One of the core beliefs of Christianity is:
The one true God exists as three distinct, transcendent, immanent, infinite, eternal, and immutable persons: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.
- The one true God (Deut 4:35, 6:4; Isa 43:10, 44:6-8; I Cor 8:6; 1 Tim 2:5) exists as three distinct,
- transcendent (1 Kings 8:27),
- immanent (Acts 17:27,28; Col 1:16-17),
- infinite (1 Kings 8:27),
- eternal (Isa 57:15) and
- immutable (Mal 3:6) persons:
- God the Father (John 5:18, 10:29, 14:28, 17:1-3; 1 Cor 8:6; Phil 2:11),
- God the Son (Isa 7:14, 44:6; John 1:1-14, 5:18, 10:30, 20:28, 8:58 cf Ex 3:14; Rom 9:5; Phil 2:5-11; Col 1:15-18; Titus 2:13, Heb 1:8; 1 John 5:20; Rev 22:13-18) and
- God the Holy Spirit (Ex 17:7 cf Heb 3:7-9; Mat 28:19; Acts 5:3-4, 13:2 cf Gal 1:1 and 1 Tim 1:1; 1 Cor 3:16; 2 Cor 13:14; 2 Tim 3:16 cf 2 Pet 1:21; Heb 9:14).
Are these items really important? Couldn’t some of them be relaxed so that Christianity could be more compatible with other religions?
God is wholly other.
If the universe, heaven, hell, all angels and all humans ceased to exist, God would continue to exist intact. However, making transcendence the dominate attribute of God can lead to deism by which God created all things and then walked away from His creation. Transcendence without immanence results in an unsound foundation for Christianity.
God is ubiquitous throughout the universe.
God is present everywhere, in every sub-atomic component of the universe and in every thought of men and angels. However, making immanence the dominate attribute of God can lead to pantheism by which God is not outside and beyond the universe; He is the universe. He exists only in it and apart from it has no existence. He exists in bondage to space, time, matter and energy. Spinoza said, “To my mind God is the immanent, and not the transcendent cause of all things.” Or, as Jedi Yoda might say, “May the force be with you.” Immanence without transcendence results in an unsound foundation for Christianity.
Only because God is infinite does His exhaustive definite foreknowledge not require foreordination.
As John Wesley wrote centuries ago (Works, VI. 226-7): "God foreknew those in every nation who would believe," and "In a word, God, looking on all ages, from the creation to the consummation, as a moment, and seeing at once whatever is in the hearts of all children of men, knows every one that does or does not believe, in every age or nation." Wesley saw no conflict between human moral freedom and divine foreknowledge. He affirmed that although God knows the future, He does not determine it. Wesley believed we must not think that things are because God knows them; rather, God knows them because they are. Could this reasoning retain its validity in the 21st century? Reconciliation of human free will with God's foreknowledge is not possible using our finite human intelligence. But it is possible from the perspective of an "infinite" God.
Consider the meaning of infinity. The smallest infinity is called aleph-null; its cardinality (n) is the number of elements in the set of all positive integers. This infinity is, by definition, "countable." After aleph-null, each element of an infinite set is a subset of elements from its predecessor. The cardinality (number of elements), for each successive infinity, is the number of subsets in the set of all possible subsets constructed from its predecessor. For example, the next infinity after aleph-null is aleph-1 or the continuum; its cardinality ( n' = 2n ) is the number of subsets in the set of all possible subsets constructed from the positive integers. This happens to be the same as the number of elements in the set of all real numbers. Aleph-1 is not countable. The next infinity is aleph-2; its cardinality ( n'' = 2n') is the number of subsets in the set of all possible subsets constructed from the real numbers. Consider the possibility that God can easily process at least n'''''''.... bits of information where the number of ' marks is n.
This is so overwhelming that our human intellect cannot grasp it! The infinitude of God permits Him to instantly track all possible histories and futures of you, me and the universe with no more difficulty than it is for us to count the wheels on a bicycle. Comprehending the cumulative consequences, of all contingent first-cause, human free will decisions on subsequent events, is infinitesimally trivial for God. Couple this concept with the idea that God has inserted Himself into all levels of the "interactive life-game" video. As the life-game designer, God knows all possible paths your life can take from birth to death. God not only knows all contingencies but He has entered the game as your advocate and He wants you to win. He has given each of us the prevenient grace that brings salvation. He works in each heart, intellect and will. Given His intimate involvement and the infinitude of his knowledge and intellect, what could surprise God?
No created entity can be God. A created entity is always subordinate to that which created it! Furthermore, the uncreated God of Christianity must have no beginning. Otherwise God would be subordinate to that which came before! This reasoning is entirely consistent with the Bible.
For example, in some Bible translations, the words “only begotten” appear in reference to Jesus Christ (John 1:14, 18; 3:16, 18; 1 John 4:9). This seems to imply that Jesus Christ is a created being and, therefore, although He may be of high stature, He would not qualify as a coequal member of the Trinity. This seeming conflict can be traced to a defective translation of the Greek word monogenes and should have, by now, been removed from the “puzzling issue” list associated with Christian Theology. Nevertheless, after centuries of contemplation, the idea that Jesus Christ is a created being has persisted from Arius to Charles Taze Russell and beyond (Section 2.4 of Theology Corner under the title, “Did God the Father Beget Jesus Christ?”).
Furthermore, God existed prior to the beginning of the universe; the beginning of the universe was not the beginning of God! According to Francis Schaeffer, “Although Genesis begins, ‘in the beginning,’ that does not mean that there was not anything before that. In John 17:24, Jesus prays to God the Father saying, ‘Thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.’ Jesus says that God the Father loved Him prior to the creation of all else. And in John 17:5 Jesus asks the Father to glorify Him, Jesus Himself, ‘with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.’ There is, therefore, something that reaches back into eternity – back before the phrase ‘in the beginning.’ Christ existed, and He had glory with the Father, and He was loved by the Father before ‘in the beginning.’ In Ephesians 1:4 we read, ‘…he [God] hath chosen us in him [Christ] before the foundation of the world…’ Thus, before ‘in the beginning’ something other than a static situation existed. A choice was made, and that choice shows forth thought and will. We were chosen in Him before the creation of the world. The same thing is emphasized in 1 Peter 1:20, where the sacrificial death of Jesus is said to have been ‘fore-ordained before the foundation of the world.’ Likewise Titus 1:2 says that God promised eternal life ‘before the world began.’ This is very striking. How can a promise be made before the world began? To whom could it be made? The Scripture here speaks of a promise made by the Father to the Son or to the Holy Spirit because, after all, at this particular point of sequence there was no one else to make the promise to. Finally, the same point is made in 2 Timothy 1:9, where we read about God, ‘who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.' We are faced, therefore, with a very interesting question: When did history begin? If one is thinking with the modern concept of the space-time continuum, then it is quite obvious that time and history did not exist before ‘in the beginning.’ But if we are thinking of history in contrast to an eternal, philosophic other or in contrast to a static eternal, then history began before Genesis 1:1” (Schaeffer, v2, p 8-9)
Scripture says: For I, the Lord, do not change (Mal 3:6).
The attribute of immutability does not mean God has a frozen, machine-like response to events. The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are living persons with uncountable emotions that surface in response to the affairs of creation. The three persons who are one God do not change their character, person or plan, but a variety of emotions rise to the surface as events transpire before them.
God must be transcendent, immanent, infinite, eternal and immutable to ensure a sound foundation for the Christian faith.