One of the most common objections to Trinitarianism is the claim that Jesus could not be God since he prayed to God. There exist two popular arguments in regards to the praying of Jesus, namely what I identify as the spatial argument and the deceptive argument.
The spatial argument can be framed as follows:
- A) God was still in Heaven when Jesus was on Earth.
- B) Jesus prayed to God while on Earth.
- C) Therefore, Jesus could not be God while on Earth since God was in Heaven.
The deceptive argument can be framed as follows:
- A) Jesus praying to God while being God is deceptive.
- B) Jesus prayed to God while on Earth.
- C) Therefore, Jesus praying to God as God is deceptive and thus demonstrates that he is not God.
I believe that both of these arguments are valid—that the conclusion follows necessarily from the premises—though not sound—that the argument is both valid and that the premises are true. I believe them to be unsound because I deny one or more of the premises in the arguments, which I will explain here beginning with the spatial argument and then moving into the deceptive argument.
The Spatial Argument
I believe premis A to be true in the spatial argument. However, the proponents of this argument presuppose a different definition to the term God than I do, which is where I find my first issue. In using the term God, the proponents of this argument are presupposing the idea of God as one being—what God is—and one person—who God is, whereas trinitarians believe that God is one being while simultaneously three persons—namely, Father, Son, and Spirit. Premis A, thus, is really saying that the one being who is God remained in Heaven while a different being—Jesus—was on Earth. This argument, then, begs the question in premise A by assuming that Jesus is not God and that God was exclusively located in Heaven during the incarnation, which then leads to an issue arising in premise B—namely, that Jesus praying to God while on Earth while being God would affirm polytheism, or bitheism at best.
The reason there is no true issue with Jesus praying to God on Earth while being God is because God is not merely one person. Rather, God is three persons, sometimes understood as three consciousnesses within the Godhead. It would therefore not be an issue for there to be communication between the Father and the Son and in no way indicate that the person of Jesus is praying to himself or that there exist multiple deities in the conversation. Thus, though the conclusion C follows logically from premise A and premise B, the argument is not sound because premise A, as understood by proponents of this argument, is untrue.
The Deceptive Argument
Again we find an incorrect definition of the term God in premise A which leads to begging the question in assuming that Jesus is not God. For premise A to lead to the issue of Jesus intentionally being deceptive to those around him hearing his prayers, one must assume again that the term God represents one being and one person. With that understanding of the term, it follows logically that Jesus praying to himself as if he is speaking to someone else would be deceit and thus disqualify him from being righteous and perfect. However, if one defines the term God correctly as one being and three persons, there is nothing deceitful in the person Jesus (God the Son) praying to God the Father.
Again, it is here where we must understand that a plurality of persons does not necessarily require a plurality of beings. Though God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit have their own unique minds/consciousnesses, they all remain God in being. With that understanding, Jesus is then free of any accusation of deliberate deceit in praying to God the Father since he truly is distinguished from God the Father and is not praying to himself as if he is praying to someone else.
It concludes, then, that both the spatial argument and the deception argument fail to provide a sound argument against the deity of Jesus due to their begging the question in their first premise. The arguments presuppose that Jesus is not God by defining God as one being and one person, leaving no room for the possibility that Jesus is God. Because of that, both of these arguments fall short in providing a sound case for the denial of Jesus’ divinity in regards to his praying to God while on Earth.
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