Monday, March 23, 2009

Apologetics against inferior opponents


Knowing that I am probably running the risk of be labeled a “stalker” (“stalker” in James R. White’s vocabulary = one who dares to criticize any of his contributions; others who ‘lovingly’ have been given this label include: Dave Armstrong, Tim Enloe, and Paul Owen), I still feel somewhat compelled to offer a few comments on James’ latest blog post: Reflections on a Two and a Half Hour Conversation with a Witness Elder.

Now, my interest in this particular post primarily stems from two important reasons: first, I was raised a Jehovah’s Witness (4th generation); and second, my ongoing studies into subordinationism.

James wrote:

The conversation focused, properly, on Jesus Christ and His relationship to the Father. Even more importantly, it focused on the text of Scripture. It was not, however, the normal game of Bible ping-pong, one verse cited on each side, back and forth. Though I was happy to respond to any texts he raised, for the most part I was presenting to him key texts demonstrating that the NT writers identified Jesus as Yahweh. Then I added in examples of mistranslation on the part of the NWT as well.”

Me: I suppose that the above approach ‘works’ for one who is a professional apologist and whose ‘opponent’ is a layman (even though Albert happens to be an elder, the actual amount of time he would have been able to spend on the issues that James raised, during his 30 plus years as a JW, would have been quite limited, for most JWs hold down a regular 40 hour a week job, spend at least 10 hours a month in their ‘door-to-door’ ministry, and 5 hours a week in structured ‘meetings’). As James’ debate, Jesus Christ: God or a god?, with Greg Stafford has clearly demonstrated, such an approach does not fair as well with one has acquired a few more skills than the typical JW possesses. (And further, I cannot help but sincerely wonder if the dialogue would have been a different one if the discussion had been between an average lay Christian and an average Jehovah’s Witness.)

James then said:

I should note that the meeting did not just have one goal in mind. Those who observed and listened (Bill, two young people from our congregation) were able to see as well the clear testimony of Scripture to the truth of the Trinity. My hope is that they will be greatly encouraged to proclaim those truths in the future as well.”

Me: My 30 plus years of study into the Bible (as well as the Church Fathers and theology) has certainly taught me that the belief/statement there exists a “clear testimony of Scripture to the truth of the Trinity” is not based on objective evidence—the ‘facts’ present something quite different. For those interested in a bit more sober treatment/s on this topic, I would like to recommend my ongoing series on SUBORDINATIONISM, as well as some of the threads included under the topics on the TRINITY and DEVELOPMENT OF DOCTRINE.

And lastly, if you really want to sink your teeth into an informed, stimulating defense of subordinationism, head on over to FOSTER’S THEOLOGICAL REFLECTIONS, I suspect that even a professional apologist of James’ stature would be significantly challenged.


Grace and peace,

David

7 comments:

Ken Temple said...

David,
Part of your quote from Thiel's book, in your thread on subordinationism; is too overwhelming to even interact with all this material, for the author does not give any references to Justin Martyr or Tertullian, (specific book, chapter, verse, or paragraph), so that we may look up his claims.

This is like the point you were trying to make with Dr. White being able to really interact with Jehovah's Witnesses, him being a full-time Christian minister and apologist and professor of Greek, etc. vs. the lay-ministry realities of work and time that all the JWs have.

The bottom line for me - it is hard to believe that all this "pre-Nicean subordinationism" is the the same as the JWs view and Arius' view that God the Father created the Son first and then made everything else after and through the Son; that the Son is a created being or creature.

Trinitarians speak of an "economic subordinationism" ( ? I think) - not of essence or nature or substance or glory; but of role and function.

Dr. White's approach seemed to me to be very good; showing that Jesus is spoken of in the NT as "Yahweh", because the word "kurios" is the Greek translation for "Yahweh" and it is clear in the texts that Dr. White sites that Jesus is the Almighty, the beginning and the end, etc. and Revelation is alluding to Isaiah. Glory and honor and worship is due "To Him who sits on the throne and unto the lamb" (Revelation chapters 4-5) is very clear.

Seems much clearer than you are willing to admit.

The quote from Thiel:
"One can turn for examples to the early apologist Justin Martyr, whose reliance on the Middle Platonism of his day led him to portray Christ as a "second God"; reference? or Theophilus of Antioch, whose strongly Jewish Christianity avowed the creation of the logos by God; reference? or Tertullian, reference? who still spoke of the created generation of the Son from the Father even as he struggled to maintain the unity of the Father and Son and creaturely difference between the Son and the universe; or Origen of Alexandria, who maintained the uniqueness of the Father by affirming the creaturely status of all other existence, including the Son and the Spirit, reference ? albeit a creaturely existence eternally crated by the Father. In each case, christological subordinationism of one form or another seemd to be a tacit rule of faith, undoubtedly because such subordinationism preserved the transcendence of the Father and thus the crucial distinguish-ability of the Father and Son for any faith did not err on the side of modalism or Sabellianism. (Page 135 – bold emphasis mine.)"

Again, Dr. White's book, The Forgotten Trinity and Rob Bowman's book, Why You Should Believe in the Trinity, to me are two of the best and answered JWs and shows the Trinity to be Biblical.

It is much more straight and to the point and easier for me and the layperson JW to read that than to have cull through all these complicated scholars on Patristics and find what they are talking about, and they don't help because they don't reference to what they are talking about.

Ken Temple said...

undoubtedly because such subordinationism preserved the transcendence of the Father and thus the crucial distinguish-ability of the Father and Son for any faith did not err on the side of modalism or Sabellianism. (Page 135 – bold emphasis mine.)"

I thought Sabellianism was Modalism. They are the same. So what does he mean?

Ken Temple said...

The Scriptures are clearer on this than the early Church Fathers that you and the scholars cite.

So, it took a while to deal with some verses(John 14:28; John 20:17) that seemed to create a tension with the classic verses that teach that Jesus was God from all eternity - John 1:1-5; 1:14; 1:18; Philippians 2:5-11; Colossians chapter 1; Hebrews 1, Romans 9:5, John 20:28, Revelation chapters 1, 4-5, 21-22, etc.

Ken Temple said...

Revelation 1:8

Revelation 21:6

Revelation 22:13

with

Isaiah 41:4

Isaiah 44:6

Isaiah 48:12

All these together(along with the others mentioned and many others) communicate the concepts of the Son being equal in nature/substance with the Father, without the exact word, "homo-ousias".

The Trinity is a much clearer truth in the Scriptures, and a valid and appropriate doctrinal development; than the Marian dogmas and Papal dogmas and indulgences/penance/priestly sacerdotalism/ex opera operato/transubstantiation.

Protestants have teachers/pastors/elders who can interpret the text right and correctly and carry out the teaching office correctly.

Just because the Early Church got it right on the Trinity and Canon, does not mean that they were right on every other thing and furthermore, the Marian and Papal dogmas came much later and they were clearly anachronistic and wrong.

You are trying to say that just as we needed an authority to eventually get the doctrine of the Trinity worked out (33-451 AD) and the canon ( 367 AD); Protestants need the Roman Catholic Magisterium in order to interpret all the other stuff rightly, like Mary and the Pope and the other issues that Protestants disagree on - like baptism and the Eucharist and Predestination and Justification, etc.

That is a big jump you are making; and it just does not pass the smell test.

If we take Erasmus' advice to ad fontes - "keep getting back to the sources" - the study of Scripture is primary, not the Early Church fathers, though they are good and profitable for many things.

Ken Temple said...

ooops - should have been clearer:

You are trying to say that just as we needed an authority to eventually get the doctrine of the Trinity worked out (33-451 AD) and the canon ( 367 AD); Protestants need the Roman Catholic Magisterium in order to interpret all the other stuff rightly, like Mary and the Pope and Justification ; and the other issues that Protestants disagree on - like baptism and the Eucharist and Predestination, etc.

David Waltz said...

Hi Ken,

Thanks for responding; you wrote:

>>David,
Part of your quote from Thiel's book, in your thread on subordinationism; is too overwhelming to even interact with all this material, for the author does not give any references to Justin Martyr or Tertullian, (specific book, chapter, verse, or paragraph), so that we may look up his claims.>>

Me: In THIS THREAD, I provide quotes and references from Justin and Tertullian (and many more ECFs).

>>This is like the point you were trying to make with Dr. White being able to really interact with Jehovah's Witnesses, him being a full-time Christian minister and apologist and professor of Greek, etc. vs. the lay-ministry realities of work and time that all the JWs have.

The bottom line for me - it is hard to believe that all this "pre-Nicean subordinationism" is the the same as the JWs view and Arius' view that God the Father created the Son first and then made everything else after and through the Son; that the Son is a created being or creature.>>

Me: Some is, some is not. Perhaps the most important commonality is emphasis that it is God the Father who is “the one God”. Like the Bible, none of the ECFs apply the phrase to the Son.

>>Trinitarians speak of an "economic subordinationism" ( ? I think) - not of essence or nature or substance or glory; but of role and function.>>

Me: Yes they do, but this precise mode of distinction is a fairly modern one. (This is not to say that hints of it are not to be found in the ECFs.)

>>Dr. White's approach seemed to me to be very good; showing that Jesus is spoken of in the NT as "Yahweh", because the word "kurios" is the Greek translation for "Yahweh" and it is clear in the texts that Dr. White sites that Jesus is the Almighty, the beginning and the end, etc. and Revelation is alluding to Isaiah. Glory and honor and worship is due "To Him who sits on the throne and unto the lamb" (Revelation chapters 4-5) is very clear.>>

Me: But one must keep in mind that in the same book (Revelation) we are told that the saints of God will also sit on the same throne and they too will receive proskuneō.

>>Seems much clearer than you are willing to admit.>>

Me: See THIS THREAD for a bit more ‘clarity’.

I somewhat pressed for time right now, but will try to get to the rest of your post ASAP (tomorrow at the latest, the Lord willing).

Grace and peace,

David

David Waltz said...

Hi Ken,

I have provided the references you requested in a NEW THREAD.

Shall be looking forward to your thoughts…


Grace and peace,

David