The Great Trinity Debate (Comments Part 5)

I am a few days behind in posting some comments in regards to Part 5 of The Great Trinity Debate over at Parchment & Pen. For Rob Bowman’s fifth installment, click here. For David Burke’s fifth installment, click here.

I must say that this debate has not developed as I had hoped. What I mean is that, after the first two weeks, there has not been much interaction following their main articles posted. No rebuttal and/or counter-rebuttals as of late. Burke went back in round 3 and posted a whopping 14,500 words of rebuttal to Bowman (which I have yet been able to read). But that’s been it for the past few weeks. I know these guys are busy and have other things to focus on than just a debate about the Trinity. But I had hoped for more interaction.

We will see what the final week brings. Hopefully there can be a lot of tying up loose ends and even some interaction via the posts of the final round.

I want to also say that Dave Burke has presented his case exceptionally well. I have had some personal interaction with him over these weeks, and it has been quite pleasant (I only hope he can say the same from me). And I am thankful for such respectful interaction from Burke.

By no means am I the expert on Trinitarian theology. By no means! At first it wasn’t my intention to interact with the debate. But I left some comments over at Theologica about the debate and, then, I thought, ‘This comment is so long, it could just become a blog post.’ So, lo and behold, I decided to stay up on the debate and interact with each round.

But I wanted to give credit where credit is due. Dave Burke has been a great person to read from the Unitarian-Christadelphian view. There are lots of challenges he presents that must be thought through. I still believe God has revealed Himself as three persons – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. But I have come to respect the more Unitarian position and Burke’s approach to Scripture.

So now the interaction with round 5, mainly, as usual, with thoughts on Burke’s installment.

From the section: The Divine Hierarchy: Father, Son & Angels

From the beginning, Burke lays out the divine hierarchy that he believes is shown within the pages of Scripture:

  1. God the Father
  2. Jesus Christ
  3. The angels

Burke goes on to state:

Thus we see that the Father is utterly supreme. He is the source of everything that exists; He is above the Son and the angels in every conceivable way, whether functional or ontological. The Son is subject to and dependent upon the Father for his very existence, while the angels are subject to the Father and Son.

What I have noticed now is that the words divine and deity are different words in the vocabulary of Burke. I believe he would argue that, Jesus, post-resurrection, had attained divinity, but Jesus is not deity (which is synonymous with God). Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong on that.

Burke has thrown out the challenge that Trinitarians misuse the two words being and person, in that we state that God is one being (or essence) but is manifested, or exists, as three eternal persons. I guess certain words will take on certain meanings within the context of each individual’s (or group’s) language.

I’d love to hear Burke flesh out the difference between divinity and deity. Of course, I am not sure I would agree. But he definitely doesn’t agree with the philosophical differentiations between being and person amongst Trinitarians. To each his own, right?……

But let me go back to one statement in the quote above from Burke’s opening section: He [God the Father] is above the Son and the angels in every conceivable way, whether functional or ontological.

Of course, for the Trinitarian, there is no ontological difference between the three persons of the Triune God. This simply means that we believe there is no difference in being (or essence) between the Father and Son (or the Holy Spirit). They are all of one being, or essence, and that essence is that they are God.

As Burke would let us all know, there is no book, chapter and verse to quote to prove such an exact statement. Rather, this comes forth as Trinitarians consider the whole tenor of Scripture’s teaching on Jesus Christ. We are convinced He is the divine, eternal Messiah and Son of God. Thus, because there is only one God, the conclusion is that Christ is of the same ontological being as the Father. Yet, this is also why we differentiate between the personhood of the two, as it is quite obvious they are two distinct persons.

Yes, this is all quite philosophically heady. But, whereas Scripture is clear that there is one God and one God alone, Scripture is also clear that Jesus is eternal, worshiped, prayed to, creator, first and last, Lord of lords, King of kings, honoured by the heavenly hosts, etc. Thus, we conclude He is God. And, therefore, we differentiate between the one God in being-essence and the three persons of the Triune God.

If you want more to chew on, at least from a philosophical standpoint, I would encourage you to read these thoughts I posted from C.S. Lewis on the Trinity, which come from his Mere Christianity.

Finally, on this topic, though I’ve just spent a little time addressing the ontological question of God in three persons, I think it might be worth addressing the functional question. Again, Burke states: He [God the Father] is above the Son and the angels in every conceivable way, whether functional or ontological.

Trinitarians differ on some aspects of the functional nature between the three persons of the Triune God. Some would argue that, in their being as the Triune God, there is no functional difference. All three are intimately committed to honouring the others of the Trinity. Yet, some Trinitarians would argue for the functional difference between the Father and Son (and Spirit), at least from the incarnational perspective of the eternal Son becoming human. In that act, He laid aside his rights as the divine, eternal Son (i.e. Philippians 2:6-7). Christ became fully man and, in such, He had chosen to be completely reliant on the Father and the Holy Spirit as He walked out His Messianic call.

For me, I would definitely recognise the functional subordination in the incarnation of the Son becoming human. It’s quite obvious He relied completely on the Father and the work of the Holy Spirit in His life. I find it hard to dance around that teaching in the text. But, it is also highly plausible that the Son has a functional subordination even now as the reigning King of heaven and earth:

20But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. 28When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all. (1 Corinthians 15:20-28)

Passages like these are real and have to be dealt with. As do passages post-resurrection where we read:

Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'” (John 20:17)

Similar statements are also made in Paul’s writings, such as:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort. (2 Corinthians 1:3)

There are three other examples like this in Romans 15:6; 2 Corinthians 11:31; and Ephesians 1:3.

These words challenge Trinitarian thinking. For Burke, this is proof that the Son is subject not only functionally, but also ontologically. But, again, for the Trinitarian who is convinced of Scripture’s teaching on the eternal nature of the Son, His divinity-deity, creator, worshiped, prayed to, etc, there can be no doubt He is God. But not a second god or less-than god, since Scripture also testifies to there only being one God.

Therefore, Trinitarians are usually not too bothered with recognising the subordination of the Son to the Father – in the incarnation, and possibly post-resurrection. But the argument could then arise is: In choosing to become human, did the Son also choose to become functionally subordinate to the Father for the rest of eternity? I’m sure such questions are silly and extreme to the Unitarian, but suffice it to say, these questions cannot really be answered. We can only produce conjecture. And that’s not a problem for me.

Of course, there is no desire to take on full subordinationist theology that says the Son (and Spirit) are fully subordinate to the Father in both being and function. Rather, it is more from the functional perspective. And, normally, this would be seen as a choice from the Son and Holy Spirit, rather than a dictated commanded from the Father.

I expect sneers from some. But, I hope, at least, as I am willing to respect Burke’s theology, those who disagree with someone like myself would be willing to respect where the Trinitarian is coming from. Scripture is clear that there is one God. One and one alone!! But we are clear that Scripture lays out the eternal existence, the creative power, the worthiness of worship before and after His resurrection, and the great honour of all heaven and earth for the Son. No one can receive such honour, glory, worship and respect than God Himself. No one!!

Later on in the same section, Burke states:

Note that Scripture never includes the Holy Spirit in this hierarchy (further evidence that the Holy Spirit is not a person). Even the book of Revelation contains no vision of the Holy Spirit, despite portraying God, Jesus, the heavenly court, and the redeemed saints in multiple instances.

Two points: 1) I would say this ‘divine hierarchy’ is more established by Burke than the full tenor of Scripture. Even if we recongise the functional subordination of the Son and Holy Spirit to the Father, this is by no means hierarchical. There is joy and love in the submission of the Son and Spirit. 2) Of course the Holy Spirit is referred to in Revelation. The Holy Spirit speaks to the seven churches in Revelation 2-3. There are other passages as well (i.e. 14:13), not too mention that some theologians argue that the ‘seven spirits of God’ are a reference to the Holy Spirit.

But maybe I am misunderstanding this statement of Burke: Even the book of Revelation contains no vision of the Holy Spirit.

From the section: Father, Son & Holy Spirit: in the Bible’s Own Words

Burke brings forth this argument once again:

Galatians 4:4 reinforces this picture, telling us that Jesus was “made of a woman.” The Greek word for “made” here is ginomai as in John 1:3. Both occurrences refer to something which was brought into existence. Thus, Jesus’ existence has a commencement in time.

No Trinitarian would disagree that the humanity of Jesus began, commenced, or was brought into existence at His conception-birth through Mary. But the divine, eternal Son had always existed with the Father ‘from the beginning’ (which is a statement of eternality).

Again, I’m aware this could be brushed away by non-Trinitarians as absolute foolishness – that somehow a divine soul inhabited a shell of a body. The description of how it all came together is not easily grasped. For the Unitarian, they might even say they have a better and much easier way to describe it all within the framework of their theology. But, as I repeat myself continually, I have failed to be convinced that Jesus is anything less than the eternal, divine, worshiped Son. And, thus, my (our) theology allows for this combination of the divine and human natures in Christ. The term normally used for this is the hypostatic union.

Moving on, Burke makes this comment, of which I take up just two words from it:

How does Jesus refer to the Holy Spirit? As the Father’s divine power and presence (occasionally personified), which guides, inspires and empowers.

Occasionally personified? Huh? I wish I had a count for how many times the Spirit is spoken of in personal terms. But let’s just start in John 14-16. How many times does the personal pronoun ‘he’ show up? Again, that isn’t THE proof of the Spirit’s personhood. But just count in those three chapters how many times Jesus speaks of the Holy Spirit in personal terms. The count I have in John 14-16 alone is that the Spirit is personally referred to 17 times.

Then move on to Acts. Then move on to Paul. Then move on to the other letters of the New Testament.

Whereas wisdom is personified a little in the Proverbs, the Holy Spirit is personified an outstanding number of times. The Proverbs are poetic and so wisdom will be personified, just as there was the adulteress who stood as if she was personally embodying adultery itself. In the prose narrative of John 14-16, you would not expect the literary feature of personification. You would expect a straight forward record. That’s what you get on Jesus’ teaching on the Holy Spirit.

So, the Spirit is not occasionally personified. He is referred to in personal terms on a very regular basis.

From the section: Jesus Christ: Son of God

Burke makes this comment about the church fathers views on the relationship between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit:

None of these early church fathers were Biblical Unitarians — but they weren’t Trinitarians either. In fact, even as late as the 4th Century AD, Christians were hopelessly confused about the relationship between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Similar words come forth in two other places:

Rob is vague about the point at which he believes the church embraced true Trinitarianism, but I receive a general sense that he perceives an implicit Trinitarian Christology within the NT which gave quickly rise to fully-fledged Trinitarianism. Precisely how long this took and what process was involved, Rob does not say. But the history of Trinitarianism — as admitted by its own theologians — reveals an excruciating mess of debate, controversy and confusion spanning several hundred years.

How can Trinitarianism be the doctrine once preached by the apostles, whom the Holy Spirit would “lead into all truth” (John 16:13)? It bears no resemblance to their preaching in the book of Acts, or the doctrinal statements in their epistles to fellow Christians. It is absent from the earliest extra-Biblical writings (e.g. the Didache) and the works of the first-century church fathers (e.g. Papias and Polycarp). It is contrary to reason, antagonistic to Scripture, and undermined by the record of history.

There is no doubt that there was not a uniform understanding of the relationship between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit until a few centuries following the writings of the New Testament. But let me say something that many might not like to hear – evangelicals and Unitarian-Christadelphians alike: We need to be willing to recognise and be open to a sense of the development of doctrine in the course of church history. It happened and it happens. Hence, why you had councils and creeds.

I know the arguments: Scripture first. Yes, I agree! When theological matters are discussed, we utilise Scripture as our starting point. That is very important. If we have developed a belief about the relationship between the Father and the Son, which was one of the first matters discussed, this has to line up with Scripture. And, so, a Trinitarian would recognise: 1) the Trinitarian beliefs are not always explicit in the New Testament, but 2) such beliefs are implicitly there and that which was developed a few centuries later is not in contradiction to the teaching of Scripture. They did test it against the tenor of Scripture.

To not allow for development of doctrine, if taken to the extreme, means we must take on the complete first century mindset and not shift from that. But such is impossible, and I am convinced God does not desire such. Well, He would only desire such if he were a static, concrete God, which He isn’t. Again, Scripture is our foundation. But it is a foundation for an ever living faith that is continually breathed out by our God who is still alive.

Another great example is the development and realisation that the Sabbath rest of God is not a 24-hour period (Saturday or Sunday). Rather it is Jesus Christ Himself (I share more here). Is it explicit? No, not really. But it is there. The Trinitarian is convinced of the same with the Trinity. It’s there, but not necessarily fully fleshed out in that 30 verses can be quoted and we move on to the next topic. Matter of fact, this stands true for a large portion of the doctrine we all hold to.

From the section: Jesus Christ: Sacrificial Lamb

Burke lays out to important points for the atoning sacrifice that God would provide:

The sacrifice itself demands two essential qualities: mortality and moral perfection.

I would love for him to flesh out the first quality a little more – mortality. By that word, I believe he means human. Some Christians believe that all people are created immortal. Some believe, as with Christadelphians, that only God is immortal (1 Timothy 1:17; 6:11-16).

So I assume that Burke is saying the sacrifice must be mortally human and morally perfect. I am ok with this. Regardless of whether we believe in the immortality of the soul or that all humanity is mortal, Jesus fully took on human flesh. I might have more to say in the future, as I am currently reading N.T. Wright’s Surprised By Hope.

In the same section, we read:

But Biblical Unitarians do not believe in “original sin” or “total depravity.” We believe that human nature is capable of sin and prone to sin, but humans are not regarded as sinners until they sin. Thus Jesus’ human nature did not preclude the potential for sinlessness.

I would love to see Burke interact with Romans 5:12-21. But, if Jesus was just like us, and we are both capable and prone to sin, what in the world kept Jesus from sinning? Listen, I don’t want to walk the path that says Jesus could have never sinned. I believe He had to be able to sin to actually really suffer and experience and be tempted like we are. But if man is both capable and prone to, and we all actually end up sinning, what did keep Jesus from sinning? A good conscience? A strong and disciplined enough will?

These questions are not easy to interact with. But, I simply think Burke needs to be challenged in his theology that says all humans are prone to sin, which we all do end up sinning in the end, but somehow Jesus did not sin. If we are all the same, including Christ, how did he ‘pass the test’?

As Burke would later on say, is the answer this? His sinless life was made possible by his superior mental and intellectual qualities (Luke 2:46-47).

What? I don’t really understand this. Did He have an advantage above us? I thought He was fully like us? Or was it because the Messiah-Son of God actually enjoyed the right (maybe ‘perfect’) relationship with the Father and Holy Spirit?

I, by no means, say this is easy to answer, as how the functional subordination of the Son to the Father works itself fully out. But I do challenge Burke to rethink some of his points on this.

I look at one final statement:

Rob believes Jesus could be tempted, yet was incapable of sin (Putting Jesus In His Place, p.122)

Here, Burke is challenging Rob Bowman’s theology. I haven’t read Bowman’s book, so I don’t know the full context, but I do have something for consideration. When a Christian makes a statement like this, I think it could be either unacceptable and acceptable theology. Here is how it is unacceptable.

If one means that, unequivocally, Jesus could have never sinned, then I think it cuts away at the reality of Jesus being fully human and tempted. If one cannot possibly choose the ‘sin option’, then it is not really temptation. It’s like if a woman who decides to tempt an unmarried man to have sex with her, and he also happens to be a eunuch. Well, there really is no temptation there, since he has no organ for sexual intercourse. The ‘temptation’ kind of defeats the purpose, since the sin act could never actually take place.

I believe Jesus, in His humanity, could have chosen sin. He had to have been able to or the temptation is cancelled out.

To say Jesus was incapable of sin can make sense in retrospect as we note who He is. In Jesus’ time, very few were convinced of His identity. But, centuries later, all believers are convinced. And knowing who Jesus really was, we can remark that He would have never sinned, or at least He would have never chosen to sin. The divine Messiah who would be the sacrifice for all of mankind would never sin. He was tempted and could have chosen to sin. But we can be assured such an action would have never played out knowing who He was and His mission.

I hope that makes sense. I’m sure some might disagree. But I was at least trying to flesh out the statement that Burke challenged from Bowman’s book. It’s not a completely wrong statement if all the implications are considered.

Ok, that is enough from me. Much more than I originally thought I would post. The next round, whenever it is released, is the final round. We shall see how it all unfolds. I only hope for more interaction in the coming week between Bowman and Burke.

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37 thoughts on “The Great Trinity Debate (Comments Part 5)

  1. Scott,

    Maybe you haven’t been catching them, but Bowman has been posting a large amount of rebuttal material lately on the third round of the debate. He said he was really busy and didn’t get it up before. I think he has made some very strong points there and refuted very well some of the things Burke brought out in that round of debate and rebuttal.

  2. Here are some questions I posed to Burke today over at Trinities:

    I’ve been thinking through something. Let me see if I can understand what you believe about Jesus and how I think this can lead to some off-base theology, at least an off-base anthropology (doctrine of man). I don’t think you will say that you hold to these conclusions I will share at the end, but I would love to hear you correct me where I misunderstand you and then share why you do not conclude these wrong presuppositions.

    1) Jesus was born a mortal man like every other human being that has ever existed and will exist, taking on the fulness of humanity, being made just like us.

    2) Every mortal human being is capable and prone to sin. [As a side question, does this include the mortal human being Jesus on the prone to sin part, since he is like us in every way?]

    3) But the mortal human Jesus was able to keep from sinning his entire life. Thus, he was able to receive the glorification that he now has at the Father’s right hand, ruling over all heaven and earth. He now has a somewhat divine-Lordship status, though not equal with the Father.

    Here is where the problems come in, at least for me, if we flesh this theologyout completely.

    1) If all humanity and Christ are alike in every way from their birth, mortal, capable of and prone to sin, but not necessarily ‘born sinners’ (at least you deny any kind of ‘original sin’ view), what happens if another mortal human being were to, in the power of God, not succumb to temptation and never sin? Is this possible? Why or why not?

    2) If this mortal human being, who was created and born just like every other mortal human being including Christ, did not succumb to temptation and did not sin, would this person get to join Christ in his exalted state as a kind of Lord-divine person? How would this all play out?

    Now I suppose that you will say that you don’t think about these kinds of questions because it is only conjecture. And I understand that. But, my main problem is that your theology (anthropology) at least allows for each human being to live out the sinless life that Christ lived out, since Christ was born like every other human being with the same exact nature.

  3. Hi Scott, maybe I can throw in my 10c worth on behalf of Dave who is no doubt swamped with dealing with similar challanges to his Christology.

    Dave made it very clear that although sharing the exact nature of man Jesus became the “son of God” being born through the power of the Holy Spirit. God therefore gave him special blessings:
    Isa 11v2
    The LORD’s spirit will rest on him — a spirit that gives extraordinary wisdom, a spirit that provides the ability to execute plans, a spirit that produces absolute loyalty to the LORD.
    Jesus was more attune to righteousness than any son of Adam ever was or ever will be. None the less he shared the exact nature and same temptations of every son of Adam.

  4. Ron –

    Thanks for your comments. Dave did send a response elsewhere.

    This is the difficulty for even someone like me as a Trinitarian. We believe Jesus was fully human, but was there something inherently within that allowed him to walk out the perfect human life? You say yes. I say yes. But can we maintain he was ‘exactly like every other mortal man’ if we say such?

  5. Scott,

    I don’t see how they can maintain that He was exactly like every other mortal with all the special privelges they say He was granted in order to maintain His sin free status either! But I guess that is one area we have a major disagreement on with them.

  6. By the way Scott, I am glad at least one other person has the same concerns that I do about the reasons Dave gave that Jesus can’t sin.

  7. Cheryl –

    These concerns create problems for all of us, Trinitarians and non-Trinitarians alike. What I mean is that, practically, most Trinitarians give Jesus the advantage because He was also fully God. But I’m not sure it is healthy to give Jesus advantages in any sense. He had to fully experience what it meant to be a frail human like you and I. That’s what makes His sacrifice that much more important. I share more about my own thoughts on Jesus’ humanity in this article.

    Now, what I think Burke (and Fortigurn) have been arguing over at Trinities is that the advantages that Jesus had did not make him ‘more than human’. He was still a mortal human and not deity, even with the advantages they point to. Having superior intellect, a strong relationship with the Father and angelic help does not make one God. Any human can make a claim to all 3 of those and not be God, as well as any human could have those 3 advantages and either choose to sin or not choose to sin.

    Again, this is a difficult topic. Where I think the hole comes is that, if Jesus was a mortal human like any and every other human being to ever exist, then I cannot see that mortal human being ever resisting sin. We have no example of any mere mortal ever not succumbing to sin. Paul tells us that we have all sinned, and possibly we have all sinned in Adam. So, from the Trinitarian perspective, we have to consider how did Jesus never succumb to sin? If we say, ‘Because He was God,’ then I think that trumps over His humanity, which I don’t think we can do that.

    Now, Jesus did have advantages as THE Son of God, Messiah, receiving the Spirit without measure, and other things. But, how this all plays out is hard to articulate for Unitarian and Trinitarian alike.

  8. Scott,

    I agree that they are saying that Jesus is not more then human. However, it seems to me that in their own theology they still have Him so set apart from the rest of us that He is not “made like His brothers in all ways”.
    Dave said this, “Even if we allow that it is possible for another human being to possess the same physical and intellectual qualities as Jesus (and I believe it is possible), they would still not have the same advantages he did.” Now granted that is a difference by privelege, not by nature, but it still sets him apart from us.

    And then Dave also said this, ““I don’t believe it’s possible for any other human to achieve what Jesus achieved. Hypothetically it could be possible, if some other human were to receive the same qualities, powers and privileges that Jesus possessed. But in reality it could never happen, because Jesus is God’s only begotten Son and there will never be another like him.” Now THAT is an intrinsic difference–not just a matter of privilege and as far as I can tell, it certainly sets Him apart from His brothers. So, the whole point I am trying to get across to them is that their theology sets Him apart too–it is not just Trinitarian theology that does so.

  9. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve explained this. You can talk about privileges and advantages until the cows come home, but it won’t change a thing. The point you continue to miss is that Biblical Unitarian Christology does not set Jesus apart in any ontological sense.

    According to us, he is no more and no less human than the rest of us. This is why we can agree with Hebrews 2:17 when it says that he was “made like his brethren in every way.” Adam was also set apart from the rest of us, but not in any way that made him fundamentally different to us. He was made exactly like us in every way, just as Jesus was.

    But according to Trinitarianism, Jesus is far more than human – he is God. That is why Trinitarians struggle with Hebrews 2:17.

    Scott, you touch upon this issue in your analysis of Jesus’ humanity in your article here. I was impressed that you recognise the theological tension presented by the hypostatic union, and intrigued by the fact that your proposed solution is nothing less than fully fledged kenotic theology.

    The nature of your solution demonstrates that you understand the root of the dilemma: Jesus’ deity. Isn’t it interesting that the moment you remove this attribute, the problem goes away?

    Now all you need to do is realise that there is no need for Jesus to be God in the first place, and you’ll be halfway to Biblical Unitarianism. 🙂

    • Jesus is the express image of God, God’s only begotten son.
      Adam was created by God, but he was not begotten of God i.e. offspring.
      None of Adam’s offspring are the offspring of God for all natural born persons are not children of God. Actually it is a gainsay for the naturally born to make the claim of also being a child of God. God’s requirement for the naturally born is to be born again of God.

  10. Scott/Cheryl,

    You both appear to continue to debate on what “you thinK” as opposed to answering very clear scriptural references. You have made no reasonable answer to either Heb 2v17 or Isa 11v1-4 in your Trinatarian views, just simply that you feel Jesus couldn’t be tempted in “all” point like his brethren if he received a special blessing of God’s spirit. Many of the faithful had a measure of the spirit of God which helped them in their faithful service toward God, this did not make them anything but mortal men. Jesus as mentioned was more highly attuned to righteousness than any man but was also more aware of sin than any man. In a real sense therefore his temptations were even greater. Knowing beforehand from the spirit the exact nature of his brutal torture and execution never stopped him from submitting to his Fathers will and becoming obedient unto this death. His “special blessing” of the spirit from the Father hereby became the means of his greatest temptation. It’s time you both started answering these things from a biblical view instead of your own reasoning.

  11. Ron,

    I have never at all said that I didn’t believe Jesus could not be tempted in all points if He had a special blessing of God’s Spirit. I have said that I didn’t think the reason’s Dave gave for why Jesus could remain sinless through out His life were valid as I simply don’t see them as being able to effectively do that. And I have said that I believe that the Unitarian position puts Jesus in a place that is not “in all ways like His brothers” which is something they accuse the Trinitarian position of doing. It is being done in different ways in the two positions, but I have seen it as happening in both. They say Trinitarians don’t have Jesus being like His brothers because we believe He is both man and God. Our answer is that we still believe Him to be fully man–both fully man and fully God. I have been saying that they have a problem in their theology with Him not being the same as His brethren too by saying that He is the Son of God–fathered by God with no human father. My point being that it is not only Trinitarians that have this problem of Him not being the same as His brothers. Their answer is that the only issue they are arguing here is His humanness and being fathered by God–being the Son of God–doesn’t change that.

    So I am not sure where you got the idea you did about me arguing Jesus can’t be tempted because He has a special blessing of God’s Spirit. That has not entered into this argument at all. At least certainly not from me.

  12. Ron –

    I also believe that Jesus was made fully like us and tempted in all things as Hebrews asserts on both accounts. I have no problem with this. I embrace kenosis theology, that even though He was the divine eternal Son, He willingly emptied Himself in becoming fully like us.

  13. cherylu:

    And I have said that I believe that the Unitarian position puts Jesus in a place that is not “in all ways like His brothers” which is something they accuse the Trinitarian position of doing.

    At this point I don’t know if you’re being deliberately obtuse or simply refusing to read what people are writing. It’s impossible to understand how you can still be misrepresenting the argument after all this time.

    Biblical Unitarians say that Trinitarians do not believe Jesus was made like us in every way. And it’s true; you don’t! You believe he was made in a very different way. You believe he is God and man, with two completely opposite natures. Are you God and man, cherylu? I’m not! Do you know anyone else who is God and man? I don’t!

    Biblical Unitarians believe that Jesus was made like us in every way. He was a genuine human, conceived and born as we are. We agree that in some ways he was different to us, but not in any way that contradicts Hebrews 2:17 or affects his genuine humanity.

    You have spent all your time and energy trying to refute Hebrews 2:17 by bringing in irrelevant differences between Jesus and the rest of humanity. None of those differences have any reference to the statement of Hebrews 2:17.

    This is something which has been repeatedy explained to you, yet you’re still talking as if you don’t understand it and you’re still misrepresenting what other people are saying. It’s as if you have your hands over your hears and your eyes tightly shut while screaming at the top of your lungs so you can’t hear what we’re telling you.

    I can’t have a conversation with someone like that. It just doesn’t work.

    Our answer is that we still believe Him to be fully man–both fully man and fully God.

    Congratulations, you’ve just invented a new definition of “fully man” that really means “fully God and fully man.” This is, of course, a logical contradiction and theologically incoherent.

  14. Well, Dave, I guess the feeling is mutual. I am not sure why you think you can come into the Trinitarian world, so to speak, and think you are just going to automatically make everyone fall in line with your reasoing and understanding of things.

    And I do not know how I am misrepresenting what you are saying. I said, “And I have said that I believe that the Unitarian position puts Jesus in a place that is not “in all ways like His brothers” which is something they accuse the Trinitarian position of doing.” And you said, “Biblical Unitarians say that Trinitarians do not believe Jesus was made like us in every way.” What is the differerence in what is said in those two statements about your position?

    So let’s forget the argument that you make Him different then the rest of us too since you absolutely, 100% do not see my point and count it l00% invalid.

    That does not change the fact at all that we still believe He was made FULLY MAN–100% man and like us–even while He also had the 100% God nature. I know you don’t agree with this, but this is not just my argument. The Hebrews 2 verse is used repeatedly by Trinitarians to show that He had to be fully man and just like us in every way. So you are going to have to convince every single Trinitarian in the world that it is l00% invalid. And all of your bluster, accusations of being deliberately obtuse, and walking around with my hands over my ears are not going to change that.

  15. Dave,

    Did you by any chance read Michael Patton’s recent article on this subject at P and P? If you haven’t, here is the link: http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/blog/2010/05/heresies-nestorianism-a-divided-christ/#more-4602

    And because you find the belief that Jesus was fully God and fully man completely impossible logically does not mean that such a thing can not be does it? Are there not many things about God that we can not logically comprehend? How about the idea of an uncreated being that is from “everlasting to everlasting”? My brain says that can not be. And yet that is what we believe. How about the whole concept of eternity? Can we wrap our brain around that –something with absolutely no end? To our human minds, that is incomprehensible. How about the concept of a Being that has a throne in heaven that He sits on and yet is also omnipresent? How is that for contradictory? There are many things when it comes to God that we can not begin to wrap our brains around at all. And yet we don’t throw those concepts out because of that do we? The idea of Him being able to be in a person we know as Jesus as fully God while Jesus was also fully man is just another one of those things that are too much for our minds to grasp.

  16. Well, Dave, I guess the feeling is mutual. I am not sure why you think you can come into the Trinitarian world, so to speak, and think you are just going to automatically make everyone fall in line with your reasoing and understanding of things.

    Gee, talk about a knee-jerk reaction! I don’t think anything of the kind, cherylu. First you put words in my mouth, now you’re telling me what I think. Crazy stuff.

    And I do not know how I am misrepresenting what you are saying.

    Then any further discussion with you is a complete waste of time.

    I said, “And I have said that I believe that the Unitarian position PUTS JESUS IN A PLACE that is not “in all ways like His brothers” which is something they accuse the Trinitarian position of doing.” And you said, “Biblical Unitarians say that Trinitarians do not believe Jesus was MADE LIKE US IN EVERY WAY.” What is the differerence in what is said in those two statements about your position?

    I’ve highlighted the difference. In bold. With capitals. Everyone else seems to understand the difference. Why can’t you?

    I repeat: Biblical Unitarians believe that Jesus was made like us in every way. He was a genuine human, conceived and born as we are. We agree that in some ways he was different to us (just as Adam was different to us), but not in any way that contradicts Hebrews 2:17 or affects his genuine humanity.

    You have spent all your time and energy trying to refute Hebrews 2:17 by bringing in irrelevant differences between Jesus and the rest of humanity. None of those differences have any reference to the statement of Hebrews 2:17.

    You still haven’t addressed my example of Adam. It’s just one of the many points you’ve ignored. What is the point of talking to you if you refuse to address the issues I’m raising?

    Look, I’ll use a little story to show what you’re doing wrong. Let’s pretend that we’re talking about Jesus and the car that he owns.

    Dave: “Jesus has a red car. It’s exactly the same as my red car. I know this because he told me in a letter.”
    cherylu: “Wait, wait, wait, Jesus has a yellow car!”
    Dave: “Yes, he also has a yellow car. I told you about the yellow car last week, remember? This does not mean he doesn’t have a red car, and it doesn’t mean that his red car is not the same as mine.”
    cherylu: “But his yellow car is DIFFERENT THAN YOURS!”
    Dave: “I know it is. What’s your point?”
    cherylu: “So how you claim Jesus told you that his car is exactly the same as yours?!”
    Dave: “Because Jesus said he was talking about the red car.”
    cherylu: “But what about the yellow car?!”
    Dave: “What about it?”
    cherylu: “It’s not the same as yours!”
    Dave: “I know. I didn’t claim it was, and neither did Jesus. The yellow car is irrelevant.”
    cherylu: “I believe Jesus’ car is purple!”
    Dave: “It’s actually red. He says so in the letter. Please read it.”
    cherylu: “But purple has red in it, so when I say Jesus’ car is purple, it’s exactly the same as saying that Jesus’ car is red!”
    Dave: “Uh… no. A purple car is not the same as a red car just because purple has red in it.”
    cherylu: “IT’S EXACTLY THE SAME! You’re the one who thinks Jesus’ car is different! Remember the yellow car?!”
    Dave: “It’s a different colour, and the yellow car is irrelevant because I didn’t claim that his yellow car is identical to my red car.”
    cherylu: “But you get purple by mixing blue with RED, so I can say that Jesus’ car is purple without contradicting Jesus’ statement that his car is red!”
    Dave: “No you can’t. A purple car is not identical to a red car just because you get purple by mixing blue and red. If you say that Jesus has a purple car when he actually has a red car, you’re contradicting Jesus.”
    cherylu: “It’s not a contradiction. When Jesus says he has a red car, he means that it’s purple!”
    Dave: “OK, we’re done here.”

    That does not change the fact at all that we still believe He was made FULLY MAN–100% man and like us–even while He also had the 100% God nature.

    So you admit that you believe Jesus was not made like us in every way. Great. I’m glad we’ve got that sorted out.

    The Hebrews 2 verse is used repeatedly by Trinitarians to show that He had to be fully man and just like us in every way.

    Is it? I don’t see how it can be used for this purpose. You’ve just told me that Jesus is 100% man and 100% God. How many other people do you know who are 100% man and 100% God? Obviously you do not believe that Jesus was made like us in every way, nor does any other Trinitarian. If you believed he was made like us in every way, you’d be a Biblical Unitarian.

    So you are going to have to convince every single Trinitarian in the world that it is l00% invalid.

    No I don’t. Jesus will do that himself at the Judgement Seat. Bring a book! There’s gonna be a queue. 🙂

  17. Did you by any chance read Michael Patton’s recent article on this subject at P and P? If you haven’t, here is the link: http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/blog/2010/05/heresies-nestorianism-a-divided-christ/#more-4602

    No I didn’t read it. I know all about Nestorianism, cherylu. I studied it at university. I might take a look at Patton’s article to see if he recognises the implications of Nestorianism for the mechanics of the hypostatic union.

    If you’ve been following the debate closely, you’ll see that Bowman and other Trinitarians actually use Nestorianism as a way of explaining Jesus’ dual nature. They don’t actually call it Nestorianism (I’ve been referring to it as “neo-Nestorianism” out of courtesy) but that’s basically what it is. Quite ironic, really.

    And because you find the belief that Jesus was fully God and fully man completely impossible logically does not mean that such a thing can not be does it? Are there not many things about God that we can not logically comprehend?

    Straw man fallacy. That is not my argument, cherylu. I addressed this pointless objection in Week 1 of the debate. Didn’t you read it?

    It really does seem to me that you haven’t listened to a word I’ve said. I feel as if you’re just standing there shouting at me.

  18. “The Hebrews 2 verse is used repeatedly by Trinitarians to show that He had to be fully man and just like us in every way.”

    And you say, “Is it?” Yes, it is–try doing an online search if you don’t believe me.

    And FYI, when I wrote that last comment up there in reply to Ron I tried very hard to explain FAIRLY exactly what I had been saying and exactly what you had been saying. I realize you don’t get my point and believe it to be wrong, but because I say I believe you make Jesus different then us doesn’t misrepresent your point. In fact, I spelled out very clearly in that comment that you didn’t agree with my belief and why. So as far as I can tell, I didn’t misrepresent you in any way. I gave my side of the story and yours and tried to be very fair about it.

    Disagreeing and saying so does not equal misrepresenting.

  19. Sorry Dave, the point I was wanting you to see in Michael’s article was how other Trinitarians besides me believe Jesus was fully God and fully man. I thought he did a good job of explaining it. That is why I recommended it.

    And yes I read your first installment of the debate. Doesn’t mean I remember every detail covered there. And you have repeatedly acted like you haven’t even read what Rob has just addressed on various points in the debate. I can only wonder at times if you have read what he just said or did you maybe forget? I didn’t know forgetting was a crime! This has been an extremely long debate with much ground covered you know.

    And if you think I am shouting at you, how do you think I feel? You have been accusatory and insulting to me in many ways in the last few days–first on Dales’s blog and now here. And it was obvious over there that I was not the only one that thought so.

  20. Dave –

    Scott, your article here impressed me so much that I’ll be referencing it in my closing argument. I hope you don’t mind.

    Sure. But I hope within the right context. 🙂

  21. Dave –

    In your words above in a comment:

    You’ve just told me that Jesus is 100% man and 100% God. How many other people do you know who are 100% man and 100% God? Obviously you do not believe that Jesus was made like us in every way, nor does any other Trinitarian.

    The thing is that we would say that Jesus was made like us in every way. Prior to the incarnation of becoming human, he has not so. But the incarnation brought this into reality.

    I know you don’t agree with the semantics and method of description from the Trinitarian. But we do believe Jesus was made like us in every way. At least that is what I suggest in my article on Jesus’ humanity.

  22. Dave,

    You made this comment above:

    “Biblical Unitarians believe that Jesus was made like us in every way. He was a genuine human, conceived and born as we are. We agree that in some ways he was different to us, but not in any way that contradicts Hebrews 2:17 or affects his genuine humanity.

    In the second week of the debate you make these statements in comment 9 here: http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/blog/2010/04/the-great-trinity-debate-part-2-rob-bowman-on-jesus-christ/#comments

    “John reaches his pinnacle in verse 14, where ” logos became flesh.” Again the choice of language is very deliberate. John does not say “God became flesh” or “God the Son became flesh”; Jesus is not a pre-existent divine being become flesh, but God’s pre-existent logos become flesh. Jesus is not God incarnate; he is God’s logos incarnate.

    So what does “made flesh” mean here? It means to become a real flesh and blood person; to become a human being. The logos did not merely “take on” flesh or “add human nature to himself” as Trinitarianism teaches, and as John does not say; the logos became flesh….”

    And then you quoted this section from a book:

    William Barclay (The Gospel of John, 1955):

    [John] said to the Greeks, “All your lives you have been fascinated by this great, guiding, controlling mind of God. The mind of God has come to earth in the man Jesus. Look at him and you will see what the mind and thought of God are like. John had discovered a new category in which Greeks might think of Jesus, a category in which Jesus was presented as nothing less than God acting in human form. …

    By calling Jesus the logos, John said two things about Jesus:
    (a) Jesus is the creating power of God come to men. He does not only speak the word of knowledge; he is the word of power. He did not come so much to say things to us, as to do things for us.
    (b) Jesus is the incarnate mind of God. We might well translate John’s words, ‘The mind of God became a man’. A word is always ‘the expression of a thought’ and Jesus is the perfect expression of God’s thoughts for men.”

    And you end the comment with this statement:

    “I do not share Barclay’s Christology, but his description of Jesus as the incarnate mind of God is well constructed and easily comprehended.”

    Now I suppose you are going to say that this didn’t change His humanity any–and you are right, He is still 100% man. But certainly a man unlike any other man in a very significant way. No other man is “the incarnate Word of God”, the “creating power of God,” “the perfect expression of God’s thoughts for men, “the mind of God become man”,and “God acting in human form. …”

    I’m sorry Dave, but it seems to me that is drawing very close to the same amount of difference between Him and us that there is in the Trinitarian view.

  23. Dave,

    Quick question here as I read through this one more time, when you said you did not share Barclay’s Christology, how much of those statements did you mean you did not agree with? I am probably crediting you with accepting statements here that you do not actually believe.

    If that is the case, I would think you are not accepting the statements” the creating power of God” and “God acting in human form.” Am I correct?

    That still leaves us with, “the incarnate Word of God”, “the perfect expression of God’s thoughts for men,” and “the mind of God become man.”

    Those are still very powerful differences between Jesus and us. And they are not the external differences that you have said in the past don’t matter. This is a matter of the very essence of who He is. He is still a man, yes, but with a huge difference to the rest of us. None of us can claim that we have had the mind of God incarnate within us.

  24. cherylu,

    I am reluctant to continue any discussion with you, partly because it is utterly pointless and partly because I fear for the health of your keyboard as you bash out your latest malleus haeresis.

    Now I suppose you are going to say that this didn’t change His humanity any–and you are right, He is still 100% man. But certainly a man unlike any other man in a very significant way. No other man is “the incarnate Word of God”, the “creating power of God,” “the perfect expression of God’s thoughts for men, “the mind of God become man”,and “God acting in human form. …”

    Yep, Jesus is pretty darn special! 😀

    I’m sorry Dave

    That’s OK, I forgive you.

    but it seems to me that is drawing very close to the same amount of difference between Him and us that there is in the Trinitarian view.

    Nope. You’re viewing conceptual statements in ontological terms. It’s a common Trinitarian error.

  25. cherylu:

    Quick question here as I read through this one more time, when you said you did not share Barclay’s Christology, how much of those statements did you mean you did not agree with? I am probably crediting you with accepting statements here that you do not actually believe.

    If that is the case, I would think you are not accepting the statements” the creating power of God” and “God acting in human form.” Am I correct?

    Yep, you’re correct. To be honest, I could probably accept those as well, if they were qualified. But I prefer to take Barclay at face value and assume that he meant exactly what he said. I don’t wish to misrepresent him by second-guessing his meaning.

    That still leaves us with, “the incarnate Word of God”, “the perfect expression of God’s thoughts for men,” and “the mind of God become man.”

    Those are still very powerful differences between Jesus and us. And they are not the external differences that you have said in the past don’t matter. This is a matter of the very essence of who He is. He is still a man, yes, but with a huge difference to the rest of us.

    More accurate to say that it’s a matter of the very essence of his origins. Yes they are very powerful differences between Jesus and us. But they are not differences that contradict Hebrews 2:17 (watch out for the ontology trap!) Moreoever, they are not entirely unique; Adam was also an expression of God’s thoughts, being a reflection of the Father’s own image in His creation. Even creation itself was an expression of God’s thoughts.

    None of us can claim that we have had the mind of God incarnate within us.

    No, and neither could Jesus. You’re thinking in ontological terms again. Please resist the temptation.

  26. Dave,

    Regarding the ontological trap. The quote from Barclay above speaks of Jesus as “the incarnate Word of God” and your last comment in week 2 above is that, ““I do not share Barclay’s Christology, but his description of Jesus as the incarnate mind of God is well constructed and easily comprehended.” So do you not believe what Barclay says here?

    And earlier in that same ariticle you, yourself made this statement: “Jesus is not God incarnate; he is God’s logos incarnate.”

    And how is God’s logos being incarnate in Jesus not ontological? It sounds to me like you are playing semantices games here. And remember, you are the one that said right from the beginning of the debate that God’s logos was incarnate in Him.

  27. By the way Dave, I just realized that you now have accused me of bashing out heresy!

    Is there any way possible that you can have a conversation with someone that disagrees with you without resorting to attacks? I am beginning to think not, at least not in my case!

  28. Dave,

    You keep referring to Adam. Genesis says that God created man in His image or likeness. Yet it never says that God or any aspect of God became incarnate in Adam.

    You made a point of saying in that dicsussion in round two of the debate that I quoted from above that the “Word” became flesh–it wasn’t just added to flesh but it bacame flesh did you not? Am I remembering you correctly here?

    That being the case, is there not an ontological difference here betweeen Adam and Jesus? Or Jesus and the rest of of us? No one else in all of man’t history is recorded as having any part of God’s being incarnate within them are they?

    So it seems to me that at best the theology you believe is only different in degree in what is beleived to be the difference between us and Jesus. We believe God is fully incarnate within Jesus while he yet was totally human, and you believe that a part or aspect of God became incarnate within Jesus while He yet was fully human. Is that not what you have said? But whichever degree you believe, there is still that terrible word there–an ontological difference–between Him and us.

    At least I can not in any way see how having the Word incarnate within Him and not within any other man in history is anything short of an ontological difference.

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