Is God Bad At Math?

Previously, I told the story of how, back when I was teaching, right after I had given(what I thought was!) a brilliant explanation of the doctrine of the Trinity—how God could be Three Persons in One Being—one of my students put their hand up and asked: “Mr. Sweeney, doesn’t this mean that God is schizophrenic?”

The Trinity is the most important doctrine in the Christian faith.  It has to do with Who God is in Godself, God’s essence, God’s very being.  However, at the heart of this doctrine, which lies at the heart of Christianity, stands a fundamental contradiction: how can One God—One Being—be Three Persons?  No matter how you slice it, the math doesn’t work.  Three never equals one!  As the two other great monotheistic faiths, Judaism and Islam, point out, the doctrine of the Trinity smacks of polytheism—three gods, not one. 

Either God is schizophrenic, or He’s really bad at math!

Of course, our problem in understanding this doctrine is that our instinct, our nature, is competitive.  Because of our egos, our pride, we see and experience all kinds of jealously, rivalry, and division in the relationships around us, even, at times, in the best of relationships.  So, naturally, we project this onto the Trinity.  We think of the Trinity more like the gods of Greek mythology who are often involved in some kind of powerplay, trying to usurp power and glory from each other.

But this isn’t God’s nature.  This isn’t how the Trinity works. 

In this year’s U.S. Open, professional golfer Brooks Koepka, who won the last two U.S. Opens, was in contention to win his third in a row.  At one point, he hit a drive and was walking down the fairway to take his next shot.  Suddenly, he veered off the fairway and walked up to the vast crowd watching play.  In the midst of this sea of faces, he found an older man and gave him a big hug.

The commentator on TV explained that this was his father.  Then the commentator told how his dad never thought Brook would be a great golfer—maybe a good high school player, or a half-decent college player, but certainly not a professional, not a Major champion.  Still, he loved watching him play anyway.  And he fully supported his career.  He bought his equipment, took him to tournaments, cheered him on at every one.  So when Brooks won his first U.S. Open, his father was beside himself.  He was beaming with pride, pleasantly shocked and overjoyed at all the glory and adulation his son was getting. 

Now, it would be outrageous to think that his father would have been jealous of Brook’s victory; or that he would try to steal the spotlight for himself; or that he would hatch a plan to undermine Brook’s career.  A father’s greatest delight is to see his child thrive, to see him or her receive all the glory and adulation.

In Philippians 2:10- 11, Jesus is pictured at the end of time being worshipped as the focal point of all creation: “Every knee shall bow, in the heavens, on the earth, and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”  Notice what this verse doesn’t say.  It doesn’t say that God the Father grew jealous because the Son was getting all the attention.  It doesn’t say that the Father began to hatch a plan to steal the spotlight from the Son.  No, it says that it is to the Father’s great glory that all creation would focus on and worship His Son.  The Father delights in nothing more than the Son getting all the honor and glory.

This is how it works with the Trinity.  In their perfect love for each other, each member of the Trinity is so utterly Other focused that they exult in the Other’s exaltation.  Their purest joy is seeing the Others glorified and lifted up.  Unlike us, unlike the gods of mythology, there’s no competition, jealousy, rivalry, or division among them.  No powerplays.  No trying to steal the show.  No chance that they will go rogue like the gods of polytheism often do.  Throughout all eternity, their one desire is to elevate and glorify each other, because that’s just what perfect love does. 

And that’s why, even though each Person possesses all the attributes of the Godhead—unlimited power, infinite knowledge, etc.—they freely share these with the Others.  That’s why they consistently act in perfect harmony, in complete concert with each other, with a singular purpose and will.  And that’s how they form a perfect unity, a perfect communion, a perfect oneness. 

Always and everywhere, they act as, and indeed are, ONE being.  Functionally and ontologically, the Three Persons are one.

While the Trinity will always remain a mystery at some level—it will always boggle our minds—there are some powerful analogies from our experience that help us begin to understand how it’s possible for the Three to BE One.  In Genesis, for example, it says that God created humans male and female so that the two might become one (flesh).  This clearly isn’t saying that the two individual persons become a single new person, but that, remaining individuals, they are one through their bond of love.  Now obviously, this ideal is never fully realized—not even close.  But when we see fleeting examples of it, we catch a tiny glimpse into the divine life of the Trinity. 

When I was a kid and would ask my mother for something and she’d say no, I’d immediately go to my father and ask him.  Divide and conquer!  But to my great frustration, he’d always agree with my mother.  They always put up a united front. 

You may know a couple that’s been together for a long time who finish each other’s thoughts, each other’s sentences.  This can be annoying!  But it does betray a bond of love so close that the two think as one.

Analogously, the perfect love that exists among the Three Persons of the Trinity guarantees that they always think, and will, and intend, and act AS ONE, as Three persons who are—in essence—One Being.

In several future blogs, I’ll show how the disciplines of Sociology, Anthropology, and even modern Physics point to a Trinitarian God making the most sense of reality, of why it is the way it is.

But for now, rest assured that in the Divine Economy the math works perfectly!  In their perfect love for each other, the Three Persons of the Trinity are Perfectly One in Being, One God. 

And, in creating us, what the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit desire most is that we would know their joy.  What they desire most is that you would enter into their divine life, the divine life of perfect love.

Do you think it’s possible for the Three Persons of the Trinity to form a Perfect Unity?  Go to the “Contact E.J.” page of the Raising Jesus website and let me know what you think.  I’d love to hear from you!  Also, please “Like” our Facebook page, subscribe to our YouTube channel, and keep telling your friends about us.  Thank you!

About Me

E.J. Sweeney is a true skeptic. He needs to see to believe. Hard Evidence. Compelling Proof. Solid Logic. This is what he believes in. In college, he encountered questions that the superficial faith he was raised on couldn’t handle. So he began a quest for Truth, a quest for the answers to life’s ultimate questions.

EJ Sweeney

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