Friday, August 17, 2018

Is God a Personal Being or is He a Substance in Three Persons?

Biblical scripture reveals that God is One Personal Being, whose name is Jehovah. The name Jehovah originates from a word that simply means "He is." And in scripture, God calls Himself "I AM." Outside of scripture, God is defined as one substance and three persons. This originated with the Nicene Creed of the fourth century A.D., and this has formed a false foundation in traditional Christian theology. They who follow this do not understand that Jesus is Jehovah in human form, and that while He was in His lowered human state He prayed to the Father as another person. In reality the Father and Son are one person just as the soul and body form one person in each human being.


In discussions of the One God with those who divide Him into three persons, one invariably comes to the meaning of the word "substance" (Greek ousia) or "essence." The reason for this is that in the Nicene Creed of the fourth century the trinity was defined in a Greek speaking world and used a couple of words for "substance." Thus to this very day the Trinity is often defined as "one substance and three persons."

However the problem with this definition is that the word for "substance" and its proposed meaning(s) is borrowed from ancient Greek philosophy, not scripture. The use of the word substance was condemned earlier in the Synods of Antioch (264 and 269 A.D.) as it was used by Paul of Samosta:
"It must be regarded as certain that the council which condemned Paul rejected the term homoousios; but naturally only in a false sense used by Paul; not, it seems because he meant by it a unity of Hypostasis in the Trinity (so St. Hilary), but because he intended by it a common substance out of which both Father and Son proceeded, or which it divided between them, — so St. Basil and St. Athanasius; but the question is not clear. The objectors to the Nicene doctrine in the fourth century made copious use of this disapproval of the Nicene word by a famous council."
Instead of clearing the issue, the Nicene Creed confused it, and this is just one example of contradictions when one depends on the teachings of men instead of scripture. This leads to contradictory word definitions in terminology, for which see What is the difference between person and substance?  The reality is the foundation of traditional Christian theology in the post-Nicene era rests on a contradictory statement. It is based on Greek philosophy, and philosophy is not a reliable source of truth, as it is often based on opinion or what is derived from the senses. Philosophical opinions were also developed long before we had a correct understanding of physics.


In the New Church, which is a new revelation for Christianity, it is permitted to understand spiritual mysteries of faith in a rational manner. This could only happen after the Age of Enlightenment, where truth must be according to reason, not tradition or authority (see Truth by Religious Tradition and Authority vs. Spiritual Truth.) Since much of traditional theology is based on tradition and authority, Christianity is in decline and is no longer a strong intellectual force in modern society. Science is looking for facts, and in the post Enlightenment era all truth must be rational, and useful.

In the revelations of the New Church, an interesting insight is given on what is the true spiritual meaning of substance and form, and its relationship to the nature of the One God. The ultimate substance and form is Divine Love and Divine Wisdom itself:
"the Divine Love and the Divine Wisdom in themselves are Substance and Form; for they are very [Being] and [Existence]; and unless they were such [Being] and [Existence] as they are substance and form, they would be only an imaginary entity, which in itself is nothing"  (Swedenborg, Angelic Wisdom concerning Divine Love and Wisdom, n. 43)
Love and wisdom are not just abstract ideas, but are spiritual realities based on substances and forms not visible to our senses:
"the substances and forms which are love and wisdom are not visible to the eyes like the organs of the external senses" (Swedenborg, Angelic Wisdom concerning Divine Love and Wisdom, n. 42)
And from the Divine Love and Wisdom of God, this flows downward into lower substances and forms, until it reaches the material plane:
"But it is to be well known that the truth Divine, which flows into the third heaven nearest to the Lord, also at the same time and without successive formation flows in even to the lowests of order, and there from the First immediately also rules and provides all things; hence successives are held together in their order and connection. That this is so may also be somewhat evident from a maxim not unknown to the learned in the world, that there is only one substance which is substance, and that all other things are formations thence; and that in the formations that one only substance rules, not only as form, but also as not form, as in its origin. Unless this were so, the thing formed could not subsist and act. But these things are said for those who may understand them." (Swedenborg, Heavenly Arcana, n. 7270.4)
In other passages, Swedenborg states that it is a falsehood of the age to assume that the universe was created from nothing - the material world was created from the spiritual world, which existed before the material world was created. The spiritual world originated from the Divine Love and Wisdom. Moreoever, good and truth flows from the One God into every person being, in fact, God is Life itself and it is from God that every living thing has their life:
"Every one in the heavens knows and believes and even perceives that he wills and does nothing of good from himself, and thinks and believes nothing of truth from himself, but all from the Divine, thus from the Lord; and that the good and truth which are from himself are not good and truth, because there is no life in them from the Divine... Angels from their wisdom go still further, and say not only that all good and truth are from the Lord, but also the all of life. They confirm it by this, that nothing can exist from itself, but from what is prior to itself; thus that all things exist from the First—which they call the very Being [Esse] of the life of all... Further they say that from that Only Fountain of life, which is the Lord, there proceeds nothing but Divine good and Divine truth, and that these affect every one according to his reception; they who receive them in faith and life have heaven in them; but they who reject them, or stifle them, turn them into hell; for they turn good into evil and truth into falsity, thus life into death" (Swedenborg, Heaven and Hell, n. 8, 9)
From various passages, the Divine Love is Being itself, which in Latin Swedenborg calls Esse, which is the Latin word "to be" - from which there is all substance.


So where in scripture does it say, God is a substance in three persons? Nowhere. Because this definition was invented by men.

From scripture, God calls Himself I AM, and from that we know that God is Being Itself:
Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” (Ex. 3:14-15)
From scripture, God is life:
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me (John 14:6)
From scripture, God is love:
Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love (1 John 4:8)
God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him (1 John 4:16)
To say that God is life and that God is love is an equivalent statement, for one's love is one's life. You take away someone's love, and they will cease to want to live.


Science cannot explain life, nor what it is, because life is not material which flows into non-material things, causing them to live. The revelations given to Swedenborg extend the concept of God is life:
"From very much experience I have been instructed that there is but one single life, which is that of the Lord, which flows in and causes man to live, yea, causes both the good and the evil to live. To this life correspond forms which are substances, and which by continual Divine influx are so vivified that they appear to themselves to live from themselves" (Swedenborg, Heavenly Arcana, n. 3484)
Living creatures are recipients of the one life from God:
"That forms or substances are recipient of life, may be evident from the particulars seen in living creatures; also that recipient forms or substances are arranged in the way most suitable for inflow of life. Without the reception of life in substances, which are forms, there would be no living thing in the natural world, nor in the spiritual world" (Swedenborg, Heavenly Arcana, n. 7408.2)
As God is life, and is the source of life for all living things, substance typically refers to a lower material form that is a recipient of life. Moreover angels and spirits are but purer substances but not visible to human sight:
"Spirits themselves are forms, that is, consist of continuous forms, equally with men, but of a purer nature, and not visible to the bodily sight. And because these forms or substances are not visible to the corporeal eye, man at this day apprehends no otherwise than that knowledges and thoughts are abstract things; hence also comes the folly of our age, that men do not believe that they have a spirit within them which is to live after the death of the body, when yet this spirit is a substance much more real than the material substance of its body" (Swedenborg, Heavenly Arcana, n. 3726.4)
"All the angels there are forms, or substances formed according to the reception of the Divine things which are from the Lord" (Swedenborg, Heavenly Arcana, n. 3741)
Even thoughts themselves exist as a form of a pure substance, and are not simply electrical impulses of the brain:
"They who have no other idea of knowledges, and also of truths, than that they are abstract things — such an idea as most people have also concerning thoughts — can in no wise apprehend what is meant by good being implanted in knowledges, and by truth being the recipient of good. But it is to be known that knowledges and truths are things no more abstracted from the most pure substances of the interior of man, or his spirit, than sight is abstracted from its organ the eye, or than hearing is abstracted from its organ the ear. There are purer substances, and those real, from which knowledges and thoughts have existence" (Swedenborg, Heavenly Arcana, n. 3726.3)
Thus God is love, God is life, and this flows into substances causing them to live; but the one true substance is the Divine love itself from which all things are. And this one Divine love is One Divine Being, and is Being itself. This Divine Being lowered itself into a human form, from which the Divine spirit flows into men. From this we know, when we love others, we are in true communion with the One God.