Thursday, March 31, 2005

The unenlightened Bodhisattva of Mahayana Buddhism

Each Mahayana Buddhist takes the bodhisattva vows. That's where they vow not to enter Nirvana until every blade of grass is enlightened. The highest virtue in Mahayana Buddhism is compassion, which compells them to take this vow. Whenever a Mahayana Buddhist reaches enlightenment, they come back in their next life as a bodhisattva--a reborn being whose purpose in life is to help others reach enlightenment.

The big problem with this whole idea of a bodhisattva is that nobody remembers their previous life. (Let's just ignore for the moment the problems inherent in denying the self, which logically entails that the person reborn is not the person who reached enlightenement in the previous incarnation.) If nobody remembers their previous life, then they're not born enlightened in their new life. They've got to reach enlightenment all over again. What good does it do anybody to reach enlightenment at the end of their lives if they can't remember anything in their next life, and they have to get enlightened all over again?

The irrationality of Buddhism

On the first day of class, my comparitive religion teacher, who is a Mayahana Buddhist, said, "Christianity is an irrational religion. Buddhism is a rational religion." I was shocked at what he said, because I had taken three of his classes before, and every semester, I had gotten into a debate with him about the validity of logic. I, a Christian, have defended logic, and he, a Buddhist, has rejected it. Every semester, he has us reading irrational non-sense like Morris Berman's Reenchantment of the World. He has continually pushed his irrational anti-logic, anti-science, anti-reason point of view every semester I've had him.

Well, it turns out that his illogical point of view comes from his Buddhist worldview. You see, there's this guy named Nagarjuna who lived in the second century and founded the Middle Way school of Mayahana Buddhism. In his writings, he denied all of the basic laws of logic--the law of identity, the law of non-contradiction, and the law of excluded middle. His philosophy is full of irrational nonsense, and my teacher apparently takes it very seriously.

If anybody is interested, there's a critique of Nagarjuna's arguments here.

Buddhism and the denial of self

I think the most problematic aspect of the Buddhist worldview is their view of the self. Buddhists believe everything is in a constant state of change. We are like flames. There is no essential self that maintains identity through change. I am literally not the same person I was a few minutes ago. A new person emerges every moment, and the old person goes out of existence. The only continuity between the new person and the old is causal. There is no enduring self, but there is a causal connection between the old and the new.

The first problem with the Buddhist denial of the self is that our knowledge of the self is incorrigible. We can know for an undeniable fact that we have a self, simply because we experience first person subjectivity. If there is consciousness, then there is somebody who possesses it. If there are thoughts and feelings, then there is somebody who is thinking and feeling them.

The second problem with denying the self is that it makes the ideas of karma and reincarnation incoherent. If there is no enduring self, then how can one person be reincarnated? The person who is reborn is not the same person who died. Since there's no enduring self, there's no way to maintain any continuity between the person who died and the person who was reborn. They are completely different persons, so reincarnation isn't even possible. And karma makes no sense either. Why should one person inherit the karma of another person?

Denying an enduring self is extremely counter-intuitive. It makes no sense of accountability. Since I'm literally not the same person who existed a few minutes ago, then I cannot be accountable for what the person did a few minutes ago. If we really took this view seriously, it would make no sense to punish criminals. Why punish one person for what another person did at an earlier time just because this person is causally connected to the previous person?

Denying the self is also counter-intuitive, because it means the memories you have are not your own. You were just caused to have these memories by some previous person who has now gone out of existence. You've got memories of a past you never really experienced since you just now came into existence. And you're about to pass these memories on to some other person who is about to come into existence while you go out of existence. You may remember having something to eat yesterday, but that never actually happened to you. It's not your memory.

The four noble truths of Buddhism

There are many factions within Buddhism just as there are within Christianity, but the thing that defines Buddhism is the four noble truths:

1. Life is suffering.
2. The cause of suffering is desire.
3. To get rid of suffering, one must get rid of desire.
4. To get rid of desire, one must follow the eight fold path.

I won't go into the eight fold path right now, but I just wanted to point out a problem in the four noble truths. The problem is that the only reason anybody would pay any attentionn to it is if they had a desire to get rid of suffering. But desire is the cause of suffering. Do you see the problem here? One can't even begin to get rid of suffering until one embraces the very cause of suffering. One must have a desire to get rid of desire, so one must embrace what he's trying to avoid. As soon as one has a desire to get rid of suffering, he increases his suffering.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Buddhists and Jehovah's Witnesses

Today, I'm going to do something different. In keeping with what I said yesterday, I'm not going to pick on the Jehovah's Witnesses today. In fact, I'm not going to make any argument at all. I'm just going to make what strikes me as an interesting observation about Buddhists and Jehovah's Witnesses. As you know, I'm taking a comparitive religion class, and we just finished Buddhism last week. I wanted to write about Buddhism, but I was sick. I've still got a few things I want to say about Buddhism, but I figured by making this observation, I could make a nice smooth transition from picking on Jehovah's Witnesses to picking on Buddhists.

What is the absolute worst thing that can happen to a person according to Jehovah's Witnesses? You see, they don't believe God will send anybody to hell, but they do believe God punishes the wicked. So what's the most God-awful thing God can do to them? He can wipe them out of existence. In fact, that's what he does. To be extinguished is, to Jehovah's Witnesses, the absolute worst thing that can happen to you. Annihilation is reserved for the willfully wicked.

What is the ultimate goal of Buddhists? What is the absolute best thing that can happen to them? The best thing that can happen to a person according to Buddhists is they can enter Nirvana. Nirvana literally means "extinguished." You basically cease to exist. To reach Nirvana is to escape the cycle of birth and rebirth--to rise above karma. When you reach Nirvana, you get absorbed into the emptiness of reality, and cease to exist as an individual. The compassion of the Mahayana Buddhists is so great that they will take a vow not to enter Nirvana until every blade of grass is enlightened. That way, everything--every blade of grass--can enter Nirvana and become extinguished.

Isn't that interesting? One religion thinks being extinguished is the most horrible thing that can happen to a person, and it's the ultimate punishment of God. Another religion things being extinguished is the most wonderful thing that can happen to a person, and it's the ultimate goal. I just find that interesting.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Guilt by association and Jehovah's Witnesses

After this, I'll stop picking on the Jehovah's Witnesses for a while. I don't know how long of a while, though. I was planning on writing about the bodily resurrection of Jesus and resurrection in general, at which time I planned to pick on the JW's again. I'll pick on the Catholics one of these days, too. And I also plan on picking on the Unitarian Universalists. I was going to pick on the Buddhists, too, but that was all going to happen while I was sick. Now I'll have to do that another time.

Guilt by association is where you fault an idea because some nasty person believed in it. It's a fallacy, because whether an idea is true or not has nothing to do with who believes it. Even Hitler believed that two and two make four.

Jehovah's Witnesses will often fault the Trinity because the big bad Constantine believed in it and even enforced it by the sword. Or they'll point to all the mean nasty crusaders who believed in the Trinity. Supposedly, this has some bearing on whether or not the Trinity is true. Well, it doesn't. It's irrelevent whether Constantine believed in the Trinity or not. And it's historically inaccurate to imply that he invented it.

Friday, March 25, 2005

The genetic fallacy and Jehovah's Witnesses

Here's another fallacy Jehovah's Witnesses use in their arguments. They use this fallacy in several arguments, but the most common is in their argument against celebrating Christmas.

The genetic fallacy is when you argue agaist a present thing or idea based on its shady past or origins. You assume that what was true in the past is true in the present. For example, suppose drums were originally invented for use in conjuring up the spirits of dead ancestors. A person would be committing the genetic fallacy if, for that reason, they thought using drums in the present is bad. Just because people use drums today doesn't mean they pour any spiritual significance in it.

Jehovah's Witnesses will point out that many aspects of the Christmas celebration originated from a pagan holiday--Saturnalia. It took place on December 25th, etc. The Chrismas tree bears some similarities to ashera poles. All of these observations are used to argue that Christians shouldn't celebrate Christmas, but this is a clear example of the genetic fallacy. Just because Saturnalia was celebrated on December 25, or just because people cut down trees to make ashera poles doesn't mean people who celebrate Christmas today pour any pagan meaning into their celebration. There's nothing inherently wrong with cutting down a tree, putting it in the living room, and decorating it anymore than there's something wrong with beating a drum. And there's nothing wrong with giving gifts. There's nothing wrong with having a big dinner with your family. And there's nothing wrong with doing these things for the purpose of celebrating the birth of Jesus. And there's nothing wrong with doing it on a particular day that happens to have also been the day Saturnalia (or any other pagan holiday) was celebrated.

The same thing applies to Easter. Although some aspects of a pagan holiday have been retained (such as rabbits and easter eggs), that doesn't mean Christian pour any of those meanings into their celebration of Easter today. There's nothing inherently wrong with Easter eggs, rabbits, or candy.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

I've been sick

In case anybody is wondering why I haven't posted anything new lately, it's because I've been sick, and I have felt like it. I'll start posting again when I get to feeling better.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

A punitive God

In my western civilization class several years ago, our teacher said, "My God is not punitive." I am often surprised at the aversion people have to the idea that God would punish anybody. The view seems odd to me. If the ultimate authority in the universe can't punish anybody, then what right do we have to punish people? And yet most people have no problem with sending criminals to jail. Does it strike anybody else as completely backwards that the government would have the right to punish people, but God doesn't?

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Why does God want us to worship him?

God doesn't need anything from us. He doesn't even need us to stroke his ego. Why, then, does he require us to worship him?

J. Budziszewski addressed this topic very briefly in his book, What We Can't Not Know and it got me to thinking about it.

We all recognize that we owe gratitude to people we recieve a benefit from. That's why we should thank somebody for a gift or a favour. Well ultimately, all gifts and things, and even our very existence, comes from God, so we owe the ultimate gratitude to God. That's basically what Budziszewski said, but don't take that as a quote, because it's just the general idea I got from him, and that was several months ago.

Since morality has its origin in God, then God must enforce what's right--even the ultimate gratitude that we owe him. Worship is the expression of that ultimate form of gratitude.

It has nothing to do with God's ego. In fact, it's not even possible for God to have an inflated ego. Anselm defined God as a being than which none greater can be conceived. Not even God can conceive of a greater greatness than his own, because no greater greatness is possible.

Monday, March 14, 2005

When not to use an exfoliate

The next time you begin to itch for no apparent reason, and somebody says,"Hey, why don't you just take a shower and scrub yourself down with Aloofa? It worked for me," don't listen to them!

Friday, March 11, 2005

cake and ice cream

Have you ever been to one of those cake and ice cream parties where they give you cake and ice cream together on a plate with a fork? A plate and fork may be okay for cake, but that's just not the way ice cream is meant to be eaten. Ice cream belongs in a bowl, and it's better eaten with a spoon.

I've noticed that the more classy the party is, the more likely you are to get ice cream on a plate with a fork. That makes absolutely no sense to me. You'd think that the classier people are, the more intelligent they would be. Do these people not realize the impracticality of their practice? Do they not realize how much better it is to separate the cake and ice cream, and to eat the ice cream in a bowl with a spoon? Having gone through the frustration of saving a cake from melting ice cream, and then chasing the ice cream around a plate with a fork only to have it become impossible to eat with a fork, you'd think these people would wise up.

The one exception is ice cream on a brownie.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Affirming the Consequent with Jehovah's Witnesses

It is possible to write an entire book on logical fallacies and use nothing but Jehovah’s Witness arguments for examples.

Everybody uses logic when they reason. They just don’t use it formally. They don’t spell out their premises and their conclusions explicitly. The arguments are more implicit. To really think carefully about the arguments people make, you have to be able to reformulate their arguments explicitly. Doing so can be very revealing. Here’s an example:

Jehovah’s Witnesses will point to 2 Timothy 3:12, which says that “everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” Then they will point out how badly they are persecuted. (Usually, voicing your disagreements with them is enough for them to call it persecution.) That’s it. They’ll stop right there. But what’s the point they’re trying to make? You see, this is an example of how people don’t spell out their arguments. They just hint around at it, and you have to take the hint. But the point is usually obvious. They’re pointing to 2 Timothy 3:12 and the fact that they are persecuted in order to show that they are the true Christians.

When you spell this argument out explicitly, you can see that it commits one of the most basic formal logical fallacies there is. It’s one of the first that you’ll learn about if you ever take a logic class. Here’s the argument put formally.

1. If you want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus, then you will be persecuted.
2. Jehovah’s Witnesses are persecuted.
3. Therefore, Jehovah’s Witnesses want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus.

This argument commits the fallacy of affirming the consequent. It is logically invalid.

A valid modus ponens looks like this:

1. If P then Q
2. P
3. Therefore, Q.

But the Jehovah’s Witness argument affirms the consequent instead of the antecedent, and their argument takes this form:

1. If P then Q
2. Q
3. Therefore, P

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

The geographical fallacy

Have you ever had somebody try to refute your religion by saying something like, "If you had been born somewhere else, you'd have a completely different religion"? Supposedly, your religious beliefs are not justified since it's just a product of geography.

By that reasoning, none of our beliefs are justified since they are all a product of our environment. If I had been born at another place at another time, I would probably believe the earth is flat. The only reason I believe the earth is round is because of when and where I grew up. Does that mean my belief in the roundness of the earth is unjustified? Of course not.

It isn't enough to point out that our beliefs are the result of our environment. We have to go a little deeper and find out what it is about our environment that caused our beliefs. In some cases, the reason people form their beliefs is because they have access to information that isn't as readily available to people living somewhere else.

If you think about it, this whole argument from geography is self-refuting. The premise is that since our beliefs are formed by geography, they're not justified. But would the person be making that argument say the same thing if they had been born somewhere else? Maybe not. By their own standard, then, their belief in the premise is not justified.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Fun with fallacies: equivocation

This one is just for you, Safiyyah. Something light.

One of the difficulties in reasoning with people is the ambiguity of language. Language can be ambiguous, because most words have more than one meaning. It isn't always obvious that a person is pouring a different meaning into their words than you are in yours.

Some people like to capitalize on the ambiguity of language--especially lawyers.

Let me just make an aside while I'm thinking about it. If you ever want to learn how to make fallacious arguments, watch lawyers. They are experts at using logical fallacies to their advantage. A logical fallacy can seem quite pursuasive to people who have no critical thinking skills. Luckily for lawyers, most people have a complete lack of critical thinking skills. Before I launch into an attack on the educational system in this country, let me get back to my point.

Anyway, the fallacy of equivocation is when you use a word that has two different meanings in two different contexts as if it had the same meaning in both contexts.

I was reading a thing about the fallacy of equivocation one time, and it gave several examples of arguments that committed the fallacy of equivocation. One of them struck me as pretty funny, and I decided to use it for entertainment purposes.

Here's what I did. I went up to a co-working and had the following conversation (I'm reconstructing to the best of my memory--this happened over a year ago):

Sam: What's your favourite thing to eat?

Patricia: Lasagne.

Sam: So there's nothing better than lasagne, huh?

Patricia: Nope.

Sam: What about lima beans? Do you like lima beans?

Patrica: No, not really.

Sam: But they're better than nothing, right? I mean you'd eat them if you had nothing else to eat wouldn't you?

Patricia: Yeah, I guess they're better than not having anything to eat at all.

Sam: Well if lima beans are better than nothing, and nothing is better than lasagna, then lima beans are better than lasagna.

Patricia: Huh?

At this point, I drew her an illustration to explain the transitive property. Here's another example of the transitive property:

Jim is taller than Dan.
Dan is taller than Bob.
Therefore, Jim is taller than Bob.

I was doing the same thing.

Lima beans are better than nothing.
Nothing is better than lasanga.
Therefore, lima beans are better than lasagna.

She finally got it when I put it like this:

Lima beans > nothing.
Nothing > lasagna
So, Lima beans > lasagna

Then for good measure (she's a little slow) I wrote it like this:

Lima beans > nothing > lasagna ==> lima beans > lasagna

When she finally understood the transitive property, she said, "Well, I guess you're right!" I still play that little game with people sometimes.

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.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Arguments against the Trinity, part 3

Another argument against the deity of Jesus comes from passages that supposedly show that Jesus was created. If he was created, then he's not God. One of those arguments comes from the fact that he is called the "firstborn of all creation" in Colossians 1:15. "Firstborn of all creation" is taken to mean "the first thing that was created."

Answer: Although etymologically, "firstborn" refers to the first one born, the meaning of the word evolved beyond that well before Jesus' time. Traditionally, the first son born was also preeminent among his siblings, and eventually "firstborn" began taking on a meaning other than its etymology would suggest. "Firstborn" can even be applied to somebody who was not the first son born to his parents.

In this case, "firstborn" is a messianic title that comes from Psalm 89:27. From v. 20, we can see that the passage refers to David whom God calls "my servant" and whom God anointed. (Remember "messiah" means "anointed one.") In verse 27 it says, "I also shall make him my firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth." David was neither the first son of his parents, nor was he the first king of Israel. "Firstborn," strictly refers to David's preeminence. "Firstborn" simply means the "highest of the kings of the earth." David himself never actually became the highest of the kings of the earth. Many of these references to David, especially when used in an eschatological sense, refer to David's descendent--the messiah who would come (e.g. Ezekiel 37:24-25). In v. 29, it says, "So I will establish his descendants forever, and his throne as the days of heaven." This whole passage, then, is eschatological, because the throne of David is reestablished with the eschatological messiah--Jesus. "Firstborn" is a messianic title when used of Jesus in Colossians 1:15. It does not refer to his creation.

The context of Colossians 1:15 bears this out. The whole passage is about Jesus' preeminence over creation. The argument is that Jesus is preeminent over creation because he created it all, and he sustains it all. It was made by him and for him. If "firstborn of all creation" means "the first thing that was created," the whole passage becomes incoherent.

Some argue that "firstborn of all creation" means that "firstborn" is a member of the category "creation," which would imply that the firstborn is one of the things created. Again, this interpretation is ruled out by the context. Paul emphasizes the exhaustiveness of everything that was created by Jesus when he says, "both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities" (v. 16). Since there is absolutely nothing created apart from Jesus (which is consistent with John 1:3), then Jesus himself could not be created.

Against the Trinity, part 4

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Arguments against the Trinity, part 2

Argument from Jesus' subordination: "The Father is greater than I" (John 14:28; see also 1 Corinthians 15:20-28). This argument is meant to show that Jesus is not coequal with the Father, and is therefore not God. Remember that according to the Trinity, the Father and the Son are coequal and coeternal, because they are the same being. If it can be shown that they are not coequal, that argument alone would refute the Trinity.

Answer: This argument equivocates on the word "equal." That is, it shows that the Father and the Son are not equal in one sense in order to prove that they are not equal in some other sense. According to the doctrine of the Trinity, the Father and the Son are equal in the ontological sense. That is, they are equal in nature, being, value, etc. But all John 14:28 and 1 Corinthians 15:20-28 show is that Jesus is not equal with the Father in a functional sense.

To clarify what I mean by this distinction, let's look at 1 Corinthians 11:3, which says, "But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ." In this passage, God is the head of Christ in the same sense that the man is the head of a woman. Headship is a function of a relationship between two persons. One is the head of the other. But clearly, men are not superior beings than women. Ontologically speaking, men and women are equal. They have the same nature and value, and they are equal heirs of eternal life. Men and women are ontologically equal, because they are the same kind of being--human. The same holds true for God and Christ. God is the head of Christ in a functional sense, but ontologically, they are equal. They are both God.

Another analogy is that between the President and Vice President. The President is greater than the Vice President in terms of their office, authority, etc. Ontologically, however, they are equal, because they are both human beings.

to be continued... Against the Trinity, part 3

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Arguments against the Trinity, part 1

As I said earlier, I was mainly thinking about Arians (particularly, Jehovah's Witnesses) when I did this outline, so most of these objections aren't the sort of objections a modalist would have.

A large majority of the arguments Jehovah's Witnesses make are basically all the same. They go something like this:

1. The Father is God.
2. Jesus is not the Father.
3. Therefore, Jesus is not God.

Several scriptures are cited in order to prove the same point--that Jesus is not the Father, and is therefore not God. The problem with all of these arguments is that they all beg the question. That is, they assume in the premises what they are trying to prove. The first premise (that the Father is God) is really meant to say that only the Father is God, which is the issue under dispute.

You can answer each of these arguments the same way--by showing that the scriptures are consistent with the Trinity. Here are some examples of how removing the unitarian assumption renders the Trinity logically consistent:

I. Jesus prays to the Father, not to himself, so Jesus is not God. One example might be Matthew 27:46 (Psalm 22:1) where Jesus says, "My God, my God, why have your forsaken me?" Since Jesus didn't mean, "Myself, myself, why have I forsaken myself?" he's obviously talking to somebody else. Jesus, then, is being distinguished from God, and this supposedly means that Jesus is not God. But that argument only works if you assume God is one person. If God is one person, and Jesus is distinguished from God, then Jesus is not God. But whether God is one person is the issue under dispute. It can be shown that this scripture is consistent with the Trinity by removing the unitarian assumption like so:

1. Both the Father and the Son are God (trinitarian assumption).
2. The Son prays to the Father.
3. Therefore, the Son prays to God.

II. Jesus is the son of God, not God himself. Again, this argument only works if you assume God is one person. If only the Father is God, and Jesus is not the Father, then Jesus is not God. Here's how you show that it's consistent for Jesus to be both God and the son of God.

1. Both the Father and the Son are God.
2. Jesus is the Son of the Father.
3. Therefore, Jesus is the Son of God.

III. Jesus is the mediator between God and man, so Jesus is not God himself (1 Timothy 2:5). The same thing applies here. Since Jesus is mediator, he is distinguished from God, and is therefore not God. But this argument only works if you beg the question by assuming that God is only one person. If only the Father is God, and Jesus mediates between the Father and man, then Jesus is not the Father, and is therefore not God. But remove the unitarian assumption, and the passage is consistent with the Trinity.

1. Both the Father and the Son are God.
2. Jesus is the mediator between man and the Father.
3. Therefore, Jesus is the mediator between man and God.

IV. The Father is the only true God, so Jesus is not God (John 17:3). Jehovah's Witnesses often just don't read this passage carefully enough. The passage says that the Father is the only true God. It does not say that only the Father is God. Witnesses beg the question by assuming that since the Father is the only true God, that only the Father is the true God.

1. There is only one true God.
2. Both the Father and the Son are God.
3. Therefore, the Father is the only true God, and the Son is also the only true God.

Once you see the pattern, this takes care a the majority of arguments against the Trinity that Arians raise. They all assume that only the Father is God (and therefore beg the question) in order to prove that the Son is not God. All these passages show is that the Father and the Son are not the same person, which is consistent with the Trinity.

Question-begging arguments are the most common arguments against the Trinity, but there are a few other kinds, and I'll cover those in my next blog.

Against the Trinity, part 2