Friday, April 15, 2016

Trinitarian Samples

Exploring Trinitarianism
Terms:
  • Old-Earth Creationism (OEC): The valid interpretation that the Genesis creation week does not tell us how old the earth is.
  • Reasons to Believe (RTB): An OEC think tank.
  • Young-Earth Creationism (YEC): The false interpretation that the Genesis creation week was composed of solar days.
  • Patritheism: The Father alone is Almighty God.

Look! I am just like you before the true God; From the clay I too was shaped.
(Job 33:6)

Introduction
As introduced here previously,[1] Kenneth Samples is an ardent defender of the Trinitarian theology. He is also one of the main scholars of RTB. While I appreciate the strategy of RTB to show how well science and the Bible harmonize and integrate, I also note that it maintains Trinitarianism as can be seen under its “Our Beliefs” section of its website, and as chiefly promulgated by Kenneth Samples. I can also appreciate where RTB is coming from, as it competes with YEC, endeavoring to persuade YEC adherents to embrace the superior OEC. So if RTB rejected Trinitarianism in favor of Patritheism, that would make their mission infinitely more difficult due to the hostility Trinitarianism has for Patritheism. As shall be shown in the following presentation however, this hostility is due in part to misunderstanding how Patritheism harmonizes with the Bible. Thus, picture these two theological paradigms of Trinitarianism and Patritheism as competing interpretations of the same scriptures in the Bible.

The following will review arguments he uses as seen on the RTB website. Like my reviews of Trinitarian William Lane Craig, Kenneth Samples’ comments are prefaced by KS, while mine are prefaced by JS.

Appraisal

  • The Triune God Is Love (http://www.reasons.org/articles/the-triune-god-is-love)

KS: According to the New Testament “God is love” (1 John 4:8). But according to historic Christian theology God is love only because God is a Trinity. In fact, Christian theology asserts that God can only be a supreme independent being exactly because God is a Trinity. This insight led British evangelical theologian Bruce Milne to state that “just about everything that matters in Christianity hangs on the truth of God’s three-in-oneness.” (emphasis added)

JS: Thus we see that 1 John 4:8 is the theological motivator for interpreting God as being multipersonal, that is, of being an impersonal construct housing distinct people. However, the simple fact that is consistently ignored is that “God is love” (1 John 4:8) because it is one of His cardinal attributes and that He is the gold standard of expressing love, not that he has to be a multipersonal being. This is especially seen in the very next verse: 1 John 4:9, which “describes God’s action in sending his Son into the world.” (NET Bible footnote) Thus, God is identified unambiguously as the Father person, directly contradicting the Trinitarian claim. Therefore, God may exist just fine without being an impersonal construct housing distinct people.

KS: Traditional Monotheism
In traditional monotheism (classical Judaism, Islam, and Unitarianism), God is one being and one person. Or, philosophically, God is one What (essence) and one Who (person). Thus the one God is a single, solitary person. But this common conception of monotheism raises serious theological difficulties.

JS: Traditional monotheism is my monotheism, however I note that it is unnatural to refer to God as a What since essence is inseparable from the person. This artificial and unnatural distinction though is employed to facilitate later Trinitarian explanation. We will now consider the alleged “serious theological difficulties.”

KS: If God is a single, solitary person (like the Jewish conception of Yahweh and the Islamic conception of Allah), then traditional monotheism must answer two fundamental questions:

1. Who did God love in eternity before he created the world?

JS: God does not need to be loving someone to ‘be love.’ “God is love” (1 John 4:8) because love is one of His cardinal attributes and that He is the gold standard of expressing love, not that he has to be a multipersonal being.

KS: 2. Is God in desperate need of the creation to fulfill himself?

JS: God did not create for self-fulfillment, but for others to enjoy living. As Acts 17:25 says, He does not need anything from us, and therefore certainly does not need love from us to feel fulfilled.

KS: On this view, before God created he—as a single person—was completely alone in eternity. God had no one to love but himself. But self-love can be toxic and it is certainly not as rich and vibrant as having love for someone else.

JS: God being love does not demand that he was only loving himself, just that he had not yet expressed love through creation. That is all it means, and it does not necessarily mean that he was stricken with narcissistic and toxic self-love. However, even if God was loving himself in some way, it would not necessarily be narcissistic because God transcends our sinful traits.

KS: Therefore in traditional monotheism, God must create other persons (angels or humans) in order to have someone to love. But if this were true, then God would be dependent upon the creation for fulfillment.

JS: God was already fulfilled and did not need to create others to find fulfillment.

Two questions that may now be asked are: 1) What was God doing for eternity past before creation and 2) how exactly was he fulfilled before creation? These are very interesting questions. Regardless of your theological paradigm, the first one lacks a specific answer as no one has any way of knowing. Regarding the second question, God was fulfilled because he is not like us needing love, as he transcends us as his creation. This concern then about God needing love is circular as it applies our fleshly needs to him. Additionally, there are serious, theologically fatal consequences that Trinitarianism leaves unaddressed:
  1. First, Trinitarianism presents itself as completely oblivious to the dilemma of how the holy spirit can be a person of the Godhead and maintain the doctrine of Mary’s virgin birth of Jesus, as this would make it an active, personal participant in her pregnancy, analogous to an incubus. This contradiction alone shows that there could not have been a Trinity from all eternity, as the holy spirit could not be a member of it prior to Jesus’ birth. Additionally, having the holy spirit be a person responsible for Mary’s impregnation would also make him Jesus’ father. Yet, Jesus called the Father his father in Mathew 18:19 and John 6:57 and not the holy spirit.[2]
    Having the holy spirit be a person would:
    • Make it an active, personal participant in Mary’s impregnation.
    • Make it Jesus’ spiritual father.
  2. Second, Jesus’ emphatic declarations in his Passion Narratives demonstrate with extreme clarity and lucidity that during his earthy sojourn he was not the second divine person in an impersonal Trinitarian Godhead, for he emphatically declared on multiple occasions that he would be killed, and condemned as satanic the notion that he would not really die.[3] Following his sacrificial death, his exaltation to a position that he as a person did not enjoy prior to his earthly sojourn demonstrates with equal coherence that he was not the second divine person in an impersonal Trinitarian Godhead. Thus the Trinity fails for two time periods: before Jesus’ earthly sojourn and during it. The time period following his resurrection and exaltation is also not immune as seen in Jesus’ declaration in Revelation 3:12—which was stated in heaven after his resurrection and exaltation—that he has a God whom he gives worshipful praise to. Thus, Jesus could not have been the second person of the Trinitarian Godhead at this point either. Thus all three time periods in Jesus’ life present situations dynamically incongruent with him being the second immortal divine person in an impersonal Trinitarian Godhead.

  3. Third, Jesus declared that the Father person is the “only true God” in John 17:1-5 in accords with divine revelation seen in Deuteronomy 32:6, Isaiah 63:16, 64:8, Jeremiah 31:9, Psalm 89:26 and Malachi 2:10, which all in one way or another identify God or Jehovah as the Father. Jesus declared this with clarity of expression and thus it was free of any theological baggage. The Father person is the only God to render complete worshipful devotion to. (Exodus 20:5, the Second Commandment.) All other objects of worship in competition with the Father are false gods and idols. Thus Biblical monotheism is monolatrism, the exclusive worship of one person as the Almighty Creator. Trinitarianism worships Jesus in competition with the Father and thus makes him into a false god and idol.
Summing up the response on how God can be a person from eternity and then begin to create so others can enjoy life is presented in our book Draw Close to Jehovah under the chapter “He First Loved Us” and the subheading Jehovah Took the Initiative:
Love is not new. After all, what moved Jehovah to begin creating? It was not that he was lonely and needed companionship. Jehovah is complete and self-contained, lacking nothing that someone else might supply. But his love, an active quality, naturally moved him to want to share the joys of life with intelligent creatures who could appreciate such a gift. (pp. 237-238)
KS: British evangelical theologian Michael Reeves uses the example of Allah and his title as “The Loving” in Islam to show the problem.

If Allah needs his creation to be who he is in himself (“loving”), then Allah is dependent on his own creation, and one of the cardinal beliefs of Islam is that Allah is dependent on nothing.

JS: I can’t answer for Islam, but it has been shown that Trinitarianism is not the only recourse to God being love.

KS: Trinitarian Monotheism
Historic Christianity’s Trinitarian monotheism holds that God is one being and three persons. Or philosophically stated, God is one divine What (essence) and three Whos (three distinct, but not separate persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). Thus the one God has eternally existed as a community of persons. (emphasis added)

JS: See the three reasons above for why this is theologically incongruent and thus unacceptable for Christianity.

KS: In Christianity, God is principally a Father who forever loves his Son and Spirit in eternity before the creation of all contingent things.

JS: “God is principally a Father” is an understatement as Jesus Christ summarized divine revelation for us at John 17:1-5, as I explained above. God is ONLY the Father in both Judaism and Christianity. The placement of Jesus “before the creation” is a reference to Colossians 1:17 which says that Jesus “is before all [created] things.” However, Colossians 1:15 and 18 says that Jesus is the firstborn of creation and of the dead. While Trinitarianism maintains that Jesus is firstborn of creation in the sense of preeminence and not first in time, it also maintains that Jesus is firstborn of the dead because he was “the first to rise from the dead.” (NET Bible footnote.) This inconsistent exegesis of “firstborn” is due to the Trinitarian exegesis of Colossians 1:16 which it interprets as identifying Jesus as the Creator. However, the language does not demand that interpretation as it may also mean that everything was created through Jesus by his Father. This interpretation is seen in the Good News Translation for verse 16:
For through him God created everything in heaven and on earth, the seen and the unseen things, including spiritual powers, lords, rulers, and authorities. God created the whole universe through him and for him. (emphasis added)
The advantage of this interpretation is that the inconsistent views of “firstborn” for verses 15 and 18 are replaced with a consistent exegesis: Jesus is the firstborn of creation and death as the first one created by God and the first one to be resurrected to immortal life by God.
  • Trinitarianism: Inconsistent views of Jesus being the firstborn of creation and death.
  • Patrithesim: Consistent views of Jesus being the firstborn of creation and death.
Thus Jesus as the first one created by God was created before the creation in general, before the rest of creation.[4] Additionally, Hebrews 1:2 confirms that God created through Jesus, as the NET Bible has it: “through whom he created the world.”

KS: The Triune God has existed forever in an eternal community of loving relationships. That love then spilled over when God created all things.

JS: See the three overlooked fatal theological problems of Trinitarianism above. Also, God did not begin to create because his love “spilled over” the divine threshold, but because he desired others to enjoy living.

KS: Therefore God is love and is capable of loving his creatures precisely because God is a Trinity.

JS: Therefore God is love and is capable of loving his creatures precisely because he is almighty and is the gold standard of expressing love.

KS: One of the most beloved, gospel-summarizing Bible verses takes on new meaning when understood through a Trinitarian prism:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

JS: When this most beloved scripture is understood through a Trinitarian prism it does indeed ‘take on new meaning,’ for it becomes hopelessly convoluted and drowned in a sea of despair:

For God in the sense of being the Father the first person of the impersonal Trinitarian Godhead so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son in the sense of being the second person of the impersonal Trinitarian Godhead, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life, but since the Son was never divested of his immortal divine nature being the second person of the impersonal Trinitarian Godhead during his earthly sojourn, then he never actually died nor sacrificed anything, thus he offers no atonement for our sins and is a counterfeit savior.[5]

This “Trinitarian prism” then offers only a fractured view of salvation that we can gladly reject. This brings us to our next subject.

  • No Trinity, No Salvation (http://www.reasons.org/articles/no-trinity-no-salvation)

KS: Contemporary heretical sects or cults all claim to have the proper theological system to replace historic Christianity as the true heir of biblical revelation. They also deny two essential Christian doctrines: the Trinity and salvation as the free gift of God’s grace through faith.

JS: Here he introduces this topic bombastically with the typical Trinitarian preconceived bias that Trinitarianism is true, “historic” Christianity and thus all others in disagreement with it are “heretical sects or cults.” However, the Trinity is not necessarily an essential Christian doctrine since that claim is based on a preconceived bias that ignores fatal theological problems outlined above. Additionally, KS should be relieved to know that “salvation as the free gift of God’s grace through faith” is not denied as James 2:14-26 makes conspicuously clear. Indeed, if “faith” alone was all that was needed, then why engage in RTB’s mission and write articles defending Trinitarianism—claiming that this theology is the only way to salvation?

KS: Why these two [the Trinity and salvation as the free gift of God’s grace through faith] in particular? The answer is these two essentials of historic Christianity are inextricably tied together.

JS: Theology and soteriological mechanics are indeed “inextricably tied together”—just not necessarily to the exclusion of Patrithesim.

KS: It is important to define what historic Christianity means by saying that God is Triune in order to understand how the Lord is uniquely involved in salvation.

The Triune God
[Here KS states that the three persons are “distinct and distinguishable” but not separate, and are equally uncreated and equal in “nature, attributes, and glory.” Thus the Triune God is uniquely “one in essence or being but three in personhood or subsistence.”]

JS: No scriptures are provided. This is just interpretation that is blissfully oblivious to the fatal theological problems outlined above.

KS: The Trinity and Salvation
[Here KS states that the three persons provided salvation “in three logically ordered steps.” First, “the Father initiates salvation” by sending his Son. Second, his Son Jesus Christ “accomplishes our salvation by dying in the place of sinners,” thus “the Son achieves salvation.” Third, the holy spirit “employs salvation” due to “His threefold work of convicting people of sin (John 16:8), regenerating hearts (Titus 3:5), and enabling people to confess Christ as Lord (1 Corinthians 12:3).” (emphasis original)]

JS: That is correct that the Father initiates salvation by sending his Son. However, in the second step we run into a fatal flaw, for as explained above and in footnote 5, the Trinitarian Jesus never really died nor sacrificed anything that wasn’t returned or restored to him. So the Trinitarian Son failed to achieve salvation. With this failure clearly in view, the third step is logically deflated. But the overall message of salvation through Jesus Christ is so appealing and well-attested in Scripture that even ones with a broken soteriology can proclaim that “Jesus is Lord!” even without the direct involvement of holy spirit. This is confirmed by Jesus’ words recorded in Matthew 7:21 where he declared: “Not everyone saying to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the Kingdom of the heavens, but only the one doing the will of my Father who is in the heavens will.” This confirms that people not serving God and Christ can still proclaim Jesus’ Lordship even while devoid of holy spirit.

KS: [Here he “explains why salvation is a gift,” because “nobody but God contributes to the work of salvation.”]

JS: This summary is absolutely true. The Father, God, is our Prime Savior who sent the final Savior Jesus Christ. This salvation is a free gift, as Jesus emphasized in John 6:27, where he said “Work, not for the food that perishes, but for the food that remains for everlasting life, which the Son of man will give you; for on this one the Father, God himself, has put his seal of approval.” Here Jesus also confirms that only the Father is God.

KS: Why is the Trinity doctrine so important to historic Christianity? Because there is no gift of salvation without it!

JS: Here there is an unnecessary acknowledgment of the Trinity. Christians acknowledge that there is the Father, Son, and holy spirit without combining them with equal personhood into an impersonal “Godhead,” for that Trinitarian combination is unnecessary for soteriological mechanics to function. Indeed, as Trinitarianism presents a Jesus who never really died or sacrificed anything, it actually makes salvation unauthorized. Therefore, in order to be valid and scriptural, his closing statement should be rephrased as:

“Why is Jesus Christ so important to historic Christianity? Because there is no gift of salvation without him!”

Jesus Christ apart from Trinitarianism provides salvation, a Jesus who actually and really died and sacrificed his life!


Excursus: Other comments
On one RTB podcast some comments were made about Trinitarianism that I would like to respond to.[6]

Dr. Hugh Ross is an astronomer and president/founder of RTB. I have a lot of respect for him and thus the following was composed in the spirit of Proverbs 27:6 and 17. Nevertheless, he revealed his strategy of using two scriptures on the Patritheists Jehovah’s Witnesses, Jeremiah 23:5-6 and 1 Corinthians 11:3. The first one says:
“Look! The days are coming,” declares Jehovah, “when I will raise up to David a righteous sprout. And a king will reign and show insight and uphold justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will reside in security. And this is the name by which he will be called: Jehovah Is Our Righteousness.”
Here the claim is made that since Jesus, the undisputed Davidic “righteous sprout,” is called “Jehovah Is Our Righteousness,” that this passage is teaching that Jesus is Jehovah, thus a person of the Godhead. However, this same title “Jehovah Is Our Righteousness” is used again for Jerusalem ten chapters later in Jeremiah 33:16! Obviously Trinitarians do not apply their reasoning on this scripture as Jerusalem is a city and not literally Jehovah. But Jerusalem was to represent Jehovah, so it may be called that representationally. The same situation exists with the Messiah who represents Jehovah. Strong’s dictionary concurs under the heading “Biblical Usage,” which says: “Jehovah-Tsidkenu, a symbolical epithet of the Messiah and of Jerusalem.” So this is a known interpretation. The volumes Insight on the Scriptures agrees under “Jehovah Is Our Righteousness”:
Jeremiah 23:5, 6 is a Messianic prophecy describing the future king sprouting from David’s line to “execute justice and righteousness in the land.” Since he rules as God’s representative (even as David, and others, sat “upon Jehovah’s throne” as God’s anointed king; 1Ch 29:23), the prophecy says, “This is his name with which he will be called, Jehovah Is Our Righteousness.” There is no basis for claiming, as some have, that this means that Jesus, the Messiah, and Jehovah are the same, forming one God. This can be seen from the fact that the similar Messianic prophecy at Jeremiah 33:14-16 applies the identical expression to Jerusalem, saying: “And this is what she will be called, Jehovah Is Our Righteousness.” In both cases the expression shows that God’s name, Jehovah, placed both upon his promised king and upon his chosen capital, is a guarantee of their righteousness. Moreover, the justice and righteousness emanating from or expressed by these sources are the product of full devotion to Jehovah and his divine will, bringing Jehovah’s blessing and direction.
Additionally, other scriptures—including one from Jeremiah—clearly have the Davidic messiah being another person subordinate to God: Ezekiel 34:23-24; 37:24-25, Jeremiah 30:9 and Hosea 3:5. Another scripture that is not taken into account is Exodus 23:21, which says regarding the angel of the Exodus: “Take heed because of him, and obey his voice; do not rebel against him, for he will not pardon your transgressions, for my name is in him.” (NET Bible) Here the footnote on “name” says in part: “Driver quotes McNeile as saying, ‘The “angel” is Jehovah Himself “in a temporary descent to visibility for a special purpose.”’” Thus this angel is also Jehovah in a representational capacity.

Another strategy he has used is regarding 1 Corinthians 11:3, which states that God is the head of Christ who is the head of man, who as a husband is the head of his wife. Trinitarians like to say this includes nature, thus the woman is not less of a human than the man—thus Jesus is not less of God than the Father. But this scripture is only about authority structure and submission to authority—it is not about nature. I’m afraid this is a failure of reading comprehension—that is, Trinitarianism induces its adherents to fail at reading comprehension.

KS also contributed a couple of points I want to respond to. First, he correctly stated that Lord in Greek, Kurios, can mean Jehovah. But then he haphazardly applied it to 1 Corinthians 8:6, “there is actually to us one God, the Father, from whom all things are and we for him; and there is one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things are and we through him.” Here he claimed this occurrence of Kurios should also be Jehovah, making Jesus Jehovah, which is the intent of the clear misuse of Jeremiah 23:5, 6 noted above. However, there are at least three major flaws in the strategy here:

  1. The first and most obvious flaw is that in Trinitarianism all three divine persons of the Godhead are equal and share all attributes other than Jesus’ human nature. So according to his own theology the Father is also Jehovah.
  2. A second and equally obvious flaw here is that God is being called the Father in accords with prior divine revelation seen in Deuteronomy 32:6, Isaiah 63:16, 64:8, Jeremiah 31:9 and Malachi 2:10, which all in one way or another identify God or Jehovah as the Father.
  3. A third flaw is that if Kurios can mean Jehovah in 1 Corinthians 8:6, then what are we to make of Revelation 17:14? Should that be translated as “Jehovah of Jehovahs” or “Lord of Lords”? Clearly the latter is meant, puncturing that bubble.

KS then quite surprisingly also claimed that “Yahweh” is more accurate than “Jehovah.”


Here he neglects to carry his logic over to Jesus, who originally was likely called “Yehoshua.” If the proposed Hebrew pronunciation of the Tetragrammation of Yahweh is more accurate than the English equivalent Jehovah, then shouldn’t Yehoshua be more accurate than Jesus? Therefore, this reasoning that KS espouses is long overdue for complete extinction.

More could be said in reply to the Trinitarian defenses in this podcast, but this will suffice for now.


Footnotes:
[1] In: What a tangled web we weave... http://jimspace3000.blogspot.com/2010/04/what-tangled-web-we-weave.html which refers to his article What Makes the Christian God Unique? http://www.reasons.org/what-makes-christian-god-unique. Here he employs the argument of God being one What composed of three Whos.

[2] See: Do You Reject Trinitarianism? Part II: Holy Spirit and the Virgin Birth
http://jimspace3000.blogspot.com/2010/11/do-you-reject-trinitarianism-part-ii.html

[3] See: A Lesson from Jesus’ Rebuke http://jimspace3000.blogspot.com/2013/10/a-lesson-from-jesus-rebuke-in-order-for.html

[4] For additional explanation regarding the “Colossian hymn” of verses 15-18, see “Does the New World Translation Add Words to Colossians 1:16, 17?” http://jehovah.to/xlation/other.html

[5] A close examination of the Trinitarian Jesus shows that he as a person never died nor sacrificed anything. As the Trinitarian Jesus was a divine person on earth never ceasing to be the second person of the Trinitarian Godhead, he never sacrificed his life. Additionally, while the Trinitarian Jesus surrendered his human body, he received it upon his resurrection—thus he did not sacrifice that either. He did not even sacrifice his blood, for the resurrected Jesus said he was “flesh and bones” (Luke 24:39), and blood is liquid flesh as his disciples confirmed for themselves when they touched and felt him.—Luke 24:39; 1 John 1:1.

[6] Heaven’s Clock: What’s the Time Difference?; Was Noah’s DNA Sufficient for Todays Diversity?; Did Jesus Deny His Trinitarian Nature? http://www.reasons.org/podcasts/i-didnt-know-that/heaven-s-clock-what-s-the-time-difference-was-noah-s-dna-sufficient-for-todays-diversity-did-jesus-deny-his-trinitarian-nature Specifically the last part, which addressed a question on John 7:17.


Appendix

John 6:27 in Different Bibles

(NWT) Work, not for the food that perishes, but for the food that remains for everlasting life, which the Son of man will give you; for on this one the Father, God himself, has put his seal of approval.”

(NASB) “Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal.”

(ASV) Work not for the food which perisheth, but for the food which abideth unto eternal life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him the Father, even God, hath sealed.

(YLT) work not for the food that is perishing, but for the food that is remaining to life age-during, which the Son of Man will give to you, for him did the Father seal -- [even] God.'

(DBY) Work not [for] the food which perishes, but [for] the food which abides unto life eternal, which the Son of man shall give to you; for him has the Father sealed, [even] God.

(Concordant) Do not work for the food which is perishing, but for the food which is remaining for life eonian, which the Son of Mankind will be giving to you, for this One God, the Father, seals.

(NT Barclay) Do not work for the food which does not last; work for the food which lasts for ever and which gives eternal life, some food which the Son of Man will give you, for is he whom the Father, God, has marked out as his own.

Continued:
Additional reading:

Podcasts by Professor Dale Tuggy:

Labels: , , ,