Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Jesus is Not the Father Redux: A Response to Clayton Killion

I linked to an article entitled A Look at Three Passages Oneness Pentecostals Use to DemonstrateJesus is the Father in the “Worldwide Godhead Symposium” debate group. Clayton Killion, a Oneness Pentecostal, took the time to respond at his Lectionary blog. While I appreciate his willingness to write a cordial response, his effort divulges significant logical, exegetical, and theological problems.

The purpose of my article was, as the title states, to address the main texts Oneness Pentecostals appeal to in order to justify their claim that Jesus is the Father in human flesh. While other aspects of Oneness theology and Christology depend on other texts (I address dozens in my book, Against Oneness Pentecostalism: An Exegetical-Theological Critique, 2nd Edition), these three texts are the main passages marshaled specifically to prove Jesus is the Father. Not recognizing this, Killion began his article with a mischaracterization: “According to Burgos, we Oneness Pentecostals appeal to only a handful of texts—no more than six—in order to build our Christology.” This statement is a straw-man as I clearly do not believe (nor have I ever written or said) that Oneness Pentecostals build their entire Christology on a handful of texts. Rather, my contention in the article was that the three texts in question are those predominantly utilized in order to demonstrate that Jesus is the Father. Killion went on to write,
Anyone who has read David Bernard, Nathaniel Wilson, David Norris, Daniel Segraves, Jerry Lynn Hayes, or Jason Weatherly can attest to this fact. I find Burgos’ above statement astounding—given that he has written multiple books in response to our doctrine, engaging all of the aforementioned authors.
The only thing astounding here is the mischaracterization he put forth from the outset. Moreover, unless Killion believes that the statement “Jesus is the Father” is a comprehensive summary of Oneness Christology en toto, there is absolutely no basis for his mischaracterization of my article.

Killion wrote, “Every Biblical passage that you have studied with respect to trinitarianism, we have studied vis-à-vis Oneness dogma. We build our teaching on the whole of scripture—just as you claim to do.” Really? Exactly where is the Oneness Pentecostal systematic theology? You can find a systematics text that reflects what I believe in virtually every Christian bookstore. Precisely where is this comprehensive Oneness Pentecostal theology found? Even those Oneness works which attempt to address more than the doctrine of God don’t even come close to attempting a systematic treatment of biblical doctrine. I assert the reason why there is no Oneness systematics text, is because Oneness Pentecostalism is incapable of theological consistency as it is built upon the misguided use of prooftexts.1

Killion then addressed what he characterized as my “exegesis of Isaiah 9:6.” This is confusing since I didn’t provide an exegesis of this text in the relevant article. Rather, I appealed to pp. 98-101 in my book which does provide an exegesis. What I did provide was a few sentences which explain why I don’t believe the phrase “father of eternity” to mean that Jesus is God the Father. If Killion does desire to interact with my exegesis, it has been in print for three years. He responded to my summary by asserting that I have adopted the “EXACTLY [sic] the same logic that Jehovah’s Witnesses use in order to prove Jesus is not God at all.” Essentially, Killion has argued that in the same way that the Watchtower explains away Immanuel on sematic grounds, I too have explained away the phrase “father of eternity.” He concluded, “If Jesus’ name Abiad/”Everlasting Father” does not literally mean he is the Father, then Jesus’ name Immanuel/”God with us” does not literally mean that he was God.” This statement, however, divulges a logical fallacy that is at the root of Killion’s quant claim. First, the claim that I am engaging in the same hermeneutic as a suborndinationist cult is mildly amusing and totally unfounded.2 His argument erroneously presupposes the univocality of the words "God" and "father." Second, it is a bald assumption to suppose that “father of eternity” necessarily identifies Jesus as God the Father. Without any justification or rationale whatsoever, Killion equates the phrase “father of eternity” with God the Father. Third, I do believe with abject consistency that both “father of eternity” and “Immanuel” are titles of deity. However, my contention is that within the context of a title, the “father of…” construction is a Semitic linguistic convention that is designed to characterize a subject and not identify a subject. Thus, to call the Son of God “father of eternity” is to attribute eternality to him, and not to characterize him as God the Father.