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.
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?
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.