Will the real Trinitarian please stand up?

First, Nick has clearly stepped off the deep end in regards to a biblical framework by declaring everyone who doesn’t believe the Trinity an atheist and a heretic, which of course got Tom Finland all fired up. Wow. Not only does that go against logic and Tradition, diminishes Christian unity, but so too is completely unbiblical, but then again, Nick has turned solely to the Church Councils for support. Of course, seemingly, only the church councils which he disagrees with. I was unaware that Nick had become his own Magisterium and Inquisition all in one. He wants to follow all the councils…. but I doubt he’ll follow all of the Council’s decrees. I mean, for instance, I wonder if he has Icons. Or limits the role of women to Deaconesses?

But, Kevin, on the other hand, God bless him, responds. He doesn’t go far enough, actually. Remember, the East and the West hold, at least in word-pictures and focus, a different Trinity. Nevertheless, Kevin raises excellent points. Which Trinity? Who’s the heretic/atheist?

My guess? It would be Nick.

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34 Replies to “Will the real Trinitarian please stand up?”

  1. There is an excellent Tom and Jerry cartoon (I like sophisticated sources!) where Tom is chasing Jerry through a bowling alley – Jerry dives into a bowling ball, Tom tries to tie him in with a scarf but hasn’t a free finger to put on the knot, Jerry pops up from somewhere and puts his finger on the knot, Tom waves his thanks, does the eye-popping double take, and the chase goes on.

    The Trinity has been used far too often as a container for God – we think we’ve got him neatly defined. Then he pops up somewhere else, grins at us, and the theological chase goes on. I believe what the Trinity is trying to affirm, but it can only ever be a handle on the mystery which is God, never a box in which to contain him. And I refuse to be tied to 4th C definitions – I can just about spell Neoplatonism, I don’t think in that language.

  2. I doubt that Non-Trinitarian T D Jakes would call any Christian a heretic, regardless of slight differences in belief.

  3. Jesus was conceived by Holy Spirit (minus the article) proceeding from God. Matthew 1:20 and Luke 1:35

    Holy Spirit (minus the article) proceeds from the Father and the Son. John 14:18,23-John 15:26 and Romans 8:9

    Paul in his Epistles, never sent greetings from “a third person” Why? because there isn’t one. God is the Father and the Son alone…

    Anyway, i would never call Trinitarians heretics or atheists… I often use the article before the words Holy Spirit. Specifically, when some say that Jesus is also ” THE ” spirit.

    Seroled

    1. That’s a huge amount of theology built upon the tiniest of foundations – couldn’t the absence of the definite article be an idiomatic or stylistic construction?

      If Orthodox Trinitarianism has gone too far in one direction (as I think is the problem with a lot of Patristic stuff), this line of argument seems to go too far in the other. I suspect we need to be much more impressionistic in our translation of such ideas and comments. The whole thing about Persons is misleading anyway.

      1. Hello Rev. Tony

        You would be absolutely correct if the only foundation of my comment was the absence of the definite article in the Greek. However, the foundation of Matt 1:18,20 and Luke 1:35 is Psalm 2:7.

        Jesus was begotten/conceived by God – by his Holy Spirit, not a third entity/being called the Holy Spirit. Hebrews 1:5 also supports Matt and Luke. For God is not ‘ the ‘ Holy Spirit ,nor is Holy Spirit the name of a third and distinct entity/being by whom Jesus was begotten.

        We are clear that Titus 2:13 ‘ Our God and Savior, Jesus Christ ‘ refers to one and the same person even in absence of the definite article. However, the Greek is explicit in Matt 1:18,20 and Luke 1:35, in that Jesus was begotten by Holy Spirit (minus the article). That is the reason that this holy child was called the Son of God.

        Finally, Psalm 2:7 is also the foundation for our belief that God the Father raised his Son Jesus from the dead and by his Spirit or his breath.

        Acts 2:32 supports Romans 8:11 and Galatians 1:1 in that it was the Spirit of Him,God, by which Jesus was raised from the dead. Jesus was not begotten nor was he raised or begotten ‘ again ‘ from the dead by a third and distinct entity called the Holy Spirit, according to psalm 2:7.

        Seroled

        1. Apologies, Titus 2:13 reads ‘ the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ ‘

          Also, Acts 13:33 cf. Psalm 2:7 supports Romans 8:11 and Galatians 1:1 Not Acts 2:32.

          Seroled

        2. “For God is not ‘ the ‘ Holy Spirit ,nor is Holy Spirit the name of a third and distinct entity/being by whom Jesus was begotten.”

          But this only illustrates the problem of the Trinity – if one person is perceived to have stressed the ‘one’ too much the correction pushes in the direction of tri-theism. The Holy Spirit isn’t a “third and distinctive” entity – he is God. No problem with that. The problem with building too much on the absence of the definite article is to give the impression that the Spirit is NOT God. The Divine has been manifest in different ways, but it is the same Divine. The problem of balancing the different emphases is beyond me – it has been said that it is impossible to preach on the Trinity without committing heresy.

          I think I’ll stick to biblical history…

  4. Anybody in this day and age who uses the word “heretic” deserves to be treated as Nehemiah treated his critics (read the last chapter). Why does anybody treat such a buffoon with anything less than mocking and derision?

    I posted this on Nick’s site, but I doubt it will get through moderation:

    Nobody actually believes the trinity. They may assert it because they think it is what they are supposed to assert. Which is why adherents have to fall back on weasel concepts such as “church authority.” But you can’t truly believe what you don’t understand and nobody has ever explained the trinity in a way that comports to human logic.

    Nothing can be 100% of two things. Immutable law of nature. Nothing can be begotten in time and also be eternal. Immutable law of nature. Add to that the facts that the concept is nowhere to be found in any writing that christians consider scripture, not was it taught as essential (if even at all) for centuries after Jesus was around.

    What’s more, if one takes the concept of authority seriously, then you have to winder why there is no construct in the gospels or the writing of Paul which says that you must assert the trinity in order to be justified before god. Jesus told people that if they forgave others, God would forgive them. I suppose he was lying because if his listeners took his words seriously, they are roasting for eternity.

  5. I am surprised that some Christians assert that one has to believe in the Trinity to be saved. That isn’t even close to the message Jesus preached, nor the Apostles.

  6. As I thought, Nick didn’t post my comment. I wonder why not? It’s not abusive in any way. It just disagrees with him.

    Why does anybody treat him with anything less than derision? He knows how to regurgitate a lot of big words but displays no evidence that he understands them.

  7. I just looked at his profile, wondering what gives Nick so much authority in his own mind. He has no apparent career or educational achievements that would provide any credibility to his words. His personal history is fairly sad, what with being a single father and a Pentacostal.

    But then it became obvious: he’s an Italian from the Jersey shore. Heck, he can get to Seaside Heights in 5-10 minutes and party with the cast of the Jersey Shore if the bridge in Toms River isn’t bumper-to-bumper. (For the record, I am of Italian descent from New Jersey.)

    1. The Apostles were uneducated, Peter and some of the others were fisherman. Paul was a mass murderer. Whether someone is right or wrong, they still have right to a belief, and an opinion, regardless of their level of education or background..

  8. Gez,

    Uneducated by 1st century standards, but by today’s standards they were highly educated. Most of them had memorised the Scriptures from the age of 5, plus other writings, plus learned philosophy, etc.. to a level beyond what most of us get today even at post grad level.

    “uneducated”.. no. Peter was a fisherman, so not only did he have to go to school, with no books and memorise EVERYTHING, he also had to then go home and learn to fish.

    People really need to do some more research into ANE educative systems.

    1. Geoff,

      That’s a considerable overstatement.

      It is true that education standards of the ANE were certainly higher than many give them credit for. Nevertheless, a 1st Century Jewish education was not high by modern standards, and definitely not “beyond what most of us get even at post grad level.”

      Additionally, we cannot simply assume all 1st Century Jews went to school, because it is demonstrably true that they did not.

      Education was a priority amongst the socio-economic classes who needed it. But for people like Peter and John it was an unnecessary luxury, and we know from Acts 4:13 that they were uneducated men even by the standards of the day.

      Papias wrote that Mark was the “translator” of Peter, which suggests a reliance on amanuensis. This is precisely what we would expect if Peter was illiterate, or at the very least unable to write in Greek.

      Paul’s high quality education was an exception to the normative standard, as befitting a Pharisee’s son.

  9. Say what?

    A first century fisherman was highly educated by modern standards? You think people were more educated 2000 years ago than they are today?

    Seriously, that is insane. Off the wall insane.

  10. But it illustrates a point. If you can believe in the Trinity or the Rapture, then you can believe literally anything. And that is a problem of the human race. We no longer believe that weather results from divine behavior, but we substitute other irrational ideas instead.

  11. Dave, I’ve done quite a bit of research into what education consisted of at the time, not just for the Jews but for the Greeks and Romans.
    In the first century education was different to now, for example being able to write was not considered as important as being able to read. And we also know that it was virtually compulsory for the Jews from the age of 5.
    We also know that books were nearly impossible to get, so all information had to be committed to memory, and that subjects like philosophy, arts, etc were taught from the earliest ages, and not reserved for “College”.

    In the case of Acts 4:13, Peter and John were being compared to “Scribes” who generally could write, and made a living from being “educated”. Hardly the same as being “uneducated”. I am uneducated compared to William Lane Craig, but I still have a BA so I am not uneducated.

    PF: your argument is invalid. I did not mention whether I believed in the trinity or the rapture..

    1. Geoff, I didn’t really make an argument, I was complete flabbergasted that someone could assert something so completely contrary to common sense.

      You actually made some unsubstantiated statements. Most ancients (I presume you mean Jews) memorized scripture, learned philosophy to modern post-grad standards, and so on. Any basis for that?

      There are at least two aspects to this.

      One is that, the vast vast majority of ancients were illiterate. Now you don’t exactly dispute that, but seem to think memorizing stories counts as highly educated. That is silly, to put it mildly.

      You also mention education systems, of which there were none for the vast majority of people, who basically spent most of their lives subsisting. Homes would not have paper or writing elements and most people probably only rarely even encountered writing. Contrast that to the present, where there are pens and papers and magazines and televisions and computers and video games and restaurants and milk jugs and on and on — you can’t get away from writing.

      As far as the quality goes, well, most ancients knew the sun revolved around the earth and demons caused illness and all sorts of crazy stuff.

    2. Geoff,

      I agree that Jewish education started early (it had been formalised in the previous century and was further refined in Jesus’ era) but it was still very basic.

      Boys learned the Law from as young as 5 or 6 (Jonathan Went of Leadership University has written a good article on this). Most of their education consisted of rote learning and did not involve any form of literacy. Oral tradition was

      Needless to say, Jewish education consists of almost nothing but the Torah and midrashim. There were no classes in philosophy, arts, etc. and any form of Gentile knowledge was shunned, including the study of foreign languages.

      Josephus admits his own Greek is poor for this very reason: “I have also taken a great deal of pains to obtain the learning of the Greeks, and understand the elements of the Greek language, although I have so long accustomed myself to speak our own tongue, that I cannot pronounce Greek with sufficient exactness; for our nation does not encourage those that learn the languages of many nations” (Antiquities of the Jews 20,11.2).

      Writing was a skill usually reserved for professional classes, but even reading was not a high priority outside the religious leadership and rabbinical families. We cannot speak of “literacy” in the 1st Century without serious qualification.

      I agree the accusation of ignorance levelled at Peter and John in Acts 4:13 likely refers to an absence of formal rabbinical training. However, these Galilean fishermen would have been functionally illiterate even by the standards of the day, since “literacy was a predominantly urban phenomenon” (Hezser, C. 2001, Jewish literacy in Roman Palestine, p. 496) and they did not belong to a socio-economic class to whom this skill was relevant.

      The current consensus is that less than 10% of the 1st Century Jewish population enjoyed true literacy (e.g. reading and limited writing skills) while perhaps between 10-15% were able to read and sign their own names.

  12. PF,

    You could start by even the most basic of searches on some media, like wikipedia.. That will at least give you a few references to material written on the subject for you to get in depth articles.

    One thing is certain, you are confusing what you think education _should_ be like from today’s perspective. As I said, we consider someone literate ONLY if they can read and write, this was not the case in the first century. You only had to be able to read to be considered “educated”.

    They were not only memorising “stories”, but they had to memorise EVERYTHING.. but, you’re obviously not really interested.. you obviously have some kind of agenda, and I’m not interested.

  13. We consider someone literate only if they can read because that is the definition of the word.

    What is this, a Monty Python skit?

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