Hindu Deism vs Trinity

Upon a recent conversation with a colleague (who happens to be of Hindu faith) at work, I was trying to explain Trinity and Christianity. Her reply was that Hinduism has Brahma Vishnu Mahesh concept and that Trinity could be just that. In addition she believes in an impersonal God.
How do I respond to such a stance?

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@sammath I have to go to work, but I found an interesting webpage here that raises some interesting points from a possibly cult-like Hindu perspective. It has a whole list of objections to the Christian view of God. It may be worth taking a look and seeing how similar her beliefs are to what is on it.

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@sammath Great question :slight_smile: @Lakshmismehta can probably help out on this one. Also, you’ll probably need to ask your coworker what she believes about the Hindu Trimurti - if you just started pointing out the differences she might become a bit defensive and even misrepresent what she actually believes (or she may not know much about it). Christ give you wisdom as you share His love and truth!

I’ve linked some articles below explaining how the concept of the “Trimurti” is not the same as the Christian concept of Trinity at all. This excerpt from the Encyclopedia Britannic highlights several important differences.

  • these 3 Hindu gods represent 3 different aspects of nature - creator, preserver, and destroyer - they are not the same being
  • these 3 Hindu gods are not one - below we see that Brahma lied (according to one story) and the other two members of the Trimurti had to take over
  • Hindu gods, like all of the pagan gods, are more like men than the true God - they lie, they are given to fits of rage and passion - for example, consider Shiva - " He is both the great ascetic and the master of fertility, and he is the master of both poison and medicine, through his ambivalent power over snakes. As Lord of Cattle (Pashupata), he is the benevolent herdsman—or, at times, the merciless slaughterer of the “beasts” that are the human souls in his care."

The trimurti collapses the three gods into a single form with three faces. Each god is in charge of one aspect of creation, with Brahma as creator, Vishnu as preserver, and Shiva as destroyer. In combining the three deities in this way, however, the doctrine elides the fact that Vishnu is not merely a preserver and Shiva is not merely a destroyer. Moreover, while Vishnu and Shiva are widely worshipped in India, very few temples are dedicated to Brahma, who is expressly said to have lost his worshippers as the result of telling a lie and is merely entrusted with the task of creation under the direction of one of the other two gods. Scholars consider the doctrine of the trimurti to be an attempt to reconcile different approaches to the divine with each other and with the philosophical doctrine of ultimate reality.

The Trimurti is a triad of three gods. The Trinity is not in any sense three distinct gods. Further, the Trimurti personify or embody stages in the endless cycle of universal creation and destruction. This concept is not entirely unlike other ancient religions who have two or three gods who embody phases of the fertility cycle or the annual seasons. It has no connection, however to the biblical, Christian truth that one God exists as three coequal, coeternal persons whose relationship are in no way defined by the functions or cycles of creation. Indeed, Father, Son, and Spirit all shared in creation, they all share in redemption, and they will share in the final judgment of men. The Trinity is not polytheistic personification; it is the reality that the monotheistic God is more personally complex than are His mere human creations.

https://carm.org/do-christians-and-hindus-really-worship-the-same-god

The Hindu Trimurti is not like the Christian Trinity. The Trinity is one God in three co-equal, co-eternal Persons. Many Hindus reject the concept of the Trimurti, and even those who accept the Trimurti see the triad as three Hindu gods appearing as avatars, manifestations, or modes of the supreme lord; they are not separate persons.

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Thank you very much for the response @SeanO. This is truly helpful as I was ill equipped with what the Hindu religion teaches its followers. I had another doubt with respect to people of different faiths, in this case, Hinduism who believe in an impersonal God who created the raw materials and let things just evolve from there. In general, how do we do apologetics in such situations?

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@sammath I think it always depends on the person with whom we are talking. I think one question that is always helpful is, “What do you mean by that?” We can’t help people get from where they are at in their beliefs to Jesus unless we first understand what they already believe…

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Great! Thank you once again! :slight_smile:

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@sammath, I think @SeanO has covered a lot of useful information already in his response. S. Radhakrishnan remarks “The three, Bramha, Vishnu and Siva are not to be conceived as independent persons, they are threefold manifestations of the one Supreme”. While this sounds like Trinity, I think there are several ways ‘Trimurti’ differs from ‘Trinity’.

  1. Different stories: Most hindu texts treat these gods as distinct divine beings with their own personality, family, pass-times on earth, mythology, with different roles, with no overlap or co-ordination of actions. Each of these gods also have wives forming a feminine triad in one hindu tradition (Shaktism).
  2. Different qualities: they are all considered manifestations (guna avataars) of the one Supreme, each form has a dominant quality (or guna in Sanskrit) - passion for Bramha, goodness for Vishnu, ignorance for Shiva, corresponding to the gunas that manifest in the individual souls that take birth. It’s believed that the gunas a person is dominated by dictates which god the individual may choose to worship. The functions of the gods are as per their gunas- creation for Bramha, preservation for Vishnu, destruction for Shiva.
  3. Non-specific monistic philosophy that extends beyond the triad: The idea of the Supreme manifesting in this triad of gods is not limited to the three gods but extends to other gods as well. (example: 10 incarnations of Vishnu).
  4. Identity of the Supreme: The identity of the Supreme who manifests as Vishnu, Bramha, Shiva is different in different traditions and has changed from the time of Vedas to the later Puranas. Each of these gods as well as other gods such as Krishna have claimed to be the Supreme Brahman ( Universal soul) per se in different hindu texts and have all appropriated the role of creator, preserver and destroyer.
  5. Time of functioning: The functions of the gods are tied to the cyclical cosmic creation, preservation and destruction at an appointed time and hour. The three personalities manifest in the material cosmos at different times.
  6. Not all forms are equally worshipped : Bramha is not worshipped anymore as Vishnu and Shiva are for which several theories have been put out, one being Bramha’s role in creation being completed.

In the biblical concept of Trinity on the other hand - Godhead is complete in the Trinity without other family members, the attributes of God are equally and fully represented in each of the persons in the Trinity, no other living or spiritual beings have the full measure His deity, the identity of the Supreme is unchanged over time and most importantly all persons of the Trinity are fully functioning in every act from the beginning such as in creation, baptism, salvation, resurrection etc., all persons in the Trinity are equally worthy of worship.

These are just my thoughts. A lot can be researched about each of the points. Hopefully, you have some additional points to think about for your conversations.

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@Lakshmismehta, thank you for this explanation. I am grateful to you for having answered my question. In such circumstances, especially with the rise of New Age Hinduism where new derivatives of the Hindu faith are beginning to try and find themselves and through that find the Divine (for eg. notions which are embedded in self-realization, spirituality, etc.) how can we work our way through their minds and present the Trinity as the ultimate revelation that they have been searching for all this while? Any general methods to engage them in such a conversation and eventually win them over?
P.S. I know the best thing about Christianity is Communion with God, unlike union with God propositioned by Hindu faith.

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Hello Sam,

Great question. :smiley:

I would like to commend you for being courageuos on sharing your faith to your Hindu friend. The means is really a conversation, not debate.

Short answer and one recommendation.
First, Hinduism concept of impersonal god is very contradictory, they believe in the possibility of being gods if they attain to be “one” with Brahma “the impersonal, absolute truth.” Now, here’s the question, how a personal Hindu can be an impersonal god? Their view of salvation contradicts the very being they are.

Second, Hinduism belief of Reincarnation in and of itself longs for hope and redemption, how can they find hope and redemption is an impersonal god does not care for their personal longings?

In contrast, the Trinity is a community, a personal God who wants to have personal relationship with His creation. And our hope and redemption is attainable by the very person of Jesus Christ.

My recommendation to this, grab the book “New Birth of Rebirth (Jesus talks with Krishna)” by Ravi Zacharias. It is an imaginary conversation of Jesus and Krishna about the fundamental differences of Christianity and Hinduism.

If you read that, you will see the connection of my answer to your question.

Thank you so much.

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@sammath, thanks for the kind reply. Glad to help. Your question of how to approach Hindus is a great one! I cant say I have figured it out :slightly_smiling_face: but I think I can make a few suggestions from my own experiences and mistakes. I will start with some general methods and then end with some questions that may get the conversation going.

First and foremost, whatever we desire to share about our faith in Jesus with our Hindu friends must be a real conviction in our own hearts, without which we will not be able to speak with sincerity and authority. We need to have a clear understanding of Jesus in our hearts, not just our heads, just as the women on the road to Emmaus who met the resurrected Christ and couldn’t help but witness about Jesus. Any friendship we seek with our Hindu friends needs to be rooted in Agape love, not just human love as what we seek is not just a change in their intellectual position but a deep understanding of their need for a savior for a complete surrender to God. It’s also important that we don’t come across as having a superior attitude as we hold to Jesus as the only way. Some ways of working toward that end is to listen well, paying attention to the needs being expressed (emotional , physical and spiritual), learning about their views on God and reasons for it, asking clarifying questions and restating to understand them well , respecting their sincere position and showing their acceptance even when we disagree, asking leading questions that help them to see for themselves the inconsistencies in their own thinking, controlling how much to say and when to say and just being a friend who helps in practical ways. If we are able to do this well, then they may open up to ask us questions about our faith in Jesus. If the question comes from them, then they are more likely to hear us when we share about Jesus. What we can do until that point is to build our responses to their common objections. Getting into a debate especially initially without building trust is never helpful even if our intentions are good. However, even after a careful approach, when our hindu friends do arrive at a point where their long-held beliefs are challenged, the situation could still get sticky. The way out then is not to pressure anyone but to gently ask them to consider our point of view and leave it at that and pray for them. There is no point forcing a discussion if someone is not interested.

As far as the thrust of the conversation, Bhakt Singh who was a convert from Sikhism to Christianity writes that he always got a hearing from hindus when he spoke about forgiveness of sins, peace and rest in our hearts through Jesus. I have also seen that to be the case when I shared about Jesus to my grandmother from John 8:34 recently. I also like the stories Bhakt Singh shares in his book, ‘Wisdom of a Sadhu’ that can help explain Christian concepts to a hindu mind. Some probing questions may be – what satisfies them about the religion they follow? Why do they believe what they believe? What comes to mind when they hear the name Jesus? Why do we sin? Have they ever experienced a conflict between what they do and what they want to do? What role must our identity play in our union with god and why? Then have some scriptures ready to share on what the Bible has to say about those questions and ask their views on those verses.

Some objections to expect from Hindus – why Jesus is the only way, how is Jesus different from another god? What about those who died before Jesus?, what about Christians who ruled India?, why don’t you believe in karma?, why should I be considered a sinner?, why should I believe in resurrection?, why don’t you believe in reincarnation? why are there so many denominations among Christians?, why should I trust the Bible?, why don’t Christians practice what they preach? For discussions with those following new age kind of spirituality, Ravi Zacharias book, “Why Jesus? Rediscovered truth in an age of mass marketed spirituality” is especially helpful.

Overall, we need to be really led by the Holy Spirit and be very prayerful. Each individual is unique. Interestingly, myself and almost all the ex-hindu Christians that I have met almost always have God personally speaking to them in some special way or through scripture as part of their testimony. We can fully rest when sharing the gospel knowing that it is God who does the work. May God bless your conversations with your Hindu friends!

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@Lakshmismehta this was really helpful. The approach required for apologetics in general is one aspect that I needed to know and I feel I have been given a very well constructed skeletal structure to work through. The part where you mentioned that it has to be the conviction of the heart actually is the very thought God put in my heart yesterday as I was praying for an effective way to present Jesus to anyone of another faith. Meanwhile, I will start with the preparation for the general objections that you have mentioned. Thank you for patiently answering my questions. Hope to learn more from you in the future. God bless you abundantly! :smiley:

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@domingoosabel Thank you for the wisdom and the recommendation! I shall work upon it! :smiley:

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If you want, I can send you a PDF Folder of that book. :smiley:

By the way, thank you for acknowleding my answer. It means a lot to me.

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Thank you for sharing this in your post.

Just a comment that I really love this statement that only our convictions can truly convey our sincerity. No one believes unless we truly believe.
God bless you.
Mike

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@Lakshmismehta Thank you for your excellent suggestions. Truthfully, this wisdom could be applied across the spectrum in talking to anyone regardless of their beliefs or background.

@sammath May the Lord lead you as you seek to reach out in grace and truth to those He has placed in your path.

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@sammath, thanks for sharing about your impressions from your prayer. It’s so encouraging to see your passion for God and your love for your hindu friends. We are all learning and I learned too just be processing my thoughts as I responded to your question. God bless you as well!

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@mgaplus4, thank you! It’s a humbling truth. Appreciate your encouragement.

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Thanks @MaryBeth1! Great to hear from you. Yes, some of it does apply to all forms of evangelism.

Thank you! Amen!

Thank you very much for your help! I hope to be able to get involved more in order to know Jesus. Moses said “Teach me your way so that I may know you”.
When we teach, we learn first and then teach. So the more we share, the more we learn and know the way of the Lord and in turn knowing God. Such a privilege for all of us! :smiley:
God bless you richly! Phil 4:19

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