Tuesday, November 28, 2006

My Trinity Question

As indicated way back in this post, even though the question was settled some 1600 years ago, the biblical doctrine of the Trinity continues to surface and face argument. It is not uncommon to hear people say, "The Trinity is not found or taught in the Bible" or "The Trinity is an antichrist doctrine cooked up in the church of Rome." They'll tell you it is tritheism, borrowed from pagan beliefs, an invention of the Roman Catholic Church. They are not dealing with the facts.

There is one question (at least one) that I have never had answered from the anti-Trinitarians. Most don't even try. It comes from one of the clearest expressions of the Deity of Christ as well as His "difference" with God -- John 1.
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through Him, and without Him was not any thing made that was made (John 1:1-3).
First, the easy stuff. What can we see without doing any real work?

We can see that "the Word" is an enigma. This "Word" is both God and with God. This Word, then, has both the same nature as God and yet a distinction from God.

We can see that this Word is the Creator. This is really problematic to those who claim that Jesus was a created being, because John goes out of his way to say this as categorically as he can. "All things were made through Him." No, that's not sufficient. Let's see it another way. "Without Him was not any thing made." Yeah, that says it again in reverse. But wait ... there's more. One might think that "any thing" refers to "any thing but him, of course." But John is equally clear as to what "any thing" refers: "Any thing that was made." Well, let's see ... what was made? That would be all Creation. That would exclude God. Anything but God was "made." So if "the Word" made everything that was made (which would include everything except God), then "the Word" cannot be a created being, else He would have made Himself -- an absolute impossibility.

So the "sticky" question ... who is "the Word"? Well, John doesn't leave us in the dark about that, either.
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14).
That leaves little room for guessing. "The Word" is "the only Son from the Father," who, as John goes on to explain, is Jesus.

Putting it together, we have Jesus (prior to becoming flesh) who is both the same nature as God and yet distinct from God who is also the Creator of all that exists. (If you still trip over "But ... God exists", perhaps it's a good time to review.) This seems to be an insurmountable question to me. To the modalist -- those who hold that God has operated in different modes, starting as YHWH and now as Jesus (including the "Jesus Only" crowd) -- you have a problem. John presents a distinction between God and the Word. To the Arians -- those who hold that Jesus was a created being -- and the Socinians -- those who teach that Jesus was a deified man -- you have a problem. John presents Him as the Creator of all things that were created. How did He make Himself? To the monophysite -- those that hold that Jesus only had one nature ... a divine one -- you have a problem. John clearly states that He became flesh. To the tritheist -- those who hold that there are three distinct gods (Yes, there are those who actually argue that.) -- you have a problem. John clearly says that Jesus was God -- a unity.

Now, admittedly this passage does not address the third person of the Trinity, but I have yet to have a valid answer from an anti-Trinitarian that explains this passage. The worst, the ones that don't even try, are the ones that claim that Jesus was a created being. How is it even remotely possible that this created being created Himself?

So the next time you hear "The Trinity is not found or taught in the Bible," keep in mind this passage and try to figure out for yourself how it is possible that such a claim could stand on its own for long.


Scott Arnold said...

In addition to John 1:1, Romans 9:5 makes it clear that Christ is indeed God (the NASB translation is unfortunate here, but most others, including in this case the ESV, bear this out very clearly):

Romans 9:5 ESV - To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.

And 2Co 3:17-18 makes the deity of the Holy Spirit unquestionable:

2 Corinthians 3:17-18 NASB - (17) Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. (18) But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.

Those denying the Trinity must also figure out how to deal with this passage:

1 Timothy 6:15-17 NASB which He will bring about at the proper time--He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, (16) who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see. To Him be honor and eternal dominion! Amen. (17) Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy.

Both Elohim and Adonai, the primary names given to God in the OT – suggest a plurality. Given the strict monotheism of the Jewish faith it would have been unthinkable to assign a plural name to the one true God unless, well, unless there was a plurality of some sense.

And consider some of the divine names of Christ: 1) Emanuel – “God with us” Mat 1:23; 2) Son of God – Joh 5:18; 3) I AM – Joh 8:58; 4) Son of Man – Dan 7:13-14, Joh 5:27; 5) Eternal Father, Mighty God – Isa 9:6. Of course, there are many more.

The Holy Spirit is called the “Spirit of God” throughout the Old and New Testaments. In fact, the very name “Holy” Spirit is a descriptive adjective that describes the character of God, and God alone. The Holy Spirit continues the divine ministry of Christ here on earth.

In order to deny the Trinity, one has to ignore the obvious throughout Scripture.

Stan said...

Sorry, Ronald. There were no less than 8 comments here, all echoing the same things. I wasn't sure which to post, so I chose one.

Now, as to the substance ... what rubbish! "It is obvious that John is not referring to Jesus as 'God' in the same manner in which he speaks of 'God' whom Jesus was with." Let's see if I understand you. You are arguing that theos in Greek references "strength, power, might" (based, apparently, on the Hebrew El or Elohim). So the first use (or perhaps the third ... or maybe both) of the theos is YHWH, but the second is "mighty". On what manufactured basis? The text makes no such indication. Further, the text (regardless of the use of theos) says that whatever "the Word" was, it was both with theos and was theos. Perhaps you'd like to be more consistent? In this case there is no mention of God at all. To be consistent, "The Word was with might and the Word was might." In this consistent version you have successfully avoided the plain, obvious translation with which you disagree, but have also eliminated YHWH. There is nothing in the text, words used, or grammatical structure that would call for two different uses of the word theos there.

But the problem in John 1 is worse than that to which you're responding. Assuming that Jesus is, let's say, "mighty" but certainly not actually part of the Godhood, but rather a created being, you have a serious problem. John, it turns out, is quite insane. You see, "All things came into being by Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being." Or, to put it another way, whatever came into being -- all created beings -- were created by "Him", this "Word". If you're saying that Jesus was not God, but just a created being (albeit a special one), you would argue that a created being created all that was created ... including Himself. So careful is John to be sure that you understand that "the Word" created everything that came into being that he said it twice. "All things came into being by Him" was the first one, and, to make it quite clear that he wasn't speaking in hyperbole about "all things", he says it from the other way: "Apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being." If, then, Jesus came into being, He came into being ... by doing it Himself. Self-created. Quite insane.

Only one being in the universe is self-existent: YHWH -- "I AM THAT I AM". No other. If Jesus created Himself as you are arguing (completely by accident, of course), then we have two self-existent beings ... or two YHWHs. That's a problem.

Ronald said...

If Jesus is the Might whom he is with, then Jesus is the Father, for Jesus identified whom he was with in John 17:1,3,5. Jesus was with the only true God, thus, the default is that Jesus is not the only true God whom he was with. Even most trinitarian say that the first theos is not being used in the same manner as the second theos, for they use their imagination and form the assumption that the first theos is not speaking of three persons, but rather of one of the alleged persons of their triune God, while the second theos does not speak of the three persons, but the alleged second persons of their triune God. Yes, it is obvious that the second theos is not used in the same manner as the first theos. In the text John emphasizes the difference between his usage of theos by repeating that the Logos was with God.

The "all" that the unipersonal God (Colossians 1:2,13-15) created by means of Jesus does not include the first born creature, since it is evident (1 Corinthians 15:27) that God is not created at all, and that Jesus was created before that "all" which was created through, by means of, him. -- Colossians 1:15,17.

The all that came into being through Jesus in John 1:3 refers to the world of mankind, as described in John 1:10, and which Jesus refers to in John 17:5. Paul refers to this world in Romans 5:12, showing how it had become corrupted through sin. (see 2 Peter 1:4) Paul again refers to this world in Romans 8:19-22 and refers to this as "all creation" in verse 22. This "all creation", however, does not include the angels, for the angels who see the face of God (Matthew 18:10) have not been subjected to futility. -- Ecclesiastes 1:2,13-15.

Yes, there is only one being in the universe so has not been created. The Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, identifies that one being as one person, and never as more than one person. Nevertheless, while it may be that the thought of self-existence is included in Ehyeh (I am, I will be) and Yahweh (He is, He will be), I believe that the Holy Name declares that the Creator is and will be Who He is, that is, He is and will who He is and thus does not deny Himself (2 Timothy 2:13); His word is trustworthy. -- Isaiah 55:11; Titus 1:2; Hebrews 6:18.

Stan said...

The post on which you are commenting -- My Trinity Question -- does not make any arguments regarding the comments you are making about John 1:1. The question to which the title refers is regarding John 1:3. You can debate all you want about this Word who is both God and with God and argue that the two terms mean two different things even though the grammatical terms and structures indicate that it isn't so. That's a different argument.

Now, you might think this is trivial, what I just said, but it is pointing to another problem -- a bigger one. You are responding to something I did not say and arguing about things I did not claim. You are using "person" in a sense that is not intended by the doctrine or the text. That is, apparently you didn't read what I wrote any more than you've read what genuine Trinitarian theology holds. Not really understanding the actual doctrine of the Trinity, it's not surprising that you can neither understand what I wrote nor respond to the true doctrine. (Examples: Your misuse of the concept of "persons", your failure to comprehend the unity of "trinity" -- one being, etc.)

Having said that, you are abusing the language. The "all" that came into being through Jesus is explained in the text. It is not limited, as you suppose. It is explicit. "All things were made through Him, and without Him was not any thing made that was made." You are suggesting that there is something that was made that He did not make, something specifically and repeatedly denied by John. That which came into being through Christ was anything that was made. You have to presuppose that it cannot mean Jesus, so that this does not mean what it obviously says. That's called "eisegesis" -- reading what you believe into a text. The text says He made all that was made (which would, in fact, include angels) and to deny it requires an a priori denial. It is not taking the text at face value.

Finally, your arguments would be much easier to consider if you didn't continually aim at insulting the people with whom you disagree. Your repeated statement is that the only way one can arrive at a "Trinity" is by "imagination". You are actually arguing that two millenia of Christians have failed to read the text, but guided by vain 'imagination", have held to a belief that is patently "inhuman". That is, this isn't a position (the doctrine of the Trinity) that normal human beings come up with. It isn't something we could imagine because there isn't anything in our existence that parallels it. It's very "otherness" says that it has an "other" origin, but it is your (not very kind) position that it is simply a quite popular imaginary concept and you, fortunately, are much smarter than all the rest. Differing over ideas is one thing. Being insulting to people is another. It doesn't help your arguments. Most people tend to turn you off when they realize their ideas are pointless and their person is being attacked.