This article is an early attempt to consider the biblical concepts of the trinity along with the body, soul, and spirit as three different (but related) things. The viewpoints expressed here go way beyond tradition. It is an ongoing development, an exploration of a theme. I will likely come back and modify this post.
Consider it an academic exercise. It is not a valid or complete belief system.
The Christian Bible contains a number of concepts of trinity. A proper understanding of these vastly simplifies biblical interpretation and eases understanding. Unfortunately mainstream Christianity has gotten it wrong.
Note that among these trinities, the one thing lacking is, well, The Trinity™. The Trinity was legitimized when the pagan Roman Emperor Constantine convened the Council of Nicaea in 325. The Council of Constantinople in 381 solidified this as doctrine. Most modern support for the Trinity comes from tradition, confirmation bias in biblical interpretation, and the King James Version Bible based on insertions to manuscripts that were sourced after these events. The latter of these is the reason why almost all modern translations of the Bible do not include overt references to Jesus as divine. For example, compare the KJV to the NIV. It is interesting to note that Jewish and Islamic traditions consider the Messiah to be a human prophet.
The idea that God is made up of three distinct natures (Father, Son, Holy Ghost) while still one being is difficult to understand. Most traditions label this as a great mystical “mystery”, which is code for “we can’t explain how it would work logically”. It is why many, including thinkers like C.S. Lewis, struggled with the concept.
Shockingly to most, Jesus never claimed to be God, but often spoke to the contrary. He is God’s messenger, God’s Messiah (Anointed One). Jesus is High Priest. He is greater than Abraham, the father of nations. As God’s designated agent on earth, he spoke God’s words with full authority. He is God’s Son. He was the first to be reborn and is our Lord. He sits at the right hand of God the Father. He is lower to no one but God, but is not himself God.
The Bible uses the metaphor of Wind, Blood, and Water to represent the three possible natures of created beings. This use is consistent from Genesis to Revelation.
- Water. Body. World Awareness. Least.
- Blood. Soul. Self Awareness.
- Wind. Spirit. God Awareness. Greatest.
The body is the physical. The soul is the mental, emotional, intellectual, personality. The spirit is the god-connection, the spiritual. The spirit can be thought of as a phone line to God. The soul is where the essence of your being resides, or more accurately it is ‘you’. Note that this is not the same as the Platonic ideas of a mortal body and immortal soul. The Bible, while using common words, is not referring to the same thing.
Plants have bodies. Animals have body and soul. Humans (including Jesus) have body, soul, and spirit. Angels are spiritual beings that have no body or soul.
The creation story notes that man was created in God’s image and God’s own spirit breathed life into man. Your soul, who you are, was created when God breathed his own spirit into your body giving it life. Your spirit is the “spark of the divine” or the “life essence” within all of us. The spirit plus the body produced the soul. The life of animal (in body and soul) is not the same as the human (sentient) life granted by the spirit inside man.
God is made up of three parts: the spirit (the Holy Ghost), the soul (the Father), and the physical (his Word). That God’s physical form is the Word and that the Word became flesh (a literal body) in the person of Jesus does not make Jesus divine. As Jesus represented God, the word of Jesus was the Word of God. But Jesus the human was not God, he only spoke for God as was promised to Moses. In the same way, angels bear the message of God, speaking God’s words, but are not themselves God.
The tabernacle and later temples had three main parts: the Courts where the common people could be, the inner Holy Place where only the Priests could go, and the innermost Holy of Holies where God dwelt. When the Bible says the body is a temple, this is meant both literally and figuratively. The spirit is the dwelling place of the spirit of God within believers.
The spirit and the body are in a constant fight for the soul of man. Sin separates man from God. It cuts off the spirit of the unbeliever from God. Before Jesus, when a body was defiled or unclean, this defiled the soul and prevented the spiritual connection to God. God can still poke and prod you and you can still pray to God, but there can be no relationship, no true spiritual understanding.
Just as water is required to purify the body, a blood sacrifice is required to purify the soul and restore the spiritual connection. When Jesus died sinless on the cross and was resurrected, he became the final blood sacrifice. This is the great circumcision, the permanent ‘separating’ of the corrupt influence of the world through the body from the soul. No longer is man slave to the sins of the body (that is, the world), but instead ruled by the spirit of God that resides within him. This is why the Old Testament ceremonial laws no longer apply and why no other sacrifice is required.
The message of Jesus is so shocking: those who accept Jesus as their Lord become literal children of God. This is the priesthood of believers, part of the body of Christ. In the same way that Jesus came and was elevated to be with God after death, the same is promised of his followers. At the end of time when all are judged, Jesus identifies his followers and these are resurrected, given what I can only understand as literal new bodies, to live with God forever in eternal life.
What happens to those who do not believe? The Bible states what while anyone can destroy the body, only God can destroy the soul, the essence of your being. The penalty for sin is [soul] death. Those not redeemed through Jesus are thrown into fire and completely consumed. There is no eternity of pain or bliss. There is only permanent annihilation, as the fire (that is, method of punishment) is eternal and cannot be quenched. This is known as the second death and occurs after judgment.
In this God shows his great love. He would rather you experience life for just a little time and be destroyed than to not have been born at all. The punishment will be the knowledge of what you could have had, but God is no sadist and no one will suffer ongoing punishment for eternity. God takes no pleasure in the destruction. He would rather all are collected to him. This is beyond heartbreaking, to have the opportunity to live forever but to chose death instead.
The message of Christianity is simple: Sin destroys the spiritual connection between God and man. The punishment for sin is death. Sacrifice is required to restore the bond, and this sacrifice takes the form of Jesus, who was the Word of God in the body, was sinless, and died to pay the blood price. He was then resurrected, given a new body, and now sits on the throne next to God the Father. We are given the same opportunity to restore the connection to God and live forever by believing in Jesus and following his commands.
The body is weak and the soul easily led astray, but the Spirit of God within believers never wavers. This is why faith is required and works cannot lead to salvation. No matter how good you are, you will eventually slip. Yet your soul is safe in the care of Jesus.
For unbelievers, the reason Christianity often makes so little sense is because the spiritual link with God has been damaged by sin. How can you communicate with God if the proverbial phone cord has been cut? There can be no direct revelation without that connection. This is why we have God’s word in print and why Jesus was sent. It is why becoming a Christian is sometimes described as a “leap of faith”. Salvation is like the opening of a blind man’s eyes to sight. Those who believe understand the nature of God because the Holy Spirit has revealed this to them through the spirit. You can’t see the supernatural if that part of you is dead.
Free will is being able to choose freely. For God to show himself in undeniable proof would destroy free will. Yet there is evidence aplenty for all those who seek it and understanding for those who choose to accept it. Many have been brought to faith in Jesus through the witness/evidence/testimony of other Christians.
The Word of God states that if you seek God, you will find God. Your sincere prayers will be heard and they will be answered. But beware self-delusional, fake seeking. It’s easy to put on a good show. There are preachers in Christian churches who have no relationship with Christ. To avoid self-deception, the search must be honest and an active choice. Belief is never compelled.
Do not believe the delusion that following Jesus is without cost. The reason to choose Christianity is not because it sounds best (it may not), but because it is true. The benefit is eternal life, although that is not to say there are no benefits on earth. Any Christian can attest to that.
Note on Divinity
The notion that Jesus was not or isn’t divinity has relatively little impact on the Christian message itself. A person can believe quite comfortably in either position. Naturally this is the ideal deception: one that is so subtle that it can’t be easily detected and removed. This would only suit Satan’s purpose if it caused real practical problems.
It is unlikely that this difference should matter to existing Christians (although in practice, there have been many fights over relatively inconsequential matters). If you believe that Jesus is Lord and was God’s Word in the flesh, then divinity is irrelevant. It’s just a label. The Trinity is unnecessary. But for non-Christians, the idea of the Trinity just serves to add confusion. If you seek truth and find logical inconsistencies, then this would be a natural roadblock.
For example, how can Jesus constantly defer to the heavenly father if he was his equal? How could God be tempted by Satan with rulership of the earth if it was already his creation and how could God worship anyone? Why did Jesus receive the Holy Spirit when he was baptized if he was already God? Why did Jesus pray to himself? These and other difficulties make the Trinitarian position unpalatable.
Jesus could be a divinity lower than God the Father, turning Christianity into a sort of polytheism. This is roughly what the Mormon meta-religion teaches. Alternate views on the nature of Jesus are not the topic of this post. These alternative views do not cause any of the immediate logical difficulties.
Note on Hell
The notion of eternal, everlasting, on-going torture in fiery Hell is much more damaging. The Bible uses the word “eternal” in the sense of “permanent”, not “ongoing”. If you read the Bible verses about “everlasting” or “eternal” punishment and torment using this definition, the meaning changes dramatically. Satan would like to portray God as capricious, sadistic, and unjust. Speaking of a God who approves of torture is a very good way to scare off seekers.
Never-ending torment hell is a false doctrine of pagan origin.
Note on Resurrection
After the first death, judgment comes. During this time, those who are redeemed are given a new body: Not a body made of earth (“from dust”), but a body made of heaven. When Jesus was raised, he became the firstborn (or first re-born) to have this new body. It is why he sits next to God. After the resurrection, we will again be body, soul, and spirit.
Note on Time
When death comes, the body stays on earth, the spirit returns to God, and the soul awaits judgment. This is outside the time-continuum, so it does not make sense to say that the soul goes anywhere. It awaits judgment, but it isn’t doing anything because is no longer in the realm of time, just as God is outside of time. The English language lacks the proper words to describe eternity outside of a time-continuum. Most descriptions imply a sense of time.
Note on Creation and Sentience
When God created man, he first started with the body. This is important because before man had sentience, there was a body. We know that God created all forms of life before he created man. This means that there was physical life and death before Adam and Eve were created. This is not only compatible with the scientific record, but both a prediction and a confirmation of science. God formed early hominids until he had perfected man. Then he breathed his breath of life (or spirit) into man, creating his sentient soul. In no other creature did he do this, which is why out of all of nature, only man has, and can have, sentience.
These points are often missed by creationists who believe that a “day” meant a literal 24 hour rotation of earth (even before the earth itself was created!). They are also missed by evolutionists who do not believe God had anything to do with creation, even though there is no adequate scientific explanation for sentience.
Note on Death
The notion that there was “no death” in the Garden of Eden refers not to plant or animal death, which obviously had to occur. There is no logical way for the cycle of life to have functioned without physical death and decay. Instead, this refers to spiritual death, what happens when the body is separate from the spirit.
When Adam and Eve sinned, they experienced spiritual death, a separation of God from which all men suffer. This is sometimes called “original sin”, although most traditions define original sin to include a wider understanding than this simple definition.
Note on God
It is not definitive that God is a three part of “Holy Ghost”, “Father”, and “Word”. The first two are obvious, but “Word” might not be the best representation of the physical form. We do know that during creation God’s Word was spoken and that God has directly spoken to humans (such as Moses). But we also know that Jesus was the embodiment of God’s Word. This does not seem like coincidence that the Word took earthly physical form. Maybe it would be more accurate to say “Jesus” instead of “Word”. Or maybe God has a physical body made of the stuff of heaven like the new resurrected bodies of believers. A three part body-soul-spirit parallel (“Trinity”) of God seems to be implied, but the exact nature is unclear.
Note on Heresy
All Christians are heretics. The sheer number of debated doctrines could fill articles and no one can get it all right. The fact is that many of the ideas in this article could be wrong. A different analysis of the Bible’s competing manuscripts (e.g. Textus Receptus, Majority Text, and Critical Text) could yield a different conclusion.
Christianity is home to many questionable doctrines: the Trinity, immortal soul, transubstantiation, purgatory, veneration of the saints, indulgences, eternal punishment in hell, prayers to the dead, rapture, and the papacy. We live in a time where access to the Bible has never been easier, yet people do not take the time to read and understand. Ignorance allows such deception to continue. Unitarian viewpoints are considered to be heresy by Trinitarians.
Yet none of these heresies prevent salvation. It is why so many different Christian denominations can coexist. You can believe that Jesus saved you even if you don’t understand the mechanics. Understanding is not required for faith or obedience to God. The core doctrine of Christianity remains constant: Jesus saves you from sin.
Note on Prerequisites
This article assumes the following:
- The Bible is absolute truth and that its message is knowable.
- The God of the Bible and Jesus are real and the Bible is the authoritative source.
- The variations of the Bible are either inconsequential to the overall message, or it is possible to derive the correct original text by comparison of manuscripts. This is not to say that it is trivial, but only that it is possible. Debates on the authenticity of scripture may be the subject of a later post.
- That reason is the primary way we can discern fact from fiction. Revelation is valid but it cannot contradict reason.
With these assumptions in place, the rest of the article follows logically and conclusively.