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Still More on Sharp's Rule, Rob Bowman and Trinitarianism
Part Two: GIGO

By Greg Stafford


When one mixes garbage with something to begin with, regardless of what they add to it later, it will still be garbage, at least in part. Thus the saying, "Garbage in, garbage out," or GIGO.

Bowman's posts have not only contained substantial quantities of bad arguments, unbiblical distinctions and definitions (which are presented as if they were biblical), but he has also mixed in a good dose of personal attacks. In my opinion, this attitude began to surface when he was exposed for making a very basic error in reading one of my arguments, which he then tried to justify by attacking the cotext of my argument, but in the process he only succeeded in further embarrassing himself. Thus, his personal attacks have continued.

In addition to this "garbage" you will note that Bowman consistently laments about what he views as a priori arguments on my part. However, as I have demonstrated before, it is actually Bowman who brings a great deal of a priori garbage to the table. The reason he plays these games is not necessarily because he is a bad person; that is not for me to judge. But it is because he has adopted a position that is hopelessly at odds with the Bible, and forces its adherents to import unbiblical definitions and distinctions into the text in a desperate attempt to salvage some shred of hope for their position. This is not meant to be mean, but factual. There is no way around it. Let me show you why:


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Posted by Rob Bowman on August 14, 1998 at 04:37:39:



BOWMAN:
In this installment I will finish responding to Part Two of Stafford's series replying to me on Sharp's rule.

11. WHOSE DEFINITION OF THE TRINITY IS RIGHT - STAFFORD'S, OR THAT USED BY TRINITARIANS?
I had written:
>>>Greg claims that when trinitarians say, "Jesus is God," they don't really mean it; what they mean is that Jesus is one of three persons in a consubstantial divine triad. But the Bible never defines or uses the term "God" with such a meaning. Therefore, even if one of these verses did call Jesus "God," it wouldn't support the trinitarian interpretation. Greg's critique begins and ends on this note, and is repeated in the body of his critique (see Stafford, introduction; 10b-c; 25-26; 33). Greg also raises this objection frequently in all of his other posts responding to my arguments for the absolute deity of Jesus Christ. I have already discussed this objection in an earlier post in my multiple-part series responding to Greg. In brief, Greg is misrepresenting the trinitarian position to teach an impersonal essence grounding three personal beings. In trinitarian thought, each of the three persons fully instantiates the divine being, so that each person IS "God," and yet at the same time the divine being is not SOLELY instantiated in any one of the three persons.>>>

Stafford replies:
>>>Part 4 of my reply to Bowman's earlier series will be sent in a separate post, and has been delayed due to the fact that I gave attention to Ed Komoszewski's posts on John 8:58, as well as to Bowman's recent posts on Sharp's rule and his personal attacks against me. But I have not misrepresented the trinitarian position, and Al Kidd has demonstrated quite clearly that trinitarians are the ones who either do not understand the doctrine they have adopted, or they do understand and are simply unwilling to admit the truth, and instead embrace a lie. This may sound harsh, but there is no other way to put it, since this is the truth, and is a VERY important point.>>>



BOWMAN:
I have demonstrated, to the contrary, that trinitarians believe in one God in three persons, and that this one God is understood as a personal being, not as an impersonal being in which three persons participate. It is rank misrepresentation to say I believe something contrary to this, when it what I clearly and unequivocally have said over and over, as have many, many other trinitarians.



STAFFORD:
First, would you say that all faithful trinitarians, throughout history, have held to the same view of God that you have expressed above? Second, I don't care what you SAY you believe, if the words you use to express your belief contradict what you SAY you believe. THAT is why I have asked you SEVERAL times to QUALIFY your use of certain words, but you refuse to do so, for obvious reasons. Then you simply say, "Greg will not accept what I say" and on and on and on. Again, until you use language that agrees with what you say you believe, then I will not grant the double-talk so essential to your position, which allows you to present a false image of what you believe.



BOWMAN:
Stafford here confirms my main point, which was this. No matter what Titus 2:13 or 2 Peter 1:1 or any other text of the Bible says, Stafford will say that it CANNOT support the trinitarian doctrine because trinitarianism teaches . . . and then he will say something that trinitarians DO NOT TEACH AND DO NOT BELIEVE!



STAFFORD:
You are wrong. It is precisely due to what the Bible DOES say that I reject trinitarianism. The distinctions and definitions you import into the biblical text are not articulated there. Thus, your understanding of, say, "God," is not legitimate in any sense when it applies to God or Christ, for YOU understand the term as either a reference to the triune, personal (!) being, or to one of the three persons of the Godhead. But there is NO text in Scripture that uses the terms in either of these two ways. Your view is not biblical, but post-biblical.



BOWMAN:
If this a priori argument is allowed to stand, it really doesn't matter what Titus 2:13 says. If it said in just these words that Jesus is Jehovah, the one true Almighty God and Creator of the universe, Stafford, if he were consistent, would say that even this statement does not and cannot support the doctrine of the Trinity. If he's honest, he'll admit this. But then, why argue about what Titus 2:13 says?



STAFFORD:
That's correct. A direct identification would not automatically equate to trinitarianism, and we would have to determine what views are articulated in Scripture. Trinitarianism is NOWHERE articulated in Scripture; the definitions and distinctions essential to it are not found in the Bible, and, what is more, what the Bible does say contradicts the concepts that trinitarians import into the text.

So, you're right: Why are you spending so much time with texts such as Titus 2:13, when you have yet to establish the fundamental definitions and distinctions that would be required for your exegesis of this passage to be accepted in the first place? I can think of one reason: You KNOW that you cannot defend your definition of "God" or the distinction you create between "person" and "being." You simply ASSUME they are true, and then interpret passages in light of your preconceived views. It's a simple case of GIGO.





BOWMAN:
That was the whole point of my discussion of a priori objections. Stafford assumes certain things about the doctrine of the Trinity - things I and my trinitarian colleagues vigorously and clearly deny - in order to make it IMPOSSIBLE for any text, any where, any time, to affirm the doctrine of the Trinity or even any part of that doctrine.



STAFFORD:
And the whole point of my rebuttal to your post was that the LANGUAGE you use to describe your view necessarily amounts to a quaternity or three persons who share an impersonal substance. Also, I do not ASSUME certain things; I take what you SAY and then show that it is not biblical. YOU assume that certain definitions and distinctions are true, and then proceed to interpret the Bible from there. Not only are your definitions and distinctions NOWHERE articulated in the Bible, but the Bible uses language that contradicts the definitions and distinctions that you seek to import into it.



BOWMAN:
Why, if Stafford's definition of the Trinity were allowed to stand, we could not find any statement in support of the trinitarian view of God in any so-called trinitarian writer. Athanasius, Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, Edwards, Hodge - none of them really understood the Trinity, and none of them made statements that really agree with the Trinity, as Stafford and his buddies redefine it.



STAFFORD:
Again, we are simply taking the language you use and showing that it is not only wrong as it stands, but does not even agree with what you believe (without the proper qualification, of course)! Now, are you saying that all faithful trinitarians have expressed the same view of God that you have?



BOWMAN:
Any definition of the Trinity that not only disallows Peter, Paul, and John to affirm a trinitarian idea, but also disallows the Creeds, confessions, and writings of the greatest trinitarian theologians in church history as witnesses to the doctrine of the Trinity, may be safely ignored. It is question-begging on a colossal scale.



STAFFORD:
You got it all wrong, and it sure seems like you're deliberately trying to confuse people, knowing that your position has received a fatal blow. If this is not the case, then you have a serious problem understanding what I am saying. Again, I am simply taking what you and other trinitarians say and showing that you don't really mean what you say, but, instead, you equivocate on the meaning of words. Also, the Bible does not use words the way you do, and, in fact, it uses language that directly contradicts your view.



BOWMAN:
To prove that we can't believe what we claim to believe, Stafford offers the following "argument":

>>>Now, consider: Bowman claims that "each of the three persons fully instantiates the divine being." Who/what is this divine being that each of the three persons are an instance of? Additionally, how can EACH of the three persons be a FULL instantiation of the divine being? Think about that for a moment. It's word magic! Each of the three different "persons" is a FULL instantiation of one divine being? Of course, the Bible nowhere teaches such a thing, but the language trinitarians use is self-contradictory. If there are three DIFFERENT instantiations of the divine being, they cannot each be a FULL instantiation of the divine being! And here is where we meet with the mystery argument, and are told that the being of God is beyond human thought. That is true, but the Bible does not give us any details about such a teaching, and spells out in clear terms just who the "one God" is, and what His relationship is with His Son. What it does tells us is not consistent with trinitarianism.>>>



BOWMAN:
If the Bible teaches (a) that God is a personal being, and (b) that there is only one being properly regarded as God, and (c) that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is each properly regarded as God, then the "word magic" that I (and other trinitarians) employ to explain how these truths relate to one another is a faithful representation of the facts.



STAFFORD:
But that is not what the Bible teaches, and by your line of reasoning we should include the angels and others who are called "G-god" into the "Godhead." But you don't do that, and vigorously fight to show a different sense for such uses of G-god, since this would not fit with your preconceived view. To make your line of reasoning work you redefine words and create distinctions that do not exist in Scripture. You also regularly confuse sense and reference (see Part Five of my reply for SOME examples), or at least selectively make us of them.



BOWMAN:
Stafford and his friends can make fun of our choice of words all they want, but that doesn't change the fact that we are expressing what we find the Bible does in fact teach.



STAFFORD:
Make fun? Here we go with the sympathy card again. Just deal with the arguments, Rob. We have pointed out that your "expression" is NOT founded upon the scriptural use of terms such as "God," "father," "son," "give," beget," "firstborn," "God of," "empty," "head," "only," "true," "being," "person," and it also is a failure to appreciate the context of a great many texts. Of course, we are the ones who are merely expressing what we find in the Bible, and we don't need to redefine words and create unbiblical distinctions to do so, either.



BOWMAN:
Again, according to Stafford "the Bible nowhere teaches such a thing" because it CAN'T - because, as he says here, it "is self-contradictory." In short, Stafford claims that it doesn't really matter what the Bible says, it cannot be consistent with the Trinity because the Trinity isn't even consistent with itself. If you don't see that this is what Stafford is saying, then you will think that Stafford is refuting the doctrine of the Trinity with exegesis when in fact he is disallowing it at every turn based on Al-Kidd-type philosophy.



STAFFORD:
NOWHERE will you find, in ANY of my posts, the following argument: "The Bible nowhere teaches such a thing because it CAN'T." This is pure fiction. Also, my point was that "the language trinitarians use is self-contradictory." My point, all along, has been that the Bible nowhere uses language the way trinitarians use it; the Bible nowhere defines certain words, like "God," the way trinitarians do; the Bible nowhere makes a distinction between a "person" and a "being" the way trinitarians do; rather, the Bible uses language that contradicts the concepts of trinitarians. THAT is why I reject it.

Bowman is simply misrepresenting my position, because he knows that most of you trinitarians probably don't care what he says, so long as he "replies." The trinity cannot be made to agree with the Bible, not because it is "self-contradictory," but because the Bible does not teach it (see below). Indeed, it uses language that is incompatible with the doctrine.



BOWMAN:
12. DOES THE BIBLE TEACH THAT ONE BEING CAN ONLY BE ONE PERSON?
I had written:
>>>Greg repeatedly objects to my referring to the Father and the Son as "persons," since he knows that I affirm that they are distinct persons but not separate beings. Greg dogmatically asserts, "In the Bible, different 'persons' are different beings" (Stafford, 10-11), but does not offer a shred of evidence for this claim. (Please note that I am not saying I found Greg's evidence unconvincing; he didn't even TRY to offer any evidence!)>>>

Stafford replied:
>>>How is this for evidence: Absolutely every single time a persons is distinguished from another person, whether spirit (angels) or human, it is always, at the same time, a distinction of BEING. Now, I am not about to list every single reference. Just take your pick. Now, if I am wrong, it should be quite easy for anyone to refute my position. Again, any and every time a person is distinguished from another person in the Bible, they are also, always, different beings. Of course, Bowman didn't even try to justify his position. Because there is no example in Scripture to support his view.>>>



BOWMAN:
Pretty weak, I'm afraid. You see (and folks, Stafford knows this), the trinitarian claim is that God is absolutely unique in respect to the fact that he is one being and yet three persons.



STAFFORD:
Granting that point, which, by the way, is not articulated in Scripture, for you to characterize EVERY known example as "pretty weak" highlights the fact that you are not thinking clearly on this issue, but, instead, seeking to uphold your position IN SPITE OF the evidence.



BOWMAN:
We know and affirm with no embarrassment at all that angels, humans, and any other persons that might exist in the created realm are each one being and one person. Every distinction of person in finite created reality is indeed a distinction of being. But to assume that this must then also be true of God is to beg the question.



STAFFORD:
It is you who begs the question for in your above comments you assume that Jesus is not a created being! You also ignore the fact that the Bible makes use of our presupposition pool to give us an idea of what God is like and how He relates to His Son. This is NOT done in trinitarian language, and there is no evidence suggesting that we should view the "being" of God as something different from the "person" of the Father. The Bible simply makes use of OUR understanding of persons and beings. In fact, the Bible specifically identifies the Father as the "one God" and as the "only true God." (John 17:3; 1 Cor. 8:6) Trinitarians are arguing from silence and from post-biblical theology. We, on the other hand, argue from clear and repeated expressions of faith, as found in Scripture.



BOWMAN:
13. ARE THE STATEMENTS THAT THE FATHER IS THE ONE TRUE GOD AT ODDS WITH THE TRINITY?



STAFFORD:
Interesting, I wonder why Bowman refers to the Father as "the one true God" and not the "ONLY true God," which is what Jesus said? To him it might not make any difference, but I think it does. Consider:



BOWMAN:
Stafford writes:
>>>The Bible says quite clearly and emphatically that the "one God," "the only true God," is one person, the Father.>>>



BOWMAN:
It does say something very close to this (but without the editorializing "one person").



STAFFORD:
And just how many persons is the Father, Rob?



BOWMAN:
However, it does not say that the one God is ONLY the Father. It identifies the Father as "one God" and as "the only true God"; but we trinitarians can and MUST affirm these statements to be true if we are to agree with the doctrine of the Trinity.



STAFFORD:
This is a key point. Follow this: Jesus says the Father IS the ONLY true God. There is no other way to understand his words unless he was being deliberately cryptic, and why would he do that the context of John 17? In 1 Cor. 8:6 Paul's statement makes no allowance for anyone else to be called "the one God." In fact, based on the statement in verse 4, we are quite correct in taking verse 6 to mean that the Father ALONE is the one God. If the one God is three persons, not one, then verse 6 is in error. I know, I know, you will say that it is perfectly acceptable according to trinitarianism, but Paul does not use the term God the way you do! Nowhere does he articulate it as a reference to a personal, infinite being in which three other persons (of course, there is an equivocation here on the word "person," on the part of trinitarians) subsist. Nor does Paul articulate "God" as an impersonal substance shared by three persons. Whatever view you take, Rob, it is not the view articulate by Paul. To him, the one God is the Father.



BOWMAN:
It is not an embarrassment, but essential to the doctrine of the Trinity, to affirm that the Father is the one true and only God.



STAFFORD:
Again, by that you mean that the Father is the first person of a consubstantial Triad. But the Bible NOWHERE articulates that meaning. It has to be read back into the text, with an equivocation on the words "God" and "person" in order for it to remain "essential to the doctrine of the Trinity." Without such qualifying theology, the statements in these two, and many other passages, are not essential to the doctrine of the Trinity, but lethal to it.



BOWMAN:
Once you understand and admit this, you will see that 1 Corinthians 8:6 and John 17:3 cannot be used against the doctrine of the Trinity, because they both affirm truths about the Father that must be so if the Trinity is indeed true.



STAFFORD:
Wrong. You give an entirely different meaning to "God" in these verses and THAT is why you THINK you can make these texts essential to the Trinity. Of course, you have to harmonize these texts with your doctrine, otherwise it will not last two seconds in a discussion of biblical theology. But in order to harmonize these and other texts with your view you have to redefine and equivocate on the word "God," and you have to create a distinction between "person" and "being" that does not exist in Scripture.



BOWMAN:
14. WHO IS GUILTY OF A PRIORI REASONING - STAFFORD, OR ME?
Most of the rest of Stafford's reply to Part One of my series of posts repeats points already made.



STAFFORD:
I don't think so, but even if they did then that simply means that you repeated your arguments and I repeated my objections. Unless you care to provide an example of where I gave a reply that was not in direct response to your argument, and where I simply "repeated" myself?



BOWMAN:
However, it should be noted that he attempts to turn my argument back against me and to claim that I am the one guilty of bringing a priori assumptions to the Bible. Thus, Stafford writes:

>>>Now, you're a priori objections come into play here, because you cannot accept the fact that Jesus is a different THEOS than the Father, and you cannot accept that the Father is the God of Jesus WITHOUT QUALIFICATION. Of course, the Bible nowhere makes the kind of qualifications that you do, and thus you have to read them into the text. To you, the Bible cannot disagree with the Trinity, and you bring this assumption to the text and interpret things from there.>>>



BOWMAN:
Stafford does not understand, or is deliberately glossing over, what I mean by a priori reasoning. I DON'T mean by it that a person comes to specific statements in the Bible with a theological perspective already formed by which he tries to interpret specific statements.



STAFFORD:
I don't think you understand my point on this matter. Let me explain:



BOWMAN:
We all do that, and it is nave to think any of us are free from such hermeneutical circularity. I DON'T even mean that Stafford is pig-headed about cramming his theology into any and every verse even if it doesn't fit - which is basically what he seems to think I do.



STAFFORD:
Not quite. Consider:



BOWMAN:
No, my point is evidently more subtle than that. My point is that Stafford self-consciously has established definitional parameters for the interpretation of the Bible that automatically rule out any possible support for the doctrine of the Trinity.



STAFFORD:
That's it, but not true, in my case. But in your case I would say, if I may reword your statement a bit: "My point is that Bowman has an established view of God which he uses to automatically rule out any text that is detrimental to the Trinity doctrine." When Bowman reads Colossians 1:15, for example, he automatically rules out any possible temporal connotation for "firstborn."



BOWMAN:
For example, he defines "God" in trinitarianism to mean the three persons of the divine being collectively. Now, if that definition is allowed to stand, then every time the Bible says that Jesus is God, it not only does not support the Trinity, it flatly contradicts it, because it would then be saying that Jesus is the Trinity. Such reasoning makes exegesis superfluous to determining whether or not the Bible supports the Trinity. More mischievously still, Stafford defines the Trinity as an inherently self-contradictory concept, allowing him to deny that the Bible supports the doctrine because nothing can support a self-contradictory concept.



STAFFORD:
That is simply not true, and I cannot for the life of me figure out why you have such a difficult time understanding my point. Unless, of course, you are "mischievously" misrepresenting it. Let me explain, AGAIN:

When you say "Jesus is God" you mean "Jesus is God the Son, the second person in a consubstantial Triad." The Bible nowhere defines the term "God" in this way, and THAT is why I reject your view, particularly since the Bible's use of this term contradicts your understanding. I do NOT reject the trinity because it is inherently contradictory. It is, but if the Bible articulated it then I would accept it. It does not, so I do not, especially since what the Bible DOES tell us directly contradicts the way you understand this term. The Bible contradicts your understanding of the terms "person" and "being." Your position is reduced to claiming that 'we cannot rule out what is possible with God.' That is entirely beside the point, since we are using what God HAS told us, which contradicts your view.



BOWMAN:
Thus, even if I am guilty of being unwilling to accept what the Bible says because of an irrational commitment to the doctrine of the Trinity, this would not have anything to do with the ARGUMENTS. In short, I was analyzing Stafford's argument structure, and he responded with an ad hominem characterization of my personal motivation.



STAFFORD:
That is not true at all. You misunderstood my point about you're a priori reasoning, and failed to realize (how I will never know) that I was specifically targeting the structure of your arguments, from the words you use, to the definitions you give them, to the distinctions you make. You make conclusive observations about what the Bible says in light of post-biblical theology. I make conclusive observations based on the information the Bible gives, not on the problems inherent in theology of trinitarians.

END OF PART TWO

GO TO PART THREE

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