What in the World is God? Part 2 – The Trinity

“Humans explaining the nature of God is like an ant trying to explain who dropped the sugar.” Trish O’Connor

Doodle GodIn spite of Trish O’Connor’s quote, we all at one time or another try to understand God and most of us try to explain our discoveries to others.  These blogs are no different.  I certainly do not have all the answers, and like Rick Warren once said, “When someone thinks he has all the answers, you have to wonder if he knows all the questions.”

Yet God has revealed Himself to us and has been trying to get our attention since the beginning of time, to get us to trust and love Him.  And this is not a secret (1 John 1:1-3).  The things God has revealed about Himself were not done in a corner or revealed to special people in caves with special lenses required for reading.  God has continuously revealed Himself to any and all who wanted to know Him.  But as we noted before, He is very different from us.  Even the designation “He” tends to obscure just how different, as we tend to think of “Him” as a grandfather in the sky.

Why this matters is that “we tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God.” (A.W.Tozer)  Thus we will become generous or legalistic, or cruel or kind, or pure or immoral, depending on the image of God in our minds.  This process was described by Paul: “Although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.” (Romans 1:21-23)

However, idolatry should not to be construed as just worshiping a statue or physical image.  “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” (Colossians 3:5: Ezekiel 14:3) Anything that takes first place in our hearts over The God Who Is There is an idol; this is what we live for, what we worship, what we want most in life.

So what is God, The God Who Is There?  The dictionary’s first definition is “the one Supreme Being, the creator and ruler of the universe.”  This gives us a starting point for discovering what He is, but we need more information, available only in the historical record of the Bible, to understand more fully what and who God is.

Now books, and voluminous ones, have been written discussing the Trinity and the nature of God, so do not expect any great revelation here today.  This discussion is only intended as a starting point for us to consider our “mental images” of God and to draw us to consider how difficult it is for us to even begin to comprehend the incomprehensible.  How does an ant explain who or what dropped the sugar??

The Bible presents the One True God as revealing Himself to Moses and the fledgling nation of Israel as The I Am That I Am, or Yahweh.  He declares Himself to be ONE (Deuteronomy 6:4).  Yet in Genesis 1:26-27 He said, “Let US make man in OUR image . . . in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”  Both psalmist and prophet refer to God’s Holy Spirit as someone somehow distinct from God (Psalm 51:11; Isaiah 63:11).  When Jesus arrived on earth, He was “conceived . . . from the Holy Spirit” (sometimes called the Holy Ghost). (Matthew 1:20)  When He was baptized by John in the Jordan River, we see Jesus in the water, the Holy Spirit descending like a dove, and the Father speaking from above (Mark 1:9-11).

Now the question comes, Are we tri-theists?  Do we believe in three Gods?  Absolutely not!  As God spoke to Moses, He is One.  Then how do we justify Jesus’ claim to be God (John 10:30) and the recognition of the Holy Spirit as God (Acts 10:38)?

Some defer to “modalism.”  A man may be a dad, a brother and a son all at the same time . . . but that man is only one man, not three individuals.  Some claim there is “Jesus only,” and that He shows up at times as Father or Son or Holy Spirit.  However, these ideas fly in the face of various scriptures that show three individuals.  Some claim the Three-in-One is not One at all.  Some of these absurdly claim God the father had sex with Mary in order for Jesus to be born, but that would make Jesus less than the Father, and Jesus a created being,

The whole temperament of the Bible claims the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are all the One True God, existing somehow in three persons.  Hard to grasp?  Of course, it is. He IS God!  To be able to comprehend and explain what He is we would have to be greater than Him.  As the Uncreated One, The First Cause of all that exists, he exists apart from His creation, over and above anything we will ever be able to grasp fully, even in the ages of eternity.  He will still be the Uncreated One and we will still be, however elevated in ages to come, mere creatures created for His joy.

Paul Little penned it this way: “Faith in Christianity is based on evidence. Faith in the Christian sense goes beyond reason but not against it.”  Though we do not fully understand the triune nature of God this does not make it unreasonable in the face of the evidence presented in the Bible.

There is a small risk here: sometimes we begin to think and behave as tri-theists, as though there was a conflict between the Father and the Son, or between the Son and the Holy Spirit.  They, He, It is One, and we would do well to preface our prayers, “Holy One, whom You know Yourself to be . . .”  Now there are times when I need the proximity of a Brother.  Other times I need the counsel of a Father.  At yet other times, I need the mystery of a Holy Spirit who speaks in languages I have not learned.

God’s mercy is great enough, that if we call on His name, be it Father, Jesus, or Holy Spirit, He will understand our limitations and give grace to help us and guide us into all truth (John 16:12-15).  Next week, , we look at more of The God Who Is There.

“For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
  Isaiah 9:6

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next week, , we will look at come of God’s characteristics that make sense.

Wondering While Wandering Through Time and Space

Off the usual moral themes of this blog, this is simply a logical discussion.  Time is an attribute of God.  You will not find this in any theological text and as far as I know I am the only one to espouse this idea, but it feels right, it appears logical, and common sense verifies it as true.

Swallows of San Juan Capistrano

The “brains” of this world, the intellectuals, are fond of making things very complicated.  “Instinct” is an invented word that means “we do not really have any idea.”  The dictionary defines “instinct” as “an inborn pattern of activity or tendency to action common to a given biological species.”  Why do birds fly south in the winter before it turns cold?  Why do the swallows fly from Argentina over the same pattern to San Juan Capistrano every year?  Why does a dog chase its tail?  Actually, we have no idea, so we ascribe these behaviors to “instinct.”

Hawking A Brief History of Time

In the same way, the late Stephen Hawkings, the brilliant and modest physics genius had problems explaining how life could evolve in the universe without God, so he came up with the idea of a “multiverse,” an infinite number of possible universes in which one, ours, could possibly have evolved life without Outside interference.  A pretty idea, but sounding an awful lot like Star Trek, it is basically absurd intellectualism to disguise his lack of evidence shrouded in complex mathematical formulae that he claimed “proved” there was no need for God.  The amazing thing about truth, or Truth if you prefer, is that it is usually self-evident.  “The king is not wearing any clothes” is a statement only a child would make in a kingdom that could not bear royal embarrassment.  No need for complicated conspiracy theories or complex equations.

So let’s get back to Time, a feature of our universe that I believe to be an attribute of God, like Space (yeah, that one, too, but maybe for another blog).  Time stretches back into eternity past and forward to an eternal future.  It, like God, is immutable; that is, it never changes in spite of Einstein’s ideas.  It is beyond the pale of man’s imagination to figure out a “time” when Time did not exist.  There is no reference of the Bible that says Time had a beginning.  The created universe had one, but “when” did that happen?

There are other things about God that our little minds cannot fully understand.  Remember, HE is God, we are not!  Thus, we have to rely on what He has revealed about Himself.  Somehow, He is Three-In-One, a single being with three persons.  We followers of Jesus are not tri-theists.  There is One God, and He is ONE.  Yet Father blesses the Son at His baptism and the Holy Spirit descends like a dove over Him (Luke 3:21-22); all “parts” of God, yet each is fully God and sort of like . . . well, there is no adequate illustration of God, because He IS God and there is only ONE of Him, and no one and nothing else in the universe is like Him.

So let’s get back to Time, again.  The Bible never says, “Time will be no more.”  That’s a line from a nice song about spending eternity with Him, but not a theological reality.  When will we be with Him?  When we leave this world by death or the Lord’s return.  How long will we be with Him?  For all the Time of eternity.  Clearly the Bible does not teach that we will somehow lose personality or identity; mystically absorbed into the infinite (Buddhism).  Hinduism and Jainism teach there is a personal soul but its blissfulness is very close to Buddhism’s loss of personality by the time you reach that state.

Einstein

The Bible shows individuals around the Throne of God worshiping Him, not in some ethereal sphere of timelessness, but in Eternal Time (Revelation 4 and 22).  It is the measuring of Time that changes, not time itself.  Einstein pictured a train passing at some distance from an observer, and it seemed to go slower than it appeared to someone on the train.  We see this when we watch a jet slowly traversing the sky; we can trace its travel with our finger, but if we were in a balloon up next to it, it would be whizzing by!  But the time and speed it is traveling does not change; only our perception of it.  So Time does not bend, but our measurement of it does.  We have all experienced this in the way we perceive time, sometimes happening very quickly, sometimes very slowly.  But Time is constant and does not change.

There was a time when God was alone . . . as the Three-In-One who had communion within Himself.  Then at some time in the Eternity past, He decided to share His existence with others, so He created amazing beings (to humans) of light and majesty, that if we were to encounter one of them, we would be inclined to worship him (Revelation 19:9-10).  Like God, He gave them free will, intelligence and emotions.

Then at another point in Time, Lucifer (Light-Bearer), one of the chief three angels came up with an absurd and twisted idea that he wanted to be God (Isaiah 14:14).  However, the insanity of his thought was that he was a created being, not eternally existent in the past; not omniscient, not omnipresent, not omnipotent, not containing Time and Space in himself.  So God kicked him out of Heaven, i.e. left him out of relationship, and separated him and the third of angels who followed him from the Life, Light, and Love that is God.

At another time, God decided to create another being, after creating the Earth, the planets, the stars and the galaxies of our universe.  He made this one with free will, intelligence and emotion as well.  Only this time He limited how much of Himself He would show to these created beings.  So Adam and Eve walked and talked with God, who apparently took on a form that they could comprehend.  Now we live in the in-between Time, between Eternity Past and Eternity Future, but actually part of the Eternal Time: “In Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).

Emperors New Clothes.jpg

So in my childlike view of The Emperor’s New Clothes, my little brain just figures Time is an attribute of God.  What difference does this make?  Very little for our spiritual lives.  Like arguments between the Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday crucifixion of our Lord, the important issue is that He was crucified and raised from the dead.  The important thing about Time is that it is in His hands and He has numbered the days for each of us before we appear before Him (Psalm 139:16).

As for Space, besides the Acts 17 reference, you can look at Colossians 1:16-17:For IN him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and IN him all things hold together.”  He inhabits the “Colossian Space.”  (see https://www.physicsoftheuniverse.com/topics_relativity_spacetime.html)
Just wondering while wandering through Time and Space.

Marked by Prayer (Part 5 –Knowing the God Who Is There)

Over Bregenz2Faith is often used as a term to define a system of belief, e.g. “What faith is he?”  At other times it is used to express wishful thinking, “Oh, I just have faith that I will get the job.”  Most commonly, it is the acceptance of something for which one does not have proof, “Just have faith it will all work out.”  A little boy, once asked to define faith, answered honestly, “Faith is believin’ somethin’ you know just ain’t true!”

But in the Bible these definitions are insufficient.  Certainly, last among them would be believing something which isn’t true.  Hebrews 11:1 defines faith as the solid substance of something expected, the evidence of something as yet unseen.  Dictionary.com’s first definition is “confidence or trust in a person or thing.”

For an excellent 30 minute word study, do a search by entering “faith” into the text box on Biblegateway.com.  Of interest is that most of the Old Testament references come up with “faithfulness” which suggests that faith is something more than just believing, that is, in terms of mental agreement.  You will find this word study most rewarding if, as you read the references, you replace “faith” with “steadfast trust”, or in the case of “faithful” read “steadily trustworthy.”

This same exercise can be done for “believe” or “belief;” just substitute the word “trust” for greater understanding of the passage.

Why do we make so much of “faith” and “believing” as we come to prayer to the God Who Is There? Because “without faith [steadfast trust] it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe [steadfastly trust] that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him” Hebrews 11:6.

There is much more we could discuss about faith, but let us move on to Whom we pray, i.e. Who do you trust?  Some skeptics will say it does not matter to whom one prays; it is the mental energy exerted in prayer that moves the “Energy” of the universe on one’s behalf.  But such impersonal efforts are more along the lines of karma as it is found in Buddhism or Hinduism.  We would include here philosophies of Jainism, the Sikhs, Confucianism, or teaching of the Tao.

God has specifically revealed Himself, from the creation of the world to His final revelation in Jesus, called the Christ.  He is not hiding nor silent as some suspect.  He is not an absent landlord who started the “timepiece” of the universe, and then left it to run on its own.  He is not a grandfatherly policeman in the sky, looking for whoever is having fun, so He can yell with a lightning bolt, “Stop that!”

SpaceEPSON MFP imagePaul told the Romans that “what may be known about God is plain, because God has made it plain. For since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities – His eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made” Romans 1:19.  Consider the amazing vastness of the universe and stand in awe of His might and greatness.  Consider the details of DNA or atomic structure and wonder at His brilliance and organization.  Look at a sunset or moonrise or the loveliness of a flower or your wife, or the birth of a child, and worship Him for His gentle tenderness and beauty.

He more clearly revealed Himself in history, first to Noah, then to Abraham, and to his son, Isaac followed by Jacob and the twelve tribes that came from him. He finally revealed Himself in the man called Jesus, who was God in the flesh. Now here is a mystery which we can only begin to understand.  After all, the only way a being could fully understand who God is would be to be God. (Isaiah 40:13-15).

Thus we can only understand what He has taught us about Himself.  To Adam and Eve He was their Companion in the cool of the day, instructing them in gardening and animal care.  To Noah He was the Righteous Judge who came to cleanse the earth from the violence and immorality of mankind.  Burning BushTo Abraham He was the Promise Keeper who was faithful [steadily trustworthy] to give him and Sarah a “child of promise” in their old age, rather than a child born by natural means while he was still virile.  To Moses from the burning bush, He revealed a Name by which He could be called, I AM That I Am.

Now each of us had a beginning.  Each of us is the result of our parents’ actions, all the way back to Adam and Eve.  But He has no beginning!  Even the created universe had a “big bang” for a start, but He was already there! Before anything, He is the I AM, the First Cause.  Is there any question as to why we cannot comprehend Him, when we can barely begin to understand what He has made?

And in Jesus He revealed Himself as the Savior, the one who was the Son of God. His sonship is not something He acquired when He was born from a virgin mother.  Nor do we imagine something as crass as God, who is a spirit, having sex with a woman. (Luke 1:35).

TrinityThe Father, Son and Holy Spirit was the One True God from eternity, existing in a relationship within Himself, somehow three persons in one being.  The difficulty we have in wrapping our minds around this is due to our limited human experience.  Among us, every being is one person and we cannot imagine more than one person to one being.  But when God said, “Let us make man in our image . . .” He was not playing with delusions of importance the way a royal refers to him or herself in the plural, “We are not amused.”  Rather, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, was conferring within Himself, among Themselves, to make a new creation.

The significance of this is made clear in Jesus words, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me” John 14:6.  He had earlier said, “I and Father are one,” which the Jewish leaders recognized as a claim to be God.  No one in any religion has ever made a claim like this, Mohammed, Buddha, Zarathustra, Guru Nanak, Confucius, nor Hindu.

When you read His biographies there is no opportunity to treat Jesus as a good teacher, a prophet, or a grand example.  In Mere Christianity, C.S.Lewis said, “a man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher.  He would either be a lunatic – on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the devil of hell.  You must make your choice.  Either this man was, and is, the Son of God; else a madman or something worse.  You can call Him a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God.  But let us now be done with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great moral teacher.  He has not left that option open to us.  He did not intend to.”

In Prayer, Timothy Keller states, “The implications of the Tri-unity of God for prayer are many.  It means first that God has always had within Himself a perfect friendship.  We know of no joy higher than being loved and loving in return, but a triune God would know that love and joy in unimaginable, infinite dimensions. God is therefore filled with perfect joy, the fierce happiness of dynamic loving relationship.”  This enables us to encounter in the one true God a Fatherhood, a Brotherhood, and a Spirit of adoption, such that when we “believe [steadfastly trust] that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him” we will encounter Him, not as a subject for theology, and not as a ritual of certain positions or times for prayer.  Rather we will meet Him as Moses did on the mountain and know Him for who He is.

So where do we pray?  See you next week, March 29, 2015.