“Is God a trinity?” – Formal Debate

Hello all,

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.

 

-Sean

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The Areopagus and Paul

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.

Acts 17

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?


The difference between Biblical unitarians, trinitarians and oneness

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.

 

Thanks,

Sean

 


From Trinitarianism to [Biblical] Unitarianism: My testimony

I made a short video testimony back in March 2014 regarding my change of mind and a few of the objections that caused me great stir in my own beliefs as a trinitarian.  But I said in that video that I wanted to eventually make another video with a more full testimony of my repentance from the false idol of trinitarianism to the one true and living God YHWH, the Father of our lord Jesus Messiah(Jer 10:10, Matt 16:16, 1 Thess 1:9-10).  This will be the beginning of this testimony in text that will be recorded in a video/audio soon with as much as I can remember regarding all the events that caused me to change my mind.  And be assured, this was no easy change of mind in all the time I took to study out this issue(and continue to study)….  it caused me great grief over time as I began to learn more and more regarding all the deception of trinitarian songs, translations, bias, and outright lies spread to uphold the trinitarian idol.  It caused me great grief in the deception of my close friends and fellow brothers and sisters in Christ who were likely not even studying the doctrine in the manner of depth which I was giving to it.  I fought it, I wanted it to be true, I tried to make it work… and in the end it did not work.  Here is the story of the truth of my testimony from as much detail as I can recall. I started to write this over a year ago and put it off.  It has been a long time since I originally planned to make a testimony, so it is quite fuzzy now.  Some dialogue recollections are likely not perfect, but the general context is there.

I do not recall the exact time this occurred(sometime in the summer/fall 2012), but my first sort of “ah-ha” moment that caused me to give a second thought was a small debate I got into with a fellow brother regarding Isaiah 14 being about satan or a wicked king based on the context.  But one verse in particular was regarding the fact that this “being” who fell was called a “man.”(Isaiah 14:16)  Going into the full discussion is irrelevant, but my brother brought the argument of the trinity and the meaning of “person” into the discussion for some reason to attempt to back up his view that it was regarding a past fall of satan.  As I began to think about his claims more and more…  I eventually admitted openly both to myself(and in my objection to him) that the trinity and ideal of “person” was not founded on the Bible, but a man made description to understand a concept that (I thought at that time) was taught in the Bible.  I realized that God is not really a “person,” and that word didn’t really seem to fit because that would make each of the “persons” of the trinity into clearly individuals who are each separately God in their own right, and 3 Gods.  That was my first stir moment, but it didn’t really cause me tons of unrest.  It was just categorized and put away in my thoughts not to really arise again until many months later.

Then around the time of December 2012 – January 2013 I had been reading the Bible and some verses caught my eye that had not before despite my usage of them in speaking with other people regarding the Gospel.  The main verse I remember is John 17:3 “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” (NKJV).  It’s fairly straight-forward in the verse. Jesus is speaking and praying to the Father(v.1) and claims in regards to eternal life one must know the only true God and himself.  Obviously Jesus is not aligning himself with being the only true God in this text. He’s naming only one person (in trinitarian terms) as that God, his Father.  So that was another moment that caught my attention, yet it was still not enough to make me change my mind or cause me any larger concern.  It was also filed away as “interesting, but I’ll look into it another time.”

As February/March of 2013 rolled around, our elders of Refining Fire Fellowship said they were going to begin doing a “foundations” series with roughly 10 major topics.  They wanted to give newer believers a good start with contextual attempts to explain and found themselves in major topics regarding the Scriptures. “Awesome!” I thought at the time. They were also going to start with God and go in deeper on the trinity.  I was ready and I wanted to see their defense of it from Scripture because I hadn’t studied it in great depth.  I just knew some basics and how to defend it against Jehovah’s Witnesses for the most part.  I knew the verses that “proved” Jesus was God, but I wanted more.  Kevin Lovell was going to be the main teacher of this first major topic.  In my personal opinion, I loved Kevin a lot. I knew he knew the Bible pretty well–but I wasn’t truly wanting him to teach it. I would have rather had Kerrigan Skelly teach it.  Kevin is not the same type of teacher as Kerrigan, so I wasn’t sure if I’d get the same amount of “meat” from the Bible as Kerrigan might draw out in teaching the trinity.  You can actually view that trinity series teaching(in 3 parts) on skellys3 (Kerrigan) youtube channel still.  Here is a link to the playlist. Refining Fire Foundations playlist

So we get into it, finally!  And while I’m not going to go through all the teachings of Kevin right now to pull out every text I could show he mis-used now… I will go through what texts and teachings caught my attention back then.  We soon started with one of the main texts, Deuteronomy 6:4, the Sh’ma!  So Kevin goes over the idea that Hebrew word “echad” is not the Hebrew word “yachid.”  That God specifically used this special word “echad,” and it can refer to a “compound unity.”  He then goes to a few specific verses like Genesis 1:5 referring to an evening and a morning in ONE day. Guess what, that word is “echad.” There are two parts, evening and morning … in one day! Amazing, a compound unity he declares.  Then onto Numbers 13:23 wherein “echad” refers to “one bunch of grapes.” Again, another compound unity.  I believe there was one more example in the video–but I cannot remember right now.  So there we have it, the Sh’ma itself holds the truth of the trinity within it… those foolish blind Hebrews couldn’t even read their own language.  God is “echad,” a compound unity.  I specifically remember Kevin being a bit foolish in his own blind pride by claiming the Hebrews were blind to their own language in not seeing the trinity right there.  I know Kevin did NOT know Hebrew well… I suspect (though I do not know for sure) he got this from Michael Brown.  Now I grieve because this is not only ignorance of Hebrew, but basic linguistics on a grade level understanding.

At the end of one of the teachings from Kevin on the trinity I also remember some slight juggling of obvious texts in Hebrews 1.  It had to do with the fact that Jesus became the son of God in a timely manner “Today, I have begotten you” and “I will be a Father to him and He shall be my son.”  Both of these are in verse 5 and quite clearly dealing with a time sense, not an eternal sonship of some sort.  I don’t remember the answers, but this was also a bit questionable when I was listening to the men in the fellowship go back and forth on this subject in Hebrews 1.

What mainly caused me to question was the claim regarding “echad” by our elder whom I knew did not know Hebrew well.  I was also a bit questioning of it because I was learning Greek at that time.  Language was becoming very prioritized in my understanding lately, and something seemed off by Kevin’s claim about “echad.”  I also recognized later that our elders had avoided Mark 12:29-34 which is an entire exposition of the Sh’ma in Deuteronomy 6:4 by Jesus himself [Mark 12:29-37 is the greater context I discovered later, wherein Jesus explains he is the “my lord” next to the one YHWH–my video on the subject is here]. This was concerning since the I learned from the elders that the Sh’ma is very important to Jews(really, Israelites–but that’s another matter).  So, why don’t we recite it? It’s one of the GREATEST commandments according to Jesus.  But trinitarians really do avoid it like the plague.  Only when it comes to defending the trinity does it come up.  It’s the only reason it came up for me in the past!

So later on that very night I looked into the Lexicons online for the word “echad.”  I ran through Gesenius’ Lexicon and found nothing regarding a definition of “plural unity” or “compound unity” within the term itself.  What I found, was that the Hebrew word “echad” is exactly like the English word “one.”  When you ask a Hebrew speaker to count, they will start with “echad.” It means ONE, one means ONE… not more than one!  That would be a breaking of the law of contradiction to say ONE itself is more than one!  So that caused me a bit of unrest. So I began “Googling” around the discussion regarding the Sh’ma and “echad.”  I found tons of debates, but mainly found a website and youtube page by a user called “TheTrinityDelusion.”  He and many others I read said the “echad” claim by trinitarians was a complete falsehood and a ridiculous fallacy of linguistics. Incidentally, since then I’ve found a few trinitarians who were candid enough to admit that this argument is a sham and they cannot believe it even exists in the trinitarian academic world.  It is truly as I said, a fallacy of grammar.  As per the example above “one day” means “one day”–not more than one day.  “One” is an adjective describing how many “days”–not what is within that “day.” “Evening and morning” are descriptions of what is within the word “day”–and has nothing to do with the word “one”(echad in this case).  There is something called “semantic domain” in language. In this case it refers to the semantic domain of the words “one” and “day.”  When you think of the word “day” you can think of it’s semantic domain in multiple manners.  “Day” can bring all sorts of things to mind: it has 24 hours, morning, evening, afternoon… are just a few examples.  “One” however, means only “one.”  To say it’s more than one, is to deny the word’s definition itself.  Even if “one” is used to describe a word with a semantic domain that includes multiples—such as “one bunch of grapes.”  There’s only ONE bunch, one is describing how many bunches there are… there’s not 2, 3, 4 etc … bunches.  “Bunch [of grapes]” is the word with the semantic domain that includes multiples because that’s what the word brings to mind itself.  I hope this is clear enough to explain and understand–but it is clearly a fallacy to claim “echad” is plural unity and can refer to the trinity within the Sh’ma, and thus it is a deception.

Then I looked more at the Sh’ma in the context of Mark 12:28-34 since it was also a clear place wherein it was spoken about.  I realized Jesus was speaking with a fellow Israelite and he came to an agreement with this man in regards to the one God.  I also had the quite obvious self-revelation that Jews, that Israelites… are not trinitarians by any means.  So what gives, wouldn’t this be the perfect place for Jesus to begin explaining this entire 3-in-1 God thing?  But instead he didn’t, he posited this one God as his God also.  The one God of the Sh’ma, the one YHWH of the Sh’ma… is Jesus’ God too!  Jesus has a God, what revelation!  Such an obvious revelation! Jesus has a God, and his God is one… his Father and no one else. Is that because such clear verses exist wherein the Jews refer to the Father as the only God(Malach 2:10)? So that led me to search a bit more about this fact that Jesus has a God.  I realized it was all over Scripture, and then I stumbled upon a number of “Trinity challenge” questions by the youtube user I mentioned above. So I figured, I’ll take some of these questionnaires.  I took one on 1 Corinthians 8:6… and found myself a bit stumbled as a trinitarian. Then I took another one, the one on whether or not Jesus is a trinitarian. The original video appears to be gone, but with his permission I still have it available on my own youtube site now [link to that video here].  I took that challenge, and realized in answering these questions I necessarily condemned Jesus as an idolator and God the Father as that idol!  That was it!  I answered those questions and it was like someone struck me with a bat to my chest.

Now I had an issue. I had to make sure what I was reading wasn’t just nonsense.  I wanted to study these topics of “echad” and Mark 12…and study it well before I ever brought it before my elders.  I didn’t want to waste their time with any frivolous questions.  I mean, it was the trinity!  Who questions this?  So I took the next 4 months and studied this until I had gathered enough research to present a serious objection to their teaching.  I wanted to questionably object to the mis-use of “echad” and also ask why we avoided Mark 12 when it was very pertinent to understanding who is God.  I gathered a couple pages worth of information and figured I was ready by August 2013.  So I asked the elders(who at that time were only Kerrigan Skelly and Kevin Lovell) to sit down with me and speak about my questions.  They were willing.

So one afternoon after a gathering in our church, they sat down with me for about 3 hours as I asked them further questions regarding their studies on the trinity.  Both admitted they had not given it truly a full study–but more of a continuous cursory assumption while reading the Bible.  They just saw the trinity as they read along through all the years of other studies.  I got to ask my couple main objections regarding the “echad” and Mark 12, and they had no answers at that time.  They asked what I was thinking about, and I told them when I searched my views it was appearing to be something like “biblical unitarianism” even though I still had many disagreements with this view at that time.  Though with the knowledge I have now, I know my views were leaning more towards the Eastern Orthodox version of the trinity.  It is not the same as the West’s trinity today.  The major difference I may have had at that time is I was wondering if Jesus had truly completely given up “godhood” upon his incarnation.  That way he could be truly and fully man with no additions to his nature.  Either way, the elders then began to try to question me while not answering my objections.  And I admit I sounded fairly ignorant and admitted I had not studied a plethora of other texts often used to support the trinity. I had not fully studied this topic–it’s a huge topic.  This is not something you figure out in a couple months even!  After our minor debate and dialogue for 2-3 hours, they asked me to email them my objections in a more detailed format and they would get back to me.  So I took out another couple hours to type out the issues and emailed them, excited to hear more.  I’ll link that email here and copy it to another wordpress so it can be read separately.  Sadly, this email was never answered.

I didn’t hear any more from them about the subject until around September/October 2013 even though I continued studying the subject.  Tracy Bays was made an elder in between those months and was filled in on the objections I had.  Then the elders asked me to stay behind and speak with them further after another fellowship gathering about where I was at in this study.  Tracy had a few objections I admitted I did not have answers for(even though I do now, he never got to hear my answers)… but I was still in a limbo at this point.  I had placed myself outside the trinity at this point, but I wasn’t fully committed to any position yet[I was leaning more towards Arianism at this point]. I just wanted a more objective view from the outside of the trinity.  All this time in those past months I’d been on youtube videos regarding the trinity and asking questions and having dialogue with other trinitarians. I didn’t want to bother the elders with every question and objection I would find(we’d have been talking for hours every other week after church!). The majority of those online in different forums would outright get angry at me for even questioning it! I think I can count on one hand today the number of humble trinitarians who would have dialogue about this subject in a respectful manner after 2 years of changing my mind… and 3 years in study of it.  Anyways, this conversation between myself and the elders lasted another 2-3 hours with the elders wherein more questions and objections were asked… but mainly from them to me.  I had studied a number of texts in support of the trinity at that time, but was still nowhere near tackling them all.  I answered a few of their objections and finally got to ask some of my own objections.  Their answers were either very bad(regarding the hypostatic union question I remember) or they continued to ignore my initial objections regarding “echad” and Mark 12.  I still had not received an email response or a direct response from them on these two major issues.  In the end the debate got a bit more heated even though it was controlled.  The elders suggested I watch the debate between Anthony Buzzard and Michael Brown/James White… and they also gave me a copy of Michael Brown’s book Jewish Objections to Jesus: Theological Objections. They also asked that I avoid any other websites or books regarding the subject and to just read and watch these sources and study the Bible.  I internally found that a bit unreasonable to only look at one side of the argument without being able to test it, but I agreed.

I read the trinity relevant portions of Michael Brown’s book many times over and found them very wanting.  Sometimes he was even admitting the biblical unitarian position within his book.  He also differs from other trinitarians in his explanation. [I have a video showing Michael Brown’s clear semi-oneness claim in his book, linked here.]   I watched the debate (I’d already seen it once–and I admit Buzzard appeared to lose)… but I was sitting there yelling at the screen for all the things Anthony didn’t press White and Brown on.  Brown was equivocating and self-contradicting like crazy in one of his answers and Anthony didn’t say a thing to point it out.  I know it’s difficult when you’re in the thick of things… so I began to write down my every question and objection to White/Brown’s answers in the debate.  I got about half-way through the debate again and had page upon page.  I also wrote down my issues with Brown’s book.  I continued to study the Scriptures and look for every relevant text I could regarding the trinity and the who the one true and living God is…  I found tons of texts, tons of clear texts and cross-references.  I found many biases in translations favoring the trinity.  I found many seemingly clear texts that I thought supported the trinity actually DID NOT AT ALL support it when I looked more closely and cross-referenced words/phrases in the verses.  I started writing all this down.  I tried working the 3-in-1 God thing out multiple times during my hour lunches at work and time at home.  I could not figure out how to do it without equivocating or contradicting Scripture.  I found later that there were many candid trinitarian apologists who admitted this cannot be logically made to work.  It leads to tri-theism or a clear contradiction within itself, and especially to Scripture. There is not one place “God” can be shown in the entirety of Scripture to mean “triune God.” It must be read into the Bible.  “O theos”[God] in the NT alone refers to the Father only 1,300 times without debate.  There’s only roughly 1317 usages depending on the manuscripts used(meaning some more, some less).  That’s over 99% without debate.  That was pretty clear.

Then around late December 2013 I was at work on a night shift.  I was heavily burdened for many months studying all regarding this subject and facing the clearer Scriptures.  I was listening to Acts in my audio Bible—and hearing the first preaching of the apostles.  Over and over they were calling the God of Israel, the God of our fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob….our Father!  The one God is the Father and Jesus is now lord! Acts 2 and Psalm 110:1.  Paul gives his famous speech to the Greeks at the Areopagus in Acts 17 and makes it clear in no uncertain terms that-that one God who created everything, gives everything life, made the nations, doesn’t dwell in temple(Acts 7:48-50), is the reason YOU LIVE….that one God “Acts 17:31…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.”  That “He,” that “God” is the Father!  Not a tri-une god!  Jesus said “our” in the Sh’ma, Jesus is under the Torah… including that Sh’ma as one of the greatest commandments.  That God is his God. Jesus is not a trinitarian, he’s a unitarian.  I cried out in repentance at work… I cried out for forgiveness…. I cried out for strength, and the burden was gone.

So now we had an issue.  I had faced what was burdening me for so long, and now I had to face my elders.  I called and finally reached Kerrigan by phone on a Saturday late afternoon in January 2014 right after the new year.  I told him that I had repented and become a biblical unitarian.  I told him we would not be joining the fellowship again until I could speak with the elders in private to confront them.  We are to have 2 witnesses in an accusation, so I needed my wife also.  He was understandably upset and angry. He told me that I was not welcome back to the fellowship.  I asked him when we could speak and he said to give the elders a couple weeks to prepare for the talk and then we’d all speak.  In the middle of the conversation he tried to ask me questions(and I honestly don’t remember them now)…so I also pressed him on who the one and only true God is according to Jesus, regarding John 17:3.  He acted as if he did not know the verse and that I was putting him under pressure when he wasn’t ready or studied.  I find it hard to believe he didn’t know John 17:3!  He refused to answer.

I heard nothing for a few days from anyone until Kerrigan called to ask if Tina(my wife) was going to join the fellowship at all the next week and needed a ride.  But I told him no, she was with me and had changed her mind also.  Tina had been studying on her own and been dialoguing with me about the issues as I brought text by text to her from the Scriptures.

So I took Kerrigan’s response to my question about meeting with all the elders very seriously.  I took the next 3-4 weeks preparing and studying.  I studied and compiled verse after clear verse.  Fact after fact, logical argument in writing after another to expose the trinity explanations for what they were both in the minds of the elders and the mis-uses of Scripture.  I wrote about 20-30 pages worth of information.  I prepared everything I could find.  I probably would have gone longer–but with my wife at my side and almost 4 weeks passing… we agreed if I kept going I would never stop.  So I had to just cut it off and admit I had enough information to present and leave it at that.  Since then, I’ve only found more verses and cross-references so clearly in the Scriptures.  I admit I do not know everything and did not at that time, but I had to finally make a plan to meet with them.  So I sent an email to Kerrigan with a detailed pre-examination of the trinity and asking for my objections to be answered. I considered these pre-exam questions very important because I wanted answers to these questions.  I will link that email here that I sent.  And then I waited.  I waited 2-3 days… I waited a week.  No response, no call from them.  I waited a whole 2 weeks for my request to meet with the elders, and then I finally decided to email again and ask a very patient and calm question regarding why I had not been contacted at all back to set up a meeting. I’ll link that email here.  Kerrigan finally responded in email.  I will link that email here.  Essentially, he said they knew enough and there was nothing I could say to convince them.  So they “prayed” and decided not to meet with me and we were just cut off, false teachers etc…

So, where is that response in Matthew 18?  Do the elders now just get to claim they have enough of the answers that they don’t have to answer objections?  Are my wife and I not able to make legitimate accusations and be heard out?  Is that not what Matthew 18 is about? Confronting sin?  I was livid at that time to be forward when I read that email response.  I almost answered immediately then… but Tina held me back and told me to wait a day.  It was better… I’m glad I waited. I was still angry, but it was a more controlled email response.  I will link that email here.

I want it to be known that I never received a response from the elders to my initial main issues back from the fall of 2013.  I never received my Matthew 18 confrontation in full against myself or towards the elders from my standpoint, especially in front of the entire church per Jesus’ command.  I was never given the opportunity to go through with my counter-accusation in front of the church.  I had my wife and I as witnesses to charge them with false teaching in the email, yet no one was willing to hear us out.

So we pretty much had to accept that without anyone being willing to contact us since the elders cut off our contact.  We had no contact with the rest of the fellowship. We began to make plans to move away and sell our house.  I received a job transfer within my company to a much better paying position in another state nearer to family… so I took it. The only contact we had to have then was to trade items back with those whom we had borrowed them from in the fellowship.  The emails between us all did stay in context regarding trading also… so there’s no reason to really copy these over.  We finally set up a meeting to trade stuff off.  The 3 elders, Tracy Bays, Kerrigan Skelly and Kevin Lovell decided they were going to drive over to our house and trade off the items with us.

Our last meeting finally came one evening right before we were about to move.  They arrived and we traded back items.  I sincerely wish now I’d have just cut it off and went back inside our house now—because they did not have ears to hear what the Scripture and Jesus had to say.  But I remained outside with my wife and Kevin initiated conversation.  It started out fine, but Kevin mainly spoke about how my views were “overthrowing history” and going against the entire church for the last couple thousand years.  Completely irrelevant honestly–our church was already against the mainstream last couple thousand years in doctrine.  I mean, Roman Catholicism ruled… and very few people had full Bibles in hand like we do today… nor could most even READ!  There were [biblical] unitarians that came out of the reformation though. Namely an anabaptist leader named Adam Pastor who actually split from Menno Simons.  Then later John Biddle, who was very well known as a [biblical] unitarian in the times after the reformation.  This is also ignorant of the fact that the majority of the early church prior to Nicea was Arian-like in their views of God and Jesus.  You can see this if you more closely study the ante-nicene writers in context.  Anyways, point still is… history has nothing to do with what the Scriptures actually say and our church was already against it en masse.

Then Tracy Bays accused me of believing Jesus was still dead!  How foolish!  I wish I had recorded this conversation.  Of all things!… I was told in the email that the elders would not be wiling to hear me out since they wouldn’t be convinced… and I get accused of such a ridiculous thing that has absolutely nothing to do with [biblical] unitarianism!  Tracy had no clue what my position even was!  Yet they had nothing to learn from me? I objected to that claim that “Jesus was dead” clearly and he was quiet for the moment.  Kevin was still talking about objections… and then he brought up John 1. I went into speaking about the “memra”  of the Aramaic targums as I learned a bit more from Michael Brown(and studied more later)… and then I was accused of sounding gnostic! Again, these crazy foolish accusations!  And these men had nothing to learn from my position or the Bible?  I learned about the “Memra” from the VERY BOOK THEY GAVE ME in the first place from Michael Brown!  I only studied it more than that which Michael Brown presented and found it to be a dead end for trinitarianism.

The last major accusation I remember hearing from Tracy Bays was something along the lines of “Why don’t I go to the pope? since he’s a man, he can be your mediator.”  I immediately responded with 1 Timothy 2:5 ” ‘For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus,’ and the pope is not the sinless lamb of God!”  He stood there and said nothing.  Nevermind the complete foolishness of the claim shows that Tracy is denying Jesus is a man implicitly!  I hear this all the time from trinitarians now in double-talk when trying to deal with the contradiction of the hypostatic union.

Kerrigan was quiet in the background the entire time walking around in my yard and on my driveway.  I presume he was praying.  The only thing he said was “it’s time to go” before they drove off and un-audibly he said that I was a sinner. I didn’t hear it, Tina had told me later.

And that’s pretty much it from that point…  we packed, we moved and we live in another state now.  I tried emailing a couple objections to some things I saw come out from Kerrigan–but he nor others did not respond. He made a video mis-using the Greek grammar in Titus 2 and I left a full contextual response comment… and he blocked me off the video. That was pretty much it.  I continued to study the trinity, mainly listening to James White’s explanations of it since he’s the main proponent.  I haven’t kept up with what I wished to regarding making videos and objections… and a lot of it has already been done truly.  I haven’t been studying the topic as thoroughly lately because other topics took my interest… but I’m still willing to dialogue about it with anyone who will.

Overall this study and experience with the elders taught me great humility.  I realized how foolish I had been in not listening to other’s positions in the past which could also very securely be grounded in the Bible.  I realized how my elders had abandoned their original position as leaders and listeners… which had initially drawn me to them and this fellowship in the first place.  I thought they had the openness to talk about major biblical issues, but in the end I found I was wrong about them.  Ever since then I’ve felt more free to study other major biblical issues, and I’ve found I was wrong on other major positions in my opinion.  All of this has only humbled me further, but it’s difficult.  We miss everyone. We’re upset we did not get a full meeting and get to say good-bye to the fellowship.  They were our family for over 2 years …and despite whatever has happened between us… that time and all that I learned in the company of Refining Fire Fellowship for those few years will not be forgotten.

-Sean


Refining Fire Fellowship: Email copy 12 Mar 2014

This is my last email sent to Kerrigan in response to his denial of a meeting.


Hello,

Yes we all have busy lives, us included.  The point was not to assume anything—that’s why I emailed you.  The thing I find grieving is that you did not take the time to even respond back to let me know your decision.  I had to seek again to find out.  For knowing someone for 2-1/2 years and not to even respond when your last words I knew were “I’ll hear you out” on the phone, shows little respect to your own words and to us.  That was my last known response–so, what else am I to presume except that we’re going to set up a time to meet?
I find it rather grieving also, if the truth is what you think you have—you should have the ability to stand on it for that truth should have nothing to fear.  I care about you guys enough to confront you. Sadly it appears you do not really care enough about me and my wife to say anything other than arbitrary accusations(like asserting that the trinity is equal to God’s word) to condemn us.  You haven’t yet responded to even some of my simplest objections from last summer, yet I’m supposed to just submit to your beliefs without answer?  Tell me, would you do that?  You say you “saw it coming”? Yes because I don’t submit to lies or to false teachings about the one true God, our Father(the actual list for clear unambiguous Scripture references for this would fill page upon page).  I actually test things(as commanded by Scripture), and I hope others in the church will do the same.  In my mind, the beginning of the death of the trinity was when you guys taught it—you all have partial blame also for not substantiating it with truth, but lies and weak proof-texts mostly based on inferences.  My wife and I have no problem openly saying now(since we aren’t going to meet formally)—you are all in idolatry(as were we).  You have an idol, a false god, and with such you are in the lineup of 1 Cor 6:9-10 as those who will not inherit the Kingdom of God.  This is, and was your wake up call to come to the knowledge of the truth that there is one God, the Father, one God and one Mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus.  I believe God is being patient with those as He was me, but the burden will remain, you are in sin now that you have been confronted fully.  I’ll share this with the entire church via email if I must if you won’t allow me to declare it openly because I actually care about you guys and want you out of sin.
The simple truth has not hit you, that you cannot declare me an idolator for having the same God as Jesus. Jesus was a unitarian(for lack of a better word), not a trinitarian.  Jesus had a one person God, His Father(John 17:1-3, John 20:17).  That is replete through the obvious Scriptures which somehow I also was blind to for so long—and you now are also.  Jesus did not have a 3 person God(b/c that would include himself as his own god, nonsense), so you have a different God than Jesus… so unless you’re going to declare Jesus an idolator, you cannot call me one without associating him into the same camp.  I know where I stand, and I’m in the faith and of the faith of the Lord Jesus and out of sin now.  That trinity doctrine was a burden for the last year, and I cannot truly explain the depth of the freedom I received when I let it go and repented.
You guys have 3 gods… you’re tri-theists, not mono-theists.  You don’t seem to recognize you have to claim 3 persons is 1 person, which is nonsense–like claiming 3 cars is 1 car.  It’s hidden by equivocation because you’re claiming the 3 person share 1 nature, and then you fallaciously title that 1 nature “God” with a capital “G.”  This is a deception, as English readers we’re trained to recognize capital letter proper nouns of titles as “identities” in this case, since ‘God’ is a title of a person.  But then, you cannot say that 1 God is a person, because then you’d have directly 3 persons=1 person, so instead it’s called a nature(a WHAT according to trinitarian apologists), and then give it a singular person pronoun “Him.”  This is a deception.  You have to claim that because you have to somehow get back to 1 person, because it’s clear–the Scripture shows God speaks as a single individual, a single person in grammatical terms(Deut 32:39…and v.6 shows it’s clearly the Father speaking). You cannot avoid this, even your own teaching from many years back you showed you have 3 gods by analogy when you used your son Malachi and yourself as an example regarding the trinity.  You said you each were 2 persons, sharing 1 human nature.  By that simple logic, you are also 2 humans, not 1 human(unless you’re oneness).  Taking that analogy straight over to the Father and Jesus, you have 2 persons sharing 1 divine nature, 2 gods… not 1.  Your own analogy shows you’re not a monotheist.   And this isn’t just your own analogy—I’ve seen the same analogy on other trinitarian websites trying to claim Adam, Eve and Cain are all 3 person sharing 1 human nature and trying to compare that to the trinity.  But no one in their right mind would conclude Adam, Eve, and Cain are 1 human, they are 3 humans.  This whole entire doctrine is built on equivocation.  I found that out because I forced myself to define terms, and that’s why I forced you to—there is no definition of “o theos” meaning “nature/essence/ousia”–this is outright unbiblical and clearly forced into the Scriptures.  The one God is not a “what,” but a “who”–a person, an individual.  Your one god is an “it”–an idol.  I spent the last year trying to make this work, it won’t.  There are even trinitarians who admit this verbally in their own books, and then they fall back into calling it a “mystery” and saying we shouldn’t try to figure it out. Sounds like self-delusion, I wouldn’t do that to myself. It reminds me a lot of calvinism’s double predestination contradictions.
I also found when you read the Apostles creed–you read into it that it’s trinitarian.  That’s some eisegesis if I’ve ever seen it… the trinity is not just have 3 persons, but saying those 3 person are 1 God.   The Apostles creed says no such thing, it says “One God, the Father…”  not “One God, the Father, Son and Spirit” as you somehow read into that creed because you think you see 3 persons.  It’s interesting even the Nicene creed begins with the same statement “One God, the Father…” yet no trinitarian affirms that.  There’s a lot of false history surrounding this topic also, “Arius” was not a new view… he was likely actually the majority view in the church at that time.  Not even 10 years later after Nicea(roughly 250 bishops), the Rimini-Seluecia council with more representation from both east and west, and estimated 400-500 bishops, denounced Nicea.  Athanasius was on the run and banished for many years after that council while Arius was constantly re-instated, but you aren’t hearing about those councils in between 325 and 381.. it just skips all of them to point out the ones that affirm Athanasius(and then the arm of Roman law was behind it, and killed dissenters).  Justin Martyr in his Dialogue with Trypho in Chp. 56 says Jesus is another God, a lesser God than the one true God. That’s either obvious polytheism, or a claim that Jesus is just a lesser ruler, judge, angel, or representative of God.  Tertullian says there was “a time when the son was not” in Hermogenes… so he had no concept of the trinity today as it exists.  This all continues to prove this doctrine was formulated over time, not handed down(and there’s more to it than this).  I doubt you would affirm those things though even while they’re facts of history.
Emma will learn the truth both about simple English grammar and math, both of which I’m rather concerned for you when you claim somehow the godhead is 3 persons that speak as a single person.  You admitted to me a long time back that your English grammar was not the greatest, and this is where most of the deceptions in this doctrine are found.  When you teach your children what a singular personal pronoun is, hopefully you’ll see you’re denying grammar to uphold your trinity.  You’re certainly going to confuse your children, it’s cognitive-dissonance.  Emma is not being led astray in the least, and will learn the Shema that our Messiah taught from a young age to know that our God is one, not three in one.  Jesus says YHWH is our God, including Himself… I noticed both in the teachings of yours from years ago, and last summer with Kevin’s… and in any dialogue afterward, this text of Mark 12:28-34 was avoided every time and still hasyet to receive a response.  It’s completely damaging to the trinity, showing it’s a lie.  “Our” in English grammar denotes himself(Jesus) and others(Jews).  So Jesus’ God is 1 YHWH, not 3 in 1.  And that one YHWH, is the Father(John 8:41, Mal 2:10, 1 Cor 8:6 etc…)  Why in the world are you expecting me to submit to objections you didn’t answer either in the teachings, in the last 2 meetings, and yet still have no response?  Don’t you see you’re holding me to a double-standard?  Would you submit to a teaching that didn’t answer any objections? I hope not.
You guys have also been singing oneness songs for the last year… where has your discernment been?  In Matt Redman’s “Holy”(sung to Jesus)—where in the entirety of Scripture is Jesus directly called “God Most High,” or the “living God”?   Those terms are always clearly in reference to the Father.  Jesus is the son of the Most High God, and the son of the living God(Luke 1:32-35, Matt 16:16).  Or the Kari Jobe song where in reference to Jesus, it is sung “You are God alone, from before time began”… uh? That’s not trinitarian, that’s oneness… I’ve even spoken with a few oneness people lately who clearly loved that song.  Where has your discernment been?
Overall, I could show you so many clear irrefutable proofs from God’s own mouth that He(the Father) is the one and only God and there is no one else but Him–but in reality it is you and the other elders who do not want to submit to the clear Scriptures and have rather made a god of your own mind and imposed it upon the Scriptures.   I’ve actually already given you many objections and verses, and you’ve yet to respond to any of them.  I find that really astounding that you think I should submit to a teaching from you that cannot respond to objections and recognize its errors.  Would you do that? At least, you guys don’t use that god to suit your sinful desires—most people use the trinity and deity of Jesus to claim they really can’t follow/obey Jesus.  But the problem still lies in the fact that… since you’re not submitting to love the one true God YHWH, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength according to the greatest commandment—you aren’t keeping the commandments, and thus do not know Jesus(Mark 12:28-34, John 15, 1 John 2:3-4).  Your one YHWH is a nature, an ousia, an essence… an it.  So your preaching will all be self-condemnation until you repent.  Such is one of the main reasons I did not go preach while I searched this out for this last year.
How would you suggest we trade back the items that others have of ours and we of yours?  I have some of John’s items to return… and we also have children’s clothes that are yours/Angela’s and also Lauren/Vons.  We need to give back clothes, and so do others to us since these are traded items.
I hope you do understand that we are both very grateful for everything you have taught us, and have learned much from you.  You have built us up in the Scriptures on the Kingdom of God, the truth regarding righteousness and holiness, and loving obedience among many other things.  We grew much here under this church body, and experienced many great things in the giving, sharing, and graciousness from the church.  We both clearly appreciate this, but that does not exclude you from being in error and also from proper rebuke.  You personally, used to be somewhat calvinist–and you were rejected by others for going into what they straw-man as “pelagian.” So likewise you now do to me for submitting the contextual Scriptures and rejecting the Roman catholic doctrine of the trinity.  Much of it lies in the same mis-use of Romans 9 by calvinists because they don’t know the OT Scriptures in which Paul is referring to, and that’s part of the problem with the trinity.
-Sean and Tina Holbrook, both according to 1 Tim 5:19, as two witnesses to this letter of rebuke to the elders.

Refining Fire Fellowship: Email copy March 11, 2014

This is my email sent to Kerrigan after not receiving a response for a couple weeks.


Hello,

It’s been two weeks since I emailed you… and you haven’t yet responded to even set up a meeting?
Did you not receive my email?  Or is there something going on currently that this must wait…?
I would appreciate an update at least, I don’t mind waiting…. but some word so I can be aware and not think wrongly of the situation.
If you’ve decided you don’t even want to dialogue, I’d find that grieving… but at least let me know.  This is quite important, and is tied directly to salvation(John 17:1-3). So I do have concern for you all, just as much as you likely have a concern for me and Tina.  I’m not going to pick up and leave without at least attempting to change your minds.
Thank you
Sean

Refining Fire Fellowship: Email copy 11 Mar 2014

This was Kerrigan’s response to my email requesting why I had not heard from them.

Sean, we all have busy lives.  You ought to know that by now.  There’s no reason to assume things about us or jump to conclusions.
The Elders have met, prayed about and discussed this situation, thoroughly.  We have decided not to discuss this further with you.  There really seems to be no reason for us to do so.  You seem to not be open to submitting to the truth of God’s Word (the Trinity) and we are definitely not going to be convinced by unitarianism.  You’d be wasting your time, trying to convince us, that’s for sure.
We will, however, keep praying for you, as well as for your wife and Emma, whom you are leading astray.  We pray that you’ll come to your senses, repent and give up your false teachings, before you end up in Hell.  It really is sad that you have chosen to turn aside to this.  I can’t say that I didn’t see something like this coming, when it comes to you…but we are all saddened by it, nonetheless.
Kerrigan Skelly