Monday, November 19, 2012

Life on Other Planets?

The discovery of an extrasolar planet always seems to be followed with a position on whether it is habitable or not. This is especially seen when it is claimed that the planet is terrestrial and within its star's habitable zone, also called the "Goldilocks zone" in reference to it being not too hot or too cold, but "just right" for liquid water. Then sensational speculation is published in the media that it may harbor extraterrestrial life. The presence of water alone though would not allow life to exist. There are a number of factors relating to habitability, a planet's size being but one of them.

Regardless of that fascinating issue though, a more pertinent concern is regarding the theological and especially the soteriological ramifications of
extraterrestrial life. From the outset though it has to be made clear that discovering non-intelligent life is one thing, but finding intelligent human-like life would be quite another, regardless of one's perspective.

The difference is in the power to choose. Thus, finding bacteria, insects, animals or trees on another planet is fine as they cannot make decisions of right and wrong. Finding intelligent extraterrestrials though is quite another matter, since they can indeed make decisions of right and wrong. Additionally, such ones would have been created by the Universal Sovereign Creator, Jehovah, just as human life was created on earth as Adam and Eve.

Human life fell into sin by rebelling against Jehovah's Universal Sovereignty. At this point it is noteworthy that no faithful intelligent extraterrestrials were subpoenaed as witnesses against Adam and Eve. As one journal explained it:

[W]hen Adam and Eve sinned, they were, in effect, questioning God's right to rule over a world of intelligent physical beings. If another planet existed at that time, a world full of intelligent physical beings who were living harmoniously and loyally under God's rule, would they not have been called in as witnesses to testify that God’s rule does indeed work? This conclusion seems inescapable, since he has already used even imperfect humans as witnesses in his behalf on that very issue.—Isaiah 43:10.[1]
Thus at least when Adam and Eve sinned, there were no faithful extraterrestrials. It would also seem reasonable that Adam and Eve were the only sinners in the universe, as their sin came as the result of the first apostate angel called Satan. He first struck on earth and was successful at establishing apostasy there. Also surely the Creator would not populate multiple worlds simultaneously, but would do so one at a time in case there was a problem with one or two, or more of them. That would be a disaster of astronomical magnitude, for then a ransom sacrifice would have to be made for all of them one at a time.

Another point that harmonizes with this conclusion is what is stated at Job 38:4, 7. There we are told that the angels rejoiced greatly over the creation of the earth. If the earth was just one of many such planets with intelligent physical life, then we would not expect such applause. This angelic rejoicing over earth's creation is consistent with its uniqueness.

Thus the most logical, coherent, and scriptural position to take is that Adam and Eve were the only sinners in the universe and that there was no faithful extraterrestrial life. After a problem arose on earth, any planned peopling of planets was postponed. Therefore we are the only intelligent physical creatures in the universe. A discovery to the contrary would present a theological and soteriological dilemma for the reasons presented above.

What's the purpose of all those extrasolar terrestrial planets within habitable zones if they are not inhabited?
The same purpose of the solar terrestrial planets Venus and Mars that lay outside the habitable zone. They provide interesting comparisons to the uniqueness of Earth. Why assume that their purpose must be more than that? Keep in mind that there are a number of factors that need to be taken into account before creating intelligent life on a planet. All of these factors must be present.

What about Isaiah 45:18 that says that God made the earth to be inhabited and not empty or made for nothing. Doesn't this apply to other planets? (Actual question asked of me)
That scripture is stated of earth, and to apply it to other planets would be a misapplication. Just because another planet is devoid of life does not mean it was made for nothing—as if life is the only standard to measure the worth of a planet from. The bottom line is Isaiah 45:18 is stated about earth and is not a planetary principle.

Is not the Bible Earth-centric though?
It may be Earth-centric but the Universal Sovereign Creator, Jehovah is not. Thus we can be sure that (1) there were no faithful extraterrestrials at the time of Earth's apostasy and (2) there were no other apostate worlds at the time either.

Since the universe is so large it must be teaming with life?
We could apply the same question to an Olympic-size chlorinated swimming pool. Since it's so large it must be teaming with fish.

[1] Awake! 1990 April, 8 pp. 10-11 "Extraterrestrials—Finding the Answer." See also
Awake! 1990 November, 8 p. 11 "UFO's—Can They Be Identified?" under "Is There an Occult Influence?" to explore the occult connection.

Related blog entry:
Science Increasingly Makes the Case for God


The introductory image is an artist's impression of the free-floating planet CFBDSIR J214947.2-040308.9. Credit: ESO/L. Calçada/P. Delorme/Nick Risinger/R. Saito/VVV Consortium

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Monday, November 12, 2012

Dale Tuggy Interview

Dr. Dale Tuggy[1] presents an overview of the epistemological dilemmas inherent within Trinitarianism and why he accordingly chose to reject it.

See also his excellent presentation: "God and his Son: the Logic of the New Testament."
"The waters have been muddied by evangelical and Catholic apologists arguing for “the deity of Christ,” and by some big name theologians like Bauckham and Wright arguing that in the last passage Paul “inserts Jesus into the Shema.” In this talk, after I give a quick logic lesson, I discuss how logic helps us to think clearly about these three passages."

[1] Academic website:

See also: Dr. Dale Tuggy on the Trinity

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Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Did Thomas Teach Trinitarianism
at John 20:28?

“My Lord and my God!”

As Thomas was a strict monotheistic Jew, he believed that the almighty God was one person, the Father. (Deuteronomy 32:6, Isaiah 63:16; 64:8; Jeremiah 31:9, Psalm 89:26; Malachi 2:10) He was also aware of Jesus’ preaching that the Father is the “only true God.” (John 17:1-5) Jesus even told Mary in John 20:17 that he will ascend to his Father and God. (Compare with Revelation 3:12.) And in verse 31 John tells us that the point of his Gospel is that Jesus is the Son of God. Notice how John did not repeat Thomas’ exclamation. This is consistent with Paul’s declaration in 1 Corinthians 8:6, where he clearly stated that God is the Father and that Jesus is the Lord. Thomas was also likely aware that Jesus told Philip that “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father also.” (John 14:9) Thomas’ declaration also shows the fulfillment of Jesus’ prayer to his Father and God at John 17:21 that his disciples would recognize that he is in union with the Father, like what he said in John 10:30 that he and his Father are “one,” thus recognizing that seeing Jesus is like also seeing the Almighty God and Father, who is an unseen spirit. (John 1:18; 4:24) Thus, Thomas seeing the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ was the “same” as seeing his Father and God.

Context for “My Lord and my God!”:
  • Jesus and his God are “one.” John 10:30
  • Seeing Jesus is like seeing the Father. John 14:9
  • No one can see the Father and God. John 1:18; 4:24
  • Thomas saw Jesus, as Jesus remarked. John 20:29
  • Jesus commanded: “Exercise faith in God; exercise faith also in me.” John 14:1
Additionally, not without significance and not to be ignored is that Thomas calling Jesus “my God” has a number of OT precedents. For instance:
  • In Judges there are two appearances of the “angel of Jehovah” being called God or Jehovah:
    • Gideon’s angel representing God was called by the divine name in Judges 6:14-16, 23.
    • Manoah’s angel representing God was called God (Elohim) in Judges 13:22.

  • Hosea 12:3-4 calls the angel Jacob wrestled with God (Elohim).
    • This and the source account in Genesis 32:28 is best explained as the angel being the agent representative of God, thus as good as God himself.

  • Significantly, Exodus 23:21 calls an angel Jehovah God.
    • This God-assigned attending, guiding angel for Israel was identified in Daniel 10:21 and 12:1 as Michael the archangel. He represents Jehovah God as his personal agent.
Thus taking (1) the context of John 20 and (2) the OT precedents into account, John 20:28 would not prove that Jesus is a person of the impersonal Trinitarian Godhead. Thus, there was nothing for Jesus to correct Thomas over. He was glad that Thomas had recognized that seeing him was like seeing his Father and God.

Professors John and Adela Collins in their book King and Messiah as Son of God contribute the following interesting point. After noting the Trinitarian view that Thomas’ exclamation proves that Jesus is God, they state on page 176 in a footnote:
This [Trinitarian] view fails to recognize, however, that the phrase dominus et deus, and presumably its Greek equivalent, is an honorific acclamation, used, e.g., by those who would flatter Domitian.
Thus, Romans would praise Emperor Domitian (r. 81–96 C.E.) as “my Lord and God,” showing that it was an accepted accolade for the time. Presumably, Thomas could have used the Semitic equivalent for Jesus who represented the true God. Or, as John wrote his Gospel during his reign, it could be that while Thomas glorified Jesus, that his exact wording harmonized with “my Lord and my God,” but that these exact words were used by John to show that it was Jesus, not Domitian, who should be glorified in that manner. At any rate, the basic meaning would remain the same and would still harmonize with the above.

Additional support
As one scholar similarly noted: “Christians certainly would not be hailing him [Domitian] as “lord and my god” (cf. John 20:28).” He added:
It is likely no accident that Thomas’s climactic confession of faith in Jesus in the Gospel of John, “my Lord and my God,” is a direct echo of what Domitian demanded of others. Indeed, the Johannine corpus in general was written under the cloud of tyranny that hovered over the empire during the reign of Domitian.[A1]
Erudite researcher Roman Montero summarises:
It could very well be that John, in depicting Thomas as calling Jesus “my Lord and my God” is making an anti-imperial/pro-Christ polemic, since at that time Christians were being severely persecuted for not worshiping the emperor.

It could not be about Christology at all but rather be a religio-political statement put in the mouth of Thomas, with perhaps a historical basis but shaped to address the concerns of Christians under the Domitian persecution.[A2]
As explained above, this “religio-political statement put in the mouth of Thomas” nonetheless harmonized with the substance of his “climactic confession.” If true, and I suspect that it is, then this famous Trinitarian proof-text evaporates like a drop of water hitting a burning frying pan. This is because Domitian’s accolade praised him as the ultimate authority before his supreme god Jupiter—as his accolade did not make him such.[A3] Thus, in application to Jesus, it praised him as the ultimate authority before his supreme God Jehovah, and therefore did not make him such either. Consequently, applying “my Lord and my God” to support Trinitarianism was always anachronistic, unhistorical, and laughably inappropriate to an extreme degree. It becomes a brazen, shameful example of Trinitarian misuse and abuse of Scripture.

[A1] Witherington III, Ben. New Testament History: A Narrative Account. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic (2003) 394
[A2] Facebook, July 9, 2018
[A3] Supra note A1, 391-2

Thomas’ Legacy?
Consider the historical angle of Thomas’ legacy. There is good reason to believe that this same apostle Thomas went to India later on in the first century to spread the Gospel there. (In fact, to this day the native ‘Christian’ community in southern India are known as ‘St. Thomas Christians’ for this reason.) Yet notice what historian Samuel Moffett has to uncomfortably concede about that community in the fourth century:
“The arrival of a less orthodox Christian visitor to India a few years later, about 354 [CE], is better known in Western church histories. He was Theophilus ‘the Indian,’ a native of islands in the Arabian or Indian Ocean, who was held in Rome as a hostage, converted to Christianity, and sent by Emperor Constantius on an embassy that included visits to Arabia, to his homeland in the islands, and to ‘other parts of India’ (which may or may not have been India proper). There he found Christians whose liturgical practices grated on his sensibilities. The Indians, he said, ‘listened to the reading of the Gospel in a sitting posture [as opposed to the orthodox standing posture prescribed in the Syrian Apostolic Constitutions], and did other things which were repugnant to divine law.’”
Now notice this next part:
“He did approve of their doctrine, however, though that is somewhat hard to believe, for Theophilus was an Arian heretic, as was the historian who recorded the visit, his contemporary Philostorgius (ca. 368-439). No other accounts speak of Arians in India.”
A History of Christianity in Asia, by Samuel Hugh Moffett; Volume 1, p. 267.

So “Arian heretics” noticed that the ‘Thomasine Christians’ were in agreement with Arianism. Therefore we have some indication from the scant historical record that the relatively isolated community of believers in India, quite possibly founded by the apostle Thomas himself, were originally more in-line with the ‘Arian’ claim that Jesus was not God.

While this line of reasoning cannot be used as definitive proof of anything (as it is based on extra-biblical sources), it is indeed interesting that while Trinitarians claim that Thomas clearly and perspicuously proclaimed that Jesus is God at John 20:28, he apparently and ironically did not pass this teaching along to those to whom he later preached the Gospel, for the ‘Thomasine Christians’ apparently believed that Jesus was not God.

Which View Has More to Explain?
The Unitarian (Patritheistic) view that God is monopersonal, the Father, has some explanations for Thomas’ exclamation. The first and best one is that of recognition, that seeing him was like seeing his Father and God according to John 10:30, 14:9 and 17:21. Another consideration is representational: that Jesus is God’s agent and may be called God as His personal ambassador as seen in OT examples.

The Trinitarian view that God is polypersonal (specifically tripersonal) in an impersonal matrix may seem like the most straightforward interpretation, but notice the ramifications of this view. Earlier in the same chapter, in verse 17, Jesus told Mary that her God and Father was his God and Father, thus God in this verse is monopersonal, the Father. Then notice John’s summary of his Gospel in verse 31, that his Gospel teaches that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of God.” He did not repeat Thomas’ exclamation. These two verses, 17 and 31, support Patritheism but clearly not Trinitarianism, for it makes Jesus a liar who dissembled to Mary (violating 1 Peter 2:22), failing to mention that he is the second person of the impersonal Trinitarian Godhead whose human nature will ascend to the first and third persons of the impersonal Trinitarian Godhead (the Father and Holy Spirit respectively), and it turns John into someone who failed to grasp what his Gospel was teaching about Jesus, that he is not just ‘the Christ, the Son of God,’ but also the second person of the impersonal Trinitarian Godhead and therefore rightly called God.

Therefore, objective and honest people who are not emotionally invested into the Trinitarian paradigm will quickly notice that Trinitarianism has more to explain, as it turns Jesus into a liar and John into an ignoramus.

Related blog entries:

Further Reading:

  • Introductory picture from The Greatest Man Who Ever Lived, page 146.
  • Appendix B Thomas’ Legacy? reflects the writing and research of my online friend TJ.

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