The Trinity, Guidance from the Holy Spirit, and the Supersoul

My church write-up on last Sunday’s service may be rather terse!  I was too busy to write it today, and I’m not sure if I’ll have time to write it tomorrow, so I am writing it tonight.  Late tonight!

A.  The sermon was about the Trinity.  The pastor was talking about the mystery of God being one and yet being three persons.  And, as the pastor said, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are not three parts of God.  Rather, they are all God.  Or each is God.

The pastor was resorting to modalism to try to explain this, although he himself is not a modalist.  Modalism was an ancient Christian heresy that believed that there was one person of the Godhead, and that one person has three roles: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  The pastor was saying that he himself is one person and yet has different roles: father, pastor, husband, teacher, etc.  If there is some way for him to be one person and yet have different identities, why can’t God be one yet three?

The pastor of the Presbyterian church that I used to attend would explain the Trinity that way every Trinity Sunday.  Yet he, too, was not a modalist, but rather believed that the Trinity consisted of three persons.

To be fair, the pastor at the church that I attended last Sunday did not say that God was one person with three roles.  He was just saying that he could conceive of himself being one person with different identities, so why can’t there be some way for God to be that?

The pastor said, in the end, that God is God: God can do anything, including something that we consider possible, such as being God in three persons.  I question whether divine omnipotence is a way to account for the Trinity.  Technically, the Trinity is not something that God does, but rather something that God is, and has always been.  I suppose that one can say that, in a sense, God does things within the Trinity: the Father generates the Son, for example.  And yet, that has always been the case, according to orthodox Christian doctrine, right?  There was never a time when God said, “I’m going to start using my power to generate the Son.”  It’s just what is and has always been.

B.  The pastor was talking about how the Holy Spirit guides us.  When Jesus was on earth, the disciples were always coming to Jesus for answers.  A multitude is hungry, and the disciples drop some loaves and fishes in front of Jesus saying, “What now, Jesus?”  The pastor was also talking about how the disciples failed Jesus at his arrest and crucifixion, and that this was because they did not truly know who he was.  Had they known, they would have been calm, maybe even cheering Christ on, throughout the whole ordeal.  The pastor was also saying that the Spirit guides us on things that we cannot know for ourselves.

Do I believe that the Spirit can guide me personally?  Do I want him to do so?  I am afraid of what he’d ask me to do!  The pastor, though, said that a sign of the Spirit’s activity is that we get blessed.  I know from this pastor’s past sermons that he does not take that to mean that the Spirit always tells us what we want to hear!  But the end result is blessing.  The pastor also shared about the happiness that he feels when he is by himself, praising the Lord, in the Holy Spirit.

As I’ve said before, I am going through the Bhagavad Gita, As It Is.  In 13:23, Swami Prabhupada comments: “As long as [the living soul] is conditioned by material energy, the Supreme Lord, as his friend, the Supersoul, stays with him just to get him to return to the spiritual energy…From without He gives instructions as stated in the Bhagavad Gita, and from within He tried to convince the living entity that his activities in the material field are not conducive to real happiness.  ‘Just give it up and turn your faith toward Me.  Then you will be happy,’ He says.”

The idea here seems to be that God is somewhere within all living beings, encouraging them to leave material preoccupation for the spiritual.  Christians would say that only Christians have the Holy Spirit, by contrast, though they also think that the Holy Spirit can lead a person to God.

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About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. I study the History of Biblical Interpretation at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio, as part of its Ph.D. program. I have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting.
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2 Responses to The Trinity, Guidance from the Holy Spirit, and the Supersoul

  1. Jim McLain TheJMan says:

    I would find your writing more pertinent if you included Biblical passages to support what you are sharing. There are a lot of incredible ideas out there that are not supported by Scripture therefore making them suspect as some one’s pipe dream. If your Pastor is not offering Biblical support for his contentions then you, as a scholar, should encourage him to do his home work and come armed with the witness of the Spirit who helps us to understand these very deep concepts.

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  2. jamesbradfordpate says:

    I’d say the pastor does use Scripture a lot. A lot of what I relayed above, especially in B., was said by the pastor when he was commenting on biblical passages. And you can probably think of passages about the Spirit informing people of what they did not know before. Maybe I’ll make clearer in future posts what biblical passages the pastor is interpreting. On the material in A., I don’t recall what Scriptures he used. Usually, discussions about how to conceive of the Trinity do not rest on Scripture but fall back on theological models. At least that is my impression.

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