Friday, December 4, 2015

The Doctrine of the Trinity: A Biblical Defence

The doctrine of the Trinity has come under increasing attack over recent years from a variety of groups. Some of these groups (such as Muslims and Jehovah’s witnesses) deny that this doctrine is even found in Scripture. They are often quick to point out that the word “trinity” is to be found nowhere in the Bible. This is correct. While the phraseology is not found in Scripture, however, the concept most certainly is.
In this article, I want to provide a definition of this important doctrine, explaining what exactly the Trinity is, as well as what is isn’t. I shall then examine the Scriptures to see whether they provide adequate substantiation of this concept.
So, what exactly do we mean when we talk about the Trinity? Writing in the early third century, in his Against Praxeas, Tertullian is credited with first employing the words “Trinity”, “person” and “substance” to convey the idea of the Father, Son and Spirit being “one in essence — but not one in person”. Indeed, Tertullian writes,
“Thus the connection of the Father in the Son, and of the Son in the Paraclete, produces three coherent Persons, who are yet distinct One from Another. These Three are, one essence, not one Person, as it is said, “I and my Father are One,” in respect of unity of substance not singularity of number.”
This concept was established as church orthodoxy at the famous Council of Nicaea in A.D. 325 (see my article here for discussion of the historical background). The Nicene Creed speaks of Christ as “God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten not made, being of one substance with the Father.”
It is this definition that I am going to assume in the discussion that follows. Succinctly, then, the doctrine of the Trinity may be defined thusly: Within the one being or essence that is God, there exists three co-equal and co-divine distinct persons — namely the Father, Son and Holy Spirit — who share that essence fully and completely. This concept is not to be confused with polytheism, which maintains that there are multiple gods. While orthodox Christianity emphatically holds there to be only one God, we nonetheless understand God to be complex in his unity. The concept is also not to be confused with the ancient heresy of modalism, which maintains that God exists in three different modes. The Son has never been the Father and the Holy Spirit has never been the Son or the Father. Modelism is refuted by the picture given to us in all four gospels (Matthew 3:16-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-22; John 1:32-34) in which the Holy Spirit descends on Jesus in the form of a dove and a voice is heard from Heaven “This is my beloved Son. With him I am well pleased.” Similarly, it should be noted that the Father, Son and Spirit do not each make up merely a third of the Godhead. Rather, each of the three persons is God in the full and complete sense of the word.
Having shown that Scripture emphatically rejects the notion that the Father, Son and Spirit are synonymous persons, only five propositions remain to be demonstrated in order to provide Biblical substantiation for the concept of the Trinity. Those propositions are:
  1. There is only one eternal God.
  2. The Father is the eternal God.
  3. The Son is the eternal God.
  4. The Holy Spirit is the eternal God.
  5. The Father, Son and Spirit are not the same person.
Having already demonstrated number 5 (at Jesus' baptism, the Father, Son and Spirit are clearly distinguished), let’s take a look at 1-4 in turn.
The Bible Teaches Monotheism
The Biblical support for monotheism is extremely strong, and supporting references are far too numerous to list here. Nonetheless, let us content ourselves with a few examples.
Deuteronomy 6:4:
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.
Isaiah 43:10-11:
10 “You are my witnesses,” declares the LORD,
“and my servant whom I have chosen,
so that you may know and believe me
and understand that I am he.
Before me no god was formed,
nor will there be one after me.
11 I, even I, am the LORD,
and apart from me there is no savior.
Isaiah 44:6-8:
6 “This is what the LORD says—
Israel’s King and Redeemer, the LORD Almighty:
I am the first and I am the last;
apart from me there is no God.
7 Who then is like me? Let him proclaim it.
Let him declare and lay out before me
what has happened since I established my ancient people,
and what is yet to come—
yes, let them foretell what will come.
8 Do not tremble, do not be afraid.
Did I not proclaim this and foretell it long ago?
You are my witnesses. Is there any God besides me?
No, there is no other Rock; I know not one.”
1 Corinthians 8:6:
Yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.
Isaiah 45:5:
I am the Lord, and there is no other, besides me there is no God; I equip you, though you do not know me.
The Deity of the Father
This is the least controversial of the five points, and many of the verses cited above would suffice to demonstrate it. Indeed, in the high priestly prayer of the Lord Jesus, recorded in John 17, Jesus says to the Father (verse 5), “Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” The Father is similarly referred to as God in John 3:16, in which we read, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
One could continue in this vein for some time. But since nobody is denying this contention, let us move on to consider the Biblical support for the perfect and complete deity of Christ.
The Deity of the Son
The Biblical support for the perfect and complete deity of Christ is similarly very strong. For example, Phillipians 2:5-11 states,
5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
According to Jude 1:4,
For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.
Titus 2:13 similarly states that we…
…wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.
The apostle Peter similarly addresses his second epistle (2 Peter 1:1) to…
…those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours.
Colossians 1:15-20 speaks of Jesus thusly:
15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
The passage uses the word “firstborn” in this context in the sense that Christ is the heir and all things are His rightful inheritance, not in the sense that he is himself a created being.
Colossians 2:9 similarly asserts that “in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.”
Even in the Old Testament, in Isaiah 9:6-7, we read,
6 For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the LORD Almighty
will accomplish this.
Citation of this passage is sometimes countered by claiming that the passage distinguishes between the “Mighty God” and the “LORD Almighty.” Such an objection is easily refuted, however, when one looks at Isaiah 10:21 and finds the title “Mighty God” being ascribed to Yahweh.
There are many more such references as well. When cultists come to your door, however, they will often attempt to find some wiggle room by crafty manipulations of the Greek. If (like me) you are not well acquainted with Greek, and are thus not competent in demonstrating their abuse of it, this can be quite daunting. There is, however, a means by which you can circumvent such discussions and still persuasively defend the deity of Christ. It is to this that I now turn.
There are numerous occasions in Scripture where titles that are ascribed to Yahweh are also attributed to Christ. One example of this is the title of “the alpha and the omega” or “the first and the last.” This title is ascribed to Yahweh in Isaiah 44:6 and 48:12, as well as in Revelation 1:8. It is attributed to Jesus, however, in Revelation 1:17-18. It is very clear from the context that it is Jesus who is speaking because he subsequently says, “I am the Living One; I was dead and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.” Similarly, Revelation 2:8, in the letter to the Church in Smyrna, says “These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again.” This title is also attributed to Jesus in Revelation 21:6, as well as in 22:13. Verse 16 of Revelation 22 makes it very clear that it is Jesus speaking, for he says, “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.”
A further example is the “I AM” title which Jesus ascribes to Himself in John 8:58 (“before Abraham was born, I am!”). The Greek (ego eimi) uses the very same phraseology used in the Septuagint in reference to Yahweh (e.g. Exodus 3:14; Isaiah 43:10). Indeed, the soldiers who come to arrest Jesus in John 18 draw back and fall to the ground upon the very utterance of the words “I AM” from Jesus’ lips. This highlights the theological significance of this phrase. The Jews in John 8 certainly understood what He meant, for they picked up stones to stone Him.
Another self-designation of Jesus in the New Testament is the famous “Son of Man” title, a clear reference to Daniel 7:13-14, in which we read the following:
13 “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. 14 He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.
Here, Daniel describes a divine-human figure who would be given authority, glory and sovereign power, and would be worshipped by people of all nations and people of every language. When Jesus claimed to be the Son of Man before the high priest Caiaphas (Matthew 26:64-66), Caiaphas tore his clothes, charged him with blasphemy, and condemned him as “worthy of death.” The reason? Caiaphas new exactly what that title meant — it was a direct claim to deity, a crime punishable by death.
What’s particularly telling about this claim is that the Son of Man is worshipped by all people. Yet worship is to be given only to Yahweh, as we learn in Deuternonomy 6:13. This verse is quoted by Jesus during his temptation in the desert. In Luke 4:8, Jesus rebukes Satan, saying, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’” Furthermore, Isaiah 42:8 says,
I am the LORD; that is my name!
I will not yield my glory to another
or my praise to idols.
This leads us to consider yet another of Jesus’ sayings. In John 17:5, Jesus says, “And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.” In addition to his claim to pre-exist creation, Jesus here is also claiming to share the glory of the Father.
John 20:28 reports an incident where, following Jesus’ resurrection, Thomas — upon seeing the nailprints in His hands and feet — worships him calling Him “My Lord and my God!” Jesus nowhere rebukes this act of worship. This stands in contrast to when John fell at the feet of an angel and tried to worship him (Revelation 22:8-9) and was strongly rebuked: “Don’t do that! I am a fellow servant with you and with your fellow prophets and with all who keep the words of this scroll. Worship God!” 
We also read in Hebrews 1:6, “And again, when God brings his firstborn into the world, he says, “Let all God’s angels worship him.”
Hebrews 1 contrasts the relationship between the Father and the angels with the relationship between the Father and the Son. In verses 7-12, we read the following:
7 In speaking of the angels he says,
“He makes his angels spirits,
and his servants flames of fire.”
8 But about the Son he says,
“Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever;
a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom.
9 You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;
therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions
by anointing you with the oil of joy.”
10 He also says,
“In the beginning, Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth,
and the heavens are the work of your hands.
11 They will perish, but you remain;
they will all wear out like a garment.
12 You will roll them up like a robe;
like a garment they will be changed.
But you remain the same,
and your years will never end.”
The writer of Hebrews here quotes two Old Testament passages (Psalm 45:6-7 and Psalm 102:25-27 respectively), the latter of which clearly refer to Yahweh, and applies them to Jesus.
A further text, with which we have regrettably come to be so familiar that we often miss its full significance is 1 Peter 3:15. Indeed, the true significance of this verse is best seen when read in the context of verse 14 which precedes it. Here’s the text of 1 Peter 3:14-16. Take particular note of the underlined text.
“But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.”
Verse 14 in fact contains a quotation (the underlined text) from Isaiah 8:12, in which we read, “Do not call conspiracy all that this people call conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread.” Verse 15 of 1 Peter 3 continues the quotation into verse 13 of Isaiah 8, but with a subtle change. Isaiah 8:13 reads, “But the Lord of hosts, him you shall honor as holy.” Compare this to the start of 1 Peter 3:15: “…but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy.” Peter has replaced “the Lord of hosts” from Isaiah 8:13 with “Christ the Lord”, asserting that it is He whom we are to regard as Holy. In so doing, the Apostle Peter has here effectively identified Jesus as being of the same essence as Yahweh, another Biblical proof of the deity of Christ.
One final example I will consider is found in John 12:37-41:
37Even after Jesus had performed so many signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him. 38 This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet:
“Lord, who has believed our message
and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”
39 For this reason they could not believe, because, as Isaiah says elsewhere:
40 “He has blinded their eyes
and hardened their hearts,
so they can neither see with their eyes,
nor understand with their hearts,
nor turn—and I would heal them.”
41 Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus’ glory and spoke about him.
Here, John quotes two passages from the Old Testament and asserts that Isaiah said these things when he saw the glory of Jesus. The first of these passages is from the famous suffering servant passage of Isaiah 53. The second of those refers to Isaiah 6, in which Isaiah beheld the glory of Yahweh seated on his throne in the temple.
Again, in this vein one might continue for a long time. But let us now turn our attention to the status of the Holy Spirit.
The Deity of the Spirit
The Holy Spirit is another doctrine which has come under attack, with some groups (e.g. the Jehovah’s witnesses) denying the personhood of the Holy Spirit and asserting instead that it is merely an impersonal active force. In this section, I aim to demonstrate that this view is untenable and contrary to the clear teaching of Scripture.
One very clear reference to the deity and personhood of the Holy Spirit occurs in Acts 5:1-10, in which Ananias and Sapphira are charged with lying to the Holy Spirit and struck down dead as a consequence. Peter rebukes Ananias, saying, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit…You have not lied just to human beings but to God.” Here, not only does the personhood of the Holy Spirit become apparent (one cannot lie to an impersonal entity), but the Holy Spirit is also equated with God Himself.
Another example lies in Acts 13:1-2, in which the Holy Spirit speaks and calls out Paul and Barnabas, sending them out for the work ordained for them. In this passage, the Holy Spirit clearly assumes divine authority. We read,
1 Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. 2While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3 So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.
A further passage we might look to is Ephesians 4:30, in which we are instructed “do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” Here, the Holy Spirit displays attributes of personhood — one cannot grieve an impersonal force. The Holy Spirit is also identified as a personal agent in Isaiah 63:10, where we are told that the Israelites in the wilderness grieved God's Holy Spirit which had been placed in the midst of them.
The Holy Spirit is endowed with a will in 1 Corinthians 12:11: “All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.” 1 Corinthians 2:10-11 also ascribes knowledge to the Holy Spirit:
The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.
Mark 3:29 indicates that it is even possible to blaspheme against the Holy Spirit! Only God is able to be blasphemed.
Psalm 139:7-10 also indicates that the Spirit of God is omnipresent:
7 Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
We also learn of the omnipresence of the Holy Spirit in John 14:17, where we are told that the Spirit that Christ will send will dwell within believers. Only the attribute of omnipresence could allow the Spirit to be with believers all over the world at the same time.
We also learn in Hebrews 9:14 that the Holy Spirit is eternal (“Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God”).
Conclusion
To conclude, the concept of the Trinity — the proposition that God, though being one in essence, is comprised of three divine persons — is thoroughly grounded in Scripture. The Bible attests to the complete and perfect deity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Though the Father, Son and Spirit are distinct and non-synonymous, the doctrine does not violate the law of non-contradiction since theology concerning the Trinity maintains that God is one in a sense and three in a different sense. Christians can thus confidently assert and defend the Triune nature of God, a doctrine extremely unlikely to have arisen as a human invention in the context of monotheistic Judaism.

21 comments:

Nojmul Huda said...

Those who believe in Jesus and His miraculous conception by Holy Spirit as Muslim and Jehovah witness do, must believe in teaching of Jesus found in the Bible. Because, He alone is from above and we all other are from this world, including Muhammad. Whatever Jesus says about above is true. Our faith would be incomplete, if we don’t believe His full teaching.

We do not see God, but Jesus does. Jesus said whoever sees Him sees His Father. And in another occasion, He told us to pray to God the Father and even to Him for any physical need of this word. He even said that He would send Holy Spirit (the helper), so that His followers in all time even today won’t feel orphan. And by virtue of Holy Spirit all Christians of today find strength and hope even in this trouble time.

All these teaching implies that God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit are three distinct essence but one God. Thanks David for spreading Good News for enlightens our faith.

IT Guy said...

"It is understood that Judaism was the first monotheistic religion, the idea that there is only one God. A religious Jewish person would recite Deuteronomy 6:4 more often then any other verse “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one!". It is called the Shema.

From a Jewish prospective, the tri-unity of God seems to contradict the very foundation of their faith. The question of the character and nature of Jesus causes a primary problem for people who are Jewish or Muslim. The Christian claim of salvation through Jesus might cause someone to have many questions. We will look at the Shema and some Rabbinical Jewish concepts to explain how God can be complex in his unity."

"The words used to describe God's nature in the Hebrew Scriptures support the concept of the tri-unity of God. Contrary to the Rabbinical writings, it is difficult to hold on to the idea of God's absolute oneness. A deep evaluation of the Hebrew Scriptures shows us that God's nature is complex and the concept of the complexity of God is even supported in Rabbinic Jewish Thought."

Read the following article:
<a href="http://www.gnfi.org/articles/sharing-yeshua/97-articles/sharing-yeshua/291-trinity>God's Tri-Unity</a>

Shalom!

IT Guy said...

Another great article:

Tri-Unity is Jewish

"While it is universally admitted by both Jews and Christians that God is One and that there is no one beside Him, we are also compelled to acknowledge that the tri-unity of God is clearly taught in the Torah, the Prophets, and in the Writings - that is in the whole Tenach, the Hebrew Scriptures of the Old Testament, and the New Testament. Not only in the Tenach but also in the Talmudical and Rabbinical writings this concept is well known."

Read the article
Tri-Unity is Jewish

Pcc B said...

a problem is that most New Testament scholars do NOT think the historical Jesus considered himself to be God. Finding out why can be a fascinating discovery...

Xen said...

Nojmul, your Trinitarian theology as expressed in your comment is slightly wrong. There are not three essences, but one essence in three persons, yet there is only One God.

I am an Orthodox Christian, from the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Christian Church. Every year during Pascha, we chant these words from the hymn book the Lenton Triodion:

Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit

'I am the Trinity, simple and undivided, yet divided in persons, and I am the Unity, by nature One', says the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Amen.

It is important to get this right, as all theology comes from this.

Martin said...

This is an excellent article. The diagram, however, raises questions. Those engaged in dialogue with the Jehovah’s Witnesses, for example, might want to know the original Eastern understanding of the Trinity before irregular developments took hold in the West.

In the West, in contrast to the Orthodox East, there is a tendency to locate the source of divinity in the one divine essence, rather than in God the Father who is the source of the essence. In the Eastern understanding, in which the West once fully shared, there is only one God, not because there is only one essence but because there is only one Father. The term “God”, with very few exceptions (notwithstanding the above quotations), refers primarily to the Father. In other words, it is the Father who is the eternal source of divinity both of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Consequently, the Son is consubstantially and eternally God because he is the only-begotten of the Father, in timeless and eternal action. The Holy Spirit is consubstantially and eternally God because he proceeds from the Father, in timeless and eternal action (compare Jn. 1:14; 15:26). Erosion of this understanding increased with Latin Augustinian speculation, lacking Greek precision, and later, in the 11th Century, with Papal endorsement of the creedal alteration that the Spirit proceeds from both the Father and the Son (the “filioque”. The Son’s subsequent sending of the Spirit to the disciples involves different terminology – compare Jn.15:26). This alleging of two eternal Causes of the Spirit, ruptured the Church’s traditional understanding of the Holy Trinity, by confusing the Spirit’s understood consubstantiality with the Father as the sole fountainhead of divinity. In consequence, as is well known, the Eastern Church rejected the Pope’s inadmissible creedal alteration. The ecclesial breach caused by this remains an issue to this day, despite recent reconciliatory efforts. The concern being addressed here, however, is that by being offered rationalistic Western perspectives, which easily relegate the terms “Father” and “Son” to mere relational symbolism, people like the Jehovah’s Witnesses unnecessarily continue to see a conflict between the Trinity and Biblical terminology; a terminology which more than suggests that the Father is indeed the source of the Son’s and the Holy Spirit’s existence, albeit "ineffable, inconceivable, invisible, incomprehensible, ever existing and eternally the same" (Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom).

With thanks and kind regards,

Martin

Richard said...

Fom the article
"When cultists come to your door, however, they will often attempt to find some wiggle room by crafty manipulations of the Greek. If (like me) you are not well acquainted with Greek, and are thus not competent in demonstrating their abuse of it, this can be quite daunting."

There is also one very simple argument. If the Greek text were somehow undermining of the doctrine of the Trinity then how come the Greek Church - which still reads the original text in its services - has been the strongest advocate of the traditional Christian concept of the Trinity for most of the last 2000 years!

julie said...

Very helpful read.
Thanks

Simple Logic said...

Several things I have never understand about Islam concerning Trinity:

1. Muslim always questions how could one equals three, the problem with their assertion Quran forbids for any effort to 'measure' God "..and there is nothing that could be compared with Him" , Q 112:4. How could they ask for explanation when factually God's Oneness would be immeasurable if they followed Q 112:4? What is the standard to measure Oneness of God and disallowed His Oneness to be Triune since practically Q 112:4 forbids in putting any 'measure' toward God?

2.Muslim always asks how could Son equal with Father ? but again being confronted with Q 112:4 the positioning of Father toward Son and vice versa shouldn't be compared with mortals.

(Doctrinally speaking the term God the Son is unique exclusively within God's own uniqueness that the term Son doesn't make Lord Jesus less equal than the Father, as for my personal interpretation I believe title 'Son' is related with eternally predestined role of God The Logos for being reincarnated and then incorporate human to be with Him through communion with His Body so ordinary mortal man like you and me can become 'Son of God )


3. Muslim likes to question, how can God be separated? but again if muslim were consistent with Q 112:4 then they should realize time,space and distance can't be used to measure nor define God's unity.

4. Muslim always objects the doctrine of Trinity based on their Quran, however Quran describes Trinity to be a Tri-theism doctrine which consists of Father,Mary and Jesus. I think there's a legal term for this called 'Irrelevant accusation'.

5. Muslim accuses christianity has deviated from OT monotheism however how would they explain the Spirit of God at beginning of creation in Gen.1, who is also Omnipotent in Psalm 139:7-12? And Father as Ancient of Day along with His Son in the Book of Daniel ? The only way to object these overwhelming proofs muslim have no other way than to bring up 'corrupted OT theory' again, yet since Qumran scroll is dated before Christ, muslim would just prove that Allah has been incompetent even before time of Christ because Allah had been letting his Holy Book to be corrupted and lost over and over again.

6. And what's with this propaganda about the only true religion is Islam for worshiping only One God? This is just false statement. Judaism, Yazidism, Bahai and Druze are also worshiping One God in Unitarian way (opposite to Trinitarian monotheism), but still they are also deemed as infidels.

7. Lastly, it puzzles me when Muslim deny the divinity of Holy Spirit for misidentifying him as angel when Holy Spirit in arabic Quran is the Spirit of Al-Quddus and muslim fully knows al-Quddus(The Holy) is one of 99 sacred names of Allah, moreover Muslim can not deny this because the accepted and recognized definition of the terminology for Holy Spirit in Quran is not the Spirit from the Holy One but instead the Spirit who is The Holy .

Gazza Sloane said...

@Richard

I've encountered this before from a JW who claimed he was speaking to a Greek person who could read Koine Greek and they transfer john 1 as "a god". I told him his Greek friend should go back to school. He didn't seem to like that joke very much. But as I can't read it myself I have to trust others such as Dr James White that they don't ignore truth to keep their world view like some Muslims do.

Martin said...

Hi ‘Simple Logic’

Your “personal interpretation” is interesting, but not novel. (Apart from the “reincarnation” you mention, with reference to your understanding of Christ’s “incarnation”; unless this is simply an inadvertent ‘slip of the pen.’)

The view you espouse, that the Son was the Logos but not the Son prior to the incarnation, has been used to circumvent tricky JW arguments. I discussed it some years ago with a church elder friend. He was not impressed! He had studied Greek, knew his Bible and enough Church history to want to uphold the Son’s eternality. He kindly wrote to me pointing to such verses as Hebrews 1:1,5,6, 8 and 10:

“God... has in these last days spoken to us by his Son, whom he has appointed heir of all things, through whom also he made the ages....” “For to which of the angels did he ever say: ‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you?...But when he again brings the firstborn into the world, he says, ‘Let all the angels of God worship him’...But to the Son he says, ‘Your throne, O God, is forever and ever...You Lord, in the beginning, laid the foundation of the earth. And the heavens are the work of your hands.’”

My informed friend particularly wanted me to notice that God made the ages through his Son. Notice too that the superiority of the Son over the angels rests in the very fact that he is in truth the Son, since, “He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they. For to which of the angels did he ever say: You are My Son, today I have begotten you,” In consequence of this, the Son has always been superior to the angels, because, to repeat, he has always been the only begotten Son, the Creator of the angels and the universe. Therefore, “all the angels of God [are to] worship him” “the firstborn” (Heb.1:6). The “today” – “today I have begotten you” -, is eternity: it is not limited by time. This is shown by its use in connection with the Son’s superiority over the angels and by its use in connection with his resurrection: “God... has raised up Jesus, as it is written...: “You are my Son, Today I have begotten you” (Acts 13:33). Notice how untied to time the terms “today” and “begotten” are. The quoted psalm is utilized both in connection with his supremacy as Son over the angels (an eternal supremacy and therefore an eternal birth) and also at his resurrection, with its clear affirmation: “declared to be the Son of God...by the resurrection from the dead” (Rom.1:4). Even more, “To the Son he says, ‘Your throne, O God, is forever and ever...” To the Son he says, “You, Lord, in the beginning laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands (Heb.1:10).” And the Son himself says: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son that your Son may glorify you...And now, O Father, glorify me together with yourself, with the glory which I had with you before the world was (Jn.17:5).” The Son speaks of his eternal glory with his Father before the world. If the Son was not always the Son, then the Father was not always the Father.

Surely, the most natural way of understanding such passages is to recognise the eternal relationship of the eternal Son to the eternal Father. “And the Word became flesh...and we beheld his glory.” What kind of glory was this? “Glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” (Jn.1:14). Did this glory only begin in Bethlehem or before time itself?

Yet arguments alone cannot convince. Thankfully many of our personal interpretations, well meaning and interesting as they may be, were examined centuries ago by the one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church which sought God’s guidance, having come out of great persecution, hardship and a divisive Arian dispute, as mentioned in the main article. According to the bedrock of her Nicene Creed, compiled for our spiritual good and salvation, God’s Son is “begotten, not made, begotten from the Father before all time.”

Kind regards,

Martin

Andrew said...

I printed this out and gave it to a JW this morning who has a stall near where I work.

Simple Logic said...

@Brother Martin
(Apart from the “reincarnation” you mention, with reference to your understanding of Christ’s “incarnation”; unless this is simply a slip of a pen) hahaha.. u got me there , sorry for the typo,the correct term should be incarnation


(The view you espouse, that the Son was the Logos but not the Son prior to the incarnation)Forgive me for not elaborating it more clearly because actually that's not what I've meant with the line , "my personal interpretation I believe title 'Son' is related with eternally predestined role of God The Logos for being incarnated". If you notice the word 'eternally predestined role..... for being incarnated', what I meant with that phrase is Jesus the Living Logos of God has hold the status of God the Son since eternity because Jesus the Logos of God has eternally predestined Himself to be the only one among the Triune Godhead who would incarnate himself to be human and died then rose from the dead to save the mankind as being depicted in Rev 13:8 that He is the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world.

What's the different between Holy Spirit proceeds from Father and Lord Jesus the Living Logos being begotten by the Father? For me Jesus the Living Logos actually also proceeds from the Fathereternally just as the same as The Holy Spirit however the reason why a different term being used here(begotten by)is because Lord Jesus the Living Logos holds the title 'Son of God'.

The title God the Son itself is never mentioned anywhere in the Bible unlike Son of God, so the way I read God the Son is, God (who is) Son of God, but again please don't get me wrong God(who is)Son of God is the eternal name of Lord Jesus the Logos and not just occurred after incarnation.

Title of Son of God as we all know, also applies to mere human-believer therefore since Lord Jesus the Logos before time begun had predestined Himself to become human whom later would be called Son of God then in predestination's perspective I believe Lord Jesus had already eternally hold the title Son of God before the creation of man.

So maybe my view is unconventional , because again for me the eternal title of Son of God here is not because Lord Jesus is begotten by God like a woman in labor but because He has been eternally predestined Himself to become Man, however still Lord Jesus undeniably does proceed eternally from Father like Holy Spirit and that's why I do still accept the word begotten but for me it's just another term for 'proceeding'.

Martin said...

Thanks for your reply ‘Simple Logic’

Your elaborated view is intriguing, but I am still unable to distinguish any essential diminishment of my earlier evaluation: You believe, “that the Son was the Logos but not the Son prior to the incarnation” (with the proviso, of course, as you wish to remind me, that although he was indeed called the Son prior to the incarnation, the title merely anticipated the incarnation, being devoid of any substantive meaning before then, other than, “he eternally predestined Himself to become Man”). Assuming I have understood you correctly, your view is, as you say, “unconventional”. Some would say it is heretical (meant in no other sense than it is an opinion arising outside the Orthodox Church). Nevertheless, further logical support for your view is alleged by Rev.13:8, quoted as follows: “He is the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world” (emphasis yours). Logic tells us that he was not literally slain then, therefore logic tells us he was not literally the eternal only begotten Son of God prior to the incarnation as understood by the Orthodox Church. Logic tells us that it was only when the Logos became flesh that the term “Son” had any substantive meaning. But what has logic got to do with divine realities and the interpretation of Scripture? Has God not already told us, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; I will bring the discernment of the discerning to nothing...Where is the debater of this world? Has not God ridiculed the wisdom of this world?” (1 Cor.1:19, 20) Nevertheless, the following translation of Revelation 13:8, in context, might help to clear matters up for you:

“All who dwell on the earth will express adoration to him [the beast]; everyone whose name has not, from the foundation of the world, been written in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain.”

Even if this legitimate translation is rejected, in the final analysis it should be enough to say that the Councils of the Church have not endorsed your arguments. Why, therefore, would I or anyone else come to that, want to entertain such speculations or imagine them in the Scriptures? The Son, as the only begotten of the Father, and the Spirit, as the One proceeding from him, may have no essential difference of meaning for you, but, since the Church is content to accept and affirm in the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed that there is indeed a difference, as far as it can be understood, leaving all else in the incomprehensibleness of God, let us in humility do likewise.

Having spent too many years considering all manner of theological views, there came a time when I decided to stop imagining that I could figure it all out by myself. Like many others, I now look to “the Church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth”, instead of my own limited heretical understanding (1 Timothy 3:15). Hopefully, you will do the same. If not, then may God be with you as he has been, in his mercy, with me.

Thanks and kind regards,

Martin

Simple Logic said...

{ Logic tells us that he was not literally slain then, therefore logic tells us he was not literally the eternal only begotten Son of God prior to the incarnation}

Fair review, however Predestination and Eternity are 'beyond' our logic, please take careful attention on the word eternal here, from eternal perspective God sees something as 'done', sure predestination is still quite debatable especially regarding human will, personal salvation , good and bad events that happen in the world, and etc but what I'm bringing here is predestination concerning God's will in relation with his own essence which obviously more firm and fixed than human will or any happening events in the world.

{ Some would say it is heretical (meant in no other sense than it is an opinion arising outside the Orthodox Church)} I think not until recently in 20th century, for those who reject Filioque are deemed as heretic while on the other side for accepting it is deemed heretic.

{ But what has logic got to do with divine realities ?}Amen for that brother !

{All who dwell on the earth will express adoration to him [the beast]; everyone whose name has not, from the foundation of the world, been written in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain} Hopefully this other verse would somehow satisfy you, (1 Ptr 1:20)He was foreordained before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake.

{The Son, as the only begotten of the Father, and the Spirit, as the One proceeding from him, may have no essential difference of meaning for you} Correct as I've stated before for me proceeding and begotten is basically similar process, though The eternal Son and The Holy Spirit obviously distinct persons.


{Having spent too many years considering all manner of theological views, there came a time when I decided to stop imagining that I could figure it all out by myself} A good advice for both of us, i presume it should also be applied in figuring how Holy Spirit proceeds twice from the Father and Son.

God Bless u brother.

Geoff said...

Curious that the article doesn't strongly present Jesus' words about himself. There are all the "I AM" statements that were clearly interpreted by those around him as claims of being God. Right from the beginning when he spoke in synagogue and read Isaiah and claimed it was about Him. He was worshipped and accepted worship. He claimed oneness with the Father: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? When questioned by the Caiaphas, Jesus said, “But I say to all of you: From now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Which they interpreted as blasphemy. Thomas who after the resurrection said, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus accepted the attribution saying, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” It just goes on and on.

Martin said...

Hi Simple Logic,

Thanks for your assessment of my “fair review” of your position.

If you wish to keep denying the Orthodox view of the eternality of the Son which, aside from the variations already mentioned in my previous blogs, is believed by Orthodox, Roman Catholics and all main stream Protestants, then that’s up to you.

With regard to the Holy Spirit proceeding twice, hours could be spent in correcting this view. Thankfully, this has already been done. Before consulting such sources, if you are so inclined, you may wish to read John 15:26. There are two specific words used here (not always clear in some modern translations). Our Lord says he will send the Spirit who proceeds from the Father, revealing that, ontologically, procession is from the Father, not the Son, who then sends the Spirit to his disciples. 20th Century accusations of heresy concerning this, which apparently interest you, cannot change reality, having little relevance to the stability of the historical Church which rests on Holy Scripture and the original authoritative Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed. If some wish to follow the Pope (of that time), who decided to overrule the words of Christ, the Church, and the 4th Ecumenical Council, the Council of Chalcedon, which forbade any additions or changes to the Creed, then that’s up to them. Would it not, however, be wiser to submit all contention regarding the filioque to the realities of history? A useful site to visit, to save time rummaging through the many tomes, is as follows: Orthodox Reformed Bridge (Sept. 2013).

All the best,

Martin

Jerubbaal said...

In First Epistle of John in KJV we read
5:7 For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.
In the NIV
5:7 For there are three that testify:

In http://biblehub.com/interlinear/1_john/5-7.htm interlibear translation we have about 1 John 5:7
For three there are - bearing testimony in – heaven the Father the Word and the Holy Spirit and these - three one are

Simple Logic said...

(If you wish to keep denying the Orthodox view of the eternality of the Son which)

Denying the eternality of the Son ?

As far as I'm concerned I do not deny the eternality of the Second Person of Godhead; because:

a. I firmly believe Lord Jesus The Logos has existed Eternally as The 2th Person of Godhead in His Physical Godly form which is the same substance as the Father (Nicene Homousia) though still distinctly different from Father and Holy Spirit.

b. My different 'interpretation' is only on defining the title 'Son', while my belief on the ETERNAL literal existence of Lord Jesus as the 2th Person of Trinity who's also wholly Physically God is fully inline with orthodoxy.

c. About the term Son proceeding from The Father , one interesting fact this terminology was also used by St.Tertullian who used it along with begotten and used both terminologies interchangeably to describe the process of Lord Jesus came out from the Father. Since in the 'original orthodox view' of Church Father such as St.Tertullian , the word 'proceeding' was indeed used both for Holy Spirit and The Son however then to assume my using of this terminology indicates unorthodoxy or even 'heretical' surely it is quite an overstatement.

d. Again the Second Person of Godhead is fully eternally physically 100% God BUT the Son of God title though also eternally possessed but the realization of the title was completed at the time of incarnation WITHOUT any impact on Lord Jesus existence BEFORE the Incarnation as the fully & literally 2th Person of Godhead.


To make it clearer, for me my view on the ETERNAL existence of Lord Jesus as The PERSON of God is fully inline with orthodoxy, while the thing which I consider 'unconventional' and any might review it as 'unorthodox' is only about the TITLE. I perceive the title The Word of God(Rev 19:13)for Lord Jesus as a title that needs no 'completion' in time while the title Son of God though also eternally hold but needs completion through Incarnation.

God Bless u brother Martin

Martin said...

Hi Simple Logic,

Your response is appreciated. Our discussions have already highlighted the main differences of your view regarding the Son of God when compared with the Eastern Orthodox Church in particular. You have not denied those differences, but kindly conceded my earlier review to be ‘fair’.

For reasons which are widely known, Tertullian’s contributions, though helpful in many ways, are not considered to be the final statement of the Orthodox position. We can only hope that your ascription of sainthood to him is indeed correct, since, regrettably, his growing dislike and bitterness towards the Church, and his eventual departure into Montanism, has never enabled such official canonization.

For these reasons this dialogue has probably reached its amicable closure.

All the best,

Martin


Simple Logic said...

St.Ignatius of Anthioch the direct disciple of Apostle John and also who's appointed as Bishop by Apostle Peter personally in fact has similar concept as mine.

St.Ignatius uses the term Jesus as the Logos 'proceeding' from the Father while also interchangeably use the word begotten to define the process.

St.Ignatius also seems to give a strong notion for holding the view that the Sonship of Christ was realized only after incarnation as being analyzed by catholic theologian Edmund J Frotman although regarding this subject , two significant points have to be noted:

a. As being analyzed by Edmud J Frotman, even if St.Ignatius did view Christ Sonship only fully realized after incarnation nevertheless still he clearly didn't deny Christ pre-existence as 2th Person of Godhead as he stated, ‘from eternity was with the Father and at last appeared to us’ (Magn. 6.1)

b.Though I agree with Frotman's analysis yet I differentiate my opinion and go further to conclude St.Ignatius did still believe in divine sonship prior to incarnation but view it in the sense as an eternal status/title /position that needs completion in time.without any impact on Christ eternal divine physical existence as second Person of Godhead

{For these reasons this dialogue has probably reached its amicable closure.} I'm glad we can agree to disagree and still be considered as brother.

GBU