Monday, June 27, 2011

Do Rocks Dream of Ceramic Sheep? OR Jade Runner

Continuing my dialogue with Mike Gantt (AKA "BLOGFORTHELORDJESUS")

Mike, I'm done adding to my last post. Any additional changes will be spelling, grammar, or typo corrections.

What follows is my response to you additional comments at:

You said...Link
I had asked you to explain how multiple persons could exist as one being. You gave a very long response to that question but I could not find anything in it that addressed the question. Since this distinction is the logical foundation upon which the entire doctrine of the Trinity rests, it would seem Trinitarians would have formulated a reasonable answer to this by now. Do you not have one?

Eastern Orthodoxy's version of the Trinity explains this by distinguishing between God's essence and energies. There are problems with the EO view of the Trinity. The folks a Triablogue have pointed many of them out. When it comes to the Western/Latin understanding(s) (versions) of the Trinity, I would again recommend reading John Piper's sermon which is based on Edwards' essay, which itself echos Thomas Aquinas' speculations, which echos Augustine's speculations.

Here's a link to Aquinas' Summa Theologica where he deals with the Trinity

I was actually quoting Scripture when I said that Christ was God’s mystery (Ephesians 3:4; Colossians 4:3; and especially Colossians 2:2). Neither you nor anyone else will be able to cite Bibles verses which identify the Trinity as God’s mystery.

You seem to be appealing to those passages eisegetically rather then exegetically. The word "mystery" as used in the New Testament refers to something that hadn't been revealed in the past, but has now been revealed. Both Dispensationalist and Covenant theologians affirm that that's the meaning of the Greek word. It doesn't mean "mystery" as we in our modern world use the word to refer to something that's still hidden or not revealed or unknowable (either in the meantime or in principle).

Ephesians 3:4 has to do with the now revealed truth that gentiles were part of God's plan of salvation all along but only hinted at in the OT. But now revealed openly in the New Covenant.

Eph. 4:
4 By referring to this, when you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ,
5 which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit;
6 to be specific, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel

Next you cite Col. 4:3. What in its context explains what the "mystery of Christ" Paul is referring to? Admittedly, just because Paul uses the same phrase as Eph. 3:4 doesn't mean Paul is talking about the same thing. But that's a possibility. So, the burden of proof is on you to show that Col. 4:3 has anything to do with our subject of the nature of God, rather than about the inclusion of the Gentiles.

Finally you cite Col. 2:2-3 which says, "that their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love, and attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God's mystery, that is, Christ Himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge."

The context of this passage is the first chapter of the book where Paul is arguing against proto-gnostics who were demoting Christ and denying his preeminence. But notice the kind of preeminence that Paul talks about in the first chapter.

Col. 1:
15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.
16 For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities--all things have been created through Him and for Him.

Notice that Paul says that all things have been created THROUGH him and for him. If Jesus is the Father, then how could the Father have created all things THROUGH him? Paul's wording would be superfluous since no one creates things through himself. People create things through other things or persons. I people don't say, "I created this sand castle through myself." Therefore, rather than weakening the case for the Trinity, it actually supports it by affirming the distinction between the Father and the Son prior to creation and prior to the incarnation.

Even if you don’t agree that this settles the case, you have to agree that this leaves the burden of proof on you.

No, the burden still remains on you because I've just shown that you've been spoof-texting Bible verses in the place of definition, and/or explanation and/or argument.

As I’ve told you, “my”model is the doctrine of Christ, which is explicitly taught in the Bible. I refer you there. If you don’t know the doctrine of Christ, how do you claim to follow Him?

I don't want to sound mean or arrogant, ungracious or rude, but this is just assertion without argument. Citing Bible verses doesn't prove anything since you need to exegete those passages. You need to make an argument. If I just cited Isa. 48:16 and said that verse proves the Trinity, you'd laugh at me because you know that I need to explain why the verse either proves or supports or hints at the doctrine of the Trinity. The fact is that Isa. 48:16 hints at the doctrine of the Trinity much more than your citations of Eph. 3:4, Col. 4:3, and 2:2 hint at your position (whatever it might be, since you still haven't explained to me what you believe).

So far, all you've done is claim that the Scriptural teaching on the nature of God is what Scripture teaches and then you attempt to prove it by citing Scripture. Not only is that tautological, but it's vacuous since you haven't explained what you mean by "the doctrine of Christ" or "the mystery of Christ". It's analogous to someone saying that the right millennial view is the one taught in Scripture. Then citing Rev. 20 as proof. Then condemning others for not accepting her interpretation even though no one knows what her interpretation of Rev. 20 is.

There are exegetical and logical reasons for why the church has been forced to formulate the doctrine of the Trinity.

Interesting. What are they?

Those books I've recommended are great places to start. If I knew what you actually believed, I could make better recommendations. But you still haven't revealed what you believe. From the very little you've said, I'm guessing your views are Modalistic-like. If so, then I would especially recommend E. Calvin Beisner's book "Jesus Only Churches" (which I've recommended previously).

As for your twelve premises, the conclusion of Trinity is embedded in them. That is, the reasoning is circular. It starts from the premise there are three divine beings which we have to reconcile with the idea that God is one.

None of the premises individually (i.e. explicitly) or by necessary logical implication (implicitly) says that there are three ***beings***. The doctrine of Latin Trinitarianism explictly and by intention denies there are three ***beings*** that are God. Maybe that's a typo on your part and you meant to type "three divine *persons* [instead of *beings*] which we have to reconcile with the idea that God is one."

Then, in Alice-in-Wonderland style, someone says “Let’s agree that three persons can exist in one being,” and – “Voila!” – we have our answer. This is human wisdom at its finest – which is to say, foolishness in the sight of God.

Well, I'm open to hearing how you reconcile those premises if you agree with each of them. Or if you reject some, which and why.

Leave out the premises related to the New Testament for the time being (which is to say, leave out any reference to Jesus in the premises). Why didn’t anyone in Israel feel compelled to similarly reconcile all the premises related to the Father and the Holy Spirit during those thousands of years before Christ?

Because, as I've said, and to which you've agreed, the revelation of God's nature and attributes was progressively revealed throughout Redemptive History. In my view, the Trinity was only hinted at in the Old Testament. In the New Testament it's more clearly revealed (even if not formulated with the precision of the Council of Nicaea, the Council of Constantinople I, the Council of Ephesus, or the Council of Chalcedon. Or any of the Trinitarian creeds (for example, the athanasian Creed

Here's another hint in the Old Testament to the Trinity.

Psalm 33:6
By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, And by the breath of His mouth all their host.

Is the "Word of the LORD" here a reference to the pre-incarnate Christ?
Is the "Breath of His mouth" here a reference to the Holy Spirit? The same word used for the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament is used for "breath" (e.g. Gen. 1:2). In this passage, it seems we have here 1. The LORD, 2. His Word and 3. His Breath/Spirit (viz. the Trinity?)

As for the Piper sermon, I found it to be a meditation on the Persons of the Trinity (and only the first two at that) rather than an explanation or proof of the Trinity doctrine.

There's more than one way to support a theory or hypothesis. One way is by inductive study. This would include going directly to the text of Scripture like those books I first recommended which were free. Another way is by deduction. Theologians have used (variations of) the premises I mentioned before to deduce the doctrine of the Trinity. Yet another way is by abductive reasoning which includes 1. showing the internal consistency of a theory, 2. showing it's superior explanatory power and scope. This involves asking someone else (or oneself) to temporarily step into that other hypothesis or worldview that he doesn't currently hold, and as best as one can, trying to see things ask if that hypothesis or theory were true and seeing how well the hypothesis works. Is it ad hoc? Does it conform to the principle of parsimony (i.e. Occam's Razor)? Does it fit with all the known and relevant facts/data etc. Btw, Edwards does go on to explain how the Holy Spirit might proceed from the Father and the Son.

Here's my summary:

In essence (pun intended), Piper and Edwards argue that God the Father has eternally had an infinitely perfect and intense knowledge of himself (self-knowledge) and all that he knows (natural/necessary knowledge). That intuitive, immediate and eternal self-knowledge is so intense, complete and perfect that it is itself another person, the pre-incarnate Christ (the Eternal Word and Son of God). If, you'd allow me to commit the fallacy of equivocation for a moment and rephrase it; God's eternal self-contemplation and self-REFLECTION metaphorically (or possibly ontologically and/or epistemologically) "mirrors" God himself. Or put another way, God's eternal self-CONCEPTION "conceives" or begets the person of the Son from all eternity (hence the doctrine of 1. Eternal Generation as well as 2. Eternal Sonship of Christ). Then the eternal love between the Father and Son is so intense, infinite and perfect that that love is itself another person, the Holy Spirit who proceeds from the love between the Father and the Son (which incidentally assumes the Filioque).

He was preaching to choir, and his starting point was that the doctrine of the Trinity was true. He never justified it. And when he came close to trying to justify it, he did poorly.

Again, I recommended the sermon not to "prove" the doctrine of the Trinity but to answer your question how it might be possible for three persons to share one being. Yes, you're right that multiple personality disorder is a manifestation of dysfunction in individual human beings. But that's because human beings are finite creatures that were made to be one person per body/nature. But what is unnatural for a finite creature shouldn't be the standard for, nor a required limitation on what is natural or possible for, with, or about the infinite God.

Of course, when Piper says this he’s relying on the ever-convenient-but-never-justified distinction between “person” and “being.”

I'm assuming you agree that the distinction between "being" and "person" is a real distinction that can be applied to anything in all of reality (created, or uncreated; that is, whether we be talking about a creature/creation or God). Moreoever, I assume that your complaint is not the reality of the distinction but rather the appeal to that distinction to prop up the doctrine of the Trinity. Would I be right here? Nevertheless, don't you agree that rocks, and trees, and cars, and stars, and dogs, and cats exist and have being or reality (i.e. possess stuff-ness), even if they don't have personality? I say, stuff-ness since, I can't really say "composed of stuff or made of stuff" since I can't say that God has being because he's "made" of or "composed" of stuff. God isn't made. Nor is God a composite of anything/any-thing. Yet, God is a thing. In other words, God has being. Every thing has being precisely because it is a "thing." Only nothing has no being, because it is literally no-thing.

Speaking of pets, that brings up another issue. Do you have a pet? Wouldn't you admit that pets have some sense of self-awareness even if they aren't "sentient" or "persons"? Wouldn't you agree that your self-awareness is much higher than that of a dog or a cat that can respond to your moods and which have their own moods and preferences etc? If your self-awareness and self-consciousness far surpasses that of dogs and cats, then isn't it possible that God's self-awareness and personality far, far, far, far, far surpasses and exceeds yours?

Here's another analogy. Have you ever had a dream where you are having a conversation with somebody in the dream and there seemed to be two or more genuine separate people in your dream perception? I think we've all had that experience. Here's an extreme example. More than once I've had a dream where I was having a conversation with someone who was telling me a joke and I found the joke so funny that I *literally* woke up laughing. Yet, the joke was told TO ME, BY ME. Somehow my brain was functioning as if it were two different people. As I was listening to the joke I didn't know what the punchline was going to be, and when it was delivered, it was genuinely surprising. Yet, at the same time, *I* was telling the joke (to me!). Maybe something like that is the case with God. Though, admittedly, my analogy might border on Modalism. But I did say it's an analogy. I've had other dreams that had a coherent story and a conclusion that made sense in such a way as if my brain wrote the story in advance "jigsaw puzzle style" even though I wasn't conscious of it. Of course, it's possible that these examples were brought about by the special influence of demons or of God. But I have no reason to think that. They were mundane dreams that had no indication of coming from an outside intelligence. Even computers multi-task in such a way that they acts as if they are multiple computers. Though, admittedly the analogy breaks down since Western theological tradition affirms the Simplicity of God whereby God is not made up of parts. Rather, God is indivisible, uncompounded, incomplex.

Like you, I can only continue our dialogue as time permits. :^)

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