Thursday, June 16, 2011

No one who denies the Son has the Father

Hello Steve & readers,
First, I wouldn’t call myself an anti-trinitarian.

Since Tuggy opposes Trinitarian theology, since Tuggy classifies himself as a unitarian, that makes him, by definition, anti-trinitarian.

I’m not using “anti-trinitarian” as a value-judgment, but just a factual descriptor for his position.
I’m not from any such denomination or group, and I think believers ought to believe what seems true to them, and that they have the right to speculate.

That depends on what we mean.

Does Tuggy mean people shouldn’t pretend to believe what they privately disbelieve? Fine.

But by definition, Christian believers can’t be Christian believers unless they believe Christian distinctives.

Thus, I would not break fellowship with someone, or accuse them of misc. bad stuff because they accept some Trinity theory or other.

Since I didn’t discuss the ethical or church disciplinary dimensions of anti-Trinitarianism, it’s unclear to me why Tuggy is responding to something I didn’t address.

However, since he raises the issue, I certainly think anti-Trinitarianism is an excommunicable offense. Indeed, I think it’s a damnable offense. No one who denies the Son has the Father (1 Jn 2:23).

I am certainly a non-trinitarian, i.e. a small-u unitarian. I’ve been dragged there by the texts, and by the desperate problem faced by every Trinity theory out there.

Our warrant for the Trinity relies, first and foremost, not on a theory, but on God’s self-revelation. We can theorize about the implications of the revealed data, but our warrant for the Trinity doesn’t rest on the elegance of our Trinitarian theories.

Term-quibble #2: ‘Arian’? I suggest we should reserved this tired, unhelpful old label for those 4th c. guys - and even then, it’s not too accurate. In any case, I’m not an ‘Arian’ even in a extended sense – I’m not a subordinationist.

That’s the etymological fallacy.

Naive? Really? I don’t fail to distinguish between technical and non-technical language. Where have I made any elementary error?

Take Tuggy’s statement that:

A “god” in the Bible is always a self – not a substance, nature, or whatnot.

Moving along:

Yes - concepts are more fundamental than words. You’ll notice that at no time do I ever appeal to the true but shallow point that Trinity-lingo is not found in the Bible.

Yet he proceeds to confound words with concepts in the statement I just cited.

That’s interesting, but not decisive. What it is decisive, in my view, is that all NT authors assume the one God, Yahweh, to be the same self as the Father of Jesus.

On the face of it, that’s demonstrably false. NT writers often assign Yahwist passages to Jesus. And not merely passages in which Yahweh just so happens to be the speaker or agent, but passages which accentuate Yahweh’s unique status. 

Nothing like bald assertion. :-) Please look at my arguments for this in my 2004 “Deception” piece. To take but one example - which can be wriggled out of, but which is about as clear as could be: John 17:3. Jesus calls someone “the only true god/God”. Who is he talking to? The Father. So if he’s the *only* true god, then anyone else is not that one true god. A god, we assume, is a someone; basically all Christians believe that.

i) That nicely illustrates his inability to distinguish between proper nouns and common nouns.

ii) Tuggy ignores the application of “God” language and Yahwist passages to Jesus in the Fourth Gospel (e.g. Jn 12:41).

iii) I’ve dealt with Jn 17:3 elsewhere:

The poster argues that just because the OT God is given a proper name, it isn’t necessary a self. Well, sure. Bill Clinton called one of his parts, which was not a self, “Willard”. But a god, and the God in the OT is always a self, and this is obvious to every reader - indeed, frequently insisted on in apologetics and inter-religious contexts.

i) That’s not what I argued.

ii) Given the conventions of narrative theology (“the poetics of narrativity”), we’d normally expect God to be depicted as a “self.” That would hold true whether or not the narrator is unitarian or Trinitarian.

In OT narratives you ordinarily have a divine protagonist who interacts with his creatures. These include human protagonists as well as human antagonists or foils. There are also angelic emissaries and demonic forces.

The divine character is depicted as speaking, sending, delivering, punishing, &c. Ordinarily there is no occasion to depict more than one divine speaker or divine agent given the internal dynamics of the story.

However, God doesn’t exist on the same plane as the human characters. God exists behind-the-scenes. He manifests himself within the narrative, but he doesn’t exist within the (OT) narrative.

The fact that you generally have a (singular) divine “self” in OT narrative, to interact with human “selves,” doesn’t mean you can simply equate the narrative representation with a God who ultimately exists outside the narrative.

And the narrative conventions carry over into other genres.

iii) By the same token, NT narrators do have occasion to present more than one divine party, for at that stage of redemptive history we’re not just dealing with how God interacts with his creatures; rather, there’s the interaction between three divine parties (Father, Son, and Spirit) comes to the fore in the redemptive division of labor.

Yes, I agree that one can and in some cases should read various OT texts as having the “Yahweh” who appears by not God himself, but rather some sort of messenger, who speaks for him, and they would say “bears his name.”

Delegation is hardly sufficient to account for further distinctions. Prophets are messengers of God, but the Spirit of God is not a messenger; rather, behind the prophet of God stands the Spirit of God.

Likewise, angels are messengers of God, yet the Angel of the Lord is often in a class apart. 

The NT explicitly identifies the two, in particular in Acts.

i) This reflects an inability to even frame the question correctly. The question at issue is not whether Kurios (=Yahweh) includes the Father, but whether Kurios excludes the Son. Tuggy is assuming that the identification in Acts is restrictive. Yet Acts assigns Yahwist verses to the Son as well.

ii) Tuggy is also overlooking the polemic thrust of the speeches in Acts. When addressing a Jewish audience, the speakers will naturally accentuate the God of the Patriarchs to indict the religious establishment in Jerusalem as covenant-breakers. By rejecting the Messiah, they reject the divine Sender–the very God who made a covenant with Abraham.

1 comment:

  1. Steve - you have an unpleasant way of too quickly accusing people of confusions.

    Nonetheless, a few quick points:

    "We can theorize about the implications of the revealed data"

    Right. Any Trinity theory is an attempt to explain the data of the texts. Problem is, there are many of them, and they're incompatible.

    "NT writers often assign Yahwist passages to Jesus."

    Sure. All unitarians have always known this. We can't take such applications to imply that Jesus is Yahweh himself, though. Why? That's inconsistent, because according to the texts some things are true of one that are not true of the other.

    On your idea that I somehow misunderstand nouns - this is a careless misreading. My point was that these authors assume the numerical identity of the Father and God. If f=g, and not(f=s) then it can't be that s=g. You're not getting my point that the authors don't merely predicate divinity of f & s - rather, they identify f and Yahweh.

    Re: your narrative line - sorry, I don't understand anything about the "poetics of narrativity" that would require a "God" which is not a self to be depicted as a self... Yes, an almighty God could appear other than he is, but I don't see how this changes the fact that "God" in the OT is supposed to be a god.

    "The question at issue is not whether Kurios (=Yahweh) includes the Father, but whether Kurios excludes the Son. Tuggy is assuming that the identification in Acts is restrictive. Yet Acts assigns Yahwist verses to the Son as well."

    = is a one-one relation. Two different things can't be = to one thing. This is self-evident, when you grasp what is meant by = (numerical identity). It is "exclusive" in that nothing else can be = to a thing, but only itself. If I'm sounding dogmatic on this, I am - this is basic logic.

    The verses you put so much weight on are like this: OT text says Yahweh will do X. NT applies that text to Jesus, making it be fulfilled in him. So, he's Yahweh, no? No! You're saddling the text with foolish nonsense - saying that those are =, even though they differ (some things are true of one that aren't true of the other).

    Really, those texts needn't puzzle. Analogy: Astrologer says "Bush will invade Iraq." Years later, general Smith leads the charge (sent in by Bush). See, she says, my prediction was fulfilled in Smith. She doesn't think Bush is Smith. Rather, it was through Smith that Bush accomplished his invasion.