Jehovah, Party Of Three, Your Table Is Now Ready


I finally got this new server set up and started hopping around. Odd that
I should end up here so soon. Anyway, I wanted to enter into a discussion
with you regarding the material you have posted. I haven't ahd the
opportunity to read everything you have posted on the website, but I am
going to take my time and ask questions along the way. On the one hand, I
am taking this with a grain of salt because I noticed in the bibliography
the Jesus Seminar listed a couple times, and I am familiar with their
methods and motivations. On the other hand, I also see that you offer
links to others, such as Josh McDowell's book. I am looking forward to a
spirited conversation (debate if you choose).

Sincerely,
Troy


Hi Troy! Sorry it's taking awhile for us to catch up on our email; this has been an insane week...

<<On the one hand, I am taking this with a grain of salt because I noticed in the bibliography the Jesus Seminar listed a couple times, and I am familiar with their methods and motivations. On the other hand, I also see that you offer links to others, such as Josh McDowell's book.>>

Well, a wise man will take everything on the web "with a grain of salt," because the miracle of completely free speech means that everyone has a voice and a medium to disseminate their views, no matter how bizarre. I hope, however, that you won't judge my site based upon a single external link. (I already went through this when I was kicked off the webring -- see the reference on my page.) I have tried very hard to present a balanced view of the "Historical Jesus" research, including links with views more liberal, as well as more conservative, than my own.

I have mixed feelings about the Jesus Seminar, but I'm not sure what you mean by their "motivations." I don't think they have a specific agenda per se, but they do bring a lot of preconceived notions into their research, not the least of which is the blind acceptance of Markan priority and the existence of "Q" in the gospel tradition. On the other hand, they have contributed tremendously to the study of early Christian literature, and their idiomatic gospel translations in "The Complete Gospels" far surpass any of the others (i.e. the "Living" Bible) which sacrifice accuracy in meaning for the sake of readability.

I have mixed feelings about McDowell as well. On one hand. he is a man of great faith and a terrific source of spiritual guidance. On the other hand, his apologetics are laughable. Most of his arguments boil down to the circular logic of "the Bible is true because the Bible says so." Embarrasingly, Christians always steer skeptics toward McDowell to deal with their questions when many other authors present much more sound arguments.

<<I am looking forward to a spirited conversation (debate if you choose).>>

I love nothing more than rational civil debate on these kinds of topics. As always, I will try very hard to respond to your emails in a timely fashion.

Cheers and God bless,
Geoff and Heidi Trowbridge


Thanks for the response. To be honest, you are the first website to
respond in any way that seems to indicate an honest search for truth rather
than an attitude of "I'm right and if you would read what I included here
you would agree." Thanks for the openness aand opportunity for discussion.

As far as teh Jesus Seminar is concerned, I have read statements they have
made to the press and in their writings that indicate an agenda. According
to cofounder Robert Funk, the plan is to (I'm sure you've heard of this)
demythologize Jesus ("Cross Examination", L.A. Times, 2-24-94).
Essentially, as you said, they do have some preconceptions, the most
obvious being the denial of any supernatural activity in the world, much
less the life of Jesus. Such a preconception assumes a lot, but I'll get
back to that in future letters if the discussion warrants it.

As far as Josh McDowell, I suspect there might be something there that one
of us is missing. I'm not exactly sure since I am sure you read the same
thing I did, but I am willing to wait and see which. After all, my
devotion is to God, not McDowell. But if you don't mind, I'd like to
outline McDowell's argument, and then you can pinpoint exactly where you
believe he is offbase. Perhaps you will show me something I hadn't seen or
perhaps I will show you something you hadn't considered.

Premise 1: Using standard bibliographic methodology, there is little
doubt that the texts we have reliably reflect what was originally written.

Premise 2: Using standard methodology, there are few, if any,
internal contradictions to show the unreliability of the
Bible as a whole or in part.

Premise 3: To this date, there are no archaeological or historical
discoveries that contradict the events described in the
Bible.

Therefore, the Bible is a reliable witness about the events surrounding
the life of Jesus of Nazareth.

Premise 4: If Jesus was portrayed as a great moral leader, it
seems unlikely that he knowingly deceived the people as to
his identity as Divine.

Premise 5: If Jesus' life and ministry were marked by the
miraculous, it would be unlikely for him to be unknowingly
deceiving others as to his identity.

Premise 6: Since the Gospels should be accepted as a reliable
witness, the accounts of Jesus crucifixion, death and
burial should be accepted as authentic.

Premise 7: Theories to explain the disappearance of Jesus' body
and the-post burial sightings of Jesus fail to do so unless
the possibility of Jesus' resurrection is considered.

Premise 8: The resurrection of Jesus would be proof of his Deity.

Therefore, since the Gospels, as reliable witnesses, show Jesus rising
from the dead, until there is further evidence, we must assume that Jesus
did in fact rise from the dead, and recognize His claim to Godhood.

Again, let me know where you have problems with the argument. I suspect I
know where the argument is weakest, but I want to get your take on it.
Thanks again.

Troy


Hello! Sorry again about my delay in responding. I've been doing some extra work in the evenings, trying to prepare our taxes, and today I'm trying to catch up on email and catch some of the All-Star game at the same time! :-)

<<As far as teh Jesus Seminar is concerned, I have read statements they have made to the press and in their writings that indicate an agenda. According to cofounder Robert Funk, the plan is to (I'm sure you've heard of this) demythologize Jesus ("Cross Examination", L.A. Times, 2-24-94).>>

I have heard the statement, but I think Funk has been largely misinterpreted. There are many aspects of mainstream Christianity that are simply constructs of the Church and have nothing to do with Jesus Christ the Messiah. The Seminar is attempting to separate Jesus from the myths that the Church has built around him. While that may make many Christians nervous, I see it as a necessary and important goal. I don't necessarily agree with all of their conclusions (nor, it should be noted, do all of the Seminar fellows agree with each other), but there's nothing wrong with listening to and evaluating their opinions.

<<But if you don't mind, I'd like to outline McDowell's argument, and then you can pinpoint exactly where you believe he is offbase.>>

This is, of course, only one of many arguments put forth by McDowell, this one apparently arguing in favor of Jesus as the incarnation of God. I'm actually much more familiar with his writings on scripture, but I have no problem analyzing this one.

>Premise 1: Using standard bibliographic methodology, there is little
>doubt that the texts we have reliably reflect what was originally written.

Well, right off the bat we have a small problem. "Bibliographic methodology" is a euphemism for "textual criticism, after we excise any contributions from people that are willing to argue against the inerrancy of scripture." In other words, McDowell knows fully well that any respectable biblical scholar would disagree. The surviving manuscripts fully support the conclusion that texts evolved through the centuries -- sometimes subtly, through the substitution of a word here or there; sometimes dramatically, such as the longer ending of Mark, the adulterous woman in John, or the Alexandrian version of Acts. Nonetheless, I will accept that the primary message of the authors has not been dramatically altered.

>Premise 2: Using standard methodology, there are few, if any,
> internal contradictions to show the unreliability of the
> Bible as a whole or in part.

Eh? How about two completely different stories of the nativity? Two completely different genealogies? FOUR completely different accounts of the post-ressurection appearances? To be honest, internal contradictions should be expected, given the differing perspectives of the authors and the fact that two (or more) of the authors were not even eyewitnesses to the events they describe. But to claim that the Bible contains no contradictions is just plain wrong, and weakens the argument.

>Premise 3: To this date, there are no archaeological or historical
> discoveries that contradict the events described in the
> Bible.

I'm rather puzzled as to why McDowell would include this in his argument. With regard to the life of Jesus, archaeology has very little to offer, except perhaps the Shroud of Turin which is now almost universally believed to be inauthentic. Archaeology has been important for the research of the OLD Testament, but discoveries have often been mixed or inconclusive regarding accepted dating for ancient events. In short, I cannot disagree with his statement, but it is irrelevant to the discussion.

> Therefore, the Bible is a reliable witness about the events surrounding
>the life of Jesus of Nazareth.

As usual, I agree with the conclusion although the argument was weak. The Bible is certainly the most reliable witness available to the period. But for McDowell to argue that a lack of contradictions indicates inerrancy is silly. An internally consistent story is still a story, and is still affected by the views and motivations of the writer.

>Premise 4: If Jesus was portrayed as a great moral leader, it
> seems unlikely that he knowingly deceived the people as to
> his identity as Divine.

McDowell does not attempt to explain what he means by "divine," and thus leaves the door open to set up a rather large straw-man. Debate raged on throughout the early centuries of Christianity regarding whether or not Jesus was truly God Almighty in the flesh. He certainly never claimed to be, though the theology built around him in the Gospel of John might imply it. The Trinity developed as a sort of compromise between those who would have Jesus be fully human and those who believed him to be fully God -- Trinitarianism says they're both right. But even today, many religions reject the Trinity, including the Apostolics, the Socinians, the Unitarians and the Jehovah's Witnesses.

>Premise 5: If Jesus' life and ministry were marked by the
> miraculous, it would be unlikely for him to be unknowingly
> deceiving others as to his identity.

Sorry, I don't get this one at all. McDowell is apparently saying that one's ability to perform miracles has some direct correlation to a tendency against unconscious deception. If there's some psychological study to corroborate this, I haven't read it. In fact, it seems that professional magicians, who practice deception for a living, would be pretty strong evidence AGAINST this theory.

>Premise 6: Since the Gospels should be accepted as a reliable
> witness, the accounts of Jesus crucifixion, death and
> burial should be accepted as authentic.

No problem here; in fact, I believe that these events are the most historically verifiable, and therefore should easily be accepted.

>Premise 7: Theories to explain the disappearance of Jesus' body
> and the-post burial sightings of Jesus fail to do so unless
> the possibility of Jesus' resurrection is considered.

McDowell has qualified this statement by saying the resurrection is a "possibility." So is the idea that Jesus was never truly dead -- a believe adhered to by most Muslims. As far as the post-resurrection appearances, these are some of the most contradictory accounts in the gospel tradition, and some of them, like the ending of Mark, are generally accepted to be later additions to the gospel.

>Premise 8: The resurrection of Jesus would be proof of his Deity.

First of all, remember that we haven't accepted that Jesus was resurrected, only that the POSSIBILITY exists that he was resurrected. Second, how does this argue for deification? The last time I checked, the traditional Christian belief was that EVERYONE who is saved will be resurrected! Does that mean we will all become God? Perhaps that is the belief of some transcendentalist types, but I doubt that represents McDowell's position. Yet he unwittingly seems to be arguing for it.

> Therefore, since the Gospels, as reliable witnesses, show Jesus rising
>from the dead, until there is further evidence, we must assume that Jesus
>did in fact rise from the dead, and recognize His claim to Godhood.

Sadly, McDowell could have saved this argument with a more reasonable summation. Instead, he asserts that since the THEORY of a ressurection is the simplest explanation, it therefore must be true.

McDowell's main problem as he proceeds through this argument is not so much that his logic is unsound, but rather that he fails to recognize the controversy surrounding many points that he takes for granted. Just because a principle is an accepted tenet of orthodox Christianity does not make it a prima facie premise for an argument.

Again, let me state that I often agree with McDowell's conclusions, just not his methods of arriving at them. Please don't interpret my dismantling of his logic as hostility toward him or toward faith in general. My faith is unshakeable, but convincing a skeptic simply takes much more than McDowell has to offer.

Anyway, I look forward to your own comments on these points. Meanwhile I'll get back to the wonderful world of tax preparation. (Ugh!) I might check out some of the Olympic coverage, but what's the deal with CBS only showing three hours a day? And half of that time is filled with the feel-good life struggle profiles. I think I'm gonna hurl...!

Cheers,
Geoff and Heidi Trowbridge


Just to let you know, I've been a little incapacitated myself, so I am
going to respond a little sporadically here. Thanks for getting back to
me.

The first 3 premises that I mentioned were primarily to get to the point
that the Bible is a historically reliable document. Since, although you do
disagree with some of the premises, you do agree with the conclusion, that
the Bible is a reliable document, so far, we aren't at a major
disagreement. Inerrancy is not what I'm arguing here, and neither does
McDowell. He's arguing for reliability, especially in light of what is
accepted as historical from other works of antiquity that do not seem to
have the same evidentiary credentials.

Just to let you know, I'm not expecting a response to this, unless I
misread something you said. More e-mail to follow shortly!

Troy


Finally got to the end of your response (and might a say, thorough enough
that I know that I don't have to ask you for much clarification). You do
say that you agree with the conclusions, but the argument itself is faulty.
McDowell's conclusion seems to be that Jesus of Nazareth actually is the
omnipotent creator of the universe in the Trinitarian sense. Is that a
conclusion you agree with? If so, fine, we can focus on details and refine
the argument from here on out. If not, we need to go over that, since that
actually is the point.

I'll hold off from responding to your e-mail point by point until I hear
from you on this issue, since it is pretty important in the grand scheme of
things. My best wishes to you and yours!

Troy

P.S. I've been trying to avoid Olympic coverage like the plague,
specifically because of all the personal stories and such. Can be
inspiring, but then again, I don't watch television for inspiration.
There's a chilling thought . . .


Hello again!

<<McDowell's conclusion seems to be that Jesus of Nazareth actually is the omnipotent creator of the universe in the Trinitarian sense. Is that a conclusion you agree with? If so, fine, we can focus on details and refine the argument from here on out. If not, we need to go over that, since that actually is the point.>>

Well, as you may have suspected, I do disagree with McDowell as well as much of Christendom in general upon the doctrine of the Trinity.

Any protracted study of Church history reveals that Trinitarian theology is merely one among dozens of pagan traditions that the Roman Catholics adopted and incorporated into their dogma. The distinction is that it was not expurgiated by the Protestants, as were most of the other ancient pagan doctrines, not because it was shown to be biblical (sola scriptura), but because denial of the Trinity would have greatly weakened the claim of Christ's divinity which most Protestants still accepted.

There is absolutely nothing in the Biblical canon that reveals a trinitarian mindset (with the possible exception of the "Johannine Comma" which only appears in the King James translation due to its extremely late interpolation into the text; only those wacky KJV inerrists accept it as genuine). The concept does not even appear in writings of the early Church fathers until the Ante-Nicene period, after Emperor Constantine (a pagan) ended the controversy surrounding Christ's "essence" with an official edict regarding his Godhood, branding any other belief as punishable heresy.

The simple question of whether Jesus was truly the incarnation of God, although a subset of the Trinity issue, is a more defensible position given the biblical "proof texts" often cited to support it. Nonetheless, I feel that, when viewed as a whole, the gospels in no way portray a messiah who intended to be worshipped as a god, let alone as God Almighty. Jesus consistently shows himself to be a faithful and worshipful follower of YHWH, acting as his representative but always deferring authority to Him. Too many gospel scenes simply do not make any logical sense when you assume an almighty, omnipotent Christ figure.

As always, every issue is on the table and subject to discussion and exploration. For now, I must give my wife some due attention (you know, Valentine's day and all...)

Cheers!
Geoff and Heidi Trowbridge


Glad to hear from you, and glad to hear that you have your priorities in
order. As you said, yesterday was Valentine's Day.

On the one hand, I will grant that John tends to speak about the divinity
of Christ a great deal more than the other gospels. With that in mind, I
will try to focus my attention on the Synoptics. Also, I will be using the
New American Standard translation, since that seems to be the best
word-to-word translation from the original languages.

I would like to add that I am in complete agreement with you in regards to
Jesus being subservient to Yahweh. The Gospels clearly teach this, and
there is no reason to assume that Jesus positionally was equal to God.
However, there is some evidence that he was ontologically (his
nature/essence) were equal to God. Let's face it, the idea of the Trinity
is strange, some would say strange enough taht it would take God to come up
with the idea in the first place.

If you could explain to me your take on the following verses, I will have a
better idea of how you came to the conclusion that 1) the Trinity is not
taught in the New Testament, 2) Jesus did not intend to be worshipped, and
3) Jesus did intend to identify himself as unified in a sense with the God
of the Old Testament.

Mark 1: 11 ". . . and a voice came out of the heavens: 'Thou art My
beloved Son, in Thee I am well-pleased."

The voice is clearly the voice of Jehovah, and this is one of the few
instances in which God identifies someone as his Son. Only after Jesus
arrives on the seen does God refer to anyone as His Son, suggesting that
this particular relationship is different than in the past (also in Mark 9:
7). Jesus is the only one that is unconditionally (or so it seems) the Son
of God, and later in Scripture, all believers are given the title Sons of
God when they follow Jesus (Matthew 5: 9). The same title is attributed to
Jesus by demons later on (Mark 3: 11, 5: 2-7).

Mark 2: 1-12
I am going to summarize this, simply because quoting would take to long.
This is the story in which a paralytic is lowered through the roof so that
Jesus can heal him. Instead, Jesus says "My son, your sins are forgiven."
The scribes start mumbling "Who can forgive sins but God alone?" Jesus
then follows up by showing that the Father does consider what he has done
to be acceptable by allowing the healing to take place.

More to follow later when I have a chance to look at some of the other
gospels. Just wanted to get started with the earliest gospel account.
Talk to ya later!

Troy


Hello again! I wasn't sure if you were anticipating a reply yet or not (given that you have "more to follow") so I just thought I'd make a few quick points:

<<On the one hand, I will grant that John tends to speak about the divinity of Christ a great deal more than the other gospels. With that in mind, I will try to focus my attention on the Synoptics.>>

A good idea; however, I do think the gospel of John is often undervalued as an independent witness to the tradition and sometimes should receive more scholarly attention.

<<Let's face it, the idea of the Trinity is strange, some would say strange enough taht it would take God to come up
with the idea in the first place.>>


This is a commonly used defense of the Trinity but is a little too simple and self-fulfilling. Anything that makes no sense can be attributed to the "mysterious nature" of God; but I don't believe in a God of confusion. And if God, or at least divine inspiration, is necessary to conceptualize the Trinity, then why were pagan religions using the concept for centuries before Christ?

<<If you could explain to me your take on the following verses, I will have a better idea of how you came to the conclusion that ... >>

I'll wait for your further examples before commenting in depth, but for now I can say that I agree with your assessments. These examples clearly show a subservient relationship to YHWH, but nonetheless a very special and unprecedented relationship (a fact that I don't deny; in fact, it's the basis of my faith as a Christian). Did you expect me to disagree on these points?

Looking forward to more. Cheers!
Geoff and Heidi Trowbridge


Sorry to take so longto get back to you. Things have picked up again as I
get ready to return to work from 3 months of disability. That being said .

"A good idea; however, I do think the gospel of John is often undervalued
as an independent witness to the tradition and sometimes should receive
more scholarly attention."

I only decided to stay away from John because I sensed a degree of
uncertainty on your part as regards to the validity of his statements. I
agree that John has a great deal to say in regards to who Jesus is and that
he should be taken seriously. I just wanted to make the point that Jesus
claims to divinity could be established apart from his gospel, which makes
it explicit that the point is to show that Jesus is the Christ.


"This is a commonly used defense of the Trinity but is a little too simple
and self-fulfilling. Anything that makes no sense can be attributed to the
"mysterious nature" of God; but I don't believe in a God of confusion. And
if God, or at least divine inspiration, is necessary to conceptualize the
Trinity, then why were pagan religions using the concept for centuries
before Christ?

I only mentioned this, not as a knock down drag out argument, but as a
point that there might be something there. The statement "The Trinity is
too strange for man to come up with" is merely an assertion that might
direct investigation, but is not evidence in and of itself. By the way,
what were those pagan religions you were referring to?

Here's the "more to follow" I mentioned. What I am trying to point out is
that Jesus did in fact accept worship, which is something no Jew would do
unless they were God or insane. Jesus himself quoted the Pentatuch when he
said "You shall worship the Lord your God and serve Him only" (Matthew 4:
10)

Matthew 2: 11 "And they came into the house and saw the child with Mary
His mother; and they fell down and worshipped Him"

Granted, Jesus did not have much choice here. It is telling though that
Matthew thought it wasn't inappropriate to include.

Matthew 9: 2-6 Jesus heals a paralytic, but first forgives him of his
sins. Someone in the crowd said "This fellow blasphemes" which is
essentially making yourself out to be God as far as the Jews were
concerned. Jesus responed essentially by saying a conman would say "I
forgive you because there is no way to prove that the frogiveness wasn't
effectual. But to heal a paralytic, a conman would never do because he
knew it wouldn't happen. Jesus was able to do both. Why? Only God can
forgive sins, and God can heal the sick.

Matthew 14: 33 "And those who were in the boat worshiped Him, saying " You
are certainly God's Son!"

Matthew 28: 9 "And behold, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they came
up and took hold of His feet and worshiped Him."

Matthew 28: 17 "And when they saw Him, they worshiped him, but some wre
doubtful.

John 9: 38 "And he said, 'Lord, I believe.' And he worshiped Him."

It seems pretty apparent that in each of the Gospels, Jesus did things
which identified him asbeing the God of the Old Testament, such as doing
things which only God was capable of doing and accepting worship. But here
is the strange part. If Jesus was merely God incarnate (in the
non-trinitarian sense), who said "This is my Son in whom I am well
pleased?" Sure, Jesus could have made the voice come out of the sky, but
why do something that would intentionally make people think God was "out
there" when he was really right there with them? Why would Jesus repeat
the event at the transfiguration for his inner circle of disciples? Why
does Jesus repeatedly act like God the Father was someone else, ifJesus was
the only God? Yes, Jesus was subservient to God, but such is the case of
any relationship between persons (trinitarian view of God is 1 essence with
3 persons -- strange, but the text seems to fit.)

One thing you have indicated really confuses me. You say that the reasons
that McDowell sites for accepting the Bible as reliable and Jesus as God
are faulty, but you agree with the conclusions. On what basis do you come
to the same conclusion? Is there other evidence that supports those ideas
that we don't know about?

(Please respond to this e-mail. I do have other info, but wnat to get this
squared away first.)

Thanks for writing back!

Troy


I'm baa-aack! :-)

<<Things have picked up again as I get ready to return to work from 3 months of disability.>>

Well, glad to hear you're feeling better, whatever the problem was!

<<By the way, what were those pagan religions you were referring to?>>

Trinitarianism was prevalent throughout all kinds of different pagan religions during this period, mostly influenced by Plato, whose philosophies outlined the trinitarian concept of deity. By far the most popular in the Hellenistic world was Moira, the Greek goddess of fate, who existed as three distinct persons in one god. The three "aspects of fate" were Clotho, who spun the thread of life; Lachesis, who wove the thread into the tapestry of life setting a person's destiny; and Atropos, who cut the threads at the appropriate time. The ancient Babylonians had Anu, Enil and Ea. Even the Hindus had Siva, Brahma and Vishnu. And the Egyptians, by and large, had more trinitarian philosophies in their religions than any other, and as a result, it was the Egyptian Christians that pushed the concept early on.

<<What I am trying to point out is that Jesus did in fact accept worship, which is something no Jew would do unless they were God or insane.>>

Or just not a particularly orthodox Jew. :-)

Admittedly, the fact that Jesus was worshipped quite often, plus that he gave no indication that such actions were wrong, is pretty strong support in favor of his godhood. However, consider a few things: Jesus was sent as God's human messenger. He spoke on behalf of God, healed on behalf of God, dispensed salvation on behalf of God, and, one might argue, accepted worship on behalf of God. It was not the first time that a representative of God had accepted worship (i.e., Joshua 5:14). Also, realize that the term "worship" was somewhat vague as it was used biblically. In Latin, the Roman Catholics have no less than four words that refer to "worship" of various things, including Mary and the saints.

<<Jesus himself quoted the Pentatuch when he said "You shall worship the Lord your God and serve Him only" (Matthew 4:10)>>

If we want to split hairs here, we must point out that Jesus doesn't say to "worship only God," but rather to "worship God" and "serve Him only." One might certainly serve God by worshipping His son, if that is His will. Jesus's statement is also interesting when you view it in context. Jesus was replying to Satan, who had just asked Jesus to renounce God and worship him instead. If Jesus were truly God Almighty, his reply basically equates to, "I cannot worship you, Satan, because I am only permitted to worship myself." Not to mention the sheer ludicrousness of Satan trying to tempt God Almighty with land and/or power.

<<If Jesus was merely God incarnate (in the non-trinitarian sense), who said "This is my Son in whom I am well pleased?" Sure, Jesus could have made the voice come out of the sky, but why do something that would intentionally make people think God was "out there" when he was really right there with them?>>

This would be a good argument to use against the Apostolics, who reject the Trinity yet affirm the identity of Jesus as YHWH God. I, however, believe that Jesus was fully independent of God, subject to his own temptations as a human, yet bestowed with God's authority upon Earth. For that reason, I believe he was the most incredibly amazing person to have ever lived. A completely omnipotent Jesus would have no need for faith. Yet Jesus expressed more faith in God than any of us could ever hope to match.

<<(trinitarian view of God is 1 essence with 3 persons -- strange, but the text seems to fit.)>>

My personal belief is that the essence of God (i.e. His Spirit) is to be found in all aspects of His creation. It is to be found in both you and me. It's what makes us soulful beings and gives us the opportunity to live eternally. And if you could quantify it, I'd say that Jesus had about as much of it as any human could have. So if Jesus was God simply because he shared God's "essence," then by that reasoning I would have to say that we are ALL part of God (and while that view, depending upon your interpretation, may hold some merit, it just sounds a little too New-Age-ish for my taste).

<<One thing you have indicated really confuses me. You say that the reasons that McDowell sites for accepting the Bible as reliable and Jesus as God are faulty, but you agree with the conclusions.>>

Perhaps I didn't phrase that all too well. Certainly I don't always agree with McDowell, particularly upon matters of doctrine. But I simply wanted to stress that I don't pick apart his logic because his conclusions are faulty. I pick apart his logic because, frankly, his logic is usually lousy, and as Christians, we cannot hope to sway skeptics using him as a primary source for apologetics.

Hope this all made some sort of sense. I've kinda rushed through it because I don't know when I'll have the opportunity to sit down at the computer again. (And I must set aside time for the IU-Purdue game tonight!)

Cheers and God bless,
Geoff and Heidi Trowbridge


Glad to hear from you, and thanks for the concern. I'll run through your
answers as usual. I have to admit that this is definitely one of the
better conversations I've carried on, including those that have lots of
letters after their names (Ph.D., M.A., etc.)

"Trinitarianism was prevalent throughout all kinds of different pagan
religions during this period, mostly influenced by Plato, whose
philosophies outlined the trinitarian concept of deity. By far the most
popular in the Hellenistic world was Moira, the Greek goddess of fate, who
existed as three distinct persons in one god. The three "aspects of fate"
were Clotho, who spun the thread of life; Lachesis, who wove the thread
into the tapestry of life setting a person's destiny; and Atropos, who cut
the threads at the appropriate time. The ancient Babylonians had Anu, Enil
and Ea. Even the Hindus had Siva, Brahma and Vishnu. And the Egyptians,
by and large, had more trinitarian philosophies in their religions than any
other, and as a result, it was the Egyptian Christians that pushed the
concept early on."

I'm not sure what I've said in the past in regards to this, but I'll try to
explain my thoughts in light of what you have said so that I don't
contradict myself (I find those that do usually haven't thought things
out). You mention "aspects of fate", but in the literature that I've read,
aren't they referred to collectively as "the Fates?" Yes, three
individuals with definite similarities and connections, but 3 distinct
individuals (although even I feel this is splitting hairs on my part). I
recommend going to Hindu texts for data of any sort, since I have found
monotheistic, polytheistic and pantheistic tendencies in them. Hinduism is
anything but coherent and consistent.

That being said, my initial question (I think) was in regars to whether or
not the Bible taught trinitarianism, not whether or not the ideas have
surfaced in other religions as well. If it has, that shoots down the
argument that the Trinity is a concept only God would have thought of, but
as you said (and I agreed) that's a pretty shoddy argument anyway. The
real question is, does the Bible teach it?

>
Admittedly, the fact that Jesus was worshipped quite often, plus that he
gave no indication that such actions were wrong, is pretty strong support
in favor of his godhood. However, consider a few things: Jesus was sent
as God's human messenger. He spoke on behalf of God, healed on behalf of
God, dispensed salvation on behalf of God, and, one might argue, accepted
worship on behalf of God. It was not the first time that a representative
of God had accepted worship (i.e., Joshua 5:14). Also, realize that the
term "worship" was somewhat vague as it was used biblically. In Latin, the
Roman Catholics have no less than four words that refer to "worship" of
various things, including Mary and the saints.
>
True, Jesus was God's representative to earth. However, other messengers
(i.e. angels, prophets, etc.) while they did such things as speak and
perform miracles on behalf of God, only Jesus said "I forgive you." Others
always said "God forgives you,or "I forgive you for what you've done to
me", but the forgiveness Jesus spoke of was the type only God Himself could
delegate. The crowd obviously got the idea, because the scribes
immediately said he was blaspheming, claiming to be God (Mark 2: 5-7). I
don't recall any section of Scripture in which anyone else claims to
forgive sins in general. As far as worship is concerned, the individual
receiving the worship in Joshua 5: 14 actually is what is referred to by
some as a theophany, a physical appearance by God. Some scholars have come
to the conclusion that since only Jesus has seen the Father physically, but
Jesus in the New Testament is God, that the theophanies in the Old
Testament were actually preincarnation appearances of the Son.

Words in the Bible for worship:
Old Testament: Hebrew
abad: to worship through acts of service
hawah: to worship by
falling prostrate
yare I: to worship in reverence and awe ("to fear the Lord")
ba'all: to worship idols (yep, Jews have a totally different word)
New Testament: Greek
laterios: similar to abad
proskyneo: similar to hawah
phobeomai: similar to yare I
eusebios: to act godly (act according to God's standard/wishes)

Each of these indicates a different type of worship, but I doubt that
anyone would argue that any (except ba'all) is to be reserved for any but
God alone. By the way, I really don't care that the Roman Catholic church
teaches, or any otehr denomination. What the Bible says is the key.

> <<Jesus himself quoted the Pentatuch when he said "You shall worship the
Lord your God and serve Him only" (Matthew 4:10)>>
"If we want to split hairs here, we must point out that Jesus doesn't say
to "worship only God," but rather to "worship God" and "serve Him only."
One might certainly serve God by worshipping His son, if that is His will.
Jesus's statement is also interesting when you view it in context. Jesus
was replying to Satan, who had just asked Jesus to renounce God and worship
him instead. If Jesus were truly God Almighty, his reply basically equates
to, "I cannot worship you, Satan, because I am only permitted to worship
myself." Not to mention the sheer ludicrousness of Satan trying to tempt
God Almighty with land and/or power."
>
First off, as far as the translation is concerned, the Greek text does
imply that the word "only" refers to both worship and service, not just
service. The Hebrew text is even more explicit. Second, the context is
what makes this particular passage touching rather than ridiculous. Jesus,
having taken on a physical body along with all of its restraints and
limitations, had just finished a 40 day fast. ever go a few days without
food? It's difficult to think clearly. Satan had chosen this particular
time to tempt Jesus, hoping he wouldn't be up to snuff. Also, you said
yourself that Jesus worshipped the God the Father and was submissive to
Him. I agree whole heartedly. While Jesus accepts worship, he also
directs worship to the Father. Here comes the touching part. Notice Jesus
did not say "That's not yours to offer, the world is God's." Perhaps
that's because Satan is the prince of this world (John 14: 30). Jesus came
to reclaim the people of earth for God, to regain the glory and admiration
that was lost when man turned away. But Jesus would do it the hard way,
the way the Father wanted him to . . . through the cross, not through any
short cuts. And Jesus I suspect had a pretty good idea what going to the
cross would be like.

"My personal belief is that the essence of God (i.e. His Spirit) is to be
found in all aspects of His creation. It is to be found in both you and
me. It's what makes us soulful beings and gives us the opportunity to live
eternally. And if you could quantify it, I'd say that Jesus had about as
much of it as any human could have. So if Jesus was God simply because he
shared God's "essence," then by that reasoning I would have to say that we
are ALL part of God (and while that view, depending upon your
interpretation, may hold some merit, it just sounds a little too
New-Age-ish for my taste)."

You have fallen into something that doesn't merely sound New Age-ish, it is
New Age. 99% of New Age thinking (I don't have a study, but anecdotal
evidence so far doesn't discourage this stat) has a belief called
pantheism, that God is in the creation and creation is part of God. While
we as human beings do have souls made in the image of God, they are not the
same essence/nature as God. God is righteous, whereas we are not. God is
transcendent, and we definitely are not. I am sorry to say that when
pantheism is brought into the discussion, I have found that all logic drops
out because there is little reason or evidence for pantheism. Please
develop this idea. I'd like to know what brought you to this conclusion.

> <<If Jesus was merely God incarnate (in the non-trinitarian sense), who
said "This is my Son in whom I am well pleased?" Sure, Jesus could have
made the voice come out of the sky, but why do something that would
intentionally make people think God was "out there" when he was really
right there with them?>>
>
"This would be a good argument to use against the Apostolics, who reject
the Trinity yet affirm the identity of Jesus as YHWH God."

Thank you, but I know it's a good argument. my question is how do you deal
with it?

That was my last e-mail novel for the evening. Dinner's getting cold.
Give my best to your family, hope to hear from you soon.

Troy


<<I have to admit that this is definitely one of the better conversations I've carried on, including those that have lots of
letters after their names (Ph.D., M.A., etc.)>>


I can give you an A.S. and an A.A., but they're not nearly as impressive. But I'm glad to know you're enjoying it, as am I!

<< You mention "aspects of fate", but in the literature that I've read, aren't they referred to collectively as "the Fates?" Yes, three individuals with definite similarities and connections, but 3 distinct individuals >>

Funny, for a moment there I thought you were describing the Christian Trinity! :-) But yes, some Greek literature treated the fates as one God (Moira) with three distinct "persons" existing within. In fact, Sci-Fi/Fantasy author Piers Anthony wrote a whole book called "With a Tangled Skein" using "The Fates" as his primary character. If you're into the SF/Fantasy genre at all, check it out. (It's part of a series called "Incarnations of Immortality.")

<<The real question is, does the Bible teach it?>>

Even if the New Testament did teach trinitarian theology, one could still argue that the authors were unduly influenced by the Greek philosophies of the period, given the typical Jewish reaction to the concept as being alien and repugnant. But I find no such teaching aside from the "Johannine Comma," (1John 5:7b-8a) which is almost universally accepted to be an extremely late interpolation, and is left out of all English translations except the KJV.

<<The crowd obviously got the idea, because the scribes immediately said he was blaspheming, claiming to be God (Mark 2: 5-7).>>

But the crowd was wrong. Jesus himself never made that claim, and in fact, there are times when he implicitly denies such charges (i.e. John 10:34-38). Jesus always makes it clear that any authority he exercises, to forgive sins or otherwise, is delegated to him by the Father. Whenever Jesus speaks of "oneness" with the Father, he always goes on to say that each and every one of us should be striving for that same sense of unity with God that he possesses. I do not believe that Jesus was claiming that we should strive to "be" God; rather, that we should have a unity of purpose, and be filled with His spirit.

Keep in mind that the question of Jesus's "essence" was not officially resolved until the Nicene Creed during the fourth century. Prior to that, the Trinitarians and the Arians (who took the position that Jesus was strictly human) argued bitterly over the issue. Neither group had a definite majority of followers in early Christianity. The Trinitarian position was eventually adopted as the offical position of the Roman Catholic Church by Emporer Constantine, who was a lifetime pagan worshipper and only institutionalized the Catholic Church to bring peace and unity to his badly fragmented empire.

Trinitarianism was basically a compromise between those who argued that Jesus must be fully human to act as the ransom for all man's sin (which was agreed upon by nearly all early Christians), and those who felt that Almighty God Himself must have walked among us to justify beginning a religion in His name (believed by those Gentiles who were steeped in pagan tradition). The identification of the Holy Spirit as the third person, as well as the philosophy behind the whole thing, wasn't finalized until the Chalcedonian Definition in the fifth century.

<<Some scholars have come to the conclusion that since only Jesus has seen the Father physically, but Jesus in the New Testament is God, that the theophanies in the Old Testament were actually preincarnation appearances of the Son.>>

But is there any real justification for that conclusion, or is it just a rather convenient means of dodging an otherwise very thorny issue? The ancient Hebrews were studying Joshua for centuries before Christianity existed, and not once did they suggest that the figure who appeared to Joshua might be an aspect of a trinitarian godhead. Besides, if YHWH and Jesus are of precisely the same "essence," what difference would it make if the Father Himself made a token appearance once in a while?

<<First off, as far as the translation is concerned, the Greek text does imply that the word "only" refers to both worship and service, not just service. The Hebrew text is even more explicit.>>

Hmmm... I've looked at the Greek text, and I don't see that implication. But I don't have a Hebrew Old Testament, and that is, of course, where the commandment is derived from.

<<Jesus came to reclaim the people of earth for God, to regain the glory and admiration that was lost when man turned away. But Jesus would do it the hard way, the way the Father wanted him to . . . through the cross, not through any short cuts. And Jesus I suspect had a pretty good idea what going to the cross would be like.>>

Sounds like we're in perfect agreement here. But the fact remains that Jesus's temptation only carries meaning if he is an independent, free-willed being, with the option to renounce God and join Satan had he wished. It would have been pointless for Satan to tempt a member of the omnipotent godhead.

<<I am sorry to say that when pantheism is brought into the discussion, I have found that all logic drops out because there is little reason or evidence for pantheism. Please develop this idea. I'd like to know what brought you to this conclusion.>>

Don't misinterpret me here. I didn't say that my own beliefs are pantheistic (though, as I said, there are minor elements of that philosophy that may hold some theological relevance). What I said was that it was difficult to justify equating Jesus Christ with God except on pantheistic grounds. If you carefully examine the new-age arguments for pantheism, they are essentially reworkings of the same logic that supports trinitarianism.

The difference between my philosophy and new-age thinking is that I believe God's spirit exists in all of us, whereas the typical new-age thought is that the collective spirits of all humanity themselves embody a corporate god. My position is scripturally defensible (i.e. Job 32:8, Ecc 12:7, 1Cor 3:16), but the pantheistic new-age position certainly is not.

<<If Jesus was merely God incarnate (in the non-trinitarian sense), who said "This is my Son in whom I am well pleased?" ... Thank you, but I know it's a good argument. my question is how do you deal with it?>>

I don't understand what you mean. I'm in agreement with you on this point! If Jesus was God incarnate, the voice from Heaven would have been little more than a charade. This is yet another argument for a unitarian YHWH God and an independent human Christ Jesus.

Well, I'm off to work, but as always, I'll look forward to your replies. Hope things are going well for you.

Cheers and God bless,
Geoff and Heidi Trowbridge


Thanks for the reply, especially the stuff on the Fates. Learn something
new everyday. As far as the Trinity though, I am getting the sense that
you have dodged the questions that really need to be answered. For
instance, John 10: 34-38 apparently you did not look to the following
verse. "Therefore they were seeking again to seize him, and He eluded
their grasp." I think we can both assume that Jesus was a pretty bright
guy. It would have been simple for him to explain that he meant God's
Spirit were in each of us and we all should be united in that sense.
Problem: Jews already believed we should be united with God in the sense
of following His directives, so there was no conflict there. The only
thing he was ever accused of (at least that stuck) was blasphemy, claiming
to be God. This passage is the only one in which anything close to a
defense, which resembles more of an explanation of what he meant, exists.
In fact, check out Mark 2: 1-12 again. you'll notice there, and in other
passages in which crowds shout "Blasphemy!" Jesus never corrects them on
what they think he says (that he claimed to be God) but he does correct
them in that it is only blasphemy if he isn't God. Instead of saying "No,
that's not what I mean . . ." Jesus follows up with a demonstration to show
that he is God. Healing, raising the dead, etc.

The Nicene Creed is nice, but I didn't figure out Jesus' nature based on
the creed. I looked at what the Bible shows he said and did. Constantine
(who I think did a greater diservice to Christianity by making it the
religion of the empire) and his actions have no bearing on my belief. I do
find it interesting that you point out the "conferences" where everything
was canonized, but wouldn't yo have to assume that the idea had been around
prior to that period for the discussion to get so heated they had to beat
out the official view? Again, you have gone to what someone else says
rather than what the Bible says itself. That is the issue since that is
the source of the information we have on Jesus and his teachings.

As for Joshua's captain, I would have to agree with you that the Jewish
people never considered the captain to be Jesus, simply because God had
been pounding into their heads for the last 40 years in the middle of a
desert that He was the only One. To spring the idea of the Trinity on them
would have caused far more to lose it than come closer to him. Look at
what the idea has done now after almost 4000 years of Jehovah revealing
Himself -- the vast majority can't get their minds around it, and many
chuck the idea. As for a convenient dodge, no, I am simply putting 2 and 2
together. If God (the Father) says "Worship only me," and then one of His
angels or prophets accepts worship, I suspect God is going to end that
individual's career rather shortly, unless of course that individual is God
(any aspect). As far as God the Father makng an appearance, I have no
problem with the idea except that Jesus said "No one has seen the Father."
How can God make and appearance if no one sees him? (Please avoid the
falling tree in the woods reference).

As far as Jesus' temptation, there are two things at play here, and we do
start getting into some strange ideas. Yes, Jesus is free-willed in the
same way that we all are -- he can make decisions without anyone else
making the decision for him. That does sound a bit ridiculous when
considering he said himself he does what the Father tells him. But I can't
shake the conversation in the Garden of Gethsemane. No one was there but
Jesus and the Father . . . if Jesus was not free-willed, why the charade
for no audience? As for how could he be tempted, keep in mind he actually
was confined to a human body, with all the physical limitations that go
along with it. Hunger can be very motivating, and Satan was banking on it.
As for why Satan thought it worth the trouble . . . I can only say that I
have found that pride is a major cause of stupidity. Satan was the #1
angel. There was God (or the Godhead to be specific) and then Lucifer.
Lucifer was God's right hand man. One day he thinks "God's all powerful
and God's all knowing . . . I can take Him!" Duh!

As for pantheism, I have looked at the New Age arguments (or rather
assertions), and they have a tendency to look nothing like the arguments
for the Trinity, or even result in the same thing. The Christian view is
that there is a gulf between man and God that is impossible to cross by
man, but God can and did cross it in the person of Jesus Christ, and
through him the rest of humanity has the opportunity to be united with God
(not in the essential manner). The New Age view says that all of us,
regardless of what we believe are united.

The passages you refer to seem to have been misinterpreted. Job 32: 8 and
Ecclesiastes 12: 7 both refer to your soul, as per Genesis 1-2 (image of
God, breathed into man). In I Corinthians 3: 16, you are correct in the
interpretation of what the passage says, but you forget who Paul was
writing to: believers in Corinth, who had the Holy Spirit given to them
(check out Ephesians 1 for great details on that). None of those passages
says that EVERYONE has the Holy Spirit in them.

By the way, we are not in agreement on the scene of Jesus' baptism. I am
arguing that he was God the Son, and God the Father spoke on his behalf on
that and one other occasion. Let's try to focus on the issue of Jesus'
deity, and then get on with our discussion once that's been resolved or one
of us gives up!

Glad to hear from you again, and thanks for pressing my mind

Troy


"Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent." — Jesus of Nazareth, John 17:3 (NIV)

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