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The Trinity – A Christian Trilemma

J. Dan Gill

Inept, Immoral, or the only one who is God…

I am the LORD, and there is no one else; other than me there is no God. I strengthen you, though you do not know me, so that all may know; from the east and from the west, that there is no one other than me; I am the LORD, and there is no one else (Isa. 45:5, 6).

The God of the Bible and the Bible itself are inseparable. If the one speaking in the statements above is not the only one who is God, then both he and the entire Bible are discredited. We cannot look at the Bible as being a holy book or a book of ancient truths and at the same time disregard its words concerning him. From beginning to end, it declares him. Either it is a book of truth or it is worse than worthless: It is a book of lies.

That then leaves us with an extraordinary trilemma. There are three possibilities regarding the one who spoke to Isaiah in the statements above:

  1. He is inept. There are other beings or persons who are God and he doesn’t know it.
  2. He is immoral. He is lying. There are others and he knows it.
  3. He is the only individual in the universe who is truly God.

If he is inept or immoral, we must not serve him: He is not worthy to be called God. If we judge him to be true, however, then we need look no further — we have found God. And if he is God at all, then he is all of God there is. We must serve the Father as sovereign and him alone.

The Dilemma in C. S. Lewis’ Trilemma

The famed C. S. Lewis proposed a now popular trilemma in which Jesus is said to have also declared himself to be God.[1] On the basis of that, it is argued that his claim must be true or else he is “a madman” or “something worse” (popularly, “mad, bad or God”). Lewis’ proposal, however, has two critical flaws: First, his trilemma came too late. As we have seen, YHWH had already established that “he” is God and the only one who is. He is the Father of Israel (Ex. 4:22), and is the Father of Jesus Christ when Jesus is born (2 John 1:3). Second, Lewis’ trilemma assumes that Jesus claimed to be God. That is incorrect. He never made that claim. Rather, Jesus affirms that his Father is the only one who is truly God and that he ( Jesus) is the Messiah — the Christ:

Father … this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent ( John 17:3).

Jesus tells Mary Magdalene that his Father is in fact his God ( John 20:17). The claim of Jesus regarding himself was that he is the Messiah, God’s only begotten son (Matt. 16:16, 17).

God’s first priority is not that he and one or two others together are God — it is that he alone is God. His prime directive is not that you shall have no other gods before “us.” It is that you shall have none before “me.” We must embrace the Father as the only one who is God, or renounce him as a fraud.

We are faced then with this trilemma:
The Father is inept, immoral, or the only
individual in the universe who is truly God.

Gill, J. Dan (2016). A Trilemma. In, The One: In Defense of God (pp. 96-98). Nashville, TN: 21st Century Reformation Publishing.


[1] C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: Harper Collins Publishers, Harper Collins Paperback Edition, 2001), 52. Lewis’ trilemma was not entirely his original work. Other apologists had used a similar device. E.g., R. A. Torrey (1856–1928) proposed Jesus to be either a “divine person, daring impostor, or a hopeless lunatic.” Torrey, R. A., Sr., “Some Reasons Why I Believe in the Bible as the Word of God, A Sermon by R. A. Torrey, Sr.,” Billy Graham Archives, undated.

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