I haven’t given my atonement views much thought in years. I admit to needing to challenge them a bit more in the future from my change of mind a few years ago on what the true punishment of sinners is according to the Scriptures. But for now I wish to speak a bit on this subject as it was brought up the other day how “clear” this atonement view seems to be and how could someone possibly deny it?
Well, I do deny PSA right now. That’s the Penal Substitionary Atonement view theory put on by mainly the reformed camp. You can see a bit more about it at this link here. I hope to make this a possible short series so I don’t overwhelm the reader. We’ll try to take it on a little bit by little bit and compare it with some Scriptures and also look more closely at the commonly used verses to support PSA.
First of all one needs to take a step back and recognize their “theory” is not God-made. It is not laid out perfectly in the Scriptures as many claim. It’s pieced together from Scriptures and consistency from a man-made model usually reveals itself in error when compared with all Scripture. That means whether or not you admit to PSA you have to recognize it’s not as clear as you might think. There are other theories regarding this the atonement such as “Christus Victor” and “Governmental.” If you haven’t looked into those–I suggest you do also. I tend to have a view that takes a bit from all 3 of the main views but it’s been a while since I’ve laid out my personal views. Yes, I admit there’s a type of substitution going on in the atonement–but I don’t see the same view as PSA still. Also, for me to equate my theories with the gospel itself would going be a bit too far. I can only hope others recognize the same, but I remember in the past that wasn’t so common.
PSA is normally presented in gospel form by this type of presentation. You broke the law, you deserve punishment(or owe a fine). God sent his son to take this punishment for you(pay your fine) and thus set you free from the punishment(fine). You can hear this type of presentation often from open air preachers like Ray Comfort last I knew. But my problem is this entire presentation is devoid of forgiveness.
For now, we’ll start with the subheading right now… “payment is not equal to forgiveness.” Well, lets think about this… is payment really forgiveness? Is payment of a debt the same thing as remittance of a debt? Can a debt be paid and forgiven at the same time?
Maybe it’s best to put this in an analogy. If you had a mortgage with a bank on your house and you were in trouble with paying your loan and about to lose your house… what would happen if someone came along and paid off your loan in full? That would be great, wouldn’t it? Yes it would be great. Someone saved you from your debt and loss of your house. But if the bank called you and said your debt had been forgiven… would you think that’s really a fair definition? Wasn’t your debt paid off, even if by another? It wasn’t really remitted, it wasn’t forgiven–it was paid.
Now lets put this in a person to person analogy. If I loan a large sum of money to a friend and he realizes he cannot pay me back, what can the friend do? He can ask for forgiveness of the loan debt, right? If I realize he is sincere and not trying to deceive me out of my money, then I can forgive the loan debt. What happens? Did I get my money still? Did I get payment? Did someone else pay that loan for him? Nope. I lost my money and received no payment. The friend received forgiveness of his loan, not payment of the loan.
A friend I know recognized this issue when preaching this atonement view to sinners using the bank parable above. When my friend told a young man that Jesus had “paid his debt” and all he had to do was believe… then the young man said there was nothing to be done on his part if the debt was paid. My preaching friend tried to rebut saying “No, you have to repent and believe.” But the young man was correct, if the debt’s been paid—you owe nothing. The bank cannot hold you accountable to even believe the debt’s been paid if it’s already paid off! The preacher recognized his views were flawed and admitted his error knowing he had to go study this issue in much more depth.
Lets lay it out straight. If a loan is forgiven, it does not have to be paid(though I presume someone could still pay, but what’s the point of forgiving the loan, then?). And if a loan is paid, it cannot be forgiven since it was paid. Where’s this most clearly seen in the Scriptures?… Matthew 18.
22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. 23 Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25 But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made. 26 The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, ‘Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ 27 Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt.
28 “But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, ‘Pay me what you owe!’ 29 So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ 30 And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt. 31 So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that had been done. 32 Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. 33 Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’ 34 And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him.
35 “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.”
Next we’ll get into the problems with this picture of forgiveness given by the Messiah in contrast with PSA… because according to Jesus this short parable is also exactly how God will treat us. And God can re-instate formerly forgiven debts according this story.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my recent debate with Joshua Lovell on the trinity. I wanted to first share it more in full without my direct thoughts on the subject. We had a great formal and respectful debate on the subject of the trinity that can be seen/heard on youtube and also downloaded in audio.
You can see that debate here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=27MsuzINaeM&t=6028s
You can listen to that debate(at this point, a bit louder/clearer) here on youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mdqWRRvpHVg&t=209s
You can also download the debate audio from a link: https://www.dropbox.com/s/1zc5f2kmsz2azn7/edited%20debate%20audio.mp3?dl=0
I hope you are edified about both positions with regards to the Scriptures in this discussion.
You tell me…you read this text as objectively as possible and tell me who is the one and only God Paul preached among the Greeks at the Areopagus. Highlights will be done by me for clarity, that’s it. And trust me, there’s tons more I could say and cross-reference.
22 Then Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious; 23 for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription:
TO THE UNKNOWN GOD.
Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you: 24 “God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands.25 Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things. 26 And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, 27 so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; 28 for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’ 29 Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising. 30 Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, 31 because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.”
So *who* is the one God, the one He, the one Him according to this one block of text preaching by Paul?
I’ve had this thought on my mind recently and decided to finally put it into words. I try my best to work with what is in common when talking with other professing believers whether they be trinitarians or the occasional oneness(modalist). I have a video on this subject already in some form regarding looking at the larger picture of the term “o theos”(God) in the New Testament–but I want to highlight the main difference in understanding that flows from a true larger picture of this word “God.”
The main difference between these three positions is consistency ultimately. Consistency in definitions and simple grammar. I would presume most all Scripture believers would agree that we should use clear verses to interpret difficult verses. Otherwise it would seem rather ludicrous to take the more difficult, obscure statements/phrases in the Scripture and overthrow the clearer verses wherein there’s not much to debate about. It’s even worse when that larger set of verses are so clear and abundant yet overthrown or skewed by the more difficult ones. Sadly while many profess this, many do not actually follow it and that’s what I wish to show in the difference between these 3 views on God.
The main agreement between all of us is that there are around 1356 some odd times[KJV search] that the term “o theos”(God) appears in the New Testament alone. That does depends on which manuscripts are used and such, but it’s a round figure. That’s still a lot of instances to use the word “God” just for the small set of writings which make up the New Testament. The facts between us all no matter which position you hold is that over 1317+ of these usages of “God” in the New Testament are that they refer to the Father alone. I want to repeat that and make it clear—over 1317 are agreeably defined as the Father alone no matter which camp you’re in. You’re welcome to go through your own Bible’s New Testament one by one and write them all down if you’d like to test this out in more detail. I did it a long time ago–but I don’t recall it all as well. Go through and each time you come to the word “God” write down to WHOM this word “God” is referring to. You should come up with a pretty large clear picture which agrees with this claim. In my video I only came up with about 9 openly debated verses wherein the term “God” appears to refer to Jesus. If there’s more you wish to try to come up with, that’s fine—but they will be few and far between. These are the facts that we have to deal with no matter which camp.
Trinitarians, being the largest professing group of Christians believe in a triune “God.” So if they take the above facts and work their views—they must by definition begin to redefine the word “God.” There is no instance in existence that I’ve ever seen which can exegetically be shown to define “God” as all three persons at once, triune, or any other such meaning in general agreement with those two terms. Such when they come to the term “God” where they seem to apply to Jesus, they accept those at face value(and the few claims regarding the holy spirit) and will necessarily overthrow the larger facts[1317+ usages] that appear in the New Testament in how “God” is defined as the Father alone. That is not my opinion, that is their position. “God” as an ousia/essence is also not an exegetical definition that appears in the New Testament–but this is also redefined and added into the mix. They admit this in all their books, but will not admit redefinition. This position overthrows the larger foundation of clear verses where “God” refers to the Father alone. If you think you have exegetical definitions of these two meanings of “God,” then please by all means show them.
Oneness modalists on the other hand are rather simple. They accept the fact that “o theos” refers to the Father alone over 1317+ times without debate and then apply the times it appears to refer to Jesus as him being the Father. They recognize no true distinction between the Father and Jesus, and ultimately make them the one God. They don’t overthrow the larger foundation, but they overthrow other simple grammar rules and verses which clearly draw a personal distinction between the Father and the son.
Biblical unitarians take this larger picture and work with it to create a more consistent picture with the entirety of the New Testament. No matter which position you take within biblical unitarianism(because there are minor differences)—we recognize that “God” refers to the Father alone overwhelmingly and then start with that foundation. So when it comes to places where “God” seemingly refers to Jesus in the 9 or so verses we take the position that “o theos” means either “god” as in ruler/king, or look for manners in which it actually refers to the Father literally or within Jesus. We try to keep within basic hermeneutic of using clearer verses to interpret difficult verses and not redefine the terms beyond what the Scripture does.
These are simply the basic facts of agreement of how “God” is defined in the New Testament and the admitted position differences. I’m a proponent of gathering as much evidence available to give the best possible option to interpret the texts consistently. Part of the reason I personally left trinitarianism was because of this overwhelming factual position detailed above. I admit I began to start with presupposition that “God” referred to the Father so clearly that I had to start seeing if there were other consistent manners to deal with the difficult verses that kept within that framework. Ultimately I believe answers were found for all difficult verses to be interpreted clearly within that framework whether you agree with me or not. I’m just telling you my experience. What is your experience? Do you admit the facts? are the facts incorrect? or do you think your position should be represented differently? Let me know.
I’ve decided to do a direct Scriptural criticism of the statement of faith of my former church in two parts. The real point of this is not to just openly reveal the errors and bring attention to them… but to hopefully reach my former brothers and sisters in Christ with the truth if they’re actually willing to “test all things”(1 Thess 5:21) as the Scripture teaches. From here on out, I can only hope that they will test what I am saying and the Scriptures compared to their own statement of faith and see the clear errors. If you are really seeking God’s truth and words on the issue, you will see what I am saying, seek more and study more… and repent… if you’re not, you’re only further deluding yourself and risk complete apostasy. This …this is your chance to repent and search out the truth as I did. Read on, or stop and continue your delusion… your choice.
If you go to this website, you can see the current statement of faith. http://refiningfirefellowship.com/our-beliefs/
The next below quote is from the current page as it is now defining their belief in the doctrine of the trinity.
* We believe that there is only one true and living God, eternally existing in three “persons”: the Father, Son (Also called “The Word”) and Holy Spirit (Genesis 1:1, Deuteronomy 6:4, Matthew 28:19, John 10:30, John 1:1-2, 1 John 5:6-8).
So lets start with the statement itself regarding the words “only one true and living God.” Because this is that which they believe is the one and only God, the tri-une God. If that were true, we should find many texts showing that the Father, Son and spirit are the true and living God(or part of it, or something along those lines). So lets find some Scriptures that are clear to determine if the “one true and living God” is truly the *one* tri-une God in context. Again, there are many references, but lets start with “living God” in exactly that word order with clear verses since clear contextual verses should be used to understand any unclear verses.
10 “Yet the number of the children of Israel
Shall be as the sand of the sea,
Which cannot be measured or numbered.
And it shall come to pass
In the place where it was said to them,
‘You are not My people,’[d]
There it shall be said to them,
‘You are sons of the living God.’
So… if you are a “son” of the living God? Who then is the living God? This one’s only clear by implication since we are sons of God, and the living God would then be our Father. This is also quoted in Romans 9:26 Lets find a clearer one.
15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
16 Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
This one is a bit more clear. This is a defining verse where Jesus is asking who he is to his apostles, and Peter gives this profound answer to which Jesus praises Peter. So, in context… who is the living God if Jesus is the “son” of the living God? None other than the Father. The tri-une God does not have a son… that’s saying the Father, Son and Spirit has a Son… that doesn’t work.
Matthew 26:63 But Jesus kept silent. And the high priest answered and said to Him, “I put You under oath by the living God: Tell us if You are the Christ, the Son of God!”
This one again is quite clear if the high priest is correct in his objection. Who then is the living God that Christ was put under oath by? None other than the Father. Jews are not trinitarians, so to even attempt to eisegetically input “tri-une God” into that text would be nonsense.
John 6:69 Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Are we beginning to see a pattern now? If Jesus is the son of the living God, who is it other than the Father?
2 Corinthians 3:3 clearly you are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart.
4 And we have such trust through Christ toward God. 5 Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God,6 who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit;[a] for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
This one’s a little more difficult, but I figured it would give it mention since Christ is also mentioned in the same context. This text is more directly referencing the spirit of the living God, but it is clear that God is the Father who GAVE his spirit to them to minister the covenant. We can see this by a clear cross-reference in Acts 2:17-33 that the Father poured out the spirit given to Jesus, and Jesus gave it to his followers. Or we can look at the baptism, to see that God the Father conferred the authority to His son when he baptized Jesus in the spirit by John the Baptist. The living God is the Father, not a tri-une God.
2 Corinthians 6:16 And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you[b] are the temple of the living God. As God has said:
“I will dwell in them
And walk among them.
I will be their God,
And they shall be My people.”[c]
“Come out from among them
And be separate, says the Lord.
Do not touch what is unclean,
And I will receive you.”[d]
18 “I will be a Father to you,
And you shall be My sons and daughters,
Says the LORD Almighty.”[e]
This one’s about as crystal clear as it can get also. Who is the living God, the Father… and it says “LORD” meaning “YHWH” at the end to clarify who is the YHWH Almighty. It’s the Father, not a tri-une God. We are not sons and daughters of Jesus, we are sons and daughters of God the Father.
There are many other mentions of “living God” that you’re welcome to look up, and I believe in context it’s clear they refer to the Father if you follow “whos who” through the text, but none of them refer to Jesus in any direct fashion and some are less clear. Jesus is clearly the son of the living God, the son of the Father, his God.
Lets move onto the next phrase, “true God.”
There are not as many direct exact quotations of this phrase, but enough to clearly show who it is… take a look for yourself.
John 17:1 Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You, 2 as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.
This one is about as clear as it can get. Jesus is praying to his Father, and called him “the only true God.” Notice that, an article “THE”—not “a” or just “only true God” as many trinitarian apologists try to twist this passage and mis-represent it. The only true God is the Father, obviously. And be careful, because this is a prayer about exactly how one gains eternal life… are you sure you know the only true God?…or are you in idolatry?
1 Thessalonians 1:9 For they themselves declare concerning us what manner of entry we had to you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 10 and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead,even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.
This one even has the last phrase of “living..God” as part of the description of who the true God is… this really should seal it, the “living and true God” is the Father. But we will do one more often considered a bit confusing. But do remember that John wrote his gospel before his letters… the clarity of the Gospel should govern the confusing grammar of this next verse.
1 John 5:20 And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.
21 Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.
The Son of God came why? To give us an understanding of the one who is true, his Father(as stated in John 17:3). And if we are in Jesus Christ, then we are IN the Father..the true God… his God. The Father is the true God, and eternal life is given by being in his son and thus in the Father. See clearly in more context of John 17
John 17:20 “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will[ believe in Me through their word; 21 that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. 22 And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: 23 I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.
Don’t let the grammar confuse you, this is only re-stating John’s teachings from his Gospel…. the true God is the Father.
This will be the end of the first criticism of the Refining Fire Fellowship statement of faith used to support the trinity. The next part will criticize the mis-use of the Scripture proof-texts listed in the statement of faith.
I barely had to say much, this much should be clear that the statement of faith is a lie and un-Scriptural. The “one and only true and living God” is not a tri-une being…. the one and only true God is the FATHER. I beg you, I spent over a year(almost 2 now) heavily studying this issue and cross-referencing verse after verse. Take the time and look over it again. The only true God is the Father. I pray that God grants you repentance and at least the willingness to take a look at the next post made to deal with the verses used …rather than avoiding it and making arguments irrelevant to the clear texts given.
Figured I should update this again and make a short explanation. I will likely link another video in here again soon with a fuller update as to how I came out of trinitarianism to actually FOLLOWING Jesus and becoming a (biblical) unitarian. I must make that distinction because in the USA, “unitarianism” is almost automatically linked to the “unitarian universalism” church(meaning that all believers are united in one faith and all have salvation)… if you can even call it that. This type of “unitarianism” I believe is false, yet the biblical unitarianism is strongly founded upon the Scriptures and believing in them. Bibilical unitarian is only used in contradistinction between trinitarians (and binitarians).
So what does a biblical unitarian believe in general? Well for starters, that “one” actually MEANS “one.” It’s quite simple, they believe the same Sh’ma that Jesus quoted in Mark 12:28-34 coming from Deuternomy 6:4.
“Hear O Israel, The LORD our God, the LORD is one” – Jesus, Mark 12:29
Notice that “our”—it should be pretty important to know that Jesus was under the Law of Moses, not just quoting it for giggles as some might like to say. But more on that another time.
We can get into other discussions and explanations later as to why no other possible view other than biblical unitarianism fulfills this text in its historical and immediate context. That means that trinitarians, oneness, and binitarians all must vacuum this verse out of it’s historical and immediate context to uphold their view and eisegetically interpret it.
But on to the simplicity, the biblical unitarian stands on the whole of Scripture and tons of clear contextual verses that show that the Father alone… alone… is the one and only true and living God. No one else, “One” truly means “one.”
Hopefully that’s enough to begin explaining what I believe and why I came to believe it. I hope to make more posts and explanations why soon enough.
And remember, your Messiah, Jesus(Yeshua) is a Jewish unitarian. Don’t condemn him with your doctrine, or your doctrine is surely wrong!