“You’re assuming unitarianism!”
This is a common claim by trinitarians, but most commonly made by apologist James White. I kind of wish I had all the clips where he’s said this because it could be a small montage by now. Maybe I just might do it…
So is it true? Lets break down the claim. Well, what is “unitarianism” in this context since we’re talking about biblical unitarianism? “Unitarianism” breaks down to “single person” in this context in reference to God. A “single person” God. It’s only used to have a contradistinction between itself and trinitarianism(three person), the triune God. Simply put it’s the belief that God is the Father alone, a single identity when it comes to the Bible.
So we’re assuming it? Well, I suppose that’s an admitted assumption in this context. I hope it is anyways. I mean, when I say “I, me, my, myself”[singular personal pronouns] no one assumes I am more than one person, do they? Is the assumption while reading this article that I am more than one person? Am I possibly bi-personal or tri-personal?
This is just basic grammar on an everyday level. In fact, any other belief would likely be the illogical assumption wouldn’t it? If I wanted to refer to more than one person it would be simple to say “We, us” over and over in my article but I don’t speak that way. So if the Bible really supports God being “tri-personal” wouldn’t it be full of “We, us” statements from Genesis to Revelation? I would accept that if it did, but it’s not. I have no problem admitting there’s the 3-4 debatable texts where a “we, us” occurs but there’s way better answers to those texts consistent with the larger picture of “I, me, myself” texts littered throughout the entire Bible.
James White and other trinitarians would rather I overthrow the basic everyday grammar used by us all in conversation and reading than assume single personal pronouns refer to single persons. Some will go so far as to say this basic grammar cannot be applied to God, but I have no biblical nor logical reason to believe it cannot be done. In fact, I find that his and other’s belief that “assuming unitarianism” is incorrect as quite audacious. But nothing should surprise me when you assume trinitarianism.
In my last post I ended by posting a portion of Matthew 18 wherein Jesus taught about how God will deal with us(or his disciples in that context) if they do not forgive their brothers/sisters for their sins. I made it a point to say that in Jesus’ story the man who owed a great deal of money had his debt reinstated after being initially forgiven… and this is how God will treat us.
The portion of text again is Matthew 18:21-35(NKJV)
21 Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?”
22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. 23 Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25 But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made. 26 The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, ‘Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ 27 Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt.
28 “But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, ‘Pay me what you owe!’ 29 So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ 30 And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt. 31 So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that had been done. 32 Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. 33 Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’ 34 And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him.
35 “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.”
So what’s my point? Well, double jeopardy is my point. Lets define it so you know the problem. Double jeopardy is defined(from http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/double+jeopardy )as:
A second prosecution for the same offense after acquittal or conviction or multiple punishments for same offense. The evil sought to be avoided by prohibiting double jeopardy is double trial and double conviction, not necessarily double punishment.
PSA promotes that once the person’s fine/debt/sin has been paid by the Messiah’s death/blood they are eternally “forgiven”–or at least their debt has been paid in full. I know some of the texts used to promote this, but we’ll deal with those later.
My problem is the above text of Scripture clearly denotes a man who was forgiven(or had their debt paid per PSA) once before may have that debt re-instated to have to pay the full debt off again. This is exactly what this block of text teaches and I don’t think it’s possible to show any other possible interpretation. Yes, there are certainly a number of other things we can draw out to teach from the text–but what I’m focused on is that reinstatement of debt. God can re-instate someone’s formerly forgiven debt for not forgiving their brethren.
How can PSA answer this type of clear text without double jeopardy coming into play? Will God charge a man again for a punishment which the fine has been paid already by His Son? Can you have a debt paid off and then somehow reject the payment? How does that work? If you were at a bank and you paid off your mortgage… your bank couldn’t turn around a couple months later and reject the legitimate payments and say you still owe the mortgage debt, could they? Would you accept that? And I don’t think it changes the example even if someone else pays off your mortgage. The point is your bank cannot hold you accountable for a debt you already paid off. That would be swindling!
So please answer this full text and teaching in Matthew 18 by the Messiah for me. Those who promote PSA… how can God reinstate a debt he already had paid off in your view? And then, how can God do that without having double jeopardy?
Next we’ll hope to deal with the cup the Messiah was to drink… was it wrath or something else?
A long time ago my former elder made a video on his views of the Granville Sharp rule and I made a post about it. I made a short response but never really went back to do the full diligence of a refutation. That’s not only because it already exists, but because I’ve been way off track into other studies. This topic did also come up a bit in my recent debate but this is not a direct rebuttal to that subject—it just deals with the same issue. Hopefully this first post here can be a bit of a bit by bit refutation of the mis-use and abuse of trinitarian interpretation of the word “God.”
See when trinitarians argue, they act like finding even one text where the Messiah Jesus is called “God,” it disproves biblical unitarianism. Some trinitarians go so far as to believe this proves trinitarianism. But in reality, if one is well versed in Scriptural definitions for “God” and sees how it is used in a few other applications it reveals a problem. The problem is that the trinitarian is arguing with a non-sequitur. A non-sequitur definition from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/non%20sequitur:
Definition of non sequitur
1: an inference (see inference 2) that does not follow from the premises (see 1premise 1); specifically: a fallacy resulting from a simple conversion of a universal affirmative (see 1affirmative 3) proposition or from the transposition of a condition and its consequent (see 1consequent 1)
2: a statement (as a response) that does not follow logically from or is not clearly related to anything previously said <We were talking about the new restaurant when she threw in some non sequitur about her dog.>
To show this more informally, it’s the same as if:
- Person makes claim A.
2. Evidence is given to prove claim A.
3. Therefore claim C is true.
The demonstration of the normal trinitarian argument is:
- Trinitarian makes claim that Jesus is God.
2.Scriptural evidence is given to prove Jesus is called “God.”
3. Therefore biblical unitarianism is false.
This is in short exactly as the title of the video by my former elder in an older post. Yet, this is a non-sequitur. Most biblical unitarians do not deny the possibility of Jesus being called “god.”[my personal take is not necessarily in agreement with most biblical unitarians, but that’s for another post] This is because the Scriptural evidence demonstrates other legitimate usages of the word “god” to denote human beings and angels. We’re not talking about idols or demons, we’re talking about God given titles to humans or angels usually in a superior place of power.
A clear example is Psalm 82
1 God stands in the congregation of the mighty;
He judges among the gods.
2 How long will you judge unjustly,
And show partiality to the wicked? Selah
3 Defend the poor and fatherless;
Do justice to the afflicted and needy.
4 Deliver the poor and needy;
Free them from the hand of the wicked.
5 They do not know, nor do they understand;
They walk about in darkness;
All the foundations of the earth are unstable.
6 I said, “You are gods,
And all of you are children of the Most High.
7 But you shall die like men,
And fall like one of the princes.”
8 Arise, O God, judge the earth;
For You shall inherit all nations.
And this is one among many where men/angels are deemed as “gods.” This is usually because these people/angels are to be representing God therefore they are given that title. There are plenty of commentaries that are open enough to admit this fact if you just do some slight digging. I only post one for now for brevity and to have you search it out more as the reader.
So do you see now why my former elder’s claim is false? See how it’s a non-sequitur? Does biblical unitarianism fall because he or any other trinitarian can assert Jesus may have the title “God/god” upon him? Nope…not unless the trinitarian wants to deny all the other texts and usages of the word “god” throughout the Scriptures and start to prove that. They’ve got a lot more steps to go to disprove biblical unitarianism and many many many more to try to prove trinitarianism.
While I admit to having my mind a lot on the debate lately, the nature of this post is NOT to start an unending debate back and forth with my opponent. The nature of this post is to explain further why I believe the trinitarian explanation of “God” cannot escape equivocation and/or a contradiction to the Scriptures. I believe my opponent did equivocate many times in our debate, but I’m not going to detail that here. I’m going to deal with the common explanation given by many apologists today on the trinity.
Many trinitarians claim they are not tri-theists and will openly deny any argument which puts them in this camp. They will claim it’s a straw-man, yet in reality it is not if their definitions are unpacked and expanded upon.
Can I demonstrate for you in writing? A common trinitarian explanation usually goes something like this when questioned(usually by an ill-informed Muslim or skeptic):
Non-trinitarian: So you believe Jesus is the son of God?
1) Trinitarian: Yes, Jesus is the son of God.
Non-trinitarian: Then Jesus is not God?
2) Trinitarian: No, Jesus is God.
Non-trinitarian: So Jesus is his own Father?
3) Trinitarian: No of course not, that’s not what we believe. Jesus is deity and thus God, but he is not the Father.
Non-trinitarian: So you believe there are two Gods?
4) Trinitarian: No, we believe in one God in three persons–namely the Father, the Son and Spirit.
This is a very simplified version of a normal conversation that would occur in a questioning of a trinitarian position. Many of us have seen, heard, or even explained something like this ourselves in the past. It’s a patent denial of tri-theism(or in this case, bi-theism since we’re only talking about the Father and Son) and explanation of their view on what they deem monotheism. The common trinitarian position of this day is that there is 3 WHOs(Father, Son, Spirit) in 1 WHAT(God). You can see this explanation on James White’s own web page to see I’m not making this up: http://vintage.aomin.org/trinitydef.html
To the ill-informed person this might sound plausible, yet to us who have been trained to really hear and read what trinitarians have said and written we see major faults in this explanation. Do you notice first, the number of different definitions of “God” that appear in this short explanation by the trinitarian?
In the first response by the trinitarian the definition for “God” is clearly an identity(who), the Father. Jesus is clearly the son of an identity, God the Father. Yet in the second response by the trinitarian affirming “Jesus is God,” the definition of “God” has now switched to a meaning of “deity” or “having the divine nature.” The word “God” in the second response has now switched to a “what.” That’s the only possible defintion because of course the trinitarian is not going to affirm Jesus is God by identity, namely the Father. The third response by the trinitarian somewhat affirms the definition of a “what” from the second response by now saying “Jesus is deity”(what he is), but the conclusion “…and thus God” has now switched definitions back to a meaning of “God by identity(who he is).” The fourth response of the trinitarian with the full explanation of the trinity has now redefined the term “God” back to a “what” affirming the 3 persons(WHOs) within this one “God”(WHAT).
If you don’t think this explanation is committing the fallacy of equivocation, I urge you to read a definition of it:
The fallacy of equivocation occurs when a key term or phrase in an argument is used in an ambiguous way, with one meaning in one portion of the argument and then another meaning in another portion of the argument. –
Do you see how many different definitions for “God” came up ambiguously in this one explanation? There’s 3 different definitions in this one explanation. Each of these “God” definitions are NOT each other. That is their doctrine. If you are hearing this and not writing it down, it can almost sound plausible. Now I don’t have a problem with differing definitions of the term “God.” Even I have different definitions in my own explanations, but that is different than using the term “God” ambiguously in an explanation to pass off what sounds like a good argument if not forced to define the terms. The problem is the constant back and forth switching and what the trinitarian is claiming follows from each definition and explanation.
Yet we have another huge problem to point out with the explanation. In the third response by the trinitarian–the trinitarian is equating the meaning of the “what”(deity) to a “who”(God). Not only does this not necessarily follow, it creates a second “God” identity since the first “God”(identity, the Father) is NOT the second “God”(identity, the Son). Trinitarians will usually then cry out “No, you don’t understand… there’s only one God! We are not tri-theists, that’s a straw-man.”
But the problem is, we do understand and refuse to allow the equivocation and/or contradiction of simple grammar going on in the explanation. Some trinitarians(not all) will then resort to equating their arguments to God Himself by falling back into “mystery” when confronted with the issue. Others, I hope will see the error and look to challenge their doctrine. Which will you do?
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my recent debate with Joshua Lovell on the trinity. I wanted to first share it more in full without my direct thoughts on the subject. We had a great formal and respectful debate on the subject of the trinity that can be seen/heard on youtube and also downloaded in audio.
You can see that debate here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=27MsuzINaeM&t=6028s
You can listen to that debate(at this point, a bit louder/clearer) here on youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mdqWRRvpHVg&t=209s
You can also download the debate audio from a link: https://www.dropbox.com/s/1zc5f2kmsz2azn7/edited%20debate%20audio.mp3?dl=0
I hope you are edified about both positions with regards to the Scriptures in this discussion.
You tell me…you read this text as objectively as possible and tell me who is the one and only God Paul preached among the Greeks at the Areopagus. Highlights will be done by me for clarity, that’s it. And trust me, there’s tons more I could say and cross-reference.
22 Then Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious; 23 for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription:
TO THE UNKNOWN GOD.
Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you: 24 “God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands.25 Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things. 26 And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, 27 so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; 28 for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’ 29 Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising. 30 Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, 31 because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.”
So *who* is the one God, the one He, the one Him according to this one block of text preaching by Paul?
I’ve had this thought on my mind recently and decided to finally put it into words. I try my best to work with what is in common when talking with other professing believers whether they be trinitarians or the occasional oneness(modalist). I have a video on this subject already in some form regarding looking at the larger picture of the term “o theos”(God) in the New Testament–but I want to highlight the main difference in understanding that flows from a true larger picture of this word “God.”
The main difference between these three positions is consistency ultimately. Consistency in definitions and simple grammar. I would presume most all Scripture believers would agree that we should use clear verses to interpret difficult verses. Otherwise it would seem rather ludicrous to take the more difficult, obscure statements/phrases in the Scripture and overthrow the clearer verses wherein there’s not much to debate about. It’s even worse when that larger set of verses are so clear and abundant yet overthrown or skewed by the more difficult ones. Sadly while many profess this, many do not actually follow it and that’s what I wish to show in the difference between these 3 views on God.
The main agreement between all of us is that there are around 1356 some odd times[KJV search] that the term “o theos”(God) appears in the New Testament alone. That does depends on which manuscripts are used and such, but it’s a round figure. That’s still a lot of instances to use the word “God” just for the small set of writings which make up the New Testament. The facts between us all no matter which position you hold is that over 1317+ of these usages of “God” in the New Testament are that they refer to the Father alone. I want to repeat that and make it clear—over 1317 are agreeably defined as the Father alone no matter which camp you’re in. You’re welcome to go through your own Bible’s New Testament one by one and write them all down if you’d like to test this out in more detail. I did it a long time ago–but I don’t recall it all as well. Go through and each time you come to the word “God” write down to WHOM this word “God” is referring to. You should come up with a pretty large clear picture which agrees with this claim. In my video I only came up with about 9 openly debated verses wherein the term “God” appears to refer to Jesus. If there’s more you wish to try to come up with, that’s fine—but they will be few and far between. These are the facts that we have to deal with no matter which camp.
Trinitarians, being the largest professing group of Christians believe in a triune “God.” So if they take the above facts and work their views—they must by definition begin to redefine the word “God.” There is no instance in existence that I’ve ever seen which can exegetically be shown to define “God” as all three persons at once, triune, or any other such meaning in general agreement with those two terms. Such when they come to the term “God” where they seem to apply to Jesus, they accept those at face value(and the few claims regarding the holy spirit) and will necessarily overthrow the larger facts[1317+ usages] that appear in the New Testament in how “God” is defined as the Father alone. That is not my opinion, that is their position. “God” as an ousia/essence is also not an exegetical definition that appears in the New Testament–but this is also redefined and added into the mix. They admit this in all their books, but will not admit redefinition. This position overthrows the larger foundation of clear verses where “God” refers to the Father alone. If you think you have exegetical definitions of these two meanings of “God,” then please by all means show them.
Oneness modalists on the other hand are rather simple. They accept the fact that “o theos” refers to the Father alone over 1317+ times without debate and then apply the times it appears to refer to Jesus as him being the Father. They recognize no true distinction between the Father and Jesus, and ultimately make them the one God. They don’t overthrow the larger foundation, but they overthrow other simple grammar rules and verses which clearly draw a personal distinction between the Father and the son.
Biblical unitarians take this larger picture and work with it to create a more consistent picture with the entirety of the New Testament. No matter which position you take within biblical unitarianism(because there are minor differences)—we recognize that “God” refers to the Father alone overwhelmingly and then start with that foundation. So when it comes to places where “God” seemingly refers to Jesus in the 9 or so verses we take the position that “o theos” means either “god” as in ruler/king, or look for manners in which it actually refers to the Father literally or within Jesus. We try to keep within basic hermeneutic of using clearer verses to interpret difficult verses and not redefine the terms beyond what the Scripture does.
These are simply the basic facts of agreement of how “God” is defined in the New Testament and the admitted position differences. I’m a proponent of gathering as much evidence available to give the best possible option to interpret the texts consistently. Part of the reason I personally left trinitarianism was because of this overwhelming factual position detailed above. I admit I began to start with presupposition that “God” referred to the Father so clearly that I had to start seeing if there were other consistent manners to deal with the difficult verses that kept within that framework. Ultimately I believe answers were found for all difficult verses to be interpreted clearly within that framework whether you agree with me or not. I’m just telling you my experience. What is your experience? Do you admit the facts? are the facts incorrect? or do you think your position should be represented differently? Let me know.