God is not a deity
In Jesus, God is not a deity above us. God is divine love WITH US.
It seems that our collective view of the Christian God in the US holds the image of God as deus - a Zeus-like manly God in the sky. I’ve held this view of God since I was a kid. It’s the god I decided to forget about when I was younger. It’s the toxic father-son relationship that made me flee the Christian religion along with so many others.
I realize now that this is a pagan concept of the divine. It sees god (or, the gods) as a deity to be appeased, influenced, etc.
Don’t get me wrong… I like pagans. Their traditions are beautiful. Seriously. But as a Christian, I have to profess that I see the divine differently. I have to look to Jesus to find what God looks like.
I’ve long been curious… Why do we see God this way in our culture?
If I had to identify one biblical verse that’s central to our US culture, I’d have to say John 3:16. It’s the one on endless bumper stickers and flags waving across football stadiums.
Our modern translations spell it out like this… “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.”
I could write about the twisted interpretation of this verse - how it has been used to exclude and otherize people who don’t believe like you do (which is largely the result of the folly of leaving out the following verse 17 which says, “God didn’t send his Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through him.”). But I won’t go there today.
Getting back to the nuts and bolts of the text; I want to say that this is a poor translation. (You know, it’s amazing how one little word can change an entire nation’s theology. Hang in here with me.)
The way it’s translated positions God as a distant father in the clouds and Jesus as his little boy who he dispatched to earth. That’s the way I always saw it growing up.
Now that I’m learning how to be a professional Christian in seminary, I learned how to look up the original Greek translations. So in preparation for writing this post, I did that with John 3:16. And lo, here’s what I discovered…
It isn’t, “…God gave HIS only Son.”
It’s, “…God gave THE only begotten Son.”
The definite article there is ‘THE’ not ‘HIS’.
The Greek implies no possession.
It’s not God’s son.
It’s God, THE son.
Different form, yes.
But still God.
Jesus shows us that God is not a deity.
Jesus is God, with us (emmanuel).
So, the Trinity is…
God as the Father (the creator, lover)
God as the Son (the created, beloved, divine Imprint of the creator)
God as the Holy Spirit (the divine Love that connects creator/lover with created/beloved)
Here’s the kicker…
All three elements of the Trinity exist in Jesus. In the Trinity, you cannot separate God, the Father from God, the Son (or God, the Holy Spirit). All three elements are there in Jesus’s being.
Jesus shows us that God is not a deity. In Jesus, God is the Trinity.
The Trinity is not a deity in the sky.
It is a dynamic relationship right here on the ground.
It is a Perichoresis or a divine circle-dance. Creator, created, and the love between them. Lover, beloved, and the love between them. Each element is essential to the other two. Take one out and none of them truly exist.
Jesus shows us what this God-as-trinitarian-relationship looks like in a real, breathing, sweating, bleeding human being.
In Jesus, God-as-the-Son, we see what a human life looks like when it is under direct and unclouded influence of a perfectly loving and self-emptying God and the love that flows without interruption between them.
In Jesus, we see what a human life looks like when it perfectly mirrors an eternally loving God. Not a God who imposes his booming wrath on his little boy from a distance. But a God who is right here in the dirt and the mud and the muck and the joys and the pain and the elation and the confusion - in all of it, WITH US.
Jesus disproved the deity in the sky and gave us Divine Relationship as the one true God.
In Jesus, we don’t see an imprint of a God who came to condemn or admonish us from above (remember, DON’T FORGET VERSE 17!).
Jesus is the imprint of a God who moves in the opposite direction. The imprint of a cruciform God whose love flows downward like water washing us clean and bringing us closer to each other and closer to Him. A God who follows us into death and brings about new life. Time and time again.