As was the case a few weeks ago, I wanted to share another “open letter”. This one was to both the same girl from the previous letter (CLICK HERE to read it) and her best friend. In follow-up to the question about dating, they sent me the following questions regarding prayer and the Trinity. I answered their questions by explaining my principle in dealing with seeming contradictions of faith and the Bible.
I know this is more technical than any other post on this blog, but hopefully it will be helpful to someone with similar questions. Again, I do not claim to be a theologian, but rather a Christian who has wrestled with my own faith on many levels. This email is the product on some of my personal wrestlings.
As was the format with the letter on dating, the first part of this post is the email the two women sent to me. Following this is my response. These are both abbreviated, as I deleted the personal content of the exchange. (I have added some headings in this post to better assist in organizing it.)
Hi John Gunter !!
I hope this email finds you doing well.
I thought I’d hit you with another question 🙂 This time, it’s about prayer.
The bare bones of it– when praying, WHO are we praying to? God? Jesus? Holy Spirit? All three?? We sometimes think the answer is all three, but that leads us spinning into confusion over the Trinity. We both struggle to wrap our minds around THAT. Three things being one- etc. We understand their defined, individual roles- but it’s hard to imagine that they are all ONE thing. Or are they? But back to the WHO- in Old Test times- people would go to a priest who interceded on behalf of them to God, right? Offering prayers, sacrifices, etc for the people. SO- back then, did the people ever pray directly to God? Or ONLY thru the priest? And then, Jesus comes as the new “High Priest” – and thus is the new, and final, mediator between us and God. SO- are we praying to Jesus and he’s taking our prayer to God? Or are they all three (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) sort of listening in??
PHEW. So maybe this is about prayer AND the Trinity… eeks!
Take care JG-praying for you and the others with you
-A and K
Hey K. . . and A,
On to your questions. . .
You guys’ thoughts are all really good ones. There are many things about our faith that are just difficult, if not impossible to completely understand. In matters like these of your questions, it is very clear that we are but creatures created by a complex, intricate Creator.
In a strange way, I am grateful that I don’t understand everything for which my mind questions. If I could, we would be serving a very small, insignificant God. I digress…
These thoughts have been helpful for me and I hope they will be the same for you guys.
The Trinity and the concept of antinomy
First, you are correct in stating that your questions are centered more upon the Trinity in addition to prayer. The Trinity is something that would be impossible for me to explain, because I do believe it is beyond explanation. I know this is somewhat of a cop-out and makes me look anti-intellectual, but so be it.
Have you ever heard of the word “ antinomy”? Understanding and embracing this philosophical/theological concept of antinomy has been a tremendous help to me personally.
The basic thought of an antinomy is that just because two principles/concepts appear to be, in our finite and small minds, contradictory, this does not negate their truthfulness.
An example; is there one, only one, true God? Absolutely. Does this God have three distinct, yet equal personalities (or essences)? Absolutely. How does this all work itself out? I have some vague ideas, but in the end, I just don’t know. AND, I am ok with this. The Trinity is an antinomy.
This is what I do know about the Trinity. God the Father is the Creator, first person of the “God-head.” Jesus is the Mediator between God and man. He did, as you stated, make communication with God possible. He IS our current “High Priest.” He is the second person of the God-head. Jesus is totally and completely God in and of Himself. He is of one essence with the Father, in complete equality and unity with the Father. He is distinct, yet they are the same.
The Holy Spirit was sent forth from both God the Father and God the Son. He is the communicator of God, the translator, if you will, between God and man. He is the third person of the God-head. As is the case with Christ, He is totally and completely God in and of Himself. He is distinct, yet of the same essence with the Father and the Son.
They are truly three-in-one, complete in equality and unity, but distinct in relationship and roles.
How does this work out. . . no idea. However, I am fine to not know the specifics.
Personally, I am content to trust God with this antimony, and many other antinomies which present themselves in our faith. God is God and I am not. Of course the created (myself) cannot completely grasp everything about the Creator (God). I am comfortable with this.
Instead of allowing this to trouble me, it actually comforts, excites, and causes worship to well up to the surface of my being. Because of God’s wonderful unity in power and efficacy, and because of His perfect diversity in three persons, He is capable of creating, saving, and persevering even me in any and all situations!
So, when you pray, you are praying to all three and you are praying to only one. God the Father created you, in all of your intricacies and wonder and beauty. God the Son opened the way to the Father through His perfect life, sacrificial death, AND by making HIS perfection and righteousness YOUR perfection and righteousness. Through Christ’s “imputed righteousness” to us through faith, He provided the way in which we can be saved.
It truly is a miracle that I can stand before the righteous, holy, all-powerful, all-knowing Creator of me and the universe and be accepted and even loved. Wow!
God the Holy Spirit actually makes all of this work on a personal, daily basis. He applies the work of Christ on the cross and makes it efficacious in our lives. He leads us in even giving us a desire to pray and know Him. He helps us know what to pray for, and even helps us get what we ACTUALLY want instead of what we THINK we want. I’m sure you can both see this in areas of past relationships, career choices, school choices, etc. I know I can in my own life.
The Old Testament (OT) points to Christ and His work on the cross
The second principle that your email brought to mind is that of how we can view the OT.
When thinking about anything in the OT, it is helpful to remember that everything in it is ultimately pointing forward to Christ and His work on the cross. Everything in the OT was a foreshadow of sorts pointing towards its ultimate fulfillment in the person and work of Christ.
The high priest in the OT was necessary (in my understanding), but it is because this system was pointing towards a day when the ultimate High Priest, Christ Jesus, would come and complete the work of salvation for His people. The first 10 chapters of Hebrews does a great job of explaining this.
The OT high priest was an imperfect mediator that had to continually offer sacrifices for the people of the church, year in and year out. Christ Jesus, the ultimate High Priest, made the perfect sacrifice/mediation, once and for all. Anyway, this is a little more obscure, but I have found it helpful in viewing almost all of the ceremonies and activities of the OT that sometimes seem random and purposeless.
The role of faith in this (and all of life)
Finally, the role of faith in all of this. . . there are times when we just can’t wrap our minds around things. Both theologically in concepts and experiential in life events. There are times when we just can’t understand things about Christ/the Bible OR see God in our daily lives. Pain is hard to work out rationally. Tears suck. Longings and loneliness cut to our core. However, that is where faith comes to play.
In the end, there are many things in life that we just won’t understand. This is where our FAITH has to be the engine that drives the car. It must be central to everything we do. “I can’t understand this, but Lord, I can believe You with this.”
This applies not only to questions of theology, but also to that of life in general. “God, I don’t understand why this relationship was shattered, but I will trust you anyway.” or “Father, I can’t possible see any good coming out of this situation, but YOU are good and YOU promise to take care of Your people, so I will trust YOU.”
Your Friend, Brother in Christ, and email buddy,