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The Great Trinity Debate, Part 6: Dave Burke’s Closing Statement

Biblical Christology: Which Way does the Evidence Point?
In previous weeks I have shown that my arguments are strongly supported by standard authorities and a broad range of recent Trinitarian scholarship. This week I will be summarising the key elements of the Biblical Unitarian position, identifying key weaknesses in the Trinitarian position, and weighing the evidence against three primary criteria: reason, Scripture and history.

I maintain that Biblical Unitarianism:

  • Is the original, first-century Christology
  • Enjoys greater compatibility with the Biblical evidence
  • Allows a more natural reading of the text
  • Eliminates alleged “paradoxes” and “contradictions”
  • Maintains the essential connection between the OT, Second Temple Judaism, and first-century Christianity
  • Preserves the cultural and ideological context of original Christian beliefs
  • Is logically and rationally superior to Trinitarianism
  • Commands the earliest historical support
  • Offers a coherent high Christology, grounded in OT typology and comprising a consistent doctrinal arc stretching from Genesis to Revelation
  • Provides the basis for a deeper, more meaningful relationship with God and Christ

The Argument from Reason
Trinitarianism is contrary to logic and reason. For example, the Athanasian Creed states:

So likewise the Father is Lord; the Son Lord; and the Holy Ghost Lord. And yet not three Lords; but one Lord. For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity; to acknowledge every Person by himself to be God and Lord; So are we forbidden by the Catholic Religion; to say, There are three Gods, or three Lords.

This presents us with three “divine persons” who are collectively and individually called “God” and “Lord.” God + God + God = three entities in the category of “God”, yet the Athanasian Creed forbids Christians to say “three Gods.” Lord + Lord + Lord = three entities in the category of “Lord”, yet the Athanasian Creed forbids Christians to say “three Lords.” Even if we allow the Trinitarian explanation that the three who are called “God” are not individual gods but individual persons who comprise one God, this still leaves us with three Lords within the Godhead. The Creed permits us to acknowledge these three Lords individually as “Lord”, provided we do not refer to them as “three Lords”! Thus the Creed demands an illogical confession by insisting we confess three Lords as one Lord.

This is just one example of the way Trinitarianism requires unique definitions of words, contrary to regular usage. For example, Rob insists that within the context of Trinitarianism, the term “person” is “…stipulated to be used with a somewhat different connotation as compared to its use for human beings.” But why use the term “person” in a way which differs from its use for human beings in the first place? The OT offers no basis for the Trinitarian view of personhood, so how is the idea deduced from Scripture? Where is the Biblical evidence which demonstrates this is how we are intended to use the word “person” in reference to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit?

The answer: there is no such evidence. The uniquely Trinitarian definition and usage of the word “person” arose as a fourth-Century solution to the logical and rational problems presented by the triune formula. Even in common English versions we can see Scripture does not use the words “being” and “person” in the way required by Trinitarianism. This is a major impediment to Rob’s theology.

Since the Trinitarian Jesus is believed to be God, everything in Scripture which applies to God must necessarily apply to him. But this results in many contradictions:

  • Visible despite being invisible (Colossian 1:15)
  • Seen but “never seen” (John 1:18, I Timothy 6:16)
  • Tempted even though God cannot be tempted (Matthew 4:1-11; cp. James 1:13)
  • “Made like his brothers and sisters in every respect” (Hebrews 2:17), yet not really made like them at all, since he is God and does not possess “fallen nature”
  • “Died” on the cross despite being eternal (I Timothy 1:17)
  • “Raised from the dead” (Matthew 28:7) and “released from the pains of death” by the Father (Acts 2:24), though he never truly died
  • Omnipotent yet dependent upon the Father’s power for his miraculous works (John 14:10)
  • Omniscient yet lacking knowledge (Matthew 24:36)
  • Simultaneously “God” and “not-God”

These are just some of the logical problems resulting from Trinitarian Christology. Rob calls them “paradoxes” as if this somehow makes them acceptable. A paradox can be acceptable, if its contradiction is only apparent. Yet the contradictions within Trinitarianism are not merely apparent; they are real and insoluble.

For example, Rob believes Jesus could be tempted, yet was incapable of sin (Putting Jesus In His Place, p.122). But there can be no temptation without the possibility of sin. To deny Jesus could sin is to deny he could be tempted, so the statement “Jesus could be tempted but was not capable of sin” is both self-refuting and utterly meaningless. If Jesus cannot be tempted, then Hebrews 2:18 and 4:15 are both false. If Jesus was incapable of sin, then Hebrews 2:17 and Galatians 4:4 are both false. These are not mere “paradoxes.” They are blatant logical contradictions which defy clear statements of Scripture.

Trinitarianism tries to deflect the problem by appealing to the hypostatic union (the alleged “dual nature” of Jesus), claiming Jesus acts and responds “from his human nature” or “from his divine nature” depending on the context. Jesus’ physical weaknesses and limitations are thus attributed to his human nature, while his supernatural capacity is attributed to his divine nature. But this effectively turns the two natures into two de facto persons, thereby lapsing into the heresy of Nestorianism and begging the question: what does it mean to act or respond “from one’s nature”? If we allow doctrine to be illogical, it becomes arbitrary and ceases to be meaningful. There is no point in systematic theology if our beliefs are permitted to be self-contradictory.

In previous weeks we have seen Rob’s own terms of reference are logically inconsistent. For example, he employs the name “Yahweh” in two different ways:

  1. As the name for the Trinity as a concept (ie. the concept of three persons in one being)
  2. As a name possessed by each individual member of the Trinity

Following the Shema of Deuteronomy 6:4, Rob is compelled to agree there is only one Yahweh, since this is the name of God and there is only one God. But he also believes the Father is called Yahweh and the Son is called Yahweh (presumably the Holy Spirit is called Yahweh as well). Yet if Father + Son + Holy Spirit = 3 because they are all distinct from each other, and if each of them can be individually referred to as Yahweh, how can this not mean there are three Yahwehs? It is yet another example of inconsistent terminology.

Rob counts the Father, Son and Holy Spirit as “three persons”, all of which are called “Yahweh”, but he doesn’t want to accept that three persons each called “Yahweh” comprise three Yahwehs. He accepts the Trinity as “three persons”, when it suits him, but at other times he wants to count the three persons as one (ie. one Yahweh, or one Lord). He does this by effectively treating the three separate persons as a single unipersonal being, which is logically inconsistent and results in Modalism (see also Dale Tuggy’s critique).

One particularly revealing aspect of Rob’s language has been his use of singular personal pronouns in reference to God. This is strange, because he does not actually believe God is a single person; he believes God is a single divine being consisting of three divine persons. To Unitarians, God is a “whom”; a single person who is also a single divine being. But to Rob and other Trinitarians, God is a “what”; a triunity of three divine persons comprising one divine being. Why, then, does he refer to this triune collective as if it was a single person? Is his use of singular pronouns unconsciously influenced by the Biblical usage, or does he honestly believe the correct pronoun for three persons is “he”?

Rob has previously argued that Genesis 1:26 is proof of multiple persons within the Godhead. In his eyes, plural personal pronouns denote a plurality of persons. By taking this position he concedes that singular personal pronouns denote a single person and leaves us asking why the Bible overwhelmingly applies singular personal pronouns to a God who is really three persons. Why not an overwhelming number of plural personal pronouns, as Rob’s own argument requires?

Some appeal to Judges 1, where the tribes of Simeon and Judah are referred to by the use of singular personal pronouns (verse 3, “Judah said to Simeon his brother”). This is used to argue there is no inconsistency in the application of singular personal pronouns to the Trinity. But Judges 1 merely personifies the two tribes and refers to those personifications using singular pronouns. Trinitarians need to explain why the OT refers to God in the use of at least 7,000 singular personal pronouns, consistently treating Him as a single being Who is also a single person.

At most, Trinitarians can offer a total of four so-called “plural personality passages” (Genesis 1:26; 3:22; 11:7; Isaiah 6:8) which they claim are indicative of multiple persons within the Godhead. (A. Fruchtenbaum — Jewishness and the Trinity, 1997 — adds Genesis 20:13, 35:7, II Samuel 7:23 and Psalm 58, but this is an extreme minority position). Yet these interpretations find little or no support among current Trinitarian commentators. Even Trinitarian Bible translations such as the NET contain footnotes advocating a Unitarian interpretation of certain passages on contextual and grammatical grounds.

It is illogical to suggest that a meagre four verses within the entire OT comprise evidence of a plurality of persons within the Godhead, when the rest of the OT militates against this hypothesis. Rob has conceded (a) the OT evidence is consistent with a Biblical Unitarian God, and (b) the OT Jews understood the Shema in the same way that we Biblical Unitarians do. There is no evidence the Jews ever understood God in anything but a Unitarian sense, or that He revealed Himself to them in any other way. The burden of proof lies upon Trinitarianism to demonstrate that God provided a new revelation about His identity in the NT era.

Perhaps the greatest admission of logical incoherence comes from Trinitarians themselves. Michael Patton (“The Trinity is Like 3-in-1 Shampoo”. . . And Other Stupid Statements) says:

One more thing. I often tell my students that if they say, “I get it!” or “Now I understand!” that they are more than likely celebrating the fact that they are a heretic! When you understand the biblical principles and let the tensions remain without rebuttal, then you are orthodox. When you solve the tension, you have most certainly entered into one of the errors that we seek to avoid. Confused? Good! That is just where you need to be.

Emphasis mine.

Patton urges Christians to confess an incomprehensible faith, ignoring any “tensions” which may arise and aspiring to confusion as the benchmark of orthodoxy. But did Jesus or the apostles ever preach God in this way? On the contrary, Jesus said to the woman of Samaria “You people worship what you do not know. We worship what we know, because salvation is from the Jews” (John 4:22). Biblical Unitarians are well positioned to repeat these words to Trinitarians.

Rob began this debate with an argument consisting of six propositions which he claimed would vindicate Trinitarianism if all proved true. But I showed that Trinitarianism is not a necessary conclusion from these propositions; they could result in several different Christologies. (Dale Tuggy has criticised the propositions on similar grounds). Thus it is not enough for Rob to prove only some of his propositions without demonstrating every aspect of Trinitarianism. In order to justify his position he must prove all of his propositions, show that they necessarily lead to the Trinity, and demonstrate every aspect of Trinitarianism from Scripture (whether directly or indirectly).

The Argument from Scripture
The argument from Scripture can be summarised thus:

  • Scripture repeatedly presents us with consistent unipersonal language in reference to God (e.g. God only referred to in singular pronouns; God only referring to Himself in singular pronouns)
  • Scripture repeatedly presents explicit statements depicting God as only one person
  • Scripture qualifies its references to others who appear to possess attributes and titles of God
  • Scripture qualifies its references to others as “god” or “gods”
  • Any agent or representative of God can legitimately bear His name, exercise His authority and command a measure of His divine power
  • Sin deserves death; sacrifice offers a covering for sin; only God can provide a sin-covering sacrifice (a sacrifice which is “other than God”); Jesus was that sacrifice
  • The first-century Christian understanding of God’s identity comprehended all of the points listed above
  • The first-century Christian understanding of God’s identity was consistent with the Old Testament Jewish understanding of God’s identity
  • Biblical Unitarianism provides the best interpretation of the Biblical evidence

In Week 1 we saw the Bible defines God as one divine person who exists as a single divine being known by the name of Yahweh and consistently referred to as “Father” or “the Father”, reflecting His relationship with creation. We saw the Father possesses a wide range of unique attributes, which set Him apart from creation. We saw that NT references to God are consistent with the OT, using the same language and titles established over several thousand years of pre-Christian Jewish theology.

We saw first-century Christians did not claim to bring a new revelation about the identity of God, but drew their teaching about Him directly from the OT. We saw current scholarship accepts the first-century church was not Trinitarian, requiring Trinitarians to explain (a) why this was, and (b) how Trinitarianism successfully emerged from an ideological climate which was wholly unfavourable to it (Rob has done neither).

In Weeks 2 and 3 we saw that Jesus Christ is defined by the Bible as the Son of God, Jewish Messiah, Christian sacrifice for sin, Lord, high priest and mediator. We saw he was a mortal man, made like his brethren in every way (Hebrews 2:17), subject to the Law of Moses (Galatians 4:4) and capable of sin (Luke 4:1; cf. James 1:13-14), yet possessing the Holy Spirit “without measure” (John 3:34). We saw he worshipped the Father as his God (John 4:22, 20:17) and did not claim deity for himself.

We saw his sinless life was made possible (though not inevitable) by the advantage of his superior mental and intellectual qualities (Luke 2:46-47), his close relationship with the Father (John 1:18, 10:30, 38), and the angelic assistance he received whenever necessary (Matthew 4:11; Luke 22:43). We saw his sinless life qualified him as a perfect sacrifice for sin, thereby fulfilling the OT typology which begins in Genesis and permeates the Mosaic Law (Genesis 3:21; John 1:29; I Peter 1:19).

We saw Jesus struggled with the awful burden of his task (Matthew 26:39-42; Luke 22:42) and suffered when he was tempted (Hebrews 2:18), yet completely resisted sin (Hebrews 4:15), required release from the pains of death (Acts 2:24) and recognised this need through his prayers and supplications to God, Who was able to save him from death (Hebrews 5:7).

We saw he obediently submitted to his sacrificial death on the cross (Philippians 2:8; Colossians 1:20), genuinely died on the cross (John 19:33-34), was raised to life by the Father (Galatians 1:1) and now sits at His right hand in an exalted, glorified form (Mark 16:19; Acts 5:31; Philippians 3:21), exercising divine power, authority and judgement while he awaits his Second Advent (Matthew 25:31-46; Luke 21:27; John 5:27; Acts 1:11; Ephesians 1:20-22).

We saw Jesus received divine authority from God and was permitted to exercise this authority as the Father’s representative during his mortal life (John 5:43, 10:37) — just as angels and OT prophets had done before him — but we also saw that the full extent of his authority was unprecedented, far above any angel or prophet (Matthew 11:27, 26:53). We saw Jesus lacks crucial attributes of God, including omnipotence, omniscience and omnipresence. We noted differences between the mortal, pre-crucifixion Jesus and the immortal, exalted, glorified post-resurrection Jesus.

We saw Jesus is frequently honoured as God’s Son, the Jewish Messiah and king, but never worshipped as God, demonstrating that he is subordinate to the Father both functionally (by rank) and ontologically (by nature). We saw that NT teaching about Jesus was invariably derived from the OT, with Jesus and his apostles showing that the full details concerning Messiah had already been revealed in the Jewish Scriptures:

  • Luke 24:27, “Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, [Jesus] interpreted to them the things written about himself in all the scriptures”
  • Luke 24:44, “Then he said to them, ‘These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses and the prophets and the psalms must be fulfilled.'”
  • John 1:45, “Philip found Nathanael and told him, ‘We have found the one Moses wrote about in the law, and the prophets also wrote about — Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph'”
  • Acts 26:22-23, “‘I have experienced help from God to this day, and so I stand testifying to both small and great, saying nothing except what the prophets and Moses said was going to happen: that the Christ was to suffer and be the first to rise from the dead, to proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles'”

Jesus and his apostles were adamant that everything people needed to know about him could be sourced directly from the OT. There was no “progressive revelation” about the Messiah; there was no new doctrine concerning his nature and identity; there was no change from OT to NT.

Above all, we saw that the apostolic preaching in the book of Acts reveal that they believed in a Jesus who was solely human. They baptise thousands of people in the name of a Unitarian Jesus described in terms which distinguish him from God and preclude deity. Acts contains a total of nine preaching lectures (Acts 2:22-42, 3:12-26, 7:2-56, 8:30-39, 10:34-48, 13:15-39, 17:22-31, 24:14-21, 26:2-27), revealing a list of core doctrines presented repeatedly:

  • The Bible: the word of God, divinely inspired
  • One God: the Father and Creator; the Holy Spirit, His power
  • Jesus: the Son of God
  • Jesus: a mortal man
  • Jesus: his perfect life, sacrifice
  • Jesus: his resurrection, glorification, and ascension
  • Christ as mediator
  • The second coming
  • Resurrection and judgment
  • Promises to Abraham: inheritance of the land
  • Promises to David: his kingdom restored
  • Forgiveness of sins through faith in Christ, repentance, and baptism
  • One body: fellowship and breaking of bread

(Summarised from What Are the First Principles?, by George Booker).

Months of preaching before thousands of people, yet no mention of the Trinity or the deity of Christ. Why not? Trinitarians respond that Acts doesn’t record everything the apostles said at every preaching event. Although true, this does not answer the question. Why would the apostles be silent on the subject of Jesus’ deity, particularly if they believed it to be an essential doctrine? Trinitarians cannot explain this.

The Trinity would have been the most important and groundbreaking doctrine of the day, yet we find no mention of it. Nor do we find any evidence of first-century Christians persecuted for believing that Jesus is God. We do find them persecuted for believing Jesus is the Messiah, and that the Law of Moses has been superseded by a new covenant (e.g. Acts 6:11, 14). We do find riots and assassination attempts resulting from the Jews’ reaction to the Gospel message.

But where is the uproar against the notion of a Messiah who is also a God-man? Where is the backlash against a triune God? There is no such uproar; there is no such backlash; there is no outcry against Trinitarian concepts. On the Trinity and the deity of Christ, the preaching record and the Jewish response are both silent. In light of the Jews’ response to the Gospel message, this is inexplicable unless proto-Trinitarian doctrines were not preached at all. And if they were not preached, why weren’t they preached?

In previous weeks we saw Trinitarians sometimes struggle with Scripture, finding it necessary to qualify even the simplest of statements. Examples emerged from Rob’s treatment of passages such as Deuteronomy 6:4, John 17:3, John 20:17, and I Corinthians 8:6. We saw Trinitarians perpetuate errors of interpretation through a failure to challenge their own theological presuppositions. Examples were demonstrated by Rodney J. Decker in his critique of kenosis theory.

We saw Trinitarians approach Scripture with a priori assumptions about its meaning and impose them onto the text. Examples were presented from the work of prominent Trinitarian scholars such as Herbert W. Bateman IV and A. T. Robertson, and emerged from Rob’s interpretation of Hebrews 1 and Philippians 2, where he presupposed Christ’s pre-existence before commencing his exegesis. We saw Rob’s arguments are often based upon, or derived from, logical fallacies, including:

  • affirming the consequent
  • false dichotomy
  • affirmative conclusion from negative premise
  • argument from ignorance
  • argument from silence
  • straw man
  • special pleading

These are not the hallmarks of sound interpretation.

In Week 4 we saw that the OT provides a consistent doctrine of the Spirit as the power of God manifesting His divine presence; yet not a divine person (“God the Holy Spirit”) or the totality of God Himself. We saw that throughout the OT, God’s Holy Spirit is described as something that belongs to Him, like a property or a power. We saw that the NT follows this model exactly, without deviating in any way from OT teaching. There is no new revelation about the identity of the Holy Spirit. We saw occasional personification, but no evidence of literal personality. We saw the apostles received the Holy Spirit as a miraculous gift that they passed on at their own discretion.

In Week 5 we saw the Father, Son and Holy Spirit were each recognised as sources of apostolic authority (Matthew 28:19, Luke 9:1, II Corinthians 12:11-12, I Thessalonians 4:8) but only two (Father and Son) were recognised as literal persons. We saw they occasionally mentioned the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in the same context, but not in any way which suggests they are three distinct persons who together comprise the totality of God. We saw that even John’s divine revelation of the heavenly court displays Jesus as a distinct being entirely separate from the Father, and does not portray the Holy Spirit at all.

Rob claimed the Trinity is “implicit” in the Bible (without providing examples of “implicit doctrine” as opposed to “explicit doctrine”), but avoided raising central issues like the temptation and atonement of Christ in his primary arguments. Presumably he did this to minimise the burden of proof and present me with a smaller target.

While his position is convenient for a debate, it is theologically weak, leaving the first-Century Christians with only a loose conceptual framework from which Trinitarianism might be conceivably (but not necessarily) derived. It results in a first-century church which is not Trinitarian in any true sense of the word, and lacks a clear articulation of Christ’s deity. It also begs the question of why the Trinity is merely “implicit” in a book inspired by divine revelation, spanning almost 4,000 years of history, throughout which God claimed to be providing humanity with a complete picture of His identity and purpose.

Why did God allow His chosen people to believe He is only one divine person instead of three, right up until the Christian era? Why did He conceal His triune identity? What was the rationale behind this divine deception? When and where was the new revelation first made clear? Rob claims it is “implicit”, but why only “implicit”? All the other key apostolic doctrines are explicitly preached. How can divinely inspired church leaders fail to provide an explicit teaching of the triune God if that is what they genuinely believe? Jesus told his disciples that the Holy Spirit would lead them into all truth (John 16:13); why didn’t it lead them to Trinitarianism?

The Argument from History
In Week 5 we also saw the doctrinal foundations of Trinitarianism in early extra-Biblical Christian writings from the 2nd Century AD. We saw that the heretical and apocryphal Epistle of Barnabas contains the very first example of Genesis 1:26 being used as a proof text for the pre-existence of Christ. This verse was not used by Jesus, his apostles, or the earliest post-Biblical Christians such as Polycarp, Clement of Rome and Ignatius.

We saw the evolution of “Logos Christology” in the writings of Justin Martyr, who believed that Jesus was not literally God but only a type of divine super-being created by the Father and through whom He created the world. We saw this belief was held in various forms by most second- and third-century Christians, including prominent theologians such as Theophilus, Hippolytus, Irenaeus, Origen, Methodius and Tertullian. Christology continued to develop through a variety of successive heresies (Sabellianism, Patripassianism, Arianism, Homoiousianism, etc.)

We saw Trinitarianism began to take shape at the Council of Nicaea in AD325, in an era when Christianity became politicised under the reign of Constantine. We saw this initial Trinitarian definition was incomplete, being gradually refined by successive councils over the next 120 years. We saw even in the late 4th Century there was no consensus on the deity of Christ or the Holy Spirit, and prominent Trinitarian scholars were accused of tritheism. Does this sound like the faith once preached by the apostles?

Historically, doctrine always develops from the minimal to the complex, evolving as it is exposed to new influences and adapting in response to perceived heresies. Thus, the simplest doctrinal statements are more likely to be the earliest and most authentic. It is therefore significant that the earliest Christian creedal statements are Unitarian. They begin with simple, Biblical formulae:

Ephesians 4:4-6, “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you too were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all”

Later post-Biblical era Christians employed identical language to express an identical theology. The Didache (a late first-century church manual) contains a summary of key beliefs including salvation by grace, the need for repentance, the ritual of baptism, the Eucharistic meal, the identity of Jesus Christ, the Second Advent, and the resurrection of the dead. These are supported by copious quotations from the NT, demonstrating that the apostolic writings were in wide circulation and upheld as the benchmark of orthodoxy. Yet there is no mention of three persons in the Godhead; there is no suggestion that Jesus is God.

Rediscovering the God of Israel and His Human Son, Jesus Christ
Before concluding, I would like to thank Rob and his colleagues at Parchment & Pen for arranging this debate and permitting a robust exchange. I am particularly grateful to Rob for candidly acknowledging the high Christology of Biblical Unitarianism and the strength of the evidence in our favour.

The Biblical Unitarian Jesus is a Messiah you can relate to, because he can relate to you. Unlike the Trinitarian Jesus, he genuinely understands your pain and sympathises with your temptations, because he is truly human. He once experienced the very sufferings that you endure (and more!)

Some Trinitarians are beginning to recognise that the deity of Christ poses a challenge to our relationship with him. Scott Lencke is one who has carefully reconsidered Jesus’ humanity and its theological implications. In a thoughtful article on his blog he sensitively addresses the problem of a Jesus who was never really the same as us, but only pretended to be.

Key phrases stand out in Lencke’s analysis:

I do believe that we are a little too afraid to admit to what it really meant for Jesus to be human… I believe that it’s quite easy for us to believe that Jesus was somehow more divine than human. Or we at least talk about him in a way that says he was more divine than human… Yet, we must be honest and recognise that this can cut at an important part of Christ – his humanity… Think about what you and I go through. Think about what it means to be one who is fully human. To do so, I believe Christ would have had to lay aside every aspect of his divinity… I believe Christ, in his human incarnation, laid aside his omniscience, his omnipresence and his omnipotence. All of it!

Lencke has challenged the unconscious Docetism beneath the surface of lay Trinitarianism as an obstacle to our relationship with Christ. Scripture says it was essential for Jesus to be made like us in every way so that he could relate to us and act as our mediator to God. Yet if he was never truly one of us, he cannot understand us in the way that Scripture describes. To believe in a human Jesus we must accept he is not God. Lencke believes Jesus is God, but can only achieve a truly human Christ by committing himself to full kenosis theology. This drastic step is a testament to his intellectual honesty; he recognises the need to resolve one of the “tensions” that Michael Patton, Rob Bowman and others would prefer us to ignore.

In Week 1 of this debate I emphasised that Christianity began as a Jewish religion. That Jewish foundation is critical to our interpretation of Scripture. The first Christians were Jews; they interpreted Scripture from a Jewish perspective; they described God and Jesus using OT language and Messianic typology. They were able to express every aspect of their faith by the use of Scripture alone, as Biblical Unitarians still do today. They affirmed a belief in the God of Israel and His human Son, the Jewish Messiah.

Biblical Unitarianism calls for a return to those Jewish roots. I urge you to rediscover Israel’s God; the God Whom Jesus himself worshipped; the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob — not the God of Justin Martyr, Arius, or Basil the Great. If God is not three persons, Christianity loses nothing but regains its necessary connection with God’s chosen people, the Jews. Don’t accept anything I have written throughout this debate unless you have confirmed it is consistent with reason, Scripture and history. Search God’s Word for the true gospel of Jesus Christ, as the Bereans did.

God is near to all those who call on Him. Seek Him while He may be found.

112 Responses to “The Great Trinity Debate, Part 6: Dave Burke’s Closing Statement”

  1. By the way, folks, feel free to ask Dave or me any questions that you like. The floor is now open to discussion.

  2. THE ARGUMENT FROM REASON

    Dave,

    As a debater, I could be pleased by the approach that you took to this debate, since in terms of the debate your approach has played into my hands. However, as a Christian concerned for your spiritual well-being and that of others, I am saddened and even distressed by the approach you take to Christian doctrine.

    Consistent with anti-Trinitarianism in all of its forms, over a third of your closing statement focuses on what you correctly describe as “the argument from reason.” In addition, four of the ten bulleted points articulating the superiority of Unitarianism to Trinitarianism with which you begin your closing statement are rooted in this argument from reason. Yet the debate is supposed to focus on which of our positions best reflects the teachings of the Bible.

    Orthodox Christians have always understood that our views of the nature of God and of the person of Jesus Christ as both God and man are paradoxical. In his Dialogue with Trypho, Justin Martyr, writing in the middle of the second century, represented his Jewish interlocutor Trypho as raising such objections to the Christian belief in the deity of Jesus Christ:

    “And Trypho said, ‘We have heard what you think of these matters. Resume the discourse where you left off, and bring it to an end. For some of it appears to me to be paradoxical, and wholly incapable of proof. For when you say that this Christ existed as God before the ages, then that He submitted to be born and become man, yet that He is not man of man, this [assertion] appears to me to be not merely paradoxical, but also foolish’” (Dialogue with Trypho 48).

    What seems “not merely paradoxical, but also foolish” varies from person to person and from culture to culture. Notice that “Trypho” found the virgin birth of Christ (“that He is not man of man”) to be foolish. You consider the Trinity and the Incarnation foolish, but not the Virgin Birth. My point is that what seems “obviously” irrational to one person often does not seem that way to another.

    Going back even further, the apostle Paul admitted that the gospel of Christ dying on the cross to redeem us was “foolishness” to Gentiles (1 Cor. 1:18-25). It does not seem that way to most professing Christians today, but in Paul’s day the Hellenistic critics of Christianity seemed to have a point. In the view of many Gentiles, any religion in which the central figure and object of devotion was a crucified man was the central figure and object of devotion was obviously superstitious nonsense. The Romans reserved crucifixion primarily for traitors to Rome and runaway slaves—people that most Gentiles in the Mediterranean world viewed as the scum of the earth. That Jesus was a Jew (a race widely despised then as now) added further insult from their perspective. The fact that Christians claimed that this crucified man had risen from the dead did not help matters—it made things worse. Cultured Greeks regarded resurrection from the dead as philosophically impossible (“Rubbish!”) and ordinary Gentiles were likely to regard it as disgusting (“Ew!”). This explains the reaction of some of the Athenians to Paul’s preaching (Acts 17:18-21, 32) and the objections to resurrection of the dead even on the part of some of the Corinthians who professed to be Christians (1 Cor. 15:12-19).

    You attempted to provide biblical support for your criticism of Trinitarian paradox as follows:

    “Patton urges Christians to confess an incomprehensible faith, ignoring any ‘tensions’ which may arise and aspiring to confusion as the benchmark of orthodoxy. But did Jesus or the apostles ever preach God in this way? On the contrary, Jesus said to the woman of Samaria ‘You people worship what you do not know. We worship what we know, because salvation is from the Jews’ (John 4:22). Biblical Unitarians are well positioned to repeat these words to Trinitarians.”

    And I thought only Jehovah’s Witnesses abused John 4:22 in this way. See, I can be wrong! Dave, John 4:22 has nothing to do with whether one’s doctrine of God contains paradox. Jesus does not say, “We worship what we know, because our theology makes sense”! Jesus is saying that by cutting themselves off from the Jewish people and its religious tradition, the Samaritans had cut themselves off from the saving revelation of God that came through the Jews.

    Of course, your characterization of Michael Patton’s position is a caricature. He does not say that Christians should “ignore” tensions in Christian doctrine, but rather that they should let those tensions stand that have proper grounding in Scripture. This in no way precludes Christians from thinking through those tensions are trying to resolve them as much as possible—just so long as they don’t “resolve” the tensions by denying one side of the biblical doctrine. Nor does Michael suggest or imply that Christians should “aspire to confusion as the benchmark of orthodoxy.” Is this how you repay the kindness of your host on this forum, by deliberately misrepresenting his beliefs?

    When I was a young believer, I had intellectual difficulties with a lot of what the Bible said. The Bible appeared to teach that God was omnipresent and yet not diffused throughout the cosmos; that Jesus Christ was both God and man; that God was one God and yet was also Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; that God commands human beings to repent and believe and yet also that God predestined those who came to saving faith in Christ; and that human beings are responsible for their actions and yet God is also somehow sovereign over human history and events. I was a rationalist at heart and a skeptic by temperament; in fact, I am still in many ways a skeptic by temperament. My natural inclination was to resist these doctrinal conclusions because they didn’t make sense to me.

    At some point, though, I came to understand and accept what now seems like an obvious truth to me: If the Bible is God’s word, a revelation from the infinite Creator of the universe, who transcends space, time, matter, and energy, it is not only possible, but likely, that some things that the Bible reveals about this Creator will be beyond my comprehension. (I cannot take credit for this insight; I think I learned it from reading Martin Luther.) In fact, rather than expecting everything in the Bible to fall neatly into place in my pea-brain understanding and reasoning, I should expect that some things in the Bible will defy my ability to analyze them rationally. (Imagine reading over a thousand pages of text inspired by the infinite Creator of the universe and nodding in pleasant, untroubled agreement throughout the entirety of the work. “Yep, that’s what I always thought!” “Makes sense to me.” “Doesn’t everyone think this is true?” No one paying attention when reading the word of God could possibly find all their presuppositions and pet beliefs confirmed in this way.) In particular, when the Bible speaks about this infinite, transcendent Creator intersecting with his finite, immanent creation, I should predict some measure of paradox. I eventually recognized that most of the paradoxes or antinomies with which I was struggling in the Bible cropped up precisely at such intersections of the infinite Creator with his finite creation.

    This was quite a “paradigm shift” for me. Instead of trying to force everything in the Bible into neat little logical boxes, I focused on trying to grasp whatever it was the Bible might say on any subject. By no means was I looking to create or manufacture paradoxes—again, by temperament I prefer logical resolution of any intellectual difficulties—but it meant that I was open to following the biblical evidence wherever it led. Before, I wanted to understand completely what the Bible said and how it could be true before I would believe it. Now I wanted to believe completely whatever the Bible says and do my best to understand it. Only later did I find out that this was a principle enunciated by the Christian theologian Augustine of Hippo and reaffirmed by such great theologians as Anselm and Aquinas: “I do not seek to understand in order that I might believe, but rather I believe in order that I may seek to understand.” This principle of faith seeking understanding is basic to my way of thinking now.

    This means that if the Bible teaches that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is each God, and yet there is only one God, that is what I am going to believe, even though I have difficulty explaining it. If the Bible teaches the Incarnation, I’m going to believe it, even though it boggles my mind. And by the way, if the Bible teaches that the Son, who is God, became a man, I will certainly expect some paradoxes—and the Bible doesn’t disappoint here. How foolish would it be if the Bible taught that Jesus is both God and man without any paradox involved! Now, that just would not make sense!

    I’m sorry to have to say this, but the stance that insists on having everything about a biblical doctrine proved using deductive logic to be perfectly coherent before one will accept that doctrine is an expression of unbelief. Again, I’m not saying we turn off our brains and not think about what we read in the Bible. I work as hard as I can to understand what the Bible teaches and to make coherent sense out of it to the best of my quite limited ability. But at the end of the day, I freely confess that I see in a mirror dimly and that God knows better than I do what is true and what makes sense.

    By the way, I understand a lot of things in Scripture better than I did when I first wrestled with these problems—and I would not have gained that understanding, had I not adopted a “faith seeking understanding” approach. The quickest way to short-circuit the learning process is to reject truth because I can’t at first understand how it fits with other truths. On the other hand, I’m not done learning, because I still don’t fully comprehend all of these biblical teachings.

  3. REASON, THE ATHANASIAN CREED, AND THE CASE FOR THE TRINITY

    Dave,

    You quoted the Athanasian Creed, which says:

    “So the Father is Lord; the Son Lord; and the Holy Spirit Lord; and yet not three Lords, but one Lord. Because, just as we are compelled by Christian truth to acknowledge each Person singly to be God and Lord, so are we forbidden by the catholic religion to say three Gods or three Lords.”

    You then commented:

    “This presents us with three ‘divine persons’ who are collectively and individually called ‘God’ and ‘Lord.’ God + God + God = three entities in the category of ‘God’, yet the Athanasian Creed forbids Christians to say ‘three Gods.’ Lord + Lord + Lord = three entities in the category of ‘Lord’, yet the Athanasian Creed forbids Christians to say ‘three Lords.’”

    The Trinity is hard enough to grasp without misstating it. The Athanasian Creed does not view the three persons as “three entities.” An “entity” is a separately and independently existing thing, and Trinitarianism denies that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three separate, independently existing things. Your arithmetical representations “God + God + God = three Gods” and “Lord + Lord + Lord = three Lords” presuppose this mistaken assumption that what Trinitarianism means by a divine person is an entity or (as you go on to say) an “individual.”

    You continued:

    “Even if we allow the Trinitarian explanation that the three who are called ‘God’ are not individual gods but individual persons who comprise one God, this still leaves us with three Lords within the Godhead. The Creed permits us to acknowledge these three Lords individually as “Lord”, provided we do not refer to them as ‘three Lords’! Thus the Creed demands an illogical confession by insisting we confess three Lords as one Lord.”

    Again, your critique proceeds from premises that you are foisting on Trinitarianism. We do not teach that the three persons are “individual persons who comprise one God.” This description might apply only to the most extreme forms of “social Trinitarianism,” but such forms generally do not claim complete agreement with the Athanasian Creed. The three persons are not individuals, and they are not individuated from one another. When you can claim, “The Creed permits us to acknowledge these three Lords individually…,” in full view of the fact that the Creed explicitly states that we are not permitted to acknowledge three Lords, it is clear that you are critiquing a straw man, not the doctrine of the Trinity. Thus, your conclusion that the Creed affirms both three Lords and one Lord is simply false.

    Note that my point here is simply that you are misrepresenting the Creed. If you don’t believe what it says is possible and you choose to reject it on that basis, you are free to do so. If you want to argue that the Creed is incoherent, you are free to try. However, if you misrepresent what the Creed states, those of us who accept what it says and can see that you are misrepresenting it are also free to call you on it, and we will.

    You wrote:

    “This is just one example of the way Trinitarianism requires unique definitions of words, contrary to regular usage. For example, Rob insists that within the context of Trinitarianism, the term ‘person’ is ‘…stipulated to be used with a somewhat different connotation as compared to its use for human beings.’ But why use the term ‘person’ in a way which differs from its use for human beings in the first place? The OT offers no basis for the Trinitarian view of personhood, so how is the idea deduced from Scripture? Where is the Biblical evidence which demonstrates this is how we are intended to use the word ‘person’ in reference to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit? The answer: there is no such evidence. The uniquely Trinitarian definition and usage of the word ‘person’ arose as a fourth-Century solution to the logical and rational problems presented by the triune formula. Even in common English versions we can see Scripture does not use the words ‘being’ and ‘person’ in the way required by Trinitarianism. This is a major impediment to Rob’s theology.”

    Theology uses words with unusual connotations or nuances with reference to God all the time. We speak of God’s “presence” without meaning that God is physically localized; we speak of God’s “mind” even though he had no brain; and when you speak of God as a single person, as you have done throughout the debate, you do not mean that God is a human being. Excluding the Trinitarian use of the word person, the dictionary typically gives the following definitions or uses of the word: human or human being, a character in a play, a human being’s body or bodily appearance or bodily presence, a human being’s personality, or one of three types of pronouns or pronominal inflections. None of these non-theological definitions will fit the Unitarian description of God as a “person.”

    It is telling that you would write, “The OT offers no basis for the Trinitarian view of personhood, so how is the idea deduced from Scripture?” (emphasis added). One would think that a Christian would ask the question with reference to “the Bible,” not just “the OT.” Your wording reflects your polemical stance that unless Trinitarians can substantiate their position from the OT alone, it cannot be biblical. Sorry, my Bible has 66 books in it, not just 39.

    Before I answer the question as to how the idea is deduced from Scripture, let’s look at your next rhetorical question: “Where is the Biblical evidence which demonstrates this is how we are intended to use the word ‘person’ in reference to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit?” No one ever claimed that the Bible teaches us to use the word person in this way. In fact, the Bible does not tell us to use the word at all. The word person does not appear in the Bible except in English translations to render or paraphrase various words (e.g., nephesh in the OT, hupostasis in Hebrews 1:3 KJV) that generally do not correspond to our word “person” in its usual senses. So when you answer your own rhetorical question, “The answer: there is no such evidence,” I have to agree, but your question is irrelevant.

    Now, as to your question of how the Trinitarian concept is derived, I have of course been answering that question throughout the debate. Let me put it together for you:

    • The LORD God is one God. (You agree with this premise, so I don’t need to prove it here.)
    • The Father is the LORD God. (You also agree with this premise.)
    • The Son, Jesus Christ, is someone other than the Father. (You agree with this premise.)
    • The Son, who became incarnate as Jesus Christ, is the LORD God. (I have provided copious evidence for this premise.)
    • The Holy Spirit is the LORD God and is someone other than the Father and the Son. (I have also provided evidence and argumentation to support this premise, which is a simplification of three propositions in my closing statement.)

    Now, please notice that up to this point I have not yet used the words person or being. I derive all of the above premises from Scripture alone; no extrabiblical terminology or concepts are needed or employed to support or defend or even articulate the premises. Indeed, you must agree with the first three of the five premises. You may argue that my fourth and fifth premises are not faithful to what the Bible really teaches, but you cannot plausibly claim that I have used any extrabiblical terms or concepts to arrive at or articulate those two premises. Now I put these five premises together as follows:

    (1) The LORD God is one God.
    (2) The Father is the LORD God, the Son is the LORD God, and the Holy Spirit is the LORD God.
    (3) The Father is someone other than the Son and the Holy Spirit, and the Son is also someone other than the Holy Spirit.

    The above three statements still use no extrabiblical terminology or concepts. Now I can simplify further by reversing the first two statements and combining them into one, as follows:

    A. The Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God; yet there is only one God.

    As you can see, I have now arrived at a formulation precisely identical to that of the Athanasian Creed to which you objected, using no extrabiblical words or concepts. Furthermore, I have derived every element of this confession from the Bible alone. You claim later in your closing statement that you had “showed that Trinitarianism is not a necessary conclusion from these propositions” (stated above), but in fact you did no such thing. We can now see that Trinitarianism, à la the Athanasian Creed, is precisely what does follow from these propositions. The only non-Trinitarian theology that can affirm “A.” as stated above is Oneness Pentecostalism, but they cannot affirm statement (3) shown above (which is why they cannot affirm the entirety of the Athanasian Creed).

    I can also reword the above formulation as follows with no change in meaning:

    A.’ There is one God, such that the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God.

    I can simplify the wording of this statement, again with no change in meaning, as follows:

    A”. There is one God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

    Next, I go back to statement (1) above and expand it as follows:

    (1) The LORD God is one God—one eternal divine Being.

    One might view the word “being” in the first premise as an extrabiblical use of the term, though perhaps we might cite the paraphrase of Exodus 3:14 in the LXX (“I am the Being”) in support. In any case, you already agree with this premise, so I should not need to defend this possibly extrabiblical formulation. I will stipulate here that Being means a separately existing, individual entity.

    I can restate this statement with no change in meaning as follows:

    B.’ There is one God, i.e., one divine Being.

    Next, I return to statement (3) above, which says:

    (3) The Father is someone other than the Son and the Holy Spirit and the Son is someone other than the Holy Spirit.

    This is cumbersome. I can simplify this a little by stating that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are each someone other than the other two. To make it even simpler, I will state that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are each a “P,” where P means “someone other than the other two.” Now I have the following:

    (3’) The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three Ps.

    Since most people don’t like algebra or formal logic, it would be nice if we could use an actual word instead of the letter P. So we use the word that comes closest to expressing the idea “someone other than the other two,” which word in Latin is persona and in English person. Now we have verbally simplified the third statement to the following:

    (3”) The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three Persons.

    This formulation adds nothing of substance to what was already derived from the Bible alone when we concluded that “the Father is someone other than the Son and the Holy Spirit, and the Son is also someone other than the Holy Spirit.” It is just a simpler way of saying the same thing. Now we are ready to put it all together:

    A”. There is one God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
    B.’ There is one God, i.e., one divine Being.
    (3”) The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three Persons.

    I combine these three statements into one confession:

    C. There is one God, i.e., one divine Being, existing in three Persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

    I have still still not employed any extrabiblical concepts! I have used two extrabiblical terms, “Being” (to which you can have no reasonable objection) and “Persons” (as convenient shorthand to express the conclusion, derived from Scripture alone, that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are each someone other than the other two).

    But now I notice that the word “Person” in the above statement cannot be identical in meaning to the word “Being” without resulting in a contradiction. Thus, the above conclusion—which was reached on the basis of Scripture alone, using no extrabiblical concepts—leads to the following definitional corollary:

    D. A “Person” as used of the Father, Son, or Holy Spirit in relation to one another describes each as someone other than the other two, but not as a different Being than the other two.

    This “definition” is not a theological presupposition from which the doctrine articulated in “C.” is derived; the reverse is the case. We derive this stipulated definition from the theological conclusion “C.,” which is derived from Scripture alone using no extrabiblical concepts.

    Now, of course, you may claim that “D.” expresses an impossible state of affairs, that it is irrational or illogical, and so forth. However, you cannot fairly, accurately, or reasonably argue that Trinitarians have derived this conclusion from extrabiblical concepts or sources. The term “Person” comes toward the very end of the argument, as a terminological shorthand for theological conclusions that in their substance are derived from the Bible alone. The conclusion that the term Person is not identical in meaning to the term Being in this context is a conclusion from the biblical evidence as explained above, not a presupposition or arbitrary definition used to distort the biblical evidence.

  4. God describes, demonstrates and reveals Himself clearly and logically as a Divine Father with a human son whom He raised from humanity to immortality, through His creative energies, commonly called the Holy Spirit. This is not only easy to understand for people of every age and any level of intelligence, but the greatest assurance that He can and will do the same for us.

    God is not the author of confusion. Yet Trinitarians not only make Him so, but state that He is Himself a Confusion about Whom true believers must stay confused, or they are not true believers!

    It is not the theological/metaphysical/intellectual proofs and arguments which are the real problem for Trinitarians, so much as the psychological hurdle of abandoning their position, in which so much has been invested. It takes true humility to admit that you have been on the wrong road (it’s hard for a man to admit he’s lost especially when he has misread a map!)

    No argument will prevail against that mindset until the time when nations will come from the ends of the earth and confess before God, “Surely our fathers have inherited lies, vanity and things wherein there is no profit.” Until then, the Wisdom of God will continue to be seen as Foolishness by those who are seduced by the thinking of men, and the still small whisper of Divine reason will be inaudible in the noisy earthquake and fire of human philosophies.

    Thanks, Dave, for all the work and effort you and your supporters have put in to this debate. The ‘score’ is irrelevant, the main thing is that the Truth has been put before anyone with ears to hear, a mind to understand, and a heart to accept. Such will always be a minority – as the scripture warns. Understanding the nature of God and the nature of His Son, is pivotal. Otherwise ‘religion’ is only about ourselves, and what we might get out of it. It’s actually all about God. That we are invited to share eternity with Him, as the Lord Jesus now does,…

  5. REASON AND THE INCARNATION

    Dave,

    I can summarize your entire line of criticism of the doctrine of the Incarnation in one short sentence: It is impossible for God to become a man.

    Your “argument from reason” is really an a priori objection against the Incarnation. All of the paradoxes, which you regard as contradictions, to which you object with regard to the Incarnation arise necessarily if God becomes a man. Thus, your whole line of criticism against the Incarnation proceeds from the a priori assumption that this is something God simply could not do.

    Nothing else really needs to be said here.

  6. Dave,

    Thank you for showing us that God is not the Author of confusion.

    Confused is not where HE wants us to be.

    Well done!

  7. When I was a young believer, I had intellectual difficulties with a lot of what the Bible said. The Bible appeared to teach that God was omnipresent and yet not diffused throughout the cosmos; that Jesus Christ was both God and man; that God was one God and yet was also Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; that God commands human beings to repent and believe and yet also that God predestined those who came to saving faith in Christ; and that human beings are responsible for their actions and yet God is also somehow sovereign over human history and events.

    It’s interesting that most of those dificulties are sorted when adopting bible unitarianism

  8. It is not reason that tells us that it is impossible for God to become man……the Bible tells us that it is impossible

    Reason only tells us that the Trinity is illogical

  9. Thanks, Dave, for all the work and effort you and your supporters have put in to this debate. The ’score’ is irrelevant, the main thing is that the Truth has been put before anyone with ears to hear, a mind to understand, and a heart to accept. Such will always be a minority – as the scripture warns. Understanding the nature of God and the nature of His Son, is pivotal. Otherwise ‘religion’ is only about ourselves, and what we might get out of it. It’s actually all about God.

    —————–
    George
    Certified cfa study material
    Uk

  10. So the debate is over and still no clear Biblical proof of the Trinity – the question that DB posed has been condemned as loaded and invalid by some of the blogs (because it cannot be answered by Scripture) and now we are to understand that reason must be set aside in order to understand the Trinity.

    DB has presented a holistic argument that is not limited to a few difficult passages but takes in the teaching and typology of the whole Bible – both the Old and New Testaments and demonstrates that the Jews had the same understanding of God as did the Apostles (who were also Jews) and Jesus (the King of the Jews). So the Bible is consistent in its teaching and Unitarian Christianity is still accessible to the Jews – who only believe in one God.

    The holistic approach adopted by DB has also demonstrated that the Atonement cannot be understood from a Trinitarian perspective. Where is the victory that man can share in if a sinless God died on the cross? We would expect God to be sinless and righteous (no earth shattering revelation there). Who did God atone for? So a sinless God dying (but not really dying because he is immortal) –means nothing to me. So who died on the cross? Someone who was in the form of a man but was really God? Someone who was weak but really immortal? Can an immortal being really die? Did Jesus pray to himself, trust in himself and raise himself? How does that relate to me? How do I share in that “phantom” victory? The questions keep coming and cannot be answered. No wonder Trinitarians elevate paradox and confusion to the level of virtue and despise reason and clear teaching.

    However, DB did not leave the argument at the level of reason and Scripture but demonstrated from church history that the Trinity was a late innovation imposed on Christianity. So on every level – Biblical-Logical-Historical DB has demonstrated the theological bankruptcy of Christianity’s Self Inflicted Wound – The Trinity

  11. Dear Rob,

    NKJ John 4:22 “You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews.

    Jesus is saying that by cutting themselves off from the Jewish people and its religious tradition, the Samaritans had cut themselves off from the saving revelation of God that came through the Jews.

    I thought that Jewish tradition teaches ONE GOD……and his promised Messiah???

    Are you not cutting yourself off from the Jewish people and it’s religious tradition?

  12. Rob Bowman’s summary of his opponent’s “entire line of criticism” against the supposed Incarnation of God in Jesus — “It is impossible for God to become a man” — has a level of truth beyond his intention, I think. Given that man is inherently mortal and subject to unconsciousness in death (which Bowman does not believe, but which Burke does), and that God’s son, the man Jesus, himself suffered precisely this cessation of consciousness while was dead, it follows that Immortal God did not become a mortal man. Why would He wish to? What need would there be when he provided His only son, a mortal but uniquely sinless man, for our redemption, who suffered for us and was raised immortal and glorified by his Father?

    Rendering a simple Biblical truth of what God actually did into “a priori assumption that this is something God simply could not do” is nonsense. Just as Bowman’s “paradoxes”, which Roman Catholics call “mysteries”, are nonsense.

    All the philosophical triple somersaulting and sophistical gyrating of committed Trinitarians widely misses the mark, and it’s distressing to witness. Burke expressed it well in his closing remarks. The one God who revealed Himself to the fathers of Israel and the prophets has never changed and will never change. He is “Israel’s God; the God Whom Jesus himself worshipped; the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob — not the God of Justin Martyr, Arius, or Basil the Great”.

    Bowman’s attempt at a unanswerable close-off remark — “Nothing else really needs to be said here” — in his “Reason and the Incarnation” comment above won’t do at all. You’ve got it desperately wrong Rob. If only you’d jettison your burden of church tradition, bewildering dogma and the tyranny of “orthodox” Christian convention, and let the Scriptures speak for themselves. You have the intelligence. You have studied much. You seem to recognise the Bible as God’s Word. But you won’t accept what it says over and over again.

  13. Rob, I like what you say about the Bible containing difficult concepts, almost paradoxical concepts. I’ve always felt that the Bible allows for various depths of understanding, and this applies most importantly to the nature of God.

    A simple belief that Jesus was like us, but through self-sacrifice received the name ‘lord’ is enough to save us (Rom10:9)

    A deeper belief that Jesus became immortal, timeless and at one with God from eternity and to eternity, and yet still remains obediently subject to God until the end of the ages is great, but it’s not vital (Col 1:18, John 17:1, 1Co 15:24)

    A lot of the debate taken place here has been based on ‘logic’ and it has to be questioned whether this logic is God’s wisdom or man’s.
    Perhaps there are no specific statements detailing the true nature of God and Jesus because we can’t comprehend it.

    So perhaps we shouldn’t worry quite so much about it. And try to rather exercise a teaching of Jesus’ that makes it very clear who his disciples are:
    Joh 13:34 “I give you a new commandment — to love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. Everyone will know by this that you are my disciples — if you have love for one another.”

  14. Andrew,

    You said, “Perhaps there are no specific statements detailing the true nature of God and Jesus because we can’t comprehend it.

    So perhaps we shouldn’t worry quite so much about it. And try to rather exercise a teaching of Jesus’ that makes it very clear who his disciples are:
    Joh 13:34 “I give you a new commandment — to love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. Everyone will know by this that you are my disciples — if you have love for one another.”

    I don’t think it is as simple as that. From a statement that Paul W made above, (if I am understanding him correctly) I don’t believe he as a Unitarian believes that the Trinitarian Jesus can save. (Am I correct Paul?) And I know that one of the common things I hear from Trinitarians–if Jesus was only man and not God too–He couldn’t save. If I remember correctly, someone stated that belief very plainly in one of the other comment threads during this debate. And for the record, that is also my belief and understanding.

    So this is not only an interesting question to talk about. It is a concept of utmost importance since it is our faith in Jesus that brings about our salvation. Both sides seem to agree on that–they just don’t agree at all on who this Jesus really is.

  15. Dear cherylu,

    Yes, that is correct. How can we share in his victory if he was God (in disguise)?

    He was the Son of Man and the Son of God – both titles are used to describe him.

    This means that he is the perfect intermediary between God and Man

    It also means that men and woman can identify with his victory……I can point at Jesus and say “I want to be like him…..an obedient Son” I can also share in his victory by “eating his body and drinking his blood” that way I identify completely with him……what I am saying to the Father is…….that is the sort of man I want to be…..please forgive my sins and blot them out……instead look at your Son…..he is what man can be at his best…..your true image……..please remember him when you look at me

    This is something Trinitarians cannot grasp……..

  16. Dear cherylu,

    It is God who saves………..he saved Jesus from death and now he has given his Son all authority in heaven and earth……Jesus will return to resurrect the dead

  17. Paul W,

    Hi again. Am I incorrect in my understanding that Unitarians believe it is through faith in Jesus that you are saved? I thought that I had read that in one of the first installments of the debate.

  18. Paul W, are you referring to the same Jews whom Jesus consistently said didn’t know God and didn’t know the Scriptures?

    Those Jews?

  19. Paul W, are you referring to the same Jews whom Jesus consistently said didn’t know God and didn’t know the Scriptures and were nullifying the Word of God by their human traditions, i.e. interpretations?

    “Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, ‘Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!’ Jesus replied, ‘And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? For God said, “Honor your father and mother” and “Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.” But you say that if a man says to his father or mother, “Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is a gift devoted to God,” he is not to “honor his father” with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.'” Matthew 15:1-9

    “Jesus replied, ‘You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. But about the resurrection of the dead—have you not read what God said to you, “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob”? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.'” Matthew 22:30-32

  20. continued…

    “I have testimony weightier than that of John. For the very work that the Father has given me to finish, and which I am doing, testifies that the Father has sent me. And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent. You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life. I do not accept praise from men, but I know you. I know that you do not have the love of God in your hearts. I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not accept me; but if someone else comes in his own name, you will accept him. How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God? But do not think I will accuse you before the Father. Your accuser is Moses, on whom your hopes are set. If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?” John 5:36-47

    “So they were saying to Him, ‘Where is Your Father?’ Jesus answered, ‘You know neither Me nor My Father; If you knew Me, you would know My Father also.’ John 8:19

    “Jesus replied, ‘If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me. Though you do not know him, I know him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and keep his word.'” John 8:54-55

    “But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me.” John 15:21

    “These things they will do because they have not known the Father or Me.” John 16:3

  21. So Paul W, are these the Jews that you want us to embrace in order to reject the explicit and unambiguous testimony to the Deity of the Lord Jesus Christ and the Personhood of the Holy Spirit? More importantly, which of the various Jewish sects and sources do you want us to accept? The Pharisees, the Essenes, the Sadducees etc.? Should we embrace the Messianic views of 1 Enoch and 4 Ezra which teach that the Messiah literally personally preexists in heaven with God?

    And why should we favor the Rabbinic Jewish view that there is only one Power in heaven when this was a later development in response to Christianity and other various sects that held that there was more than one Divine Power in heaven? Why not embrace the view that there were at at least two Divine Powers in heaven, a view that was widespread and held by various Jewish sects both before and during the time of Christ?

    If you don’t know what I am talking about that I advise that you read Alan F. Segal’s book, Tow Powers in Heaven (http://books.google.com/books?id=LRzCB9xSRFsC&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false).

    So you unitarians need to stop making it sound as if ALL the Jews were unitarians like yourselves when the evidence shows that they were not.

  22. Dave –

    Though you have probably seen my article, I had a specific question for you that I didn’t really put in any of my articles and never really saw you address (though I still need to catch up on all of the rebuttal comments).

    How do you define the words deity and divinity? How do you see them as two words that mean and convey different meanings? Any biblical grounds or philosophical reasoning that you would emphasise?

    Thanks

  23. Rob,
    How can a “someone” not be an individual?

  24. Scott:

    Though you have probably seen my article, I had a specific question for you that I didn’t really put in any of my articles and never really saw you address (though I still need to catch up on all of the rebuttal comments).

    How do you define the words deity and divinity? How do you see them as two words that mean and convey different meanings? Any biblical grounds or philosophical reasoning that you would emphasise?

    “Divinity” is not a word I normally use, as it means different things to different people (some even see it as equivalent to “deity”). I prefer the terms “deity” and “divine.”

    I define “deity” as “god”, and normally use it as a noun (e.g. “Athena was a Greek deity who represented wisdom”). But it can also be used in a qualitative sense, to mean “the state of being god” (e.g. “Mormons believe they will one day be deified”). I have noticed that Trinitarians do this too (e.g. “Jesus; humanity was united with his deity at the moment of incarnation”).

    I define “divine” as “supernatural”, yet not merely supernatural, since it also bears a sense of perfection and holiness. I refer to Christ as “divine”, since his nature is supernatural, perfected, holy, immortal, etc. I can also say that “a divine wind” brought the quails to the Israelites in the wilderness; an angels are God’s “divine messengers”; God Himself is “divine”, etc. The word “divine” does not denote “deity” and is not equivalent to it.

    The apostle Peter makes an interesting statement in II Peter 1:4 (“Through these things he has bestowed on us his precious and most magnificent promises, so that by means of what was promised you may become partakers of the divine nature, after escaping the worldly corruption that is produced by evil desire”)

    Trinitarian commentators routinely argue against a literal interpretation of this verse, but I don’t see any reason for it (the language is very concrete and militates against a figurative exegesis). I haven’t conducted a detailed study of this passage, but a prima facie reading suggests to me that Peter is referring to immortalisation; the perfected, immortalised body promised to faithful believers (I Corinthians 15). He is not saying we can become gods.

    I hope this clarifies my position.

  25. Dear Sam,

    I am certain that the Jews had many errors in their interpretation of the Law. I am also sure that some Jews worshipped idols. I also have no doubt that we can find later developments of two powers heresies and debates about the pre-existence of the Messiah etc blah. So what? The Jews are not the standard by which all doctrine must be measured………after all they rejected the Messiah. The Bible is the standard.
    However, the Jews have always believed in One God (with some odd exceptions)…..so I suggest that you follow Abraham or the teaching of the Apostles or maybe even Jesus (also a Jew).

  26. Dear Sam,

    Belief in one God is the touchstone of Jewish faith

    And by the way “knowing” the Father implies more than just believing that he is one God:

    NKJ James 2:19 You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe — and tremble!

    You can believe in one God but if you don’t believe that Jesus is the one sent by God or that he is the “true image” (unlike Adam who marred the image) then you do not know God.

    Do you know God? You obviously don’t know the God of the Bible. You believe that God is more than one and that he sent himself………

  27. Dear Paul,

    I am sorry but your reply is a non-answer and simply evades my points. Unitarians such as yourself are always abusing Jesus’ statement in John 4:22 to prove that Jesus meant that our views must agree or conform with what Jews believed about God. Yet THIS IS OBVIOUSLY NOT WHAT JESUS MEANT in light of the nearly dozen verses I posted. This also erroneously assumes that the Jews were united in their respective beliefs.

    This leads me to the next problem with your statements. Unitarians such as yourself are also constantly appealing to the Jews to prove that they believed that God is absolutely one Person. However, this assumes that Jews were united on a single belief concerning the nature of God and whether God’s unity precluded another divine being, called the second power in heaven, from coexisting alongside of him. It further erroneously assumes that the Jews had only one view concerning the Messiah and that this view did not allow for a personally preexistent Messiah.

    It is time for you to stop abusing history and selectively citing sources since it doesn’t take much to show that history is not on your side. Just read Bowman’s comments to Burke where he exposed Burke’ gross mis-citation of scholars and quoting them of context in order to give the misleading impression that they agreed with his assumptions and assertions. It was pitiful to see what Burke had done to these sources. But again this is not surprising when we realize what the true origin of your beliefs are (cf. John 8:44).

  28. Dear Paul,

    Thank you for confirming my point and for pretty much refuting Burke:

    I am certain that the Jews had many errors in their interpretation of the Law. I am also sure that some Jews worshipped idols. I also have no doubt that we can find later developments of two powers heresies and debates about the pre-existence of the Messiah etc blah. So what? The Jews are not the standard by which all doctrine must be measured………after all they rejected the Messiah. The Bible is the standard.

    Tell that Burke!

    But I do like the fact of how you pretty much retreated from and abandoned your appeal to the Jews. And do appreciate how you pretty much debunked Burke who kept harping about the understanding and beliefs of the Jews somehow being essential to test whether our beliefs are orthodox and faithful to the Scriptures. Good job and keep it up!

  29. …is extraordinary. (2 words too long, sorry!)

  30. I missed this part of your comment:

    Do you know God? You obviously don’t know the God of the Bible. You believe that God is more than one and that he sent himself………

    This simply shows that you don’t understand what we believe or, if you do, then you are deliberately and deceptively misrepresenting it which confirms what I said about the origin of your beliefs (cf. John 8:44).

    We believe that God is more than one what exactly? More than one Person? If so we and we do so because of the explicit Biblical witness which Bowman did a masterful job of laying out throughout this debate.

    More than one God? No, absolutely not.

    You then equivocated on the word God, i.e. God sent himself. Your statement is similar to me saying that the Bible teaches that Adam slept with himself and mothered his own children. Now what do I mean? According to Genesis 1:26-27 and 5:1-2 God named both the male and female Adam. However, in Genesis 3 and 4 the female who is called Eve is said to be the wife of Adam and that Adam slept with her.

    So Adam slept with himself per your logic and gave birth to his own children.

    More importantly, Unitarians believe that the Holy Spirit is another name for God the Father:

    “It is important to capitalize ‘Holy Spirit’ when it refers to God, and it is just as important to use lower case letters (‘holy spirit’) when referring to the gift God has given to those who are saved.” (http://www.truthortradition.com/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=8)

    This means that it is you who actually believe that God sent himself! So can you explain that for me since it makes absolutely no sense.

    But of course you are going to argue that I deliberately misrepresented what Unitarians believe much like you just misrepresented what I believe about the Father sending Jesus Christ his Divine Son.

  31. Dear Sam,

    I like the way you selectively quote me and twist my words……but then being a Trinitarian has given you plenty of practice.

    Am I correct in saying that Trinitarianism is polytheism for sophists? It is so carefully defined and so cleverly designed but it is still false. You should probably add the mother of God to your trio…..the Catholic Church has virtually done this.

  32. Response to Sam #33

    Sam says:

    “We believe that God is more than one what exactly? More than one Person? If so we and we do so because of the explicit Biblical witness which Bowman did a masterful job of laying out throughout this debate.”

    RB did not prove the Trinity……as one of your own said…..the question was loaded and unfair

    Let me remind you RB needed to prove

    1. (a)Jesus=God (b)Father=God (c) Holy Spirit=God
    2. a+b+c=God

    He failed to do this.

    Now you say the doctrine is “explicit” in the Bible…….but during the debate words like “implicit” and “hinted at” were used

    PS regarding #31… I have not abandoned my appeal to the Jews…..it still rests on what Abraham believed (a Jew) what the Apostles believed (Jews) what Jesus believed (a Jew) and what the bulk of Jews past and present believe……..that God is one.

  33. I still don’t understand the Trimity……God is one (person) with three personalities? (a split personality?) All of these persons were immortal yet one of them died? One of these persons achieved atonement on behalf of the whole person/being? One of these persons was tempted even though he never really had the capacity to sin?

    I have yet to see a Trinitarian explain the Atonement. I have asked a few times……..so far no response.

  34. Dave –

    Thanks for clarifying your position.

    I agree that deity and divine don’t necessarily have to be considered equals. But it is more likely that deity and divinity are equals, both referring to the reality of being God, whereas divine is a descriptive word that speaks of carrying God-like qualities but not necessarily being God (which you group Christ into). I understand this and how you have defined these words.

    And I am also good with a more literal interpretation of 2 Pet 1:4. That is actually a very favourite passage to me. I don’t think of it in the Mormon way. But I believe we taste of the divine nature because we are in Christ and the sons/daughters of God. And, knowing that God gives us of His Holy Spirit, well, we have God living in us. So when God’s Spirit takes up residence in us, I think we get just a little bit of the divine nature.

    But here is something I would ask you to consider. Let me allow you to define deity and divine in the ways you have (which I am not opposed to, as I said, though one might quibble over the word divine if it is truly speaking of divinity-deity). I know you are not going to give an affirmation to this, but can Trinitarians not define the words being and person in a way that allows them to communicate what they mean by a Triune God? You have defined divine that allows for Christ to be God-like but not God Himself, though some would argue that this is not acceptable if the word divinity speaks of being God. But I will give you the point on divine and divinity. Can you not allow for Trinitarians to define and explain the two words being and person that are different from, say, your specific context and how you specifically want them to be defined?

  35. Dear Sam,

    response #33.

    Adam and Eve (who became “one flesh”) typify the relationship between Jesus and his Church. It is not a paradigm for the “internal relationships in the Trinity”

  36. Dear Sam,

    Response to #33

    No Christadelphian I know believes that “Holy Spirit” (with or without capitals) is another way of referring to God………sounds like you are getting mixed up with Trinitarian doctrine…suggest you read DB on the Holy Spirit……never heard of the site you refer to?? Don’t understand the point you are trying to make??

  37. Dear Sam,

    I know you are busy with apologetics and particularly with engaging Muslims – I have also done Islamic studies and am aware of the influence of Rabbinic Judaism on the development of Islam. Mohammed was politically astute and unified the Arabic tribes with his “new revelation” he was obviously aware of the internal wrangling among Christians about the nature of Christ and was heavily influenced by Jewish belief in “one God”. It was therefore very astute to demote Jesus to the office of a prophet (albeit a very important one that has an eschatological role) thus circumventing the problem of centuries of contention between Christians about the nature of Jesus and God by simply adopting the Jewish position. Nevertheless Jesus retains a pre-eminent role within Islam thus not overly offending Christians…..the best of all worlds.

    But think how different the outcome might have been if Christians had retained a Biblical belief in the one God of the Bible and not wasted their energies on fighting amongst themselves…..but then the world would have been a different place if the Jewish nation had accepted Jesus as the Messiah the Son of God.

  38. Paul W, please document how I twisted your words for all of us to see. You can’t since I didn’t despite your arrogant rant to the contrary. What I like even better is how you TWISTED MY WORDS and attacked straw man. Can you actually address the point I made concernign Adam and Eeve as opposed to raising a red herring which had nothing to do with my argument? And to correct your selective reading of Scripture. It is indeed true that Adam and Eve typifies Christ’s relationship with his Church. HOWEVER, their relationship also exemplies the nature of God (albeit to a vastly limited extent). Just read Genesis 1:26-27 and 5:1-2 where the male and female as the one Adam reflect and bear the image of God.

    I guess my points went way over your head much like Bowman’s points went way over Burke’s who had no clue what hit him.

    And let me correct you once again. Bowman may not have proven his case to your satisfaction, but that is to be expected (cf. John 8:43-47; 1 Corinthians 2:13-14). Anyone who reads the debate honestly and with an open mind will see that Bowman pulverized Burke and proved his position beyond any reasonable doubt. This is why Burke got desperate and started telling Bowman what he needed to do in order to prove his case. Bowman then put Burke in his place by telling Burke to start focusing on establishing his and let Bowman worry about how he was going to prove his position.

  39. Paul W, thanks for proving my point again. I had said that you would accuse me of misrepresenting what you believed concerning the Holy Spirit and his relationship to God. You didn’t disappoint. However, your comments suggest that you didn’t read Burke and that you obviously don’t know too many Christadelphians! The site I quoted from was one of the ones that Burke recommended.

    So again, perhaps you can address my question. If the Holy Spirit is another name for God the Father then doesn’t this mean that according to your heretical view God basically sent himself?

  40. There you go again begging the question. In # 40 you speak of Muhammad adopting the Jewish position concerning Messiah. WHAT JEWISH POSITION? Do I need to repeat what I said concerning the various, and at times, conflicting views the Jews had at the time of Christ concerning the nature of the Messiah?

    And the Christians did retain the belief in the Bible that there is only God. However, what they rejected was the unbiblical and heretical position of unitarianism. Even Muslim apologists can see that the Bible does not support your unbiblical and heretical beliefs which is why they argue that the Bible has been corrupted. Now they wouldn’t say that if the Bible clearly and explicitly taught unitarianism.

  41. Dave!

    Great debate, brother! Your reasonings were solid, critically logical and valid. You have no dogma to defend by twisting and confounding what would otherwise be considered unambiguous reality. I’m glad I was not your opponent here.

    As demonstrated even by one of our trinitarian posters here, what a pity that civility and courtesy always seem to yield first to pompous and sarcastic snide and name-calling. How are they any better or more exemplary of what Christians should be like? One would expect a greater display of Holy Spirit in their demeanor and behaviour…but alas…had they been in the position of John Calvin…well, I doubt whether they’d have spared the lives of any of us.

    Joh. 8:44 – how true…

    Jaco

    P.S. I’d love to see some of our friends comment on our blog at http://kingdomready.org/blog/2010/02/02/another-trinitymonotheism-debate. I’ll put up my comments for the rest of this debate this weekend.

  42. Hey Jaco, you shouldn’t be so hard on your fellow unitarians like Paul W. Just because he is rude and doesn’t know a thing about civility or just because he, like Burke, has the propensity to misquote and distort scholarly sources doesn’t give you the right to attack him that way especially when he espouses the same false heretical beliefs that you do. :-)

  43. Dear all,

    My apologies if I have offended anyone or been seen as mad, rude or arrogant. Maybe that is true maybe it is not. Then again Jesus was accused of being mad and having a devil and the servant is not above his master. I admit that I become increasingly frustrated by the intellectual dishonesty displayed and am not used to this kind of debate. I am used to interpreting Scripture with Scripture and not imposing a doctrine that is not there. It saddens and upsets me to see the faith once preached by the apostles so abused. I will therefore excuse myself from the debate because it is not my wish to alienate anyone. But before I go I will leave one question to be answered which is fundamental to any doctrine about God and which has not been answered.

    Here goes…….how did Jesus achieve atonement for me? If Jesus was not capable of sin because he is God then how did he achieve atonement? It is not good enough to say that he was also man…….because men are capable of sin. This “paradox” has been recognised by the Catholic Church who in order to make Jesus incapable of sin….must make Mary (the “mother of God” in their terminology) also incapable of sin……

    However, the Bible teaches that Jesus is the “last Adam” and that he bears our nature with is propensity to sin……yet he was sinless. So what victory over sin was achieved by crucifying God (who cannot sin)? Or if you want, what victory over sin was achieved by crucifying a man who never had the capacity to sin (who cannot sin) and therefore was not like me at all and did not bare my nature. Either way the theory of the Trinity cannot explain the Atonement.

    So, I must now leave you all and go and lie down in a dark room!

    All the best

  44. My family is Jewish but secular. I have married a Gentile and we are raising our children as Christians.
    Christianity has been a real struggle for me as it has seemed to abandon Judaic principles.
    The Trinity is one of my biggest problems and I have really enjoyed Dave’s position. I guess Jews are unitarians. lol
    And having explored other Christadelphian doctrine online, I am very encouraged to find Judaism–that embraces a Messiah.
    This is really good stuff. I think I have found some very specific answers for my family.
    Thanks!!

    And to Paul W–I appreciate your comments immensely and agree wholeheartedly. You were not offensive in the slightest.

    Sam, on the other hand, your tone is hostile.

  45. Not at all impressive, Sam Shamoun:

    “Hey Jaco, you shouldn’t be so hard on your fellow unitarians like Paul W. Just because he is rude and doesn’t know a thing about civility or just because he, like Burke, has the propensity to misquote and distort scholarly sources doesn’t give you the right to attack him that way especially when he espouses the same false heretical beliefs that you do.”

    Where’s the fruit of the spirit we’re ALL supposed to espouse, folks?

  46. Mr Shamoun,

    Wow, you’re no less different, are you? Your being different would have meant a lot. The spirit of Christ, Mr Shamoun, and the encouragement to admit a mistake and repent (for Christ’s sake), if indeed mistaken, is one thing you consistently fail to do, even on other trinitarian and anti-Islam blogs. Instead, even after pointing that out, you resort pointing out the other person’s mistakes (much like two fighting siblings) and regress to name-calling, while I never even insulted you. It’s not about God and Christ, after all, is it Mr Shamoun? It’s about you, and that’s a pity. Now, in public, Mr Shamoun, I urge you to repent of your God-dishonoring habit of mean-spiritedness. Show that you are different. Show that you do have Christ’s spirit. Show that you are different even from the Muslims you have challenged, who clearly do not have Christ’s spirit. From the kind of fruit you consistently produce, you’ve demonstrated to be the exact same tree your Muslim opponents are.

    In hope,

    Jaco

  47. Jaco, please don’ try to pretend to be the innocent one here. You indirectly took a shot at me and you know it. And sorry if at times I get angry and repulsed at the deliberate lies and distortions of truth. If you want to see what kind of fruits these happen to be then read John 8:44; Galatians 5:16-21.

    If you also want to see how the prophets, Jesus and his apostles reacted to people who did this then simply read 1 Kings 18:27; Isaiah 1:9-17; Ezekiel 23; Jeremiah 4:22; 10:8, 14; Matthew 23; Luke 11: 37-52; Philippians 3:1-6; 2 Peter 2.

    And while you are at it meditate on Ecclesiastes 3:1-8; Ephesians 4:26-27; 2 Timothy 3:16-17, 4:2; Titus 1:9, 13. There is a place and a time for anger, rebuking and hatred in the Christian life.

  48. “There is a place and a time for anger, rebuking and hatred in the Christian life.”

    Your posts in this blog so far are evidence enough that you readily erupt with these three mannerisms, Sam Shamoun.

    But you are no prophet or apostle, and you most certainly have displayed no Christ-like characteristics in your postings.

    You must learn to control your rage for your own sake mainly. Do you not realise that your arguments are greatly diminished because of your offensive and hectoring tone?

  49. Mr Shamoun,

    You’re no prophet! You’re no Christ (I hope not)! To you apply the words in Col. 6:4 and 1 Pet. 3:15 as they apply to everyone of us! You are no special case, sorry.

    Our Lord, Christ Jesus came to save humble, honest-hearted people. In God’s Sovreignty He made no provision for self-righteous, pious individuals, Mr Shamoun. Your attitude stifles open-hearted and honest-hearted discussion of possible salvatory doctrine. It is people like the ranting and raving Muslims, uncivilised anti-missionaries and yourself who make atheists of potential believers! You give fodder to angry atheists, anti-christs and agnostics. And the worst of all, you couldn’t care less. You don’t care if you stumble someone. You don’t care what harm you do to God’s and Christ’s names. Mr Shamoun, I don’t want to be in your shoes. With the mean-spiritedness you’ve consistently been displaying, the spiritual corpses of searching individuals lie scattered across your way. Their blood will be exacted from your hands.

    I’m sure Calvin the Murderer also had excuses for his permission-based reasoning when he brutally murdered Servetus. You display an identical spirit. So, publicly you’ve been exposed as someone failing to produce the spirit you confess to believe in. Until you repent, your unchristian demeanor and conduct will publicly witness against your eligibility to be a Witness of Jesus. I’ll leave it there. What is more, the double standards the administrators of this blog maintain allow people like you to do and say and harm just as you please, while you’ve clearly violated the terms of this blog…speaking about silence of approval.

    In your self-righteousness and all, I hand you over to Christ. But I won’t call you a heretic (unlike what you did) and I will still respect you (whether you deserve it, is Christ’s call). I hope we’ll be able one day to have a civilised discussion over Biblical matters.

    In His service,

    Jaco

  50. Scott:

    But here is something I would ask you to consider. Let me allow you to define deity and divine in the ways you have (which I am not opposed to, as I said, though one might quibble over the word divine if it is truly speaking of divinity-deity). I know you are not going to give an affirmation to this, but can Trinitarians not define the words being and person in a way that allows them to communicate what they mean by a Triune God?

    Sure, of course Trinitarians can define the words “being” and “person” in a way that allows them to communicate what they mean by a Triune God. They can do whatever they like to get the result they need. If they have to create new terminology to express their Christology, then let them do it! But this really misses the point, as you’ll see in a moment.

    You have defined divine that allows for Christ to be God-like but not God Himself, though some would argue that this is not acceptable if the word divinity speaks of being God. But I will give you the point on divine and divinity. Can you not allow for Trinitarians to define and explain the two words being and person that are different from, say, your specific context and how you specifically want them to be defined?

    Well, there are two issues here.

    Firstly, you’re referring to my definitions of “deity” and “divine” as if they’re soley mine. But they’re not; my definitions are simply the normative definitions. They’re no different to the definitions you’ll find in a dictionary or encyclopaedia. These definitions are not unique to me. I am, in fact, using the pre-established, universally accepted definitions of these words.

    It is therefore invalid to draw a parallel between my definitions of “deity” and “divine”, and the Trinitarian definitions of “person” and “being”, because you’re not comparing like with like. The Trinitarian definitions of “person” and “being” are contrary to the normative definitions, the Trinitarian usage of these words is contrary to the normative usage, and the Trinitarian usage of these words is contrary to the Scriptural usage. Frankly, that last one is the kicker.

    Secondly, you ask if I can allow for Trinitarians to define and explain the words “being” and “person” in ways that do not match my preference. Of course I can allow it! I’ve never disallowed it. You will recall that I even asked Rob to provide his definition of “person” in the very first week of this debate, and continued to press for definitions of “person” and “being” in the weeks that followed. I didn’t tell him that he wasn’t allowed to construct and explain his own definitions; on the contrary, I actually asked him to present them.

    I think Rob initially said that he’d do this in Week 5, but by the end of the debate my request was still unanswered. I waited 6 weeks for a response, hoping that Rob might at least be encouraged to join me in a discussion of the classical formulae, e.g. three hypostases in one ousia (this could have led to an interesting exchange on Marcellus of Ancyra, assuming Rob is familiar with Marcellus and understands the relevance of his work), but to no avail.

    This was all very strange; I simply couldn’t understand Rob’s reluctance to deal with what I considered to be a very simple question. (Perhaps he was put off by my secondary question, in which I asked for evidence that Scripture uses the words “person” and “being” in the way that Trinitarinism requires. I appreciate that this was a tough one). At any rate, Rob finally attempted to clarify the point in a belated supplementary comment, after a fellow Trinitarian complained that the issue was still outstanding. So at least some sort of answer has been forthcoming.

    Please understand: this is not about whether I believe Trinitarians are allowed to construct their own definitions. Trinitarians can make up whatever ballyhoo they need to make these words fit their Christology, just as the subordinationists and Arians did before them. Every theological innovator requires new language to express his novel ideas, and Trinitarianism is no different. The crux of the matter hinges upon two key points: (a) why Trinitarians find it necessary to invent new definitions in the first place, when first-century Christians did not, and (b) whether or not these new definitions are supported by Scripture.

    It’s the second of these points that presents the real headache for Trinitarianism. Rob cannot find any place in Scripture that uses or defines these words in the way that Trinitarianism requires. Even the brilliant Cappadocians (Basil and the two Gregories), largely responsible for formalising the uniquely Trinitarian definitions of “person” and “being”, complained that their theology was misunderstood and strongly opposed by some of their contemporaries, who considered it heretical.

    Look at the way Gregory of Nyssa expressed this element of the new Christology:

    The difference of the hypostases does not dissolve the continuity of their nature, nor does the community of their nature dissipate the particularity of their characteristics. Do not be amazed if we declare the same thing is united and distinct, and conceive, as in a riddle, of a new and paradoxical unity in distinction and distinction in unity.

    Gregory of Nazianzus had his own helpful explanation:

    A Monarchy that is not limited to one Person, for it is possible for Unity if at variance with itself to come into a condition of plurality; but one which is made of an equality of Nature and Union of mind; and an identity of motion, and a convergence of its elements to unity-a-thing which is impossible to the created nature – so that though numerically distinct there is no severance of Essence. Therefore Unity having from all eternity arrived by motion at Duality, found its rest in Trinity. This is what we mean by Father and Son and Holy Spirit.

    Honestly Scott, is this what you believe? It’s not what the apostles confessed and taught.

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    […] Part 6: Dave Burke’s Closing Statement […]

  2. On the Importance of Definition and Bowman’s Lack Thereof « Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth - May 25, 2010

    […] the Importance of Definition and Bowman’s Lack Thereof Update: Rob has defined his use of the term “person” in the comments following Dave’s closing […]

  3. The Great Trinity Debate (Comments Part 6) « The Prodigal Thought - May 26, 2010

    […] of Bowman, the Trinitarian, can be read here and Burke’s, the Unitarian, can be found here. Or, if you would like to find all articles at once, you can visit this […]

  4. trinities - SCORING THE BURKE – BOWMAN DEBATE – ROUND 6 Part 1 – BURKE (DALE) - May 31, 2010

    […] the 6th and closing round, Burke argues from reason, scripture, and […]

  5. trinities - SCORING THE BURKE – BOWMAN DEBATE – ROUND 6 Part 2 – Bowman (DALE) - June 3, 2010

    […] to his credit Bowman puts up a manly and forthright defense of positive mysterianism (comment #3 here). He smacks down a misinterpretation of John 4:22, and makes the excellent point that it is […]

  6. trinities - SCORING THE BURKE – BOWMAN DEBATE – Final Reflections (DALE) - June 3, 2010

    […] is it humble to rest in an apparently contradictory interpretation of the various texts? This comment by Bowman was telling: As a debater, I could be pleased by the approach that you took to this […]