Members of the Godhead - literal or metaphorical?

Posted Jan 23, 2012 by Adrian Zaranski in General Hits: 2,480

Many of you may not find in this entry nothing new, but I would like to write some sort of a summary of the understanding I have received under the grace of God. It will be about the literal vs. metaphorical understanding, when considering the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

As it was many times stated on MaranathaMedia, Seventh-day Adventist Church was built upon several immovable platforms, which were built according to the 14 interpretation rules made by William Miller. Although Miller himself did not accept the message given to us by God after the Great Disappointment (still, from Ellen White's visions we know, that he will be in Heaven), this message has led us to seriously adhere to those interpretation principles. Thanks to those rules and to the vision given to Hiram Edson, we have been blessed with the Sabbath day, with the great atonement being made for us by Jesus Christ in the Most Holy in Heaven, also with many other doctrines. The early SDA Church was also blessed with the most precious truth about God sending His only-begotten Son to this world, "that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16).

Unfortunately, today this truth is quite difficult to grasp by our Church - it's all because of the process called spiritualization. The names of the Father, the Son, and of the Holy Spirit were spiritualized away into meaning something other, that it is told. The "Father" does not mean a real father, the "Son" does not mean a real son, and "Spirit" does not mean a real spirit. The Persons of the Godhead (or Trinity, as trinitarians like to name it) are completely the same (eternal, omnipresent etc.), making up the biblical "one God".

Is this what the Bible really want to tell us? If we make a literal reading instead, we are receiving a very different understanding. A simple comparison of the literal vs. spiritualized (metaphorical) understanding of each of the Persons of the Godhead, would show, how this changing of understanding works.

If we read it simple, literal, then we need to come up with some conclusions. I will write them down in the most "head-bumping" way (I don't remember how it's in English, but if I could borrow the word from Polish, I would say, that it will be "shovelological"):

  • literal Father - the Father really is a father, and if He is a father, then He must be a father of someone; moreover, He must be a real father of someone like Him, in order to be a father of someone inferior to Him (i.e. the Creation); from the Bible we know, that the God Himself is this Father, God the Father - it's simple.
  • literal Son - the Son really is a son, therefore He needs to be a son of someone, and moreover, He has to have the same nature like the One He came from; so He needs to have a literal Father, and because God Himself is His Father, then He is to be the Son of God, having the same nature, as His Father - it's simple.
  • literal Spirit - the Spirit really is... a spirit; and because a spirit itself is always attached to a personal being, the Spirit must be a spirit of someone; from the Bible we know, that the "Holy Spirit" is used interchangeably with the "Spirit of God" and the "Spirit of Christ"; therefore it must mean what it says - the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God and of Christ, Their mutual Spirit - it's simple (less simple may be the understanding, what the spirit itself is - but if it's something belonging to a personal being and carying character traits of this person, it must be something personal - not just an impersonal force, and still not yet a personal being in its own right, but a spirit, which may bring love, joy, and other things).

Summing up, here we have God Himself, a real Father of His Son, who is like Him, and Both have the same one Spirit. The terms "Father" and "Son", when read literally, indicate a very close and intimate relationship. Therefore, the Son must be the most dear Person for God in the whole Universe. And if God sent His real Son to Earth, He could not give more, than He gave already. This is the literal understanding.

Let's move on to the metaphorical or spiritualized understanding, which may be interesting:

  • metaphorical Father - the Father is not really a father of someone, and He only plays the role of the father; therefore if He is not the real father of someone like Him, He cannot be a real father of someone like us; if He only role-plays a father to someone like Him, He likewise role-plays a father to us; this God can only be a real Creator, but not a real Father to us.
  • metaphorical Son - the Son is not really a son of someone, and He only plays the role of the son; therefore if He is not really a son of someone like Him, He cannot be our real example as a son of God; and the relationship between the Father and Son does not seem genuine, but is being mystified to us.
  • metaphorical Spirit - the Spirit is not really a Spirit of someone, and He only plays the role of the spirit, but in reality He is a divine personal being the same like the supposed Father and Son; therefore He cannot be a real Spirit of the Father and of the Son; He still may be called the Spirit of God (as God is Father, Son and Spirit together in oneness), but He cannot really be a Spirit the Father and the Son to us.

As it is shown here, the metaphorical understanding of the Father, the Son, and of the Holy Spirit is striping away all the genuine meaning of those terms, and also their notion. The Father is not really the father of His Son, the Son is not really the son of His Father, and the Spirit is not really the spirit of them Both. All now is left, are the quite technical terms, the "1st, 2nd and 3rd Persons of God/Godhead/Trinity". We don't know anything about their real relations, which cannot be in any way applied to Their creation - they seem too far away from us.

As it was somewhere else stated, the method of our reading affects our understanding, and in this case it has very drastic consequences. I do wonder, why did we give up the literal reading in favor of a spiritualized one? What did we benefit from it?

I also need to ask this one question: what were the means, that made us, as a movement, change our whole point of view? It is very strange to think, that the first genuine Christians (who we are trying to resemble) were reading about the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit in a metaphorical way. They were certainly not like this. The metaphorical way of reading the Scripture came later.

Also, I find it very strange, that according to the trinitarian Adventist theologians, we need to read the terms describing the Persons of the Godhead in a metaphorical way, when there is no real biblical reason to do it (at least I didn't find one, or don't remember such). This is also strange, when facing the fact, that the Persons are mentioned multiple times in the New Testament, with no reasonable trace of reading them differently than literally. I assume it's all just theology and linguistics, especially concerning the Hebrew and Greek words for "God", "one", "only-begotten" and "son".

I'm very thankful to God and His Son, that They revealed to me, and all of us, how They are like. That we do not need to run into higher theology in an attempt to understand Them. We have our Bibles, we have the Spirit of Prophecy, we have the 1888 messengers - I believe, that they knew, what they were writing, and that God Himself through His Spirit inspired them all.

This is how I now understand the whole problem. I hope I didn't write it in a too pretentional manner, but just I wanted to make a share. We surely need the Spirit of God, to encourage us to share our understanding, and especially to do this in a gentle and delicate manner.

Blessings! Adrian