Andrew Perry on 1 Cor. 8:6 Part 4

Is Jesus YHWH? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

What dose it mean to say Jesus is included in the divine identity?

If we consider relative identity (‘a is the same F as b’),45 it doesn’t seem that this framework will give us
an understanding for inclusive identity. Logically, two are one (the same) relative to their satisfying a
categorical predicate (‘the same F’; Fido and Pooch are the same breed’). Does Paul think that Jesus is the
same God as Yahweh? One doubt would be that he distinguishes them in terms of ‘God the Father and
the Lord Jesus Christ’. However, putting this doubt aside, if Paul believed that they were the same God,
this doesn’t necessarily imply that he is ‘including’ Jesus in the divine identity of Yahweh/God of Israel

Yet Perry never seems to define what is meant by this. Do we mean they are the same God? If you mean they are the same person, then no. I am not surprised that Jesus is differentiated from the Father. If anything, this convinces me. They needed two different ways to speak of them to avoid confusion.

The language of the divine nature deals with this. There are two persons at least that share the divine nature. Again, what that is needs to be fleshed out for us, but for the ancient audience in a high-context society familiar with Jewish thought, that would have been much better understood.

If we think of shared identity or group identity, these are examples of ‘inclusive’ identity. We might say
‘a is a member of the same class as b’. There are many gods and many lords and these would be classes in
which we might place the God of Israel and the Lord Jesus Christ. Putting it in this way, doesn’t
obviously include Jesus in the class of many gods, but rather the class of many lords. In fact, 1 Cor 8:6
doesn’t lend itself to an inclusivity thesis, since Paul would seem to affirm that the “tous” class of gods
has only one member and likewise the “tous” class of lords. He assigns deity to the Father and lordship
to Jesus

IF Perry goes with this, then he would have to deny that the Father is Lord since the Father is not in the class of Lords but Jesus is. If Jesus not being in the category of gods means He cannot have the divine nature, then the Father not being included in the category of lords means He cannot have the nature of Lord. Is there any Jew that would remotely think that possible?

It is one thing to claim that Paul includes Jesus within the divine identity of the God of Israel; it is another
thing to show this worked out in his writing. We have noted the declarative quality of Christological
Monotheism. For example, we might ask whether (for Paul) it was God the Father that included Jesus
within his identity. If this were the case, and suppose that he did so through the bestowal of his Spirit
upon Jesus, does this have any implication as regards intrinsic deity in respect of Jesus? If Jesus is
included within the divine identity of the God of Israel, is the identity nevertheless still retained by the
God of Israel as his identity in such an inclusion?

Perry is responding more to adoptionism in this case than to Trinitarianism. First off, there is nothing that says Paul has to work this all out in his writing. In his society, his listeners would be expected to work that out and know the background knowledge to do that. Perry wants an ancient writing to read like a modern one.

Next time, we will look at some verses that seem to identify Jesus with YHWH in the New Testament.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

 

Andrew Perry on 1 Cor. 8:6 Part 3

What about the Shema? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Perry begins this section with this:

J. W. Adey comments, “The ‘one God’ of Biblical revelation is a single ‘person’ God, the Father only,
unambiguously unitarian or monotheistic…” The Shema would seem to be a clear expression of that
monotheism. The singleness of God is not about his (compound) unity, but about there being a sole
God.

We all agree that the Shema refers to one God, but thus far, that does not equal one person in the one God. I have long said that the biggest mistake Arians make is the assumption of unipersonalism. Every Trinitarian agrees that there is one God.

Christological Monotheism holds that Jesus is included within the divine identity of the God of Israel. As
a second move it affirms a continual adherence on the part of Paul to Jewish Monotheism. The two
propositions introduce a confusion into the definition of monotheism between what is one and unity.
Jewish (as well as scriptural) Monotheism is not about unity but about there being a single God. The
compound unity of the Father and the Son is not informative for Paul’s use of the Shema

Perry can say all he wants that this introduces a confusion, but what is meant? If he means hard to understand, that applies to most everything about God. God is omniscient and people have free-will. God is eternal and acts in time. Now if he could show something was a contradiction, that would be a problem, but thus far, he hasn’t. If his point is that there is a sole God, then he is not arguing against Christological monothiesm. We hold to that.

This observation introduces a requirement for Christological Monotheism: it needs to show that
‘inclusion within the divine identity’ is actually relevant to a characterization of ‘monotheism’. The contrary
challenge is that we can characterize Jewish Monotheism, Scriptural Monotheism and Pauline
Monotheism, referring to the singleness of God, as well as showing that Jesus is included within the
divine identity of the God of Israel but without this being a matter of monotheism and instead being a
matter of cosmology. The drive to have ‘inclusive identity’ part of a definition of monotheism seems
anachronistic and based in the needs of Christian theology rather than an accurate description of NT
history.

Even if Perry was right about motives, so what? The data is what matters. Besides that, the assumption is that the later Fathers got a Christology in mind and then went back and plugged that into the New Testament. Maybe, just maybe, they read it out of the New Testament?

If we want to be faithful to the etymology ‘mono/theism’ (mo,noj/qeo,j), then we should include the
following Pauline ‘mono’ texts ‘only God’ (1 Tim 1:17; cf. Jude v. 25) and ‘only Sovereign…who only has
immortality’ (1 Tim 6:15-16). These texts, coupled with the distinction between the Son and the invisible
God in Colossians, gives us a consistent monotheistic pattern in Paul’s thought that doesn’t include the
Son.

Yet a Christological monotheist can say the Son is included in the divine identity and so when we speak of the only God, then that is what is going on. Does Perry do the same though when we get to Jude 4 and Jesus is our only Lord? Based on what is said here, if Perry interprets that the same way, then the Father cannot be our Lord.

We should ask whether it is possible for the Shema to be rewritten or rearranged so as to include Jesus Christ
within the divine identity of the God of Israel. The question here is whether the semantics of ‘one’ (dxa,
́eHäd) in the Shema allow this possibility. Our argument is that they do not, because ‘one’ is about
singleness and not unity whereas ‘inclusion within the divine identity’ is about unity, i.e. requires a sense
corresponding to ‘unity’ in the Shema.

Okay. Let’s see then.

A quotation of the Shema in Zech 14:9 assists this analysis.
And Yahweh shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be Yahweh one, and his name
one. Zech 14:9 (KJV revised)
Adey comments on this text, “the way
́HD qualifies Yahweh and ‘Yahweh’ in Zech 14:9, classifying but not
(it is said) identifying, connects and complies syntactically and semantically with reading
́HD as a numeral
‘one’ in the Shema.”35 And a further quotation,
Have we not all one father? Hath not one God ( ́ē
l) created us? (Mal 2:10 KJV)
Adey’s comment on this text is, “The singularity of ‘God’ is further emphasized by the grammatically
singular form ́ēl”.36 The singleness of Yahweh is also seen in the complementary statements that God is
alone God or that Yahweh is alone Yahweh (2 Kgs 19:15, 19; Neh 9:6; Ps 83:18).

And the problem is? I don’t see it. We all affirm that there is one God. What is the problem?

Where ́eHäd might be used for ‘oneness’ or ‘unity’, then there is a two that remains two, as for example in
the case of “the two shall be one flesh” (Gen 2:24). Adey observes,
“…whilst ‘one’ in the appropriate context may be transposed into a metaphoric sense as ‘unity’
(‘oneness’), dismantling ‘one’ as ‘unity’ does not end up with ‘one’ (thing). ‘Unity’ requires at least two (parts or persons) for its meaning. In Deut 6:4 the only theistic party is Yahweh. The text has
none other that is God but He, and this justifies asserting that the given four semantic units in the
Shemastatement are insufficient to provide for or even evoke the concept of (some pluraloneness
as) unity.

And again, I don’t see the problem here. Unity requires at least two. That’s what we have. At least two persons. Thus, God can be a unified one since He has three persons.

That’s all to say about the Shema for now. Let’s see what comes up next time.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Andrew Perry on 1 Cor. 8:6 Part 2

Is Jesus in the divine identity? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

So let’s just jump right back into it.

Wright asserts that Paul has taken kurios from Deut 6:4, but offers no argumentation for this proposal.
He then concludes, “There can be no mistake: just as in Philippians 2 and Colossians 1, Paul has placed
Jesus within an explicit statement, drawn from the Old Testament’s quarry of emphatically monotheistic
texts…producing what we can only call a sort of christological monotheism.” We have criticized
Wright’s exegesis of Colossians 1 and Philippians 2 in previous articles, but only Philippians 2 uses a
characteristic monotheistic OT text (Isa 45:23). We might agree that Phil 2:10 places Jesus within the same
eschatological situation as Yahweh in Isa 45:23, but placement within a situation is not the same as
inclusion within the divine identity and so Wright’s comparison is false.

This seems to be too easy a dismissal of Wright. YHWH is the one who won’t share His name with another and for all the talk that Perry made last time about there being no parallel to the Shema for Jesus, can he find a parallel where everyone else bows at another name besides that of God? If it works one way, it ought to work the other way too.

The case for the christological monotheist is based around the claim that kyrios is picking up ‘Yhwh’ from
Deut 6:4 and using this name for Christ, thus identifying Jesus with Yhwh in some sense. The first
counter-argument to this claim is that, even if Paul is picking up ‘Yhwh’ from Deuteronomy, bearing the
name ‘Yhwh’ doesn’t imply an identification of Jesus with Yhwh. This is shown in two ways: first, the
name that is above every name was given22 to Christ by God (Phil 2:9); and secondly, the name was also
given to the Angel of the Lord who led Israel through the wilderness (“My name is in him”, Exod 23:21).

For the first objection, this is an assumption of unipersonalism whereby if a name is given, then that person cannot be in the identity, but this is not explained why. Jesus is given this name as a public vindication of what He had done publicly. Had He not done a public act, He would not have been known in this way.

For the second, I have regularly pointed to the Angel of the Lord as a Trinitarian precursor. He acts in ways that only God can act. He is the one speaking in Exodus 3. He appears to Hagar in Genesis 16 and she refers to Him as the God who sees me. Rather than demonstrating the point is incorrect, Perry is actually with this demonstrating the point is highly accurate!

The Angel of the Lord is a type of Christ leading his people through the wilderness. In the same way that
he bore the name, so too Christ bears the name. Hence, any basis there might be in the possession of this
name for identifying Jesus with Yhwh would also apply to the Angel of the Lord. Yet the Angel of the
Lord is distinguished from Yhwh in the same way that Paul distinguishes ‘one…and one’ in 1 Cor 8:6.

Obviously, great scholars like Bauckham and Wright never noticed that there was a distinguishing here. The Angel of the Lord is often treated as YHWH, but yet somehow is seen as a servant of YHWH. Consider how in Genesis 19:24 we read that YHWH on Earth rained down fire and brimstone from YHWH out of Heaven. If you come in with the assumption that God must be unipersonal, you have to read the texts in a way to avoid any plurality in the Godhead. If you dismiss that, you must remain open to the idea that perhaps God is a unique being in a sense that He is multipersonal while we are unipersonal.

However, before we reach this conclusion, we should ask, as a second counter-argument, whether
kyrios in 1 Cor 8:6 is actually picking up ‘Yhwh’ from Deut 6:4 in the first place. ‘Yhwh’ is a proper name,
but kyrios in 1 Cor 8:6 is not being used here as a proxy for this proper name precisely because it is
modified by ‘one’. The ‘one’ is in a semantic contract with the ‘many’ of v. 5, which in turn has the
plural of kyrios. This in turn brings that plural into a semantic contract with the singular of v. 6. Thus,
because the plural is functioning as a descriptive title, so too kyrios in v. 6 is functioning as a title and not
as a proxy for the name ‘Yhwh’. Accordingly, we can observe a symmetry between the two clauses: just as
‘God’ is not a proper name in ‘one God’ so too ‘Lord’ is not serving as a proxy for a proper name in ‘one
Lord’.

I am unclear as to what difference this makes. It is as if Perry is treating YHWH as a personal name. (By the way, aren’t all names given to someone?) Paul is making a contrasting statement indeed saying that the pagans have many gods and many lords, but we only have one. If he submits two different beings here, then he has a sort of ditheism going on. If he has one God with at least two persons here as both are in the divine nature somehow, then he does not.

Even if we went to the Shema, saying Lord as a proper name wouldn’t make sense. Did the Jews need to know there was only one YHWH? Even when they were  living in idolatry, they could say there was one YHWH, but there was also one Asherah, one Molech, etc. Yet if they say there is one God and one Lord and those are combined, then they have monotheism.

If the first clause, ‘there is one God, the Father’, is monotheistic, what type of clause is ‘there is one Lord,
Jesus Christ’? Is it possible to have a god and a lord within a scriptural faith? Is this conjoining of the Father and the Son so innovative that it redefines Scriptural Monotheism and Jewish Monotheism? Is the
associative partnership implicit in ‘of whom are all things’ (the Father) and ‘by whom are all things’ (the
Son) actually (or still) monotheistic?

But this is just begging the question. It is saying that if we go with the understanding of Bauckham and Wright and Capes and others, then we are redefining monotheism. It’s kind of hard to redefine a term that means “There is only one God.” The Trinity necessarily has it that there is only one God. Perry also since he is refusing to look at intertestamental literature is ignoring any data that Jews had to the contrary in pre-Christian thinking. Once again, if anything is redefining it, it is somehow having Jesus being a being that is separate and yet somehow Lord. By framing the Shema in this way, Paul is saying that you can’t have one without the other. If the Son is exclusively Lord, then the Father is not, but if the Father is exclusively God, the Son is not. Putting them both in the same identity avoids the problem.

Our two clause reading of 1 Cor 8:6 is immune to Bauckham’s reasoning for Christological Monotheism.
He says, “there can be no doubt that the addition of a unique Lord to the unique God of the Shema‘
would flatly contradict the uniqueness of the latter…The only possible way to understand Paul as
maintaining monotheism is to understand him to be including Jesus in the unique identity of the one God
affirmed in the Shema‘.” All we have to observe here is that the second clause is not ‘adding to’ the ‘one’
of the monotheism in the first clause and that ‘one…and one’ does add up to two! We do not have to
maintain Paul’s monotheism by deploying a late-20c. theological construct like ‘included in the divine
identity’. We can maintain his monotheism by confining his avowal of monotheism to the first clause.

The language is 20th century, but is the idea? That is the question. We could just as well ask if anyone in the time of Paul was going around talking about Christological monotheism like Perry is. Would that invalidate his case? Absolutely not.

One and one does indeed add to two. So you either have two persons in the divine identity, or you have two beings, one distinctively God, but then the other must be distinctively Lord. If this is the Shema then, it is Perry that is dividing it and not Bauckham.

We will continue next time.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

 

 

Andrew Perry on 1 Cor. 8:6 Part 1

Is 1 Cor. 8:6 a Trinitarian text? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

In light of my blog on 1 Cor. 8:6, I was challenged to go through a paper by Andrew Perry that can be found here. So I did go through and sadly, much of what I saw from someone who is no fool on the topic was still going by the same mistakes many anti-Trinitarians make. Let’s dive in and see what i saw.

Wright says that it has an “apparently extraordinary ‘high’
christology” and it is a “Christian redefinition of the Jewish confession of faith, the Shema”. This remark
shows that Wright (and it is true of others4) is conducting his analysis within the socio-historic context of
Jewish Monotheism in the Second Temple period. He (and it is true of others) is not considering the text
just within the context of inspired Scripture, i.e. what text means within the context supplied by the Spirit
alone. This narrower and different context of appraisal generates the questions: does the Spirit present
Deut 6:4 as a ‘Jewish’ confession of faith or rather a proclamation of divine revelation? Would the Spirit
‘redefine’ its own presentation in Deut 6:4?

One wonders how it is that one is supposed to know what the Spirit, which here is listed as an “it” is saying. Does Perry alone have this insight or is it just that no Trinitarian has it? Has Wright committed a major flaw in actually going to the socio-historical context to understand the text? Could it be that Paul did not write in a vacuum but that Jews actually did some thinking about the Old Testament from the ending of the Jewish canon to the time of Jesus?

And if they did, could it perhaps be beneficial to us to look at that? Yes it could be, but Perry will have none of that. This reminds me greatly of Francis Beckwith’s statement that if they can’t win with logic, they will trump with spirituality.

This also assumes that the Shema has been redefined in an evangelical understanding of 1 Cor. 8:6. It has not been. The Shema is still a statement of monotheism. Instead, Jesus is being included in that monotheistic context. Were the Shema changed into a statement of ditheism, yes, that would be a change, but that is not what is going on here.

The intertextuality of the NT with the OT is so vast and any intertextuality with
contemporary Jewish and non-Jewish literature so tiny that the method of bring extra-Biblical parallels to
bear must take second place.

Tiny? Not at all. Are we to assume that in all those Jewish writings, they didn’t really have anything much to say about the Shema, the defining statement of Jewish monotheism? On the one hand, we have it that this was supposed to be a defining doctrine of Israel. On the other hand, the references to it would be tiny.

The flow of ethical argument in this part of the Corinthians’ letter is also not essential for a discussion of
how Christological Monotheism reads 1 Cor 8:6. The situation in Corinth and the teaching about
knowledge which Paul was opposing is addressed by a statement with two main clauses: one that is
monotheistic and one that is about the Lord Jesus Christ. To say that there are two clauses, only one of
which is monotheistic, is to take the opposite position to Christological Monotheism, and it doesn’t
depend on any particular view about the situation in Corinth regarding food offered to idols. This is our
‘critical’ argument against Christological Monotheism. Hence, we are characterizing the position of this
paper as ‘monotheistic Christology’.

Yet the argument from us is that all of the clauses here are monotheistic. If they are not, then it is not the Shema. As soon as Perry presents it any other way, then he is not really engaging with the argument as is from the evangelical perspective. He can say that to interpret his position is opposite of Christological monotheism, but it seems to boil down to “This position is wrong because it disagrees with my position.” That only works if you establish your own position.

In looking at 1 Cor. 8:6, Perry says that the proposal is:

“Any Greek-speaking Jew who hears a Christian say what 1 Cor 8:6 says is
bound to hear those words as a claim that Yhwh is now somehow identified with Jesus Christ.” Such a
proposition, without evidence in Second Temple writings from Greek-speaking Jews, is of little value as it
stands.

First off, I thought that the Second Temple writings didn’t matter. Now supposedly a silence from them does matter. Which is it?

Second, what is actually supposed to be said in these writings? Are we to expect Greek Jews outside of the apostles were talking about Jesus? However, if the question is could the Jews conceive of someone being in this kind of position, the answer is yes.

If you asked the Jews how God made the world, they would tell you through Wisdom. This is seen in Proverbs 8 especially. The extra irony to this is that this is a passage ancient and modern-day Arians point to to say Jesus is a creation. However, what do Jewish writings say about Wisdom? Let’s go to the Wisdom of Solomon starting at chapter 9 verse 9.

With you is wisdom, she who knows your works
and was present when you made the world;
she understands what is pleasing in your sight
and what is right according to your commandments.
10 Send her forth from the holy heavens,
and from the throne of your glory send her,
that she may labor at my side
and that I may learn what is pleasing to you.
11 For she knows and understands all things,
and she will guide me wisely in my actions
and guard me with her glory.
12 Then my works will be acceptable,
and I shall judge your people justly
and shall be worthy of the throne of my father.
13 For who can learn the counsel of God?
Or who can discern what the Lord wills?
14 For the reasoning of mortals is worthless,
and our designs are likely to fail,
15 for a perishable body weighs down the soul,
and this earthy tent burdens the thoughtful mind.
16 We can hardly guess at what is on earth,
and what is at hand we find with labor,
but who has traced out what is in the heavens?
17 Who has learned your counsel
unless you have given wisdom
and sent your holy spirit from on high?
18 And thus the paths of those on earth were set right,
and people were taught what pleases you
and were saved by wisdom.”

No doubt, Wisdom is being referred to here. Yet let’s look at what happens in the next chapter.

Starting at verse 18:

She brought them over the Red Sea
and led them through deep waters,
19 but she drowned their enemies
and cast them up from the depth of the sea.
20 Therefore the righteous plundered the ungodly;
they sang hymns, O Lord, to your holy name
and praised with one accord your defending hand,
21 for wisdom opened the mouths of those who were mute
and made the tongues of infants speak clearly.

Beg your pardon?

Wisdom did that? Isn’t that what God did in the Old Testament? Indeed. It also doesn’t say God by His Wisdom did X. It said Wisdom did this. At the same time, there is still an idea of the Lord being praised. Go ahead and keep reading and you can ask “Is this praising Wisdom or the Lord?” Not only that, but if we look at the last verse quoted above, we can see a parallel to Exodus 4:11.

Then the Lord said to him, “Who gives speech to mortals? Who makes them mute or deaf, seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?

All of this needs to be taken into consideration. One cannot just say “Well, the Wisdom of Solomon isn’t in the Bible” (I realize some Christians do have it in theirs, but for those who do not, that does not mean we can disregard it even if we don’t view it as Scripture.). Data is data. The Bible was not written in a vacuum.

One more point for tonight. Perry goes on to say this:

A more plausible proposal would be that a Greek-speaking Jew would see an allusion in Paul’s words to
the Shema in, for example, ‘God’, ‘us/our’ and ‘one’, but it is not obvious that Yhwh is to be identified
with Jesus Christ. Rather, the descriptive aspect of ‘our God’ and ‘one’ is picked up by ‘to us…one
God’, which therefore in turn identifies ‘the Father’ as Yhwh rather than Jesus Christ. Further, the
counting aspect of Paul’s conjoined statements, ‘one…and one’, rather militates against the interpretation
that Christ is being placed within the identity of the one God of Israel. The Shema has a single
occurrence of ‘one’ whereas 1 Cor 8:6 has two occurrences. Finally, if we accept Wright’s claim, we still
have to do the work of saying what we mean by ‘included within the identity of the one God of Israel’ –
this could be explained as simply as the indwelling of God’s Spirit rather than anything more complicated,
say, such as a recognition of an incarnation.

But if Kurios is a reference to YHWH in the Shema and it is applied to Jesus here, then yes, Jesus is being identified as the Lord in the Shema. The problem with making a divide is ultimately, you can say Jesus isn’t the one God, but then you have to say that YHWH isn’t the one Lord. If anyone is guilty of dividing the Shema and splitting it, it is the anti-Trinitarian.

Do we still have to do the work of explaining what is meant by being included in the divine identity? Yes. And? Having to do the work of explaining the concept isn’t a problem. Saying the indwelling of God’s Spirit is quite complicated. There were plenty of people in the Old and New Testaments that were said to be indwelled with the Spirit of God. Are they to be included in the Shema because of that?

We will continue with more of this next time.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

1 Cor. 8:6 and the Trinity

Does this verse demonstrate that Jesus is included in the divine nature? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I’m a member on Facebook for a group to debate the doctrine of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Sadly, many witnesses really do not know what they’re arguing against when it comes to the Trinity. Most arguments against the Trinity are arguments against modalism. Also sadly, too many Christians outside of this group that are lay Christians would probably explain the Trinity using modalistic descriptions.

One passage that can regularly come up from JWs is 1 Cor. 8:6. They seem to think it really makes the case. Let’s look at it.

yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.

There you have it! There is one God, the Father! Jesus is not that one God. Jesus is Lord, but He is not God. On a surface level, one can say, “If that’s the case, then the Father is God, but He is not Lord.” That is indeed problematic enough, but let’s go further in looking at this text.

There are two parallel themes.

1A: For us, there is but one God, the Father.

1B: From whom all things came and for whom we live.

2A: And there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ,

2B: Through whom all things came and through whom we live.

There is indeed parallelism here, which is fascinating, but could there still be something more. Imagine that a Jew makes a statement that there is one God. What will other Jews immediately think of? The Shema, Israel’s great monotheistic statement.

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.

The terms Lord, God, and One, are all repeated here. Paul is using intertextuality to call to mind an Old Testament text. The same takes place in Romans 1. Paul uses terms like creator, and “male and female” to point to Genesis 1 as the basis for his argument for divine revelation in creation and for the wrongness of same-sex erotic practice.

What then Paul is doing is he is taking Jesus and he is slipping him into the Shema, Christianizing it and putting Jesus in the divine nature. Rather than denying the deity of Christ, Paul is emphasizing it in strong terms. Also, Jesus is presented as the means of creation, which is incredible since in Isaiah 44:24, God is said to have done creation alone.

“This is what the Lord says—
your Redeemer, who formed you in the womb:

I am the Lord,
the Maker of all things,
who stretches out the heavens,
who spreads out the earth by myself,

Some can see this as wisdom, but if you read Jewish writings like the Wisdom of Solomon, Wisdom was taking on a more and more role of deity as a hypostasis of God. The formula is always the same in the New Testament be it John 1, 1 Cor. 8, Hebrews 1, or Col. 1. The Father is the source and the Son is the means.

I have presented this several times asking JWs to show where my exegesis is wrong. To date, no one has. Let’s look at some objections that are brought up.

“But Jesus is not His Father!”

Which shows the person doesn’t understand Trinitarian thinking. Saying Jesus is God is theological shorthand. It really is saying Jesus fully partakes of the divine nature. It in no way means Jesus is the Father.

“But the Shema never mentions Jesus!”

True, and irrelevant. This is progressive revelation. This assumes God had to reveal Himself as triune from the get-go or else He isn’t.

“But what about these passages that show Jesus is not God?”

And whatever passage is brought up needs to be discussed, but unless a JW wants to deny inerrancy, which I don’t think they do, then they need to explain this passage as well and show where my exegesis is wrong. If not, then you are saying this one passage teaches X and the other one teaches non-X, which is a denial of inerrancy.

The gauntlet has been cast down. I wait to see if any JWs are willing to pick it up and take the challenge. Show where the exegesis is wrong.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

 

God Came Down

Merry Christmas.

What does Christmas mean?

Christmas is about the time that God entered into our world in the most personal sense, that of a human being. This wasn’t just a temporary appearance. This was beginning as a zygote and then naturally going through a gestation process and coming out of the birth canal of Mary and living life as a baby. This would be a baby who would need to have his diaper changed and be cradled and everything else.

At this point, I also want to clarify what I mean when I say that God came down. A lot of people who are anti-Trinitarians assume that if you say God, you mean a being who is unipersonal and if you say Jesus is God, you’re either saying Jesus is the Father or that Jesus is the Trinity. What is meant is that a person who fully possesses the nature of God became a man. It’s just a lot easier to say “Jesus is God” every time.

This is something unthinkable to Muslims. You mean God pooped? Yes. God fully took on the human experience. He had to eat and drink and sleep. He got His feet sore walking on the streets. He worked up a sweat and got callouses on His hands and had body odor.

To many, this seems unthinkable, and let’s face it. There’s a point to that. It is incredible to think of God doing something like this. Not only to do all of the above, but to end with dying on a cross in the greatest act of shame at the time. He was abandoned and rejected by those closest to Him.

It sounds odd to think of humility on the part of God, but that is what we have. We see it in the great hymn of Philippians 2. We see Jesus not clinging to glory, but taking on the form of a slave. We see God going to the greatest lengths to bring about salvation to man.

Revelation 12 actually depicts the incarnation taking place. We think of Christmas as a happy time, and it is, but the original wasn’t. In the original story, Herod goes and has children killed to make sure that he has no competition. It wasn’t a happy time.

Christmas is when the battle became personal. Christmas is when God entered into the world directly. In a war, the last thing the enemy would expect is for the ultimate head of the army to march out on the battlefield and engage the enemy himself. However, this is exactly what happens in the Christmas story.

It is always amusing to see the people who are so adamant about how evil it is to celebrate Christmas because of alleged pagan origins. Even if that argument was true, so what? No one today is doing this to celebrate a pagan deity, but to celebrate Jesus. If you can’t celebrate Messiah coming into the world, what can you celebrate? That’s what I celebrate today. I celebrate the virgin birth, which I do affirm. I celebrate the incarnation.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

 

Pastors. Consider This For Your Sermons

What are some things I would like changed in sermons? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

As readers should know, I am in therapy here recovering from my divorce and learning social skills for dating. My therapist was asking me about how I’m doing spiritually and one thing we talked about were sermons I attend. I mentioned some concerns I have with them and I would like to write about them now.

The first point I want to make is that too many sermons seem to focus on the experience of the pastor. I get especially concerned when I hear them talk about things that God told them. Those are dangerous words. That is giving divine authority to whatever you say next. Are you willing to do that? While I realize we don’t live in Old Testament times, in those times, the penalty for saying “God said” when He did not say was death. We can say that that won’t happen anymore, but are we to think God doesn’t still take seriously people claiming to say what He didn’t say?

I often hear people who give announcements at church say the same thing. “Well, God brought in enough money for us to do XYZ” or “God laid it on our hearts to build the new building” or “God put this idea in us for the new Vacation Bible School.” How do you know? I always want to ask that question. It’s not just a Protestant thing. I have heard it in Catholic and Orthodox churches as well.

Pastors. If you spend too much time on your experience, you will be the focus. It will not be what the church is to do in Christ. It will be about what you think Christ is doing in you. I don’t come to church to hear about you. I come to church to hear about Jesus.

Second, is that too often we focus on application which boils down to advice. I am not saying application is not part of a sermon, but it should be the minimal part after the main message has been given. Lewis once said the world is full of good advice and if all Jesus came to do was give us good advice, it was a wasted effort. We have rejected much advice before. Why not the best of all?

If this is all we do, then we are not different from many other groups except we sprinkle a little bit of Jesus in there to sound spiritual. We’re pretty much a club at that point. Now I get that part of coming to church is community and we should have that, but the main draw should not be community. The main draw should be Jesus.

There’s a reason we have negative terminology for preaching and a sermon. If someone starts telling us what to do over and over we say “Don’t preach at me” or “I don’t need to hear a sermon.” Those are negative terms and really, they’ve been sadly earned. If you’re a pastor, do you want your sermon to sound like that?

Finally, present the grandeur of God in Christ in all your sermons somehow. For instance, when I was at church Sunday, the sermon I heard was on Mark 4. What’s it about? Jesus calming the storm. You know what we too often make the sermon about? Jesus can calm the storms in your life!

Well, yes, He can. But He won’t always. However, before saying that Jesus can calm the storms in our lives, let’s look at what this text is actually about.

Jesus calming an actual storm.

I’m going to wager a hunch that very few of you reading this have successfully gone outside to face a horrendous storm of some kind and calmed it down by your words alone. I’ll even say most of you have never attempted such a thing before. Who are we to calm storms, after all? Yet Jesus did it!

What does that tell me about Jesus? What does that show me about who He is? What does that tell me about the power that He has?

Another passage like this is David and Goliath. The passage becomes about facing your giants. What are the Goliaths in your life? Can you take them down? Let’s look at what the story is about.

It’s about the covenant God of Israel having a faithful servant in the next king, David, who trusts so much in YHWH to fulfill His covenant promises if one is faithful to Him that he is willing to face the giant on this God’s behalf.

The story of the three Hebrew boys thrown into the fire is about three Hebrew boys being faithful to YHWH in a pagan kingdom against a pagan king not even knowing if they would be spared. The miraculous preservation of them showed that yes, God can deliver, but it also showed something else. God is superior to the will of the pagan kings.

We could go on and on easily. In all of these stories, by jumping to application, you miss the message. Do you think Mark really wrote the story of Jesus calming the sea to show that God can calm the storms in your life? No. He wrote it to tell us about Jesus.  The writer of Samuel did not write to tell us God can overcome your Goliaths. He wrote to tell us about faithfulness to YHWH by David in a time when Israel was under oppression by an evil foreign adversary.

The story of the Hebrew boys was not written to show God can deliver you from your furnace. It was written to show that God was faithful even in a foreign land and greater than the gods of the most powerful empire on Earth at the time. It was written to show His covenant had not been abandoned.

Think back to a time when you fell in love with someone. Did you need to hear advice about how to love them? Not saying it wouldn’t have helped, but generally, when you were presented with the loved one and who they were, you wanted to do the good automatically. There’s a reason the saying was that the face of Helen of Troy could launch a thousand ships. Present a man with the beauty of the woman and he will tend to want to do great things. Beauty is very inspirational.

What will a man do when presented with the glory of Christ?

Now if you want to say God can calm the storms in your life and other things, make sure that is secondary. The primary thing is what God has done in Christ and in the lives of the saints of the past. Present them this God that they are to trust in and if God calms the storm, great! If not, He will be with them through it.

For those of us who are Protestants, we stand on a treasure trove of great theology. I am part of an Aquinas Zoom meeting on Thursday nights and I hear good theology as we discuss what Aquinas says about God. That’s our theology also. The Reformers and immediate predecessors would have no problem with much of medieval theology. It’s only in more recent times that we started having people seriously question simplicity, impassibility, omniscience, etc.

We have a great God. Let people see Him. We have a great savior in Christ. Let people see Him.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Book Plunge: Jesus Was Not A Trinitarian: Appendix on John 20:28

What about John 20:28? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

This chapter is handed off to a Ph.D. candidate named Clifford Hubert Durousseau. As I read that part, I thought it curious. I have nothing against PhD candidates as I plan to be one myself someday, but I was thinking that if this is really such a strong position with more and more people coming to it, why didn’t Buzzard get a PhD already to make the case here? Could he find no Greek experts to make such a case? One wonders.

So at the start, Durousseau says that John 20:28 is often seen as the strongest Trinitarian argument. I wouldn’t go that far. One could I think hold to it and be a Oneness Pentecostal. I base Trinitarianism not on one verse, but on a plethora of different verses. Durousseau also makes an interesting comment that saying “Jesus is God” constitutes monophysitism. Unfortunately, he leaves the readers, such as myself, confused as to show this is entirely. Again, if he wants to read the statement in the worst possible light just as Buzzard does, that’s his problem.

Unfortunately, throughout this chapter, Durousseau uses much of the same kind of argumentation that Buzzard does throughout. One would hope a different playbook would surface, but it does not. Durousseau does have some different questions at least. One is that when Jesus is called Lord in numerous times in John 20, it doesn’t mean YHWH. Why does it mean that in John 20:28?

Let me take a shot at this one. Maybe it has something to do with Thomas saying “My Lord and my God.” I realize that could be a stretch, but maybe when Lord is juxtaposed next to God, then we see it as a term of deity.

He also says that Thomas is not given a blessing for identifying who Jesus is as Peter did. Why should He? Peter had already identified who Jesus was and the resurrection was more than enough to certify His divine identity. Durousseau says that Thomas is instead rebuked. Right. He had spent years with these guys and knew the claims of Jesus and had more than enough evidence that Jesus was alive again without seeing Him and yet that was not enough.

He also says the author doesn’t comment on that, but the author doesn’t comment on many statements as well. He comments on some, but not all. Durousseau says the book was written to show Jesus was the Son of God, but Durousseau makes no attempt to show what this term means. My Mormon friends will say “Yes. Jesus is the Son of God. God the Father literally had sexual intercourse with Mary. Jesus is the Son of God.” Is that what it means? (And to any Mormons reading this, this is what your past prophets have said.)

He also says Jesus says He is returning to my God and your God. (Notice He never says our God like that.) Would this be contradicted verses later? Again, this just assumes the unipersonalism. I as a Trinitarian have no problem with Jesus referring to the Father as His Lord and His God.

Durousseau also points to statements of Jesus with the Father being in Him and of Paul saying that God was in Christ and that Trinitarians ignore these. How? We agree with them. They don’t go against us and that Durousseau thinks that they do shows that he doesn’t understand what he is arguing against.

One part is worth quoting in full:

Does this mean that Jesus was claiming to be God? No, it means exactly what it says: Jesus was claiming to represent his Father and God. The fourth Gospel (12:49; 14:9) expands the teaching of Paul in 2 Corinthians 4:4 that Jesus is “the image of God.” And in Colossians 1:15, Jesus is called “the image of the invisible God.” The author of Hebrews says of him, as the New Jerusalem Bible puts it, “He is the reflection of God’s glory [764] and bears the impress of God’s own being [hypostasis]” ( Heb. 1:3; compare Wisdom of Solomon 7:26: “For she [Wisdom] is a reflection of the eternal light, untarnished mirror of God’s active power, and image of his goodness.”)

It is mind-boggling that Durousseau looks at these statements and doesn’t really think about what they mean apparently. Jesus is not made in the image of God as we are. He IS the image of God. What God is invisibly, Jesus is visibly. He is theJesu reflection of God’s glory, the idea being that of taking a stamp and putting it on Jesus such that what God is, Jesus is. If Jesus is a reflection of eternal light, then He Himself is eternal.

Something else incredible in this is that Durousseau actually quotes the Qur’an to back his point. Why not just go to the Book of Mormon as well? I wish I was joking about this, but I’m not.

He also uses the Acts 2:36 argument we have dealt with in earlier posts here.

He then asks that if Jesus can be called God, why can’t Thomas or anyone else be called the brother of God? Frankly, if you wanted to refer to the actual brothers and sisters of Jesus as that, I really wouldn’t have a problem. Mary got the title she got in church history because of debates over her nature and her role in the incarnation. (Seeing as she kind of played a more pivotal role in it than any other human.)

He also references Julian saying that John was the first to call Jesus God. I have repeatedly shown on my blog that this is false, but it’s worth pointing out that Durousseau says nothing about Julian being an apostate, an enemy of Christianity, and wanting to return the Roman Empire to the pagan worldview. It’s okay to say anything bad about Constantine, but keep secret about who you yourself are quoting. The same applies when Durousseau later cites Ehrman.

He also asks why if Jesus is God He was given a revelation to give to John by God on the Isle of Patmos. Oh, I don’t know. Because the Son submits to the Father and gives a message to John that the Father wants Him to give? He references Rev. 5:14 but says nothing about how Revelation 5 ends with all creation worshipping Him who sits on the throne and the Lamb, which differentiates between the Lamb and creation.

Overall, there is really not much here to comment on.

And with that, I conclude my look at this book. I walk away sadly seeing the author as being more dishonest in his presentation than anything else. I take no delight in saying that, but I have made my case why. I leave it to the reader to decide if he thinks I have been wrong.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

 

 

 

Book Plunge: Jesus Was Not A Trinitarian Chapter 12

Does the church really believe in the Trinity? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

This chapter is asking if everyone believes in the Trinity? Well, no. I can’t think of a single statement that you would find EVERYONE agrees with or believes. There are always differences. However, let’s look at the “arguments” Buzzard puts forward this time.

One statement he makes is about your average churchgoer who he says believes that:

1) “Jesus Christ is God”; 2) “God is our Heavenly Father”; 3) “Jesus Christ is not our Heavenly Father”;4) “There are not two Gods.” Yet he has never considered how to reconcile these four separate opinions of his together; it probably has not occurred to him that they are inconsistent with one another…The average Englishman has not troubled himself with the matter.

Unfortunately, he’s correct in that the average church member hasn’t thought about this and will get flummoxed by it, which makes sense. Unfortunately, this is again something I consider dishonest on Buzzard’s part for he should know that no one believes this and if you think a simple set of statements can make a position look absurd, you’re probably wrong. So what is the answer?

Saying “Jesus is God” is theological shorthand. It does not mean that Jesus is the entirety of the Godhead. It means Jesus fully possesses all the attributes of deity. When we then say that God is our Heavenly Father, that’s because we normally think of God as the source of deity who begets the Father and the Son and the Spirit are subsumed under Him in the divine identity while still maintaining being their own persons.  Difficult to think about? Yep. Still, it resolves the problem and again, Buzzard should know this.

Buzzard goes on to say that some famous New Testament scholars grant that the Trinity is not a New Testament doctrine by quoting one saying:

No responsible New Testament scholar would claim that the doctrine of the Trinity was taught by Jesus, or preached by the earliest Christians, or consciously held by any writer in the New Testament.”

But this is NOT saying the Trinity is not a New Testament doctrine. It’s saying that for the first part, Jesus was not walking around Palestine talking about the doctrine of the Trinity. Correct. The early Christians were not going around quoting the Chalcedonian Creed. Right. The writers of the New Testament did not have fully laid out in front of them the Trinity. Yes. All the seeds were there and the view is being formed in the New Testament. Again, statements like this are just dishonest on Buzzard’s part.

He does go to the question of the rich young ruler saying Jesus differentiated between Himself and God and saying that only God is absolutely good.

Well, there you have it.

For Buzzard, Jesus is NOT absolutely good.

I cannot see any way around that. If Buzzard wants to have that differentiation, he has to have all of it. To defend Unitarianism, he not only has to deny the deity of Jesus, but He has to say this sinless man who lived a perfect life among men is NOT absolutely good.

Yep. This position sure is honoring the savior.

He also looks at Genesis 1:26 and Isaiah 6:8 where God uses the “us” language. Now some people have said that this is a hint at the Trinity. All Buzzard says is that the address is obviously to attendant angelic beings.

Obviously?

He doesn’t have an endnote to make his case. He just says it’s obvious and moves on. When he thinks a Trinitarian in interpreting a passage is throwing his ideas onto the text, that’s bad! Buzzard gets a free pass though!

Keep in mind, I’m not saying he’s wrong in his interpretation. I’m saying that he doesn’t get to just say what it is and move on. He needs to make a case. There are a number of positions one could take.

It could be the Trinity.
It could be the Divine Council as someone like Michael Heiser argued.
It could be the royal we.
It could be angels.

There could even be possible other interpretations. These are the ones I know. If there are at least four, you should make the case.

Imagine if we read the Olivet Discourse and in arguing for my position of orthodox Preterism I just said “The text is obviously referring to events within the first century.”

I would hope my fellow Preterists would call me out on that if I did that. I need to make an argument for it. The same applies here.

He says also to see veiled signs of the Trinity in the Old Testament is to go beyond the intent of the sacred writers. Does the same apply to any idea of Jesus in the Old Testament. 1 Peter 1 tells us that the prophets themselves didn’t understand what they were necessarily referring to.

If so, then therefore, to read Jesus into Old Testament prophecy is to go beyond the intent of the sacred writers. Right? Again, Buzzard cannot have it both ways.

He returns to John 1 saying that in verses 3-4, many translations say “through him all things were made” when it should be through it. Buzzard really is going against the largest number of translators on all sides. Technically, the word from my reading could be translated masculine or neuter. Why does Buzzard assume it has to be the neuter without an argument? Again, rules for thee, but not for me.

He also quotes someone saying that “a person is created by his relationships with other people and especially by his interaction with his parents and family.” First off, this is going by a modern idea of personhood. Even going past that, there is a much bigger problem here.

What makes God the Father a person?

If Unitarianism is true, it was just God alone at the beginning and no one else so thus, no relationships and definitely no parents or family. Was God not a person then? If God had to create to have a relationship, then in some way, God is dependent on His creation to be a person.

If these are the rules Buzzard wants to live with, he gets to pay the price.

Not only that, we could ask about angels. Do angels have parents and family? Angels don’t reproduce and metaphysically, it can be argued that each angel is his own species. How does this work?

Buzzard doesn’t tell us.

He goes back to Ehrman reminding us to see Jesus as an apocalyptic prophet of the new millennium. I have responded to that book here. No word on Ehrman’s position is given. Buzzard knows it, but he doesn’t care to share it. He also references Tom Harpur again later on, nowhere letting the reader know the even more bizarre stances that Harpur holds.

Well, we’re almost done with this book. Thank the Trinity for that!

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

 

 

Book Plunge: Jesus Was Not A Trinitarian Chapter 11

Does having more support change a position? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

In this chapter, Buzzard lists several people who he says support his cause. Sadly, they all use pretty much the same kinds of arguments. There is really less and less to comment on, but let’s go on with what one of these people says about the history of the doctrine of the Trinity:

Fourth-century Trinitarianism did not reflect accurately early Christian teaching regarding the nature of God; it was, on the contrary, a deviation from this teaching…It developed against constant unitarian opposition and was never wholly victorious. The dogma of the Trinity owes its existence to abstract speculation on the part of a small minority of scholars.

In response, here’s at least one good thing that came out of the later Star Wars movies.

Indeed. For one thing, this was not a fourth century doctrine as much as it was one started in the second century and further refined up to that point and is still being refined. We have made plenty of arguments against Buzzard’s idea that Trinitarianism is a deviation, but also there was not constant Unitarian opposition and finally, it was hardly a minority. I would expect to find this more in the Da Vinci Code!

Buzzard also writes about the Angel of the Lord and how that was accepted to be a theophany without proof. As to why Stephen who talked about the Angel in his speech before the Sanhedrin never said that, why should he? For one thing, Buzzard assumes that statement would be controversial to say that the Angel of the Lord was an appearance of deity. This assumes they held to Buzzard’s strict unitarianism. Second, if they don’t accept Jesus, what good would it do to say “This Angel was Jesus all along!” Not a bit.

Those interested in seeing the Angel of the Lord can search through my blog where I have stated that He is an appearance of deity. Go to the verses under question and look for them here or just search for Angel of the Lord. Either way, Buzzard is begging the question.

Finally, he says that Hebrews not only says that Jesus is greater than the angels, but if Jesus was the Angel of the Lord, what about how Hebrews also says in these last days God has spoken by His Son? The first one is quite easy in that the angel of the Lord is the messenger of the Lord and not an angel in the same sense as all the other angels. In the second, these appearances are also definitely not the same as a full incarnation taking on human nature. It’s sad Buzzard thinks these are great objections when one can come up with an answer easily with a moment’s thought.

Buzzard also says:

It is encouraging to hear scholars say that the Trinitarian dogma “was determined neither by scripture nor by experience but by the Arian controversy on the doctrine of the Trinity.”

Why does he consider this encouraging? Error has always led to the refining of truth. It was Marcion’s false canon that led Christians to establish the true canon. It is failure in modern fields that leads to success.

Finally, I want to bring out this closing remark of his:

Unitarianism has of course continued since the early twentieth century when the Schaff-Herzog article was penned. In general Unitarians have become less “biblical,” meaning that they lost a grip on central biblical teachings such as the virgin birth, the resurrection and the Second Coming. The loss of these central truths is hardly likely to make unitarianism attractive to evangelicals and the fault lies in this respect with the Unitarianism which has lost its biblical basis, other than its rejection of creeds which superseded the creed of Jesus.

I highlight this as I found it revealing of Buzzard’s character. Any time any Trinitarian has done something he despises, he has pointed to how dreadful the doctrine is and what it does. However, when Unitarians consistently start denying other essential biblical doctrines, including the virgin birth, which I do affirm, well that’s just that these people have lost their Biblical Basis. It has nothing to do with rejecting the Trinity!

It must be nice to live in Buzzard’s world where the rules are always different for you than they are for the other side.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)