Dialogue with James, aka Annoyed Pinoy (Trinity Versus Christ)

[“Annoyed Pinoy” is James, as he stated on 7/12/11 in this comment below.]

This dialogue began in the comments section of the Triablogue post, Do We Need a Trinity Verse?

The post was about the Trinity.  Its author was Steve Hays, so you’ll see the exchange beginning with my asking Steve a question.  (His blog labeled my comments with “blogforthelordjesus.”)  Then James (Annoyed Pinoy) stepped in and offered an answer (Steve didn’t respond).  James has a blog called Gospel Crumbs.  We don’t know each other in any other context.

(I’ve done only minor editing.)

Mike Gantt:  Steve, you said to me in another comment string about the Trinity, “There’s extensive scholarship that lays out the exegetical case for the Trinity in minute detail.”

Could you recommend to me what you think is the single best resource in this regard?

Annoyed Pinoy:  I’m sure Steve has a much better list that he could give than I could. But below are some classic (but FREELY available) resources that helped me out of an Arianistic view and into a Trinitarian view years and years ago.

The only problem with these classic works is that they sometimes appeal to passages that have textual variants which they either weren’t aware of (in their day and age); or they just didn’t take the time to explicate the possible implications of the variants; or they appeal to passages that involve the scribal tendency of “expansion of piety” where, for example, the original reading might be “Jesus” but later manuscripts have “Lord Jesus Christ”; or didn’t take into consideration or lived before the formulation of Granville Sharp’s Rule; or appeal to verses that could be interpreted contrary to their preferred exegesis without mentioning opposing views (e.g. 1 John 5:20) etc.

So I personally wouldn’t use those passages in a positive defense of the doctrine of the Trinity. [Or if I did, I would give certain qualifications and be more balanced and open about the controversies concerning those passages. For example, a case could be made that 1 John 5:20 (which has no textual variant) teaches that Jesus Christ is the “true God and eternal life”. But it’s not definitive.].  For example passages like:

John 3:13; Acts 2:28; Rom. 14:10; 1 Cor. 10:9; 15:47; 1 Tim. 3:16; 2 Tim. 2:19; Titus 2:13; Heb. 1:8; 1 John 5:7; Rev. 1:11

Resources:

Doctrine of the Trinity: The Biblical Evidence by Richard N. Davies

The Trinity by Edward Henry Bickersteth (direct link to pdf)

The Eternal Sonship of the Lord Jesus Christ by J.C. Philpot (This work is not specifically a defense of the Trinity. Rather it’s about the controversy of the “Eternal Sonship of Christ” that was raging in his circles at the time.)

An Unpublished Essay On the Trinity by Jonathan Edwards

Athanasius’ works especially his Defence Against the Arians. (Apologia Contra Arianos)

Brief Declaration and Vindication of The Doctrine of the Trinity by John Owen

Mike Gantt:  Thanks for the recommendations.

I find Arianism as distasteful as Trinitarianism. However, I am taking a look at the first book on your list (Davies). Unfortunately, like other Trinitarian teachings I have read it tends to pontificate and obfuscate more than it elucidates.

Here’s one of Davies’ sentences for you: “The prayerful study of the Bible, from the day of Pentecost down, has convinced men that Almighty God exists as a Trinity of co-equal persons in the unity of the Godhead.” This reminds me of the old line, “‘Shut up!’ he explained.”

Nevertheless, I’ll poke around some more and see if I can find something a tad more enlightening in his work.

In the meantime, I’ll simply say that the reason most Trinitarians don’t see how their doctrine obscures the doctrine of Christ is that they think their foil is Arianism or some derivative. In other words, for them Trinitarianism is, among other things, a way of proclaiming the deity of Christ. Therefore, they don’t recognize how making Him “the second person of the Godhead” actually diminishes the place given Him by the New Testament…and by the Old Testament, for that matter.

Annoyed Pinoy:  From a historical trinitarian point of view, there are various heresies beside Arianism that touch on the doctrine of God and/or the doctrine of Christ.

For example, Gnosticism, Docetism, Apollinarianism, Nestorianism, Dynamic Monarchianism, Sabellianism/Modalism, Adoptionism, Eutycheanism, Monophysitism, Monothelitism, Binitarianism, Pneumatomachianism/Macedonianism et cetera, etc.

The question is what does the Bible teach.  From my (admittedly) limited studies and by standing on the shoulders of other scholars and theologians I’ve concluded that Trinitarianism does best to explain all the data the Bible provides about the nature and attributes of God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

When I first let go of Arianism by becoming convinced of the full deity of Christ, I was briefly a Modalist.  I don’t know what your position is, but from the little you’ve said, I’m guessing you might be a Modalist too. Whatever the case, I encouraged you to continue studying the various options as well as church history. I’m convinced that if you do, you’ll eventually come to Trinitarian conclusions too.

Experience can never prove the truth of a theological position. Scripture is the final authority. Nevertheless, I do find it interesting and confirmatory that of those movements and groups that God seems to have used (and blessed the efforts of) since coming of the Messiah, that they have often been Trinitarian groups.

Mike Gantt:  I agree with you that Scripture is the final authority.  For that reason, it seems more practical to go to it for the correct teaching rather than to survey all the various competing theories.  I compare this with sticking with a difficult math book to learn the solution to a problem rather rummaging through a catalog of all the answers that have been proposed.

That’s not to say that the right answer can’t possibly be in that catalog.  It might very well be.  Nor am I saying that I myself haven’t looked through any of those explanations of God that compete with the Trinity.  It’s just that when I have, I have found nothing that fully resonates with Scripture.  And that is the problem with the Trinity for me – that as I came to understand the Scriptures more and more, the idea of the Trinity seemed less and less in synch with it.

You wrote that Trinitarianism was the best of all the explanations you have found of the biblical data.  I have no reason to doubt that this has been your experience.  But this does not mean that the trinity concept is the truth.  To trust that it is the truth, one must come to a conviction that it squares with Scripture.  I have not been able to do that.  You only seem to say that it comes closer to squaring than any competing theory you have heard, but, as I’ve said, that doesn’t make it square.

If you would like to continue the dialogue, please respond.  There is a question or two I’d like to ask you, if a continuing conversation would permit.

In any case, thanks for the good-will suggestions and comments you’ve made to me.

129 Replies to “Dialogue with James, aka Annoyed Pinoy (Trinity Versus Christ)”

  1. Hi Mike,

    thanks for responding. Here are my comments to your comments.

    Here’s one of Davies’ sentences for you: “The prayerful study of the Bible, from the day of Pentecost down, has convinced men that Almighty God exists as a Trinity of co-equal persons in the unity of the Godhead.” This reminds me of the old line, “‘Shut up!’ he explained.”

    I think he’s just stating his opinion that many people down through the centuries have come to accept the doctrine of the Trinity after prayerful Bible study. Nothing more or less. Obviously he’s trying to convince his readers of the truth of his position. But doesn’t most everyone?

    I compare this with sticking with a difficult math book to learn the solution to a problem rather rummaging through a catalog of all the answers that have been proposed.

    But looking at the conclusions that other people have made and especially why they made them will inform our own understanding of the issues. For myself, it was a matter of humbling myself to admit I’m not the smartest person in the world. There are other people who are/were smarter than myself and who probably are/were more holy (i.e. sanctified) than myself who wrestled with these issues and I should that take into account. Scripture says, “The first to plead his case seems right, Until another comes and examines him.” (Prov. 18:17). Here are other proverbs that were relevant to me.

    Proverbs
    1:5 A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels:
    11:14 Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety.
    12:15 The way of a fool is right in his own eyes: but he that hearkeneth unto counsel is wise.
    19:20 Hear counsel, and receive instruction, that thou mayest be wise in thy latter end.
    24:6 For by wise counsel thou shalt make thy war: and in multitude of counsellors there is safety.
    27:17 Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.

    In my opinion, there are many Trinitarians who don’t appreciate the genius of the Trinitarian position (regardless of whether it’s right or wrong) as they could because they haven’t examined the problems the various other positions face, since they just accepted the Trinitarian position as the default one merely because that’s what they grew up with.

    It’s just that when I have, I have found nothing that fully resonates with Scripture. And that is the problem with the Trinity for me – that as I came to understand the Scriptures more and more, the idea of the Trinity seemed less and less in synch with it.

    In what specific ways? I don’t know what your current position is, but I found the opposite was the case for me as I contemplated and meditated on passages like the following:

    2 Cor. 13:14 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all.

    Matt. 28:19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,
    In the Greek it’s THE name (singular) of THE (definite article) Father, and of THE (definite article) Son, and of THE (definite article) Holy Spirit.

    1 Cor. 12:
    4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. [which I assume is a reference to the Holy Spirit]
    5 And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. [which I assume is a reference to Jesus]
    6 There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. [which I assume is reference to the Father]

    You wrote that Trinitarianism was the best of all the explanations you have found of the biblical data. I have no reason to doubt that this has been your experience. But this does not mean that the trinity concept is the truth.

    Correct. I’ve never said that the Trinitarian position (much less any particular version of Trinitarianism) is definitely the final truth such that there’s no possibility that the truth couldn’t be different or that the doctrine couldn’t be refined even further. But from my own inductive study and abductive reasoning, the Latin Trinitarian position looks like the best position so far. I’m willing for anyone to provide an alternative that does just as good or a better job in taking seriously all the relevant data. Until then, I’m convinced that Latin Trinitarianism of some variety is the closest to the truth that we can come to before Christ returns. I personally don’t think one must hold to Trinitarianism to be saved. So, it’s possible for someone to die and go to heaven not having accepted the doctrine. Nevertheless, I think it’s normative that those who have the opportunity (time and resources) to study the issue will eventually be lead by the Holy Spirit to accept the doctrine of the Trinity. One can only go so many directions. Either it’s going to be a well formulated and articulated position (and so one of the various options already proposed these last 2000 years, or a variation of one of them). OR it’ll be an esoteric and mystical position that defies and/or rejects any kind of formulation. in which case, that position ends up forfeiting the right to judge any other alternative as being wrong since it would be refusing to deal with the Biblical data (and therefore rejecting Biblical authority).

    For those who don’t know, induction or inductive reasoning is reasoning or making inferences from particulars to generals (or from effect to cause). Induction only rises to the level of probability and therefore can never lead to certain conclusions like deduction. You can only perform isolated (and therefore limited) deductions from the propositions and axioms of Scripture. Abduction or abductive reasoning is inference to the best explanation. That is, reasoning to that hypothesis or theory that has the greatest explanatory power and explanatory scope. Abduction is a form of induction.

    …You only seem to say that it comes closer to squaring than any competing theory you have heard, but, as I’ve said, that doesn’t make it square.

    Again, that’s true. But I’m open to hearing from others better alternatives.

    When it comes to materials that aren’t free. I would recommend the following:

    The Forgotten Trinity by James R. White

    Putting Jesus In His Place: The Case for the Deity of Christ by Robert M. Bowman Jr. and J. Ed Komoszewski

    Reasoning from the Scriptures With The Jehovah’s Witnesses by Ron Rhodes

    The Trinity: Evidence and Issues by Robert Morey

    God In Three Persons by E. Calvin Beisner

    Jesus Only Churches by E. Calvin Beisner and Alan W. Gomes

    Our Triune God: A Biblical Portrayal of the Trinity by Peter Toon

    Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine by Wayne Grudem (Highly Recommened systematic theology)

    An Introduction to New Testament Christology – by (Catholic theologian) Raymond E. Brown

    Of course there are non-Trinitarian works I could recommend, but being convinced (at the present) that the Trinitarian position is closest to the truth as we can come to this side of heaven and prior to the Return of Christ, I’d rather not. If Christ doesn’t return for another millenium, I’m sure the doctrine of the Trinity might be refined even further, but the essential formulation won’t change. That is, the formulation that 1. avoids denying the the true INDIVIDUAL personality of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (unlike modalism for example); 2. avoids denying the true deity of each person (unlike Arianism, or Binitarianism for example); 3. avoids denying that there is only one God (unlike polytheism or tritheism, or Mormonism for example).

    1. I like the even-handed way you present your position. Your fair-mindedness makes for productive discussion.

      Your defense of Davies is fair, except that he has other sentences like that. So far as I have read him, I couldn’t say his presentation is even-handed.

      I like all the proverbs you quoted, and agree that they are relevant to life in general and especially to a subject like this.

      Your citation of 2 Cor 13:14; Matt 28::19; and 1 Cor 12:4-6 is commonplace in defenses of Trinitarianism…but doesn’t prove anything. That such verses can be read as fitting into a doctrine of Trinity is far from saying they teach the doctrine of a Trinity. These verses do present a trio of names, but there are also verses in the New Testament which present a pair of names. If the mere presence of three names in a verse teaches a Trinity, then a presence of two names would present a Binity…and we would have a contradiction in the Scriptures on our hands. Moreover, there are far more NT verses that present a duo than there are that present a trio. I hope you see therefore that the three cited verses just don’t do the work that Trinitarians claim they do.

      Thanks for your citation of the other resources which you consider worthy of consideration. I try to stick as close as I can to the Scriptures, but I acknowledge that truth can be found in other places, too.

  2. BTW, in the original blog http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2011/06/do-we-need-trinity-verse.html
    I added to my statement a clarification. It’s the part in brackets

    “Additional comments.

    So I personally wouldn’t use those passages in a positive defense of the doctrine of the Trinity.

    [Or if I did, I would give certain qualifications and be more balanced and open about the controversies concerning those passages. For example, a case could be made that 1 John 5:20 (which has no textual variant) teaches that Jesus Christ is the “true God and eternal life”. But it’s not definitive.].”

    1. As I said at the top, “I’ve done [some] minor editing.” One example is this addition, which I inserted in your original post at what seemed the appropriate place. I thought it gave your thoughts a better logical flow for the reader. If you disagree, however, let me know and I’ll remove it from where I put it.

  3. Mike, What is your position? What do you think the Bible teaches about the nature of God, of Jesus and the Holy Spirit? Did Jesus pre-exist his incarnation? If so, was it personal or impersonal? Is the Holy Spirit personal or an impersonal force or inpersonal power of God (or something like that)? Is the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit really just different modes or roles or masks one person plays as Modalism teaches (i.e one person plays Father in creation, Son in redemption, and Holy Spirit in sanctification just as H20 has the three states of solid [ice], liquid [water], and vapor [steam])? Are there three separate beings or entities who are Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? I haven’t read any of your blogs, and so I don’t know specifically what you positively believe, or the specific things you reject. All I can do is to encourage you to keep prayerfully studying the Bible. I’ll take the same advice myself. Who knows one or both of us might change our views. Maybe it’s not Trinitarianism, nor your position that is true, but a tertium quid (i.e. a third option).

    1. Since I don’t believe in the doctrine of the Trinity, what do I believe?  The doctrine of Christ.  This is what I believe the Scriptures teach.

      I believe that the Trinitarian concept competes with, and contradicts, the biblical Christ concept.  For some specifics, let me point you to The Biggest Problem with the Trinity and Six Objections to the Trinity.

      One of the difficulties with discussions about Trinitarianism is that it’s a philosophical, not a biblical, construct.  As such, it uses all sorts of terms which take you away from the Scriptures and leave you in intellectual isolation with just a veneer of scriptural references.  Even the questions you ask of me here betray the self-contained mindset of “There are three Beings whose interrelationships we must explain.”  The Scriptures never start from this premise.

      Trinity or Christ?  I’ll take Christ.

      Beyond that, let me ask you a question.  Is the Lord Jesus Christ our Brother or our Father?

       

  4. I asserted that the Trinity was more of a philosophical construct than a biblical construct.  You replied by acknowledging the philosophic aspect, but dividing it into that which is basic versus that which is more advanced.  I appreciate your doing that for two reasons: 1) The advanced aspects are far more philosophical than I ever want to get, and 2) the basic aspects are problematic enough.  Therefore, I’ll simply respond to the basic argument, which I find untenable.  Let me repeat your comments about the basic level and then I’ll respond:

    There are aspects of higher level trinitarian theology that are philosophic, abstract and speculative. That’s true. But the basics of Trinitarianism can be understood with a minimum amount of philosophy. Basic Latin Trinitarianism only requires an understanding of the distinction between the categories of 1. “being” and 2. “person”.

    The category of “Being” has to do with having the “stuff” of existence. It has to do with the “WHAT-ness” of something. While the category of “Person” has to do with consciousness. That is, with “WHO-ness” of something. So, for example, a rock you find at a beach has physical being, but it doesn’t have personality. Angels and demons on the other hand are conscious persons even if they don’t have physical being (though they do have spiritual being).

    Now when it comes to the Trinity, Latin Trinitarians believe God is one “what” and three “whos”. That three persons eternally share the one being that is God. We believe that God is ONE in *being* and (at the same time) THREE in *person*. That’s not a contradiction.

    It would be a contradiction if it was formulated as “God is one in person and three in person.” It would also be a contradiction if it was formulated as “God is one in being and three in being.”

    I recognize that making a distinction between “person” and “being” is the foundation of all defense of the Trinity, and has been so for centuries.  Yet it is an argument without a foundation.  Where in Scripture or in nature is an analogy for this?  The only possible analogy of which I am aware is demon possession of a human being, which, of course, is not considered a good thing at all.  Even in secular psychology, multiple personalities in one being is considered a disorder.

    You have logically defined “being” and you have logically defined “person,” and you have logically defined the difference between the two.  But you have not explained how multiple persons can exist as one being.

  5. There is one other point in your most recent response to which I would like to respond while I wait on you to have time to read the two links I gave you and answer the question I posed to you. It is the idea of progressive revelation.

    I agree with you that God reveals truth gradually and in phases. I think Proverbs 4:18 describes it well (“The path of the righteous is like the light of dawn that shines brighter and brighter until the full day” NASB). I believe this pattern can be seen throughout biblical times. Since the apostles died, however, there is no more Scripture being written. What we have is from the prophets (i.e. the Old Testament) and the apostles (i.e. the New Testament). I don’t think there is a church council (e.g. Nicea) or a theologian (e.g. Calvin) who come anywhere near the Scriptures in authority. That’s not to say they’re always wrong; it’s just to say they’re not always right. So, the fact that so-and-so from any post-apostolic age said such-and-such carries no authority whatever – except to the degree that it affirms or elucidates Scripture. Even then, it’s the Scripture providing the authority, not so-and-so.

    Therefore, if some church body or church council or renowned theologian can explain the Trinity concept, I’m all ears. But merely to hear that they believed it means nothing. Sadly, many people accept the Trinity because of these kinds of authorities, because it has been the accepted way among many for centuries. This, however, does not make it right. And every generation that so mindlessly accepts it adds its own illegitimate weight to this illegitimate authority. What matters is the Scriptures. They were attested to in blood by people inspired by the Spirit of God. We have no more reliable witness. And all the pronouncements of learned men and church leaders are nothing in comparison to them. (Jeremiah 17:5-8)

    I don’t think you and I are that far apart on this issue, but you do seem to ascribe more weight to extra-biblical authority than I do.

    The final point I wanted to make is that while revelation is progressive, we humans can bring darkness on ourselves if we are not faithful to the light God has previously given. For this reason, we can be “regressive” (if you will) in terms of our understanding of God’s revelation. This is another reason that I don’t think it’s wise to build on 4th century or 16th century or any other century’s understanding. Our understanding does not always grow in even steady paces. We forget things. We lose sight of important truths. We stumble around until we get so banged up that we repent…and then God’s light will break forth anew. This can happen to us individually as well as collectively. Again, the sure words of Scripture are our North star. If the Trinity were the truth, we would find it in the Bible. In the places where it should be, I find Christ instead.

  6. Btw, I’ve been updating and editing my blog response to you up until now. So, I don’t know if you’ve missed anything important since you last read my response. The last thing I added was the following.
    How was the Word “WITH” God as John 1:1 states if the Word was the same person as God? If Jesus is the Father, why didn’t he simply say, “I am the Father” or “I AM the Father”? Why his constant reference to the Father as if the Father were some other person? Jesus’ statement “…he that hath seen me hath seen the Father” (John 14:9) is not equivalent to “I am the Father.” Jesus says in John 6:46 “Not that any man hath seen the Father, save he which is of God, he hath seen the Father.”

    You have logically defined “being” and you have logically defined “person,” and you have logically defined the difference between the two. But you have not explained how multiple persons can exist as one being.

    You said in another blog “[the doctrine of the Trinity] obscures God’s mystery, Christ, and replaces it with man’s mystery, the Trinity…”
    How do you know that the the Trinity is not actually God’s mystery? If you can appeal to mystery, then Trinitarians can appeal to mystery. The question is which model, Trinitarian versus your model (which I’ve yet to hear), does better at making sense of all of the Biblical data? There are exegetical and logical reasons for why the church has been forced to formulate the doctrine of the Trinity. Here’s a quick rundown of the premises that have lead Trinitarians to their conclusions.

    Assuming 1. the divine inspiration of Scripture, 2. the inerrancy of Scripture
    and 3. the consistency and coherence of Scripture. Christians in the past have been forced by logical necessity to formulate the doctrine of the Trinity given these additional premises.

    1. There’s only one true God who is YHWH (AKA “Almighty God”).

    2. God is personal not impersonal.

    3. The Father (mentioned in the NT) is a person.

    4. The Son (mentioned in the NT) is a person.

    5. The Holy Spirit (mentioned in the NT) is a person.

    6. The person of the Father is not the person of Son or the person of the Holy Spirit.

    7. The person of the Son is not the person of the Father or the person of the Holy Spirit.

    8. The person of the Holy Spirit is not the person of the Father or the person of the Son.

    9. The Father is YHWH (and so the only true God).

    10. The Son is YHWH (and so the only true God).

    11. The Holy Spirit is YHWH (and so the only true God).

    12. There’s only one YHWH not two or three.

    Those premises are the foundation of the doctrine of the Trinity. What can be attributed to the being of God can be attributed to the persons. So, while the Father is Almighty God, the Son is Almighty God, and the Holy Spirit is Almighty God there are not three Almighty Gods, but one. Since, there is only one being that is Almighty God.

    Which of the 12 premises do you reject?

    …But you have not explained how multiple persons can exist as one being.

    I recommend you read John Piper’s sermon “The Pleasure of God in His Son

    This sermon really helped me to embrace the doctrine of the Trinity. Along with the essay by Jonathan Edwards upon which it was based. The same one I recommend before. But read Piper’s sermons first because it’s easier to understand and more succinct.

    An Unpublished Essay On the Trinity by Jonathan Edwards

    What we have is from the prophets (i.e. the Old Testament) and the apostles (i.e. the New Testament). I don’t think there is a church council (e.g. Nicea) or a theologian (e.g. Calvin) who come anywhere near the Scriptures in authority.

    I said as much in my comments.

    Sadly, many people accept the Trinity because of these kinds of authorities, because it has been the accepted way among many for centuries.

    I said as much in my comments.

    If the Trinity were the truth, we would find it in the Bible. In the places where it should be, I find Christ instead.

    Again, I don’t know what you mean by “I find Christ instead.” What do you mean specifically? I’m waiting for you to explain what that means. I find Christ in Scripture too. I also find the Father and the Holy Spirit. Does that therefore mean you don’t find the Father and the Holy Spirit in Scripture and are therefore in error? Obviously not since it’s not the words or phrases used that matters but the *meaning* behind those words and phrases; and I’m still waiting for you to explain what you mean by finding Christ or how you answer the questions I’ve posed (and which Christians theologians have asked for millennia). If you continue saying you find Christ and not explaining what that means, I’ll start saying, you don’t find the Holy Spirit and the Father in Scripture and are therefore in error. 😉 heh heh

  7. I’m going to answer this part by part as I have time today.

    Before I start answering your questions, however, I want to make clear that I make no claim to understand all the mysteries of the Bible or that I am able to explain its every verse. I am merely saying that the things revealed belong to us while the hidden things stay that way until God reveals them (Deuteronomy 29:29). And regarding the Trinity specifically, I am saying that it goes astray by trying to explain things in an inadequate way and creates unnecessary mystery in the process. I should not have to be able to explain every verse in the Bible in order to demonstrate that the Trinity doctrine is unbiblical.

  8. How was the Word “WITH” God as John 1:1 states if the Word was the same person as God? If Jesus is the Father, why didn’t he simply say, “I am the Father” or “I AM the Father”? Why his constant reference to the Father as if the Father were some other person? Jesus’ statement “…he that hath seen me hath seen the Father” (John 14:9) is not equivalent to “I am the Father.” Jesus says in John 6:46 “Not that any man hath seen the Father, save he which is of God, he hath seen the Father.”

    I agree that these are all reasonable questions, and that they represent a mystery.  I don’t agree that they are adequately answered by the doctrine of the Trinity.  Even if, as you say, the Trinity is the best explanation of all the explanations you have heard, is that sufficient reason to accept it?  Why not leave a mystery what God has presented as a mystery…until He reveals it?  (again, Deuteronomy 29:29)

    I do have something to say about these verses and how they related to the doctrine of Christ, and these will come out as our interactions continue.

     

     

  9. I had asked you to explain how multiple persons could exist as one being. You gave a very long response to that question but I could not find anything in it that addressed the question. Since this distinction is the logical foundation upon which the entire doctrine of the Trinity rests, it would seem Trinitarians would have formulated a reasonable answer to this by now. Do you not have one?

  10. How do you know that the the Trinity is not actually God’s mystery? If you can appeal to mystery, then Trinitarians can appeal to mystery.

    I was actually quoting Scripture when I said that Christ was God’s mystery (Ephesians 3:4; Colossians 4:3; and especially Colossians 2:2).  Neither you nor anyone else will be able to cite Bibles verses which identify the Trinity as God’s mystery.  Even if you don’t agree that this settles the case, you have to agree that this leaves the burden of proof on you.

  11. The question is which model, Trinitarian versus your model (which I’ve yet to hear), does better at making sense of all of the Biblical data.

    As I’ve told you, “my”model is the doctrine of Christ, which is explicitly taught in the Bible.  I refer you there.  If you don’t know the doctrine of Christ, how do you claim to follow Him?

  12. As for your twelve premises, the conclusion of Trinity is embedded in them. That is, the reasoning is circular. It starts from the premise there are three divine beings which we have to reconcile with the idea that God is one. Then, in Alice-in-Wonderland style, someone says “Let’s agree that three persons can exist in one being,” and – “Voila!” – we have our answer. This is human wisdom at its finest – which is to say, foolishness in the sight of God.

    Nevertheless, I am actually willing to work through each of the twelve premises with you. But let’s narrow it down to begin. Leave out the premises related to the New Testament for the time being (which is to say, leave out any reference to Jesus in the premises). Why didn’t anyone in Israel feel compelled to similarly reconcile all the premises related to the Father and the Holy Spirit during those thousands of years before Christ?

  13. As for the Piper sermon, I found it to be a meditation on the Persons of the Trinity (and only the first two at that) rather than an explanation or proof of the Trinity doctrine. He was preaching to choir, and his starting point was that the doctrine of the Trinity was true. He never justified it. And when he came close to trying to justify it, he did poorly. I’m speaking of his declaration that when you or I look in the mirror and love ourselves it is the essence of vanity but when God does it it’s the essence of righteousness. Of course, when Piper says this he’s relying on the ever-convenient-but-never-justified distinction between “person” and “being.”

    As for Edwards’ essay, I started it but couldn’t finish when it looked like he was going to do just what Piper did. Both of them even invoked the term “Godhead” which confirmed to me that they were preaching to the choir (Anyone outside of the choir would want to interrupt and find out what the word means).

  14. Again, I don’t know what you mean by “I find Christ instead.” What do you mean specifically?

    What is the theme of the New Testament?  Upon what subject does it center?  Upon what topic does it return over and over again?

    Christ.

    The Bible teaches many things, but that Christ is its theme is undeniable.  Of course, He is the explicit theme of the New Testament books, but Jesus made clear that even the Old Testament books were all about Him (John 5:39, 46; Luke 24:25-27; 31-32; 44-48).  Peter (Acts 3:22-26; 1 Peter 1:10-12) and Paul (2 Timothy 3:14-15) concurred.

    Christ is given as the focal point.  More than the Father.  More than the Holy Spirit.  More than the Scriptures.  More than the angels.  More than anything else the Bible mentions.

    Trinitarians say that the way to know and understand God is through the Trinity.  The Bible says that the way to know and understand God is through Christ.

  15. I’ve asked a couple of times now about how Trinitarians can justify the one being – multiple persons assumption, and still no answer.

    Your last answer was to refer me again to Piper which I’ve already read at your request. As I said, he doesn’t explain or justify this sophistry. He just goes on acting as if it’s not an issue.

    If you do come up with an answer, please post it here. This being-person distinction is the Achilles’ heel of Trinitarianism and you would be doing it a great favor were you to come up with something.

  16. I would again recommend reading John Piper’s sermon which is based on Edwards’ essay, which itself echos Thomas Aquinas’ speculations, which echos Augustine’s speculations.

    By the way, regarding your recommendation on Piper who based his thoughts on Edwards, who based his thoughts on the “speculations” (!) of two guys before him. Apparently, the deeper one dives into the foundation for Trinitarian thinking, the more speculative it gets. I quite agree that the Trinity doctrine is speculative. And like so many speculations, off base.

    By the way, are you serious that you want me to read Aquinas? I’m not a philosopher. If people have to read Thomas Aquinas in order to understand the Trinity doctrine doesn’t that tell you something! Do you think the apostle Peter would warm to Aquinas?

  17. I’ve asked a couple of times now about how Trinitarians can justify the one being – multiple persons assumption, and still no answer.

    And I’ve asked you about what you believe more times than you’ve asked me that. At least I’ve given an answer that can be analysed and analyzed, as well as critiqued.

    No, I don’t expect you to read all of the books I recommend. Part of the reason why I’m bombarding you with various works is because I have no radar fix on what you believe, so I have to shoot buckshot books at you rather than use sniper-like precision in recommending a specific/particular book.

    If people have to read Thomas Aquinas in order to understand the Trinity doctrine doesn’t that tell you something! Do you think the apostle Peter would warm to Aquinas?

    I clearly said that the basics of the Trinity is understandable to most people of average intelligence. It’s not a matter of understanding it, it’s a matter of accepting it or being persuaded. Persuasion is a psychological thing, not merely a rational thing. It can be affected by sin like the sin of pride, or laziness, or fear, or willing ignorance.

    On the one hand, you claim (as well as complain) that Trinitarianism is false because it refuses to leave what is mysterious (as) mysterious. Yet, on the other hand, you seem to be assuming that God ways and truth must always be simple enough for you or for everyone to understand.

    Yet the Bible itself affirms that there are the levels of depth to God, the things of God, and God’s ways and being.

    You asked whether Peter could warm to Aquinas. You know what Peter said about Paul’s writings: “as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.” (2 Peter 3:16). I think I’ll wait till you explain what you believe before I comment further because it seems that I’m the only one who’s willing to expose my beliefs to critique. As well as the one who’s willing to defend my beliefs with argument and evidence.

    1. And I’ve asked you about what you believe more times than you’ve asked me that. At least I’ve given an answer that can be analysed and analyzed, as well as critiqued.

      Actually, I don’t think you have.  And I mean no offense by that.  But I’m still wondering how multiple persons can exist in one being.  In my mind, and I think in most people’s, a person is a being and a being is a person.  Therefore, the Trinity view is making a distinction without a difference.  I would really like to wrestle with an answer to it, but I honestly don’t think I’ve heard one from you.  I think you’d be better off (and less frustrated with me) if you just admitted, “I don’t know; I just accept it.”

      No, I don’t expect you to read all of the books I recommend. Part of the reason why I’m bombarding you with various works is because I have no radar fix on what you believe, so I have to shoot buckshot books at you rather than use sniper-like precision in recommending a specific/particular book.

      Books, books, books!  Can’t we stick with the Scriptures?

      I clearly said that the basics of the Trinity is understandable to most people of average intelligence. It’s not a matter of understanding it, it’s a matter of accepting it or being persuaded.

      Your second sentence here is on point and quite telling. I wish Trinitarians would be quicker to acknowledge it.

      On the one hand, you claim (as well as complain) that Trinitarianism is false because it refuses to leave what is mysterious (as) mysterious. Yet, on the other hand, you seem to be assuming that God ways and truth must always be simple enough for you or for everyone to understand.

      Let me illustrate how these hands can be correlated.  Everyone knows that God is omniscient.  You don’t even have to read the Bible to know that.  Even a child knows that God is omniscient.  Do we understand omniscience?  Yes.  Is there anything illogical about it?  No.  Now, imagine omniscience.  You can’t. I can’t either.  I can’t comprehend how a mind can embody all knowledge simultaneously.  It is beyond me.  I am a creature, not the Creator.  Therefore, do I understand omniscience?  Yes.  But do I really understand omniscience?  Not in detail.  This is the simplicity – and the wonder – of a creature knowing a Creator.

      The Trinity is not like this, however, because it expects us to accept something that is contradictory on its face – something that in any other context we would consider nonsense. It is one thing to say something is beyond our understanding; it is another to say something that violates our understanding.

      You asked whether Peter could warm to Aquinas. You know what Peter said about Paul’s writings: “as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.” (2 Peter 3:16).

      I don’t even think Paul would warm to Aquinas.  Paul appealed to philosophers, but he wasn’t impressed by them.

      I think I’ll wait till you explain what you believe before I comment further because it seems that I’m the only one who’s willing to expose my beliefs to critique. As well as the one who’s willing to defend my beliefs with argument and evidence.

      I think I’ve revealed more than you recognize.  But I’m willing to continue to answer your questions until you feel you have a better grasp on what I believe…or rather whom I believe (and it’s not a “them”).

  18. Regarding the mystery of Christ, I don’t hold the view of “mystery” that you ascribe to me. In fact, I hold to the view which you say that you hold. The point I think you miss is that the mystery of Christ had been partially but not completely revealed when the New Testament documents were being written. That’s why John could write so opaquely in the book titled “Revelation” and Peter could write about looking for the revelation of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:7,13; 4:13).

  19. I’ve asked a couple of times now about how Trinitarians can justify the one being – multiple persons assumption, and still no answer.

    Just because you reject my answers and explanations and found them unsatisfactory doesn’t mean I didn’t answer nor that they weren’t good answers. Even if they were bad answers, they were answers nevertheless. Answers to many of your questions. I’ve asked some questions too, and you seem to want to avoid directly answering any of the pivotal ones. While I’ve directly took on your best critiques (regardless of my success or failure). I’m not saying this bitterly. I just think it’s unfair and uncharitable of you not to share what you specifically believe. I’m willing to continue our conversation, but not with the same fervor. Not until you share what you believe. I’ve given you a lot of my time and shared with you some of the resources that helped me. It’s up to you to sort through these issues and come to a more informed decision. I know that for myself (and for most of the people I’ve encountered who reject the Trinity yet believe the Bible), I rejected the doctrine of the Trinity (in my past) due to 1. prejudicial bias (e.g. its pagan origins), 2. to ignorance of the Biblical evidence for it as well as 3. an ignorance of what the doctrine ACTUALLY teaches (regardless of it’s veracity) and how criticisms of it have been answered by Trinitarians. That’s not to say that I’ve “arrived”. For all I know, I may end up rejecting the doctrine of the Trinity again. But, it’ll take a lot to do that since I’ve studied this issue for decades (with my admittedly limited intelligence). I trust we can agree on the following Reformational slogans. “Ad Fontes” ([back] to the source [of the Scriptures]”; Sola Scriptura, and “Semper Reformanda” [always reforming]. Blessing to you Mike :-)) I’ll probably comment again at the end of the week.

    1. I’m sorry that I have frustrated you. On the other hand, I don’t think your frustration is entirely my fault. Part of it owes to the philosophical nature of the Trinitarian doctrine. Because it is a neatly buttoned-down intellectual argument (complete with an ad hoc rhetorical distinction between key terms of the argument), it creates the expectation that any alternative thought will come in the same kind of package. I don’t have a package like that for you, for my argument is not intellectual or philosophical in nature.

      As I mentioned, I have read a number of the alternative arguments to the Trinity (oneness, modalism, etc. – though not the Arian variety because I believe in the deity of Christ) and I find them all quite dry. This is a separate issue from their truth or error. In other words, whether you study the Trinity or any of the competing explanations they all seem quite different from the tone and texture of the Scriptures. This is troublesome to me. I don’t speak the same language as these people. Therefore, you’re not going to hear an answer from me that sounds like a John Piper or R. C. Sproul, and certainly not like a Thomas Aquinas – if any of them were to offer an alternative to the Trinity.

      The part of your frustration that is my fault owes to my immaturity in some of the things I believe. If I continue to live and grow, I will be able to understand better and express more clearly the truths I see in Scripture. In the meantime, my thoughts and expressions are more difficult for you to understand than they should be. I’ll try to grow faster. In any case, just know that I am not intentionally frustrating you and I certainly am not disrespecting you.

  20. Oh, btw, my title “Do Rocks Dream of Ceramic Sheep?” is an allusion to Philip K. Dick’s story “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” which is the basis for the movie “Blade Runner” (hence “Jade Runner”). I’m goofy enough to laugh at my own corny jokes. I hope you found it amusing too.

  21. I asked why people didn’t feel compelled to reconcile God with the Holy Spirit into a Binity during Old Testament times. Your answer was “progressive revelation.” I’ve agreed that progressive revelation is God’s way, but could you be more specific about how that applies here?

    What was not revealed about the Holy Spirit until the NT, absent which Old Testament Israelites would not think of Him as a person or God?

  22. While I’m waiting on you to respond further to my question about why there was no pre-NT issue about the subset of the 12 premises that apply to God the Father and the Holy Spirit, I thought you might appreciate it if I went ahead and addressed the premises, one by one.

    1. There’s only one true God who is YHWH (AKA “Almighty God”).

    This one seems problematic to me. If there had been a period after the first “God” I would have agreed with it. However, the phrase “who is YHWH” confuses the issue. Here’s why:

    The Hebrew word YHWH is translated “Lord” in English Old Testaments (including the Jewish Tanakh). Even before Christ, it was similarly translated as “Kurios” in the Septuagint. Following suit, the New Testament uses “Kurios” exclusively where YHWH might have occurred. Therefore, an appropriate paraphrase of 1. would be: “There’s only one true God who is Lord.” This will create problems when you get to the New Testament where it states that there is one God (the Father) and one Lord (Jesus). I’m not saying the first premise is wrong per se – just that it’s confusing on its face and therefore unhelpful to the discussion.

    Do you understand what I mean when I say the statement is problematic?

  23. You gave me 12 premises which you said “are the foundation of the doctrine of the Trinity.”  You then asked me, “Which of the 12 premises do you reject?”  Here are my answers:

    1. There’s only one true God who is YHWH (AKA “Almighty God”).

    As I said above, this statement is confused.  I would have to reject it as written.

    2. God is personal not impersonal.

    I accept this statement.

    3. The Father (mentioned in the NT) is a person.

    I accept this statement (but I don’t distinguish a person from a being).

    4. The Son (mentioned in the NT) is a person.

    I accept this statement (but I don’t distinguish a person from a being).

    5. The Holy Spirit (mentioned in the NT) is a person.

    I accept this statement (but I don’t distinguish a person from a being)

    6. The person of the Father is not the person of Son or the person of the Holy Spirit.

    I accept this statement (but I don’t distinguish a person from a being).

    7. The person of the Son is not the person of the Father or the person of the Holy Spirit.

    I accept this statement (but I don’t distinguish a person from a being).

    8. The person of the Holy Spirit is not the person of the Father or the person of the Son.

    I accept this statement (but I don’t distinguish a person from a being).

    9. The Father is YHWH (and so the only true God).

    YHWH means Lord (as I explained above).  The Father was Lord until He made Jesus Lord (Acts 2:34-36; 1 Corinthians 8:6).  I cannot accept the statement.

    10. The Son is YHWH (and so the only true God).

    I accept this statement.

    11. The Holy Spirit is YHWH (and so the only true God).

    I am unaware of any scriptures that make this claim.  I cannot accept this statement.

    12. There’s only one YHWH not two or three.

    I accept this statement.

     

  24. THE DOCTRINE OF CHRIST

    You have asked what I do believe if I do not believe in the doctrine of the Trinity. I have responded that I believe in doctrine of Christ. I have further said that the doctrine of the Trinity is man-made and the doctrine of Christ is biblical. This accounts for my choice.

    You have professed ignorance of what I mean by the doctrine of Christ. Therefore, I am going to lay it out for you here. Of necessity, it will be repetitious to much of what I have said as well as to what you know of it from Scripture, but perhaps seeing it in this context will allow the doctrine to come through to you in a way that it hasn’t before. (By the way, I consider “doctrine” just another word for “teaching.”)

    Lastly in preface, let me say that I am outlining the doctrine of Christ as it relates to the Trinity. That is, it is an injustice to the teaching of Christ to frame it only in terms of answering questions that the Trinity issue raises. I say this because the teaching of Christ is meant for us to fully embrace and obey and live – day by day. God forbid that what I’ve written here become like the teaching of Trinity which is largely a dry philosophical exercise which has little to do with living life.

    1. Christ is the centerpiece of all God’s working with man. It is His response to the Fall, and He conceived it in anticipation of the Fall – before this creation came to be. Therefore, Christ was the ultimate plan and purpose of all creation.

    2. The entire Christ plan was written into the Scriptures, albeit in “mystery” that it might be revealed at the appropriate time. Some of it was revealed in the New Testament, but some of it was still being written in mystery form (e.g. the book of Revelation), to be revealed with the coming of the kingdom of God.

    3. Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ, the Son of God. This fact was recognized to some during His earthly ministry, but was not publicly proclaimed until after His resurrection and ascension into heaven. Christ is the image of God, and throughout all the ages to come God will continue revealing Himself through Christ.

    4. Everything in the Scriptures testifies of Christ. Everything in the Scriptures points us to Christ. We are told to trust Christ, obey Christ, love Christ, be devoted to Christ – in short, to treat Christ like God. This is because God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself.

    5. We are told in the Scriptures that the Holy Spirit is the inheritance of those who obey Christ.

    6. We are told in the Scriptures that He who has the Son has the Father, that the Father will be revealed to those whom Christ wills to reveal Him, and that he who has seen Christ has seen the Father.

    Through following Christ we can find all things pertaining to life and godliness. The Trinity doctrine subordinates the doctrine of Christ to itself, and thus must be rejected if we are to be fully devoted to Christ and ever find the Father.

  25. I think I have now answered all your outstanding questions. If not, please bring any remaining ones to my attention. Of course, you may ask new questions, too.

    Now that we’ve reached this point, may I ask you again my question about Jesus: Is He our Brother or Father?

  26. Sorry for the delay in response. It’s was a holiday weekend here in the United States. I’ll try to respond soon.

  27. Mike, I’ve been so busy. Sorry I haven’t responded sooner. I’m typing up responses now. I’ll post them in chunks or all together. Btw, you can call me James (my first name).

  28. In my mind, and I think in most people’s, a person is a being and a being is a person.

    I can understand your intuition that “a person is a being”, but I don’t think it’s rational to say that “a being is a person” since there are various beings that aren’t persons. A lion is a being, but not a person. A rock has being or is a being but is not a person. Also, natural intuitions aren’t always right. For example, without the Biblical revelation, it might be a natural intuition for some people to think that we earn God’s approval by our good works. I could give other examples, but I think it might get touch on other issues
    we might disagree on as well (from the brief perusal of your blog).

    Therefore, the Trinity view is making a distinction without a difference.

    No philosopher would say that. Even unitarian philosophers would acknowledge that Trinitarian doctrine makes a REAL distinction with a REAL difference. They just disagree that it’s true.

    I think you’d be better off (and less frustrated with me) if you just admitted, “I don’t know; I just accept it.”

    I accept it because of the premises I listed above.

    Books, books, books! Can’t we stick with the Scriptures?

    I like what the famous preacher Charles Spurgeon said…
    “”The man who never reads will never be read; he who never quotes will never be quoted. He who will not use the thoughts of other men’s brains, proves that he has no brains of his own.” We can focus on Scripture if you like, but I won’t “stick” only with Scripture since I’m not foolish enough to think that I’m smarter than every single orthodox, heterodox, heretical and abberant theologian for the past 2000 years. I’m not dumb enough to attempt to re-invent the wheel. Or at least re-invent the tools to construct a wheel (like a hammer, saw, level, nails, etc).

    Everyone knows that God is omniscient. You don’t even have to read the Bible to know that. Even a child knows that God is omniscient.

    No, not everyone who believes the Bible believes that God is “omniscient” in the historic sense. For example, Open Theists deny that God knows the future exhaustively. They believe that God only knows the past and present perfectly because since the future doesn’t yet exist, it’s not an object that can be known.

    Yes. Is there anything illogical about it? No.

    Open Theists would demur. They would say that it’s illogical to know about what doesn’t yet exist. Where does the Bible say God knows all things? And how can we determine how much God knows? That requires the use of Biblical hermeneutics and logic. Yet the use of logic brings us dangerously close to the use of philosophy which you want to avoid. But it’s something that can’t be avoided if we want to have a systematic expression of what the Bible teaches and means.

    This is the simplicity – and the wonder – of a creature knowing a Creator.

    The Trinity is not like this, however, because it expects us to accept something that is contradictory on its face – something that in any other context we would consider nonsense.

    Atheists would say the same thing about non-physical beings. From their perspective, you believe in invisible magical sky Sugar Daddy. For the Open Theist, “on the face of it” it makes no sense that God knows all things. Maybe you agree with Open Theists in their denial of the classic understanding of omniscience. If you do, then how would you respond to an atheist who would say that “on the face of it” it doesn’t make sense that a non-physical being who has no eyes, or has a physical location can know everything about all of the physical universe at the present moment.

    It is one thing to say something is beyond our understanding; it is another to say something that violates our understanding.

    Nothing in the Trinity doctrine violates understanding. Though, it might violate your intuitions. But intuitions must take a backseat to Biblical Revelation.

    That’s why John could write so opaquely in the book titled “Revelation” and Peter could write about looking for the revelation of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:7,13; 4:13).

    You use the phrase “the revelation of Jesus Christ”. But notice how John uses that phrase in Rev. 1:1 “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him…”. How do you explain the fact that this is a revelation that God “GAVE HIM”? There seem to be two persons here being referred to. How do you reconcile this if you believe that Jesus is fully God? There are only so many ways one could go in interpreting Rev. 1:1. For example, one can hold to some Trinitarian view, or an Arianistic view (etc.).

    In other words, whether you study the Trinity or any of the competing explanations they all seem quite different from the tone and texture of the Scriptures.

    That’s because God didn’t intend to inspire the Bible so as to be a systematic theology.

    The part of your frustration that is my fault owes to my immaturity in some of the things I believe. If I continue to live and grow, I will be able to understand better and express more clearly the truths I see in Scripture.

    Well, part of my frustration is due to my immaturity in being impatient. I guess what I find frustrating is that you seem to be so dogmatic in one sense (in condemning trinitarianism) while your method of doing theology would seem to be opposed to dogmatism and systemization. In other words, if you’re against systemization and dogmatism, then you shouldn’t dogmatically and systematically reject or denounce Trinitarian doctrine. That is, if you want to be consistent with your method.

    If I followed your method consistently, I’d conclude that whether Jesus is fully God or not doesn’t matter since we should only deal with what’s absolutely clear in the Bible without recourse to logic or philosophy. Believing that Jesus is the Messiah and God’s “son” (whatever that means) should be enough. Let’s not ask what it means to be “God’s son”. Same thing with salvation. Whether we’re saved by grace alone or whether we can earn salvation doesn’t make a difference since God want us to be good anyway. That’s all that matter. But I reject that method as dishonoring to the God of the Bible as well as dishonoring the Bible as God’s Revelation.

    I’ll continue commenting as I have time. Thanks for your patience. Btw, if you’d rather end our dialogue, that’s fine too. I understand if you’re busy or have lost interest. Blessings to you :-))

  29. There are other typos in my last main post, but I’m sure you can figure out what I meant without me having to correct every single one. I posted it in a rush because I didn’t want to keep you waiting any longer. Now that I’ve posted *something*, I’ll be more careful to proofread my posts. 🙂

  30. I’ll answer your long post above in chunks.

    I can understand your intuition that “a person is a being”, but I don’t think it’s rational to say that “a being is a person” since there are various beings that aren’t persons. A lion is a being, but not a person. A rock has being or is a being but is not a person.

    A rock is a being?  I don’t think most people think of rocks as beings.  I think they think of rocks as things, inanimate objects.  A being is animate – something that has aspects of personality.  A lion might not seem to possess such aspects but its trainer would likely take issue with this.  Similarly, angels are persons (or beings) without being human beings.

    Faith in trinitarianism doesn’t just demand that you make the artificial distinction between being and person, it requires that you accept that multiple persons can exist as aspects of one being.  You accept this philosophical construct without any basis in common sense or logic.

    You say that I must endure the same criticism from an atheist when it comes to my faith in a non-physical God, but the situation is hardly the same.  There is nothing illogical about my accepting the reality of a being I cannot see.  In fact, it would be most illogical for me to say that the only beings that are real are the ones I, or someone else, can see.

    Moreover, I am accepting declarations of truth from the Bible when I disagree with the atheist.  I can show him chapter and verse.  The trinitarian can point to no scripture that will say that a being is different from a person, or that multiple persons can co-exist as one being.

    As to the broader issues of logic and philosophy, be aware that I do not see the two as identical.  Philosophy is something that requires education and training.  It has its own vocabulary, methods, and rules.  Logic, by contrast, is something everyone has.  I equate it to common sense.  Some people call it intuition, but that can add a connotation of emotion so I don’t always use it.  I am aware that logic has also been made into a formal academic discipline, but I am no more interested in that than I am philosophy – for the same reasons.  I am interested in logic and common sense because everyone has it.  Furthermore, the Bible requires use of it.  In the gospels, Jesus expected people to think.

    Therefore, bring all the logic you have to bear on this discussion.

    And as for the subject of books, I don’t have any problem with books per se.  My point was that quoting some systematic tome as if its authority was equal to the Scripture is not going to impress me – nor should it impress you.  A book on this subject should only impress you to the degree that it builds its case from Scripture, using logic.  If the Davies book you mentioned at the top of this dialogue is representative, then the books you are mentioning are either preaching-to-the-choir exercises or else their dealing with objections other than the ones I’m making.

    Back to the issue of person versus being and multiple persons co-existing as one being, I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree.  To sum up my position, this assumption is illogical, counter-intuitive, and nonsensical.  More importantly, the Bible does not teach these concepts.

    1. On our digression into omniscience:

      I (erroneously) thought that omniscience would be something we could easily agree on, and therefore would provide a foundation for comparison to the doctrine of the Trinity. As for your invoking Open Theism, I don’t think that Open Theists would necessarily agree with you that they are challenging God’s omniscience. Rather they are challenging human notions of what is knowledge. Classic views of omniscience would agree that God cannot know that 2+2=5 or that circles are square; Open Theists just want to put more stuff in that category. In any case, omniscience has become a red herring for our discussion so I’ll drop it now.

    2. You use the phrase “the revelation of Jesus Christ”. But notice how John uses that phrase in Rev. 1:1 “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him…”. How do you explain the fact that this is a revelation that God “GAVE HIM”? There seem to be two persons here being referred to. How do you reconcile this if you believe that Jesus is fully God? There are only so many ways one could go in interpreting Rev. 1:1.

      Here’s an area where you and I may be close to agreement.  I readily acknowledge that there is a mystery to be resolved here – and not just in this verse, but throughout the New Testament.  That mystery being: “What are we to think of God and Jesus, respectively, who are presented as two distinct beings (persons, entities, individuals, etc.)?  The New Testament presents them as one God and one Lord (1 Cor 8:6 and Eph 4:5-6).  That answer seemed to satisfy the New Testament disciples, but not us.  The Trinity is an attempt to explain this mystery but it fails.  It is a philosophical answer – not a biblical one.  Additionally, it unnecessarily complicates the issue by adding the Holy Spirit into the mix.  Instead of showing how the two can be reconciled to one, it increases the two to three and leaves it a mystery.  This is not how God reveals His mysteries.

      How close are we to agreeing that the Bible presents God and Messiah as two different figures (however close they might be), and that our hearts long for way of reconciling our understanding of them?

    3. Mike: In other words, whether you study the Trinity or any of the competing explanations they all seem quite different from the tone and texture of the Scriptures.

      James: That’s because God didn’t intend to inspire the Bible so as to be a systematic theology.

      In this exchange, I think you missed my point.  I’m not wanting the Bible to be more systematic – I’m wanting books about the Trinity to be more biblical.

      In the quest to be systematic about theology, it is easy to superimpose the limitations of our own human understanding on God’s revelation from the Scriptures.  This is the structural flaw in most books I have read about the Trinity.  We should by all means bring our God-given reasoning powers to our study of the Scriptures.  Our systems, however, are self-limiting and distracting.  The Athenian philosophers in Acts 17 took to biblical revelation the way oil takes to water.

      Therefore to paraphrase what I said above about “the tone and texture of the Scriptures” I’m looking for books that speak in “the same spirit as the Scripture.”  Let an author build on the foundation of Scripture we understand to unveil parts of Scripture we don’t understand rather than build on systematic, philosophical, and theological foundations seeking to import the result to Scripture.

    4. I guess what I find frustrating is that you seem to be so dogmatic in one sense (in condemning trinitarianism) while your method of doing theology would seem to be opposed to dogmatism and systemization. In other words, if you’re against systemization and dogmatism, then you shouldn’t dogmatically and systematically reject or denounce Trinitarian doctrine. That is, if you want to be consistent with your method.

      “Dogmatic” is a pejorative term and I don’t think any of us seek to be dogmatic.  As far as being systematic, I’m all for accepting whatever system or systems the Scriptures give us, but I’m not for imposing our systems on it.  I reject the Trinity for the same reason I reject Mormonism or Islam – those systems all conflict with Scripture, even though they selectively appeal to its authority.

    5. If I followed your method consistently, I’d conclude that whether Jesus is fully God or not doesn’t matter since we should only deal with what’s absolutely clear in the Bible without recourse to logic or philosophy. Believing that Jesus is the Messiah and God’s “son” (whatever that means) should be enough. Let’s not ask what it means to be “God’s son”.

      I’m not saying these issues are unimportant.  I’m saying they are secondary to trusting and obeying Christ on a day-to-day basis.  More to the point, I’m saying that trusting and obeying Christ on a day-to-day basis is the path to understanding of these issues.  Advanced educational degrees will not get you there.

      Jesus taught so that plain, everyday folk could understand His teaching.  The educated people could, too – if they left their degrees at home and just used their common sense.  It was not the brilliant minds of Pharisaic orthodoxy who made known to Peter that Jesus was the Messiah.

      God reveals His truths to us when and as He deems appropriate (Deuteronomy 29:29).  Never think that erudition is a short cut to revelation.

    6. I think I’ve now spoken to every point you raised in your long response above.  If not, please call my attention to it.

      I’ll continue commenting as I have time. Thanks for your patience. Btw, if you’d rather end our dialogue, that’s fine too. I understand if you’re busy or have lost interest. Blessings to you :-)

      God forbid that I should ever lose interest in testifying to His glorious presence in our midst!

      Blessings to you as well.

    1. I’m not attracted to Modalism so the Boyd book holds no interest for me. By the way, I tried some time back to examine his thinking just to be sure…and I was right – neither side of that argument attracted me. I think he did the same thing you did, which was that he accepted trinitarianism not because of a thorough conviction that it was biblical truth, but that it was the best of all the explanations he’d heard to that point in his life. Plus, this choice brings the added benefit of not bringing the weight of the majority of Christendom crashing down on you.

      Nick is indeed fanatical on the subject…which means, among other things, that he’s intolerant of challenges to it. I think he has over 200 entries in his bibliography on the Trinity. I asked him which was the single best resource I could read because I wanted the best argument for it I could hear. He responded that I should “read them all.” That’s the sort of “helpful” advice fanatics give.

      I like Nick and I love many of the stands he takes for Christ. However, if the Trinity is the truth, he is doing it a disservice with the bombast.

  31. He responded that I should “read them all.” That’s the sort of “helpful” advice fanatics give.

    LOL! heh heh heh

    btw, i haven’t forgotten your other comments. I’ll still respond them. Just trying to manage my time. 🙂

  32. What was not revealed about the Holy Spirit until the NT, absent which Old Testament Israelites would not think of Him as a person or God?

    I’m not sure what you’re question is. I believe the doctrine of the Trinity was gradually revealed throughout redemptive history. There were hints of it in the OT but much more clear in the NT. So, that would mean that many (not necessarily all) Israelites during OT times probably didn’t understand God as a Trinity or as multi-personal (whether two, three, four, or five etc). There are only hints in the OT of the personality of the Holy Spirit for example Isa. 63:10 which says that the Holy Spirit can be vexed.

    Isa.
    63:10 But they rebelled, and vexed his holy Spirit: therefore he was turned to be their enemy, and he fought against them.

    compare with

    Eph. 4:30
    And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.

    The main OT word for “spirit” (“ruach”), as well as the NT word for “spirit” (“pneuma”) can refer to wind or breath or “spirit” as we usually mean it (i.e. angels or demons). The fact that all other “spirits” that aren’t referring to wind or breath is personal would suggest that the Holy Spirit is personal rather than impersonal. Since most people would be unwilling to believe that God, as to his real nature, has a physical body and breaths (and is dependent on) air.

    While I’m waiting on you to respond further to my question about why there was no pre-NT issue about the subset of the 12 premises that apply to God the Father and the Holy Spirit…

    There’s nothing else for me to say since the Trinity (if it’s true as I suspect) was only hinted at in the OT. God didn’t intend to reveal more than hints in the OT just as God only intended to give hints about the character of the Messiah through the prophecies in the OT.

    However, the phrase “who is YHWH” confuses the issue. Here’s why:

    The Hebrew word YHWH is translated “Lord” in English Old Testaments (including the Jewish Tanakh). Even before Christ, it was similarly translated as “Kurios” in the Septuagint… [etc]…”

    I think your way of using the term is actually less precise. Here’s why. Most scholars believe the YHWH is God’s personal covenantal name with Israel as distinguished from any other god or lord. Also, the Greek word “kurios” is not very specific since it is used in the Septuagint and the NT to translate at least 3 different words in Hebrew. Generally it is used to translate 1. “YHWH”, 2. “Lord” (in a way used only of the one true God) and 3. “Lord or lord” in reference to either the one true God or persons who aren’t God like a king or or some one else in authority. The difference between #2 and #3 is a difference of Hebrew vowel pointing. And the 3rd word is used of the one true God on only a few occasions when the definite article “ha” is used in front of it. The Hebrew words in the OT used for sense #2 and #3 are “adonai” and “adon”. The difference between the two words is due to which, how and where to place the vowels. “Adonai” is used only of the one true God of Israel. “Adon” is used (only?) for persons who are not the one true God. However, when the definite article “ha” is added, as in “ha adon”, it refers to the one true God of Israel.

    The thing is, the Massoretic vowel pointing wasn’t finalized and and made standard until AFTER the Christian era began. In which case, some passages may have been pointed in such a way as to deny or rob passages of their messianic thrust. For example, second “lord” in our English translation of Ps. 110:1 could be pointed either as #2 or #3. There are some exceptions. For example, the name of the pagan God “Baal” can mean “lord”. And if I recall correctly, the one true God YHWH uses the word “baal” as a pun to refer to Himself as “Lord” (i.e. the true Lord). There’s more that could be said. But I only needed to write in generalities to make my point that your use of the word “kurios” is less precise than my use of the word “YHWH”.

    Following suit, the New Testament uses “Kurios” exclusively where YHWH might have occurred.

    But as I said above, it’s not the ONLY word that’s translated by “kurios”. So, it’s less helpful.

    1. There’s only one true God who is YHWH (AKA “Almighty God”).

    As I said above, this statement is confused. I would have to reject it as written.

    I explain why I disagree above. Your responses to my premises 3-8 are all the same. That you don’t distinguish between a person from a being.

    9. The Father is YHWH (and so the only true God).

    YHWH means Lord (as I explained above). The Father was Lord until He made Jesus Lord (Acts 2:34-36; 1 Corinthians 8:6). I cannot accept the statement.

    No, YHWH doesn’t mean “Lord”. The Greek word “kurios” means “Lord/lord”. In fact, Hebrew scholars are in disagreement as to what YHWH really means because there is disagreement as to its root and etymology. I could elaborate, but it’s not necessary at the moment.

    11. The Holy Spirit is YHWH (and so the only true God).

    I am unaware of any scriptures that make this claim. I cannot accept this statement.

    I would say that proposition that the Holy Spirit is YHWH is dependent on premise 1 and premise 5 (both of which have Scriptural evidences [I would say “proofs”]). That coupled with the belief that the Holy Spirit is the one true God (or if you prefer, the one true Lord) would support premise 11. A Scriptural case for the full deity of the Holy Spirit can be made even though at the present time, I can’t think of a passage that explicitly and directly identifies or calls the Holy Spirit “YHWH”. But if you accept premise 5 (which you do), then either the Holy Spirit is a person WHO *IS* the one true God, OR a person WHO IS *NOT* the one true God. Which is it for you (since you accept premise 5)?

  33. I want to momentarily return to the example you gave of God’s omniscience. You used it to show how some things are easy to grasp and don’t, on the face of it, contradict common sense.
    Well, I would say that God’s knowledge is a very deep issue that requires philosophical tools to understand it. For example, does God have knowledge of counterfactuals? How about middle knowledge (media scientia)? That’s disputed among Christians. “Historic Christianity” (regardless of whether it’s true or not) affirms God’s exhaustive knowledge of past, present, and future. It affirms a.) God’s Necessary (AKA “natural”) knowledge and b.) God’s Free knowledge. The former is God’s exhaustive knowledge of all logical possibilities. While the latter refers to God’s exhaustive knowledge of the world he actually creates. Middle knowledge is supposed to be a logical movement in God’s knowledge that’s between the two. Hence, the term “*middle* knowledge”. Though, the term “media scientia” has a different origin. God’s middle knowledge has reference to the alleged knowledge of all FEASIBLE worlds God could make (which is a subset of God’s natural knowledge).

    By the way, I use the term “historic Christianity” or “Classic Christianity” as a shortcut to refer to the three main branches of Christianity Catholicism, Orthodoxy, and Evangelical Protestantism. There are problems with the term because it seems arbitrary and vague, but so long as you understand what I mean by it, we can dialogue more efficiently.

    I mention all this because it goes to show that God’s omniscience is not something that’s easily understood (contrary to what you said). For example, does God know the number Pi (i.e. “3.14….”)? Here’s a Triablogue blog where they discuss this issue in the comments.

    http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2011/03/james-white-exposes-rob-bells.html

    If a deep discussion and exploration of the issue of God’s knowledge seems to require philosophical and mathematical tools, why shouldn’t the issue of God’s nature? Why rule out the doctrine of the Trinity merely because it uses philosophical tools? It doesn’t seem like we should. As I said at the beginning of our conversation, I believe that God has providentially purposed that after the close of the Canon (which implies the end of “progressive revelation”), that there would continue to be doctrinal development in His Church till she is no longer “tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine” but eventually to “come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:” (Eph 4).

  34. I’m not sure what you’re question is.

    Original Question: What was not revealed about the Holy Spirit until the NT, absent which Old Testament Israelites would not think of Him as a person or God?

    Paraphrased Version: I understand you to be saying that the OT doesn’t tell you enough to make you believe that the HS is God.  What then does the NT tell you that makes you believe that the HS is God (that was not already revealed in the OT)?

  35. I believe the doctrine of the Trinity was gradually revealed throughout redemptive history.

    How much of it did the apostles understand and how did they articulate that understanding?  In other words, if they wouldn’t describe it in terms that you or Davies would use, how did they describe it?

  36. There’s nothing else for me to say since the Trinity (if it’s true as I suspect) was only hinted at in the OT. God didn’t intend to reveal more than hints in the OT just as God only intended to give hints about the character of the Messiah through the prophecies in the OT.

    Do you not recognize a difference between the Messiah and Holy Spirit in this regard?  That is, a great deal was revealed about Messiah in the NT that was not commonly seen in the OT.  In fact, the apostles themselves – though at least some of them recognized that Jesus matched the OT prophecies of Messiah during the days of His flesh – had no hope at all that He was the Messiah when He was crucified.  He had to resuscitate their hope and then teach them how the Scriptures really did call for such Messianic suffering before the Messianic glory.  However, when it comes to the Holy Spirit where do you see such dramatic change in perception?  It’s not as though 1st Century Jews had one conception of the Holy Spirit in the OT and a significantly different one in the NT – as they did the Messiah.  Perhaps your answer to my paraphrased question above will help me understand what you see as the key NT evidence that causes you and others to mark the Holy Spirit as God Himself when, by your own admission, no one before the NT regarded Him so.

  37. But I only needed to write in generalities to make my point that your use of the word “kurios” is less precise than my use of the word “YHWH”.

    I am using the words in the way that the apostles used them.  For example, Joel 2:32 says “whoever calls on the name of the LORD will be saved.”  In the Masoretic text “LORD” is “YHWH.”  However, when Peter quotes this verse in Acts 2:21 and when Paul quotes it in Romans 10:13 they both quote it as “Kurios” and apply it to Jesus.   If the apostles don’t get hung up on the distinctions that scholars argue about, why should we?

  38. No, YHWH doesn’t mean “Lord”.

    It does to the men who wrote the New Testament.  Whenever the NT quotes an OT verse that contains YHWH, it is always rendered as “Kurios” which is translated to English as “Lord.”  Therefore, to the Lord Jesus and His apostles, YHWH meant Lord.

    The Greek word “kurios” means “Lord/lord”. In fact, Hebrew scholars are in disagreement as to what YHWH really means because there is disagreement as to its root and etymology. I could elaborate, but it’s not necessary at the moment.

    Indeed there is much about the etymology of YHWH that is lost to us, and we’d all feel better if that weren’t the case.  However, Jesus and the apostles gave us no reason to dwell on the issue.  In fact, they gave us every reason to move on.

    For this reason, please reconsider your stance on your premise number 9.  As written it is a direct contradiction of the apostles Peter in Acts 2:36, Paul in Romans 10:9, and John in Revelation 17:14.  The Father made Jesus to be Lord (i.e. YHWH) upon the latter’s ascension into heaven.  Thus 1 Corinthians 8:6 (echoed in Ephesians 4:5-6) states that there is one God (the Father) and one Lord (Jesus Christ).  Therefore number 9. ignores one of the most striking and significant revelations of the New Testament.

  39. I would say that proposition that the Holy Spirit is YHWH is dependent on premise 1 and premise 5 (both of which have Scriptural evidences [I would say “proofs”]).

    As I’ve explained, premise 1 uses “YHWH” differently than Jesus and His apostles did and is therefore flawed.

    That coupled with the belief that the Holy Spirit is the one true God (or if you prefer, the one true Lord) would support premise 11.

    This is a tautology. The “belief that the Holy Spirit is the one true God” is premise 11.

    A Scriptural case for the full deity of the Holy Spirit can be made even though at the present time, I can’t think of a passage that explicitly and directly identifies or calls the Holy Spirit “YHWH”.

    Until you can, you might want to reconsider your commitment to premise 11.

    But if you accept premise 5 (which you do), then either the Holy Spirit is a person WHO *IS* the one true God, OR a person WHO IS *NOT* the one true God. Which is it for you (since you accept premise 5)?

    The latter.  I view the Holy Spirit in the same way as the prophets of the OT did – a view also held by Jesus and His apostles.  I hasten to add, however, that I do not understand the Holy Spirit as well as any of them did.

  40. I want to momentarily return to the example you gave of God’s omniscience. You used it to show how some things are easy to grasp and don’t, on the face of it, contradict common sense.  Well, I would say that God’s knowledge is a very deep issue that requires philosophical tools to understand it.

    Your position is remarkably contradictory to that of Jesus who said, “Unless you become like children, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.”  You would have had Him say, “Unless you become as philosophers…”

    I have no doubt that philosophers can find much to philosophize about on the subject of omniscience – and you go on to give examples which thoroughly illustrate this.  However, I want to understand omniscience as a child understands it: “God knows everything.  That means He knows what I’m thinking; therefore, I should only think things that please Him.  Therefore, I should believe that He hears my prayer.”  And so on.

     

  41. Re-reading my post, I realize I didn’t add the following info.
    The Hebrew words in the OT used for sense #2 and #3 are “adonai” and “adon”. The difference between the two words is due to which, how and where to place the vowels. “Adonai” is used only of the one true God of Israel. “Adon” is used (only?) for persons who are not the one true God. However, when the definite article “ha” is added, as in “ha adon”, it refers to the one true God of Israel.

    1. James, I will leave your post here just as you have it, but I also went back and inserted this text where I thought you wanted it in the original. I also inserted a paragraph break immediately after because I thought you would have wanted that.

      As for the content of this post, I don’t have any further response because, as I’ve said, while I have no quarrel with your descriptions of Old Testament word usage, I think you’re making a distinction that the New Testament doesn’t.

  42. James, here’s a question worth asking in a study of this type: “What did the apostles know about Jesus’ identity, and when did they know it?” The gospels give us obvious guidance on this question when it comes to Jesus being the Messiah (e.g. Mark 9:20-22). Beyond that, we need to dig deeper into what they wrote.

  43. You have professed ignorance of what I mean by the doctrine of Christ. Therefore, I am going to lay it out for you here.

    okay 🙂

    That is, it is an injustice to the teaching of Christ to frame it only in terms of answering questions that the Trinity issue raises.

    Not all the questions I asked are framed in terms of the Trinity. The same kind of questions were asked before the formulation of the Trinity (and which contributed to and lead to the doctrine of the Trinity). They can also be asked by anyone completely unfamiliar with the Trinity doctrine precisely because they are questions that people will naturally ask.

    God forbid that what I’ve written here become like the teaching of Trinity which is largely a dry philosophical exercise which has little to do with living life.

    That assumes that all Trinitarians have a dry Christian life. I would disagree. Some of the most godly and effective Christians in the history of the Church have been Trinitarians. Shall I name a few that I respect as an Evangelical, Calvinist and Charismatic?

    Athanasius, Aurelius Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, John Wyclif, Jan Huss, Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Knox, William Tyndale, Thomas Cranmer, Nicholas Ridley, Hugh Latimer, Samuel Rutherford, Joseph Alleine, John Bunyan, John Owen, John Newton, Thomas Watson, John Wesley, George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, Johann Sebastian Bach, George Mueller/Muller, Charles Spurgeon, D.L. Moody, Billy Sunday, A.J. Gordon, J.C. Ryle, F.B. Meyer, A.B. Simpson, Alexander Whyte, R.A. Torrey, Andrew Murray, Smith Wigglesworth, Charles S. Price, A.W. Tozer et cetera, et cetera, etc.; etc….

    I could go on, and on, and on, and on.

    Who held (past tense) to or holds (present tense) the “doctrine of Christ” that you hold in the history of the Church? Who are your theological forebears? Even if you don’t have a historical connection with them, who held to your views of Christ who have made an impact on Church history and World history? What are their famous hymns and music? What great evangelistic and missionary achievements? Where are their Bible schools and seminaries and hospitals? What are some of their their literary works which will last forever (apologetical, devotional, theological, bible commentaries etc.)? Where are their Bible translations? How were they martyred?

    1. Christ is the centerpiece of all God’s working with man.

    This is how you begin your description of your doctrine. There’s no point quoting it since what you wrote could be affirmed by almost everyone who claims to seriously believe the Bible even if they have totally different contradictory Christologies. For example, I think a Jehovah’s Witness could affirm everything you said in your definition of your “Doctrine of Christ” even though he would deny the full deity of Christ.

    I think I have now answered all your outstanding questions. If not, please bring any remaining ones to my attention. Of course, you may ask new questions, too.

    You used a lot of words, but didn’t say very much that was distinctive.

    Now that we’ve reached this point, may I ask you again my question about Jesus: Is He our Brother or Father?

    As to His divine Nature, Jesus is fully God. In THAT sense, he is our “father” in the sense of being our creator. But Jesus is not the person of the Father. In that sense, the redemptive sense, only the Father (the 1st person of the Trinity) is our Father. Redemptively, Jesus is our brother because we are adopted into God’s family and the Holy Spirit is our Comforter, Counsellor, Helper and second Advocate with the Father.

    In your view, is Jesus the Father? In your view, is the Father Jesus?

    1. Not all the questions I asked are framed in terms of the Trinity. The same kind of questions were asked before the formulation of the Trinity (and which contributed to and lead to the doctrine of the Trinity). They can also be asked by anyone completely unfamiliar with the Trinity doctrine precisely because they are questions that people will naturally ask.

      You misunderstood my point.  Let me rephrase it: There is more to the doctrine of the Christ than answering questions related to the doctrine of the Trinity.  I was wanting to make clear that the doctrine of Christ doesn’t merely exist to refute the Trinity and therefore whatever I say about it in this context must be viewed as a subset of the teaching of Christ – not the whole of it (lest I do a disservice to our Lord and Savior).

      As for the point you are trying to make, I’ve already shown that no one was asking questions like questions 5, 8, and 11 (from your list of 12) during Old Testament or New Testament times.  I don’t see, therefore, how you can claim that such questions are ones people would “naturally ask” since the people we read about in Scripture do not ask them – naturally or otherwise.

      That assumes that all Trinitarians have a dry Christian life.

      I don’t assume that at all.  I’m only saying that the living water, of which all you name partook, came from Christ and not the Trinity.  The absence of dryness was in spite of, not because of, the dry and philosophical doctrine of Trinity.

      Who held (past tense) to or holds (present tense) the “doctrine of Christ” that you hold in the history of the Church? Who are your theological forebears?

      Practically all the people you named.  Why they did not carry it far enough to recognize that it ultimately conflicts with the doctrine of the Trinity, I cannot say.  I cannot turn away from the study of the Scriptures to study all their lives.

      Even if you don’t have a historical connection with them, who held to your views of Christ who have made an impact on Church history and World history? What are their famous hymns and music? What great evangelistic and missionary achievements? Where are their Bible schools and seminaries and hospitals? What are some of their their literary works which will last forever (apologetical, devotional, theological, bible commentaries etc.)? Where are their Bible translations? How were they martyred?

      My answers to these questions are the same as yours.  The difference is that you think it was their faith in the doctrine of the Trinity that distinguished these people while I think it was faith in Christ that distinguished them.

      [W]hat you wrote [about the doctrine of Christ] could be affirmed by almost everyone who claims to seriously believe the Bible…

      Exactly.  This is why your “hall of fame” list means as much to me as it does to you.

      …even if they have totally different contradictory Christologies.  For example, I think a Jehovah’s Witness could affirm everything you said in your definition of your “Doctrine of Christ” even though he would deny the full deity of Christ.

      Don’t you think that’s a pretty big difference, James?

      You used a lot of words, but didn’t say very much that was distinctive.

      One minute you’re acting like I’m standing alone and apart from the entire tide of post-biblical Christianity and now you’re saying I don’t say much that is distinctive.  It’s hard to know which of you to answer.

      As to His divine Nature, Jesus is fully God. In THAT sense, he is our “father” in the sense of being our creator. But Jesus is not the person of the Father. In that sense, the redemptive sense, only the Father (the 1st person of the Trinity) is our Father. Redemptively, Jesus is our brother because we are adopted into God’s family and the Holy Spirit is our Comforter, Counsellor, Helper and second Advocate with the Father.

      I mean no offense to you or anyone else personally, but this is typical Trinitarian double-talk.  It’s not a straight answer.  Similarly, the Pharisees struggled to give straight answers (Matthew 22:41-46).

      Your answer says that Jesus is “our father” but you won’t allow Him to be addressed as “Our Father.”  Who is requiring you to be so nonsensical?  Not God!

      You did not formulate the doctrine of the Trinity, so I don’t hold you responsible for it.  It is an unwieldly yoke which has been inappropriately pressed by one generation upon another in the name of tradition.  It is long past time to throw it off and run to the light and liberty of the Scriptures and their categorical declarations that Jesus is Lord.

      In your view, is Jesus the Father? In your view, is the Father Jesus?

      Yes.  More specifically, the Father became Jesus, and then Jesus became the Father once again.  For this reason Isaiah prophesied that the One who came as a Son would come also as God and as Father (Isaiah 9:6).  He came as a son in the flesh by Mary.  He came as God in the resurrection.  And He came as the Father of all in the kingdom of God.

  44. I think it takes extreme hubris to think that everyone in the past got it wrong and that only now did he (or she) finally get things theologically right. That’s how cults are started (e.g. Mormonism with Joseph Smith; Charles Taze Russell and the millennial dawnists which eventually lead to the Jehovah’s Witnesses; Sun Myung Moon and the Moonies; etc.) Thinking one finally got things right, while everyone else was totally wrong, would deny God’s promise that there would be genuine believers on earth from the time of Christ’s first appearance till his 2nd Advent. That’s why the Reformation wasn’t a restorationist movement (e.g. Mormonism) that assumed that true Christianity was virtually (or literally) lost or wiped out in the first few generations of the Church because of a Great Apostasy or a great persecution. Rather, the Reformation was an attempt to return to the early Church. The reformers were able to DOCUMENT their RETURN to the teachings of the early church by appealing to Scripture, church history and to the early Church fathers. Their ultimate appeal was to Scripture alone, but they were able to supplement that with actual history. They showed a continuity between the Apostolic and the post-apostolic church even if there was a gradual corruption that led to the Catholic Church and eventually to the Great Schism of East and West in the 11th century. Where are you theological forebears in the history of the Church? Do you, like the Jehovah’s Witnesses appeal to the Arians as “forerunners” (of sorts) to what they would eventually believe? Or do you, like some, appeal to the Waldensians and Albigensians and others groups in the past? I’m not saying that you do make the arrogant claim that everyone else got it wrong and now here in the 21st century you got things right. If you believe that there have been others who held to your views in varying degrees, who are/were they?

  45. The Protestant Reformation Fell Short.  Nevertheless, (and you will recognize this when you read the post) I fully embrace that which the Reformers held most dear and that which commends them most to believers today: faith in Christ as Lord and belief that the Bible is the word of God.

    Surely you’re not suggesting that we embrace every single thing that a post-apostolic spokesman for Christ has stood for, else we’d be embracing Calvin’s part in the execution of Servetus and Luther’s hostility toward Jews. We honor such men best by honoring what was best about them. And what was best about them was that they raised their heads above the fog of this world and saw Christ. God grant that we may stand on their shoulders and see what they saw of Him…and more. For there is no end to the riches of Christ that shall be revealed to us. He is the beginning and the end, the Alpha and the Omega, and all the treasures of wisdom of knowledge are hidden in Him.

  46. A rock is a being? I don’t think most people think of rocks as beings. I think they think of rocks as things, inanimate objects.

    That’s why I clarified my statement and said that rocks have or possess being since they are “things”.

    A being is animate – something that has aspects of personality. A lion might not seem to possess such aspects but its trainer would likely take issue with this. Similarly, angels are persons (or beings) without being human beings.

    This statement seems to imply your ignorance of Trinitarian distinctions and definitions. Your definition of “beings” is extra-Biblical, yet you use it to clarify what you mean. Yet, you inconsistently reject and disallow the extra-Biblical definitions and distinctions that Trinitarians use even though they are much more precise than your use.

    Faith in trinitarianism doesn’t just demand that you make the artificial distinction between being and person, it requires that you accept that multiple persons can exist as aspects of one being. You accept this philosophical construct without any basis in common sense or logic.

    1. We don’t limit Biblical truth to common sense since God’s ways and thoughts are higher than our ways and thoughts. It’s that kind of thinking which requires everything to fit in with common sense that leads to theologies like those of the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

    2. You use the phrase “philosophical” as if that’s automatically a bad thing. You haven’t argued for that, you just assume it a priori. Even then, we Trinitarians are really interersted in this question, “What does the Bible actually teach?” And it’s Biblical teaching that forces us to hold to what we do hold by LOGICAL necessity. You’re the one who refuses to apply logic to the Bible’s teaching on God since you continue to evade the natural questions that people will and do ask about God’s nature.

    In fact, it would be most illogical for me to say that the only beings that are real are the ones I, or someone else, can see.

    Just as it’s most illogical for you to reject the Bible’s teaching just because you can’t fit it into your common sense box. But God cannot be put into such a box. You affirm a “mystery” that isn’t mysterious since it neither explains anything nor does it seem to go beyond human reason. While on the other hand, Trinitarianism does explain things even if it goes BEYOND human reason (WITHOUT CONTRADICTING God-given human reason). Your view isn’t mysterious. Rather it’s vague. Vague enough so that various Theological and Christological proponents can affirm it even though they have contradictory views. Your description of your doctrine could be signed by a Jehovah’s Witness, a Mormon, a Trinitarian and individuals of other religious belief systems.

    The trinitarian can point to no scripture that will say that a being is different from a person, or that multiple persons can co-exist as one being.

    There is no one Trinitarian view. Nevertheless, the basic Trinitarian position can account for all of the Scriptures TEACH while yours merely repeats what the Scriptures SAY (without explaining what those Scriptural passages actually mean or teach).

    Logic, by contrast, is something everyone has. I equate it to common sense.

    Common Sense is notorious illogical.

    The following example is taken from John W. Robbins’ lectures on an “Introduction to Logic” Specifically, it can be found on the first audio mp3 at 25 minutes and 15 seconds.

    http://www.trinitylectures.org/MP3/Introduction_to_Logic.mp3

    Say you were offered two different jobs from two different companies.

    Both jobs give you the same starting salary of 20,000 a year.

    The job with company “A” says they will give you a $500 raise every 6 months.

    The job with company “B” says they will give you a $2,000 raise every year.

    “Common Sense” leads most people to think that they will get more pay from the job with company B, when in actual fact one would get more pay (in the long run) from the job offered from company A.

    Here’s another example. In the past, “common sense” has lead people to believe that the world is flat and that it’s illogical and nonsensical to say that the earth is round. That’s why “common sense” isn’t equivalent to logic.

    [Btw, the late John Robbins was a Clarkian when it came to apologetics. While I’ve learned much from Clarkian apologetics, I’m more of a VanTillian apologetically. Also, one can listen to all 18 lectures on logic by John Robbins at this link http://www.trinitylectures.org/MP3_downloads.php%5D.

    Therefore, bring all the logic you have to bear on this discussion.

    You say that, and yet Trinitarians have argued logically for Trinitarianism for generations. I can’t do better than those bygone theologians, philosophers and apologists. If you’d rather not read their works (and I’ve only mentioned/recommended some), then you’re not going to get as good of an answer from me. I can only mimic (and that poorly) what other brighter scholars have done before me.

    My point was that quoting some systematic tome as if its authority was equal to the Scripture is not going to impress me – nor should it impress you.

    I’m assuming you know I have never, nor ever will appeal to any extra-Biblical work as if it were on par with or higher than Scripture’s authority.

    Back to the issue of person versus being and multiple persons co-existing as one being, I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree. To sum up my position, this assumption is illogical, counter-intuitive, and nonsensical. More importantly, the Bible does not teach these concepts.

    Trinitarianism might be counter-intuitive, but it’s not illogical or nonsensical since serious and brilliant philosophers, logicians and theologians have defend the doctrine of the Trinity for centuries.

    As for your invoking Open Theism, I don’t think that Open Theists would necessarily agree with you that they are challenging God’s omniscience. Rather they are challenging human notions of what is knowledge.

    They are consciously challenging the classical view of God’s omniscience.

    …Open Theists just want to put more stuff in that category.

    Correct. But they aren’t idiots. They know what the classical view of God’s omniscience is. Nevertheless they consciously reject it because they don’t believe it’s Biblical. That’s their prerogative. They are right in seeking to go with what the Bible says regardless of what tradition teaches. Even if it goes AGAINST what tradition teaches. The only problem is that their view is contrary to the Bible.

    In any case, omniscience has become a red herring for our discussion so I’ll drop it now.

    That’s fine with me. You brought it up and I attempted to show how using God’s omniscience as an analogous example, rather than helping your position, actually hurts it since it’s NOT a simple concept as you claimed. In fact, it delves into issues that necessarily lead to philosophical questions and concepts.

    1. As for the many definitions and distinctions of Trinitarianism, I confess that I am happily ignorant of most of them.  All I know is Trinitarianism 101 which is that a “being” is different from a “person” and multiple “persons” can exist in one “being” and God Himself is the only example we have of such a thing.  If that’s 101, I don’t want to know what’s in 102.  It’s like telling me you have a new math where 1 + 1 + 1 = 1.  That may be of interest to theoretical mathematicians, but I’ll stick with arithmetic to get me through the grocery store and the rest of life.

      As for philosophy, I don’t say it’s a bad thing.  I say it’s not necessary to understanding God.  And if you say it is necessary, that’s a bad thing.  I see how Jesus interacted with people in the gospels and it never includes an admonition from Him such as, “If you people would just become educated in philosophy and formal logic you would have a much easier time understanding My teaching.”  On the contrary, He constantly appeals to the God-given human reason all His listeners – educated and uneducated alike – had.

      As for your assertion that common sense is notoriously illogical, I don’t buy it at all.  Rather, the problem is that 1) common sense is not enough by itself, and 2) it’s inconsistently applied.  I’m sure that everyone who rejected Jesus at the cross thought they were using their common sense (“How could He be the Messiah?  He’s obviously under God’s curse.”)  Those people had rejected the revelation God had given through the life of Jesus and were relying on their common sense alone – it failed them, as it will always fail those who rely on it exclusively.

      Robbins’ example doesn’t demonstrate the inadequacy of common sense.  Rather it demonstrates how misleading first impressions can be – and also how a trick question can take advantage of people who rely on them.  I use the term “trick question” advisedly because Robbins’ ambiguous language allows the reader to assume that the raise every six months was an annual raise (which, if it was, would mean that only $250 would be applied to the six-month period – which would reverse the answer to his question).  But Robbins doesn’t need to use a better example to prove to me that first impressions can be wrong.  The apostles found this out to their great wonder and delight in Luke 24 when they encountered a risen Lord they had earlier assumed would stay dead.

      As to your deference to defenses of Trinitarianism written by others, I have no objection to this.  All I ask is that you recommend to me the single best one you know of so that I don’t have to go rummaging through all of them.  Your referring to the multitude of books on the topic (in Norellian fashion) as if the sheer multitude of the writings proved the point is not only unpersuasive, it’s unhelpful.  And, of course, it’s a decidedly unbiblical view to say that majorities are always right.

      As for Open Theists, I don’t know that much about them so I’ll leave it to them to defend themselves further.

      As for omniscience, I was the one who brought it up.  But that was before I knew you were going to insist that only philosophers could understand it.  I’ll leave you to your view, and keep my place with the children Jesus said we should mimic.

  47. Here’s an area where you and I may be close to agreement. I readily acknowledge that there is a mystery to be resolved here – and not just in this verse, but throughout the New Testament.

    Here’s another random example that I found while doing my devotions…

    Matt. 10:
    32 So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven,
    33 but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.

    Matt. 10:
    40 “Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me.

    In both passages, Jesus seems to be distinct from a second person (i.e. the Father).


    Additionally, it unnecessarily complicates the issue by adding the Holy Spirit into the mix. Instead of showing how the two can be reconciled to one, it increases the two to three and leaves it a mystery.

    Yet, I’ve briefly shown that the three is often spoken of in connection with each other. Here’s an example:

    2 Cor. 13:14 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. (ESV)

    Notice that three subjects are mentioned which all have personal characteristics. The virtue of “grace” flows from persons not impersonal things. In this instance it’s Jesus. The virtue of “love” also flows from persons and not impersonal things. In this instance it’s “God”. The ability to “fellowship” is something that happens between persons not between impersonal things or between a person and an impersonal thing. It is interaction between persons. So, clearly the Holy Spirit is a person. If the Holy Spirit isn’t a person, how could we fellowship with Him, or grieve Him?

    This is not how God reveals His mysteries.

    I disagree.

    In this exchange, I think you missed my point. I’m not wanting the Bible to be more systematic – I’m wanting books about the Trinity to be more biblical.

    I understand your request. I like it. It’s a good motivation. But unless you want to restrict people to Biblical phrases, then we have to be more systematic. For example, in the 4th century, the Arians and those who held to the full deity of Jesus could agree with the Scriptural phrase which says and teaches that Jesus is “the son of God”. The problem is that both sides meant different things by that singular Biblical phrase. That’s why it was necessary to go beyond Scriptural WORDS, to get to the heart of the Scriptural MEANING by using extra-Biblical words and concepts. For example, you used the word “omniscient” even though the Bible never uses the WORD “omniscient” with respect to God. I commend you for that. Yet, if you were consistent, you wouldn’t allow yourself to do that just as you would forbid Trinitarians to use words like “hypostasis”.

    Therefore to paraphrase what I said above about “the tone and texture of the Scriptures” I’m looking for books that speak in “the same spirit as the Scripture.” Let an author build on the foundation of Scripture we understand to unveil parts of Scripture we don’t understand rather than build on systematic, philosophical, and theological foundations seeking to import the result to Scripture.

    I understand your request. The doctrine of the Trinity was formulated from the teaching of Scripture which itself expressed the experience of the NT church of the three-fold aspect of God. Peter Toon’s book “Our Truine God” is online here: http://www.anglicanbooksrevitalized.us/Peter_Toons_Books_Online/Doctrine/ourtriunegod1.htm

    You probably wouldn’t like the book because it would fit under what you would call “preaching to the choir” by not arguing for the Trinity inductively step by step. Nevertheless, it’s a good book that shows how the Trinitarian experience of the Apostolic Church led to the eventual formulation of the Trinity. It was the trinitarian orthopraxy (practice) and experience of the Apostolic Church that eventually led to trinitarian orthodoxy (doctrine) of the post-Apostolic church.

    “Dogmatic” is a pejorative term and I don’t think any of us seek to be dogmatic.

    Not necessarily. From the Evangelical perspective, there is a postive sense in which we use the word “dogmatic”. For example, we’re dogmatic about monotheism. So, *I* do seek to be dogmatic because the Bible is dogmatic about its declaration of truth. It dogmatically teaches that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life and that no one comes to the Father EXCEPT through Him. Truth, by logical necessity, is dogmatic, exclusivistic. It makes distinctions and is polarizing. By definition, whatever is opposite of what is true is neccessarily false.

    Jesus taught so that plain, everyday folk could understand His teaching.

    No Jesus often taught contrary to plain teaching. He intentionally veiled His message so that only those who had ears to hear could understand. As a Calvinist, I would obviously say that those were the elect. Notice the following verses:

    Matt. 13:
    10 Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?”
    11 And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.
    12 For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.
    13 This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.
    14 Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says: “‘You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive.
    15 For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.’
    16 But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. (ESV)

    Mark 4:
    10 And when he was alone, those around him with the twelve asked him about the parables.
    11 And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables,
    12 so that “they may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand, lest they should turn and be forgiven.”(ESV)

    Luke 8:
    9 And when his disciples asked him what this parable meant,
    10 he said, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God, but for others they are in parables, so that ‘seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.'(ESV)

    John 12:
    39 Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said,
    40 “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them.”(ESV)

    It was not the brilliant minds of Pharisaic orthodoxy who made known to Peter that Jesus was the Messiah.

    God reveals His truths to us when and as He deems appropriate (Deuteronomy 29:29). Never think that erudition is a short cut to revelation.

    Yes, superior intelligence or education is not necessarily a help. Nor is it necessarily a hindrance. The same Jesus who said, “”I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children…” (Matt. 11:25) also chose the Paul/Saul to become one of His Apostles. Paul had what would be equivalent today to multiple advanced doctoral degrees. He was knowledgeable concerning rabbinic tradition as well as Pagan philosophies. For example, he was familiar enough with pagan authors that he could quote them In Acts he quoted Aratus. In 1 Corinthians he quoted Menander. In Titus he quoted Epimenides. I think he also quotes Euripides and paraphrases and alludes to Xenophon and Homer. He had a good knowledge of history. He was multi-lingual and probably knew how to read Biblical Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek and Latin.

    Paraphrased Version: I understand you to be saying that the OT doesn’t tell you enough to make you believe that the HS is God. What then does the NT tell you that makes you believe that the HS is God (that was not already revealed in the OT)?

    Well, in the NT he is more clearly taught to be a person. For example John, in his Gospel, goes against normative Greek grammatical rules by using masculine pronouns to refer to the Holy Spirit even though the Greek word for spirit (pneuma) is neuter. Greek normally matches the gender of nouns and pronouns.

    In the NT the Holy Spirit speaks and calls Himself “I” and “Me” (see Acts 13).

    The Holy Spirit is mentioned in parallel to the Father and the Son.

    1 Cor. 12:
    4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit;
    5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord;
    6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.

    The Holy Spirit has the attributes of personality. He has knowledge, mind, will, emotions. He can be grieved. Believers can have fellowship with Him. The Holy Spirit teaches, leads, guides, comforts, counsels, and helps.

    The Holy Spirit can do what only God can do like inspiring Scripture, raising the dead, regenerating the spiritually dead, creation, gives and chooses which spiritual gifts to give to whom (1 Cor. 12:11), reveals the future (John 16:13) etc.

    The Holy Spirit possesses God’s attributes like eternality (Heb. 9:14), truth (John 14:17; 16:13), life (Rom. 8:2), grace (Heb. 10:29), glory (1 Pet. 4:14), and it goes without saying…Holiness (Rom. 1:4). God alone is truly Holy. Since the Holy Spirit is preeminently designated as “holy”, therefore He is God.

    Human beings filled with the Holy Spirit are said to be the temple(s) of God. This would indicate that the Holy Spirit is Himself God (1 Cor. 3:16). The Holy Spirit is likened to the spirit that is within man such that as the spirit of a man is human, so the Spirit of God is divine (1 Cor. 2:11). I could go on, but you can just read the many theological books written on the Holy Spirit which go into demonstrating the divinity of the Holy Spirit.


    How much of it did the apostles understand and how did they articulate that understanding? In other words, if they wouldn’t describe it in terms that you or Davies would use, how did they describe it?

    Again, I would recommend to you Peter Toon’s book on how the post-Apostolic Church gradually moved from implicit Binitarianism to self-conscious Trinitarianism in doctrine (orthoDOXY) because of the Trinitarian experience (orthoPRAXY) of the Apostolic church.

    1. Re: your comments on the mysteries of God

      I was seeking to highlight a small area where we agreed, thinking that might be a productive place for interaction. Specifically, I was speaking of how the identities of the Father and Son were to be reconciled (for which your mention of the Matthew 10 passage would have been helpful). However, beyond that you were not responsive but rather returned to the issue of the Holy Spirit, quoting 2 Corinthians 13:14 as if that were a proof text for Trinitarian doctrine. In fact, all it is is a reference to three supernatural beings in one verse. If you’ll survey the New Testament you will find that there are about ten times as many verses that reference two supernatural beings (usually God and Jesus) as there are verses that reference three. Therefore, if the mere mention of three proves the Trinity, then the mention of two “proves” the Binity – plus the 10x advantage of the “two” verses means the verdict falls in favor of the Binity. (I hope you see how foolish this line of reasoning is and that I’ve been articulating it tongue in cheek.)

      By the way, I don’t like the term “binity” anymore than I like the term “trinity.” God is one.

      Re: your comment on the use of extra-biblical words

      I’ m not opposed to using extra-biblical words. I use them all the time. My opposition is to using extrabiblical words and phrases that are inconsistent with Biblical words and phrases or with common sense (i.e., logic, reason).

      Re: your revised definition of “dogmatic.”

      When defined that way, yes, to be dogmatic is a good thing. Using that definition, I could only wish you were as dogmatic about monotheism as you say you are. Instead, you are promoting a polytheistic monotheism (i.e. three Gods in One).

      Re: Jesus’ teaching being veiled

      There is no contradiction in my saying that Jesus’ taught so that plain folk could understand it and also saying that His teaching was veiled to some. I heartily affirm both are true. I would further say that the veil is removed by the Holy Spirit as we turn to the Lord (2 Corinthians 3:16). You would say the veil is removed when one becomes educated in the terms of philosophy and formal logic. That’s the difference between us.

      Re: your reference to Paul’s education

      You rightly quote Jesus as saying that the truths of God are revealed to “little children” but then turn around and seem to suggest that Saul/Paul was chosen to prove otherwise. I remind you that Paul received his revelations not because of his education but in spite of it. He Himself put no stock in his vast learning (Philippians 3:1-14). I do recognize that Paul is the “patron saint” of all those who want to import the rank and glory of worldly education (PhD’s, tenure, being called professor, etc.) into the kingdom of God, but surely your conscience will tell you that the Paul of the Scriptures would have none of it. Please re-read the New Testament and see that one of the most common criticisms of Jesus and His apostles was that they were “uneducated” (that is, had no recognition or standing in “the academy”). When they did have standing (as was the case with Saul), they forsook it to be counted with Christ.

      Re: your reply to my question about what the NT reveals about the HS that the OT didn’t

      Practically all of what you say about the Holy Spirit was known about Him in OT times. Go back and read references to Him in the OT and you will see that He was the inheritance of the prophets. What you see happening in the NT therefore is believers receiving the inheritance of the prophets (Numbers 11:29 being fulfilled). This is why Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount that those who believed in Him would experience what the prophets did (e.g. Matthew 5:12). What therefore distinguished the Holy Spirit in NT times was the scope and scale of His operations, not His nature – and, of course, that while He was the instrument of the Father in the OT, He was the instrument of the Son in the NT. By the way, the “I” in Acts 13:2 was the Holy Spirit speaking on behalf of Jesus (Acts 13:47) just as the Holy Spirit said “I” on behalf of God in the OT (e.g. Ezekiel 11:5). The Holy Spirit never speaks in His own name (John 16:13).

      Re: Peter Toon’s book

      Ironically, Toon recognizes my point above (“two” versus “three” being an issue) even though you don’t. By saying that the New Testament promotes an “explicit binitarianism and an implicit trinitarianism” he admits that the New Testament is not explicitly Trinitarian. He thus also begins to answer a related issue I raised for you, “What did the apostles know about these things and when did they know them?” He at least is being productive in that regard. Though he is, as you say, “preaching to the choir,” I would give him points for being more honest about the Scriptures than Davies. At this point, however, I think it is you who need to read Toon’s book more carefully than me for I’m not sure you buy his argument that the New Testament is explicitly binitarian and only implicitly trinitarian.

  48. I don’t know if you’re still monitoring our conversation. I’ll understand if you miss this post since I haven’t posted in a while. Still busy.
    For the meantime here’s a link to Robert Bowman’s “The Biblical Basis of the Doctrine of the Trinity” (An Outline Study)
    http://www.irr.org/trinity-outline.html

    See especially part 6 (direct link below)

    VI. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit Are Each Someone Distinct from the Other Two (i.e., they are three “persons”)
    http://www.irr.org/trinity-part-VI.html

  49. James, there are two things I like about Rob Bowman’s outline: 1) He believes in the deity of Christ, 2) his presentation is simple, structured, and without froth.

    Beyond that, I must say that it is typical of the “preaching to the choir” arguments for the Trinity that I have seen.  He assumes the Trinity in his argument, which means he never gets around to proving it.  For example, note that his outline actually presents an unresolved contradiction: His first point says there is one God and then his third, fourth, and fifth points name three different Gods.  A person like you, who has already bought in to the concept that you can have multiple persons in one being, accepts this.  Apart from accepting this presupposition, however, a person would say, “Whoa!  You just contradicted yourself; please explain!”

    Bowman’s outline is therefore merely an assertion of the Trinity doctrine as opposed to an argument for it or an explanation of it.

     

  50.  

    James, since our dialogue began I have written this post on one of my other blogs:  There Is No Trinity; There Is Only Christ

     

    As of this date, I have written over 90 posts on this subject which are listed here:  Posts to Date on the Trinity Versus Christ

     

    Truly, there is a major difference between the Bible’s doctrine of Christ and the church’s doctrine of the Trinity.  I hope and pray you will return to the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ (2 Corinthians 11:3).

  51. Mike, I confess that I don’t know how to respond to you and your position anymore. When we first started dialoguing, I wasn’t sure how much you knew about the doctrine of the Trinity. Now that we’ve been at it for a while, I realise that you have already been exposed to defenses and explanations of the doctrine of the Trinity and that you are aware of even more resources available if you wanted/needed them. Also, I’ve already said most of what I could say. There’s very little more I could say that’s new. Eventually, I’ll just be reiterating what I’ve said before in different words. The dialogue between Dale Tuggy and Steve Hays can be helpful there because of Steve’s ability defend Trinitarianism much better than I can. But I’ll try to personally respond to the remainder of your comments.

    How much of it did the apostles understand and how did they articulate that understanding? In other words, if they wouldn’t describe it in terms that you or Davies would use, how did they describe it?

    I’d like to try to answer this again since it’s unlikely that you’ll read Toon’s book. Well, we have to realise that nowhere in the NT does any writer spell out with absolute and exhaustive precision the entirety of Christian theology. Most of the New Testament is either historical or epistolary. When it comes to historical books like the Gospel and Acts, you have to succintly summarize the events that happened. With letters, address to certain individuals or groups, there’s always an assumed shared body of knowledge between sender and receiver which often is left unsaid/unspoken in the letter. So, clearly there are things that the Apostles and the early Church taught and knew which just isn’t recorded in the NT. A prime example would be the issue of infant baptism. Should infants be baptized or not? It seems likely to me that all the Apostles were probably united in some position (whether for or against it). But the fact is that the NT doesn’t directly address the issue. Good arguments can be made for and against it based on the Biblical evidence (btw, I’m currently a credobaptist rather than a paedobaptist). Yet, if the Bible directly addressed the issue JUST ONCE, it would have settled the issue for the Church once and for all and much of Church history would be totally different. Another example would be the issue of the nature of baptisms for the dead.

    I could go on, but I’m sure you get my point. I said all of that to set up answering your question. I don’t know exactly how the Apostles would articulate their understanding of the Trinity (if they had such a notion, and I think they did). Maybe they were much closer to the Nicene understanding than we both realise. But it just doesn’t show up in the NT canon. But then someone might say that this would then impugn the sufficiency of Scripture as the highest authority in the Church (which is part of the Evangelical position of “Sola Scriptura”). That same person could further say that this would open up the door for the need and equality of Tradition and eventually lead (via slippery slope) to Catholicism or Orthodoxy et cetera. But that’s only true if we assume that in order for Sola Scriptura to be true, God would have made sure to inspire Scripture in such a way that there would not be any need for doctrinal development. Well, I don’t share that assumption. Doctrinal development doesn’t preclude an affirmation of Scripture’s material sufficiency or formal sufficiency. I’m sure you can recall my views on progressive doctrinal development in Church history. I’ve restated my views in the following url: http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2011/09/river-of-time.html

    While the full extent of how they expressed their beliefs about God the Father, Jesus the Son of God, and the Holy Spirit isn’t fully preserved in the New Testament, we can logically glean from the NT multiples evidences for each of all of the premises I gave above. Those premises are enough to 1. rule out any form of Ontological subordinationism among the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit 2. rule out any denial of the full deity of the Father or the Son, or Holy Spirit, and 3. rule out the possibility that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are the same person. Therefore, by logical necessity, you’re left with something like the Trinity.
    The problem is that you think the doctrine of the Trinity is, on the one hand, too dogmatic and precise where the Scriptures are more vague and so betray or at least undermine Scripture’s actual teaching. But on the other hand, other anti-Trinitarians would also say that the doctrine is too vague to be accepted and therefore must be false because there are various models of Trinitarianism and there’s no way to determine which one is truer than another or which is the correct one.

    I agree that there is some uncertainty with respect to the exact kind of Trinitarianism which is correct. But that’s to be expected because 1. God hadn’t and didn’t plan on revealing everything in Scripture or to the early Church everything about Himself before the return of Christ. 2. the nature of the Creator/creature distinction will forever require analogical language as Van Til points out in his theology/apologetic (I would recommend John Frame’s works in defense of Reformed use of analogical language). This is even after the return of Christ when God will be able to more freely reveal much more about Himself than He could during the Church Age (lest His providential plans be thwarted by too much information too soon). Therefore, there will be the need for mystery both now, and for all eternity (but especially now before the 2nd Advent of Christ).

    So, we both affirm the necessity of mystery. The question is, what kind and to what degree. I believe that your heremeneutical principles are too lenient that they would naturally lead to heresies. Heresies that would include a denial of your own position of affirming the full deity of Christ. It’s the Trinitarian hermeneutical principles that would preserve all of premises I stated above, along with the one you prize the most, the full deity of Christ.

    It’s not as though 1st Century Jews had one conception of the Holy Spirit in the OT and a significantly different one in the NT – as they did the Messiah. Perhaps your answer to my paraphrased question above will help me understand what you see as the key NT evidence that causes you and others to mark the Holy Spirit as God Himself when, by your own admission, no one before the NT regarded Him so.

    I disagree that the NT Church essentially had the same conception of the Holy Spirit that 1st century Jews had. Yes, there were hints in the OT and even in pre-Christian rabbinic tradition of the personality (and even to a lesser degree the deity) of the Holy Spirit. But they were hints and guesses. After the time of Pentecost (the “birthday of the Church”, if you will) the Church became very much Pneumacentric (though, admittedly not as Christocentric since part of the office of the Holy Spirit is to point to Christ [John 15:26e]). In the OT, the Holy Spirit was “out there” and His/its influence was sovereignly unpredictable. While in the NT the Holy Spirit is “in here” and He (not merely it, or a merely possible “Him/him”) daily and continuously leads, guides, and teaches the people of God corporately AND individually (unlike in the OT when it was mostly corporately). In the OT, you had to go to the temple to get to the presence of God. In the NT, God, the Holy Spirit enters you and makes you His temple. In the OT, the Holy Spirit might possibly influence you if you were a special chosen person. In the NT is promised to EVERY believer and you didn’t have to worry like David that He might be taken away (cf. Ps. 51:11 with John 14:16). In the OT, only special people can perform miraculous thaumaturgical feats. In the NT everyone has a gift from the Spirit for the edification of the Church. IN the NT the person and power of the Holy Spirit was a daily immediate reality. I recommend reading an introductory book on the Holy Spirit (e.g. “The Holy Spirit and You by Dennis and Rita Bennett).

    …when, by your own admission, no one before the NT regarded Him so.

    I’m not sure I said that. If I did, I misspoke. I believe it was hinted in the OT and that there’s pre-Christian literature that suggests that some Jews believed it or speculated about the personality and therefore deity of the Holy Spirit (or vice versa).

    I am using the words in the way that the apostles used them. For example, Joel 2:32 says “whoever calls on the name of the LORD will be saved.” In the Masoretic text “LORD” is “YHWH.” However, when Peter quotes this verse in Acts 2:21 and when Paul quotes it in Romans 10:13 they both quote it as “Kurios” and apply it to Jesus. If the apostles don’t get hung up on the distinctions that scholars argue about, why should we?

    Because Biblical use and theological use are not the same thing. Your use is less precise and more confusing for this discussion. If we were discussing something else, then it wouldn’t get in the way. The formerly blind man in John 9 calls Jesus “Lord” (a variant of “kurios”) before knowing who Jesus was. Paul did the same thing during his experience on the road to Damascus even though Paul didn’t know who was speaking to him. So, clearly, your use of the word is less precise, and therefore needlessly confusing. Your imprecise and limited use of words in a wooden fashion would make it difficult for you to discuss with an Arian or a Jehovah’s Witness if they were allowed to use your approach. They would say that your use of the word “son” in “Son of God” goes contrary to to the normal usage of the word “son”. They would say that “sons” are naturally distinct from and temporally follow the existence of their father.

    It does to the men who wrote the New Testament. Whenever the NT quotes an OT verse that contains YHWH, it is always rendered as “Kurios” which is translated to English as “Lord.” Therefore, to the Lord Jesus and His apostles, YHWH meant Lord.

    No, YHWH meant YHWH. It was because the person who is YHWH actually IS “Lord” that they followed the Septuagint’s rendering of the Hebrew word into Greek. All translations (including from Hebrew to Greek) lose some of the original meaning. So, just because “YHWH” can be understood to be the “Lord” [the supreme deity] in the New Testament, doesn’t mean that it ONLY means Lord. That’s a linguistic fallacy. Your use effectively denies that distinction. Anyone who knows multiple languages and the difficulties in translating from one language to another knows that often there is no exact word or phrase in the receptor language that corresponds to the original language word or phrase.

    However, Jesus and the apostles gave us no reason to dwell on the issue. In fact, they gave us every reason to move on.

    We don’t know that. For all we know, they did make the distinction but didn’t use it in the letters we have preserved for us in the NT canon since they are written in a Gentile language for a mostly Gentile audience. Do we really want to say that upon conversion to Christianity, the Apostle Paul stopped reading the Hebrew and only read and preached from the Septuagint (either in private study/devotion or preaching to fellow non-messianic Jews in order to get them saved)?

    1 Cor. 9:20
    and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law;

    For this reason, please reconsider your stance on your premise number 9. As written it is a direct contradiction of the apostles Peter in Acts 2:36, Paul in Romans 10:9, and John in Revelation 17:14.

    There’s no contradiction at all. You haven’t shown a contradiction.

    YHWH means Lord (as I explained above). The Father was Lord until He made Jesus Lord (Acts 2:34-36; 1 Corinthians 8:6). I cannot accept the statement.

    The Father is no longer Lord? What does that mean?

    Why can’t both *be* Lord and *called* “Lord” just as both *are* God and are *called* “God”? If only one can *be* Lord and *called* “Lord”, THEN only one can *be* God and only one can be *called* “God”, right? That seems to be the logical implication of your position. But I don’t think you want to go there.

    You said, “The Father made Jesus to be Lord…upon the latter’s ascension into heaven. ” However, after the ascension, the “Lord” who is the supreme deity is distinguished from Jesus the the Messiah and Lamb in the book of revelation. So, it seems to me that the Father still is and can still be called “Lord” in distinction from Jesus.

    Here’s are some verses:

    Rev. 11:15
    Then the seventh angel sounded; and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever.”

    Rev. 21:22
    I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. (NASB)

    Not only are you wrong in saying that the Father isn’t “Lord” after Christ’s ascension, but you’re also wrong in implying (if I understand you correctly) in denying that Jesus was “Lord” and/or “YHWH” prior to His ascension since John (John chapter 12) refers to Isaiah’s vision in Isaiah 6 as being Jesus. Jesus didn’t start being (ontologically) “YHWH” or gain the title of “Lord” after the ascension as if He wasn’t such prior. When the Bible says that, it’s telling us that that when God the Father officially and publically confirmed Jesus claim to be the divine messiah.

    This is a tautology. The “belief that the Holy Spirit is the one true God” is premise 11.

    What I was getting at in premise 9 was that the Holy Spirit is YHWH. I should have left out my comment that’s inside the parenthesis of premises 9-11. So, in a sense you’re right. I really shouldn’t have conclusions in my premises.

    A.) However, if it’s true that there’s only one true God (premise 1), and the only true God is “YHWH” (premise 1), then if the Holy Spirit is the “one true God”, then the Holy Spirit is also “YHWH”.

    B.) Conversely, if it’s true that there’s only one true God (premise 1), and the only true God is “YHWH” (premise 1), then if the Holy Spirit is “YHWH”, then the Holy Spirit is also “the one true God”.

    The question you’re asking me is where’s the Biblical evidence that the Holy Spirit is 1. “the only true God” or 2. “YHWH”. I already gave my evidence for why the Holy Spirit is the one true God in a previous post. If the limited evidence I gave is conclusive, then A. would also necessarily follow. When it comes to B., I confess that there’s scant directly Biblical evidence to say that the Holy Spirit is “YHWH” in the way you want it proved by an explicit statement.
    The closest I can come to at this time is Acts. 28:25-27 where Paul says that it was the Holy Spirit who spoke through Isaiah when quoting a passage in Isaiah 6 which has YHWH speaking. Paul would know that YHWH is speaking in Isaiah chapter 6 and yet he says it’s the Holy Spirit who was speaking.

    I asked….

    But if you accept premise 5 (which you do), then either the Holy Spirit is a person WHO *IS* the one true God, OR a person WHO IS *NOT* the one true God. Which is it for you (since you accept premise 5)?

    you said…

    The latter. I view the Holy Spirit in the same way as the prophets of the OT did – a view also held by Jesus and His apostles. I hasten to add, however, that I do not understand the Holy Spirit as well as any of them did.

    So you agree that the Holy Spirit is a person, but not the one true God? What kind of entity is the Holy Spirit then? He has the attributes of personality and absolute deity, but yet He is not “the one true God”? Am I misunderstanding your views here?

    I have no doubt that philosophers can find much to philosophize about on the subject of omniscience – and you go on to give examples which thoroughly illustrate this. However, I want to understand omniscience as a child understands it: “God knows everything. That means He knows what I’m thinking; therefore, I should only think things that please Him. Therefore, I should believe that He hears my prayer.” And so on.

    Where does Jesus say we should think like children? We have to ask in what sense Jesus said we needed to be like children. Yes, children can be very trusting toward their parents, but they are also very curious too. They can ask the most profound questions. Questions which, because they are so profound, adults no longer ask them because they learned long ago that they couldn’t (in times past) gives answers to them. Some of the most profound philsophical questions are often the most “simple” – so simple that even a child can ask them. For example, “What is God?”, “Who made God?”, “Why does anything exist?”, “Where did I come from?”, “What is time?”, “What is motion?” etc. etc.

    In those passages where Jesus admonishes us to be like children, He doesn’t imply childish thinking. On the contrary Jesus and Paul said…

    Matthew 10:16 Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. (KJV)

    1 Cor. 14:20 Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men.

    James, here’s a question worth asking in a study of this type: “What did the apostles know about Jesus’ identity, and when did they know it?” The gospels give us obvious guidance on this question when it comes to Jesus being the Messiah (e.g. Mark 9:20-22). Beyond that, we need to dig deeper into what they wrote.

    That’s a deep question. I’ll answer it later. Maybe next time I post. Remind me if I forget. I just want to stop here and say that I think I’ve responded to all your comments. in the entire blog (or at least those ones I thought were the most important). If I missed any, or if I passed over any that you think is important but which I didn’t think as crucial, just repeat it. 🙂

  52. I found more of your comments I didn’t respond to. I’ll try to respond tomorrow. Please forgive me if I sound a bit harsh. That’s because I too once rejected the doctrine of the Trinity and so I’m sometimes responding to myself, my former self and position. I sometimes forget it’s someone else who I’m responding to and so need to be more understanding and friendly.

  53. When we first started dialoguing, I wasn’t sure how much you knew about the doctrine of the Trinity. Now that we’ve been at it for a while, I realise that you have already been exposed to defenses and explanations of the doctrine of the Trinity and that you are aware of even more resources available if you wanted/needed them.

    Yes, I’ve been exposed to literature on the Trinity and I am aware of even more resources available if I wanted or needed them (including Nick Norelli’s bibliography of over 200 resources which you and I mentioned above).  However, none of what I have read about the Trinity has been persuasive, or even reasonable.  I don’t want to keep plowing through more of the same thing.  That’s why I ask you, and others, for the one best resource you know on the subject.  If I could find an argument for the Trinity that was compelling, I’d be willing to give it some more attention.  By “compelling,” I mean that it must at least be biblical and it must be rational.  Everything else I believe about God is both biblical and rational.  I cannot make an exception for the Trinity just because it is a familiar doctrine.

    This familiarity, by the way, is actually the force that keeps most people bound to the trinity doctrine.  However, familiarity doesn’t make it true.  We see many Pharisees in the New Testament unable to embrace the Messiah because they were too tightly wedded to their familiar traditions.  Occasionally one – like Saul of Tarsus, or even Nicodemus to a degree – would break free.  However, most remained bound to a lie that blinded them to the truth.

    This familiarity also is what allows so many of these books and articles about the Trinity to be written in a “preach-to-the-choir” attitude.  This attitude means that the same old bromides can be offered with scant justification.  The only true arguments that I’ve found in these books are arguments against other false formulations (e.g. modalism, unitarianism, arianism).  I don’t believe in any “ism.”  I believe in Christ as taught by the apostles and prophets in the Scriptures.  He is a person, not an “ism.”

    If you know of any resource that can justify the Trinity based on the foundation laid by the apostles and prophets, then by all means tell me about it.  Otherwise, please acknowledge that the sheer volume of books about the Trinity means no more than the sheer volume of Pharisees who didn’t believe that Jesus was the Messiah.

     

  54. James, the next subject you address in your response deals with this previous exchange between us:

    You:  I believe the doctrine of the Trinity was gradually revealed throughout redemptive history.

    Me:  How much of it did the apostles understand and how did they articulate that understanding?  In other words, if they wouldn’t describe it in terms that you or Davies would use, how did they describe it?

    In the five paragraphs you devote to this subject, you acknowledge that you cannot find where the apostles make a case for the doctrine of the trinity in the New Testament.  I can, however, point you to multiple places where they do make the case for the doctrine of Christ (e.g. 2 John 1:9-11). In other words, I’m supporting a doctrine which is explicitly taught in the New Testament and you are supporting a contradictory doctrine for which there is no explicit teaching in the New Testament. (By the way, could there be a better explanation for its absence than that it contradicts what’s present?)

    This issue is so important and fundamental that I would be willing to drop discussion of all other points – either temporarily or permanently – in order to pursue this one.  Your error here is the root cause of your errors in other places. You do not have high enough regard for Holy Scripture.

    The essence of your error is this: you aren’t bothered by the absence of apostolic affirmation of the trinity doctrine.  You liken it to the issue of baptism in which people are divided into paedobaptists (those who want baptize infants) and credobaptists (those who want to baptize those who confess faith).   However, the analogy isn’t there because both paedobaptists and credobaptists can point to scriptures which talk about “baptism” while no trinitarian can point to a single scripture which talks about “trinity.”

    You said there that are “various models of Trinitarianism.”  This is indeed analogous to the various models of baptism.  However, the major difference between the two issues is that “baptism” is explicitly mentioned in the New Testament and “trinity” is not.  Thus, the analogy for your conclusion is simply not there.

    The apostles do make a case for doctrine of Christ and the doctrine of trinity runs counter to it.  Just to give one example: the doctrine of Christ says that He will have first place in everything (Colossians 1:18) but the doctrine of trinity says He has second place in the trinity.

    When you use terms like “ontological subordination” it is clear that your position is informed by theology and theological books.  You are reading books about the Bible more than you are reading the Bible.  This will not help your understanding.

    When the prophets and apostles wrote and spoke, they were saying, “Thus saith the Lord.”  When church councils (e.g. Nicene) wrote and spoke, they were saying, “Thus saith the church leadership.”  There is a world of difference.

  55. I’d like to try to answer this again since it’s unlikely that you’ll read Toon’s book.

    Because you seem to think that Toon’s book would advance our discussion, I’ve given it more attention.  (Recall, however, that I previously made a comment on it; see the last section of this comment above, which you have not yet answered.)

    I can only add at this point that he gives himself away in the preface when he says:

    …I am a theologian, who is committed to the Faith expressed in the Nicene Creed from the fourth century.  I approach and expound the Scriptures within this credal and doctrinal framework.

    He exalts the Nicene Creed above the word of God!  At least he is being more honest than most Trinitarians.  If you stand with him on this point, we can never find agreement.  This is the very point I was making to you in the comment just above about “Thus saith the Lord.”

    If you think church leaders have more authority than Scripture then I assume you are Roman Catholic or Greek Orthodox.  If so, why even read the Scriptures since you will not be allowed to come to any conclusion which your church leaders have not already reached?

  56. I recommend reading an introductory book on the Holy Spirit (e.g. “The Holy Spirit and You by Dennis and Rita Bennett).

    I came across this book thirty years ago.  I have no problem believing in the activity of the Holy Spirit in our day because the New Testament was clear that His role would continue in the kingdom age (Romans 14:17).

    However, as I recall, Dennis was an Episcopalian priest, so his view of the Holy Spirit would be limited by the same “lens of church” that obscures Peter Toon’s view.

  57. I’m sure you can recall my views on progressive doctrinal development in Church history. I’ve restated my views in the following url: http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2011/09/river-of-time.html

    I read your views at the link.  I don’t deny that church history has seen doctrinal development, but I think you’ll have to admit that it’s been regressive as well as progressive.  A notable example of such regression would be churches descended from Luther and Calvin arguing for ordination of homosexuals.

    The gospel of Jesus Christ is about cleansing from sin and walking in righteousness.  Any doctrinal development which doesn’t move us closer to godliness is wrong.

    You do not arrive at the truth by tracing humanity’s varying, and often meandering, opinions of the Scripture. Rather you come to the truth by reading (or hearing) the word of God…and doing it.

  58. James, regarding your views of the Holy Spirit I am amazed that you are not more aware of the similarity of the testaments on this point. Have you not spent enough time in the Old Testament to see that what made the New Testament workings of the Holy Spirit different from the Old Testament workings was 1) the great number of people receiving the Spirit, and 2) that Gentiles were included in their number – and little else?

    As for the distributions, or gifts, of the Spirit themselves, you can find practically all of them in the Old Testament. Even the gift of tongues, which is the hardest one to find, is simply a reversal of what happened at the Tower of Babel. As for prophesy by the Spirit, even Saul did it. As for miracles by the Spirit, Elijah and Elisha did them. As for words of wisdom and knowledge by the Spirit, that’s how the Scriptures were written. And so on. (By the way, if you study these you’ll see that, contrary to what you suggest, “going to the temple” was not a requirement for engagement with the Holy Spirit.)

    Moses looked forward to the time when God would pour out His Spirit on all His people (Numbers 11:29), and Joel embellished that hope with the grand words that were repeated on the day of Pentecost (Joel 2:28-32; Acts 2:16-21). When these outpourings occurred, people were not surprised at the Spirit’s activities – they were surprised at who and how many were participating in them.

    This meshes with what Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount and elsewhere – that His followers were to experience what the prophets before them had experienced: the Spirit of God in abundance and persecutions from surrounding humanity (Matthew 5:10-12). True followers of Jesus do not walk in the footsteps of the laymen of ancient Israel; rather, they walk in the footsteps of Israel’s prophets and priests (1 Peter 2:9-10).

  59. James, as for your response to Jesus being declared Lord/YHWH by Peter and Paul, let’s review our exchange on my main point:

    Me:  I am using the words in the way that the apostles used them. For example, Joel 2:32 says “whoever calls on the name of the LORD will be saved.” In the Masoretic text “LORD” is “YHWH.” However, when Peter quotes this verse in Acts 2:21 and when Paul quotes it in Romans 10:13 they both quote it as “Kurios” and apply it to Jesus. If the apostles don’t get hung up on the distinctions that scholars argue about, why should we?

    You:  Because Biblical use and theological use are not the same thing. Your use is less precise and more confusing for this discussion. If we were discussing something else, then it wouldn’t get in the way.

    Here again, I may be learning through these exchanges that your interest is in being theological while I only want to know how to obey the Lord.  You said, “your use” is less precise.  It’s not my use we’re talking about – it’s Peter’s and Paul’s!

    If the apostles are not theological enough for you, then I don’t have anyone else to recommend.  If you distinguish between biblical and theological use, it’s a distinction which has no interest or even meaning to me. I just want to know how to live before God.

    There’s no point in belaboring this issue.  If you don’t think that biblical usage in Joel 2:23; Acts 2:21; and Romans 10:13 renders “Kurios” and “YHWH” as practically synonymous (even if not etymologically synonymous) then there’s not much basis for discussion on this point, except I can’t resist this one:

    The Father is no longer Lord? What does that mean?  Why can’t both *be* Lord and *called* “Lord” just as both *are* God and are *called* “God”?

    Ask Paul.  “…there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him.”  (1 Corinthians 8:6 NASB).  This is a point Paul reiterated in Ephesians 4:4-6.  If Paul was insisting that there was only one Lord, and it was Jesus, why do you want to say there are two Lord’s?

  60. As for the last general point in your long response above, I think we can agree that God wants us to be childlike without being childish or immature.

    For me, theology and philosophy are largely departures from the childlike wonder and trust that God would have us place in Him, and from a focus on obedience which is the proper pursuit for every child. I am dismayed when theological and philosophical answers are give precedence over common sense on issues like omniscience.

    You disagree with me, and have stated your reasons for doing so. I respect your opinion, and don’t wish to press this point further because it doesn’t seem central – at least at this point – to the discussion of Christ versus the Trinity.

  61. Hey Mike, I’m sorry I haven’t responded in a while. I’ve been busy and I figured it wasn’t really urgent that I respond since it seems we’re just repeating ourselves in arguing for our position. Not that there’s no more room to move the conversation to the next level; but I felt that to do so I would have to carefully read all of the 2nd half of our conversation to see where I may have missed any of your comments or my comments I wanted to either respond to or elaborate on. But I just don’t have the time. I will try to read that 2nd half again soon (God willing). If you wanted to add any more comments that’s fine. At the moment, there’s nothing really urgent that I want to say which I haven’t said to some degree or another already.

    Btw, to re-familiarize myself of why I believe in the Trinity, I’ve been reading John Gill’s “The Doctrine Of The Trinity Stated And Vindicated”. You seem to also be busy, with all your blogs here. But If you’re interested or curious, the work can be accessed here:

    http://www.godrules.net/library/gill/gill.htm

    Or here (which has best formatting):

    http://trisagionseraph.tripod.com/Texts/Trinity.html

    Or here:
    http://books.google.com/books/download/A_collection_of_sermons_and_tracts.pdf?id=59wOAAAAIAAJ&hl=en&capid=AFLRE71pEK6FkKplCdZKe8jp85vFG9aTuykWDTUsWeXdx2sv8cTFrrTEpqz6Ul7yeCQRWPxBQ53M58DBeZo-ZHnd-77cx6FQWg&continue=http://books.google.com/books/download/A_collection_of_sermons_and_tracts.pdf%3Fid%3D59wOAAAAIAAJ%26output%3Dpdf%26hl%3Den

    The most relevant chapters to our discussion would be 2, 3, 7 & 9.

    2. PROVING THAT THERE IS A PLURALITY IN THE GODHEAD
    3.SHOWING THAT THERE IS A TRINITY OF PERSONS IN THE UNITY OF THE DIVINE ESSENCE
    7. CONCERNING THE SONSHIP OF CHRIST
    9. PROVING THE PERSONALITY AND DEITY OF THE HOLY GHOST

    I thought of you because of your comments at:
    http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2011/12/autobahn-to-damascus.html

    bye for now 🙂

    1. In chapter two Gill seeks to prove that God is a plurality by focusing on the Hebrew noun for God “Elohim,” as if this proves that God is not one but rather more than one.  I’m no expert in Hebrew but the Jews are, and they believe God is one and not plural.  That they consider the Trinity a major error is no secret.

      In chapter three he seeks to prove that the plurality is “neither more than fewer than three.”  He starts off with an ad hominem attack on heretics who have not accepted the doctrine of the trinity – a telltale sign that even he thinks his case is weak.  In fact, he admits:

      “I shall endeavor to prove the doctrine of a Trinity of Persons, in the one God. Now this being a doctrine of pure revelation, it cannot be expected that it should be demonstrated by arguments taken from the reason of things: Nor shall I go about to illustrate it by natural similes, which have been observed…”

      He thus confirms two points I have made to you and others: 1) there are no scripture verses from which ordinary reason would infer the trinity doctrine, 2) there are no examples of the contradictory three-simultaneously-one in nature which may be analogized.

      Having failed to disprove that God is one, Gill’s other points (chapters seven and nine) are moot.

      I wonder what you thought was unique in his approach that caused you to recommend him.  His prose is turgid, especially for a 21st-century reader.  (How amazing that the scriptures are centuries older and yet far easier to read!)  Are there not any modern writers who can make a logical and scriptural case for the trinity?

      I can see how reading him reinforced your convictions, but that is what happens when the choir hears preaching to which it is accustomed.  It is not convincing anyone else, because it is not convincing.  It’s basically stating “a doctrine of pure revelation.”  In other words, “If you were godly you’d accept what I’m saying; you don’t have to understand it, just accept it.”  There is nothing sustaining the doctrine of the trinity today but the force of tradition and the concomitant fear of the social stigma applied to those who do not accept it.

      If I am going to accept something by faith, it is not going to be something that is contradictory on its face…and unscriptural to boot.

       

       

  62. Oh, also by the way, I found an interesting quote while reading John Gill’s work that I think is relevant:

    To reject the use of human phrases, because they are not formally expressed in scripture, is, as Dr. Owen observes,”to deny all interpretation of the Scripture, — all endeavours to express the sense of the words of it unto the understandings of one another; which is, in a word, to render the Scripture itself altogether useless. For if it be unlawful for me to speak or write what I conceive to be the sense of the words of the Scripture, and the nature of the thing signified and expressed by them, it is unlawful for me, also, to think or conceive in my mind what is the sense of the words or nature of the things; which to say, is to make brutes of ourselves, and to frustrate the whole design of God in giving unto us the great privilege of his word.”- John Gill in _The Doctrine Of The Trinity Stated And Vindicated_ quoting John Owen in _A Brief Declaration and Vindication of The Doctrine of the Trinity_

    This brief quote does better to express what I was trying to say in my previous posts but much more succinctly.

    1. James, I don’t disagree with the quote but it argues against a straw man. I do not say that the trinity doctrine cannot be allowed because the word “trinity” is not found in the Scripture. That would be going too far.

      What I am saying is that its absence from the Scripture raises questions about the doctrine that would not be present if, for example, you could read in the book of Acts that the apostles were saying things like “Believe in the Trinity and you shall be understand God properly,” or “Receive the Holy Spirit, who is the Third Person of the Trinity.” When Trinitarians throw around such terms as if they were scriptural, that’s when I object.

      In order to say that the Trinity is a valid inference from Scripture – as Gill and Owen are here implying – the individual scriptures must be shown which lead to it. I have seen no trinitarian case which does so. On the contrary, the Scriptures are insistent that God is one – with no allowance made for an artificial distinction between person and being (as if the Scripture could be artificial about anything.)

  63. You said,
    When Trinitarians throw around such terms as if they were scriptural, that’s when I object. 
    and
    On the contrary, the Scriptures are insistent that God is one…

    Yet the Scriptures 1. do speak of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit repeatedly. Each possessing the Honors, Attributes, Names, Deeds, and Seat of God; or HANDS (I got this acronym from “Putting Jesus In His Place” by Robert Bowman, Jr. and J. Ed Komoszewski). 2. teach that the Father is distinct from the Son and the Holy Spirit; the Son is distinct from the Father and the Holy Spirit; the Holy Spirit is distinct from the Father and the Son.

    On the contrary, the Scriptures are insistent that God is one…

    I’ve shown multiple times that the Bible teaches a plurality in the unity of God. But you seem to want to ignore the evidence. For example, often the the one true God is call “Elohim” in the Old Testament. John Gill says concerning that fact that,

    The ancient Jews not only concluded a plurality, but even a Trinity, from this word Elohim; as appears from a passage in the book of Zohar, [In Lev. fol. 27. col. 2. Ed. Sultzbach. fol 29 Cremon.] where the author says: “Come, see the mystery of the word Elohim: There are three דרגי degrees, and every degree is distinct by himself, notwithstanding they are all one, and are bound together in one, and one is not divided from the other”.

    This is so full an account of the Trinity, that one would rather have thought it came out of the mouth of a Christian, than of a Jew. Was an Athanasian to give an account of his faith in the doctrine of the Trinity, he would do it in much the same language, except, that instead of degree he would use the word person.(from chapter 2 of “The Doctrine Of The Trinity Stated And Vindicated” by John Gill)

    Also, the fact that God often refers to Himself as “Us” and “Our” suggests a plurality in the one God. So much so that John Gill says,

    After all, the Jews are conscious to themselves, that these words do furnish out an argument, for a plurality in the Deity. Hence in [Bereshit Rabba, Parash. 8.] one of their ancient commentaries upon this place, they say, That when Moses was writing the six days works, and came to this verse, he made a stop, and said, Lord of the world, why wilt thou give an occasion to heretics to open their mouths against the truth? And add, that God should say to him, Write on; he that will err, let him err.

    Now this fabulous story is hatched on purpose to defend themselves against the argument of the Christians, for a plurality in the Godhead, founded on this text; and sufficiently discovers the sense they had of the force of it, and the self-convictions they labored under from this passage. (from chapter 2 of “The Doctrine Of The Trinity Stated And Vindicated” by John Gill)

    Let me quote what I’ve written previously (some of which John Gill explains more elaborately):

    Here are some examples of plurality with respect to God implied in the Old Testament-

    Genesis 19:24 “Then the LORD rained brimstone and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah, from the LORD out of the heavens.”

    This passage suggests that there are two persons with the name [or who share the name of] YHWH. One on earth who had been speaking to Abraham and one in heaven.

    Isaiah 54:5: “For your Maker is your husband…” [Literally: makers, husbands.]

    Ecclesiastes 12:1: “Remember now you creator…” [Literally: creators.]

    Psalm 149:2: “Let Israel rejoice in their Maker.” [Literally: makers.]

    possibly Job 35:10 too, see John Gill on that verse

    Joshua 24:19: “…holy God…” [Literally: holy Gods.]
    John Gill says of this verse, “In the Hebrew text it is, ‘for the Holy Ones [are] he’: which may serve to illustrate and confirm the doctrine of the trinity of, persons in the unity of the divine Essence, or of the three divine holy Persons, holy Father, holy Son, holy Spirit, as the one God…”

    Hosea 1:7: “Yet I will have mercy on the house of Judah, will save them by the LORD their God, and will not save them by bow, nor by sword or battle, by horses or horsemen.”

    Here YHWH speaks about another person as YHWH.

    Zechariah 2:8-9: “For thus says the LORD of Hosts: “He sent Me after glory, to the nations which plunder you; for he that touches you touches the apple of His eye. For surely I will shake My hand against them, and they shall become spoil for their servants. Then you will know that the LORD of hosts has sent Me.”

    This passage could be referring to the prophet (Zechariah) himself, or (possibly) it has YHWH speaking and saying that another person who is YHWH has sent Him (i.e. YHWH).

    Isaiah 48:16
    ” Come near to Me, hear this: I have not spoken in secret from the beginning; From the time that it was, I was there. And now the Lord GOD [YHWH] and His Spirit Have sent Me.”

    Here’s another passage where YHWH is speaking and says that another person whose name is also YHWH and YHWH’s Spirit (evidently the Holy Spirit) has sent Him (i.e. YHWH who was speaking).

    There are places where God speaking speaks of “Us” as if there’s a plurality in the Godhead.

    Gen. 1:26 “Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness…”

    Gen. 3:22 “22 Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us…”

    Isa. 6:8 “Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: ” Whom shall I send, And who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.”

    Also, I’ve recently heard the following argument that is based on Hebrew from an episode of the John Ankerberg show I watched on youtube.com I’m providing the link that directly goes to the part in the video where the argument is made (at minute 1, second 13).

    In essence it said that there are three ways to say “god” in Hebrew. “EL” (singular), “ELOHIAM” (dual) and “ELOHIM” (three or more). “ELOHIAM” (dual) is never used of God in the Old Testment while “ELOHIM” which means 3 or more is used of God over 2000 times. Ankerberg cites Gesenius’ Hebrew Grammar p. 244 which state “[The dual] in Hebrew, however, it is almost exclusively used to denote those objects which naturally occur in pairs.” If this argument is true, then that would support (though not prove) the doctrine of the Trinity. However, I’m not sure this argument is true. I need to confirm it since I believe this is the same Gesenius who some claim foisted the anachronistic hoax that pluralis majestiticus (royal plurality of majesty) was a concept known and used by ancient Semitic cultures. This is according to Robert Morey in his book Trinity: Evidence and Issues. Though Morey’s scholarship is itself suspect at times (cf. his so-called “scholarship” on Islam).

    You said, “…– with no allowance made for an artificial distinction between person and being (as if the Scripture could be artificial about anything.)

    Sure, the words and distinction between “person” and “being” aren’t in Scripture, but the way in which Trinitarians use the them, as well as the purpose for which Trinitarians use them are in Scripture. Specifically to affirm the Bible’s teaching of the unity and plurality of God such that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are 1. in one sense truly “one” and yet in another sense truly (and distinctly) “three”.

    Your “doctrine of Christ” denies BOTH “the Father and the Son” (in violation of 1 John 1:3; 2:22b-23). How? Because you deny “the Father AND the Son” by denying the real distinction between the Father and the Son.

    “…so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.” (1 John 1:3b&c ESV)

    “…This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also.” (1 John 2:22b-23 ESV)

    You reject modalism and deny you’re a modalist, but you seem to deny the real distinction between the Father and the Son (not the mention the Holy Spirit). Notice that John says the fellowship that genuine Christians have is with the Father AND with HIS Son Jesus Christ. Implying the Father and Son are distinct and different from each other. In other words, the Father is not the Son, nor is the Son the Father. So that fellowship with one of them, is not the same thing as fellowshipping with the other. Btw, 2 Cor. 13:14 teaches that one can also have fellowship with the Holy Spirit.

    Instead of trying to harmonize the various multi-faceted truths of Scripture, you emphasis one truth (the full deity of Christ) to the exclusion of others.

    Btw, someday we can discuss the issue of universalism/apocatastasis. What your version of it is. Whether it includes a time of purging/purification of and from sin or not. The issue isn’t as important to me as the doctrine of the Trinity since I believe that one is less likely to go to hell if she believed in the Trinity even though she mistakenly also believe in some form of universalism (as serious as the error is). In comparison to someone who believed in eternal punishment, yet denied the doctrine of the Trinity. The issue of the Trinity is much more essential. I’m not saying that only those who believe in both doctrines (Trinity and eternal punishment) can get to heaven. Since perfect doctrine isn’t what saves anyone. Rather it is Christ who, by His Grace, leads people into exercising saving faith in Him. I’m only saying that those who don’t believe in both doctrines are in jeopardy of not being saved. Let me say that I haven’t always held to eternal punishment. I used to hold to annihilationism (the best work in defense of it would be Edward Fudge’s “The Fire That Consumes”).

  64. Yet the Scriptures 1. do speak of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit repeatedly. Each possessing the Honors, Attributes, Names, Deeds, and Seat of God; or HANDS (I got this acronym from “Putting Jesus In His Place” by Robert Bowman, Jr. and J. Ed Komoszewski). 2. teach that the Father is distinct from the Son and the Holy Spirit; the Son is distinct from the Father and the Holy Spirit; the Holy Spirit is distinct from the Father and the Son.

    The Scriptures also speak of “the Angel of the Lord” distinctly and repeatedly.  Does this mean God is a quadity?

    Just because the Scriptures use different terms in similar ways doesn’t give us liberty to lump them together into a contradictory philosophical concept that is not taught in Scripture.  We should let the Scriptures tell us what God wants them to tell us, when and as He wants them to tell us.  As I’ve said all along, the biggest problem with the Trinity is not simply that it is unscriptural but that it contradicts the emphasis that the Scriptures put on Christ.  It is Christ whom we are to honor, serve, and obey.  “To Him you shall give heed in everything He says to you” (Acts 3:22; Deuteronomy 18:15).  “Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ does not have God” (2 John 1:9).

    Acceptance of the Trinity has nothing to do with salvation but everything to do with Christ.  On this the Scriptures are unwavering that salvation is found only in His name (Acts 4:12). To proclaim salvation in another name (e.g. Trinity) is therefore a major error.

    I’ve shown multiple times that the Bible teaches a plurality in the unity of God. But you seem to want to ignore the evidence. For example, often the the one true God is call “Elohim” in the Old Testament. John Gill says concerning that fact that, “The ancient Jews not only concluded a plurality, but even a Trinity, from this word Elohim; as appears from a passage in the book of Zohar…”

    Is the book of Zohar in the Old Testament?  I couldn’t find it.

    Why is John Gill quoting something other than Holy Scripture if he’s trying to prove that the doctrine of the trinity is scriptural?

    If “ancient Jews…concluded…a Trinity” why can’t Gill find a book in the Old or New Testament which says that they concluded this?

    Besides, why is Gill trying to tell us that Jews believed something (that God is a trinity) that everyone knows Jews don’t believe?  It’s one of their biggest objections to Christianity, and everyone knows this.

    You quote a long list of verses which demonstrate what you call “the plurality of God” but your argument on this is not with me – it’s with the Scripture which declares that God is one (James 2:19, in the New Testament, long after Christ was revealed).  The New Testament doesn’t declare a plurality of God.  On the contrary, it reaffirms that God is one in verses like 1 Corinthians 8:6 and Ephesians 4:6, even while talking about Christ in the context (where He is called Lord and not God).

    As for the argument that Elohim means three or more while Elohaim means two, I don’t see how that helps you because Elohim meaning “any number greater than two” hardly specifies a trinity (Quadity anyone?  Quinity?  Where would we stop?).

    Sure, the words and distinction between “person” and “being” aren’t in Scripture, but the way in which Trinitarians use the them, as well as the purpose for which Trinitarians use them are in Scripture.

    “The way in which Trinitarians use them” (i.e., three persons in one being) has not been located in Scripture, unless you’ve done it and I’ve missed it.  So let me ask, where in Scripture is there an example – whether human or animal – of three persons who exist in one being?

    Your “doctrine of Christ” denies BOTH “the Father and the Son” (in violation of 1 John 1:3; 2:22b-23). How? Because you deny “the Father AND the Son” by denying the real distinction between the Father and the Son.

    On the contrary, the doctrine of Christ affirms the Father and the Son.  The Father ruled in the old age and the Son rules in the new.  The Father became the Son in order to accomplish this.

    You reject modalism and deny you’re a modalist, but you seem to deny the real distinction between the Father and the Son (not the mention the Holy Spirit). Notice that John says the fellowship that genuine Christians have is with the Father AND with HIS Son Jesus Christ. Implying the Father and Son are distinct and different from each other. In other words, the Father is not the Son, nor is the Son the Father. So that fellowship with one of them, is not the same thing as fellowshipping with the other. Btw, 2 Cor. 13:14 teaches that one can also have fellowship with the Holy Spirit.

    The time in which John wrote was the brief period of time where the two ages overlapped. The new age was inaugurated with Christ’s resurrection but not comprehensively established until the Second Coming.  Therefore, John was writing in that period of overlap when the Father still ruled creation and Christ sat at His right hand.  When Christ came in His glory, there would no longer be a need to write in that way.

    As for the Holy Spirit, He is the agent of the Father in the prior age and the agent of the Son in the new.  He has always been, and will always be, our means of having fellowship with God in the earth.

    Instead of trying to harmonize the various multi-faceted truths of Scripture, you emphasis one truth (the full deity of Christ) to the exclusion of others.

    Actually, the doctrine of Christ is the best, and only, way of harmonizing all the various Scriptures.  It is to Him that the obedience belongs (Genesis 49:10).

  65. Btw, someday we can discuss the issue of universalism/apocatastasis. What your version of it is. Whether it includes a time of purging/purification of and from sin or not. The issue isn’t as important to me as the doctrine of the Trinity since I believe that one is less likely to go to hell if she believed in the Trinity even though she mistakenly also believe in some form of universalism (as serious as the error is). In comparison to someone who believed in eternal punishment, yet denied the doctrine of the Trinity. The issue of the Trinity is much more essential. I’m not saying that only those who believe in both doctrines (Trinity and eternal punishment) can get to heaven. Since perfect doctrine isn’t what saves anyone. Rather it is Christ who, by His Grace, leads people into exercising saving faith in Him. I’m only saying that those who don’t believe in both doctrines are in jeopardy of not being saved. Let me say that I haven’t always held to eternal punishment. I used to hold to annihilationism (the best work in defense of it would be Edward Fudge’s “The Fire That Consumes”).

    James, I’d be happy to discuss these topics with you.  In order to keep our conversations focused and not rambling, I suggest we keep this post and comments focused on our “Christ versus the Trinity” discussion.  As for the topic of universalism, I’ve set up this page for that discussion:  Dialogue with James, aka Annoyed Pinoy (re: Afterlife; i.e., Heaven or Something Else?).  As for the topic of apocatastasis, I’ve set up this page for that discussion:  Dialogue with James, aka Annoyed Pinoy (re: Second Coming).  I look forward to your joining each of those discussions whenever you can find the time.

  66. You said,
    I’m no expert in Hebrew but the Jews are, and they believe God is one and not plural. That they consider the Trinity a major error is no secret.

    You may not be an expert in Hebrew, but for myself, I know absolutely no Hebrew at all. ;^)
    Of course they don’t believe in a plurality of God. That’s partly because they reject the Christian claims of the Trinity and the full deity of Christ. But it hasn’t always been that way. The modern Jewish view and definition of strict monotheism is a relatively recent post-Christian development of medieval rabbis. Most notably Maimonides (Moses ben-Maimon, affectionately called “Rambam”) and Shlomo Yitzhaki (affectionally called “Rashi”). This is a well known fact acknowledged by both Jews and Christians. It’s an undisputed fact that Maimonides formulated his definition in contrast to the Christian understanding of the Trinity (even substituting the Biblical word “echad” which can allow for plurality or diversity, with “yachid”, which connotes absolute and strict unity, in his famous Thirteen Articles of Faith). Both words (“echad” and “yachid”) are found in the Hebrew Old Testament. But the word “echad” is what’s used in the Shema (Deut. 6:4). It was with respect to the Shema that Rambam switched the words in his interpretation of the passage. This is all documented in Messianic apologetics aimed at orthodox Jewish criticisms. There are many quotations that can be cited of non-Christians Jews who either taught, implied, or speculated about a plurality in God prior to Maimonides. They often did so because of the Biblical evidence. Even today, there are non-othrodox Jews who reject Jesus as Messiah and yet who hold to a kind of plurality in God (or who even deny the personality of God and hold views similar to pantheism, deism, panentheism). That’s because Maimonides didn’t completely extinguish the Biblical inspired Jewish impulse to see plurality in God. Just do some research on Kabbalah (also spelled Kabala, Cabbalah, or other variations) and Jewish mysticism. For some documentation, just read Messianic Jewish apologetics (e.g. the articles at the Jews for Jesus website, or volume 2 of Michael Browns book to name just a few).

    Also, while there is a minority of professing Messianic Jewish believers in Jesus who reject the Trinity, the overwhelming majority of do accept the doctrine of the Trinity In fact, the greatest Messianic Jewish apologists and scholars who advocate Jesus as the Jewish Messiah for Jews are Trinitarians.

    For example:
    Michael L. Brown (who wrote the exhaustive and massive 5 volume “Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus”.

    scholar David H. Stern who wrote the “Jewish New Testament Commentary”.

    scholar and Dr. Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum (one of the father of modern Jewish apologetics)

    scholar and Dr. Charles Lee Feinberg (another father of modern Jewish apologetics) He had a massive and prodigious intellect. His sons John & Paul Feinberg

    scholar and Dr. Louis Goldberg

    scholar Alfred Edersheim who wrote the massive and “The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah”

    and others like Moishe Rosen, Steven Schlissel, Meredith Kline etc. (I could go on and on).

    I mentioned Michael L. Brown. He and James White debated Anthony Buzzard and Joseph Good on whether Jesus is fully God. Buzzard and Good hold to an Arianistic like view but deny the real and personal pre-existence of Jesus. Of course, your position is much more closer to what the Bible says because you do believe in the full deity of Jesus.

    Here’s a YouTube link to the debate (1 of 21 videos):

    So, your claim that all Jews deny plurality in God is false. Unless you want to say that Messianic Jews aren’t Jews.

    You said,
    He starts off with an ad hominem attack on heretics who have not accepted the doctrine of the trinity – a telltale sign that even he thinks his case is weak.

    People from all position have that kind of attitude. It was especially common in times past. But we should be smart enough to be able to set aside and not be bothered by rhetoric and evaluate the arguments and evidence. I believe the evidence for plurality in God is clear in Scripture (both OT and NT).

    You said,
    He thus confirms two points I have made to you and others: 1) there are no scripture verses from which ordinary reason would infer the trinity doctrine,…

    He doesn’t say that. He says the exact opposite. He says that natural reason, by itself, unaided and uninformed by Revelation wouldn’t come to a knowledge or discovery of the Trinity. But that WITH Scripture, one can come to it. He says, “Now this being a doctrine of pure revelation…” Which shows it IS a doctrine of Revelation that can be inferred from Scripture.

    You go on to say,
    He thus confirms two points I have made to you and others:…2) there are no examples of the contradictory three-simultaneously-one in nature which may be analogized.

    He says the exactly opposite of what you’re claiming. He explicitly says that some people have attempted to use analogies to help understand the Trinity and actually names at least two after he cites a work that uses analogies. You didn’t quote the whole thing. Here it is in full:

    Nor shall I go about to illustrate it by natural similes, which have been observed, by some, to advantage; as that of the soul of man, which consists of the mind, and understanding, and will; which are so distinct from each other, so that the one is not the other, and yet are all but one soul: And also, that of the sun; its beams, and light, which are but one sun: And that of the spring, fountain, and streams, which are but one water. But leaving these, I shall endeavor to prove the point from testimonies of scripture, out of the Old and New Testament.

    He even cites another work (by someone else?) [Vid. Mornaeum de Verit. Relig. c. 5.]
    The scanned pdf version has “Vide Mornaeum de Verit. Relig. c 5.”

    Maybe you didn’t read the scanned version. But whichever version you read, Gill clearly says there are analogies that some people have used but that he leaves that aside in order to focus on the Biblical evidence.

    You said,
    Having failed to disprove that God is one, Gill’s other points (chapters seven and nine) are moot.

    That’s a biased way of phrasing it. Gill would be the first person to deny that God is not one. He AFFIRMS wholeheartedly that God is one (see chapter 1 of his work). He wasn’t attempted to disprove that God is one. He was attempting to prove that IN ADDITION to God being one, that God is also plural.

    You said,
    I wonder what you thought was unique in his approach that caused you to recommend him. His prose is turgid, especially for a 21st-century reader. (How amazing that the scriptures are centuries older and yet far easier to read!) Are there not any modern writers who can make a logical and scriptural case for the trinity?

    I have modern books in defense of the Trinity but you don’t have access to them unless and until you purchase them. At least these are freely available online.

    I can see how reading him reinforced your convictions, but that is what happens when the choir hears preaching to which it is accustomed.

    That assumes I’ve always been a Trinitarian. But if you recall, I was a flaming anti-Trinitarian at one times for many years. So, it’s not like I grew up Trinitarian and therefore have Trinitarian tinted eyeglasses that I can’t take off. There was a time when I didn’t have Trinitarian eyeglasses. Besides, I think I’m objective enough to be able to evaluate the arguments and evidences from various points of view. Including one that denies the plurality of God. Other people on the other hand, may not have EVER held to the doctrine of the Trinity and so can’t or have never been able to take off their anti-Trinitarian glasses to objectively see and evaluate the evidence and arguments. Maybe you’re among them.

    It’s basically stating “a doctrine of pure revelation.” In other words, “If you were godly you’d accept what I’m saying; you don’t have to understand it, just accept it.”

    Don’t you think you might possibly commiting libel there? I’m not sure that Gill says or implies that if one were godly or holy enough, they would immediately see the doctrine of the Trinity in the Scriptures. Regardless, Gill definitely does NOT say “you don’t have to understand it, just accept it.” In fact, he attempt to inductively argue for the doctrine from Scripture. You can claim that he fails in his attempt, but please don’t say that he’s asking others to accept his doctrine either on his own (ipse dixit) authority; or apart from or even contrary to reason.

    You said,
    There is nothing sustaining the doctrine of the trinity today but the force of tradition and the concomitant fear of the social stigma applied to those who do not accept it.

    I admit that many people accept the doctrine of the Trinity out of tradition or even Tradition (capital “T” like Catholics) or because they grew up with Trinitarianism. But that doesn’t explain many people who once rejected the doctrine of the Trinity and later came to accept it through dilligent study.

    I’m sure that some people hold to the Trinity or refrain from voicing criticisms of the doctrine because of fear of the consequences if they did in their theological community. But that’s a result of either their cowardness
    to voice their opinions (whether they are right or wrong), OR due to a lack of actually studying the issues.

    You said,

    If I am going to accept something by faith, it is not going to be something that is contradictory on its face…and unscriptural to boot.

    Well, I would say that the doctrine of the Trinity (as traditionally and historically formulated) is definitely
    not contradictory even if it were false. Moreoever, I would actually argue that it is Scriptural and therefore true.

  67. you said,
    The Scriptures also speak of “the Angel of the Lord” distinctly and repeatedly. Does this mean God is a quadity?

    Don’t you know it’s standard fare for Trinitarians to argue that the “Angel of the LORD” is Jesus? You make that statement as if you’ve never actually read a book in defense of Trinitarianism. I’m not accusing you of not having read a real and detailed book in defense of Trinitarianism. Also, technically, we don’t claim that EVERY instance of “an angel of the LORD” or “the angel of the LORD” was the pre-incarnate Jesus. It depends on the context. One can be *an* angel of the LORD or *the* angel of the LORD without being “*THE* Angel of the LORD.”

    You said,
    Just because the Scriptures use different terms in similar ways doesn’t give us liberty to lump them together into a contradictory philosophical concept that is not taught in Scripture.

    I don’t know what “different terms” you’re referring to. Are you referring to “Elohim”? If so, I’d like to ask you what you make of the use of the plural word “Elohim”. How do you explain God inspiring the Bible to refer to Himself in the plural? Not just that but why that word is “word is sometimes in construction with a verb plural” (see Gill chapter 2)? I mean, Gill makes a good point when he quotes a Jewish work where a Jew complains to God that He uses plurals to refer to Himself because it opens up the possibility of arming heretics and pagans, as well as misleading some into error. What’s your answer as to why God uses the plural? Especially since it’s been shown that the claim that they are examples of the pluralis majestiticus is an anachronistic hoax.

    You said,
    We should let the Scriptures tell us what God wants them to tell us, when and as He wants them to tell us.

    That’s exactly what the doctrine of the Trinity does.

    You said,

    As I’ve said all along, the biggest problem with the Trinity is not simply that it is unscriptural but that it contradicts the emphasis that the Scriptures put on Christ.

    But it doesn’t do so to the exclusion of the Father and the Son. Which again shows how you exalt one truth to the neglect of other truths. Reading chapter 3 of Gill’s work shows how often the three (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) are placed together in the New Testament AND surprisingly EVEN in the Old Testament(!!!).

    You said,
    It is Christ whom we are to honor, serve, and obey.

    And yet the Bible teaches us to honor, serve, and obey the Father and Holy Spirit as well.

    You said,
    On this the Scriptures are unwavering that salvation is found only in His name (Acts 4:12). To proclaim salvation in another name (e.g. Trinity) is therefore a major error.

    Yet, Jesus said people are to be baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit (I’m quoting Matthew 28:19). Once again showing that you affirm one truth to the exclusion of other truths. Acts 4:12 is a succinct summary of Peter’s sermon.

    You said
    Is the book of Zohar in the Old Testament? I couldn’t find it.

    It should be obvious why I quoted the Gill and why Gill quoted the book of Zohar (and why modern Messianic Jews quote many other Jewish texts which have statements to the same effect). Namely, that the Old Testament’s testimony of the plurality of God is so clear that it wasn’t uncommon for some Jews to speculate or even infer a plurality (even a Tri-Unity!!!) in or of God.

    You said,
    If “ancient Jews…concluded…a Trinity” why can’t Gill find a book in the Old or New Testament which says that they concluded this?

    Shouldn’t it be obvious? Revelation is progressive. God didn’t reveal everything in the Old Testament. The New Testament testimony to the full deity of Christ and of the Holy Spirit along with the distinction between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit PREVADES the entire New Testament from Matthew to Revelation.

    You said,
    The New Testament doesn’t declare a plurality of God. On the contrary, it reaffirms that God is one in verses like 1 Corinthians 8:6 and Ephesians 4:6, even while talking about Christ in the context (where He is called Lord and not God).

    With regard to 1 Cor. 8:6, it actually AFFIRMS the plurality of God because Paul calls the Father “God” and Jesus as “Lord”. Which would mean that both are God and Lord. Unless you want to argue the following two things. Namely, 1. that since the Father is called “God”, therefore Jesus shouldn’t be called “God”; 2. since Jesus is called “Lord”, therefore the Fathe shouldn’t be called “Lord”. Yet, the New Testament frequently calls the Father both “God” and “Lord” just as it also calls Jesus “God” and “Lord”.

    With regard to Eph. 4:6, you need to read starting from verse 4.

    It affirms, “There is…one Spirit…one Lord…one God and Father of all…”. It mentions each person of the Trinity.

    You said,
    As for the argument that Elohim means three or more while Elohaim means two, I don’t see how that helps you because Elohim meaning “any number greater than two” hardly specifies a trinity (Quadity anyone? Quinity? Where would we stop?).

    But the fact remains that you haven’t address the puzzling question of why God inspired a plural word to refer to Him over TWO THOUSAND TIMES! Some of which have a construction with plural verbs. Wouldn’t it have been so much clearer and simpler for God to just refer to Himself as “El” (singular)? Why didn’t God do so?

    You said,
    “The way in which Trinitarians use them” (i.e., three persons in one being) has not been located in Scripture, unless you’ve done it and I’ve missed it.

    Obviously my statement was made apart from the use of the words and distinction of “being” and “person”. I SPECIFICALLY SAID THAT Scripture doesn’t use the words or distinction. The point is that Trinitarians have made that distinction and have used those words BECAUSE of Scriptures teaching that God is both “one” and “many”.

    You said,
    On the contrary, the doctrine of Christ affirms the Father and the Son. The Father ruled in the old age and the Son rules in the new. The Father became the Son in order to accomplish this.

    Ah….so you are a modalist then, right? If not, it sure sounds like you are because of your use of words to make the statement you made.

    You said,
    The time in which John wrote was the brief period of time where the two ages overlapped. The new age was inaugurated with Christ’s resurrection but not comprehensively established until the Second Coming. Therefore, John was writing in that period of overlap when the Father still ruled creation and Christ sat at His right hand. When Christ came in His glory, there would no longer be a need to write in that way.

    Why then does the book of Revelation continue to distinguish between Father, Son and Spirit when it describes the future after Christ returns???

    Rev. 21:
    22 And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb.
    23 And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.

    Rev. 22:
    1 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb
    2 through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
    3 No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him.

    Notice that the “Lord God Almighty” is distinct from “the Lamb” and the “water of Life” is a reference to the Holy Spirit (cf. John 7:37-39)

    Not only that, but I’ve shown multiple times when before the incarnation, in the Old Testament where all three persons of the Trinity are mentioned together.

    You said,
    As for the Holy Spirit, He is the agent of the Father in the prior age and the agent of the Son in the new.

    I would kind of agree and kind of disagree what that statement depending on how someone used it since nowhere does the OT say that the Holy Spirit is merely an agent. Much less does the OT confine the Holy Spirit to be the agent ONLY of the Father while the NT confines the Holy Spirit to ONLY be the agent of the Son. Since the OT doesn’t refer to the Father, or identify the Father “as *Father*”
    such that we can tell that in every instance of the sending of or agency of the Holy Spirit that it can only be that of the Father. And we know as a matter of fact that Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit as the promise of the Father. While the NT also often refers to the Holy Spirit as the “Spirit of God” (often times with the Father being the referent of “God”).

    I find it interesting that I find the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit mentioned together:

    1. PRIOR to creation (e.g Ps. 33:6 among others)
    2. DURING THE OT age (e.g. Isa. 48:16; Isa. 63:9-10)
    3. DURING THE NT (e.g. Matt. 28:19; 2 Cor. 13:14 etc.)
    4. AFTER THE RETURN OF CHRIST (e.g. Rev. 21:22-23; 22:1-3)
    Especially since each person possesses the attribute of eternity (past and present) as well as creative agent (i.e. Creator) and providential sustainer, conserver of creation. [Side note: lest you get the wrong impression from the above statement, I hold (at least tentatively) to the B-Theory of time because I strongly lean toward God’s timeless eternality, though not dogmatically]

    So, I don’t see the distinctions you make about the different ages and how God manifests Himself.

    Well, with that, I’ll have to end todays responses since I’m spending too much time on this issue when I have other God given responsibilities. And especially since you’re referring to links I need to either read or browse. Thanks for the links. I hope you have a great day and week Mike. :-)))

  68. James,

    I am in this one post responding to both of your last two posts.

    I will try to identify points of agreement with you as well as points of disagreement, the purpose of this to try to narrow our disagreements to more manageable sizes.

    Regarding my statement that Jews reject the Trinity, I’m happy to stipulate that this does not mean that every single Jew who ever lived rejects the Trinity.  There are, as you rightly point out, exceptions to this rule.  My point was that Jews, as a group, reject the Trinity.  You seemed to concede to the rule and I concede to the exceptions.

    When you substitute the idea of plurality for Trinity, however, it can confuse the discussion.  This is because plurality invokes polytheism which, of course, dominated the ancient world and would be part of the biblical view.  I presume you are talking about plurality within God and excluding the plurality of gods, but that distinction is not always made in ancient sources.  Moreover, even if you could demonstrate a plurality within God it would not prove that trinitarianism was the only possible consequence.  In any case, Paul was doing your plurality in God notion no favors in 1 Corinthians 8:6 and Ephesians 4:6.  But let me not belabor that point.  Rather, I want to state, and I think you will agree, that plurality in God and God being a trinity are not one and the same idea.  To hold to the latter, you must have the former; but to hold to the former, does not require the latter.  Again, I think this is a point of agreement between us.

    I’d further say that this vaguer issue of plurality (vaguer, that is, than the trinity concept) is also germane when it comes to Jesus being raised from the dead because He is in that context (and, remember, it was still a polytheistic world at that time) considered a god when He was elevated to heaven after His resurrection from the dead, because that’s where the gods dwelt.  Note the Hebrews 1:9 quotation of Psalm 45:7 in this regard.  Be sure that this does not present the reader with a plurality within God but rather a plurality of God(s), because God and Jesus are presented at two beings (one God and the other man) throughout the New Testament.  Note that I have now identified at least three ways the plurality can be discussed with relation to God, and this is why I call it a vague concept.  I think you and I can agree that there is this varying notion of plurality even though we may not be in agreement about exactly what it means.  I think there will be more on this to come in our discussion.

    As for John Gill’s book, the bottom line for me is that he does not effectively make the case for the Trinity and for the reasons I stated.  Let me now respond to some of your defenses of his book:

    He says that natural reason, by itself, unaided and uninformed by Revelation wouldn’t come to a knowledge or discovery of the Trinity. But that WITH Scripture, one can come to it. He says, “Now this being a doctrine of pure revelation…” Which shows it IS a doctrine of Revelation that can be inferred from Scripture.

    When I have experienced revelation in the past it is that dynamic by which a verse of Scripture comes to make more sense than before and fit with the rest of Scripture more tightly than before.  That has not been my experience with the Trinity, which experience can be described as “force-fitting” verses into a philosophical construct that someone else has provided.  I see patterns in the Bible, and more with each passing year (e.g. Jesus following the pattern of David against Goliath, or David following the pattern of Joshua in not being afraid of the giants in Canaan).  But I have never seen the pattern of the trinity.  It always appears to me as something that has been handed to me by a philosopher.  That doesn’t necessarily make it wrong, but neither does it make it scriptural.  I pass along this information only to provide you transparency to my thinking – not that you should be persuaded by it.

    [Gill] explicitly says that some people have attempted to use analogies to help understand the Trinity and actually names at least two after he cites a work that uses analogies. You didn’t quote the whole thing.

    I can’t imagine that you find his “analogies” for the trinity compelling: 1) the soul being comprised of mind, understanding, and will, 2) the sun with its beams and light, and 3) spring, fountains, and streams being but one water.  If you actually want to press one or more of these, let me know.

    …Gill clearly says there are analogies that some people have used but that he leaves that aside in order to focus on the Biblical evidence.

    Gill himself doesn’t want to press them.

    That’s a biased way of phrasing it. Gill would be the first person to deny that God is not one. He AFFIRMS wholeheartedly that God is one (see chapter 1 of his work). He wasn’t attempted to disprove that God is one. He was attempting to prove that IN ADDITION to God being one, that God is also plural.

    I wasn’t trying to make a biased point.  Rather, I was just being pragmatic about our discussion.  That is, if I was unimpressed by Gill’s arguments in chapters two and three, there was no point in my reading the other two chapters because they were built on the foundation of the former two chapters.

    You can say I am wrong in my judgment of his chapters two and three, but be aware that I was making no judgment about value of the other two.  Just trying to be economical with time.

    I have modern books in defense of the Trinity but you don’t have access to them unless and until you purchase them.

    Can you choose the best from among them and paraphrase the arguments for me?  (I’m not asking you to do this; only trying to offer you the best opportunity to convince me.)  Gill’s book and those like his are written with prose that does poor service to their arguments – at least in the ears of 21st-century readers.  (I can’t help saying again that this makes the clarity of the far more ancient Scriptures all the more remarkable!)

    …I was a flaming anti-Trinitarian at one time for many years. So, it’s not like I grew up Trinitarian and therefore have Trinitarian-tinted eyeglasses that I can’t take off. There was a time when I didn’t have Trinitarian eyeglasses. Besides, I think I’m objective enough to be able to evaluate the arguments and evidences from various points of view. Including one that denies the plurality of God.  Other people on the other hand, may not have EVER held to the doctrine of the Trinity and so can’t or have never been able to take off their anti-Trinitarian glasses to objectively see and evaluate the evidence and arguments. Maybe you’re among them.

    On the contrary, I never previously questioned the doctrine of the Trinity because 1) when I was an agnostic I didn’t care, and 2) when I believed in Christ I just accepted without question the consensus Christian position on the subject.  Whenever I encountered Oneness or Modalist or Sabellian doctrines I was repelled.  I still am.  There is one thing and one thing only that caused me to eventually question the doctrine of the trinity and led me back to the doctrine of Christ: the Scriptures.  More specifically, it was the continued quest for Christ, by studying the Scriptures with a view to doing them, that led me away from the Trinity.

    Don’t you think you might possibly committing libel there? I’m not sure that Gill says or implies that if one were godly or holy enough, they would immediately see the doctrine of the Trinity in the Scriptures. Regardless, Gill definitely does NOT say “you don’t have to understand it, just accept it.” In fact, he attempt to inductively argue for the doctrine from Scripture. You can claim that he fails in his attempt, but please don’t say that he’s asking others to accept his doctrine either on his own (ipse dixit) authority; or apart from or even contrary to reason.

    I meant nothing libelous, and I agree that he attempts to make a case for the reader.  However, there is a tone or attitude which comes through his writing and other books I have read on this subject.  And the reality of the presence of that tone is borne out by the fact that anyone who rejects the  trinity doctrine is generally considered a heretic or at the very least aberrant.  I think you would agree that Gill would not grant that anyone who disagreed with the trinity doctrine was orthodox.

    I admit that many people accept the doctrine of the Trinity out of tradition or even Tradition (capital “T” like Catholics) or because they grew up with Trinitarianism. But that doesn’t explain many people who once rejected the doctrine of the Trinity and later came to accept it through dilligent study.

    I would only agree that it does not explain all.  It does explain some of them because if someone comes from a “Oneness” denomination and has an interest in progressing in respected academic Christian circles, he quickly perceives that his interests are more easily advanced if he holds to a more conventional view.  I am not suggesting that someone would  flip his view solely for that reason, but these are the forms that temptation takes.  In any case, I wouldn’t have argued for him to continue in his “Oneness” view either.  It is Jesus Christ who matters.

    Here begins my responses to the second of your two posts just above.

    Don’t you know it’s standard fare for Trinitarians to argue that the “Angel of the LORD” is Jesus? You make that statement as if you’ve never actually read a book in defense of Trinitarianism. I’m not accusing you of not having read a real and detailed book in defense of Trinitarianism. Also, technically, we don’t claim that EVERY instance of “an angel of the LORD” or “the angel of the LORD” was the pre-incarnate Jesus. It depends on the context. One can be *an* angel of the LORD or *the* angel of the LORD without being “*THE* Angel of the LORD.”

    Please re-read this paragraph you wrote and see that Trinitarians are no different that Modalists on this point.  That is, when you see a being in Scripture that you deem to be God, you have to find a way of fitting it into your construct.  Therefore, sometimes you fit it this way, and sometimes you fit it that way.  You as a Trinitarian have to argue away the fourth person of what would be a Quadity for the same reason that a Modalist has to argue away a second and third person of what would be a Trinity.

    …I’d like to ask you what you make of the use of the plural word “Elohim”. How do you explain God inspiring the Bible to refer to Himself in the plural? Not just that but why that word is “word is sometimes in construction with a verb plural” (see Gill chapter 2)? I mean, Gill makes a good point when he quotes a Jewish work where a Jew complains to God that He uses plurals to refer to Himself because it opens up the possibility of arming heretics and pagans, as well as misleading some into error. What’s your answer as to why God uses the plural? Especially since it’s been shown that the claim that they are examples of the pluralis majestiticus is an anachronistic hoax.

    I could not explain to you all the grammatical peculiarities of the one language I do know, much less those of a language I don’t (Of course, all languages have them).  I can say that when the Jews translated “Elohim” into Greek they did so into what appears to be a singular Greek word (“Theos”).  I can also tell you all the pronouncements in the Bible that God is one would be worthy of Alice in Wonderland if the intent was to convey the idea that God is more than one.

    Having said all that, it’s probably pretty silly for two guys who don’t know Hebrew to be taking our discussion to this arena.

    And yet the Bible teaches us to honor, serve, and obey the Father and Holy Spirit as well.

    Chapters and verses, please.

    …Jesus said people are to be baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit (I’m quoting Matthew 28:19). Once again showing that you affirm one truth to the exclusion of other truths. Acts 4:12 is a succinct summary of Peter’s sermon.

    Matthew 28:19 is fair for you to bring up as a challenge to my assertion that it is the name of Jesus Christ that is to be preeminent.  However, you will surely concede that it is anomalous on this point (and textually suspect as well since Eusebius of Caesaria quotes it as “in My name” and with no mention of baptism).  Compare therefore this anomaly not only with Acts 4:12 but also with Philippians 2:9-11; Ephesians 1:20-21;  and many others.  Note also that you do not find elsewhere in the New Testament, or even in the Old, the expression “the names of the Lord.”  Thus, whatever Jesus meant in Matthew 28:19, He was not intending to contradict and override all that the  Scriptures said about the preeminence of His name.

    It should be obvious why I quoted the Gill and why Gill quoted the book of Zohar (and why modern Messianic Jews quote many other Jewish texts which have statements to the same effect). Namely, that the Old Testament’s testimony of the plurality of God is so clear that it wasn’t uncommon for some Jews to speculate or even infer a plurality (even a Tri-Unity!!!) in or of God.

    As I conceded above, I have no doubt that Trinitarians can find somewhere in the multitude of variegated Jewish written materials some person or group who spoke in a way that diverged from conventional Jewish thought about the unity of God.  I am also aware that Jews and Christians contend over the meaning and even the reliability of such references.  In the end, it doesn’t matter because we need scriptural testimony to take us to a point of conviction either way.

    Revelation is progressive. God didn’t reveal everything in the Old Testament. The New Testament testimony to the full deity of Christ and of the Holy Spirit along with the distinction between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit PERVADES the entire New Testament from Matthew to Revelation.

    We touched on this earlier in our dialogue and perhaps we could take it no further.  That is, conceding that revelation is progressive, where in the New Testament do we see it flower?  That is, where do the apostles begin to teach that God is three persons in one Being?  Where do you see them teach the doctrine of Gill, as it were?

    I can’t find it.  All I can find is that the apostles are focused like a laser beam on making one major point that superseded and gave a basis for all others: “Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah of the Scriptures!”  You could shorten that to “Jesus is the Messiah!”  If Jesus was the second person of a triune God, wouldn’t that have been even bigger news?  And, if so, why don’t we ever see that explicitly expressed in the New Testament?

    Ah….so you are a modalist then, right? If not, it sure sounds like you are because of your use of words to make the statement you made.

    Not at all.  Modalism is inconsistent with the Scriptures’ doctrine of Christ on several points.  And, specifically, my words that “the Father became the Son” are inconsistent with Modalism.  And you probably know more about Modalism than I do.  Wouldn’t a Modalist say something like God appears at various times as Father, Son, or Holy Spirit according to His will?  This I do not believe the Scripture teaches.

    Why then does the book of Revelation continue to distinguish between Father, Son and Spirit when it describes the future after Christ returns???

    Because it was written in the same time frame.

    I find it interesting that I find the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit mentioned together:

    1. PRIOR to creation (e.g Ps. 33:6 among others)
    2. DURING THE OT age (e.g. Isa. 48:16; Isa. 63:9-10)
    3. DURING THE NT (e.g. Matt. 28:19; 2 Cor. 13:14 etc.)
    4. AFTER THE RETURN OF CHRIST (e.g. Rev. 21:22-23; 22:1-3)

    So, I don’t see the distinctions you make about the different ages and how God manifests Himself.

    In none of these passages is there explicit mention of a “trinity,” “triune God,” or “three Persons in One Being.”  And in none of them save Matthew 28:19 is there explicit mention of the putative three persons of the Trinity:  that is, “Father,” “Son,” and Holy Spirit.”  Thus you are seeing the Trinity in these seven passages because you are reading them with your “Trinitarian glasses.”

    Look, James, I can understand why people lean on a Trinitarian understanding.  Even leaving aside the force of tradition and peer pressure, perhaps it is about as good as humans can do in constructing a conceptual framework to try to make sense of perplexing scriptural realities.  But in the end, that’s also its undoing: it’s a man-made construct.  If we don’t understand something in the Scriptures we should just admit it.  In due time, God will enlighten us, but until then we should just stick with the truth God reveals to us and not try to supplement it with our own attempts at doctrine (Deuteronomy 29:29).

    You might be surprised to know that there is a part of me that would love to embrace the doctrine of the trinity.  That part of me would be relieved at not having to be at odds with so many people who love Jesus as I do.  Nor, as I said, was I even troubled by the idea of the Trinity for the longest time.  I accepted it just like everyone else did.  What eventually drove me away from it was that as I continued to seek Christ and understand Him and obey biblical commands for those who believe in Him, I came to see how the teaching about Christ in the Bible just went a different direction from teaching about the trinity.  In the end, I realized there’s no “there” there.  That is, there’s no scriptural support for the idea of the trinity.  And believe me I have looked for it.  True, if you look at scriptures through “Trinitarian glasses” you can “see” it.   But if you take them off, it’s just not there.

    Even that, however, is not the real problem with the trinity doctrine.  The real problem is that it distracts from Christ.  And it’s in Christ that our salvation is found.  It’s by seeking Him that we grow.  He is the all in all.

    This is why I want you to keep giving this dialogue your best shot, because if I’ve missed something I want to know it more than anyone else wants me to know it.  But I must tell you, the more I study this subject the more scriptural I realize is the teaching about Christ and the less scriptural I realize is the teaching about a triune God.

    At least consider this: If the Trinity doctrine true, and especially if it is in any way important to salvation or orthodoxy as you believe, then it should not take a tome like Gill’s, or anyone else’s, to convey the point.  Many if not most evangelical Christians believe you can move a person from hell to heaven with the information printed on a little tract – or even one sheet of less than 8.5 X 11 paper.  Or think about the “Roman Road” with just four or five verses.  Yet no seems to be able to teach the Trinity with less than a book, and a book where one must delve into philosophy at that.  At the very least you should reconsider your position that belief in the Trinity is as essential a doctrine as you have maintained.  Essential doctrines shouldn’t take that much work and that kind of work to grasp.

    While I did not address every single one of your points in the two posts, I did address the ones that I thought would advance our discussion and not merely be a repetition of our known positions on the respective point.  I tried to refine on each point where our disagreement existed by distinguishing it from where we could agree.  Nonetheless, if I failed to address a point that you wanted me to, please bring it to my attention and I will gladly address it.

    Mike

  69. James,

    I was thinking of you as I just finished a short book by Larry Hurtado (“God in New Testament Theology). I presume Hurtado is a Trinitarian. He is a scholar of Christian origins (which is my reason for being interested in him) and well regarded by his scholarly peers. Perhaps you have heard of him. In any case, he is intellectually honest about the New Testament texts and how they do not teach Trinitarian doctrine.

    I am not commending Hurtado to you because I think his writing (whether this book or any of his others) will convince you of my position. As I say, I think he’s a Trinitarian himself. But I do think he demonstrates the kind of intellectual honesty about the NT texts that I wish I saw more from Trinitarians. Instead, I usually get handed NT proof texts as if the doctrine of the Trinity can be found there through exegesis.

    I’m not suggesting that you have been intellectually dishonest. And you certainly have not been heavy-handed. But that makes you, like Hurtado, an exception among Trinitarian polemicists.

    A few quotes from the book I referenced above:

    “…it would be anachronistic to read back into [NT passages] the developed theological categories of the doctrine of the Trinity, which required a few centuries of debate and intellectual exploration.”

    “…it would be anachronistic to ascribe the developed doctrine of the Trinity to any writer in (or as early as) the NT texts. For example, discussions about a divine “substance” shared by “persons” of the Trinity come later, as second- and third-century Christian thinkers drew upon and adapted philosophical categories.”

    “So, if it is a bit anachronistic to speak of “trinitarian” theology in the NT, it is right to see the roots of this doctrinal development in this body of texts.”

    Hurtado, Larry W. (2010-10-01). God in New Testament Theology (Kindle Locations 1182-1183). Abingdon Press. Kindle Edition.

    (Sorry I can’t give you page numbers, but, as you can see, I’ve been reading the Kindle edition.)

  70. Regarding my statement that Jews reject the Trinity, I’m happy to stipulate that this does not mean that every single Jew who ever lived rejects the Trinity. There are, as you rightly point out, exceptions to this rule. My point was that Jews, as a group, reject the Trinity. You seemed to concede to the rule and I concede to the exceptions.

    I do concede to the rule. Interestingly a professor in Bible and ancient Near Eastern languages at the Jewish Theological Seminary states:

    QUOTE
    “Some Jews regard Christianity’s claim to be a monotheistic religion with grave suspicion, both because of the doctrine of the trinity (how can three equal one?) and because of Christianity’s core belief that God took bodily form. . . . No Jew sensitive to Judaism’s own classical sources, however, can fault the theological model Christianity employs when it avows belief in a God who has an earthly body as well as a Holy Spirit and a heavenly manifestation, for that model, we have seen, is a perfectly Jewish one. A religion whose scripture contains the fluidity traditions [referring to God appearing in bodily form in the Tanakh], whose teachings emphasize the multiplicity of the shekhinah, and whose thinkers speak of the sephirot does not differ in its theological essentials from a religion that adores the triune God.”
    END QUOTE

    When you substitute the idea of plurality for Trinity, however, it can confuse the discussion.

    But plurality is suggested in the Bible as I’ve documented HERE and HERE.

    I presume you are talking about plurality within God and excluding the plurality of gods, but that distinction is not always made in ancient sources.

    Nor in the Bible since the plural word “elohim” is used in reference to both the true God of Israel and false gods in the Old Testament.

    Moreover, even if you could demonstrate a plurality within God it would not prove that trinitarianism was the only possible consequence……..Rather, I want to state, and I think you will agree, that plurality in God and God being a trinity are not one and the same idea. To hold to the latter, you must have the former; but to hold to the former, does not require the latter. Again, I think this is a point of agreement between us.

    Agreed. It’s consistent with Modalism or Sabellianism. That’s why there are other independent arguments for why each person is distinct and different from the other two.

    Note that I have now identified at least three ways the plurality can be discussed with relation to God, and this is why I call it a vague concept. I think you and I can agree that there is this varying notion of plurality even though we may not be in agreement about exactly what it means.

    Agreed. That’s why there are various views like Modalism, Arianism, Semi-Arianism, Nicene Monarchism, Tritheism etc.

    I see patterns in the Bible, and more with each passing year (e.g. Jesus following the pattern of David against Goliath, or David following the pattern of Joshua in not being afraid of the giants in Canaan). But I have never seen the pattern of the trinity.

    For myself, I do see a pattern. I’ve noted them in my blogs. For example,

    All Three Persons of the Trinity Mentioned In Scripture (Directly or Indirectly)

    Eusebius of Caesaria quotes it as “in My name” and with no mention of baptism

    Eu

  71. Oops, I accidentally posted before I was ready. In the middle of a comment.

    Eusebius of Caesaria quotes it as “in My name” and with no mention of baptism

    According to one source, Eusebius cited or alluded to it 18 times and always as “in my name.” At times he may have been paraphrasing without realizing he was changing the text. We all tend to do so. For example, I remember a Oneness person who often quoted John 1:1 as “In the Beginning was the Word and the Word was God;” unconsciously leaving out the middle of the verse, “and the Word was WITH God.” Besides, there are other ante-Nicene fathers who did essentially quote it as we have it.

    Note also that you do not find elsewhere in the New Testament, or even in the Old, the expression “the names of the Lord.” Thus, whatever Jesus meant in Matthew 28:19, He was not intending to contradict and override all that the Scriptures said about the preeminence of His name.

    As a Trinitarian, I believe that there’s a sense in which the Father, Son and Holy Spirit’s name is the same (e.g. how YHWH is used of all three persons which is consistent with Matt. 28:19); yet in another sense in which it’s different. Since “name” in Jewish culture can refer to a proper name, or one’s authority and will, or one’s character or nature. So, for example, Jesus sometimes said He came in His Father’s name (John 5:43; 10:25). Trinitarianism can account for both senses, but your view would have difficulty with those passages. Along with John 17:3 since even Unitarians cite it to argue against the Trinity and for why Jesus isn’t “the only true God.”

    And, specifically, my words that “the Father became the Son” are inconsistent with Modalism. And you probably know more about Modalism than I do. Wouldn’t a Modalist say something like God appears at various times as Father, Son, or Holy Spirit according to His will?

    There are different kinds of Modalism. Some argue that each person is different manifestations or modes of God. Others argue something similar to your statement, that the Father became the Son, and the Son became the Holy Spirit.

    And in none of them save Matthew 28:19 is there explicit mention of the putative three persons of the Trinity: that is, “Father,” “Son,” and Holy Spirit.” Thus you are seeing the Trinity in these seven passages because you are reading them with your “Trinitarian glasses.”

    I’m currently addressing that in my blogpost HERE.

    Look, James, I can understand why people lean on a Trinitarian understanding. Even leaving aside the force of tradition and peer pressure, perhaps it is about as good as humans can do in constructing a conceptual framework to try to make sense of perplexing scriptural realities. But in the end, that’s also its undoing: it’s a man-made construct.

    That assumes your position isn’t man made. But it is. It’s just as much as are the other views. Unfortunately, your view seems to be held by a super minority (or possibly just yourself). It takes humility to realize that it’s unlikely that the truth might only be arrived at by one person. Humility attempts to build on the accumulated wisdom of those who gone before and realizes that the truth probably lies somewhere in some group and not just in oneself.

    You might be surprised to know that there is a part of me that would love to embrace the doctrine of the trinity. That part of me would be relieved at not having to be at odds with so many people who love Jesus as I do.

    Yeah, I can imagine that your position can be very lonely at times and make it difficult to fellowship with other Bible believers.

    True, if you look at scriptures through “Trinitarian glasses” you can “see” it. But if you take them off, it’s just not there.

    I disagree. I think something like Trinitarianism, or Modalism, or Nicene Monarchism, or Semi-Arianism has to be true based on the assumption of 1. Sola Scriptura, 2. that the Protestant Canon is correct and 3. the infallible and inerrant inspiration of the Bible. To be honest, I’m investigating Nicene Monarchism as David Waltz and others are proposing. Some of their arguments have some persuasive weight. So, for all I know, in the future I might move away from Trinitarianism in my spiritual journey.

    Yet no seems to be able to teach the Trinity with less than a book, and a book where one must delve into philosophy at that.

    The doctrine of the Trinity can be easily stated and logically argued. The length of the books in defense of the Trinity is usually because there are many Biblical passages and data that support the premises that 1. God is one, 2. there is only one God, 3. the Father is God but not the Son and/or the Spirit. 4. The Son is God but not the Father and/or the Spirit. 5. The Spirit is God but not the Father and/or the Son. If these premises are true, then either Trinitarianism or something like Nicene Monarchism is true.

    Essential doctrines shouldn’t take that much work and that kind of work to grasp.

    As a former Armstrongite who was also earlier influenced by Adventism, I can say it takes time and effort to argue for why the the Sabbath is no longer binding on Christians. Why the Biblical kosher or Kashrut laws don’t apply. It takes time and effort to show Unitarians like Jehovah’s Witnesses that Jesus is fully God. Time and effort to show Christ’s preexistence (cf. Unitarians like Anthony Buzzard who reject preexistence). The same could be said about many other doctrines like justification, sanctification, eschatology, hell, atonement, the error of Pelagianism and Semi-Pelagianism et cetera, etc.

    Perhaps you have heard of him. In any case, he is intellectually honest about the New Testament texts and how they do not teach Trinitarian doctrine.

    I have heard of Larry Hurtado. I agree that the NT doesn’t teach Trinitarianism as fully formulated by the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed of 381, or even that of Nicaea 325. Hurtado is referred and cited by many Trinitarians. I supsect that Hurtado is a Trinitarian. There are other scholars in his circle similar to Hurtado in scholarship and interests who are also, for all intents and purposes “Trinitarians” (e.g. Chris Tilling, N.T. Wright etc.).

    Since before we began our conversation, I would have agreed with the statements you quoted from Hurtado’s book.

    Well, those are my responses so far. 🙂

  72. You mentioned Hurtado regarding the NT period. Let mention the scholar Michael Heiser regarding the OT period. Here’s my blog:

    The Jewish Trinity: How the Old Testament Reveals the Christian Godhead by Dr. Michael Heiser

    As I point out in my blog:

    At one his websites (Two Powers in Heaven Editor’s note: this site is no longer accessible) Dr. Michael Heiser continues to argue rabbinical scholar Alan Segal’s claim (nearly 30 years ago) that up until the 2nd century C.E., it was permissible in Judaism to believe in the concept of there being “two powers” in heaven without being heretical or pagan or polytheistic. It was a sort of Jewish Binitarianism. In the video lectures, Dr. Heiser makes his case succinctly. Then using ancient Jewish Binitarianism he bridges the gap from (strict/monistic) Monotheism to Trinitarianism.

    I’ve got about 8 different videos by Heiser at that blog. Btw, Heiser’s claims aren’t unique to him. Other reputable OT scholars would agree with is conclusions. Scholars who are non-theistic, Jewish and Christian. Since, it’s primarily a matter of history. Only secondarily a matter of theology.

  73. James, I just installed a piece of software that will allow you to modify your comments for five minutes after posting them. I am not sure that it would work, but having learned about it, I thought it might help you.

    A “Click to Edit” hyperlink will appear at the end of your comment, with a timer counting down from five minutes to zero.

    Best, Mike

  74. James,

    I think you are just too caught up in the various “ism’s” that get called forth in almost every debate about the Trinity to see the simplicity and purity of life devoted to Christ (2 Corinthians 11:2; 2 John 1:9).

    Please peruse these New Testament verses (and even the accompanying podcast) which give ample and varied expression to the importance of followers of Christ focusing on Christ.

    If God had wanted us to follow some construct of God other than Christ, surely He would have said so through the Scriptures. As it is, they bear more than ample witness to His wish that we follow the Son of God.

  75. Maybe I haven’t payed as much attention as I should have about what your views are. But from my recollection, your views are ambiguous. I sometimes got the impression that it was similar to some form of Modalism. If so, then I don’t see how your view can account for the passage that Unitarians like to point to where Jesus is distinct from the Father and apparently subordinate (in some sense) to the Father. For example:

    THEY argue the following ways:

    Jesus isn’t fully God – on John 17:3.

    Jesus has a different name than the Father – John 5:43; 10:25.

    Jesus is inferior to the Father – John 14:28.

    Jesus is a begotten God – John 1:18 (critical text).

    Jesus will subject himself to the Father at the eschaton – 1 Cor. 15:27-28.

    Jesus came not to do his own will, but the will of the Father – John 6:37-39.

    The Father gave Jesus work to accomplish – John 5:36.

    Jesus did not speak on his own, but only what the Father told him – John 12:49-50.

    Jesus’ teaching is now his own but the Father’s – John 7:16-17.

    Authority has been given to Jesus, it’s not inherent – Matt. 28:18; John 17:2.

    The Father gave to the Son to have life – John 5:26; 6:57.

    The Father gives to the Son all thing John 3:35; Luke 10:22; John 13:3; John 17:7.

    Jesus didn’t know everything – Mark 13:32.

    More could be written about the subordination of the Son to the Father. Just as there could be about the subordination of the Holy Spirit (John 14:26; 15:26; 16:13; Rom. 8:26-27, 34 etc.).

    The point is that your view of Christ, in my limited understanding of it, seems to gloss over these type of passages. It can’t account for them or make sense of them. Whereas, Trinitarianism, Nicene Monarchism, Semi-Arianism, Arianism (et al.) can at least acknowledge such passages and try to grapple with them.

    By the way, the centrality of Jesus Christ is consistent with Trinitarianism and Modalism. So, referring to Christ’s centrality doesn’t threaten either of those two positions.

    I’ll try to listen to your podcast when I have time.

  76. I think you are just too caught up in the various “ism’s”…

    Being caught up in “isms” is what everyone else who takes the Bible seriously takes seriously [sic]. As a speaker of English you know that the ending “ism” has to do with beliefs, teachings and doctrines. The Bible repeatedly emphasizes the importance of right teaching and doctrine. The overwhelming majority of the New Testament is polemic, having to do with teaching right doctrine or correcting false teaching (heresy). A refusal to deal with distinctions is not a sign of someone who takes truth seriously. Since, truth, by definition is polarizing. It’s binary. Something is either right or wrong. Or right in one sense (or senses) and wrong in another sense (or senses). That’s part of the laws of logic which include the law of identity, law of excluded middle, and law of contradiction (AKA law of non-contradiction).

  77. Presumably your view regarding “isms” doesn’t extend to the distinctions between theism, atheism, deism, pantheism, panenthism etc. I highly doubt you would say that the difference between atheism and theism is unimportant and indiscernible.

  78. I was not using the term “ism’s” in the sense that you define it. For if “ism’s” were exclusively defined in the descriptions you gave, I would embrace it.

    Rather, by “ism’s” I was referring to practice of mapping any new teaching to previously defined categories which, furthermore, have been largely stripped of their personal dimension.

    For example, using your approach, a would-be disciple of Jesus during the days of His flesh would attempt to map Jesus’ teaching to Pharisaism (or some defined subset of it) or Sadduceeism (or some defined and recognized subset thereof) or some other ism. I think you can see that those who attempted to understand Jesus by fitting Him into preconceived categories were not able to understand Him. Jesus was breaking the molds and was refusing to enter into boxes that scribes designed for Him. Being unable to fit Jesus into a preexisting “ism,” that would-be disciple would have a hard time relating to Jesus the person.

  79. “By the way, the centrality of Jesus Christ is consistent with Trinitarianism and Modalism. So, referring to Christ’s centrality doesn’t threaten either of those two positions.”

    This statement is self-contradictory on its face. Christ is a member of the Trinity. Therefore, either Christ can be central or the Trinity can be central, but to say that both are central is to strip the word “central” of its meaning.

  80. For example, using your approach, a would-be disciple of Jesus during the days of His flesh would attempt to map Jesus’ teaching to Pharisaism (or some defined subset of it) or Sadduceeism (or some defined and recognized subset thereof) or some other ism.

    Not necessarily. There were partial truths in the various sects in Jesus’ day just as there was after the time of Christ on earth. For example, being a Trinitarian doesn’t necesarily entail one also hold to a specific eschatological view; or be a Protestant (or Catholic or Eastern Orthdox); or a view regarding anthropology (tripartate or bipartate); or a view regarding annihilation vs. universalism vs. the traditionalist view of hell etc.

    In Jesus day, the karaites were right in their (sola) Scripturarian position. The Pharisees were right about human spirits and the resurrection of the body. The school of Shammai was closer to the truth regarding divorce in holding that a man may only divorce his wife for a serious transgression. Unlike the school of Hillel which allowed divorce for even trivial offenses, such as burning a meal.

    My point is one can mix and match various doctrines.

    Also, your analogy fails because when the Sadducees and the Pharisees did what you propose they did (which they did), they weren’t taking Christ’s claims for what they were. Whereas the various “isms” since Christ’s coming have taken seriously the revelation of Christ as God’s final revelation.

    Given you view of isms, people should never attempt to develop a systematic understanding of eschatology, or of anthropology, or hell, etc. That we should just stick with the statements of Scripture even though their mere statements aren’t systematic. All “isms” do is to systematize theology by taking Scriptural teaching seriously and harmonizing it. Trying to understand the full MEANING of Scripture, not merely its surface level statements. You do the same thing whether you realize it or not.

    This statement is self-contradictory on its face. Christ is a member of the Trinity. Therefore, either Christ can be central or the Trinity can be central, but to say that both are central is to strip the word “central” of its meaning.

    Something can be central even if its not the only thing that’s important. Does the fact that the Father has given all judgment to the Son makes the Father any less important? Does the Father’s and Holy Spirit bearing witness to Jesus make the Father and the Holy Spirit less important?

    The centrality of the President of the United States in the American government doesn’t entail that the Congress or the Supreme Court are any less important. The Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches are all equally important even though the President is central. A similar thing is true analogously regarding the persons of the Trinity. Though, obviously all analogies break down when pressed too hard.

  81. You are still not understanding the point I was making about “ism’s.” Systematic theology is indeed less useful than biblical theology for the very reason that it tends to force biblical truth into its nonbiblical structure. This force-fitting excludes some truths and contorts others. But neither biblical theology nor systematic theology is guaranteed to protect one from error. The best protection against error is a heart open before the Lord (John 3:19-21).

    As for your thoughts on centrality, I find them equivocal…and I don’t think I need to say more than that. As for your analogy, it breaks down without any pressing at all, for American government does not have a central branch. It has executive, legislative, and judicial branches…and the genius of its separation of powers is that there is no central branch. If there were a central branch, it would be a trunk – not a branch.

    I am using centrality in the sense of preeminence (Colossians 1:18). No branch of American government is to have preeminence and no member of the Trinity is to have preeminence, but the Bible clearly says that Christ is to have preeminence. Try mixing and matching that with good biblical doctrines that you hold. It will do you a lot more good than trying to force-fit biblical truth into the man-made system called trinitarianism.

  82. Nor is Christ’s centrality diminished by the fact that He (normally, but not exclusively) performed miracles by the enabling power of the Spirit of God. Nor is Christ’s centrality diminished by the fact that Jesus didn’t speak on His own authority, but of the Father’s.

    While Jesus performed some miracles by His own inherent power, normally He was dependent on the Holy Spirit to perform them.

    how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.- Acts 10:38

    But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.- Matt. 12:28

    18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”- Luke 4:18-19

    For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure.- John 3:34

    I don’t need to post the many passages where Jesus states that He didn’t speak on His own authority or His own words, but the words of the Father (e.g. John 3:34; 7:16-17; 8:28, 38; 12:49-50; 14:10).

    When comparing the Trinitarian view with your view (as I currently understand it), the Trinitarian view can account for BOTH 1. the centrality of Christ and 2. the dependence of Jesus on the Father and the Holy Spirit. I don’t think your view can account for or make sense of the latter. Your understanding of Christ’s “centrality” would seem to be undermined by the latter fact.

    You might argue that these passages refer to Christ’s time on earth and not after His ascension. However, in previous posts I’ve shown the current and future subordination of the Son to the Father since Christ’s ascension. Along with how the distinctions between the persons of the Trinity apparently existed 1. in the Old Testament, 2. during Christ’s time on earth, 3. during the Interadventual period (i.e. between the two comings of Christ), 4. after the return of Christ, 5. after the start of the Eternal State

    [I make a distinction between the return of Christ and the Eternal State since some people believe the Millennium occurs between the 2nd Coming and the Eternal State]

  83. This force-fitting excludes some truths and contorts others.

    I would argue that Trinitarianism does a better job at accounting for all of the data than your modalistic-like view.

    But neither biblical theology nor systematic theology is guaranteed to protect one from error.

    Agreed. The problem is that the Bible doesn’t state in exact terms and in a systematic way who and/or what the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are and their relationships. That’s because the Bible wasn’t written as a systematic theology textbook. The doctrine of the Trinity tries to take into account all of the Bible’s teaching on that issue. And I believe your view doesn’t do that very well in that you seem to deny the real distinctions between Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Whereas most other forms of “isms” attempt to do so whether Trinitarianism, Binitarianism, Nicene Monarchism, Semi-Arianism, Arianism etc.

    The distinctions between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is just as clearly taught in Scripture as the oneness of God. So much so, that it’s no wonder that the majority of competing Christologies and Pneumatologies affirm it and so deny the full deity of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. That’s why they are more numerous than modalistic views. This is also why I concede to Arians and Semi-Arians that a first (or cursory or surface level) reading of the New Testament won’t lead one to believe in the full deity of Christ. That’s why I myself rejected it soon after I took Bible reading seriously. Only after seriously studying the Bible did I come to see and understand that the Bible does teaching Christ’s full deity.

    It has executive, legislative, and judicial branches…and the genius of its separation of powers is that there is no central branch. If there were a central branch, it would be a trunk – not a branch.

    The Executive branch of the U.S. government is central. When a foreign leader wants to communicate with the United States, he doesn’t pick up his phone and call up the Supreme Court. He doesn’t normally hang out with or play golf with Sentators and Representatives. A foreign king or queen or prime minister meets with and speak to the President. It’s in the person of the president that the U.S. government speaks authoritatively to foreign dignitaries. It’s the president who gives the State of the Union Address. The president who gives the main speeches on television in addressing American citizens.

    ….and no member of the Trinity is to have preeminence, but the Bible clearly says that Christ is to have preeminence.

    I showed how Trinitarians affirm Christ’s centrality (e.g. how the Father has given all judgment to the Son [John 5:22] and how the Holy Spirit doesn’t testify of Himself, but of Christ [John 16:13]).

    You haven’t shown how Christ’s “centrality” (as You understand it) can account for 1. Christ’s submission to the Father, 2. Christ’s dependence on the Holy Spirit, 3. and the real distinctions of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

    The Trinitarian understanding of “centrality” can better account for all of these things.

  84. James,

    The Second Coming of Christ occurred in the 1st Century, just when Jesus and the apostles said it would. If it didn’t, then the dead are still below in Sheol (Hades). More importantly, New Testament credibility is lost and Christianity has no foundation.

  85. James,

    The centrality of Christ came with the day of the Lord (i.e., the new age, the new creation, the new heavens and new earth, all things summed up in Christ, etc.). Most, if not all, your references are to the age prior to that when Christ was not central.

    As for your view of American civics, I am sure the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue would share it, but I don’t think either of you would find approval with the founding fathers. Again, you are confusing “central” with “executive.” Both #10 Downing Street and Buckingham Palace have executives in residence, and foreign dignitaries call on them, but that doesn’t make either one of those residents central.

  86. The Second Coming of Christ occurred in the 1st Century, just when Jesus and the apostles said it would.

    I’m open to, and prefer, an Evangelical view of partial preterism. If I recall correctly, you views on the second coming is very different than partial preterism.

    If it didn’t, then the dead are still below in Sheol (Hades).

    I don’t take a dogmatic stance on the intermediate state. However, l lean toward the view that before the resurrection of Christ the dead were kept in the two “compartments,” so to speak, of sheol/hades. The compartment language may be figurative, but has OT precidence. The wicked were kept in the wicked “compartment” of sheol, the righteous in the righteous “compartment” of sheol, also called “paradise” or “Abraham’s Bosom” in the inter-testamental Jewish literature and apocrypha and in Luke. At Christ’s resurrection or ascension, the righteous in sheol were taken to heaven so that “paradise” is now in heaven. Between Christ’s resurrection and His second coming the wicked who die continue to go to the wicked compartment of sheol/hades to eventually be resurrected sometime after Christ’s 2nd coming for judgment in Gehenna. This is a view that many Evangelicals have, but not all. I think the most popular Evangelical view would be that people go to heaven and hell/Gehenna immediate upon death regardless of when one dies.

    More importantly, New Testament credibility is lost and Christianity has no foundation.

    That’s why I favor the partial preterist view. It affirms that Christ came in Judgment at 70 A.D. without denying that Christ’s 2nd Advent to judge the world is still yet future, even for us.

    As for your view of American civics, I am sure the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue would share it, but I don’t think either of you would find approval with the founding fathers.

    I think I was right in pointing out in a previous post that we have different definitions and understandings of “centrality.” My belief that my view can account for all of the data better assumes the most common understanding of the return of Christ by both Evangelical and non-Evangelical. Even of that of most cults. Namely, that Christ’s 2nd Advent hasn’t happened yet. Only a very, very, very, very minor group believe it has and that there are no more prophecies to be fulfilled (e.g. full preterists among others).

    I don’t understand your views on eschatology. But in light of 1 Cor. 15:28, I don’t know how you can affirm Your definition/understanding of Christ’s centrality since the passage seems to refer to Christ’s submission to the Father at the end of all ages.

    27 For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him.28 When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.- 1 Cor. 15:27-28

  87. If all things are subjected to Christ and Christ is subjected to God, then creation can only get to God through Christ and God can only get to creation through Christ…and thus Christ is ipso facto central.

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