Robert Bowman posted a challenge to non Trinitarians, I posted a 4 part series (here, here, here and here) responding to the challenge, not fully of course, but enough to, I think, dent the challenge. Then Robert Bowman responded.
Let’s get right into it. To be honest, almost all of Robert Bowman’s response had to do with procedure, or “rules of the game”, as if Theology were some sort of game where one had rules to follow in order to win, or as if Theology was something you “win.” He also has a problem with the fact that I am not defending a specific theology, or a specific doctrine. I understand why he has a problem with that, it makes it harder for him to argue. But the purpose of this blog is not apologetic. There is a time and place for everything, there is a time and place for apologetics, a time to defend specific doctrines and specific religions, and there is a time and place for exploring ideas, examining arguments outside that context and so on. This blog is one which I made to explore ideas, examine arguments and so on, not engage in apologetics and defend specific doctrines or religions. Not every theological blog has to be an apologetics blog, and not every response to an apologetic argument has to be some sort of counter apologetic. That being said I did present a possible alternative, that is absolutely better than the trinitarian option.
The point I tried to make with the example of the protestant reformation with regards to Robert Bowman’s demanding one point out a specific religion is completely missed by Robert Bowman. The arguments the reformers were making against aspects of Catholic Theology were not trivial, they were fundamental, and these reformers were trying to reform the Catholic Church (not start a new religion, as Robert Bowman points rightly points out). The point I was making was the following: had the Catholic Church responded to the reformers objections by demanding that the reformers point out some specific organized religion that had the theology the reformers argued for, the reformers would then have had to respond with silence. Whatever they were trying to do ecclesiastically (reform the Church or start a new one) is besides the point, and not relevant. We are talking about theology and Christology, this is dependent on exegesis, history, philosophical argument and so on, not on ecclesiology. If you want to argue that Protestantism is a different stream of the same religion rather than a new religion, that’s fine, but it’s arbitrary and not really relevant to the theological arguments themselves. Theological arguments are valid whether or not there is a religion espousing the position officially. If Robert Bowman has a problem with the manner in which I argue against the trinity, and the fact that I do so without advocating a specific religion, that’s fine, but it doesn’t really have much when it comes to the issues. As I said, this is not an apologetics blog, it’s not a defense of Jehovah’s Witness Theology blog, nor was my argument one of apologetics or proselytization. If Robert Bowman want’s to actually deal with the substance of the arguments that’s fine, but it’s the substance of the arguments that I’m interested in.
Let’s get to the actual substance (of which there is unfortunately very little in Robert Bowman’s response). I argued that none of the texts (that I know of) that talk of Yahweh being a unique God are talking in an Aristotelian metaphysical way. In other words they aren’t saying God is such-and-such category of being, and only God is that such-and-such category. This doesn’t mean he isn’t unique in some ways (in certain way’s he is unique, he is the only uncreated God for example). It just mean’s that those specific text’s that talk about Yahweh being the only God, or something like that, are not talking metaphysically. But let’s look at how he actually responds:
human beings and animals have different natures, and spirit persons also have “a different nature.” Jesus’ statement that God is a Spirit (John 4:24) “reveals a basic truth about God’s form, or nature,” whereas anthropomorphic language about God in Scripture is not a literal description of “the nature of God.”
Ok, great, but notice what he was responding to. I was talking about the verses which talk about Yahweh being Unique or the only God, and that these verses are not talking about unique or only in an Aristotelian metaphysical sense … John 4:24 is not one of those verses, it’s not saying God is the only spirit, or Only God is a spirit or something like that. So really that verse doesn’t get us anywhere when it comes my point. It is not one of the verses which I was talking about. Completely besides the point. I never said nowhere does it talk about the nature of God, I said in those verses talking about Yahweh being the only God.
He then responds to another argument about Psalm 86:8. I said:
It’s David declaring that for him, there is only one God he turns to, the one he can trust, it’s a Doxology, it’s a divine love song, in the text itself in verse 8 it acknowledges other Gods, but there are none like Yahweh. I can say the same thing about my wife, there are many women out there, but none like her.
And Robert Bowman responds:
By this reasoning, it would have been perfectly fine with David for other people to love, trust, revere, pray to, and worship other gods. Yahweh just happened to be his God, the one he personally loved. If we were to apply this thinking consistently, Roman could have no objection to evangelicals loving Jesus as “their” God, the one they trust and adore. (Of course, evangelicals do love Jesus as their God, but not to the exclusion of the Father or the Holy Spirit.)
Notice what my comment was about, it was about what the purpose of the text was. The point of my statement was that the purpose of the text was a Doxology, not a metaphysical statement on what God is, it’s not giving us a metaphysical category by which we do some sort of theological argument about what is and what is not categorically God. The argument that I made does in no way shape or form imply that giving the same worship to other gods that is due to Yahweh is fine. I actually have no problem with anyone trusting and adoring Jesus as (in a certain way) their God, but that doesn’t make Jesus Yahweh. Robert Bowman is simply ignoring the point. If I say, “I love my wife she’s the only woman for me” the fact that no metaphysical statement is given and that her being the only woman for me doesn’t actually mean that in my mind she is the only being in the category of “woman” doesn’t in anyway imply that it would be appropriate for me to say that to someone else, it simply doesn’t follow.
Robert bowmen then starts to say I put up certain qualifications for worship (I presume for worship, he doesn’t say for what), I don’t know where I did that, perhaps Robert Bowman can show me, maybe I missed something I wrote, go and take a look at the 4 posts see if you find such a list. But he lists 4, putting Trust and faith in Jesus, giving unqualified absolute love, being a divine figure whom we should praise, and singing songs of devotion to Jesus. Well, I put my faith and trust in my wife, I love my wife absolutely it is unqualified, she is not a divine figure (almost though), and sometimes I praise her, I have been known to sing a song or two to her. Am I worshiping my wife? Here’s the problem, the words translated as “worship” in the bible are not black and white, they are used for all sorts of things. προσκυνέω is the most common word for worship in Greek, it’s used for everything from paying respects to a family member, or even a stranger, to paying honor to a King, to worshiping God. The term is simply not as clear-cut as Robert Bowman would like it to be.
Robert Bowman then quotes the verse in question and says:
David affirms that one day all the nations that the Lord (not some other god!) had made will worship the Lord and glorify his name, because he alone is God. This is a love song, all right, but it is one that calls all of humanity to join David in loving the same God.
Yes, one day they will glorify the Lord and his name because he alone is God. Now, as again, let’s go back to the argument, is David here making a categorical distinction? Is he saying that God is a certain category and the gods are not of that category, and that category is God, and that is why the nations will worship him? Because the other gods they have been worshiping were actually not categorically Gods? No, not at all. If it was what David was saying, then what’s all this about their being none like him among the gods? Did David have a slip of tongue? Did him saying Yahweh alone is God mean that actually, those other gods are Yahweh? Or are they just falsely included in that category of god and David made a mistake? “You alone are God,” is not a categorical statement, and yes, all the nations will glorify and worship God, David’s God, Yahweh, but to jump from that into then saying thus all who are from now on called God must be Yahweh, or all who are loved or glorified and so on must be Yahweh is completely unwarranted from the Text.
To illustrate, replace the term God with any other word, King, Man, Rock star, whatever, the passage makes perfect sense when you understand it not being a categorical statement, however it makes no sense if you insist it’s in metaphysical categories. Closing off his argument Robert Bowman says:
If a god is simply a mighty being, then Jehovah is clearly not the only god in that sense. Yet the Bible states some two dozen times that there is only one God, usually identifying him in the context explicitly as Jehovah.One need not be a devotee of Aristotle to see the problem here.
The whole point is that the statements in the bible that say there is only one God, as I said before, are not making categorical or metaphysical statements. God can mean different things in the bible, at bottom it means simply a mighty being.
Here’s the crux of the issue. Robert Bowman is so intent (as are most Trinitarians) on insisting that the word “God” is a word designating a category of being of which there is one inhabitant, Yahweh, the reason they insist on this is so that when they come to verses in which they find Jesus being called Theos they can say “aha, there we go, Jesus is Yahweh.” The problem is, as Robert Bowman knows, God is not used in the same way in the bible all the time, and on its own it simply means mighty being, applied to angels, David, Yahweh, Jesus, False Gods and even Satan. No, Jesus is not the “only god” in the sense of being the “only mighty being,” but then again the verses describing God as “the only God” are not making metaphysical categorical distinctions, and the word can obviously mean different things, as Robert Bowman freely admits. He admits this with a caveat:
Almost always, however, in the Old Testament a God or god is an object of religious devotion.
Not Moses, not the angels, unless you want to include religious devotion as whatever can be translated from the greek προσκυνέω, in which case, sure, but all sorts of people receive that. Look at how he defined religious devotion, putting faith in someone, unqualified love, praise, songs. People sang songs in praise of the King, we should love our neighbor absolutely and it shouldn’t be qualified (we are to love them even if they are our enemy), all sorts of people are praised in the bible. One gets the feeling that categories are being made up merely to make the trinitarian argument work.
I put a lot of argumentation in my 4 posts, not only showing that Robert Bowman’s arguments don’t work, but to show that the trinitarian position is impossible if you do good exegesis, he ignores most of it. Rather than addressing the bulk of the argument he wants to attack my way of arguing against his position, and what he thinks I should be doing instead. That doesn’t make the arguments against the trinity go away, or the arguments for the trinity any stronger. If he wants to be serious about defending the Trinity, it would actually deal with the substance of the arguments.
He complains how I don’t get into an alternative deep enough. How I don’t explain what it would mean for a pre-existent but created Logos to be called a God, I don’t know what the problem with that would be, Philo of Alexandrian certainly wouldn’t have had a problem with it, obviously neither did John. He also complains that I don’t quote Psalm 110:1 or go deep into an argument for an alternative position. Well, I’ll quote it for you, from the NRSV:
The Lord (Yahweh) says to my lord,
“Sit at my right hand
until I make your enemies your footstool.”
If Yahweh is talking to the lord who is later revealed to be Jesus, telling him to sit at his right hand until he makes his enemies his footstool, then it’s pretty clear that Jesus is not Yahweh. This is the most quoted verse in the Old Testament in reference to Jesus, Trinitarianism flies right in the face of that verse, Unitarianism, off all different varieties, does not. It’s quite simple. This is not a case closed argument for my position, nor is it intended to be, as I said before this is not an apologetics blog. The point is if your theological position is at odds with the most quoted old testament passage in the new testament in reference to Jesus, you have a problem.