I know I should be in bed right now but Dave Burke’s most recent replies to the Great Trinity Debate popped up in my Google Reader. In his first comment he says:
The way to break our interpretive deadlock is simple; teach me the Trinity the way the apostles taught those they baptised. Use the arguments they recorded in Scripture, the concepts they described, the OT verses they quoted.
But Rob has already dealt with this issue in his initial post in the debate. He said:
Using Concepts or Formulations Not Explicit in the Bible
A somewhat more subtle, if still a priori, objection to the doctrine of the Trinity is that the concept or formulation of the doctrine is not biblical. The argument runs as follows: The non-Trinitarian points out that Trinitarian scholars routinely acknowledge that the Bible does not teach the formal, systematic doctrine of the Trinity; that the concept of the Trinity is nowhere explicit in Scripture; that the biblical writers did not themselves think of God as triune or conceptualize God as triune; and so forth. The non-Trinitarian, aghast that such scholars would continue to adhere to a doctrine they admit they cannot find in the Bible, and commending them for their “candor,” concludes that tradition, creed, or ecclesiastical authority has evidently trumped Scripture for Trinitarians.
Systematic theology is an intellectual activity or discipline that seeks to answer specific questions that arise from the reading of Scripture. The Bible may not answer these questions explicitly, but it may provide information or statements from which the theologian infers an answer. Did God create the world ex nihilo (out of nothing), ex Deo (from God’s own being), or ex materia (from preexisting matter)? The Bible does not answer this question explicitly, but the question, once asked, is unavoidable. The theologian does his best to answer it in a way most faithful to the teaching that the Bible does present. What is the relationship between the second coming of Christ and the thousand-year period mentioned in Revelation 20? One may adhere to amillennialism, premillennialism, or postmillennialism, but none of these is set forth explicitly in the Bible. Some of these questions are more important than others, but the point is that such questions are extremely common in theology and no serious student of Christian doctrine can or should avoid them altogether.
In short, sola scriptura means that all doctrine must derive from the teachings of Scripture, not that we are restricted to using words found in the Bible or to using concepts that one or more biblical writers explicitly formulated.
Dave then opens his second comment by saying the following:
Your argument relies obviously on the English translation, failing to engage with the Greek. You make much of the statement “And when they saw him they worshipped him, but some doubted”, claiming that their doubt was about “the propriety of worshipping Jesus”, when the context is linked to Jesus’ resurrection and their seeing him alive. Searching a dozen commentaries over the past few days, I have failed to find anyone supporting your interpretation; Trinitarian scholars unanimously refer the “doubt” to Jesus’ resurrection. A parallel account is John 20:25, where “doubting Thomas” finally believes. Your reading has no credible grounding.
Strangely, you insist that “worship” presented to Jesus in this verse is necessarily religious, offering no evidence to support this, but merely cross-referencing Matthew 4:1-11, where Jesus tells the tempter that only God may be worshipped. This passage contains nothing to support your idea that Jesus is being worshipped as God in Matthew 28:16-20.
Now let it be known that I’m not exactly convinced of Rob’s reading of Matthew 28 just yet, although I have purposed to give it some further thought and study, but all Dave has done here is shown that in the 12 or so books he’s looked at no one has said what Rob has said. What Dave has not done is shown how or why Rob is wrong and not to be agreed with. Also, the description of Rob “cross-referenc[ing]” is a bit off (i.e., it makes it seem as if all Rob did was cite the passage without explanation). Rob took time to present compelling parallels between the narrative in Matthew 4:1-11 and Matthew 28:16-20. Whether or not one agrees with Rob’s conclusion concerning the worship in Matthew 28:17 they should at least be able to acknowledge that the parallels drawn are not superficial or without merit.
Dave then launches into an excursus on the many meanings of proskyneo (using Liddell & Scott for some odd reason rather than, say, BDAG) before demonstrating a misunderstanding of creedal Trinitarianism when he says in a parenthetical remark: “contra creedal Trinitarianism, which prohibits ontological and economic incarnational subordination…” Economic incarnational subordination is part and parcel of orthodox Christology. Sure, there’s debate over whether such a subordination reaches back into eternity, but there’s no controversy over it existing in the incarnation. All Dave has to do is look to patristic comments on John 14:28 and he’ll find an almost uniform understanding that the Father was said to be greater than the Son because the Son assumed humanity. There is also a reading that suggests the passage has to do with the causal relationship (i.e., the Father begets while the Son is begotten) but this understanding is not as pervasive.
Many more things could be pointed out (like why Dave sees such a “natural connection” between John 1 & Proverbs 8 — to take a page out of his book — if John wanted to speak of Wisdom, why didn’t he? — or that the Memra was distinguished from God as his “agent” — umm, no, it was a circumlocution for the divine name, plain and simple, and if anything, John’s drawing from targumic Memra traditions only strengthens the case for Jesus’ deity, but that’s for another day) but it’s late and this post is long. Dave left a number of other comments that all scream for rebuttal, but I’ll leave it to Rob to rebut them. The one thing I’ve noticed is that my observation from a few days ago was right, and no matter what rob says, Dave will simply respond by saying that Rob has said nothing at all. I’ve also noticed in this later round of comments that Dave appeals to authorities an awful lot, more so than I’ve seen him do before, while Rob has been pretty consistent in doing his own work. I suppose that’s really the major difference between the two.