The Trinity: Aspects of One Divine Essence
In the New Church we whole-heartedly believe in the Holy Trinity. In fact, we are very interested in the "trinity" concept. But to us, a trinity does not consist of three similar things on the same level (which might be regarded as a "trio"), but a trinity consists of one thing on three different levels. For example, three houses in a terrace do not form a trinity, but one house with three stories is a trinity. (Noah's Ark was like that; it had "lower, second and third stories." [Genesis 6:16]) Three oranges do not make a trinity; but one orange does, if you consider its skin, its flesh, and its pips or seeds. Three people do not make a trinity; but one person does, if you consider his soul, his body, and his influence or outflowing life.
The Holy Trinity—False View
The old, false idea of God was that he was, is, and ever has been, a trinity of three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, all existing side by side since before the creation of the universe. The theory is that at a certain point in time, one of these three persons, the Son, came into the world as a baby, grew up here to adult status, was crucified, was buried, and then ascended back to Heaven, to rejoin the Father and the Holy Ghost; after which everything was as it had been.
No "Son from Eternity"
The main error here is the supposition that the Son of God existed as a second person of the Holy Trinity since the beginning. We have already discussed this in Chapter 11, but let us recapitulate some reasons for disbelieving it.
(1) A son must have a mother, and there were no women available before the creation. Mary of Nazareth was the mother of Jesus, and she came comparatively late in the story.
(2) If the Son had been there from the beginning, surely he would have been mentioned in the Old Testament, which he isn't! On the contrary, Jehovah declares in Isaiah: "I am God, and there is none else." (Isaiah 45:21)
(3) If the Son of God had been in existence from eternity, presumably an adult, how was it that he came into Mary's womb as an embryo, then a fetus, and finally a sucking baby? Surely he would have arrived a full-grown man, knowing everything!
It is true that Jesus claimed to have been in existence since "before Abraham was." (John 8:58.) He was not a created being, like other men. His soul was Jehovah himself, the great "I am." That is why, when Jesus said, "Before Abraham was, I am!" the Jews tried to stone him for blasphemy. He did not say, however, that he had been the Son of God prior to his birth in Bethlehem.
Let us make this point perfectly clear. In so far as Jesus was divine, he was God. Not the Son of God (which he was when mixed with Mary's heredity) but simply God.
Three Essentials in One Person
We have seen that everyone is a trinity, consisting of three essentials in one person. You have a soul or spirit, a physical body, and an "influence" or sphere or outgoing personality by which others know you. There is also another kind of trinity involved in every project you undertake: love, wisdom, and power (or, in the terms of the old philosophers: end, cause, and effect.) Suppose you set out to mend an electric fuse. (1) There must be the love—the desire to have the fuse mended, which is in your heart, or will. This is the end in view. (2) You must have the wisdom—the know-how, which is in your head, or understanding. This is what causes the project to be undertaken. (3) Lastly, you must have the power, which resides in your hands. This produces the effect.
In the beginning, God was a trinity like this. At heart, he was just love. But love cannot exist alone, it needs others outside itself whom it can love and make happy. So love produced wisdom, which set to work to plan the creation of a finite universe full of creatures, including people. His wisdom was (as it were) the architect, the builder. "In the beginning was the Word; all things were made by him." (John 1:1, 3) Finally, the divine wisdom sent out energy from the divine love to accomplish its plans, rather as an architect employs construction workers. This energy was the divine power. In Old Testament times, then, the holy trinity consisted of love, wisdom, and power, three essentials in one person, that person being Jehovah God.
The Word Became Flesh
When, later on, God wished to enter his universe as a man, he naturally came as the divine wisdom or Word, which had created the universe in the first place. "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth." (John 1:14) Now, in Bethlehem, for the first time, we have the Father-Son relationship within the Godhead. The divine love was the Father, and the divine wisdom was (as it were) the Son. And their outpouring energy was the Holy Spirit.
This Father-Son relationship lasted for only only 33 years, from the birth of Jesus until his resurrection from death. After the ascension, the Holy Trinity consisted of (1) the divine Inmost, (2) the divine Human, and (3) the outflowing divine life. These three essentials correspond to the heat, light, and radiation of the spiritual Sun in Heaven, which is the Lord as seen by the angels.
We will now place these trinities together, side by side, and we think you will see how similar they are. In fact, they are really the same, under different names! God's nature has not essentially changed, and we are in his image and likeness.
The Holy Ghost
Nobody seems to know why the Holy Ghost should be addressed as "him," and called a "person." The word "ghost" simply means spirit, breath or wind, and suggests "outflowing life or activity." At the baptism of Jesus (Luke 3:2) the holy spirit entered him from Jehovah and was seen as a dove; only after receiving it was he enabled to do his redemptive work. He later promised his disciples that, when he was glorified, or united completed with his Father, this same holy spirit would overflow from him into them, as the comforter. (John 14:26 and 7:39) Thus, immediately after the resurrection, Jesus "breathed" on them in the upper room, and said: "Receive ye the holy ghost." (John 20:22) A few weeks later, at Pentecost, the same holy spirit came down in full force upon all who believed in him—"as tongues of fire and a rushing mighty wind." (Acts 2:2-4) Since then, the holy spirit was, and still is, the powerful stream of life that flows into men's hearts and minds from the glorified Lord Jesus Christ; i.e., from the Divine-Human. Those who receive it are said to be "baptized with the Holy Spirit."