As I was reading a book about a particular subject that has long been viewed as a demarcation between those who are orthodox and those who are heretics, I was struck by the way that many of the problems and tensions that exist when people try to define and explain the nature of God are similar problems when we look at the nature of the Church and of its relationship to Jesus Christ as well as the nature of the destiny of believers as becoming members of God’s family. Given that the study of the nature of God is often viewed of as belonging to the past, in a research of patristic documents as well as the thinking of scholastic philosophers and more modern ones, it is helpful to add an element of prophecy to the discussion of the nature of God given our future inclusion in it.
There are a variety of reasons why this is a worthwhile endeavor. For one, sometimes in order to better understand a mystery we must expand it. A great many things appear more mysterious to us than they have to be because we are looking at too narrow of a context and fail to consider the larger picture. We presuppose that our understanding is correct and then hunt for proof texts, rather than reading with an eye towards picturing the whole biblical context or even the local context that governs the meaning of particular statements and approaches. We set passages in opposition to each other or simply fail to account for passages which have a strong bearing on the subject at hand, and so we come to incorrect conclusions because we do not have all of the puzzle pieces together that we need in order to come to the correct picture, and our speculation that fills in the rest does not often match the reality at hand.
When we expand the question of what the Bible says about the nature of God to how it will look in the future when mankind enters the family of God when believers receive eternal life, we are led to a variety of questions that help illuminate how it is that the question of the unity and multiplicity of God that bedevil attempts to simply our understanding of God while avoiding heresy can be resolved in a variety of ways. And indeed, the fact that the same questions and concerns come up about the Body of Christ as come up about the nature of God offers us an understanding that relating to the question of unity and difference is not something that is an esoteric concern of interest only to theologians or philosophers, but rather is of interest to ordinary believers. Similarly, prophecy, which is often relegated as a matter of speculation, is vastly more interesting when we recognize the way that it corresponds to our interest in developing our relationship with God and Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit. That which we often view to be very separate in the Bible ends up being connected in strange ways.
With this understanding we must offer some caveats, though. There are aspects of our relationship with God, present and future, that do not correspond to the experience of Jesus Christ. Where we may be tempted to present our entrance into the family of God as merely adoptionist, there is still a genuine begettal process in believers through the Holy Spirit that is distinct from this view. Similarly, we must reject an adoptionist view of Jesus Christ’s own eternal and unique process of begettal from God the Father, to say nothing of his preexistence which is not matched by our own experience. On a more fundamental level, there is a great deal the Bible itself tells us that we do not know or cannot understand fully as human beings with limited experience and understanding, and given that we lack the insight of Paul or John when it comes to understanding God and the relationship between God and mankind, we must retain an attitude of humility and an acceptance that there are some mysteries that we cannot yet solve given our limited information and our ability to comprehend what is far beyond our level. This exploration will not attempt to solve those mysterious or make everything seem rational, but at the same time it will not cultivate a desire to seek out poor logic or nonsense reasoning for the sake of being deliberately mysterious.
What we will do is not to give a detailed map of the depths of such matters of theology as the nature of God, but rather what we will do is plumb the depths, note where we are in deep water, and explore the relationship of various passages together that relate to the question of what we will become as human beings when we enter into the Kingdom of God based on what is said in the scriptures. And in exploring that question we will simultaneously explore those areas where an understanding of the relationship between God and man helps us to illuminate questions about God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the workings of the Holy Spirit. Some of these matters we will explore in great depth. Some of these matters we will only touch upon slightly, and we will see just how large of an examination it ends up being in all. With that said, let us begin.