Monday, November 19, 2007

The Trinity

I believe in one God, eternally existent in two persons, Father and Holy Spirit. It is the Jesus-aspect that I have a difficult time with.

I believe in Jesus Christ, God the Father incarnate in flesh and bone, and in such a state, eternal.

I believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, in His physical ascension to heaven and assimilation, or return, to the Father. However I cannot say with certainty whether I believe in Christ Jesus as being truly eternal. It is a difficult issue. To me it is a paradox. I know the Father is eternal: having no beginning and no end. He is omnipotent (infinite power), omniscient (infinite knowledge), and omnipresent (He is everywhere). I believe He became incarnate in flesh and bone in Jesus, and in that state was a temporal being (bound by the laws of physics and time). Yet He was both perfect Man and perfect God. In essence He “stepped into the time-stream”, exiting his state of infiniteness. But on the same note, even if you remove a small piece of an infinitely large being, you are not left with fractions. You are still left with infinite sums.

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning."
John 1:1-2 (NIV)

These verses would seem to answer my dilemma. But I can’t help but think that the author of the book of John was attempting to make an addition to the book of Genesis. As far as being a Gospel - and I’ll define “gospel” as being a testament to the life and teaching of Christ – this opening chapter is not something the author of the book of John could have witnessed. This is a statement of belief. Yet the very nature of an eternal being is not bound by the constraints of time. If it ever existed then it always existed. I could potentially “chase my tail” in circles until I’ve spun myself silly! I suppose it is nothing more than an academic issue. It isn’t really relevant in practical faith and day to day living.

There has to be another belief or doctrine than the Trinity. It is my belief that the Trinity is a man-made explanation to attempt to explain, or define, the nature of God. It is a useful tool to help a finite mind grasp an infinite entity and concept, but is, at its core, flawed. If fact, there is some evidence of a very human, ulterior and political motives present.

"…a great ecclesiastical council held in Nicea in Asia Minor (325 CE), at which the Church settled on the nonscriptural formula that Jesus was “of one substance with the Father” – that is, they shared the same essential being."
J. R. Porter, The New Illustrated Companion to the Bible, 2001, pg. 328

"Trinity (theology), in Christian theology, doctrine that God exists as three persons – Father, son, and Holy Spirit – who are united in one substance or being. The doctrine is not taught explicitly in the New Testament, where the word God almost invariable refers to the Father; but already Jesus Christ, the Son, is seen as standing in a unique relation to the Father, while the Holy Spirit is also emerging as a distinct divine person."
Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia 99

Emperor Constantine convened the First Council of Nicaea, in 325 to settle the Arian dispute concerning the nature of Jesus Christ. 318 of the 1800 Bishops who were invited actually attended. We do not know what the final actual vote was, but even if it was unanimous, 318 of 1800 only constitute 17 2/3 %, hardly a majority! It must also be noted that this was not a subjective issue, but an objective one. Even if all 1800 Bishops (even if every single solitary human being on this planet) voted in favour, wouldn’t make a difference. Now add to this that there was a potential political threat from Bishop Arius, and the possibility of the Arian movement attaining too much power and control, effectively wrestling it from the Church’s authority, and we have an all too human political motive. The end result was that after making the “of one substance with the Father” orthodox Church doctrine, Bishop Arius was condemned as a heretic, excommunicated, and exiled; the Arian crisis was resolved, and the “orthodox” Church remained just the way they wanted it to remain – theirs.

It is difficult to explain these ideas and beliefs without using the words and terms of the Trinity, so, if you’ll allow me, I’ll continue with this terminology:

God the Father became incarnate in flesh as God the Son. He chose to exit His “natural” state of eternalness and enter our universe of four dimensions: to enter the time-stream He would do this by submitting Himself to the governing rules of this universe by becoming fully human, completely under the ruling power of death. He would be Jesus Christ. (God the Son) And it would be through the controlling power of death that the Father would accomplish the impossible. He would be resurrected from the dead by His own will and power and forever break the control of this world’s ruler. [Hebrews 2:14-15] He would free mankind forever of sin by carrying the burden completely upon Himself. He would pay this final price. He would reveal His true nature and identity to us [John 14:7] and adopt us into His family. Where we would become extinguished in death, we would now live forever through the power of the Father – through the Tree of Life (the Father) and the Fruit of the Tree of Life (the Son). [John 14:6]

The Holy Spirit, or the Spirit of God I see more as the active hand of God within our world and our lives. It is that aspect of Him that exists within each of us. I believe, since the crucifixion, death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ, that the entire of mankind (and the universe for that matter) was inundated by His essence. We all carry Him within us – He has chosen to live within us. Whether we successfully identify, acknowledge, and accept this is completely another matter. For those who do not acknowledge and accept this gift, it becomes dormant within us, a potential seed waiting a watering. For those who discover it and embrace it, allow the Father in live with us, work through us and become, quite literally, our Father.

I have never found a distinction between these three aspects of the Trinity. It is only during the actual 33 year life span of Jesus that I can make (the only) distinction between the Father and the Son. Were they two entities during this time? No, I don’t belief so. If we can view the Father as an all-powerful and infinite entity and He chose to exit this state of timelessness and enter our time-stream, so to speak, then we must consider how. If you take a piece off an infinite object you are not left with a fraction of infinity. It is a mathematical impossibility. The piece that you took of the infinite object is also not a smaller fraction of that original infinite piece. However, since He also chose to be perfect man as well as perfect God, He also had to choose to limit Himself to some degree. Jesus was not all knowing (see Matthew 24:36) because of this self-imposed limitation, otherwise He could not be human. This is clearly stated in Philippians 2:5-8:

“God in Christ voluntarily and consciously limiting the independent exercise of his divine attributes.”

The issue comes down to whose will are we following? Jesus tells us we are to follow the will of the Father, yet often, it is not the Father that we are trying to appease. But are we to follow the Father or the Triune God? The understanding and defining attribrutes must lie in the understanding or interpretations of the Trinity.

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