Trinity on Thursday – Trinitarian and Unitarian debate transcript

As promised the debate transcript PDF of last Thursdays posted debate is available today.

I really enjoyed listening to the debate on my journey back from the beautiful Pembrokeshire coast in south west Wales.

sanders

If you knew Fred Sanders you’d know how good a likeness this is – Click it to download the debate transcript PDF.

I highlight a section which really resonates with my thinking and often features in my discussions with fine muslim people. It drives me to say “if Jesus is not actually divine, then we have major problems with the text of the Bible”. True for discussions with muslims who generally reject the reliability of the Old and New Testaments and also true for discussions with unitarians who generally accept the reliability of the Old and New Testaments.

God’s Glory Kept for God by Doctrine of the Trinity
Let me say this: one of the consistent strands that I hear in Professor Buzzard’s entire approach is a concern for monotheism, for the one-ness of God and for the God-ness of God; the fact that God is a jealous God who doesn’t give his glory to another. Isaiah is full of this stuff: “There is no other God besides me, a righteous God and a Savior,” “There is none except me,” “Turn to me and be saved all the ends of the earth,” “I am God, there is no other,” “I have sworn by myself, the word has gone forth from my mouth in righteousness, it will not turn back,” “To me, every knee will bow, every tongue will swear allegiance.” “They will say of me, ‘only in the Lord are righteousness and strength’,” “I am the Lord, that is my name, I will not give my glory to another.” This is the concern of the Bible: the unity of God, that jealous, “I will not give my glory to another,” one-ness of God.

The problem with the view of Jesus Christ presented by Socinianism (or Arianism) is that it takes all of God’s glory – all of his prerogatives, his being the one to whom every knee will bow and every tongue confess – takes all of that and gives it to Jesus Christ. It takes the man Jesus Christ and puts him on the throne of God, in the driver’s seat of the universe, as the consummator of the covenant of God’s ways with the world. It hands all this over to a man. And at that point, when Muslims look at Christianity and misunderstand it – they look at Christianity and see it as Socinian – they say, “You just handed all the glory of God to a man, a mere man. You’re an associator; you’ve associated someone with God.” I submit that the only way out of that is if God doesn’t give his glory to another because the Son is not an “other;” not another being; not something else, but is God; God the Son.

Page 30-31 of this transcript.

Text on Tuesday – More ‘early church’ and less Text

Today I want to post a link to a lecture by Gerald Bray (Research Professor of Divinity, History and Doctrine at Beeson Divinity School, Samford University) on Tertullian and the Latin Church. This lecture was a bit of a slow start but turned out to be really excellent. So much became clear and fell into place for me – particularly in relation to some of the distinctive practices and dogmas of the Roman Catholic church.

By clicking the image below it will link to the website where I sourced the lecture for this post.

tertullian_001

Click to Play the MP3

This lecture was originally hosted at a wonderful theological resource; with classes and courses from basic to advanced – highly recommended.

biblical training

Click here for more of Gerald Bray and a million other lectures

 

 

Trinity on Thursday – Trinitarian and Unitarian Debate

Here is a debate hosted on a Unitarian (non and anti-trinitarian) website that took place sometime in the mid 2000’s between Professor Anthony Buzzard (real name) and Dr. Fred Sanders. Is God one person or three? The sound quality is not brilliant. There  is a transcript available somewhere and I will post that next week.

For image source go to donaldsweblog.blogspot.co.uk/2011/07/follow-directions.html

Click the image for the debate

Waxing Lyrical on a Wednesday – Humanity’s relationship to God through Christ

Humanity’s relationship to God through Christ

Joined yet not the same.

Close yet not One.

As one though not the same One.

With yet without.

For and of.

From and to.

Enemy become friend.

Lost become found.

Creature become son.

Original poem by Humble Donkey. This poem can be reproduced electronically for non-commercial purposes, with a link to this blog.

 

 

 

 

Text Tuesday – Information and Invitation

gods-word-is-love

Click image for source

Speaking about the Bible

The word which God addresses directly to us is (like a royal speech, only more so) an instrument, not only of government, but also of fellowship. For, though God is a great king, it is not His wish to live at a distance from His subjects. Rather the reverse: He made us with the intention that He and we might walk together for ever in a love-relationship. But such a relationship can only exist when the parties involved know something of each other. God, our Maker, knows all about us before we say anything (Psalm 139:1-4); but we can know nothing about Him unless He tells us. Here, therefore, is a further reason why God speaks to us: not only to move us to do what He wants, but to enable us to know Him so that we may love Him. Therefore God send His word to us in the character of both information and invitation. It comes to woo us as well as to instruct us; it not merely puts us in the picture of what God has done and is doing, but also calls us into personal communion with the loving Lord Himself.

Knowing God by J.I. Packer IVP 1973 Page 99

Trinity on Thursday – Modes of revelation and presentation

ways 2

For source click the image

Purely by accident, Fred Sanders and his thoughts of the Trinity – specifically how it is uniquely revealed and its importance for how we handle thinking and telling about the Trinity – feature today. They are worth reflecting on. Careful thought here will prevent the presuppositions of skeptics carrying undue weight.

It’s from a very useful blog which I visit frequently The Scriptorium Daily.

Click here for the original work and the last 5 thesis over at The Scriptorium daily.

1. The Revelation of the Trinity is Bundled With The Revelation of the Gospel. God published both at the same time, in the same ways: more obscurely and by way of anticipation under the old covenant, more luminously and by way of fulfillment under the new.  The answer to the question, “was the Trinity made known in the Old Testament” runs parallel to the question of whether the gospel was. In both cases, Trinity and gospel, we must account for two factors: the consistency of God’s entire work of salvation, and for the newness in the revelation of “the mystery which was kept secret since the world began, and that in other ages it was not made known to the sons of men, but  now is.” Epangel is not evangel, but they are both constitutive of God’s one message of salvation.

2. The Revelation of the Trinity Accompanies Salvation. Though it can be stated propositionally and in the form of information, it was not given primarily as information. Rather, this knowledge came along with the carrying out of God’s work of salvation. God saves, and further, wants the saved to “understand the things freely given us by God.” God did not hand down statements regarding the Trinity, but extended his arm to save, an action which by design brought with it knowledge of, and about, the one doing the saving.  As B. B. Warfield wrote, “the revelation of the Trinity was incidental to, and the inevitable effect of, the accomplishment of redemption.”

 3. The Revelation of the Trinity is Revelation of God’s Own Heart. Theology, broadly considered, is knowledge of God and of all things in God; “all things” are accounted for by a great many doctrines. But the doctrine of the Trinity is theology proper, knowledge of God in se. Thus its focus is not on those aspects of the divine nature which are knowable by the things created or of God in relation to things outside of him; those things are spoken of in Scripture substance-wise, according to God’s one nature. But the doctrine of the Trinity is a statement about God’s interior life, requiring statements relation-wise, internal to the divine being, describing the Father and the Son and the Spirit as they stand toward each other. Prepositions will be decisive in here: “That true and absolute and perfect doctrine, which forms our faith, is the confession of God from God and God in God” (Hilary of Poitiers, On The Trinity, V:37).

4. The Revelation of the Trinity Must Be Self-Revelation. This knowledge cannot be delegated or delivered by proxy. Hilary of Poitiers again:

Since then we are to discourse of the things of God, let us assume that God has full knowledge of Himself, and bow with humble reverence to His words. For He Whom we can only know through His own utterances is the fitting witness concerning Himself.

5. The Revelation of the Trinity Came When the Son and the Spirit Came in Person. In the fullness of time, God sent forth His Son, and sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying Abba, Father (Gal. 4:4-6). God did not openly proclaim the existence of his Son and Holy Spirit and then send them; but sent them. God did not announce the Trinity; rather the Son of the Father showed up, with their Spirit. “The revelation itself was made not in word but in deed. It was made in the incarnation of God the Son, and the outpouring of God the Holy Spirit” (Warfield).

6. New Testament Texts About the Trinity Tend to Be Allusions Rather than Announcements. The evangelists and apostles write from a background assumption that readers know God the Father because they have met the Son and Holy Spirit. They refer almost off-handedly to this understanding as something already given, not something to be introduced, put in place, or argued for. There is an obliqueness in nearly every sentence on this doctrine in the New Testament.

There are more – click the ‘here’ link above.

Text Tuesday – The Eichenwald Files 5

This will be the last in the Eichenwald Files. All the pieces I have linked to or excerpted say similar things (consistency anyone?) and are all by credible scholars – in the world of scholars. I have posted this series each week to leave a resource trail for Christians and the ‘curious and open-minded other’ to be exposed to careful, thoughtful, rigourous and defendable material. Rarely are ordinary Christians (like me) aware of such voices or exposed to them. That is one of the purposes of the Humble Donkey.

For the last File (5) I am directing you to Dr. Dan Wallace and his response to Kurt Eichenwald’s Newsweek piece.

Phil

For source click image.

You can find the full Wallace response here as well as other interesting materials by clicking here.

But here is an interesting excerpt from the section entitled:

Error 4: Simplistic Biblical Interpretation When it Suits His Purpose

Second, Eichenwald employs other simplistic interpretations to deny the NT’s affirmation of Christ’s deity. His statement that ‘form of God’ in Philippians 2.6 “could simply mean Jesus was in the image of God” betrays his ignorance about biblical interpretation. The kenosis, the hymn about the self-emptying of Christ (Phil 2.6–11) has received more scholarly interaction than perhaps any other paragraph in Paul’s writings. To claim that Jesus’ being in the form of God may mean nothing more than that he was human is entirely against the context. The hymn begins (vv. 6–7) as follows:

“who [Christ], although he was in the form of God,

he did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped,

but he emptied himself,

by taking on the form of a slave,

by looking like other men,

and by sharing in human nature.”

Christ’s humanity is mentioned only after he is said to have emptied himself. Thus, ‘form of God’ must mean something more than humanity. Further, the parallel lines—‘he was in the form of God’ and ‘taking on the form of a slave’—are mutually interpreting. Jesus was truly a slave of God; this is how he regarded himself (cf. Mark 10.45; Matt 20.27; 26.39). If ‘form of slave’ means ‘slave’ then ‘form of God’ may well mean ‘God.’ The rest of the hymn confirms this interpretation. Philippians 2.10–11 alludes to Isaiah 45.23, where God says, “To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear” (NRSV). Paul quotes this very text in Romans 14.11 in reference to YHWH—a book Paul wrote six or seven years prior to his letter to the Philippians. Yet in Phil 2.10–11 he says,

“at the name of Jesus

every knee should bend,

in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

and every tongue should confess

that Jesus Christ is Lord,

to the glory of God the Father” (NRSV).

Now the confession is about Jesus and it is a confession that he is ‘Lord.’ Either Paul is coming perilously close to blasphemy, something that a well-trained rabbi could hardly do, or he is claiming that Jesus is indeed true deity. And to underscore the point, he notes that all those in heaven, on earth, and under the earth will make this confession—language that is reminiscent of the second of the Ten Commandments, as found in Exodus 20.4: “You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth” (NRSV). The Decalogue—known as well as any Old Testament text to an orthodox Jew—is unmistakably echoed in the kenosis. To use this in reference to Jesus is only appropriate if Jesus is true deity, truly the Lord, YHWH himself.

Text Tuesday – The Eichenwald Files 4

chinese

Click image for source

Amy Hall from the useful apologetics website and ministry Stand To Reason [Click here to go there] has picked out a piece of Dan Wallace’s critique of the Newsweek/Eichenwald Christmas piece. She has bullet pointed this short section for ease of reading and comprehension.  

I think this is an important point from Wallace as I encounter word game / Chinese Whispers / Telephone Game models being proposed as fact with regard to how the books of the New Testament and particularly the gospels were transmitted.

Click the word response below to get to Dan Wallace’s full treatment.

In his response to the now infamous Newsweek article by Kurt Eichenwald attacking the Bible, Dan Wallace succinctly explained why the transmission of the Bible was not like a game of Telephone (bullet point formatting added by me for ease of reading):

The title of Eichenwald’s section that deals with manuscript transmission is “Playing Telephone with the Word of God.” The implication is that the transmission of the Bible is very much like the telephone game—a parlor game every American knows. It involves a brief narrative that someone whispers to the next person in line who then whispers this to the next person, and so on for several people. Then, the last person recites out loud what he or she heard and everyone has a good laugh for how garbled the story got. But the transmission of scripture is not at all like the telephone game.

  • First, the goal of the telephone game is to see how badly the story can get misrepresented, while the goal of New Testament copying was by and large to produce very careful, accurate copies of the original.
  • Second, in the telephone game there is only one line of transmission, while with the New Testament there are multiple lines of transmission.
  • Third, one is oral, recited once in another’s ear, while the other is written, copied by a faithful scribe who then would check his or her work or have someone else do it.
  • Fourth, in the telephone game only the wording of the last person in the line can be checked, while for the New Testament textual critics have access to many of the earlier texts, some going back very close to the time of the autographs.
  • Fifth, even the ancient scribes had access to earlier texts, and would often check their work against a manuscript that was many generations older than their immediate ancestor. The average papyrus manuscript would last for a century or more. Thus, even a late second-century scribe could have potentially examined the original document he or she was copying.

If telephone were played the way New Testament transmission occurred, it would make for a ridiculously boring parlor game!

Friday Fundamentals – Control & Decay

Wendy from Theology for Women has written with some insight. Click her name to get to the original piece. Keep it coming Wendy.

Fifty Shades of Genesis 3:16.

Well, Fifty Shades of Grey is coming out on Valentine’s Day.  Oh, what a warped view of love we have. I doubt Christian women need a lecture against reading the book or going to the movie. I can’t imagine anyone is going because they think it is a morally good thing to do.  It will be a blockbuster hit because there is a deeper issue in our hearts, and it is that deeper issue that I prefer to address.

The Twilight Series was a lighter version of Fifty Shades of Grey.  Call it what you want – erotic fiction, BDSM, or in the Twilight Series, paranormal young adult fiction.  But the bottom line of both series is the same — Good Girls fall in love with Bad Boys.  These particular series made the news because the individual books and movies reached a mass market audience, but “romance” novels involving the “hero” treating the girl badly and the girl wanting him anyway (with the hope of reforming him) have been hugely successful among women for hundreds of years.

The popularity of Fifty Shades of Grey doesn’t surprise me, because God predicted it in Genesis 3.  The woman’s desire or strong craving (addiction if you will) will be for the man, and he will rule over her. THAT is why Fifty Shades of Grey, the Twilight Series, and countless other lesser known masochistic “romance” novels have flourished over the years.   When Christ is removed from our relationships, that is what is left – men oppressing women and women lapping it up, even if it’s just in fiction.  I imagine men will not appreciate that characterization any more than women will. Yet, apart from Christ and God’s common grace among unbelievers, this is where both sexes default in my humble opinion, and I think history affirms my view.

This is not to say that, apart from Christ, we don’t have countless societal coping mechanisms for dealing with this phenomenon.   I see feminism as the major coping mechanism. I’m thankful for aspects of feminism, particularly the first wave of feminism.  I see it as a great manifestation of God’s common grace.  Feminism didn’t change anyone’s heart, but the movement did help to restrain sinful oppression of women in many countries and in many different walks of life.  But for every educated, take charge feminist woman you know, there remain hundreds in the shadows of life contributing to their own sexploitation.  After 3 waves of feminism, countless laws, and much education, millions of women would still run after the sulky vampire in their fantasies, choosing to suck blood for the rest of their lives rather than living in the light.

As for Fifty Shades of Grey, while it is in many ways like Playboy for men, there are motivating factors for women that are very different than a man’s for pornography. I think that understanding the reason that so many women are flocking to this book/movie can be a powerful tool to pointing them back to the gospel’s answer for the dark longings in their heart. To that end, I hope this analysis is helpful.

For many women reading this (and men too), a lot of this may sound completely foreign. If you’re saying to yourself, “That’s not MY husband or MY history,” then praise God! Perhaps as a child you were raised to know Christ and His Word. You recognized early on your creation in His image and your worth as His honored son or daughter. For the most part, that’s our family, though occasionally I get glimpses into my tendencies apart from redemption. I would have lapped up the Twilight Series hook, line, and sinker during my teenage years. I thank God regularly that He kept me from the kind of guys I would have been willing to date when I was too naïve and immature to recognize this in myself.

There is something much better than secular coping mechanisms that are helpful in some ways and detrimental in others though.  Christ has broken the curse and is slowly but surely redeeming His children from its effects. In Christ, women have the rescuer we need. We have a need to submit, and we need one who dominates our life.  But only One, Christ Himself, can fill those needs in a way that invites light, not shadow. I’m reminded in all this that we will offer our best solutions spiritually when we best understand the root issue.

My heart aches for women longing for their Christian Grey. That is not his real form, and he morphs into something dark and disturbing when you least expect it.  In Christ, we can recognize this dark fantasy for what it is and then move away from the dark towards the light to live in the real relationships God has given us.

It helps a lot if you understand Genesis 3:16.

This is a reworked version of a post I first wrote in 2012.

Waxing Lyrical on a Wednesday – Domesticating God

desertDomesticating God

We hate his hating so he is not allowed to hate.

We loathe his loathing so he is not allowed to loathe.

We cast out his casting out so he is not allowed to cast out.

We despise his despising so he is not allowed to despise.

We judge his judging so he is not allowed to judge.

We shun his shunning so he is not allowed to shun.

We condemn his condemning so he is not allowed to condemn.

We reject his rejecting so he is not allowed to reject.

We find wanting his finding wanting so he is not allowed to find wanting.

There is in God an attribute, called holiness

which determines how he relates to all the evil that exists,

within humanity and beyond

and we find it so repugnant, so distasteful,

so unbecoming, so unacceptable, so objectionable,

that we have poured our wrath and scorn and contempt on it.

We say no to it.

No!

And we feel right and good about this response.

But what is this thing we are so wrathful about?

Wrath.

The wrath of God.

We hate and loathe it,

we despise it and cast it out,

we judge and shun it,

we condemn it and reject it,

we deem it as lacking.

We are wrathful about God’s right to be wrathful.

And we never see the irony.

Original poem by Humble Donkey. This poem may be reproduced electronically for non commercial purposes, without express permission and with a link to this blog post.

Text Tuesday – The Eichenwald Files 3

Two continuations today 1) another careful handling and critique of the now notorious Newsweek article “The Bible So Misunderstood It’s a Sin” by Kurt Eichenwald and 2) the New Zealand connection continued from yesterday.

The resource I am pointing to today was posted at The Gospel Coalition which I highly recommend and written as a guest post by Dr. Darrell L. Bock, a serious New Testament scholar whom I had the priviledge of hearing for 3 hours and chatting with in New Zealand at the Matamata Bible Church in 2012.

Think

Here’s an excerpt from the post at The Gospel Coalition – specifically Justin Taylor’s blog – click at the end of this excerpt to get to the whole post and do consider its reasonableness, it’s content and it’s implications.

So let’s go through this piece one issue at a time. Let’s start with what is said about the actual text we have. For this I could just cite the response of my colleague, Dan Wallace, who has spent his life investigating and photographing the very manuscript evidence this article raises as so untrustworthy. Dan correctly opens up saying the issue is not the fact that Eichenwald asks hard questions. The Bible makes such important claims, so such questions should be asked. It is the way he answers them that is the problem. Dan also shows how the nature of the issues Eichenwald makes about our manuscripts does not lead to Eichenwald’s conclusions. I leave the Textual Criticism side of the argument to Dan’s piece.

Eichenwald’s way in is to cite Bart Ehrman, whom he calls a ground-breaking New Testament scholar. Now Bart himself has said that what he writes is a reflection of current discussion that has been around a long time. He and I have debated over the radiom where he made this statement to me as something I was well aware of, something I also affirmed at the time. The views presented (including the appeal to the telephone game as Erhman’s illustration for how poorly copies were passed on) are but one take on these issues that are argued pro and con in the public scholarly square. This hardly makes him a ground-breaking source. Ehrman is a spokesperson, a very competent one, for one take on all of this. But the article even uses his material extremely selectively. Here is another quotation Ehrman makes on this topic: “Essential Christian beliefs are not affected by textual variants in the manuscript tradition of the New Testament.” What this means is that people on all sides recognize that what we have in the Bible, in terms of the core things it teaches, is a reflection of what made up these books originally. The caricature by Eichenwald that what we have in our hands has no resemblance to what was originally produced is misleading in the extreme, even considering the source the journalist uses to make his point.

Click here to go to the full blog post and feast, think and grow.

Friday Fundamentals – Functionally liberal non-liberals

Function

For source – click image.

Is your church functionally liberal?

From Ray Ortland’s blog, a very pertinent question. Click to visit his blog.

“It is one thing to hear God’s Word.  It is another to fear it, heeding all God’s warnings, trusting all God’s promises, and obeying all God’s commands.”

Philip Graham Ryken, Jeremiah and Lamentations (Wheaton, 2001), page 551.

The liberal churches I’ve known are not openly hostile to the Bible.  They like the Bible.  They want their preacher to use the Bible.  They have home Bible studies.  What makes them “liberal” is that the Bible alone is not what rules them.  They allow into their doctrine, their ethos, their decisions, other complicating factors.  The Bible is revered, in a way.  But it is not the decisive factor.  It is only one voice among others.

This lack of clarity allows unbiblical ideas and behavior to get traction.  In a liberal church no one stands up, with an open Bible in his hand, and says, “Hey guys, we just don’t say/do things like that around here.  It isn’t biblical.”  That simple clarity just doesn’t exist in such a church.  There is no authority towering over all else, rallying the people to the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.  Only the Word of God, received with meekness, can prevent a church from sinking lower and lower into mediocrity, irrelevance, conflict and sheer boredom.

Is the dominant mentality of your church functionally liberal?  Whatever your church’s commitment might be on paper, what is it that, in real terms, leads and guides and defines your church culture?  All our churches should see themselves as potentially unfaithful.

We who lead are responsible to keep our churches in constant, repentant realignment with Scripture alone.  The only effective safeguard against spiritual erosion is not our doctrinal statement on paper but personally to swallow the Word whole.  We must never stop being eager to learn and change and grow under the Sunday-by-Sunday impact of biblical preaching.  Let’s keep on following the Lord, according to his Word alone, going further with him than we’ve ever gone before, further than we’ve ever dreamed of going.

As we enter the new year of grace, 2015, let’s humble ourselves before the Word of God.  After all, the message of this unique Book is good news for bad people through the finished work of Christ on the cross and the endless power of the Holy Spirit.

Trinity on Thursday

From the Monergism  website an excerpt from BB Warfield (1851 – 1921).

The Biblical Doctrine of the Trinity

Benjamin B. Warfield


The term “Trinity” is not a Biblical term, and we are not using Biblical language when we define what is expressed by it as the doctrine that there is one only and true God, but in the unity of the Godhead there are three coeternal and coequal Persons, the same in substance but distinct in subsistence. A doctrine so defined can be spoken of as a Biblical doctrine only on the principle that the sense of Scripture is Scripture. And the definition of a Biblical doctrine in such unBiblical language can be justified only on the principle that it is better to preserve the truth of Scripture than the words of Scripture. The doctrine of the Trinity lies in Scripture in solution; when it is crystallized from its solvent it does not cease to be Scriptural, but only comes into clearer view. Or, to speak without figure, the doctrine of the Trinity is given to us in Scripture, not in formulated definition, but in fragmentary allusions; when we assembled the disjecta membra into their organic unity, we are not passing from Scripture, but entering more thoroughly into the meaning of Scripture. We may state the doctrine in technical terms, supplied by philosophical reflection; but the doctrine stated is a genuinely Scriptural doctrine. 

Click here to go to full article.

Text Tuesday – The Eichenwald Files – File 2

Re-blogging Dr. Michael J. Kruger’s second half of his rebuttal and exploration of the Eichenwald Newsweek article on the Bible.

The comments thread over there is extensive with Dr. Eichenwald contributing frequently, which is good to see. I recommend the comments section with a number of the links to other works and counter-arguments, for example Steve Hays.

out-of-your-depth-business-300x200

For source click the image

 

Here’s the beginning of Dr. Kruger’s work

On Christmas Eve, I wrote part one of my review of Kurt Eichenwald’s piece (see here), and highlighted not only the substantive and inexcusable litany of historical mistakes, but also the overly pejorative and one-sided portrait of Bible-believing Christians. The review was shared by a number of other evangelical sites and thinkers—including the Gospel Coalition, Tim Challies, Denny Burk, Michael Brown, and others—and ever since I have been digging out from under the pile of comments. I appreciate that even Kurt Eichenwald joined the discussion in the comments section.

But the problems in the original Newsweek article were so extensive that I could not cover them in a single post. So, now I offer a second (and hopefully final) installment.

False Claims about Christians Killing Christians

In an effort to portray early Christianity as divided and chaotic (not to mention morally corrupt), Eichenwald repeatedly claims that Christians went around murdering each other in droves. He states:

Those who believed in the Trinity butchered Christians who didn’t. Groups who believed Jesus was two entities—God and man—killed those who thought Jesus was merely flesh and blood…Indeed, for hundreds of years after the death of Jesus, groups adopted radically conflicting writings about the details of his life and the meaning of his ministry, and murdered those who disagreed. For many centuries, Christianity was first a battle of books and then a battle of blood.

Notice that Eichenwald offers no historical evidence about the mass killing of Christians by Christians within the first few centuries (we are talking about the pre-Constantine time period). And there is a reason he doesn’t offer any. There is none.

Sure, one can point to instances in the medieval period, such as the Inquisition, where Christians killed other Christians.  But, Eichenwald claims that Christianity began this way: “for hundreds of years after the death of Jesus.” This is another serious historical mistake that needs correcting.

When it comes to who-killed-who in the earliest centuries of the faith, it wasn’t Christians killing Christians.  It was the Roman government killing Christians.

Click here to get to the full article at Canon Fodder

Trinity on Thursday

Trinity

Excerpt from Concise Theology
by J.I. Packer“This is what the LORD says—Israel’s King and Redeemer, the LORD Almighty: I am the first and I am the last; apart from me there is no God” (Isaiah 44:6).

The Old Testament constantly insists that there is only one God, the self-revealed Creator, who must be worshiped and loved exclusively (Deut. 6:4-5; Isa. 44:6– 45:25). The New Testament agrees (Mark 12:29-30; 1 Cor. 8:4; Eph. 4:6; 1 Tim. 2:5) but speaks of three personal agents, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, working together in the manner of a team to bring about salvation (Rom. 8; Eph. 1:3-14; 2 Thess. 2:13-14; 1 Pet. 1:2). The historic formulation of the Trinity (derived from the Latin word trinitas, meaning “threeness”) seeks to circumscribe and safeguard this mystery (not explain it; that is beyond us), and it confronts us with perhaps the most difficult thought that the human mind has ever been asked to handle. It is not easy; but it is true.

The doctrine springs from the facts that the New Testament historians report, and from the revelatory teaching that, humanly speaking, grew out of these facts. Jesus, who prayed to his Father and taught his disciples to do the same, convinced them that he was personally divine, and belief in his divinity and in the rightness of offering him worship and prayer is basic to New Testament faith (John 20:28-31; cf. 1:18; Acts 7:59; Rom. 9:5; 10:9-13; 2 Cor. 12:7-9; Phil. 2:5-6; Col. 1:15-17; 2:9; Heb. 1:1-12; 1 Pet. 3:15). Jesus promised to send another Paraclete (he himself having been the first one), and Paraclete signifies a many-sided personal ministry as counselor, advocate, helper, comforter, ally, supporter (John 14:16-17, 26; 15:26-27; 16:7-15). This other Paraclete, who came at Pentecost to fulfill this promised ministry, was the Holy Spirit, recognized from the start as a third divine person: to lie to him, said Peter not long after Pentecost, is to lie to God (Acts 5:3-4).

So Christ prescribed baptism “in the name (singular: one God, one name) of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”—the three persons who are the one God to whom Christians commit themselves (Matt. 28:19). So we meet the three persons in the account of Jesus’ own baptism: the Father acknowledged the Son, and the Spirit showed his presence in the Son’s life and ministry (Mark 1:9-11). So we read the trinitarian blessing of 2 Corinthians 13:14, and the prayer for grace and peace from the Father, the Spirit, and Jesus Christ in Revelation 1:4-5 (would John have put the Spirit between the Father and the Son if he had not regarded the Spirit as divine in the same sense as they are?). These are some of the more striking examples of the trinitarian outlook and emphasis of the New Testament. Though the technical language of historic trinitarianism is not found there, trinitarian faith and thinking are present throughout its pages, and in that sense the Trinity must be acknowledged as a biblical doctrine: an eternal truth about God which, though never explicit in the Old Testament, is plain and clear in the New.

The basic assertion of this doctrine is that the unity of the one God is complex. The three personal “subsistences” (as they are called) are coequal and coeternal centers of self-awareness, each being “I” in relation to two who are “you” and each partaking of the full divine essence (the “stuff” of deity, if we may dare to call it that) along with the other two. They are not three roles played by one person (that is modalism), nor are they three gods in a cluster (that is tritheism); the one God (“he”) is also, and equally, “they,” and “they” are always together and always cooperating, with the Father initiating, the Son complying, and the Spirit executing the will of both, which is his will also. This is the truth about God that was revealed through the words and works of Jesus, and that undergirds the reality of salvation as the New Testament sets it forth.

The practical importance of the doctrine of the Trinity is that it requires us to pay equal attention, and give equal honor, to all three persons in the unity of their gracious ministry to us. That ministry is the subject matter of the gospel, which, as Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus shows, cannot be stated without bringing in their distinct roles in God’s plan of grace (John 3:1-15; note especially vv. 3, 5-8, 13-15, and John’s expository comments, which NIV renders as part of the conversation itself, vv. 16-21). All non-Trinitarian formulations of the Christian message are by biblical standards inadequate and indeed fundamentally false, and will naturally tend to pull Christian lives out of shape.

Text Tuesday – The Eichenwald Files

Over the next number of Tuesdays I am going to reblog a number of posts that respond to the pre-Christmas Newsweek slammathon on the Bible and Christianity. Although it was the pre-Christmas edition, it’s theme of ‘Christians and their everyday reading of the Bible stink, like really badly’, is not just for Christmas. It seems that it is for life.

The extensive Newsweek piece (8500 words – 14 pages), labelled by many as Newsweak because it was so badly researched, biased, unbalanced and unrepresentative of widely available credible scholarship is actaully a wonderful encapsulation of what a lot of people believe already. Typically this is because they’ve heard someone say the same sort of things many, many times before or read them somewhere like Newsweek – typically in the pre-Christmas or easter edition. Ever noticed that coincidence of the publishing industry.

So looking at thoughtful, thorough responses can be a useful exercise for the open-minded and edifying for the Christian believer.

Think

Before I link to a response to the piece, here is the link to the article which is available online by clicking here.

Go there, let it confirm some of your own thoughts, biases or whatever but then give New Testament scholar Michael Kruger a hearing by clicking his name. It’s part one of two responses by him. He is thoughtful, generous and corrective where he needs to be. Enjoy.

From The Mystery of God: Theology for Knowing the Unknowable by Stephen D. Boyer & Christopher A. Hall  Baker Academic 2012  Page 121

God is not just tri-personal; he is expansively, creatively tri-personal. The triunity of God is something that unfolds and opens out, not something that curves in and closes down on itself. God’s intrinsic relational completeness, the unimaginable eternal intimacy between the Father and the Son in the Spirit, does not exclude other relations. The unquenchable divine joy that makes creation unnecessary also makes creation possible in the first place, for the love of Father, Son, and Spirit is in no way threatened or imperiled by flowing out beyond itself into a created world. ……. God is  love, and creation itself is the wholly free outpouring of that love, in generous, gratuitous, open-handed bounty, a bounty that is infinitely hospitable not because it needs us but simply because it is itself.

Trinity on Thursday

The Deep Things of God – how the Trinity changes everything (2010) Fred Sanders. Crossway.

Kindle Edition. (UK version Embracing the Trinity IVP)

God is first and foremost Father, Son and Holy Spirit for himself, not for us.(Kindle page 26)

A Christian and especially an evangelical Christian, is somebody who is already immersed in the reality of the Trinity, long before beginning to reflect on the idea of the Trinity. (Kindle page 26)

God is a magnificent Father. God is a magnificent Saviour, Jesus Christ. But if it were not for the magnificent Holy Spirit, I would stil be a wretched, hateful sinner! It is not enough to have a Father-God who loves and provides for me. It is not enough even to have a Saviour who died for my sins. For any of those blessings to make a difference in our lives, there must also be present in this world that Third Person of God, the Holy Spirit. (Kindle page 30)

The transformation in his life took place when he (Nicky Cruz) realised that the things described in the doctrine (of the Trinity) were things he was already in contact with. He knew Jesus, the Father, and the Spirit through their work in his life. The doctrine of the Trinity was the key to understanding that those three experiences belonged together because the God behind them was the one God, making himself known as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit precisely because he eternally exists as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. (Kindle page 32)