How do you explain all the references to the deity of Christ, and how are we to understand this if the Bible says that there is only one God. This would sound like the people who believe in the trinity are right. Can you help me understand?
The question of the identity of the Godhead has been a controversy among religions ever since the divinity of the Savior was declared. The controversy raged after the death of the Apostles, and culminated in the council of Nicea in 325 A.D in which the emporer Constantine adjudicated the Arian controversy. Arius held that that the Son, being a son, was less than the Father, while Athanashius held that the three members of the Trinity were equal, immaterial and of one substance. Constantine ruled against Arius and he and his followers were banned to Constantanople.
Those who followed the Arian philosophy eventually came to be known as the Greek Orthodox Church. It is interesting to note that the great architectural structures of the middle ages in Eastern Europe and the Near East reflect their view of the Deity. On their churches, the spire on the right is higher than the spire on the left, representng that the Father is greater then the Son. This same concept is also shown in the towers that guard the 700-year-old bridge across the Vltava River in Prague, Czechoslovakia. The towers on the right as the bridge is approached are taller than the towers on the left.
The view championed by Athanashius, who had the ear of the Emporer, was accepted at the council and became the official doctrine of the Christian church at Rome. The bishop of Rome, who had the ear of the emporer, wielded the greatest influence in the church, and became the Papa Bishop, or Pope. Thus, the Roman Catholic Church, that prevailed in Western Europe, promoted the doctrine announced the Nicean creed.
The doctrine set forth at Nices in 325 AD was as follows:
“We believe in One God, the Father Almighty, Maker of Heaven and Earth, Of all things visible and invisible. We believe in One Lord, Jesus Christ the only son of god. God from god, light from light, true god from true god. Begotten not made, of one being with the father.”
In 381, the Nicean Creed was modified to include the consubstantiality of the Holy Spirit in the doctrine of the Trinity, and to assert the pre-existence of the Son of God. This tenent, adopted by the General Council in 451 as a dogma, is the “Nicean Creed” of today, which is called the “doctrine of the Trinity.” This creed states the following:
We believe in one God, the Father Almighty,
Maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible.
And in the one Lord Jesus, Christ, the only-begotten Son of God,
begotten of His Father before all worlds,
God of God, Light of Light,
very God of very God, begotten, not made,
being of one substance with the Father;
by whom all things were made;
who for us and for our salvation came down
from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit
of the virgin Mary, and was made man;
and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate;
He suffered and was buried; and the third day
He rose again according to the Scriptures;
and ascended into heaven, and is seated
at the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again,
with glory, to judge both the living and the dead;
whose kingdom shall have no end.
And we believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son;
who with the Father and the Son together
is worshiped and glorified; who spoke by the prophets;
and we believe in one universal and apostolic church;
we acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins;
and we look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen.
The germ of this doctrine is in the staement is that the Son is defined as “being of one substance with the Father.” This has come to be known as the mystery of the Godhead.
The Protestant view of the Godhead, stemming from the Nicean Creed, is exemplified by the Westminister confession of faith, formulated in 1646. It reads as follows:
“There is but one only, living, and true God, who is infinite in being and perfection, a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions; immutable, immense, eternal, incomprehensible, almighty, most wise, most holy, most free, most absolute; working all things according to the counsel of his own immutable and most righteous will, for his own glory; most loving, gracious, merciful, long-suffering, abundant in goodness and truth, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin; the rewarder of them that diligently seek him; and withal, most just, and terrible in his judgments, hating all sin, and who will by no means clear the guilty.”
This view of an immaterial God, manifested as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, was the prevailing view at the time of the restoration of the gospel, and of course is the prvailing view of traditional Christianity today.
It was against this background that Joseph Smith sought “wisdom from God” in the spring of 1820 in a grove of trees near his home. The Father and the Son appeared to him in glorious vision, revealing to the world the true nature of their beings.
The concept of “one God” must be understood in the terms in which it is given. Paul explains it clearly in 1 Corinthians 8:6–
But to us [there is but] one God, the Father, of whom [are] all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom [are] all things, and we by him.
Jesus plainly taught that the Father and Son were two separate individuals. In defending himself before the Pharisees, who accused him of not being a true witness because he witnessed of himself, he cited the Jewish law,
It is also written in your law, that the testimony of two men is true. I am one that bear witness of myself, and the Father that sent me beareth witness of me (John 8:17-18.)