A Christian observed in a social media post that she preferred to think about religion(s) through this analogy: That all rivers, lakes, and streams flow into one ocean. Therefore, some would say all religions lead to the same goal…. Merging with the Divine, as waters flow into the “ocean”. This is called Monism. It lumps the spirit of God and the spirit of humankind together. It denies the existence of a distinction or duality in some sphere, such as that between matter and mind, or God and the world. It can also be encompassed in pantheism or creation worship. All reality can be summed up or explained in one substance or a single reality.
Monism stands in contrast to dualism, the idea that all things can be reduced to two substances -good and evil-, eternal and created, God and man, spirit and flesh. Or a third possibility is pluralism, the idea that there are multiple substances, realities, or gods.
Rivers, ponds, lakes and oceans appear to be quite distinctive, yet they share a common character; they all are cisterns or vessels or indentions or “routes’ of various sizes, shapes, depths, etc. that can contain water, fresh water generally. The water that fills the rivers, lakes, and streams is their commonality and the water’s source as it comes to these waterways and tributaries is what is important, not its destination when the water has traversed its course.
When the individual posting this analogy said this is how she thought about multiple religions, essentially denying the uniqueness of Jesus as Messiah and his claims to be the Incarnate God, I was led to consider how her monistic concept is at odds with my thoughts about God, about mankind, and about eternity. The ocean itself, in my mind, represents a “holding place” for water and it is salty, not pure and thirst-quenching. Also, the oceans’ movements are accomplished by the movements of a variety of forces acting upon them- wind, heat, earthquakes, crashing ice glaciers, rotation and gravity of the earth, etc. It appears as a single body at the very beginning of creation, all gathered together with the Spirit of God moving upon it. After the creation of dry land there is separation of the “waters” into upper and lower waters, as well as a variety of waterways that are formed on the land.
From the saline oceans water, fresh water, evaporates. The vapor is moved by air currents, condenses, and is deposited in mountains as snow. When the snow melts it runs downward and, over time, carves out and creates the spaces that become rivers, lakes, and streams through which the fresh water will continue to flow. Those various features are means of bearing the fresh water, they all RECEIVE the water, contain the water, bear the water as it moves from the mountains, across the land, and back toward the oceans. The composition of the water itself that makes this cyclic journey is the stable, immutable part, even as it moves from place to place, just like the Scripture tells us the Holy Spirit does- moving upon the waters of the Earth! It remains consistent in its elemental components, H2O, pure in its essence, its Homoousios, regardless of conditions and appearance of one state or another. It is transformed as it moves about from liquid state (in oceans) to vapor state (as clouds in the sky) to solid state (snow) and back to liquid state (flowing in rivers, lakes, and streams) as it exists in different temperatures and is borne along in the different waterways. The starting point for the variety of observed “living waters” on earth, or flowing, moving waters, is as it flows from the mountains’ snows back toward the oceans.
Warming temperatures carry it from its high originating point down through the land, over the land, carving the land, softening the land, enriching the land, until the water returns to the ocean reservoir and is soon lifted into the air again and returned to its mountain location to begin the journey again. Spirit is the image of God defined by the essence and is present no matter in what state/condition (or Person) that God is known. Now, as far as other spirits, there are angelic beings, both righteous and evil, and there are human spirits. There is great symbolism of “The Deep”, or the depths of the oceans. Oceans have been thought of as the fearsome unknown place where good or bad could await even the monstrous Leviathan, and as the place from which the “beast of the sea” will arise at the end time. I would be hesitant to attribute to the oceans the same degree of purity and righteousness assigned to that of the snow that rests on the mountaintop or even to that that flows in the fresh water rivers, lakes, and streams. So I would suggest that the analogy of the mountain as the starting point, at least for those of us who observe God through this analogy in the earthly realm, the place where God meets with us and for us to look to for our help would be a better place to look think for God . The mountain source serves as a headwater, a fountainhead, for all the waters of the earth upon which God’s Spirit moves. The ocean, symbolically, is more of a “catch all” repository for all spiritual realm beings, good or evil, where so many unknowns lie hidden, and where unhealthy salt can be taken into one’s body in more than incidental amounts, not exactly a place in which to vest one’s full trust nor a place where one can be at rest and peace for very long. And certainly not representing the highest and best representation of the all that is spiritual for all humankind. There is a lot of danger in that analogy and in the reality of the spiritual and religious symbolism it represents.
The process of evaporation, lifting away, and freezing of pure snow on the mountaintop suggests the purity that assures us that the essence of God – holy, holy, holy- is represented there, not in the merging, gathering confluence of all the waterways from all over the earth into the oceans. It makes me a little nauseous to even consider the contrast……
Genesis 1:2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
Day 1 is described here. The conditions and components of the beginning of creation are described: Heavens, Earth, Darkness upon the “deep”. Notice that the Spirit of God is moving upon the waters, present upon the Earth from the very beginning. (Think “vapor”) Then Light is created.
Genesis 1: 6 And God said, “Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.”
7 So God made the vault and separated the water under the vault from the water above it. And it was so.
8 God called the vault “sky.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the second day
Day 2 ‘s creative energy resulted in Water above the vault, Water below the vault, and the Vault itself is “sky”.
Genesis 1:9 And God said, “Let the Water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” And it was so.
10 God called the dry ground “land,” and the gathered waters he called “seas.” And God saw that it was good.
Day 3 ‘s creative work results in seas of gathered water and dry ground emerges- as well as vegetation, which was a part of that day’s work.
A one elemental one essence of three “states”, one God of Three Persons, way of understanding the Trinity is something that has intrigued me as I have thought about the states of H2O and how they relate to how we observe the Divine in three persons- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. For the sake of a comparison, the solid state, or mountain snow can be thought of as representing the righteousness, as being holy, holy, holy righteousness of God, which is also shared by Christ and which is placed upon us when we receive Jesus Christ as Savior. The liquid state, the Living Water can be thought of as being Jesus Christ the Incarnate God that dwells with humanity in the rivers, lakes, and streams- flooding the land, bringing also the rich silt and making the land fruitful. Jesus takes our form, journeys with us, among us, and is our living water! Eventually Jesus’ essence returns to the saline ocean reservoir (“the deep”) where, once again the vapor rises from the confluence of the ocean. This pure Holy Spirit H2O is borne back to the mountain where it begins its journey again. The same substance is present throughout, purest on the mountain top, moving among and within us, and being borne back to the place of God after it has run its course. This is an eternal unending cycle of the movement of the Holy
Spirit upon the waters of the Earth, wherever they are and in whatever state they exist, based on the conditions of temperature. Do all three exist simultaneously? Yes. Can the three states of H2O all exist simultaneously? Yes. If you don’t believe me set a glass of ice water on the patio in the sun with you. You will observe the solid and liquid, but in the presence of the sun’s heat, you may be assured there is vapor rising, as well from the droplets running down the condensation on the outside of the glass and from the surface of the water on top. Let it sit until the Ice is all gone and the temperature rises to the ambient air temperature and all you will see is the liquid, though you can be sure the vapor is still rising in the heat. If you doubt it, just let it sit a while longer and watch the level of the water in the glass slowly disappear over time. One has to continually refresh the ice, return to cooler indoor temperatures or drink room temperature water. Perhaps this is what Jesus meant when He said to the Laodiceans, “I would rather you would be hot or cold instead of lukewarm. Because you are lukewarm, I will spit you out.” They lacked the invigorating power of the icy pure holy, holy, holy refreshing presence of the Spirit of Creator Source Father God as well as the invisible rising vapor present in the heat of the Holy Spirit! Both Father and Spirit witness to the truth of Jesus Christ and if neither of those are present then how can one have real relationship with Christ and the accompanying passion and assurance of their faith. It is just religion for religion’s sake.
God the Father, God the Son Jesus Christ Messiah, God the Holy Spirit are all one essence and exist seamlessly as one- omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent. What determines how one sees God does not depend upon how God is, as God simply “IS”, but it is in the conditions in which we find ourselves and the need that we have at any moment for the Person of the Trinity with whom we can most readily connect and relate in the moment. What is our need? God is the sufficient provision of that need, and makes Himself known to us as we need to know and experience Him present with us. Are there times I long for the majesty, knowledge and presence of holiness conveyed in the covering of righteousness, like snow? Times when I desire and seek the meek and gentle co-laborer, example-setting, Way-making, yoke-sharing, refreshing, cleansing, growth-producing, presence of Jesus Christ, Lord and Savior, like living water? And times I need the permeating, whispering gentleness and the regenerating breath of the Holy Spirit to fill and sustain me? Whatever my need and condition, The Triune Godhead is present to me as I need, according to His desire to make Himself and His will known to me. I and the conditions in which I happen to be at the moment determine how God comes to me. I want to be open to the chill of awe, reverence, discipline, and holiness represented in the Creator Father God. I also want to know the rising temperature of the Holy Spirit that calls one to rise up, to move, in ways seen or unseen. But unless one knows and understands these as aspects, too, of Jesus Christ as He truly is, the Incarnate God, Lord and Savior of mankind, the One who dwells with us always and gives us purpose, one cannot know the fullness of God as He reveals Himself in Scripture and in nature and as He wishes Himself to be known.
Is God One? Yes. Does the Godhead make Himself known to us in Three Persons- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? Yes. Is the Creation the same essence as the Creator? No. Is the Creator revealed through the created realm? Yes. This is really not so difficult. One God. Revealed in Three Persons, based on our need and his purpose for our lives, not the particular Presentation of Himself, per se, in that moment for my benefit. God is omnipresent and immutable in all ways at all times… defined first and foremost as Spirit of the Living God, which MOVES UPON ALL THE WATERS OF THE EARTH, for water is necessary for life and where there is the Spirit of God, life exists. Abundant life is known when the fullest measure of God in all His Triune Godhead Glory! THAT, the fullness of grace and truth, the abundant of living not just in the spiritual realm after death, but in the physical realm now…. both of which are eternal! Until one realizes that eternal life begins here, now, with the fullness of God expressed in the Triune Godhead, one will never know the One True God!
Were the Father and Holy Spirit present with Jesus in his Incarnation? Yes
Were the Father the Holy Spirit present with Jesus Christ at his baptism? Yes
Are Jesus, His Holy Spirit and the Father present with us today? Yes
Was the Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ present with God the Father at creation? Yes
Are the Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ present with God the Father now? Yes
Co-eternal, Co-existent. Omnipresent. Immutable. That is the meaning of such “otherly” Divine attributes and is the character of the Triune Godhead. The only difference lies in our ability to see, our human need for the particular ministry of the Person with whom we can most relate in the moment according to our need, and God’s purpose and will for our life. Whatever that need is, God has said “I AM….” The All Sufficient One, the Provider. The Equipper. The Beginning and the End. The All in All.
Is God One? Yes
Is God Three? Yes
Is it a holy mystery that can only be understood as we earnestly seek the heart and mind – and the passion- of Jesus Christ? Yes CBB 5-25-20