Saturday, July 16, 2016

10 Answers to 10 Illogical "Questions"?

Answering the Unitarians
        Biblicalunitarian.com’s homepage features a link to a page titled “Is Jesus God? - Logical Questions That Need Answers.”[1] The page lists ten questions concerning the logical coherence of the doctrine of the the deity of Christ in light of certain passages of Scripture. The questions are really premises in an incomplete informal argument, one in which the conclusion “Therefore, Jesus is not God” is left up to the reader to deduce. A more than superficial analysis of these question-arguments reveals that they are not “logical” (i.e. deductively valid), but are guilty of committing various logical fallacies. In what follows, I will summarize these question-arguments. Then I will proceed to refute them in order.
Summarizing The “Logical” Arguments
  1. 1. God Cannot Die: This argument takes its two premises from Scripture. The first premise is: “God cannot die.”[2] The second premise is: “Jesus died.”[3] The expected conclusion is: “Therefore, Jesus is not God.”
  1. 2. The Most High God Cannot Submit to the Most High God: This argument’s premises are: 1. One cannot be the Most High God and be in submission to the Most High God at the same time; and, 2. Jesus is in submission to the Most High God.[4] The expected conclusions is: “Therefore, Jesus is not God.”
  1. 3. Jesus Calls the Father his God: This argument is very poorly structured, but can be said to have the following two premises: 1. If the exalted Christ is God, then he will not identify the Father as his God; 2. Jesus, however, identifies the Father as his God.[5] The expected conclusion is: “Therefore, Jesus is not God.”
  1.  4. God Cannot Be Tempted by Evil: This argument states the following two premises: 1. God cannot be tempted by evil;[6] and, 2. Jesus was tempted by evil.[7] The expected conclusion is: “Therefore, Jesus is not God.”
  1. 5. There Cannot be More than One “Only True God”: Here the reader is presented with the following two premises: 1. God the Father alone is the Only True God;[8] and, 2. Jesus is not God the Father.  The expected conclusion is: “Therefore, Jesus is not God.”
  1. 6. God Would Not Pray to Himself: This argument relies upon the following two premises: 1. If Jesus were God, he would not pray at all; and, 2. Jesus, however, prays[9].  The expected conclusion is: “Therefore, Jesus is not God.”
  1. 7. Jesus Would Not Differentiate Between Himself and God: The premises involved here are: 1. If Jesus were God, he would not differentiate between himself and God; and, 2. Jesus, however, differentiates between himself and God.[10]  The expected conclusion is: “Therefore, Jesus is not God.”
  1. 8. Jesus Would Not Be “Lesser” than God: Here we are given two premises: 1. Coequality of persons entails absolute coequality; and, 2. The Father, however, is greater than the Son and, therefore, unequal to the Son.[11]  The expected conclusion is: “Therefore, Jesus is not God.”
  1. 9. Humans are Not God: The two premises of this argument are: 1. Humans are not God; and, 2. Jesus is human.[12] Once again, the expected conclusion is: “Therefore, Jesus is not God.”
  1. 10. The Devil Would Not Tempt God: This last question-argument’s two premises are: 1. The devil would not tempt God; and, 2. The devil tempted Jesus. The expected conclusion is: “Therefore, Jesus is not God.”
Analysis & Refutation
  1. 1. In the first argument, the author assumes that God could not unite himself to a human body and spirit, the separation of which (i.e. the body and the spirit) constitutes human death.[13] Yet there is no biblical reason for believing this assumption. God in se[14] cannot die; God incarnate, however, can die, and did. The argument can be reformulated, then, as follows:
a. God [in se] cannot undergo the separation of his spirit from his body [for he is bodiless].
b. Jesus [i.e. God incarnate, God-enfleshed] underwent the separation of his spirit from his body.
c. Therefore, Jesus is not God.
Upon reformulation, it becomes evident that the expected conclusion of the argument does not follow from its stated premises. This argument does not demonstrate that Jesus is not God.
  1. 2. The second argument falls apart when its first premise is examined. God’s attributes and existence are identical. This means that the title “Most High” is firstly an ontological description, and only a governmental description secondarily, i.e. as God relates as Sovereign King to his creation. In other words, the Most High God can indeed submit to the Most High God if the doctrine of the incarnation is true. Christ can be the Most High God (ontologically), in other words, and submit to the Most High God (ontologically and governmentally, i.e. as a man). As with the first argument, this argument fails because it assumes from the onset that the doctrine of the incarnation is not true. Reformulating the argument demonstrates its failures.
a. The [ontologically] Most High God cannot be in submission to the [governmentally] Most High God.
b. Jesus [ontologically Most High] is in submission to the Most High God [governmentally].
c. Therefore, Jesus is not God.
Clearly, the expected conclusion does not follow from the stated premises of the argument. The argument, moreover, commits the fallacy of equivocation by utilizing the phrase “Most High God” in two different senses (i.e. ontologically and governmentally).
  1. 3. Again, this argument presupposes that the incarnation is false. If God has united himself to humanity, then he can, as God and man, indeed call the Father his God. The argument can be more accurately reformulated as follows.
a. If Jesus is God [in se] cannot call the Father his God.
b. Jesus calls the Father his God.
c. Therefore, Jesus is not God [in se].
Jesus, as we noted, is God incarnate. Thus, this argument’s expected conclusion does not follow from its stated premises.
  1. 4. Like the other arguments, this argument presupposes that the doctrine of the incarnation is false. Additionally, the argument implies that Christ is a sinner, for the text of James explains that “each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own lusts.”[15] As the authors at this site themselves acknowledge elsewhere, “God put a perfect seed in the womb of Mary so that Jesus would be born without the sin nature that every other human being inherited from the First Adam.”[16] This means that the phrase “tempted by evil” derived from James 1:13-14 cannot apply to Christ, just as it is inapplicable to prelapsarian[17] Adam. Consequently, it does not follow that “if Jesus is God, this is a clear contradiction.”[18] A more accurate reformulation of the argument demonstrates that the argument is guilty of the fallacy of equivocation.
a. God cannot be [lured and enticed by his own lusts.]
b. Jesus was tempted by the devil.
c. Therefore, Jesus is not God
The expected conclusion does not follow from the stated premises.
  1. 5. Unitarians often use this argument, but they seldom articulate their hidden assumption. The text of John 17:3 reads as follows:
“And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”
What Jesus does not imply is that the Father alone is the Only True God. And even if it did, it would be of no consequence for Christians, for there is only one God, not three. Christians believe that all three persons are the Only True God. Thus, in the eternal communion of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, each person could address the other as “the only true God,” for they are all the only true God.
6. Additionally, as with the preceding arguments, this argument presupposes that the doctrine of the incarnation is false. A more precise rearticulation of the argument would be the following:
a. The Father alone is the only true God.
b. Jesus is not the Father.
c. Therefore, Jesus is not God.
The argument presupposes that the “only true God” can only apply to the Father. This is to assume unitarian monotheism, making the title “only true God” equivalent to “the Father” and then arguing that Jesus cannot be God, because Jesus is not the Father. This is circular reasoning.
The conclusion does not follow from the stated premises of the argument.
  1. 6. In stating that Jesus would not pray to God if he were God, the unitarian is revealing his axiomatic commitment to his unitarian beliefs. The argument here does not establish that Jesus is not God, it merely reasserts. The first premise assumes its conclusion, thus rendering this argument another example of begging the question/circular reasoning.
The author proceeds by first assuming that none but the Father is God, but this is to simply assume the unitarian position for which he is supposedly arguing. Given the doctrine of the trinity, moreover, there is no contradiction involved in saying that God prays to God, for each Person, in eternal communion with one another, would be constantly addressing one another as God. In the context of the incarnation, then, the Son praying to the Father would simply be the anthropological parallel of his eternal relationship to the Father.
The expected conclusion of this argument also does not follow from its premises.
  1. 7. This argument could properly be addressed as follows: How could Jesus identify himself as worthy of the same trust that the disciples placed in the Father? Would that not be blasphemy? Would it not be identical to placing himself on equal footing with the Father? It would.[19]
Christ’s words were enough to incite the enemies of God to stone him to death for blasphemy. This should be evidence enough to the reader that Christ clearly identified himself as God, while differentiating himself from the Father.
Nevertheless, the unitarian’s argument may further be addressed for its logical problems. In the first place, the author assumes a unitarian form of monotheism in which it is not possible for another divine person, of the same ontological substance, to address another divine person as God. This is begging the question.
Given the doctrine of the trinity, there is no logical problem with any person of the trinity commanding trust in God. This is precisely what the Holy Spirit does in Hebrews 3:7-8,[20] commanding men:
“Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says,
‘Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion,
on the day of testing in the wilderness…’”
There is no logical problem with the persons of the trinity differentiating themselves from one another and commanding men to trust in God. This argument’s first premise, therefore, is unbiblical, thus invalidating the argument.
Not only this, but the argument, like the other, simply assumes that the doctrine of the incarnation is false, again demonstrating that the author is begging the question.
The expected conclusion does not follow from the stated premises of the argument.
  1. 8. Logically, the ontological equality of two things does not necessarily imply their functional equality. The president and his doctor are ontologically equivalent; nevertheless, the president is greater than the doctor by dint of the his, the president’s, role. The first premise of this argument, therefore, is false. It rests upon an equivocal use of the word greater. As discussed in 2., the category of greater can have reference to either ontology or governance/function. Thus, Christ can be ontologically equal to the Father and yet without contradiction say that the Father is greater than himself.
This argument, like all of the others, presupposes that the doctrine of the incarnation is false. It is also guilty of begging the question. Its expected conclusion does not follow from its stated premises.
  1. 9. This argument, again, assumes that the doctrine of the incarnation is not true, begging the question yet once more. A proper understanding of the Scriptures leads the reader to believe that God did not morph into a human being, but instead united himself to humanity. Jesus was God and Man. The distinct natures (i.e. humanity and divinity) are distinct but united in the one divine person, the Logos.
Unitarians do not believe this, of course, but rather than leading to the expected conclusion, they simply assume it and reiterate it. This is begging the question.
The expected conclusion does not follow, for the doctrine of incarnation does not explicitly or implicitly teach that God ontologically morphed into a human being. The doctrine also does not explicitly or implicitly teach that humanity morphed into divinity.
  1. 10. Lastly, this argument is a rehashing of sorts of argument 4., refuted above. It adds to the original argument, however, an unbiblical twist. The first premise of the argument is “The devil would not tempt God.” How the author knows this is a mystery. In fact, given the devil’s war against God, his Christ, and the Christian church, how can this author honestly suggest that the devil wouldn’t try to tempt God because “he is not dumb”[21]? Carrying this kind of reasoning to its logical conclusion, would this not imply that the smarter an individual is the less likely he is to sin against God (since he, too, “is not dumb”)?
Some of the most highly intelligent and educated people in human history have rabidly opposed the Gospel of Jesus Christ. What is the reason for this illogical opposition to God?
Beyond this, however, the author simply assumes, yet again, that the doctrine of the incarnation is false, laying emphasis upon the fact that the devil calls Jesus “the Son of God.” This is another instance of begging the question.
The expected conclusion, once again, does not follow from the argument’s stated premises.
Concluding Remarks
        What were presented, disingenuously, as “Logical Questions that Need Answers,” have been shown to be incomplete informal arguments meant to lead the reader to deduce the expected conclusion “Therefore, Jesus is not God” from various premises. Some of these premises are derived from Scripture, some are not and are, in actuality, contrary to Scripture. These arguments are superficially valid, but upon examination disintegrate. All ten arguments are guilty of begging the question, for they all rest upon the assumption that the doctrine of the incarnation (i.e. the doctrine that states that the divine Second Person of the Trinity assumed a human nature like ours) is false, which is what they are intended to prove, albeit indirectly. Additionally, several of the arguments depend upon an equivocal use of key terms in the argument, marking these arguments as guilty of not only begging the question but of the fallacy of equivocation. Lastly, the arguments which employ non-biblical, even anti-biblical, premises demonstrate their unsoundness.
        Returning to the article, therefore, we must state the following. Firstly, the questions presented by the author are only “logical” if one operates under the false assumption that arguments utilizing question-begging, equivocation, and non-sequitur conclusions are “logical.” The dangerous nature of the article refuted above lies in the seemingly simple deductions that could possibly fool the untrained thinker into blaspheming God. The danger is not merely for the reader of the article, however, for the author himself must give an account to God on the day of judgment, if he does not repent before the return of our Great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. The arguments do not prove anything more than the unitarian’s commitment to his unitarian beliefs, as well as his disdain for the God whom he claims to worship - Yahweh the Triune King of kings.

Soli Deo Gloria.
-h.

[1] http://www.biblicalunitarian.com/articles/jesus-christ/is-jesus-god.
[2] This is a negative form of the positive assertion identifying God as “the King...immortal…” (1st Tim 1:17).
[3] 1st Cor 15:3.
[4] Eph 1:17; Rom 15:6; 2nd Cor 1:3; Eph 1:3; 1st Pet 1:3; John 20:17; Rev 3:12 & 3:21.
[5] Rev 1:6 & 3:12.
[6] James 1:13.
[7] Heb 4:15.
[8] John 17:3.
[9] Luke 6:12.
[10] John 14:1.
[11] John 14:28; Mark 13:32; 1st Cor 15:27-28.
[12] Heb 2:17.
[13] James 2:26.
[14] i.e. in himself
[15] James 1:14.
[16] http://www.biblicalunitarian.com/articles/jesus-christ/who-is-jesus-christ.
[17] i.e. pre-fall
[18] http://www.biblicalunitarian.com/articles/jesus-christ/is-jesus-god.
[19] cf. John 5:18, 8:40-59, 10:31-33.
[20] cf. Acts 13:1-3.
[21] http://www.biblicalunitarian.com/articles/jesus-christ/is-jesus-god.

5 comments:

  1. Nice try. Their arguments are, some of them, a bit unclear, and it would be better if they didn't put them in question form. Unfortunately, there are some serious misunderstandings here, causing a lot of failure to engage biblical unitarians' views. To pick just one: on John 17:3, you need to understand why "alone" is your analysis is redundant. In brief, we read it as assuming the numerical identity of the Father and the one God, not as merely predicating one-true-godness of him. More explanation here, and in the lecture linked at the bottom. http://trinities.org/blog/the-only-true-president-of-the-usa-another-laugable-fox-news-blunder/ Maybe I'll do a podcast on this piece some time, and explain more.God bless, Dale

    ReplyDelete
  2. Dale, we believe that the Father, Son, and Spirit, are one and the same God. The only manner in which the three are distinct is in the way that they relate to eachother and to creation. Thus, John 17:3 does in no way help your cause. Rather, it helps your cause against tritheists. Further, I would love to see the exegesis that you have to offer for John 17 as a whole, given your indefensible denial of the pre-incarnational existence of the Son. Anytime you'd like to engage, let me know.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Michael, if you want to argue, you will have to study just a bit in order to understand my view of this.

      Interesting that Augustine could see the problem
      with John 17:1-3. He speculated that maybe the "Arians" corrupted it. Thought it should say that Father and Son are the only true God, not what it says. Do you see why?

      The point about the Son's preexisting is not relevant to the point I'm making.

      Delete
  3. For the record, here is one place that Augustine simply re-writes it to say what he wants - section 3. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf107.iii.cvi.html

    ReplyDelete
  4. Dale, I am well aware of what Augustine wrote, and of Buzzard's popular utilization of Augustine. He did bring it up in our formal moderated debate. Telling me to study more about this issue is akin to telling the Trump how to be a windbag. If you can deal with what I actually said, which accords with current exegetical trends as well as a thread of patristic exegesis, then I'll be happy to talk. However, if you intend to disregard my actual statements and instead throw out a red herring (i.e., Augustine), then I am afraid we won't get too far. And by the way, a contextual examination of 17:3 is quite relevant.

    ReplyDelete