Posts Tagged ‘Trinity’


Dale Tuggy: Are the Persons of the Trinity “Selves”?

   Posted by: Rob Bowman    in Trinity

In Dale Tuggy’s response earlier today to my previous post, he says, “Bowman reproduces the common theological saying that the ‘Persons’ of the Trinity are not ‘persons in the modern sense,’ that is, what I call ‘selves.’” This is not accurate. I never said anything about whether the Persons of the Trinity are “persons in the modern sense.” Neither the word modern nor any synonym appeared in my post. What I said was that the term was and is used analogously rather than univocally. This is as true of the ancient Greek word hypostasis or the ancient Latin word persona as it is of the modern English word person. Nor did I deny that the three Persons might be called “selves” but rather emphasized that it depended on precisely how such a term is understood.

This misunderstanding leads Dr. Tuggy to critique my position on the grounds that it is incompatible with certain NT teachings that are actually quite important to my understanding of the doctrine of the Trinity. Let’s look at these NT teachings briefly. Read the rest of this entry »

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In a previous article on this blog, “Anthony Buzzard, the Shema, and the Trinity,” I discussed Unitarian writer Anthony Buzzard’s misrepresentations of my statements about the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4-5) in Putting Jesus in His Place, which Buzzard quoted out of context in a recent YouTube video. After Buzzard and I exchanged comments there, Dale Tuggy, on his blog about the Trinity, offered four observations or opinions on the matter. In his fourth point, he agreed with me that the Shema is not a “definition” of God, so no comment on that point is needed here. I appreciate Tuggy’s efforts and will respond to his first three points here.

1. According to Tuggy, what Buzzard probably meant was not that Jews in the biblical era were “anti-trinitarians” but that they held to “the view, roughly, that the one God ‘is unipersonal,’ that is, just is a certain self, person, or intelligent agent.” Tuggy thinks I should concede that this is what Jews at the time believed.

So much depends on precisely how words are understood here. The orthodox doctrine of the Trinity views God as a single, intelligent being. If one stipulates that a single, intelligent being is by definition a “person,” then by that definition the Jews believed that Yahweh, the Lord God, was one person. By that definition, Trinitarians also believe that God is one person. Read the rest of this entry »

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Anthony Buzzard, the Shema, and the Trinity

   Posted by: Rob Bowman    in Christology, Trinity

On Monday, August 25, the Unitarian writer Anthony Buzzard sent me a private message on Facebook, asking a theological question with no explanation of the purpose of his communication. I responded briefly and he followed with a more elaborate statement of his argument thinly veiled as a question. When I asked the reason for his communication with me, he simply restated his argument. I then asked him again on Friday, August 29, why he was communicating privately with me and if his intention was a private conversation or to get me to say something he could quote somewhere. Before he answered my question, Buzzard posted a YouTube video quoting selectively from my book Putting Jesus in His Place[1] and attempting to make a case that I was knowingly contradicting Jesus’ own teaching! He then sent me another private Facebook message saying he thought the conversation should be with everyone.

Buzzard’s claim that he was seeking a conversation with everyone is strange. He and I are both on Facebook and we even used to be in the same public Facebook group, the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Biblical Discussion Group. He could easily have initiated a public discussion in that group or in any of the other many online groups where I can be found, or by inviting me to join one of his groups. He still has not explained the reason for the private messages. This is not the first time he has done this. In November he sent me a private Facebook message taking issue with something else in my book. I very specifically told him that I was not going to get into a private discussion with him about such things.

In the YouTube video, Buzzard quoted selectively and out of context from Putting Jesus in His Place in order to pose his challenge. This is what he quoted:

If Judaism has a creed, it is the words of Deuteronomy 6:4-5, known as the Shema…. Jesus affirmed the Shema as the first and greatest commandment…. his view was in the mainstream of Judaism.[2]

Read the rest of this entry »

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Perhaps the specific argument against the personhood of the Holy Spirit that I see the most appeals to the parallelism in Luke 1:35, in which Gabriel says the following to Mary:

“The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
and the power of the Most High will overshadow you….”

Anti-Trinitarians commonly argue that in this statement “the Holy Spirit” is parallel to, and therefore synonymous with, “the power of the Most High.” They conclude that this verse teaches that the Holy Spirit is the power of God, meaning, they claim, either that the Holy Spirit is an impersonal force of power that in some way emanates from God or is an abstraction for the divine attribute of God’s power.

There are at least two problems with this argument. Read the rest of this entry »

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Another bad argument some anti-Trinitarians use is to reason that the Holy Spirit is not a person because no biblical text reports a conversation between the Holy Spirit and someone else. This argument supposedly trumps the positive evidence of the various texts that report the Holy Spirit speaking (e.g., Acts 1:16; 13:1-4; 28:25; Heb. 3:7). Yes, the anti-Trinitarian argues, the Bible says that the Holy Spirit said something, but it never reports anyone responding to the Holy Spirit; there is never any two-way communication between the Holy Spirit and someone else. The Bible reports conversations between the Father and the Son, between Jesus and the devil, and between human beings; so why, if the Holy Spirit is a person, is he never reported to have participated in a two-way conversation?

Here again, the anti-Trinitarian has manufactured an argument that seems to fit the biblical data on this narrow matter of usage, but that assumes that the Bible should present the Holy Spirit in a certain way in order to warrant readers understanding that the Holy Spirit is a person. But we have no reason to place such a demand on Scripture—which is to say, we have no reason to place such a demand on God in the way he reveals truth to us. The argument fallaciously reasons from the “silence” of the text about any conversations involving the Holy Spirit to the conclusion that the Holy Spirit is not a person.

A few moments’ reflection can generate several if not many examples of other persons in the Bible for whom we happen not to have any report of them engaged in conversation. Read the rest of this entry »

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Anti-Trinitarians often employ a number of objections to the personhood of the Holy Spirit that are examples of fallacious arguments from silence. An argument from silence infers from the fact that something is not said that it is being denied, or that it is not true. Arguments from silence seem ubiquitous in religious discourse. However, in order for the silence of a particular text or act of speech to be the basis for any conclusion, we must know that the writer or speaker would have known the point at issue and would have said something about it on that specific occasion if he did. In short, we need to know a lot more than what we usually know about what is in an author or speaker’s mind and what his or her intentions and concerns were. Arguments from silence typically ignore evidence contrary to the assumptions that the person making the argument brings to the subject.

Arguments from silence pertaining to the personhood of the Holy Spirit are perhaps the most common types of arguments used by anti-Trinitarians on this issue. Read the rest of this entry »

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Anti-Trinitarians often accuse those who believe in the Trinity of believing the Creeds over or against or instead of simply believing the Bible. This objection assumes that the Creeds do not faithfully teach what the Bible teaches. Although Catholic and Orthodox Christians typically view the Creeds as having dogmatic authority, evangelical Protestants typically do not. We believe the Creeds inasmuch as, and insofar as, we find them in agreement with the Bible.

In what follows, I will quote in full the Nicene Creed and the Definition of Chalcedon, along with biblical citations enclosed in brackets, and with no interpretive or explanatory comments. No doubt anti-Trinitarians will object to the way some of these biblical passages are understood within the Trinitarian theological framework. Nevertheless, this exercise ought to demonstrate beyond any reasonable doubt that the intent of the Creeds is simply to state in a formal, systematic, confessional way what its authors understood the Bible to teach about the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and especially about the person of Jesus Christ as both fully God and fully human. Read the rest of this entry »

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Once a year, the Evangelical Theological Society and the Society of Biblical Literature hold their annual conventions back to back, usually in the same city. This year ETS met in Providence, Rhode Island, November 19-21, and SBL is meeting in Boston, November 21-24. The Evangelical Philosophical Society, in addition to having sessions at ETS and SBL, also co-sponsors an annual apologetics conference to coincide with ETS; this year it is meeting in Smithfield, Rhode Island, November 20-22.

Attending as much of these meetings as possible has been on the must-do list for me for a few years now. Read the rest of this entry »

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If you do not believe the doctrine of the Trinity, and favor another view yourself, I am going to give you some free advice. I am going to tell you exactly what you need to do in order to defend your non-Trinitarian position as a superior alternative to the Trinitarian view. I know, this is very generous of me, but in the interests of full disclosure I think it only fair to make this information available to the opponents of the doctrine of the Trinity. Read the rest of this entry »

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Anti-Trinitarians often argue that the Holy Spirit is “missing” in many biblical passages where one might expect him to be mentioned, if the doctrine of the Trinity is true. For example, they notice that Paul’s salutations usually mention both the Father and the Son but never mention the Holy Spirit (e.g., “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,” Rom. 1:7). Jesus once said, “No one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal him” (Matt. 11:27). Why didn’t Jesus mention that the Holy Spirit knew the Father and the Son? When Jesus said, “But of that day and hour no one knows, not the angels in heaven, nor even the Son, but only the Father” (Mark 13:32), why didn’t Jesus say “but only the Father and the Holy Spirit”? New Testament visions of heaven often include visions of the Father and the Son, but not of the Holy Spirit (for example, Acts 7:55-56). Examples of arguments of this type could easily be multiplied; virtually any text in the Bible that mentions the Father and the Son but not the Holy Spirit could potentially be viewed as grist for this mill.

I addressed this question in a debate with Oneness Pentecostal pastor Robert Sabin back in the early 1990s (see video below). In the rest of this post, I will go into further detail dealing with the specific biblical passages cited by anti-Trinitarians.


Read the rest of this entry »

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