Sunday, March 11, 2012

Jesus at the center

Antitrinitarian apostate Dale Tuggy has renewed his attacks on the deity of Christ. Whenever the discussion turns to exegeting the witness of Scripture, Dale loses. But let’s examine the issue from another angle. What practical difference does it make to deny the Trinity? Consistently carried out, how does that affect your relationship with God? How does that affect your prayer-life? How does that affect the way you center your life?

To some extent I expect many Christians have internalized the truths of the Trinity, the Incarnation, the deity of Christ. It’s something that subconsciously conditions our outlook on life, our prayer-life, even our self-image.

For instance, we’re timebound creatures. Because existence in time is a pervasive feature of human experience, it’s something that we don’t consciously think about all the time. Yet it has a profound impact on how we view the world as well as our place in the world. Same thing with Trinitarian, Incarnational piety.

So when a nominal Christian like Dale Tuggy commits apostasy, when he becomes a unitarian, his residual Trinitarian piety may carry over into his unitarianism. At a subliminal level, the unitarian apostate may not have made the psychological transition. But unitarianism is a fundamentally different religion than Christianity. Let’s take some examples.

i) Humans are prone to hero-worship. Who’s the greatest? This is probably a part of our socialization and maturation. We compare and contrast ourselves with others. Growing up, our parents are, for better or worse, our natural role-models. But we may have other role-models to. We measure ourselves against other human beings. Do we measure up? Do they measure up?

Yet no merely human being is satisfactory. The more you know about them, the more you find to criticize. Every human being is disappointing. Every human being is flawed.

Some people idolize another human being. Turn a blind eye to their clay feet.

But if Jesus is God Incarnate, then he sets the standard. We ought to be like him. He’s the perfect man. He’s not merely the image of God, but the God behind the image. He is what he exemplifies.

He has perfect human emotions. Perfect human reason. His example will never betray us or lead us astray. We can always look up to him. He will never let you down. That’s because he’s human–but more than human. If he were merely human, he wouldn’t be the human exemplar–but just another human example.

ii) The Incarnation is the meeting-point between God and man. Internally, that’s where God and man meet in one person. Externally, that’s where we meet God face-to-face. The meeting-point becomes the meeting-place, where we encounter God at our own level. Where we live. Where we think. Where we taste and touch, see and hear.

As creatures, we can’t rise to God’s level. God must come down to our level. In Jesus, we can commune with God, for God has become one of us at the same time he remains God.

By contrast, unitarianism becomes indistinguishable from atheism. From a Godless world. From a world emptied of God. For unitarianism has no Incarnation. The Word never became flesh.

So God doesn’t approach us on our own level. We don’t encounter God man-to-man. God remains inaccessible. Far removed from our experience. Where there is no meeting-point there is no meeting-place.

Instead, Jesus is just a prophet. Not essentially different from Moses or David, Isaiah or John the Baptist. Or he is, at most, an exalted creature–like the archangel Michael.

So we can’t commune with God. At a practical level, the existence of God becomes interchangeable with his nonexistence. All we have is the world. Our fellow human beings.

Consider Islam. Islam is the great unitarian religion. And it’s just a code of ethics. It Allah didn’t exist, that would make no discernible difference. The Muslim lives and dies within his self-enclosed world of mundane rituals and duties and fellow Muslims.

Sufism tries to supplement this vacuum with mysticism, but Sufism is artificially grafted onto Islam.

A Christocentric piety is a theocentric piety. If Christ is at the center, then God is at the center, for Christ is God Incarnate. Christ brings God to us in his own person–the person of the Son–as well as bringing the Father to us–for the Father is like the Son. And the Spirit mirrors Christ back to us in revelation and regeneration.

The Incarnation enables us to center our lives on God. The meeting-point between God and man becomes the focal point of Christian life and piety. When a man converts to Christianity, he finds his center. He regains his bearings. Before then, he was lost–like an amnesiac.

Without Christ at the center, we lose our center. We lose God. We forget who we are. Forget who we were meant to be. We become disoriented. Cut adrift.

iii) Unitarians may reduce the distance by humanizing God. God becomes a finite, Zeus-like figure. A godling who’s just as dysfunctional as you and me. A frustrated, forgetful, hurting, struggling stressed-out deity who needs our advice and sympathy. Kenosis without Incarnation. The unitarian deity becomes another lost soul, just like the rest of us. God help us!–only there is no God to help us, for the unitarian deity is in over his head. A drowning "God" among drowning men.

iv) There's also the question of whether a mere man can atone for the sins of other men. Unitarianism can always cut the knot by simply denying vicarious atonement–but, if so, that's yet another casualty of unitarianism. 


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Nothing ironic about that. Due to the Incarnation, Jesus is central to our experience of God. You're confusing religious epistemology with religious ontology.

    Unitarianism doesn't put God front and center. He who denies the Son denies the Father, and vice versa. (Ditto: the Spirit.)

    Unitarians don't have one God; rather, they have no God.

  3. Both Trinitarianism and Unitarianism rob the Lord Jesus Christ of the preeminent place He is to hold in our hearts and lives.

  4. As an anti-Trinitarian, that makes you a unitarian.

  5. Wikipedia: "Unitarianism is a Christian theological movement, named for its understanding of God as one person, in direct contrast to Trinitarianism which defines God as three persons coexisting consubstantially as one in being. Thus, Unitarians adhere to strict monotheism, and maintain that Jesus was a great man and a prophet of God, perhaps even a supernatural being, but not God himself."

    By contrast, I believe Jesus was God Himself. Blessed be His name!

  6. You're prevaricating. If you deny the Trinity, if you think Jesus is the only person of the Godhead, then that makes you a unitarian. Just a different kind of unitarian.

  7. Encarta: "Prevaricate: get out of telling the truth: to avoid giving a direct and honest answer or opinion, or a clear and truthful account of a situation, especially by quibbling or being deliberately ambiguous or misleading."

    I did no such thing. I looked up the word, gave you the definition I found, and showed you where I differed from it. If you want to define unitarianism differently, then do so - but you don't have the right to bear false witness against your neighbor.

    In any case, you can call me what you will but I stand by my point that the Lord Jesus Christ deserves the preeminence.

  8. Don't waste my time on your dissimulation.

  9. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  10. Steve, do you think that Old Testament saints had a Trinitarian concept of God? Thanks.