Nature of God, Christology, the Holy Spirit…. History, Why and How they Developed and What to learn from it.
Throughout history, there has been many challenges that people at each particular point in time have to overcome. Some, they did peacefully, diplomatically, others by sheer force and mandate. It was no different, whether secular or religious. From the time Adam was created as narrated in the book of Genesis, humanity has gone through ups and downs, one upheaval or controversy after another. Dichotomy in understanding of God’s will by human beings continued into the time of Jesus on earth confronting traditional beliefs of the Sanhedrin, through the apostolic era, early centuries and up to this day.
Truly, there is nothing new under the sun as written in Ecclesiastes 1:9-10,
“The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.
Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us.”
The focus of this article is on the historical development of religious teachings, through thick-and-thin, that became today’s beliefs and to critically compare them with what actually were the core foundational teachings of man-Jesus. This will also explore the growth of the church, through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the original apostles and beyond.
Cases in point are the understanding of the nature of God, the Shema doctrine, and the Holy Spirit. As we delve into these subjects, a number of “isms” will be covered. First and foremost in our task is the controversy about the nature of God(1) leading to development of the Trinity Doctrine(2).
Nature of God
In essence, this controversy hinges on 2 unequivocal facts, coupling them with how the “church fathers” resolve their issues, viz.,
1. God is Spirit ( Christology, Trinity Doctrine, Holy Spirit)
There is no dissension that God is spirit-composed and those who worship him has to do this “in spirit and in truth”, as in John 4:24
“God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
As far as the Father is concerned, being spirit-composed, there is unanimity in calling him God. But this poses a problem for flesh-composed man-Jesus(described by Paul as “anthropos-Jesus”), as to how he could be called God when God is a spirit. Athanasius and Arius, both pillars of Christian religion in the 4th century, Alexandra Egypt, have different beliefs, especially on Trinity Doctrine imposed by Constantine in the Council of Nicea 325 AD. The Holy Spirit as God-person was added in 381AD. Their conflict was mainly on the nature and relationship of the Son to the Father, whether homoousios (of one or same substance) and homoiousios (of similar/like but not the same substance).They excommunicated and prevailed over each other depending upon who the Roman emperor (specific Constantine) was in power. Along the way, there were rapprochement among different factions and shades of beliefs, including the anhomoiosians. In spite of Ecumenical Councils and Synods, their differences did not get fully resolved to this day and were in fact adopted by mainstream Christianity.
For quick review of the history, please access references # 3,4,5,6,7. And for an exhaustive history of the Trinity Doctrine, see reference #8. Other religions have Trinity, as in:
“The Hindu trinity was made up of the gods Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. The Greek triad was composed of Zeus, Athena and Apollo. These three were said by the pagans to ‘agree in one.’ One of the largest pagan temples built by the Romans was constructed at Ballbek (situated in present day Lebanon) to their trinity of Jupiter, Mercury and Venus. In Babylon the planet Venus was revered as special and was worshipped as a trinity consisting of Venus, the moon and the sun. This triad became the Babylonian holy trinity in the fourteenth century before Christ.”(Ibid).
Specific to the subject Athanasian, Arianism, Unitarianism, Calvinism, Anabaptism, Adventism, Wesleyanism, Lutheranism, etc. please access reference #9
My personal take on these subjects is posted in: What is God?(1);
Trinity Deconstructed(2) and will be in my Summary.
On Holy Spirit, two schools of thought render it to mean either a “person” in the Trinity/Triune or that it is a unique power coming from and given by the Father to us through his Son-Jesus to enable us to follow the “law of the spirit” (Romans 8:2-4 ) to bring forth “fruits of the spirit”(Gal. 6:22-26).
Much like any gift, the Holy Spirit is indeed a gift and specifically a “gift of power” as in:
Luke 12:13 “ If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him? “
As parents, we give gifts to our children which maybe toys, special food, clothes, money, etc. But, with God, he gave as natural laws, like power from gravitational force, mechanical-electrical-nuclear-solar, etc for our own “empowerment”. They were given as “static energy” that became “dynamic power” the moment we got the knowledge and used it. But, the “ultimate gift” he promised to give through Jesus, is the “Holy Spirit of power”. It is available as “static power” that will become “dynamic power” as we receive it “in the fleshly tables of our heart” (Jer. 31:33; 2 Cor. 3:3) and learn how to use it and follow it’s guidance. And this gift of power is needed by humans because, as Jesus convinced himself 3 times (Matthew 26:36-46; Luke 22:39-46; Mark 14:32-42), we are “weak“ and needed this power from the Father to enable us to overcome temptation. Even Jesus needed it and was “baptized “ with this power to ward-off Satan who tempted him in the wilderness.
The Holy Spirit is not a person in a “triune God”.
Various positions on this question are well documented (10,11) and needed to be evaluated by all seekers of truth.
2. Shema Doctrine as in
Deut. 6:4 שְׁמַע, יִשְׂרָאֵל: יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ, יְהוָה אֶחָד
“Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is one”
This Shema had to be harmonized by Athanasians within the concept of Trinity/Triune, for which controversy again takes its root. For how could the Father, Son and Holy Spirit , being three persons, still be consistent with the Shema teaching that the “Lord is one”?
אֶחָד – Hebrew: “echad” can signify either a compound unity (Trinity) or one alone. So, how can one tell which definition is operative when studying a verse? The answer lies in the context, which is always determinative. Clearly, the word(echad) is referring to one alone, not a “compound unity”, and is unsullied monotheism (12;13) from Jewish point of view.
Could the interpretation of the word “one” be “lost in translation “?
After reading all the referenced citations, one cannot ignore the inescapable fact that the God of the Old Testament is the God Creator in Genesis, the El SHADDAI ( Almighty God; Ex. 6:3) to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the YHVH-Elohim(Lord God; Ex. 3:14; 6:2) to Moses, the Word according to apostle John (Jn. 1:1). This spirit-composed God of the Old Testament incarnated into flesh-composed man-Jesus(anthropos-Jesus according to apostle Paul; I Tim. 2:5; Rom. 5:15). As such, man-Jesus was divine and “from above”(John 3:31), heavenly. The Father that was introduced in the New Testament was actually the “Ancient of Days” in the Old Testament (Daniel 7:9,13-14).
The timing and proper introduction of the Father/Son relationship, in the New Testament, which was never done before, was after Jesus came out of John the Baptist’s water baptism at river Jordan(Matt. 3:16). By saying “This is my Son…”, he was identifying himself as the Father and expressing this relationship being pioneered by man-Jesus for the first time. And rightly so, for them to identify themselves as such, since they knew each other “from the beginning”. Although, they did not have that relationship beforehand , this was planned that way for the future. This relationship extended to “bring many sons to glory”(Heb. 2:10) in fulfillment of the promise made to YHVH ELOHIM by the Ancient of Days and expressed by El SHADDAI to Abraham and his “seed” (Gal. 3:16, 3:29; Gen. 12:2; 13:14-17;15:5). This sequence of events discredits the belief that the word “God” is limited to a “triune”, but extends to innumerable more as the stars in heaven . This encapsulates the “gospel of the God-kingdom”, a kingdom of immortal beings of “first fruits” at the second-coming of Jesus on earth, who were “born again” ( John 3:1-21) after human birth. This is not a spirit-composed angelic kingdom, nor matter-composed plant kingdom, animal kingdom or human kingdom. In fact, no “human kingdom” will last as in Daniel’s interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream (Daniel 2:1-45).
This God-kingdom is being built by the “carpenter-builder” Jesus, from flesh-composed to become spirit-composed beings, all “one” in spirit -composition and in following the wisdom of the Father. All will be distinct and separate but, hierarchically, with the Father at the top, followed by the “firstborn” Jesus-Son-of-God (the pioneer and Head of the churchbody) and everybody else under him.
As a man, Jesus had 2 components when conceived and delivered by surrogate mother Mary, viz., flesh + spirit of man and he became a “living being”. As a young man (Luke 2:41-52), he was ahead in the knowledge of spiritual things. He was “sinless” (2Cor.5:21; Heb. 4:15) and followed the Decalogue, much like Job who was “perfect in the eyes of God”(Job 1:8). But coming from a man, this “perfection” was “as filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6)and not acceptable to the Father. It has to be “righteousness of faith” (Rom. 3:22; Phil. 3:9) of Jesus (Rev. 14:12; Rom. 3:22; Gal. 2:16). Being the first to receive the promised gift (Acts 2:38)of the Holy Spirit, he was “baptized “ into (and by) at river Jordan(Matt. 3:16). Imbued with the Holy Spirit, he was empowered to overcome Satan’s temptation in the wilderness even after fasting 40 days and night(Matt 4:1-11). With this power of the Holy Spirit, he performed the first miracle turning water into wine in the wedding at Cana(John 2:1-12). He manifested in his life “fruits of the Holy Spirit” (Gal. 5:22-23) which are “righteousness of works”(Matt. 5:20; James 2:14-26) acceptable to the Father as they are products of the Holy Spirit. He was then rewarded to be an immortal “first of the firstfruits” (I Cor. 15:23), the “Son of God“.
And, so will those who he “called” (Matt. 22:14) to have “faith in Jesus” (Heb. 11:6; John 3:16) receive the gift (Acts 2:38-39; Luke 11:13) of the Holy Spirit of power to “chose” the will of God (not their own will; Luke 22:42), overcome and endure to the end (Rev. 3:21; Matt. 24:13), will also be rewarded (Rom. 2:7), like man-Jesus, with immortality, eternal life…”salvation from eternal death”.(14;15).
The word “god” is not just “lost in translation“ , but the interpretation was. It should be understood to mean the only one to be worshipped and others are “false gods”, although called“gods” nevertheless. Anyone with power is classified as “god”, viz., angels(like Satan the god of this world), kings and humans, although these “gods” should not be worshipped. Only YHVH ELOHIM, the only known true God in the Old Testament who incarnated to man-Jesus and who then subsequently directed us to worship the Father in the New Testament era and beyond. Deification of humans will be completed (16) as planned through a process and a path started by the “pioneer and perfecter” ( Heb. 2:1-18; 12:2) man-Jesus. From a flesh-composed man, Jesus became spirit-composed, manifested at resurrection as “Son of God”(17).
Hopefully we can now see that the Holy Spirit is indeed a gift of power, not a person, although, by grammatical usage, a person pronoun was used in the Bible. This is such a critical power in creating the “God-kingdom” that Jesus had to receive this directly, at his resurrection (John 14:16; 16:7), from the Father to then be given to those “called”. Without this gift, Jesus would not be able to “create a God-kingdom of Spirit-composed beings different from angels“, and we would not be empowered to be like him. Adam in Genesis tried to be “like God” with wisdom to know good and evil ( Gen. 3:5, 3:22) but failed because he did not have this power that was planned to be given as a gift by Jesus. Adam wanted to have this power on his own “works” and not “on faith” which is the principle intimated in the narrative that makes it a gift.
The long and short of it all is that the summarized analysis of history when harmonized with the Holy scriptures as we may be able to piece together at this time, (“here a little, there a little”; Isaiah 28:10) can indeed lead to the development of the true concept of a “God-kingdom” that was promised gospel from the narrative in the Genesis creation. The Father planned for us to have a “father-son” relationship, pioneered by Jesus Christ; this is an awesome gift that was implemented with the “gift of righteousness by faith of Jesus” and the gift of the “Holy Spirit of power” baptized into us for our empowerment.
May God bless us to “hear and see” the truth. 🙏😇
1. What is God? Retrieved 5/11/18 at http://fact-s.net/2014/06/29/what-is-god-2/
2. Trinity Doctrine Deconstructed. Retrieved 5/11/18 at https://fact-s.net/2014/08/06/trinity-doctrine-deconstructed/
3. Theology, Arius and Athanasius. Retrieved 5/12/18 at https://www.ukessays.com/essays/theology/arius-and-athanasius-theology-essay.php
4. Athanasius vs Arius. Retrieved 5/12/18 at http://www.cnjonlinehosting.com/historyandspirituality/2013/08/29/53-athanasius-vs-arius/
5. Early Christian Dispute. Retrieved 5/12/18 at https://www.google.com/amp/s/calvinlawson.wordpress.com/2008/05/15/arius-and-athanasius-early-christian-disputes/amp/
6. Arian Controversy. Retrieved 5/12/18 at https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arian_controversy
7. Athanasius of Alexandria. Retrieved 5/12/18 at https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Athanasius_of_Alexandria
8. Trinity History. Retrieved 5/12/18 at https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/trinity/trinity-history.html
9. On the specific “ism”. Retrieved 5/12/18 at https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/
10. Doctrine, Holy Spirit. Retrieved 5/13/18 at
11. Is the Holy Spirit a person or a force?Retrieved 5/13/18 at
12. Trinity-Shema. Retrieved 5/13/18 at https://outreachjudaism.org/trinity-shema-prayer/
13. The Shema. Retrieved 5/13/18 at
14. Salvation Series 1, What? Retrieved 5/16/2018 at http://fact-s.net/2015/10/04/salvation-series-1what/
15. Death, What is ? Retrieved 5/16/2018 at https://fact-s.net/2017/05/09/death-what-is/
16. Deification of man…Completion. Retrieved 5/16/2018 at https://fact-s.net/2014/07/12/deification-of-man-3/
17. Son of God. Retrieved 5/16/2018 at https://fact-s.net/2016/12/23/son-of-god-what-does-it-mean/
Original post: 5/16/18
Hyperlink version posted 3/12/19