Archive for May, 2008

Manifestations, Projections or Individuals?

May 31, 2008

Let’s start off with a statement Jesus made to His disciples.  It comes from John 16: 12-15,  “I have much more to say to you, much more than you can now bear.  But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all truth.  He will not speak on His own; He will speak on what He hears, and He will tell you what is yet to come.  He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you.  All that belongs to the Father is mine.  That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you.”

In this one statement Jesus points to three different entities in the godhead.  At the same time, He explains something without really explaining it, did you see it?  It deals with ownership, chain of command and purpose…For those of you who see it right away, bear with me while I explain it for those who don’t.

Two phrases give away the nature of our godhead.  We indeed serve three gods as one God, but they don’t all have the function, or we could say “job” instead.  Each does something the other doesn’t.  Yet they are “one”.  We have a mystery here for it looks like either John, who wrote this gospel by all accounts, is speaking in riddles to confuse or he’s attempting to show the connection between the separate heads of God.

Remember Genesis’ account of what God told the man and woman?  They were to be fruitful and multiply, yes, but their primary directive was to become one flesh.  As far as anyone knows, this is a physical impossibility and sounds like one person absorbs another, yet it’s God’s command to us.  So, if it is impossible physically, then there must be either a metaphysical interpretation for the command or spiritual application.  I believe, however, there is an obvious physical means to this as well.  Just follow the logic, don’t jump ahead, because the journey to getting to our understanding is as important as the truth itself.

The man is the bolt, the woman is the nut; again, the man is one piece of the puzzle, the woman the other.  If you look at puzzle pieces, how many places can you fit them together?  Well, in the case of two pieces specifically, only one place, then we add the others around these two to complete the picture.  Following this logic we come to the picture of man as one piece of the physical puzzle and the woman the other.  One fits into the other (not to get graphic or titillating here) to create a whole.

Yet there’s another way men and women, friends and family, become one and it’s only understood once we grasp this unity of the godhead within the Christian paradigm (used to mean a grouping of joined thoughts).

Jesus claimed that all the Father had was His, then explained that Holy Spirit wouldn’t speak on His own but only what He heard.  This tells me something about our God that is probably frustratingly simple to the intellectual minds around me:  God is one by purpose and directive not in being.

In the world of Christian thought, we have a being called “Satan” who was once called Lucifer, meaning star of the morning.  One of the Bible’s teachings about this being is that he is a liar and the father of lies (see John 8: 42-47).  A good liar is one who mixes the right amount of truth to disguise the lie, which then can be believed by association with the truth.  Its proximity to the truth doesn’t make it anymore true than when it stands alone, though its presence with the truth doesn’t make the truth a lie either.  What lie sets out to do is confuse the point of truth.

In the Law written down by Moses we read that God is “one” and that He never is to be considered divided or as a multiple.  Jesus also calls God one, then turns right around and mentions that there are three deities without batting an eye. 

What gives?

Our understanding must adjust our perspective to the teaching of our paradigm or we must reject the teaching.  Christianity has taught us to reason the godhead out like a clover.  A clover generally has three leaves but is called one.  An Irish monk (I forgot his name) came up with this as far as we know–or he was the first to write it down.  For our purposes it works as well as any to illustrate unity in diversity.

God is one in mind, not in a hive sense or Borg (Star Trek reference), but in purpose, reasoning and expression.  How these three beings work together is the point of our discussion.  Satan confused the issue by introducing mulitiple gods into the worship of deity, but his gods and godesses were divided from the start, demonstrating the dual nature of humanity rather than the unified heart of God.  In the Law, God chose to work with humans by first getting them to see God as one.  God’s teaching would not be divided or at war with itself, God wouldn’t be divided into several warring factions or beings, not so much as just a unified front but unified behind the scenes as well.

In Christianity we learn through Jesus that God is one in purpose though wholly separate beings.  They are not divided or at odds with one another in goals.  There are no arguments or pros and cons discussions about what needs to be done.  They all have the same heart and mind about things in a spiritual sense, though, as we understand ourselves in the image of God, they probably each have a separate consciousness.  If this is true, then God is three separate individuals expressing the same ideal, unified in goals and inseparable in purpose.

Now to our title point:  This doesn’t mean that our God is really separate entities, is just a way of understanding Him.  The Father, Son and Holy Spirit could well be one God choosing to manifest Himself in three ways.  This said, I don’t buy that because that would make Jesus a projection of God rather than a person who could be touched.  There were certain teachers in the first century (and many since) who actually supported this theory and John condemned them in his three letters to the churches and Revelation.  So my view leans toward three distinct individuals who are united in every way that’s important.

This is what marriage should be and one of the reasons God claimed He hated divorce.  Marriage is the human demonstration of the unity of God.  If we are divided as married couples and at odds in purpose (more general in a sinful world, not specific), then it can be claimed that God is divided.  As man and woman are two distinct individuals yet one, so is God.  It should actually be the other way around but for the sake of understanding God, we need to say it from the human standpoint.  When we have children then, the construct of understanding becomes complete: Father, mother, child.

This paradigm is symbolic of the deity we serve.  Our God is undivided yet three individuals.  What we call paganism promotes the idea of not only individualism but warring ideals and selfish ambition among those who should be promoting unity of purpose and self-esteem in community.  This the Christian ideal in a nutshell.

The Spirit of God and Man

May 30, 2008

“God is spirit…”

“Man’s fate is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both:  As one dies, so dies the other.  All have the same breath, man has no advantage over the animal.  Everything is meaningless.  All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return.  Who knows if the spirit of man rises upward and if the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth?”  Ecclesiastes 3: 19-21.

–The Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.  Genesis 2: 7.

We know by the account in Genesis that we are made in the image of God, yet we also know that God isn’t described physically once in the whole account.  We might, therefore, be right in judging that since we are sure of what we look like, God looks like us in some form.  But this would probably be a misguided deduction since God is spirit.  No, all we see of God in the first chapter up to the creation of man is His creativity, that inventive ability to make life.

It’s in our nature that we are the most like God, for we can reason, rule the world, create life when the two sexes become one physically, and we have a desire to build and create.  Because of these traits in us, we are the most like God when we create, build and sustain.  He gave us this ability by making us each a living being, so living up to the nature of God is natural to us.

Yet to understand it at its root, our life comes directly from Him.  Some, many even in the Christan faith, believe man is self-contained and eternal in spirit.  This isn’t accurate to Scripture for no where does it indicate we preexisted the body, in fact, it clearly states that we only became a living being once God breathed into us life.  As to whether or not we exist after the body dies, I can’t tell you because I don’t know for sure what happens at death.  The Bible doesn’t really come out and say but gives us mere hints of life after death.  Yet we do know that the Bible makes it clear:  He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.  1 John 5: 12

So our spirit reflects His Spirit.  If He lives in us, we have life; If He doesn’t, we die–or you could say we begin dying.  My conclusion, then, is that the spirit in us is only there because God lives in us.  Without God in us, we cannot be alive and our spirits are dead.  We only exist in Him.

Yet we are still distinct in essence.  God is God and we are His creation.  Paul quoted some of the famous Greek poets, “‘For in Him we live and move and have our being.’  As some of your own poets have said,  ‘We are His offspring.'” (Acts 17: 28).  The design of the human psyche is vital to understand God in some ways due to the fact that we are distinct and wholly separate from one another, yet still tribal and connected to families despite our autonomy.  If it’s in our basic nature we are like God, then we can conclude that God is social, in a certain way almost tribal and in need of belonging.  Though God doesn’t need anything humans can give Him, like sacrifices, money or goods, He is in need of our companionship.  Love creates this need in Him.  Since He is love (refer to 1 John 4: 16), we can conclude that our desire for belonging comes straight from Him.

It’s in our baser nature where we differ.  God can kill, the Bible makes that point abundantly clear, yet it also says in almost every book written that killing is a foreign act to God and only a last resort after many attempts to reconcile.  The amount of times God took direct actions against humans are actually few.  The amount of times He directed humans to kill other humans are also rare, and in most cases could have been avoided if the other tribes or nations would have ceased being violent themselves.  This acknowledged, we have to look at who perpetrates the most crimes God or man?

Man, hands down.

Created as an individual with the ability to choose, reason and live independently, mankind has brought about some of the worst behavior ever recorded.  We have at our core the ability for great compassion and generosity, yet the flip side of our nature shows a darkness which has demonstrated its destructiveness time and again.

Our nature was created by God to reflect His.  Yet the capacity for “sin” or evil is there also.  For true freedom of thought and choice, this duality had to be installed in our programming as well.  In the beginning, according to Genesis, this ability was latent, dormant and wholly unused.  It only became an active force once we chose to reject God as God and become a self-determining “god” of our own making at the Tree.

What has this to do with our spirit in comparison to God’s?

Simply that the only way to understand God is to understand how we are made.  We have no better reference point than our original design specs, so studying these helps us grasp a little of the nature of God.  In the Biblical account of creation He didnt’ make us as extentions of Himself to be reabsorbed into the whole at death nor did He create us for complete autonomy or aloneness.  We are created for individuality living in community.  This is the secret of following Christ for He pointed us to the greatest evidence of our discipleship when He said,  “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  John 13: 25.  We are neither puppets nor islands but individual beings who need society with other individual beings to create a sense of belonging while distinctly separate.

God’s spirit sustains our spirit while we live then that power (in this case don’t refer to the consciousness rather see it as electricity) returns to Him at death.  Our consciousness only continues while He lives in us and sustains us while we are alive.  Death is non-existence because no one can exist without God’s forethought and life energizing in them.  It’s true, however, that we have something of a “battery pack” inside us which allows us to continue existing for a time, but this isn’t the same as being completely self-contained.

One God, Three Deities?

May 29, 2008

One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating.  Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked Him,  “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”

“The most important one,”  answered Jesus,  “is this:  ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’  The second is this:  ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  There is no commandment greater than these.”

Ok, for starters we could spend a couple of sessions talking about this passage, the reasons for Jesus’ answer and who wrote it in this style.  But we won’t, because that’s not our point at the moment.

The point for us to ponder right now is why Christians consider God singular when there are three deities presented in the NT (New Testement)–i.e. the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  How can we even speak of “one” God when we have three distinct characters claiming to be God?

In Genesis we get the idea for how this started on the first day of creation. 

Genesis 1: 26:  Then God said,  “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

The phrase “Let us…”  implies plurality but doesn’t necessarily specify it.  In the most ancient scrolls available for the translation of this passage it uses the plural.  Most Jewish scholars discuss it as a abheration of the text or argue for it being the royal “us” as opposed to actual mulitiple beings.  In other words, just like the kings of bygone days, God used the plural to refer to Himself.  Kings would say things like,  “It is our judgment…”  or  “We have made a decision…” all the while only referring to themselves as a singular being representing the government as a whole.

In Jesus we get an expansion of what this text could mean seen in a different light.  To be quite frank His claims turned Judaism on its ear and kind of paganized it in their view.  One of the reasons Moses wrote about God being one was to stress the contrast between the God the Jews would worship as single natured (all good), head of state and Creator versus the rest of the world’s dual natured, warring and divided multiple deities.  Yet one other passage in Genesis gives us the clue as to how the Judeo/Christian God could be one but have mulitiple characters.  It’s found in God’s instructions to man after the creation of woman.

Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib He had taken out of the man, and He brought her to the man.

The man said,  “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman’ for she was taken out of man.”

For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.  Genesis 2: 22-24.

Did you catch the reference to being “one” here?

Many arguments and discussions have resulted from this passage and mine will be the least important you could probably read.  But follow me on this for a few thoughts.

God made man in his own image or likeness.  Since it doesn’t describe God physically, then this must mean we are made in “spirit” like Him.  Looking at it this way settles a problem of what God looks like to us.  Jesus clarified it even more talking to the woman at the well when He said,  “God is spirit, and His worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”  John 4: 24.  To understand why we are not like the pagan deities is to understand our God’s distinctive nature or make up:  He’s spirit and not physical in form like us, so how we comprehend the creation of man in reference to being like God is that man is made spiritually like his Creator.

Then how does this have anything to do with oneness?

The Wherefore, Why and Whatnot

May 29, 2008

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.  2 Timothy 3: 16, 17.

Let’s be frank, the above passage from one of Paul’s letters to his associate, Timothy, gives the believer no room to shrink from believing the Bible is the direct Word of God.  That said, what can we say about its accuracy?  Well, for starters we know that what we have is basically a translation, which introduces human error to the project.  Next, someone chose what is called the “canon” based on their understanding of the origins of the books.

Yet we know that the argument over certain passages and doctrines continues to divide the church of Christ in almost tragic/comical ways.  One will claim to have gained a new understanding of a verse or complete passage and another fixed on the traditional view of said reference objects to the point of either kicking the disagreeable person out or the disagreeable person leaves in a huff.  If this is the case for what we call Scripture, then how can anyone get past the debates that theologians have been having for two thousand years?

Easy, ignore them completely.  Or, if one must acknowledge them at all, then simply take the arguments they present with a grain of salt and move on.

No one knows the real authorship of the the gospels, though we have testimony from church fathers in the second and third centuries supporting the basic canon as it is.  This is quite a good argument in favor of the books being authentic but not conclusive by any means.  Who knows the motives behind the claims?  Who can authenticate beyond any doubt that the Bible really holds infallible truth?

I can’t and neither do I believe anyone else can either.

So why believe?

The basic message of the Bible makes sense to me.  In fact, I find the concepts of sin and righteousness to be pretty accurate in explaining the world as it is.  Whether we take Genesis’ account of origins to be metaphorical or fact, the basic moral to the story explains quite a lot about why the world’s in such a confused mess.

One other truth hit me when I first accepted that I believed Jesus to be the Messiah, and that truth lies in the fact that one must study the source material from its internal POV (point of view) not from an outider scholarship.  To understand the interconnectedness of the theme running through the Bible takes an insider perspective to make sense of it.

So the purpose of my study is to understand the Bible from its own perspective rather than imposing my own preferences on it.  If I accept or reject it, it must be because its own perspective is so cool or flawed, respectively, that the choice is obvious.  This is how I study it and explain it to myself.  What those who read this blog do with it is up to them.

Only  let’s remain open to the possibility that this could still be true or false no matter what we conclude.  For what it’s worth, we’re all in the dark as far as who rules the universe and making our best calculation based on the evidence at hand.  My bias and experience have led me here, therefore I am unapologetic in my trust in this God.  Let me show you why as you follow me through my study.

Devoted to Understanding

May 29, 2008

The purpose of this weblog is to allow me to share my Bible study time online.  Starting tonight I will be posting whatever comes to mind or the current book I’m studying (in the Bible there’s 66 “books”  which read more like poetry or short prose in some cases).

Though I plan to write some apologetics (the formal defense of an idea not expressing sorrow or asking forgiveness for it), I am not aiming to argue with anyone.  This is an informal way to write down what I learn or gain from the text; it also affords me a place to vent ideas that I sometimes need to see in print solidify.  I actually don’t mind discussions which are argumentative in nature but I refuse to quarrel with anyone.  Unless a comment is crass, crude or belligerant, I won’t delete or ignore it.  On the other hand, there are times where two people cannot see eye to eye on a subject so there’s just no use beating the subject into the ground if both are entrenched.

To be clear:  I choose to believe in Jesus as God, Savior of the world, my friend and alive.  I also wish to make clear that I don’t claim failsafe proof for this belief nor will I worry if someone disagrees with my stance.  I am pretty sure that my views on God are more open than most people I know, though I’ve chosen to stand with Jesus.

So, to help those who might read this blog or happen upon it, my first entry will be an explanation of why I choose Jesus as God, believe in a Trinity and choose a belief in the Bible as pretty close to infallible as man can expect.  In the same vein, however, I also wish to make clear that though I’ve chosen the Father, Son and Holy Spirit as my God (the singular noun usage will be explained later), I also understand quite clearly that I don’t know who really rules the universe or even if there is a consciousness behind it.  I might believe there is by the evidence I see around me but I cannot prove this beyond a shadow of a doubt.

Therefore I won’t try to prove it beyond using the evidence I experience personally and my growing understanding of the source of my belief–the Bible.