Biblical Christology: Which Way does the Evidence Point?
In previous weeks I have shown that my arguments are strongly supported by standard authorities and a broad range of recent Trinitarian scholarship. This week I will be summarising the key elements of the Biblical Unitarian position, identifying key weaknesses in the Trinitarian position, and weighing the evidence against three primary criteria: reason, Scripture and history.

I maintain that Biblical Unitarianism:

  • Is the original, first-century Christology
  • Enjoys greater compatibility with the Biblical evidence
  • Allows a more natural reading of the text
  • Eliminates alleged “paradoxes” and “contradictions”
  • Maintains the essential connection between the OT, Second Temple Judaism, and first-century Christianity
  • Preserves the cultural and ideological context of original Christian beliefs
  • Is logically and rationally superior to Trinitarianism
  • Commands the earliest historical support
  • Offers a coherent high Christology, grounded in OT typology and comprising a consistent doctrinal arc stretching from Genesis to Revelation
  • Provides the basis for a deeper, more meaningful relationship with God and Christ

The Argument from Reason
Trinitarianism is contrary to logic and reason. For example, the Athanasian Creed states:

So likewise the Father is Lord; the Son Lord; and the Holy Ghost Lord. And yet not three Lords; but one Lord. For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity; to acknowledge every Person by himself to be God and Lord; So are we forbidden by the Catholic Religion; to say, There are three Gods, or three Lords.

This presents us with three “divine persons” who are collectively and individually called “God” and “Lord.” God + God + God = three entities in the category of “God”, yet the Athanasian Creed forbids Christians to say “three Gods.” Lord + Lord + Lord = three entities in the category of “Lord”, yet the Athanasian Creed forbids Christians to say “three Lords.” Even if we allow the Trinitarian explanation that the three who are called “God” are not individual gods but individual persons who comprise one God, this still leaves us with three Lords within the Godhead. The Creed permits us to acknowledge these three Lords individually as “Lord”, provided we do not refer to them as “three Lords”! Thus the Creed demands an illogical confession by insisting we confess three Lords as one Lord.

This is just one example of the way Trinitarianism requires unique definitions of words, contrary to regular usage. For example, Rob insists that within the context of Trinitarianism, the term “person” is “…stipulated to be used with a somewhat different connotation as compared to its use for human beings.” But why use the term “person” in a way which differs from its use for human beings in the first place? The OT offers no basis for the Trinitarian view of personhood, so how is the idea deduced from Scripture? Where is the Biblical evidence which demonstrates this is how we are intended to use the word “person” in reference to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit?

The answer: there is no such evidence. The uniquely Trinitarian definition and usage of the word “person” arose as a fourth-Century solution to the logical and rational problems presented by the triune formula. Even in common English versions we can see Scripture does not use the words “being” and “person” in the way required by Trinitarianism. This is a major impediment to Rob’s theology.

Since the Trinitarian Jesus is believed to be God, everything in Scripture which applies to God must necessarily apply to him. But this results in many contradictions:

  • Visible despite being invisible (Colossian 1:15)
  • Seen but “never seen” (John 1:18, I Timothy 6:16)
  • Tempted even though God cannot be tempted (Matthew 4:1-11; cp. James 1:13)
  • “Made like his brothers and sisters in every respect” (Hebrews 2:17), yet not really made like them at all, since he is God and does not possess “fallen nature”
  • “Died” on the cross despite being eternal (I Timothy 1:17)
  • “Raised from the dead” (Matthew 28:7) and “released from the pains of death” by the Father (Acts 2:24), though he never truly died
  • Omnipotent yet dependent upon the Father’s power for his miraculous works (John 14:10)
  • Omniscient yet lacking knowledge (Matthew 24:36)
  • Simultaneously “God” and “not-God”

These are just some of the logical problems resulting from Trinitarian Christology. Rob calls them “paradoxes” as if this somehow makes them acceptable. A paradox can be acceptable, if its contradiction is only apparent. Yet the contradictions within Trinitarianism are not merely apparent; they are real and insoluble.

For example, Rob believes Jesus could be tempted, yet was incapable of sin (Putting Jesus In His Place, p.122). But there can be no temptation without the possibility of sin. To deny Jesus could sin is to deny he could be tempted, so the statement “Jesus could be tempted but was not capable of sin” is both self-refuting and utterly meaningless. If Jesus cannot be tempted, then Hebrews 2:18 and 4:15 are both false. If Jesus was incapable of sin, then Hebrews 2:17 and Galatians 4:4 are both false. These are not mere “paradoxes.” They are blatant logical contradictions which defy clear statements of Scripture.

Trinitarianism tries to deflect the problem by appealing to the hypostatic union (the alleged “dual nature” of Jesus), claiming Jesus acts and responds “from his human nature” or “from his divine nature” depending on the context. Jesus’ physical weaknesses and limitations are thus attributed to his human nature, while his supernatural capacity is attributed to his divine nature. But this effectively turns the two natures into two de facto persons, thereby lapsing into the heresy of Nestorianism and begging the question: what does it mean to act or respond “from one’s nature”? If we allow doctrine to be illogical, it becomes arbitrary and ceases to be meaningful. There is no point in systematic theology if our beliefs are permitted to be self-contradictory.

In previous weeks we have seen Rob’s own terms of reference are logically inconsistent. For example, he employs the name “Yahweh” in two different ways:

  1. As the name for the Trinity as a concept (ie. the concept of three persons in one being)
  2. As a name possessed by each individual member of the Trinity

Following the Shema of Deuteronomy 6:4, Rob is compelled to agree there is only one Yahweh, since this is the name of God and there is only one God. But he also believes the Father is called Yahweh and the Son is called Yahweh (presumably the Holy Spirit is called Yahweh as well). Yet if Father + Son + Holy Spirit = 3 because they are all distinct from each other, and if each of them can be individually referred to as Yahweh, how can this not mean there are three Yahwehs? It is yet another example of inconsistent terminology.

Rob counts the Father, Son and Holy Spirit as “three persons”, all of which are called “Yahweh”, but he doesn’t want to accept that three persons each called “Yahweh” comprise three Yahwehs. He accepts the Trinity as “three persons”, when it suits him, but at other times he wants to count the three persons as one (ie. one Yahweh, or one Lord). He does this by effectively treating the three separate persons as a single unipersonal being, which is logically inconsistent and results in Modalism (see also Dale Tuggy’s critique).

One particularly revealing aspect of Rob’s language has been his use of singular personal pronouns in reference to God. This is strange, because he does not actually believe God is a single person; he believes God is a single divine being consisting of three divine persons. To Unitarians, God is a “whom”; a single person who is also a single divine being. But to Rob and other Trinitarians, God is a “what”; a triunity of three divine persons comprising one divine being. Why, then, does he refer to this triune collective as if it was a single person? Is his use of singular pronouns unconsciously influenced by the Biblical usage, or does he honestly believe the correct pronoun for three persons is “he”?

Rob has previously argued that Genesis 1:26 is proof of multiple persons within the Godhead. In his eyes, plural personal pronouns denote a plurality of persons. By taking this position he concedes that singular personal pronouns denote a single person and leaves us asking why the Bible overwhelmingly applies singular personal pronouns to a God who is really three persons. Why not an overwhelming number of plural personal pronouns, as Rob’s own argument requires?

Some appeal to Judges 1, where the tribes of Simeon and Judah are referred to by the use of singular personal pronouns (verse 3, “Judah said to Simeon his brother”). This is used to argue there is no inconsistency in the application of singular personal pronouns to the Trinity. But Judges 1 merely personifies the two tribes and refers to those personifications using singular pronouns. Trinitarians need to explain why the OT refers to God in the use of at least 7,000 singular personal pronouns, consistently treating Him as a single being Who is also a single person.

At most, Trinitarians can offer a total of four so-called “plural personality passages” (Genesis 1:26; 3:22; 11:7; Isaiah 6:8) which they claim are indicative of multiple persons within the Godhead. (A. Fruchtenbaum — Jewishness and the Trinity, 1997 — adds Genesis 20:13, 35:7, II Samuel 7:23 and Psalm 58, but this is an extreme minority position). Yet these interpretations find little or no support among current Trinitarian commentators. Even Trinitarian Bible translations such as the NET contain footnotes advocating a Unitarian interpretation of certain passages on contextual and grammatical grounds.

It is illogical to suggest that a meagre four verses within the entire OT comprise evidence of a plurality of persons within the Godhead, when the rest of the OT militates against this hypothesis. Rob has conceded (a) the OT evidence is consistent with a Biblical Unitarian God, and (b) the OT Jews understood the Shema in the same way that we Biblical Unitarians do. There is no evidence the Jews ever understood God in anything but a Unitarian sense, or that He revealed Himself to them in any other way. The burden of proof lies upon Trinitarianism to demonstrate that God provided a new revelation about His identity in the NT era.

Perhaps the greatest admission of logical incoherence comes from Trinitarians themselves. Michael Patton (“The Trinity is Like 3-in-1 Shampoo”. . . And Other Stupid Statements) says:

One more thing. I often tell my students that if they say, “I get it!” or “Now I understand!” that they are more than likely celebrating the fact that they are a heretic! When you understand the biblical principles and let the tensions remain without rebuttal, then you are orthodox. When you solve the tension, you have most certainly entered into one of the errors that we seek to avoid. Confused? Good! That is just where you need to be.

Emphasis mine.

Patton urges Christians to confess an incomprehensible faith, ignoring any “tensions” which may arise and aspiring to confusion as the benchmark of orthodoxy. But did Jesus or the apostles ever preach God in this way? On the contrary, Jesus said to the woman of Samaria “You people worship what you do not know. We worship what we know, because salvation is from the Jews” (John 4:22). Biblical Unitarians are well positioned to repeat these words to Trinitarians.

Rob began this debate with an argument consisting of six propositions which he claimed would vindicate Trinitarianism if all proved true. But I showed that Trinitarianism is not a necessary conclusion from these propositions; they could result in several different Christologies. (Dale Tuggy has criticised the propositions on similar grounds). Thus it is not enough for Rob to prove only some of his propositions without demonstrating every aspect of Trinitarianism. In order to justify his position he must prove all of his propositions, show that they necessarily lead to the Trinity, and demonstrate every aspect of Trinitarianism from Scripture (whether directly or indirectly).

The Argument from Scripture
The argument from Scripture can be summarised thus:

  • Scripture repeatedly presents us with consistent unipersonal language in reference to God (e.g. God only referred to in singular pronouns; God only referring to Himself in singular pronouns)
  • Scripture repeatedly presents explicit statements depicting God as only one person
  • Scripture qualifies its references to others who appear to possess attributes and titles of God
  • Scripture qualifies its references to others as “god” or “gods”
  • Any agent or representative of God can legitimately bear His name, exercise His authority and command a measure of His divine power
  • Sin deserves death; sacrifice offers a covering for sin; only God can provide a sin-covering sacrifice (a sacrifice which is “other than God”); Jesus was that sacrifice
  • The first-century Christian understanding of God’s identity comprehended all of the points listed above
  • The first-century Christian understanding of God’s identity was consistent with the Old Testament Jewish understanding of God’s identity
  • Biblical Unitarianism provides the best interpretation of the Biblical evidence

In Week 1 we saw the Bible defines God as one divine person who exists as a single divine being known by the name of Yahweh and consistently referred to as “Father” or “the Father”, reflecting His relationship with creation. We saw the Father possesses a wide range of unique attributes, which set Him apart from creation. We saw that NT references to God are consistent with the OT, using the same language and titles established over several thousand years of pre-Christian Jewish theology.

We saw first-century Christians did not claim to bring a new revelation about the identity of God, but drew their teaching about Him directly from the OT. We saw current scholarship accepts the first-century church was not Trinitarian, requiring Trinitarians to explain (a) why this was, and (b) how Trinitarianism successfully emerged from an ideological climate which was wholly unfavourable to it (Rob has done neither).

In Weeks 2 and 3 we saw that Jesus Christ is defined by the Bible as the Son of God, Jewish Messiah, Christian sacrifice for sin, Lord, high priest and mediator. We saw he was a mortal man, made like his brethren in every way (Hebrews 2:17), subject to the Law of Moses (Galatians 4:4) and capable of sin (Luke 4:1; cf. James 1:13-14), yet possessing the Holy Spirit “without measure” (John 3:34). We saw he worshipped the Father as his God (John 4:22, 20:17) and did not claim deity for himself.

We saw his sinless life was made possible (though not inevitable) by the advantage of his superior mental and intellectual qualities (Luke 2:46-47), his close relationship with the Father (John 1:18, 10:30, 38), and the angelic assistance he received whenever necessary (Matthew 4:11; Luke 22:43). We saw his sinless life qualified him as a perfect sacrifice for sin, thereby fulfilling the OT typology which begins in Genesis and permeates the Mosaic Law (Genesis 3:21; John 1:29; I Peter 1:19).

We saw Jesus struggled with the awful burden of his task (Matthew 26:39-42; Luke 22:42) and suffered when he was tempted (Hebrews 2:18), yet completely resisted sin (Hebrews 4:15), required release from the pains of death (Acts 2:24) and recognised this need through his prayers and supplications to God, Who was able to save him from death (Hebrews 5:7).

We saw he obediently submitted to his sacrificial death on the cross (Philippians 2:8; Colossians 1:20), genuinely died on the cross (John 19:33-34), was raised to life by the Father (Galatians 1:1) and now sits at His right hand in an exalted, glorified form (Mark 16:19; Acts 5:31; Philippians 3:21), exercising divine power, authority and judgement while he awaits his Second Advent (Matthew 25:31-46; Luke 21:27; John 5:27; Acts 1:11; Ephesians 1:20-22).

We saw Jesus received divine authority from God and was permitted to exercise this authority as the Father’s representative during his mortal life (John 5:43, 10:37) — just as angels and OT prophets had done before him — but we also saw that the full extent of his authority was unprecedented, far above any angel or prophet (Matthew 11:27, 26:53). We saw Jesus lacks crucial attributes of God, including omnipotence, omniscience and omnipresence. We noted differences between the mortal, pre-crucifixion Jesus and the immortal, exalted, glorified post-resurrection Jesus.

We saw Jesus is frequently honoured as God’s Son, the Jewish Messiah and king, but never worshipped as God, demonstrating that he is subordinate to the Father both functionally (by rank) and ontologically (by nature). We saw that NT teaching about Jesus was invariably derived from the OT, with Jesus and his apostles showing that the full details concerning Messiah had already been revealed in the Jewish Scriptures:

  • Luke 24:27, “Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, [Jesus] interpreted to them the things written about himself in all the scriptures”
  • Luke 24:44, “Then he said to them, ‘These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses and the prophets and the psalms must be fulfilled.'”
  • John 1:45, “Philip found Nathanael and told him, ‘We have found the one Moses wrote about in the law, and the prophets also wrote about — Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph'”
  • Acts 26:22-23, “‘I have experienced help from God to this day, and so I stand testifying to both small and great, saying nothing except what the prophets and Moses said was going to happen: that the Christ was to suffer and be the first to rise from the dead, to proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles'”

Jesus and his apostles were adamant that everything people needed to know about him could be sourced directly from the OT. There was no “progressive revelation” about the Messiah; there was no new doctrine concerning his nature and identity; there was no change from OT to NT.

Above all, we saw that the apostolic preaching in the book of Acts reveal that they believed in a Jesus who was solely human. They baptise thousands of people in the name of a Unitarian Jesus described in terms which distinguish him from God and preclude deity. Acts contains a total of nine preaching lectures (Acts 2:22-42, 3:12-26, 7:2-56, 8:30-39, 10:34-48, 13:15-39, 17:22-31, 24:14-21, 26:2-27), revealing a list of core doctrines presented repeatedly:

  • The Bible: the word of God, divinely inspired
  • One God: the Father and Creator; the Holy Spirit, His power
  • Jesus: the Son of God
  • Jesus: a mortal man
  • Jesus: his perfect life, sacrifice
  • Jesus: his resurrection, glorification, and ascension
  • Christ as mediator
  • The second coming
  • Resurrection and judgment
  • Promises to Abraham: inheritance of the land
  • Promises to David: his kingdom restored
  • Forgiveness of sins through faith in Christ, repentance, and baptism
  • One body: fellowship and breaking of bread

(Summarised from What Are the First Principles?, by George Booker).

Months of preaching before thousands of people, yet no mention of the Trinity or the deity of Christ. Why not? Trinitarians respond that Acts doesn’t record everything the apostles said at every preaching event. Although true, this does not answer the question. Why would the apostles be silent on the subject of Jesus’ deity, particularly if they believed it to be an essential doctrine? Trinitarians cannot explain this.

The Trinity would have been the most important and groundbreaking doctrine of the day, yet we find no mention of it. Nor do we find any evidence of first-century Christians persecuted for believing that Jesus is God. We do find them persecuted for believing Jesus is the Messiah, and that the Law of Moses has been superseded by a new covenant (e.g. Acts 6:11, 14). We do find riots and assassination attempts resulting from the Jews’ reaction to the Gospel message.

But where is the uproar against the notion of a Messiah who is also a God-man? Where is the backlash against a triune God? There is no such uproar; there is no such backlash; there is no outcry against Trinitarian concepts. On the Trinity and the deity of Christ, the preaching record and the Jewish response are both silent. In light of the Jews’ response to the Gospel message, this is inexplicable unless proto-Trinitarian doctrines were not preached at all. And if they were not preached, why weren’t they preached?

In previous weeks we saw Trinitarians sometimes struggle with Scripture, finding it necessary to qualify even the simplest of statements. Examples emerged from Rob’s treatment of passages such as Deuteronomy 6:4, John 17:3, John 20:17, and I Corinthians 8:6. We saw Trinitarians perpetuate errors of interpretation through a failure to challenge their own theological presuppositions. Examples were demonstrated by Rodney J. Decker in his critique of kenosis theory.

We saw Trinitarians approach Scripture with a priori assumptions about its meaning and impose them onto the text. Examples were presented from the work of prominent Trinitarian scholars such as Herbert W. Bateman IV and A. T. Robertson, and emerged from Rob’s interpretation of Hebrews 1 and Philippians 2, where he presupposed Christ’s pre-existence before commencing his exegesis. We saw Rob’s arguments are often based upon, or derived from, logical fallacies, including:

  • affirming the consequent
  • false dichotomy
  • affirmative conclusion from negative premise
  • argument from ignorance
  • argument from silence
  • straw man
  • special pleading

These are not the hallmarks of sound interpretation.

In Week 4 we saw that the OT provides a consistent doctrine of the Spirit as the power of God manifesting His divine presence; yet not a divine person (“God the Holy Spirit”) or the totality of God Himself. We saw that throughout the OT, God’s Holy Spirit is described as something that belongs to Him, like a property or a power. We saw that the NT follows this model exactly, without deviating in any way from OT teaching. There is no new revelation about the identity of the Holy Spirit. We saw occasional personification, but no evidence of literal personality. We saw the apostles received the Holy Spirit as a miraculous gift that they passed on at their own discretion.

In Week 5 we saw the Father, Son and Holy Spirit were each recognised as sources of apostolic authority (Matthew 28:19, Luke 9:1, II Corinthians 12:11-12, I Thessalonians 4:8) but only two (Father and Son) were recognised as literal persons. We saw they occasionally mentioned the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in the same context, but not in any way which suggests they are three distinct persons who together comprise the totality of God. We saw that even John’s divine revelation of the heavenly court displays Jesus as a distinct being entirely separate from the Father, and does not portray the Holy Spirit at all.

Rob claimed the Trinity is “implicit” in the Bible (without providing examples of “implicit doctrine” as opposed to “explicit doctrine”), but avoided raising central issues like the temptation and atonement of Christ in his primary arguments. Presumably he did this to minimise the burden of proof and present me with a smaller target.

While his position is convenient for a debate, it is theologically weak, leaving the first-Century Christians with only a loose conceptual framework from which Trinitarianism might be conceivably (but not necessarily) derived. It results in a first-century church which is not Trinitarian in any true sense of the word, and lacks a clear articulation of Christ’s deity. It also begs the question of why the Trinity is merely “implicit” in a book inspired by divine revelation, spanning almost 4,000 years of history, throughout which God claimed to be providing humanity with a complete picture of His identity and purpose.

Why did God allow His chosen people to believe He is only one divine person instead of three, right up until the Christian era? Why did He conceal His triune identity? What was the rationale behind this divine deception? When and where was the new revelation first made clear? Rob claims it is “implicit”, but why only “implicit”? All the other key apostolic doctrines are explicitly preached. How can divinely inspired church leaders fail to provide an explicit teaching of the triune God if that is what they genuinely believe? Jesus told his disciples that the Holy Spirit would lead them into all truth (John 16:13); why didn’t it lead them to Trinitarianism?

The Argument from History
In Week 5 we also saw the doctrinal foundations of Trinitarianism in early extra-Biblical Christian writings from the 2nd Century AD. We saw that the heretical and apocryphal Epistle of Barnabas contains the very first example of Genesis 1:26 being used as a proof text for the pre-existence of Christ. This verse was not used by Jesus, his apostles, or the earliest post-Biblical Christians such as Polycarp, Clement of Rome and Ignatius.

We saw the evolution of “Logos Christology” in the writings of Justin Martyr, who believed that Jesus was not literally God but only a type of divine super-being created by the Father and through whom He created the world. We saw this belief was held in various forms by most second- and third-century Christians, including prominent theologians such as Theophilus, Hippolytus, Irenaeus, Origen, Methodius and Tertullian. Christology continued to develop through a variety of successive heresies (Sabellianism, Patripassianism, Arianism, Homoiousianism, etc.)

We saw Trinitarianism began to take shape at the Council of Nicaea in AD325, in an era when Christianity became politicised under the reign of Constantine. We saw this initial Trinitarian definition was incomplete, being gradually refined by successive councils over the next 120 years. We saw even in the late 4th Century there was no consensus on the deity of Christ or the Holy Spirit, and prominent Trinitarian scholars were accused of tritheism. Does this sound like the faith once preached by the apostles?

Historically, doctrine always develops from the minimal to the complex, evolving as it is exposed to new influences and adapting in response to perceived heresies. Thus, the simplest doctrinal statements are more likely to be the earliest and most authentic. It is therefore significant that the earliest Christian creedal statements are Unitarian. They begin with simple, Biblical formulae:

Ephesians 4:4-6, “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you too were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all”

Later post-Biblical era Christians employed identical language to express an identical theology. The Didache (a late first-century church manual) contains a summary of key beliefs including salvation by grace, the need for repentance, the ritual of baptism, the Eucharistic meal, the identity of Jesus Christ, the Second Advent, and the resurrection of the dead. These are supported by copious quotations from the NT, demonstrating that the apostolic writings were in wide circulation and upheld as the benchmark of orthodoxy. Yet there is no mention of three persons in the Godhead; there is no suggestion that Jesus is God.

Rediscovering the God of Israel and His Human Son, Jesus Christ
Before concluding, I would like to thank Rob and his colleagues at Parchment & Pen for arranging this debate and permitting a robust exchange. I am particularly grateful to Rob for candidly acknowledging the high Christology of Biblical Unitarianism and the strength of the evidence in our favour.

The Biblical Unitarian Jesus is a Messiah you can relate to, because he can relate to you. Unlike the Trinitarian Jesus, he genuinely understands your pain and sympathises with your temptations, because he is truly human. He once experienced the very sufferings that you endure (and more!)

Some Trinitarians are beginning to recognise that the deity of Christ poses a challenge to our relationship with him. Scott Lencke is one who has carefully reconsidered Jesus’ humanity and its theological implications. In a thoughtful article on his blog he sensitively addresses the problem of a Jesus who was never really the same as us, but only pretended to be.

Key phrases stand out in Lencke’s analysis:

I do believe that we are a little too afraid to admit to what it really meant for Jesus to be human… I believe that it’s quite easy for us to believe that Jesus was somehow more divine than human. Or we at least talk about him in a way that says he was more divine than human… Yet, we must be honest and recognise that this can cut at an important part of Christ – his humanity… Think about what you and I go through. Think about what it means to be one who is fully human. To do so, I believe Christ would have had to lay aside every aspect of his divinity… I believe Christ, in his human incarnation, laid aside his omniscience, his omnipresence and his omnipotence. All of it!

Lencke has challenged the unconscious Docetism beneath the surface of lay Trinitarianism as an obstacle to our relationship with Christ. Scripture says it was essential for Jesus to be made like us in every way so that he could relate to us and act as our mediator to God. Yet if he was never truly one of us, he cannot understand us in the way that Scripture describes. To believe in a human Jesus we must accept he is not God. Lencke believes Jesus is God, but can only achieve a truly human Christ by committing himself to full kenosis theology. This drastic step is a testament to his intellectual honesty; he recognises the need to resolve one of the “tensions” that Michael Patton, Rob Bowman and others would prefer us to ignore.

In Week 1 of this debate I emphasised that Christianity began as a Jewish religion. That Jewish foundation is critical to our interpretation of Scripture. The first Christians were Jews; they interpreted Scripture from a Jewish perspective; they described God and Jesus using OT language and Messianic typology. They were able to express every aspect of their faith by the use of Scripture alone, as Biblical Unitarians still do today. They affirmed a belief in the God of Israel and His human Son, the Jewish Messiah.

Biblical Unitarianism calls for a return to those Jewish roots. I urge you to rediscover Israel’s God; the God Whom Jesus himself worshipped; the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob — not the God of Justin Martyr, Arius, or Basil the Great. If God is not three persons, Christianity loses nothing but regains its necessary connection with God’s chosen people, the Jews. Don’t accept anything I have written throughout this debate unless you have confirmed it is consistent with reason, Scripture and history. Search God’s Word for the true gospel of Jesus Christ, as the Bereans did.

God is near to all those who call on Him. Seek Him while He may be found.

    112 replies to "The Great Trinity Debate, Part 6: Dave Burke’s Closing Statement"

    • Kel Hammond


      They used to teach something like this –

      Our understanding of the Trinity can be likened to an Egg. The Shell, White & Yoke are 3 separate parts yet one Egg. The Shell is Egg, the White is Egg, and the Yoke is Egg. Each part is separate yet the 3 parts comprise only 1 Egg, not 3 Eggs.

      Talk about human reasoning and logic.

      It was explanations like this, and careful & prayful study of the scriptures, that caused us to abandon Trinity belief many years ago.

    • MShep2


      Your statement,

      They used to teach something like this –

      Our understanding of the Trinity can be likened to an Egg. The Shell, White & Yoke are 3 separate parts yet one Egg. The Shell is Egg, the White is Egg, and the Yoke is Egg. Each part is separate yet the 3 parts comprise only 1 Egg, not 3 Eggs.

      Talk about human reasoning and logic.

      It was explanations like this, and careful & prayful study of the scriptures, that caused us to abandon Trinity belief many years ago.

      Sorry, but I know of no person with any real theological training who would teach this. This is an untrained “Sunday school” type analogy that does more harm to the doctrine of the Trinity than good. For you to set this up as trinitarian teaching is such an obvious straw man that it does nothing for your case.

      Talk about human reasoning and logic.

      There are two common themes in this thread running through the posts written by anti-trinitarians: 1. Trinitarian doctrine makes no sense logically to my human mind. 2. If you would just accept what the Bible plainly says, you would agree with me.

      Neither of these is an end-all argument, even though many seem to think they are.

      1. If we are to judge everything the Bible says by whether or not it is “logical” or “reasonable” we would have to throw out creation, salvation, eternal life, and all other Bible doctrines based on God and the supernatural since none of these “make sense” to our naturalistically-bent minds.

    • MShep2

      2. All doctrinal controversies, whether they be Arminian vs. Calvinistic, sovereignty of God vs. Free will, Trinitarian vs. Unitarian, etc. can be argued on both sides by, “If you would just read and accept what the Bible says…..” I believe the Bible teaches the Trinity and I accept that by faith – even though I know there are unanswered questions. Unitarians (Christadelphians) must also do the same. As I posted above, Christadelphian doctrine does not answer how Christ – as a human being whose life began in Bethlehem – could be described as the creator and the one who holds all things together (Col. 1:16-17), how he “humbled himself” in coming as a man if he already were a man (Phil. 2:4-11), and many other Biblical teachings about Christ. If you accept Christadelphian doctrine you also will have unanswered questions.

      In my opinion (and in the opinion of many theologians much smarter than I) “Trinity” best describes the nature of God. It is what the Bible plainly teaches. If you come up with a different position based on your study of the Bible it does nothing for me if you simply say, “It’s what the Bible plainly teaches.”

    • Dave Burke

      MShep2, I addressed Colossians 1 here and Philippians 2 here. I addressed the “Jesus was worshipped” argument here and the “pre-existence” argument here.

      You may disagree with my interpretations, but you cannot claim that I have left “unanswered questions.”

    • MShep2


      I guess it is a matter of semantics: I felt your explanations did not really answer the questions so I characterized them as “non-answers.” (Which, i guess, is similar to what you said about Rob’s answers to your challenges to “trinitarian” passages.) Now, if you would just accept what the Bible clearly teaches about the pre-existence and deity of Christ……. 😉

    • Dave Burke

      Well, I guess this is the point at which the Catholics and Orthodox step in to tell us that the reason we’ve reached a stalemate is because we’re arguing from Sola Scriptura instead of accepting “holy tradition.” 😛

      By the way, Philippians 2 does not say that Jesus “humbled himself in coming as a man.” It simply says that he humbled himself. 😉

    • Kel Hammond


      I related what we heard about 30 years ago. The person who used the analogy definitely had theological training.

      Whether you consider it a Sunday school analogy or not, and whether you like it or not, really doesn’t matter much. As an analogy, it does pretty much sum up the trinity concept by way of analogy for the non-theologically trained Christian.

      You said –
      “There are two common themes in this thread running through the posts written by anti-Trinitarians: 1. Trinitarian doctrine makes no sense logically to my human mind. 2. If you would just accept what the Bible plainly says, you would agree with me.”

      Yet the trinity doctrine was clearly a late compilation, pieced together by ‘Theologians’ who were both smart and skilled. Of that there is no doubt. It is plainly not found in anything like its current format in the scriptures or even in the writings of the ‘fathers’ of the 1st & 2nd century.

      The main thrust of those who you call ‘anti-trinitarians’ is to challenge both the scriptural foundations & the logic of the doctrine. The doctrine is a man made compilation, no matter how you look at it, and needs to be challenged on both fronts. To say that it is beyond human logic is a convenient way to excuse the plain shortcomings of the creed and leave it untested.


    • Kel Hammond


      For example, the so-called ‘eternal sonship’ of Jesus (& some even speak of the son being ‘eternally begotten’) is mostly glossed over and in the end must be accepted by Christians on faith as it is beyond human logic.

      ‘Anti-trinitarians’ challenge the concept because it is no where spoken of in the Bible & logically the concept is muddled at best. (Yes, we agree that if you accept the creed on faith, then you have to accept this and other concepts that are not logical to the human mind)

      Yet the Bible is quite clear on this point. The angel Gabriel says that uniqueness of Jesus’ conception & his subsequent birth is the reason he was to be called the son of God. Luke.1:35 “…..therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God”.

      In this thread, ‘Anti-trinitarians’ are not opposed to complicated & difficult concepts. We know & acknowledge that Paul wrote many things (Peter says) that were ‘….hard to understand, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, a they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction’ 2.Pet.3:16.

      What we do seek is to ‘Prove all things; and hold fast to that which is good’

    • Charles

      To Gods’ credit, He (the Father of all) has made it impossible that anyone can reasonably deny He is the One and ONLY true God, and beside Him there is NO God. With this in mind, the trinitarian doctrine fails, as God will not allow anyone to make Him three persons instead of ONE. So, the FACT is, trinitarians are polytheist. Like it or not.

    • Fortigurn

      MShep2, that was Kel you were responding to, not me. The story Kel gave of the very muddled analogy for the Trinity does not surprise me. The same kind of nonsense can be heard regularly from Trintiarian pastors every week. Some of these analogies even find their way into populist published defences of the Trinity. It is to Bowman’s credit that he has helped debunk some of them.

      The fact is that Trintiarians need to educated Trinitarians more thoroughly concerning exactly what it is they’re supposed to believe. This will be easier once Trinitarians can agree on what they’re supposed to believe.

    • MShep2

      MShep2, that was Kel you were responding to, not me.

      I stand corrected.

      The story Kel gave of the very muddled analogy for the Trinity does not surprise me. The same kind of nonsense can be heard regularly from Trintiarian pastors every week.

      Hmm….regularly and every week? I guess if you would be able to sample all of the trinitarian pastors in all the world you statement may be true; however, I never heard it from the pulpit in the almost 50 years I’ve been a Christian and 28 years of ministry. However I did grow up in a very Biblically-oriented church and continue to minister in the same circles.

    • Ed Kratz

      Comments for this and the other posts in the Great Trinity Debate here on Parchment and Pen are now being closed. The debate over this subject, of course, will continue. Thanks to all for following this debate.

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