In the first chapter of this online book, it was demonstrated that God is a personal Being who purposefully created the universe and the earth, as well as the animals and mankind to live on the earth. In the second chapter, names of God were given; and many promises and covenants that He has made to and with Israel were discussed. And in the third, fourth, and fifth chapters, the “arm” (Messiah) of God, who has come as Servant and will come as King, was highlighted.
The terms “Father,” “Son,” and “Holy Spirit” have been mentioned but have not yet been well-defined. In this chapter, the simultaneous singularity and plurality of God will be discussed, as well as the three aforementioned terms. This should lead to a better understanding of just Whom it is that is so concerned about the welfare of mankind. Furthermore, it will be shown how each of us—possessing a spirit, body, and soul—is made in the image of God; and other triads, exhibiting the triplicity of God the Creator, also will be presented.
Moses spoke, and also wrote, these words about God to the Israelites:
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one (Deut. 6:4). Yet in Genesis, also authored by Moses, he wrote,
Then God said, “Let us make man in our, in our likeness...” (Gen. 1:26a). The first is an example of God’s singularity and solitary nature, while the second is a portrayal of His multiplicity and manifold nature. Both, simultaneously, are attributes of His constitution and composition.
In the original Hebrew, the word for “one” in Deut. 6:4 is echad, which denotes a “unified one” (rather than yachid, which denotes an “only” or an “absolute numeric one”). Echad is the same word used in the following verse for “one” in describing the unification or unified state of a man, Adam, and his wife, Eve (Gen. 2:21-24), who initially were together in one body, then were separated into two beings, then were brought together as a “unit” or as a “team”:
For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one [echad] flesh (Gen. 2:24). Moreover, when God was commissioning Isaiah as a prophet to speak to the Jews, Isaiah said that he
...heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” (Isa. 6:8a).
Here, the word “I” is another indication of the singular essence of God, while “us” is an indication of His multiple nature.
Admittedly, it is impossible for someone who does not know God, and even difficult for someone who does, to comprehend how He could be both multiple and single at the same time. This difficulty is understandable, though, since we live and breathe in a 3-dimensional realm; whereas, the Almighty God, our Creator, exists in multiple (and, I suspect, infinite) dimensions. Moreover, we are bounded by time (which actually is another dimension created by God for us—see “purpose of time”: C-15, P-I), while God is completely independent of time, existing in eternity and in the present all at once. We will not even begin to comprehend the vastness and complexity of God until we transcend this domain and continue on into the next realm of higher dimensions. The only way to “see” all aspects of God is through purely spiritual “eyes.”
The following is one way, though, which helps me to grasp the combined multiple and singular properties of the Godhead. Imagine two flat people living in “Flatland,” a 2-dimensional realm (plane), all which you have “created.” In front of one person, you project three of your fingers through Flatland; he sees three single circles where your 3-dimensional fingers intersect the Flatland plane. Then, in front of the other flat person, you slide one finger through her plane of existence; she, of course, perceives one circle where your finger penetrates the plane (see Figure 2).
Now, each person explains to the other his/her perception of “god.” One claims that the god of Flatland is single; the other insists that this god is multiple. They will not agree until they both begin to think and visualize in extra dimensions. Then they may realize that their “god” (you, in this case) is not only both one and three at once but is more multi-faceted and complex than either one of them could ever have imagined with the limited insight they had. Of course, to even begin to comprehend you (their “creator”), they would have to become 3-dimensional themselves. (Note: Let me make it clear that I do not believe people can “create” anything by themselves; only God can do that. The words “created,” “creation,” “creator,” and “god” in this portrayal are strictly for the purpose of illustration.)
For a different visualization, picture a cardboard isosceles triangle (one having two equal sides) laying flat on a table. Now, consider this: Can that triangle become a circle? The question is absurd in the realm of the 2-dimensional plane of the table top; of course it cannot. However, if the apex angle (between the two equal sides) is lifted upward into a third dimension, pointing straight up, and then the triangle is rotated 360°, the base of the triangle will outline a circular disc on the table (see Figure 3). Therefore, in that 2-dimensional plane, the triangle can “become” a circle if it is given the freedom to move in three dimensions. Moreover, in three dimensions, the 360° rotation of the triangle will circumscribe a cone. A cone is an infinite number of circles of decreasing size piled on top of each other and an infinite number of triangles in every lateral direction—all coexisting in the same place and at the same time. The point is that, once we have access to additional dimensions, ideas which seem ridiculous and impossible in our own 3-dimensional world—such as the simultaneous plurality and singularity of God, as well as the simultaneous coexistence of the two concepts of 1) human predestination by God and 2) free human choice—become entirely sensible and plausible.
We cannot see any spiritual aspect of God using our physical eyes. Therefore, we can formulate a concept of His spiritual nature only by reading descriptions of Him in the Bible, by extrapolating from His physical manifestation (Jesus) about His spiritual qualities, and by studying something that “looks kind of like Him” (is a “likeness” of Him) in the natural. It is easier for me to begin to grasp the concept of God by first realizing that we, as male and female people, were made in His “image” (Gen. 1:27). By understanding the composition of myself, a “projection” of the “real thing,” I feel that I, somewhat, can better understand the “composition” of God (though, of course, such an understanding is necessarily quite basic and primitive, as I am finite while God is incomprehensibly infinite).
This is not to say that I claim to be god-like in any manner other than that I have been made in His “image,” as well as in any additional way in which He allows me, through His grace, to be like Him. As an optometric physician with a special interest in and fascination with optics, I know that the image of an object focused through a lens or by a mirror may look very much like the object; but, in reality, the image is not the same as the object. Furthermore, there may be an unlimited number of images projected from the object; but only the object is the genuine model, and all of the images are only copies. People are not “gods”; they are merely copies of the triune nature of God. When one begins to think of oneself as a “god” or as “God’s gift to humanity,” or when one believes one can sustain oneself apart from God, one’s downfall is imminent. No one can exist successfully without God.
As a person, I am a triad consisting of a spirit, a soul, and a body—essentially, three “elements” or “natures” in one. While the body is physical and solid, the spirit and soul are ethereal and intangible and perhaps even can transcend the three-dimensional realm with which we are familiar. Now, I am well aware that there is great diversity of opinion on this subject. For instance, many believe and accept that the “mind” and the “will” are components of the soul. I disagree. My view is that my spirit comprises my cognitive ability, my mind (including logic, perception, and memory), and my will. Only a person’s spirit (along with God’s Holy Spirit) fully knows the thoughts of the person’s mind (1 Cor. 2:11a). I can see this as being true only if the mind is a subset of the spirit.
My soul contains my emotions, feelings, and desires (my “heart”), the power that motivates and moves me, my conscience, and my capability of sensing the thoughts and feelings of others. (Since it is our hearts which condemn us or convict us of wrongdoing—1 John 3:20a—I believe the conscience must be a process of the heart, a subset of the soul.) One thing that God does is “...to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart [within the soul] of the contrite” (Isa. 57:15c.) David lamented, “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me?” (Psalm 42:11ab, 43:5ab). This is a case, I believe, of a person’s conscious mind-spirit seeking to subdue the disturbing and distressing emotion of sadness arising within and emanating from the “heart” portion of his soul.
Also, a person’s spirit may “will” a specific activity or a certain conduct; but a manifestation of one’s will cannot occur unless and until the soul feels motivated enough to move the person to action. That is, even if one wants very much to do something in his/her mind, but one’s heart is not in the endeavor, it generally will get procrastinated.
Now, “will” does not mean “desire.” I may desire (in my soul) to spend one more day on a vacation, when I really should be back at work; or I may desire to possess something which belongs to somebody else. But my will (in my spirit) to do what is best or right, hopefully, is strong enough to reject such urgings. That is why it is so important to be obedient to God’s Holy Spirit, who always leads us on the right path. Someone whose will always “gives in” and aligns with his/her desire is indeed a spiritually immature person whose mind cannot control his/her heart and who probably has no peace of mind or heart, because the two constantly are battling for control.
Information from the outside world or from the spirit realm is funneled or placed into one’s spirit, via one’s natural sensory or extra-sensory channels. Then the information is interpreted or processed as a thought which permeates the spirit, as well as the soul. The spirit and soul are interfaced directly and intimately, similar to the two halves of the brain—so much so, in fact, that it often is difficult to distinguish between the workings and activities of the two. That the heart-soul can have “thoughts” is indicated by such scriptural verses as Gen. 6:5b; Matt. 15:19; and Mark 7:21.
The mind-spirit ultimately must decide what to do with a thought (reject it, file it for further deliberation later, or act upon it); but it almost always solicits “advice” from the soul’s conscience or a “feeling” from the soul’s heart as to what to do. Ideally, once all “influence” by the soul concerning the thought has been considered, the mind-spirit should “...take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5b—seeC-10).
If the thought is a negative one that is capable of “riling up” the emotions, for instance, the thought should be rejected and not be allowed to “infect” the spirit/soul complex after the initial exposure. In fact, any thought discerned as having come from an evil spiritual source, as opposed to God’s Holy Spirit, should be discarded and deliberated no further. On the other hand, thoughts which are determined to have come to us via the Holy Spirit need to be filed away permanently in memory and/or acted upon. Sometimes, when unable to “eject” a particularly stubborn or obsessive bad thought from our mind/heart, it often is helpful to pray for God’s assistance in doing so (see “prayer”: C-10, P-II).
The written Word of God is the most useful tool when attempting to decide whether one’s thinking about a certain thing is influenced more by the logic of one’s spirit or by the emotion of one’s soul, and whether the “attitude” of the heart-soul is directed more toward oneself or toward others and God (Heb. 4:12—see “the Word of God”: C-10, P-II). Any decisions we ever make should align with God’s Word, which is eternally true and valid.
My body is simply the flesh, blood, and bones “house” or “tent” in which dwell my spirit and my soul. If the spirit/soul complex leaves the physical body, the body will die (or else undergo a “near-death” experience if the spirit and soul later reenter). In “astral projection” (or an OOBE—“out of body experience”), where the mind-spirit leaves the body yet bodily functions continue, I believe the life-sustaining soul remains behind while the spirit goes elsewhere and is consciously aware of its new environment.
Moreover, some people claim to have the ability to move objects without physically touching them (“telekinesis”). If a certain person is indeed able to do this, I suspect that the person’s spirit may will the soul to “reach out” from the person’s body and utilize its power to interact with physical objects (although, in many cases, a demonic spirit that is moving the object may be deceiving a person to believe that he/she is doing it telekinetically).
Voluntary separation of the spirit from the soul is not recommended, as it possibly could be fatal if the soul exits the body while the spirit also is dislocated. Furthermore, consciously vacating one’s body can be classified, in my opinion, as one attempt to “be like God” (an urging by Satan to mankind through Eve—Gen. 3:5b), because God can exist as a single Unity or can dissociate into His component parts (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) at Will. It may be that when believers obtain their new, glorified bodies at the Rapture (seeC-12, P-V), free dissociation, at will, of their fundamental parts may be possible; but such voluntary disconnection now, I feel, is unwise and potentially hazardous to one’s physical existence.
I suspect that animals have “spirits” and “souls.” However, I believe they lack the portion of the spirit which is able to communicate and to have a meaningful relationship with God and, thus, lack the sensible will to control their souls and bodies, other than by reward or punishment from people or from nature. Furthermore, I believe animals lack the “conscience” portion of their souls—possessed only by God, angels, and people—which can sense the difference between good and evil. They only can learn not to do bad things (such as dogs being disobedient to their masters) when there is some type of penalty or punishment associated with doing so.
If I have been made in God’s “image,” then I feel that God must have elements comparable to a spirit, a soul, and a body. And, in fact, I equate 1) the Father with the “spirit,” 2) the Holy Spirit with the “soul,” and 3) the Son, Jesus, with the “body” of God. (Admittedly, some confusion may arise with equating the Holy Spirit with the soul rather than with the spirit. However, it may be helpful to conceive of the soul as an invisible, “spiritual entity,” and to regard the third manifestation of the Trinity as the Holy “Ghost,” though I will continue to refer to Him as the Holy “Spirit,” as that is His most common title.) In describing God, it is important, of course, to keep in mind that God is not our “creation”; rather, we are part of God’s Creation. He is not a projection of us; we are a projection of Him. He is not limited to being what we perceive Him to be; we are finite, but He is infinite.
Thinking about God in this way, I conceptualize the Father as encompassing the “Essence,” “Mind,” and perfect “Will” of God, the latter which is exactly performed by the Son and the Holy Spirit. Our mind-spirits are able to regulate the words of our mouths, the emotional outbursts of our souls, and the actions of our bodies, though proper control often is lacking.
I view the Holy Spirit as containing God’s “Emotion” and “Power,” the Agent by Whom He “senses” and “energizes” His Creation and “expresses” Himself to all He has created. We can exalt or crush others more effectively and completely by using the focused emotion and power of our souls than we can with the intellect of our minds or the strength of our bodies.
Finally, I see the Son, Jesus, as the “Body” or “visible manifestation” of the Father through Whom He “crafted” and “shaped” His Creation and by Whom He “handles” or “touches” everything. Jesus was a carpenter—Mark 6:3ab. As such, He used His arms and hands to construct and assemble useful things. Recall from “the arm of God”: C-2, P-III, and “names for and attributes of the Messiah”: C-3, P-I, that “arm” and “hand” are terms for the Messiah, Jesus, the “Body” of God.
Proceed to Chapter 6, Part II
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Copyright © 1998– by Ted M. Montgomery, O.D. Most rights reserved.