In your posted article on the Trinity you state that God is defined as ...
1. God is one in essence, but that does not mean that only one person of the Trinity is deity: God is three in person, and all three persons of the Trinity (the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit) are divine.
Are you implying the normal dictionary definition for a PERSON - i.e. an individual BEING?
Please note that I support the concept of a UNIFIED "ONE" God (God the Father - God the Son - God the Holy Spirit). However, there is something about the traditional definition of the TRINTIY that concerns me. Thus, are the above three co-equal deities/GODS actually only a ONE literal tangible BEING God - i.e. an individual body?
a) they all possess a full and equal share of the status of deity...
I am reading various Trinity definitions that declares God to be three distinct (some venture so far as to even say separate) PERSONS in "ONE BEING". If there is only a cardinal numerical quantity ONE BEING sitting on the throne of God respective of Ps. 110:1, et.al., and the man-God GLORIFIED FLESH and BONE Son Jesus as well as His/the YHWH Father SPIRIT are ONLY a cardinal numerical quantity ONE BEING represented but are actually not "two" tangible separate BEINGS – then this would be MODALISM. Therefore, in sincere respect how many NUMERICALLY (not unity/nature) "separate" BEINGS are represented sitting on the throne of God by the man-God GLORIFIED FLESH and BONE Son Jesus AND the SPIRIT YHWH Father? Seeing the answer to this is Scripturally and explicitly counted as TWO separate and distinct BEINGS, - Jesus and His Father, then simply add in the Holy Spirit BEING and you have THREE separate and distinct BEINGS - hence, three separate and distinct deities/GODS acting in perfect UNITY as ONE God. However, they (the three) are by no means ONE singular, individual, and tangible BEING/body (God). In other words, when Steven was stoned and looked up into Heaven he did not see just ONE singular God BEING but he rather saw TWO separate and distinct God BEINGS - God flesh and bone Jesus standing at the right hand of His God Spirit Father.
Is this right - because there is much confusion for many of us Bible students with the many published Trinity definitions regarding the words PERSON(s) and BEING which are seemingly so critical to the Trinity definition itself but actually imply meanings that are not normal dictionary definitions?
The Trinity is at once a simple and a complex doctrine. The truth is easily and simply expressed. But whenever one proceeds beyond a simple expression of the doctrine it is always easy to fall into inexactitude in a way which may compromise the true doctrine. I will say a few things here, but I also invite your attention to the links where these matters are discussed in more detail at the links: "The Trinity" (in BB 1), and "Explaining and Defending the Trinity and the Person of Christ".
There is only one God. According to the traditional and, in my considered opinion, orthodox formulation, God is one . . . in essence. But God (sing.) is three . . . in Person. This does not mean that there are three Gods. It also does not mean that there is one Person with three aspects, or modes or what have you. It means what it means. To use the analogy which the Bible invites through the account of the creation of Adam and Eve, all human beings have an identical essence, but humanity is comprised of very many persons, and the profound difference between God and the humanity He created may be seen in the fact that while we are created in the image of God we are also said to be created not "in" but according to His likeness: beyond the obvious fact that human essence is wildly different in many ways from divine essence (our choice mirroring His WILL being the operative point of comparison), human beings are not only more numerous than the Trinity but are significantly different even in the analogy in that our persons are individuated in a way the Trinity is not.
God is one in ways it is difficult to explain but we can see a measure of this unique unity in the Plan of God: God is absolutely "one" in the creating of the plan and in the carrying out of the plan – and by the "plan" we mean creation and every single thing that has ever happened or ever will until heaven and earth pass away (even, as I sometimes say, the smallest swerve of the smallest quark at the farthest end of the universe long before man was made to walk the earth).
In Greek mythology (and other analogous pagan presentations) the "gods" frequently have counsels where they talk over things and debate them so as to come up with a course of action, and they never completely agree – behaving just like human beings. The Trinity, however, has never had a disagreement; that is impossible. The Trinity has never wondered about anything; that is impossible. The Trinity has never had to think over anything; that is impossible. The essence of God being what it is, the three Persons with whom we have to do, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, are a perfect "one" in ways which are unimaginable for any two (let alone three) human beings, no matter how compatible (which explains why pagan representations of the "gods" makes them merely powerful human beings and completely misses the true nature of God).
As I say in the first link given above, "God is one in essence, and all three members of the Trinity (the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit) are the sole, joint partakers of that same essence rather than three similar beings of similar essence". Given this unique unity that only the Trinity possesses, the use of the word "separate" to describe their three Persons is thus somewhat out of place. As the famous "Trinity triangle" proclaims (see the link), the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Spirit is God (i.e., they share the identical essence of God); however, The Father is not the Son, and the Son is not the Spirit, and the Spirit is not the Father (i.e., they are each their own unique Person).
Taking things too much beyond these simple if difficult-to-fully-comprehend truths is problematic. As I say, there is more about this in the links above, and I do invite to write back with further questions after you've had a look at the "long accounts" of this fundamentally important doctrine.
Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,
Thank you for your kind and scholarly response. I appreciate you allowing me the opportunity and audience to have my concerns regarding the Trinity both heard and scholarly addressed as by yourself. As a simple Bible student and a proven non-scholar I am having some complications in coming to the understanding of how we can have the defined terms of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit and not have the numerical total of Three Gods - not in the sense of 3 DIFFERENT Gods that are autonomous in thought and non-unified, etc., but 3 Gods of the SAME UNITY of PERSON/ESSENCE/MEMBERS forming the ONE UNITY God - Godhead.
Thus, seeing that EACH "member" (as you call them in your cited article) of the One God in Three Persons - is each co-equally God themselves and by the literal definition of a MEMBER which is loosely stated as an individual component of the whole, then we should be able to suggest that they are not only One God in Three Persons but One God in 3 God Persons/members. For example, God the Father (a God person/member), God the Son (a God person/member) and God the Holy Spirit (a God person/member) - thus, 3 God MEMBERS of the One UNITY God (Godhead). Likewise, when we are analyzing the words MEMBERS, COEQUALS, and DISTINCT in the Trinity definition itself we must also look at their individual applications to each of the Three PERSONS of the Godhead. A MEMBER implies a SEPARATE COMPONENT. Whereas DISTINCT also implies something SEPARATE.
Therefore, we must then ask to what degree of COEQUALITY are the Three DISTINCT/MEMBERS/Persons of the Trinity. The terms DISTINCT and COEQUAL are paradoxical and therefore mandate a limited qualification. Thus, there can be no ABSOLUTE in all aspects/respects of the Three DISTINCT/MEMBERS/Persons of the Trinity. To this end, the aspects that are ABSOLUTELY COEQUAL regarding each Person cannot be DISTINCT and likewise what is defined and qualified to be DISTINCT cannot be COEQUAL. For example, the Three are absolutely COEQUALS respective of their ESSENCE/Persons. However, they are DISTINCT in respect of their individual FORMS/FUNCTIONS.
The summary is this, the THREE while forming an ABSOLUTE UNITY of ONE God (Godhead) in ESSENCE/nature must always remain DISTINCT SEPARATE MEMBERS of the One UNITY God, with respect to their individual FORMS and FUNCTIONS. This is why, respective of Ps. 110:1, et. al., that the RISEN glorified flesh and bone body of Jesus sits as a SEPARATE FORM/FUNCTION on the right hand of His SPIRIT FORM/FUNCTION Father YHWH on the Throne of God. If then when we get to Heaven we should not visibly see 3 DISTINCT/SEPARATE/MEMBERS of the ONE UNIFIED GOD but only ONE tangible "entity" sitting on His throne and representing all Three of the PERSONS of the Triune God (Godhead) - then this would be MODALISM.
PLEASE be so kind as to try an overlook my not so good grammar and long-winded rambling.
You're certainly welcome. I hope this will be helpful to you.
If I may be permitted to "diagnose" the real issue you are having here, I think it is one that many if not most people have when they deal with this doctrine. I hinted at it last time but will take a more direct line in this email. The "problem" lies in not seeing the vast qualitative and quantitative difference between God and creatures. When pagans represent their gods, these are essentially only supernatural creatures rather than being anything like God, so that point of comparison is actually not helpful at all. Pagan "gods" are super-creatures (essentially), but God is GOD.
Yes, God is one in essence. Yes, God is three in person. But to come to any sort of adequate understanding of what that really means (and none of us can have anything more than a dim "through a glass and darkly" sort of understanding this side of heaven) requires coming to terms with just how immense God is – in every way in which immensity might be positively defined.
If God were confined to this universe, if God were subject to time and space, if God "thought about things" like creatures or "beings" (or "gods") do, if God evaluated situations and made decisions like creatures or "beings" (or "gods") do, if God were differentiated and encapsulated in His essence in a particular place where one member of the Trinity's essence could be seen to be clearly separate from the others as with all creatures or "beings" (or "gods"), and indeed if any of these or any other of the many ways in which we individuate creature "persons" or "beings" (or "gods") were precisely true of the Trinity, then the point of view which sees them as "gods" rather than God might have some merit. As it is, none of these things are true of the Trinity.
What it means for God to be "one" in essence, therefore, is a profundity that is at the heart of grappling with this question. I suppose if a person could really imagine what it means for the Trinity to exist outside of time and space, to have created the universe, to have planned every event and action in all of history from the first swerve of the smallest subatomic particle at the far end of the farthest galaxy to the last at the end of time, then, perhaps, one might have a clearer picture of what being "one" in essence means. For first one has to comprehend just exactly what the essence of God is. We infinitesimally small creatures would be overwhelmed by the appearance of His glory in the smallest dose. But God could have without any effort whatsoever created a billion universes larger than ours in the blink of an eye – if there were any time to measure outside of our universe. We have no words to describe His glory, we have no means to measure the immenseness of His magnitude and His infinite power, and we have no frame of reference to truly understand the depth of His love and His goodness. The essence of God is not just a theological concept or wispy, distant spirit. It is existence itself, and on a scale so far beyond comprehension as to boggle the mind.
The voice of the LORD makes the deer to calve And strips the forests bare; And in His temple everything says, "Glory!"
Psalm 29:9 NASB
This essence, this being, is being, is existence, and far beyond the confines of this comparatively tiny universe at that. Father, Son and Holy Spirit fully share in this essence without compartmentalization. They are one; they are God.
If it is hard to imagine how the above can be true and yet the three be distinct persons as well, all I can say is that this is the only conclusion scripture allows honest readers to draw. Only the Son, for example, has become a human being (in addition to His deity). That would be impossible if the Trinity were not distinct in terms of person as well as being one in essence.
So while it may seem impossible from our creature point of reference for "anyone" to be a distinct person and yet share in the same essence as another person, well, that is impossible for creatures, for beings – and unprecedented too. But God is God: three in person, one in essence.
I hope you find the above helpful and will forgive me for curbing my speculation on some of the finer points you go into. There is a point beyond which it is probably not prudent to go. All we can say for certain, and all we should say, is whatever scripture teaches directly or will directly confirm.
Yours in the One who died for all of our sins, our dear Savior Jesus Christ.
Thank you for your patient, kind and scholarly response. I AGREE with your definition of the TRINITY. I also COMPLETELY AGREE with you that we as the "created" cannot define in absolute THE CREATOR - that is indeed impossible. This is like the man who wanted to build YHWH God a "house"...that could have had some real meaning to God IF the mortal created man who was created by God, could have used construction materials other than those in which YHWH Himself had created.
Once, again THANK YOU for helping me!
You're most welcome.
Happy to help!
We shall all know "fully even as we are known" on that wonderful day to come (1Cor.13:12).
In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,
Hey Dr Robert its an honour to contact you. I'm a born again trinitarian believer. I've been speaking to this unitarian for about 2weeks and he denies the deity of Christ and the Triune nature of God.
I wanted to know if its possible and no problem at all if you could speak to him via email and break it down to him and also read the emails he sent me so you can get a gist of his Argument.
Thank you very much
Good to make your acquaintance. I certainly receive many emails from people who refuse to believe in the deity of Christ (the most common anti-Trinity position presently making the rounds), and there is a good of material posted to Ichthys about this sort of thing. Here are some of the main links:
Jesus is God
Where does the Bible teach that Jesus is God?
Jesus is God and Man
The Trinity in Scripture
Certainly, I would be happy to hear from you on any aspect of this issue wherein you need help (although I would prefer you not forward third-party emails without that party's prior consent). Also, I always hasten to add in such cases that we all have our individual gifts in the Body of Christ. Stephen and Apollos were great at apologetics, as the book of Acts records, but that is not a gift I personally possess. If you are engaging in that fight, I certainly wish you success in cause of the truth of Jesus Christ.
Here are some particular links that may be of help in regard to your present task:
Explaining and Defending the Trinity and the Person of Christ.
Apologetics and the Trinity
The One True God and the Trinity in the Old Testament
Proving the Existence of God
Yours in our dear Lord Jesus Christ, whose we are and whose Church we serve,
Hey Sir Robert,
First of all I would like to commend you for what your doing I praise God for your life sir and I thank you for replying back I'm most thankful for your help.
I enjoy apologetics but my passion is more in evangelism. I desire to seek the lost more than anything but I want to be more grounded in the Bible, its history and etc. The unitarian guy has made so many assumptions he has also taken scriptures out of its context and etc so I'm not at all discouraged but I need more help and I will check the links you provided below
I will send you his responses on the scriptures I posted I urge for your advice; its 7 parts its pretty lengthy but I'm sure you probably heard these types of arguments before.
In our faithful saviour Jesus Christ.
I have attempted to respond on your behalf to the main arguments I was able to identify in this correspondence. They do overlap quite a bit, and there are other "rabbit holes" I did not go down, so do feel free to write back about anything not touched as well as about the particulars covered here. Let me say at the outset that from your posted material I feel you have done a commendable job in defending the truth, and also that any person who was really seeking the truth – as opposed to being unalterably fixated on his/her own position – would be given something to think about from your responses at least. In the emails provided, however, there is no sign of any openness on your correspondent's part. That is what I mean about apologetics versus evangelism. Evangelism is for those who are or are at least potentially open to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Apologetics, in my view of the way these things should be understood, is the presenting of a strong argumentative front against those who are attacking the truth. It is certainly true that on occasion some observers are converted in the process of apologetic exchanges (albeit very rarely is that so in the case of the actual disputants). If there are no third party Christians listening whose faith needs to be defended (the biblical purpose of apologetics) and no third party unbelievers listening who may potentially be converted (the purpose of evangelism in an apologetic setting), then disputes with those who have made up their minds (and hardened their hearts) to the degree this person seems to have done are, in my view, largely without great profit. Nevertheless, this is something only God knows for sure, and if the Spirit is guiding you to continue, well, at least I can give you my "two cents" about the particular arguments considered below. One last observation. Some of this person's arguments are by nature circular and all of them are being presented in a highly rhetorical way. These are signs of attempted obfuscation rather than a genuine search for the truth.
1) Intolerance: I am saying is that what followed Trinity from the outset was intolerance and bloodshed. 'By their fruits you will know them'.
This is a "straw man" argument. Of course, even if the statement were true (and it isn't), the misuse of something factual or true does not make it false. The Nazis used twisted views of biology to justify mass murder. That doesn't mean biology is a lie or that we should get rid of it (merely the misuse of it).
2) Hebrew monotheism: why is it that ALL the pagans had this belief BEFORE Hebrew and Greek scriptures but the Hebrews stood unique as monotheists? Pagans are trinitarians.
This is another rhetorical attempt to de-legitimize the Trinity by association. Even if there were "pagan trinities" – and in fact all of the examples cited really refer to polytheistic systems (big difference), not even triune ones, which, even so, would be far different from a coequal and coeternal Trinity – that would say nothing about the truth of the Trinity any more than the existence of the concept of monotheism can be used as a "proof" that Islam is true. In fact, the Trinity is evident in the Old Testament, just not as obvious as in the New (e.g., Gen.1:26: "Let Us make man . . ."; cf. Is.63:10-15). That lack of obviousness is certainly understandable since, until Jesus came in the flesh as true God and genuine man in one unique Person forever, how could He be "understood"? The coming of the Messiah as a true human being to die for the sins of the world was, however, something foreshadowed throughout the Old Testament and understandable after the fact if not entirely clear beforehand:
"Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow".
1st Peter 1:10-11 NIV
This use of shadows was deliberate on God's part in order for the revelation to be given uniquely to the Church (Eph.3:10). The "struggle to find out" before the first advent certainly is understandable seeing as how the difficulty many Christians have in grasping the hypostatic union, that is, the unique Person of Christ (see the link), continues to the present day (as those who have bought into your correspondent's false teachings prove). Indeed, it is fair to say that most Christians even today do not understand as they should what the death of Christ entailed (please see the link: "The Spiritual Death of Christ"). All this is a brief for more Bible study (not for more ignorance). For our purposes here, it is enough to point out that without being human Christ could not have suffered spiritual death for the sins of the world, and that without being divine He would not have been able or qualified to do so. Those who attempt to deny the deity of Christ inevitably undervalue what He did for us in His humanity on the cross.
3) Jesus' deity: The Messiah does not have to be deity to share in his glory. The texts you quoted does not prove that at all. Just look at the language Daniel used his prophecy; the son of man. was presented before him. was given dominion and glory. Simple understanding of the text is the son of man was given something to the extent that he did not have before. Given by Someone who already had it to give, to someone who did not have it. So there is no "equality."
The glory of God is the essence of God (cf. Ex.33:18ff.), and only God can possess the essence of God. Moreover, scripture is quite clear that Jesus possessed this glory or essence which only God can possess, and did so from before the creation of the world:
And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.
4) Jesus' titles: sharing of titles do not make Jesus God. Let scripture be consistent and put doctrine aside. The text will speak for itself.
Your demonstrating of His deity from the fact that Jesus is called the Alpha and the Omega along with the Father is an excellent point. Your correspondent's inability to refute this despite his detailed attempts to explain away this particular title merely show how important a point it is. Even his description (included above) only serves to show how hollow a reed he is leaning on. If a title belongs to God, and if Jesus is also referred to by the same title (especially if no one else besides Jesus and the Father ever are as in "Alpha and Omega"), then how is that not proof of deity? Indeed, it can only be overlooked by "putting doctrine aside" as your correspondent pleads we do. I understand that plea: only if we put aside truth, logic, and reason could correspondent's position make any sense.
5) Jesus' deity as "something new": That's why they were created. But here, when God is bringing his firstborn (note), and tells the angels to worship him, that's something new. It is not something that was always done, otherwise it wouldn't be noteworthy.
Two of the main stumbling blocks that often trip up those who are not willing to accept the truth both have to do with the Plan of God and the roles the three Members of the Trinity voluntarily adopted in order to carry out that plan (for more on this very important area please see in BB 4B: "God's Plan to Save You"): in order to bring about the creation and salvation of creatures who would choose for God from their own free will, the Son had to become a true human being as well as God, and the Son had to voluntarily subordinate Himself to the Father in the accomplishment of the plan in creature history. Both of these aspects of God's plan, that is, the incarnation and the kenosis (voluntary limitation; see the link) of Jesus Christ, have been points of orthodox theology continually attacked throughout the history of the Church. Your correspondent seems to be taking the tack that "since there are things about Jesus which are new, He cannot be God", when, in fact, everything about the Messiah is "new" when it happens, because the Messiah was not yet a human being as well as God until the day that Jesus was born. This argument is one of many which confuse the divinity of Christ with the humanity of Christ and misunderstand the truth of the God-Man (please see the link: in BB 4A: "The Person of Jesus Christ").
6) Quibbling with NT passages: "In none of these instances [including John 1:1] is theos [God] used in such a manner as to identify Jesus with him who elsewhere in the New Testament figures as 'ho theos,' that is, the Supreme God.
In fact, of course, there are numerous places in scripture where the deity of Jesus Christ is expressly proclaimed (and countless others where it is unmistakably and necessarily implied; see the links: "Where does the Bible say that Jesus is God", and "Jesus is God"). Were it I, this would be the place I would be hammering the issue home in the case of those determined to resist the truth. After all, for those who claim to believe the Bible, Bible verses which directly refute their position are the best way either 1) to show that they really do not believe the Bible more than their false doctrines or 2) to get them to see that they are wrong (one hopes). Inevitably, for those who are determined to "go down with the ship", so to speak, twisting and distorting key passages which make hash of their position is the likely result. That is fine with me. When a person claims to believe the Bible but is teaching something horribly wrong, putting them in the position of having to distort scripture in such an obvious way that no objective listener is going to be under any illusions that this is precisely what they have been reduced to doing, is, in my view, the best way to win the argument even though they won't concede. That is because the audience will realize they've lost, and also because, if they really do have any openness to the truth left in their heart, while pride may not allow them to concede on the spot, they may reflect on that truth later and be moved by the Spirit through the truth they couldn't refute to change their mind.
In my previous email I gave you a number of links which lay out the main passages which teach Christ's deity. Here is another important link: in BB 4A "Jesus Christ is truly Divine". One of the best passages, perhaps not for apologetics, but to demonstrate the points made under #5 above is the following:
(5) You too should have this attitude which Christ Jesus had. (6) Since He already existed in the very form of God, equality with God was [certainly] not something He thought He had to grasp for. (7) Yet in spite of this [co-equal divinity He already possessed], He deprived Himself of His status and took on the form of a slave, [and was] born in the likeness of men. (8) He humbled Himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even [His] death on [the] cross [for us all].
As with many such passages, the only way to "defuse" them for anti-Trinitarians is to "spin" or otherwise do violence to the clear meaning to the point that no one can even understand their "corrected translation".
As to John 1:1, the absence of the definite article is merely used to distinguish the Son from the Father. After all, if there were no distinction obvious from the passage, unitarians would be saying, "see! they're really identical!" But, beyond all argument, God is God. Since Jesus, the Word, is called "God" in John 1:1, how is He not God? Often missed in discussions of this sort is the important fact that the passage also identifies Jesus as God before creation, and that is highly significant. After all, only God can exist outside of time and space. Men and angels and all other creatures can only exist within the temporal universe. But Jesus, the Word, existed before He made it (please see the link: "What does "the Word was with God" mean in John 1:1-2?"):
The Word [Jesus Christ] existed at the very beginning, and there was reciprocity (i.e., "face to face" co-divinity) between the Word and God [the Father]. And the Word was God. This One both existed and enjoyed reciprocity (i.e., was "face to face") with God from the very beginning (i.e., from before the beginning of creation).
7) Trinity as Roman Catholic: The woman is rightly identified as the Vatican as the Angel says, 'And here is the mind which hath wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sitteth.' Revelation 17:9
This very lengthy argument from your correspondent (only a snippet of which is included above) is highly esoteric and, other than the fact that he has eschatology completely wrong, seems to be another attempt at guilt by association. I have seen this before. The argument is highly rhetorical and emotional. It says, in effect, Roman Catholicism is wrong. The Roman Catholics believe in the Trinity. Therefore the Trinity is wrong. The logic, of course, is completely incorrect. Roman Catholics no doubt believe today is Monday. That does not mean we should proclaim it to be Tuesday. The truth is the truth regardless of who believes it or who refuses to believe it, and we should all be grateful for the proclamation of truth from whatever source:
It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so in love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice.
Philippians 1:15-18 NIV
The Harlot of Revelation 17 is most definitely not "the Vatican" but Babylon, the beast's home country and the seat of his original power (see the link: in CT 5 "Babylon, the Woman who Rides the Beast: Revelation 17:1-14"). This provides an excellent principle of how, while a genuine search for truth builds one principle upon another until an entire edifice of truth is constructed wherein each "brick" supports the whole, an attempt from false motivations to support a false teaching is ever willing to make use of misunderstood, misapplied and misused passages and incorrect principles in its support. The former method produces spiritual growth. The latter can only lead to the "shipwreck of faith", both of one's own faith and that of any and all foolish enough to listen.
Timothy, my son, I give you this instruction in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by following them you may fight the good fight, holding on to faith and a good conscience. Some have rejected these and so have shipwrecked their faith. Among them are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme.
1st Timothy 1:18-20 NIV
I hope this is helpful to you. Do please feel free to write me back about any of the above.
In Jesus, our Lord and Savior, the true Son of God,
Hey Mr Robert,
I read your response and I must say your reply was Excellent, you really broke it down and clearly smashed the correspondents Argument. He doesn't have any truth to Stand on. But you are right. Evangelism is a more open door to introduce the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as much as I love Theology and Apologetics I reference myself as an Evangelist; I don't ever want to get to that position where I "feel" important because I present better Arguments or win Debates; rather I would rather be a Servant Replicating the Humble Character of our Lord Jesus Christ. But I desire to use Apologetics as a Tool. I sent an email to my correspondent and it entailed the Theophanies. I carefully broke down the references in the Torah of Christ appearing as the Angel of the Lord who identified himself as YHWH. He is yet to reply and once he does I will send your response and also check your links too. I've checked your previous links you sent me and I must say they are very informative I learned a lot I'm humbled and Thankful for your humility and you taking personal time to help me out. Please have a look at his responses.
You're very welcome.
I will do my best to make some response to the materials in this latest email. Let me say from the start, however, that the two main problems I have in addressing them are 1) trying even to understand the convoluted and far divorced from any sort rational hermeneutic skeins of argumentation advanced here (at some point, Proverbs 26:4 applies), and 2) trying to explain to people like this who do not know the original languages or other essentials of biblical interpretation how to get at the truth (when often, as it seems to be in this case, there is no real desire to get to the truth, only to defend a preferred position); and there are many arguments below which turn on fundamentally demonstrating that there has been mistranslating or otherwise essentially misunderstanding of the basic meaning of the scriptures being used for "proof".
1) Genesis 6:1-4 describes Satan's activities in attempting to dilute the human race with (fallen) angelic seed; that is what necessitated the great flood (i.e., to preserve a remnant of true humanity). The KJV translates the key Hebrew word here, nephilim, as "giants", whereas many modern versions prefer to transliterate it: the Nephilim. These are the "fallen ones", that is, the hybrid offspring of demons and human women (for more on all this please see the link: Satan's antediluvian attack on the purity of the human line: the Nephilim). KJV uses "giants" because that is a western cultural equivalent, but the biblical text relates something that really happened and gives the truth of what really happened. Your correspondent then launches into some hogwash about pagan mythology. I would hope we all consider pagan mythology hogwash. My questions would be 1) what does this have to do with the Trinity which is true and not mythology? and 2) why is this person attacking the Bible? Genesis 6 is not mythology – only unbelievers consider it such. Is this person really an unbeliever who is not really interested in the Bible but only in tearing apart a particular biblical truth, i.e., the Trinity? It would seem so. And if so, your task is difficult indeed, because instead of being an unbeliever who is agnostic about the truth (a very tough sell), this would make him an unbeliever who is professionally hostile to the truth (an impossible sell, in my experience).
I know of no one who is presently "killing in the name of the Trinity". In fact, I know of no historical example of this. It is true that many people at many times have invoked God as being on their side in war and battle. That is true of many supposed Christians of all types and most other persons of most religions. So what does that have to do with anything? For this argument which correspondent keeps bringing up to be worthy of response, he would have to prove his assertion that "people kill specifically in the name of the Trinity" (show me one example), and 2) that this is uniquely so in the case of the Trinity. In all of the historical examples I can think of those invoking God were hardly godly and would have been happy to wage war under any name (but I do not know of one "Trinity" example).
As to the Vatican and the whore of Babylon, as explained in the previous email these have nothing to do with one another. The interpretation that mystery Babylon is a religion is absolutely incorrect. To take but one point of refutation, in Revelation chapter 18, Babylon is described as a very large county, not a religion. If Babylon is a large geographical place, it cannot be a religion. Further, one often sees the erroneous interpretation about the "seven hills" being "Rome" therefore Catholicism. However, 1) they are not "hills" but great mountains (oros in the Greek, not bounos or sim.); they represent the seven kingdoms we have seen throughout Revelation to this point (kingdoms are often described as mountains in the Bible; cf. Jer.51:25), and 2) The Vatican is not even on one of the "seven hills" but is on the other side of the river Tiber! Regardless, this argument is a good example of how pursuing this correspondent is fencing with shadows. Rome has nothing to do with true Christianity, let alone the Trinity (see point #1 in the previous email). This is a "straw man" argument of the most transparent type. Christians believe the truth of the Bible. They are neither dissuaded from the truth by those who oppose it nor are they caused to doubt the truth should non-Christians accept some portion of it as true.
2) 1st John 5:20. This verse states unequivocally that Jesus is God. That is what the text says unmistakably in the Greek and also in any fairly translated English version. Correspondent objects . . . because it shows he is wrong. So he must find a way to cast doubt on the true sense of an obvious scripture. His objections seem to be based on two factors 1) God the Father is mentioned more often in chapter five than God the Son; and 2) it would be "a surprise to John" that Jesus is "God" since He has been mentioned so many times previously as "God the Son". It seems worthwhile to observe that these are such specious arguments on the face of it that in using them correspondent surely tips his hand as being interested only in confusing the issue whenever confronted with clear proof that he is wrong (not a hopeful sign in respect to any chance of conversion). As to the arguments themselves, counting up the number of mentions and then deciding to change the meaning of the text at the end of a series is nonsensical in the extreme. If I tell you about dinner last night and use the word "pizza" ten times and end by saying "then we watched television" it is not reasonable to understand that by the word "television" I really mean "pizza". Why are we even indulging this argument? As it is, what correspondent says is wrong. In 1st John chapter five in fact, the word Son occurs 10 times, Jesus 4 times, and Christ 3 times, outnumbering God as referring to the Father 15 times. Let me hasten to add that this does not mean by that Jesus is the Father either! How about this: a word means what it means. Let us read what the text actually says and understand what it means making use of normal human understanding. As to the "surprise" John supposedly received about "Jesus being referred to as God", John, after all, in the very first inspired words he wrote told us "In the beginning was the Word". That is to say, John testifies to Jesus' deity in the very first thing he is given by the Spirit to write. He was certainly not "surprised" by verse 20. Indeed, he wrote verse 20!
3-a) The objection, based on "Son" as a derivative title is invalid because "Father" and "Spirit" are clearly of the same type, with all three titles reflecting the roles of the Trinity in the world. Note that the word "God" does not occur in this verse at all. To put the Father in a sequence with the Son and the Spirit without the word "God" certainly seems to express a measure of equality, one which your correspondent's dubious argument about "Jesus" being a title given to Christ "later" (as in Phil.2:10 which he cites) does nothing to deflect – and the name "Jesus" does not occur here either. Finally, no one debates that the incarnation is "new"; that does not mean that Jesus was not God before He became the "God-Man" (He most certainly was). The paragraphs he then gives talking vaguely about roles for the Trinity are neither here nor there regarding the point at issue: the point is that in adopting these roles, the Trinity is God, and nothing advanced here by correspondent does anything even to suggest that such is not the case.
3-b) Titles are important. The Hebrew name YHVH is the holiest of names and considered so much so by traditional Judaism that they do not pronounce it when reciting from the Tanakh (they pronounce the word 'adonai instead). So when it is clear that the Old Testament refers to the Son as YHVH as in the passages you cite, this is no small matter (and our Lord Jesus made the same point at Lk.20:44).
In some of what follows I have difficulty making out whose arguments are whose, but, clearly, as John tells us at John 12:41, it was Jesus whom Isaiah beheld and called YHVH in chapter six. As to the titles in Isaiah 9:6, e.g., "mighty God", it is difficult to see how any mere human being could hold these. Human beings do have Hebrew names say such as "YAH Remembers" (Zechariah) or "YAH Saves" (Josiah), but not "I am YAH", which is the effect of the Messiah's titles here, all of which titles are unique and most definitely not in the standard tradition of Hebrew names which attribute the greatness to the third party, God, and not to the title holder as in Isaiah 9.
It is hard to see how much more definitive Thomas could be in expressing that he considered Jesus God. He does not say "Thanks be to God" but addresses Jesus Himself and says "My Lord and My God". I challenge your correspondent to come up with a single example in all of Hebrew or Greek literature of a statement similar to Thomas' which may be construed as not addressing the person in context:
Thomas answered and said to Him, "My Lord and my God!"
John 20:28 NASB
More importantly, "Lord" is the Greek kyrios, the Greek equivalent to the Hebrew YHVH, so that while it may be true that we are all little "gods" in that God has given us His image in our ability to exercise free will in life, none of us are YHVH or kyrios – except God.
The fact that pagans indulged in emperor worship has no application to this argument – except to prove your point. When correspondent admits that pagans address the emperor as god, clearly meaning to say that they held him to actually be a god, this merely shows that Thomas likewise knew what he was doing in calling Jesus "Lord" and "God". The key difference is that Thomas was right.
On John 20:17, "even to My God and your God" is an explanation of what "to the Father" means. It only would mean that Jesus is not God if Jesus were not God. Since He is, it means, "to the Father, who is God", as all Trinitarians accept.
The last bit about soccer I don't get. But then, this is the USA and most of us just don't really "get" soccer over here (much less Cricket either, for that matter).
Hope this is helpful. Feel free to write me back about any of the above.
In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,
Hey Dr Robert,
Thank you Sir indeed I truly commend your Last Emails I read them thoroughly and it only Encouraged me more, you truly hammered my correspondents position.
He has responded and his response has in my opinion again fails to prove a biblical point and has got to be the most disgraceful and misrepresented interpretation of scripture I have ever seen. I am really starting to see what you mean in regards to his Straw-man Arguments. Not once has he responded to the (Theophanies) Argument; he hasn't given a refutation of Christ's Appearing in the OT as YVHV. And I'm disappointed, however I will send you all his responses and hopefully you will shed some light on this.
May our blessed God continue bestowing his peace and wisdom upon you in Jesus name Amen
You are most welcome. As to the current "crop" of weeds from your correspondent, I will do my best to give some answer, but on many of these repetitive responses the questions have already been "asked and answered" several times by now. It is a very favorite rhetorical technique for those who have no real interest in the truth to go on repeating things that are of no particular consequence even after being refuted in the hope that just by continuing to yell and scream they will prevail. My time and patience for this approach is necessarily limited.
Let me start by addressing the issue of the "history" of the Trinity. The Trinity existed before God made the world according to the plan of the Father in the power of the Spirit by the hand of Jesus Christ. Human opining about its "invention" is nothing more than an insult to God. The first time I ever heard this blasphemous theory was from an incredibly intelligent and very famous Greek professor many years ago. He seemed to believe it, but only because as a died in the wool secularist he did not believe in God. And there you have it really. Once the truth is rejected, some lie of the evil one is always accepted to fill the void. For God made all of us to need the truth, so that when we decide instead to be gods to ourselves we necessarily replace His truth with our own (really, only variations of Satan's original lies). For more on all this please see the link: BB 4B: Soteriology. What amazes me about this particular blasphemy is that it is so obviously false, even when viewed from a unbiased secular and unbelieving viewpoint. The New Testament predates the Roman Catholic church by many centuries, yet the Trinity is clearly ubiquitous in the New Testament (not to mention the Old Testament, properly interpreted). How then could this "invention" be put into the Bible many centuries after the Bible was completed?
Secondly, there is no basis for calling the Trinity "pagan mythology" or "gnosticism" except in correspondent's mind. The Trinity exists. The Bible proclaims its existence. The Spirit teaches our hearts that it is true. If correspondent wishes to reject that truth, that is his problem (along with the justly deserved and self-chosen eternal condemnation that falls to the lot of all who reject the Father and His Son – and rejecting who the Son is constitutes rejecting the Son and the Father's will and witness to Him). If he wishes, however, to concoct all manner of blasphemous attacks and launch them at true believers with the purpose of destroying their faith, that is something that will provoke God's reaction even here and now:
Timothy, my son, I give you this instruction in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by following them you may fight the good fight, holding on to faith and a good conscience. Some have rejected these and so have shipwrecked their faith. Among them are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme.
1st Timothy 1:18-20 NIV
Below is my attempt to address the other points. Please feel free to ask about any of this.
1) There is gnosticism. There is paganism. There is Kabala. For the umpteenth time, true believers in Jesus believe the truth of the Bible even if unbelievers oppose it or even if they hold some view which to some people may in some ways (wrongly) seem similar. No version of gnosticism or paganism or Kabala teaches or believes a coequal and coeternal Godhead – not even close. Roman Catholicism is indeed filled with all sorts of false teachings. How and where these came from is largely speculative. I have no particular interest in that, and it certainly has nothing to do with whether or not the Trinity is a true doctrine. Let me take a second here to explain what correspondent is doing. He is saying that tradition is the basis of what all people believe. If he were correct, then he might have a point about what we believe (although he would, as pointed out above, be entirely wrong about the "origin" of the teaching of the Trinity which is everywhere in the NT). However, he is wrong about me and wrong about you and wrong about all the Bible-believing Christians I know. We believe it because the Bible says it. We are always willing to examine the scriptures like the Bereans did "to see if these things are so", and in so doing our doctrines are refined and our faith solidified. But our faith is in God and His Word, not in any tradition or the origin of any tradition or the questionable bona fides of any other group or person who may or may not believe what we believe or anything similar to it. We believe in the Trinity because it is true. How do we know it is true? Because the Bible clearly teaches it, and the Spirit confirms the truth of it to us in our belief of it. You have demonstrated this to correspondent since the first day you had contact with him. He just doesn't choose to accept it. That is his right. We all have free will. That is why we are here on earth – to choose our eternal future. And, as it so happens, it is necessary for those who resist or reject the truth to be able to do so, otherwise human will would not truly be free.
In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it. No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God's approval.
1st Corinthians 11:18-19 NIV
The point is that even if everything correspondent says here about non-Christian views were true (and it is certainly not), that would make absolutely no difference to the question of whether or not the Trinity is true (it is) and to whether or not that is clearly demonstrable from the Bible (it is). Therefore this is just one massive smoke screen with which correspondent is attempting to shift the ground of the debate away from a fight he knows he cannot win.
2) Much of this synopsis of early Christian history is entirely wrong (for example, the NT was completed well before the end of the 1st century as actual papyrus manuscript evidence and other evidentiary support confirms). I see no need for a long response as this is just another rambling smokescreen. Is correspondent saying that the Bible is not reliable? If not, then let him look elsewhere than to scripture and put off this pointless dissembling. We will continue to believe the Bible and the Spirit's testimony to it.
3) Luke and Paul make no mention of the Trinity!? Now correspondent completely forgets everything we have been telling him – really, he's just choosing to ignore it. The verses he quotes contain the Trinity. Only someone who rejects this truth blindly would have the temerity to say they prove the opposite of what they actually say. I see no point in engaging with a long-winded gross misunderstanding of Paul's epistles. This is not biblical interpretation. This is a "hatchet job". Let correspondent provide one passage from Luke, Acts or the Pauline epistles which contradicts the Trinity. He cannot because there are none. All he can do is go on and on and on about Gnosticism (which is of course a heresy), say that Paul is against it (which of course he is), then blasphemously and falsely connect Gnosticism to the Trinity without a shred of evidence. No need to reprise everything here, but while Paul never suggests there is no Trinity, he certainly teaches Christ's divinity:
Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen.
Romans 9:5 NIV
. . . while we wait for the blessed hope--the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ,
Titus 2:13 NIV
But about the Son he says, "Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever, and righteousness will be the scepter of your kingdom.
Hebrews 1:8 NIV
After all, Jesus created the universe, and only God could exist before the creation of the universe:
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
Colossians 1:15-17 NIV
There is no question that any fair and neutral observer reading the New Testament would conclude that it teaches the deity of Jesus Christ and the doctrine of the Trinity. It is academically dishonest for opponents of the Trinity to claim that they believe in the Bible as their standard of truth and practice even as they deny its most basic truths.
In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,
Hey Dr Robert,
Thanks again I commend a smashing response from you, and also a clear well thought and a clear defense for the Trinity. Our God truly is a faithful God.
I have just sent my correspondent your response I will await his response to it I also told him that my next reply will be my last as this debate has turned nonsensical due to his ignorant rejection to the Trinity.
Below is my added part to your email I also sent him (it entails the Theophany argument), and his response.
Wow! It does seem to be pointless.
1) "If He is 3, why not say so?" So now we can dictate to God how He is to describe Himself? He is "one" – in Essence; but He is "three" – in Person: "in the Name of the Father and in the Name of the Son and in the Name of the Holy Spirit". To say there is no Trinity is to say that Jesus is not God. Since He is God, how is saying He is "not God" not blasphemy? More than that, since believing in Him is believing in who He is what He has done, how can anyone who does not accept the truth of who He is (God as well as man) and what He has done (atoning for our sins as only the God-man could do) possibly truly believe? Since all who choose not to believe the truth of Jesus – and choosing to believe an alternative "truth" which is really a satanic lie is choosing not to believe the truth at all – are condemned, pointing this out is not "nasty" or "mean" or "angry", rather it is honest and loving and hopeful, because only by believing the truth (which for people like this means rejecting the lies they have bought into) can a person be saved from condemnation.
2) "Catholic scholars and Trinitarians" who "admit" there is no Trinity in the Bible are secularists and are lost. Anyone who reads from an unbiased perspective any of the verses provided in the last email or in any of the links provided would conclude that Paul, for example, believed Jesus to be God (e.g., Rom.9:5). I am sure your correspondent has, like all died in the wool cult-adherents do, detailed alternative interpretations of the verses provided, but what is abundantly clear from listening to them is that for them to be persuasive one has first to believe the overall lie (i.e., "there is no Trinity"), and have a very low view of scripture (i.e., "it can be interpreted various ways"). It is all very well to say "I'm for scripture 100%", but, if that were really true, the obvious sense of so many passages which so clearly teach the opposite of what is being proclaimed would cause at least a flicker of hesitation and doubt. I personally was taught a number of things which the Bible caused me to think twice about over time (e.g., the pre-Tribulation rapture and unconditional eternal security). What implacable unbelievers have in common is an ability to shut out even the most obvious truth with absolutely no shame.
3) "Pagans and gnostics et al. admit the source of the Trinity": Correspondent is all het up about what secularist historians and theologians think, about extra-biblical sources, about the "history" of paganism, gnosticism, Roman Catholic doctrine, etc. I have often observed that such people take comfort in the fact that so many "experts" and so many "traditions" agree with their preconceived notions. As a result, they feel that the nonsense they believe is "safe". They can even pay lip service to "the Bible", because "smarter people than you or I" have pronounced on the issue. Only they don't read the Bible. Only they don't really pay attention to what it is saying. Only they don't really respect it and give their time and effort to it. If they did, the Spirit might open their eyes to see and their ears to hear and they might turn and be saved. As it is, they are comfortable in their apostasy, and they take offense when others who do believe challenge that comfort. When they attempt to destroy the truth and others' faith in the truth for the sake of protecting that comfort, however, they go too far, and only terrible judgment awaits. But why would they take comfort in something that is a lie? Many reasons, most of which always devolve around the basic fact that they are living their lives their way, and this false way of thinking, like all of Satan's false ways of thinking, allows them to do so. But if they did acknowledge the truth, and then believe the truth, God would work in them to change them and their lives, change their thinking, change their behavior, bring them along in the process of spiritual growth, progress and production. This is a blessed set of changes, but most human beings are unwilling to make them. Most human beings want to be lord of their own will and not surrender it to God. Defining God how they wish to do so instead of accepting the truth about themselves is just putting on the armor of lies so as to shut out the truth for as long as they live – in order to be their own god. This is a sad business, but human beings have been doing this since Cain, and the majority of them too (please see the link: "The Problem of Unbelievers").
4) The three passages:
a) "Only God is good" (Lk.18:19): Yes, Jesus' point is that the logic of what his interlocutor is calling Him is that Jesus is God: that is the truth; only Jesus was well aware that this person did not really accept Him as the Messiah. The point of the question "why do you call Me good?" is to bring home the hypocrisy and the unbelief at the heart of this person's approach in the hope that he will be saved. Notice that Jesus does not say that He is not good or that He is not God: He is both. So while this passage does not disprove the Trinity even on the face of it, it actually supports the divinity of Christ.
b) "His Servant Jesus" (Acts 3:13): Jesus is the Messiah. As such He is both the Suffering Servant (Is.53) and the Glorious Son of God (Rev.19). In His humanity, during the first advent, Jesus had to abase Himself in order to save us all:
Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.
Philippians 2:6-7 NIV
These verses show that Jesus is God, was God, and yet took on the nature of a Servant in addition to being God. This is what the incarnation is all about. Clearly, there are innumerable verses which show and describe the humanity of our Lord Jesus. That does not, in fact, prove that He is not God: He is the God-Man since He took on true humanity in order to save us. Denying this essential truth of His deity is blasphemy, and is the one sin for which He could not die, the rejection of Himself:
"I tell you the truth, all the sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven them. But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin." He said this because they were saying, "He has an evil spirit." "
Mark 3:28-30 NIV
c) "The Head of Christ is God" (1Cor.11:3): Over and over again in scripture Jesus' voluntary submission to the plan of the Father is recorded and discussed. As God in eternity past, there was no such submission. Within the creation of time and space, the Persons of the Trinity have adopted particular roles for the carrying out of the plan of salvation. Without the Trinity taking on these particular roles, there could have been no creation of free-will agents, no plan of God, no salvation. I find it ironic that these very people for whose sake also Jesus became a human being in addition to God that He might die their sins as well as ours, without which status as the unique God-Man there could have been no atonement for sin, choose to reject Him and His deity precisely because of this immense and ineffable sacrifice. Talk about having a lot to answer for when they stand before Him!
5) etc. Correspondent continues to go on about the history of the Trinity, the Johannine Comma, scholars and pagans, gnostics and experts. But if a million scholars with a million scholarly books argued for a million connections between the Trinity and non-Christian manifestations, why would we bother to pay them a minute's worth of attention? This is about the Bible. This is about the truth. Either the Trinity is true or it isn't. Correspondent chooses not to believe it. That is his problem. We believe it because it is biblical, and very easily demonstrable as such. What secular scholars, be they Catholic or pagan or even (heaven forbid!) evangelical should say to the contrary, is just a waste of time to worry about.
Who created the world? Jesus Christ (Jn.1:3; Col.1:16; Heb.1:1-3; 1:10)! How could He do that if He were not God?
The Son of God is God just as God the Father is God. If the Son of God is God's true Son, how could He, how would He not be truly God? And if this is just a title, how is it any different in its import as a title than "Father"?
I am sorry if any of my tone was taken as insulting by correspondent. It certainly wasn't meant to be. But sometimes the truth hurts.
Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
Hey Dr Robert,
Amen the Trinity cannot be refuted. hanks for your assistance God is truly praised in the name of the Father, the Son and The Holy Spirit, One God.
I commend once again your clear responses which correlate well with the scriptures. I truly pray God will show my correspondent the truth because what he believes in is heresy and a road to condemnation for eternity, his ignorance and lack of clear Exegesis for Scripture shows to me he's not willing to learn or accept the Truth.
Btw sir do you have any links on the History of the Bible e.g the Manuscripts, how it was put together, the dates of the writers, and the history of its original language etc. If you could please provide a solid link which could educate me I would be most thankful.
God bless you in our Lord Jesus Christ
You are very welcome. I certainly hope all this was helpful. Your correspondent is clearly a "hard case" who seems to think that because scholars have proclaimed the Trinity derivative, therefore it must be so. This is akin to those who believe "scientific" refutations of the existence of God. What all such approaches have in common are 1) a rejection of the authority of the Bible, either outright (science) or de facto (throwing out all contrary evidence through ridiculous interpretations as in this case), and 2) a complete lack of true faith.
As to your question about other links, yes indeed, there is much posted to the site on all these matters. Here is a smattering of links which will lead you to others (and by the way there is a Subject Index and a Site Search which may be helpful in finding other things you may be looking for; see the links):
Study Tools and Methodologies.
Bible Vocabulary and Bible Word Studies
The Greek Text of the New Testament and some Issues of Textual Criticism.
Biblical Languages, Texts and Translations I
Biblical Languages, Texts and Translations II
Biblical Languages, Texts and Translations III
The Chronological Order of the Books of the Bible part 2
Issues of Canonicity: Apocrypha, Enoch, and Inspiration.
Issues of Canonicity II: Aramaic, Enoch, KJV, and the Pastorals
Some Issues of Transmission, Translation, and Transliteration: The Camel and the Needle, etc.
Bible Interpretation I: Interlinears, Academics, Versions et al.
Bible Interpretation II: Easter, Abiathar, the Hyssop-Blood Cross, Baal, the Scarlet Thread, Names of God
Grammar Questions in the Bible
The Canonicity of the Book of Hebrews
Some Greek Questions in the Gospels (John 1:3; 2:19; 8:58; Luke 23:43)
Why was the New Testament written in Greek?
Please feel free to write me back about any of the above. Best wishes for you in all your further efforts for our dear Lord Jesus,
Hope your keeping well.
What is your view on the doctrine of "Oneness"?
Good to hear from you as always. Apologies for the long delay in response – I was out of town visiting family for Christmas.
As to your question, there are a number of "doctrines" with subdivisions under this name. If this term is used to mean that there is no Trinity (of if that is the effect of its application), then of course I would strongly disagree. If it is used to mean that divine attributes are not really parts of God but mere aspects of His integrated essence, well that is certainly true. God is one – in the sense of uniqueness (Deut.6:4), but He is also three in Person (the Trinity). What people mean by that when they say "oneness", therefore, is something that often only the person who says it can really know. I treat this at the link in BB 1: Theology under the principle of God's uniqueness (see the link). Please see also "The Hebrew Word for 'One' (`echadh - אחד) and the Uniqueness of God".
Here's wishing you and yours a blessed 2013!
Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,
Can a person NOT believe in the Trinity but rather believe in the oneness of God, i.e. Jesus Is the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and be saved? Be a genuine believer?
In Jesus Christ our Almighty God
Always good to hear from you.
I am always reluctant to pronounce on individual cases because 1) we can't really know what precisely another person believes, even if they tell us (they may be mis-representing things to one degree or another), 2) there may be a big difference between the label they or we or someone else slaps on their belief-system and what they really think is true in their heart of hearts, and 3) only God really knows what is in that person's heart. As to scriptural principles, however, it is very clear what constitutes saving faith and what does not:
Jesus answered and said to them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent."
John 6:29 NKJV
Clearly, God is ONE – in essence – but also three – in person. We see just from this verse above that the Father sent the Son, so that the Son and the Father while "one" in essence and in purpose are not the same person. We also see that to be saved we have to believe in Jesus Christ, His perfect person (the God-man) and His perfect work (in dying for all of our sins on the cross). But how could we believe that if we don't even see a distinction between the persons of God?
So to answer your question, assuming that this nonsense you report really is what the person in question believes and that it has caused them to reject in their hearts the truth that Jesus is their personal Savior (if they ever did believe it), then in my view such a person would not be saved. As I say, however, there may be some divergence between the tentative acceptance and even proselytization of such a false doctrine and the death of true faith. I oppose the false teaching; I leave the actual spiritual status of each individual as a matter between them and God.
Yours in our dear Lord Jesus,
Hello Dr. Luginbill,
I pray all is better with you. I was listening to a well known bible teacher make a theological statement that stunned me. His doctrinal beliefs seem spot on and he is never known to say anything false regarding the bible. He had said that God is Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit, and that they are beings. This would imply that there are 3 beings. As I understand, the bible teaches that the 3 eternal persons are of the same essence making God 1 being, or being. Is referring to God as 3 beings a theological error? Thanks!
Very good to hear from you. Thank you so much for your prayers. We are still waiting on events here, but I am confident that the Lord will bring good news of victory very shortly – your continuing prayer support in this is much appreciated (you remain in my prayers day by day too).
As to your question, there are good reasons for sticking to a strict description of the Trinity as the statement you report indicates. You are absolutely correct that the Trinity consists of three Persons with one essence. The word essence is from the Latin equivalent of the Greek word ousia "being". So God has "being" or "essence", but He is not "a being" (still less three "beings"). People often get a bit sloppy in how they talk about such things, and I suppose it is possible that this person misunderstands what terming someone "a being" means to most English speakers. He may mean it in the sense of "Person". But then why not say "three Persons"? That way, all potential confusion is eliminated. The misconception I see with saying incorrectly that "God is three beings" is that it makes it sound as if God is a super-creature (actually, three super creatures) rather than the Creator who exists outside of time and space. We are "human beings" and there are "angelic beings", but God is clearly in a category all by Himself: three distinct Persons possessing one divine essence. We only have "being" or life because God "is" and He is life – and always was (before there even was an "is" or a "was"). I have this written up in more detail in part 1 of Bible Basics: Theology at the link: "The Persons of God: the Trinity".
Thanks again for your sharp eye and for your prayer support!
In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,
Hello Dr. Luginbill,
Thank you for your reply, which made me think of another question which came about because of your response. I've read from several commentators that when God said, "Let us make man in our image", the "us" refers to the plural of majesty. I also heard a Christian apologist in a debate stating that the "us" can't possibly refer to a plural of majesty because it didn't exist until the 17-18th century AD when Anglo-saxon's used it to refer to kings and queens. He said that the plural of majesty was nonexistent during the time of Moses' writing. And because of that, he said that the "us" in Genesis most definitely refers to the Triune God.
I also wanted to know if when God says, "I, even I..." in the Old Testament is a reference to both the Father and the Son speaking or in agreement. I also heard that when Isaiah saw the LORD on the throne, he was seeing Jesus Christ before His incarnation. Are any of these true? Thanks!
The plural of majesty/modesty (it can be one or the other) is not unique to English, so I would not argue in that direction. However, in the usage of the Old Testament, if this were a plural of majesty, it does raise the question of why God nowhere else speaks of Himself in that way ("God" and "Lord" are apparently majestic enough, rightly understood and considered). The fact that the "we" and "us" forms in Genesis chapter one are unique and unparalleled elsewhere in the Old Testament means that they cannot be there for that stylistic reason, otherwise God would always refer to Himself as "we" – or at least on some occasions (as opposed to never referring to Himself that way elsewhere). This is definitely one of many places where the Trinity is clearly present and available to be understood as such – for all who are willing to open their eyes, ears and hearts.
On "I even I" in Isaiah, most people would take the repetition of the "I" in Hebrew (there is no "even"; the Hebrew says "I, I am the Lord") as most likely a means of emphasis. That is how I lean as well, although your idea is certainly interesting and worthy of consideration.
On Isaiah seeing Jesus, yes, that is correct. The passage you are thinking of where that is stated is Luke 9:32 which refers to Isaiah 6. Jesus is the revealed Person of the Trinity and therefore has always been the One representing the Godhead to mankind, representing the Father so that He sometimes appears to be the Father (as in Isaiah 6).
You can find more about these issues at the following links:
Roles of the Trinity in the Plan of God.
Explaining and Defending the Trinity and the Person of Christ.
The Trinity in Scripture.
The Trinity in Isaiah 63:10-15.
The One True God and the Trinity in the Old Testament.
Yours in our dear Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Hello Dr. Luginbill,
I've listened to a debate where a Unitarian said that Jesus rightfully acted as God's agent (Jewish Law of Agency), and therefore was able to speak as God. I don't know too much about this and wanted to know if there is any veracity to this and if anywhere does the bible back this up. I thought about this and found it odd. I often wondered why the Jews wanted to stone Jesus (e.g, Jn.8:58) if He was merely acting as God's agent.
Another question that I'm unable to defend against. A Unitarian had said that several thousand times, singular personal pronouns are used to described God. He argued that if God was triune, God wouldn't use singular personal pronouns to describe Himself. Is it possible that those time, the Father is speaking? I often thought about the Old and New Testaments in these ways. God the Father is speaking in the Old Testament, and God the Son is speaking in the New Testament. How does one defend against that Unitarian argument of singular personal pronouns?
As usual, your spiritual common sense is spot-on. If there were something called the "Jewish Law of Agency" (in all my years of theological and Bible studies, I for one have never heard of such a thing before – it is definitely not to be found in the Bible), then one would think that the Jews of our Lord's day would have heard of it too; but as you note they took great offense at our Lord's statements that He was God:
For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.
John 5:18 NIV
This "law" seems to be just another made-up excuse for not taking the clear and obvious meaning of scripture in clear and obvious way. Plenty of Old Testament prophets were "agents of God" – as indeed all believers empowered by the Spirit are. That fact, however, does not make us God! And we would therefore be ill-advised to speak as if we were God (and no prophet ever did, besides our Lord). Jesus did speak as if He were God because He is indeed God.
As to the pronoun issue, this is another example of extreme silliness. God is one in essence but three in Person. So it is entirely proper for the Son to speak as "I" rather than "we" – or for the Father or the Spirit to do so as well:
While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, "Simon, three men are looking for you. So get up and go downstairs. Do not hesitate to go with them, for I have sent them."
Acts 10:19-20 NIV
On the other hand, God does indeed speak in the plural when the entire Trinity is in view:
Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness . . ."
Genesis 1:26a NIV
So the above verse does show a multiplicity of Persons from the use of the pronoun on the Hebrew verb. According to the argument of your correspondent, therefore, this can only mean that God exists in more than one Person.
Yours in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the second Person of the Trinity,
Hello Dr. Luginbill,
I recently listened to a debate on whether the Son was eternally subordinate to the Father, or did the Son become subordinate to the Father at the incarnation. It was also argued that Jesus became the Son at the incarnation, while the other side argued that there was always the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit in respect to their titles since eternity past. I was taught that the eternal sonship is not found in the bible and Jesus voluntarily submits to the Father. Which is the biblical understanding of Jesus' subordination? Did He become the Son at the incarnation, and/or was He subordinate to the Father from eternity past?
Also, regarding the authority of the Holy Spirit, is the Holy Spirit subordinate to any members of the Godhead?
Good to hear from you as always. I think you have hit the nail pretty much on the head as usual. Debates are never a particularly good way to solve theological questions. One reason for that is because debates by their nature assume one side is right and the other wrong, and seek to persuade the audience which is which. In fact, of course, both sides can be wrong. Also, orthodox Bible teaching is about the truth of the Word of God, not about the ability to persuade others that what one is saying is true – the truth is the truth, no matter what people choose to believe.
The Bible very clearly teaches that "God is one". So the assumptions made in the debate you describe are entirely erroneous. God is one to a degree that we human beings cannot even imagine. We are made in the image of God, which means that we have a free will which parallels in its own minutely small way and is meant to respond to the WILL of God. But when the Bible says that we are made "according to His likeness" it means that we are not as close in "likeness" as we are in image. Our free will is genuine and absolute. In terms of "likeness", however, while every human being has an identical essence, we are all individually independent from one another. God, on the other hand, shares one divine essence, while being three in Person. What this means, in terms of your debate, is that there has never been nor could there ever be a time when the Trinity was not entirely of one will and one purpose in all they have ever planned or put into action. Under such circumstances, words like "subordination" lose their meaning. Even the closest human friendship or the closest human marriage could not even began to fathom the kind of unity that God possesses because no two human beings can ever be "one" in an absolute spiritual sense – however close, we retain our own individual and individuated free will. But God is yet three unique persons who are individual persons in every sense. How can both things be true? They are. We are not given to know all the details as yet and no doubt could not fathom them in our present earthly forms if we were. We do know from scripture, however, that this is the truth of things – three unique persons sharing one indivisible essence – and it is not the only place in scripture where two things that may seem contradictory to mere human logic are both completely (e.g., many people have trouble reconciling the truths of free will and predestination, Calvinists vs. Arminians, but both things are true).
In this context, that is, of the absolutely perfect and seamless unity of God (covered at the link in BB 1 under "The Trinity"), it should be clear that as God in terms of His divinity, sharing the same essence and all that that essence implies, there can be no room for anything like subordination because one is one and is not subordinate to itself nor could it be; nor would subordination mean anything to a perfect Godhead composed of three co-equal, co-eternal and consubstantial Persons even if it were hypothetically possible (which it is not). The roles the Trinity have adopted reflected by the names they shared with us are meaningful within this creation and are taken on for our benefit, both for our understanding and also in order to carry out the plan of salvation. Here, in the world, therefore, is the only place the idea of subordination means anything. And it does mean quite a lot that the Father was willing to sacrifice the Son and that the Son was willing to come into the world and be the sacrifice for the world that we might be saved! In fact it means everything.
As to the Spirit's role, scripture does not address this matter in these terms, but it is certainly clear that His role is absolutely critical in everything God has undertaken to do here in time, with His innumerable ministries acting both to restrain evil in order to preserve our ability to choose, and also acting to empower our free will when we do choose the good part. I will have much more to say about the latter in part 5 of the Basics Series: Pneumatology, which I hope to have out in the no too distant future.
Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,
Hope you all well, and prayers "unceasingly". Am studying a lot , it takes a very long time to read and understand and study the scriptures ... but I would rather that than just skimming over things! Am still on Heavenly Prelude. Was just wondering about IJohn5 verses 7 and 8: by the Word, is that the Lord Jesus and in v 8 the 3 that agree on earth "the Spirit and the water and the blood"? I am not sure on that. Some say these two verses are "put in"!
Thanks for your wonderful website - much much appreciated.
Love to you all in the precious Lord Jesus
Always a pleasure. I go over these materials too – and also do it slowly. On your question, this passage is known as "the Johannine Comma" and was added centuries after John penned the letter. The hows and wherefores of that may be found at the link. The reason why this is such a big controversy lately, however, has nothing to do with the verse and a half added but about the "King James-onlyists" movement. The KJV has the short extra-biblical addition because it was based upon a text produced long before the best manuscripts of the Greek New Testament were discovered (mostly in the 19th century). Had the KJV committees had access to what we have today, this passage would not be in the KJV. But some proponents of the KJV have perversely assumed for it a kind of divine inspiration. It is a great translation, but like all things on this earth, it is imperfect, and the "comma" is not part of scripture. It really is an odd state of affairs because the comma is certainly not necessary to demonstrate the Trinity (which doctrine is ubiquitous in scripture), but including the comma does make it impossible to understand John's admittedly difficult point in this passage which is not about the Trinity but about the reality of Christ's humanity and His death on our behalf.
Yours in Jesus who died that we might live with Him eternally,
Jehovah witnesses paid me a visit today and your teaching wasn't in vain. I was quoted Colossians 1:15-17 to support the notion of our Lord being literally "born first", but I replied saying the firstborn is a title that may refer to the son who was born first, but doesn't have to, as some cases in Old Testament show (I provided the example of Esau selling his birthright to Jacob). Trinity was another issue; I just mentioned that even the noun Elohim is plural and that I believe in Jesus' pre-existence with God the Father from eternity past. I said that the deity of Jesus Christ is a fundamental point and that, as it is, we cannot enjoy spiritual fellowship unless this point is reconciled (I was invited to their meeting).
I just gave them my email and said that they can send me their views and I can reply, as there was little point to carry on with the discussion. I did this not because I am not sure about our Lord's divinity - as I believe in it firmly, but rather because in writing one can put together a good reply and support one's beliefs accordingly; discussions are much less effective in this respect (which I'm sure some of these groups are adept at making most of, quoting scripture and providing support for their point without really giving the chance for the visited person to prepare and make a sensible reply).
What is your take on these situations? What is the best course of action? On the one hand, gentleness is always good, on the other - some differences are irreconcilable and that needs to be stated too, particularly if relating to a point as fundamental as the one above. On the one hand, sometimes one sees little point in even starting the conversation and ending it abruptly can be rude, on the other it is hard to say whether someone who actually proselytizes as a Jehovah witness might have a heart open to the truth and at least, if presented with some arguments, have the desire to verify his/her beliefs.
With constant prayer for you and in our Lord,
Good for you! I think the purpose the Lord must have had in sending these people to you had a lot to do with demonstrating to you how solid you are now in your doctrinal foundation. I'm sure it also had something to do with demonstrating to the people sent to you that there are some Christians out there who are solid in faith and truth – which ought to cause them to second-guess the lines they've been fed, especially as these are demonstrably not biblical.
Beyond that, there is a limit to what one can do in such situations. As you know very well by now faith is the critical issue and the Spirit empowering genuine faith is the true motive force. For all who want to know the truth, the truth is always provided. For those who do not, it is not, even if they are adept at debating skills and have a good book-knowledge of the Bible. It's all about the truth; it's all about Jesus Christ. The beautiful thing about the witness you gave is that it will certainly settle in the heart of one or the other or both of these individuals, if there is anything in their hearts that desires truth. The Spirit will have made sure of that.
JW's travel in pairs so that a solid member (i.e., heart-hardened to the truth) can "shepherd" a weaker member (i.e., someone newer to the game who may yet have an open mind to some degree). The weaker usually wants to show off for the older and will also have his/her doubts protected by the rote responses of the older in case they meet up with someone like you. I wouldn't waste an inordinate amount of time on such pairs of people; one to one is the best way to discuss the gospel – because no censor is present to stop the process of telling and believing the truth.
On the emailing, as I have discovered, it all depends on the willingness of the correspondent to listen with open ears. But the nice thing about a written record is that it can be shared with others later. For that reason, I'd be surprised if you get any emails – but you never know.
Keep on fighting the good fight, my friend! And thank you so much for your prayers – they are as always greatly appreciated.