A DIALOG WITH BEN MYERS’ “TWEETING THE TRINITY” #19, #20, #21 Marty Folsom, PhD

This continues a dialog with Ben Myer’s blog post statements 19-21 on how to avoid heresy with the Trinity.

  1. UNDERLYING PRINCIPLES OF THE DOCTRINE#19. The canonical principle. OT and NT are a diverse but coherent witness to one God

This is true. But we cannot assume that a person is able to go to both testaments and see the nature of the oneness and the threeness without some context for understanding. In the same way, one would not expect someone to be able to see that the sun and the stars are the same thing. One is not intuitively aware that the experience of stars is just one set of lights seen in the night (unknowingly made invisible in the day by the brighter star) and the other light, the sun, unmistakably defines what we call day and enables our vision by its rays. One has to be given insight to see their similarities and why we observe them as different. But our distinctive observations do not override their essential similarity. Wisdom reveals their proper relation to each other in due time as we learn the mysteries of the universe and attune our thinking.

Both OT and NT do affirm one God. Having seen that the NT reveals Jesus who has come to show us the Father and the Holy Spirit, we can then go back and see that there were “stars” that had not been seen for what they were. Then the Son came to make visible the actuality of what was there all along. Wisdom allows us to remain open to the deeper reality beyond immediate experience or first readings.

Reading the OT and NT as a novice, one might, at times, think there is a different God in the two parts of the Bible. But the NT shows that Jesus’ task is to bring into focus the unity of life that has been lived as the Father-Son-Spirit God since the creation of time by existing as the one God. When we think of the One God, we should immediately think of the Three revealed in the NT. When we think of the Three, we should be quick to acknowledge this is the One God revealed as a personal being in the OT who covenants with Israel on behalf of the Nations. The NT is the fulfillment of the One God, reconciling humanity to a restored relation by the activity of the three persons who act from one free, loving being in the harmony of their three ways of going out to redeem humanity.

We need the whole Bible, and eyes to see the interrelation of OT and NT, to understand the one God in three Persons.

#20. The creation principle. The one God is creator of all things and so is not on the same plane as anything else

Agree. We cannot begin by looking at the created world to see that God’s uniqueness is entirely different—and many look for traces of God in the world (but usually find echoes of themselves). But the Bible reveals that the God who creates the universe is Wholly Other than what is created. In Creation, God is not working with pre-existing material, as though there is a greater existence in which God and world are both subsets. God makes that which is other. The study of theology is to engage all the ways God, as Creator, gives meaning and purpose in making, sustaining, interacting with, and moving the world to its intended end of being restored to God’s loving purposes.

All three Persons of the Trinity are involved in Creation. Therefore, we cannot call the Father Creator and the Son Reconciler, and the Spirit Redeemer—all three persons are involved in each aspect of relation in the history of their engagement with the world.

While we stand in awe at the immensity of the universe, we must see that its orderliness and purpose is created by a greater personal being who acts to bring into existence all that we call the material universe. It is orderly and purposeful as a result of the creative being of Father, Son, and Spirit who became Creator at Creation. God is greater than all creation and stands outside it. Therefore, we call God Creator as a co-commitment to the belief that there is a creation. Each implies and includes the other in their particular way.

The Father was always Father of the Son, and the Spirit always the Spirit of Father and Son. Those ways of being are eternal and infinite. But in Jesus becoming human, we had the full disclosure of the One God who created the world with the unified collaboration of all three persons who always stand in a unique place as the Creator of what is created. If we try to get to the Creator by thinking that God is the same as, or limited to this created universe, we will have made a category mistake, like thinking a piece of art is equal to the artist.

Religion and mythology are born when we stop seeing the uniqueness of God as Creator and begin to see our own needs or interpretation of the universe as the first truths, and then fit gods in, to meet our needs and ideals. The Creator God made us and comes to us to show us what is otherwise unknowable. The gods of religion are projected from our desires and wishes to formulate ideas and ideals in the form of the gods. This was the critique of Freud, Nietzsche, and Marx. On this point they were on to something, in that much “god-talk” and religion is created by human construction. They were wrong in that they failed to take seriously the Creator who is revealed in Jesus.

God is unique, and must be known in a manner distinct from creation, but must also be seen as the One who brings meaning to creation.

#21. The spirituality principle. God is spirit. God has no body and is not comprised of anything like a material substance

Again, agree, but we must take care not to think we know what “spirit” means when referring to God, especially by thinking it is a grander form of our human spirit. God is able to enter the human sphere of spiritual being and take on our humanity because God made us in God’s image. But God is not limited to that form of being, except when entering our humanity to make God’s being known and to mediate a relationship with the God who is other-than our human mode of being.We glimpse the mystery of spiritual being, but we cannot fully grasp it with God or even ourselves. But we need not avoid the spiritual, for we are made to flourish as spiritual beings prepared for connection with God by God’s Spirit, through the ongoing work of the Son, and ultimately to know the Father who created us. Mystery does not mean disconnection; mystery is a proper respect for the knowing engagement with that which is vast and wonderful, and finds fulfillment in that meeting. We discover fulfillment, not in meeting the limited physical God, but by the awakening of the eternal Spirit who knows us by name and speaks to us by His Spirit. Authentic love always contains a grand element of mystery. God is not on the periodic table of the universe. God’s personal nature is revealed in Jesus as one that is capable of interaction with the personal beings who are God’s creation—humans—but God is not a big human with a human body—that is not part of God’s essential way of existing. The Incarnation, Jesus becoming human, was also new for God. God is original in making the world for beloved inhabitants, and also in inhabiting it for a relation that is an outworking of God’s creative and loving way of being.

God makes the world of material substance, and so we can enjoy and give glory to God with thankful hearts for all that God provides. But we cannot mistake the being of God for the provision of God. However, all our sense of being provided for—with air, water, wind, seasons, food, bodies, our complex biological and interpersonal workings—all of these are intended by God to give us life as physical beings who also relate as created spiritual beings dependent on the Creator Spirit. Therefore, we can give thanks to God in all things because God, as Spirit, meets our whole being as physical-spiritual beings who are the delight of the Father-Son-Spirit activity of care and sustaining.

While God is Spirit, and not made of the stuff of this world, all that is made as material substance is the fruit of the Triune love in action. So we can never think “That’s just spiritual” as though the spiritual neglects the physical. There is one world, one universe, created by One God. But we can see that all the particularities of this created world are the work of this masterful God and understand that it all holds together in Him. The Spirit God is implicitly at work in the material world.

God is not material, but holds the creation together by the work of God’s sustaining activity. What did they hear on the day of Pentecost? About the might acts of God. What did Paul say to the Athenians?, “In Him we move, and breathe and have our very existence.”

We must hold together the God who is Spirit and the world who is sustained by this God while acknowledging their difference.