It’s been a few months now since my debate with Joshua Lovell on the trinity. I’ve now re-listened to the debate in full about 3 times and pieces of it many more times since its upload on both of our youtube channels. You can view, listen, or download that debate on the trinity from my other post which is here.
I figured it’s time to start giving some more full responses to issues that I perceive from the trinitarian perspective in this debate. After much time and listening you get to analyze the arguments of each of us much more clearly given that there’s no timer on your responses.
I’m not talking about addressing word mishaps either. I want to address actual given arguments that were fairly clear. I’m not perfect in speech–I know I made word mistakes in my debate with Josh. There’s even times you could piece together a couple of my responses from various areas and make it look like I contradicted myself. If I can catch that in myself, I’m sure others can. We were both nervous and trying to do our best to articulate our positions I believe. But those aren’t strong arguments against either position. This is sort of the issue with debate because it usually becomes more about winning rather than the truth. I don’t believe our debate fell into that trap, but even when analyzing one another’s words during and after debate I don’t want to fall into that trap now by nitpicking what were likely just words jumbling rather than clearer arguments from my opponent.
So, part one. What did I wish to address that I think was a clear problem with my opponent’s position? My first thought was irrelevancy. This is usually the basic nature of most fallacies, answering irrelevantly to an argument. I believe this occurred right off the bat in my opponent’s first rebuttal. After our openings Josh stated in his first rebuttal:
“I affirm as a trinitarian and one hundred percent agree that the Father is God, no problem with that. [I] have no problem saying that Jesus has a God. No problem with that either… Of course Jesus, being a perfect man would have a God. Would you expect Jesus to be [an] atheist?. Of course not.”
The problem with this response is it is irrelevant to the points from my opening and only restates my argument. It does not answer the argument. Josh and I of course both agree that the Father is God. That was never my argument in my opening nor the entirety of the debate. My argument was that the Father is God exclusively. That last word is key and I gave many texts where the context clearly defines that one God as the Father exclusively in my opening.
Our debate subject was regarding “Is God a trinity?” So the debate should focus on whether or not that word “God” is defined as a trinity from the Bible from my understanding. I gave many texts in my opening that showed how the word “god” is defined from beginning to end with reference to angels, rulers/kings and even at times God’s own people in other authority positions. My position was clearly defined in my opening and my opponent did not deal with the exclusivity texts of the capital “G” word “God” clearly referring to the Father alone as the Almighty and Supreme God who alone created everything and everything lives and moves by His will. That can be read in Acts 17 in Paul’s preaching in the Areopagus. My opponents response was only to affirm that the Father is God, which was irrelevant to my arguments from the Scripture.
Next my opponent stated “Would you expect Jesus to be [an] atheist? Of course not” I’ve heard this from James White too in his debates. This is not an argument, it’s just a restatement of my argument itself and again an irrelevant response. If we break it down it can clearly be seen. Well, what is an atheist? An atheist is someone who lacks a belief in God, and clearly by that position does not submit himself/herself to a God. In other words, the atheist does not have a God. So to say Jesus isn’t an atheist is to say Jesus has a God. That’s just a restatement of my argument but it avoids answering the argument. The argument was not that Jesus was not perfect, the argument was that Jesus’ God was one person[using trinitarian terminology]. The argument was that the God of Jesus is the Father alone. The God of Jesus is not a tri-une God. My opponent only restated my argument and avoided answering it directly. Implicitly my opponent also admitted that within his own trinitarian doctrine he has at least two different gods. Jesus has a God within his doctrine who is not triune, and at the same time there is also a triune God who is *not* the God of Jesus. Let me make that clear again, there are two different gods within the trinitarian doctrine by my opponent’s admission: 1) the Father alone who is the God of Jesus and 2) the triune God which is Father, Son and Spirit. That’s two different gods, they are not each other. This should be more obvious since #1 is my biblical unitarian position and #2 is Josh’s trinitarian position. We wouldn’t have even been debating if this weren’t an admitted difference between our positions on how to define “God” biblically.
I plan to make this continual responses series from now on to try to address my own responses and my opponent’s responses in our debate. I hope others will continue to study and search out these issues as I try to elaborate the issues in the trinitarian position and also clarify my position for readers and listeners of the debate.
“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.
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.
The reason I put that title is because many professing Christians that know the New Testament fairly well will quote this verse to prove that God inspired the entire Bible as we know it today. Is that true? Well it is very likely–but is it true from this verse which Paul stated?
One of the big issues I had in challenging my own presuppositions over the past 3 years was that of historical context. I was doing better at thinking historically the more I studied, but I still had not applied it to many other areas of Scripture. I’m not saying I’ve “arrived” either, please don’t misunderstand me. But lets look a bit closer at this verse and put it into historical context, okay?
2 Tim 3:16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, ESV
So, when Paul wrote this in his letter to Timothy—was he referring to what you often hold in hand today as a Bible that was a compiled OT and NT? Hopefully you would answer no, because it’s quite impossible for Paul to be writing this letter and this letter to obviously be IN the “Scripture” of the New Testament at that time. It’s also obvious through more study that we know the Bible we have today was not compiled until much later… and that it has gone through editing in the past centuries such as the removal of the Apocrypha. The point of this message is not to make an argument of when the entire Bible we have today was compiled though.
The point is, what is “all Scripture” which is inspired by God for teaching, rebuke, correction and training to live righteous? Well, I think the only possibility at that time would have been the Tanakh. That is the Torah, Prophets and Writings. Taken from wikipedia for a short explanation.
Tanakh is an acronym of the first Hebrew letter of each of the Masoretic Text’s three traditional subdivisions: Torah (“Teaching”, also known as the Five Books of Moses), Nevi’im (“Prophets”) and Ketuvim (“Writings”)—hence TaNaKh.
The Tanakh is all that existed at that time when Paul wrote that. Yes possibly some Gospels were being written and spread through the believers–but they weren’t en masse yet, and certainly weren’t compiled into a NT yet. Later on in the ante-nicene church writers begin to speak of the 4 main Gospels we have today as one unit and some of Paul’s letters.
Paul said the Old Testament is inspired by God for all those things in 2 Tim 3:16, which includes training in righteousness. Where would Paul get training for righteousness from anywhere other than mainly the Torah? If sin is against the Torah, and all sin is unrighteousness… then righteousness is known from the Torah, right?
So…is all Scripture as you know it today as a compiled New Testament and Old Testament inspired by God? Maybe, but 2 Tim 3:16 doesn’t prove it if you think about it in a historical context.