One of the main purposes of this blog is for me to describe and discuss some of the commonly held Christian beliefs that I find difficult to understand. One idea that I’ve been wrestling with recently is the co-eternality of the three persons of the Trinity. In this brief post I will try to describe what confuses me about this concept with reference to the Christian scriptures.
The idea that anything has existed eternally really is mind boggling. But as I contemplate the oneness of God from a panentheistic perspective (that being the belief that everything exists ‘in God’) I can almost make sense of the idea. I am much more comfortable with the idea that one thing (being, essence) has always existed than that multiple things have always existed.
But Christian apologists often argue that Jesus and the Holy Spirit have existed eternally along with God the Father. This seems to indicate that Jesus, the God-man who walked the earth two thousand years ago, is somehow uncreated. This is a difficult idea to understand so let’s look at a few of the key scriptures that give Christians confidence in Jesus’ eternal nature.
John quotes Jesus as saying,
And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began. (John 17:5)
The apostle Paul, in his letter to the church in Corinth, explains,
yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live. (1 Corinthians 8:6)
And in his letter to the Colossians, Paul further elaborates,
The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (Colossians 1:15-17)
I think that when we consider the above scriptures there is an important point that needs to be made. To say Jesus existed eternally is different from saying Jesus existed before the world began. It could be the case, for instance, that God has created other worlds and other universes before the one in which we live, when there may have been no human beings and no Jesus Christ. Let us not forget that eternity is a very, very, long time, and it’s quite possible that the revelation we have received in the Bible is for our world, and not every world and every creation that God has ever brought forth.
Perhaps Jesus was created before the world, and everything was indeed created through Him as the above scriptures suggest. I realise that this idea conflicts somewhat with the concept of an uncreated eternal Trinity, but as I have already mentioned, I find it much easier to believe that God existed as one before He existed as three persons. I realise that this is to say that Jesus was created before He became creator of our present world.
When I think about the idea of Jesus existing eternally the picture I have in my mind is of a human being existing eternally. But before the Incarnation, did Jesus exist in some other form? Was Jesus a spiritual entity not having a human form (e.g. the ‘word’ or ‘logos’ of John 1) and if so how are we to understand Jesus’ form at that time? I’m not sure the Bible tells us the answer to this question, but perhaps I am mistaken.
The intention of this post is merely to open up a discussion around the common Christian claim that Jesus has existed for as long as God the Father. So however you understand this concept, feel free to add your thoughts in the comments below.