Friday, September 16, 2016

Yahweh: The Man Who Told Abraham the Truth

by Hiram R. Diaz III

Sound Doctrine Permeates the Totality of Scripture

The Gospel of John is nearly universally recognized as the Gospel which most clearly teaches the pre-existence and deity of the Son of God.[1] From its opening declaration that “the Word was God,”[2] to its final declaration that Jesus Christ is “God” and “Lord,”[3] the text unambiguously teaches that the Savior Christ was, is, and will always be the co-equal, co-eternal divine second Person of the Trinity.[4] Due to their clarity, these “deity passages” are useful proof-texts for the doctrine among scholars and non-scholars alike.

In response, anti-trinitarians attack either the interpretation, translation, or both, of each proof-text, as if the doctrines of Christ’s deity and pre-existence were entirely dependent on these fragments of the Scriptures. Biblical theological and systematic theological concerns are largely, if not completely, ignored, a method contrary to the interpretive practices of the Son of God and his apostles. God the Son reveals that the Scripture cannot be broken.[5] His Word is a divinely unified and, therefore, unbreakable set of true propositions.[6]

The “deity passages” in John 1:1 and 1:18, for example, find corroboration in passages of the same book which are not directly, although they are perhaps laterally, concerned with teaching the personal pre-existence and deity of Christ. This is due to the fact that these doctrines are the foundational presuppositions upon which the text of John’s Gospel has been built,[7] clearly evidencing this in several places.[8] The most striking text in this category is John 8:40, where Christ implies his deity and personal pre-existence in the short sentence: “This is not what Abraham did.”

It is a text which is often overlooked, with John 8:58 being given the more prominent role as a proof-text for the doctrines of Christ’s deity and personal pre-existence. The clarity of Christ’s assertion - viz. “Before Abraham was, I AM” - renders the passage a very useful proof-text, as well as a favored target among anti-trinitarians. By ignoring John 8:58’s biblical theological and systematic theological contexts, anti-trinitarians can muddy the interpretive waters enough to make their dismissal of truth at least seem plausibly justifiable. When understood in its canonical and immediate contexts, however, John 8:58 is an explicit declaration of what Jesus has already implied in John 8:40.

Hence, the importance of John 8:40’s implied teaching. Jesus’ short statement about what Abraham did not do to him implies what “I AM” in John 8:58 explicitly states - Jesus is Yahweh, the everlasting I AM. In what follows this will be demonstrated by an analysis of the text in in its canonical and immediate contexts.

John 8:30-47

John 8:40 is part of the second of Christ’s three discourses with the Jews in John’s Gospel. While these discourses vary with regard to their narrative content, they share a “loose structure” wherein the increasing blindness of the Jews is thrown into relief by increasing clarity of Christ’s self-identification as Yahweh.[9] The equal and opposite increases in blindness and clarity occur in the individual pericopes, as well as in the three texts collectively (i.e. consecutively read).

More narrowly, our focus will be on John 8:30-47, which reads:
As he was saying these things, many believed in him. So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?” 
Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you. I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.” 
They answered him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham's children, you would be doing the works Abraham did, but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. You are doing the works your father did.” They said to him, “We were not born of sexual immorality. We have one Father—even God.” Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”
This discourse contains several antitheses which may be diagrammed as follows.
1. Belief/Unbelief 
2. Freedom/Slavery 
3. Children of Abraham/Children of the Devil 
4. Truth/Lies 
5. Life/Murder 
6. Hearing/Not-Hearing 
The overarching thematic antithesis is that of the children of Abraham (i.e. believers) and the children of the devil (i.e. unbelievers).

What one’s genetic relationship to Abraham signifies is a salient theme of the entire New Testament[10] and the Gospel of John in particular. As early as John 1:11-13, John explicitly reveals that physical ancestry does not determine one’s spiritual status. A child of God, i.e. a true Israelite/son of Abraham, is one who believes in Jesus Christ.[11] Nicodemus learns this when he is taught by the Son of God that only those who are born again (i.e. spiritually reborn) will see and enter the kingdom of God.[12] The woman at the well in John 4, likewise, is taught that her Samaritan heritage does not exclude her from entering the kingdom of God by faith in Christ. For, Jesus says, “the hour is coming…when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.”[13]

Genetic ties to Abraham do nothing for one’s spiritual condition. Christ’s preaching undermined the Jewish tendency to locate spirituality in one’s genetic ties to Abraham, a tendency so strong, in fact, that the Jews sought to discredit Christ by claiming that he was “a Samaritan and [had] a demon.”[14] Conflict between Christ and the Jews in John’s Gospel seems to be grounded in the two contrary doctrines of (1.)the spiritual impotency of being physically related to Abraham and (2.)one’s spirituality being genetically inherited.

Genesis/John & Creation/Redemption

Scholars have long noted the relationship between John 1:1 and Genesis 1:1, both of which begin with the phrase “In the beginning.” The relationship between these two texts is deeper, however, as the seven day schema of Gen 1-2 is paralleled by John’s “deliberate, if somewhat artificial, […] seven day schema in John 1:19-2:11,”[15] paralleling even some of the finer details of the creation narrative.[16] With this in mind, Jeannine K. Brown analyzes thecreation/re-creation thematic paralleling of Genesis and John in her essay “Creation’s Renewal in the Gospel of John,”[17] deepening the roots of John’s text in Genesis by drawing attention to Christ’s role as the Last Adam,[18] as well as Creator of a new humanity made in his image.[19]

Most importantly, for our present purposes, we find that the first articulation of the seed of God and the seed of the devil is given in the protoevangelium of Genesis 3:15. This critical passage of Scripture succinctly describes the whole of human relationships throughout history in two ways. Firstly, humanity is ultimately divided into only two classes, viz. the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent. As Thomas Davai notes, “the ‘seed’ [of the woman] refers to godly human descendants of Eve…[whereas the seed of the serpent are the] ungodly human descendants of Eve, who characterise the serpent.”[20] Secondly, the seed of the woman are in perpetual conflict with the seed of the serpent. “The enmity is progressive…strife between the descendants of the woman and the serpent itself…The multitude of descendants on both sides will struggle [until the serpent’s head is crushed].”[21]

The importance of the toledot[22] structure of Genesis, found in its emphasis on the promised seed of the woman, is a special point of emphasis in the New Testament. The primeval history of man unfolds, its genealogical focus gradually becoming narrower and narrower until Christ Jesus is born of a woman. Matthew and Luke explicitly connect Christ to the genealogies of Genesis as the Son of Abraham and Son of God[23] through whom God would bring salvation to the Gentiles, i.e. the entirety of the non-Jewish world, a theme which, as we have already noted, is given prominence in John’s Gospel.

The Seed of Promise vs. The Seed of the Flesh

John’s overall paralleling of many significant themes found in Genesis, we note, sets the broader immediate context in which we find John 8:40. The conflict between Jesus and the Jews is rooted in his denial of their self-ascribed titles of “sons of Abraham”[24] and “sons of God.”[25] Christ states that they are indeed the physical offspring of Abraham,[26] but this physical relation does not make them free from slavery to sin, i.e. sons of God.[27] Those who are truly the children of Abraham, he reveals, are those who do the works that Abraham did, viz. believing the Gospel of the promised Seed and living in accordance with one’s professed belief. The Jews were seeking to kill Jesus, a man who has told the truth, and this is not what Abraham did. Therefore, these Jews were not truly children of Abraham, but were children of the devil.

Here is where Christ implies his deity and personal pre-existence. He asserts that the Jews are not children of Abraham because they are seeking to do what Abraham did not seek to do, viz. kill him. Exegetically, the word this (τοῦτο) can only be cogently interpreted as referring back to the actions of the Jews,viz. trying to kill Jesus.[28] Some commentators have unconvincingly argued that the assertion is either a Hebraism,[29] or an oddly phrased reference to Abraham’s actions toward men who spoke the truth in general.[30] Others believe that Jesus is here alluding to Gen 18, as well as 1st century traditions surrounding Abraham as the exemplar of Jewishness.[31]

Contextually, however, the word this points backward to a very specific action: Abraham did not seek to kill Jesus, the man who told him the truth. The grammatical structure of the text demands this interpretation, as do the central themes of this chapter. Specifically, Christ explains that he has been revealing his identity “from the beginning,”[32] a phrase which he uses again in reference to the devil’s lying and murdering of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden,[33] clearly placing himself in Genesis, as John himself does in his Gospel’s prologue, and in conflict with the serpent.

Moses’ use of the toledot structure brings the Seed/Serpent conflict into relief, as the broader “generations” narrow down to the generations of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Specification of the lineage of the Seed of the Woman comes into view as Abraham is introduced to the reader and given the initial covenantal promises by Yahweh himself.[34] This is followed by the record of Abraham’s attempt to fulfill God’s promise to him in Genesis 16, an attempt which ends with “the son of the slave woman”[35] being cast out.

Jay Hess, along with Gunther Juncker, believes that Christ’s response to the Jews alludes to Gen 18, convincingly arguing that the Jews assumed Abraham’s seeing of Christ was a literal, personal encounter.[36] These authors argue that Christ is one of the three men who meets Abraham and reveals his plans for Abraham, Sarah, and Sodom and Gomorrah, a traditional interpretation of the text that is historically rooted in the early post-apostolic era.[37] Their identification of Gen 18 as the point of allusion, however, does not explain how Abraham did not seek to kill Christ. Thematically, the connection between Jesus’ words and Gen 18 is lacking. While Yahweh tells Abraham “what he is about to do,”[38] and specifically mentions Abraham’s moral character and its connection to his offspring,[39] what is lacking is what has been identified above as the seed conflict.

The only passage in which such a conflict comes into view, in fact, is found in Gen 17. There Yahweh “appeared to Abram” and revealed that he wouldestablish his covenant between himself and Abraham and his offspring after him throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to Abraham and to his offspring after him.[40] Having appeared to Abraham and made this promise, he then goes on to declare:
“As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. I will bless her, and moreover, I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall become nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.”[41]
Upon hearing these words,
Abraham fell on his face and laughed and said to himself, “Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?” And Abraham said to God, “Oh that Ishmael might live before you!”[42]
Abraham’s desire to see his physical offspring receive the covenant blessings, however, is met with God’s reply:
“No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him. As for Ishmael, I have heard you; behold, I have blessed him and will make him fruitful and multiply him greatly. He shall father twelve princes, and I will make him into a great nation. But I will establish my covenant with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this time next year.”[43]
God flatly denies Abraham’s request to have the child born of the slave-woman, Hagar, receive the blessings of the covenant.

God’s choice of Isaac, the child of promise, is not based on physical descent, for if that were the case then Ishmael would be the recipient of covenant blessings. Instead, God tells Abraham that those who are the recipients of the blessings of the covenant are the seed of promise, not the seed of the flesh. Ishmael, though the physical son of Abraham, is not the true son of Abraham, as God later implies.[44]

Despite having had his request regarding Ishmael’s placement in the covenant denied, despite having been told that his own flesh and blood would not be a partaker of the covenant, “Abraham took Ishmael his son and all those born in his house or bought with his money, every male among the men of Abraham's house, and he circumcised the flesh of their foreskins that very day, as God had said to him.”[45] His response to God’s declaration that his own flesh and blood was rejected from the covenant was not anger, disbelief, or embitterment but faith and obedience to God’s command.

The dual lineage of Abraham, itself a narrowing of the dual lineage of believers/unbelievers mentioned in Gen 3:15, could have issued from Abraham a response of unbelief and antagonism toward Yahweh whoappeared to him. However, Abraham, unlike his physical descendants millennia later, humbly accepted God’s declaration that, in effect, not all who are Israel are Israel.[46] Unlike his descendants, according to the flesh, Abraham did not seek to kill Yahweh who revealed this hard truth to him.

Concluding Remarks

While John 8:40 is not the grand-finale of Christ’s revelation of his deity, it is nevertheless an important stop along the way. Jesus has been revealing himself “from the beginning,” i.e. since the creation, from the beginning of the books of Moses[47] - from the book of Genesis. This is not merely in prophetic revelation, but in the very appearances of Yahweh recorded therein. Yahweh appeared to Abraham and emphatically declared that the children of the covenant were not those who were physical descendants of Abraham but those who believed Yahweh’s Word and lived in light of that belief. This is the truth that Abraham was told: Not all Israel is Israel. This is the same truth which the Jews would later want to kill Yahweh for implying: “Neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.”[48] This is the point of conflict between Jews and Gentiles that is addressed throughout the New Testament subsequent to Jesus’ ascension.

Understandably, Abraham desperately desired to see his son Ishmael receive the promises of the covenant. Yet Abraham did not do what his physical descendants sought to do millennia later. Abraham, rather, submitted himself to Yahweh. He served Yahweh, the man who told him the truth, in fact, providing him with food, a foot-washing, and a place to replenish himself as he continued on his journey to bring judgment to Sodom and Gomorrah, as well as salvation to his elect.[49] Unlike their physical progenitor, the unbelieving Jews fail to do these things for God the Son as he passed through their land on his way to judge the world and save his elect.[50]

John 8:40, in its canonical and immediate contexts implies that what Abraham did not do is seek to kill Christ, Yahweh the Man who told him the truth. The implicit nature of this revelation does not diminish its importance, for this demonstrates that it is foundational to the structure of the book of John, pointing forward to Christ’s explicitly stated grand finale in 8:58:
Before Abraham was, I AM.
_________________________________
[1] This is the consensus among Christian and non-Christian scholars. Non-Christian scholars postulate a progressive deification of Jesus that reaches its pinnacle in the so-called “high Christology” of the Gospel of John and the Pauline epistles. For example, see Bart D. Ehrman’s How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation Of A Jewish Preacher From Galilee(New York: HarperOne, 2014). Christian scholars find the doctrine throughout the Scriptures, demonstrating this via exegesis and biblical and systematic theological analysis. See, for example, Robert M. Bowman and J. Ed Komoszewski’s Putting Jesus In His Place: The Case For The Deity Of Christ (Michigan: Kregel Publications, 2007).
[2] John 1:1; cf. 1:18.
[3] John 20:28.
[4] Ed L. Miller succinctly relays the nearly universal consensus among scholars regarding the unequivocal “deity-passages” in the New Testament:
Out of these eight [unequivocal] passages, three are found in John. Of these three, everyone acknowledges John 20:28 to be an unequivocal ‘deity-passage,’ even the otherwise sceptical Taylor who calls it the ‘one clear ascription of Deity to Christ.’ John 1:18 has always been clouded by a textual problem, but most scholars now correctly take monogenes theos (‘only God’) rather than monogenes huios (‘only Son’) to be the original reading. In addition to being the lectio difficilior, it is supported by a long list of MSS., Fathers, and Versions, including Vaticanus, Sinaiticus, and now also P66 and textual problem is thus decided, this verse too becomes an unambiguous proof-text for the deity of Jesus.
“‘The Logos Was God’,” in The Evangelical Quarterly 53 (1981): 65–77.
[5] John 10:35.
[6] See, Ps 19:9; 119:142, 151, 160; Prov 30:5; Rom 3:4.
[7] Similarly, the Synoptic Gospels and John were composed by men who already believed that Jesus Christ had fulfilled the Messianic prophecies regarding his life and death and resurrection. Their texts, therefore, explicitly and implicitly reflect their beliefs. The Gospel writers often retroactively assess their previous bafflement at Jesus’ teaching (e.g. Mark 6:52, 9:32; Luke 2:50, 9:45; John 8:27, 10:6, 12:16 & 20:9), indicating that their texts were composed with a more mature understanding of what they had experienced and what they were taught.
[8] Briefly, we may consider a curious explanatory remark made in John 6:6. The people following Jesus are hungry and without any bread. They had seen him exercise power over sicknesses and demons, thereby establishing his credentials as a man from God, blessed by God, and sent to lead and save God’s elect people. Parallels between this scenario of God’s hungry people following God’s miracle working deliverer Moses are clearly intentional. The comparison between Moses and Jesus is even hinted at in the words of the people who declare that “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!” (6:14b, itself alluding to Deut 18:15-19).

Where the comparison is broken, however, is in the attribution of testing to Jesus. After having displayed his power to save his people, his power over the natural forces of creation as well, God tells Moses that his intended purpose in sending them manna from heaven is to “...test them, whether they will walk in [his] law or not” (Exo 16:4). God is testing the people to see if they believe him and will, consequently, obey his law. John’s record, however, identifies Jesus as the One who is present in leading his people, who are hungry for bread, in order to see what they will do. John demonstrates that Jesus, unlike Moses, is fully in control of the situation. Jesus, unlike Moses, is the one who is testing the professing believers. Jesus is testing Israel, just as Yahweh tested Israel in the wilderness. He will provide bread for Israel, just as Yahweh provided bread for Israel.

Implied by John is that Jesus is doing what only Yahweh does: He is testing the faithfulness of his people, of those who claim to love him and know him. Jesus’ intention is to test his followers’ faith and obedience to himself, just as Yahweh’s intention was to test his followers’ faith and obedience to himself.
[9] For a more in-depth treatment of these three passages, see Urban C. Von Wahlde’s “Literary Structure and Theological Argument in Three Discourses With The Jews in The Fourth Gospel,” in Journal of Biblical Literature 103/4 (1984), 575-584.
[10] cf. Matt 3:7-10, 8:5-13; Rom 1-3, 9 & 11; Gal 3-4.
[11] Like Zacchaeus in Luke 19:1-9 (spec. vv.5-9), or Nathanael in John 1:45-51. Regarding Nathanael’s status as a “true Israelite,” see Trudinger, Paul L. “An Israelite In Whom There Is No Guile: An Interpretive Note On John 1:45-51,” in The Evangelical Quarterly 54.2 (1982), 117-120.
[12] John 3:1-9.
[13] John 4:23.
[14] John 8:48. (emphasis added)
[15] Trudinger, Paul L. “The Seven Days of the New Creation in St. John’s Gospel: Some Further Reflections,” in The Evangelical Quarterly 44 (1972), 154.
[16] See Trudinger, “The Seven Days,” 156-158.
[17] The Catholic Biblical Quarterly 72 (2010), 275-290.
[18] Brown, “Creation’s Renewal,” 279-282.
[19] Brown, “Creation’s Renewal,” 282-283. See also, Frayer-Griggs, Daniel. “Spittle, Clay, and Creation in John 9:6 and Some Dead Sea Scrolls,” in Journal of Biblical Literature 132, no. 3 (2013): 659–670.
[20] “Analysis of ‘Enmity’ in Genesis 3:15,” in Melanesian Journal of Theology 28-1 (2012), 85.
[21] Davai, “Enmity,” 90.
[22] For more on this, see Derouchie, Jason S. “The Blessing-Commission, The Promised Offspring, and the Toledot Structure of Genesis,” in Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 56/2 (2013), 219–247.
[23] cf. Matt 1:1-17 & Luke 3:23-38.
[24] John 8:39-40.
[25] John 8:41-42.
[26] John 8:37.
[27] John 8:31-36.
[28] Michael R. Burgos Jr. explains:
νῦν δὲ ζητεῖτέ με ἀποκτεῖναι ἄνθρωπον ὃς τὴν ἀλήθειαν ὑμῖν λελάληκα ἣν ἤκουσα παρὰ τοῦ θεοῦ· τοῦτο Ἀβραὰμ οὐκ ἐποίησε (John 8:40)

And now you are seeking to kill me, a man who spoke truth to y’all which I heard from God. This Abraham did not do. (Burgos’ translation)
The continuative conjunction δὲ (and) is intended to mark the continuation of Jesus’ argument against his interlocutors. These Jews are slaves to sin (v. 34), and despite being biological children of Abraham, they are seek Jesus’ death. In v. 38 Jesus announces that his words are what he has seen with his Father. The phrase παρὰ τῷ πατρὶ (with the Father) is one that demands from the reader recognition that Jesus is claiming to have been with (i.e., in the presence of) the Father presumably before his human birth. παρὰ with the dative noun is the same exact construction that is used twice in John 17:5 and many other places in Johannine literature. In fact, if I can recall, every single time παρὰ is with the dative it is indicative of someone being in the presence of someone else (e.g., John 1:39; 4:40; 14:17; 14:23; 14:25). 
δὲ with the adverb νῦν signs that Jesus is dropping a bomb in this portion of his argument. You are a slave to sin (v. 35), and you are seeking to kill me because you don't like what I say (v. 37), and I have been with the Father and say what he tells me to say (v. 38), and now (νῦν δὲ) y’all are seeking to (ζητεῖτέ is a second person plural) to kill (ἀποκτεῖναι – normally used for murder) me, a man who spoke the truth. Here Jesus is alluding backward to those other men who spoke the truth and were likewise objects of murder by “Abraham’s children” (cf. Matt 21:33-46; 23:34ff; Luke 11:47ff). Jesus reiterates his identity as a prophet-- a man speaking words given to him from God precisely so that he can show that these Jews are in good company among the rest of the prophet murderers from time past. The last sentence is the bomb— this (τοῦτο—neuter demonstrative pronoun) Abraham did not do. 
The pronoun here is being used as a substantive, and when used this way it either points to an antecedent or a postcedent. In this context, it is clearly pointing backward and the antecedent is Jesus’ claim the Jews wanted to kill him.
[29]J.C. Ryle does this in his Expository Thoughts on the Gospel of John.
[30] Including, but not limited to: Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers, Matthew Poole’s Commentary on the Holy Bible, John Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible. More contemporary resources follow suit. See Carson, D.A. The Gospel According to John (Michigan: Eerdmans, 1991), 351-352; Ridderbos, Herman. The Gospel of John: A Theological Commentary (Michigan: Eerdmans, 1997), 312.
[31] See Kostenberger, Andreas J. John (Michigan: Baker Academic, 2004), 264-265.
[32] 8:25. (emphasis added)
[33] 8:44.
[34] See Gen 12:1-9 & 15:1-6.
[35] cf. Gal 4:22-31.
[36] See “What was Jesus' claim in John 8:56-58?,” Biblical Answers, accessed September 8, 2016. http://www.biblicalanswers.net/john8.html.
[37] In his article “Christ as Angel: The Reclamation of a Primitive Title” in Trinity Journal 15:2 (Fall 1994):
221–250, Gunther Juncker explains:
Unknown to many, the early church fathers often referred to Jesus as an Angel. And they gave him this appellation long before the (alleged) distortions of Constantine, the Controversies, the Councils, and the Creeds. Due to its antiquity, its longevity, and the claim to being a primitive, if not an apostolic, Christological title. [222]
[…]
…Hippolytus, Clement, Origen, Cyprian, Novatian, Victorinus, Eusebius, Athanasius, Hilary, Epiphanius, the Apostolic Constitutions: who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrote martyrdoms, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of heretics, quenched the violence of fire, turned to flight the armies of the demons. And these all referred to Christ by the title Angel (suggesting the paradoxical possibility that they still await the perfecting of our historical theology). [248]
[38] cf. Gen 18:17.
[39] cf. Gen 18:18.
[40] Gen 17:6-7.
[41] Gen 17:15-16.
[42] Gen 17:17-18.
[43] Gen 17:19-21.
[44] See Gen 22:1-2.
[45] Gen 17:23.
[46] cf. Rom 9:6.
[47] cf. John 5:39-47.
[48] Gal 6:15.
[49] cf. Gen 18:1-8.
[50] cf. Luke 7:44-50 & Matt 25:31-46.

13 comments:

  1. I'm sorry, I must have missed the part where the text [of John] "unambiguously teaches that the Savior Christ was, is, and will always be the co-equal, co-eternal divine second Person of the Trinity." I don't recall John using such technical terminology, nor do I see warrant for formulating such language from a clear, plain reading of the text itself.

    I have been an eager listener of this trinitarian/unitarian debate now for more than 7 years, but frankly I have grown weary of the arrogance on both sides which would purport to know the inner schematics of the Living God; but especially the trinitarian side which so confidently asserts that its innovative God-model which bears no resemblance to the monotheism of the Jews of the first century is so obviously and unequivocally the true and only valid interpretation of the text.

    I wish trinitarians could take off their 3-D glasses and see what Jews and Muslims see when they look at the Trinity doctrine, the positing of a model of God that is so alien to the Hebrew Scriptures and so clearly a philosophical construction that is no more likely to be true than that there are 7, or 15, or 1003 persons in the "Godhead". After all, if, as trinitarians argue, a 3-person God is superior to a 1-person God, then it logically follows that a 4 or 5-person God is superior to a 3-person God.

    There is something very "Greek" (i.e. rationalistic) about Christianity's attempt to dissect God as though he were a specimen stretched out on a table in a lab, rather than the infinite and ultimately incomprehensible God. I think a lot less triumphalism and a little more humility would be in order in these debates.


    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Greg, John unequivocally teaches that Christ is God the Son of God in John 1:1-18. There is a personal distinction between God the Father and God the Son. The Father is God, the Son is God, but the Father is not the Son, and the Son is not the Father.

      Co-eternality: "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God..."

      Co-equality: "...and the Word was God..."

      Personhood: The Word was with God, face to face with God. This is a phrase declaring personal intimacy between persons.

      Sure, the quasi-technical language I've used isn't there in John, but the meaning of what I've written is most certainly in John.

      My own hard stance against unitarianism does not stem from a deep seated arrogance, but from a conviction that the true and living God, who is very precise in how he is to be known, believed in, and worshiped, is not a unitarian deity but the only Triune God.

      There are many articles on our site that demonstrate this to be the case.

      As for claiming that the trinity is an innovative model of God, something that Jews never would have recognized, you are historically wrong. There is a wealth of literature written on the fact that Jews during the time just before Jesus' incarnation believed that God was not a uni-personal being but bi-personal.

      Jewish binitarianism existed and had much in common with what Christians believe about the Trinity (e.g. the invisibility of the Yahweh in heaven/the visibility of Yahweh on earth).

      You say that the doctrine of the trinity is so clearly a philosophical construct, but why do you say this? Whose philosophy is the basis for the construction?

      Is it because theologians have employed terminology from philosophers that you think the doctrine is a philosophical construct?

      If that is the case, then you may as well deny that a seven day week is not taught in the Bible, seeing as we know the names for the seven days of the week are derived from ancient pagan religions.

      We believe in the doctrine of the Trinity because it is the clear teaching of the Scriptures, Old and New Testaments. We don't believe in the doctrine because it fits our philosophy or because we arbitrarily view a three-personned God as superior to a one-personned God.

      There is something very Greek about the language used to summarize the teaching of the Bible about who God is, sure.
      But do Christians seek to dissect God? No. We seek to be faithful to what he has revealed about himself.

      It is sinful to fail to search the Scriptures, seek to understand them, and seek to be precise in how we think about God.

      Confused and imprecise thinking about God is not pious. It is wicked.

      Christ is the Logos (i.e. Reason, Thought, Word, Discourse) of God, after all, and commands us to love God with all of our mind.

      That's not a Greek idea; that is a divinely revealed truth. God commands those who call themselves his worshipers to worship him in Spirit and in truth.

      If God is incomprehensible in the manner you are suggesting, then Jesus was mistaken to think that God could be known and worshiped according to what one knows about him (i.e. the truth).

      God is clear about who he is, and Christians know and love him.

      So our dedication to the truth, to proclaiming it, to refuting the false teaching of unitarianism, is an act of worship. Subjecting ourselves to the truth God has revealed about himself, and refusing to entertain falsehoods about God bandied about by heretical groups and individuals is an act of humility.

      What is actually arrogant is claiming things about God that are contrary to what he has revealed about himself, e.g. that God is incomprehensible even with respect to what he has revealed in his Word.

      -h.

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  2. Pt. 1
    Appreciate the response, Hiram.
    I have considered the literature that argues a "Binitarian" view of the Godhead in Second Temple Judaism, but am not convinced. Perhaps an angelic figure as subordinate to the one true God, but nothing like the Trinity. And in the NT, Mark records a conversation between Jesus and a religious Jew, and they agree on the unitarian conception of God -- he is one *he*, and there is none other but him. The scribe did not say, "there is one God, and there is none other but *them*".
    I simply don't agree with you when you say that the doctrine of the Trinity "is the clear teaching of the Scriptures, Old and New Testaments." If that were the case, it wouldn't have taken hundreds of years to hammer out and caused so much controversy in the process. Something that is clear doesn't generally cause so much confusion and division. Most Christian scholars I've read (and I've read a wide variety, from liberal to conservative and everything in between) would say that the Trinity is at best only implicitly present in the NT, and even that's a stretch; and as for the OT, it's nowhere to be found at all.
    When I said that God is incomprehensible, I did not mean to imply that nothing can be known about him. I simply mean that the gulf between God and man is infinite. Therefore, who are we to confine God to a humanly-devised philosophical construct? I'm sure you would disagree that the Trinity doctrine in any way "confines" God, but the way I see it the elevation of a man to a place of equality with God the Father does just that. Jesus was, after all, a historical human being, and therefore any attempt to draw a parallel between him and the person of the Father as if a 1:1 (person to person) correspondence is perfectly legitimate is, to my mind, dangerous.

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  3. Pt. 2
    According to the Old AND New Testaments, the Messiah has a God. Jesus, as many texts attest to, worships someone other than himself as God. This God that Jesus worships is the being that Jesus himself also taught his followers to worship. How, then, can the Father be the God that Jesus and all people worship, and Jesus also be God without there being two Gods? I know many great minds have pondered this; perhaps I should just accept what the church doctors before me have taught. But smart people can err. And consensus is often no measure of truth. I know of the clever "solution" put into the language of Greek philosophy -- God is the substance, or the nature, the persons being distinct one from another. Therefore, multiple PERSONS do not equal multiple GODS because the substance is the one true God. This is highly suspect. If God the Father was at any time ever considered, alone, the one true God, and later another individual (human, at that) is also called God AND at the same time worships the first individual as the only true God, I think you have a serious problem.
    Usually, at this point, the trinitarian will appeal to the dual natures of the second person of the trinity -- Jesus was both human and divine. The human Jesus alone has a God. I know the routine. However, a nature is not a person, as trinitarian doctrine declares. Nowhere does Scripture declare that it is Jesus' human nature that worships God. Rather, it is the person of Jesus that worships the Father as God. Therefore if one person is God, and another person (again, not just a nature -- but a full-fledged person) worships that God but is also himself considered God, then by definition you have two Gods. I think the logic is inescapable, and I am not alone in thinking that.
    It just seems odd to me that Trinitarians, being on such shaky ground with their doctrine, can be so confident that they have it all figured out, when in reality they were once only a minority. Religious Jews and Muslims, and even many Christians, vehemently deny the Trinity doctrine, and consider it idolatry. It's enough to cause one to pause, and consider the possibility that (mainstream) Christians have gotten it terribly wrong all these years.

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    1. Greg, I'm happy to engage with you on the subject.

      You say that perhaps there is an angelic being that is subordinate to Yahweh, but the Angel of the Lord is called Yahweh and offered worship. He is sent by Yahweh, but how does that imply subordination when he accepts worship as Yahweh? What we see in the Angel of the Lord is a messenger of Yahweh who is called Yahweh, offered worship as Yahweh, saves God's people as Yahweh and then returns to the Yahweh in heaven. This is much more than some ontologically inferior being playing an agentive role.

      Given that there were indeed Jews who subscribed to the binitarian view, and these Jews were not considered heretical until much later in history - spec. after the Christian faith had begun to take root and flourish - it is presumption to think that the Jew who talks about the first and greatest commandment is a unitarian monotheist. We just don't know that.

      But even if we did grant that he was a unitarian monotheist, note that the Lord Jesus tells him that he is not far from the kingdom of heaven. And then he immediately goes into talking about David's declaration

      "The Lord said to my Lord, sit at my right hand until..."

      Christ's argument is simple: If David calls the Christ his "Lord," then how is he his son?

      This isn't a riddle. Christ is forcing those who hold to a view that the Messiah is merely the son of David to rethink their position. Christ cannot be merely the son of David, for he is David's Lord. Note that Christ is identifying himself as Lord at the time when David composed the psalm in question. Christ was Lord over David, prior to the incarnation.

      So how can the Jews of Jesus' time think that the Messiah is merely the son of David? They were wrong about him. He is not a mere man. He is more - he is Lord over the highest religio-political agent of God's rule and reign over his people, namely David. So how can the Lord of David be a mere creature?

      Not only this, but the Lord Jesus clearly rests his case upon the authority of the Scriptures as being the product of the Holy Spirit's inspiration. David is under the authority of God, speaking only as the Spirit gives him utterance, and by that Holy Spirit identifies the Messiah as the Divine Son of God.

      In essence, what we see in Jesus' question & response regarding the identity of the Messiah is this:

      The Holy Spirit - authority over David's words
      The Son - Lord over David's religio-political domain
      The Father - entrusting the kingdoms of the world to the Son

      This is the Trinity. The text of Mark 12:35-37 is trinitarian, not unitarian.

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    2. The clarity of a doctrine in the Bible, or anywhere else for that matter, has no say in how long it takes for people to hammer out its details.

      So to say that the doctrine would have been arrived at sooner if it was so clear, is simply not the case. The clarity of a doctrine is one thing, the understanding of men is another.

      But ignoring that non-sequitur, what is the clear of Scripture is not the technical jargon specifically formulated to encapsulate what the Scriptures teach about God, but the teachings in Scriptures themselves -

      There is One GOd.
      The Father is GOd.
      The Son is God.
      The HOly Spirit is God.
      The Father is not the Son or the SPirit.
      The Son is not the Father or the Spirit.
      The Spirit is not the Father or the Son.

      You're right to say that something that is clear does not cause confusion. But you are wrong to assume that confusion is caused, therefore, by an external source of unclarity.
      The doctrine of the trinity is clearly taught in Scripture. Whether or not the reader's mind is clear, that is a different issue.

      But even if the conservative scholars you read are correct in asserting the doctrine is implied, this does nothing to weaken its binding nature. All Scripture, including that which is implicit to the Scriptures, is profitable for doctrine. Implied doctrines are just as binding as explicitly stated doctrines.

      The philosophical language used in the doctrine of the trinity, at the more formal levels of its articulation, does not add something to the Scriptures that is not there. It condenses what is present in the Scriptures.

      It isn't a philosophical construct, but divine revelation framed in technical philosophical terms that serve to condense what the Scriptures teach about God.

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    3. As for Jesus being an historical human being, how does that conflict with him being God?

      You may think a 1:1 correlation of teh Father and the Son, as regards their essential nature as God, is illegitimate, but the Scriptures don't. JOhn 1:1, as well as other Scriptures do this very thing. In this very article, I demonstrate that this is the case.

      So while it is the case that the Messiah has a God, it is also the case that the Messiah is called God and worshiped as God.

      He shares the same exact divine attributes as the Father and the Spirit.

      Our inability to comprehend how this is the case doesn't change the fact that it is the case.

      And yes Jesus called men to worship the Father, but he also called men to worship him. What else do you call praying to Christ, petitioning him for the Spirit of God, which is identical to the Spirit of Christ in the New Tesatment, petitioning him for forgiveness of one's sins, or petitioning him on behalf of others who have sinned against him? God alone is to be the recipient of prayer, but Jesus calls men to pray to him. God alone is the Master, but Jesus calls himself the Master.

      Jesus is the God whom all Christians worship. So is the Father. So is the Spirit.

      If that weren't the case, then Jesus would be sinning by telling his followers to honor him even as/in the same manner in which they honor the Father.

      Jesus is not merely a human, then. He is called "My Lord and mY God" and does not rebuke the man calling him Yahweh. He is repeatedly identified by the apostles as Lord/Yahweh, having the Old Testament Scriptures interpreted as speaking of him and his works. He is not a mere human being; he is God almighty.

      If he is just a human being and nothing more, how can he do all that the Father does? If he is only a mere human being, then how can he alone know the Father, who reciprocally knows him, and possess the ability to reveal the Father to anyone he wishes?

      As for the human/divine natures in Christ, you are misunderstanding something I think. Under the constraints of being incarnate, that behavior which Christ always exhibited from all of eternity is displayed differently. E.g. Recognition that the Father is God within the Trinitarian communion is not obedience or worship, but that same act is worship and obedience when performed by a man.

      This doesn't change the essential nature of what is being done. Both instances are an acknowledgment of the deity of the Father, just articulated, as it were, in two differen ways.
      Thus, Christ's obeying the Father in doing x, y, or z is essentially identical to Christ's acts being in complete unity with the Father prior to the incarnation.

      Yes, the person of Jesus worships the Father as God. No Trinitarian denies that. But that does not necessitate that Jesus was merely a man, for a human articulation of x and a divine articulation of x are the same in essence but differ with respect to the manner in which x is expressed.

      So the logic you say is inescapable was never a trap to begin with.

      There is One God who eternally exists in three divine persons. The Second Person never ceased to be God, but took to himself a human nature. He is yet One person as God and Man.

      This is not a problem.

      There is nothing shaky about it, Greg.

      As for the Jews and Muslims, even if you don't think Jesus is God, why would you take their testimony as having any real weight when the disciples of Jesus, by Jesus' instruction, called them anti-Christs?

      The Bible says whoever denies the Son is antiChrist. This is precisely what the Jews and the Muslims do.

      Why then seek to garner support for your error from their antiChrist views?

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  4. Pt. 1
    Hiram, there's a lot here to consider. A few thoughts:
    1) The concept of "agency" in Semitic thought easily answers the question of how a being/spirit/person, etc. could possess the name of Yahweh and be "worshiped" as Yahweh. The agent is treated as though he is the one who sends him. This need not imply that the agent is ontologically equal to the Father. You may not agree with this interpretation, but you must admit that this is one valid way to interpret the data.
    2) You mentioned there being Jews who held a binitarian view. Aside from the fact that a binitarian view is not a trinitarian view, where is the evidence to suggest that such Jews viewed this secondary figure as equal to the one true God, the Most High God? I see such a worship pattern to be more akin to Jehovah's Witness theology than anything resembling Nicene trinitarianism. Per above, agency explains perfectly well this elevation of the secondary figure.
    3) The book of Deuteronomy explicitly commands Jews to worship Yahweh their God and serve only him. They were not to make idols, nor were they to worship any "partners" of the One True God. Exodus 20:3 reads that Jews should have no Elohim before him/in his sight/upon his face. This seems pretty clear to me. But suddenly about 2000 years ago, we have a guy named Jesus who some are saying is an individual to be worshiped in addition to the Yahweh which Jews had always worshiped. Yes, I know many Jews accepted Jesus as the Messiah, but this actually precisely the point we are discussing: did these early Jewish Christians have trinitarian beliefs, or did they view Jesus as the Messiah-agent of the One True God. I think given the clear evidence of history that trinitarianism took time to develop, it's more than reasonable to argue that the Jews who believed in Jesus saw him not as the Second Person of the Trinity, but as the Messiah of Israel, a human being empowered by God.

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  5. Pt. 2
    4) You asked, "As for Jesus being an historical human being, how does that conflict with him being God?" Because God is not a man (Num. 23:19; 1 Sam. 15:29; Job 9:32), God is not mortal, he cannot die (Deut. 32:40; Psalm 90:2; 1 Tim. 6:16), God does not grow weary or faint (Isaiah 40:28)! To be God is to be not-man, and to be man is to be not-God. Now I encounter trinitarians all the time who say, "well, if you say God cannot become a man you are limiting God." But that is not the case. To assign the attributes of finite man to God is what limits God. He cannot be what is contrary to his nature, he cannot do or be something illogical. It's just not possible for one person, a single mind/consciousness, to be both immortal and mortal at the same time. Asking anyone to believe otherwise is to ask people to suspend their God-given reason.
    5) You make a strong appeal to scripture, especially the gospel of John, and I appreciate that. But seeing as its data can also be interpreted along other lines, is it reasonable to think that this 3-in-1 God innovation of the 4th century trumps prior revelation in the Old Testament and even other parts of the New Testament? If, as Jesus said, the Jews worship what they know (and this passage is in the gospel of John, of all places), why don't we see trinitarian Jews prior to the coming of Christ? is it really reasonable to argue that they had no clue for hundreds of years that God was not one person but three?
    6) You call Jews and Muslims anti-Christs and ask why I would consider their opinions on the matter. Couple of points. One, it's a logical fallacy to discredit an argument based on who the person is making the argument. Two, the Jews came first; they were writing Scripture and worshiping one God before Jesus was ever conceived and before there was any such thing as a Christian or a trinitarian. Christians should put that in perspective. The OT can be true and the NT false, but the NT cannot be true and the OT false. A corollary is, IF the NT is true, it cannot contradict the OT. Many sincere Jews and Muslims honestly believe that the trinitarian interpretation of the NT contradicts previous revelation. Christians must deal with that fact rather than arrogantly dismiss their testimony. Perhaps it is the Christians who have the misunderstanding (regarding the nature of God), and not the Jews and the Muslims.

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    1. Greg, on the one hand you appeal to the shaliah concept to explain the Angel of the Lord receiving worship due to Yahweh alone, yet on the other hand you explicitly, and correctly, mention that Israel was to worship Yahweh alone, not Yahweh through some created representative. The Lord tells his people that they are not to worship any god whom neither they nor their fathers knew.

      “If your brother, the son of your mother, or your son or your daughter or the wife you embrace or your friend who is as your own soul entices you secretly, saying, ‘Let us go and serve other gods,’ which neither you nor your fathers have known, some of the gods of the peoples who are around you, whether near you or far off from you, from the one end of the earth to the other, you shall not yield to him or listen to him, nor shall your eye pity him, nor shall you spare him, nor shall you conceal him. But you shall kill him. Your hand shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hand of all the people. You shall stone him to death with stones, because he sought to draw you away from the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. And all Israel shall hear and fear and never again do any such wickedness as this among you."
      -Deut 13:6-11

      How, then, does the Angel of the Lord receive sacrifices as the Lord? If the Angel of the Lord is merely a representative of the Lord and not the Lord himself, then worship given to him is idolatry, for he, in this instance, is not the Lord whom the fathers of Israel knew. But if he does receive worship, and he does, and this is not condemned by God, then it follows that the act of giving him worship is not idolatry. That is to say, this proves that the Angel of the Lord is God, the same God who commanded the Israelites to not worship any other God whom neither they nor their fathers knew.

      I don't see the shaliah concept as explaining the relationship of the Angel of the Lord to the Lord, nor do I think it explains the relationship between the Father and the Son. In both instances, there are two persons who receive worship (namely, the Angel of the Lord and the Lord Jesus Christ) who do not refuse the worship given them, nor do they condemn those who worship them. Therefore, in both cases we have someone who is, yes, an agent of Yahweh, but Yahweh himself.

      So I do not agree that the shaliah interpretation is valid for these reasons.

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  6. I mentioned binitarianism not to identify it as trinitarianism, but to underscore that not all Jews were unitarian monothesists. Logically, presenting one example contrary to the claim that "All of the Jews during Jesus' day were unitarian monotheists" refutes the claim. So I presented one example. It is not the case that all Jews during Jesus' day were unitarian monotheists.

    This problematizes the often stated claim that "Given that we all know all Jews were unitarian monotheists in the time of Christ, trinitarianism developed over a long time." The development of the language expressing the Biblically established relationships between Father and SOn and Holy Spirit is one thing, the further exposition of these relations expressed in the aforementioned technical vocabulary is another, and the complete innovation of the doctrine of a plural personal God is entirely other. You are conflating all three of these things. They aren't the same.

    Regarding God and man being opposites, you are incorrect here as well. God has no opposite. There are some ways in which human nature stands in an antithetical relationship to God's divine nature. But this does not make an incarnation impossible. You don't accept that the Christian faith teaches that Christ has two natures, one divine and the other human. You seem to think that we think that the divine and human natures in Christ are intermingled. But that is the heresy of Eutychianism, which no Christian embraces. Rather, we affirm that the two natures in Christ are united but not intermingled. The attributes of humanity and divinity remain distinctively, respectively, human and divine. So your criticism here is invalid.

    The two natures continue to be respectively human and divine, and this is not a logical contradiction. Yes, God became a mortal man. But what do we mean by this? That the divine essence morphed into a human essence? No. We mean that the eternal God took to himself a human nature capable of dying. What does it mean that God cannot die? It means that God cannot in his essence fall under his own judgment, becoming the object of his own judicial anger. It also means that God in his essence cannot be separated from a body, since he is Spirit and has neither flesh nor bones.

    Christ did not cease to exist when he died. He continued to exist. His death was this: The sins of God's elect were imputed to him, he thereby became the object of God's judicial anger, and finally gave up the ghost, as his body and soul were separated on the cross. So what this does not mean is that God cannot unite himself to a human nature and, on the one hand, continue to act in union with the Father and the Spirit as regards his divine nature, and simultaneously act as the substitutionary sacrifice for the elect of God, on the other hand.

    You are assuming your point. You aren't proving it.

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  7. The essence of the Son's relation to the Father, in his divine nature, is identical to the essence of his relation to the Father, in his human nature.

    Here's a human analogy.

    The honoring of a parent by that parent's son is the same in kind whether that son is a child or an adult. What differs are the particular ways in which that honoring is expressed, i.e. either as a child or as an adult. This doesn't change the essence of what is being done: In both instances, the parent is being honored by his son. A better example, perhaps, would be that of a son who works for his father. He occupies two roles at one and the same time, and he never ceases to honor his father. However, in the context of the home the means of expressing this honoring is different in form from that of when he is at work. Although what he is doing at work differs in form from what he would do at home to show his father honor, this doesn't change the fact that his relationship to his father has never essentially changed. It is his position to the father, in the context of a job, that has changed.

    Why this matters is because your anthropology also is mistaken. You point out the differences between God and man. However, you fail to account for the fact that the Scriptures clearly teach that God made man in his own image. Theologians, I'm sure you know, therefore, state that man and God share, to some extent, some of the same attributes. God is a rational, moral, willing, and relational being. So is man. God speaks. Man speaks. God loves. Man loves. Yes, man loves in a way that men love, whereas God loves in a way that God does. However, they are both subjects who love. To deny this is to deny the very basis of the legitimacy of Scriptural revelation.

    Now, I didn't commit the genetic fallacy when I pointed out that the Jews and Muslims were antichrists. I was quoting Scripture. Whoever denies the Son, as Muslims and Jews do explicitly, is antichrist. This was the teaching of Christ and his apostles.

    Whoever does not have the Son, does not have the Father.
    Jews and Muslims do not have the Son.
    Therefore, Jews and Muslims do not have the Father.

    Whoever does not have the Father, does not know the Father.
    Jews and Muslims do not have the Father.
    Therefore, Jews and Muslims do not know the Father.

    Whoever does not know the Father does not know God.
    Jews and Muslims do not have the Father.
    Therefore, Jews and Muslims do not know God.

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  8. What is fallacious is your appeal to the antiquity of the Jewish people and their worshiping of God. The amount of time someone worships a god says nothing about the quality of their knowledge regarding that god. A mentally challenged man who has the learning capacity of a four year old, which will never grow, can, for example, worship God for his entire adult life and never learn anything more than the old Sunday school truth: Jesus loves me, this I know for the Bible tells me so.

    Jews were worshiping before Jesus was conceived, sure. But the Son of God eternally existed face to face with the Father, according to John 1:1-18. So even if the antiquity argument weren't fallacious, the point is irrelevant. Christ is the Eternal Son of God according to Scripture. The Word was face to face with God, in the beginning, created all things, and is God.

    Your assertion that the Old Testament can be true and the NT false, but not vice versa, is, moreover, not necessitated by logic. The OT can be entirely false, and the NT entirely true, logically speaking, although this would result in a very strange religion. For example: Marcionism, Gnosticism, and so on. Again, logically speaking, the NT could be true and completely contradict the OT. The means of harmonizing them, however, would give rise to a false religion - again, Marcionism, Gnosticism, etc.

    As for sincerity, it is irrelevant when it comes to this matter. Either they are right, or they are wrong. Sincerely modifies the way in which they are right or wrong, but it does not change whether they are or are not right or wrong. So sincerity is irrelevant.

    Lastly, it isn't arrogant to believe the Word of God and reject the words of fallible men whom God opposes. It is actually an act that requires constant self-abnegation. It is much easier to create one's own standard of religious reasoning than it is to submit to the standard of reasoning that God has given to men. Believing the Word of God and proclaiming its teaching to men, and doing so without compromising requires us to seek to please God rather than man. This often times results in us being shamed, ridiculed, or slandered, being told, for instance, that we are arrogant.

    Repent and believe the Gospel.
    -Hiram R. Diaz III

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