The Concept of God: A brief review
By Roger Marshall*
The Concept of God was the title of Dr. Ikael Tafari’s article which appeared in the September 25th, 2006 edition of the Daily Nation.
In that article Mr. Tafari said he regards Jesus, Haile Selassie I, and one Ben Ammi “as the three messianic personalities of the Christ.” This type of belief is common among New Agers and the like, however, the Bible makes it abundantly clear that Jesus is the Christ (M’t. 1: 16; M’r. 8: 27-29; Lu. 2: 11; Joh. 4: 25-26; 1 Joh. 2: 22).
Mr. Tafari said that he did not consider Jesus to be “The Almighty”, nevertheless Jesus himself claimed to be the Almighty on several occasions. One example is recorded in John’s gospel when Jesus in addressing the Pharisees said: “I tell you the truth before Abraham was born, I am!” (John 8: 58, NIV) Here Jesus used the identical divine name (in reference to himself) that God used to describe His own nature to Moses at the burning bush (Ex. 3: 13-14). For this “blasphemy” of a man making himself equal with God the Jews took up stones to stone Jesus to death (Jon. 8: 59; cf. Jon 10: 30-33).
In his pantheistic, Eastern mystical view of God Mr. Tafari stated that “Rastafari know Him/Her as JAH; for Islam it is Allah; for the Jews, Jehovah.” While this may sound profound to the goodly doctor that statement is actually a violation of the law of non-contradiction which states that A cannot be A and non-A at the same time and in the same relationship. Simply put, God cannot be personal (“Him/Her”) and impersonal (“It”) all at the same time. If God were an impersonal “it” then human beings would be greater than “it” since humans are personal beings and as such are cognisant reflective egos who think, act and have interpersonal relationships with others. The Bible, however, does reveal that God is a personal Supreme Being which is what we would expect of someone who is called God.
Dr. Tafari claimed that Christianity reintroduced the Egyptian concept of the Trinity changing it from “the three principles of Creation…to ‘three persons.’” His perspective is no doubt coloured by the Pan-Africanists Darwinian evolutionary worldview of origins which puts Egyptian civilisation at the apex of man’s social and religious development after supposedly evolving from the apes in Africa. However, if one holds to a Judeo-Christian worldview of origins one finds that the doctrine of the Trinity actually predates Egyptian civilisation and reaches way back to the very dawn of human existence in the Garden of Eden when God (Elohim) said “Let us make man in our image and after our likeness…” (Gen.1: 26). If Adam (the first man) understood God to be more than one person in nature then one would expect to find glimpses or traces of this understanding among several diverse cultures of people (both Jew and Gentile) who are all Adam’s descendants, this is exactly what we do find in both biblical and extra-biblical material.
For example the most famous Jewish prayer the Shema says, “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One” (Deut. 6: 4). The Hebrew word for “One” in this verse is echad. Rev. Dr. Clinton Chisholm in commenting on the use of this word in scripture says: “Echad,…means one in a complex or compound sense, this word suggests the unity that results from combining plural entities. Interestingly, the Old Testament writers never use yachid [a word which means one in a solitary, digital sense] to describe God! That fact would, on the surface, suggest that they did not believe in God as a solitary, digital…person. What we do find is that echad is used to describe God, which would be expected if the writers believed in a multi-personal God…[including] the fascinating evidence of the appearances of God in human form especially under the name ‘the Angel of the Lord’. Indeed it is not simply the multi-personality of God that is suggested in the Old Testament but there are passages that hint at the trinity (see Is. 48: 16; 61: 1; 63: 9 – 10).”
Equally fascinating is the extra-biblical evidence of the knowledge of the triune nature of God among Adam’s descendants who apostatised into paganism. Antiquarian the late Alexander Hislop observed: “The ancient Babylonians…recognised in words the unity of the Godhead; and, while worshipping innumerable minor deities, as possessed of certain influence on human affairs, they distinctly acknowledged that there was ONE infinite and almighty Creator, supreme over all. Most other nations did the same” (Hislop, The Two Babylons, p.14, pub. 1858).
Hislop further noted: “In the unity of that one Only God of the Babylonians, there were three persons, and to symbolise that doctrine of the Trinity, they employed, as the discoveries of Layard [the famed 19th century archaeologist] prove, the equilateral triangle…the Egyptians also used the triangle as a symbol of their ‘triform divinity’.”
Layard also noted in his work Nineveh and Babylon that the ancient Assyrians and Persians also worshipped a triune god as their supreme deity represented with three heads on one body. The ancient pagans of Siberia did the same so did the Celts. Similarly, in one of the most ancient cave temples at Elephanta, India, there is a triform image of the supreme deity of the Indians represented with three heads on one body under the name “Eko Deva Trimurtti” which when translated means “One God, three forms.”
This kind of archaeological evidence corroborates the biblical teaching which says that all men have some knowledge of the true and living God as the apostle Paul wrote: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse… Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.” (Rom.1: 18-20, 22,23, NKJ). Rev. Hislop sums it up this way: “While overlaid with idolatry [including that of blasphemously substituting a licentious Mother goddess figure for the Holy Spirit], the recognition of a Trinity was universal in all the ancient nations of the world, proving how deep-rooted in the human race was the primeval doctrine on this subject, which comes out so distinctly in Genesis.” (The Two Babylons, p.18).
*Roger Marshall is founder and executive director of Project PROBE Ministries, a Barbadian Christian apologetics organisation.