Podcast EP265 Responding to a Unitarian Dale Tuggy Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Tumblr (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window)Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)Like this:Like Loading... Related
I am sure Dale T. is a nice guy (met him once), but the biblical, historical, orthodox view is trinitarian. The Deity of Christ is an essential, salvific, gospel issue denied by false religions and pseudo-Christian cults (Islam; JWs, etc.).
I think I was with you when you met him.
Yes, Dallas, the 4 Amigos.
William, I have a lot of respect for you–I have learned a lot from your social media posts over the years–but I have to question whether the “deity of Christ” is really the salvific view you’ve always held it to be. Even though I was raised with that understanding, and I know it at least dates back to the Athanasian Creed, studying the Bible and Christian history I can’t help but think this view is anachronistic. For example, when Jesus assured the repentant thief on the cross that he’d go to paradise there was no discussion of the ontology of God or of Jesus’ divinity. Likewise, as I read Acts I encounter multiple gospel presentations by Peter and Paul (Acts 2, 3, 4, 10, 13, 14, 17) and, again, I do not find such ideas to be predominant. Could this be an example of later ideas, even if accurate and inspired, being forced onto earlier times by later tradition?
I believe biblical, historical, orthodox Christianity has always affirmed the Deity of Christ despite doctrinal development over centuries on technical details. John, Paul, Peter, Jesus affirmed the Deity of Christ. The cumulative evidence shows that to trust Jesus as Lord/Son of God is not to reduce Him to mere creature. The Deity of Christ separates all pseudo-Christian cults and false religions from biblical Christianity. We are warned about counterfeit Christs that do not exist and are worthless or false gospels that leave one eternally condemned (Jude 3; 2 Cor. 11:4; Gal. 1:6-9; Jn. 1:1; Jn. 5:18; 8:58; 10:30-33; 20:28; Col. 1; Heb. 1; Phil. 2:5-11; Rom. 10:9-10, etc.). We must trust God alone for salvation. To trust Jesus is to trust God since He is YHWH in the flesh. It is radical compromise of the gospel to think those who reject the real Jesus and His physical resurrection (I Cor. 15:1-4 core gospel truth) are saved. We are saved by grace through faith, not theological perfection. This does not mean the object of faith is irrelevant or relativistic. Christians are marked by those who worship Jesus (Rev. 4-5). The Bible does not leave us other options. We have more light than the thief on the cross. If someone trusts Jesus for salvation, they can be saved. To later, persistently deny who He really is becomes problematic. A Muslim is lost while rejecting the Deity, death, resurrection of Christ. JWs believe in Jesus of the Watchtower (Michael the Archangel). They are dead in their sins. When an ex-JW or Mormon or Muslim embraces the real Jesus and are born again, they know that they must trust Him as God, not follow the false religions of deception that deny this. It is a doctrine of demons to denigrate who Jesus is. We can boldly affirm this even if every verse or anecdotal experience does not make this explicit.
Jn. 20:28 Regenerate believers easily confess Him as Lord and God. Those lost in false religions and cults simply will not and cannot do this, a rejection of God, Christ, gospel.
I hear what you’re saying, William, but I can’t agree with it all. In my study, prompted by some social media discussions, I have found that all the scriptures used to support Trinitarian/Deity of Christ doctrines actually have pretty reasonable, though non-traditional, alternate interpretations. I’m not talking about obvious errors of eisegesis but what I consider to be valid non-traditional interpretations for what the original author may have meant.
Just one example – in John 10:30 Jesus says, “I and the Father are one,” but in John 17:11 Jesus says, “Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one.” A few verses later Jesus says, “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity.” These verses make a strong argument that Jesus was not talking about ontological or metaphysical unity–the same essence or substance–but unity of purpose and love. Don’t you think?
This is just one example, and I don’t want or expect us to get into any more here – I just want to make the point that as I’ve tried to objectively consider every scripture I use to support the Trinity I have found that others have reasonable, though non-traditional, objections and alternate interpretations. Some of their interpretations may even make more sense considering the context of the day since the original authors of the NT, with the obvious exception of Luke, were Jews coming from a solid tradition and worldview of monotheism (unless you believe that pre-Christian Jews thought in terms of multiple person beings which I think is a stretch). On this basis, and having read the subordinationist musings of many early church fathers, I’d have to conclude that many, even most, followers of Christ for the first few centuries of the Church did not have any idea of the Trinity or the Deity of Christ as defined by later creeds. Also, having discussed the Trinity with a lot of people over the last few years, it seems to me that even today a lot of people I consider to be true Christians (as demonstrated by their genuine love, loyalty, and true commitment to Christ) have understandings of the Trinity and the Deity of Christ which vary greatly from Nicene or Chalcedonian orthodoxy. Most lay people don’t study it or care much about it at all. I have met Christians who repented from their sin and started following Christ for years before they’d heard of such doctrines in any detail. Were they not saved? In the absence of clear biblical teaching to the contrary, and considering the absence of such thoughts from all the gospel presentations by the Apostles in Acts (very qualified preachers I’m sure you’d agree) I have to conclude that these ideas are not essential for salvation.
Anyway, I’ve seen you defend your views on this topic on social media for years so I do not expect to change your mind, but I thought I’d give you a bit of a pitch for why I no longer believe that an adherence to the creeds is essential for salvation. I agree with you that what we believe is very important but I’d argue that there are other interpretations than those codified by Chalcedon centuries after the NT was written and, together with a true obedience of faith (orthopraxy is at least as important as orthodoxy), do not automatically invalidate people from following Christ otherwise many ignorant Christians today, and most Christians in the first few centuries are automatically excluded.
I would disagree that there is contradiction or ambiguity when there are explicit verses about the Deity of Christ. The context and Greek grammar of Jn. 10 (Jewish Jesus and Jewish reaction) precludes it being merely one in purpose (Pharisees could claim this). Your argument is a JW/Unitarian argument that does not stand up to scrutiny. “Putting Jesus in His Place” is a detailed book dealing with these verses and objections. I think we need to be crystal clear on this. Jesus is either God in the flesh or He is not. If He is not, then we should abandon evangelical Christianity and join these other newer groups that are the condemned heresy rehashed.
We do not have to affirm creeds, but the basic creeds and councils have already dealt with heresy adequately and so has modern scholarship. The triune nature of God is revelation, not reason. We reject it at our peril. Truth is worth defending and proclaiming. Apologetics is necessary for effective evangelism. If we are wrong on basic Christology, we will be wrong on the gospel that saves.
Thanks for the book recommendation William. I’ll check it out.
William, I bought the book you recommended and, although I haven’t read it all yet (it’s been added to my summer reading list which means I might get to it in the winter ;-) I have looked up John 10:30 and found it referenced on page 239 alone. I do not find the author’s argument on page 239 at all convincing. There’s no discussion of Greek grammar there. In the context I am not convinced Jesus is talking about ontological unity with the Father. I think it is at least as arguable (more so in fact) in context that Jesus is claiming to be God’s primary representative, His supreme authoritative agent, superseding the Old Testament prophets and even Moses. This would have been considered blasphemy to the authorities of the day who we know were jealous of Jesus.
Anyway, I’m not trying to convince you of anything except to maintain what I stated above – that my investigations have revealed that all the Scriptures used by Trinitarians have valid, though less popular and non-traditional, alternative interpretations. I wonder if you have actually really considered many of these alternative interpretations to see if the Trinitarian interpretation is really always the best one? I didn’t really until the last few years. John himself sums up the purpose of his gospel (John 21:30) and it is not to prove the Deity of Christ but to convince readers that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God. That’s a very helpful key for interpreting John I think.
Finally, based upon my research, it is my opinion that your assertion that the Deity of Christ is a salvific issue does not come from the Bible but from tradition. Of course you’re welcome to follow tradition as much as you want, many people do. I was raised Anglican and have a lot of respect for that tradition. However, I think we need to be very careful when we discuss what is essential for salvation, especially in light of the fact that any first century reader of Matthew, Mark, or Luke, and any first century hearer of the numerous gospel presentations by Peter and Paul documented throughout Acts, would not have heard anything of the Trinity or the Deity of Christ in the form of Chalcedonian ideas. How can it be essential if it does not appear at all in these Gospels or was not recorded as being preached for salvation in Acts? Bless you brother.