Billions of people worldwide believe in the holy Trinity of God the Father, God the son and God the Holy Ghost. At first glance however this does not make a great deal of sense. Perhaps it would be as well to look back in history to find out just how such a description has come about; one which an unbeliever may well described as a 'fudge'.
Originally Jesus was looked upon as a prophet. This changed mainly because of one person; the Emperor Constantine.
By 293 A.D. the Roman Empire was becoming unmanageable, with one Emperor attempting to be in sole control of armies in huge areas. Diocletian decided to split the Empire into four parts with a Caesar, or junior Emperor, each nominally under the control of an Augustus, in both the Western and Eastern parts. Whilst this would sound a logical system of administering regions which were constantly under threat of attack by foreign rivals, human nature is far more complex than this and eventually the Caesars either declare themselves as Augustus, or were elevated by their own armies. Internal strife commenced; and eventually most of the claimants were murdered, or defeated in battle, leaving just Constantine and Licinius to battle it out between themselves for supremacy.
The two forces met for battle near what was called the Milvian Bridge over the Tiber; the exact site of this is no longer known. On the night before the battle it is said Constantine dreamed that he saw a flaming cross in the sky; and on the following morning instructed all his soldiers to paint a cross on their shields. Constantine decided to dedicate his opponents to Christ. This was probably a result of his admiration of the way in which Christians had gone to their deaths so cheerfully; however he did not view Christ as a son of God, but as a God of War in his own right.
It should be borne in mind that the symbol of Christ up until this time had been the Chi Rho; for the future, right up to the present day, this became the cross.
Licinius, for his own part, chose Venus Venetrix as his chosen God; perhaps this was not the wisest choice since his forces were soundly beaten and Constantine became the sole Augustus of the Roman Empire.
It is worth bearing in mind however that at the time he was still at heart a pagan, and as Pontifex Maximus he was in fact the high priest of Jupiter. His conversion to Christianity at this stage was not complete but the toleration of that religion became widespread, particularly amongst those of the ruling classes who wished to emulate the Emperor. Eventually, aware of the belief that by being baptised he would wash away all his sins and be able to enter the kingdom of heaven, Constantine was finally baptised into the Christian faith shortly before his death. By then the old pagan beliefs were falling into disuse throughout the Roman world, and were finally crushed by Theodosius.
Even during Constantine's days, however, there were huge disputes over the actual nature of Christ. Firstly, was He a God? Or a prophet? More to the point, was He really a son of God? In this case should He be considered as human, or divine? Is He wholly God? Wholly mortal? Both God and mortal, simultaneously?
We may now consider these to be fairly minor theological questions. However, in a deeply religious age, they received truly fanatical support from those who accepted one version or another. This not only lead to civil strife but also civil wars in which hundreds of thousands of people, at least, lost their lives. These disagreements ran on for hundreds of years and so weakened the Eastern (or Byzantine) Roman Empire, which was centred on Constantinople, that it may well have led to its eventual collapse.
In the meanwhile, of course, there were popes in Rome who disputed the authority of the Emperor, or Basilius, in Constantinople, and this led to a separate belief system. The Western Church compromised by looking upon Jesus is being simultaneously the father, son and holy spirit; it was generally agreed that in the interests of preventing strife this would be accepted by all. Is it logical? It is generally accepted, and there has been little or no objection to it, so it has survived.
Site text and images are copyright of Tony Gray, 2018.