In order to know God and his perspective, people need to access his stream of consciousness or to have it opened up to them.
Engagement with God requires more than being able to state things about him: it involves a person-to-person relationship in which his perspective is understood and appreciated. Merely relating to propositions about him from a first-person or third-person perspective (such as “I believe X about him”) is insufficient to claim to be knowledge of God—it may be knowledge “about” God but not “of” God as a personal being.
Mind-to-mind with God
This full and necessary kind of knowledge requires a mind-to-mind relationship with God. Matthew Benton writes: “If propositional knowledge is a state of mind, consisting in a subject’s attitude to a (true) proposition … interpersonal knowledge [is] … a state of minds, involving a subject’s attitude to another (existing) subject.” This kind of acquaintance allows for understanding God’s perspective, and therefore how he may be involved in healing traumatized lives. It requires getting to know him as a personal reflective being, a communicative “you,” in a dynamic “I-to-you” relationship.
For this to be successful, someone has to initiate interpersonal awareness between the knower and the known. God initiates the interaction and cooperatively works with the degree of a person’s response to him. How this dynamic relationship between God and people occurs exactly varies from person to person. The point at hand is that God initiates a process of knowing him that requires our attention and commitment.
The relationship between Jesus’ human mind and his divine mind demonstrates that there may be a strong, attentive, and engaged relationship between God’s mind and a human mind. There was an asymmetrical relationship in which the knowledge from Jesus’ divine mind would occasionally breakthrough to his human mind. In these cases, Jesus’ human mind would receive expert secondhand knowledge from God. Jesus also knew that God the Spirit would share God’s perspective with believers. This knowledge brings a previously unavailable perception of the character and activity of the Father, Son, and Spirit. It also includes an awareness of the mediums by which he conveys this knowledge—be they direct or indirect—as well as the kinds of knowledge and extent of knowledge that he shares.
Perceiving the world as a Trinitarian
Mind-to-mind knowledge, or perhaps better, Spirit-to-human-spirit knowledge, affects how a person interprets the Scriptures and what they say about God’s present activity in a world of trauma and horrors.1
For believers, a Trinitarian interpretation of Jesus is required. It is Trinitarian in two ways. First, Jesus is understood as God the Son incarnate, as recorded in the New Testament and anticipated in the Old Testament. Second, this revelation is received in humble dependence on God to bring about a change in the believer’s perspective as he invisibly and intimately accompanies a person’s or church’s Scripture reading.
Australian-Hungarian psychiatrist Paul Valent writes that there is an important tradition of witnessing to the trauma of others that draws on divine help. Valent refers to the whole truth that Jesus reveals about himself and ourselves, which needs to be taken into account as a historical model of drawing on God to bring relief from suffering and experience the love of God. Valent draws from Jesus’ words in John 18:37 that he has “come into the world to testify to the truth.… Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” Trinitarian Christians may take a theological rather than historical lead from this verse and Valent’s work and argue that Valent is correct theologically. The significance of this for recovering from horrors is that whole truth revealed to us—not just those parts of Jesus’ life that resonate without past and present experiences—are important for knowing God and what this means for people in the midst and wake of horrors. The Trinitarian aspect of this change particularly relies on God’s truth revealed through Jesus as well as his Spirit enabling us to hear and respond to one another’s responses to horrors. Hearing each other well involves factual and empathetic listening in which we are operating with both the right and left sides of our brains.
This compassionate kind of relating between people is likely to occur as they become aware of the invisible and visible ways by which God brings about new life to people by offering them safety, a larger story, and a community of faith, hope, and love.2
This post is adapted from God of All Comfort: A Trinitarian Response to the Horrors of This World, available now through Lexham Press. The headings and title of this post are the additions of the editor.
- This excerpt is drawn from a book on a theology of horror (see next footnote). Harrower defines a horror as follows: “Something is a horror if, and only if, it includes one or more of (1)–(4) and (5): 1. it includes a degeneration of life toward death by means of replacing the makeup of a being with absences or distortions of them and replacing the qualities of things with lacks or distortions of those qualities, and/or 2. it is sourced in an objective, relationally immoral action, and/or 3. it objectively prevents an individual from being and allowing others to be images of God in their natural and fullest sense, and/or 4. it entails a traumatic response that diminishes the potential and actualization of personhood, And 5. it is not possible to fully recover psychologically and relationally from these before death.
- Scott Harrower, God of All Comfort: A Trinitarian Response to the Horrors of This World (Lexham Press, 2019), pg. 119.