Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Trinitarianism and Preconceived Bias

When I was in high school, my English teacher warned me against incorporating “preconceived bias” into my homework of writing a term paper. That phrase has been forever branded into my consciousness as a result. For something to be preconceived, it has to be formed beforehand without adequate evidence or due to previously held prejudice. Thus it is subjective as opposed to objective.

In “Christian Thinkers 101: A Crash Course on St. Athanasius,”[1] Kenneth Samples appears to me to indulge in preconceived bias to his intended Trinitarian audience, committing “circular reasoning galore.” In what follows, his comments will be prefaced by KS and mine by JS.

Under “What Did St. Athanasius Believe?” he states:
1. St. Athanasius affirmed Nicene orthodoxy and argued that the Son (Jesus Christ) is homoousios (of the “same substance”) with God the Father.

JS: While both the Father and Jesus share the transcendent spirit nature (John 4:24; 1 Corinthians 15:44, 45), the Father has the unique attribute of being “the only true God.” (John 17:1-5) Thus the homoousios doctrine falls victim to misplaced zeal, evidently due to a misunderstanding of soteriological mechanics as seen in the next point:

KS: 2. St. Athanasius tied the Incarnation[2] and atonement together in his theological reasoning. He is known for formulating the following theological argument:
Only God can save people from sin.
Jesus Christ saves people from sin.
Therefore, Jesus Christ is God.

JS: The first premise is true, and he gets a gold star for recognizing that inalienable truth. However, promoters of this syllogism would benefit from Simeon’s declaration at Luke 2:30, where he praised God for letting him see His “soterios.” The Strong’s Outline of Biblical Usage says this word includes “he who embodies salvation, or through whom God is about to achieve it.” Thus the NWT insightfully presents this verse as saying: “your means of salvation.” Jesus Christ is God’s means of salvation, as he is the one through whom God achieves it. Thus, the conclusion of that syllogism is invalid. This may be illustrated by noting that others in the Bible are called saviors: the Judges Othniel and Ehud for instance. They were needed to save Israel due to Israel’s sin. (Judges 3:7, 9, 15) Therefore that syllogism may be tested this way:
Only God can save people from sin.
Othniel and Ehud saved people from sin.
Therefore, Othniel and Ehud are God.

Instead, the initial premise of that syllogism should be revised to express the inalienable truth that only God is the Prime Savior who sends saviors. God saved through Othniel and Ehud and saves us from sin through Jesus Christ.

KS: 3. ... Athanasius argued for Christ’s full deity.

JS: Ironically, Trinitarianism holds that Christ is fully human too, in contradistinction to the lucid Bible teaching that he sacrificed his human life and was resurrected as a divine spirit. Thus, Trinitarianism most obviously denies “Christ’s full deity.”

KS: When contemporary evangelicals encounter Jehovah’s Witnesses at their door, they will gain a sense of what Athanasius was up against with the Arian heresy.

JS: And Jehovah’s Witnesses will gain a sense of what Jesus Christ and the Apostle Paul were up against with false teachers pontificating the “teachings of men.” (Matthew 15:9; Mark 7:7, 8; Galatians 3:1)

KS: Evangelicals can learn from Athanasius’ courage and steadfast witness to Christ, the divine-human Savior.

JS: Jehovah’s Witnesses can learn from Jesus Christ’s courage and steadfast witness to his God, and can learn from the Apostle Paul’s courage and steadfast witness to Christ, ‘sent from God and born of a woman,’ who sacrificed his life and returned to heaven being restored to his divine nature, exalted in position, and granted immortality.—Galatians 4:4; Colossians 2:9; Philippians 2:9; 1 Timothy 6:16; Hebrews 5:7; 1 Corinthians 15:44, 45 and 1 Peter 3:18.

God has allowed “a strong delusion” or “a deluding influence” to envelope “historic Christianity.” But that does not negate our responsibility to seek God and “search for him,” for “he will let himself be found by you.”—2 Thessalonians 2:11; 1 Chronicles 28:9; Acts 17:27.

Additionally, I would like to close with a warning myself, that Christians need to be careful to not use humans as the standard for truth, as the Apostle Paul hilariously warned here:

2 Corinthians 10:12 NET Bible
For we would not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who recommend themselves. But when they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are without understanding. [Footnote: Or “they are unintelligent.”]


[2] The term “incarnation” is inaccurate as incarnations are materializations, which by definition are not born like Jesus was—from Mary (Galatians 4:4). Defenders of the incarnation draw attention to the expression at John 1:14, which states that Jesus “resided [Greek skayno-o, literally, “tented”] among us,” and claim this shows Jesus was, not a true human, but an incarnation. However, the apostle Peter used a similar expression about himself, and Peter was obviously not an incarnation. (2 Peter 1:13, 14) The bottom line is that people who are born, like Jesus was, cannot by definition be incarnations.

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