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"Square Circles?" part 1

Scott Cherry's Assessment of the 4/9 Debate Between Ted Barham and Ozair Tahir



The Trinity is a doctrine of God that seems to some as irrational, a logical contradiction, including atheists and agnostics as well as Muslims. For Muslims there is a competing doctrine of absolute oneness called Tawhid, with one Qur'anic verse stating, "Say not three" (surah 4:171), and others stating that God has no partners or associates (surahs 3:64 and 4:36). So for them that is the first reason for rejecting the doctrine of the trinity. Secondarily, or perhaps equally, Muslims often say that they view the trinity as nonsensical and absurd, analogous to “squared circles” in Ozair’s words.


What is the doctrine of the trinity, and is it really analogous to “squared circles”?  The doctrine of the trinity is one doctrine, not many, the same for all Christians everywhere. God Almighty exists as one Being with three persons. He is one Divine Essence in keeping with the Torah (Deut. 6:4), with three persons—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit—as revealed in the New Testament through the teaching of God the Father, Jesus, and his Apostles, in multiple places.


In other words, God is a Being with plurality/diversity within his unity, or plural-unity. The primary reason for Christian belief in this doctrine is that it is clearly evident in the New Testament scriptures, but also those of the Old Testament, or Hebrew Tanakh, including the Torah, the grouping of the first five books of the Tanakh that were revealed to Moses. But the New Testament in particular is saturated with this idea. It is evident that the Apostles and other New Testament writers put forth this claim in various forms, and Jesus repeatedly expressed it. He often said things that put him in connection and even equality with God the Father, which earned him the charge of blasphemy and eventually execution. One example is when Jesus called himself “Lord of the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27) By claiming this title for himself Jesus evidently saw himself as having been present at creation when the seventh-day sabbath was established as a holy day of rest. (Genesis 2:2,3) And according to chapter 1 verse 2, the Spirit of God was also present at creation. We can call this synchronicity, or co-provenance. It is a part of the concept of the trinity, but not all of it. Another good example of synchronicity occurs in the New Testament, the Gospel of Luke 1:35–38 at the miraculous conception of Mary. 

And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

In the sentence highlighted in blue we see that the Holy Spirit and the Most High are referred to synchronously in the conception of the holy child, the Son of God. A similar example can be found in the parallel nativity account of the Gospel of Matthew 1:18-20. 


But moving on, the answer to Ozair’s pet question is "yes". If the Bible presented some concepts and ideas that strike us as “squared circles”, Christians should believe them. We should believe the Bible as God’s authoritative, final, and ultimate revelation in-writing. But this answer requires a more thorough and nuanced explanation. First, the Muslim position is the same: If the Qur'an (Allah) insisted that there are square circles, then it is so, and the Muslim is obliged to give assent. Indeed, the doctrine of Tawhid is every bit as much of a "square circle" as the trinity seems to them to be. Absolute oneness is nonsensical and absurd. It is akin to the notion of infinity, and any living being that has no intrinsic diversity, let alone the most basic of objects. There are no examples of it in reality, except I suppose in math, and there is debate over whether numbers are real things at all. The point is that there are obvious double standards in play here, which is sophistry and hypocrisy. Neither Ozair nor many other Muslims I have met are so committed to sound logic and reason that it trumps the Qur’an. The fact is just the opposite, the Qur’an always trumps reason. Therefore, if the Qur’an affirmed the trinity they would have no objection to it whatsoever, even if it seemed to them like a square circle.


Again, if the Bible explicitly asserted that there are actual "square circles" (logical contradictions) or ideas equivalent to them, then Christians would be obliged to believe them, but not blindly without trying to make sense of them. It should not surprise us that every book that claims to be divine revelation, to say nothing of many works of philosophy, contain some ideas like that. But the trinity is not one of them, it is logical and rational. Therefore, the Christian need not give assent to the existence of logical contradictions in the Bible, especially not on account of a Supreme Being with plural-unity. There are two reasonable possibilities for the impression of 'square circles' in the Bible. One is, ideas that strike us as logical contradictions are only apparently so, not actually so. This is precisely what Christians have historically surmised from the plural-unity teachings of Christ and his Apostles. When they become apparent to the reader, the three persons of the one God (i.e. the “Godhead”) may initially strike him as a contradiction, but he need not be fixed upon this conclusion. Rather, as has happened to me and many Christians in our study of the Bible, the rational consistency and harmony of the idea emerges over time as more examples are considered and insight is gained. The characters of the New Testament (God the Father, Jesus the son, and the Apostles) repeatedly and consistently assert the notion of the trinity so as to reveal it with authority and conviction.


The second possibility is the gradual realization that what at first may have seemed to be a logical contradiction (a "squared circle") was a faulty analogy. It was owing to an over-simplistic conception of what constitutes a contradiction and/or what might only appear to be one. In reality, a supremely Divine Being with plural-unity is not a logical contradiction at all. There is no contradiction in plural-unity. And, what might have seemed to be a "squared circle" is rather a 'circle within a square'. Or better yet, a triangle within a circle.


Toward the end of the debate Ozair explicitly stated his true position that nothing could be more contradictory than the idea that “a God can become a man, and defecate.”  By making this statement Ozair himself went off topic, and also showed that he did not understand the doctrine of the trinity. The notion that God can become a man is not the doctrine of the trinity. Rather, that is the doctrine of incarnation, and the parallel doctrine of Jesus’s two natures. Strictly speaking, the doctrine of the trinity precedes both of those because it describes the nature of God as a whole being, not just Jesus. It also describes God from time immemorial, or from all eternity, way before the specific point in time that Jesus was born into the world and the incarnation took place. So, the trinity alone says nothing about God becoming man, that he could or that he did. To make the statement that Ozair made required him to introduce a foreign topic into the debate, something for which he criticized Ted several times earlier. Bad form on Ozair’s part.


Finally, in all the debate Ozair never stated his understanding of the trinity, nor did he ever explain why he thought the trinity was illogical or irrational. But again, by the statement quoted from him above it is probable that he has does not understand it, and/or that he confuses it with other doctrines. The doctrine of the trinity by itself, in isolation, does not require belief in the incarnation, the deity of Christ, nor the dual nature of Christ. The doctrine of the trinity only requires us to understand that God is a Singular Being consisting of three persons—father, son, and holy spirit. Apparently, this is never what Ozair had in mind when he alleged “squared circles” in the Bible.  But even if he had, there is absolutely nothing logically contradictory about plural-unity.


At this time I will pause my discussion and invite Ozair to respond if he wishes. If he does respond I will interact with his discourse. Otherwise I will say more about the trinity in part 2. 
  • 14 April 2021
  • Author: Scott Cherry
  • Number of views: 1714
  • Comments: 6
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6 comments on article ""Square Circles?" part 1"

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Ozair Tahir

4/14/2021 5:26 PM

Hey scott, after reading the blog I couldn't help myself but make a few remarks

1) in the attempt of accusing me with the ignorance of the doctrine of the trinity, you have proven your ignorance to the doctrine of taweed. Absolute oneness does not mean there are no real distinctions within Allah. No Muslim believed Allahs will or power or hand is intrinsicly the same as his knowledge. Had you have known the basics, you would not have accused the doctrine of tawheed to be "equally as much of a squared circle as the trinity"

2)I am well aware of the distinction between the incarnation and the trinity. But depending on how you understand one or the other, you end up with a squared circle. You cant have your cake and eat it too. In the context of the debate, the incarnation was brought to highlight this exact point

3)the rest of your article dealt with an oversimplification of the trinity. We both know your statement:

"As I stated clearly above, by itself the doctrine of the trinity only requires us to understand that God is a Singular Being consisting of three persons—father, son, and holy spirit."

Is itself laughable. Had the doctrine of the trinity merely required us to only believe in a singular being consisting of three persons, we wouldn't have had countless historical debates over the fundamental understanding of the trinity --> arianism/ apollinarianism/ monophysitism/ nestorianism

Case in point, all the above heretical Christian groups believe "God is a Singular Being consisting of three persons—father, son, and holy spirit."

Yet, they are still HERETICAL!!!

This being said, I will likely not respond to any further comments as this is the blessed month of ramadhan i will likely be busy for the remainder of the month


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Steve Schlichter

4/16/2021 9:34 AM


Arianism is the belief that Jesus was created and not co-eternal with God. It stresses Gods unity and denies the Trinity. I am not sure where you are getting your information.

Apollinarianism is rejected because it incorrectly views the humanity of Christ. Both divinity and humanity of Christ are important.


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Ozair tahir

4/17/2021 1:27 PM


arians do not reject the trinity, thats quite ridiculous. Infact, they explicitly believe the the father, son, and holy spirt are encompassed within one Godhead. they differ from *nicene* trinitarianism in the since that they hold also in the doctrine of subordination. So it seems perhaps its you who may need to check your sources.

Regardless, my point here was, scotts ridiculous claim that all the trinity simply requires you to believe in "God being a Singular Being consisting of three persons—father, son, and holy spirit" falls embarrassingly on its face. Arianism/ apollinarianism/ monophysitism/ nestorianism and many more heretical groups believed in God being a singluar being consisting of those three person, yet they were still considered heretical.

again, you cant have your cake and eat it too. You either fall into heresy (like arianism) or you are faced with an irrational/illogical doctrine which requires you to abandon any logical and rational attempt at thinking

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Scott Cherry

4/21/2021 3:44 PM


Technically, arianism is not a doctrine about the trinity at all. It is a doctrine about the nature of Christ. All those other groups were considered heretical NOT because of their position of the trinity, but because of other doctrines (e.g. arianism bc of its views on the nature of Christ). Yes, trinitarianism is only "God being a Singular Being consisting of three persons—father, son, and holy spirit". That's it. Please cite your source to prove otherwise. Also, if I bake a cake I am going to eat some of it, for sure. You have raised no examples of any group that rejects the trinity or has a different doctrine about it. Stay on topic, don't chase your own tail. IF you can stay focused, I challenge you to prove why the doctrine of the trinity is anything other than the beautiful glory of the Divine and the source of all good logic itself. Tawhid, on the other hand, leaves one with a monolith.

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Steve Schlichter

4/22/2021 12:10 PM

The best source for Arianism is Arius.

"Understand that the Monad [eternally] was; but the Dyad was not before it came into existence. It immediately follows that, although the Son did not exist, the Father was still God. Hence the Son, not being [eternal] came into existence by the Father’s will, He is the Only-begotten God, and this one is alien from [all] others" Thalia of Arius

To say that part of the Trinity was created and did not exist but it is still God is incompatible with the idea of God and also the idea of triune. God becoming triune after first being singular is not Trinitarian. By definition, if you are created then you are not God.

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Scott Cherry

4/23/2021 11:13 AM

Great quote, Steve.

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