Dialogue with Stephen (Trinity Versus Unity)

This dialogue began as a comment exchange at the end of Appendix II (which is a summary of the book) of The Biblical Case for Everyone Going to Heaven.  It began with Stephen’s first comment here, and continued until it transferred from here to this post.

I moved the dialogue here because I thought Stephen’s questions deserved a dedicated place with a little more elbow room.  He may respond to this topic here, and/or he may respond to other topics as he sees fit.  This exchange about the Trinity arose in a dialogue about everyone going to heaven and the completed Second Coming.

Here then are my responses to Stephen’s last note:

Mike,

Thanks for answering my questions.  I do understand that the word Trinity is not in the scripture, but let’s be honest, to say that God is not Trinitarian is to go again pretty much every branch of Christianity since the very beginning.

I don’t really feel like I’m going against every branch of Christianity, and I’ll say more below about why.

Remember, we can read the works of men like Irenaeus, Polycarp, and Ignatius who were disciples of the apostles.

My understanding is that Polycarp of Smyrna, Ignatius of Antioch, and Clement of Rome were the three church fathers who had direct contact with apostles (the first two with John, and the third with Peter).  While Irenaeus (who died in 180 AD) is certainly numbered among the church fathers that followed, I don’t think anyone has claimed that he was a direct disciple of one of the apostles.

As the apostles did not use the word “Trinity” neither did the apostolic fathers (Polycarp, Ignatius, and Clement).  Nor did Irenaeus.  That term did not come into use until the church father Tertullian began to use it in the 3rd Century.  The concept was more fully explained by Athanasius early in the 4th Century and adopted as church doctrine by the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD.  It came about in response to various challenges to the nature of Christ as presented in the Scriptures.

The evidence couldn’t be more clear that Christians since the beginning held to the belief in the Tri-personal God head.  To say that this is a 4th century add on by the Emperor does not hold any water unless you are a Jesus Seminar follower.

I am not a Jesus Seminar follower, nor do I think the decree of Constantine drove the issue.  However, I don’t think it’s accurate to say that “the evidence couldn’t be more clear that Christians since the beginning held to the belief in the Tri-personal God head.”  For one thing, the Scriptures never use that term either.

Do you really think that it is honoring or even smart to say that pretty much every branch of Christianity has gotten this bible hermeneutic wrong.  You are really going at this alone.

I do not make any statements about God lightly, knowing 1) that He will judge me for everything I say, especially about Him, and 2) I might lead people away from God rather than to Him if I am wrong.  Concern for these two issues drive me to always do my best to speak only the truth of God as revealed in the Scriptures and by the Holy Spirit.

I have benefitted greatly by what Christians down through the ages have taught.  I do not consider myself as rejecting that heritage.  On the contrary, I embrace it – especially its best parts.

The early church sorted out among all the documents written about Jesus those that came from the apostles, and thus we have the New Testament appended to the Old Testament.  Where would I be without the Bible?  The Reformation church pointed out that the Scriptures had more authority than church leaders, and thus the light of the gospel of Jesus escaped the shadows of a corrupt clergy.  Where would I be without that knowledge?  The modern day evangelical church has made clear that the Scriptures bear witness not to themselves but to Jesus, and thus the preeminence of Christ in all things is the central message of the Bible.  Where would I be without Christ as the head of all things?

Thus, what God has revealed down through the ages to Christians is of the utmost importance to me.  I treasure their sacrifices and I revere what they have taught me.  Thus, it is they who have helped lead me to the understandings that I have.  Christians through the ages have not always agreed and so when I take one of their teachings and not another, I have not rejected them – I have only made a choice that their disagreement forced on me.

You have chosen the Orthodox Church.  You could have chosen the Catholic church.  Or you could choose a Reformed Church.  If you had your druthers, you’d rather not have to make a choice.  That is, you would probably prefer that there be only one united church.  It is the divided church that has forced you to make a choice you otherwise wouldn’t have made.  Because if there was only one church, you certainly would not leave it to go out and form your own.

Therefore, the problem with your logic is that if I try to find “safety in numbers” by siding with historic Christianity, there’s too many choices!  From John Calvin to John Spong is a long way – both chronologically and theologically – and there are a whole lot of John’s in between.  Where does one choose to land?  For me, I have chosen to land with the John in the Scriptures (and the rest of the apostles, and prophets before them).  If that leads me to differ with certain church fathers, then I have to live with that.  And they, of all people, should not accuse me because they are the ones who taught me to revere the Christ of the Scriptures above all else.

Without trying to sound harsh, there is no time in Church history (bar none) that if someone came out against the Holy Trinity that they were by definition a Christian. I don’t mean that judgmentally but only factually.

I am not trying to meet the church’s definition of a Christian.  For one thing, many have failed to meet it and went on to establish a name for themselves as great Christians – even greater than those who said they didn’t meet the definition.  (Think of John Hus being burned at the stake…and innumberable others.)

Only the Arians and several other groups who were cut off from the rest of the Christians believed this.  Even now the only “Christians” who don’t believe in the Trinity would be Jehovah Witnesses, Mormon or maybe One-ness Pentecostals or those of completely liberal denominations that have tossed out almost everything.

I have done a little reading (truly only a little) of those who have proposed alternatives to a Trinitarian understanding of God and I have not found a single one with which I would feel comfortable.  The common thread I have found in all of them is that they seem in one way or another to subtract from Christ.  The Scriptures teach me to let nothing subtract from Him.  As John said, “Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ does not have God” (2 John 9).

My rejection of the Trinity is in the cause of promoting devotion to Christ (2 Corinthians 11:3; Colossians 1:18; Hebrews 12:1-2; and many, many more).  Jesus Himself said that no man can serve two masters.  A trinitarian view of God does foster the cause of obedience to a single master.  It may be intellectually satisfying (though only to a limited extent), but it does not satisfy the soul of servant intent on pleasing a single master.

Are you Ok, going out on a limb like this when the clear majority, might I say, every historical Christian:  Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant (save a couple) all believes that the doctrine of the Trinity is solidly biblical?  This is a fundamental doctrine of the Christian faith and the lack of it distorts the very fiber of the faith.

The Scriptures enjoin us to put our faith in Christ – over and over they enjoin this.  They do not enjoin us to put our faith in the Trinity.

But let us assume for the moment, Stephen, that the doctrine of the Trinity is true.  Since it is true, there must be a reason it is true.  Is it because the Scriptures teach it as such?  No; you’ve already conceded that.  Is it true because the apostolic fathers taught it as such?  No; history demonstrates that.  Therefore, if it is true it must be because the conceptual formulation put together by Tertullian, Athanasius, and others must be the logical conclusion required by all that the Scriptures, apostles, and apostolic fathers did teach.  I think you will agree that this is indeed the orthodox rationale for why the Trinity is true.  Perhaps I’m wrong, but I don’t think any of the church fathers claimed that the formulation of the Trinity came by revelation of the Spirit (as Paul and other scripture writers claimed for some of their understandings)

My point is that I am united with Tertullian, Athanasius, and the others regarding the heresies they were fighting against.  I believe Jesus was fully human as they did.  I believe Jesus was fully divine as they did.  The only thing I am disagreeing with is the conceptual construct they formed to fight the heresies.  And I am certainly not going to construct my own man-made formulation to put in its place.  To the degree that God gives me grace to understand something, I will explain it.  However, I dare not explain beyond that point.  All I can tell you at the current time is that Jesus is Lord and I want to trust and obey Him.

Can you with honesty say that you can interpret scripture and have it disagree with every bit of historical bible interpretation and just pass if off as the Holy Spirit really didn’t reveal this to them and only you and a small group has the accurate interpretation?

As I have said, I am not setting myself apart from those who have heard the Holy Spirit before me.  Rather, I am drinking from the same stream that quenched their thirst.  Moreover, I am standing on their shoulders for if they had not stood tall for the Lord, I might not be seeing Him now.  In God intends to increase the light of the knowledge of Him in every succeeding generation, who are we to complain?  That our children will see more clearly than we do is a blessed thought to us, eh?

As for a “group,” the very last thing I want to do is start a group.  That’s why I have no mailing list, no meetings, or anything else that might lead people to follow me.  Follow Christ and Christ alone!

You have more faith than I do my friend.

I’d be lying if I said I had all the faith I wanted.  I’d also be lying if I said I had all the faith I should have.  But I do have faith.  And that faith is in Jesus Christ our Lord.  That should put me in good stead with everyone else who feels that way about Him.

Even if everything I just cited were a scam or just dead wrong, let me pose the question:  If I read the scripture and the Spirit bears witness to me that God is Trinitarian and you read the scripture and the Holy Spirit bears witness to you that God is not trinitarian.  How in the world would you and I ever arbitrate this unless we looked historically at the people of God to see what the Holy Spirit bore witness to them.

Good question, though I don’t think your suggested answer works because it leads us only to more uncertainty.  For one thing, how would we know if the Holy Spirit spoke to someone in, say, 500 AD?  Even if we did, how could we be absolutely sure of exactly what the Holy Spirit said to that person in that context?  And after that, we’d have to survey all the people to whom the Holy Spirit spoke on this issue.  We’d take a count, but what if there were discrepancies or disagreements?  There are over 30,000 Christian denominations and that doesn’t even include the untold number of non-denominational churches.  There could not be a more divided kingdom than today’s church.  And you’ve probably realized that the ecumenical ones (that is, the ones who try to get everyone on the same page) are even worse than the divided ones.  Truth does not stand or fall with a referendum, no matter how august the voters.

Here’s my suggested answer: We just have to live with the tension until the Holy Spirit gives one or both of us greater light.  For it cannot be that He has told us different things – how can the Spirit of Truth speak out of both sides of His mouth?  I do not say we should turn a blind eye to what Christians have said through the ages.  We can and should learn from their experiences to the degree that we can.  But remember the greatest and most precious things they have taught us: The Scriptures are more reliable than human religious leaders, and the Scriptures say that Jesus Christ should have the preeminence.  None of us can claim to have all the truth, therefore we must all keep listening to Him every day.

Jesus said that gates of hell will not prevail, so if the early church got this wrong and pretty much every Christian has gotten this wrong, it would seem to me that the gates of hell surely did prevail or at least we as Christians have pretty much no hope of ever agreeing on anything.

Stephen

I agree with Jesus and with the early church about the gates of hell.  (Actually, it’s the gates of Hades (Sheol), and it is the issue of these words that started our dialogue in Appendix II of the book.)  The gates of death used to lead to Sheol below and now they lead to heaven above, for Jesus has moved those gates – He is our Samson.

It is not necessary for Christians to agree on everything.  It is not even necessary to be a Christian.  It is only necessary for those of us who have heard of Him to repent and follow Jesus Christ our Lord.  If we are going to Him, we shall see each other along the way…or else surely when we reach the destination.

To learn more about Christ versus the Trinity, see:

There Is No Trinity; There Is Christ

Posts to Date on the Trinity Versus Christ

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49 Responses to Dialogue with Stephen (Trinity Versus Unity)

  1. Stephen Pletcher says:

    Mike,

    I appreciate your kind response. I can tell you are sincere in your beliefs and not defensive. I respect that and will try to respond in kind. I will indicate your previous responses with quotes.

    As the apostles did not use the word “Trinity” neither did the apostolic fathers (Polycarp, Ignatius, and Clement). Nor did Irenaeus. That term did not come into use until the church father Tertullian began to use it in the 3rd Century. The concept was more fully explained by Athanasius early in the 4th Century and adopted as church doctrine by the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD. It came about in response to various challenges to the nature of Christ as presented in the Scriptures.

    You are correct that Tertullian may have actually coined the word Trinity but the concept of God being the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, three separate but equal “persons” of the Godhead was held by everyone in the early church. Tertullian simply put a word to something that everyone believed. In the early church it was very important not to “invent” new doctrines but to remain in the doctrine defended by the apostles. People were being killed left and right by the Roman dictators so people held to their faith tenaciously and would not have permitted someone to flippantly come up with a new understanding not previously taught in all regions where Christianity had been preached. When someone came around with an novel interpretation the church met in councils to see if that is what had been passed on to them by their pastors right back through apostolic times. That is why Arian was widely condemned. What he taught was not what had been passed on to the Christians. Therefore you and I would agree that anyone who comes along and says that Jesus in not God is out of step with the scriptures and the understanding of the early church. This is also true of the Trinity. What Tertullian said was

    200 AD Tertullian “All the Scriptures give clear proof of the Trinity, and it is from these that our principle is deduced…the distinction of the Trinity is quite clearly displayed.” (Against Praxeas, ch 11)

    He knew that the scripture was clear in its teaching that God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This is also what was believed by all Christians everywhere. If it wasn’t, Tertullian would have been condemned by Christians in his time. As you said this doctrine of the Trinity was solidified in the councils of the Church by Athanasius and numerous other leaders many of whom had been tortured for their faith and were missing limbs. Representatives came from all over the Christian world at that time to discuss the creed in the first council and there was universal agreement that this was what had been taught from the apostolic times forward. There was no way they would have haphazardly adopted something new. Christians from the beginning prayed in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and they were not talking about the same person or some form of modalism or Sabellianism.

    I have benefitted greatly by what Christians down through the ages have taught. I do not consider myself as rejecting that heritage. On the contrary, I embrace it – especially its best parts.

    Unfortunately, you are not honoring Christians down through the ages if you reject their understanding of God as a trinity of persons. Even though there are 30,000 denominations now, in the first millennium there was universal agreement on the interpretation of scripture regarding the doctrine of the trinity. I would ask you to name any groups of Christians or even any single Christian that did not hold to this. The only one I can name is Sabellius, who was widely condemned by the rest of the Christian world during and after his life. Arius also was condemned for not believing that there was “a time when the Son was not”. In other words he believed in a purely human Jesus and not in him being the 2nd person of the trinity. You simply cannot find any group of Christians in the first millennium that disregarded this interpretation of the scripture. If you do, you can easily find the council or agreed upon position of the church that condemned their views. (i.e. Nestorius and others like him)

    According to the scripture, The Church is the Pillar and Ground of Truth (1 Timothy 3:15). The Church, not the scripture, is the pillar and ground of the truth. Just as Christ is the word and the scripture is the word about the Word. The Spirit taught the church about the understanding of the word. The Church, Christ’s body was the pillar of Truth not the other way around. The clear implication of this is that Christ meant what he said when he promised his disciples that the Spirit will lead them into all truth. He also didn’t mean that the Spirit would only teat the 12 disciples and then disappear. Apparently at least Paul believed that the Church would be the basis of truth or better said, the Church, led by the Spirit, would lead them into all truth. Can we at least agree that the majority of Christians believed in the Trinity from the beginning and strongly believed this was the interpretation of the scripture? I think this is an incontrovertible for most Church historians.

    You have chosen the Orthodox Church. You could have chosen the Catholic church. Or you could choose a Reformed Church. If you had your druthers, you’d rather not have to make a choice. That is, you would probably prefer that there be only one united church. It is the divided church that has forced you to make a choice you otherwise wouldn’t have made. Because if there was only one church, you certainly would not leave it to go out and form your own.

    For the first 1000 years there was merely the one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. There were no denominations. Christians were either part of this and agreed with the councils, liturgies and canons of the Church or they were considered cut off or outside the Church. The clear teaching of the Apostolic Church whether east or west was what was contained and developed in the Nicene Creed which was believed to be the doctrine of the early Christians and the teaching of the scripture. I don’t have to choose anything except whether or not I want my faith and interpretation of scripture to line up with this. If I don’t, I would be choosing to be outside the clear boundaries of what the Church taught or at least going against what the Holy Spirit taught to millions. If we can’t agree upon something as important as who is God and how He exists, can we really believe what Christ said about sending the Holy Spirit to lead his Church into all truth? If not, he would have been better off to just invent the printing press and hand out New Testaments so every individual Christian could take a crack at his own interpretation.

    I am not trying to meet the church’s definition of a Christian.

    Why in the world would you not want to meet the Churches definition of a Christian? No person in the Old Testament would have wandered around with a copy of the Old Testament and claimed to be a Jew without belonging to the Jewish nation or believing what every common Jew held dear. In the same way, why would you not want to agree with the interpretation of scripture that was held by Christians everywhere, at all times, in all places for at least the first 15 centuries of Church history. Remember, very few people who claim to be Christian (even today) do not believe that the entirety of the scripture teaches a Trinitarian view of God.

    I have done a little reading (truly only a little) of those who have proposed alternatives to a Trinitarian understanding of God and I have not found a single one with which I would feel comfortable. The common thread I have found in all of them is that they seem in one way or another to subtract from Christ.

    So even among the non-Trinitarians you have not found a single soul mate? I don’t think that is what Christ was talking about when He prayed to the Father in John 17 about the unity of the Church and that it would have communion as He has with the Father. That to me sounds more like the “rugged individualism” of Teddy Roosevelt. On the flip side, if God exists in three persons, this in no way subtracts from Christ. In earthly life does honoring your children take away from honoring their parents? To glorify Christ is to honor is Father and Holy Spirit who reveals him.

    But let us assume for the moment, Stephen, that the doctrine of the Trinity is true. Since it is true, there must be a reason it is true. Is it because the Scriptures teach it as such? No; you’ve already conceded that. Is it true because the apostolic fathers taught it as such? No; history demonstrates that. Therefore, if it is true it must be because the conceptual formulation put together by Tertullian, Athanasius, and others must be the logical conclusion required by all that the Scriptures, apostles, and apostolic fathers did teach. I think you will agree that this is indeed the orthodox rationale for why the Trinity is true. Perhaps I’m wrong, but I don’t think any of the church fathers claimed that the formulation of the Trinity came by revelation of the Spirit (as Paul and other scripture writers claimed for some of their understandings).

    I didn’t concede that the Scriptures do not teach the belief in a tri-personal God, only that the word “trinity” is not in the bible. I think the Bible clearly teaches about the trinity although I won’t construct that argument here. I think that all of the church fathers believed and claimed that the formulation of the Trinity came by revelation of the Spirit. What makes you say that the apostolic fathers didn’t believe in the trinity just because they didn’t use that word? From Polycarp to Ignatius they spoke in terms of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. They certainly did not believe it was some novel doctrine conceived by Tertullian. Christ himself exhorted us to baptize in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and he wasn’t talking about three different forms of Himself. Like I said only Seballius believed this and he was soundly condemned for this belief as not having apostolic merit.
    You cannot claim to be united with Tertullian and Athanasius if you deny the belief they fought for so hard. Of course they believed in the divinity of Christ but only as the son of God, the 2nd person of the Trinity. I’m sorry but I don’t think you can stand on the shoulders of someone you disagree with in such a fundamental way.

    For one thing, how would we know if the Holy Spirit spoke to someone in, say, 500 AD? Even if we did, how could we be absolutely sure of exactly what the Holy Spirit said to that person in that context? And after that, we’d have to survey all the people to whom the Holy Spirit spoke on this issue. We’d take a count, but what if there were discrepancies or disagreements? There are over 30,000 Christian denominations and that doesn’t even include the untold number of non-denominational churches.

    We know because in AD 500 the Christians were reciting the Nicene Creed every time they met. If someone denied the creed they were considered cut off from the teachings of Christ. This is true still to this day in the Orthodox Church which is a continuation of the apostolic church of the early times. We still believe the same councils, canons and creeds that started from the very earliest times. Today’s church is horribly divided because everyone wants to just read the Bible as an individual and not in communion with the saints from all ages or at least the saints of the first few centuries. Once the Protestant reformation happened and everyone started reading the bible while claiming not to have any interpreter except for the Holy Spirit… all hell broke loose one could say. Split after split. Nothing but confusion. This is not how it was in the early church. It just wasn’t.

    I agree, we need not agree on everything but Christians must have at least agreement on things like the Incarnation and the Trinity. These were the great doctrines of the Church of the first millennium and more. Without agreement on these, I’m not sure what would be a starting point would be for claiming to be a Christian. We could believe a few commonalities about good Christian behavior or ethics or maybe even share a hope that all will be saved but it wouldn’t meet any historical test for Christianity. We could even say Christ is God, but how god, which god, if he didn’t proceed from the Father.

    Let us both pursue the Lord as our conscience compels but let us try to have communion in all things and not just seek some minimal belief that we all just believe in the Scriptures when we are claiming radically different conclusions.

    I apologize for my long windedness. I’m sure I have repeated myself. Forgive me if I have offended you. My only intention is to put forth an apology for the Christian faith as I believe it has been understood throughout the ages. If you would like to discuss why I feel that the doctrine of the Trinity is important for life in Christ, we could move in that direction. I understand why you feel suspicious if you think believing the Godhead of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit would in any way take away from Christ and his Glory. God forbid! At any rate, you are the moderator so I am happy to go in any direction you choose or just leave our discussion here.

    In sincerity,
    Stephen

  2. Mike Gantt says:

    Stephen, I think you have provided a very helpful response here. Perhaps its greatest contribution is that you have put your finger on a root issue in our discussions. This came to light in the paragraph where you wrote “The Church, not the scripture, is the pillar and ground of the truth.” On this point, our perspectives are definitely differentiated for I see the Scriptures as authoritative without any dependence on the church. Therefore, I’m have established a separate post on this particular point (Church versus the kingdom of God) and you will find it here.

    As to the subject of the Trinity, we can continue this discussion here. I think there are some things I want to say in response to what you have written, but I want to give primary attention on the other post of church versus kingdom because of its strategic importance to achieving movement, if not agreement, on the trinity and all the other issues. As you have rightly pointed out a couple of times, we must have a common view of where authority lies in order to have any common hope of resolving differences while on the earth.

  3. Mike Gantt says:

    Stephen, in addition to the separate thread I’ve created to deal with church versus kingdom (which includes church versus scriptures), I’d also like to address several aspects other aspects of your comments about the trinity here – but one topic at a time.

    I’d like to start with a focus on church history. You portray the church as united for the first thousand years after Christ. What do you think about the 5th century splits over the Council of Chalcedon in Egypt and Syria, as well as the Nestorian, or Persian, churches who kept only to the proclamations of the Councils of Nicaea and Constantinople?

    • Stephen Pletcher says:

      I’m not a church historian but I can tell you that those splits are still going on today with the Egyptian Coptic Church and the Ethiopian Orthodox church which still are not in communion with the rest of the Orthodox
      churches. Some of the difference at this point are more semantical than actual and are being worked out hopefully to the point of complete communion between churches.

      The goal is always complete communion (like the Trinity) in belief and practice.

      • Mike Gantt says:

        I suggest that the splitting of the church is a sign, first of all, that it is not the kingdom of God. No kingdom divided against itself can stand, and we know God’s kingdom stands forever. Therefore, it is an untenable position to maintain that the church and the kingdom of God are one and the same thing.

  4. Mike Gantt says:

    Stephen, another area of church history I’d like to give a little focus to is Tertullian. If his teaching about the trinity was what everyone already believed, why was it initially rejected as heresy and only later accepted as orthodox?

    • Stephen Pletcher says:

      Who was it that rejected his term the trinity. My understanding is that he was merely giving a word to the understanding that was already out there:

      God is the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The scripture and the early fathers are full of this terminalogy. It would be like some one taking for years about Adam, Eve, Cain and Able and then years later someone calling them a family. Hardly a new revelation, put mere a word to discribe what always was.

      • Mike Gantt says:

        On the contrary, the Wikipedia article on Tertullian says that his ideas were first rejected as heresy. The Wikipedia article on Sabellianism says that Tertullian said that the Sabellian view was the majority view, while Tertullian’s view was the minority view, but which eventually gained sway.

        I mentioned Wikipedia not because it is an unimpeachable source, but because it is so convenient and because it has extensive coverage (including a wide variety of articles) on this issue. In reading them all (and I have not yet read all of them), one can’t help but be struck by what an evolving process this doctrine took before it reached the form we see today in the late 4th Century. Church history, much less the Scriptures, simply do not bear you out that everyone had the same understanding all along.

  5. Mike Gantt says:

    Stephen, you asked me, “What makes you say that the apostolic fathers didn’t believe in the trinity just because they didn’t use that word?” Well, don’t you think it’s a reasonable question to ask why it took over a hundred and fifty years after Christ died for someone to use the word and define it?

    Moreover, if the concept was as commonly understood and accepted as you suggest, why do we see a church council having to pass a resolution about it almost 300 years after Christ died?

    My point would be that the concept couldn’t have been all that settled if so much was unsettled for so long after the New Testament was written.

    • Stephen Pletcher says:

      I think the concept was settled and understood, but as Christ said there will be many wolves that come among you. During the early period of the church many false and gnostic gospels were being circulated. The leaders of the churches from all over come together to codify what had been believe everywhere, at all times in all places. Each church had a local tradition that went back to the disciple that originally spread the gospel to them. In the oral culture of the early church, it was very important to maintain the same belief that had been handed to them. It was the leaders of these communities that came together to arbitrate the truth of what the Holy Spirit had taught all throughout Christendom. It wasn’t that no one believed these things until the year 300. The opposite is perhaps true, everyone just accepted these things until someone challenged the understanding and manifested the need to call a council to clarify what had been received by the Holy Spirit through its church.

      • Mike Gantt says:

        As I commented above, this just does not square with the historical account. Just one example I mentioned was Tertullian’s report that Sabellianism was the majority position which he, Tertullian, had to speak against.

  6. Mike Gantt says:

    Stephen, regarding the concession I thought that you’d made that you didn’t think you’d made, let me review because I don’t want you to think I was trying to take something you weren’t granting:

    I wrote “Is it [true] because the Scriptures teach it as such? No; you’ve already conceded that. Is it true because the apostolic fathers taught it as such? No; history demonstrates that.”

    You objected. I was hoping that you’d appreciate the formulation I used because I did so very thoughtfully. That is, I wrote “…as such.” That is, you had conceded earlier that the word Trinity was not in the Scriptures nor had the three Apostolic Fathers used it. I concede to you that just because neither the apostles nor their immediate disciples used this does not in an of itself mean that the doctrine is not true. However, I think it does mean that if we are going to accept it as true we have to address and find a reason for this discrepancy in language. I’m willing to work on this subject if you are. However, if you have no curiosity about why the term came so late to the discussion and never made it into the OT or NT, we will just have to leave it alone.

    • Stephen Pletcher says:

      The scripture language is full of the language of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Jesus prayed to his father. Who was he praying to? When Christ was baptized, the voice of the Father bore witness to him and the Spirit in the form of a dove confirmed the truth of his word. What is that other than a revelation of the Holy Trinity? This is how the early church always read this passage. “Go and baptize them in the name of the Father Son and Holy Spirit? Do you really think this is the same person of the Godhead in different forms? You may choose to interpret it that way but no one but Sebellius taught this.

      • Mike Gantt says:

        Again, I refer you to Wikipedia which reports many various views of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. I just cannot square your characterization that everyone believed the same thing except for Sabellius with what I read. I expect that church history books would reveal even more – not less – variations on this theme.

  7. Mike Gantt says:

    Stephen, another focus area: the Scriptures themselves.

    Have you ever thought about the many opportunities that exist in the NT for the term “trinity” to be used and for the concept to be explained?

    For example, consider the opening of the book of Hebrews. If the trinity was something the apostles wanted the disciples to understand, why didn’t the writer come out and make it clear. Instead, the entire first chapter is taken up with trying to make clear that Christ is greater than the angels. If the readers understood the trinity as you suggest, that chapter would sound like a baseball historian declaring that Babe Ruth was greater than the bat boys who served him. That is, they would have been scratching their heads saying, “What it he talking about?”

    I could offer many more examples. My point here is not trying to prove to you that the doctrine is not true but asking you to consider why the Scriptures aren’t more explicit about it.

    (I know you said you could present a scriptural case, and I am aware that cases exist; right now, I’m just asking you to consider why there are not more explicit verses or passages that you can point to.)

    • Stephen Pletcher says:

      I think the scripture is quite clear starting with Genesis saying “Let us create man in our image.” Who is us?

      Of course Hebrews talks about Christ. The whole point is to show that Christ’s priesthood is greater than the OT sacrificial system. Each book had it’s own purpose which is why you can’t take one book of the bible to learn the big picture. They weren’t meant to. They were written to churches who already had apostolic understandings about who God was: namely the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Who did Christ promise to send? The Holy Spirit. Did he mean he was going disappear and then reappear as the Spirit? What does it say that. Who believed that? That is simply your private interpretation of the scripture all the while ignoring the ample evidence that this was not the understanding of New Testament Christian and their immediate followers. Can you honestly think you have a clearer picture of what the meaning of scripture is than Athanasius or the men who debated what books that had been passed around should be part of the New Testament?

      • Mike Gantt says:

        Stephen, I think you missed my point on the book of Hebrews. I was asking specifically about the first chapter of Hebrews where the author was making the point that Christ was greater than the angels. If everyone understood that Jesus was the second Person of the Trinity, wouldn’t it have been completely unnecessary to try to prove that He was greater than the angels?

        Looking at the issue more broadly, why don’t we see the Trinity taught as such in the Old Testament if everyone understood it so well? And why did it take Tertullian to coin the term hundreds of years after the Old Testament was finished? And why did Athanasius himself have to revise the Nicene Creed near the end of his life, not having been satisfied with its 325 AD version?

        What you have to concede in all this history as this was not something “everyone understood all along” or even that “the orthodox understood all along.”

  8. Mike Gantt says:

    Stephen, my last response on this subject today is just to make a statement about why and how I feel an affinity with the Nicene Fathers that you don’t think I deserve.

    I feel that the essential issue for which they were standing up at that time was the deity of Christ…and that I think that is absolutely right. Most schools of thought that have fought trinitarianism have sought to devalue Christ, usually making Him human and not divine Therefore, my point is that the spirit of Nicaea – near as I can tell it – was about standing up for Christ. This I applaud.

    However, when they say in the Nicene Creed saying that He still sits and the right hand of the Father and has not yet come to judge the living and the dead, they force me to make a choice because Jesus and His apostles put His coming to judge in a time frame that would have it accomplished by now. When faced with a contradiction, I have to side with the Scriptures but it does not prevent me from sticking with the Nicene Fathers on all the other wonderful things that they said about our Lord.

    I know in your mind you think I am dishonoring them. I hope you will grant me that in my mind though I am not honoring them as much as I am honoring the prophets and apostles who wrote the Scriptures, I am honoring them.

    I am looking forward to our discussion on the other post about the church versus the kingdom, because there we can discuss whether the Nicene Creed deserves to be considered on the same level of authority as the Scriptures.

    • Stephen Pletcher says:

      In your mind, you may be honoring them, but that is akin to honoring George Washington but believing the constitution doesn’t apply to you as an American. The whole purpose of the Nicene Creed was to codify what was believed everywhere so it could be nailed down. Again this was done by the same men who gave us the scripture. The purpose was to help Christians know exactly what was taught by the scriptures that they had just canonized.

      • Mike Gantt says:

        I don’t accept your assertion that the men who gave us the Nicene Creed were the ones who gave us the Scripture. The Council of Nicaea made no statement regarding the canon. It had largely taken shape by then and was not of sufficient contention to warrant attention at this council.

        I just cannot get comfortable with your position that the early church creeds should be put on a par with Scripture. The Scripture seems analogous to the Constitution; the creeds seem analogous to party platforms which change with the times.

  9. Stephen Pletcher says:

    Athanasius the great defender of the Faith wrote up a list of the books he felt agreed with the doctrine of the apostles: read trinity and incarnation. The council of Carthage confirmed the decision and the Council of Chalcedon in 431 confirmed the canon of scripture. Athanasius was a solid Trinitarian believer as were the participant in the Carthage and Chalcedonian councils. To deny this is to deny history. As I said before many gnostic books that denied apostolic teaching were being circulated and Athanasius only picked the books that agreed with apostolic doctrine.

    You treat the New Testament as though God dropped it from the sky and not as if it came to be canonized through a process by the body of Christ the Church.

    Here are only a few of the earliest references to the creedal doctrine of the Trinity from the early Church:
    As early as the Didiche, Trinitarian language was being used.
    1.The Didache (35-60): “baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
    2.Irenaeus (115-190): “The Church . . . . [believes] in one God, the Father Almighty . . . and in one Christ Jesus, the Son of God . . . and in the Holy Spirit.”
    3.Tertullian (190-200): “Thus the connection of the Father in the Son, and of the Son in the Paraclete, produces three coherent Persons, who are yet distinct One from Another. These Three are one essence, not one Person.”
    Regarding Tertullian, he is actually not widely accepted in the East as a church father due to the fact that he became a Montanist. It’s not surprising that some were reluctant to accept anything he said. He really is no champion of Orthodoxy but he got some things right.
    Of course before any apostolic father the bible is replete with reference to the three persons of the God head.
    “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.” (2 Corinthians 13:14) This list could go on and on.
    My conscience bears witness to me that this is the correct interpretation.
    I could go back to the scripture and champion many verses that are either clearly Trinitarian references or certainly those that show Jesus and his Father to be clearly separate “persons”. Of course we are merely down to a match of who thinks they can out quote or show some historical nuance better than the other. The facts on the ground are this. Every major branch of Christendom, Eastern Orthodoxy, Catholicism, and Protestants overwhelming believe in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit as the three persons of the Godhead. The very first creed which was attributed to the Apostles, The Apostles Creed was Trinitarian. So the overwhelming majority of “consciences” testify while reading the scripture that it teaches that the Father is not the son who is not the spirit who is not the father. In other word the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is one God manifested in three persons. It perfectly correlated with God’s creation of humans that are one human nature and many human persons-thus we are created in the image of the communion of the Trinity.

  10. Mike Gantt says:

    Why do the words “Trinity,” “Trinitarian,” “Tri-personal,” and “Triune” not show up in the Bible?

    Since the Bible’s authors do not use the terms, why do you insist that we use these terms in order to have biblical faith in God?

  11. Stephen Pletcher says:

    Mike,

    I’ve already been over that. It proves nothing that the word Trinity is not in the bible. The concept is all over the place as I have already pointed out. I could tell you about my two son’s and mention my daughter, tell you about my wife and pets and even tell the history of my dad and his dad etc etc. I would never have to call it my “family”. This is a straw man argument frequently used by the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

    Here are some pretty clear references:

    Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: (Mat. 28:19)

    The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen. (2 Cor. 13:14)

    There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. (Eph. 4:4-7)

    But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. (Jude 1:20-21)

    Here’s some other words not in the bible: omniscient, omipotence, incarnation, monotheism, rapture, bible. Of course, that doesn’t mean that these concepts are not present. It doesn’t mean anything to me that the word trinity isn’t in the scripture. I think it should concern you that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are referred to on numerous occassions, often times the Son is speaking to the Father and the Spirit is descending on the Son etc. These are always interpreted by the majority of Christians as “trinitarian” examples. Again, I have given you many examples which apparently you do not accept.

    I’m still waiting on you to answer any of my questions, especially explaining why your method of bible interpretation is responsible for 30,001 denominations. I feel you have been asked some questions that you are not interested in exploring so you keep sidetracking with other issues.

    I know I’m hitting you pretty hard with arguments, but I’m trying my best to be passionate about something I think Christianity (name your branch) has been pretty clear about for the past 2000 years. Is it possible that your method of simply reading the bible and pretending to come to the text without any preconceived notions and concluding something that is confirmed by your conscience has led you off the path?

    I think it’s a lot of pressure for you to have to think that your own conscience is responsible interpreting the scripture correctly. Is your conscience more accurate than all of the men I’ve mentioned and then the entire Church of the first 15 centuries who consistently believed in the Tri-personal nature of God?

    Mike, are you really that comfortable with your position? Did you understand in my presentation on the trinity what a difference this makes to the faith? It is not some little doctrine that doesn’t really matter. To me this is a life or dead doctrine that is central to the Churches understanding of God. If God is a monad that merely changes “shape” to relate to us at different times, He is a much different being. His essential love before he created us would have been of Himself. So if we were in His image, self love would be our model not out flowing love between persons.

  12. Mike Gantt says:

    Stephen, you wrote:

    I’ve already been over that. It proves nothing that the word Trinity is not in the bible. The concept is all over the place as I have already pointed out. I could tell you about my two son’s and mention my daughter, tell you about my wife and pets and even tell the history of my dad and his dad etc etc. I would never have to call it my “family”. This is a straw man argument frequently used by the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

    Here are some pretty clear references:

    Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: (Mat. 28:19)

    The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen. (2 Cor. 13:14)

    There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. (Eph. 4:4-7)

    But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. (Jude 1:20-21)

    Here’s some other words not in the bible: omniscient, omnipotence, incarnation, monotheism, rapture, bible. Of course, that doesn’t mean that these concepts are not present. It doesn’t mean anything to me that the word trinity isn’t in the scripture. I think it should concern you that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are referred to on numerous occasions, often times the Son is speaking to the Father and the Spirit is descending on the Son etc. These are always interpreted by the majority of Christians as “trinitarian” examples. Again, I have given you many examples which apparently you do not accept.

    Stephen, you’ve misunderstood my first question, and seem to have ignored the second one. My first question was not rhetorical, as if it was intended to “prove” anything. Rather, I was seeking information. Therefore, let me ask it again in a more specific way: If Tertullian and Athanasius could use the word Trinity (and its derivatives), why didn’t Moses, Samuel, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Jesus, Peter, John, Paul, and all the rest not use it (or the derivatives). Your answer to this question won’t prove or disprove anything. It will just allow us to advance the discussion along a practical line. I am genuinely curious about what you think accounts for this difference. Surely, you must be curious about it as well. (If a man talked incessantly about his family but never used the word “family” wouldn’t you wonder why?)

    Once you’ve answered the first question, then I think the second question will make sense to you.

    Again I stress: do not view the questions as rhetorical devices. Just view them as information-seeking questions.

    Here’s why my first question is so relevant to your main point: You are telling me that the doctrine of the Trinity is a life-or-death doctrine that is essential to understanding God. Yet you cannot answer why such a vital doctrine was not adequately described in terms that are satisfactory to you until the 4th Century AD.

    You will now say that “It’s all in the Bible.” Yet, if I say that I fully believe the four verses you quote above (which I do), yet I do not use the word “Trinity” or a clear derivative in saying so, then you will not accept that I have accepted the verses. Think of what you are saying: You are saying that accepting what the Bible says about God is not enough; I must use 4th Century terminology. Why do you do that? (This is, of course, the second question repeated – and it is also an information-seeking, not a rhetorical, question.)

    I’m still waiting on you to answer any of my questions, especially explaining why your method of bible interpretation is responsible for 30,001 denominations.

    I answered that at this comment on our dialogue about the church and the kingdom of God.

    I feel you have been asked some questions that you are not interested in exploring so you keep side tracking with other issues.

    If I have failed to answer any of your questions, it is simply because I have lost track of them. Please repeat any question I have not answered and I will give you an answer. I want to answer all your questions.

    I know I’m hitting you pretty hard with arguments, but I’m trying my best to be passionate about something I think Christianity (name your branch) has been pretty clear about for the past 2000 years.

    To the extent that Christianity has preached Christ over the past 2,000 years it has done well. To the extent that it has preached itself, it has digressed from its primary mission. Fortunately, Paul did not dilute his message in this way (2 Corinthians 4:5).

    Is it possible that your method of simply reading the bible and pretending to come to the text without any preconceived notions and concluding something that is confirmed by your conscience has led you off the path?

    I have never said that I do not come to the Bible with preconceived notions. I don’t see how anyone but Jesus ever came to the Bible with a completely pure heart. That is why I think we must praye with regard to our Scripture reading that God would use the Holy Spirit and the text to disabuse us of presuppositions that block our views of His truth. I believe this is an ongoing and lifelong process. For many years, I came to the Bible with the presupposition that building the church was Christ’s preeminent concern. Through the Holy Spirit and the text He finally convinced me otherwise (which is why you and I are having the separate dialogue on the church versus the kingdom).

    I think it’s a lot of pressure for you to have to think that your own conscience is responsible interpreting the scripture correctly. Is your conscience more accurate than all of the men I’ve mentioned and then the entire Church of the first 15 centuries who consistently believed in the Tri-personal nature of God?

    It’s not scary to follow conscience. It’s scary not to.

    Mike, are you really that comfortable with your position? Did you understand in my presentation on the trinity what a difference this makes to the faith? It is not some little doctrine that doesn’t really matter. To me this is a life or dead doctrine that is central to the Churches understanding of God. If God is a monad that merely changes “shape” to relate to us at different times, He is a much different being. His essential love before he created us would have been of Himself. So if we were in His image, self love would be our model not out flowing love between persons.

    Your conception of a three-part God being able to wear the definition “love” in a way that one God cannot is poetic, but not accurate. Since you believe God to be three persons but one being, you still have a single being loving itself – just as you would if you applied your imagery to one God. I think this is a flowery attempt to justify God as three, but it fails as a matter of logic as well as having no scriptural foundation.

    I hope you will attempt to answer my two questions. As I said, you should not feel that your belief in the Trinity is threatened or compromised by answering them. In fact, if you really trust the doctrine of the Trinity, you should be quite comfortable answering those two questions. I recognize that they sound to you like questions you have heard from a Jehovah’s Witness, but bear in mind that Jehovah’s Witnesses also eat three meals a day and wear clean clothes. This does not mean that everyone who eats three meals a day and wears clean clothes is a Jehovah’s Witness, or is even acting like a Jehovah’s Witness.

    (By the way, if anyone of you reading this are Jehovah’s Witnesses, I hope you will forsake your kingdom halls and seek the kingdom of God. Jesus is Lord!)

  13. Stephen Pletcher says:

    Mike,

    The old testament prophets did not speak the language of trinity because Christ had not yet come to fully reveal God to them. The verses I quoted earlier are clear reference to a tri-personal God and is how they were always interpreted. You are giving to them an interpretation that was never accepted by any Christians other than Sabellian who was a modalist like yourself. How much clearer could Jesus be when he said to his disciples to go baptize in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Sprit. Paul is replete with Trinitarian references. The word trinity is not that important and was merely a useful word to clarity what the scripture was clearly teaching. We could throw out the word trinity and the bible would still be teaching about a God who is tri-personal.

    The teaching of the trinity is not merely a poetic way of talking about love. God is three persons sharing one nature. Just like you and your wife are two persons sharing human nature. If you just had three different personalities all sharing the same personhood and claim that the personalities loved each other, we would have a drastically different definition of love.

    Regarding the church: What do you do with verse like “Christ is the head of the Church, the body of which He is the Savior.” (Eph 5:23) And “I am now rejoicing in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of His body, that is, the Church.” (Col 1:24). You can’t separate Christ and His Church. You are completely coping out by saying that the kingdom replaced the church. You have an interesting interpretation but again, it is uniquely yours and not in line with any historical interpretation of New Testament. What may seem right to you has not seemed the correct interpretation for 2000 years in every denomination.

    I guess I have a choice to make. Agree with you who offers me no support from history or any prominent Christians who agree with him… or I can side with Godly Christians throughout 2000 years of church history who strongly believed that the scripture teaches that God is tri-personal (three person and one divine nature). I agree that the kingdom of God has already been established. Christ promised this but it is also clear that the King (Jesus) will return at the end of the age bodily to resurrect bodily all men some to a resurrection of condemnation and others to righteousness. The kingdom of God is among you (or more correctly within you) said Christ and especially abide in Christians who comprise the body of Christ. You interpretation again that Christ has already returned is simply not accurate and cannot be found in the interpretation of any legitimate Christian group. So, while you may find it helpful, it lacks any credibility. Is there even a bible college that teaches this.

    Mike, I think our discussion must come to a close at this point. Although I find your interpretations interesting and even compelling, I don’t find them biblical or at least consistently biblical. I’m sure you and I could swap verses for days on end, but the bottom line for me is that I believe that the Holy Spirit has clearly taught Christians, which I would call the body of Christ and specifically the Orthodox Church to truth about his nature, he return, the kingdom of God, the Eucharist, baptism and numerous other things. I believe to go out on your own as an individualistic Christian is a hopeless way of finding truth. It’s relativism to the Nth degree. Every man (and his bible) for himself. Maybe I’ll even find someone to agree with me. It’s anti-historical, divisive, inconsistent, and to be honest arrogant to think that you and your bible can make interpretations that have been soundly rejected by the Christians of all time.

    One last question that you haven’t answered, who was Christ praying to in the Garden of Gethsemane? Also, when Christ was baptized, who was the voice of the Father and what was the spirit in the form of a dove. Are these all the same person?

  14. Mike Gantt says:

    Stephen, you said:

    The old testament prophets did not speak the language of trinity because Christ had not yet come to fully reveal God to them.

    Well, I think I at least have you here admitting that 3/4’s of the Bible doesn’t present an explicit trinitarian concept of God.

    The verses I quoted earlier are clear reference to a tri-personal God and is how they were always interpreted.

    That is not true and surely you know that it is not true. If they were always interpreted this way, there never would have been a controversy to settle about their interpretation at the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD.

    You are giving to them an interpretation that was never accepted by any Christians other than Sabellian who was a modalist like yourself.

    For you to say that the only interpretation ever applied to the four verses you quoted was either trinitarian or Sabellian simply does stand up to scrutiny. Even if the Trinity is the true characterization of God, the disciples in the New Testament did not hold to it. You have already admitted that the disciples of the Old Testament did not hold it. If you will re-read the New Testament you will find that those disciples did not hold it either. It would be a lot easier for me to accept a trinitarian concept of God if its proponents would acknowledge the obvious truth that the Scriptures are not explicit about it, and then go on to explain why the Scriptures could not be explicit about it but nonetheless support it. That could be a winning argument.

    How much clearer could Jesus be when he said to his disciples to go baptize in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit?

    As clear as Tertullian and Athanasius.

    Paul is replete with Trinitarian references.

    No. Paul is replete with references to the God and Christ, the Father and the Son. He makes far fewer references to the three. Re-read your New Testament and count the occurrences of each. You’ll be surprised.

    The word trinity is not that important and was merely a useful word to clarify what the scripture was clearly teaching.

    I thought you said earlier that Jesus could not have been clearer?

    We could throw out the word trinity and the bible would still be teaching about a God who is tri-personal.

    Then why does the Old Testament present God as one? In fact, God made this declaration of His oneness the virtual “pledge of allegiance” of Israel (The Shema: Deuteronomy 6:4).

    Since the Holy Spirit was revealed in the Old Testament, God could certainly have presented Himself as bi-personal…but He didn’t. Moreover, Messiah is prophesied throughout the Old Testament, so there’s no reason He couldn’t have had the prophets introduce the word trinity (or triune, or tri-personal). Given your insistence on the importance of this idea, I am surprised that you don’t seek more scriptural support for it.

    The teaching of the trinity is not merely a poetic way of talking about love. God is three persons sharing one nature. Just like you and your wife are two persons sharing human nature.

    Again, your analogy breaks down. If the persons of God are like my wife and I then you are talking about multiple Gods. God is one (Deuteronomy 6:4).

    If you just had three different personalities all sharing the same personhood and claim that the personalities loved each other, we would have a drastically different definition of love.

    I am not claiming that “the personalities loved each other.” I’m claiming that God is one (Deuteronomy 6:4).

    Regarding the church: What do you do with verse like “Christ is the head of the Church, the body of which He is the Savior.” (Eph 5:23) And “I am now rejoicing in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of His body, that is, the Church.” (Col 1:24). You can’t separate Christ and His Church.

    In the Second Coming, Christ inherited all things (Psalm 2; Hebrews 1:1-4). Thus the entire human race became His body, His church, in that instant of time.

    You are completely copping out by saying that the kingdom replaced the church. You have an interesting interpretation but again, it is uniquely yours and not in line with any historical interpretation of New Testament. What may seem right to you has not seemed the correct interpretation for 2000 years in every denomination.

    That may or may not be (you’d need omniscience to be that definitive; especially about the largely-unknown late 1st Century). But even if it is true, I cannot deny what I have read and understood in the Scriptures. The word of God takes precedence over all our thoughts.

    I guess I have a choice to make. Agree with you who offers me no support from history or any prominent Christians who agree with him… or I can side with Godly Christians throughout 2000 years of church history who strongly believed that the scripture teaches that God is tri-personal (three person and one divine nature).

    It is clear, Stephen, that you have chosen to regard church history as the lens through which you view biblical history. I, too, have studied some church history, and that study has persuaded me to exalt the Scriptures over church history. It is particularly the Reformers who made this point clear.

    I agree that the kingdom of God has already been established. Christ promised this but it is also clear that the King (Jesus) will return at the end of the age bodily to resurrect bodily all men some to a resurrection of condemnation and others to righteousness. The kingdom of God is among you (or more correctly within you) said Christ and especially abide in Christians who comprise the body of Christ. You interpretation again that Christ has already returned is simply not accurate and cannot be found in the interpretation of any legitimate Christian group. So, while you may find it helpful, it lacks any credibility. Is there even a bible college that teaches this.

    There is no church that would teach this because it would lose them members (and Bible colleges are supported by churches and by those who support churches). If the kingdom of God has come and people are to seek it, the church loses its raison d’etre. The only church that would ever preach the true kingdom of God is one prepared to lay down its life for its Lord. Most churches are interested in preserving themselves.

    Mike, I think our discussion must come to a close at this point.

    That is your choice.

    Although I find your interpretations interesting and even compelling, I don’t find them biblical or at least consistently biblical. I’m sure you and I could swap verses for days on end, but the bottom line for me is that I believe that the Holy Spirit has clearly taught Christians, which I would call the body of Christ and specifically the Orthodox Church to truth about his nature, he return, the kingdom of God, the Eucharist, baptism and numerous other things.

    The reason you don’t find my views biblical is that you only consider biblical what the historic church considers biblical. You have given them your proxy. This is not what they taught us to do. They taught us to exalt Christ and the Scriptures above all traditions. Certainly Jesus taught this. To subordinate the word of God to the traditions of church is to dishonor those saints who have given their blood for the truth of Jesus Christ when the church was chief among their persecutors.

    I believe to go out on your own as an individualistic Christian is a hopeless way of finding truth. It’s relativism to the Nth degree. Every man (and his bible) for himself. Maybe I’ll even find someone to agree with me. It’s anti-historical, divisive, inconsistent, and to be honest arrogant to think that you and your bible can make interpretations that have been soundly rejected by the Christians of all time.

    Alas, Stephen, it is you who are the relativist. For you have cast your lot with what you deem to be the majority opinion on God. I am so glad for your sake that the majority did not jump off a cliff, to borrow the language our mothers would use whenever we capitulated to conformity.

    Moreover, it is the church who is being divisive. For the church sets itself apart from the human race and says, “We are holy and you are not.” I, on the other hand, have humbled myself as a mere human being and I cry out for God to be merciful to me the sinner.

    One last question that you haven’t answered, who was Christ praying to in the Garden of Gethsemane?

    Himself.

    Also, when Christ was baptized, who was the voice of the Father…

    The voice was not a who, it was a voice.

    …and what was the spirit in the form of a dove.

    The Spirit is the Holy Spirit, sent from God. He will lead us and guide us into all truth. He will not glorify Himself; rather, He will glorify Jesus.

    Are these all the same person?

    God is one. One person, one being, one nature.

  15. Stephen Pletcher says:

    Mike,

    If you look at the bible fairly you will see that the Father, his word and the spirit are all throughout the Old and New Testament starting with, “Let us create man in our image”. An odd thing to say for a monad. The prophets are constantly talking about God’s spirit etc. I choose not to debate this point, because massive volumes are written about seeing the Trinity throughout the Old and New Testament. My conscience compels me to agree with them and not your novel interpretation. So according to your rule for interpretation our understandings have an equal chance of being true.

    Of course, In the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the Word was God. So who was the Word (Jesus) with? Himself?

    I don’t know how much more clear a reference it could be to the Trinity when Jesus tells the disciples to baptize in the name of the father, son and holy spirit. The other passages are equally as clear. Those are not simply three modes of God.

    The Council of Nicea did not decide what was true but merely codified what had been taught throughout Christendom from the Bishops of that time on down to apostolic times. We just disagree on this.

    You have no grounds to say that the disciples didn’t believe in a tri-personal God. I think it’s clear that their understanding was developing and Jesus was slowly revealing Himself to them and the reality of the God the Father and the comforter, the Holy Spirit.

    I quoted to you references from Paul where he talks about the all three persons of the trinity. Apparently you do believe those either.

    God is one. It is the Shema of the Old Testament. The trinity is not a denial of that doctrine. My wife and I are one flesh and a mirror of the trinity. Two persons, one nature. The trinity is three persons with one divine nature, so much that we say that there is one God. This is basic theology accepted by all branches of the church, but since you don’t believe that Christ has a body, the Church, then you apparently don’t believe it. God cannot be talked about as love if he is a monad. Who did God love before He created anything. Himself. Love is only defined in relationship. It is not simply neat poetry to say that God is trinity. That is the mystery of God. He is one in essence and undivided but three persons in perfect community. It makes as much sense as saying that Jesus is God. 100% man and 100% God. That didn’t make sense to the Greeks either and was a scandal to the Jews…. But it is the undeniable teaching of the church throughout the ages.

    Beside, you didn’t answer the question, Who besides the Seballian ever thought that God existed in different modes? No one. Athanasius certainly didn’t and neither did any early church Father. It’s a straw man to say that you don’t believe in the church. You think that Christ returned and now we are just a collection of individuals who believe in God that are basically not connected to each other. We are all just monads like God. How depressing.

    The only reason I don’t believe you view is biblical is because it’s not held by any bible interpreter I have ever known or read. It’s a completely individualistic understanding of scripture only supported by your conscience. Why would I believe it? I have also read the scripture and it does not that to me. Of course I choose to side with Christians who have been filled with the holy spirit throughout time and have come to the same conclusion regardless of time or place in the world. You are a long ranger, hoping that his view is true… or arrogantly insisting that it is because it bare true with your conscience. To hell with everyone else, I only can interpret the bible outside of any context and without the very people who canonized the books of the bible without which we wouldn’t even have the New Testament.

    Mike, to make me the relativist is bizarre beyond belief. Sure I cast my lot with the majority but this is after carefully reading the scripture and it bares witness to me that the majority are correct. You yourself say that you at least read the majority and then deny that they are true, based on what? Your opinion or conscience. That my friend is relativism and the reason for the massive split in protestant Christianity. Do you really not see this?

    If I start to read my bible and decide that it say something a little different that what you teach and start my own web site, I may get followers who would eventually want me to teach this viewpoint and bingo we have another group (shall I say church) to add to the numerous denominations unconnected to each other or Christians of the past. Totally again John 17.

    Yes, it was a “voice” from heaven that said “This is my son in whom I am well pleased”. Are you telling me that was not the voice of God. Was Jesus a ventriloquist?

    Jesus was praying to himself. That is an outright denial of the obvious plan meaning of the text.

    I think my friend you and I just disagree.

    • Mike Gantt says:

      Yes, Stephen, we disagree.

      I fear that you are trusting Christians more than Christ, and church doctrine more than the Scriptures.

      You are so deeply steeped in church history and doctrine that you cannot read the Bible except through that lens.

      If Martin Luther had held your attitude, there would have been no Reformation. He would have simply given up on sola scriptura and paid his indulgences. And we’d all be knaves of the western church while the eastern church reveled in its relative purity.

      I tell you that Jesus gave His blood, and the prophets gave their blood, and the apostles gave their blood, and the martyrs have given their blood…not so that we could join the right church and trust the right leaders but so that we could know the one true and living God (John 17:3) and live entirely for Him (2 Corinthians 5:14-15).

      If you want me to answer your comment above in detail, let me know and I will. However, at this point I am reminded of what I have mentioned to you before. That is, the root issue of disagreement between us is the church’s authority (which is why I created the other dialogue). As long as you believe that the Scriptures are subject to the church’s interpretation, you will never be able to accept anything about the Scriptures that the church does not teach. Therefore, unless you’re willing to wrestle with that issue, pursuing this or any other disagreement we have will only result in the dissipation of good will between us that to this point we have for the most part enjoyed.

  16. Math denies a trinity since there is no way 3 is 1.
    What nonsense. There is 1 God and he is not 3. Trinity says that he is 3 in 1, which is not possible as if God would chop himself into 3 persons for the sake of the so called church fathers evil imagination who came along long after the apostles died. Paul warned us in Acts this would happen the grievous wolves entering to destroy.
    The trinity heresy is the great reason billions are lost without Christ because this damnable lie has caused nothing but conflict and darkness and confusion since it was first introduced.
    It is not in the Bible because it is not in the mind of God.

  17. Stephen Pletcher says:

    The scripture says that my wife and I are one flesh, but yet we have two persons. Amazing. Please don’t be so trite as to use a math equation to rule out the trinity. That is just western rationalism and shows no understand of the nuance of scripture. That sounds like what I would expect from a Jew or a Muslim. You could say the same for the incarnation which you believe in which the Greeks found as foolish.
    How could Jesus have a divine and a human nature and have one person. God is three person who have the same nature, just like we are many human person who share a common (if fallen) human nature. The concept is not illogical.

    Mike you are so far into your individualistic interpretation of scripture and so confident that you are right. I have never met someone so convinced of their understanding of scripture without any support except their conscience. I guess if half of all Christians believed like you do, then I would say, maybe I’m looking at this wrong. But again, you have yet to name one person at all that agrees with you. Billy Graham has studied the scripture for years and is a product of bible alone theology, and he disagrees with you strongly about the trinity. Martin Luther whom you site was a St. Mary praying, tradition affirming, Nicene creed believing, Roman Catholic crossing himself in the name of the father, son and holy spirit Christian until the day he died.
    Show me one main Reformer who denied the Trinitarian understanding of scripture.
    You somehow think I’m putting the “opinions of men” before Jesus. On the contrary, I actually believe that as Jesus said, the Holy Spirit has been leading men (and woman) for the past two thousand years to understand the scripture. You on the other hand believe that God has solely revealed to you the truth of the scripture. I find that amazing and incredibly arrogant. You may think you just come to the text without any preconceived notions but that is impossible. You are a man of your times and you have been influenced by other interpreters although you have yet to name any. You also have to admit that your interpretation is completely unique. I have never come across your interpretation anywhere and yes I went to a bible school as well. At bible school we were told just to read the scripture and let the spirit reveal its meaning. If you are able to only read scripture and let Jesus interpret it than you alone are doing this.

    So if you hold that your view is correct and that I am trusting Christians more than Christ, how is it that almost every sincere Christian has gotten it wrong. I’m not even talking Orthodox. None of the Christians that I have named at different times in our conversation believe that the Trinity was made up later in church history. All firmly and solidly believe the scripture solidly and firmly teaches this truth. Many of the ones I name would be even indifferent to the Nicene Creed and wouldn’t trust a Church father if you wanted them to. They read the scripture hoping that Christ will reveal it to them and to all of them the belief in the Trinity was revealed. So again, given that I’m blinded by Orthodoxy, and will never see the scriptures as you say they are written, why should I trust your interpretation over these men who are full of integrity and believe in reading the scripture the same way you do. I don’t doubt you integrity but I’m beginning to doubt your wisdom.

    To be a citizen of France means certain things. It means you probably speak French and know the prime minister and some French history. The same could be said for Christianity. Throughout history, again I include Orthodox, Catholic, Reformation, modern Evangelicalism etc., Christians have had a least two minimums that they could all agree upon. Jesus was God. Jesus died for our sins. God was a trinity of person, namely the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

    By definition you fall outside this category. At no time in church history could you have come to a group of Christians and been accepted to the Eucharistic communion– even up today by any of these groups. I guess you think it doesn’t matter because only what matters is that in some spiritual sense you are part of the kingdom a god. You alone have the special knowledge on how to interpret scripture that all Christian so far including the ones I named have gotten wrong. You don’t need Christ’s body but only Christ. That my friend is the definition of a gnostic– special knowledge, spiritual above physical and not having to have a connection with actual Christians. The spirit is the only important thing and not the body which according to the scripture is the temple of the Holy Spirit. No Christian group has ever practiced Christianity like you. I hate to tell you this but objectively speaking you are not a Christian. You fit no historical category and you clearly reject what has been the accepted interpretation of scripture for the past 2000 years. The only way you could be right is if the entire church got it wrong. I’m not trying to be judgmental but merely stating a fact. Mike believes God is not trinity; the rest of the church with the exceptions of several schismatic groups believe the bible teaches the trinity.
    If I went to any Church in my town of Indianapolis and said I am a Christian but do not believe in the trinity, they would say that by definition I am not a Christian. Only the JW’s and the One-ness Pentecostals would let me be a member– but I know you don’t need church membership or fellowship with other Christians which would presuppose that you actually have commonality of beliefs with them.
    Are you really that confident in your interpretation of scripture?
    Mike, I can tell we are both frustrated with the conversation. I have not convinced you of the larger context for understanding scripture and you have not convinced me that your individualistic interpretation that denies Christendom’s understand of the tri-personal God.
    I would say that you could consider yourself a seeker of truth or even a follower of Christ but by definition you are not a Christian. By anyone I have mentioned you are not a Christian.
    I have enjoyed our conversation and I have no ill feelings towards you. In fact, I’m encouraged to find someone, anyone seeking after God in this day and age. I also like your positive hope that all will ultimately be saved—a much refreshing take than what Calvin has forced on our society. Perhaps at a letter date we could simply just look at scripture to see we could conclude anything from it together. For now I wish you peace—I really do. Please forgive me if you felt at any time I was attacking you as a person as opposed to your views. I believe you to be a sincere and passionate person who would defend his views fiercely. I would only ask you to consider some of my questions.
    If you would like to reply to anything I have said, please do. It is your web site and you are entitled to the last word.
    Yours,
    Stephen Pletcher

    • Mike Gantt says:

      Stephen, some of the questions you raise here are ones you have raised and I have answered before. Therefore, I’ll only address the one new topic you seem to raise: whether or not I am a Christian.

      I will make this easy for you. I do not claim to be a Christian. Nor am I a Jew, for that matter. I am just a human being who believes the Bible and loves Christ. Jesus Christ is Lord of heaven and earth. He loved us so much that He descended from His heavenly throne to become one of us. When He was raised from the dead, He ascended back to heaven. From the right hand of the Father, He then retook that throne as the Father Himself. I cannot say enough about Him.

      I love the Jews and the Christians. For it was through them that Jesus came to us. It was through them that we have the Scriptures and therefore the knowledge of God as He has revealed Himself to us through Jesus Christ. However, I do not belong to a synagogue or church. I don’t belong to anything except the human race.

      My message to all that is that we should repent and follow Jesus Christ our Lord (I apply this message first and foremost to myself). That is, we should honor Him in all that we think, say, and do. We should stop living for ourselves and live completely out of love for Him. This means laying down our lives for each other in His name. I don’t want a following; I just want His following to grow.

      Stephen, in your comment near the end you said:

      Please forgive me if you felt at any time I was attacking you as a person as opposed to your views.

      I don’t need to forgive you because you have done me no wrong. You have stood up for the truth as you see it. I can hardly criticize you for this because my blog itself is my standing up for the truth as I see it.

      May God decide between us…and be merciful to both of us.

  18. Mike Gantt says:

    Stephen, this is my response to this comment from you above. You said:

    If you look at the bible fairly you will see that the Father, his word and the spirit are all throughout the Old and New Testament…

    There is no disgreement between us about this. But that is not the same thing as saying God is three. On the other hand, Deuteronomy 6:4 (Old Testament) and James 2:19 (New Testament) explicitly state that God is one.

    …starting with, “Let us create man in our image.”

    Again, I agree that the word “us” is being used, but that, in and of itself, does not state that God is three. As I’ve shown, the Scripture explicitly states that God is one. When scriptures are difficult to reconcile (as they sometimes are), we cannot take an inferred meaning from one verse to negate an explicit declaration in another verse.

    An odd thing to say for a monad.

    I am as uncomfortable with the term “monad” as I am the term “trinity.” Such language seems to “intellectualize” God rather than draw us closer to Him.

    The prophets are constantly talking about God’s spirit etc.

    I agree that the prophets are constantly talking about God’s Spirit. How does that prove that God is three? You have a spirit – does that mean you are two?

    I think you’ve stated that the reason that the term “trinity” was not made explicit in Old Testament (OT) times is that Christ was not yet revealed. Well, Messiah was certainly prophesied in the OT so I don’t see how that would have been an impediment. But even if it was, why then did the OT not proclaim a “binity.” That is, since, as you say, the Scripture would speak of God but also speak of the Spirit of God, then why wasn’t a “binity” proclaimed so that when Christ was revealed in the New Testament (NT), it would have just been adding one person because the “multiplicity” of God would already have been revealed? Instead, you’re saying that the NT brought forth the “trinity” and yet the Holy Spirit had been revealed since Genesis 1.

    Consider also, Stephen, that if God was ultimately going to reveal that He was a “trinity,” He laid a terrible foundation in the OT. He kept identifying Himself with such names as “the Holy One of Israel.” Wouldn’t it have been a lot more helpful to use the name “the Holy Trinity of Israel,” or “the Holy Binity of Israel,” or “the Holy Multiplicity of Israel,” – anything but One!

    I choose not to debate this point, because massive volumes are written about seeing the Trinity throughout the Old and New Testament.

    Yes, and apparently you have read enough of them to prevent you from reading the Scriptures apart from those presuppositions.

    My conscience compels me to agree with them and not your novel interpretation.

    You should keep following your conscience. Yet I hope your conscience will be moved by something I say.

    So according to your rule for interpretation our understandings have an equal chance of being true.

    Not at all. Chance has nothing to do with it. The truth is the truth. Whenever two human beings disagree about God it’s always possible that they’re both wrong. It’s also possible that each can be partially wrong. But it’s not possible that they’re both right.

    God is right, and I pray He will hasten the day when we all see Him just as He is.

    Of course, In the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the Word was God. So who was the Word (Jesus) with? Himself?

    Yes. That’s, in fact, exactly what John said in that verse: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1, italics added).

    I don’t know how much more clear a reference it could be to the Trinity when Jesus tells the disciples to baptize in the name of the father, son and holy spirit.

    I think it’s a clear reference to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. That’s not the same, however, as saying God is three-in-one. If Tertullian had thought Jesus’ words were clear enough he never would have coined the term “trinity.”

    The other passages are equally as clear.

    If the other passages were as clear, Athanasius would have had time in his life to deal with many other issues instead of this one.

    Those are not simply three modes of God.

    I do not say that there are “three modes of God.” I’m not even sure what a “mode” of God means. It’s not a scriptural term.

    The Council of Nicea did not decide what was true but merely codified what had been taught throughout Christendom from the Bishops of that time on down to apostolic times. We just disagree on this.

    Yes, we do disagree. But we don’t disagree that the Council of Nicea codified. And that is one of the points I have been trying to get you to acknowledge: that “the concept of trinity” was not codified in the Scriptures. Even if you think the Scriptures teach all that is necessary to accept the “trinity” you at least seem to be acknowledging that they don’t codify the concept or use the term. This could be progress.

    You have no grounds to say that the disciples didn’t believe in a tri-personal God. I think it’s clear that their understanding was developing and Jesus was slowly revealing Himself to them and the reality of the God the Father and the comforter, the Holy Spirit.

    Again, Stephen, this could be progress. Your second sentence here actually says something different from your first sentence. In fact, if you really believe your second sentence, you should want to amend your first sentence. For if the disciples’ “understanding was developing” then you are acknowledging that at least at some point in time, they did not see the nature of God in the way that they eventually saw it, or that you see it now.

    I think you are afraid to follow this thought because of where it might lead you. Yet you should be pursuing the truth, without fear of what you might find out. At times, you seem very insistent to declare that the trinity has been revealed in the Bible from the very beginning (including the creation account in Genesis). Yet at other times, like this, you seem more reasonable and willing to admit that “the trinitarian concept” is not explicitly taught throughout the Bible. In fact, given your statements about the revelation of Christ and the disciples’ developing understanding, you seem to be acknowledging that we have to get well over 3/4 of the Bible before even you think this understanding dawns on them (i.e. through the OT and the gospels of the NT).

    I quoted to you references from Paul where he talks about the all three persons of the trinity. Apparently you do believe those either.

    I do believe that verses from Paul that speak of God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit. I also mentioned that there are many, many more verses from Paul that mention just God and Jesus. Do we therefore conclude that God is a binity?

    If we don’t think a whole bunch of verses that mention God and Jesus is sufficient grounds to declare God is a binity, why should a handful of verses that mention God, Jesus, and Holy Spirit be sufficient grounds to declare God a trinity?

    God is one. It is the Shema of the Old Testament. The trinity is not a denial of that doctrine.

    I know that trinitarian proponents, such as you, consider themselves monotheists and fully supportive of the Shema. I grant all of you that sincere conviction. I trust that you will likewise grant me the sincerity of my conviction when I say that to consider God as three-in-one instead of one would be for me a violation of the Shema.

    My wife and I are one flesh and a mirror of the trinity. Two persons, one nature. The trinity is three persons with one divine nature, so much that we say that there is one God.

    If you and your wife are two persons with one nature, and God is three persons with one nature, then you have declared God to be three – because you and your wife are two.

    This analogy does not help a monotheist accept the trinity. On the contrary, it makes the trinity look polytheistic.

    This is basic theology accepted by all branches of the church, but since you don’t believe that Christ has a body, the Church, then you apparently don’t believe it.

    I believe the human race is Christ’s body. And He cares for its every member the way a bridegroom cares for the bride.

    God cannot be talked about as love if he is a monad. Who did God love before He created anything. Himself. Love is only defined in relationship. It is not simply neat poetry to say that God is trinity. That is the mystery of God. He is one in essence and undivided but three persons in perfect community.

    My human mind is too feeble to conceive of God before He created anything. I have no basis from which to reason what that reality was like for Him. You say that love can only be defined in relationship. If that’s the case, then maybe you can say that until creation God’s character trait of love had no opportunity for expression or revelation – but you wouldn’t have to say that character trait didn’t exist.

    Besides, if God is a trinity you have only side-stepped the problem of self-love that you have constructed. That is, if God has to have other beings to love then loving other beings who are Himself is still loving Himself. (You see how convuted trinitarian thinking is?)

    Trinitarian thinking is very much like Calvinism in that both use logic extensively until a point of illogic is reached. At that point, proponents declare, “It’s a mystery of God – you just have to accept it!”

    Anytime there’s a mystery of God, we have to accept God – but we don’t have to accept some man’s definition of God’s doctrine, especially if it’s illogical and without clear scriptural support.

    It makes as much sense as saying that Jesus is God. 100% man and 100% God. That didn’t make sense to the Greeks either and was a scandal to the Jews…. But it is the undeniable teaching of the church throughout the ages.

    Indeed I am glad for these wonderful points of agreement between us. In this case, “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself.” That is, He was “tempted in all things as we are” and yet “He was God.”

    Besides, you didn’t answer the question, Who besides the Seballian ever thought that God existed in different modes? No one. Athanasius certainly didn’t and neither did any early church Father.

    I did answer your question. You must not have checked the Wikipedia articles I referenced. If you search Wikipedia on terms like “Trinity,” “Sabellius,” “Sabellianism,” “Tertullian,” “Council of Nicea,” and so on you will find many references to differing views. Indeed such different views are sometimes lumped together and categorized but that doesn’t mean that every person in the category held precisely the same view.

    More definitively, I have pointed to the OT and NT where the understanding of God did not include the trinity. You yourself have come close to acknowledging this by saying that the understanding of the disciples “developed.” Even more specifically, I’ve pointed to the argument of Hebrews 1 (that Jesus is greater than the angels) which would be a nonsensical argument to anyone who had a trinitarian understanding. There are nontrinitarian understandings of God and anti-trinitarian understandings of God. I have been focused on the former. The latter have primarily come after 325 since that is when their foil was codified.

    It’s a straw man to say that you don’t believe in the church.

    It’s no straw man at all. You yourself have acknowledged that it was the 4th Century church that codified the trinitarian concept that the church since in general has ratified. Our disagreement is over whether such codification was simply a restatement of what had always been believed to that point or whether it represented a characterization of God not developed in the NT.

    You think that Christ returned and now we are just a collection of individuals who believe in God that are basically not connected to each other. We are all just monads like God. How depressing.

    You (unintentionally) denigrate the work of the God whom we both love. Indeed we are connected to every person in the human race. They are bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh. We were disconnected by sin, but His blood has brought us together. When we look upon any fellow human being we are looking upon a piece of ourselves…and a piece of our Creator. Therefore, we are blessed when we give even a cup of cold water to the least of these His brethren. Far from depressing – this is exhilarating! We have a reason to live: to lay down our lives for our brethren.

    The only reason I don’t believe you view is biblical is because it’s not held by any bible interpreter I have ever known or read. It’s a completely individualistic understanding of scripture only supported by your conscience. Why would I believe it? I have also read the scripture and it does not that to me. Of course I choose to side with Christians who have been filled with the holy spirit throughout time and have come to the same conclusion regardless of time or place in the world. You are a long ranger, hoping that his view is true… or arrogantly insisting that it is because it bare true with your conscience.

    You need to revisit the account of the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8 and note that Philip started him in his understanding, but then was taken away. How did the Ethiopian ever learn anything else about Jesus from the Scriptures? Do you think that the Holy Spirit was an inadequate replacement for Philip?

    You are absolutely right that I do not have a name as a famous Christian like Billy Graham or John MacArthur. And if you need the imprimatur of guys like that before you believe something then you will just have to hope that you and they live long enough for that to happen. However, I hasten to remind you that less than a third of the world’s current population professes faith in Jesus so you have demonstrated that you don’t need majority approval to accept something is true. That is to your credit. I hope you will continue to seek the truth even if it makes you a minority.

    To hell with everyone else…

    Actually, I say “To heaven with everyone else…” Remember? That’s what started our conversation (The Biblical Case for Everyone Going to Heaven).

    I only can interpret the bible outside of any context and without the very people who canonized the books of the bible without which we wouldn’t even have the New Testament.

    I will forever be grateful to the Jews who gave us the Old Testament books and the Christians who gave us the New Testament books. Some in each group gave with their blood that we might be able to read the words of God. I don’t honor them by becoming a member of a synogogue or church, but rather by showing allegiance to God in my generation as they showed allegiance to Him in their generations.

    Mike, to make me the relativist is bizarre beyond belief. Sure I cast my lot with the majority but this is after carefully reading the scripture and it bares witness to me that the majority are correct. You yourself say that you at least read the majority and then deny that they are true, based on what? Your opinion or conscience. That my friend is relativism and the reason for the massive split in protestant Christianity. Do you really not see this?

    Relativism is rejection of absolute standards and embrace of changeable standards. The Jews and Christians have handed down to us the unchangeable standard of Scripture. It is to Scripture that I stake my claim to truth. Both Jews and Christians have split into innumberable sects. This fact does not negate the truth of the Scriptures, but it does negate their claim to be faithful to the God they proclaim. When will they see that human structures can never replace the temple of God, which through the Second Coming of Jesus Christ are once again the heavens and the earth? Let us bow down at His footstool and stop making tents as Peter tried to do on the Mount of Transfiguration.

    If I start to read my bible and decide that it say something a little different that what you teach and start my own web site, I may get followers who would eventually want me to teach this viewpoint and bingo we have another group (shall I say church) to add to the numerous denominations unconnected to each other or Christians of the past. Totally again John 17.

    Would that every one of the almost 7 billion people who inhabit this earth get their own blog and proclaim the glories of God through Jesus Christ. In fact, if that happens, we won’t even need the blogs; we’ll all just use our voices to glorify God from morning until evening!

    Yes, it was a “voice” from heaven that said “This is my son in whom I am well pleased”. Are you telling me that was not the voice of God. Was Jesus a ventriloquist?

    Of course, it was the voice of God. However, the means by which it was arranged and executed I do not know. God has servants, you know?

    Jesus was praying to himself. That is an outright denial of the obvious plan meaning of the text.

    Well, of course, the ostensible meaning of the text was that He was praying to the Father. And I affirm that. I was just going to ultimate answer you were after: Jesus is our Father (see Isaiah 9:6).

    I think my friend you and I just disagree.

    Yes, but I hope and pray that the gap narrows through our dialogue. Even if it doesn’t, we shall all see Him one day in all His glory. And when that happens, all disagreement will cease.

  19. Stephen Pletcher says:

    Mike,

    I think I now understand where you are coming from and have no need for you to address my questions. I’ve read more of your website. We are reading scripture in a fundamental different way. You are choosing to think that your way is the most biblical even though it offers no support from other Christians—nor do I think it offers support from Jesus as you understand him.

    I am not interested in having a bible shoot out though I am capable of it. Since you have nothing you can point to other than your personal interpretation of scripture, what would be the point. You disagree with every major church father, and historically accepted Christian on the most basic question of who God is. That makes you the one standing in the cold with no clothes on. You can insist that your interpretation is the correct one but I can just as easily without quoting the Nicene Creed or any Church Father say the scripture teaches something very different. If we can’t use what the Holy Spirit has been teaching Christians throughout the centuries, then we are both doomed to have bible shoot outs and creating new denominations.

    Apparently you think that Jesus intended just to give us each a bible and then interpret is on our own without any collaboration with other Christians. Do you even go to church? I guess not since you don’t believe there is a church, but merely

    You are clearly, to me at least, denying that the Holy Spirit has spoken to Christ’s body, the Church. Your position is unique and against all accepted New Testament scholarship. Therefore, I reject it as a novelty and the not the truth that was passed on by the saints of the church. You are simply fooling yourself to think that a non Trinitarian view is the teaching of scripture. I certainly would never presume to question your “salvation” but I do question your intelligence that you would so insistently hang on to a doctrine that has been condemned so many times throughout church history by Godly men who fervently believed the scripture. You have way too much faith in your ability to understand scripture and you think that Jesus has revealed something to you that he has not yet revealed to hardly anyone. Is Jesus that stingy with his gifts that holy men of integrity for 2000 years have been wrong and he waits until the 21 century to reveal this to you? And if you are not the first to understand scripture this way, where is the string of Godly men throughout the centuries that have also received the scripture as you do?

    Like I said, I am not interested in a bible shoot out. The bible came to us in a context, the church which from the earliest days had creeds like the Apostles Creed, liturgies and specific understand of the scripture. The only interpretations that stood the test of time by the power of the holy spirit through men in which he dwells was that of Trinitarian theology. So, if you want to offer some explanation for why God chooses so few to reveal his truth, go ahead, but I don’t think I’ll buy that stingy view of God’s overwhelming desire to show us his truth.

    • Mike Gantt says:

      This is the logic that caused the same person who shouted “Hosanna!” to Jesus on Palm Sunday to shout “Crucify Him!” on Good Friday…and (we can only hope) “Hallelujah!” on Pentecost.

      That you don’t want to address this issue in the Scriptures is understandable, because you have put your faith in the historic church’s interpretation of the Scriptures. Therefore, even beginning a Bible study on this subject puts at risk your faith position. By contrast, I have chosen to put my faith not in the historic church but in the stated object of the historic church’s faith: the Christ of the Scriptures.

      For this reason I feel that I am being truer to the church than you are. Likewise, I want my children to cherish my ideals, not my carcass.

      The great irony of this conversation is that you have used my failure to sign up for a trinitarian definition of God as a wedge to separate me from the people I admire most: that is, the great heroes and heroines of the faith who have stood up for Jesus Christ through the ages. I am in lock-step agreement with them on the things they said were most important and yet you portray me as saying I know more than them.

      As I may have said before, trinitarian declarations by most Christians through the ages are declarations of the divinity of Christ. It was their way of saying that they don’t buy into devaluations of Jesus’ deity. It was shorthand for saying, “Jesus is God.” This is not always the case (it wasn’t with Tertullian), but it is often the case.

      I stand for Jesus Christ and Him crucified. And I stand for Him as God in the flesh.

      • Stephen Pletcher says:

        Mike,

        Who is it exactly that you are in lock step with? You mean the people who wrote the Nicene Creed who all believed in the trinity, and every reformer, and every well known evangelical. Do you really think those people don’t believe in the trinity? You have a particular view of God that you are reading into scripture, just as I have a particular view of God that I read into the scripture. Mine just happens to be the one that 2000 years of Christians confirmed. On your side…. as far as I can tell there are none. It is a complete novel point of view that you somehow think is the view of the New Testament. Why don’t you read St. Basil’s On the Holy Spirit for an example of how the early church believed in the trinity? You are bring your preconceived notions of God to the text.

        Mike says: The great irony of this conversation is that you have used my failure to sign up for a trinitarian definition of God as a wedge to separate me from the people I admire most: that is, the great heroes and heroines of the faith who have stood up for Jesus Christ through the ages.

        You have to be kidding if you think these men that you so admire didn’t believe in a tri-une God. This is where I know you have slid off the tracks and you just aren’t willing to look at the plain facts. What is coming between you and the scripture is your failure to believe that the Holy Spirit has guided other men to the belief in the trinity. Therefore you have taken a viewpoint that is not held by others and made it a whipping horse or a test of my orthodoxy. I’m stunned that you do not see this irony, or the arrogance that you think that your view of scripture is accurate over and against the entire church or even just Billy Graham or C.S. Lewis, both of who wouldn’t understand Christianity outside of a Trinitarian God. I believe you are sincere, but sincerely fooling yourself.

        I’d be glad to have a bible shoot out but I’m not willing to do it on-line. I’m certainly not worried that I would become a non Trinitarian. I read the bible for 15 minutes last night and was shocked at how plainly Trinitarian it is. You have some real gymnastics to make it into a God who turns into Jesus and somehow prayer to himself.

        I’m running out of time to keep up with the rest of my life. I could point you to plenty of web sites that look at scripture alone and demonstrate that the trinity is all through out the bible: Old and New.

        There has to be an outside point of arbitration and you fail to see this as valid. You still only think that if I could forget my mindset I would see the truth. I could just as easily say the same for you. This to me is not about judgment day or damning one another but simply about figuring out how you could so stubbornly hold on to a view not accepted by anyone– at least you have named no one. All of the people that inspire you are Trinitarian. That is fact.

        • Mike Gantt says:

          There are approximately 100 English words in the 325 AD edition of the Nicene Creed. I fully embrace all 100 except for the tense of one verb. That is, when it says Jesus “shall come to judge the living and the dead” I believe that He “has come to judge the living and the dead.” And for this you have declared me in opposition to the Nicene Creed and those who wrote it. This is what I mean about your taking one issue and drawing dramatic, unwarranted, and erroneous conclusions from it.

          You say I am arrogant because I won’t bow my knee to your utterance of the word “trinity” and yet the Nicene Creed itself doesn’t even have the word “trinity” in it! For some reason you have fixated on this as a litmus test issue and let it drive out all other issues. I urge you to reconsider your emphasis on this issue. Otherwise you may as well re-write your Bible, starting with Romans 10:9 which seems to read in your mind as, “If you confess with your mouth that God is a trinity, and believe in your heart that God is a trinity, you shall be saved.” Whatever happened to “Jesus is Lord”?

          • Stephen Pletcher says:

            Mike,
            It surprises me that you resonate with the Nicene Creed so much when the whole purpose was to teach about the three distinct person of the trinity. To miss this point is to me is an astounding blindness of the purpose and meaning of the Creed. Maybe you are a Trinitarian after all. Below are some quotes from the scripture and then early fathers on the Trinity or at least on the differentiation of the Father from the son—two of the three persons of the trinity. The tri-personal nature is all over the scripture for those who have “eyes to see”. The actual development of the doctrine of the trinity come along later but this doesn’t mean that seeds were no all there. I don’t see any other way of reading their scripture and neither did the early church. You are the one who twists the scripture to read a new and novel doctrine. This will be my last post since I am spending way too much time on this and much less on simply loving my neighbor not to mention my three kids and wife as Christ commands. I think we would do good to both do the same. I pray for you that your eyes will be open to the wonders of knowing the tri personal God who loves us eternally and whose very existence is a communion of persons in one divine nature. This is and will always remain the teaching of the church. You can pretend to read scriptures as if this wasn’t true but history, the saints, creeds, liturgies, every major denomination and of course the holy catholic and apostolic Orthodox Church emphatically preaches this truth. If god is one person as you believe, he had to make us to have communion and was not in and of himself compete. I urge you to read some of the early fathers like Basil or Gregory of Nazianzas or Gregory of Nyssa who were champions of Trinitarian faith and intense students of the scripture. Please do get bogged down in thinking that your interpretation trumps all of these great saints of Christ.
            Stephen
            Mark 15
            34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” which is translated, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (of course you believe he was just talking to himself which is against the plan meeting of the text)
            Luke 23
            46 And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, “Father, ‘into Your hands I commit my spirit. He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” (again he must be talking to himself. How could anyone get this from the plan meaning of the text—unless of course they come to the text with a preconceived notion)
            Throughout Jesus’ ministry, He withdrew to be alone to pray. In John 11, Jesus used prayer to reveal His relationship with the Father to those around Him, but Jesus’ daily prayer life was spent alone with the Father. Luke 5:16 tells us, “Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray.” What purpose is there in slipping away alone to pray unless it truly is a communion between the Father and the Son? How can God plead with Himself to find another way of redemption other than the cross unless the Son and the Father are distinct persons? We are told that the Son will pray to the Father and the Father will send the Helper (Holy Spirit). Then in verse 21 we are told that when we keep His commandments, we will be loved by both the Son and by the Father. Jesus clearly draws a distinction between Himself and the Father. This is future tense. After we have the Holy Spirit on earth, we will still have the love of the Father and Son in heaven. (Mike, your interpretation is certainly not the clear reading of the text.)
            And regarding the spirit…
            7 “Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. (read: I will send him to you, not I will send me to you in the form of the spirit.
            8 “And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:
            9 “of sin, because they do not believe in Me;
            10 “of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more
            Clearly Jesus was referring to someone “the spirit” as distinct from himself. Again the plain and straightforward meaning to the text. I look and these and wonder how you can accuse me of coming to the text with a bias. You really have to do gymnastics to come around to your view.

            110 AD. Ignatius of Antioch wrote,
            “Wherefore also the Lord, when He sent forth the apostles to make disciples of all nations, commanded them to “baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost,” not unto one [person] having three names, nor into three [persons] who became incarnate, but into three possessed of equal honour.” (Letter to the Philadelphians, 2
            Justin Martyr, c. A.D. 150
            “No one knows the Father but the Son, nor the Son but the Father, and those to whom the Son will reveal him” [Matt. 21:27]. Those who affirm that the Son is the Father are proven neither to be acquainted with the Father nor to know that the Father has a Son. The Son, being the first-begotten Word of God, is God. Of old he appeared in the shape of and in the likeness of an angel to Moses and other prophets, but now in the time of your reign [i.e., during the Roman empire] … he became man by a virgin … for the salvation of those who believe in him. (First Apology 63).
            Hermas, A.D. 161
            The Son of God is older than all his creatures, so that he was a fellow councilor with the Father in his work of creation. (Shepherd of Hermas III:9:12)
            Athenagoras, c. A.D. 177
            We acknowledge … a Son of God. Don’t let anyone think it ridiculous that God should have a Son. … The Son of God is the Logos of the Father … He is the first product of the Father, not as though he was being brought into existence, for from the beginning God, who is the eternal Mind, had the Logos in himself. (A Plea for the Christians 10)
            We acknowledge a God, and a Son, his Logos, and a Holy Spirit, united in essence—the Father, the Son, the Spirit—because the Son is the Intelligence, Reason, and Wisdom of the Father, and the Spirit an effluence, as light from fire. (A Plea for the Christians 24)

            A.D.Dionysius
            “Next, then, I may properly turn to those who divide and cut apart and destroy the Monarchy, the most sacred proclamation of the Church of God, making of it, as it were, three powers, distinct substances, and three godheads. I have heard that some of your catechists and teachers of the divine word take the lead in this tenet. They are, so to speak, diametrically opposed to the opinion of Sabellius. He, in his blasphemy, says that the Son is the Father and vice versa” (Letters of Pope Dionysius to Bishop Dionysius of Alexandria 1:1 ).
            Athanasius, A.D. 325 – 370
            No Christian can have a doubtful mind on the point that our faith is not in the creature, but in one God, Father Almighty, Maker of all things visible and invisible; and in one Lord, Jesus Christ, his only-begotten Son, and in one Holy Spirit; one God, known in the holy and perfect Trinity, baptized into which, and in it united to deity, we believe that we have also inherited the kingdom of the heavens, in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Synodal Letter to the Bishops of Africa 11)

            Gregory the Wonderworker and Gregory was Bishop of Neocaesarea in Asia Minor,[16] and wrote a Declaration of Faith which treats the Trinity as standard theological vocabulary.[17]
            “ There is one God…. There is a perfect Trinity, in glory and eternity and sovereignty, neither divided nor estranged. Wherefore there is nothing either created or in servitude in the Trinity; nor anything super-induced, as if at some former period it was non-existent, and at some later period it was introduced. And thus neither was the Son ever wanting to the Father, nor the Spirit to the Son; but without variation and without change, the same Trinity abides ever

            St. Basil the Great, St. Gregory of Nazianzas and St. Gregory of Nyssa
            They made major contributions to the definition of the Trinity finalized at the First Council of Constantinople in 381 and the final version of the Nicene Creed, finalized there. In other words, the point of the Nicene Creed was to teach the tri-personal God head.
            Philip Schaaf, 1890
            The bishops composing the Council of Nicæa simply declared their faith in the Holy Spirit, without adding any definition; they were not met with any denial of the divinity of the Holy Spirit. This denial was first made by Macedonius, in the fourth century. (Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, series 2, vol. 2; “The Ecclesiastical History of Socrates Scholasticus” III:7, editor’s note 476)
            The Nicene Council and the Trinity
            The Nicene Council did not invent the Trinity in the early fourth century, as some people imagine. A full century before the Nicene Council, Tertullian wrote a voluminous explanation and defense of the Trinity and was viewed by his third-century contemporaries as defending the orthodox Christian faith to nonbelievers. A couple of decades before Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria and Irenaeus, bishops at opposite ends of the Mediterranean basin, both taught the Trinity. A half century or more before Irenaeus and Clement, we find Trinitarian teachings in the authentic works of Justin Martyr, who died in 157. St. Ignatius, a respected bishop, was martyred in his old age. On his way to his martyrdom, he wrote epistles to the churches along the way, making theological statements that are best understood in the context of Trinitarian theology. It is important to note that Ignatius was born about AD 33 and that during his adulthood, people who had known the apostles were still alive. Finally, the Didache, an ancient manual of church discipline that could possibly date from the middle of the first century, quotes the Trinitarian formula of Matthew 28:19 in its instructions for baptism.
            We can trace the dogma of the Trinity straight back to apostolic times. We have it from the pens of bishops and theologians who were charged with preserving and passing on the faith and who lived all over the Mediterranean basin. From this we can only conclude that mainstream theology in the ancient church before the Council of Nicea was Trinitarian

            Question: “What occurred at the Council of Nicea?”

            Answer: The Council of Nicea took place in 325 A.D. by the order of the Roman Emperor Caesar Flavius Constantine. Nicea was located in Asia Minor, east of Constantinople. At the Council of Nicea, Emperor Constantine presided over a group of Church bishops and leaders with the purpose of defining the true God for all of Christianity and eliminating all the confusion, controversy, and contention within Christ’s church. The Council of Nicea affirmed the deity of Jesus Christ and established an official definition of the Trinity—the deity of The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit under one Godhead, in three co-equal and co-eternal Persons.

            • Mike Gantt says:

              Stephen, I agree that it’s a good idea for you to step away from this for a while. If and when you return to the subject I suggest you invest some time in researching Jewish sources (particularly 2nd Temple Judaism, intertestmental times, and 1st Century Judaism) – in addition to spending more time in the Scriptures themselves. The Scriptures were produced by Hebrew minds and when you only read them through Gentile eyes (as is obvious from your list above and your previous posts), you don’t get the fullest perspective.

    • Mike Gantt says:

      P.S.

      Regarding your statement:

      So, if you want to offer some explanation for why God chooses so few to reveal his truth, go ahead…

      Perhaps He’s revealed it to more, but they fear this sort of reaction.

      • Stephen Pletcher says:

        Mike,

        Of course your novel interpretation could be drastically wrong which is why you don’t have much company.

        Stephen

        • Mike Gantt says:

          Nothing I believe is novel to those who wrote the Scriptures. They’re the ones that gave me the ideas I have, so I am at least in the company of them.

  20. Mike Gantt says:

    Stephen, this is my response to this comment from you above. Some of the questions you raise here are ones you have raised and I have answered before. Therefore, I’ll only address the one new topic you seem to raise: whether or not I am a Christian.

    I will make this easy for you. I do not claim to be a Christian. Nor am I a Jew, for that matter. I am just a human being who believes the Bible and loves Christ. Jesus Christ is Lord of heaven and earth. He loved us so much that He descended from His heavenly throne to become one of us. When He was raised from the dead, He ascended back to heaven. From the right hand of the Father, He then retook that throne as the Father Himself. I cannot say enough about Him.

    I love the Jews and the Christians. For it was through them that Jesus came to us. It was through them that we have the Scriptures and therefore the knowledge of God as He has revealed Himself to us through Jesus Christ. However, I do not belong to a synagogue or church. I don’t belong to anything except the human race.

    My message to all that is that we should repent and follow Jesus Christ our Lord (I apply this message first and foremost to myself). That is, we should honor Him in all that we think, say, and do. We should stop living for ourselves and live completely out of love for Him. This means laying down our lives for each other in His name.

    Stephen, in your comment near the end you said:

    Please forgive me if you felt at any time I was attacking you as a person as opposed to your views.

    I don’t need to forgive you because you have done me no wrong. You have stood up for the truth as you see it. I can hardly criticize you for this because my blog itself is my standing up for the truth as I see it.

    May God decide between us…and be merciful to both of us.

  21. Stephen Pletcher says:

    Mike,

    I like how you ended that and I think that would be a good place to end things.

    Sincerely,

    Stephen

  22. Glenn Byerly says:

    Mike,

    What do you make of the verses that indicate “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved”? What is salvation? Who are the unsaved?

    Glenn

    • Mike Gantt says:

      What do you make of the verses that indicate “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved”?

      I treasure it and live by it.

      What is salvation?

      It is the process of being restored to right relationship with God.

      Who are the unsaved?

      Those who are living without that process.

  23. Glenn Byerly says:

    Mike,

    I am not a trained theologian, although I am a Christian. I read your series with great interest as I struggled with some of previously read articles concerning “universalism” which indicated those who are not saved will still go to heaven, but not before some additional punishment is meted out to them. This to me seems to indicate that the work of Jesus Christ was not sufficient to redeem all mankind. Therefore, I reject that position. That is one of the reasons reading your series was of interest to me since that point of view is not espoused.

    I too have struggled with the fact that Adam’s sin affected all subsequent humans, but
    the sacrifice of Jesus did not. Your articles pose an interesting proposition, and I appreciate your willingness to interact with those who comment on them.

    To continue with my previous thoughts from yesterday’s posting, I ask the following:

    1. Acts 1:9-11 states: “Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.” If the second coming has already occurred, who saw this return in like manner?

    2. “For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be” (Matthew 24:27) indicates that the coming of Jesus will be rather dramatic.

    3. “Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” (Matthew 24:30) implies that all of the earth will be aware of the coming.

    4. “And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other” (Matthew 24:31) says that a great sound will be heard and the elect will be gathered. When was the sound and who are the elect?

    5. “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). Do you the believe that this is a reference to the start of an ordering or sequence of a resurrection that will occur for all mankind, even though only the dead in Christ and we who are alive are mentioned?

    6. “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.” (2 Peter 3:10) What does this day of the Lord refer to?

    One of the reasons other articles related to “universalism” made little sense to me has been the fact that they do not take the time to explain statements that seem to conflict with or even contradict their writing. I appreciate the time you have spent responding to all who have posted about these articles.

    Glenn

    • Mike Gantt says:

      Glenn, although some of the things I say are commonly known and believed (e.g. Jesus is Lord and the Bible is the word of God), some are not (e.g. everyone is going to heaven and Jesus has already come again). Therefore, it’s only right that I should answer every question that is presented to me.

      1. Acts 1:9-11 states: “Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.” If the second coming has already occurred, who saw this return in like manner?

      The angels were discouraging the apostles from looking for a physical return, for they said He “will so come in like manner as you have saw Him go into heaven.” That is, just as they apostles did not see Him sit at the right hand of God (Matthew 22:41-46) so they would not see Him come on the clouds of heaven (Matthew 26:64; Daniel 7:13-14). Thus the angels pointed out the futility of the apostles’ “standing gazing into heaven.”

      2. “For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be” (Matthew 24:27) indicates that the coming of Jesus will be rather dramatic.

      This verse contrasts with the verse that preceded it in Matthew and argues also against a physical, bodily return of the Lord. That is, don’t look for Him in a particular place. His coming will be instantaneous and ubiquitous (like lightning; Paul called it “in the twinkling of an eye” (1 Corinthians 15:52).

      3. “Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” (Matthew 24:30) implies that all of the earth will be aware of the coming.

      Much of the language of the Second Coming is borrowed from the Old Testament prophets who spoke in vivid imagery. In the case of the coming of the Lord in His kingdom, however, this imagery portended a great spiritual, not physical, event. All the tribes of the earth mourned because of the great judgments of that day (including the destruction of Jerusalem itself in 70 A.D.). Everyone saw Him though not everyone recognized Him. As it says in 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10. It was a day of light for those who believed but a day of darkness for those who did not.

      4. “And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other” (Matthew 24:31) says that a great sound will be heard and the elect will be gathered. When was the sound and who are the elect?

      The sound was the shout of angels and the elect were those who held fast believing that the Lord would return in that generation when He said He would. The saints (that is, those who had prepared themselves by repenting of their sins and living holy) entered the kingdom of God and the unbelieving were shut out.

      5. “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). Do you the believe that this is a reference to the start of an ordering or sequence of a resurrection that will occur for all mankind, even though only the dead in Christ and we who are alive are mentioned?

      Yes, but it happened at the Second Coming. That is, this was the creation of the new heavens and new earth. Prior to that time, all the dead descended to Sheol (Hades) below; since that time the dead are raised to heaven. To make it specific, King David descended to Sheol when he died but was raised to heaven at this shout with all the other Old Testament and New Testament saints. Since you and I live on this side of that time line, we will be caught up with them to be with the Lord when we die. We will not have to descend first.

      6. “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.” (2 Peter 3:10) What does this day of the Lord refer to?

      It refers to the same event I have been describing in all the other answers: the coming of the kingdom of God, the Second Coming of Christ, the coming of the day of judgment, the coming of the day of the Lord, the coming of the day of wrath. This was a great and dramatic heavenly event with earthly consequences. The New Testament documents are constantly exhorting its readers to stop looking at things according to the flesh and instead look at things spiritually. Those who heeded this teaching experienced the coming of the Lord. Those who continued to walk in the flesh missed it (He was the “thief in the night” that they never saw come). Our lesson today is to imitate those who sought spiritual things, who walked by faith and not by sight, who built a conviction of things not seen, who pursued heavenly and not earthly interests. If we succeed in imitating them, we can enter the kingdom of God which is in our midst. Let us seek it above all things (Matthew 6:33).

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