The Great Trinity Debate Index

I’ll be linking to all of Rob Bowman and Dave Burke’s in this post as well as my own commentary on the debate itself as well as issues related to it.  This seems more appropriate than updating a post in which I announced the debate was only a couple of days away.

The Great Trinity Debate

My Commentary

B”H

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16 thoughts on “The Great Trinity Debate Index

  1. Color me disappointed — Mr. Burke didn’t interact with John 1:1 of John 20:28 at all. I’ll have to re-read what he wrote on Titus 2:13 after I’ve had a shot of caffeine to jumpstart my brain. (Long workday; my mind is melting.) He mentions Wallace, but…Am I crazy or did he fail to interact with Sharp’s Rule as it applies to Titus? Saying Sharp’s doesn’t apply to verses X, Y and Z doesn’t change the fact that it does apply to Titus and as such, stands as an explicit reference to Christ as ho theos. And not just ho theos but also soter, savior. Which is significant in and of itself.

    Yet, because Sharp’s doesn’t apply to X, Y and Z, he says 2:13 isn’t an “unequivocal” proof and makes some vague reference to great God being a title, circa Isaiah 9:6′s mighty God. Ya know, I argued this with a JW once. Didn’t wash then. Doesn’t wash now, either. Saying it doesn’t prove it. I want to see proper supports for his argument re Titus, particularly.

  2. Sam: I don’t think Burke presented an actual argument in part 2. I saw a bunch of passages of Scripture cited and then some attempts to explain away certain Trinitarian proof texts, but nothing like an actual argument yet. I’m sure the comments to follow will be more substantive though. I think Bowman obviously did much better. I don’t know that I’m convinced of his reading of Matthew 28 just yet (in regard to the disciples doubting) but I’ll give it some more thought. I was disappointed that the list of passages he has examined/plans to examine didn’t include anything from Mark & Luke. I know many Unitarians will take that as some kind of admission that these books don’t present Jesus as God. I’m largely in agreement with his treatment of John 17. I’ve noted countless times how 17:3 affirms something about the Father; it doesn’t deny something about the Son. I’m looking forward to the comments that will follow and part 3.

    Karen: I’m with you. Burke’s handling of Sharp’s rule left me less than impressed. His over-simplification of the rule wasn’t actually an oversimplification at all; it was simply a description that had nothing to do with the rule itself! And like you I’m completely unconvinced of the connection between “Great God and Savior” in Titus 2:13 and “Mighty God” in Isaiah 9:6. It is most certainly not a quotation as Burke claims, but I don’t think a good argument can even be made that it’s an allusion. To start, the LXX of Isaiah 9:6 [vs. 5 in the MT/LXX] renders פֶּ֠לֶא יוֹעֵץ֙ אֵ֣ל גִּבּ֔וֹר (Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God) as μεγάλης βουλῆς ἄγγελος (Messenger of great council). Paul says τοῦ μεγάλου θεοῦ καὶ σωτῆρος ἡμῶν (our great God and Savior). Then in Isaiah’s other use of אֵ֣ל גִּבּ֔וֹר (Mighty God) in 10:21 the LXX translates it as θεὸν ἰσχύοντα (strong/mighty God). Again, this is different than what Paul says, and a similar expression can be found in the LXX (e.g., Ezra 5:8; Dan. 4:23)

  3. Karen, as I have said before Burke’s arguments are outright pathetic and yet he is supposed to be the champion of unitarianism! That tells you the sad state of affairs unitarianism is in.

    This is why Burke spent so much time telling Bowman what will and will not constitute for evidence for Bowman’s position, or his repeated assertion that his position is compatible with the unitarian teachings of the OT (which obviously begs the question).

    This, to me at least, was a tell-tale sign that Burke knew he was way over his head by engaging Bowman and so decided to do some damage control. Nick, what do you think of my assessment?

  4. Sam: Sounds about right. Burke has told Rob explicitly that even if he proves his case he still wouldn’t have proven his case. Makes you wonder why he’s debating the subject at all.

  5. That’s what heretics have always done: maintain their personal objections to established dogma. That’s how they end up anathematized. Heresy is not merely the holding of a particular belief, but the persistence in maintaining their own poorly-established preferences in the face of correction. Everyone can make mistakes, but insisting that your mistake is correct just puts you outside the realm of acceptability. It’s the theological equivalent of always using “there” for “they’re” and insisting that it’s correct and you’re never changing. Heresy!

  6. I don’t agree with any of the comments here at all. I find Burke’s arguments far more credible than Bowman. I see Bowman on the defensive and playing childish semantics games and I am really swayed by what Burke has written.
    I have always had some wiggling issues with the trinity–it just doesn’t make any sense. And I am slowly coming over to the unitarian way of thinking. It makes sense.
    I think the most important thing is getting to the truth. Finding what God was actually saying in the text. Not what men have twisted it to mean.

    Too bad ego will keep many from honestly evaluating.

  7. SMA: I wonder if you’ve actually read the same debate that I have. I’d love examples of where you feel that Bowman has played “childish semantics games.” As far as being “on the defensive” I’m not quite sure how you intend that statement.

    Whenever I hear that the doctrine of the Trinity “just doesn’t make any sense” I inevitably ask myself, ‘Who doesn’t it make sense to?’ Maybe God has blessed me with some kind of supernatural reasoning skills (although I highly doubt it) but the doctrine makes sense to me. I find it interesting though that a lot of folks who say the Trinity doesn’t make sense have no problems in accepting other things that seemingly don’t make sense either. For example, Burke says of God’s self-existence:

    God is self-existent, meaning that His existence is not derived from another source. He exists independently of anything and anyone. Consequently, God is eternal; He has no origin, He cannot die, and He will exist forever.

    How does that make sense? But at the end of the day, while a Unitarian conception of God might make sense according to Greek philosophical thought, I don’t think it makes much sense according to what the Bible as a whole says. If I believed in a Unitarian God I’d be left trying to make sense of seemingly contradictory statements like YHWH creating alone (Isa. 44:24) yet the Son creating (John 1:3; Col. 1:16; Heb. 1:2 — not to mention those passages where the Hebrew speaks of ‘creators’ [Ecc. 12:1] and ‘makers’ [Ps. 149:2 and Isa. 54:5]), or God having never been seen (John 1:18; 1John 4:12) yet having been seen (Gen. 32:30; Exod. 24:10-11; Jdgs. 13:22), or even something as basic as the statement that “God is love” (1John 4:8). As far as I can tell Unitarians can’t “make sense” of such a statement in a way that’s consistent with what we know of love and what we know of God’s attributes.

    In the end, Unitarianism doesn’t make so much sense when you stop to think about it, but then again, whose sense are we ultimately appealing to? Our own? If Scripture supports the doctrine of the Trinity then regardless of whether or not it “makes sense” to us we should affirm it since the Word of God is a higher authority than our feeble reasoning. The Unitarian is the one who wants a god who conforms to what they can accept as reasonable, i.e., they want a god of their own formation (an idol if you will).

    I agree with you that truth is most important but I wonder if you’ve asked yourself if “ego” have kept you “from honestly evaluating”?

  8. WoundedEgo: The doctrine of the Trinity is the collation of biblical teaching about the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This being the case, there’s no single verse or chapter that teaches the doctrine because again, the doctrine is the result of all that the Bible has to say. Now if you’re interested in material on this subject then I’d refer you to the page at the top of my blog labeled “The Defense of an Essential.” There I have given some biblical material on the doctrine of the Trinity. A sub-page entitled “Trinitarian Resources Online” will lead you to a number of written and audio resources on the subject. And the last sub-page “Recommended Reading” has some books that I recommend on the subject as well as links to all the books I’ve reviewed on the doctrine of the Trinity. Hope that helps.

  9. >>>The doctrine of the Trinity is the collation of biblical teaching about the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

    Well, if it is not in the scriptures, then where is it defined?

    I mean, if someone says that they do or don’t believe in “The Doctrine of the Trinity” then to what are they referring?

    In other words, if, as a soldier, I am asked whether I pledge allegience to The Constitution of the United States, I can look at the document and either pledge or refuse. If someone asks if I believe in “The Doctrine of the Trinity” – to what document do I look to see if I assent or refuse?

  10. WoundedEgo: Let’s be clear: the Scriptures are the reason that there is a doctrine of the Trinity. Without the biblical teaching about the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit we’d never have a doctrine of the Trinity. If you’re looking for an official summary of the doctrine to point to then the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed is there for you. Or, you can take the time to take whoever is asking through the Scriptures and show them just how the N-C Creed came to say what it says. If you’re genuinely interested in learning about the Trinity then the resources I’ve pointed you to are a great place to start.

  11. >>>WoundedEgo: Let’s be clear:

    Ah, already your post has the fragrance of a summer’s day…

    >>>the Scriptures are the reason that there is a doctrine of the Trinity.

    At the risk of being pedantic, could you please define “the Scriptures”? That term just means “the writings” and, as you know, people write LOTS ‘o’ stuff…

    Do you mean the historic text? “The Vulgate”? Or the “Hebrew scriptures”? Or the “LXX”? Or what?

    >>>Without the biblical teaching about the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit we’d never have a doctrine of the Trinity.

    Let me repeat your assertion, hilighting what I think to be the key part:

    “Without the biblical teaching about the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit we’d never have a doctrine of the Trinity. ”

    Is that what you meant to say?

    >>>If you’re looking for an official summary of the doctrine to point to then the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed is there for you.

    Okay, so would you say that said Creed [sic] is “The Official and Accurate and Necessary To Be Believed ‘Doctrine of the Blessed Trinity’” (Amen, Hallelujah)?

    How many people would agree with you?

    I mean, do you speak for Billy Graham? John Wesley? Augustine? Paul? Jesus? Luke?

    I mean, how do I know that you aren’t just a freaked out pot-head from California, speaking out of your posterier hole?

    Was there a summit that I didn’t hear about wherein Jerry Falwell subscribed said document?

    Personally, I think that your document speaks for a medieval Pope and you. Beyond that, I really haven’t any indication.

    >>>Or, you can take the time to take whoever is asking through the Scriptures and show them just how the N-C Creed came to say what it says.

    Well, I took the time, and it appears that it was the emperor of Rome, Constantine, that summoned a handful of favor-lovin’ fondlers to his summer home at Nicaea that ultimately elevated that document above all others.

    >>>If you’re genuinely interested in learning about the Trinity

    If you have new info then I am genuinely all ears.

    >>>then the resources I’ve pointed you to are a great place to start

    I don’t want “resources” unless I know that they are definitive and authoritative.

    I want to know where and when in time and space “The Doctrine of the Trinity” came into being, what it says, and what one must believe (on pain of everlasting torment) so I can give it my “Amen” or my middle finger…

    Where is said “The Doctrine of the Trinity”?

    Does it even exist?

  12. WoundedEgo: Alright, today’s a day of banning commenters, you’re outta heya! I’m all for genuine dialogue but I have no patience for antagonism.

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