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.”]

Footnotes:
[1] www.reasons.org/blogs/reflections/christian-thinkers-101-a-crash-course-on-st-athanasius

[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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Friday, May 06, 2016

A Trinitarian Take on Jehovah


A short article interestingly titled “Jehovah” was presented by a Young-Earth Creationist group and written by Trinitarian John D. Morris, Ph.D.[1]

It began with the following:
“And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands.” (Hebrews 1:10)

The primary name for God in Scripture is the majestic name Jehovah, occurring nearly seven thousand times. The early Jews were reluctant to use that name, for fear of using it lightly (Exodus 20:7), and substituted the word Adonai (meaning Master or Lord) in its place. Our English versions have followed suit, using the term “LORD” for Jehovah (small or all caps to distinguish it from Adonai, or Lord). Thus, the name Jehovah appears only four times in the King James and causes us at times to miss the full impact of the passage.

This is especially true in the New Testament quotations from Old Testament passages which used the name “Jehovah” for which “Lord” has been substituted. Now, in the English versions, the name “Lord” appears. If “Jehovah” (i.e., deity) were read instead, much richer meaning would be gathered,
It’s always a pleasure to see Trinitarians acknowledge that (1) Jehovah is a permissible handling of the Tetragrammaton instead of insisting on “Yahweh,” and that (2) Jehovah belongs in the “NT,” especially with his acknowledgment of a much richer meaning being gathered.

However, Dr. Morris then reminds us that he is a Trinitarian, as he continues without skipping a beat:
and it would prove beyond a doubt the full deity of Christ. Consider two examples.

First, our text quotes from Psalm 102:25-27. The entire psalm consists of praise to Jehovah, and here in Hebrews it addresses the Son. If we read “thou, Jehovah, in the beginning hast laid the foundations of the earth” and realize that Jesus is the subject of the passage, we recognize that Jesus can be none other than the Creator God.

Also, in Matthew 3:3, where John the Baptist fulfilled his prophesied role by teaching “Prepare ye the way of the Lord,” quoting from Isaiah 40:3, we see Jesus equated with the Jehovah of the Old Testament, for Isaiah uses the term LORD, or Jehovah.
These comments about Psalm 102:25-27 and Isaiah 40:3 are adroitly addressed on page 414 in the 1989 book Reasoning From the Scriptures:[2]
Application to Jesus Christ by inspired Bible writers of passages from the Hebrew Scriptures that clearly apply to Jehovah

Why does John 1:23 quote Isaiah 40:3 and apply it to what John the Baptizer did in preparing the way for Jesus Christ, when Isaiah 40:3 is clearly discussing preparing the way before Jehovah? Because Jesus represented his Father. He came in his Father’s name and had the assurance that his Father was always with him because he did the things pleasing to his Father.—John 5:43; 8:29.

Why does Hebrews 1:10-12 quote Psalm 102:25-27 and apply it to the Son, when the psalm says that it is addressed to God? Because the Son is the one through whom God performed the creative works there described by the psalmist. (See Colossians 1:15, 16; Proverbs 8:22, 27-30.) It should be observed in Hebrews 1:5b that a quotation is made from 2 Samuel 7:14 and applied to the Son of God. Although that text had its first application to Solomon, the later application of it to Jesus Christ does not mean that Solomon and Jesus are the same. Jesus is “greater than Solomon” and carries out a work foreshadowed by Solomon.—Luke 11:31. (italics original)
He closes his article with this smug and glib comment:
In these and many other examples, we see Christ as the Jehovah Jesus and that the Lord of the Old Testament is the Jesus of the New Testament.
This was stated while being blissfully oblivious to scriptural mechanics—how the Bible works. This can be clearly seen when also considering Revelation 14:1, which presents a group of people with two separate names inscribed on their foreheads: the name of the Lamb, Jesus, and the name of his Father—Jehovah as clearly identified for us 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.

Thus, Trinitarianism is guilty of the grave sins of scriptural illiteracy, intellectual absenteeism, and sustained cognitive dissonance as clearly seen in its irresponsible and biased handling of Holy Scripture. It is comparable to the false interpretation of Young-Earth Creationism, which similarly holds its adherents in its tyrannical, mind-control grip.

Excursus on Proverbs 30:4
The final statement in Proverbs 30:4 is: “What is his name and the name of his son—if you know?” This has been understood messianically according to the NET Bible footnote, as in, the name of God and of his Son Jesus. However, I refer to the excellent Questions From Readers in the July 15th 1987 issue of The Watchtower, which says in part:
This verse makes it evident how limited man is compared to the Most High. Its rhetorical questions could be asked about any man, but these questions should lead a reasoning person to the Creator.

The writer Agur asked: “[quotation]”—Proverbs 30:1, 4.

No imperfect human has gone up to heaven and come back omniscient; nor has any human the ability to control the wind, the seas, or the geological forces shaping the earth. In effect, then, Agur asked: ‘Do you know the name or family line of any man who has done these things?’ We must answer no. (underscore added)
Thus, despite the historical inclination to interpret this verse messianically, I think it’s best to see it as seen here, as a reference to a hypothetical man and his progeny—especially since “son” in Hebrew may also mean “grandson, great grandson, etc.” Additionally, Jesus appeared to answer the opening question “who has ascended to heaven and then descended?” for us, confirming that Agur had a hypothetical man in mind, when he said “no man has ascended into heaven.” Jesus then afirmed however that he is the one who “descended from heaven.” (John 3:13) Thus, the above Watchtower article closed with this positive reminder: “we should humbly look to the One who is able to provide the wisdom we need. This is the Most Holy One, whose name we can know and whose Son has died so that we might be ransomed and gain everlasting life.—Matthew 20:28.”


Footnotes:
[1] Found here: http://www.icr.org/article/9232

[2] Found here on the Watchtower Online Library: http://wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/1101989276#h=45


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Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Trinitarianism and the problem of Infinite Regress



Trinitarianism teaches that “God is love” in 1 John 4:8 means that God is multipersonal in interpenetrating perichoritic (rotational) love from all eternity.

However, the next verse of 1 John 4:9 identifies “God” in the preceding verse as the Father, the one who sent his Son.

Thus, if “God is love” means that God is multipersonal in internal love, then as this God is actually and precisely the Father, then the Father would also be multipersonal in internal love. Since every person of the Trinitarian Godhead is co-equal, then the other two—the Son and Holy Spirit—would also be multipersonal. Furthermore, as the persons of the persons would also “be love” in shared attribution, logically they would be multipersonal as well, and those persons also, ad infinitum in Infinite Regress.

Thus, one question to ask a devout Trinitarian is how they deal with this problem of Infinite Regress.

Of course, this question is not to the exclusion of another more pressing one, namely: ‘Do you understand that Trinitarianism presents a Jesus that never really died or sacrificed anything?’

[Note: This is not to be confused with the atheist argument of Infinite Regress which asks, ‘If God created everything then who created God, and then who created him, etc. ad infinitum?’ This question fails for not taking into account that God as creator would be transcendent and therefore the laws of pedigree would not necessarily apply to Him, and most importantly, that there cannot be an infinite regress of causes. Read more: The New Atheism and Five Arguments for God by William Lane Craig http://www.reasonablefaith.org/the-new-atheism-and-five-arguments-for-god.]


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