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.
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?