Tuesday, 8 May 2012

God is not the 'god' of philosophy Part 2: The Trinity

I originally posted an article of about 3000 words that I realised that only a few people would have the inclination to read. So, obeying a rule of blogging, I'm going to repost it in more manageable chunks. This is the introduction, more to follow.

In my earlier post on the way western Philosophy approaches the question of God, I talked about the problem of starting with ourselves as the ultimate authority rather than finding out what God is like from Him. The consequence is that we don't know truly who God. He has to tell us. This means that we don't get the most important and distinctive teaching of Christianity and the vital implications of it.

These posts will talk about the Trinity. This is the teaching of the Bible that God is not a singular entity, but three persons - the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Three persons who are distinct in their roles and yet equal and completely united by love and united in their purpose. Not one lump of 'god stuff' that appears in three different ways (that's called 'modalism'), but three persons. The best analogy is marriage as the Bible describes it - the idea of two people who come together as 'one flesh'. Deuteronomy 6:4 says 'the Lord is one' - but this is not 'one' meaning 'single', but 'one' meaning 'united'.

The three states of water analogy - that's modalism Source here.

This isn't polytheism either (belief in multiple gods - e.g. ancient Greece and Rome), note that the persons of the Trinity are named by their relationship to each other. God the Father is not like Zeus - Zeus would get on without the others because they are independent beings - the persons of God are more inter-dependent. If it seems hard to understand, don't worry - humans aren't trinitarian beings, so if you think you've totally got it, you probably haven't quite and a lot of erroneous understandings of the Trinity come from trying to bring it within human understanding too much. But that doesn't mean we can't get blown away by the implications of the Trinity.

You may be wondering at this point what makes this particular teaching so amazing, interesting maybe, but not setting your soul on fire (maybe it is already). Well, there are several things about God being trinitarian that makes Him absolutely wonderful, and will make you realise you never want to settle for anything less. I'll address them in each of the following posts, and hopefully you'll see how the Trinity impacts the way we think about everything in Christianity and why it is (apart from understanding salvation by Christ alone) the truth that has had the single biggest impact in my own Christian life.

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