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Online Debate between Greg Stafford and Rob Bowman (Part 1):

The following discussion took place online, through mediums for both Greg Stafford and Robert Bowman, during the month of April, 1998.

The medium for Greg Stafford, Mark Ross, was not able to cut and paste Greg's reply, and resorted to typing in the reply directly from a printed hardcopy. As a result, the actual posted reply contained several spelling errors, and a few missing words. These have been corrected by uploading Greg's own copy to this page.

As a result of this debate, several other individuals joined in the discussion, and various points were clarified and considered in greater detail, and these have been worked into the discussion so as to give as complete an understanding of the issues involved as possible.


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Mark Ross [one of Jehovah's Witnesses] wrote:

Matthew, worship (Grk latreuw) includes honor, but honor does not necessarily include worship. Jesus is given the authority to judge by his Father, and the Father NEVER gets authority from anyone. I don't understand what the big deal is. BTW, [John 5] Verse 26 says that while the Father has 'life in himself' he is pleased to GIVE to Christ to have 'life in himself'. How is it that the Father has this by nature and the Son does not if the Son is equal and co-eternal with the Father ? I have NEVER had a trinitarian successfully address this one. Perhaps you will be the first ?

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Rob Bowman:

1. If Jesus has the nature and prerogatives of the only true God, that makes him God, however he got that nature and those prerogatives.



Greg Stafford:

The errors begin early in Bowman's reply. Above we have a non sequitur. Bowman also asserts that which he has yet to prove, that is, where does the Bible say "Jesus has the nature and prerogatives of the only true God"? Also, how Jesus obtained a divine nature and divine prerogatives has a direct and substantial impact on our understanding of his position in relation to the Father. Bowman also uses the word "God" in two different senses: The first use appears to be in reference to the Godhead Beingness that is allegedly shared by three "persons." This is not a proper use of the word in this discussion, for nowhere does the Bible articulate the word "God" as denoting a substance of being shared by three persons. And when Bowman says that Jesus' having "the nature and prerogatives of the only true God, that makes him God," he does not state the matter correctly. A trinitarian would have to say, "makes him God by nature," or makes him a sharer of the divine essence. As he has it, it is misleading, for many (and rightly so) take the term "God" as a noun of personal description, for that is the only sense in which the Bible writers make use of it, unless it is used figuratively of the "belly" or something similar, of course. Does Bowman mean, by saying, "makes him God," that this makes Jesus "the Godhead Beingness"? I doubt that. Thus, he equivocates on the meaning of the word "God."



Rob Bowman:

a. I don't think Stafford gets, or wants to get, the logic of what I asserted above. Let me put it more formally and completely.

(1) Whoever does what ONLY God can do, is God.

(2) Jesus does what ONLY God can do.

(3) Therefore, Jesus is God.



Greg Stafford:

First, Bowman again assumes that which he has yet to prove, and ignores the concept of imitation.

I recognize the valid structure of Bowman's argument and the deductive interpretation if one assumes the premises are true. For, if I said:

1) Whoever does what only dogs can do, is a dog.

2) My cat does only what dogs can do.

3) Therefore, my cat is a dog.

then this, too, would be valid structurally.

Now, this is only a sound argument if the premises (#s 1 and 2) are assumed true, for then the conclusion (#3) must be true. However, this argument contains a false premise: I have not given any proof that my cat does what only dogs can do, and, frankly, that would be tough to do! Thus, the above argument is unsound, and the conclusion is false.

I call on Bowman to prove his premises, for he assumes in them a truth value that is unscriptural. He also misquoted John 5:19 in an attempt to support his argument. That is why I say he has assumed that which he has yet to prove, namely, premise #2.

Bowman fails to provide precise examples so we can evaluate his conclusion, and determine if Jesus' imitation of the Father (note his improper use of "God" as a personal reference, again—see below) is contingent upon anything.

Bowman also uses God in an equative sense which even he does not accept. Again, when a trinitarian says, "Jesus is God," they mean "Jesus is God the Son, second person of a consubstantial Triad." But they do not put it that way, because the Bible never puts it that way! Thus, his conclusion is improper from a trinitarian point of view, without the proper qualification, and it does not follow from his premises.




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Rob Bowman:

The parallel syllogism is also logically valid:

(4) Whoever has characteristics that ONLY God has, is God.

(5) Jesus has characteristics that ONLY God has.

(6) Therefore, Jesus is God.



Greg Stafford:

Bowman fails once again to prove his point. What if I said, "Angels have characteristics that only God has. For example, they are spirit beings, and only God is a spirit being." Well, then, for me to say, "The angels have something only God has, namely, spirit nature," would be to assume that a spirit nature is something only God has (the Bible never says this), and that anyone else who is said to have a spirit nature must therefore be God. This is similar to what Bowman is arguing. He assumes that Jesus does what only God can do, when in fact the Bible never says only God can do the things that He allows His Son to do in His name.



Rob Bowman:

Now, my point was that these two parallel syllogisms are both valid regardless of how Jesus came to do what only God can do, or to possess characteristics that only God has.



Greg Stafford:

And your conclusion is incorrect for it is 1) based on faulty evidence; 2) couched in ambiguous terms; 3) does not necessarily follow from the premises laid, unless you further clarify your meaning of "God" as used in your conclusion.



Rob Bowman:

If Jesus does even ONE THING that Scripture says ONLY God can do, or he has even ONE characteristic that Scripture says ONLY God has, then Jesus is God, regardless of how that state of affairs came about.



Greg Stafford:

This is a non sequitur, pure and simple. Bowman also assumes that which he has yet to prove. The Bible does not say "If Jesus does even ONE THING that Scripture says ONLY God can do, or he has even ONE characteristic that Scripture says ONLY God has, then Jesus is God, regardless of how that state of affairs came about." A little proof from the Bible might be in order. The very fact that Jesus is given (yes, GIVEN) certain prerogatives that previously were exercised only by God, simply means that God is now allowing another, His Son, to act in a certain capacity. And his acting in that capacity is not due to his own authority, but because it was given to him. He is not equal to the Father in his divine authority. Thus, it is clear that, if Jesus is doing something that was previously done only by God, then it is now no longer something only God can do!



Rob Bowman

Thus, to disprove the conclusion of either of these two syllogisms (that Jesus is God), Stafford will have to dispute one or more of their premises (i.e., statements [1], [2], [4], and [5]). Admitting that statements (2) and (5) are true but objecting that the arguments ignore HOW they came to be true fails to show the arguments to be unsound.



Greg Stafford

Who admitted to 2 and 5 being true? When you offer proof then we will evaluate it. Second, your entire argument is faulty on a number of fronts, several of which I have outlined above.



Rob Bowman:

b. It is true, of course, that how Jesus came to possess divine nature and prerogatives has a bearing on our understanding of his relation to the Father.



Greg Stafford:

If it has a bearing then why do you say, "If Jesus does even ONE THING that Scripture says ONLY God can do, or he has even ONE characteristic that Scripture says ONLY God has, then Jesus is God, REGARDLESS [emphasis added] of how that state of affairs came about"? Does it matter or not?



Rob Bowman:

But it does NOT have a bearing on the validity of the above arguments.



Greg Stafford:

If your argument is in relation to Jesus' prerogatives and whether having these prerogatives makes him God, then how he came to possess these prerogatives most certainly has a bearing on the ACCURACY of your argument. Whether your argument is "valid" from a logician's point of view is not the key issue; I am evaluating the accuracy of your conclusion. Your argument may be valid structurally, but the premises are incorrect, and so is your conclusion.


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Rob Bowman:

We trinitarians do not ignore the matter of how Jesus came to be God; but we insist that the "how" cannot be used to negate the "that."



Greg Stafford:

Of course, you do. You have to, for the "how" does negate the "that." If he came to have a divine nature, then he was not eternally grounded in the nature of God, and therefore is not eternal God.



Rob Bowman:

Your difficulty in understanding "how" Jesus could be God and receive hisnature and/or authority from another is just that - it is your difficulty. It is not a logical or biblical disproof of his being God.



Greg Stafford:

My difficulty lies in harmonizing unbiblical teachings with clear statements of faith. It is, in fact, your difficulty, for the Bible's "how" cannot be made to agree with your "that."



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Rob Bowman:

c. Stafford erroneously attributes to me a belief that I do not hold and a meaning that I did not intend when he asserts that I use the term "God" to mean "the Godhead Beingness that is allegedly shared by three 'persons.'" I will come back to this point further below where Stafford's misconstrual of the trinitarian position is further elaborated. Here let me try to explain that I am not at all equivocating. To clarify, any of the following forms of the first premise in the first syllogism will work for my position to be sustained:



Greg Stafford:

Rob, you have got to be kidding. I know that you may not have intended to use the term "God" as a reference to the divine essence, but I am pointing out that you, as a trinitarian, cannot legitimately use the term in any other way than of one who shares the divine essence. Thus, to say, "makes him God," without qualifying what you as a trinitarian mean by that, is misleading. Of course, you missed this point.

[BREAK - For more on Bowman's failure to appreciate the point made by Stafford, see the response by Al Kidd to Rob Bowman, to which Bowman never replied.]



Rob Bowman:

(1a) Whoever does what only deity can do, is deity.



Greg Stafford:

Premise #1: assumed and unproven. By this I mean you have assumed a relationship between your premise and the presention of Jesus in the Bible. Now, a deity can allow another to perform certain functions that he/she previously performed, without raising that person to the level of deity. We are talking about actions, and if a deity is truly a deity, then allowing another who is not a deity to imitate what that deity does, is not hard to imagine. This applies equally for all the premises listed below.



Rob Bowman:

(1b) Whoever does what only Almighty God can do, is Almighty God.



Greg Stafford:

Premise #2: assumed and unproven. Again, you have not shown a relationship between your premise and the presentation of Jesus in the Bible.



Rob Bowman:

(1c) Whoever does what only Jehovah can do, is Jehovah.



Greg Stafford:

Premise #3: assumed and unproven. Again, your point in relation to Jesus has not been established.



Rob Bowman:

(1d) Whoever does what only the Creator can do, is the Creator.



Greg Stafford:

Premise #4: assumed and unproven. Again, you have assumed that this applies to Jesus, when such language is nowhere used of him in the Bible.



Rob Bowman:

(1e) Whoever does what only a member of the Trinity can do, is a member of the Trinity.



Greg Stafford:

Premise #5: Here you have assumed a trinitarian relationship between Jesus and the Father that is nowhere articulated in Scripture.



Rob Bowman:

These are examples, not an exhaustive list; they illustrate the point that no equivocation is at work in the premise. And the same would apply to premise (4) in the second syllogism.



Greg Stafford:

Rob, you are equivocating by using the term "God" in two different and misleading senses. You said, "If Jesus has the nature and prerogatives of the only true God, that makes him God, however he got that nature and those prerogatives." Is not the "only true God," according to classical trinitarianism, a consubstantial Triad? That is, three persons who share the divine essence? When you say, "makes him God," do you not mean "makes him one who shares the divine essence"? Yet you use the term "God" in the second instance in an equative sense as a noun of personal description. You are using the word in a sentence that is ambiguous and which does not state the full truth of your position.



Rob Bowman:

Now, Stafford is on to something. It is true that in the expression "what God can do" the term "God" COULD be understood to be referring to God as the triune Being per se. On the other hand, in the conclusion "is God," the term "God" obviously CANNOT refer to God as the triune Being per se (or it would imply that Jesus is the triune Being rather than the Son alone). On this basis, Stafford thinks he has caught me in an equivocation. But there are at least two problems with this argument.

First, it really amounts to begging the question. For at every turn Stafford can (and probably does!) use the same objection to rule out a priori the trinitarian belief. In other words, saying that "God" cannot be used with these two different connotations (God as triune, one of the three persons as God) really amounts to saying that the Trinity cannot be true.>>



Greg Stafford:

That’s right! I am arguing that the only proper use of the term "God," by a trinitarian, is in reference to the persons of the Godhead as sharers of the same Beingness. A trinitarian cannot simply say, "Jesus is God." They mean, "Jesus shares the nature of God." Of course, you have to use it as a noun of personal description, for that is the only sense in which the Bible uses it. But you do not really believe that any of the members of the Trinity are God, you believe they share the essence of God. So you have to explain what you mean every time you make such a confession, otherwise you will mislead those who recognize the proper use of the word "God" in the Bible, namely, as a noun of personal description. It is a title denoting one's position, not the substance of being in which He is grounded.



Rob Bowman:

Second, it is not at all necessary for these two different connotations to be employed in the syllogisms I presented above. In saying, "Whoever does what ONLY God can do, is God," the term "God" may in both instances be used with the same connotation. The five expanded forms of premise (1) detailed above illustrate the point. For example, we might take the term "God" in both instances to connote "Creator" (1d). Or we might understand the term in both instances to connote simply "Jehovah" (1c). Or, alternatively, we might understand the term in both instances to connote "a member of the Trinity" (1e). Thus, Stafford has fallaciously moved from the correct understanding that the term "God" in trinitarian usage CAN have two distinct connotations to the erroneous conclusion that two such distinct connotations MUST be present in the two halves of the premise to my argument.



Greg Stafford:

It appears quite clear that you did not understand my point. Again, I am arguing that your use of "God," as referring to anything but the consubstantial Triad, in your statement, is incorrect, misleading, and a textbook example of equivocation.



Rob Bowman:

d. I'm not sure what Stafford means when he says that the Bible uses the word "God" only as a "noun of personal description." Whatever precisely he means, though, I do not see how it invalidates my argument, as expounded above. But I'll let Stafford explain himself. (My guess is that this is a statement he will later want to retract.)



Greg Stafford:

You guess wrong. What is unclear about my statement? I have articulated my point enough, and I will not go on and on about a matter that has already been discussed.



Rob Bowman:

In John 5:19, Jesus says that he does *only* what God does, that he does *everything* that God does, and that he does it just like God does it. I'd say that makes Jesus God!



Greg Stafford:

Bowman equivocates yet again. If "God," according to trinitarians, means a substance of being shared by three persons, then "God" cannot do anything! Bowman here attributes personality to an impersonal substance that he believes is shared by three persons. Again, the word "God" can only properly be employed by trinitarians as referring to the Godhead Beingness, which is impersonal. Otherwise they compromise their view of monotheism. Bowman uses "God" where John 5:19 uses "Father." So Bowman is carelessly using "God" as a synonym here for the Father. Also, since God sent His Son into the world to give his life in our behalf, according to Bowman's reasoning, Jesus would have to have likewise sent his Son (who might that be, Rob?) to earth to similarly give his life in our behalf. Obviously, when Jesus said he does only what he sees the Father doing, he did not mean for us to take this as an all-inclusive statement, but a statement in relation to his soteriological and eschatological functions, like judging and raising the dead, both of which are mentioned in the context of John 5:19.



Rob Bowman:

e. Stafford again insinuates into my argument an understanding of the Trinity that I do not hold and for which he has provided no documentation that it is held by trinitarians. I do NOT believe that there is an "impersonal" substance "shared" by three persons. The triune God is one infinite-personal Being, not an impersonal abstract beingness subdivided into three personal entities.



Greg Stafford:

Who said anything about "subdivided"? However, the Trinity most certainly does teach a consubstantial Triad. Is the "substance" shared by the three persons "personal"?



Rob Bowman:

To assert that "the word 'God' can only properly be employed by trinitarians as referring to the Godhead Beingness, which is impersonal" is to attribute to trinitarians a belief that we do not hold. Nor is it true that we must define God this way to preserve our view of monotheism. As a matter of fact, the reverse is true. If we defined God as an impersonal abstract essence or "beingness" shared by three individual concrete beings, that would implicitly result in a kind of tritheism.



Greg Stafford:

What, then, exactly, does the word "God" properly denote, in your view. Please articulate it for us. Also, where did I speak of "three individual concrete beings"?



Rob Bowman:

Whether any trinitarians have ever defined the doctrine of the Trinity in the way Stafford does, I do not know. But I do know that in all my years of studying the doctrine, writing a book on it, and discussing it with trinitarians of all denominations, I have never encountered any trinitarian who defined the doctrine in that way. On the other hand, I have encountered antitrinitarians who do insist on defining it in this way. And I have read trinitarians who have explicitly pointed out that the doctrine should not be misconstrued in the way Stafford misconstrues it. I conclude that Stafford has simply bought into a popular antitrinitarian assumption about the doctrine of the Trinity.



Greg Stafford:

I conclude you are evading the point. You wrote a book defending what you apparently do not understand. Of course, when one reads the early works on trinitarianism, it is easy to see why a proponent of the doctrine would try to avoid association with its clear implications, if one hopes to defend it. After you answer my question in the paragraph above yours, we can proceed with this thought.



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Rob Bowman:

f. It is true that I used the term "God," whereas John 5:19 actually speaks of the Father. But this was not carelessness on my part. First of all, according to Jehovah's Witnesses, the Father alone is God, and God is no one but the Father. So, according to Stafford's theology, an argument that assumes an identity between the Father and God should not be problematic.



Greg Stafford:

It is not problematic for me, but for you, and that is the point I was making.



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Rob Bowman:

Let's cut to the chase, now. I ask Greg Stafford, and any other Jehovah's Witness, this simple question: Is there anything the Father does or can do(in relation to creation) that the Son does not or cannot do? That is, is there any work (ad extra, as we say in trinitarian theology; i.e., anything done outside of God) that the Father does that the Son does not do? If so, how does that square with John 5:19? And if not, does that mean there is nothing that Jehovah can do that his supposedly created and inferior son Jesus (aka the Logos, aka Michael the Archangel) cannot also do? >>



Greg Stafford:

Of course. The Son does not create in the same sense that the Father does. The Father is the source and the Son is the agent of the Father's creative acts. (1 Cor. 8:6) John 5:19 simply states that Jesus homoios poiei what the Father shows (deiknusin) him. For, again, the Son cannot do anything of his own volition. This shows a dependence on the Father that is irreconcilable with trinitarianism, for the text does not limit such dependence to the Son's human nature. Additionally, the Son does not even act in accordance with his own will. (John 5:30) His will is distinct and completely dependent upon the Father. Also, in context, the statement of John 5:19 seems to be related to the Son's soteriological and eschatological functions, some of which involve raising the dead (vs. 21) and judging (vs. 22). Thus, to make it an all-inclusive statement is not necessary. Jehovah's truly created and quite inferior Son can only do what the Father shows him and wills him to do. Such could hardly be said of Jehovah!--Isa 46:10-11.


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Greg Stafford:

Bowman also fails to note that Jesus, in the very same verse to which he refers, states that he cannot do anything of his own initiative. Naturally, trinitarians take this in reference to Jesus' fleshly dependence on the Father, but then should we not take the very words to which Bowman refers as also referring to his fleshly state? That is, since Jesus does nothing of his own from his human standpoint, he must, of necessity, do what the Father does. Are we to understand, Mr. Bowman, that the words of John 5:19 deify Jesus' fleshly nature? Of course, Jesus goes on to identify some of the things he does in imitation of the Father: raising the dead and acting as Judge. But the Father still had to "give" (vs. 22; dedoken) such authority to the Son. The Son could not do the judging that the Father did, unless the Father gave him that authority. See below for more on this matter of "giving."



Rob Bowman:

g. While the words of John 5:19 might apply to Jesus specifically in his human state, I don't think they need to be limited to that state. In any case, I don't take John 5:19 to be deifying Jesus' human nature in the abstract, but to be an affirmation of the deity of the PERSON of the Son who at that time had (and still does have, in orthodox theology) human nature. The incarnate Son could do nothing on his own, and the incarnate Son could do and did do everything the Father did. There is no problem here for the orthodox position.



Greg Stafford:

There is a huge problem here for the "orthodox position," and it is only further complicated by your reply. There are 102 words in the above paragraph, and yet you fail to address the point. I will ask again, to what nature does John 5:19 apply? The person of the Son, according to you, possesses two natures, so you cannot avoid the question. If it applies to "the PERSON of the Son," then it must apply to one or both of his natures. Well? Was the Son's deity so dependent on the Father that the Son, as a divine person, had to imitate the Father, only after the Father revealed his will to the divine person of the Son? Or, did the Son in his humanity imitate the Father's actions, so that you would then be forced to either deify his humanity or accept that the imitation is not that which places the Son on par with the Father in "all he does"?



Rob Bowman:

No orthodox trinitarian has ever dreamed that the Son could do anything on his own, apart from the Father.



Greg Stafford:

And, of course, you are referring only to his humanity, right? How convenient. But you still have not addressed the problem I outlined above. Please try to stay focused on the point at hand, so we do not become overly wordy in our discussion, as our readers are likely trying to follow along and glean the key points. We don't need a lesson in obfuscation.



Rob Bowman:

Anyone who suggests otherwise is either ignorant of trinitarian theology, or dishonest.



Greg Stafford:

How is this relevant here? I am asking you a question about the matter. I clearly recognize the loophole trinitarians wrongly make in applying the Son's dependency to his human nature, so can you simply deal with the issue of whether or not the words under discussion apply to his human or divine nature?



Rob Bowman:

The Son is not an independent deity, off doing his own thing; he is the Son, working always in union with the Father, always acting to bring glory to the Father.



Greg Stafford:

Again, let's save space and deal with the issues. The Son is quite dependent upon the Father, and that is the very point I am raising against your teaching! I contend that this dependence is nowhere limited to his human nature, and that you are playing fast and loose with John 5:19 and other texts, choosing which portions you want to apply to his human nature and which portions you want to apply to his divine nature, when the Bible makes no such distinction.



Rob Bowman:

That the Father "gave" authority to Jesus to raise and judge the dead is not a problem for our position - it is a problem for yours.



Greg Stafford:

It is a problem for you when it comes to answering this question: Was the Son's human nature given this authority, or his divine nature?



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Rob Bowman:

On your view, John 5 apparently means that Jehovah God has delegated all judgment to a finite creature. Worse, he did so in order that everyone would honor that finite creature just as they honor Jehovah God himself (vv. 22-23).



Greg Stafford:

And here you assume that being a "finite" creature somehow makes one unworthy to receive the power to judge. Why don't you show that from the Bible, Rob? As for the honor given to the Son, since he is now Judge, we must honor him as we would honor the Father as Judge, for such authority has now been delegated to the Son. Would an infinite being need to be given authority to judge? Of course, if you here say it is Christ's humanity that is given the authority, then you contradict yourself, for then you would be suggesting that a finite creature was given "all authority to judgment"! Well?



Rob Bowman:

Wrangle all you want about the precise nuance of kathos ("just as"), the point still comes through clearly if one reads the whole paragraph instead of dissecting it according to preconceived theological biases.



Greg Stafford:

And just where did I "wrangle" about "the precise nuance of kathos"? Maybe you should wait until you hear my argument before you offer a reply. We must honor the Son as Judge just as we honor the Father, and that is the context of the statement in John 5:23. Of course, I could certainly appeal to the different nuances of kathos, but it is not necessary. The role of Judge is directly related to the honor paid to the Son, as is manifest in the hina clause of verse 23.



Rob Bowman:

On the trinitarian view, Jesus had to be "given" that authority because he had taken the path of self-humiliation and self-denial in order to redeem us (see further below). Again, the givenness of his divine authority does not detract from the fact that it is indeed divine authority. The person who will be making the life and death decisions for every human being for all eternity will be - Jesus! He will decide if you will live eternally or not. He will decide who will be saved and who will not. He has the power to give eternal life, or to withhold it. Biblically, theologically, and personally, that makes him "my Lord and my God" (John 20:28).



Greg Stafford:

I understand that, Rob, but you are apparently unaware of what I am saying. The Son in his divinity could not be given this authority, could he? No, for if that divinity is infinite, and it is, according to you, then it would already have the authority to judge. But if the Son in his humanity is given what you say is "divine authority," then how can you then argue that the Son has a dependence upon the Father as to his humanity, when that humanity now has divine authority? I have no problem calling Jesus my Lord and my God, in the qualified sense in which the Bible presents him as a divine being. But Thomas may not have addressed Jesus as such (see my book for details). You are the one who has the problem, for neither Thomas nor any other Bible personage uses the term "God" in a manner consistent with trinitarianism. Yet, you and others appeal to these verses as if they support your theology!



Rob Bowman:

The person who will be making the life and death decisions for every human being for all eternity will be - Jesus!



Greg Stafford:

Yes! And that is because the Father gave him that authority; this authority is not original to him. We are, of course, grateful to have such a merciful and glorious judge, who will make decisions and act in such a way as to bring glory to his God and Father.



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Rob Bowman:

In John 16:13 Jesus said something about the Holy Spirit very similar to what he said about himself in John 5:19. "He will not speak on his own, but whatever he hears he will speak." Obviously, this has nothing to do with the Holy Spirit being in a human state, since the Holy Spirit did not become flesh. It has to do, rather, with the Holy Spirit not acting independently of the Father (or of the Son, in the immediate context) but speaking on behalf of the Father (and/or the Son). But now we encounter what appears to me to be some serious difficulties for the Watchtower view. >>



Greg Stafford:

Not so fast, Rob. The holy spirit does not say, "Most truly I say to you, [I] cannot do a single thing of [my] own initiative." (John 5:19) Again, is this related to Jesus' human or divine "state"? The holy spirit is not said to have been given the authority to judge.



Rob Bowman:

(i) Since in John 5:19 the one who does not act on his own is obviously a person, one would expect that the same language used in John 16:13 would also apply to a person. (The impression is reinforced and confirmed by several other features of the text: the term pneuma in the NT customarily refers to persons, the Spirit here is said to "hear" and "speak," and so forth.) But the Watchtower teaches that the Holy Spirit is an impersonal force.



Greg Stafford:

I am more than happy to discuss your misunderstanding of this matter, but I prefer to finish the discussion at hand. I can understand your desire to do so, but I do not care much for Bible hopscotch. We are discussing the Son's relationship with the Father vis--vis the Godhead Beingness they allegedly share, and how this relationship is harmonized with statements such as those found in John 5:26. Please try to stay focused on the subject under discussion. Again, we'll get to your view of the holy spirit soon enough.



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Bowman:

2. The doctrine of the Trinity teaches that the Son was "eternally begotten" by the Father, that is, that the Son is in some (admittedly unfathomable) way dynamically related to the Father as his Son. This doctrine is based on the NT teaching that Jesus Christ has always been the Son (e.g., John 1:1-2, 14, 18; Col. 1:13-17; Heb. 1:2).



Greg Stafford:

In the above texts, or anywhere else in the Bible for that matter, one will search in vain for the words, "Jesus Christ has always been the Son." Also, you will never encounter the words or the concept of "eternal generation" in the Bible. Here we have an example of a later doctrinal development read back into the text of the Bible, in order to support a doctrinal presupposition. The Bible frequently uses terms that denote a distinction in terms of age, such as "Father" and "Son," but never do we find the Bible writers articulating an understanding of these and other terms that would cause us to think they are using them in a sense different from that of the everyday meaning associated with these terms in Bible times, in terms of temporal priority, and certain filial associations.



Rob Bowman:

There are several reasons why we would, in fact, conclude that Jesus is called God's "Son" in a way that varies from that term's "everyday meaning," and specifically that it does not imply that Jesus's sonship was a temporal, created sonship. I have detailed seven such reasons in my book Why You Should Believe in the Trinity: An Answer to Jehovah's Witnesses (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1989), 85-86.

In John 1:1-3, the apostle tells us that the Word existed in the beginning and that all temporal things owe their existence to him. See my book Jehovah's Witnesses, Jesus Christ, and the Gospel of John (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1989), 20-24, for a defense of the eternity of the Word in John 1:1.



Greg Stafford:

You are wrong, and I provide reasons for viewing your argument as incorrect in my book, Jehovah’s Witnesses Defended: An Answer to Scholars and Critics. See Chapter 7 for details.



Bowman:

In John 1:3, John says explicitly that everything that "came to be" (that is, all temporal things) did so through the creative agency of the Word.



Greg Stafford:

Once again you assume that which you have yet to prove. Is this going to be a reoccurring theme in your writings? Please show us, from the Bible, that panta refers to "all temporal things."



Bowman:

Therefore, once again, the Word is eternal.



Greg Stafford:

From false premises will come false conclusions. John 1:1 says nothing about the Word being eternal, but that he existed with God (not the Father, mind you) in the beginning, that is, the beginning of Genesis 1:1, where the creation of all temporal physical things came into being. I believe the opening words of John 1:1 are purposefully the precise words used in the LXX of Genesis 1:1. Genesis 1, of course, articulates the creation of the physical universe.



Rob Bowman:

Then, verses 14 and 18 make it clear that this Word was the Son before he became human (a fact with which the Jehovah's Witnesses agree) and that the Word-Son is the same person who we now know as Jesus (again, the Jehovah's Witnesses agree). Thus, I assert that John 1:1-3, 14 teaches that Jesus has always been the Son.



Greg Stafford:

Yes, we know that is what you assert, Rob, but the Bible makes no such assertion.



Rob Bowman:

Colossians 1:13-17 speaks specifically of God's beloved "Son" (v. 13b). It says of him that all things were created in, through, and for him (v. 16), that he is before all things (v. 17a), and that all things cohere or consist, are held together or sustained, in him (v. 17b). Much the same things are said about the Son in Hebrews 1:2-3. Thus, these texts also support the assertion that Jesus has always been God's Son.



Greg Stafford:

I believe you left out the very temporal designation "Firstborn" from Col. 1:15, and the also temporal description of the Son as the charakter tes hupostaseos autou. (Heb. 1:3) This makes it ever so clear that the Son is not as old as the One of whom he is a charakter. And, of course, this is referring to his prehuman state, the one through whom God made the ages. Any particular reason you neglected to highlight these aspects of the verses to which you referred, Rob?



Rob Bowman:

Far from reading a later doctrinal development back into texts, I am reiterating the biblical teaching that drove the early church precisely to develop those doctrinal ideas.



Greg Stafford:

Really? Well, when are you going to reference the "biblical teaching" that you are "reiterating"? All you have done so far is refer to sections of Scripture that contain descriptions of the Son that are irreconcilable with trinitarianism.



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Rob Bowman:

In this sense it is eternally true that the Son receives his nature and authority from the Father. One might read John 5:26 in this sense assaying that Jesus eternally received self-existent life from the Father in his eternal generation.



Greg Stafford:

One might read it anyway one wishes, but that does not makes one's reading accurate. There is nothing about eternally receiving anything! Again, Bowman interprets the text in light of later, post-biblical theology. Also, the idea of receiving life "eternally" is a contradiction in itself. If he received it, it is not something he had "eternally," and there is no justification for such a view in Scripture. The Bible says the Son was "given life." (Joh 5:26) Jesus acknowledges that he `lives because of the Father.' (Joh 6:57) These two statements are consistent with some of the ideas commonly associated with the relationship between "Father" and "Son," in biblical times. If you are looking for straightforward texts around which to build your doctrine, these two verses are not a bad place to start. They are certainly much better than reading the text and trying to make it fit with post-biblical theology.



Rob Bowman:

a. Stafford once again begs the question. By asserting that one cannot receive something eternally, what he is really saying is that, no matter what the Bible says, the doctrine of eternal Sonship can't be true because it seems contradictory.



Greg Stafford:

Now your arguments are displaying considerable weakness. Where do I say, "no matter what the Bible says"? You are the one who has assumed that which you have yet to prove, while I am simply pointing out that the Bible does not teach an inherently contradictory doctrine like "eternal generation." No? You believe it does? Then point us to those sections of scripture where such a teaching is clearly articulated. Of course, it is not until hundreds of years later that we meet with this idea of "eternal generation," and it is surprising that so many trintitarians cling to it when it is found nowhere in the Bible, and when it involves concepts that contradict one another.



Rob Bowman:

This is the reasoning of a skeptic, not of a Bible-believing Christian. Sorry to be so blunt, but it's true - and it's been true of Jehovah's Witnesses all along, beginning with Charles Taze Russell himself.



Greg Stafford:

You are quite the card, Rob (sorry to be so blunt). A Bible-believing Christian is not one who is duped into accepting ideas and philosophies that are not in any way, shape, or form grounded in Scripture. "Eternal generation"? You have go to be kidding. When you provide evidence for such a view from Scripture, I will begin to take you more seriously. Until then, you are simply reading later theology back into the Bible, in order to support your preconceived view of what the Bible teaches.



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Rob Bowman:

Russell rejected Christianity until he found out that some people had figured out a way to accept the Bible without having to believe those incomprehensible doctrines of the Trinity and hell. Thus, the Watchtower religion is founded ultimately on an unbelieving spirit - "I won't believe if it I can't make sense of it." See further my Understanding Jehovah's Witnesses: Why They Read the Bible the Way They Do (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1991), 75-84.



Greg Stafford:

You are way off the mark, and I have made appeal only to the fact that your views are not founded upon Scripture, and they are inherently contradictory. You have no idea why we "read the Bible the way we do." You don't even realize why you read the Bible the way you do: You are forced to reconcile later theology with the Bible, regardless of how you bend it, less you bear the brand of heretic.



Rob Bowman:

b. If we understand Jesus to be speaking of his possessing "life in himself" even before becoming a human, then in light of John 1:1-4 we will have to understand it to refer to the Father "giving" the Son self-existent life before creation. In light of a proper exegesis of John 1, as already discussed briefly, this "giving" occurs beyond space and time, because Christ already has it when time begins.



Greg Stafford:

Another unproven assumption (this is getting ridiculous!), which I refute in my book. John 1:1 says nothing about "beyond space and time," but it is only by reading these thoughts into the text that one can hope to reconcile the trinitarian view of Jesus with later theology. The Father gave the Son life, and that is all we are told in John 5:26. There is no qualification made, and no mention of "beyond space and time." Historically, trinitarians have been forced into the role of "eisegete," for the Bible, as it stands, cannot support their teachings.



Rob Bowman:

This leads directly to the idea of an eternal giving of self-existent life from the Father to the Son, which is what is meant by eternal generation. Thus, once again, I am not reading later theology back into John, but reiterating the teaching of John that led the church later to formulate their theology.



Greg Stafford:

(!) All you have done and continue to do is read later theology into the text and add words and concepts that are not all at found in the passages you reference. "Eternal giving"! Where is that in the Bible? We have the giving, and you keep trying to read the "eternal" into the text, but it just is not there. I guess the faith teachers' views are not to be condemned, for they hardly attempt to read more into the Bible than trinitarians!



Rob Bowman:

c. Which texts seem "straightforward" will, notoriously, depend on wha tdoctrinal assumptions one has already nailed down as fixed points of reference. John 5:26 and 6:57 are fine texts, and they should be taken seriously (and are) by trinitarians, but they don't give a straightforward, direct answer to the question, "Is Jesus God?" or "Has Jesus existed eternally?"



Greg Stafford:

Some texts are clear enough that they require little if any interpretation. However, ambiguous texts should always be interpreted in light of clearer passages. Trinitarians do not take John 5:26, 6:57 seriously. Instead, they, as is evident by your example, read them in light of later theology in order to bring them into agreement with their beliefs. Rather, they should bring their beliefs into agreement with the texts. Again you use the term "God" inappropriately for a trinitarian, for you really mean to ask, "Is Jesus grounded in the divine essence of God?" John 5:26 and 6:57 are two texts that stand in direct contradiction to the Trinity. If Jesus was given life, then he did not always have it, and therefore did not always exist. If he did not have life, he could not have been eternally grounded in a substance of Being shared by other "persons."



Rob Bowman:

I find much more direct answers to the first question in such texts as John 1:1; 20:28; Rom. 9:5; Titus 2:13; 2 Peter 1:1; Hebrews 1:8; 1

John 5:20; and to the second question in such texts as John 1:1; 8:58; Col.

1:16-17; Heb. 1:2-3, 10-12.



Greg Stafford:

None of the above texts can be harmonized with the tenets of trinitarianism, and all of them argue negatively against both the first and second questions. See my book for more details.



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Rob Bowman:

3. The doctrine of the Incarnation teaches that the Son became a man and as such was God incarnate (based, e.g., on John 1:1, 14; 20:28; Col.2:9).



Greg Stafford:

While the doctrine of the Incarnation may teach that, the Bible does not. The Bible teaches that Jesus "became" flesh (John 1:14); he did not "clothe" himself, or "veil" his divinity. He gave it up (Phil. 2:7), showing true humility (Phil. 2:3-5).



Rob Bowman:

Notice once again that Stafford uses language to describe my position that I myself have not used.



Greg Stafford:

I use the terms that are commonly given by those who embrace the doctrine of the Incarnation. If you do not agree, then say so.



Rob Bowman:

In any case, the question is whether, when Jesus became a man, he remained who and what he was before becoming a man. Surely the answer to that question must be Yes.



Greg Stafford:

This is getting old, fast! Please prove what you here assert as true.



Rob Bowman:

He was the Son of God before; he was the Son of God on earth, in the flesh (e.g., John 1:14, 18; 3:16; Rom. 8:32; 1 John 3:8; 4:9).



Greg Stafford:

He will always be the Son of God for nothing can erase this as a historical fact. But this does not imply that he would have to retain the same nature throughout his existence.



Rob Bowman:

The man who presented his wounded hands and side to Thomas for inspection was Thomas's Lord and God (John 20:27-28). Now that's Incarnation!



Greg Stafford:

No, that's an unproven assumption! First, we are dealing with a post-resurrection appearance and so Jesus is no longer flesh, but has become a "life-giving spirit" (1 Cor. 15:45) and has manifested himself in human form, much the same way angels did in the past, when they sat down and ate a meal with Lot. Second, it is not clear that Thomas intended for Jesus to be called "God" in this verse, but even if he did it would be in the qualified sense in which the Bible refers to Jesus as theos: There is one who is God to him.--John 20:17.



Rob Bowman:

Colossians 2:9, about which Stafford said nothing here, explicitly says that Jesus Christ has the fulness of deity dwelling in him bodily. I think Stafford is overly dismissive here. On Philippians 2:3-5, see Why You Should Believe in the Trinity, 101-3.



Greg Stafford:

And if anyone has any questions about pages 101-103 in Why You Should, just ask. As for Col. 2:9, Bowman fails to recognize that Christ's own fullness is contingent upon the Father's will! (Col. 1:19) Thus, once again we see that Christ is not eternal, for he has not always had the very fullness that constitutes him a god! Of course, anointed Christians will also possess this fullness, according to Col. 2:10. For more on Col. 2:9, see my book, pages 24-27.



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Rob Bowman:

As such, Jesus in his incarnate state had "life in himself." Since the Son was sent to be our redeemer by the Father, Jesus in John 5:26 might have been saying that the Father had willed that Jesus, the *incarnate* Son, should embody self-existent life in himself.



Greg Stafford:

Upon rereading the text, we find no such teaching in John 5:26. Jesus makes no such qualification of the life he was given. He simply says that as the Father has life, so He has given life to the Son.



Rob Bowman:

Not just life, but "life in himself." Again, what is said here needs to be correlated with John 1:1-4, among other passages in John.



Greg Stafford:

No problem. But the conclusion is the same: Jesus was given life in himself. In what other way could he be given life than for that life to dwell in him? It is not some tangible, external product.



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Rob Bowman:

In any case, "life in himself" is a description of the Son's nature. That is what he is. John tells us that "in him was life" (John 1:4), that is, even before he became incarnate.



Greg Stafford:

Yes, in him was life. But the point we are making is he was given that life. John 5:26 does not say when he was given that life. Again, the simple truth is that the life Jesus has in himself was given to him by the Father. Thus, he did not always possess that life.



Rob Bowman:

Again, Stafford is assuming what he needs to prove - that the Father's "giving" life to the Son implies that the Son received it temporally.



Greg Stafford:

There is no other meaning one can derive from a simply reading and appreciation of the term "give." Unless the Bible articulates the word "give" in such a way as to restrict its meaning and place in some non-temporal category, we are not at liberty to dissociate its inherently temporal connotations! Of course, you have to, for otherwise your theology crumbles. But, it is you who have once again assumed that which you have yet to prove. I assume that the word is used with its normal meaning (for I have no reason to believe it is not), while you assume that it is used in a sense that is nowhere articulated or demonstrated in Scripture.



Rob Bowman:

Pop quiz: If a temporal father gives temporal life to his son, what kind of life does an eternal Father give to his one true Son?



Greg Stafford:

He gives the same kind of life that He "gives to all persons" (Acts 17:25), being as He is the "source of life." (Ps 36:9) Life is never spoken of in the Bible as something that carries with it the age of the One who gave it.

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?



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Rob Bowman:

4. The doctrine of the Incarnation teaches that the Son humbled himself to become the Father's servant as a man (Phil. 2:6). As such Christ had placed himself voluntarily in a position of servitude in which he did not exalt himself but received exaltation from the Father in his resurrection and ascension (Phil. 2:9-11; cf. Heb. 5:5). This is why Christ could be "given" all authority in the universe (Matt. 28:18). What he was given already rightly belonged to him, but in order to redeem us Christ took the path of humility. The glory that he received in the resurrection and ascension was actually the glory that he already had before the world was created (John 17:5).



Greg Stafford:

Question: Was Christ's deity or humanity given "all authority"? Also, Bowman assumes that what Christ was given "already belonged to him." But the Bible does not say this. Dwelling in glory with the Father does not ipso facto means he had "all authority." At least the Bible does not speak in such terms.



Rob Bowman:

The answer to Stafford's question is, neither: Christ the PERSON was given authority; it was not given to his humanity or his deity per se, but to the person who was now permanently both deity and glorified humanity.



Greg Stafford:

Fine. Then Christ the "PERSON" was given that which he did not already possess. But if the "PERSON" of Christ was given it, then one or both of his "natures" had to be given it. Also, if Christ has two natures, and one nature is, say, omniscient (his divine nature), and his human nature is finite in terms of knowledge, then you have two centers of consciousness, and thus two persons. You deny this, but there is no way around it other than to deny reality. When asked to explain it, well, the mystery is usually invoked and the dialogue ends. It's no mystery, Rob, it is unbiblical.



Rob Bowman:

There's no "assuming" on my part about Christ already having the authority. Does Matthew 28:18 mean that Christ did not have all authority before his resurrection? Well, consider this: In Matthew 11:27 Jesus asserts, "All things HAVE BEEN [not "will be"] handed over to me by my Father." So, when did this happen, if it did not happen at his resurrection?



Greg Stafford:

The Bible does not provide an exact "day" when these things were given to Christ; it simply tells us they were given to him. So your point is meaningless in a discussion concerning what was in fact given to Christ. Also, the precise time he was given the authority need not be considered the same time he began to exercise that authority.



Rob Bowman:

My statement about Christ receiving glory he had previously before creation (John 17:5) was meant as a further illustration of the fact that Christ "receiving" something or being "given" something does not necessarily mean he didn't have it before.



Greg Stafford:

And you are wrong, for "glory" can be that which is grounded in Christ's own prehumanly existing divine form (Phil. 2:6-7), or "glory" can be the praise and honor that comes as a result of the Father's exaltation of the Son. (Phil. 2:11) The glory Christ had before he came to earth is not the same as that which he will receive when every knee bends and every tongue confesses him as Lord, to his God and Father's glory, for the glory he receives as an appointed Lord involves the praise that comes from humankind, and this was not the case with the glory he owned in his prehuman state, for the world of humankind did not then exist.



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Rob Bowman:

5. Several of the exalted titles Jesus has are said in one place or another to be given to him after he already had them. For example, Peter says after Jesus' resurrection that God has "made" Jesus both Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36) -- but he was already both (e.g., Luke 2:11).



Greg Stafford:

Where does Peter say he was made Lord after his resurrection? He simply states that God made Jesus "Lord" and "Christ" in the course of his conversation with the Jews. Did God make Jesus "Christ" after his resurrection?



Rob Bowman:

a. That wasn't exactly what I said. I said that after Christ's resurrection Peter said what he said. In fact I don't think God made Jesus Lord or Christ for the first time at or after his resurrection. What I think Peter is clearly saying in the context, though, is that in or by his resurrection and exaltation to the right hand of God (Acts 2:33), Jesus was shown to be both Lord and Christ (v. 36).



Greg Stafford:

Then you are wasting our time and failing to make your point, for you were attempting to demonstrate how something can be given to someone, even though that person already owns "it." Showing someone to be something has no business in a discussion concerning the meaning and true import of giving something to someone for the first time.



Rob Bowman:

His language, though, if pressed the way YOU press other texts that speak of Jesus being given something or made something, would imply that Jesus did not become Lord or Christ until he was raised and exalted. And that is explicitly contrary to Scripture.



Greg Stafford:

(?!?) I don't know when you typed this, but may I suggest that you do not do so late at night and that you give careful thought to what you say, before you say it? I mean, there is no rush to put up a reply just so you can think, "Well, I replied." Substance counts. Now, how in the world does his language, "if pressed," "imply that Jesus did not become Lord or Christ until he was raised and exalted"? I just got through telling you that the text says nothing about when this was done, but merely that it was done at some point. If you continue to ignore what I say and reiterate the same thing that I just addressed, then this is simply an exercise in futility. Actually, I think you see the problem your "logic" presents you with, and now you are backing off. If not, then deal with the issue; do not simply repeat the point I already considered.



Rob Bowman:

Thus, I am arguing that you should not press such language to prove that Christ's deity or authority are temporal and inferior when the Bible clearly says otherwise.



Greg Stafford:

Yes, I know that is what you want, Rob, but your arguments fail to make your point, and so you are left in with the same problem: The Bible uses temporal language with regard to the authority, life, and nature (divine fullness) that the Son possesses.



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Rob Bowman:

Paul says that Jesus was "appointed" as God's Son by his resurrection from the dead (Rom. 1:4) -- but Jesus was already God's Son when he lived and died in the flesh (Rom. 8:3). These examples (more could be "given"!) show that Christ's exaltation was actually the Father showing to the world that Jesus was the divine Son and Lord and now called on the world to confess Jesus as such.



Greg Stafford:

The word "son" is used in several contexts with slightly different connotations. Jesus was the Son of God before coming to earth because he was given life by the Father. Similarly, he is God's son by means of a resurrection, for at that time God once again gave Jesus life. Also, Romans 1:20 says Jesus was designated (horisthentos) God's Son by means of the resurrection, so it may simply be that Jesus' sonship was recognized at the time of his resurrection. However, Paul's use of Psalm 2:7 in Acts 13:33 seems to indicate that it is the life Jesus received at his resurrection that allowed him to be designated "God's Son." Therefore, the expression "God's Son" used in different contexts does not support the assumption Bowman makes that God bestows titles on Jesus that he already had. Also, if Jesus had a title prior to the world's or our recognition of it, this would not provide a useful parallel to our discussion of John 5:26, which speaks of "life" being giving to Jesus, not a title.



Rob Bowman:

b. The fact that the title "Son of God" has "slightly different connotations" in different contexts does not change the fact that this is an example of a title that God bestowed on Jesus>>



Greg Stafford:

Did I say it did? I am simply pointing out that this title, with different connotations, can be given to Jesus on different occasions, in accordance with the particular connotations intended at a given time/event.



Rob Bowman:

While my point about titles is not directly pertinent to the expression "life in himself" John 5:26, it is pertinent as a reply to Mark Ross, who had asserted that Jesus received authority and therefore could not have already had it. Since Jesus' divine titles are expressive of his divine authority, my point about Jesus' titles is relevant to answering Mark's argument.



Greg Stafford:

Not really, for your examples do not make your point. But I believe Mark's question primarily related to John 5:26.



Rob Bowman:

I think Stafford means Romans 1:4, not Romans 1:20.



Greg Stafford:

Yes, I did. Thank you for the correction.



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Rob Bowman:

6. There is one Scripture that, in a sense, speaks of the Father receiving authority. In 1 Corinthians 15:24, Paul says that at the end, Christ "delivers up the kingdom to the God and Father." So here we find Christ in a sense giving the Father the kingdom (a word perhaps better translated "kingship," that is, royal authority). Of course, that does not mean that the Father was not already in possession of kingdom authority over all creation. But there will be a sense in which Christ presents to the Father a reconciled new creation that perfectly embodies God's rule.



Greg Stafford:

The Bible says Jesus gives the kingdom, or rule, back to the Father, thus, the Father will not have it while it belongs to His Son. This text simply states that that which the Father gives to the Son, the Son gives back to the Father. While the Son exercises authority over the kingdom apart from the Father's intervention, the Son never exercises authority over the Father, but the Father does exercise authority over the Son as his God. (1 Cor. 11:3; Rev. 3:12) This implies that, as the Son's God, the Father could take back the kingdom if He chooses to, but He will not do so, according to the Bible.



Rob Bowman:

a. So, Jehovah God is currently not ruling mankind?



Greg Stafford:

No. At this time, Satan is the ruler of the world of mankind (1 Joh. 5:19), and during the Millennial Reign God will not rule mankind directly, for, again, He has given the authority to rule and judge to His Son. Was I unclear about this?



Rob Bowman:

b. So, Jesus' kingdom will have an end, despite, for example, Luke 1:32-33?



Greg Stafford:

That's a rather slippery slope you're riding, Rob. The kingdom Jesus established with his God-given authority will never end. Jesus' direct authority over that kingdom will end, and be given back to God, the One who gave it to Jesus in the first place. After the Millennial Reign the Bible clearly states that the Son will once again come under the authority of his God (not simply the "Father"), and then God will once again resume direct control over earth's affairs. (1 Cor. 15:24-28) I do hope you will be there to see God's promised "new earth" as He intended it to be.



Rob Bowman:

c. Is it even theoretically possible for Jesus to make a mistake?



Greg Stafford:

No, for he is a perfect spirit being, and, as we have discussed, he only does what the Father shows him. During his rule, he will likely maintain the same outlook, and do all that his Father taught him.--John 8:28.



Rob Bowman:

d. If the Father can be God for thousands of years without ruling as such, can't Jesus have been God for thousands of years before beginning to rule with divine authority?



Greg Stafford:

Where do you see the Father as "God for thousands of years without ruling as such"? In answer to your question, Jesus could be, but you can park yourself in a garage and call yourself a car and that does not mean it's true. The Bible says Jesus was "a god" and was with "God." They are different in terms of their being. The Bible says that the God Jesus was "with" gave him the authority to rule and judge, but no one is said to have given God the authority to rule and judge, let alone said to have given Him "life." Having the authority for thousands of years and not using it is entirely different from being given that authority. In one instance you have it, and in the other you are given it. Thus, you create a false analogy, at least in relation to the point we are supposed to be discussing. But since you are jumping all over the place, it is hard to tell where your mind is, as opposed to where it should be.



Rob Bowman:

e. Yes, the Father is Jesus' God, because Jesus became a human being and as such looks to the Father as his God; but this does not mean that Jesus is not also God. See Why You Should Believe in the Trinity, 71-72, for more on this point.



Greg Stafford:

Let's see, does the Bible ever qualify the fact that the Father is God over the Son as referring solely to the Son's humanity? No! Your book has nothing to use effectively in your behalf. Here you go again: When it suits your needs, you all of a sudden classify texts that are devastating to your theology as referring to Jesus' humanity. But the Bible provides no license for doing so. He also has a God since his resurrection (Rev. 3:12), and he does not still have his human nature in heaven. See Chapter 8 of my book for details. The dual-nature concept has all sorts of problems, not the least of which is the fact that you end up creating two persons, whether you like it or not. It's nothing but word magic.



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Rob Bowman:

My point is that we need to be careful when running across language about "giving" or synonymous terms not to draw conclusions not warranted by the text. To "give" (!) another example, in Psalm 96:7-8 we are told, "Give to the LORD, O families of the peoples, Give to the LORD glory and strength. Give to the LORD the glory of his name" (the same statements are found in 1 Chron. 16:28-29 and Ps. 29:1-2). In Revelation 5:13 we read, "To him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever." In none of these texts are people giving to God anything that is not really already his. They are simply acknowledging or recognizing or publicly declaring that God has these honors.



Greg Stafford:

In two of the above examples, we are not talking about giving something to someone else, but we are talking about, as Bowman himself says, "acknowledging or recognizing or publicly declaring that God has these honors." This is not true of the passages that speak of Jesus being given life or authority. None of the above texts refer to life or authority, also.

Bowman uses a simplified English-concordance approach that is not indicative of serious scholarship. The LXX of Ps. 29:1-2 and Ps. 96:7-8 uses a form of the word phero, which carries the meaning, "ascribe." This simply means recognizing that which already belongs to God. The examples from 1 Chr. 16:28-29 do use didomi, which is the same word used in John 5:26, but here we are indeed talking about giving something to God, namely, glory and strength. Is this referring to the glory He has or His own personal strength? No. We give Jehovah glory by praising Him, and we give Him our strength by our worship and the work we perform in His name. Unless we give these to Jehovah, He does not "have" them.



Rob Bowman:

f. Actually, I used a Hebrew concordance, as I was interested in the Hebrew OT text, not the Greek Septuagint text. But in any case the two texts that use phero are parallel to the 1 Chronicles text that you say uses the same Greek word as in John 5:26, didomi. So I don't see how you can use this difference to discount my point.



Greg Stafford:

Why would you be using a Hebrew concordance? And if you did, why not present your Hebrew findings? But, are we not interested in the meaning of the Greek word in John 5:26? Then why not use the LXX to find a use of the same word in similar contexts? Why reference texts that use a word different from our subject word? No, the examples you gave do not parallel the 1 Chronicles reference, nor do they parallel John 5:26. The use of didomi in 1 Chronicles has a similar meaning to the use of didomi in John 5:26, that is, giving something to someone who previously did not possess it. Your point, Rob, has been supported with nothing short of sheer desperation.



Rob Bowman:

Now, you need to make up your mind about something. In the two Psalm texts the Septuagint, you say, translates using a word meaning "ascribe." But both of these texts say that we are to "ascribe" the VERY SAME THINGS that 1 Chronicles 16:28-29 says we are to "give" to God - "glory and strength." You are trying to have it both ways, and either don't know it or are being cunning.



Greg Stafford:

First of all, Rob, you create a false dichotomy. Even if different texts speak of the same things, that does not necessarily mean they are taken in same way! We can ascribe glory and strength to God, and we can also give Him glory and strength by the work we do in His name. However, you are mistaken in your assessment: The LXX in the two references in Psalms and the reference you gave from 1 Chronicles does not refer to "the VERY SAME THINGS"! The references in Psalms use doxa and time ("honor"), but 1 Chronicles uses doxa and ischus ("strength"). Perhaps you should read your LXX a bit more carefully.



Rob Bowman:

I'll make it easy for you: in all three passages it is God's strength, not ours, that is to be "given" or "ascribed" to him (note 1 Chron. 16:8-9, 11-12, 24b, 27b; Ps. 29:4-8, 11; 96:3b, 5-6).



Greg Stafford:

You are killing me, Rob. You are also wrong again. When we declare his deeds among the nations, we ascribe glory and strength to Jah, and it is also while we declare such things that we give Him glory and our strength. Also, stop misleading others into thinking that the same words are used in these passages.



Rob Bowman:

Likewise it is God's glory that is being spoken of, not us giving God something he doesn't have (I'm sure you've already seen that if you looked up the verses just cited).



Greg Stafford:

Well, it appears you are the one who has not looked up these verses, or, if you did, you did not do so very carefully.



--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Rob Bowman:



These points, taken together, seem to me to be an adequate answer from an orthodox trinitarian perspective to the objection that Jesus could not be Almighty God if he was given divine nature or authority.



Greg Stafford:

Trinitarians are in a difficult position. The Bible frequently and consistently uses unambiguous language that argues against their view of God, and so they, as we have seen from the above, must read certain texts in light of theology that came into being hundreds of years after the closing of the Bible canon. We can only hope that, given enough time, and with God's help, those who embrace the Trinity doctrine will come to see it for what it truly is, and come to know God, not as a substance of being shared by three persons, but as the person of the Father, who lovingly gave life to His Son, that other might live by means of him.--Joh 6:57; 1 Cor. 8:6.



Rob Bowman:

Some closing comments of my own.

1. The Bible, correctly translated, unambiguously calls Jesus "God" (Is. 9:6; John 1:1; 20:28; Rom. 9:5; Tit. 2:13; 2 Pet. 1:1; Heb. 1:8; 1 John 5:20) and "Lord," i.e., the Lord YHWH (e.g., Rom. 10:9-13; Phil. 2:9-11; 1 Pet. 2:3; 3:15). Not once does the Bible, in any translation, not even the NWT, say that Jesus is "not God."



Greg Stafford:

The Bible never says Michael is "not God," either! Also, you again fail to properly explain what you mean by God, for it surely, having trinitarian connotations, does not coincide with the Bible's use of theos for Jesus. Additionally, when you show you have a grasp of the issues involved in the proper translation of these verses, feel free to begin the discussion. Until then, you are simply spinning your wheels.



Rob Bowman:

2. Watchtower theology came into being 19 centuries after the close of the NT canon. If we open the discussion beyond the narrow confines of the doctrine of the nature of God and the deity of Jesus Christ, we find that the whole theological structure of the Jehovah's Witnesses' doctrinal system is a late 19th and early 20th century development. So, if late development is an issue, the Jehovah's Witnesses are in a far worse situation than trinitarians.



Greg Stafford:

And, of course, you provide not one example. Your "eternal generation" certainly qualifies as later theology, and most certainly is unbiblical, as we have seen. But that is hardly the extent of the theological inventions trinitarians use to try and legitimize their preferred theology.



Rob Bowman:

3. It is not we who are reading our theology into the Bible. We developed our theology as faithful Christians in the church seeking to understand Scripture. We did not develop our theology as disaffected persons who had left the church because we did not like the doctrines of Scripture, only to decide that we could be Christians if we could make it agreeable to our notions.



Greg Stafford:

Sure you did, Rob. Eternal generation, two natures in one person, a Godhead Beingness shared by three persons…Need I say more? The Bible does away with all these teachings: Jesus is a spirit person (1 Cor. 15:45), he has a God over him (Rev. 3:12), and he is not eternal (John 5:26; 6:57). Also, the Bible never articulates the term "God" as a reference to a consubstantial Triad.



Rob Bowman:

4. In Stafford's closing comments he again shows that he does not understand the doctrine of the Trinity. We do not believe in an impersonal essence shared by three divine entities (which is what Stafford clearly understands "persons" to mean).



Greg Stafford:

Are you saying that the essence of the Father and Son is itself "personal"?



Rob Bowman:

We believe in one infinite-personal God who eternally exists in three persons (a word itself used analogically). Our doctrine is that the Father sent his Son, who was already in heaven with him in divine glory, into the world to be our Redeemer. This is also the doctrine of Scripture (John 3:13-16; 13:3; 16:28; 1 John 4:9-10).



Greg Stafford:

Yes, I know you believe that, Rob, but the Bible does not speak in such language. Also, the essence shared by the three persons is not personal, unless you are advocating four persons.



Rob Bowman:

5. The burden of proof is not on the trinitarian. It is on the Jehovah's Witness to show, not only that there are "difficulties" with the doctrine of the Trinity, but that it is incontrovertibly false, AND then to show that their alternative to the doctrine is better than all of the other antitrinitarisn theories on the intellectual market.

Robert Bowman



Greg Stafford:

We need only refer to Scripture to show that such a doctrine is entirely foreign to the Bible. In 1 Cor. 8:6 we are specifically told that the one God is one person, the Father. Also, Jesus is not the same God as the Father, for the Father is his God.

The trinitarian position is helpless in the face of biblical scrutiny, and those who promote it are forced to read later theology back into the text, for the Bible nowhere articulates their understanding of God.

Greg Stafford

Go to Stafford/Bowman Part Two.

Go to Al Kidd's Reply to Bowman.

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