These Aren’t the Droids You’re Looking For: James White and John 6:39

I admit it. I am a Star Wars fan. Of course since I was a kid when episode 4 came out I am prejudiced into thinking that 4 and 5 were the best. This doesn’t mean that I go to conventions or collect unopened toys as a long term investment. Truth be told I blew up most of them with fire crackers or shot them to death with my BB gun.

Of course it seems that James White is also something of a fan of Star Wars. He keeps trying to use Obi-Wan’s Jedi mind tricks on me. Simply wave the hand and repeat after me. (This of course is similar to the underworld witch in the Silver Chair.) Of course, since it isn’t possible to learn the kinds of powers I am interested in from a Jedi, his mind tricks just won’t work on me. ( Episode 3 Anakin: “Is it possible to learn this power?” Palpatine: “Not from a Jedi.”)

In another forum I argued that John 6:37ff was to be interpreted Christologically as Christ the center of the text and the key to its correct interpretation. White thinks I am mistaken. Foolish me for thinking that Jesus was the center and hermenutical key of Scriptures! (John 5:39)

White wishes to argue that the groups in v. 39 and in v. 40 are identical. In fact he argues that I confuse the general resurrection with being raised to eternal life. Of course this turns on how we interpret eternal life, either as an all or nothing (personal) deal or something that admits of degrees. I take the latter and White takes the former. I think the Scripture indicates that all are redeemed in Christ, otherwise they would not be raised and hence not be “in Christ.” (1 Cor 15:22, 2 Pet 2:1)

Consequently, redemption comes in degrees. All are beneifited by God’s redemptive work but some enjoy it more fully than others. (1 Tim 4:10, John 10:10) In any case, no one escapes Christ’s soverign power and that is in part the point of John 6. Christ and not Moses is the source of life (John 5:45-47, 6:31-35-Incidentally, the flow from Chapter 5 through six is from the Exodus through the wilderness with Moses, eating the Manna and then surpassing Moses by entering the true promised Land). I perfectly grant that Jesus is explaining in part the unbelief of some of the Jews but he is also pointing to His superiority despite their unbelief. Just as all of Israel was redeemed in the Exodus and ate Manna, so this is also true here. This stiffles White’s theological importation of “elect” since the Bible indicates that Israel is “elect” in spite of unbelief. (Romans 11:2, 28)

White claims that v. 39 is speaking of all of the elect, but of course the term election isn’t in the passage and White is simply fist pounding and question begging since that is the question at issue. I perfectly grant that v. 39 designates a corporate group, but I deny that it is co-extensive with the group of v. 40, which I take to be a subset of v. 39.

What reason do I have for thinking so? Well first the conditions for membership in v. 39 and v.40 aren’t the same. There is no condition for belief in v. 39 but there is in 40. This play between general and specific is part of the structure of the passage. What White needs to do is not eisegete the text by importing his theology into the text but show on exegetical grounds reasons for thinking that the two groups are in fact identical and co-extensive. Simply repeating that they are identical isn’t an argument and neither is appealing to the notion of the consistency of the passage.

The promises not to lose any of them doesn’t do any work either because Christ doesn’t lose any of His Creation to the devil since He raises it all up for eternity. If the wicked do not derive their source of life from Christ and His Resurrection, from where does White think they derive it?

Moreover, I think White misconstrues the flow of the chapter. The section begins with contrasting the general and specific and then Jesus narrows the scope to that of a personal response, which is in part the point of consuming His flesh and blood. The narrowing of the passage though doesn’t require us to think or even imply that the contrast is between the elect and the reprobate. And so of course I too can claim that I am preserving the consistency of the passage.

Part of the problem is that White is presupposing that union with Christ only comes about via an extrinsic personal/volitional relation but I don’t think Scripture teaches this. First becaus if it were true only some of creation would be recapitulated in Christ, which is false. (Rom 8:19-28, Eph 1:11) Second, it would imply that the wicked were not raised or that Christ wasn’t God since the hypostatic union would be an extrinsic and contingent relation such that it could be broken. (This was the real theological basis of Annihilationalism/Conditional Immortality, which is why Arianism and the former usually go hand in hand-Socinianism, JW’s, Christadelphians, Seventh Day Adventists, etc. and why these views came out of Calvinism or some derivative thereof.) Third, it would imply that not all were dead and that Christ didn’t die for all. (2 Cor 5:14) If White wishes to invoke Limited Atonement here, he is certainly free to do so, but it will imply that not all men were dead in Adam (1 Cor 15:22, Romans 5:18). Advocating Pelagianism is a rather odd thing for a Calvinist to do, but White is an odd kind of guy I suppose.

And of course, it is well known that I have patristic warrant for interpreting the passage the way I do. Maximus the Confessor definately saw the passage this way and the refutation of monothelitism/monoenergism/monergism turned on this interpretation. But the interpretation goes back significantly further.

Jerome, who was no exegetical moron and quite competent in the biblical languages writes the following,

“Then shall the saying of our Lord appear perfectly realised: ‘All that my Father has given me, I shall not lose aught thereof, but I will raise it up again at the last day;’ the whole of His humanity in its entirety at His birth.” To Pammachius Against John of Jerusalem, sec 34.

Of course, White might complain that Maximus is quite late and that Jerome isn’t much better. Fair enough, but how about Tertullian? He writes,

“And, still further, the Lord explains to us the meaning of the thing when He says: ‘I came not to do my own will, but the Father’s, who hath sent me.’  What, I ask, is that will? ‘That of which He hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.’ Now, what had Christ received from the Father but that which He had Himself put on? Man, of course, in his texture of flesh and soul. Neither, therefore, of those parts which He has received will He allow to perish; nay, no considerable portion—nay, not the least fraction, of either. If the flesh be, as our opponents slightingly think, but a poor fraction, then the flesh is safe, because not a fraction of man is to perish; and no larger portion is in danger, because every portion of man is in equally safe keeping with Him. If, however, He will not raise the flesh also up at the last day, then He will permit not only a fraction of man to perish, but (as I will venture to say, in consideration of so important a part) almost the whole of him. But when He repeats His words with increased emphasis, ‘And this is the Father’s will, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on Him, may have eternal life: and I will raise him up at the last day,’.—He asserts the full extent of the resurrection.  For He assigns to each several nature that reward which is suited to its services: both to the flesh, for by it the Son was ‘seen;’ and to the soul, for by it He was ‘believed on.'”

Now, White will probably dismiss these Fathers and and early witness like Tertullian. I wouldn’t expect him to do otherwise given his principles. All I am establishing here is that I am not innovating and that my reading has been a plausible read to a number of no small minds prior to myself. What is more, this interpretation isn’t a late development either. The fundamental difference between White and myself is that I take a person to be the hermenutical key to understanding the Scriptures, as the Apostles and Fathers did before me, and White takes impersonal principles to be the hermeneutical key tp understanding the Scriptures. Only that which can be demonstrated by reason is a suitable candidate for belief. Rational principles license an interpretation only if they provide a suitable and stable relation between individual discrete substances. This is why White’s exegetical methodology doesn’t float free of Christological assumptions but in fact depens on a Nestorian Christology. This is not to say that White explicitly advocates Nestorianism as many of his friends seem to do, but it is just to say that his hermeneutical principles are at odds with his professed Christology.

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28 Responses to These Aren’t the Droids You’re Looking For: James White and John 6:39

  1. Nick says:

    Hi Perry,
    Interesting post. I know you have mentioned this before but I just wanted to see if I understand some of the fundamental differences between something like White’s reformed take and your Orthodox take regarding some soteriological issues.
    (i) On White’s take (limited attonment) Humanity (considered in general (nature) and in particluar (individual persons) as it subsists in its post resurrection state) is not (ontologically speaking) redeemed, until one is regenerated, has faith, justified etc. Upon these conditions, individuals are redemed (I won’t get into the question of how volition comes into play, Gods and mans). So on this model, you are either in or out full stop (even humanity in general cannot be said to be redemed because only the particluar man Jesus Christ is raised up, not human nature in general with him. Hence humans cannot be said to be raised up because of what Christ does and hence, the looming Nestorianism).

    Your take is that upon the resurrection, all humanity is redemed (because all human nature is raised up with Christ). So in one ontological sense, all are saved (according to nature). But in another sense not all are saved (in a personal or hypostatic sense). So there are two moments in the process of redemption. The individual is redemed because his nature has been taken up with Christ (immortality), but in another sense he (can be) damed in a personal sense. He will personally expierence the personal presence of God as hell if he does not personally (hypostaticaly) cooperate with the Divine energia. So on your view there might be something like the possibility of a gradation or degrees of cooperation with the Divine enegia and hence degrees of heaven or hell.
    So is one of the things you are trying to press White about the question “well how and why are all humans raised up (Biblical data) if not becuse they were *all* raised up in and with Christ (because he raised up all human nature and defacto all particluar humans, not just himself)?
    The logic seems to be

    (i) The bible tells us that all will be raised.
    (ii) This is accomplished by the incarnation, life, death and resurrection of Christ as all would agree (I won’t get into atonment theories here)
    //(iii) Since all are raised (i) and it is Christ who is the cause (ii) either (a) Christ ministry must be efficatious for *all* or (b) you look for some as of yet unconsidered option or (c) Not all are fallen (Pelagianism).
    (iv) Unless there is something forthcoming I don’ think (b) is an option.
    (v) Not (c) especially not for any Augustinian.
    // (vi) (a) which just is your take

    Do I have this right, are you saying that on White’s read of scripture and his corresponding Christology, there is no sufficient account of why all are raised?

  2. To elaborate on this argument, I would add that White’s argument is fallacious for equivocating in John 6 between “eternal life” (zoe aionios) and “raising up” (anestemi/anastasis), which terms correspond respectively to the personal and natural aspects of salvation. In the Johannine usage (and cf. the Lukan Acts 13:46-48), not all who are raised up have eternal life (e.g., John 5:29), and eternal life can be lost (e.g., John 17:1-12), corresponding to the distinction between bodily resurrection and personal spiritual rebirth.

    Fortunately, White is candid about the equivocation:
    “So, too, John likes to use different phrases to say the same thing. One which is important in John 6 is his use of the phrases ‘have eternal life’ and ‘shall be raised up on the last day.’ It would be an obvious mistake to differentiate between these two phrases. They mean the same thing, and are used in parallel to one another.”

    ISTM that the equivocation, not the differentiation, that is the obvious mistake, since St. John himself does not use the terms interchangeably. Ironically, White seems to be confusing the same concepts that he wrongly accused you of confusing, since he hasn’t distinguished between bodily resurrection in the age to come and spiritual rebirth in the here and now. At any rate, it’s far from “obvious” that the terms “mean the same thing.” Your patristic citations are evidence of that.
    (cont.)

  3. (cont.)
    On White’s Christological difficulties making it impossible for him to give a coherent account of Christian belief, I would point out that he can’t even defend against tritheist LDS arguments. Consider White’s anti-Mormon entry here.

    White correctly notes Mormon apologist Brigham Henry Roberts’s position:
    “Despite Roberts interaction with historic, orthodox Christian belief, he still maintained the full LDS viewpoint regarding the plurality of gods: ‘A Plurality of Divine Intelligences: We have already shown that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are three separate and distinct persons, and, so far as personality is concerned, are three Gods. Their oneness consists in being possessed of the same mind; they are one, too, in wisdom, in knowledge, in will and purpose; but as individuals they are three, each separate and distinct from the other, and three is plural. Now, that is a long way on the road towards proving the plurality of Gods.'”

    What White evidently doesn’t realize is that he has already concede the Mormon position in his own exposition of the Trinity:
    “Finally, we see real and eternal relationships between the Persons (the opera ad intra.) One of the characteristics of personal existence is will. Few would argue the point in relationship to the Father, as He obviously has a will. So too, the Son has a will, for he says to the Father in the Garden, ‘not as I will, but as you will.’ (Matthew 26:39).”http://www.aomin.org/CHALC.html

    White’s argument for differentiating and identifying the divine persons is identical to the Mormon argument: will is personal, and unity comes from common operation (cf. Roberts asserting a plurality of intelligences but “one, too, in wisdom, in knowledge, in will and purpose”). The careful reader will note that it is also the same argument for identity between the Trinity as Perry described above with respect to the Incarnation, i.e., an external, volitional union. These categories for distinguishing the persons are not from Christian theology, but from Arian philosophy. Effectively, White has granted the (false) premises of the Arian/Mormon argument for tritheism but inconsistently disowned the conclusion. An intelligent LDS apologist will simply point out that White ought to be tritheist in order to be consistent with his own statements.

  4. Typo corrections:
    1st post: “differentiation, that is” should be “differentiation, is.”
    2nd post: “White has concede” should be “White has conceded.”

  5. And the quotes shouldn’t be in the second line of the previous post. Man, I need some sleep.

  6. Levi says:

    Jonathan, I was wondering if maybe you could explain the comparison between White and Roberts. It’s a little bit beyond me.

    And also, if maybe you or Perry could explain the “an external, volitional union” and the conclusion that leads to. I’d really appreciate it. This is good stuff.

  7. In a nutshell, Roberts is arguing that multiple intelligences -> multiple persons. White is arguing that multiple wills -> multiple persons. In either case, it’s a multiplication of natural faculties that is equated with personhood. Thus, White argues that the Son is a different person because He has a (divine) will different from the Father.

    If you follow the patristic argument according to Gregory of Nyssa (see M. R. Barnes, The Power of God), the common divine operations (will, intellect, etc.) that shows that the divine Persons have a common ousia. By that same association between power and nature, the notion that the Son has the same power different from the Father would mean that He has a nature different from the Father, which is tri-theist. (N.B., The latter isn’t the same thing as associating the persons with *different* powers, such as the “two powers” doctrine Barnes examines, but that’s a whole ‘nother ball of wax that I won’t cover here.)

    The Nestorian solution (in the context of Christology) to the dilemma of separate wills is to “fuse” the wills, so that they always perfectly aligned in their exercise. That is what I take Perry to mean by “external, volitional union,” viz., because the one will is in “perfect obedience” to the other, the powers are said to be united. The problem is that if the powers are really united, then they become one operation. This, then, is Monotheletism of the Nestorian type; it collapses the distinction between the operations of the nature and confuses them. But if they are not really united, they are a basis of separation between the persons on the Nestorian definition of person, since distinct faculties have been equated with distinct persons. For the Nestorian who equates personal distinction with distinction of faculties, then, there is no coherent middle position between confusion and separation of the natures.

    The patristic solution was to distinguish between a faculty and the personal exercise of that faculty, so that there could be a tri-personal exercise of a single divine will, for example. Likewise, there could be one personal exercise of distinct divine and human faculties, contra Monotheletism. Christ personally exercises both the divine faculties that He shares in common with the Father and the Holy Spirit and the human faculties of the nature in common with us that He alone assumed, without confusion or separation. That’s the Chalcedonian teaching, rightly understood.

    To circle back to the topic of the thread, this distinction between personal exercise and the faculty itself is what distinguishes zoe aionios, a personal participation in the life of God in Christ, from anastasis, the resurrection of bodily capacity (ever-being, in St. Maximus’s language) for both the just and the unjust. The anastasis zoes, the resurrection of life, is ever-well-being, an unending personal use of the entire human capacity (including the body) for God. The anastasis tis kriseos, the resurrection to judgment, is ever-ill-being, a human capacity thoroughly squandered in opposition to God. John 6 is a promise to those who believe that Christ will resurrect them bodily, not merely spiritually, but it is by no means a promise that those who personally reject Christ, who repudiate their new birth, will retain the personal state of eternal life.

  8. acolyte says:

    Jonathan,

    That citation from White for Matt 26 (the link for which seems dead, can you dig it up?) clearly implies monothelitism as well as tri-theism. It seems strange that White isn’t aware of at least classical protestant teaching on the doctrine of God where God is said to possess only one will between the three persons. White confuses persons with a faculty or natural power. it may be true that all persons act volitionally, but it doesn’t follow that the volition or will is hypostatic. In any case, its a pretty big screw up for someone who is supposedly a trained apologist defending the doctrine of God.

  9. acolyte says:

    Levi,

    I’d be happen to explain further. Just trace out your line of thinking and where you putter out and then I can get a fix on where you are having trouble.

  10. Not sure what happened up there. Here’s the link spelled out:
    http://www.aomin.org/CHALC.html

    As you know, the definition of person is the same one that Eric Svendsen gave here:
    http://www.ntrmin.org/Apollinarimonophysites.htm

    Svendsen says “In short, Apollinaris’ view was that Christ was a body of flesh formed and animated by a nous (spirit and intellect), but that the nous was not human, but rather divine. What Apollinaris means by nous is ‘person.’ ” and “Both the human nous and the divine nous are bound together in Christ and comprise His person.”

    Same argument: unity of Christ’s person is constituted by the fusion of two faculties (in this case, nous).

    As far as I can tell, the reason they believe these positions are orthodox because the interpretation of Chalcedon has been revisionist starting with Calvin himself. Since Loofs particularly, it appears that the only standard for not being Nestorian is that one says that one isn’t Nestorian, no matter how anachronistic or meaningless the resulting interpretation of Chalcedon (e.g., accepting Nestorius’s own opinion that he was Chalcedonian, which is clearly wrong).

  11. S&S:
    Your response simply begs the question. The dispute is over an equivocation on spiritual and bodily resurrection. Perry’s position is that Christ’s response affirms, in response to His interlocutors’ denial, His power to resurrect people both spiritually and bodily.

    Contrary to your assertion, it makes perfect sense in response to a denial not only to explain why it is denied but WHAT is being denied. You simply assert “What follows is key since it is the explanation of WHY THEY DON’T BELIEVE” and accuse those who assert that the passage had additional content of exegetical error. But there is no logical or exegetical reason for doing so. In fact, one could argue that the passage must certainly have additional content, given that most of the discourse is addressed to the synagogue, while the part dealing with unbelief appears to be specifically directed at those disciples who left (John 6:61-65). You’re reading the entire passage as if it were directed at the same audience throughout, assuming rather counterintuitively that it is primarily directed at the faithful. Perry’s argument and my argument are that there is content relevant to all listeners, because the exposition of Jesus’s power makes it clear exactly what Jesus is claiming and what is being denied.

    Incidentally, that interpretation doesn’t require any conclusion about libertarian free will. Indeed, the argument is that the passage isn’t even about free will, but rather, it is about Jesus’s power to do what He claims. If Jesus isn’t even talking about whether He can force people to believe in Him or not, then this whole issue of libertarian free will and so-called “divine monergism” is not even addressed here.

    Likewise, you assert without benefit of argument that “These are parallel statements” without specifying the basis for their being parallel, the very point that is being disputed. Perry’s argument is essentially that all of these passages define Jesus’s power in contrast to the denial of His interlocutors. If that is the basis for the passages being parallel, then the inference you draw from the passages is wrong, because the passages aren’t only about what Jesus gives the elect but also about Jesus’s power over creation more generally.

    Finally, you have assumed an unwarranted version of the flesh/spirit dichotomy. You say “The Spirit is the One that imparts eternal life and only a spiritual act, not a physical one of the flesh, can bring about salvation.” Our entire point is that bodily resurrection is also a spiritual power, so bodily resurrection is also included in this passage. Your exegesis that equates being raised up on the last day with eternal life implicitly assumes that bodily resurrection is not also a spiritual effect. It seems clear to me that any Christian who believes in the bodily resurrection certainly cannot make this claim, and that was Perry’s point.

    In summary, all of your arguments simply assume your conclusion, meaning that they are at best question-begging. Moreover, they are based on exegetical fallacies such as assuming that all parts of the passage are directed at the same audience. Finally, they draw on a philosophically dubious equation of the flesh with physical existence. Consequently, your arguments have proved nothing except the unreliability of your own conclusions.

  12. R. Wagenaar says:

    I am looking for a Christian tritheist denomination or association. Does any exist? I don’t accept the standard statement of “one God in 3 persons.” Why not just be straight with the world and say 3 Gods who are one in attributes and purpose? Have Christians been too afraid to totally break ranks with Judaism (which is not in line with the Old Testament)?

  13. Perry Robinson says:

    Wagenaar,

    Sorry, we’re Trinitarian here, but perhaps we could help you understand Trinitarianism better.

  14. R. Wagenaar says:

    Thank you, Perry, but I understand Trinitarianism but don’t believe it is what the discovered copies of the New Testament teach in most of the verses that refer to the Father, Son and/or Holy Spirit. The Father is greater than the Son, and will be when the new universe is re-created, so the Father and the Son can’t be one god. God the Word was a god and was with God the Father. Each is a god, but they work as one. The Father forsook the Son for a time when God the Word/human bore all our sins on the Cross. The Father so loved the world that He sent His one of a kind Son.
    This is why I am looking for a Christian tritheist denomination, or hoping to start one.

  15. Perry Robinson says:

    I think Trinitarianism is quite compatible with the biblical teaching that the Father is greater than the Son. In fact the NT demands it by the simple fact that the Father is called Father as the source of the other two persons. Though of course the NT never speaks of the Father as better than the Son. To think of trithism is to simply be confused on the distinction between person and nature, a most Greek philosophical mistake. So excuse me for somewhat doubting your claim to understand Trinitarianism.

    As for starting a new denomination, I could only say that that is probably the last thing Christians need.

  16. R. Wagenaar says:

    God the Father is not the source of God the Word or the Holy Spirit. They were not created by the Father. It is others who have confused the world with 3 persons but one God talk, as if each of them is only a third of God. I don’t believe the New Testament demands Trinitarianism. But it does affirm in regard that there is the Word who is God and was with God, and that there is God the Father. The name for God of Yhwh from the Old Testament is translated by LORD in the New Testament and applied to both. Deut. doesn’t say there is only one God, but only that “Yhwh is one” (in nature and purpose is what this has to mean, given the later clarification by the New Testament).
    I believe Christians need a new denomination that doesn’t repeat the mistakes of so many other denominations (including in regard to this topic, so that we can speak clearly and honestly to the world, instead of trying to play semantic games with Latin terms–“Persons”). Maybe one can be started that won’t exclude Christians because of different views on subjects where the Bible is not clear, but united on what is required to stay saved from Hell.

  17. God the Father certainly seems like the source of the Son and the Spirit. The Son is begotten of him and the Spirit proceeds from him. That seems rather obvious. There is nothing in Trinitarianism per se that would lead one to think of God being composite such that he could have 3rds. Person isn’t per say a Latin term. Prosopa is a Latin term but the Church prefereed the term hypostasis, which is a Greek term. If the whole church made the kinds of massive mistakes you seem to think it does, what makes it any more likely that y ou haven’t done so as well? If they blew it, so much more reason to think that you have or so it seems to me.

  18. R. Wagenaar says:

    Interesting that Mr. Robinson’s understanding of the Trinity includes the view that the Son and Spirit are not self-existent. I haven’t thoroughly thought such a concept through. But note that the Greek word in John, monogenes, shouldn’t be translated as “only-begotten,” because the angels are begotten “sons” of God, so only-begotten wouldn’t be accurate to say of Jesus. However, eternally begotten is different from non-eternally begotten.
    In regard to spiritual matters, the majority can often be wrong, especially if the majority was pressured by the baggage of tradition to stay monotheists. In regard to the Pope’s history involving the Crusades and what Christians have broken apart from each other over, I am not too impressed. Seems like most have blown it. Why can’t I find any denomination that I can agree with all that they say I have to agree with to join them, except some liberal ones who don’t care about too many beliefs?

  19. Wagenarr,

    I take it to be uncontroversial among Trinitarians that the persons of the Son and the Spirit are derived from the person of the Father as their source. That is fairly standard Trinitarianism. Monogenes is sufficiently well translated as only begotten in so far as the latter term denotes uniqueness. To that end, angels are not monogenes and neither is Adam as a “son of God” as in Luke’s Gospel. Moreover, the angels are directed to worship the Son as deity, which is rather strange, not to mention blasphenous if he is a creature. Only the Son is said to be in the bosem of the Father.

    The majority, all other things being equal can be wrong, unless of course they are endowed with divine power which excludes the possibility of failure. The gates of hades shall never prevail.

    I am Orthodox and not Catholic so appealing to Papal errors leaves my position untouched. But you should know, as bad as they were, (what war isn’t?) the Crusades were defensive wars against Muslim invasion and on principle seem quite justified.

  20. R. Wagenaar says:

    Perry: I agree that angels nor Adam were not monogenes, but they were begotten (genes) by God. Thus, “only begotten” is not a good translation of the Greek word to apply to Jesus.
    People can be endowed with divine guidance, but with their free will, may choose to ignore it and split and disagree based on being confused or not reading Scripture carefully. You are right–even so, the saved still will conquer the gates of Hades.
    You are right: the Crusades were launched as a defensive war to execute the Muslim warriors who had first attacked Christians. Only problem was, some of the Crusaders ended up murdering Eastern Orthodox Christians, Jews and also innocent Muslims.

  21. R. Wagenaar says:

    Trinitarianism has the problem of asserting there is one god, whereas the New Testament is clear that the Father is not the Son or the Word, and the Son or the Word is not the Holy Spirit, but the Father, the Son/Word and Holy Spirit are all labeled “God.” Thus, “Yahweh is one” can’t mean there is only one god, but rather that all 3 that are each Yahweh are one in purpose and nature.
    Any who agree are invited to help set up a Christian tritheist association.

  22. Only begotten is a fine translation in so far as it picks out a unique type of begetting, which is what the the NT indicates.

    As an eastern Orthodox Christian I am quite aware of what the latin crusaders did in Constantinople. That aside, the war in principle was justified.

    The problem you pose is only a problem if there is no difference between what a thing is and who a thing is, between whoness (person) and whatness (nature). Trinitarianism makes this distinction. God is one as to whatness but three as to whoness.

    Consequently it can make sense quite easily of the biblical data that the Father and the Son are not identical qua whoeness, that is with respect to persons. They are different persons while recognizing the biblical material that there is only one true God, one true divine being (whatness).

    In the future please do not advertise on my blog.

  23. r. wagenaar says:

    I’m sorry Perry. I didn’t know it was your blog, or that my invitation to others to set up a Christian tritheist association would be a problem on your blog.

    In response to what you said, I don’t believe that when many Trinitarians say “one God” they are thinking or expressing only 1 “whatness.” I haven’t seen many Trinitarian affirmations that say only “one in nature and purpose.”

  24. What goes thru the minds of any given individual is irrelevant since a persons’s understanding will change over time as they learn and become better informed. I am not therefore worried what my five year old thinks at this point in terms of being coherent. what matters is what the idea actually is and the reasons for thinking it is true.

    All of the major creedal statments from Nicea on down affirm a unity of essence “whatness” while affirming a diversity of person “whoness.” It is also explicated that way in the major theologians of all the major traditions-Calvin and Turretin, Luther and Chemnitz, Athanasius and Gregory, Augustine and Aquinas, as chief examples.

    In any case, I do affirm one “whatness” when I affirm one God and all of the Trinitarians I know who know their stuff think so as well. If my understanding makes sense of the biblical material and does so rationally, why not simply ignore what other people think?

  25. R. Wagenaar says:

    OK–oneness in essence/whatness/nature/purpose is only what the Trinitarian theology idea involves. Then why not state such clearly, instead of being vague with a simply “one God” statment, but then adding somthing about 3 parts (excuse me–Latin personas) that together make up this “one God.” Why not instead be clearer and state a belief in 3 gods (whoness), one of whom is the greatest, who are one in nature/purpose/whatness?
    I will admit that all the discovered copies of I Tim. 2:5 teach that there is a distinction between what it labels “one God” and “one mediator,” but sometimes all the discovered copies can be wrong in one verse. See for example Matt. 9:8b “humans,” instead of “a human,” since the whole context points only to Jesus having the authority to give divine pardon delegated to Him alone at the point in time referred to.

  26. I don’t think that representative statements in the sources I outlined above talk that way. For the Latins they speak of one God in terms of one substance, where substance means a single individual being, a this or, one of those. They then move on to speak of three persons. The Easterners speak of three subsistences which all exist in one essence, as the Nicene Creed does with “one essence” terminology. They collectively don’t ever speak of the persons “making up” the one God since that would imply that God was coporeal and had parts, that is, God was a material being. They are pretty good at avoiding that error.

    They don’t advocate three gods for the simple reason that the bible only knows of one true God. Of course they could chuck the bible but then it’d behard to think of them as Christians. The bible does speak of three “whos” and it does speak of them as all being deity. Call it what you like, but that is Trinitarianism in terms of the idea.

    I am not much concerned with the varriant readings of that or any other passage for a few good reasons. First, we would need good reasons for thinking that the transmission for the varriant was more reliable. Second, even if that could not be established the Fathers teach us that the faith is passed down via the bishops, in the liturgy, etc. and not just in the Scriptures. Because the words of Scripture and the text itself can be altered or re-arranged to give it a false sense, it is important to heed first the teaching that was passed down as an interpretative rule to guide our understanding of the text. And this we can check via what the major churches founded personally by the apostles all teach together throughout history. Scripture is the Church’s book and not for private interpretation.

  27. R. Wagenaar says:

    Sorry, I don’t share the same faith that all the churches established by the Apostles have perfectly transmitted what the original Scriptures taught, even though God hoped and tried to help them be pillars of truth–but, ah, human free will, even by Christians, can ruin the best of plans. The Apostle Paul admitted the possibility of deviation from truth happening with what is recorded in the discovered copies of Acts 20:30. Later, many in the Ephesus church had forsaken their 1st love. Likewise, many in the Galatian church had fallen from grace.
    The best check of what is taught by any church on any subject as Scriptural is, by definition, whether or not its teaching on that subjects lines up with the teaching of the majority of verses that speak in regard to that subject in what is thought to be the original wording of Scripture (which in turn, is based on textual analysis and comparison of the discovered copies of Scripture).

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