Response to Typical Defense of the Trinity Doctrine
by Standford Rives, Esq. (Contact me at
) [Reprinted here with permission.]
I am going to review the arguments of a renown apologist named Greg in favor of the trinity doctrine. He is an excellent rhetorician in favor of the trinity. This popular author ultimately will state a position as best as possible. I admire and love hearing his apologetics arguments. He is a great defender of our common faith. In Greg, you will get as close to a defensible position as one can find. Greg in November 2015 decided to directly defend the Trinity doctrine as stated in the Athanasian creed. (It is the same in the Westminster Confession -- the creed of the Reformed of which Greg includes himself. See quote of Westminster in Study Notes at end.)
Here I discuss part 1 of Greg's presentation in the PDF available at that highlighted link from his website.
To remind the reader, I believe Jesus on earth had divinity but not deity. Jesus is divine because the "Father dwells in me..." (John 14:10.) This explains all the proof texts of trinitarians, I contend. The Shekinah, also known as divinity in Judaism, resided upon Jesus, rendering him DIVINE, but not Deity.
Divinity means "qualities of individuals who are considered to have some special access or relationship to the divine." ("Divinity," Wikipedia.) Jesus was no more Deity than either the burning bush fire from which God's presence spoke on Sinai, or the Temple of Jerusalem in which God's Shekinah resided. Yet, in Judaism, both the Temple and the presence of Yahweh at Sinai are each regarded as Divinity Abiding, Divine, etc.
Now turning to Greg's article, Greg introduces and then quotes the Athanasian creed as follows
The Athanasian Creed (A.D. 450), the classical creedal formulation, starts this way:
We worship one God in Trinity and
Trinity in unity, neither confounding
[blending, mixing together] their
persons, nor dividing their essence. For
the person of the Father is a distinct
person, the person of the Son is another,
and that of the Holy Spirit still another.
But the divinity of the Father, Son, and
Holy Spirit is one, their glory equal, their
majesty coeternal. [PDF at page 8, col. 1]
Then Greg criticizes the expressly polytheistic views of Christ as God such as the Mormons' view. Greg then criticizes the oneness view where Jesus is deity as a 'mode' of God -- which Greg summarily rejects as the heresy of 'modalism' because some council over 1000 years ago said so. These are all Red Herrings, sad to say. These arguments do nothing to prove Greg's point, needlessly delaying Greg from getting to the point.
Finally Greg states his view of the Trinity. At page 9 of the 11 page PDF, we finally learn Greg's view:
What if I said there is only one who is God by
nature, and I said the one God subsists in three
distinct persons? He is one individual divine being
with three distinct centers of consciousness. Would
that be a contradiction? No, it is not
....each of these persons is fully God. [PDF page 8, col. 1.]
Greg is defending that God is ONE even if it involves "three distinct centers of consciousness" or "three persons." Each person, he explains, is "fully God."
Incidentally, Greg is adopting verbatim the explanation in Erickson, Making Sense of the Trinity: Three Crucial Questions (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2000) at 67. Hence, Greg's explanation is nothing new. Greg has not discovered some new explanation of the Trinity. Greg is merely defending the traditional doctrine.
By describing persons as 'three centers of consciousness,' as Erickson describes what is a 'person,' who are each fully God, Greg contends this does not violate the entola -- a Greek word meaning 'command or principle' -- which Jesus said was the greatest of all commands (Mark 12:28-31) -- quoting Deuteronomy 6:4. In the original Hebrew of what Jesus quoted, it reads:
Hear, Israel: Yahweh is our God; Yahweh is one: (World English Bible.)
We also should remember Deuteronomy 4:35 explains: "Yahweh is God; there is none else beside him."
(Why did the name "Yahweh" not appear in Jesus' quote of a specific text where "Yahweh" is present? Because Jews in the era of 200 AD, and Christians by the 300 AD period removed "Yahweh" from holy scripture. Both replaced it with Adonai = meaning "Lord" = in the Hebrew texts. And both replaced "Yahweh" with Kyrios = meaning "Lord" in Greek texts. Professor Howard makes a good case that our Christian texts were modified by the early 300s as much as Jews had transformed their texts by that point to erase YAHWEH for such 'pious' reasons. What were their reasons? Their explanation is known as the man-made Ineffable Name Doctrine. God's name supposedly could not be written or else it would be sacrilege to throw a draft page of the Bible in the trash, if necessary, due to copying errors. So rather than risk such supposed sacrilege, they removed "Yahweh" from any physical drafting of a copy of the Bible.)
But Greg's simply saying "three distict persons" are "one being" is supposedly not a contradiction of God's word does not make it so. Greg's statement that God is One, and God is three persons who are each fully God, is a clear contradiction in terms. Saying it is not a contradiction does not make it not a contradiction.
As David Kemball Cook aptly put it in the Problem of the Trinity:
The famous problem of the Trinity is that no way can be found of defining a Trinity with three distinct Persons of equal divinity [sic: deity] which does not also imply three different gods. If the Persons are truly distinct, with separate consciousness, wills, memories and emotions, and they share a divine [sic: deity] nature, then they are three distinct divine [sic: deity] beings, i.e. three gods. [PDF Link, p. 2.]
Incidentally, you can see Mr. Cook like other anti-Trinitarians often confuse the word "divinity" with "deity." They don't mean the same thing. Deity means you are God. Divinity, as demonstrated above, means one has a close connection to one who is Deity. Because the Athanasian creed says each person of the trinity is God, then in restating the creed the correct word to use is Deity, not divinity to expose the self-contradiction with the God-is-one principle.
Ironically, Greg responds to Cook-like criticisms by saying "an objector cannot properly argue against the Trinity (as they often do) by pointing to Scripture showing that there is only One God....We agree with [this point.]" (PDF page 8, col. 2]
But again, this fails to see that if God is a Trinity of three persons of separate consciousness who each are God, then this violates the concession of the Trinitarian that God Yahweh is One. Hence, it is a self-contradiction. To repeat, saying you believe in One God, and that you can also believe three persons are in One God, and each are fully God, but each are distinct persons of separate minds and wills, does not make it so. It is self-contradictory of the concession, and hence unbiblical.
Why Such Blindness To Words on the Paper?
When one makes a self-contradictory statement and asserts it is not self-contradictory, it is due to some external pressure to conform the unconformable to an impossible view. This is because, if words have meaning, "three distinct centers of consciousness" or "three persons" is a multiple of beings. You can say it is one being, but you would be deluding and deceiving yourself.
So ultimately, while Greg promised some proof of the trinity, he ultimately merely affirms a self-contradiction is not self-contradictory and hence his case for the Trinity as a coherent idea is supposedly proven.
The Pressure Upon Greg
Greg is clearly under pressure because he admits that in Part I he is not trying to prove the trinity is otherwise Biblical or true, but simply that if you say God is one being but three persons is not self-contradictory. Here is how he finishes his point to his Part 1 proof dedicated to proving the trinity is not self-contradictory:
Anyone who says the Trinity is contradictory is not listening
carefully to our view and has fallen prey to the
“straw man” fallacy. That does not mean the doctrine
is true. It does not mean the doctrine is biblical. It
simply means the Trinity, properly understood, is not
Demonstrating that the Trinity is truly biblical is
another task, and that will be the focus of part II of
“The Trinity: A Solution, Not a Problem.”
What straw man issue is raised by someone not 'listening' to Greg?
A straw-man fallacy is putting weak arguments in your opponent's mouth that misstate his opinion, and then defeating those points. Greg does not attempt to prove that is the problem.
Instead, Greg's own words -- and the words of the Athanasian creed and the Westminster Confession -- are self-contradictory. God cannot be both one and three persons. That simple. And Greg's attempt to say it is the listener's fault for believing that there is a contradiction is the pot trying to call the kettle black. Greg is not listening carefully to his own words. That's the problem.
Greg has a multi-page prologue to help us prepare to accept his self-contradictory statement is not a self-contradictory statement. Let me suggest this prologue contains actually the "pressure" on Greg to not see what he is saying, or what the Athanasian creed is saying. So it is not irrelevant, and thus addressing this prologue will help address why the truth of Jesus' nature as a man indwelled by the Father as Jesus said - in John 14:10 -- is ignored.
Error No. 1: The Athanasian Creed is From 450 AD
Greg says the Athanasian creed is from 450 AD. Greg is claiming the Trinity was a grand culmination that is long settled. But in fact, as Calvin once said in the 1500s, the Athanasian Creed was never accepted by any early lawful church council. Greg is Reformed, so he should be receptive to Calvin's blunt answer when Calvin defended why the word Trinity does not appear in the Geneva Confession of Faith of 1536 which he and Farel wrote: "We have pledged ourselves to the faith in One God, not to faith in Anathanasius, whose creed never received the approbation of any rightful church." (S. Rives, Did Calvin Murder Servetus? at 213.)
I could not put it better myself. But Calvinists today know little of the Calvin who once defended himself from a charge of anti-trinitarianism brought by Lutherans against him at Strassbourg.
Regardless, the Athanasian Creed was only first put in use in the Eighth Century even though not officially adopted at any time by a responsible church until some modern reformed congregations have done so.
See my work Did Calvin Murder Servetus? at page 208 and page 519 -- Appendix H, Athanasian Creed of the Eighth Century.
Incidentally, the Athanasian Creed - first formulated in the 8th Century - implicitly acknowledges the contradiction but tells us how to answer:
Christian truth compels us to confess each person as both God and Lord [but] Catholic religion forbids us to say there are three gods or lords. Id.
This is an obvious fallacy of a special pleading -- saying we have no choice other than saying God is one and three persons, but we cannot say this is three gods because the Bible prohibits that outcome. It is fallacious special pleading. You cannot lose this argument whether this is self-contradictory of the Bible principle, as you have disqualified the disproof which a clear restatement would provide. Such a proponent has changed the playing field of admissible proof -- in order to win the point. See "Fallacy of Special Pleading," Wikipedia.
Moreover, this is also the fallacy of a false dichotomy: either OPTION 1 -- God is One despite being three persons or OPTION 2 - God is three persons and three gods. We have no choice but to choose OPTION 1 as so presented even if it were self-contradictory and illogical. However, this fails to acknowledge there is any third choice to this supposed impossible dilemma. Thus, this is the fallacy of giving us a false set of only two choices. There is always the additional option of accepting Jesus' view - the "father dwells in me" (John 14:10), as we will explore later.
The false set of choices in the Athanasian creed is exposed in this Trinitarian quote from Gregory of Nyssa. This Roman Catholic priest in the 400s formulated in a book the modern Trinity doctrine. He explained this supposed dilemma of just two choices forces us to insist God is composed of three persons who each are God and different in mind and spirit but yet God is one being:
For by the force of the question, we are at first sight compelled to accept one or other of two erroneous opinions, and either to say "there are three Gods," which is unlawful, or not to acknowledge the Godhead of the Son and the Holy Spirit, which is impious and absurd. (On Not Three Gods by Gregory of Nyssa.)
Again, the solution to this false dilemma is easy: Jesus said the Father dwells "in me," in John 14:10. Every proof verse for the Trinity is solved by that simple solution from the mouth of Jesus.
Regardless, whoever wrote this Athanasian creed in Charlemagne's court in the 700s -- and it was not a church council or Athanasius -- realizes saying each person of the three members of the Trinity is God would ordinarily imply there are three gods. So why again isn't that true according to the first formulator of the modern trinity-- Gregory of Nyssa? His answer was: because our religion "forbids" us to say God is more than one being. So we must deny an individual person is the same as an individual being, or otherwise we are supposedly being impious. But that is not a true justification to teach something that violates God's word that He is ONE. It is undue pressure to disregard the plain meaning of words and concepts. A deity person is a deity being. A deity being is a deity person. Three deity persons are never capable of being one deity being.
Hence you see a dogma is involved. You must supposedly accept as truth as an aspect of God something that contradicts God's word that He is One. To do so, you are instructed that you must not utter its logical result for that is prohibited because then the contradiction would be more express. In this manner, the contradiction is thereby supposedly resolved. But rather it was merely suppressed in one's mind.
You see there was never an attempt to deny the tension. It was simply we must accept a self-contradiction and simply never say there are three gods, for that would be supposedly impious and hence wrong. Somehow that reasoning supposedly washes away that there is any contradiction.
But whoever created this Athanasian formula uttered something that is precisely polytheism. Saying it is not so does not make it not so. And thus, and this is important, we may have deified Jesus improperly which means we are violating the first commandment of the Ten Commandments. So this little word game, and self-delusion, can have very dangerous spiritual aspects. It may even impact your eternal life because God calls such behavior idolatry. Yes, even improperly elevating our beloved Lord Jesus to be God alongside the only true God, the Father would be idolatry.
Error No. 2: Our Salvation Supposedly May Be Lost If We Don't Believe in the Trinity
The Athanasian Creed closes that "one cannot be saved without believing it [i.e., the Trinity] firmly and faithfully."Id, at page 520.
Greg's modern-day prologue strongly implies for the earliest Christians that the trinity doctrine was the most important doctrine, and it has something to do with salvation. Greg explains, although conceding later that the word 'trinity' is a second century term:
Put simply, the Trinity and the Gospel are
inseparable. “The gospel is Trinitarian, and the
Trinity is the gospel,” theologian Fred Sanders writes.
“Christian salvation comes from the Trinity, happens
through the Trinity, and brings us home to the
Trinity.” The first-century church understood this. [Page 4, col.2]
Here is how Greg weaves passages to make Jesus supposedly utter that a non-Trinity version of Jesus would be an imposter Jesus and then that the true Jesus supposedly condemns you to hell if you trust this alleged imposter Jesus (i.e.. supposedly any Jesus whose proponents assert is a man and not Himself the true God):
He also warned of “another Jesus” connected to “another Gospel” that believers were falling prey to (2 Cor. 11:4). Jesus, who warned of misleading “false Christ” imposters (Matt. 24:24), told the Pharisees bluntly, “Unless you believe that I am, you will die in your sins (Jn. 8:24) and, “Before Abraham was, I Am” (Jn. 8:58). [PDF page 4.]
How do we construe John 8:58 and 8:24?
1. John 8:58.
Was Jesus saying "I am God" as Greg claims? Or was God indwelling in Jesus (as I contend) speaking and saying "I am God"?
For Jesus unequivocally states in John 14:10 that the "Father in me...dwells in me." And Jesus addresses the Father and calls him "the only true God" in John 17:3.
If Jesus by saying "before Abraham I am" means Jesus says "I am God," as Greg contends, the only possibility consistent with Jesus's own words that only the Father is the true God is that God is speaking through Jesus. And Jesus precisely explains later in John 8 that this is the case when the crowd take up stones to kill him. They stopped, evidently understanding Jesus the Man was not making the claim that He is God, but the voice speaking through Jesus was claiming to be God -- the voice Jesus explained is from the "Father...[who] dwells in me." (John 14:10.)
As David Kemball Cook says in the Problem of the Trinity at page 6:
[T]he Bible really only uses numerical identity when applied to God. When somebody says (truthfully) ‘I am God’, it would have to be Yahweh talking. When it is said of someone that he is God, it is that he is Yahweh. There is no talk in scripture about Godhead... that could be shared between three distinct Persons. There is no talk of divine nature at all, unless it is that divine nature which adopted children of God can also partake of (Colossians 2.10, 2 Peter 1.4).
This role of Jesus as the mouth-piece of God -- exactly like the voice that spoke from the burning bush at Sinai -- was indeed prophesied of a special PROPHET in Deuteronomy 18. Apostle Peter in Acts 3 applies this prophecy to Jesus, and claims Jesus is THE PROPHET of Deuteronomy 18. Hence, if Jesus said "I am God," it is God speaking through Jesus just as if Jesus was the burning bush and you heard a voice say those very same words. Moses explains in Deuteronomy 18 that this special Prophet will fulfill the people's request that God's audible voice in the fire of the burning bush or on the mountain not be heard in such a freightening manner, but in some less freightening manner through a man "like me" (Moses).
The Prophet To Come Would Be Like God Spoke Through the Fire at Sinai
God in Deuteronomy 18 said a special Prophet would come, and similar to the voice that was heard from the burning bush, the words coming from this man would be from God. See Deut 18:18-19. Let's hear this prophecy which Peter in Acts 3 applied as true for Jesus:
15 The Lord [Yahweh] your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him. 16 For this is what you asked of the Lord [Yahweh] your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said, “Let us not hear the voice of the Lord [Yahweh] our God nor see this great fire anymore, or we will die.”
17 The Lord [Yahweh] said to me: “What they say is good. 18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites, and I will put my words in his mouth. He will tell them everything I command him. 19 I myself will call to account anyone who does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name. (Deut. 18:18-19 NIV.)
Note at Jesus' transfiguration, a voice of the same Yahweh speaks from heaven and says of Jesus "listen to Him." (Mark 9:7; Matt 17:5, transfiguration.) God was quoting from heaven Deuteronomy 18 about a "one like you, a fellow Israelite" who would be the conduit fully of "my words" (Yahweh's words) through this man.
Now let's simply read four statements by Jesus in John's Gospel about the Father to let this sink in:
"The Father is greater than I." (John 14:28.)
"I can do nothing by myself." (John 5:19.)
"The Father and I are one." (John 10:30.)
"Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent." (John 17:3.)
Hence, Greg's loading us up that we are following an imposter Jesus cannot apply if we believe Jesus was a man in whom the Father dwelled, and spoke through. Thus, when Jesus says, "Before Abraham was, I am," it is the Father speaking. In fact, Jesus actually explains that as well. Jesus in John 14:24 says the "Logos you hear is not mine, but the Father's who sent me."
Please also compare God speaking in Deuteronomy 18:19 about "my words" are on the lips of this man, this "fellow Israelite" and Jesus making clear the Logos (singular) -- the WORD -- He speaks are "not mine" but the "Father's who sent me." Jesus was pointing us all back to Deuteronomy 18!
2. John 8:24
Remember Greg on page 4 said: "Jesus told the Pharisees bluntly, 'Unless you believe that I am, you will die in your sins' (Jn. 8:24)." Hence, Greg said this proves Jesus was God, and that this was an essential belief or you go to hell.
Depending upon if you trust the leading Bible translations, Greg misquotes John 8:24, and here the variance is designed to directly establish Greg's point -- so it is a material misquote if you trust the leading translations. The grammar of the sentence does not say "unless you believe I am, you will die in your sins." It clearly implies "that I am he" -- in context the Son of Man of Daniel's prophecy in Daniel 7:14 et seq.
Incidentally, in that famous passage, this Son of Man approaches the Ancient of Days who gives him all the kingdoms of the earth to rule. Do not let it escape you that Daniel's prophecy clearly identifies God as Ancient of Days and the Messiah prince who rules as the SON OF MAN -- which literally simply means a human person. This prophecy makes clear who is God and who is Son of Man. This Son of Man is the "he" whom Jesus claimed to be in John 8:24. (Thus Greg's argument not only is wrong but also means that Jesus said that "unless you believe I am a human person, you will die in your sins." Don't overlook that!)
Lest there be any doubt whether a man -- the SON of MAN - can himself be God -- God says emphatically NO! In Numbers 23:19, we read: "God is not a man that He should lie."
Now let's look at the leading translations of John 8:24 which overwhelmingly translate it with "he" which is a reference to SON OF MAN in John 8:28:
I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am he, you will indeed die in your sins." (NIV)
I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins. (KJV)
I said, therefore, to you, that ye shall die in your sins, for if ye may not believe that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.' (YLT)
Only the International Standard Version among leading translations agrees with Greg. It omits "he" just as Greg does.
How do we decide?
Well first, one must remember the KJV is a Puritan / Reformed Calvinist translation. It says "he" is implied, as a reference to "Son of Man" as disclosed in 8:28 which Jesus says is his true identity. That is why "he" is in italics in the KJV. This is correct in full context, because Jesus distinguishes himself from the Father, and says He is the Son of Man, clearly alluding to Daniel 7:14. Next, Jesus says they will then realize He does not speak on his own, but all His words come from the Father. This exactly fits what is the truth - the Father dwelled in Jesus as stated in John 14:10. If Jesus said something that sounded like God speaking -- well aye, Jesus told you why!
Here is the fuller context - John 8:17-29 in the NIV - to demonstrate Jesus was only claiming to be the Son of Man and that the Father spoke through himself:
17 In your own Law it is written that the testimony of two witnesses is true. 18 I am one who testifies for myself; my other witness is the Father, who sent me.” [NOTE: Jesus asserts he and His father are two witnesses, not ONE being that serves as a single witness.]
19 Then they asked him, “Where is your father?”
“You do not know me or my Father,” Jesus replied. “If you knew me, you would know my Father also.” 20 He spoke these words while teaching in the temple courts near the place where the offerings were put. Yet no one seized him, because his hour had not yet come.
Dispute Over Who Jesus Is
21 Once more Jesus said to them, “I am going away, and you will look for me, and you will die in your sin. Where I go, you cannot come.”
22 This made the Jews ask, “Will he kill himself? Is that why he says, ‘Where I go, you cannot come’?”
23 But he continued, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. 24 I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am he, you will indeed die in your sins.”
25 “Who are you?” they asked.
“Just what I have been telling you from the beginning,” Jesus replied. 26 “I have much to say in judgment of you. But he who sent me is trustworthy, and what I have heard from him I tell the world.”
27 They did not understand that he was telling them about his Father. 28 So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up[a] the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. 29 The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.”
So in full context, Greg's misquote or selective quote of the offbeat ISVwas material. The missing "he" in Greg's quote is implied as a reference to Jesus' claim to being the "Son of Man" -- an important figure in Daniel 7 whose title says it all -- "the human being = the Son of Man." In that chapter, the Ancient of Days will give the SON OF MAN rule over all the earth one day. Jesus was not claiming to be God by saying the Pharisees will die in their sins if they do not believe Jesus was the Son of Man in John 8:24, 28. Jesus was saying that unless they believe he was the very human Son of Man, whom God -- the Ancient of Days -- will give all the world's kingdoms, then they will die in their sins. This Son of Man is called Messiah later in Daniel. Hence, Jesus was saying that unless you believe he is the prophesied Son of Man-Messiah of Daniel, the pharisees will die in their sins.
Greg has replaced that message with the unfounded change that Jesus supposedly said that unless you believe Jesus is God you will die in your sins. A big difference, and a very dangerous misinterpretation of the Greek text, as all leading texts confirm with the exception only of the ISV.
Moreover, even if Jesus said "unless you believe I am" as the ISV has it, yet it does not matter. Because Jesus then denies He is speaking, but it is the Father speaking through Himself. It would then be the Father saying through Jesus that unless you believe the I Am you will die in your sins. Then this would be an obvious fact, and was simply bluntly put by the Father through the mouth of Jesus.
So at best Greg lifted a quote out of context which in context makes my case any way you read it: Jesus was the Son of Man indwelled by the Father who spoke through Jesus. This does not make Jesus claim to be God Himself any more than the bush from which God spoke at Sinai to Moses was claiming to be God -- which animists could believe. The passages from which Greg lifts his quotes disprove Greg's point.
Error No. 3: Jesus is Lord Means Jesus is God
Greg claims that whenever anyone called Jesus Lord that meant they were saying Jesus was God:
The most ancient testimony of Christ was, “Jesus is Lord”—Jesus the Messiah (the Savior) is God, that is. [PDF page 4, col. 2]
If Greg is correct, then how can he explain this verse where Peter in his first sermon to Jews says:
“Let the entire house of Israel know with assurance that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified” (Acts 2: 36).
If "Lord" means "God," then this means Peter says God made Jesus God... umm. Does that make any sense? Of course not.
However, Greg next says, based on that assumption that "Lord" means "God, that Paul affirms we must confess Jesus is God for salvation when all Paul actually says is that we must confess Jesus is Lord. We already saw in Acts 2:36 that this does not mean Jesus is God; rather He is our Master is all it means. Yet, Greg writes:
Second, the testimony of Scripture [proves salvation is at stake]. Paul said it plainly: “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved” (Rom. 10:9). [PDF page 5, col. 1]
Greg should know better that citing Paul on this point was perilous.
1. Paul's View of Jesus Conflicts with View of Christ as God
First, Paul's view was clear that Jesus was not God, as expressed in Col. 1:15 that Jesus was the "first born of creation" by God. In fact, Paul's view, was tested at Nicea in 325 AD, and Paul lost. Arius was advocating Paul's position at the council. This view is now called Arianism but it was from Paul. Paul's view that Jesus was a created being by God before his human birth lost at Nicea in 325 AD. Instead that council determined Jesus was God from eternity, and had no creation at any time -- "begotten not made," as we should all remember. This was the Bi-Deity decision. It was issued as the final decree under the influence of the truly pagan Roman Emperor Constantine who chaired the church Council of Nicea in 325 AD.
Christian scholar Grudem does not hide the fact that it was Paul's position that lost at Nicea: "support for the Arian view was found in Colossians 1:15." (Wayne A. Grudem, Systematic theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Zondervan, 1994) at 243.)
Hence, we know that Paul meant by Lord in Romans 10:9 solely the meaning of MASTER. Here are further examples:
Second in the list, Paul also unequivocally says Jesus is not God in 1 Corinthians 15:27-28. This is especially in verse 27: "Now when it says that 'everything' has been put under him [i.e., Christ], it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ." Clearly, Paul says Jesus is not God. Paul clarifies that putting everything under Christ does not include putting God under Christ. God remains above and distinct from Christ.
Third, Paul shares Jesus' view and my view that God dwelled in Jesus, and thereby God and Jesus are not the same. Paul wrote: “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself.” (2 Cor. 5:19 YLT). See also Col. 1:19 "because in him it did please all the fulness [of God] to tabernacle [i.e., dwell]." Cf. NIV: "For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him." (Col. 1:19).)
Fourth, and most strongly, Paul says in 1 Cor. 8:6 "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" (NIV). Cf.1 Tim. 2:5 ("there is one God, and one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus.")
Hence, when Paul says it is essential to say Jesus is Lord in Romans 10:9, Paul meant you must say Jesus, a human man appointed by God as king, is your Master. To say Jesus is your God is to actually violate what Paul said was the meaning of what your words should carry. Hence, Greg's reading is a misread, and actually, if Paul's formula were followed as Greg construes it, you would be LOST as you incorrectly confessed Jesus as God, not as your MASTER. You likely also committed idolatry by putting another 'god' ahead of the true God in saying this, if Paul is correct that "there is but one God, the father...." So there are multiple problems with Greg reading Paul's words about confessing Jesus as Lord means confessing Jesus to be God.
2. The "Lord" Confusion
Also, the Lord argument takes advantage of unbiblical changes to the Bible that continues to this day.
The word Lord in the Original Hebrew Testament is 7000 times a non-Biblical change, and hence cannot be equated to Lord in the New Testament. In the OT, LORD (Adonai) is a scribal insert used in the early Christian era to replace the name Yahweh almost 7,000 times! This was due to the unsound Ineffable Name Doctrine that if the name YHWH is written, and then that page is thrown in the trash due to a copying error or by an owner of a copy, it would supposedly be a fatal sin against the scribe or such an owner.
As a result of this old superstition, most of our versions of the OT today keep up this unwarranted overlay of LORD as what the reader is alone permitted to see. (Interestingly, when speaking of human Lords, the same Hebrew consonants were used for God and human Lords. Later, in the 800s, Masorete scribes put in different vowel points to distinguish a human Lord from God, the Lord, making the illegitimacy of Greg's argument even more obvious.)
The exceptions where Yahweh is not suppressed are few, such as editions like the World English Bible which shows Yahweh wherever it appears in the original Hebrew manuscripts.
Hence, because the Hebrew underlying manuscripts do not say LORD in reference to God (except perhaps 44 rare times), but instead say YAHWEH (YHWH with no vowels), you cannot deduce Jesus was God by the mere fact in the NT a word synonymn for the scribal name LORD in the OT for God is used to refer to Jesus as LORD. This would wrongly use an unbiblical and actually wrong-headed substitition in the OT to influence how you understand the word LORD in the NT.
Incidentally, this scribal practice took full hold by around the 100 AD period among Jews, and by about 300 AD among Christian scribes. Hence, if Jesus is called LORD meaning MASTER, that is all that is intended. It is not meant by GOD to be a reference only applicable to God. The term LORD is a scribe's common editing technique in how to avoid spelling out YHWH by using several consonants for Lord. Yet the term Lord also applied to kings, rulers, landowners, employers, and even a human father over a child.
Professor Howard in various articles shows how even the NT was edited after the 200s to replace YHWH in Greek with KYRIOS (LORD) even though when referring to Jesus it would have originally had only the single meaning of MASTER. Professor Howard says this likely helped cause confusion in the NT readers' minds whether Jesus is equated with God by being called LORD or was simply a MASTER. See my book Original Gospel of Matthew in which we discuss the use of YAHWEH in the earliest NT.
3. Greg's Odd Proof that "Lord" Means God
Oddly, Greg's other proof text for this principle that Lord means God is Acts 5:1-4. This says a lie by Ananias and Sephira to the "spirit" was a lie to "God." (Acts 5:1-4 KJV.) This proves nothing about the word LORD supposedly must be viewed as always synonymous with God wherever it appears in the NT.
Greg in fact never offers proof that LORD is always synonymous with God, and never has a meaning of Master that applies to humans. He just takes advantage of the common confusion among Christians that LORD may sometimes mean God to make them think it ALWAYS does when it does not.
Error No. 4: The Didache
Greg claims the Didache supposedly dates to 30 years after the cross, and has the tripartite blessing formula that appears in Matthew 28:19. While there is nothing about this tripartite blessing which proves the DEITY of Christ, Matthew 28:19 of today reads:
19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: (Matt 28:19 KJV)
Yet, because the Didache found in the 1890s has this same language, and that some of the Didache contents date to about 70-100 AD, Greg says that a "trinitarian formula" -- not truly one, please remember -- "was in regular use at baptisms" within "thirty years after" the Cross. [Page 4, col. 2.]
But as I explain in Original Gospel of Matthew, the Didache was found in the late 1800s, and the early 6 chapters appear to reflect primitive Christianity, but after that point, it is clearly a later amendation. It talks of priests and Roman Catholic practices that were not known for centuries after the early church. Hence, it is an amalgam of old and new.
Greg should also know that Matthew 28:19 is clearly a corruption to plant a trinitarian-sounding verse into the Bible. Conservative scholars largely agree by the evidence from the Book of Acts itself. Numerous records are made by Luke of baptisms by the apostles, and they are all in the "name of Jesus," not also the Father and Holy Spirit. All these baptisms were between the Cross and 58 AD -- the earliest apostolic and most authentic Christianity.
What can we say then about the non-canonical Didache if it has this formula, and even if it were 30 years post-Cross?
First, it is not actually trinitarian. It does not claim Jesus is God. It says He is the Son of God. It does not say the three are each individual persons and yet each is God in one.
Second, Jesus hated traditions of men that made of none-effect the word of God. Greg is arguing implicitly that we should think Matthew 28:19 is not corrupted because the later copy of the non-canonical Didache - part old and part newer -- is our guide. I don't think Jesus would tell us to accept that at all in weighing whether Matthew 28:19 was a corruption.
Finally, on that more key issue, Matthew 28:19 was clearly altered in the 300s -- as it was quoted 17 times prior to that time by the early 'fathers' without the "Father, Son and Holy Spirit." I discuss that at length also in my book The Original Gospel of Matthew. Also, the parallel in Mark and in Matthew 28:19 in the Hebrew Matthew (which Professor Howard says has traces back to earliest Christianity) both likewise omit the tripartite blesssing at baptism. The case is clear: this is a false addition to Matthew 28:19. The oldest manuscript of that portion of Matthew dates to post-Nicea where Jesus' Deity as "Eternal Son" was first affirmed.
But based upon this mistaken early history, Greg concludes: "The deity of Christ meant everything to those first Christians...." This is simply not true. Such a concept was unknown until Nicea in 325 AD.
Constantine Is Key To Understand Trinity History
We must digress here. It was a pagan emperor named Constantine who at that Nicene conference of 325 AD claimed he had the right to decide as Pontifex Maximus of the Christian Church and as the 13th Apostle such issues, including that Jesus was God too.
Constantine claimed to have met years earlier Jesus on the battlefield in a bright light, and he equated Jesus with the son-member of a trinity of Horus (father god), Sol Invictus (his son), and Isis (or Eoastre), Sol's mother -- all three being gods in one family. (This is why Mary worship began -- although slowly in that era -- to fill out a trinity worship that was a forerunner to modern Trinity doctrine that Emperor Theodosius imposed in the late 300s.)
Constantine in 321 AD -- only 4 years before the key decision at Nicea that Jesus too was God -- decreed a new day of the week -- SUN-DAY. He then ordered everyone to rest on SUN-DAY -- the day of worship of SOL INVICTUS. Constantine had coins issued in this period that portrayed SOL INVICTUS -- a manly figure with a globe in one hand and who held with his other hand a team of horses -- which said FRIEND OF CONSTANTINE on it. This meant that SOL INVICTUS was Constantine's friend. Scholars now conclude that Constantine never renounced his pagan beliefs, and instead imposed them on Christianity, using "Jesus" as a guise for his pagan beliefs. Scholars now realize Constantine held the belief in a three-partite family of God who each are gods but operate as one -- Horus, Sol Invictus and Isis / Eostre. (The latter is the origin of the term EASTER.)
Interestingly, for Constantine the Son of the Father God -- the Sun-God aka Sol Invictus -- was the Supreme God. The Son had the right to more primary worship than did the Father God -- Horus. Look at Christianity today, and you see we precisely mimic Constantine's pagan belief that a Father God fades into the background as the supremacy of the SON -- treated as a god too -- takes precedence. Hence, if we have been misled into idolatry by the crafty Serpent, it was with this evil objective involved -- to subordinate our attention away from YAHWEH, and place it all on the Son. What did Jesus tell us was the right emphasis? who was more important in their relationship?
"The Father is greater than I." (John 14:28.)
“…Holy Father, keep them in Your Name, the Name which you have given Me, that they may be one even as We are. While I was with them, I was keeping them in Your Name which you have given Me.” John 17: 11-12.
Greg engages in a self-contradiction, and proves it is not a self-contradiction by ridicule (opponents "are not listening") or a straw man fallacy (ironically accusing opponents of using an unexplained straw man which makes this a straw man fallacy by Greg all by itself). Greg should know better that these are rhetorical fouls. Unfortunately, such arguments are often effective among those not familiar with debate tactics.
Where does the pressure on Greg to ignore what his own words mean come from? We showed above that he believes his salvation and yours depends upon the belief in the Trinity, including that Jesus was God.
Well, if you start there, who would want to ever deny the Trinity?
The problem is that if you are wrong, you have violated the First Commandment, and made God out of a man who told you He is not God (the "father [is the]...only true God," John 17:3). Thus, you have created a second god to compete for honor as God with the true God. This sin -- idolatry -- is one of the worst sins in the Bible. As Anne Robertson explains:
"Heading the list of the ten commandments is the command to make Yahweh the top priority....This is the command about priorities, and its place in the list resonates with the rest of scripture, where idolatry is the number one sin." (Anne Robertson, God's Top 10: Blowing the Lid Off the Commandments (Church Publishing, 2006) at 1.)
May I suggest as a solution that idolatry is a sin YOU KNOW to avoid. But the sin of supposedly not affirming a trinity, is a sin unknown in the Bible except by contorted out-of-context proof texts to foist upon you an incomprehensible idea that one is three, and three is one.
So what should you believe?
Accept the risk of committing the sin YOU KNOW is wrong? Or rather take the risk of committing a sin nowhere spoken about in scripture? By the latter, I mean rejecting the trinity doctrine that makes Jesus a deity equal to the Father.
I don't know about you, but I feel I can defend to Jesus and the Father the latter a lot better than claiming a Trinity of three persons in One God. I believe wrongly ascribing DEITY to Jesus -- a man -- endangers my salvation far more than can happen if I incorrectly miss the supposed truth of the late-church trinity doctrine that one God means three independent persons.
1. Why Did Jesus' Affirmation of His Crucial Identity Leave This Out?
Moreover, what undermines Greg's point the most is that if we must believe Jesus is a member of the trinity to be saved, then why did John end his gospel that it was written so we would believe "Jesus is the Messiah and Son of God"? (John 20:31.) Why not say his intent is that we believe Jesus was God? And why did Jesus similarly tell Peter that identifying Jesus only as Messiah and Son of God was required (Matt 16:16) -- and Jesus never added anything about having to believe he was God?
Ironically, Greg knows the passage, cites it, and misses it as a clear disproof that we need to believe anything more than that Jesus is Messiah and Son of God. Listen to Greg as he misses the point in his own statement:
Indeed, the entire Gospel of John had the singular
purpose of answering that question decisively, and
John tied his answer directly to salvation: “These
things have been written so that you may believe
that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that
believing you may have life in His name”
(Jn. 20:31). [PDF Page 5, col. 1.]
Sorry Greg, but saying Jesus is Messiah and Son of God does not mean Jesus is God. Yet, Greg excitedly cites this passage as proof that John's Gospel "decisively" taught Jesus was God. But saying it is so does not make it so.
Even Roman Catholicism's Catechism para. 441 understands that applying to a person the label Son of God, standing alone, did not imply that person is God in the Bible predating our New Testament. The RCC confesses also that Son of God when used in the NT for Jesus did not necessarily mean they confessed Jesus as God (and thus the RCC impliedly acknowledges this was used to distinguish Jesus from God by saying He was Son of God):
In the Old Testament, "son of God" is a title given to the angels, the Chosen People, the children of Israel, and their kings. It signifies an adoptive sonship that establishes a relationship of particular intimacy between God and his creature. When the promised Messiah-King is called "son of God", it does not necessarily imply that he was more than human, according to the literal meaning of these texts. Those who called Jesus "son of God", as the Messiah of Israel, perhaps meant nothing more than this.
But perhaps Greg shares the escape that the RCC offers to this admission. The RCC goes on and claims it knows that Peter meant by confessing Jesus was "son of God" that Peter knew Jesus was God because Jesus says to Peter that "this was revealed to you by my Father who is in heaven." Id.442. Yet the RCC never explains how such a statement by Jesus on Peter speaking by inspiration allows the RCC to make a leap in LOGIC from what it previously confessed -- namely that the literal meaning of "Son of God" is "not necessarily" implying Jesus was "more than human." The Father could have just as much had a literal meaning in mind. (Is there a non-literal meaning that Son of God means God anyway? Of course not.) The RCC too is obviously trapped in a delusional bubble of tradition that it cannot think its way out of.
What am I missing Greg? Do you and the RCC share the same odd view somehow that Peter's confession of Jesus as "Son of God" means Peter confessed Jesus as God, not Son of God? With the Catholics, it is clear from the words on the page that their reasoning is a fantasy where a delusion is taking over their ability to think straight. The Catholics confess the literal meaning "Son of God" does not necessarily mean Jesus is God, but then they imagine when Peter said it, and God revealed this to Peter, that somehow this means Peter knew Jesus was God! It is an extraordinary example of a delusion which is unmistakeable to any mind with even rudimentary ability to comprehend the English language.
Isn't it true Greg -- you should be able to see this -- that the "blind are leading the blind here" due to a powerful delusion?
I mean no disrespect. I love Greg like a brother. Nothing herein is meant to hurt him. He is a great apologist for our common faith. I use this quote from him only to show what someone does when they are suffering from a powerful DELUSION. They can see the words as they type them, or hear them as they dictate them, but they don't sink in. Saying Jesus is the SON OF GOD does not mean He is God. It actually distinguishes him from God. That is obvious Greg. How you can imagine otherwise alludes any mind capable of rational discourse.
Hence, all John desired by writing his Gospel is we would confess Jesus as Son of God and Messiah. This excludes the very conclusion Greg seeks. Jesus too said he would base his church on those who made the identical confession as Peter made that Jesus was Son of God and Messiah. This too excludes Greg's conclusion that I must confess Jesus is God.
Instead, I am very happy to take as true Jesus' literal words -- the "Father dwells in me" (John 14:10). I can affirm Jesus is Divine, and not Deity. I also adhere to Jesus' clear message that "the Logos" (Word) Jesus spoke is "not mine" (John 14:24), and the apostle's view that the "one and only" (monogenes) WORD (LOGOS) came to "dwell" in Jesus (John 1:14) -- namely the FATHER, and hence was merely another way of saying John 14:10.
2. Final Remark
Each of us must make this decision whether to follow tradition with our salvation in mind. One way or the other, both sides of this issue claim your salvation is at stake. I know who can make the better logical case. However, many throw up their hands and say they simply believe the Trinity Doctrine is part of their faith. They confess it is beyond the rational mind to know why it is true, and thus they simply believe it.
However, I would urge you to instead first pray for wisdom. And meditate during that prayer on Jesus' teaching that you must not rely upon the traditions of men which negate a command of God (Matt 15:6).
If you pray for wisdom, I think God will show you that you must avoid what is more likely wrong (trinity doctrine) because it likely poses a significant danger that it represents idolatry while, at the same time, not accepting the trinity, and treating Jesus instead as a human "indwelled by the Father" (John 14:10) is never a belief that can cause your damnation. Why? Because it is right there in Holy Scripture. It does not depend upon tradition, or illogical self-contradictory concepts that you 'must' accept nowhere spoken directly by Jesus, our Master.
A basic definition of the trinity is in the Westminster Confession:
In the unity of the Godhead there be three persons, of one substance, power and eternity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost
Compare how Constantine elevated Jesus above the Father to what Jesus says is the right primacy. Jesus says He lifted up Yahweh's name (not His own name apart from Yahweh):
—“I have manifested Your Name to the men whom You gave Me out of the world….” John 17: 6
—“…Holy Father, keep them in Your Name, the Name which you have given Me, that they may be one even as We are. While I was with them, I was keeping them in Your Name which you have given Me.” John 17: 11-12.
—“I have made Your Name known to them, and will make it known….” John 17: 26
What name is Jesus exalting? His own or Yahweh's name? Here is the Name Jesus referenced:
“Say to the Israelites, ‘Yahweh, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.’ This (Yahweh) is My Name forever, the Name by which I am to be remembered from generation to generation.” (Exodus 3:14.)
In the Our Father, Jesus prayed "Your Name" should be "hallowed" / "sanctified" i.e., kept holy.
Do we keep God's Name Holy and in the superior position Jesus placed it even as many of us believe Jesus is just one person of a trinity? This is the second danger of the trinity doctrine. Many end up putting Jesus above Yahweh.