by Rob BowmanMay 25th, 2010 166 Comments
I would like to thank David Burke for taking so much time from his busy life to participate in this debate. His efforts have given all of us an opportunity to learn a great deal from the contrasting arguments for our two theological positions.
Trinitarianism versus Unitarianism: Defining the Issues
The doctrine of the Trinity is biblical if and only if all of the following propositions are biblical teachings:
- One eternal uncreated being, the LORD God, alone created all things.
- The Father is the LORD God.
- The Son, who became the man Jesus Christ, is the LORD God.
- The Holy Spirit is the LORD God.
- The Father and the Son stand in personal relation with each other.
- The Father and the Holy Spirit stand in personal relation with each other.
- The Son and the Holy Spirit stand in personal relation with each other.
The only theological position that affirms all seven of the above propositions is the Trinity. However, each of these propositions finds affirmation in at least one or more non-Trinitarian doctrines. Biblical Unitarianism affirms #1, #2, and #5; Jehovah’s Witnesses affirm #2 and #5; Mormonism affirms #3 and #5, #6, and #7; and Oneness Pentecostalism affirms #1, #2, #3, and #4. Since each of these propositions has some non-Trinitarian theologies that affirm them, none of these propositions presupposes the doctrine of the Trinity. The doctrine of the Trinity just happens to be the one theological position that can and does affirm all of the propositions.
Partisans for these different theologies claim that the Bible clearly teaches the propositions they affirm out of the seven listed above. Biblical Unitarians and Oneness Pentecostals think it is obvious from the Bible that the LORD God alone created all things; Oneness Pentecostals think it is obvious from the Bible that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are one God; Mormons think it is obvious from the Bible that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are personally distinct. I agree with them! The Bible does clearly teach all seven of the above propositions.
Yet, when Trinitarians appeal to the Bible in defense of these same propositions, non-Trinitarians claim that Trinitarians approach the Bible from a biased Trinitarian perspective. Admittedly, a Trinitarian may be biased, just as anyone may be, but adherence to any one of these propositions is not in and of itself evidence of Trinitarian bias, since there are anti-Trinitarians who also agree in each case that the proposition is clearly taught in the Bible.
What really drives criticism of the doctrine of the Trinity is the perception that it is illogical, unreasonable, and irrational. Critics of the doctrine universally argue that it is logically impossible to affirm all seven of the above propositions at the same time. This is an important issue in its own right, but it is not the question we are addressing in this debate. The question here is which doctrine—Unitarianism or Trinitarianism—is most faithful to all that the Bible teaches. If the Bible teaches all seven propositions, then Trinitarianism is the correct answer to that question. I do not think the doctrine of the Trinity is illogical, but I do think that it may be that this is one aspect of God’s being that is beyond our comprehension. As I argued in Part 1 of this debate, the Bible does teach that God is incomprehensible, and so we ought not to reject a doctrine such as the Trinity merely because we find it logically puzzling. For those who are interested in the philosophical question of how the doctrine of the Trinity can be coherent—that is, how one can affirm all seven propositions—I recommend a new book by Thomas H. McCall, Which Trinity? Whose Monotheism? Philosophical and Systematic Theologians on the Metaphysics of Trinitarian Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2010).
Since Unitarians and Trinitarians agree that the LORD God alone created the world (#1), that the Father is the LORD God (#2), and that the Father and the Son are personally distinct (#5), I have no obligation in this debate to defend these propositions. If I were debating a Mormon, a Jehovah’s Witness, or a Oneness Pentecostal, the debate would look very different, because I would be spending much of my time defending propositions that Dave and I both affirm!
Setting aside the three propositions to which both Unitarians and Trinitarians agree, this leaves four propositions for me to defend. However, the task can be simplified considerably. Basically, Trinitarians and Unitarians have two key differences. First, Trinitarianism affirms that Jesus Christ, the Son, is the LORD God; Unitarianism denies this claim. Second, Trinitarianism affirms that the Holy Spirit is a person; Unitarianism, particularly as Dave and other Christadelphians espouse it, does not. If the Holy Spirit is a person, Christadelphians will have to concede that he is distinct from the Father (who sent him) and the Son. Thus, in this debate I have focused on defending two claims: (1) that Jesus Christ is the LORD God, and (2) that the Holy Spirit is a distinct person.
In what follows, I will do little more than review the discussion that Dave and I had in the first five rounds of this debate. The rest of this post contains numerous hyperlinks that will take the reader to the specific posts or comments to which I refer. This will hopefully make this concluding post a useful point of departure for those wishing to follow and understand the back-and-forth discussions that we have had.
ONE GOD = THE FATHER: A REVIEW OF DAVE’S ARGUMENT
Most of Dave’s argumentation has focused on defending the claim that the Father alone is the LORD God to the exclusion of Jesus Christ. Dave’s main arguments for this claim were as follows:
- The Bible says that God is one (Deut. 6:4, the Shema), and the Jews have always understood this to mean that God is unipersonal. Since Jesus and the apostles, who were all Jewish, affirmed the biblical teaching that God is one (e.g., Mark 12:29), they must also have believed that God is unipersonal.
- The pervasive use of singular pronouns for God throughout the Bible proves that God is unipersonal, whereas the plural pronouns in Genesis 1:26 can refer to angelic members of the heavenly court.
- Jesus identified the Father as the only true God and excluded himself as that God (John 17:3), and elsewhere denied claiming to be God (John 10:34-36).
- Paul explicitly identified the “one God” as the Father and in that context distinguished him from Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 8:6).
- The Bible consistently teaches that Jesus Christ is a human being and that he needed to be a human being in order to redeem us; and he cannot be both a human being and God.
- The NT’s explicit teaching that Jesus is the Son of God is incompatible with identifying him as the LORD God.
Therefore, Dave concludes, God is a unipersonal being and is the Father alone, whereas Jesus Christ is not and cannot be God. Here is how I have responded to these arguments.
Jesus and the Shema. The Shema affirms that the LORD (Yahweh, Jehovah) is “our God” and is “one,” but, as I pointed out it in Part 1, it does not address the nature of God’s oneness. If we are to determine how Jesus and the apostles understood the Shema, we must let them speak for themselves in the NT. In fact, Jesus included himself with the Father in the identity of the “one” (John 10:30), and Paul referred to Jesus as the “one Lord” (1 Cor. 8:6; 12:4; Eph. 4:5).
Pronouns. The pervasive use of singular pronouns for God is perfectly consistent with Trinitarianism, which views the LORD God as one indivisible, infinite, and personal Being. In a comment on the issue of pronouns, I showed that singular personal pronouns do not always refer to a single person (e.g., Psa. 25:22; 130:8) and gave several reasons why the plural pronouns in Genesis 1:26 cannot refer to angelic members of the heavenly court.
Jesus never denied that he was God. In John 17:3, Jesus affirmed that the Father is the only true God. In Part 2, I explained that since Trinitarianism affirms that there is only one true God and that the Father is God, Jesus’ statement here actually agrees with Trinitarianism. The disjunction in that verse is not between Jesus Christ and God, but between Jesus Christ and the Father. At most, one might claim that John 17:3 implicitly excludes Jesus from being “true God,” but it does not do so explicitly. Thus, John 17:3 must be correlated with the rest of what John says about Jesus Christ, not used to deny what other texts explicitly say. Likewise, in John 10:34-36 Jesus did not deny that he was God, as I explained in a comment on John 10:31-39.
1 Corinthians 8:6—Jesus is the “one Lord.” A good deal of our debate focused on 1 Corinthians 8:4-6. In Part 3, I argued that Paul’s reference to that Father as the “one God” and Jesus as the “one Lord” both clearly allude to the Shema, so that the text identifies Jesus as the LORD himself. Against Dave’s objection that Paul’s use of the words “one God” exclusively for the Father disproves the Trinitarian claim that Jesus is God, I explained in an important rebuttal comment that this objection confuses vocabulary with meaning. 1 Corinthians 8:6 no more denies that Jesus is God than it denies that the Father is Lord. In a follow-up comment, I replied to some other objections from Dave and pointed out that Erik Waaler’s dissertation The Shema and the First Commandment in First Corinthians, which he had cited, thoroughly supports my conclusion. In another follow-up comment, I responded to James McGrath’s recent attempt to refute the same conclusion.
Jesus is a man. Unfortunately, throughout the debate Dave has insisted on treating the fact that Jesus was a real man as a key difference between Unitarianism and Trinitarianism. He claims, despite the emphasis with which Trinitarians throughout church history have affirmed that Jesus was a man, that they cannot really mean it. For example, after ticking off various aspects of Christ’s humanity, including his virgin birth, growth as a child, temptation, sinlessness, death, and resurrection, Dave claimed: “None of this is true of the Trinitarian Jesus.” As I pointed out in my rebuttal comment, this is a slanderously false criticism. There is nothing intrinsic to the nature or experience of being human that orthodox Christians do not regard as true about Jesus. This truth is absolutely essential to orthodox doctrine. Dave claims that I as a Trinitarian cannot affirm that Jesus is a man “without qualification.” However, not only is this not so, but it is Dave who must qualify and equivocate much of what the NT says about Christ. Thus, Dave doesn’t think the NT means it when it calls Jesus God, says that all things were created through him, or says that he came down from heaven.
Jesus is the Son of God. Dave also made the interesting—and bizarre—claim that Biblical Unitarians believe that Jesus is the “literal” Son of God. But as I pointed out in response, Unitarians do not believe that Jesus is God’s “literal” Son because they do not believe that God procreated Jesus or that Jesus is the same kind of being as God. In another comment, I showed that even though “Son of God” in Jewish parlance might be used simply as a synonym for “Messiah,” Jesus’ claim to be the Son of God was repeatedly understood by the Jews as claiming equality with God (John 5:17-18; 10:30-33; 19:7).
MY LORD AND MY GOD: THE CASE FOR THE ETERNAL DEITY OF CHRIST
As a Unitarian, Dave affirms that Jesus Christ is an exalted man in heaven, deputized by God to perform divine functions on his behalf. Thus, Jesus Christ is not really God at all. However, because he performs divine functions on God’s behalf, the Bible occasionally refers to Jesus as “God” in the sense of acknowledging him as God’s agent. Dave claims that the Bible speaks of other creatures as God’s agent in this way as well.
My case for believing that Jesus Christ is God, over against this Unitarian construct, rests on three main points: Christ’s preexistence, honors, and names.
Christ’s Divine Preexistence
The NT teaches in a variety of contexts that Jesus Christ preexisted his human life, especially in John (1:1-3, 9-10, 14-18; 8:56-59; 13:3; 16:28; 17:5), Paul (Rom. 8:3; 1 Cor. 10:4, 9; 2 Cor. 8:9; Gal. 4:4-6; Phil. 2:3-8; Col. 1:12-17), and Hebrews (1:1-3, 10-12; 2:17; 7:3; 10:5). We had the opportunity to discuss some of these passages in detail.
Galatians 4:4-6. Paul’s statement that in the fullness of time “God sent his Son, coming to be of a woman, coming to be under the Law” (Gal. 4:4) speaks of God’s Son as someone who already existed and then became a Jewish human being. In a comment on Galatians 4:4 responding to Dave, I pointed out four exegetical details in the passage that converge to show that this is the correct understanding of Paul’s statement.
Philippians 2:3-8. In Part 3, I made three key points in my brief discussion of Philippians 2 that support the conclusion that Paul there teaches the preexistence of Christ and that Dave completely side-stepped. (1) Paul uses Christ’s deference to God the Father as the ultimate illustration of a person treating an equal as someone more important than himself (vv. 3-5). This makes perfect sense if Christ was by rights equal with God but makes no sense if Christ is by rights not equal with God. (2) Christ existed in God’s form but took the form of a servant (vv. 6-7). I explained why this means that Christ existed in heaven in the glorious appearance of God but graciously took on the humble appearance of God’s servant. (3) Christ “emptied himself,” that is, humbly gave of himself, by “becoming in the likeness of human beings,” and he found himself in outward appearance as a man (v. 7). As I put it, “A human being cannot humble himself to become a human being because that is what he already and originally is. What Paul says here, then, must refer to Christ’s decision before the Incarnation to become a human being.” Dave failed to engage any of these arguments, and instead rather outrageously claimed that I “didn’t present any” evidence for my view. I reiterated these points and responded to Dave’s other criticisms in a detailed comment on Philippians 2.
All things created through Christ (John 1:3, 10; 1 Cor. 8:6; Col. 1:16; Heb. 1:2). John, Paul, and Hebrews all teach that “all things” were created “through” the preexistent Jesus Christ (whom John calls the Logos and Paul and Hebrews call the Son and Lord). Dave’s strategy for handling the Pauline and Hebrews texts is to argue that “all things” (or “the ages” in Heb. 1:2) refers to the new creation that comes through Christ’s redemptive acts, not the original creation. I explained in a comment why this interpretive strategy will not work, comparing the language used for Christ’s role in creation to the language used for God’s role. In a comment on Hebrews 1:1-4, I also discussed the meaning of tous aiōnas (“the ages”) in Hebrews 1:2 and showed why it must also refer to the totality of creation. Dave had argued that when Hebrews 1:10-12 quotes Psalm 102:25-27 concerning the Lord creating the universe, it is referring to the Father rather than the Son. In my comment on Hebrews 1:5-13, I showed why that will not hold up exegetically and why Hebrews does apply that Psalm text to the Son.
Jesus is the Logos, who is God, incarnate (John 1:1-18). In Part 2, I laid out in summary form a Trinitarian understanding of this passage: the Logos, who was personally distinct from God and yet was God, became flesh as the human being Jesus Christ. Dave argued that John 1:1 means not that the Logos was “God” but that it was “divine,” and that the subject of John 1:1-3 is not Jesus (who is not mentioned there), but the impersonal Logos. Dave also proposed that John 1:10 should be exegeted to mean that the world “was split” or divided by Christ’s life and mission on earth.
In my first comment on John 1 in response, I pointed out that the omission of the name “Jesus” from John 1:1-3 is no more significant than its omission in Colossians 1:15-20 or Hebrews 1. In another comment on John 1, I showed that the Logos is a preexistent person and explained why John 1:10 must mean that the world “came into existence,” not “was split,” by Christ (a truly unprecedented and indefensible exegesis as far as I can tell). In a long comment on “God” in John 1:1c, I explained why the translation “the Word was divine” is simply untenable. As I showed in that comment, no major Bible version ever translates the nominative theos as “divine” in any other verse (LXX or NT), because it simply is not used with that adjectival meaning. The data overwhelmingly proves that “God” is the correct rendering.
Confusing preexistence with predestination? Dave argued that any NT passage that seems to describe Christ as preexistent is actually using language familiar in Judaism to speak of God foreknowing or predetermining his plans for human beings. According to Dave, this use of “preexistence” language is reflected in the Talmud and in texts that refer to God calling or preparing his prophets before they existed (e.g., Assumption of Moses 1:14; Jer. 1:5). Dave also quoted at length from Sigmund Mowinckel’s book He That Cometh to prove that in Jewish thought the Messiah was described as preexistent only in this predestinarian sense.
In my comment on preexistence in Talmudic Judaism, I showed that in general when the rabbis said that something existed or was created before the world, they meant it literally (e.g., Eden, Gehenna, the Torah). When they did not mean it literally, they typically said so (“Some of them were created, and some of them arose in the thought of God to be created”). The rabbis did not say that the Messiah preexisted but only that his name preexisted—a distinction that Dave’s argument overlooked. In my comment on prophetic calling texts, I pointed out that in such texts as Assumption of Moses 1:14 and Jeremiah 1:5 attribute no existence or activity to the prophet; they simply state that God prepared, designed, or predetermined that the prophet would serve in that calling. Finally, I showed in another comment that Dave had quoted Mowinckel out of context. Mowinckel shows that the Jewish “Son of Man” was a really (not ideally) pre-existent, heavenly, divine being. Thus, careful study of the Jewish background to the NT actually turns Dave’s argument on its head and shows that the NT preexistence language for Christ refers to him as a really preexistent divine person.
John 13:1-3 and 16:28. In John 13:1-3, John tells us that Jesus knew he had come from God and was going back to God. In John 16:28, Jesus asserts that he came from the Father into the world and was about to leave the world and go to the Father. As I explained in Part 4, since Biblical Unitarians agree that Jesus literally left the world and went to the Father, they cannot plausibly deny that these verses mean that Jesus literally left the Father to come into the world. Furthermore, the disciples acknowledge immediately after Jesus’ statement that he was not speaking figuratively (John 16:29)! These statements prove that Christ literally preexisted his human life.
Christ’s Divine Honors
The NT reveals that the Son is the proper recipient or object of worship, prayer, spiritual singing, fear (reverence), absolute love, and other honors that in a religious context all belong only to God (e.g., Matt. 9:28; 10:37; 14:33; 28:17; John 5:23; 8:24; 14:1, 14-15; Acts 1:24-25; 7:59-60; 16:31; Rom. 10:11-13; 1 Cor. 1:2; 10:16-22; 16:22; 2 Cor. 5:10-11; 12:7-9; Eph. 5:19-21; 6:24; Phil. 2:10-11; Col. 3:22-25; Heb. 1:6; 1 Peter 2:6; 3:14-16; 1 John 5:13-15; Rev. 5:9-14; 22:1-3, 20-21). The hypothetical construct that he is God’s human agent simply does not account for this unreserved showering of divine honors on Christ.
The divine honors that Dave and I discussed were prayer to and worship of Christ. In a comment on Romans 10:9-13, I showed, contrary to Dave’s objection, that “calling upon the name of the Lord” does mean praying, and that the NT instructs us to direct this activity toward Jesus Christ. I also argued that in order for Jesus to attend to any and all prayers directed his way, he must know what is in the hearts of all people at all times. This means that he needs to have the divine nature commensurate to the task.
Regarding the worship of Christ, Dave argued that the Greek word for worship (proskuneō) need not imply that Christ is God, since human beings in the Bible sometimes “bow down” (proskuneō) to other human beings. The problem is that the contexts in which the exalted Christ receives worship are clearly religious contexts. The disciples worship the risen Christ on the mountain (Matt. 28:17); if Christ was only an exalted man, would this not be like the Israelites worshipping Moses when they should have been worshipping God? In Part 2, I argued that the surrounding context of this worship makes it a religious act, and in a follow-up comment I defended this interpretation. In that same comment, I also responded to the argument from silence that the Bible never refers to Christ as the object of actions described using the latreuō or sebomai word groups. Hebrews 1:6 reveals that the angels also worship Christ, quoting an OT text (probably Deut. 32:43) in which God was the object of their worship. (In my follow-up comment on Hebrews 1:5-13, I briefly discussed some problems with Dave’s claim that Israel, not God, was the object of angelic worship in Deuteronomy 32:43.) In a later comment on Revelation 4-5, I gave four reasons why the worship that the Lamb receives in Revelation 5 must be regarded as the highest act of religious worship.
Christ’s Divine Names
The third major line of evidence for the eternal deity of Christ that I discussed in this debate is his divine names or titles.
While the Greek word kurios could mean simply “master,” in religious contexts quoting from or alluding to OT texts and motifs the term stands for the Hebrew name Yahweh (“Jehovah” or “the LORD”), which was the distinctive name of God in the OT. Examples of the NT calling Jesus “Lord” where this clearly means the LORD Jehovah are too numerous to dismiss. In addition to 1 Corinthians 8:6, I drew special attention to Romans 10:9-13 and Philippians 2:9-11 as examples in Part 3 of this debate (see also the follow-up comments on Romans 10:9-13 and Philippians 2:3-11). My treatment of 1 Corinthians 8:6 included a paragraph summarizing the evidence that Paul referred to Jesus as the LORD Jehovah repeatedly in 1 Corinthians. For example, Paul uses the expressions “calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ” and “the day of the Lord Jesus Christ,” two allusions to Joel 2:31-32, in the same context (1 Cor. 1:2, 8).
Although the number of texts that call Jesus “God” is comparatively few, they are potent in theological significance. I have already explained why John 1:1c (“and the Logos was God”) refers to the preincarnate Christ and identifies him as “God” (not describe an impersonal “logos” as “divine”). Dave acknowledges that Hebrews 1:8 refers to Jesus as “God,” and I explained (again in Part 3) why this reference cannot be explained away as meaning only that Jesus was God’s agent. Most difficult for the Unitarian position, however, is John 20:28, where Thomas confessed Jesus as “my Lord and my God!” Dave admitted that Thomas called Jesus “God” but supposed it was sufficient to point out that the Bible occasionally calls angels or people theoi. However, as I pointed out in a follow-up comment on John 20:28, Thomas did not simply refer to Jesus as “God” (or “god”); he called him “my God.” That is something no faithful Jew would ever call any creature. I documented in that comment that the OT is filled with over a thousand parallel expressions (“my God,” “our God,” “your God,” etc.), and in none of them is anyone or anything approvingly given such a designation. This is compelling evidence that John 20:28 refers to Jesus Christ as the LORD God.
Jesus has other divine titles, including “Savior” as a divine title and the parallel, exclusive divine titles “the First and the Last” and “the Alpha and the Omega” in Revelation. The cumulative weight of all this evidence is just too much to explain it all away.
Jesus: Super Agent Man?
In order to make sense of the divine names, honors, position, and works of the exalted Christ, Unitarianism postulates a principle of agency according to which Jesus bears those names, receives those honors, holds that position, and performs those works simply as God’s exalted human agent. Jesus’ statement, “He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives not me but the one who sent me” (Matt. 10:40), is the primary proof text for this supposedly “Jewish” principle or law of agency. It supposedly proves, as Dave quoted James McGrath as asserting, that the agent was “functionally equal or equivalent to the one who sent him” (Only True God, 62).
As I explained in a comment on the principle of agency, neither Matthew 10:40 nor the rabbinical literature attests to such a principle in the broad way that Dave and McGrath seek to employ it. The actual principle was a simple matter of receiving a messenger’s message as coming from the one who sent him. Neither Jews nor Christians employed this principle, for example, to mean that humans might worship, serve, or pray to angels. The very Christian text Dave quoted, Didache 11.4, illustrates the limited focus of the agency principle, as it instructs Christians to welcome apostles for one or two days as they would the Lord—and after that to regard them as false prophets seeking to exploit Christian hospitality! In the same comment, I responded to Dave’s list of biblical examples of the agency principle, showing that they do not exemplify the assignment of divine powers or privileges to creatures as God’s agents.
The theological construct that Christ bears the divine names “God” and “Lord” merely as God’s agent falls to pieces when we recognize that Christ was “God” before creation (John 1:1) and was performing divine functions before anyone else existed—and therefore before there was anyone to whom he might come as God’s agent. We should therefore take the NT at its word when it affirms that Jesus is our God, the LORD himself.
WITNESS OF THE PARACLETE: THE CASE FOR THE PERSONHOOD OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
Due to space limitations, I will have to be much briefer in reviewing the case for the personhood of the Holy Spirit. In general, my argument in Part 4 for the personhood of the Holy Spirit anticipated and refuted in advance Dave’s main arguments against this aspect of the doctrine of the Trinity. The simplistic argument that Luke 1:35 defines the Holy Spirit as the power of God is fallacious, as a comparison with such texts as Luke 22:69 (in the same book!) or 1 Corinthians 1:24, where the Father and the Son are also both called “the power of God,” makes clear.
There is some basis in the OT for viewing the Spirit of the LORD as a divine person. However, the fact that the Holy Spirit was a person distinct from the Father and the Son could not be and was not revealed explicitly until the Son had come to reveal the Father (Matt. 11:27; John 1:18) and was preparing to leave the disciples in the custody of the Holy Spirit. Such explicit revelation of the distinct person of the Holy Spirit is a major theme in the Upper Room Discourse (John 13-16). Jesus introduces the figure of the Paraclete (“Comforter,” “Advocate,” etc.) in the context of his leaving the disciples to return to the Father (John 13:1-3; 16:5-7, 28). When he leaves them, Jesus says, he will send “another Paraclete,” the Holy Spirit, to them—who will be someone like Jesus himself (cf. 1 John 2:1). The narrative context in which Jesus says these things as he prepares them for his departure rules out the notion that this is mere personification.
The Book of Acts confirms this conclusion. The Holy Spirit appears in the narrative at the very beginning and end of the book (1:2; 28:25-26) to mark him as the book’s primary witness, just as Luke had mentioned Simon Peter as the first and last named disciple in his Gospel (Luke 4:38; 24:34) because that book derived primarily from Peter’s eyewitness testimony. Acts also presents the Holy Spirit as a participant at key points throughout the book. The “personal” language in Acts about the Spirit speaking, being lied to, thinking, testifying, etc., is not personification, because it is integrated into a historical narrative account in which the Holy Spirit is a major participant and witness.
By contrast, the personification of Wisdom in Proverbs 8 takes place in the literary context of a poetic book of wisdom literature, not a historical narrative. Dave’s attempt to argue that if we don’t view wisdom as a person neither should we view the Holy Spirit as one ignores these genre and contextual differences, as I explained in a comment on personification.
The evidence for the personhood of the Holy Spirit, already quite substantial from John and Acts, is augmented and broadened when we look at the many instances of triadic statements about the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in the NT. I looked at a dozen major examples of these triadic statements in Part 5. These triadic statements provide further confirmation of the distinct person of the Holy Spirit, and testify to a threefoldness of Christian piety woven throughout the NT.
CONCLUSION: THE DOCTRINE OF THE TRINITY IS BIBLICALLY GROUNDED
I have argued that the Son truly is the LORD God and that the Holy Spirit is a person distinct from the Father and the Son. I conclude, then, that the evidence presented here shows that the Trinity is biblically grounded in a way that Unitarianism is not.
Ironically, if the apostles did teach Unitarianism, their understanding of Christianity completely and suddenly disappeared after the passing of the apostles. As I pointed out to Dave in a comment on early Trinitarianism, historians find no trace of any religious movement even remotely akin to Unitarianism in the second or third centuries. On the other hand, the ante-Nicene Fathers were roughly or rudely trinitarian in their theology. This historical evidence provides significant confirmation that the Trinitarian reading of the NT is correct.
- The Great Trinity Debate: An Introduction
- The Great Trinity Debate – Coming April 2010
- Must One Believe in the Trinity to be Saved?
- In What Sense Are Jesus and the Father One? Part III: One in Purpose? C: John 17:21-23
- The Doctrine of the Trinity in a Nutshell