Posted by: mystic444 | November 7, 2012

Part 2 of Is Jesus God?

In response to my last article, Is Jesus God?, I received a very polite and courteous comment seeking to explain the concept of “the Trinity” and why the writer believes that Jesus is God. Because the points he makes are fairly common responses to people like me who deny the Trinity and the deity of Jesus Christ, I decided to make my response in the form of a blog article rather than just another comment.

Here is the comment on the article:

The Trinity is a tough concept to understand and to explain. So if you don’t mind, I will try to explain to you why I believe in the doctrine of the Trinity. First, I don’t think any human can completely understand God. But we can understand a lot about him. One of the things that I believe that jews, christians, and muslims can agree with concerning God is that there has never been a time that he has not existed. The way God is now and the way God was before the creation and will be in the future is the same, and he is not subjected to time. He always is the same. Ok, so you may be wondering why do I believe believe that Jesus is God? I mean he had a beginning and was born of Mary. John 8:56-59 has been a key verse in understanding the divinity of Jesus. It states “Your ancestor Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day: he saw it and was glad. Then the Jews said to him, ” You are not yet fifty years old, and have seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, before Abraham was, I am.” So Jesus is saying he existed before he was born. He must have existed in some other form. The key in understanding the Trinity is first understanding that there was a time this physical realm (where we exist) and the spritual realm(where angles exist) did not exist. Had Satan asked the Holy Spirit where he was before the creation of the spritual realm, he would have communicated, “before the spiritual realm, I am.”

I know you as Mystic444. If this was thirty of forty years ago, would I be correct in saying Mystic444 does not exist? No, (I am assuming your older than forty) you existed just different than you do now. You exist as Mystic444 because that is the way you can communicate with us in this cyberworld. I hope this makes sense. I am still trying to figure an easy way to understand a complex issue. I am just trying to get you to understand my view and why I believe in the Trinity. You don’t have to agree with me. Since you are well versed in scripture, I used it only once. Hopefully I gave you something to think about.

My response:

There is a verse in the Qur’an (Koran) – 16:125 – which says this: [Prophet], call [people] to the way of your Lord with wisdom and good teaching. Argue with them in the most courteous way, for your Lord knows best who has strayed from His way and who is rightly guided (Abdel Haleem English version).  It seems to me that your reply offers a very good example of what this verse advocates. Thank you for your politeness and courtesy. I will certainly try to be just as courteous in what I say.

You are quite correct in saying that the concept of “the Trinity” is very difficult to explain. In fact, in my experience, it is so difficult that every time someone attempts to explain it (other than simply quoting the creedal statements of the early Church Councils without further comment) he or she strays into what ‘orthodox’ Christianity would label as ‘heresy’! 😀 (In fact, it appears to me that some ‘orthodox theologians’ think that the Church Councils themselves weren’t careful enough in their terminology. 🙄 )

For instance, I remember my father trying to explain the concept of ‘three-in-one’ to me when I was either a preteen or else in my early teens (in other words, back in the ‘dark ages’ 😆 ). He pointed out that he was – at one and the same time – a father, a son, and a husband. He was a father to 3 children, a son to his mother who was still living, and a husband to his wife (my mother). The problem with this explanation is that it denies – or at least fails to affirm – the ‘personal distinctions’ of the ‘three persons‘ in the “Trinity”; and that is an essential element of the concept. The “Trinity” requires the idea of three very distinct and individual ‘Persons’ who are co-eternal and co-existent; they are able to commune and take counsel with each other. It is not sufficient to say that the ‘three’ are just various ‘roles’ that God plays from time to time, and various ways in which He is related to His creation. But my father was just one ‘person’, not three, despite the fact that he was related in different ways to other members of his family. He, in his role of ‘father’, did not ‘commune’ with his ‘roles’ of son and husband. Unfortunately, if my father had given that explanation in, let’s say, the 16th century, he would probably have been liable to be brought up on charges before the Inquisition for ‘heresy’.

In similar fashion, other explanations of “the Trinity” are also open to charges of ‘heresy’. The concept is not  only ‘difficult’ to explain, it is in fact simply impossible to explain; and that’s not only because it’s a ‘great mystery’, but because it’s frankly an impossible set of contradictions, otherwise known as “the doctrines of men”.

Now regarding Jesus’ statement of his preexistence in John 8:58 (before Abraham was, I am): the mistake people make here is that they assume Jesus was unique in his preexistence, and therefore presume that it means he is God. This is simply not true. All human souls/spirits preexisted the conception and birth of their physical bodies, just as they will continue to exist after the death of those bodies. Ecclesiastes 12:7 affirms this: and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it. This is also affirmed in the ‘apocryphal’ book “The Wisdom of Solomon” (contained in ‘Roman Catholic Bibles’). Verses 19 and 20 of chapter 8 say this: As a child I was by nature well endowed, and a good soul fell to my lot; or rather, being good, I entered an undefiled body (Revised Standard Version).

The Jewish opponents of Jesus were somewhat deceitful and hypocritical in their questioning of Jesus’ statement about Abraham having ‘seen his day’, and in their attempt to kill him for saying before Abraham was, I am. The fact is that both the Pharisees and the Essenes believed in the preexistence of souls, reincarnation, and karma. (The Sadducees, of course, since they didn’t even believe in the existence of ‘spirits’, obviously did not believe in their preexistence or existence after death.)

That this was a rather common belief (preexistence and reincarnation) among the Jews is evident in the disciples’ answer to Jesus’ question, who do men say that I am?. They responded that there were various ideas about who he was, including Jeremiah or another of the prophets. That is obviously reincarnation. It is also evident that the disciples themselves accepted this idea in that, as recorded in John 9, they asked Jesus whose sins were responsible for the supposed punishment of the man who was born blind: were his sins or those of his parents the cause? This question recognizes not only that the man’s parents lived and sinned before he was born (thus possibly being responsible for his blind birth); it also shows the recognition that the man himself lived and sinned before his birth into that lifetime, and therefore his blindness might have been a karmic consequence of those sins of a former lifetime. Jesus’ response did not deny that either the parents or the man himself had lived and sinned prior to the man’s birth; he just denied that the blindness was the punishment for any sin.

Jesus was not unique in ‘being’ before the birth of Abraham. In fact, the soul who became Abraham ‘was’ before Abraham was born. So were you and I; and we will return to God who gave us when we “die” as did Abraham.

Having said that, though, the fact is that the wording of John 1:1; 8:58; and 17:5 does not in itself necessitate the idea of the personal preexistence of Jesus Christ before Abraham was born or “before the world was”. John 1:1 refers to “the word”. What is a “word”? Is it not the expression of someone’s thoughts, intents, and purposes? In John 1 the idea would be that God, by His ‘word of command’, brought into existence the wise intents and purposes of His ‘heart’. And God said, let there be… The “word” which expresses His intents was with Him “in the beginning”, and being the purpose and expression of God, it was “divine”. Eventually, God’s purpose found expression in the birth of “the man, Christ Jesus”. As Peter said in 1 Peter 1:20, he was “destined” or “foreordained” (literally “foreknown”) before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for us.

John 8:58, then, could be Jesus’ statement that he existed in God’s purpose and foreknowledge before Abraham was born; and therefore it should not be surprising that Abraham foresaw his day (by a vision?) and was glad. In John 17:5, where Jesus asked his Father to be given the glory he had with Him before the world was, he could be simply asking the Father to grant him the glory which the Father had intended for him in His wise purposes. This would be comparable to the statements of the apostle Paul (in Ephesians 1, for instance) that Jesus’ brothers were chosen in him before the foundation of the world. To the best of my knowledge, ‘orthodox’ Christianity does not believe that Paul meant to say the elect were actually personally alive and present with God and Jesus Christ before the foundation of the world. Rather, they believe it means that the elect were ‘present’ in the predestined purpose of God before He even made the world. Even so, it could be maintained that Jesus was ‘present’ in the purpose of God, though he was not ‘personally present’ with God.

As I said, since I believe in the preexistence of all souls, and reincarnation, in keeping with other Biblical verses, I accept that such verses in John and the apostle Paul’s  writings do in fact carry an implication of personal preexistence. However, I don’t believe the words themselves necessitate such a belief. They certainly don’t carry the implication of the deity of the preexisting one (or those who preexist).

By the way, you’re correct that I’m over 40. Through the will of the Infinite, I have reached the age of 61. 🙂

 

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Responses

  1. Well you are quite right I gave only a partial explanation of the Trinty. If this was the 16th century, I would be sitting next to your dad waiting to be questioned about my statement on the Trinity. I did say that I do not think any human could completely understand God. Even if I did or you did, I don’t think there are words in any language that are adequate. I think that is why there are alot of analogies in the bible. I have to correct myself, the only human that completely understands God is Jesus. And he had trouble explaning it. John 14:6-7 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. In John 1:1, I agree with you on your definition of word. But to me and I assume, other mature christians, Jesus is the definition of God. What ever the human capacity of understanding God is, can be understood with our understanding of Christ.

    I was going to continue my views. But I am starting to preach. Just so there is no misunderstanding, I am not trying to convert you. I just trying to make it easier for those who have no understanding of the Trinity a little more of a understood concept. Isn’t that what our religions should do?

    There are somethings that are a little off the subject, like the preexistence of all souls, or reincarnation. What is your belief on preexistence and reincarnation?

    • Hello again, Rich G. Thanks again for another courteous reply. While I obviously do not know you personally, nevertheless if your brief comments here are a true reflection of your character, it seems to me that you make a very good ‘image’ of God’s anointed one, Jesus the son of Mary – even though I disagree with some of your beliefs about him.

      I don’t know whether Jesus fully understood God; but I do believe that he understood the Infinite as fully as is possible for a human being. And while I don’t believe I would say that Jesus Christ is the “definition” of God, I certainly believe he is the clearest ‘reflection’ and ‘image’ of God (or at least among the clearest) this world has ever known. Where I disagree with ‘orthodox’ Christianity is in its assumption that Jesus is somehow ‘unique’ in being the “image of God”, and that, by implication at least, he IS God. ALL of humanity bears God’s image; but while most of us have covered up and marred that image, in Jesus Christ it shone forth in complete clarity. This I believe to be what Jesus was talking about in the first part of John 14, to which you alluded. “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father”. This did not mean that Jesus IS the Father, but that Jesus clearly manifested the character, love, and power of his Father. It is the predestined purpose of God, though, that His image will shine forth in the ‘brothers’ of Jesus whom He foreknew as clearly as it does in Jesus himself.

      I did not consider the preexistence of all souls, and reincarnation, to be off subject; in fact, I thought its relevance to the subject at hand would be quite clear. You had brought up the subject of Jesus’ preexistence, claiming that this preexistence implied that Jesus is God. (You are certainly not alone in doing that; it is a frequent ‘argument’ of ‘orthodox’ and ‘evangelical’ Christians.) By showing that all human souls preexist their incarnations in physical bodies, I was seeking to show that Jesus was not unique in his preexistence, and that therefore such preexistence does not indicate that he is God.

      I do believe without hesitation in the teaching that all souls existed ‘before the foundation of the world’, and that we have lived many earthly lifetimes. I believe that somehow, at some point (or perhaps gradually), we lost our ‘experiential’ awareness of God and became ‘sinners’ (which is reflected in the Biblical allegory of ‘Adam and Eve’). The goal of reincarnation, then, is that we may gradually return to the awareness of God and to being clear reflections of His image. ‘Karma’ is the means of clearing away the ‘muck’ which we have accumulated and restoring that image over the course of many earthly lifetimes. I do not know whether the soul who became Jesus was among the rest of us who ‘fell into sin’, and that calling Jesus the ‘firstborn’ among many brothers indicated that Christians believed that Jesus was the first to regain the fulness of God’s image. I guess it’s obviously ‘blasphemy’ to ‘orthodox’ Christianity to even suggest that possibility. 🙂 Perhaps he is a soul who never ‘fell’ and who only incarnated to show us what the ‘perfect’ image of God looks like and give us guidance in how to restore that image in ourselves.

      To my way of thinking, all human beings are the ‘brothers’ of Jesus Christ, and will eventually be ‘saved’ and show forth that ‘family resemblance’. I have written a number of articles on ‘Universalism’ and ‘Reincarnation’. If you look at the ‘Categories’ section on the right side of my blog page, you will see a category labeled “Universalism/Reincarnation”. If you click on that link, you will find those articles beginning with the most recent. If the subject interests you, perhaps you could read some of those articles when you have the time. It would probably be best (though perhaps not necessary) to scroll down to the first of the articles (Reincarnation and ‘Near Death’) and go from there. However, I’m sure there wouldn’t be any problem with skipping around if you find certain titles that particularly interest you.

  2. I thank you for your kind comments. I am getting the feeling that I might be the exception instead of the rule with comments that you normally recieve. One of the things that I have realized when debating a certain point of view is that, just because a person wins a debate does not mean that, that person is correct nor if that person loses a debate means that he is wrong. One of my goals is to understand God better than I do now. That last statement will be true for my whole life time. And it seems to me that you, whether you realize it or not, have the same goal.

    Let me give you my view on the preexistance of souls. When most people use the word soul or spirit, they give them the some meaning. I do not. Soul is made up of our experiences and circumstances that we go through here on earth. It is what connects us to this world. Spirit differs in that it is made up with our experiences and circumstances that we go through with our relationship with God. So reguarding the preexistance of all souls, maybe. Since I believe that God is life and that he knows you before you are born, in a sense you are alive. But I do not think that you are moving around thinking, boy that sure looks like a nice place to be born. I think I will go there. It is not until the dimension of time is added, or I should probably say, it is not until it is your time to exist that you come into being. As far as reincarnation goes, I do not believe it. So how would I explain my mothers friend. Her son when he was little had asked his mother where his other mother was. Or how would I explain the experiences that other people have had? I believe that we are here for a reason. And lessons learned in others life may help you with your life. But you only live one life. Now your life may aid some one elses calling in the future but they are not you.

    The above statement is just made for a fun exercize of ideas. Though, I do believe it. I do not know if it is absolute truth. Just something I find fun to think about.

    • Rich G. – I am definitely enjoying your correspondence with me. I’m not sure what you mean when you say it appears that your comments are the exception rather than the rule. I guess it’s true that most comments are more approving rather than challenging. However I do get some of those ‘challenging’ comments from time to time. And I welcome them as long as they are not rude or crude.

      I am grateful that most of the comments are in fact polite, even when they disagree with my viewpoint. Some perhaps are outstanding examples of how to disagree politely. To me, your comments are among the ‘outstanding’ examples. Another person who has ‘disagreed agreeably’ is a man named Dan Martin, who authors a Christian blog I like to read (called Nailing it to the door – the link is also on the right side of my blog page under “Religion: Belief in God”). You might also find his blog interesting. He is not afraid to challenge ‘orthodox’ Christian beliefs, yet he is much closer to Christian ‘orthodoxy’ than I am. He and I had a nice exchange of comments concerning what Jesus (and the Psalmist) meant when he referred to “the stone which the builders set at naught” being made “the head of the corner”. That exchange can be found on my article Benjamin Netanyahu: Jewish People Not Occupiers in the West Bank, and led me to write some blog articles on that subject. (Who is “The Stone That the Builders Rejected”? and The Stone That the Builders Rejected.)

      I generally try to stay away from controversies over whether ‘soul’ and ‘spirit’ are the same ‘thing’ – and if they’re different, what is the difference. This of course may lead me to sound like I in fact don’t make any distinction. While differentiating between the two terms is not of great importance to me – so that I have no problems getting along easily both with those who believe that man is ‘tripartite’ and those who believe man is ‘bipartite’ – I do indeed believe there is a distinction though it’s no doubt difficult to define.

      My view of the distinction may or may not be accurate. But the way I look at it right now, I see “spirit” as referring to the impersonal life force which proceeds from God, the ultimate One True Spirit. I consider it is the ‘spark of God’ or ‘ray from the Divine Sun’ which is the most basic and essential ‘part’ of man. The ‘soul’ I consider to be the self aware “I” which distinguishes one ‘ray’ or ‘spark’ from another. That may not be a great difference, and you might not even think there is a difference. I believe both soul and spirit are ‘eternal’ and preexisted the incarnation in a human body.

      I also distinguish between the “person” (which is basically what I mean by ‘soul’) and the particular ‘personality’ which is formed in any particular incarnation of the ‘soul/person’. I believe that “I” remain the same throughout all incarnations; but “I” adopt many different personalities. I believe I have no doubt been both female and male. Perhaps one of my ‘personalities’ was a vicious warrior, while another was a complete ‘pacifist’. Perhaps one ‘personality’ was a complete materialist, while my current ‘personality’ has a deep interest in ‘spirituality’. Nevertheless, “I” am the same “person” who has ‘worn’ the various ‘personalities’ like costumes in a play. When the particular ‘play’ was finished, I discarded the ‘costume’ while retaining the memory of the ‘part’ I played. In the next ‘play’, the previous ‘plays’ may be forgotten for the duration, but “I” will remember them again when the particular ‘play’ is finished. In fact, I probably ‘subconsciously’ or ‘unconsciously’ am aware of the other ‘plays’ in which I have had a ‘part’ even while I’m playing another character in another ‘play’.

      That is how I view ‘soul’ and ‘spirit’; but that doesn’t mean that I will see any necessity to ‘argue’ about it with you or anyone else who may have another ‘definition’. And if you don’t accept the teaching of reincarnation, that’s perfectly fine also. While I am completely convinced of its truth, that obviously doesn’t mean that I think you’re “going to hell” if you don’t believe it! 😆 Assuming I am correct, you’ll become aware of the truth soon enough. (Of course the reverse is true also: if I am incorrect, I’ll also become aware of it soon enough. 🙂 )

      If you don’t believe in reincarnation, you of course will have to decide for yourself how such interesting things as you mentioned (concerning children who ask about their other mother, or talk about when they were ‘big’, etc.) fit with your beliefs. Plenty of children and adults have memories of past lifetimes (whether recalled naturally or under hypnosis). You’ll decide for yourself how you fit those memories into your belief system. For me, they’re solid indications of the reality of reincarnation.

      May God’s peace and blessing be with you as you continue seeking to know God better. It’s like what Paul said in Ephesians 3:19 about knowing “the love of Christ which passes knowledge”, isn’t it? We keep on seeking to “know God” while realizing at the same time such knowledge is ultimately beyond our capacity. Just because we realize that it’s beyond our capacity (at least presently) to ‘know God’ in fulness doesn’t mean that we give up and quit trying.

  3. Hi there

    I would like to foward you an email that contains a debate about the trinity i had with trinitarians on a forum. Can you kindly email me?

    Thankyou

    • Omar – Peace be with you; and thank you for the suggestion. I will most certainly e-mail you, and will be glad to get a copy of that debate (and read it).


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