The different persons in the Trinity

Question 199, from Dominic, Australia

Are the Father, Son, Holy Ghost and Christ one and the same?

The Christian doctrine of the Trinity is quite confusing, and this question highlights the main problem with understanding it: namely, how different and distinct are the members of the Trinity?

A Trinitarian view asserts that there is ‘one God in three persons’. This links the original Jewish assertion that there is only one God, with the terms used in the New Testament, such as Jesus being described as the Son of God, and the term ‘Holy Spirit’. All three names are used when describing the rite of baptism in Matthew chapter 28, verse 19. (more…)

The spirituality of Star Wars

To celebrate Star Wars Day (May 4th), here’s a summary of key points from a talk by Jon the freelance theologian on the subject of Star Wars.

Star Wars was released in 1977 and became a huge success, despite only initially opening in a limited number of smaller cinemas. By 1978 Star Wars fever was in full swing, with the ubiquitous toys owned by nearly every child old enough, and more merchandise than had veer accompanied a film release before.

Star Wars was titled ‘Episode IV – A New Hope’. It’s success meant creator/director George Lucas was given an increased budget for two sequels, episodes V and VI, called The Empire Strikes Back (released 1980), and The Return of the Jedi (released 1983). In 1999, some twenty years after the original films became such a smash, The Phantom Menace, the first of the prequel films was released, followed by Episodes II and III in 2004 and 2006.

This talk concentrates on the original trilogy, which I’ll be referring to as Star Wars, Empire and Jedi. The reasons I’m concentrating on these three is because a) they’re much better films, and b) their significance in shaping the cultural philosophy, particularly among men my age is quite important in the development in contemporary discussions of spirituality. (more…)

Does God think about everything all the time?

Question 182, from Ben J.

Is God omni-conscious (actively thinking about all things at all times)?

The traditional Christian definition of God which borrows more form Greek philosophy than from Biblical revelation is that ‘God’ is omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent. In other words, God is all-powerful, all-knowing and exists everywhere.

While there are good philosophical reasons for reaching these conclusions about God, there are a number of issues with them. The problem of reconciling the existence of evil with the existence of such a being leads to either denying God’s goodness, or finding a way to explain why an omniscient being would not exercise their power and eradicate evil.

Within the classical definition of God, it would naturally follow that God has all things in mind at all times. Everything exists in both reality and in the mind of God. However, even within a classical framework, some clarification of the terms is helpful. (more…)

Five responses to the ‘Problem of (Natural) Evil’

Question 181, from Emma

I am doing a talk on suffering. I want to focus on WHY there is suffering if God is a loving, omnipotent, omniscient God and in particular why God would plan a world where earthquakes etc. would be necessary (yet cause deaths and pain)? I understand to a certain extent how man-made suffering comes about as a result of free will but please explain a bit more about natural suffering.

The issue of evil that appears to be naturally occurring is a taxing one. It seems arbitrary and inconsistent with the Christian assertion that God is good and created the world as a ‘good’ world for humans to live in.

There have been a number of attempts to provide an explanation for ‘natural evil’. Some are more convincing than others, and there is no definitive answer that conclusively answers the question. Here is a brief introduction to five approaches that have been used. (more…)

A ‘simple’ introduction to Calvinism

Question 180, from Iwan

Would you possibly be able to explain as simply as possible what Calvinism is! Somebody asked me about it and to be honest I haven’t the first clue about it so would appreciate your help.

Calvinism is a theology based on key principles developed by John Calvin (1509-64), a noted protestant preacher and church leader during the Reformation. Churches that followed his theology are often referred to as ‘Reformed’, as distinct from ‘Lutheran’ churches that follow Martin Luther’s teaching instead.

Although Calvin’s theology had a number of interesting theological ideas at the heart of it, the doctrine for which he was most famous was what is now known as ‘double predestination’. At its most basic level, this is the idea that if God has predestined some members of the human race to salvation, then God has also predestined other members of the human race to eternal punishment. (more…)

God, Time and paradoxes

Question 170, from Paul F

What does the Bible tell us about God’s relationship to time? I often hear people say that God is outside of time but am unsure of the grounding for such a claim.

One of the problems with Biblical translators using the word ‘eternal’ is that it implies a sense of timelessness. However, a better translation would be ‘endless duration’. The Biblical depiction of God is of a being who is not temporary, but in a sense is temporal, in that God acts within time and those actions and plans are time-bound.

Within the realms of religious philosophy there have been numerous attempts to resolve the paradox of a being that is unaffected by time, and yet interacts with a creation that is governed by time.

Some of the attempts to resolve the paradox can be summed up as: (more…)

The Trinity explained in a twenty minute talk

Earlier this year, Jon the freelance theologian was asked to explain the Trinity to a Christian youth group in a twenty-minute talk. Although it’s impossible to give full justice to the topic, here are some of the points he made.

We’re going to talk tonight about the Trinity, specifically: how can one God be three persons, or three persons be one God?

Imagine a person you know. What could you say about them?
They are (more…)

The gender of God

Question 162, from Paul, United Kingdom

Is it possible to think of God as having a gender?

This is an interesting question because most Christians, and most Christian writers, automatically use the personal pronouns ‘He’ or ‘Him’ to describe God. This is partly due to the limitations of human language, and also the longstanding tendency to describe God in human terms that have gender-specific connotations, for example, the word ‘Father’.

While most Christians would acknowledge that “God is Spirit to be worshipped in spirit and truth” and that both men and women were created in God’s image, there is still an underlying temptation to ascribe the male gender to God. (more…)

Theological ideas about the origin of evil

This is a short teaching session Jon the freelance theologian was asked to do on the subject of evil. Instead of addressing the standard ‘Problem of Evil’ as classically stated, this was a study of some theological ideas about the absolute origin of evil in a world created that Christian theology would claim was created as ‘good’ by a good God.

There were six theological ideas put forward:

  • Evil originates in God and is misunderstood.
  • Evil occurs when God ‘withdraws’ from a place.
  • Evil is entropy/chaos seeking to reassert itself in a world that has been placed in order by God.
  • Evil is the ‘no’ inherent in the ‘yes’ of God’s creative act. It is the ‘nothingness’ that exists apart from God.
  • ‘Evil’ is down to natural probability.
  • ‘Evil’ is a force in the world that springs from our collective psychic experience – interiority.


God doing “evil”

Question 155, from Matt, United Kingdom

Does God have evil thoughts? [With reference to Exodus chapter 32, verse 14]

In this verse in Exodus, Moses appeals to Yahweh not to destroy the Israelites who had been practising idolatry. According to the text, Yahweh relents from destroying them. In some versions of the Bible this is described as “The LORD relented from the evil that he was about to do to his people.”

The idea that God can commit ‘evil’ is fairly nonsensical in many Christian theological viewpoints. God is often regarded as (more…)