Tag Archives: monotheism

Facts and History for me, please

Andrei Rublev's Trinity, representing the Fath...
Andrei Rublev’s Trinity, representing the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in a similar manner. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was raised an anti-Trinitarian oneness guy. This view is based on ignorance of Christian Tradition, Scripture, and certain key concepts, such as monotheism. It is based on ignorance of Christianity and arrogance that we know better than 2000 years of Christian tradition.

As one who is an orthodox Christian, I am now a Trinitarian, believing the Trinity is well in line with Scripture and is a natural development of Christian doctrine.

But, outside the oneness pentecostals are those who view Christian Tradition with disdain while claiming to be Christian. (accept my nuance here ). The first thing they like to get rid of is the Trinity. Usually, a good 90% of the time, it is because they lack the knowledge necessary to understand the Trinity and its place in Christology and soteriology.

For instance, Mark Sandlin. In a recent post about his cool new anti-Christian Tradition Christianity he writes,

Jesus was a Jew. (Please tell me no one is surprised to hear that.)

As a Jew, Jew was a strong monotheist.

Except… Jewish monotheism isn’t exactly a thing for all Jews and for all Jews at the time of Jesus.

He then writes,

Jesus was a monotheist.

Can’t prove it. Indeed, we don’t know much about Jesus and his personal beliefs. If we put him next to other apocalyptic Jews, he may have believed in the two-powers of heaven, which is not monotheism. What we know about Jesus comes from the Scriptures held together by the Christian, i.e., Trinitarian Church. We know nothing of Jesus except by the Church that is Trinitarian. It is this same Church that took John (I and the Father are one), Paul (2 Co 13.14) and Proverbs 8/Wisdom of Solomon/Baruch to develop a confession holding the unity of God with the triunity of the Father, Son, and Spirit.

English: Malayalam-language version of Christi...
English: Malayalam-language version of Christian Trinitarian “Shield of the Trinity” diagram, created on the lines of Shield-Trinity-Scutum-Fidei-English.png (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As Nathan McDonald notes, polytheism and monotheism are Enlightenment developments. In other words, a Western European concept. See Larry Hurtado as well. Indeed, one should really read Hurtado’s article. Jesus, I hate to tell the Southern minister, was not a post-Enlightenment Western European male.

By the way, the development of the Trinity was led by Africans such as Clement of Alexandria and Tertullian along with other non-European thinkers.

He goes further and says,

Even the Bible predominantly practices monotheism.

Biblically, God is always addressed with a singular pronoun, not plural.

Except, that is not true either. Not only does Scripture refer to other gods, but God actually speaks to the “we” in creating humanity. Elohim is plural. Indeed, much of the OT, if not the NT, is poly- and heno-theistic (2 Kings 3:27; Ps. 95:3; Ps. 97:7; Ps. 135:5; Ps. 89:6–7). The NT includes theomachy events which means… non-monotheistic.

Mark S. then becomes a biblicalist:

Not only that, but biblically there is no mention of the Trinity.

I find that argument little more than circular reasoning. For that matter, “bible” isn’t mentioned either, neither is the canon laid down. Nuclear missiles, electricity, and pews are out the window as well.

And for some unknown reason, he confuses confession (the Trinity is a confession, i.e., mystery) with fact when he writes,

Admittedly, the Trinity is an interesting theory and it certainly quailed some of the early Church’s division on the nature of God, but it is just that – a theory.

The Trinity is not a theory, hypothesis or otherwise. Neither is it a fact. It is a confession of our faith (Epistle to the Hebrews. Seriously, the entire book). It helps us explain Christology, Soteriology, Pneumatology, and even anthropology.

And then, it all becomes clear…

The lack of biblical witness leaves me to believe that either there simply was no understanding of a Trinitarian God at the time books of the Bible were written, or that the concept was so unimportant to their faith that it mostly wasn’t mentioned.

Mark has no idea what Church History is or how Christianity developed. He abandons something he doesn’t even have and insists he is doing something progressive, emergent, liberal — right. Indeed, what he is doing is what fundamentalists do. Make it up as they go along.

By the way, I’m a henotheist.

Thoranity – we get hammered so you don’t have to.

Is McGrath being fair or a monotheist?

Coronación de la Virgen, óleo sobre lienzo. 17...
Image via Wikipedia

In a subject likely to cause some heartache, the professor has decided to resurrect the controversy known as ‘Was Paul a Monotheist Like we Define Monotheism Today’ bit. He asks:

You already know what I think, and it has been a while since the biblioblogs were alive with a discussion of monotheism and Christology. So let’s hear from others. What do you think Paul meant in this passage? Was Paul a monotheist in exactly the same sense as his other Jewish contemporaries? Please answer in the comments here, or on your own blog!

It is in reference to 1 Corinthians 8.6 which reads:

NAB  1 Corinthians 8:6 yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom all things are and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things are and through whom we exist.

NLT  1 Corinthians 8:6 But we know that there is only one God, the Father, who created everything, and we live for him. And there is only one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom God made everything and through whom we have been given life.

Annoyance, and I’ll tell you why. He wants us to decide if Paul was a “monotheist in exactly the same sense as his other Jewish contemporaries.” Um…. to that I’d say… trick question.

Varying views of monotheism and even lingering henotheism survived. Truth be told, as one who currently subscribes to the Christus Victor theory as the only God-given, inerrant, and infallible image of salvation which if changed would so shatter my faith that I would become an a-theist, I see in Paul a lingering amount, or a healthy respect of henotheism which would allow for a figure which was given the divine name in order to vanquish the powers… which doesn’t require pre-existence, allows for the union of divine identity, and still allows for complete humanity.

But, alas, I did name my youngest daughter Sophia too.

This is and should be an interesting discussion. Let’s see where it takes us and what side(s) I end up arguing for.

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Has Dr. McGrath finally made it up to me about his book?

Holy Trinity by Fridolin Leiber (1853–1912)
Image via Wikipedia

To be honest, James McGrath’s book was one of the first scholarly books, in a certain area of study, which I read. I loved it all, especially the chapter on John… well all until the final bit where he allow for certain developments…

Anyway, he reviews this book and then, in the comments section, asks,

McCall makes much of the fact that the Son is depicted as addressing the Father in an “I-Thou” fashion in the New Testament, as the basis for understanding persons in the Trinitarian sense as those who are distinguished through such interpersonal pronoun usage, and thus suggesting that the New Testament evidence requires a Godhead consisting of multiple persons. But I wonder whether this doesn’t face problems in connection with some of the monotheistic passages in the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible, where God is depicted as saying that I (first person singular) am Yahweh and that no other is God (Isaiah 43:11; 45:5)? It seems that this could be fatal to an attempt to justify distinctions of a personal sort (at least, using person in its modern sense) within the Godhead, by means of an appeal to the Bible.

Review of Thomas McCall, Which Trinity? Whose Monotheism? | Exploring Our Matrix.

Anyway, enjoy the conversation.

I do think that as the Church moved to a more Gentile population, and to a more philosophical theology, that certain connections to Hebraic thought was lost. I’m not going to say that this was wrong or right or not in the due course, but I find it rather difficult to accept developed Christian theology as the underpinning of theological interpretation of Hebraic texts, such as Genesis 1.26.

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Are you a monotheist or a henotheist?

Pastor Bob has a post up in response to something Miroslav Volf said. Read it here:

Ponderings on a Faith Journey: Are Christians (at times) henotheists not monotheists?.

Okay, so here are my thoughts.

We know that Israel, for a very long time, were henotheists. It looks like Paul recognized ‘powers’. So what if he was a mix between the two? Why are we so stuck on what we think is monotheism?

What if there are other powers, cosmically, which Christ has defeated?

But, Volf is correct. When we start taking God for our own tribe, or nation, then we are creating a henotheistic cosmology.

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Miloslav Volf – Jehovah on Trial: Should we kill monotheism?

Cain and Abel. Byzantine mosaic i =n Monreale
Image via Wikipedia

While reading this book (which I will be posting on later), the first author mentioned that this essay he had written sometime ago. As a send up, I thought I might share.

Essentially, he is reviewing/responding to Regina Schwartz‘s claim that monotheism has engendered too much violence to remain. Without reading the book, I can only point to the ancient polytheistic tribal systems and the causes of war. But, Volf is much better in his response:

Why does belief in one God forge identities antithetically? one could ask, wondering whether the chain with which Schwartz connects violence to monotheism might lack a crucial link. And why is the claim to distinctive identity sufficiently important to spawn violence? The answer, argues Schwartz, lies in the principle of scarcity—the belief that everything is in short supply and must be competed for. This principle, too, is rooted in biblical monotheism, we are told. “Scarcity is encoded in the Bible as a principle of Oneness (one land, one people, one nation) and in monotheistic thinking (one Deity), it becomes a demand of exclusive allegiance that threatens with the violence of exclusion.”

The story of Cain and Abel provides Schwartz with the key to the evils of monotheism. She calls it a story of “original violence.” Unlike the story of original sin, though, the story of original violence does not suggest that we kill becauseCain did, but that we kill for similar reasons. Without stating so explicitly, however, Schwartz implies that, at another level, the story of Cain and Abel is a story of original sin, with this twist: the sinner is not Cain but his divine Maker. We kill because God did something wrong, argues Schwartz. Cain was enraged by God’s arbitrary decision to accept Abel’s sacrifice and reject Cain’s; we all kill because of the same arbitrariness of the one God of the Bible. “What kind of God is this who chooses one sacrifice over the other? This God who excludes some and prefers others, who casts some out, is a monotheistic God—monotheistic not only because he demands allegiance to himself alone but because he confers his favor on one alone.”

Jehovah on Trial | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction.

I would encourage you to read it, of course.

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