Saturday, July 09, 2011

The Father and I are one

The Father and I are one (Jn 10:30).
And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one (Jn 17:11).
21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me (Jn 17:21-23).

Unitarians like Dale Tuggy seize on the word “one” in monotheistic passages to disprove the Trinity. Yet as we see in John, the word “one” is fairly flexible in Scriptural usage.

Despite Jn 10:30, unitarians don’t think the Father and the Son are one and the same person. Whatever happened to Leibniz’s law?

Do I think Christians are one in the same sense as the Father and the Son? No.

But that’s the point. It’s a mistake to overinterpret a word like “one” as if that’s a deep metaphysical mine. We’re dealing with a multipurpose word that’s loosely applied to a wide variety of objects and relationships.

It’s the nature of the object and the larger context that delimits the application, and not that word all by itself. 

Friday, July 08, 2011

Buzz off!  

David Wells on Petitionary Prayer as Rebellion

“What, then, is the nature of petitionary prayer? It is, in essence, rebellion--rebellion against the world in its fallenness, the absolute and undying refusal to accept as normal what is pervasively abnormal. It is, in this its negative aspect, the refusal of every agenda, every scheme, every interpretation that is at odds with the norm as originally established by God. As such, it is itself an expression of the unbridgeable chasm that separates Good from Evil, the declaration that Evil is not a variation on Good but its antithesis...

“It is therefore impossible to seek to live in God’s world on his terms, doing his work in a way that is consistent with who he is, without engaging in regular prayer.”
- David Wells, “Prayer: Rebelling Against the Status Quo”

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Many antichrists have come

 Wow, I mean WOW; IMO, Steve needs to read the Bible a bit more. Note the following:
Ye do the works of your father. They said unto him, We were not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God. Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I came forth and am come from God; for neither have I come of myself, but he sent me. (John 8:41, 42 - ASV)
For those Jews contesting with Jesus in the above passage, who were they referring to as "one Father, even God"? Clearly, they were referring to Yahweh/Jehovah.
The concept of Yahweh/Jehovah as Father (i.e. the Fatherhood of God) to His chosen people was clearly taught in the OT (e.g. Is. 63:16; 64:8; Hos. 1:10)—equating God the Father with Yahweh is certainly not "anachronistic".

I see that David Waltz suffers from the same linguistic naïveté as Dale Tuggy:

i) The question at issue is not whether God the Father is Yahweh. The question, rather, is whether that identification is exclusive to God the Father.

ii) If Waltz is going to treat that as a divine title, then he can’t very well limit that to God the Father, since that title is also applied to the Messiah in Isa 9:6. Isaian usage cuts both ways. By his own logic, not only is God the Father Yahweh, but so is Jesus.

iii) The fact that “father” is occasionally used in reference to Yahweh hardly makes “father” a technical term or rigid designator for God the Father.

After all, in his very prooftext, Isaiah plays on the flexible denotation of “father” to compare and contrast Yahweh as the “father” of the Israelites with Abraham and Israel as their fathers. 

Likewise, Isa 64:8 employs a mixed metaphor: father/potter. That illustrates the loose, fluid character of these figurative designations.

For that matter, Isaiah uses both paternal and maternal analogies for Yahweh (45:10). So by Waltzian logic, there’s a Mother Goddess as well as a Father God.

In the Johannine passage Waltz quoted, “father” is applied both to God and the devil. Hopefully Waltz doesn’t think that makes Yahweh the devil.

iv) Fatherhood is one of many different theological metaphors for God. Waltz also mentions Hosea. But, of course, the main theological metaphor in Hosea is not God as father but God as cuckold husband.

Does that mean “husband” is a divine title? One which singles out Yahweh (or God the Father)?

v) While God “the Father” isn’t yet a technical term in NT usage, it’s approaching that status. That’s because there’s a greater need in the NT to develop stock designations which identify and distinguish the three persons of the Trinity. You can’t simply retroject that usage back into OT usage.

vi) Apropos (v), to take an obvious comparison, “spirit” is frequently used as a proper name for the Holy Spirit in the NT. But it would wreak havoc with the OT to equate “spirit” with the Spirit of God wherever ruach occurs.

Reformed epologists like Mr. Hays are in the unenvious position of having to defend a ‘half-way house’ theology—and this is especially so, concerning the doctrine of the Trinity. John Henry Newman dealt a mortal blow to the consensus theory among Trinitarians that the doctrine was not only a clear, explicit teaching of the Bible, but was also clear, explicit teaching of the pre-Nicene Church Fathers—both are inaccurate. Honest scholars now admit that the doctrine of the Trinity is a development, with many also acknowledging that it is but one of the possible developments from the material presented in the Bible, and early Church history.
So, Hays is stuck between the Catholic/EO position which insists that the Bible, and the doctrine of God, needs an infallible teaching magisterium, and that of the ‘true’ sola scripturians who draw their conclusions about the Christian doctrine of God from the ‘Bible alone’.

That’s just a hollow boast which doesn’t begin to engage my detailed arguments to the contrary.

Keep in mind, too, that I wasn’t attempting to present a systematic case for the Trinity. Rather, I was responding to Tuggy’s specific contentions, in the course of which I also give a sampling of counterexamples.

It seems that Steve has developed an obsession…

i) That’s funny coming from a guy who’s an internet stalker of John Bugay.

ii) It’s also a typically one-sided characterization by Waltz. I’ve been responding to Tuggy, he’s been responding to me. Sometimes he does that in his own posts, but he also does that by leaving comments on my posts. Waltz needs to learn how to count. If I’m “obsessed” with Tuggy, then Tuggy’s “obsessed” with me.

iii) Until recently, unitarianism was a theological backwater, populated by hacks and cults. The fact that it finally recruited a prominent philosopher of religion merits sustained pushback.

Of course, Islam is the biggest unitarian cult of them all, but that doesn’t even pretend to be Christian, and the threat it poses is primarily coercive rather than intellectual.

I think one can see that Steve's charge is false—one can be a non-Trinitarian, without being an anti-Trinitarian—but no apology and/or acknowledgment is offered by Steve.

Uh, no. Religion isn’t a menu you can peruse with detached neutrality. God obligates total devotion. Either you’re for Christ or against Christ. Unitarians are animated by the spirit of the Antichrist.

Overly Dependent On TAG

I recently pulled up an old article I wrote back in 2008 called On the "Appropriate" Apologetic Method and noticed that there was a comment from Truth Unites…and Divides from 2009 that I wish I had seen back then! But, this being the Internet where old threads are resurrected for no apparent reason all the time, I figured I might as well bring up a two-year-old comment and examine it here.

My original article dealt with a troubling trend I see in many presuppositionalists. Mostly it’s the Clarkian Scripturalists, but VanTillians fall into it too. Namely, many presuppositionalists treat presuppositionalism as an immunization to debate such that the Transcendental Argument for the Existence of God (TAG) substitutes for actually thinking about things. The result is a knee-jerk reaction that “if it ain’t TAG, it’s of the devil.” My point in the previous article was to demonstrate that it was not sinful to use evidential arguments at all, and in fact it was much more useful to use those types of arguments when dealing with the average man-on-the-street than the philosophically intense TAG is.

One particularly important quote (as it relates to my current post) was:

I would point out, however, that the Bible does use evidential arguments from time to time too. For instance, when Scripture says in Psalm 19:1 that the heavens declare the glory of God, David is referring to how God’s glory is manifested in nature. It is evidenced by nature itself. And Paul echoes that in Romans 1 as well, saying that God’s attributes are seen in what has been made.
TUAD quoted from my article in a discussion thread he was on, and then posted the response he received from Ronald Di Giacomo, which began:

How do you know that the Heavens declare the glory of God apart from Scripture?
This is precisely the attitude that the cage-stage presuppositionalists fall into that I was critiquing in my original post. Consider for a moment what the question entails. If it is impossible to know that the heavens declare the glory of God apart from Scripture, then in what way can you say the heavens declare anything? How is it a “declaration” if one needs Scripture in order to know something’s being declared? Or is the assumption that the heavens didn’t declare the glory of God until the Psalmist penned his words? Such a concept seems absurd.

Furthermore, when looked at how Paul uses the concept in Romans 1 we’d see that this question would turn Paul’s argument on its head. Paul argues in verse 18 that the wrath of God is revealed against unbelievers, and gives the reason in verse 19-20: “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” If nature was insufficient to demonstrate “what can be known about God” including his invisible attributes like his eternal power and divine nature, then unbelievers would have an excuse not to believe. We do not need Romans 1 or Psalm 19 to be convicted for not believing in God, for creation itself testifies to the existence of God. So how do we know the heavens declare the glory of God apart from Scripture? Because the heavens actually DO declare the glory of God.

Di Giacomo continued:

Accordingly, to defend that premise with any absolute authority other than Scripture is sin. To do anything less is to make something other than God's word your ultimate authority, which is again sin.
First of all, I don’t understand what “authority” has to do with anything here. We’re talking about objective truth, and the only authority objective truth needs is its own truth-value. But this falls prey to a logical problem even if we accept the authority issue. Di Giacomo believes Scripture is authoritative, and Scripture itself declares that creation even apart from Scripture manifests the nature and attributes of God such that men who suppress the truth of God are without excuse. That means that if Di Giacomo is to respect the authority of Scripture, he ought to acknowledge that nature does what Scripture claims nature does. To do otherwise is to deny what Scripture says, which hardly makes God’s word “your ultimate authority” and which, following his logic above, makes it sin.

Di Giacomo then has a couple of statements which do not seem to apply to what I wrote. I could not tell whether he was questioning TUAD or something else entirely. But let me address them anyway. He said:

Philosophically, you have yet to show how it is possible to justify the truth of the premises used in an evidentialist or Thomistic approach.
Of course, I was not defending Thomism in my original article (this is partly why I assume this question is not directed toward me), and as I pointed out even evidential arguments must, if one meets a philosophically savvy opponent, reach the presuppositional level. But Scripture itself allows us to justify evidentalist arguments regarding the invisible attributes of God listed in Romans 1, since Scripture maintains both that these are objective truths and that these truths are knowable even independent of Scripture. This can even be expanded by including the aspects of the law that are written even on the hearts of Gentiles that Paul mentions in Romans 2:15.

Di Giacomo continued:

Moreover, how does one get from an assertion that is not justified from Scripture (such as that the Heavens declare God's glory) to the conclusion of the Ontological Trinity of Scripture?
I assume that he meant that the statement “the Heavens declare God’s glory” is justified from Scripture, since it is Psalm 19:1. But this argument about the Ontological Trinity does not help Di Giacomo either. To use an example I got from Paul Manata (see here), suppose that I held to every Christian presupposition except that I believe God is four persons instead of three. Is TAG sufficient to refute that view? No, because it is hard to see how there would be a logical inconsistency within the worldview that stipulated there was an unstated (by Scripture) fourth person in the Trinity. At best, one could conclude that it’s unfounded to assert there’s a fourth person, but since neither Father, Son, nor Spirit are denied, a “quadune” God is just as logically consistent under TAG as a triune God is.

The reality is that Di Giacomo does not believe in the Trinity because of his presuppositional arguments; rather, he believes Scripture and Scripture says the Trinity exists. Yet the evidentialist also believes in the Trinity because he believes Scripture and Scripture says the Trinity exists! Di Giacomo may argue that he has a better justification to believe the validity of Scripture due to his presuppositional arguments, but even if the evidentialist has erroneous reasons to trust in the validity of Scripture, once he does trust the validity of Scripture he comes to the same beliefs about the Trinity that the presuppositionalist does. So to argue the logical chain used to get to the Trinity is a red herring. One need only be able to argue to the validity of Scripture, something that evidentialists are actually quite good at accomplishing despite handicapping themselves by allowing atheists to dictate the terms of the debate.

Either way, it seems to me that he does not reach Paul’s attitude:

Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of rivalry, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. (Philippians 1:15-18)
Di Giacomo concluded his comment thus:

What you're not grasping is that although men know God by nature, any appeal to that truth is not an apologetic nor justifiable apart from Scripture. That premise must be justified somehow, mustn't it?
I have to admit that I’m hard-pressed to understand how an appeal to truth is not an apologetic, especially when it’s a truth the apostle Paul used in his own defense of the Gospel. Furthermore, I would like to see Di Giacomo demonstrate from Scripture his claim that all premises must be justified from Scripture.

Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Glory

Dale Tuggy has terminated further debate. In his parting shot he accuses me of “sinning” against him by slandering him. He cites Jas 4:11-12.

His appeal to James is quite ironic, given the high Christology of James. As Blomberg and Kamell note, in their comment on Jas 2:1:

The last genitive, “of glory” can be taken in two different ways…The second, appropriate in such a strongly Christological context, is appositional, so that Christ is equated with the shekinah glory of God, the “localized presence of Yahweh.”
As Robert Sloan observes, the term “has a long prehistory in Jewish history and theology as a euphemism for Yahweh,” building on the light in the tabernacle (Ex 40:34) and temple (1 Ki 8:11) and Ezekiel’s vision of the heavenly throne (Eze 1:28), it is widely used throughout the NT in close association with God and Christ to refer to their presence, and in this context it is not occurring “by itself,” but with a triad of related titles.

James (Zondervan 2008), 106-07.

This is diametrically opposed to Tuggy’s “humanitarian unitarianism.” Therefore, James wouldn’t regard Tuggy as a fellow Christian (or “brother”). To the contrary, he’d view Tuggy as a Christ-denier. Unitarianism slanders the person of Christ. He'd do well to think less highly of himself, and think more highly of Christ. 

“Easing Headwinds” Mean Smoother Economic Sailing in Second Half

I understand that this is not a time to be celebrating the economy. As long as I can remember, it has never been a time to be celebrating the economy. There was, and is, always a risk that something can go wrong.

I tend to watch these things closely because I work for a technology company, specifically a technology company that markets itself via various Direct Marketing processes, and the company’s profits are very sensitive to economic fluctuations.

In 2010, we had an “up” year but not a stellar year. And in the first half of 2011, it has been very tough going. That’s why I’m encouraged when I see stories like this one:
Economists expect real gross domestic product will grow at an annual rate of at least 3% in the third and fourth quarters. It isn’t a gangbuster pace, but far better than the sub-2% growth seen for the first half.

The best reason to believe economists’ forecast will be right is that two crucial supports for growth are already in place — and not just based on wishful thinking.

The first is falling energy prices. According to economists at the Royal Bank of Scotland Group, the nearly 50-cent drop in fuel costs since May is about equivalent to the net boost provided earlier this year from the drop in social security withholding–a tax cut that quickly went to paying the higher prices at the pump.

Alan Levenson, chief economist at T. Rowe Price, calculates that if prices stabilize, lower gas prices will lift purchasing power by 0.3 to 0.5 percentage point of income in the current quarter.

The second support is the rebound in vehicle production.

Output plunged in the second quarter because auto makers could not get parts from Japan after the earthquake and tsunami. The decline cut an estimated 0.5 to 1 percentage point from GDP growth last quarter, probably a big reason why growth stayed below 2% after a meager 1.9% pace in the first quarter.

Japanese production lines got back on track sooner than some expected. With the parts pipeline flowing again, U.S. vehicle production is set to bounce back (although the rise in imported parts will offset some of the gain to top-line GDP growth).

The hope is that stronger output growth will lead to better job gains, triggering the virtuous cycle of stronger income growth leading to better consumer spending.

But that isn’t a sure thing.
So it isn’t a “sure thing”. But in the words of an iconic American character, “it’s one less thing” to worry about.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Functional subordination

And we see, moreover, how functional subordinationists read ghosts of subordination into every little thing. The Father gave the Son; therefore the Son is subordinate. The Father sent the Son; therefore the Son is subordinate. The world was made through the Son; therefore the Son is subordinate. But we have seen these claims before; we battled them in the Eunomians sixteen hundred years ago. They were no more plausible then. The Father sent the Son, yes, but 'to send' tells us nothing of authority. A child may say to his parent, "Go and see how well I have cleaned my room." The parent goes; and, behold, in going, the parent is sent. But this tells us nothing of who has the greater authority. My friend and I are in perfect agreement that she should help you on some matter; I say to you, "I am sending you my friend to help you." Have I arrogated an authority over my friend? Hardly, for my purpose does not rule the agreement. Was I lying? Certainly not, for I am sending my friend. This supposed proof is dubious in our own case; shall we think it conclusive in God's? It is even less likely to be legitimate there. For if I and my friend are in perfect agreement, it can be nothing in comparison to the agreement of the Father and the Son and the Spirit, who are so united that the work of the Father is through the Son and in the Spirit, so that one and the same action belongs to three persons, whether it pertains to creation or salvation. What human unity of purpose could possibly compare? But in unity of purpose, as such, there is no subordination; if there were subordination there would not be unity, but one purpose subordinating another purpose, however congenially. And so if the Father gives the Son, and this giving is eternally purposed by the Thrice-Holy Trinity, there is no subordination in being given, for there is no subordination of purposes, only a perfect unity of purpose: that the Word be made flesh and come among us a Savior, a gift of life. Thus from the mission of the Son, nothing follows about subordination. And likewise from the making of all things through the Son, nothing follows about subordination; indeed, the reverse: for that all things are made through the Son shows clearly that the Son is one with the Father with a unity that we can scarcely comprehend.

Identity and counting


The felicific calculus

Biblical spousal acquisition

We are trying to hash out what a biblical spousal acquisition looks like.

17Then Saul said to David, "Here is my elder daughter Merab. I will give her to you for a wife. Only be valiant for me and fight the LORD’s battles." For Saul thought, "Let not my hand be against him, but let the hand of the Philistines be against him." 18And David said to Saul, "Who am I, and who are my relatives, my father’s clan in Israel, that I should be son-in-law to the king?" 19But at the time when Merab, Saul’s daughter, should have been given to David, she was given to Adriel the Meholathite for a wife.
 20Now Saul’s daughter Michal loved David. And they told Saul, and the thing pleased him. 21Saul thought, "Let me give her to him, that she may be a snare for him and that the hand of the Philistines may be against him." Therefore Saul said to David a second time, "You shall now be my son-in-law." 22And Saul commanded his servants, "Speak to David in private and say, 'Behold, the king has delight in you, and all his servants love you. Now then become the king’s son-in-law.'" 23And Saul’s servants spoke those words in the ears of David. And David said, "Does it seem to you a little thing to become the king’s son-in-law, since I am a poor man and have no reputation?" 24And the servants of Saul told him, "Thus and so did David speak." 25Then Saul said, "Thus shall you say to David, 'The king desires no bride-price except a hundred foreskins of the Philistines, that he may be avenged of the king’s enemies.'" Now Saul thought to make David fall by the hand of the Philistines. 26And when his servants told David these words, it pleased David well to be the king’s son-in-law. Before the time had expired, 27David arose and went, along with his men, and killed two hundred of the Philistines. And David brought their foreskins, which were given in full number to the king, that he might become the king’s son-in-law. And Saul gave him his daughter Michal for a wife.

This raises some admittedly delicate questions regarding cross-cultural contextualization, but I'm sure a savvy missiologist like Allen Yeh can make the necessary adjustments so that young Christian bachelors will begin to practice biblical spousal acquisition. But we may have to change a few laws to make it feasible. 

Tuggy's shellgame


All unitarians identify the one God with the Father, on the basis of numerous NT passages.
Steve, this is a textbook case of question begging. Humanitarian unitarians don't think that the NT actually does ascribe creation to Jesus, and subordinationists think those texts make him the instrument of God's (the Father's) creation - God being the creator in an ultimate sense, and the pre-human Jesus in an instrumental sense.

i) But the unitarian hermeneutic cuts both ways. If unitarians can either deny that the NT “actually” ascribes creation to Jesus (pace Jn 1:3; Col 1:16; Heb 1:10) or gloss those passages in a purely “instrumental” sense, while the “ultimate” Creator lies in the background, then, by parity of logic, we can either deny that Scripture “actually” ascribes creation to the Father (or Yahweh), or we can gloss those ascriptions to the Father (or Yahweh) in purely instrumental terms–where the Father or Yahweh is the agent of some ulterior Deity. So it’s hermeneutically arbitrary for unitarians to single out the Father or Yahweh as the real God.

ii) Moreover, Tuggy’s Isaian prooftexts don’t distinguish between instrumental and ultimate creatorship. Indeed, his Isaiah prooftexts disallow that distinction, for once we interpolate that distinction into the text, creatorship no longer demarcates the true God from false gods. So Tuggy’s expedient scuttles the Isaian argument by blurring the categorical distinction between the Creator and his creation.

iii) Furthermore, this exposes the circularity of Tuggy’s appeal. On the one hand he anachronistically identifies Yahweh as the Father in Isaiah, although he can’t extract that identification from Isaiah alone. Rather, he restrictively identifies the Father as Yahweh in NT usage. He then uses that as a reference point to identify Yahweh as the Father in Isaiah. Having read his (alleged) NT identification back into his OT prooftexts, in a classic case of salting the mine, he then brings his OT prooftexts forward to restrictively identify the real God of the NT as the Father–or Yahweh.

iv) The entire procedure is circular and question-begging. Tuggy’s shellgame. On the one hand, Isaiah doesn’t even identify the Father as Yahweh in 40-48. On the other hand, the NT doesn’t restrictively identify the Father as Yahweh. 

Unitarianism, Polytheism, and Trinitarianism

U = I think, therefore, I am; I am, therefore, I think. (Unity is ultimate)

P = We think, therefore, we are; we are, therefore, we think. (Plurality is ultimate)

T = I think, therefore, we are; we think, therefore, I am. (Unity and plurality are equally ultimate)

Tyin' the knot or tied up in knots?

Can I Be Included in this Goosestock?

"The Wild Goose is a Celtic metaphor for the Holy Spirit. We are followers of Jesus creating a festival of justice, spirituality, music and the arts. The festival is rooted in the Christian tradition and therefore open to all regardless of belief, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, denomination or religious affiliation."

Hey, I guess that includes me being a Calvinist, complementarian, six-day creationist, credo Baptist, inerrancist, premillenialist, prewrath rapturist, Zionist, exclusivist, Trinitarian, substitutionalist, presuppositionalist, congregationalist, heterosexual, and American patriot.

The unitarian dress-code


If you would read by ONE serious unitarian source, you just wouldn't raise this objection. All unitarians identify the one God with the Father, on the basis of numerous NT passages. Yep - I'm too lazy, or rather, busy, to list them for you. Again, read a book, any decent unitarian book.

i) Asking me to read one decent unitarian book is like asking me to find a married bachelor.

ii) Bracketing the oxymoron, I’ve been reading a lot of Dale Tuggy’s stuff. But I guess that doesn’t count as “serious” or “decent.”

iii) Tuggy is also confused–as usual. Did I say I was classifying actual unitarian positions? No. I prefaced my illustrations with the following qualification: “In principle"... a unitarian could believe…

So, as I made clear at the outset, I’m discussing hypothetical unitarian positions. Considering the fact that Tuggy is a philosophy prof., his reaction is odd. After all, philosophers routinely explore the logically possible permutations of certain positions, whether or not those permutations have an actual sponsor.

iv) But Tuggy’s defensiveness is unintentionally revealing. He acts like a high churchman who distinguishes between reputable, “orthodox” unitarianism, and disreputable, “heterodox” unitarianism. The self-anointed Photius of the one true unitarianism.

All the “real” unitarians identify the Father as the one true God. Not to be confounded with those , damnable, schismatical, anathematical versions of unitarianism!

But his indignant reaction seems more political than principial. A marketing ploy.

Any other form of unitarianism is crazy old Aunt Mae, whom respectable unitarians have to keep locked in the attic. Mustn’t let her get out. She might turn up at the soirée and say or do embarrassing things that besmirch the family name. What would the neighbors say? 

Tuesday, July 05, 2011



Humanitarian unitarians don't think that the NT actually does ascribe creation to Jesus, and subordinationists think those texts make him the instrument of God's (the Father's) creation - God being the creator in an ultimate sense, and the pre-human Jesus in an instrumental sense. Both would agree on the uniqueness of the Father, and of course both with agree with trinitarians that Jesus is the visible image of the invisible God. Again, both agree that the Father, YHWH, is god in a sense which not other being ever has or will be, and that he knows all. Again, in an ultimate sense, salvation is from the Father, but of course it is through the Son. So no, as far as I can see, unitarians don't have any obvious problem with Isaiah.

Unfortunately, Dale Tuggy is using a redacted Bible. Malacoda, executive secretary to the Dark Lord, sent me a copy of the original Bible, via InfernEx. The courier, who bore a startling resemblance to Hellboy, had me sign for it.

As it turns out, the Urtext of Scripture doesn’t actually ascribe creation to Yahweh. Before he fell, Yahweh was merely the instrument of the Dark Lord’s creation, Lucifer being the Creator in the ultimate sense.

But after he fell, Yahweh redacted the Bible, editing Gen 1 to omit the Dark Lord. In our redacted MSS of Scripture, Gen 1:1 is really 1:2. Our copies are missing the original first verse, which reads: “Before the beginning, Lucifer directed his servant Yahweh to make the heaven and the earth.”  

Again, in an ultimate sense, salvation is from the Dark Lord, but of course it is through Yahweh. So no, as far as I can see, Satanists don’t have any obvious problem with Isaiah. 

Battle of the unisexes



Does Isaian monotheism contradict the Trinity? One way of assessing that question is to consider the alternatives. From a unitarian perspective, who does Isaiah single out as the one true God?

Yes, Isaiah says “Yahweh” is the only true God. But who is Yahweh? Who (or what) does that designation stand for?

In principle, there are varieties of unitarianism (unitarianisms) which nominate opposing candidates for that singular distinction.

A unitarian could be a modalist. He denies the deity of the Father, Son, and Spirit. They are temporary projections of the one true God, who stands behind them.

A unitarian could be a process modalist. He could believe the Father, Son, and Spirit represent successive stages in the evolution of God.

A unitarian could believe that Jesus is the real God, while the Father and the Spirit are creatures or agents of the Son.

Or a unitarian might believe the Spirit is the real God.

More conventionally, a unitarian might believe the Father is the real God.

Does a unitarian reading of Isaiah favor one competing candidate over another? By definition, unitarians don’t believe Isaiah uses Trinitarian categories. That would be anachronistic.

So Isaiah doesn’t single out the deity of the Father, to the exclusion of the Son, or vice versa. From a unitarian perspective, he doesn’t employ that framework even for purposes of contrast. It’s not “God the Father” is the true God,” while Jesus is his agent. For that would still be framing the issue in Trinitarian nomenclature, even to oppose the Trinity.

Internet Dating

Can Commas Be That Important?

Fischer on Molinism

HT: James Anderson

Epicureanism about Death and Immortality

HT: James Anderson

Isaian monotheism

One of the problems with debating Dale Tuggy is that he justifies his unitarianism by reference to Isaian monotheism, yet he’s too indifferent to actually cite the passages he’s alluding to or analyze them in context. So let’s begin by sampling some representative statements that God makes about himself in these chapters:

18 To whom then will you liken God,
    or what likeness compare with him?
19 An idol! A craftsman casts it,
   and a goldsmith overlays it with gold
   and casts for it silver chains.
20 He who is too impoverished for an offering
   chooses wood that will not rot;
he seeks out a skillful craftsman
   to set up an idol that will not move.
 21 Do you not know? Do you not hear?
   Has it not been told you from the beginning?
   Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?
22It is he who sits above the circle of the earth,
   and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers;
who stretches out the heavens like a curtain,
   and spreads them like a tent to dwell in;
23 who brings princes to nothing,
   and makes the rulers of the earth as emptiness.
 24Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown,
   scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth,
when he blows on them, and they wither,
    and the tempest carries them off like stubble.
 25 To whom then will you compare me,
   that I should be like him? says the Holy One.
26Lift up your eyes on high and see:
   who created these?
He who brings out their host by number,
   calling them all by name,
by the greatness of his might,
   and because he is strong in power
   not one is missing.
10 "You are my witnesses," declares the LORD,
   "and my servant whom I have chosen,
that you may know and believe me
   and understand that I am he.
Before me no god was formed,
   nor shall there be any after me.
 5 "To whom will you liken me and make me equal,
   and compare me, that we may be alike?
6 Those who lavish gold from the purse,
   and weigh out silver in the scales,
hire a goldsmith, and he makes it into a god;
    then they fall down and worship!
7 They lift it to their shoulders, they carry it,
   they set it in its place, and it stands there;
    it cannot move from its place.
If one cries to it, it does not answer
   or save him from his trouble.
 9remember the former things of old;
for I am God, and there is no other;
   I am God, and there is none like me,
10 declaring the end from the beginning
   and from ancient times things not yet done,
saying, 'My counsel shall stand,
   and I will accomplish all my purpose,'
11 calling a bird of prey from the east,
   the man of my counsel from a far country.
I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass;
   I have purposed, and I will do it.
12"Listen to me, O Jacob,
   and Israel, whom I called!
I am he; I am the first,
   and I am the last.
13My hand laid the foundation of the earth,
   and my right hand spread out the heavens;
when I call to them,
   they stand forth together.
28Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God,
   the Creator of the ends of the earth.
 5Thus says God, the LORD,
   who created the heavens and stretched them out,
   who spread out the earth and what comes from it,
who gives breath to the people on it
   and spirit to those who walk in it:
8I am the LORD; that is my name;
    my glory I give to no other,
   nor my praise to carved idols.
9Behold, the former things have come to pass,
    and new things I now declare;
before they spring forth
   I tell you of them."
6Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel
   and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts:
"I am the first and I am the last;
   besides me there is no god.
7 Who is like me? Let him proclaim it.
   Let him declare and set it before me,
since I appointed an ancient people.
   Let them declare what is to come, and what will happen.
8Fear not, nor be afraid;
   have I not told you from of old and declared it?
    And you are my witnesses!
Is there a God besides me?
   There is no Rock; I know not any."
9 All who fashion idols are nothing, and the things they delight in do not profit. Their witnesses neither see nor know, that they may be put to shame.
22Let them bring them, and tell us
   what is to happen.
Tell us the former things, what they are,
   that we may consider them,
that we may know their outcome;
   or declare to us the things to come.
23 Tell us what is to come hereafter,
   that we may know that you are gods;
do good, or do harm,
   that we may be dismayed and terrified.
24Behold, you are nothing,
   and your work is less than nothing;
   an abomination is he who chooses you.
12 I made the earth
   and created man on it;
it was my hands that stretched out the heavens,
   and I commanded all their host
 14Thus says the LORD: "The wealth of Egypt and the merchandise of Cush,
   and the Sabeans, men of stature,
shall come over to you and be yours;
   they shall follow you;
   they shall come over in chains and bow down to you.
They will plead with you, saying:
   'Surely God is in you, and there is no other,
   no god besides him.'"
18 For thus says the LORD, who created the heavens
   (he is God!),
who formed the earth and made it
   (he established it;
he did not create it empty,
    he formed it to be inhabited!):
"I am the LORD, and there is no other. 19 I did not speak in secret,
   in a land of darkness;
I did not say to the offspring of Jacob,
    'Seek me in vain.'
I the LORD speak the truth;
   I declare what is right.
 20 "Assemble yourselves and come;
   draw near together,
   you survivors of the nations!
They have no knowledge
   who carry about their wooden idols,
and keep on praying to a god
   that cannot save.
21 Declare and present your case;
   let them take counsel together!
Who told this long ago?
   Who declared it of old?
Was it not I, the LORD?
   And there is no other god besides me,
a righteous God and a Savior;
   there is none besides me.
 22"Turn to me and be saved,
    all the ends of the earth!
   For I am God, and there is no other.

“I commend to you our sister Phoebe, διάκονον and προστάτις”

I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church at Cenchreae, that you may welcome her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints, and help her in whatever she may need from you, for she has been a patron of many and of myself as well (Romans 16:1-2, ESV).

I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church in Cenchreae. I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of his people and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been the benefactor of many people, including me (Romans 16:1-2, NIV)

Συνίστημι δὲ ὑμῖν Φοίβην τὴν ἀδελφὴν ἡμῶν, οὖσαν [καὶ] διάκονον τῆς ἐκκλησίας τῆς ἐν Κεγχρεαῖς, 2 ἵνα αὐτὴν προσδέξησθε ἐν κυρίῳ ἀξίως τῶν ἁγίων καὶ παραστῆτε αὐτῇ ἐν ᾧ ἂν ὑμῶν χρῄζῃ πράγματι• καὶ γὰρ αὐτὴ προστάτις πολλῶν ἐγενήθη καὶ ἐμοῦ αὐτοῦ (Romans 16:1-2, NA27).

In my last post, I quoted William Lane who cited epigraphic and archaeological evidence that “patronage and leadership went hand in hand” in the ancient world. In the passage above, Paul commends Phoebe as both διάκονον (diakonon or “servant/deacon”) and προστάτις (prostatis or “patron/benefactor”).

I’ll come back to Phoebe in just a minute. Meanwhile, Lane continues:
This was undoubtedly true for the church in Rome as well. In Romans, Paul acknowledges his own dependence upon patronage in Corinth (16:23) and Cenchreae (16:2). G. Theissen has identified four criteria for assessing the degree of wealth of individuals mentioned by Paul: (1) engagement in civil or religious office; (2) possession of a house; (3) service to Paul or the church or both; (4) ability to undertake a journey on behalf of the church. To judge from Paul’s commendation of Aquila and Priscilla in Romans 16:3-5 and incidental references in Acts (18:1-3, 18, 24-27), they, at least, satisfy all four criteria. Wealth and patronage were almost certainly determining factors in the leadership they provided in Rome to those who looked to them as hosts and house church patrons. This would presumably also be true of the leadership of the other house churches acknowledged in Paul’s greetings in Romans 16.

We may conclude that in Rome those who possessed the resources and initiative to invite the church into his or her home assumed major leadership responsibilities deriving from the patronage offered. These included important administrative tasks, such as the provision of the common meals of the community, the extension of hospitality to traveling missionaries and other Christians, the representation of the community outside the domestic setting, in addition to pastoral oversight and governance. In this connection it is important to note Paul’s usage of the term to refer to the person who gives aid to the congregation (ὁ προϊστάμενος) in Romans 12:8, where the context refers to the extension of material help. The term carries connotations both of patronage and leadership. A plausible inference is that those who acted as patrons were in some sense also involved in governance of the community. A position of authority emerged out of the benefits that individuals of relatively higher wealth and social status could confer upon the community.

How did such leaders arise? Certainly in Rome they did not owe their position to apostolic appointment, a point of some significance in the light of the later argument of 1 Clement 42.4 and 44.2, where the first leadership of the church in Corinth is traced to appointment by Paul. In Rome, leadership was almost certainly derivative from patronage and service, as well as from the interaction between willing individuals and recognition by the wider community. That said, it is important to observe the significance of the commendatory greetings in Romans 16. Paul’s formulation amounts to a recommendation of certain individuals as leaders within the several Christian communities of Rome who gain their “legitimacy” from recognition by the apostle. Household leadership had emerged “from below” in the several communities in Rome, but the effect of Romans is to legitimate it “from above” by the apostle. (211-212).
Please do not miss the significance of what Lane is saying. Roman Catholics want to say that the three offices of “bishop, presbyter, and deacon” were given by some kind of “divine institution”. Given that it is “leadership in the church of Rome” that is being talked about, this is a far more accurate picture of how leadership in the church of Rome came about. And it has nothing to do with a magical or “sacramental succession”.

Jewett translates the phrase ὁ προϊστάμενος (ho proistamenos) in Romans 12:8 as a generic “the leader/presider”. He says,
the passive participle describes someone being ‘set over or at the head of’ a group, a usage reflected in the collective leadership that had been put in charge of the Thessalonian congregation [1 Thess 5:12: “We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you” ESV; Ἐρωτῶμεν δὲ ὑμᾶς, ἀδελφοί, εἰδέναι τοὺς κοπιῶντας ἐν ὑμῖν καὶ προϊσταμένους ὑμῶν ἐν κυρίῳ καὶ νουθετοῦντας ὑμᾶς NA27]. This appointed role is different from the cognate term προστάτις (prostatis or “patron/benefactor”), which is an upper-class designation of someone who can provide support and protection. The passive form of the expression “the leader” renders it unlikely that it merely refers to someone financially or societally capable of giving aid to clients….The expression probably implies appointment to a leadership role in an early house or tenement church, whether as presider, administrator of charitable work, or pastoral supervisor (752-753).
Thomas Schreiner, a Souther Baptist commentator, and Douglas Moo, a conservative Lutheran, in their commentaries on Romans both translate this instance of ὁ προϊστάμενος (ho proistamenos) in Romans 12:8 as “one who presides”.

This leads us to the role of Phoebe. The word προστάτις in 16:2, then, which the ESV renders as “patron” and the new NIV renders “benefactor”, very likely includes the idea of leadership.

Schreiner says “Scholars debate” whether Phoebe held an office. “On the one hand, the term διάκονος may be generic denoting various kinds of service and assistance. On the other hand, the term also designates an office (cf. Phil. 1:1; 1 Tim 3:8, 12; see also Ign Eph. 2.1; Magn. 6.1). Is Paul commending Phoebe because she held the office of deacon, or because she served in [a] variety of unofficial ways in the church en Cenchreae? It is impossible to be sure, but for several reasons it is likely that she held the office of deacon. First, 1 Tim 3:11 probably identifies women as deacons (Schreiner refers to his own earlier analysis). Second, the designation “deacon of the church in Cenchreae” suggests that Phoebe served in this special capacity, for this is the only occasion in which the term διάκονος is linked with a particular local church. Third, the use of the masculine noun διάκονος also suggests that office is intended. Of course, we need to beware of reading into early church offices the full-fledged development that was realized later. But woman deacons were probably appointed early, especially because other women needed assistance from their own sex in visitation, baptism, and other matters” (Thomas Schreiner, Commentary on Romans, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, ©1998, pgs 786-787).

Jewett discusses the significance of the word προστάτις as applied to Phoebe:
[with respect to the phrase “to provide her with whatever she might need from you in the matter…”], It must have significance, or else it would hardly have been mentioned as the opening request in the final series of personal greetings.

I believe a case can be made that Paul provides a direct hint in the wording of Rom 16:2c, “for she became a patron to many, and also to me”. The explanatory words καὶ γὰρ (“also for”) follow immediately after the vague term πράγμα, thus specifying what is meant by the “matter.” It is the matter of Phoebe’s patronage. The aorist passive verb used here, ἐγενήθη (“she became”), suggests that Phoebe functioned as a patron on a specific occasion for each of the persons named. She provided resources in concrete acts of patronage, implying the employment of substantial resources. The term προστάτις means “protectress, patroness, helper,” and its masculine counterpart took on the technical sense of a legal patron. Although the upper-class connotation of “patroness” runs counter to the subordinate implication traditionally seen in the term “deaconess,” several commentators have pointed to its relevance in this context. Kasemann argued, on the basis of an alleged lack of precise parallels to the legal use of the feminine term, προστάτης, that “women could not take on legal functions,” but this does not stand up under the weight of evidence discovered since 1981. [Kasemann wrote a 1980 commentary on Romans]. E.A. Judge was one of the first to point out the relevance of the papyrus from 142 B.C.E. that was published in 1981, referring to a woman being appointed the legal προστάτις of her fatherless son. Subsequently, the third-century C.E. inscription discovered at Aphrodisias has been published with a reference to a Jewish woman by the name of Jael as the προστάτις of a synagogue, clearly indicating a patronage role.

It is now clear that the patronage role played by Phoebe was not unique. Ramsay MacMullen’s survey showed that women made up “a fifth of all rescript-addresses” in the Roman period and that “perhaps a tenth of the protectors and donors that collegia sought out were women. Honors paid to a patroness ob merita, or some similar hint, indicate how the game was played.” He concludes that “as a general rule, then, women as benefactors should be imagined playing their part personally and visibly, out in the open. Other investigations of the archaeological and cultural evidence confirm this picture. Recent studies by Theissen, Holmberg, Funk, Murphy-O’Connor, Meeks, Kearsley, Tebilco, and Garrison of the leading role played by upper-class benefactors, both male and female, in early Christian communities provide the social background of the description of Phoebe’s status. The host or hostess of house churches was usually a person of high social standing and means, with a residencelarge enough for the church to gather, who presided over the Eucharistic celebarations and was responsible for the ordering of the congregation. The fact that Paul mentions Phoebe as a patroness “to many, and also to me” indicates the level of material resources that would support this kind of leadership role. In light of her high social standing, and Paul’s relatively subordinate social position as her client, it is mistaken to render προστάτις as “helper” or to infer some kind of subordinate role (945-947).