BY DR. AGONSON
Okay, so you brought up a few different points, and I want to give answers to them; before I do, however, I’d like to pontificate a little regarding our positions: We are both believers, and I assume we have both experienced the spiritual. We both want to serve God, the one true God. Our goals, in this sense, are united. Our divisions come in points of fact: Primarily, the question regards Jesus. The tricky part comes in that, wanting each other’s good, we both run the risk of stepping on the other’s toes. I think myself sufficiently thick skinned that I would encourage you to be open and frank with me, but I, conversely, am unsure how far is too far as I respond to you. I hope then, as I try to respond, you understand that what I herein write is written in honest affection, desiring good for both our sakes.
The first point of order, then, is whether or not Christian’s are mistaken in calling Jesus God. I understand that your position holds most sources I would normally cite, i.e. biblical sources, as unreliable, and I, I am sure you know, hold a similar view of the Quran. Here our problems multiply as we fall into the convoluted subject of textual criticism. I considered providing what biblical proof texts I could and asking for proof of the corruption, and if you think this beneficial, I am more than happy to do so. However, I think a more general approach may be in order first: The central Christian claim on which our faith falls is an historic claim: The Resurrection of Jesus. Now, I understand second hand that the Quran is unsilent regarding the issue, and that the general Muslim position is that Judas (the betrayer) was crucified and people thought it was Jesus. I do not know if that is what you believe, or if that is even in the Quran. To be exact, then, I would like to know your position on the resurrection. If Jesus rose from the dead, then I think this a very good proof of His divinity and the Christian scriptures.
Now, how can I say that Jesus is God while still maintaining that God is one? I know I already gave a brief definition of the Trinity, but I love this doctrine and think it worth our time. What do we agree upon? God is one; God is the creator; Undoubtedly there is more, but these two points will suffice for now. How is God one? is the next question. In English we can say, “Those two are one,” and given the context, this will generally mean that they either think as one or act as one (or some combination of the two). Christians say of a man and wife that the two are one. What is meant by all of this? Obviously not when counting heads, not mathematically, do we find that a married couple or close friends or a man and his dog are one. The oneness is something we recognize, however.
Now, the same oneness shared in the examples above is not precisely what Christians mean as they speak of the oneness of God, but it does illuminate that there are different levels upon which we may understand the term.
Now why did I, in our last conversation regarding the Trinity, bring up creation, and even now bring it up again here? The question becomes, “Why did God create?” A human creator may have different motives: money, sex, fame, love. Does God want money? Sex? I think we would both laugh at the suggestion. What of fame and love? I separated these terms even though fame, in a sense, means wanting love, wanting love from another source. When I say, however, that a creator would be motivated to create by love, I do not mean that he wants love but that he loves, and that that love creates. When a creator creates out of a want for fame, his motivation is to receive love. When a creator creates out of love, he sees something, loves it, and expresses what he sees by giving it form. None of these motivations are exclusive of one another, but they all—save for the last—show a deficiency in the creator, a need to obtain more than himself. A fifth option presents itself to me, that a creator may create out of whim. I shall consider this anon.
Is God deficient? Does He create out of some want? The Christian answer is no. Accepting this answer, there appears to be only two remaining reasons for God to create (and I may have overlooked other options): Whim and Love.
Whim, by its nature, does not bear scrutiny. It has no deeper meaning, nothing penetrable about it. It is. However, that nature is unavoidably hereditary, by which I mean, something made from whimsy proper is not likely to itself inherit meaning. Why not? In human art we can say that something is whimsical and not be degrading it as meaningless. But this fact is missing the point. The fact that whimsy is an element within something created does not correlate to said something’s creation being whimsical. To the point: by whim I do not mean a carefree attitude or childlike wonder, but meaninglessness, purposelessness. A whim herein is like a flip of a coin where no thought or reason lies behind it. I reject this idea of creation simply on the grounds that it does not correlate to the observable universe. There is inherent meaning in existence or I am mad (and I suppose, us both enjoying the works of Lovecraft, we may have to question whether or not I indeed am).
I think the best answer for why God creates is that God loves. But the question then becomes: What does God love? If, as Christians believe, God is independent of His creation, then the creation itself is not the object of God’s love but an expression of God’s love. If creation itself were the object, then one would have to conclude that God was dependent upon God’s creation. God is one and the creator, and if my limited understanding of God hitherto laid out is correct, then I am led to the conclusion that the object of God’s love is God. God is the only thing in existence worthy of our love, or God’s.
Understand that in all this I am attempting to abstain from anything we would not find in common. I am in a sense trying to explain the Trinity without relying primarily upon the Bible. Please understand then, that Christians didn’t come to the Trinitarian conclusion from general revelation, that is nature, but from what we hold to be special revelation. I am now working in reverse to show from God’s creation, that is, from the general revelation afforded to all mankind, how this special revelation makes sense. As such, the next argument is weak: this is not meant as a conclusive proof, but would be better termed circumstantial evidence.
Creation which requires Trinity: In human (and generally animal) pro-creation, two come together and then are three. In art, there is the artist, that which the artist loves, and the art expressing what the artist loves. The Trinity is like, and I stress that this is simile, these relationships, or more correctly, Christians believe that things like sex are images God created to express what God is like.
So, what is the Trinity? God loves God: God (the Father) in loving relationship (the Holy Spirit) with God (the Son). Each of the three is, in essence, God, but the three are not each other.
There is more which can be, and has been, said on the matter, but my intention was to show how God can be three in one. I personally don’t mean it to be a proof (please don’t read it as such) but a literal apology, an explanation to primarily demonstrate cohesion, to show that Christians do believe that God is one even when they say Jesus is God. And as an aside, I love the doctrine of the Trinity for how convoluted it is. It is mysterious. It is, in the end, unfathomable: I, even as one who believes in the Trinity, accept that there are no final proofs of this doctrine within the Bible. The Trinity is unfathomable, and why not? God is unfathomable, and any explanation of God which isn’t is probably too simplistic.
Now, to recap: I think the primary reason why to believe in Jesus is the resurrection, and I think the Trinity explains how Jesus can be God, but what are all these words? In the end, all I have written to this point is pathetic: I have talked about God as if talking of an interesting specimen, something historically noteworthy. The reason is that God has always been closest to me in the exercise of my mind. The mind, though, must serve a purpose or be a useless machine squabbling over definitions and intuitions. The purpose of the mind is to guide the heart.
My hope in life is to spend it in service to God with all humility and submission. In this, I think we are agreed. And so my prayer is that I can see God, that I can strip away any mold or moss, anything which may color my perception. I believe that my theology is true, that it helps me to see God, but know God may strip it away; I believe that the Holy Spirit will enter the repentant heart and make it new, but know that the heart constantly seeks idols to replace God. I believe that in submission to God, in relation through Jesus to the Father, I am led. That then, is perhaps the point on which I would ask you to judge what I have said: It is all muddled argument, my best attempts to explain the unexplainable. If it has not the Spirit in it, it is nothing. If God chooses to reveal Himself, though, these poor words may be made into something of worth.
I look forward to engaging with you. We both have our opinions, and honestly wish to enlighten the other. I hope then, and I encourage you, to speak loudly and boldly. I will try to hear you.