Friday, March 04, 2005

Arguments against the Trinity, part 4

I'll try to finish this today.

Another argument against the Trinity uses the indiscernibility of identicals. Jehovah's Witnesses don't like to admit that they use philosophy, but they do. We all do. It's inescapable. Basically, they argue that Jesus is not God by demonstrating that there are things that are true about God that are not true about Jesus, and vice versa. If Jesus was God, then whatever is true of Jesus is true of God, and whatever is true of God is true of Jesus.

One example is Mark 13:32 which says there's at least one thing that Jesus does not know. If there's something Jesus does not know, then Jesus is not all-knowing. If Jesus is not all knowing, and God is all knowing, then Jesus is not God.

This, to me, seems like a totally reasonable argument. It seems to me, though, that the strong case for the Trinity that is evident throughout the Bible should give us reason to look into the matter a little further. Either the Bible contradicts itself, or else somebody has a misunderstanding.

I think the answer to Mark 13:32 can be found in Philippians 2:5-11. In this passage, it says that Jesus emptied himself, taking on the form of a servant. What does it mean when it says he emptied himself? Well, most people (especially Trinitarians) take that to mean Jesus gave up the independent use of his divine attributes when he became a man. Although he still had his divine attributes, he did not make use of them.

How is it, though, that Jesus can both know something and not know it at the same time? Isn't that a blatant contradiction? Not really, because he can know things in different senses. For example, there are things in our heads that we haven't thought of in years. I'll give you a personal example. Recently, I heard a song from back in the 80's that I haven't thought about in years. I probably couldn't have thought it up if I had tried. But when I heard the song, I recognized it, and even remembered the words. It would be impossible for me to have done that if that information were not already in my head. The fact that it was in my head, though, doesn't mean that I made access to it. I hadn't made access to it in years.

Another example is when you forget something. When you forget something, do you cease to know it? Only in a sense. In another sense, you still know it. That infomation is still in your head. Otherwise, you wouldn't be able to remember it later. You can only remember things that are still in your head.

So it's possible to know something in the sense of possessing the knowledge, while at the same time not knowing something in the sense of not making access to that information. Jesus emptied himself of the use of his divine attributes, like omniscience, but he did not for that reason cease to be omniscient.

I'll be honest with you. If I did not already think the Biblical case for the Trinity were very strong, I would find this explanation a bit of a stretch. But it's not a stretch if the Trinity has strong Biblical support, which I think it does.

Since it's about to be the weekend, and I just have one more small argument to go, and I don't usually write on the weekends, I'll go ahead and throw this last argument in there. That way, we can be done with the Trinity, and in keeping with what I said to Safiyyah, I can post something lighter.

This last argument comes from Mark 10:18. This is where somebody referred to Jesus as "Good teacher," and Jesus said, "Why do you call me good? Nobody is good but God alone." Jehovah's Witnesses take Jesus' question to be rhetorical. They think Jesus is correcting the man.

Although frequently used, I have never quite understood how a Christian can make this argument with a straight face. Think about it. If Jesus is correcting the man, then he's denying that he's good. If somebody ever brings this scripture up in order to prove that Jesus is not God, just ask them, "So are you saying that Jesus is not good?" How are they going to answer that in light of the fact that the Bible says Jesus is completely without sin? Jesus is good in every sense of the word. Contrary to denying that he's God in Mark 10:18, Jesus is claiming to be God. He is using the other man's own words and taking them to their logical conclusion. This is his argument:

1. Only God is good.
2. Jesus is good.
3. Therefore, Jesus is God.

Jesus provided the first premise, the other man provided the second premise, and the conclusion follows necessarily. We can't deny the first premise, because Jesus himself said it. We can't deny the second premise either, because the Bible is clear that Jesus was spotless, blameless, and perfectly without sin.

That's it.

5 Comments:

At 3/04/2005 2:47 PM , Blogger Kelly said...

This is really a great post. It's great to be prepared for questions that I would've never thought of.

As far as Jesus abandoning His divine attributes, do you think an argument like this could work? Because of the constaints of His physical body, Jesus couldn't be omniscient. Could this be another possible reason that He couldn't "know" the second coming? Maybe that knowledge just couldn't fit into His new human constraints?

This commentary even says that He knew, but His human soul only had certain knowledge communicated to it.

I really don't enjoy pontificating about theology without Biblical backup, but this verse and the point you bring up is very interesting.

Great point about Mark 10:18 also. I find myself reading Scripture and in my mind it sounds like conversations from current day. I have to remind myself that (1) conversation was different back then, (2) everything Jesus said was in the context of Him teaching, not conversing, and (3) the translation may not be 100% accurately conveying the context.

 
At 3/06/2005 12:47 AM , Blogger ephphatha said...

I've heard several different ways of reconciling Jesus' divine nature with his human nature. The whole issue of the incarnation is a complicated subject, and I haven't really delved into it that deeply. Some views out there, though, I take issue with, because they make it seem like Jesus has two minds. You have to be careful not to construe it in such a way that Jesus comes out looking like he's two persons.

 
At 3/11/2012 6:35 PM , Blogger kevin swan said...

sam
thanks for this.

 
At 2/11/2013 12:33 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sammy-boy, good Trinity series!

This vital doctrine is come under increased attack in these times.

The End Times are upon us indeed. Persevere, dear brothers! Endure, dear friends!

 
At 2/11/2013 12:36 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sammy-boy, good trinty-series!

This vital doctrine is under increased attack in these last times.

The End Times are upon us. Persevere dear brothers! Endure, dear friends!

 

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