In today’s tweet, Counter Apologist offers a meme meant to mock Christian theology. It’s a picture of Jesus praying, and it simply says, “Are you there God? It’s me…you.”
Get it? If Jesus is God, and Jesus is praying to God, then Jesus must be praying…to himself. Well, if that’s what you think, you better stick around.
First, the meme relies on a misunderstanding to get a laugh. But Christian theology is Trinitarian theology. God is not one Person. Rather, he is one eternal being and three persons. Once you understand the important distinction between a being—a “what”—and a person—a “who”—it’s easy to see how this meme falters. Jesus wasn’t praying to himself. He was praying to the Father.
Second, the Trinity is not contradictory. Three persons in one God may be weird, but it’s not a contradiction.
Many who criticize Christianity think that the Trinity is weird. Well, it is. But that doesn’t mean it’s false. Lots of things that are real can be weird. I know because I look in the mirror. That’s part of the problem with this tweet. Plus, it’s based on a big misunderstanding.
This is Red Pen Logic with Mr. B, where we help you assess bad thinking by using good thinking. Plus, we try to have some fun while we’re doing it.
In today’s tweet, Counter Apologist offers a meme meant to mock Christian theology. It’s a picture of Jesus praying, and it simply says, “Are you there, God? It’s me...you.” Get it? If Jesus is God, and he’s praying to God, then that means Jesus is praying to himself. Well, if that’s what you think, you better stick around.
This meme trades on an imprecise understanding of God, so let’s carefully define some terms together. Once we do, you’ll see that this meme fails to be funny.
There are two terms that we need to understand: unitarianism and Trinitarianism. Unitarianism is the belief that God is one person, just as you are one being who is one person, one consciousness. God, on this view, is one being who is one person, one consciousness. Orthodox Jews, Muslims, and Jehovah’s Witnesses are all unitarians.
Trinitarianism, on the other hand, is the belief that God is one, but within God, so to speak, are three centers of consciousness, three completely distinct persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And those persons interact with each other in personal ways, like talking to each other.
Now, this concept of God makes a very important distinction between being and person. Obviously, it would be a contradiction to say three beings are one being or three persons or one person. So then, what’s the difference between being and person? I’m glad you asked.
Being has to do with what something is—its nature or its essence. For example, a tree has being, a rock has being, and my hamster has being. (Hi, Teddy, where you going?) So, rocks and hamsters aren’t persons. (Sorry, Teddy.) And you have being, too. You’re a human being. So far, so good.
Now, some beings are also persons. “Person” has to do with who someone is. When it comes to human beings, we all recognize both the being and the person. That is, what you are is distinct from who you are. For instance, I’m a being—a human being to be exact. But I’m also a particular person. (Hi, I’m Mr. B. Nice to meet you.) Persons have unique personal qualities like will, and emotions, and mind. So, rocks and hamsters aren’t persons. (Sorry, Teddy.) But humans are. We’re personal beings. So, the difference between being and person is the difference between what and who. A rock is one what and no who. Mr. B is one what and one who. And God is one what and three whos: Father, Son, and Spirit.
Now, listen carefully because here’s where some people get confused. Each person within God shares the same single nature—the what—but is a distinct person—the who. So, for example, the Father is God, and the son is God, but the Father is not the Son because they’re distinct persons.
Now, let’s go back to the original challenge. Jesus prays, “Are you there, God? It’s me...you.” Now, you probably already see the problem. It fails to differentiate between the Father—who’s being prayed to—and the son—who’s the one praying.
Jesus isn’t praying to Himself. He’s praying to the Father. We could easily restate this meme: “Are you there, Father? It’s me...your Son.” Why is this better? Why would Jesus—who is God—pray to the Father—who is God? Because no one prays to a nature (in this case, the divine nature of the Father and the Son). Instead, we pray to another person, like the Father, and that’s exactly what Jesus is doing.
There are two things to think about. First, Jesus isn’t merely God. Unlike the Father, the Son took on a real human nature. He is the God-man. And as the God-man, he is a perfect man who worships, honors, obeys, and, yes, even prays to God the Father. In fact, the man Jesus is actually dependent on the Father. But how can the Son be dependent if he is God? The apostle Paul tells us: “Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
Now, watch this because it’s really important. The Word, the second person of the Trinity, did not cease to be God when he came to earth as Jesus. Rather, he laid aside his privileges as God and became a servant to us. That’s why Paul says he humbled himself, just like we’re supposed to. So, when God the Son prays to God the Father, he is not denying his full deity. Rather, he’s 1) affirming that he’s a different person than the Father and 2) that he’s put himself under the Father’s authority as he walked the earth.
So, what have we learned? First, the meme relies on a misunderstanding to get a laugh, but Christian theology is Trinitarian theology. God is one eternal being, three eternal persons. Once you understand the important distinction between a being—a what—and a person—a who—you can easily spot where this meme goes wrong. Jesus wasn’t praying to himself; he was praying to the Father. Second, the Trinity is not contradictory. Three persons in one God may be weird, but it’s not a contradiction.
Hello, are you there, dad? It’s me...your son. Sorry, I gotta take this. Class dismissed.