The Trinity: A Mathematical Absurdity?
by Dr. Hugh Ross, M.Sc., Ph.D. (from his book "The Creator And The Cosmos")
EXTRA - DIMENSIONAL POWER
The Bible is unique in describing certain attributes of God, such as the Trinity - in which God is depicted simultaneously as one, two, and three. It also portrays God as predetermining everything for us while simultaneously giving us freedom of choice. These concepts are provable contradictions in four dimensions, but each can be resolved when eight or more space-time dimensions or their equivalent are taken into consideration. Let us examine the Trinity as a specific example.
The Trinity: An Absurdity?
Ironically, adherents of nonChristian religions - like Islam and the Jehovah's Witnesses - often appeal to limited dimensionality as a proof against Christianity. Often I have encountered apologists from such faiths who state categorically Christianity is false since the Trinity is mathematically absurd.
My initial response is to agree. The Trinity is a mathematical absurdity in the context of just four dimensions of length, width, height, and time. Then I share with them the evidence from general relativity, the big bang, and particle physics for the existence of several more dimensions of space and time besides the four we humans experience. In particle physics, for example, all workable theories for the unifications of the four fundamental forces of physics require that a minimum of nine dimensions of space and time must have existed in the first 10-34 seconds following the creation event.1 Since God controls all these dimensions, He must be able to fully operate them all. In fact, who is to say that He does not operate in spiritual dimensions completely distinct from space and time?
Given all this extra-dimensional capacity, it is fairly easy to demonstrate (but not visualize) that the Trinity becomes mathematically feasible.
We'll begin with a simple example of an extra dimension transforming a contradiction into a resolved paradox: In two dimensions in which only length and width exist, triangles can never be equal to circles. Triangles have three corners and circles have none. But in three dimensions of length, width, and height, a triangle could be flipped up on its base so that the third corner resides above the base in the dimension of height. Then the triangle could be rotated on its base so as to transcribe the shape of a cone. Also, a cone is a series of concentric circles ending at a point (the third corner of the triangle). Thus, in three dimensions of space, it is possible in one context for a triangle to be a circle and in another context (such as on a piece of paper) for a triangle not to be a circle. Therefore, one could conclude that in three spatial dimensions triangles can simultaneously be circles and not be circles.
In the same manner, a few extra dimensions of space and a few more of time would make possible the existence of God as a Trinity, an Entity who is simultaneously singular and plural. Such demonstrations of extra-dimensional resolutions of several aspects of the Trinity are currently available, but are beyond the limitations of this brief review.2 What can be considered, however, is how extra dimensions elucidate some of the ways the Triune God relates to us.
Nearness of God
The Bible declares forthrightly that God is very close to each and every one of us.3 But, it just as forthrightly states that God is invisible.4 The Apostle Paul says that no one has ever seen God, nor can see Him.5 Evidently, it is impossible for us humans to make physical contact with God. How, then, can God be so close and yet be beyond physical contact?
An analogy that might help was developed partly by Edwin Abbott, a nineteenth-century schoolmaster and preacher who published the book Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions in 1884.6 Imagine a universe where only two dimensions of space exist rather than three. In such a universe, flatlanders would be confined to a plane of length and width with no possibility of operating in the dimension of height. A three-dimensional being then could approach the plan of the flatlanders and place his hand just a tenth of a millimeter above the two-dimensional bodies of two flatlanders separated from one another by just one centimeter. Since the three-dimensional being is slightly above the plane of the flatlanders, there is no possibility that the flatlanders can see him. And yet, the three dimensional being is a hundred times closer to each of the flatlanders than they are to one another.
As with the flatlanders, so it is with human beings. God is closer to each of us than we ever can be to one another. But because God's proximity to us takes place in dimensions we cannot tangibly experience, we cannot possible see Him.
The only way we could see God is if He were to place a portion of His being into our dimensional realm. This would be analogous to the three-dimensional being poking his finger through the plane of the flatlanders. If one of the flatlanders were to investigate, he would draw the conclusion that this visitor to their realm is a small circle. But what if the three-dimensional being were to reveal separately to the friend of that flatlander three of his fingers? The friend then would draw the conclusion that the visitor to their realm was not one small circle but rather three small circles. We could then image a theological debate between the two flatlanders that would end up with the first flatlander founding the Church of the One Circle while the second would establish the Church of the Three Cirlces.
This analogy may appear amusing, but it fairly represents what nonChristians have done with the Trinity or Tri-Unity of God. Some have accepted God's singularity but rejected His plurality while others accept His plurality and reject His singularity. Only Christians accept that God is simultaneously singular and plural.
Power of God
Consider this one example of what is possible in three time dimensions. If God operated on a globe or sphere of time, the universe and all humanity could be confined to say a line on the sphere's equator. God, from a single point of time at the sphere's north pole, then, could drop perpendicular time lines to both our past and our future, simultaneously affecting both.
This illustration helps us to grasp a little of what happens when two extra dimensions of time are added. It boggles the mind to try to conceive of what can happen in seven more dimensions of space and time than what we humans can experience. But some inkling of what is possible in God's extra-dimensional realm is found in the New Testament.
Good That He Goes Away?
How could Jesus' going away be good? And how does this statement fit with His promise to be with them always? Paul's letter to the Philipians sheds some light:
[Christ Jesus], being in very nature God, did no 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.
Jesus Christ was fully God, sharing in all the power, all the authority, and all the extra-dimensional capabilities God possesses. But for our sake, Christ lowered Himself and accepted the weakness and limitations of a human. He came into our dimensions to show us God, whom we could never otherwise picture, to give us an example of humility, and to pay the price for our redemption. After fulfilling His purpose in coming, Jesus once again took up all the power, authority, and extra-dimensional capacities that were rightfully His as God.
It is easy to empathize with the disciples' grief. Who would want to give up the tangible nearness of Jesus, seeing His face, hearing His words, feeling His touch, walking at His side? But as a human, Jesus could be in only one place at a time, holding one conversation at a time, performing one miracle at a time, etc. He needed rest, too.
Imagine all that we could gain by giving up His physical presence and regaining His extra-dimensional nearness. As He told His disciples, they would do greater miracles than the ones He had performed in front of them.12 Further, He would never leave them, never fall asleep on them, never walk away to take care of someone else's need.13 He could live in them, as well as beside them. The same powerful promise is made to every person who gives his or her life to Christ.
To order this book "The Creator And The Cosmos" go to: Reasons to Believe Catalog
Ross Hugh, Ph. D., "The Creator And The Cosmos" Navpress, 1993 (Revised Edition,1995) Reasons to Believe, p.157-161
Hugh Ross's References:
-1.Jeremy Bernstein, "The tenth Dimension: An Informal History of High Energy Physics (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1989), p.152-153
-2. Hugh Ross, "Above and Beyond Us" (Pasadena, CA: Reasons To Believe, 1993). This one-hour video documenty was aired on the Trinity Broadcasting Network and is now being distributed on VHS cassettes.
-3. Genesis 16:13, 28:16; Deuteronomy 30:14; Psalm 34:18, 119:151, 145:18; Jeremiah 23:24; Acts 17:28; and Romans 10:8 are a few of many examples.
-4. Genesis 28:16; Exodus 33:20; Job 9:11, 37:23; and John 6:46 are a few of many exaples.
-5. 1 Timothy 6:16
-6. Edwin Abbott, "Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions, with notes by David W. Davies (Pasadena, CA: Grant Daehlstrom, 1978).
-7. Ross, "Above and Beyond Us.
-8. John 16:5-10
-9. John 16:6
-10. John 16:7
-11. Philippians 2:5-9
-12. John 14:12-14
-13. Matthew 28:20
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