Saturday, August 13, 2016

Don't Call It a Comeback: Unitarianism Refuted by Christ

by Michael R. Burgos Jr.

It was His final appeal. Just as the Israelite High Priest bore the people of God upon his heart on the Day of Atonement,[2] the Son of God went before his Father in prayer for his people. It was then that he divulged the identity of “the only true God” as Father.[2] Ironically, it is this declaration that the unitarian apologetic has implemented to defy the teaching of orthodoxy.[3] Like the builder of a solar-powered umbrella, unitarianism has engaged in self-refutation by not recognizing the obvious implication of pinning the title “only true God” upon the one who is unrelentingly Father.

When we consider the nature of God we are rightly compelled to look to the person and teaching of the Son of God who is the only one, who is himself God, who makes the Father known.[4] John characterizes the Son of God as the divine logos, for it is he who has explained the Father. Whoever has seen the Son has seen the Father,[5] as it is the Son who is the exact representation of the Father.[6] Therefore, to settle the question of the nature of God we look to the Son. 

The teaching of Christ was marked by the characterization of God as Father. Jesus taught that prayer is to be offered not merely to God, but to “our Father.”[7] Jesus made known his own identity by revealing the unique relationship he has to God the Father. He claimed to be the one who was sent from the Father,[8] of whom “God the Father has set his seal,”[9] and the one who is glorified by the Father.[10] The level of dependence and the specificity of this relational aspect of God employed by Jesus is a departure from the generalized characterization of God as Father in the Old Testament. Jesus’ teaching superseded the Old Testament’s conception of God as Father by means of his depiction of his unique relationship- a relationship that was understood by the theological establishment as a claim of equality with God.[11] Jesus came to make God known to man, and he revealed God as Father. 

Vern Sheridan Poythress has done well to note that, “There is an analogy between God the Father and human fathers.“[12] This analogy stands in one direction as God the Father is the one “from whom every father in heaven and on earth is named.”[13] Earthly fathers derive their office from one Exemplar, and therefore the Father’s identity precedes that of all earthly fathers. The only true God is Father, and that identity is absolutely essential to human existence. Men receive the title because they have engaged in procreation. That is, they have entered into a particular relationship with someone that is unique to those who bear the name. The title father therefore, is one that is necessarily relational. Men are fathers because they uniquely relate to their offspring. It is this office that men derive from God. 

Fatherhood assumes the existence of a relationship that is unique to those that bear the name. To be consistent, unitarianism must contend that the concept of God as Father is one that is deployed within the confines of the economy of creation and redemption. This is due to that fact that the natural estate of the unitarian God is an entirely solitary enterprise wherein the concepts of relationship and love are completely unrealized. Relationality is foreign to the unitarian God as any subject-object existence can only be a convention of creation. Unitarianism therefore subjects the primary revelation of God by Christ to the confines of creation. Yet, unitarians insist that, “The overwhelming testimony of Scripture leads one to conclude that none other than the Father is the one true God.”[14] To this contention Trinitarians hardily agree. The Nicene creed stands as one of the historic statements of Trinitarian orthodoxy, and it begins by confessing, “We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of all things visible and invisible.” Thus, the unitarian affirmation of the one true God as Father is in fact, an affirmation of Trinitarian orthodoxy.