Monthly Archives: April 2013
A Christian’s Heart 4-15-2013
The Godhead Theology
I don’t get the Godhead theology. See, for example, Charles Stanley’s message broadcast February 11, entitled Our Constant Companion and available here.
The reason I don’t get it is that when the Bible says that the LORD is one God (Deuteronomy 6:4 NIV 1984), it must by definition mean that there can be only one God entity in heaven: one God being with God’s mind, God’s will, God’s thoughts and powers and nature (Omniscient, Omnipresent, Omnipotent etc.); and that God’s Personality and Identity are unique. But if you read the statement of the Godhead theology below (taken from the Athanasian Creed), you get the clear impression that there must be three God entities in heaven. (I’m speaking of the spiritual entity, not of the distinct human entity that is Jesus Christ, the incarnation of the transcendent spiritual entity that is God.)
“… we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity, neither confounding the persons nor dividing the substance, for there is one person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Spirit, but the Godhead of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit is all one, the glory equal, the majesty co-eternal.” (quoted from The Agony of Deceit, Horton et. al., Moody Press, Chicago, Il, 1990, pp. 251 – 252.)
The statement, “not confounding the persons” above is interpreted today to say that the Godhead consists of three distinct persons. So what do the words “distinct” and “person” mean? Here are definitions:
A. Definition of distinct [in part, I’ve omitted parts that are not applicable to this topic]:
1 : distinguishable to the eye or mind as discrete : separate <a distinct cultural group> <teaching as distinct from research>
B. Definition of person [in part, I’ve omitted parts that are not applicable to this topic]:
1. A human being, whether man, woman, or child. [Not applicable to God as a spirit, but certainly applicable to the incarnate God, Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of Man.]
3. Sociology. An individual human being, especially with reference to his or her social relationships and behavioral patterns as conditioned by the culture. [This somewhat describes God who is a spirit. My italics.]
4. Philosophy. A self-conscious or rational being. [This seems most apropos.]
5. The actual self or individual personality of a human being. [The Transcendent God certainly has a personality: He has his own thoughts (Isa 55), feels anger, love, wrath, joy, etc.]
13. Theology any of the three hypostases or modes of being in the Trinity, namely the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.
C. Definition of hypostases[Used in item 13 above as it applies to theology.]:
a. one of the three real and distinct substances in the one undivided substance or essence of God. [My emphasis]
b. a person of the Trinity.
c. the one personality of Christ in which His two natures, human and divine, are united.
So if the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are distinct persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, I don’t see how any one of them can be fully God in Himself.
If, for example the person of the God the Father be distinct from the persons of the God the Spirit and God the Son, the Father must have an attribute we’ll call F that distinguishes His person from the others, though we might not know exactly what F is. F could be, for example, a single thought or set of thoughts that neither the Son nor the Spirit share. Or F could be an attribute of being unique to the Father, such as omniscience.
(In this vein, note that Jesus as the Son of Man, the “One God” entity incarnate in a human being, confesses that He does not know the day and hour of His coming. See Mark 13:32 in this context. Note also that in Charles Stanley’s sermon referenced above, he tellingly does not answer the question, which he poses, “What makes these three different.” I don’t believe he can answer it, quite frankly.)
In the same way let H be the point of distinction for the person of God the Holy Spirit from that of the Father or the Son. And similarly for God the Son, S.
(I’m speaking of Jesus as the from-everlasting-to-everlasting spiritual being, the “I AM” of John 8:58, rather than as the God Incarnate human being or Son of Man, whose lack of knowledge has been pointed out above and whose existence as a human man began in the timeline of Creation with His incarnation. “Today I have become your Father” says the Divine spiritual Jesus of the incarnate man. See Psalms 2:6 – 8.)
So the person of the Father has neither the distinct Holy Spirit attribute, H, nor that of the Son, S. Likewise the person of the Son possesses neither the F nor H attributes. And the person of the Holy Spirit possesses neither the F nor S attributes. Since “God” the Father possesses neither the H nor S attributes He in Himself cannot be fully God, because He’s missing these two God-related attributes. Similarly for the Holy Spirit and the Son. So the Godhead must consist of three distinct beings which share all the attributes of God except that which is unique to each: the Father does not have attributes H and S, the Son does not have attributes F and H, and the Spirit has neither the F or S attributes. (This Godhead theology reminds me of particle physics where various sub-atomic particles called hadrons like the proton or neutron are said to be made up of three quarks.)
Can this really be true? Do we really mean to say that God the Father (who is also the God of the Old Testament) is not fully God in Himself? That the everlasting I-AM Jesus (John 8:58), who is the revelation to Creation of this transcendental, unknowable, everlasting God, is not fully God in Himself? I can’t imagine that we do.
But if this is not true, how then can God be three distinct persons? How can there be a Godhead at all? How can the word “person” as used in the various ancient creeds have any real meaning at all? How can these creeds as regards the Godhead be anything but a statement of theology that is really empty of meaning?
The other thing I don’t get is why one has to accept the Godhead theology or be branded a heretic; that is that one must accept the Godhead theology to believe that Jesus Christ is both Man and God.
Jesus Himself has said that “… before Abraham was born, I AM.” It seems clear to me that He was identifying himself as the incarnate spiritual being we identify as the God of the Old Testament, who spoke to Moses out of the burning bush. We know for a fact that at the time He spoke to Moses, the human Jesus, the Son of Man, had not yet been born, so the Son of Man, the human man, Jesus Christ did not yet exist. (There is no Scripture that I know of that claims any human being exists before he is born.) That is part of Jesus’ human nature: the God of the Old Testament coming into the timeline of creation as a man to save us from our sins. And the Lord Jesus Christ, as referred to by Paul in his letters, is even now God incarnate as well as God, the Lord Jesus Christ, who created all things.
The apology for the Godhead theology is that the church has believed it for over 1,700 years, so it must be true. Well, the church believed that Scripture itself taught that the earth was the center of the solar system (Geocentric theory) for over 1,000 years. See a quote from Martin Luther in article IV of this paper claiming that Scripture, and by implication the Holy Spirit Himself, backed this theory. Yet this was proved wrong by simple observation.
As I’ve considered this perspective on the nature and being of God, I’ve come to believe that because we have divided God, the body of Christ itself has been riven with division over the centuries.