Imagine for a moment that “logic” is represented by a backyard. A nice, neat wooden fence paints the edges of reason. Everything that takes place inside the fence “makes sense.” Apparent contradictions and other mind benders hop the fence and disappear into the open space.
Now, as a person, I am someone who has long sought “truth” in life. In this pursuit of truth, I have found my backyard of reason to be quite helpful for figuring a number of things out.
As a pastor, I have also found that reason and logic are helpful tools for understanding truth about God. After all, God created this world, including our minds . . . the order with which we think is a gift from Him allowing us to discover and do more than true randomness would allow.
What is interesting for me, though, is that occasionally there are truths touted in Scripture that seem to leap over my fence of reason and appear to roll out into the open street.
One such fence hopper is the notion of a triune God. This is the idea that though there is only one God, He exists eternally in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. While the word “Trinity” never appears in the Bible, the concept of a trinitarian God is clearly stated in many places . . . including John 1:1-3 which says:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him was not any thing made that was made.
In these verses, John begins His biography of the Son of God at an appropriate place . . . not a stable in Bethlehem, but in the segment of eternity that existed BEFORE all that we know was created. Before there was an earth, before there was a universe, before there was oxygen or oceans, there was a time, known as “the beginning.” In this time of “beginning,” the “Word” already was.
The idea of “Word” has its roots in both Hebrew and Greek contexts. The “Word” was a title used to describe the expression of God. In other words, if I have love in my heart for my wife, I use words to translate that feeling into something Kimberly can understand. In the same way, in John 1, Jesus is called the “Word” because Jesus translates God’s heart to humanity in a way that we can understand. So, in John 1:1, Jesus is alive and well before creation began . . . waiting to verbalize through His actions the heart of God.
As 1:1 continues, though, Jesus is said to not merely be alive before creation, but is said to have been “with God” at the time before creation. This points to the fact that Jesus is both eternal, but somehow distinct from God the Father. In other words, you cannot be “with” yourself. You are “with” someone else.
Everything I just walked us through is deep and interesting stuff . . . but for the most part, still resides inside the fence line of our reason. However, John 1:1 ends by appearing to sail over the barriers of logic: “The Word was God.”
How can someone be both “with God” and “be God” if there is only one God? Logically this does not make sense. It appears to be a contradiction.
However, is it possible that our fence of reason was set on the wrong post? Is it possible that God is bigger than our yard of reason can contain? Absolutely. As Isaiah 55:8-9 says:
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.”
Also, the fence hopping ability of God is highlighted in Ephesians 3:20-21:
“Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever AMEN.”
The notion of Trinity where the one God exists eternally in three distinct yet equal persons is not something that people would build themselves inside the fence of logic. However, it IS how God has revealed Himself to humanity through His Word. Therefore, we have a choice . . . either create God in a form that makes sense to us, or allow us to meet God as He has revealed Himself to us through His Word.
Most of the time, God operates inside the parameters of our fence of logic. However, there are times when God expands those barriers to make a point. In the Bible, most donkeys do not talk, but when one does, God’s people are supposed to pay attention (Numbers 22). Most of the time blind men don’t see, but when they do, we need to pay attention (see miracles of Jesus). Most of the time, the dead are not raised . . . but when they are, God is at work (John 11 and Matthew 28). In each of these instances, God is validating a special work through His “beyond logic” actions.
When it comes to the very nature of God, there is a hint of mystery at play. Trinity God goes beyond our logical fences for a reason . . . it reminds us that God is so great, He cannot be fenced in. We do not have a God who can be caged inside constructs of Plato or Aristotle. We have a God who is much greater than that.
In light of this trinity talk, John 1:1-3 casts an interesting shadow on the Christmas story. Knowing that Jesus existed eternally, His arrival in Bethlehem was as much of a debut as a birth. Yes, Jesus was really born to Mary in Bethlehem . . . this was a part of His incarnation – taking on humanity to better speak the “Word” into our language. But, Jesus birth was not His beginning. In fact, Jesus has no beginning. He has always been! Through Him, all the earth was created . . . including the ground on which the town of Bethlehem was built.
While not technically a part of the Christmas story, John 1:1-3 provides a great opportunity for us to jump the fence in awe at the greatness of our God. The one who had no beginning, had a belly button at His Bethlehem birth to translate the heart of God into a message that we all could understand.