The Ultimate Hat-Trick of God in Four Sentences

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The idea that God is the ultimate hat-trick—that he is, at once, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—is something that has always confused and challenged … well, anyone with a normal, binary-style brain.

But we have only to look at the opening of the New Testament’s Book of John to learn all that we could want to know about the triune nature of God:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men.

And there it is. That’s … the whole three-portion enchilada, right there.

I believe that what John is expressing there is that God exists in three ever-present simultaneous modes: Absolute and unchanging, exuberantly creative, and within the heart and soul of every person. He uses the word God to refer to the absolute and unchanging aspect of God’s reality, Word to refer to the exuberantly creative aspect of God’s existence (by which, as we shall see, he means Jesus), and light of men to refer to God as the Holy Spirit.

Badda-bing, badda-triune nature of God.

Let’s break down John’s words to look at them more closely:

In the beginning

That’s the Big God, God the Father/Mother/Everything, eternal and unchanging—the same one, if you’ll note, that with the exact same words opens the Bible: In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

was the Word

The reason that John echoes Genesis’ In the beginning, God, with his, In the beginning, the Word, is to bring home the idea that the Word, which is Jesus, is God.

Attaching a word to something—naming it—is how you individuate that thing; it’s how you separate it from the giant, all-encompassing absolute that is everything else. That’s why naming something has always been appreciated as a sacred act of consecration: it’s the moment that bestows inviolate, unique identity. The name of what God is when God individuates—when he/she steps from the absolute world to the relative world—is Jesus.

and the Word was God.

That’s to again illuminate the point that God and Jesus are one—just as I remain the same person whether I am asleep or awake.

He was with God in the beginning.

Huh? Huh? Did you catch that, the way John so artfully transformed Word into He? That’s John making sure that we’re all fully tracking the idea that God and Jesus are one.

Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.

Now this is the radical moment in … well, the entire Bible. Because it declares that Jesus is the very means by which all of life is created: it is through him that all things are made. And though that’s not usually how we think of Christ–we usually associate the act of creation with the big absolute God—it’s perfectly right that we do understand Christ as the creative agent and catalyst for life. Because if you’re a Christian, you believe that Jesus is the means by which the very nature of your life is changed, is wholly recreated. It is through Jesus Christ that you are born again.

So yes, of course, you would be born again the same way you were born the first time: through Jesus.

Perfect!

In him was life, and that life was the light of men.

God the absolute became Jesus the differentiated, became the Holy Spirit so differentiated that he/she/it exists in the heart and soul of each and every person.*

And that’s the mystical triune nature of God, explicated in four short sentences.

And people say there’s nothing wondrously miraculous about the Bible.

 

* Many Christians, of course, believe that the Holy Spirit is awakened only in those who first accept Jesus Christ as, as they say, their personal lord and savior. I’m acutely uncomfortable with that assertion, as it so readily feeds into the conviction that only some people understand the truth. That conviction is how wars are begun.

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  • Susan Irene Fox

    John, couldn’t agree with you more about this. The Trinity is also quite evident (IMHO) in the first three verses of Genesis in a slightly different way. V1: God (the Father) created the heavens and earth. V2: The Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the water (just waiting…what a lovely image). V3 God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. (How many times is Jesus referred to as Light in the New Testament?) It wasn’t that this light didn’t exist before; it was that this light, which was God’s Light, shone to distinguish Himself from the darkness. From the beginning.
    This is why I love your writing; always gets me thinking. Thanks.

  • Kevin McFoy Dunn

    In one of the dozens of PDF-format facsimiles of 17th-century emblem books that I’ve downloaded for free from Internet Archive (I guess philanthropy’s not always entirely self-serving) appears an image of the Trinity as three mirrors reflecting each other — and nothing else. At least nothing else that I can see. (Yet.) The spotless mirror of Buddhism, except tripled. A different dynamic worked on the same symbolic physis; and to what end who may say? Aum bhur bhuvah svah.

  • Fiona Whitehouse

    I must admit I have never had a problem with this.There are many elements that exist in at least three states ( water being the most well known as liquid, vapour and ice).
    Makes absolute sense to me that God can therefore manifest in three different states, (that we know of) and that all these are powerful and make wonderful and awe -full changes. (Just think of glaciers, the sea and clouds and the changes they bring in the short and long term.)
    It intrigues me that three is also how humans are described by the originators of psychotherapy, as id, ego, superego for example, although my Rasta friend tells me that is because of the direct influence of their western centric thinking,

  • Fiona Whitehouse

    Oh, and I absolutely agree with your final comment.

  • sheila0405

    This is excellent. I’ll file this away in my brain to use later with my CCD class.

  • Tim

    Except that this explanation of God’s triunity would be considered modalism to a trinitarian. True Trinitarianism is incomprehensible, and that’s why modalism is the most common “heresy”, intentionally or unintentionally. I personally don’t see God as a trinity even though I agree that Father Son and Holy Spirit all refer to God. I think where we’ve gone wrong is in thinking that the Spirit is a distinct “person”. I believe the statements of scripture that say that God is one. An interesting development in Trinitarian thought concerns the Holy Spirit. Have you ever noticed that the Biblical writers as well as Christian writers during at least the first three centuries of Christianity, never addressed the Holy Spirit in prayer? Yet in our churches today, the Spirit is addressed both in prayer and in song. “Come Holy Spirit, we need you…” , etc.

    Why do you suppose the Spirit was never addressed in the first three centuries (or maybe more)? Could it be that the Spirit was not regarded as a third divine Person, but as an extension of the Spirit of the Father and the Son? That may be the reason that Jesus said that the Advocate (Holy Spirit) would not come to the disciples unless He first departed this life. (John 16:7). For while Jesus was fully human here on earth, He could not extend His Spirit or Divine Personality beyond the confines of his physical body.

    It is also written that the Lord (Jesus) IS the Spirit. (2 Cor 3:17,18) Which is as good an explanation as any as to how Jesus can live within all of us simultaneously. So I think that the Spirit and Jesus are just two names for the same “person”; what name is used pertains to the particular role or function being fulfilled.

  • Mimmo

    Sons have beginnings…period! God is a Spirit a Holy Spirit,,,You cannot crucify a spirit,,,that is why he had to create for Himself His own flesh body to indwell and work His plan and power through…it is and always be God in a Man ,,,,the truthy or to rightly divide the word of God is that God had no beginning and sons have beginnings there is only one God and He had a son…He this Great Holy Spirit reveals Himself in 3 offices…but the vessel he chooses to express himself in is NEVER God Himself…God is a Spirit PERIOD..The Word is a form, the meaning withing the Word is and always will be Spirit Form…or the very Life and life Giver and this all comes in and through a revelation of the understanding of what that Word form is trying to communicate with…the vessel is the Word and the thought expressed is the life, spirit life. God Himself…or Melchizedek Himself in a form of a man appeared to Abraham the father of our faith and the father of the royal seed of his faith in the promise made to him long before Gods own son showed up on the scene in Bethlehem as the promised messiah or the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the World. God is one…and He never had a beginning He always was yet he had a son…sons have beginings….the Godhead …there is the revelation.