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Bowman, the Bible and Trinitarian Apologetics

Part 3

by Greg Stafford


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BOWMAN:
Posted by R. Bowman (via lsi) on June 02, 1998 at 20:08:01:

Like Father, Like Son:
Stafford, the Bible, and Trinitarianism, Part II
By Rob Bowman

In this post I will respond to Greg Stafford's arguments concerning the significance of the terms "Father" and "Son," especially in reference to whether they imply a temporal origin of the Son.

As an illustration of the point that the Bible uses anthropomorphic language for God, I had written that since other biblical texts state explicitly that God knows everything, we should "understand the language of God finding out or asking as anthropomorphic." Greg replied:

>Anthropomorphic for what? The Bible frequently uses all-inclusive language when, in fact, such statements are meant to be taken in relation to something more specific, and not universally applied. So, if you would care to reference those verses which, to you, support your statements above concerning God's knowledge, then we can evaluate them. I am not saying they are untenable biblically, but I would prefer to examine the particular scriptures you have in mind.

I'm not sure I follow you here, Greg. You seem to be saying that God is not all-knowing. Is that right?



STAFFORD:
Let us consider the context of my reply. The following is from Bowman, the Bible, and Trinitarianism:



<<<QUOTE>>>
Rob Bowman:
Here I'll try to use a less controversial example. Statements in the Bible about God going down to earth to find out what is happening there, or asking people questions, do seem to many readers to imply that God does not know everything. However, since the Bible explicitly and flatly says God does know everything, I take that as a doctrinal premise and on that basis understand the language of God finding out or asking as anthropomorphic.

Greg Stafford:
Anthropomorphic for what? The Bible frequently uses all-inclusive language when, in fact, such statements are meant to be taken in relation to something more specific, and not universally applied. So, if you would care to reference those verses which, to you, support your statements above concerning God's knowledge, then we can evaluate them. I am not saying they are biblically untenable, but I would prefer to examine the particular scriptures you have in mind.

But on this matter of "knowing all things," your view has an inherent problem in terms of harmonizing statements in the Bible that reveal Jesus' dependency upon God for knowledge of divine things. (Rev. 1:1) Thus, while you accept the view that God knows absolutely every single thing that can be known, you do not hold this to be true in reference to Jesus, or, I should say (right?), in reference to his human nature. But this is where we get into real problems in terms of how many centers of consciousness Jesus has, and whether or not the Bible teaches what you claim.

<<<END OF QUOTE>>>



STAFFORD:
Now, notice: I asked you a specific question: What is anthropomorphic about "God going down to earth to find out what is happening there"? You responded: "By `anthropomorphic' I mean that the biblical statements about God coming down to find something out picture him rather like a father coming into his son's room to `find out what's going on' when he really already knows. The visit is really for the purpose of confrontation, not fact-finding." That may be true in some cases, Rob, but it is hardly the case that every time a parent checks on his or her child "they already know what they are going to find."

Now, again, notice that I said, "Such statements [those that are `all-inclusive'] are meant to be taken in relation to something more specific, and not universally applied." Now, let us see what your examples reveal:



BOWMAN:
Do I really need to provide you with biblical references to God knowing all things?



STAFFORD:
Why, yes, Rob, you do. For, as you can see, I made a specific claim as to the meaning of such all-inclusive statements.



BOWMAN:
Okay, but I would think you already know them (see, e.g., 1 Sam. 16:7; 1 Chron. 28:9, 17; Job 37:16; Ps. 139:1-4; Isa. 41:22-23; 42:9; 44:7; Jer. 17:10; Rom. 11:33; Heb. 4:12-13).



STAFFORD:
Let's consider them one at a time. The English is that of the NRSV:

1 Samuel 16:7 - "But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the LORD does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart."

Nothing about knowing all things here.

1 Chronicles 28:9 - ""And you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve him with single mind and willing heart; for the LORD searches every mind, and understands every plan and thought. If you seek him, he will be found by you; but if you forsake him, he will abandon you forever."

Here we are told that Jehovah "searches" every mind. Interestingly, the text itself tells us that Jehovah knows the thoughts of man because He examines (Hebrew: darash; LXX: ETAZO) "every heart" (kal levahvot). This does not say anything about "all things," and seems to reveal that Jehovah knows what He chooses to know. That is my position (see below).

I am not sure why you referenced 1 Chronicles 28:17. Did you have another verse in mind?

Job 37:16 - "Do you know the balancings of the clouds, the wondrous works of the one whose knowledge is perfect [tamym]."

Yes, the knowledge God has is perfect; it is not defective or erroneous. What He knows is trustworthy and complete.

Psalm 139:1-4 - "O LORD, you have searched [khaqar] me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away. You search out my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, O LORD, you know it completely."

Again we see that Jehovah searches out a person, and in so doing He comes to know "all their ways." This only further supports the view that God knows everything He chooses to know.

Isaiah 41:22-23 - "Let them bring them, and tell us what is to happen. Tell us the former things, what they are, so that we may consider them, and that we may know their outcome; Tell us what is to come hereafter, that we may know that you are gods; do good, or do harm, that we may be afraid and terrified."

How does this contradict the view that God knows whatever He chooses to know, which is expressed in Genesis 11:5?

Isaiah 42:9 - "See, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth, I tell you of them."

Of course Jehovah knows the things He declares! Whatever Jehovah foretells, He knows, and will bring about. This does not disprove the view that He chooses to know certain things, such as what is in a person's heart. In fact, the texts cited by you above have shown this to be true.

Isaiah 44:7 - "Who is like me? Let them proclaim it, let them declare and set it forth before me. Who has announced from of old the things to come? Let them tell us what is yet to be."

Again, this in no way contradicts the scriptural teaching that God chooses to know certain things. Whatever He wants to know, He knows, including "what is yet to be."

Jeremiah 17:10 - "I the LORD test the mind and search [khaqar] the heart, to give to all according to their ways, according to the fruit of their doings."

This is further support for my position that God knows what He chooses to know.

Romans 11:33 - "O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!"

Again, how does this contradict the view that God knows whatever He chooses to know?

Hebrews 4:12-13 - "Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And before him no creature is hidden, but all are naked and laid bare to the eyes of the one to whom we must render an account."

Yes, as we learned from your earlier examples, God searches the heart and mind, and thus we are all "laid bare to [His} eyes."

Not one of your references supports your view, and most of them support the view that God knows whatever He chooses to know. What were you trying to prove, Rob?

Also, Rob failed to address this portion of my reply: "But on this matter of `knowing all things,' your view has an inherent problem in terms of harmonizing statements in the Bible that reveal Jesus' dependency upon God for knowledge of divine things. (Rev. 1:1) Thus, while you accept the view that God knows absolutely every single thing that can be known, you do not hold this to be true in reference to Jesus, or, I should say (right?), in reference to his human nature. But this is where we get into real problems in terms of how many centers of consciousness Jesus has, and whether or not the Bible teaches what you claim."

Please explain, Rob.



BOWMAN:
I had written:

>Or, to take a more relevant example, when I read about God the Father in the Bible, a natural inference to make might be that there is a God the Mother. Nor is this hypothetical, as many Mormons popularly believe in just such a being. However, not only is no Heavenly Mother mentioned in the Bible, but the explicit statements about the nature of God as infinite Spirit and various other biblical teachings firmly rule out the possibility of a Heavenly Couple. This is more relevant to our discussion, since it shows that the term "Father" is itself an anthropomorphism, not to be taken at all literally.

Greg wrote:

>Well, actually it is not true that "there is no Heavenly Mother mentioned in the Bible." (Gal. 4:26) So, Mormons could argue, as you are attempting to do, that the concept of "God the Mother" is in fact rooted in the biblical text.



BOWMAN:
I am attempting to argue no such thing! I think you have worded yourself wrongly here. By the way, I have never met or read a Mormon who thought Galatians 4:26 was talking about "Mrs. God" (as I like to call her). Obviously, when I said that "there is no Heavenly Mother mentioned in the Bible," I meant that there is no person who might be described as such.



STAFFORD:
I am referring to the "natural inference" you made. Also, I am simply pointing out that we must consider the articulation that accompanies the reference in order properly understand the sense.



BOWMAN:
You continue:

Greg:
>You might counter by suggesting that the context refers to this as "Jerusalem," an impersonal entity, and they might argue that you are begging the question, for the text itself uses the feminine pronoun "she." But you and I both know that such terms are anthropomorphic, not because we
ignore the text, but because we recognize (at least JWs do) the spiritualization of Jerusalem as the "city having real foundation." Also, there is no unambiguous articulation of an ontological being known as God the Mother. Thus, without clear articulation, Rob, we are not at liberty to
insert concepts into the text that clash with ideas expressed elsewhere, just because we can bend the language in some way to conform to an otherwise biblically unsubstantiated teaching. That is why trinitarianism is untenable biblically, for there is no articulation of the concepts that are fundamental to the belief. So, really, trinitarians are no better off than the Mormons, when it comes to establishing their dogma by referencing biblical articulation for their position. >

Please notice that Greg has completely sidestepped the point I was making, which is that we cannot assume that what a word normally implies carries over to language about the Father and the Son.>



STAFFORD:
Rob, your point is an assumption. Where does the Bible articulate the view that every reference to a "father" must imply the existence of a "mother"? Who was the "mother" of the lie, Rob? (John 8:44; see below for more on this text) The term "father" is anthropomorphic in terms of helping us understand God's relationship with Jesus. This word brings to mind all the connotations that the readers of the text understood for "father." The term "mother" is in no way involved (see below).



BOWMAN:
Specifically, the lack of a Heavenly Mother illustrates my point that one cannot simply assume that ideas we associate with terms like "father" and "son" apply when we are talking about God the Father and his only Son.



STAFFORD:
Rob, you assume that which you have yet to prove, that is, how is it that the term "father" necessarily implies the existence of a "mother"? The term "father" has established connotations that are easily transferred to the spirit realm, in so far as it helps us to appreciate the relationship that exists between God and Christ. I have already given you one example where the term "father" is used of a spirit being, with the established connotations of "life-giver," "parent," etc. You have done nothing but assert that your view is true; you have offered no proof.



BOWMAN:
Since, despite the above paragraph, Greg agrees with me on the lack of a Heavenly Mother in the Bible, he really should have granted my premise. But then, he would have been hard-pressed to deny my conclusion.



STAFFORD:
You appear to be confused, Rob. My point about the Mormon's view of a Heavenly Mother should have been quite clear. Recall that I said: "There is no unambiguous articulation of an ontological being known as God the Mother. Thus, without clear articulation, Rob, we are not at liberty to insert concepts into the text that clash with ideas expressed elsewhere, just because we can bend the language in some way to conform to an otherwise biblically unsubstantiated teaching. That is why trinitarianism is untenable biblically, for there is no articulation of the concepts that are fundamental to the belief. So, really, trinitarians are no better off than the Mormons, when it comes to establishing their dogma by referencing biblical articulation for their position."

Now do you understand my point? There is no more articulation for your view than for the Mormons. In fact, they may even have more support than you do. But, still, the key issue is you are assuming a connection between "father" and "mother" that does not exist. The Bible uses the term "father" with certain, established connotations, apart from having a mother involved.



BOWMAN:
Greg continued:

>Of course, we are talking about "obvious" and "natural" meanings in the Bible, and the terms "son" and "father" are used throughout, both with reference to humans and spirit beings, without any difficulties, except for the Jews who rejected Jesus' identity as one of those sons.

Whoa, there. Please cite a reference in the Gospels where (a) Jesus claimed to be "one of those sons" or (b) the Jews understood Jesus to be claiming to be "one of those sons." I categorically deny that Jesus ever claimed to be one of a class of beings known as God's "sons."



STAFFORD:
There are several senses for the term "son," some of which are reserved for Jesus. In a broader sense the Bible speaks of a group of "sons," of which Jesus is the Firstborn. (Job 1:6; Col. 1:15) When the Bible says that the "sons of God entered in before Jehovah," should we not include God's only-begotten Son among them? The text does not exclude any of His sons from the group. Now, since the reference to "sons of God" was understood in the ancient world to denote a class of "gods" (see my book for details) then it is no surprise to find the Jews rejecting Jesus' claim to be "a god." (John 10:33) Of course, he had claimed to be "God's Son," which could also be translated "a son of God." -- John 10:36.



BOWMAN:
Now, back to your argument:

>Now, regarding your reference to "literal" meaning, you seem to imply that a literal meaning for the word "father" must necessarily involve physical procreation. How so? When used of humans we would naturally ASSOCIATE physical procreation with the word, but that is not a necessary part of the concept created by the semantic signals "father" and "son." For example, when Satan is referred to as "the father of the lie" (John 8:44), this clearly does not involve physical procreation, but the meaning that is at the forefront of the semantic signals conveyed by the term is similar to physical procreation, in terms of bringing something into existence. So, the terms need not imply the same process, but they do convey same basic idea.

Stop the presses again. First you assert that physical procreation is not a necessary part of the concept of "father" "when used of humans," but then give as your one example Satan's being called "the father of the lie." How is this supposed to illustrate, much less prove, your point? The use of the word "father" for Satan is not an instance of its being "used of humans"! (Forgive me for spelling out the obvious.)



STAFFORD:
Rob, will you please stop misquoting me? Thanks. NOWHERE do I say, "physical procreation is not a necessary part of the concept of `father' `when used of humans.' Please read my words CAREFULLY. I am saying just the opposite of what you have me saying: "When used of humans we would naturally ASSOCIATE physical procreation with the word, but that is not a necessary part of the concept created by the semantic signals `father' and `son.'" You see, first I made it clear that, when used of humans, we "would naturally ASSOCIATE physical procreation with the word." But I then make an observation relating to the concept of the word itself. I then give an example that supports my observation about the word "father."

Again, my words are not complicated: I make an observation about the term's use in reference to humans, and THEN I make an observation about what is not a necessary part of the "semantic signals [= words]" "father" and "son." I then give an example showing that the word "father" does not necessarily create the image of procreation, but that "the meaning that is at the forefront of the semantic signals conveyed by the term is similar to physical procreation, in terms of bringing something into existence. So, the terms need not imply the same process, but they do convey same basic idea."

It is no wonder trinitarians have such a distorted view of our teachings, for you and others are either intentionally misrepresenting our views, or just do not understand what we are talking about. I know, you and some others on this board are tired of hearing me say that, so I'll make you a deal: Stop misrepresenting what I say and I'll stop complaining about it.



BOWMAN:
Besides, in John 8:44 Satan is described as the "father," not of another person or being, but of
an abstraction, specifically "the lie," which immediately will be recognized by the typical reader as signaling that here we are not talking about a physical reproduction or procreation.



STAFFORD:
Another reason that would be clear, Rob, is the fact that Satan is not a physical being. Of course, we ARE discussing the concepts associated with the term "father" when used of a PERSON. Satan is a PERSON, so your point misplaced. The use of the term "father" in relation to the PERSON of Satan creates a mental image of one who brought something into existence, without a "mother."



BOWMAN:
Where there is a "father" in relation to an abstract idea, or an event, or an inanimate thing, no one would reasonably suppose a mother was implied.



STAFFORD:
When the word "father" is used in relation to a spirit being, no one would reasonably suppose that a mother was implied, either! But, again, you fail to realize that we are talking about the use of a term in reference to a PERSON. Also, the Bible does not articulate the view that spirit beings are male and female, and nowhere does the Bible speak of them as procreating like humans. Thus, you are again confusing sense and reference. No ancient reader of the Bible would have thought to view the situation involving God's fathering His sons as something analogous to human procreation. They knew God was "not a man." (Numbers 23:19) They would simply have transferred the meaning of the term as far as they could, knowing what they did about how God creates.



BOWMAN:
However, where there is a "father" in relation to a "son," normally there is somewhere a mother! The two terms must be considered together to understand the force of my argument. John 8:44 is totally irrelevant to the case at hand.



STAFFORD:
I am sure you would like others to think so, Rob. But you have failed to recognize that the term "father" is used of a PERSON in John 8:44, and we are interested in the concepts created by the word in reference to a particular type of being, a spirit being. Your comments are only true about HUMANS, and God is not a HUMAN! Even with respect to humans, you have not established that the words "father" or "mother" necessarily imply the existence of the other in producing a child. In fact, the Bible writers regularly refer to Mary as Jesus' mother, but this surely did not imply that Jesus had a human father, in terms of procreation. The word "mother" had/has established connotations that allow it to be used apart from "father," and "father" has connotations that allow it to be used apart from "mother," particularly when the one called "father" is not a "male," that is, when used in reference to God. You are making a statement that does not even apply in every case to humans, and acting as if we must take the same view, and all its associated details (which are not a part of the word's sense) when the terms are used of beings that are not human, beings that are not distinguished by their "sex." Sorry, Rob, you have not established that "mother" is a necessary part of the sense of the term "father."



BOWMAN:
I did not claim that a literal use of "father" necessarily involves physical procreation, although that would be arguably the most directly literal meaning of the term.



STAFFORD:
Only in reference to humans! The sense of the term depends on the reference. "Mother" is not a necessary implication of the word "father." When "father" is used of humans "mother" is not part of its sense; it is merely something we associate with the reference.



BOWMAN:
What I said was that Muslims "object on principle to calling Jesus God's "Son" because they cannot dissociate that term from the ordinary cause of sons, namely, sexual procreation." In
other words, the ideas that we "would naturally associate . . . with the word" (as you put it) may or may not apply to God or his Son. Rather than assume that any such idea applies, whether it be physical procreation (as the Mormons assert), temporal origin (as you assume), or identity of nature (as I argue), we must examine the Scriptures to see what they actually say about the Father and the Son.



STAFFORD:
That's right. And since humans and spirits do not reproduce in the same way, and since spirits are neither male nor female and do not procreate as we humans do, it is nonsense to assume that this would be part of the sense of the word "father" regardless of the reference. One thing is for sure, we have no scriptural basis for removing connotations such as the giving of life or the bringing about of some condition or state from the word "father." You are not examining the scriptures, Rob. You are reading later theology back into the text. I hate to say that, but it's true. The Bible is far from cryptic in telling us that Jesus "lives because of the Father." (John 6:57) See how simple that is, Rob? God is Father in relation to the Son, and Jesus is the Son in relation to the Father. The Bible gives us clear references showing that Jesus received life from the Father, and NOWHERE are we told that the terms "give," "father," or "son" should be viewed differently from how they were commonly understood and used, given the appropriate reference. These terms are given in Scripture so that we might understand the relationship between Jesus and his God. The Bible is trying to communicate with us; it is not trying to confuse us. Otherwise, if terms were used in a sense far removed from their normal meaning, there would be clear articulation about how they are being used.



BOWMAN:
While you assume that "father" and "son" imply temporal origin or the bringing of the "son" into existence by the "father," in everyday language the terms may or may not convey that idea. For example, I am a "father" to my seven-month-old daughter Maria, but my being her father has nothing to do with bringing her into existence, since I adopted her. Of course, Maria did come into existence - but that is not something denoted or connoted by calling me her "father." (I sincerely hope that you will recognize the validity of this illustration despite the fact that Maria happens to be an adopted daughter and not a son!)



STAFFORD:
The problem with your illustration, Rob, is Jesus is not an adopted Son! In your case, as in all others, the sense of the term is bound up in its reference. Those who do not know that you are Maria's adopted father would naturally consider you as her biological father. But, to those who know that you are her father by adoption, a different sense will be attached to the term, for they know that you are not her father in a biological sense. But the Bible does not articulate a different sense for the word when used of God's relationship to the Son, in his preexistent state. Instead, it uses terms and descriptions that we would naturally associate with the term "father," but that are understood in reference to the nature of spirit beings, not humans. These terms include "only-begotten," "son," "firstborn," "child," "image" and "copy." We are also explicitly told that Jesus "lives because of the Father." THAT is communication!



BOWMAN:
I would respectfully submit that you are doing precisely what I said you were doing: assuming that what strikes you as the normal, everyday, obvious, natural, or literal meaning of the words "father" and "son" applies to the biblical application of those terms to the Father and the Son. This must be proved, not assumed, with respect to the claim that the terms imply a temporal origin of the Son.



STAFFORD:
Again, when terms are used so frequently without any specific qualification (normally made in the context) that they are being used in a different sense (don't confuse this with reference), then on what basis do we read meanings into the words that are completely foreign to the meaning they have elsewhere? Also, other terms and descriptions, some of which I have given above, are completely consistent with the everyday understanding of the aforementioned terms, and the impact they have on the relationship of God and Christ. You not only have to change the meaning of the words "father" and "son" but you have to change the meaning of MANY other terms, without any biblical articulation supporting your definition.



BOWMAN:
Greg continued:

>The concepts created by the semantic signal "father," whether spoken or written, create certain images that the reader/hearer can appreciate in relation to the everyday meaning of the word "father." And unless those readers/hearers are specifically cautioned against such everyday
associations, then the chances are 1) the sender/giver of the semantic signal intended a correlation with the hearer's/reader's everyday understanding of the term, and 2) the hearer/reader would likely associate his/her everyday understanding of the term with the author's usage.

I reply:

You seem to be arguing here that unless the Bible specifically warns us against reading a particular nuance or associated idea of the "everyday understanding" into a biblical term, then those nuances of associated ideas were probably intended by the biblical writers. But I
have already provided counterevidence: the Bible never warns us not to infer from the language of Father and Son that Jesus had a divine Mother, yet we are warranted, indeed, required to dismiss such an idea as patently NOT what the biblical writers intended.



STAFFORD:
Rob, all you have done is ASSUME that the use of the term "father" always implies the existence of a "mother." I have shown that that is not true, and so my point, as given in the paragraph above yours, is still valid. You assume that the term "father" implies the existence of a mother, regardless of the reference! The sense of the term "father" is the same, but whether or not a "mother" is involved is a matter of reference. When the term is applied to spirit beings, "mother" is not implied, and even when used of humans, it may or may not be implied, depending on whether or not the reference is to a person who fathered a child through sexual union with his wife (= the "mother"), or if the reference of the term "father" is to a single man who adopted a son or daughter.



BOWMAN:
Greg continued:

>What is CERTAIN is that no reader or writer of the Bible would confuse the semantic signals of the words "father" and "son."

I reply: I'm sorry, but while you say this is certain, I'm not even sure what you mean. Do you mean that no reader or writer would misidentify the father as the son or vice versa? That is, no one would think "father" meant "son" or "son" meant "father"? If so, I'd tend to agree, but the
point seems trivial.



STAFFORD:
That is precisely my point! If the semantic signals are not the same, then what are they? In the absence of any biblical articulation to the contrary, why should we take them as anything other than God's attempt to communicate His relationship with His Son, to us, in language to which we can relate?



BOWMAN:
On the other hand, perhaps you meant that no one would be confused as to what the two words meant. If that is your meaning, I'd strongly disagree, for reasons already given.



STAFFORD:
If they recognized a difference between the meaning of the two terms, then they would have to have known what the two terms meant! The writers of Scripture would not have used such terms in a manner inconsistent with how they knew their readers would have understood them. If they were using the terms with connotations different from the everyday understanding of the words, in terms of what kind of relationship they denoted between the one called "father" and the one called "son," then they would have articulated this new sense so their readers/hearers could know what they were talking about. Of course, they knew their readers would understand the sense conveyed by the term, in relation to the particular referent(s) in question, and that is why they do not articulate anything like "eternal generation." They did not teach it, and therefore we should not read it into their use of these terms.



BOWMAN (quoting Stafford)
>Additionally, if the semantic signals create different concepts, then what are they? How should we define them in relation to each other?



BOWMAN:
I reply: Again, I'm not sure what you are asking here.



STAFFORD:
It's simple, Rob. If the two semantic signs (= words) "father" and "son" have different senses, and if those reading/hearing the text knew this (as even you admit), then what are the different senses?



BOWMAN:
Greg had written:

>Start with the words and build your concept(s) from them. If the Bible does not define the terms the way you do, then right away you should recognize the possibility that you are reading into the text a view that is not there.

Greg, the Bible does not define "Father" or "Son" or "given" at all; that is, it does not contain stipulated definitions of these terms (indeed, definitions per se are rare in the Bible). The meaning of these terms must be learned from an inductive study of the Bible. I certainly don't think I'm reading anything into the text that isn't there, or I'd stop it!



STAFFORD:
They are defined by their use, Rob. And the Bible does not use them the way you do. Yes, you are reading a meaning into the terms, and, hence, the text, that is not there. If you were not, then I would not be talking to you about this subject. To you, "give" does not mean give, and "father" and "son" do not carry their usual sense in terms of conveying any meaningful distinction between God and Christ, to which we can relate. You do not accept the sense conveyed by the use of these (and other) terms in the ancient, pre-Nicene world. So please, stop it.



BOWMAN:
Greg continued:

>Now, the texts to which you refer do not say anything about the Son "existing antecedent to all temporal things." This is a view that is read into the text in order to support a concept created apart from the text.

Stop it, Greg. Accuse me of misunderstanding the text if you wish, but stop misrepresenting me as getting my views from somewhere other than the text. I learned of the eternality of the Son from my reading of the Bible, not from Athanasius or some other extrabiblical source.



STAFFORD:
Sure you do, Rob. The Bible does not uphold such a view, and frequently speaks against it. You have to change to meaning of words and use them in a sense that is "orthodox" or you run the risk of being considered a heretic. Go with the Bible, Rob!



BOWMAN:
It was not my religion whose founder was a skeptic until he found a way to profess Christian faith while continuing to reject the hard doctrines of the Bible (a way he learned, not from the Bible directly, but from an Adventist splinter group).



STAFFORD:
What "hard doctrines" might you be referring to, Rob? When I read Russell's writings I find quite a few scripture references. It sure seems like he learned them from the Bible to me!



BOWMAN:
It is not my religion whose official publications have warned its adherents throughout its history not to read the Bible apart from its "helps" lest they be ensnared in apostate doctrine.



STAFFORD:
Here you have misstated our position, and neglected to give all the facts. Fortunately, Chapter 9 of my book puts your false characterization to rest. Still, I find it amusing that a trinitarian should make this accusation, when they cannot read the Bible apart from post-biblical creeds.



BOWMAN:
I gave the Watchtower theological system a fair shake BEFORE I became convinced of the
doctrine of the Trinity. It was through meeting with a Jehovah's Witness couple for three months and studying the Bible intensively that I came to a strong conviction on this and related doctrinal questions.



STAFFORD:
Well, I'd like to suggest that you keep on studying, Rob, and perhaps you will see that the Trinity is based, not on the Bible, but on post-biblical theology that is far removed from the Bible's teaching about God and Christ.



BOWMAN:
Greg asks an interesting question:

>But I ask you, where in the Bible is the term "father" used apart from a temporal distinction between the one called "father" and that which is said to have been fathered?

It does so where it speaks of Jesus' Father in relation to Jesus as the prehuman Son. And no, I am not begging the question, for as I have said I find biblical statements about the Son that affirm his preexistence antecedent to all created, temporal things. Of course, you will complain that I have failed to provide any OTHER examples of a nontemporal connotation in the use of the term "father," but none is to be expected SINCE GOD IS THE ONLY ETERNAL BEING.



STAFFORD:
Does everyone see what is happening here? First, Rob is special pleading, and, second, he DOES beg the question. He posits a view that is against the clear teaching of Scripture. (John 6:57) Of course, Rob gives a new meaning to this text and the word "give" in John 5:26 in order to sustain his view. So, Rob admits that his use of the terms "father" and "son," in reference to God and Christ, is against every other use of the term. Of course, the term "father" has no temporal connotations, but "son" does, and so Rob here begs the question by stating that the term does not have temporal connotations when used of Jesus, because Jesus is eternal! Wonderful, Rob. Thanks for clearing that up for us. Of course, the very issue we are concerned with is why Scripture uses terms that involve a temporal distinction, when describing the relationship between God and Jesus, in Jesus' preexistent state? Nowhere are we told that the terms should be understood apart from their usual temporal distinction. And, what is more, if no such temporal distinction exists, then why are they distinguished with these terms?



BOWMAN:
Greg wrote:

>"Father" is generally, in fact, always, understood as the GIVER of life, and I know of no instance in Scripture where the use of the word "father" is intended to create a mental image of one who himself has a father. Can you provide an example? I also challenge you to find one instance in Scripture where the word "son" does not convey the idea of having a father, when used of persons.

I don't claim that the word "father" is ever intended to create a mental image of someone who has a father. I simply claimed that in ordinary usage a father is someone who happens himself to have a father.



STAFFORD:
Fine. Then your point has no place in this discussion, as we are concerned with what images a person would be confronted with when they heard or read the terms "father" and "son," as they are used to describe the relationship between God and Christ.



BOWMAN:
As for your challenge to find an instance in Scripture where the word "son" does not convey the idea of having a father, that's easy. Ephesians 2:2b speaks of "the sons of disobedience" - which, lest I be accused of an "English-concordance" approach, uses the same Greek word, huios (in the plural), customarily used of Jesus as God's Son. But, of course, I don't claim that Jesus is called God's Son apart from his relation to one called his Father.



STAFFORD:
Of course, the use of the term in Eph 2:2 is a Hebraism, and the genitive indicates that the qualities possessed by the group of "sons" are exemplified by them to such a degree that there is a sort of "family likeness" to them. I will assume you are familiar with this idiom, but I can't help but wonder why you would use this as an example? Do you have an example of a non-idiomatic use of "son" that answers my question?



BOWMAN:
Greg had written:

>Pop quiz: If God gives life to another, His true Son, why is he the Son if no difference in age separates them? How is it a giving of life if the Son has always had life?

To which I responded:

>The answer to Greg's question is that a "difference in age" is meaningless when the Father in question has NO AGE. The Father is not merely older; he is ageless, transcending all time.

Greg then replied:

>That is ridiculous, Rob. You're just making things up in order to support your view. The fact that the Father is eternal has nothing to do with whether or not the Son is eternal. The Bible nowhere makes such a qualification of these terms. In fact, in view of the biblical usage of
these and other terms, the distinction between the two as Father and Son necessarily involves a temporal distinction. Your refusal to acknowledge this because of your doctrinal presuppositions is pregnantly obvious to us all.



BOWMAN:
Greg, it is your answer that is ridiculous. I'm not making anything up at all. How can you say that the Father's being eternal is irrelevant to whether the Son is eternal? It is absolutely relevant. The argument is simple and sound:



STAFFORD:
No, it is ridiculous because it assumes that age is transferable! Remember this portion of my reply, which you do NOT quote or consider:



<<QUOTE FROM Bowman, the Bible, and Trinitarianism>>>

Rob Bowman:
That is, Scripture never says that the Father is older than the Son. This is an inference Greg has drawn from the language, an understandable inference to be sure, but one that BEGS THE QUESTION when he uses this inference to refute the trinitarian view of Jesus as God's eternal Son.



Greg Stafford:
The Bible does not speak of an "eternal generation." Therefore, it provides us with no other way to view these two terms, other than in the sense in which they were commonly understood. You can't accept that, not because the thought is unbiblical, but because it does agree with your extra-biblical theology. Thus, you must question the use of these terms, and insert a concept that is foreign to Scripture in order to make it fit with your preconceived view. I, on the other hand, need only look at the way the Bible uses these terms and, in the absence of clear articulation to the contrary, use them as consistent with the regular and repeated sense the Bible gives them.



Rob Bowman:
Indeed, if the titles "Son" and "Son of God" are understood to connote the idea that the Son has the same nature as God, we would actually expect that the Son, like his Father, would be eternal.



Greg Stafford:
Why would we expect that? Again, age is never spoken of in Scripture as something that is passed along with the giving (!) of life. The angels are sons of God (Job 1:6). But they are never spoken of as eternal. In fact, the Bible more frequently uses temporal designations of the Son (Jesus) than all the other sons of God combined!

<<<<END OF QUOTE>>>>



STAFFORD:
Now, let's see what justification you provide for your claim about "age":



BOWMAN:
(1) The Son possesses the full divine nature of the Father (e.g., Col. 2:9).



STAFFORD:
Yes, the Father GAVE the Son this divine nature (Col. 1:19), and He also gives it to Christians. (Col. 2:10) Nowhere does this tell us that age is transferable. If it was given to the Son, and it was, then the age of the Son is temporal, for it began at the time he received the divine nature. That's what giving means, Rob: Giving something to someone that was not previously a owned by that someone.



BOWMAN:
(2) The divine nature of the Father includes eternal existence (this is never stated explicitly, but on the agreed assumption that the Father is Jehovah God, cf. Ps. 90:2).



STAFFORD:
Again, you are assuming that age is something, when it is really just an abstraction. It cannot be "given." This is where you deny the meaning of "give" in order to read another unbiblical view into the text. The Bible nowhere states or implies that God's age is transferable!



BOWMAN:
(3) Therefore, the Son possesses eternal existence (follows from [1] and [2], and I would argue is taught in John 1:1-3; 8:58; Col. 1:17; Heb. 1:2, 10-12).



STAFFORD:
My human, fleshly nature is passed on to my offspring, but that does not mean they are the same age as I am! The very fact that it is passed on (=given) to them reveals that it is not the same as mine, in terms of age. God gave His Son that quality of being that makes one a god, and He has given this same nature to those who will rule with His Son in heaven. But this gift does not make them sharers of the same substance of being with the Father. Of course, you create a distinction between "being" and "person" that is also not spoken of in Scripture, which we will discuss in Part 4 of my reply. Basically, you are forced to invent all kinds of distinctions, qualifications, and meanings that are nowhere articulated in Scripture. This is the essence of Trinitarian apologetics.



BOWMAN:
So, not only is the Father's eternal nature relevant to the nature of the Son, but the conclusion has biblical warrant of a more direct kind. The key premise here is (1), which you have to deny in order to deny the conclusion (since you agree that the Father is eternal).



STAFFORD:
Of course, this is where you assume that the Father and Son are owners of the self-same substance of being, a view that is nowhere articulated in Scripture, and which Al Kidd has sufficiently refuted. The Father gives the Son existence as a divine being, not one that owns certain divine qualities or attributes (as the gnostics believed were distributed among the aeons), but all of them. The anointed followers of Christ are likewise sharers of this divine nature, but they do not possess these attributes to the same degree as Jehovah, and neither does the Son. That is why the Father remains his "head" and "God." The very fact that the Father's nature is not contingent upon the will or decree of another, shows that His nature is different from that of the Son, whose divine nature is the result of the Father's "good pleasure."-- Col. 1:19.



BOWMAN:
It won't work to claim that angels have the nature of the Father. They don't. I covered this in some measure in my post "What God Does, the Son Does," but allow me to say something further on it. In an earlier post responding to me Greg had written, "Angels have characteristics that only God has. For example, they are spirit beings, but that does not make them 'God.' It does make them gods, to some degree. The same is true of Jesus." This makes no sense. If God and even one angel have a particular characteristic in common, that is not a characteristic "that only God has."



STAFFORD:
That was my point, Rob, and you missed it badly. God is a spirit. The angels are spirits. This is their nature. But they do not share the same essence of being, and thus there is a degree of difference between God and His angels. My statement was meant to illustrate the assumption you made in your syllogism about John 5:19-20.



BOWMAN:
For example, being a spirit is something that is true of God and of angels; therefore, being spirit is not a characteristic that only God has. Spirit is only one aspect of the nature of the Father. Dogs and humans are both flesh, but dogs don't have the same nature as humans.



STAFFORD:
Yes, they do! Humans and animals are distinctions within the fleshly sphere of existence. God and angels are similarly distinguished, though this analogy is quite bad, for angels are made in God's image, and are gods to some degree, but animals are not made in man's image, so there is a much greater difference in terms of the kind of beings we are talking about, though the nature of animals and humans is the same.



BOWMAN:
Likewise, angels and God are both spirit, but angels don't have the same nature as God. Demons are spirits, but the Bible explicitly says they are NOT "gods" by nature (Gal. 4:8).



STAFFORD:
Where does Galatians 4:8 refer to demons? Certainly there is nothing precluding a reference to humans political leaders, who claimed to be gods in that day and age. These ones were not gods by nature.



BOWMAN:
Thus, it is false to say, as Greg does, that because their nature as spirit beings "does make them gods"; according to Galatians 4:8, it does not. Nor does the Bible ever say that the angels possess God's nature. It does say that about Jesus Christ the Son.



STAFFORD:
First, Galatians 4:8 does not support your view, and, second, the Bible most certainly does state that the angels possess diving nature. It does so by using the same idiom we discussed in relation to Eph. 2:2. The Hebrew use of beney elohim ("sons of God"), as in the case of the "sons of disobedience," reveals that the group denoted by "sons," possesses the qualities or nature of the term in the (English) genitive. See Chapter 7 of my book for details. In the NT the focus is on Jesus Christ and there are times when the author of a particular book is arguing against an erroneous view. It is only appropriate, therefore, that we encounter statements that reveal Christ's divinity. But NOWHERE in the Bible are we told that Jesus has the self-same nature as God, in terms of being. Being "a god," he naturally has a divine nature, as does God, and so do the angels. But they are all different in their degree of divine attributes. For example, even though Jesus has superhuman, divine knowledge, he is still dependent upon God for knowledge of divine things, such as the revelation.---Rev. 1:1.



BOWMAN:
I had made this point about the Son having the nature of God previously.


Greg replied:

>Where do these texts say that the Son has the self-same nature as God? That is what you mean, is it not? SELF-SAME nature?

I reply: Greg, maybe you mean something very specific or distinctive with this word "selfsame," but I really don't know what you mean. What I mean by "having the nature of God" or "having the same nature as God" (or, as the Father) is that every descriptive attribute applicable to God is equally applicable to the Son. That is, since God is eternal, omnipotent, omniscient, transcendent, infinite, incorporeal, etc., so is his Son. Of course, I DON'T mean that the Son is the Father. (The terms Father and Son are not descriptive attributes but relational designations.)



STAFFORD:
What I mean is this: they share the same essence of being, without division (= your view). I am not sure how else my words could be construed. Now, you make a key point: "every descriptive attribute applicable to God is equally applicable to the Son." That's just it, Rob, they are not equally applicable to the Son. That is why the Son is dependent upon his God for knowledge of certain things, like the revelation. (Rev. 1:1) This is where trinitarians usually try and read later theology into the text, but that is not legitimate. Also, the above-stated distinction between the "Father" and "Son," which Bowman views as merely `relational distinction [!],' is not supported by Scripture. The Bible distinguishes the two in terms of being, which is what a distinction in person really amounts to. There is no `relational distinction' that does not also involve a distinction of being. See Part 4 of my reply for further details. You may also wish to reconsider Al Kidd's recent replies, in the meantime.

END OF PART THREE

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