Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Were Ignatius and Justin Martyr Trinitarian? Paul Williams Refuted

A video was released yesterday featuring a dialogue at Speaker's Corner in Hyde Park, London, involving myself, and Muslim apologists Mansoor Ahmed, Paul Williams, and Abu Ismail Al Farsi. Speaker's Corner is not my preferred venue for participating in such dialogues. I much prefer formal moderated debate where we can focus on a specific topic (instead of jumping from topic to topic) and where each side has equal time to fully articulate and defend its case. To-date, Mansoor and Paul have refused to participate in such a debate, despite invitations to do so.

I note that notorious Muslim blogger Ijaz Ahmed is already claiming that Mansoor "stumped" me -- I will allow viewers to be the judge of that. Ijaz claims that I became "increasingly frustrated and angry with being asked to explain [my] reasoning and beliefs." Actually, I became increasingly frustrated at being asked the same questions repeatedly even though I had already given answers multiple times. Mansoor was repeatedly asking me whether the Father, Son and Spirit are each 100% God as opposed to a third of God. As discussed in an earlier blog post, both are in a sense true. The Father, Son and Spirit are indeed each 100% God if by "God" you mean that they possess all of the divine attributes, prerogatives, qualities, and privileges. But each is a third of God if by God you refer to the totality of the being of God -- i.e. the Godhead or Trinity. To state otherwise would be to entertain the heresy of tritheism. The divine essence is a qualitative infinite; It therefore cannot be divided. I tried to explain this to Paul and Mansoor multiple times during the course of the discussion. Since they were evidently not listening to the answers I was giving and instead persisting in repeating the same questions, I decided it was time for me to move on.

Anyway, there are a number of points that came up in the discussion that can be fleshed out further. Besides clarifying Mansoor's and Paul's misconception in regards to the Trinity, there is also Paul William's mishandling of the various texts in the New Testament that speak of Jesus having a God over him and God working through the person of Jesus -- see my article here for a thorough refutation of Paul's claims on this.

I want to respond here to another claim that Paul made during the course of the discussion. Paul made the assertion that the early church fathers were not Trinitarian. He made particular allusion to Ignatius of Antioch and Justin Martyr, the works of both of whom I have read in their entirety.

Does Ignatius Affirm the Trinity?

Here is an excerpt from Ignatius' letter to the church of Ephesus:
“There is only one Physician --
Very flesh, yet Spirit too;
Uncreated, and yet born;
God-and-Man in One agreed,
Very-Life-in-Death indeed,
Fruit of God and Mary’s seed;
At once impassible and torn
By pain and suffering here below;
Jesus Christ, whom as our Lord we know.”  
Deaf as stones you were: yes, stones for the Father’s Temple, stones trimmed ready for God to build with, hoisted up by the derick of Jesus Christ (the cross) with the Holy Spirit for a cable; your faith being the winch that draws you to God, up the ramp of love.”
In this text, we have allusion to the Father, as well as the Son (who is identified as God) and mention is made of the Holy Spirit. In the very same epistle, he later writes,
“As for me, my spirit is now all humble devotion to the Cross: the Cross which so greatly offends the unbelievers, but is salvation and eternal life to us. Where is your wise man now, or your subtle debater? Where are the fine words of our so-called intellectuals? Under the divine dispensation, Jesus Christ our God was conceived by Mary of the seed of David and of the Spirit of God; He was born, and He submitted to baptism, so that by His passion He might sanctify water.”
Again, this text refers to Jesus Christ as God and speaks of the Holy Spirit as being the "Spirit of God". Since Ignatius affirms monotheism, and affirms the deity of the Father, Son and Spirit while distinguishing them from each other as individuals, how can one assert that Ignatius does not affirm the Trinity?

Does Justin Martyr Affirm the Trinity?

Justin Martyr, contrary to the assertions of Paul Williams, likewise affirmed the Trinity. Here is an excerpt from chapter 6 of his First Apology:
"Hence are we called atheists. And we confess that we are atheists, so far as gods of this sort are concerned, but not with respect to the most true God, the Father of righteousness and temperance and the other virtues, who is free from all impurity. But both Him, and the Son (who came forth from Him and taught us these things, and the host of the other good angels who follow and are made like to Him), and the prophetic Spirit, we worship and adore, knowing them in reason and truth, and declaring without grudging to every one who wishes to learn, as we have been taught."
Now, Justin Martyr tells us in both chapters 16 and 17 of the same letter that God alone is to be worshipped. Since Justin Martyr affirmed monotheism, and that God alone is to be worshipped, and that the distinct individuals of the Father, Son and Spirit are to be worshipped, how can one assert that Justin Martyr did not affirm the doctrine of the Trinity?

To conclude, Paul Williams is simply mistaken in his assertions concerning the beliefs of second-century church fathers Ignatius and Justin Martyr. Will Paul, I wonder, be willing to retract those assertions, or refute my interpretation, on his blog? Better still, will he be willing to engage me in a formal moderated debate on the historical roots and/or Biblical basis of Trinitarianism? I am certainly very willing to engage with him.


Andrew said...

Terrific stuff. TKO in the first round. As expected William's has resorted to puerile insults. Kudos Jonathan.

Radical Moderate said...

Homosexual revert turned apostate turned revert again Paul Williams shot himself in the head during this encounter.

He objected to the doctrine of the trinity because it was made illegal punishable by death to believe or speak out about anything else. In his words "Thats why for a thousand years people where afraid to speak up, because they would be killed"

Can anyone spot the problem with this objection?