God identifies himself as one Person?

Here I am going to respond to selections of Kel’s article.  The selections I have chosen are the ones I regard as embodying Kel’s main arguments; I have left out what I regard as repetitious or off the point.  If I have missed or misunderstood Kel’s arguments, anyone who reads this – including Kel – is welcome to bring that to my attention.

. . .

In the section God identifies Himself as one person, Kel offers several arguments to back up the claim made by the title.  The first one is that the Hebrews and Greeks had a word for “person” and that word was “soul.”

Argument:

“For example, Peter says eight souls were saved through water he means eight persons were saved through water. When Luke writes that three thousand souls were saved he means three thousand persons were saved.  The Bible indicates God is a soul. He is a person.”

He then goes on to point out that the words usually translated soul was nephesh in Hebrew and psyche in Greek, and gives a list of Scripture passages which show that God is or has a soul; for example

“And I [Yahweh] will raise up for myself a faithful priest, who shall do according to what is in My heart and in My soul.” (1 Samuel 2:35).

“Yahweh tests the righteous and the wicked, and His soul hates him that loves violence.” (Psalm 11:5).

“[Yahweh]: Be warned, O Jerusalem, lest My soul be alienated from you. (Jeremiah 6:8).”

“[Yahweh]: And she uncovered her harlotries, And she revealed her nakedness, and My soul turned away from her as My soul turned away from her sister. (Ezekiel 32:18).” (correction: this is actually from Ezekiel 23:18)

Examples are also given from Proverbs 6:16, Isaiah 1:14, Jeremiah 5:9; cf. 5:29; 9:9, Jeremiah 12:7, Jeremiah 14:19, Jeremiah 15:1, Jeremiah 32:41, Amos 6:8, Matthew 12:18, Hebrews 10:38.  Then we find this:

“What an unusal way for a three person God to refer to himself. Do Trinitarians really expect anyone to believe these are references to a three person being? No they are the words of one person, one soul.”

Response:

1) Even if the word soul means person as Kel says, none of the passages Kel quotes would prove that God is only one person.  All they prove is that God is at least one person. 2) Even in the passages that Kel quotes, there is evidence of multiplicity of persons referred to by singular words.  For example, in Jeremiah 6:8 quoted above, when God says “lest my soul be alienated from you,” you is singular and yet refers to multiple persons (in Jerusalem).  And in Ezekiel 23:18, the “she” from whom God’s soul turned away is Jerusalem, and “her sister” is Samaria – both composed of many individual persons, yet both referred to in the singular form.  Since the singular form is used of multiple persons in the same sentences,  Kel should not be so quick to assume that God’s soul must refer to one person simply on the basis that the singular form for soul is used.

I would also argue that at least in the Old Testament the word “soul” is not an exact equivalent to the word “person” since in the word nephesh simply refers to any living being, even worms, which are certainly not persons, but it is close enough that we can have that discussion at another time.

Argument:

“God: One “I,” One “Me,” One “He,” One “Him.”  In the Bible, God is profusely referred to with the personal prounouns “I”, “Me”, “He”, “Him” and “You.” He refers to himself in this way and inspires his prophets in this way. These are terms that we use to identify a single person. And this is something God knows. Is God not being a bit deceptive toward us by using these terms if indeed he is not one person but three?”

Response:

This is not be deceptive at all, for it is clear that words like “I” and “Me” are used in the Bible to signify either one person or whole groups of people who share some singular identity such as a nation or a tribe.  For example, in Isaiah 49:21, Zion, which is a group of people, says

“I was bereaved and barren, exiled and put away, but who has brought up these [children Zion didn’t know she had]? Behold, I was left alone; whence then have these come?”

Zion is a nation made of many persons, yet speaks with the singular “I,” even saying “I was left alone,” not meaning that Zion is only one person, but that Zion thought she was without children.  So Kel’s argument from personal pronouns backfires because it only applies the “singular personal pronouns mean only one person” rule to God without explaining why it applies nowhere else.  Presumably, if God had intended those words to prove that He is only one person, He would have seen to it that is the only thing they could mean, and clearly, that is not the case.  If man was created in the image of God, why is it that groups of men can be referred to by singular personal pronouns as long as they belong to one nation, but nothing similar (according to Kel) can be true of God?

Further, though it is true that 99% of the time God speaks in singular terms like I and me (which is expected in Trinitarian theology because the three Persons are one Being), there are a few notable exceptions even in the Old Testament, such as in Genesis 1:26-27, where God said,

“’Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them,”

And in Genesis 3:22, “Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil . . .”

While it is true that in Hebrew a plurals are sometimes used to speak of a single person, it is equally true that singulars are sometimes used to speak of multiple people, as shown above.  If Kel contends that “us” and “our” do not necessarily point to multiple persons in Hebrew, he ought to admit that “I” and “He” do not necessarily point to a single person in Hebrew.   But he seems blind to this second point.

In the New Testament, Jesus clearly refers to himself and his Father as “we” in places like John 14:23 where we read, “Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him,” but Kel tries to get around this by denying that Jesus is God.  Again, in my view his is quite unsuccessful in this attempt, as you can see by looking at the sections on John 1, 17:24, and 20:28 among others, where Kel’s objections are soundly refuted.

Argument:

“And further we find God is the Father of Israel his firstborn? A three person father? God portrays himself anthropomorphically as one person who has a heart and eyes and hands and feet and goes for walks in the Garden of Eden. Three persons? And God sits on a throne in heaven? Three persons?”

Response:

While it is true that God uses human imagery to make points about himself that we would not understand if he didn’t speak in terms familiar to us, it does not follow that He must himself be only one person the way each of us is.  To conclude that is no more logical than it would be to conclude that because “God portrays himself anthropomorphically as one person who has a heart and eyes and hands and feet” God must therefore have hands and feet just like each of us has.  A “three person father” is not biblical terminology because God primarily relates to us one Person at a time, but the idea which Kel mocks by giving it this awkward terminology is not totally wrong.   I pointed this out while responding to his section An Important Question to Ask Trinitarians.

In review of that section, all that is in God is Father to everything that is created, but within that God, there is that which is Father to that which is not Father.  This follows logically from the fact that God is Father of creation and yet both the Father and the Son are God (see John 1:1-3, 18).  Again, Kel denies all of this but you are invited to look at my analysis of those passages and judge for yourself.

Argument:

“Was Jesus’ God a three person being or a one person being? He did say, “my Father and your Father, my God and your God.” Is it not clear that Jesus’ Father was his God and his Father alone? Are we to actually believe that Jesus’ one God was a three person being? And he did say that his God is our God. Is it not clear that our God then is one person, Jesus’ Father?”

Response:

Since I believe that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are all God, then I have no problem with the idea that the Father is Jesus’ God, and Jesus in his Divine nature is the Father’s God, and so on with all of the persons of the Trinity.  Kel cannot accept this idea because to him (apparently) your God is by definition someone superior to yourself.  That of course is true of all created beings, but would not be true of someone else who is also God.

None of the Divine Persons is a God to the others, for there is only one God.  But each is God to the others.  This is why God the Father has no problem calling the Son God and himself God in the same passage:

“For to what angel did God ever say,‘Thou art my Son, today I have begotten thee’? Or again, ‘I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son? And again, when he brings the first-born into the world, he says, ‘Let all God’s angels worship him.’ Of the angels he says, ‘Who makes his angels winds,and his servants flames of fire.’

But of the Son he says, ‘Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever, the righteous scepter is the scepter of thy kingdom. Thou hast loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; therefore God, thy God, has anointed thee with the oil of gladness beyond thy comrades.’” – Hebrews 1:8-9, RSV

Of course Kel denies all this as well (see our response to his argument in my article Hebrews 1:1-10).

Argument:

“God is a soul, a person, and He identifies himself as such in the Bible. Jesus identifies his one God as his Father. This God is an “I” and “Me” who, specifically identifying himself as the Father of Israel, declares “there is no God besides me.” Just how again do these facts result in a three person God?”

Response:

It is not those “facts” that result in a three person God, but those found in other Scriptures.  Further, when Kel says God is a person, he means only one person, which I do not agree with, and that is not the same as saying that God is at least one person, a statement I do agree with.  That is why I put quotation marks around his word “facts.”  The Bible taken literally identifies God as an “I” and a “Me” and an “Us” and a “We,” and yet Kel affirms the first two words as somehow “obvious” while denying the second two words with many abstruse arguments.  The Trinitarian position simply affirms all of those words as they are written in the Bible.