Blogtext: Father, Son and Holy Ghost, The God that is.

The God who has shown his face

"We ma
y say what we will about God as long as we remember that our words are not what we imagine them to be."
"But God also wills us to say that about Him which is true to Him."

There is more and more  confusion about the nature of God which seems to travel deeper and deeper into the church worldwide. More and more people of our time have "intellectual" problems with what is called "the doctrine of the Trinity". Many suppose that to claim that the idea of God being three distinct personae makes it impossible to maintain that God can be held to be "only One Lord." It seems to them that this is a contradiction in terms. "You cant have three and call Him One," they seem to think.

They also claim to know that this "messy" view of God is a hindrance in evangelism and prevents dialogue with Moslems and people of other religions. Grasping back to the fierce monotheism of Judaism they try to make out that as the "shema" makes an unequivocal statement about God's oneness we should read the New Testament in that light and cast any notions about the "Tri-une" God unto the dung+heap of obsolete theology. They are quick to point out that nobody ever uses the term "Trinity" in the bible. Something that is no where described in the Holy Scriptures, but which has been a major bone of contention for centuries and has led to terrible wars between believers of various persuasions, costing us unity and oneness and giving God a bad name in the world, should, they say, be called by it's proper name and done away with.

Unitarian churches, charismatic and non-charismatic, are some of the fastest growing religious movements in the World. From that it would seem that something that brings thousands of people into the church, surely must be that very proof which shows that things get much easier if we do away with the Trinity.  Does it not sound wise to remove every possible stumbling block in a world that so desperately needs to hear the true gospel? Since the trinitarian idea of God is so difficult and so confusing, why maintain it? "The simple gospel does not need it!"

Having given it my attention for a long while over many years I finally feel free to set down some observations on the matter that may or may not contribute to a way of grappling with the issue so that at least we all understand what is at stake. It may well be that we ought to stick to an understanding that, although difficult, is no more difficult than what is suggested in it's place. Is it a small matter to brush away a view that was deeply entrenched for nearly two thousand years, and for which people lost their lives and still do? In exchange for a mess of pottage?

I think that such a desertion could be disastrous and should not be done until we have looked at all the issues involved. Only when they have been fully laid open to scrutiny is it possible to take a stand one way or the other.  If this is in your interest then 
bear with me and follow me along the path to the bitter or sweet end.

Truth, Meaning and Understanding

All that we have is words. And words are all we have to describe and proscribe what our faith means. Every word spoken or written is in itself merely a signal about a meaning. The meaning is never in that word. There are no words large enough to give the full meaning of anything. In a primeval world of "one language, and of one accent and mode of expression" (Gen 11:1  Amp) this  may have been another matter, but our reality is the existence of thousands of languages and not much agreement even within the same language group as to what we mean by using even the same sounding words. And as everything we say about God is taken from translations and interpretations of the bible words, we may safely say that it is a miracle of the greatest kind that we can communicate fairly well in spite of the way the world of words has become.

But words are what we have been given. And every word is ultimately connected to the prior Word of God, "the Word that was with God and was God Himself." (John 1:1 Amp). And the prior purpose for every word of God is to become reality and flesh in the World. Words of God are producers of the things of God. So all of creation is the express result of "God saying, and it was". This is then the essence of God's words: to bring about what He speaks. There is then a very good reason for every man or woman to consider the difference between our use of Words about God and God's words about God Himself. There will be a manifest difference between those two "words" depending on how far a man is from God in his own thinking.

Our rational thinking ability was given as part of what is meant by man having been made in the very image of God. And at that very outset God spoke: "Let us (Father Son and Holy Spirit) make mankind in our image, after our likeness." Gen 1:26 Amp God as creator is presented to us, via Moses, as One God present at the creation in three persons. You will hear all sorts of attempts at denying that this is anything to do with the "Trinity". You will be told that this  way of speaking is mere symbolism for the 'Pluralis majestatis",  i. e. the habit of the Kings of the earth or Powers that be to use a  plural term for self-description in order to sound mightier than they are. Such evasions glide on a banana-peel since God is the originator of the language used and the preserver of the same. 

The habits of Kings on the Earth to use the same sort of language that God does, is their perversion and usurpation of what is a divine prerogative. The idea that Kings had divine right is not a particularly biblical view.  In the case of the entire row of Kings portrayed in the Bible, not one claims a 'majestic plural' for himself. No not even Nebuchadnezzar who although a true megalomaniac never stoops to giving himself a divine prerogative.

As always: God is prior to the words about God.

So God, Father Son and Holy Spirit together created all that is and mankind was made in God's express image and likeness. And that means: made as man and woman. And in Gen 2:24 this bipartite separateness is described as "One Flesh". Within the first two chapters of Genesis the concept of ONE GOD is then described deliberately as a composite of three without loss of unity, and the two component likeness of God is also a ONE FLESH unity of two distinct beings without loss of unity!

This is probably where the apparent confusion first rears it's head. The human unit, the one flesh, is always a symbolic unity between them, since however much they would like to have it otherwise, they remain distinct bodies. And as this is to us a well-known fact without which we could not hope to understand ourselves it is then transferred back to the origin of our likeness and God is somehow made to have a body, and three bodies being ONE is very hard to conceptualize until you realize that as for God the matter of physical limitation to a physical frame work plays no part whatsoever. "God is a Spirit and they that worship Him must worship Him in Spirit and truth." John 4:24

Personhood is not in any way dependant on "body form" when we speak of the nature of God. Unbodied, without earthly form,  is the master matrix, bodies  have only the image made after it. "Per" and "sona" are the Greek words behind our concept of what a person is. They mean literally "That through which a character expresses itself" and is a term from the Greek theater where one actor simply put on a different mask in order to play one or other role in the play. The mask in question carried the image that the actor gave voice to through the mask, the mask was the 'through sounder', the very persona.

Many have taken that earthly image and then maintain that as the one actor behind three or more masks is always the same then that is how we should also understand the "Father, Son and Holy Spirit" as being merely three different aspects of the One God. Simply three various modes of appearance. The idea is wide spread among many and was part of enormous controversies in the early church. It will be clearly seen later on how much more complicated that thought is and how violently one must twist the written word in order to make scripture have the slightest notion in that direction.

God is what?

Any discussion about the nature of God must surely begin with what God lets us know about Himself before we start second guessing other things.(I know that it sounds preposterous to think that the clay can allow itself to define the potter, but that is what we do.)

Most people would agree that the statement: "God is Love" is a defining factor. The phrase occurs twice in 1 John 4:1-16 and is  rarely allowed to be defined by the context of the fellowship of the believers. Why is that important? Because only if we define what we mean by love is it possible to see that Love as such demands interaction between a minimum of two. Can love be a solitary aspect? Can someone claim to be loving if that love is never known by anyone outside that person? Is not love by it's very definition in need of One who loves and Another who is loved? And what needs to happen between those two actors? In our human realm we may have known some one for years before we began to love them. But once the love is established it appears to be a separate force experienced by both but not a belonging to either. It is "Our love" rather than My love for you or Your love for me.

Unless God who is love consists of more than one unit the love would be that of Narcissus who became so enamoured with Himself that he drowned falling into the water that mirrored his beauty. That is one of many perversions of Love, it is not it's essence. But the narcissistic love is always a dead end, it never creates anything outside itself. The modern day equivalent is the selfie. Nothing could be further from the true Love than selfishness.

Unless there are these three elements; One who loves, Another who is loved and the Love between them then we cannot really speak of love. I 1 John that becomes apparent. You cannot claim to love God whom you have not seen unless you also love them whom God loves.  Love involves a tripartite relationship from the very start. If God is Love, then the idea of God being from eternity to eternity, the primary "Love" in the world demands that there is a multiple included in a oneness that can be called Love. So the very God who loves his creation was love before these objects were available to love. And what did God the father love from before the foundation of the world? His Son, and what was the love between them? The Spirit of God is the love bond between Father and Son. ("The love of God is poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit.") So do not talk of God and his love unless you allow for the fellowship of Father, Son and Holy Spirit to precede any notion of God. What can be described as three parts is however only possible if the parts are One.

And that is what the "Trinity" implies. How could "God be love" at all without that definition?

There is no need for any of the writers of the bible to use the term "trinity" or for that matter "tri-unity" at all. It is not the existence of a specific term that decides the matter.

Trinity is then a short for..
When we speak to one another about the EU or the NHS or the RAC or any other abbreviation we do so for the purpose of economy. It would be a tedious process to have to give a formal definition of all the salient facts about either of them so we use the short forms and assume that there is sufficient overlap between what we mean by those terms so that immediate awareness is created. Without it communication would be severely limited.

The term 'Trinity' then stands for the following five ingredients:

1 There is One God, only one God of His Kind

2 There is one who is defined as "The Father" who knows himself to be God.
3 There is one called "the Son" who is defined as God by being the Father's offspring and by equality with Him.
4 There is One called "the Spirit" who is sent by the Father and the Son to do their work in the World to the glory of God.

5 These three, though distinct personae, are One God only.

In other words: "Trinity" is shorthand for those five distinct but related sets of teachings of the Holy Bible.
In order to give a true account of the issue then one must allow the entire Scriptures to speak on all five issues. Only if the accord of all the evidence is brought in can an informed decision be made.

Father and Son
It is enough to read through John's declaration about the Life and work of Jesus to get an almost complete understanding of the relationship between them. Before you as a believer say anything about the Trinity you must become well acquainted with John's portrait of the Father and the Son.

You will be made aware that God was with the  Son, identified as the Word and that the Son also was God distinct from but of identical kind as the Father. As Father so Son. If the Father is God then so must the Son be.

The two are in distinctly different modes. God remains Spirit and the Son is made flesh. But they are in unison about what the Son came to do. The Father sent the Son. Sender and sent cannot be the same. God as such cannot be seen by man without the immediate death of man. "No man can see God and live!" But the Son has declared the Father and "He who has seen me has seen the Father". The Son is the express outshining of the glory of God scaled down to give life, not death. As the light is to the lamp the Son is to the Father: "I am the light of the World". The word "sent" is used over fifty times in Johns gospel and about forty of them are about the Son being sent by the Father into the world to accomplish a task that the Father and the Son together are agreed on. Distinct persons in communication with each other and yet One in kind and aim and work.

When Christ prays to the Father he is not praying to Himself, surely?
When Christ says to the disciples "My father and your Father" he is hardly pretending to be the Father while preparing to go to the same.
When Christ says that He was sent by the Father and will return to Him he was telling the truth was he not? He came from the Father and will return to the Father who sent him.
Is not a Son the same sort as His Father?

The issue of the incarnation is in the background of all of the life of Christ on earth. God became man without emptying heaven of God, without any withdrawal by God from the power that holds the universe in it's hand. And the result is a true Son of man and a true Son of God visible in the world while the invisible Father remains the one in whom we all live, move, breathe and have our being. Is Christ aware of being the Christ? Of being the Yehoshua of God, the Saviour sent by God? Does He count himself equal to God? As he is the one never acting on his own behalf or from own motives is he not merely a servant? Yes a servant he is, but that does not diminish His standing as God. No more than a prince in disguise is less a king's son for appearing as a beggar. The role does not determine the essential nature.

By the use of the name of God; I am, Jesus so identified Himself with God that the Jews understood it as blasphemy and therefore decided to stone Him to death. Would Jesus have taken that risk unless He knew who he was?

We know from Scripture that God alone could save his creation, it cannot save itself. God the Son was willing to come and disrobe from all divine and royal prerogatives and become as poor as the poorest man. Laying aside his divine rights he brought our rights back to us. Rights that we had forfeited by sin.

The way in which He spoke and acted brought immediate recognition: "You are the Son of the God Most High". "Surely this is the anointed of God." And not in the least, the demons acknowledge Him as Son of God and they plead with Him not to judge them yet. Agreeing that He is their judge. And judgment belongs only to God. The divine order for the judgment of the living and the dead is given to Christ, the Son of God, but no lesser God.

Unity in the Spirit 
What about the Spirit's personhood? The Spirit leads Christ to the place of temptation, the Spirit is alive and at work in the back ground in everything that is happening and is waiting to be taking the place of Christ in the Church to be born of the Spirit. The Father and the Son send the Spirit, the Spirit comes to do the bidding of God and glorify Christ in and through the church. The Spirit fills the hearts and minds and even the Houses where the saints meet. He can be lied to and be quenched and extinguished, He can call and send and guide and forbid. His role is not one of prominence but without Him there would be no unity in the Spirit. The lack of unity in the churches is sure proof of the absence of the Spirit. The Spirit equips the Church with his gifts and empowers those born again. It is a clothing with power and an infilling of holiness that is the very work of the Spirit.  Those who deny that the Spirit is God's Spirit with his own identity and His independent personality know nothing of the Spirit at all.

For the Record
The entire Bible is the word of God. That is my starting point and that is what must be heard before any decision is made on any topic. In the question about who and what God is, there is no other source of information than that.
But it is not true because it is in the bible, it is in the bible because it is true. To pretend that the use of man's own understanding of God can arrive at ultimate truth, must be questioned on every point. There is very little that man knows about anything. The most obvious reason for this is that man is part of all that God has made and is no reliable arbiter regarding things outside observable creation. Comprehending what the creator is is not one of the essentials for the created being. Obeying and trusting the Creator and taking God at His word is however necessary. Life depends on it.

If we listed all the statements made about how the created ought not to view the Creator we would fill pages. In it's simplest form it is like this: "Can the clay say to the potter, what are you making?"  The advanced form would be: "Moreover the Lord said to Job, Shall he who would find fault with the Almighty contend with Him? He who disputes with God, let him answer it." It is part of our sin and the persistent breaking of the first commandment that allows us the illusion that our intellect is capable of criticising God and God's self description. "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and  lean not unto thine own understanding." Only the heart submitted to God and in acceptance of God's word can find the wisdom that transcends human foolishness. "Thinking themselves to be wise they became fools" is the apostle's verdict.

Denial of the One God in three persons
Throughout the history of the church this issue has followed the saints the way a dog's tail, however muddy, follows the dog. And it is always part and parcel of a manifold denial. It denies man's sin and the reality of the fall from grace and the resulting foolishness that is the result of worshipping the creation rather than the Creator. Whereas creation is a witness to the unsearchable reality of God, no image in creation is ever the whole truth about what is is similar to. Creation is rampant with 'trinities' and each one holds water to a certain extent. Water is vapor, liquid and ice. Three in one. But as they change depending on temperature they cannot be said to be a complete picture of how three can be one without constantly changing due to the situation they are in. God the Father is always the Father, and the Son is always the Son and the Spirit was always spirit. Not so water.

God is light unchangeable. There is no variation in God. Light is also three in that it is ray and wave and heat. But the various appearances shift due to conditions. God is unshifting and reliable. So any image found to be similar in creation is but a hint, but never the whole truth. So rational thought that is based on the observable realities can never be true in the ultimate sense. Only God is true, and although dressed in human language only the Word of God knows God enough to express the needed truth about God. God is not an object to be understood, but a Subject to whom we bow. And worship of God is the most intellectually honest enterprise a man can engage on. 

A denial of the Trinity always leads to a diminishing of the deity of Christ and of the de-personalisation of the Holy Spirit. And it also always leads to a severe censure of biblical content. Only that is left which man is wiling to believe, and since it is man in his unregenerate state that is pandered to in this fashion, everything fallen man does not like is removed from the word.

I am who I am
So here is the ultimate issue about the Person of God, The Father, Son and Holy Spirit: "Does God know Himself better than any one of his created beings can?" Put that way every sensible individual will clap a hand on his or her mouth and nod in silent agreement. It is most likely that God is the one and only source of information about God! Well then, only a study of what the words from God say about God can be of any use whatever in answering the questions about the idea of the "Trinity".  It is not the term that is the problem. It is man's inability to understand what is far greater than man himself. Man may believe himself to "be body, soul and spirit" and thus identify a kind of trinity in himself and even see the reasonable link to his having been created in the image of God just because of this frequent occurrence of something tri-une in the world and in the Bible. But the way that God is tri-une is beyond anything that we are. That is the meaning of God's transcendence. God is not one of us at all, except as the God who became flesh and lived out God among us. God cannot be remade in our image, we are made in His.

In summary
Worship of God involves all three persons of the Godhead, if it eliminates one or the other it worships neither. What we say about God is less important than understanding what God has said about Himself. Salvation is the work of Father Son and Holy Spirit together. Eliminate one of them and salvation is a word without meaning. God so loved his creation that He gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believes will not be lost. In Creation all three are active, in Salvation all three are active, in Judgment all three are active. In the life of the Church all three are always known in their various aspects, eliminate one and none is present. "Go then and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit". 

To make your ability to understand  the fulcrum on which the world must revolve is rank Idolatry. Neither you nor I have the slightest chance of knowing anything beyond a limited amount of anything. So you have problems with the trinity? It is reasonable to suggest that the problems stem from your demand to understand before you will bow down before God in humble adoration. The mystery of Godliness includes our recognition of our limitation to understand what it is, but never stops us from stooping so low that we see God in that crib for which Christmas is a symbol.

"And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and  saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men".

Getting to know God is done by worshipping before it has any fullness of understanding. We bow to His Majesty, His undisputed right to His creation, and acknowledgment of His right to define Himself.  Having the doctrine of the trinity down pat is meaningless unless it is in wedlock with knees calloused from worship.

"The grace (favor and spiritual blessing) of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Love of God and the presence and fellowship (the communion and sharing together, and participation) in the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen- so be it!" 2 Cor 13:14 AMP

Teddy Donobauer Dec 13th 2018  Doncaster


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