The union of God the Father, Son and Spirit is a difficult subject that is often placed in the “we will find out when we get to heaven” category by most bible believing Christians, with the concept of the oneness of three persons becoming confused by the logic of simple (mathematical) unions and becoming nonsensical (i.e. 1+1+1=1). This mathematical depiction of the union of God distils the complexity of the three persons into what is called a simple unity (i.e. very simple to understand), making it incompatible with the bible’s complex view of God. Expressing the unity of God as a simple unity (above) is unhelpful and misleading and should not be done.

While distinctiveness exists between members it is not complete (total) difference (no two are alike in any way), just as the similarity between members is not absolute (all members are exactly the same). The Bible clearly states that individuality/distinctiveness is an important part of unity. Each distinctive part represents a functioning piece of a greater whole (a working union). Therefore unity must be viewed as a structured relationship between individuals.

The clearest picture of the continuity of unity from the Trinity to humanity is seen in John 17. Here Jesus prays for unity between his followers, revealing that unity is his reason and his purpose for coming to earth in human form. He prays that his followers might be one as God is one, not separate from God but united in God so that all things might be one in God and God might be in all. It is important to take careful note here that Jesus speaks of two different types of unions that coexist:
• A general union of all things.
• Specific unions (unity of race),

From the bible’s perspective it is possible to be a member of multiple unions, humanity was created as a specific union under Adam who together take part in the general union of creation under God. All the specific unions have a role to play within the general union of all things (creation is not God, but reflects the image of God in unity). General and Specific unity is achieved in the following ways:
• Form (flesh, spirit and image of God)
• Nature (love), and
• Relational order (incl. distinctiveness and hierarchy)

Within both specific and general unions all three are required to safeguard the distinctiveness and integrity of each member working in unison (unity of form, nature and order). God is love and life, to exist apart from him is to lose the nature required for any unity to exist (love) and to die (life without being united in God is death). Therefore each specific union can’t exist apart from the union of all things in God (accept the trinity which is itself the union of God). Also no single member of a specific union can exist within the general union of all things apart from membership in a specific union (you are not separate from your race).

The union of all things under God (incl. all specific unions) is also based on a common image and nature expressed in a common overarching order. This is to ensure that the distinctiveness and exclusiveness of each specific union is maintained within the union of all things under God. The form that each specific union is united under is that of the head of their union, so that distinction between unions is maintained. While at the same time it is a united humanity that bears the image of God and a united creation (incl. humanity) that measured up to the goodness of God.

In the next post I will show how these fundamentals work themselves out in humanity (in Adam), new humanity (in Christ) and the Trinity.

  1. I really like what you’re trying to do here. You might like to consider some precise philosophical terminology–token, type, archetype–at some point. It’s just terminology, like any other illustration we might use from life, and the Bible itself uses from the languages of the cultures within which it was revealed.

    Mathematics does a lot of work with relationships also. Functions are in fact relations of a special kind. 1+1+1=1 is arithmetic, not higher mathematics, which is about clarity of conceptual thought. Philosophers often use mathematical ideas and show their sense in ordinary human language, and how that helps us think clearly about ethics, metaphysics, epistemology and so on.

    I really do think more work needs to be done on this, especially along the lines you’re doing it. Knox is good, and I’ve found Gerald Bray is very helpful too. God bless.

  2. Thomas Clay says:

    Thanks for your comments Alastair.

    Just to clarify, the posts so far are only an introduction to my thinking on this topic, there will be quite a few more posts on this topic in the coming months.

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