Robert Bowman’s Anti-Trinitarian Theology Challenge – Part 4

In the previous two posts (here and here) I dealt with proposition 4 from Robert Bowman’s 6 propositions defending the Doctrine of the Trinity, in the post before that I introduced Robert Bowman’s challenge to Anti-Trinitarian theology and dealt with proposition 1. Of the other propositions, there are things I could say about proposition 2, 5 and 6, however I think the case against 1 and 4 is enough to show that the Doctrine of the Trinity has major biblical problems, and in fact is incompatible with Biblical Data. Now we are left with his other demands. Specifically to present an alternative, identify a religion, show that the alternative doesn’t suffer from the defects of Trinitarianism, and demonstrate that the alternative explains the biblical information better than the trinity. There are many alternatives, one being the idea that Jesus had no existence prior to his birth, another than Jesus existed as a non-eternal created Logos (a view that I believe most of the earliest Church fathers also held to), I hold to the latter, but I believe there are good arguments for the former. As far as his demand to identify a religion, as I said in the first post of this series, I think it is a silly and unreasonable demand. Robert Bowman, being a protestant, would have to insist (if his principle is to hold) that the earliest reformers would have to have pointed to an existing denomination for their objections to Catholicism to be valid; I don’t think he’s ready to affirm that.

So let’s talk about an alternative. Take the pre-existent but created logos alternative. One objection I had to Trinitarianism is that it demands that one assume philosophical categories not found in scripture and demands that we re-interpret certain scriptures in the light of these Categories. So for example there is a distinction made between those who can in some way be called “gods” and that which is “God by nature,” a completely arbitrary distinction, a distinction must be made between a person and a being, again a completely arbitrary distinction. My view suffers from none of these arbitrary additions. I have no problem with beings that are not Yahweh being called god, because the bible doesn’t have a problem with it, Robert Bowman has a problem with it, and in order to avoid that problem he must re-interpret all sorts of scriptural evidence in order to explain away places where beings that are not Yahweh are called gods, why? So that when Jesus is called a God he can insist that it must be Yahweh. If your position requires such arbitrary re-interpretation and inclusion of Ad Hoc metaphysical speculations, then your position has a problem, mine does not.

Robert Bowman’s Trinitarianism also suffers from an insistence of distinguishing “natures” of Jesus, so that Jesus can be both Yahweh and not Yahweh (he won’t put it that way I’m sure, but that is what it amounts to). So Jesus subjects himself, but that’s just his human nature, Jesus dies, but that’s just his human nature, and so on and so forth, this distinction is not found in the scriptures, it’s an Ad Hoc theory added in order to attempt to squeeze Trinitarianism in the biblical narrative. Robert Bowman’s Trinitarianism requires all sorts of Eisegesis, such as including in scriptures “but really this is just the human nature speaking” when the scripture says no such thing. One of my favourite Eisegesis’ that Trinitarians do is when Jesus answers the Jewish enemies in John 10, instead of following Jesus’ actual argument, they insist that Jesus is cryptically saying that they are correct. Or when he says in Mark “there is no one Good but God” they insist that he is cryptically saying “I’m actually God,” when the scripture says no such thing. Some of the worst Eisegesis that Trinitarians do is attempting to insert the Shema into 1 Corinthians 8:6. My positions doesn’t require any of those Eisegetical tricks, one can just read what the scriptures actually say. Another twisting of scripture that Trinitarinism demands is ignoring certain things, even just leaving out words such as “through” (διὰ).

My position also has the benefit of being an actual historical reading that would have been possible for first and second century Jews. What precedence was there for understanding concepts of a multi-personal God in first century Judaism? What precedence was there for the idea of a multi-natured person in first century Judaism? There most certainly was precedence for created Heavenly beings through which God created, and through which God acted, there is huge precedence for this in first century Judaism, and in fact, this was how the scriptures were originally read. What first century Jew would read the gospels or some of Paul’s letters or John’s or James’ and come up with the Trinity? It’s ridiculous to assume that.

Does the theory I hold to explain the full witness of scripture? Absolutely, Psalms 110:1, the most quoted scripture in the New Testament in relation to Jesus Christ, not only points to, but also demands Unitarianism. If your theory can’t even make sense (without introducing all sorts of Ad Hoc metaphysical categories and all sorts of Eisegesis) of the most quoted scripture relating to Jesus in the New Testament, what chance does it have of explaining the full witness of scripture? Ultimately, the insistence on an Orthodox Trinitarianism does not come from scripture, it comes from tradition and is imposed on scripture, if we want to think seriously about Theology we have to be willing to put it aside and not constrain scriptures with invented categories.

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Robert Bowman’s Anti-Trinitarian Theology Challenge – Part 4

10 thoughts on “Robert Bowman’s Anti-Trinitarian Theology Challenge – Part 4

  1. villanovanus says:

    Ultimately, the insistence on an Orthodox Trinitarianism does not come from scripture, it comes from tradition and is imposed on scripture, if we want to think seriously about Theology we have to be willing to put it aside and not constrain scriptures with invented categories.

    This is certainly true. OTOH, though, the “original sin” that, step by step, led to the full-fledged trinitarianism of the Cappadocian scoundrels, was committed with the eteros theos that Justin martyr filched from Philo.

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    1. Thanks for your comment 🙂

      I actually think John was thinking in the same categories as Philo (as I argue elsewhere on this blog), not just Justin Martyr, the difference with the Cappadocians is that they were taking categories not within the mind of the New Testament writers or their intended readership and interpreting the new testament in light of those categories.

      An example would be in interpreting Marx’s writings it would be appropriate to include writings from people like David Ricardo and Adam smith, since both Marx and his intended Audience would have understood those categories, and used certain words (for example the word value) within those categories, it would be inappropriate to interpret Marx in the Categories of 1950’s American political discourse, as neither Marx nor his intended readership would be familiar with the concepts of 1950’s American political discourse.

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  2. If you’re going to put aside the impositions of tradition in order to pursue a serious Theology of unconstrained scripture, wouldn’t one major constraint in need of shedding be the invented category of the New Testament canon?
    If going that far (in pursuit, I presume, of a purified Yeshuist Theology), isn’t it only by tradition that Paul has any authority to contribute to this Theology? A brief mention in the [disputed as early as Origen] Second epistle of Peter notwithstanding, the only scriptural claim to Paul’s authority would be his own or that ascribed to him by his disciple, the author of the texts addressed to Theophilus. Why, then, confuse the Theological project by contorting Gospel accounts to accommodate his alien ideas?
    This, of course, would also lead us to put aside the texts from “Luke” in their entirety (along with 2 Peter), which brings us down to ten books by my count. I’d think the status of John and Revelation would need examination as well, to say nothing of the need to reexamine those gospels excluded on the basis of tradition alone…

    Or is there some way to justify the maintenance of these constraints that I’ve not considered?

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    1. That’s a common Catholic objection to the protestant doctrine of Sola-Scriptura, I think it’s a good one, and frankly a lot of the protestant responses that I have heard have been somewhat lacking. I don’t think the argument of God inspiring his scriptures, not the Church, and that the Church simply recognizes what has always been inspired as inspired Works, becuase it confuses the Divine status of the writings With Our epistemological ability to distinguish what has and does not have a Divine status.

      However it could be argue that the grounds for accepting the New Testament documents as inspired is a historical one, but that historical ground itself is not inspired. In other Words if sufficient evidence came forward that, say, the sheperd of Hermas was more or less accepted as an inspired writing by the earliest Christians, an honest protestant would have to consider accepting it into the canon.

      I’m not after a purely “Yeshuist theology” perse, I Accept the full witness of scripture, Paul, James, Peter, John and everyone else in the New Testament. This acceptance has to do With my view of scripture. As far as Paul is concerned, I simply believe that the account in Acts, though being an account from his disciple, is inspired and accurate.

      This post (along With the 3 previous) is more addressed to those who believe a purely protestant, sola-scriptura exegetical Method could get one to the Trinity, I don’t think it can. As to why we should Accept that paradigm? That’s a larger question, even though I’m not a catholic (obviously) I take the question seriously. I’m not sure if my attempt at a quick answer above is valid, but it’s a start :).

      Thanks for the Insight.

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