Reply to Rob Bowman from Al Kidd.
Posted by Al Kidd on April 26, 1998 at 23:37:43:
In Support of Stafford's Calling Bowman to Account
In reading the exchanges between Greg Stafford and Rob Bowman, I felt compelled to echo Stafford's efforts to call Bowman to account for his definition of Trinity.
Trinitarians indulge themselves in a word-magic theory of personalism when they aver ‘There are three different persons who participate absolutely equally in every way in a Godhead beingness; moreover, there are only three persons who are divine, each thus deserving the title "God."'
To reiterate, trinitarians aver that there are only three divine persons, and that they own the selfsame substance (the selfsame set of infinitudes) so that the three divine persons have the selfsame substance of mind.
Now, the logic of this is that because they do not take their much-vaunted triune Godhead to be a fourth person--for they speak only of three divine persons--, then the overarching principle that grounds the existence of the three persons is, by argument reductio ad absurdum, reduced to being an extra-personal and impersonal essence. And they must have some sort of an overarching principle in their argument--this whether they consciously claim an impersonality for it or not--lest they surrender at once their claim that the persons are not three Gods, three independent beings who each has his very own center of omniscient consciousness and a will that must always manifest itself in righteousness and love.
Now, the rub here is that the theory of this trinity of persons is epistemological nonsense because we define what it means to be a person in terms that define what it means to be a self-conscious being, a being that owns a unique center of consciousness. We moderns know no way to speak of a group of several persons without express or implicit acknowledgment that several beings comprise the group. And yet Trinitarians will not admit that their argument can only begin to make sense of the Scriptures when once they have given up their thought that there is but one divine Being.
Assuming for the moment that holy spirit is a person, we can say that trinitarians might have coherently--even if not Scripturally--presented to us a sort of trinitarianism on the basis that there are only three divine beings (Gods) who are brothers "in spirit" ( = a serendipitous harmony of personalities), this so that they we hear presented no nonsensical declaration that there are but three divine persons who have the selfsame center of consciousness and will.
Below in offset left margin the reader will find material by Noel Balzer, ""What Is A Class?"" The Journal of Value Inquiry 21 (Dordrecht, Netherlands: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 1987) 112-130.
Individuals can be classified. An instance of a person called "Fred" is Fred. Any instance of Fred is Fred. Fred is, of course, more than bare instances, he lives through time and has an existence independent of our classifying him.
Let us interrupt Balzer for a moment. Yes, "Fred" has an existence independent of our classifying him as a member of the class of all instances of soulical persons, the act of such classifying being an abstracting away from each instance all qualities that are repeated in all the other instances, this so that we form the abstract concept "the average man" ( = humanity ).
So, there is no substance or beingness we can call the average man. To postulate it is to postulate an absurdity, for it is to say that humanity is an ontically existing substance that occultly goes about reproducing itself for the formation of every soulical person in existence--which is impossibly problematic in light of, among other things, the question, "How can humanity be a substance for grounding in itself the substance or beingness that is the entirety of beingness for each individualized, soulical person?" To ask the question is to define the nature of the absurdity, which is that humanity be thought of as an occult albeit ontic reality having Substance that constitutes the variegated beingnesses that are themselves all the instances of the class "All uniquely individualized (uniquely identifiable), soulical persons."
Balzer continues: Classification is a mental activity. But Fred must not be confused with this activity, we know him through this activity. That [our knowledge of] Fred [as one who] is an existing person is a logical construction that we [know to be true is because we know we] derive [it] from our experienced instances of him, directly or indirectly. So it is that when we instance Fred we realise he was born, that he has lived and is a person with an active life. Instances are not mere images. Individuals and concrete objects form a mental paradigm for human activity. The instances we perceive of them are logically constructed [--abstracted--] into objects, and we take their existence for granted [because].... classification has a propensity to deal in objects. Our thought is conducted in terms of classes which are the Forms that enable thought to operate and so it is not unnatural that we treat instances of property and relation classes in the same way as [we treat] objects. The instances of red that we perceive are in the mind curiously assimilated into an object we call "redness". The instances of the relation we call "together" are assimilated into an object we call "togetherness". It all seems very natural. However, curiosities are produced. When we speak of "The average man" we do appear to have a curious object. Everyone speaks of "The average man" but there is no object which is the average man. Plainly, we have assimilated every instance which is correctly classified "An average man" into one fictitious object "The average man"[--a reification of the abstract, the logical fallacy of the misplaced concretion]. If one treats these fictitious objects with seriousness, paradoxical conclusions can be drawn. For example: If one assimilates every instance of what can be classed "a triangle" into an abstract object, A Triangle, it then poses a great difficulty to indicate whether the triangle is isosceles or equilateral or scalene. It has to be everyone at once which is impossible, but it cannot be any one except on pain of contradiction.... [When t]he reference of "a triangle" is said to be the collection of every triangle[, then, w]hen this is said, paradox appears . . . [The solution is to maintain that] no totality can be defined in terms of itself.
End of our quotation of some of Balzer's material.
When we see that we have no ontically existing reality called "humanity"--there is not "the average man"--, then we also see that one's attempt to use it as an analogy for illustrating Divinity ("the Godhead") as the Being that ontologically grounds in itself all ( = three, according to trinitarians' count) divine persons collapses: his analogy is, quite simply, horsefeathers and claptrap!
We have yet to make use of Professor Leigh (Ft. Wayne Bible College). He builds upon these logical insights, and does so in a manner that gives us his self-conscious rejection of Chalcedonian trinitarianism.
A Stan Slater posted on AOL a 3-part series ("The Logos pt. [1 thru 3]"), which incorporated excerpts from D.A. Fennema, NTS 31, pp. 128-31. The Fennema excerpts bear self-contradiction, which the reader may observe below.
Early on in Slater's transcription of Fennema's article, in part 2 of the transcription, we read the following:
THEOS EN HO LOGOS [John 1:1c] . . . cannot be taken as meaning: he was a god, a divine being, as if THEON were a generic concept such as ANTHROPOS or animal, so that there could be two divine beings. This is clearly out of the question, because the word THEON is intended in its strict monotheistic sense.
Now, a little later on, in part three, Fennema states some- thing that contradicts his words we reproduced above. He states:
Thus John perceives the Logos/Son and the Father/God as two distinct Beings, yet ascribes the identical deity to both.
Just earlier Fennema has said that we cannot say "that there could be two divine beings" for the concept THEON [sic], for that would make THEON [sic] generic. Then a little later he affirms exactly this, doesn't he? So it seems, for he says, "Thus John perceives the Logos/Son and the Father/God as two distinct Beings, yet ascribes the identical deity to both."
So, Fennema gives back what he earlier denied, for now he is saying "two distinct Beings"--beings that are numerically discrete, for he mentions two here--, and he is saying that both of them are identical as to the matter of their deity (divinity).
Also, Fennema has not accurately made reference to what Jesus did with the phrase "the only true God," as John recorded it in 17:3. (It reminds us of recent equivocation in the terms "God" and "Father" in a context in which a trinitarian like Bowman should have wanted to maintain the distinction. Stafford called Bowman to account for the confusion, and Bowman’s reply was most disingenuous, to put it bluntly.) Fennema’s own sleight of hand is as follows:
John's subsequent description of God as . . . "the only true God" . . .
Well, we know that John did not record Jesus' words exactly as Fennema would like them to be, for Jesus declared in his prayer to the Father that it was He (the Father) who was the only true God. So, John did not record something like the following: 'God [--in the sense that God is the entity that can house in "Himself" (Itself) the only three divine persons in existence--] is the only true God.'
Fennema falsely assumes the following:
"[When John records] denials that there is another [true] God, [so that] if the evangelist confesses any Deity [--note Fennema's gratuitous, self-serving capitalization of "Deity"--] it must be an acknowledgment of that one, true God."
Of course, that would be the case if the assumption could truthfully be that John everywhere used the concept of "deity" (godship) in reference to the Almighty God. But such an assumption is to beg the question, and assumes that Jewish monotheism was of a sort as self-servingly postulated by trinitarians. Historical records for a pre-Christian Judaism falsifies such a concept.
There is a trinitarian writer (James White) who, in his having some of his thoughts posted on AOL, endorsed Fennema through his (White's) endorsement of a posting to AOL that a certain Mr. Stan Slater posted, it being a post in which Slater was heavily dependent upon an article written by Fennema. Mr. James White approved of Slater's use of Fennema, and he stated that approval in the following words:
I was under the impression that Mr. Stanley Slater had posted for us an excellent discussion of John 1:1, and the meaning of John 1:18 as well. I would have nothing to add to that excellent discussion as far as substance goes.
Well, perhaps White will not add to it; however, in light of his attempt to make a distinction between being and person, then which of Fennema's statements concerning divine beings does White want? Which one does Bowman want?
From long ago the larger question for trinitarians should have been Does the Trinity doctrine make comment on Jesus' true nature? According to trinitarianism, member-"persons" of the Trinity cannot freely make decisions springing from a free will that is unique to each of the persons of the Trinity: 'They have never had any control over the positions they have always owned' would at least be a more logically accurate statement from trinitarians not too concerned over what the Scriptures say about Jesus' will. However, such a necessity in persons of this allegedly existing Trinity should have to indicate to trinitarians an ontological superiority for the Father-member of the Trinity (= He Who ever has merely been happening to have the position of being greater than the other two persons), for then trinitarians should have to say that the Father's position was by force of uncontrollable circumstance so that the Father did not choose to act--could not have merely chosen to act--as though He were superior to the other two persons of the Trinity.
Trinitarians cannot stave off the damage that the truth of Jesus' statement at John 14:28 makes against their dogmatic assertion that Jesus' statement only applies to the economic Trinity as opposed to an immanent Trinity, a Trinity that supposedly springs from ontologically based realities in the persons of the Trinity.
We hold that a personal being's own 'preference pattern' is a manifestation of his very own will. Furthermore, it is will that springs uniquely from within the beingness of its owner that goes to the core of what is the essence of personhood.
Holding to the truth in the paragraph immediately above, then if we also allow the term "Being" to be the owner of a unique center of consciousness such that it can have necessarily only one "total preference pattern," then it is absurd for one to hold that "Being" is a neutral term as respects composite individual (Trinity in the classical sense) and part (as the allegation goes, a member-person of the Trinity) because there is a logical difference between (classical) Trinity owning a unique center of consciousness, store of knowledge, and will for its unfragmented 'preference pattern,' on the one hand, and a (nonclassical sort of a triune) God-person's ownership of its own center of consciousness, store of knowledge, and will unique to that person, on the other hand, so that each person does not necessarily own the same 'preference pattern' that any other person owns. (There are some "trinitarians" who have surrendered classical or Chalcedonian trinitarianism.)
So, when Jesus said:
"Father, if you wish, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, let, not my will, but yours take place" (Luke 22:42),
then Jesus was in effect acknowledging that even though he might not know how "this cup" (of his having to bear a charge that he had acted criminally against the God of Heaven--Who was Jesus' Father) might be set aside, yet the Father might know such a way so that the Father's will is still accomplished in connection with His Son. Nevertheless, even though the Father might not find it a good thing to let that cup pass from His Son, yet the Son would accept whatever it was the Father's will to permit to happen to him, and would not by any willful act on his part protest the Father's decision as he saw it unfold, though it was logically possible for the Son, had he been so disposed, to willfully protest it. The Father's will would be active in this instance, and the Son's would be passive: the Father's will would manifest itself in the Father's determination as to what He would do about "this cup"; the Son's will would be passive in that, out of modesty, he would not will to author anything as respects "this cup." This understanding of the logical implications as respects how the Father and Son own logically possible differences, qualitatively speaking, in their wills is a contradiction of trinitarianism.
If by definition there is necessarily and absolutely no "preference pattern" unique to a member-person (in the Trinity) in contradistinction to the other member-persons, then the surprise for trinitarians is that there also ceases to be any meaningful (psychological) distinction between members of the Trinity, for there collapses any real basis for epistemological justification for one's holding that there is a multi-personality God, this because the basis for each of the putative member-persons' maintaining a role (for a manifestation to the world of the way they work together) must accordingly be ruled out.
Jesus Christ has given us to know that in his prehuman existence in heaven he neither owned the same store of knowledge that existed in his Father's mind, nor did he operate the selfsame, metaphysical will that his Father owned. Thus do we have it that Jesus could say in a common- sense manner the things that he said at John 8:23, 26, 38, 40 inter alia. The commonsense way of understanding those verses rules out any validity to any concept that Jesus and his Father operated the selfsame, metaphysical will. No, they are not wholly alike member-persons in a triune God for ownership of the selfsame features of mind, paramount among them (the features of God's mind) being especially that faculty of mind which we call God's will. So, if the member-persons are not wholly alike in accordance with the terms set forth here, then one cannot begin to apply things commensurate to the classical definition of Trinity (three wholly alike persons in one divine life) to the Father and the Son. (See Dahms below on this.) We do not forget that trinitarians have also to prove from the Scriptures that there is a God-person called the "Holy Spirit." We need not argue in these presents that the Scriptures do not teach that holy spirit is a divine person, for God's holy spirit is not a person, but is His invisible, active force.)
Trinitarian John V. Dahms, "The Generation of the Son," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society_ 32.4 (December 1989) 493-501 has the following helpful information concerning the generation of the Son, and THAT THE TERM "BEGOTTEN" CONNOTES ONTOLOGICAL SUBORDINATIONISM, and that it cannot allow the idea that what is generated must be as absolute as the one doing the generating. He writes as follows:
[I]t must be remembered that a good deal of the NT is addressed to Gentiles--that is, to people who were familiar with the conception of deities begetting other deities and heroes. And many of them, if not all, were familiar with the conception of birth from a male deity alone. This would predispose them, when confronted with the NT statements about God as uniquely the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ, and about Jesus as the unique Son of God, to think that generation of the Son by the Father was implied. And in this connection it is to be noted that nowhere in the NT is there any warning against the idea of divine generation. Belief in many gods and many lords is rejected in 1 Cor 8:4-6, but the relationship of the one Lord to the one God is left undefined therein [i.e., left undefined in 1 Cor 8:4-6,] cf. Joh 3:16; 17:3 [for some detail of NT definition of the relationship]). It is therefore not surprising that C.E. Raven should state that our terminology "would suggest [to Greeks] the popular polytheism and the gross fables of Olympus.".... In Col 1:15 "his beloved Son" is said to be "the firstborn of all creation." Some scholars hold that this phrase "echoes the wording of Ps 89:27: "I will make him the firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth." If so, "firstborn" implies superiority and preeminence. [Perhaps, but w]hat is clear, however, is that THE PHRASE (also?) DERIVES FROM PROV 8:22: "The Lord qanani [produced] Wisdom at the beginning of his work" (cf. the birth language concerning Wisdom in vv. 24-25 . . . Paul is almost certainly implying that the Son is begotten. The same is probably true of Heb 1:6: "When he brings the firstborn into the world" . . . [T]he "identification of Christ with the Wisdom of God" in v. 3:15 suggests that "firstborn" is probably to be taken as implying the generation of the Son, as Col 1:15 apparently does.... The [generation] doctrine provides an ontological basis for the dissimilarity of the father and the Son that is necessary for fellowship and interaction between them. Fellowship and interaction between persons cannot exist without dissimilarity of some kind. And the same is true for interaction. Moreover, unless there is fellowship and interaction between the members of the Godhead they are not persons in any meaningful sense of the term . . . The generation doctrine provides an ontological basis for the subordination of the Son to the Father, which the NT emphasizes (e.g. John 5:19- 30). The view that this subordination is only an economic subordination and originates solely in a mutual agreement among the members of the Godhead implies that the divine persons can choose and do what is contrary to their nature. If it is their nature to be independent of each other, that independence is denied if they decide that one shall have authority over another. And that the subordination involved is only temporary does not lessen the problem in the least. If they can thus deny themselves (cf. 2 Tim 2:13) they cannot be trusted, and to speak of God's faithfulness is irresponsible . . . Having been begotten of the Father, Christ is not misleading concerning the deity when he speaks of the Father as "my Father . . . [and] my God" (John 20:17; cf. Matt. 11:27), when he declares that the Father sent him John passim), when he prays to the Father (e.g. John 17), or when he affirms: "The Son can do nothing of his own accord . . . I can do nothing on my own authority" (John 5:19, 30; cf. 14:10; 17:2; Matt 28:18). If what is eternally true is not being represented, it is not correct to say that Christ "made him [God] known" (John 1:18). At most it would be possible to say that at times Christ made him known. At other times he was misleading concerning him.... [I] the doctrine of the Trinity implies that "the Divine unity is a dynamic unity unifying in the one Divine life the lives of the three Divine persons," Father, Son, and Holy Spirit do not exhaust the divine reality. That which unites them is in addition to them so that "the one Divine life" is more than the lives of the three Divine persons." But of this there is no intimation in Scripture . . . [G]eneration [of person(s)] suggests both [a sort of generic] equality and inferiority (as in the case of the son of a human father). In that a son is human, he is equal to his father, but in that he is a son he is inferior.