Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Explaining the Holy Trinity

One of the most popular questions about the Christian faith is "what is the trinity?" The concept of God being three and one at the same time is nothing short of mind-boggling. For those who are considering Christianity it often can cause them to walk away confused. Before we talk about what the Trinity IS, we need to dispel some common myths and bad teachings that float around about the trinity.

Some people in a well-meaning attempt to help others understand the trinity in a simple manner will often use the following analogy. I'm a father, I'm a son, and I am a brother all at the same time ... It's the same way with God he's the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit all at the same time. However this is not the Biblical teaching of the Trinity... This is actually connected with a heretical teaching called trinitarian modalism. Essentially it teaches that there is one God who operates in three different modes, which is not taught anywhere in the Bible.

So what is the Trinity? Biblically speaking the word Trinity is not used in the Bible however it is a word that has been formulated within theological circles throughout church history in order to describe a clear teaching about God that is found in the Bible. The doctrine of the Trinity states plainly that there is one God in three separate persons, and they are in complete unity with one another in purpose, nature, and essence. Confusing right? Many people respond to this teaching saying, isn't this polytheism not monotheism?

Well let's take a look at the history of the word "one" in the Bible. Biblical monotheism is founded upon Deuteronomy 6:4- ““Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.” But was this the first place that this word "one" is used in the Bible?Taking a closer look we find the word “one” used in the Bible is in Genesis 1:5- “And there was evening and there was morning, the first day (yom echad)”. It describes two separate things, in this case evening and morning, coming together as one. The second time this word is used in the Bible is to describe the union of Adam and Eve in Genesis 2:24- “For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.” So, simular to Genesis 1:5 we see the Hebrew word “Echad” used to describe two persons becoming “one.”

So biblically speaking the word used to describe God as "one" in the Bible is a word used in its first occurrences in Scripture to describe two things or persons coming together in Union. So as far as we describe God as "one" this is what we mean when describing the father Son and the Holy Spirit as One God. Although there are three separate persons they are in complete Union, Unity, and perfect harmony with one another, they are, as a whole, the God of the Bible. Some theologians like to describe this mystery as God being “complex” in his Unity.

Take a look at the above chart for a visual reference. The Father is not the Son, but the Father is God, the Son is not the Holy Spirit, but the Son is God, the Holy Spirit is not the Father, but the Holy Spirit is God. A proper teaching of the Biblical Trinity is meant to cause one to walk away scratching their head. However shouldn’t we should expect such phenomenons when studying and learning about a God who created the universe with the word of his mouth and sustains the entire universe by the power of His might? A proper approach to Biblical learning is one that realizes there will be many things that we cannot fully comprehend about our great God who created this incredibly complex universe that we live in.

Some will say "isn't that Trinity stuff simply a New testament Teaching?" Doesn't the Old Testament teach strict monotheism? Well, if we go back to the beginning of Genesis as God Was preparing to create mankind is says in Genesis 1:26- “Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness.” Some have proposed that this was God speaking to the angels, however mankind is not created in the image of angels nor is there any evidence of angels having creative power like God. So as early as we see in the Biblical narrative we find the God-head which is ultimately revealed as the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit having a conversation with one another about creating mankind. We also, as mentioned earlier, know that the word for “one” can be used in a plural sense. As well as we find what are called theophanies in the Old Testament in which God appears in human form to characters like Abraham and Jacob in Genesis chapter 18 and 32. This is consistent with the reality of the Trinity in which God the Son can appear in human form to characters in the Old Testament while God the Father remained enthroned in heaven, at the same time God the Holy Spirit filled the universe with His presence.

The Doctrine of the Trinity in the Bible is meant to inspire reverence toward God in our hearts. Often times in our desire to achieve complete logical conclusions to every pursuit of learning we miss the point that the Bible is often trying to emphasize... That the God Who created the Universe is a God who in many ways is incomprehensible. Any God that can be reduced to be fully understood by the human mind is a God who is no God at all. The God of the Bible is worthy of all worship and truly fits what one should expect from a transcendent, all-knowing, all-powerful Being who spoke the entire universe into existence.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Creation vs Evolution

Back in 2014 Bill Nye the Science Guy and Ken Ham the Ark Encounter guy debated the popular topic of Creation vs Evolution with Bill Nye defending evolution and Ken Ham defending creation. But was this really what happened?

Neither of these gentlemen were uniquely qualified to fully hash out these issues being that Bill Nye is simply an entertainer and engineer without a degree in science and Ken Ham represents only one of the variety of Creation views in Christianity, namely, Young Earth Creationism (we’ll talk about that more later). Even so the debate has been viewed worldwide almost 7 and a half million times on the Answers in Genesis Youtube channel since it aired.

But what is this debate really about? Is evolution a scientific fact? Is Young Earth Creationism the only option for Christian theists to believe? Let’s find out...

What is evolution? It’s important to understand is that there are two different kinds of evolution when it comes to biological life. Micro-evolution and Macro-evolution. Micro-evolution is better known as adaptation, this kind of evolution is an observed fact affirmed by both creationists and evolutionists. It describes the process of how different organisms can make slight biological changes over short periods of time in order to adapt to and survive within changing conditions of environment. This however does not cause the organism to develop new organs and therefore become an entirely different kind of creature. That is, we have many kinds of frogs but they are all frogs… Many kinds of dogs but they are all dogs, and so on and so on.

Macro-evolution is what most people are more familiar with as it relates to Darwin’s theory. This kind of evolution posits that all of biological life came from single-cell organisms to it’s current state of complexity through millions of years of life gaining new organs, and functions over long periods of time through natural selection. That is, it assumes that if adaptation occurs many different times over millions of years it can actually take biological life from its original simple form to its current complex form. The problem with this is, nobody has ever or can ever observe a process that supposedly happens over such a long length of time. And the scientific method requires observable, testable, and repeatable experimentation to prove a theory.

Some schools of theological thought posit that God may have used evolution to bring life into existence, a theory called theistic evolution. But many Christians reject this on the grounds that evolution is a process in which “ the survival of the fittest,” which is driven by the death of weaker members of a species could not be a process that a loving God would use to bring life into existence. This also puts death before the fall of Adam which is not consistent with what the Bible teaches.

Let’s talk about all of the Creation theories related to Christian history. There are three major creation theories that theologians and Christians have relied upon when interpreting the Creation story of Genesis throughout church history. Young Earth Creationism, The Gap theory, and the Day-Age theory.

Ken Ham defended Young Earth Creationism in his debate against Bill Nye. This led many to believe that this is the primary way that Christians have interpreted the Biblical Creation narrative throughout history. This is not the case. Young Earth Creationism takes a strict literalist view of the Bible positing that God created the world in 6 literal days and that the Biblical genealogies can be used to mathematically calculate the age of the Earth, which when added up amount to anywhere between 6 to 10 thousand years. It also posits that the flood of Noah was a worldwide flood and is responsible for all fossil evidence that we find in the geologic column. Young Earth Creationism is appealing to many due to it’s apparent ease to fit within the plain text of the Genesis story, this is assuming that the Genesis was written with the intention to be taken literally. The challenges that this theory faces are primarily found within the modern scientific community having a consensus that the Earth is 4.6 billion years old.

The Gap theory takes a somewhat literalist approach to the Genesis Creation narrative however it posits that between Genesis chapter 1 verse 1 and 2 there was a long period of time prior to Adam and Eve in which biological life existed on the Earth. This life was eventually destroyed by a flood and then the Earth was reconstructed in 6 days leading up to the creation of Adam and Eve. This theory allows for an Old Age of the Earth but many Christians reject it because it posits something that the Bible does not specifically teach.

The Day Age Theory takes a non-literal approach to the Genesis creation narrative positing that each of the six days of Creation represent a long period of time. This theory relies upon the idea that the Hebrew word for day (yom) can be used to refer to both a literal day and a period of time. This theory also allows for an Old Age of the Earth but many Christians object to this approach because they believe it will create a precedent it which people can reinterpret scripture to be metaphorical on demand when it does fit their personal biases.

Jesus Christ taught that the world was created and he affirmed many characters in the early Genesis narrative to be historical people, but He did not specifically address the method of interpretation as it relates to the 6 days of creation and the age of the earth.

There are four things that all Christian must affirm as it relates to the Doctrine of Creation.

1. God created the universe in the beginning.

2. God created mankind in His own image.

3. Mankind sinned and is in need of redemption.

4. The atonement of Christ alone can redeem us from our sins.

If we can agree on these four things then we can have liberty to debate and explore the particulars as it relates to how to interpret Genesis as a whole. The key is having unity of the core issues and respectful discussion on the peripheral ones.

Written By: Kyle Bailey, D.Min.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Announcing our new format 5 minute theologian! will continue to be your resource for theological questions of every kind. With the tweet centered, news bite world we are now living in we have decided to reformat this page into a new effort called 5 Minute Theologian. The video clips will be posted on our YouTube channel CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE and the transcripts will be reformatted into an article form here on the website. Let us know what kinds of questions you want us to answer in the coming months! God bless!

Kyle Bailey, D.Min.

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