Monday, December 3, 2007

The Nature of God: Part 1

The Nature of God
A Brief Explanation:

Through the last few months, my life has been intensely focused on seeking God and desiring above all else to know Him more intimately. I have sacrificed much of my time to this pursuit and God in His infinite grace and mercy has answered me in unexpected ways, and in His answers, I have begun to understand more and more about His nature and in that understanding to love him all the more.

 I have tried to share these revelations with people, and have tried to write them down several times, but my words never seem to encapsulate the simplicity of God’s words, and I stumble over the finitude of my communicative abilities. However, over the past few days, I’ve felt God’s call to start setting down what He’s shown me about His triune nature, so my purpose is to keep my words as simple and reverential as one should be when speaking about an infinite, holy God.

 If you take the time to read what I’ve written, I urge you to read the scriptures I’ve included in the larger context in which they appear. I wish I could just include entire chapters of scriptures, but for the sake of brevity, I’ve tried to condense the message to the most concise sections.

My Earnest Prayer:

Lord,

Give me words to speak that you might be glorified and not me. Guide my hands, renew my mind, let me not lean onto mine own understanding, purge all that is contrary to you from my mind, let my words be a reflection of you, and give understanding and discernment to those who read these words by the power of Your Spirit, so that no one will unduly value my words above You.

Amen

Part 1 - Imagio De Trindade

In my BC days, I read an article about the work of Michael D. Lemonick, which led me to the work of Steinhardt and Turok and ultimately made me consider the possibility of parallel universes not in the fantasy of science fiction but in the absolutes of reality. Their theory posits the existence of a parallel universe (maybe several but at least one) that exists a mere proton’s breadth out of sync with our own. 

Certain forces move between the universes, like gravity. These forces bind the universes together like glue, and while the universes are separate and invisible to each other, actions that affect these forces, must cause some interaction between them. The mathematics of string theory supports the existence of this other universe, and there is hope that the French particle accelerator expected to be finished in 2010 will provide indirect physical evidence of its existence. At the same time as I was delving into the mysteries of the physical universe, I was working on my thesis on the works of St. Augustine, particularly his treatise De Trindade (Of the Trinity) and its influence on medieval drama. But since I was approaching Augustine with a secular interest, I didn’t seriously consider the two (physical reality and religious writings) to be connected, but after I surrendered everything to God, something clicked.

Perhaps this theory can give us a glimpse into the nature of God’s triune nature? There are numerous references in the Bible to a world unseen, one that exists around us, that affects us and we it. Colossians 1:16 says,

“For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.”

For the sake of clarity, I will refer to the visible/earthly realm as “the physical” and the invisible/heavenly realm as “the spiritual” from this point forward. If we view the physical and spiritual realms as parallel universes just out of sync with one another, an understanding of the Trinity becomes clear, and a clear understanding of the Trinity will ultimately lead to a revelation of the nature of God.

Augustine used common examples like the roots, the trunk, and the branches of a tree to explain the Trinity. Each is a separate aspect of the tree, but all are equally the tree. He also attempted to explain human beings in the sense of a triune being. After all God says, “

Let us make man in our image” (Genesis 1:26 [NIV]),

so if God is triune, human beings must inherently be triune as well. Augustine tries several combinations of a triune nature before settling on mind, understanding, and will as his best explanation for human trinity. However, the aspects he chooses are very much Platonic in nature, aspects of what the Greeks referred to as the anima or soul. Freud would later adopt these aspects as the id, the ego, and the superego. And while these aspects do have merit in terms of our actions and the bible’s accounts of the soul’s choice between good and evil, the bible also makes it very clear what humanity’s trinity is in context to the triune God, and it is NOT a separation within the soul of man, just as God’s trinity is not a separation within the soul of God. 1 Thessalonians 5:23 says,

“May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you wholly. May your whole spirit, soul, and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (NIV).”

The wholeness of man is three parts: body, soul, and spirit.

Augustine was a neoplatonist and by association thought everything physical was bad, that the trinity of God and the trinity of humanity could not be physical, but the Bible indicates that the trinity of humanity does include the physical, not only in 1Thessalonians, but also in the creation, and the scriptures are adamant about the physicality of God; 1 John 4:2-3 says,

“This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world (NIV).”

In John 4:24, Jesus says,

“God is a spirit, and those that worship Him must worship in spirit and truth”, and then in 14:9 He says, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father (NIV).”

So, if Jesus came in the flesh (physical) and claimed to be God, and God is spirit, God must be both physical and spiritual, but also something else beyond both of these two: something to which the physical and spiritual submit, after-all in John 14:26 and in other places Jesus says,

“But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you (NIV).”

The Father sends the Spirit in the Son’s name, even though Jesus has already said He is one with the Father and the Father is one with the Spirit. They are one but separate and the Father is the controlling aspect. He is the force moving between the physical and spiritual that holds the two together. Since man was made in God’s image, it stands to reason that man’s composition would be similar. Genesis 2:7 says,

“The Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the spirit of life, and the man became a living soul (Literal Translation).”

God breathed a spirit into Adam, which brought his soul to life. God created the animals and gave them souls, yep that’s right, animals have souls. In Genesis 1, the Hebrew words used to describe the creatures/animals are “nephesh chay” which literally translated mean “living soul”, the same words used in Genesis 2:7 after God breathes life into Adam. The difference between humans and animals is not the existence of the soul but the spirit. Got spoke the animals’ spirits into existence, a powerful work of the physical nature of God, but He incorporated all the power of the trinity into the creation of humanity, commanding via His soul “let us make man in our image”, creating with His body, “formed man from the dust”, and instilling power via his Spirit (breathed the spirit of life). Animals having a living soul is not the same as human beings having a living spirit. Consider the two universe example yet again. Just because your couch exists in this universe, it does not mean it exists in the other, but the force of gravity it exerts transcends the divide, and it affects and is affected by both. Similarly, your dog may exist in the physical, but that does not mean it exists in the spiritual, but its soul affects and is affected by both (see the stories of Balaam’s donkey and Legion and the swine).

On the other hand, human beings were created to live in both worlds simultaneously, connected to God physically and spiritually. When Adam and Eve fell; they died immediately, not physically i.e. they remained living souls, but the living spirit that made them triune beings died, and they were separated from the spiritual world, although the actions of their soul and flesh still affected and were affected by that world. Ephesians 2:1-2 says,

“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air (NIV).”

Their flesh was also sentenced to death, as their soul and body deteriorated without the spirit of life. However, the good news is that God embodied His physical nature in a man and came to pay the debt of death imparted at the fall, so that our spirit might be renewed by the impartation of His spirit, so like Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well, we could worship Him in spirit and truth just as we were created to.

The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life – Jesus (John 6:63)

***To be continued in Part 2 – Jesus: The Physical Aspect

2 comments:

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Chris Appicelli said...

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