoon or a company is a unit. Note the #4 meaning under the adjective usage. We repeat the quotation: “Single in kind; the same; closely united or alike.”
First idea: The three persons in the Godhead belong to a single “kind.” The term kind refers to a single essence or single substance, belonging to one class, or one type.
Second idea: The three persons in the Godhead are the same in their being pure spirit existence, same omnipotence, same in omnipresence, same in omniscience, same in being eternal.
Third idea: The three persons in the Godhead are closely united because they are congruent and coalescent in their major attributes in the Godhead like holiness, teaching, power, etc. Fourth idea: The three are also united. Please see John 7:16; 14:24; 16:14; 16:15; 17:10.
For example John 10:30, Christ said, “I and my Father are one.” (See NKJV) One in type/class/category/essence. One or same in the attributes mentioned above. This is the reading from The Great Book, The New Testament in Plain English, “Jesus answered them ‘I told you, but you didn’t believe. I am doing miracles with my Father’s authority. These are telling the truth about me, but you don’t believe, because you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice. I know them. They follow me. I give them eternal life. They will never be lost. No one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father is stronger than anyone. No one can snatch them from my Father’s hand. He has given me all things. My Father and I are united.’”
Psilanthropists and Muslims refer to this oneness as the harmony of the Father and Christ in the pastoral care of believers. Only in pastoral care, they say. But in the text it is not pastoral care only. Father & Son care for the flock. Father & Son do miracles. Father & Son give life. Father has given to the Son all things. So in John 16:12-15 Jesus claims that what the Holy Spirit will teach, that truth comes from the Father and the Son. So they are one in teaching. One in authority. The Holy Spirit glorifies the Son, the Son glorifies the Father, the Father glorifies the Son. What belongs to the Father belongs to Christ, too.
(Note: Evidently Christ was not referring to multiplying or dividing the cardinal number of his person as “one-1” and the cardinal number of the Father’s person as “one-1” The impression formed in the minds of the Jewish audience in vs. 31-39 eliminates the idea of multiplication or division as a meaning of the term “one.”)
Analyze the prayer of our Lord in John 17:11, 21-23. John 10:30 should be interpreted by John 17:11, 21-23. Deeper contemplation on this unity of the Father and the Son leads you to a higher level of unity, agreement, congruence, coalescence, harmony besides pastoral care of believers. The expressions “you in me and I in you” “they in us” are not referring to pastoral work.
Do we apply multiplication or division to arrive at the oneness Christ prayed for among believers? No. We are crazy if we did. Is it enough that you place the X sign of multiplication between the physical bodies of disciples to create their unity? No. Did Apostle Paul put multiplication signs between the physical bodies of the factionalists in 1 Cor. 3 to solve the problem he was complaining of? No. When congregational members today have factions do we attain unity by painting the X sign between persons as they are seated inside the chapel? No. When Paul and Barnabas had differences, did they paint the X sign on the ground where they both stood to effect unity? No.
Instead of brandishing the “math bluff” please get the meaning from the linguistic authorities. The believers’ oneness is in their becoming a separate unit, a separate group from the rest of sinful humanity and governed and bonded together by the moral code of Christ. The believers as a unit form another type or another class of people contrasted to the sinful world. The believers, although distinct in personalities, will be the same in doctrine and morality, closely united in the one body of Christ, the church. Oneness is in the higher plane – in the mind, in the emotion, in morality, in spiritual action.
I appeal to our aging preachers and Bible college teachers who use weak arguments to stop passing on to young preachers their lightweight, undocumented, unvalidated theological opinions.
(Note: A fourth article submits proofs on the use of the cardinal numeral one on the abstract level. – ET)