In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. – John 1:1-5
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. – Deuteronomy 6:4
Every once in a while I will post a column here related to the class I teach Sunday mornings at Wake Forest Presbyterian Church. Sometimes I write about a deep insight shared by one of the participants, other times I write about some powerful truth we talked about that came into clear focus, then – once in a while – I will simply use this space to work through and hopefully work out my own convoluted thinking.
Today is one of those convoluted, muddy, impossible to grasp occasions, and my writing is going to either A) untangle some of the loose ends, or B) simply amplify the confusion.
Regardless, I enjoy the exercise. And, yes, I understand that some people do not enjoy wrestling with ideas they had always simply accepted and believed. I absolutely respect that. But remember, it is God we have faith in, not the words we use to talk about that faith.
The Holy Trinity:
We have been talking about the triune nature of God as part of our series on Christian Doctrine. The Bible – of course – does not spell things out neatly and clearly for us. All the scriptures do is reveal God in such a way that all three persons of The Trinity are a part of the narrative.
One God, not three gods. Yet at the same time God the Creator, Jesus Christ, Holy Spirit.
There are scores of ways to talk about this, so many metaphors designed to help us understand. Yet they are all, without exception, inadequate. Some, to my mind, come much closer than others – but really, how can I say “closer” when I don’t definitively know?
This is why I believe so strongly in the value of two thousand years of history, of so many rigorously debated creeds, confessions, and catechisms. These are important touchstones against which I can measure my own attempts at understanding. At the same time, I value the constant questioning, revelation, and reevaluation inherent to being a Reformed faith – anchored in scripture, guided by two millennia of confessional statements, always open to God’s voice, conscious that our best efforts at understanding and describing always fall short.
And God is so gracious in this process. “Derek,” I hear the Creator say, “I really appreciate your efforts to wrap your understanding around who I am, and I know you want to share the truth about me as accurately as possible. But don’t forget what Jesus reminds you – So fill yourself with the love and the light and the grace that I offer, that it spills over naturally wherever you are! That is the truth I want people to know and to live. Everything else is just an interesting conversation.”
Jesus explains it all!
Jesus did and said a lot to get himself in trouble with the religious authorities. I can just imagine him explaining this one: “Listen up! So you know this idea of One God? Well, I’m all about that; Creator God, Yahweh, I Am. But that’s me, too, “before Abraham was, I Am”; still just the One God, but that would be me and the Father. Is everybody clear?”
Then, later. “So about the One God thing. It’s still one hundred percent true. One. God. The Father; The Son. Now let me introduce you to The Holy Spirit. It’s all good, it’s all God. One God, three of us. Does anyone have any questions?”
The Huge Challenge!
It’s what’s called cognitive dissonance, holding two seemingly contradictory truths at the same time – and it makes people crazy! It kind of makes your head want to explode. We believe in One God – check. We believe in The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit – check.
I have just two more things to say. First, why should the nature of God be required to fit into something I can wrap my head around? Personally, I’m glad I can’t take it all in and that God is so much greater than the limitations of my understanding.
The other is that Jesus didn’t just appear when Mary became pregnant, Jesus was there from before the beginning; Jesus has always been the second person of The Trinity. Same thing with the Spirit. The creation story begins with the Spirit hovering over the waters.
You see when we talk about God we are journeying into the realm of wonder and of beautiful mystery, and of power far beyond the limits of our imagination…
…But we are also talking about faith made personal and accessible by Jesus, who was everything we need to know about God wrapped up in a human being, Jesus is God’s invitation to walk with him, to journey as disciples, and to let light and love flow through us and into this broken world.
So that clears everything up…. 🙂 !!!! – DEREK