Monday, August 11, 2008

All about God: Trinity (Adrian Reynolds)

Adrian Reynolds' basic English systematic theology is coming! Here's an extract, on The Trinity:
God is three persons in one
We are one person. Sometimes we may have different feelings, but they all come from inside the one person. One of the most important ways that God is different from us is that he is three persons. This does not mean that God is three different beings. Time and time again, the Bible calls God One. But as One being, God is also the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit – all at the same time.

This is, of course, very difficult to understand. We should not be surprised that understanding God is difficult – it is all part of him being different to us. In fact, the Bible does not try to explain how God can be three persons in one. Instead, it simply shows us it is true. How do we know God is more than one person even though he is one being? Sometimes God uses the words “we” or “our” to describe himself. The Old Testament (the first part of the Bible) also uses very different words (such as “the King” or “the Servant” or “the Spirit of God”) to refer to God.

In the New Testament, this becomes clearer. There are several parts of the Bible which refer to all three persons of God together. Christians call this [the Trinity] though this is not a word that comes from the Bible.

As it is hard to understand, we may think that it does not matter if we believe this or not. However, it is very important for everything else we know about God to get this part right. For example, later on we will say that God has always been loving. But God cannot be loving if he is not three in one. Before the world was made, whom did he love? How did he know how to love? The answer is that he loved himself. The Father loved the Son, the Son loved the Spirit, the Spirit loved the Father and so on. It is only because God is three in one that he can also be loving.

The Bible shows us clearly that the three persons are all fully God. The Father is God. The Son is God. The Holy Spirit is God. Yet God is also one being. So God is One and God is also Three. We often describe this using the words “three-in-one.”

The three persons of God do different things. For example, only Jesus the Son came to die on the cross. The Holy Spirit lives in Christians. But there are also things that all three do. The Bible teaches that the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit all took part in making Jesus come back to life after he was killed. We need to be careful that when we talk about “God” we know what we mean. Sometimes, in the Bible, God is used instead of “Father.” This is often the case in the New Testament. At other times “God” means Father, Son and Holy Spirit all working together. This is often the case in the Old Testament. The word “LORD” written in the Bible in small capitals refers to the Jewish name YAHWEH which Christians believe is God the three-in-one: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

This is one of the most important things we can know about God. It shows us that the God of Christianity is not the same as the gods in other religions. Hinduism, Islam and so on worship different gods, not the three-in-one true God.


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