Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Father is the One True God—and Jesus is Not – Part 2 of 8 (No. 4)

The Father, the Only God

3.  John 5:43-44
“I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not accept me; but if someone else comes in his own name, you will accept him. How can you believe since you accept glory from one another but do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?”

In this setting, the Jews were persecuting Jesus for healing an invalid on a Sabbath day (John 5:7-18). Jesus knew the Jews did not have the love of God in their hearts (John 5:42). They accepted glory from others, but not from Jesus, despite the fact that he came in his Father’s name (John 5:43). So, Jesus is asking how the Jews can accept glory from others, but not seek the glory that comes from the “only God” (John 5:44).

Since Jesus identifies the Father as the “only true God” in his prayer for his disciples (John 17:3), in John 5:44 Jesus identifies the Father as the only true God. This is similar to what was explained previously about Romans 3:30. We know the Father is not a false God, for he is the true or real God. The Father is not only the real God; he is also the only real God there is. Jesus singles out the Father as the only (true) God. Again, Jesus never singles out himself as such in this text or anywhere else.

At an apologetics website called Apologetics Index, there is a posted outline by Bowman for the biblical basis of the Trinity, employing a variety of texts to establish the doctrine. The outline included John 5:44 to show that there is one God as an “explicit” statement in the Bible.[1]

Next, a Trinitarian named Bert Thompson of Apologetics Press quotes from K.C. Moser’s book Attributes of God. Thompson writes, “While those who were involved in the false religions that surrounded the Jews worshipped a myriad of non-existent gods and goddesses, the Israelites worshipped ‘Jehovah the true God, the living God, an everlasting King’ (. . . ‘the only God,’ John 5:44).”[2] Thompson does not provide a verse for Jesus being the only God.

Sam Shamoun of Answering Islam is another vehement defender of the Trinity doctrine in his discussions with Muslims. Shamoun uses John 5:44 as one of the bases for maintaining Trinitarian monotheism.

In his reply to an article written by Sami Zaatari, a Muslim, Shamoun asserts, “It is obvious that the inspired NT writers and Evangelists believed that Christ is Yahweh God Incarnate since this is the only way to account for their willingness to take OT passages that refer to the worship and praise that Yahweh receives and apply that to the Lord Jesus. Otherwise, we would have to assume that these authors who were monotheists (. . . John 5:44. . .) knowingly and intentionally promoted idolatry, exhorting people to worship the creature as if he were the Creator himself.”[3]

Further, Shamoun responds to a paper written by another Muslim named Osama. Shamoun quotes Osama, “Say: He is God, the One and Only; God, the Eternal Absolute; He begetteth not, nor is He begotten; And there is none like unto Him. (The Noble Quran, 112:1-4).”[4] Shamoun responds, “The heart of the Trinity is that there is only one eternal God, only one sovereign Creator and Sustainer, and that there is nothing like him (. . . John 5:44. . .).[5] Like other Trinitarian apologists, Shamoun does not provide a verse where Jesus is identified as the only God.

4.  1 Timothy 1:17
“Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.”

In his first letter to Timothy, Paul greets him and ascribes to the “only God” honor and glory for ever and ever. The “only God” is referred to “God the Father” and not to “Christ Jesus our Lord” (1 Tim. 1:2).

Trinitarian scholars John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck make an important comment on Paul’s use of “only God” in 1 Timothy 1:17. In The Bible Knowledge Commentary: New Testament, produced by Dallas Theological Seminary, Walvoord and Zuck write, “The only God emphasizes His uniqueness in a typical Jewish monotheistic fashion. To this God alone must all honor and glory be ascribed, eternally.”[6]

Further, McGrath,[7] Bowman,[8] Rhodes,[9] and Bowman and Komoszewski[10] use 1 Timothy 1:17 as yet another basis for establishing and maintaining Trinitarian monotheism.

5.  Jude 25
 “[T]o the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.”

It is crystal clear that Jude is not identifying the “only God” as “Jesus Christ our Lord.” Who is the “only God” in Jude 25? Verse one tells us: “Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James, To those who have been called, who are loved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ.” God the Father is the ultimate recipient of “glory, majesty, power and authority,” while Jesus Christ is the agent through whom these qualities are ascribed to God.

Again, McGrath,[11] Bowman,[12] Rhodes,[13] and Bowman and Komoszewski[14] use Jude 25 in establishing and maintaining the view that the one true God is a Trinity. In trying to do the same, Shamoun, too, uses this verse in his response to Osama.[15]

The Father, the Only Wise God

6.  Romans 16:27
 “[T]o the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen.”

Here Paul has a perfect opportunity to identify the “only wise God” as “Jesus Christ.” Instead, he draws a clear distinction between the two (just as was done in Jude 25). The “only wise God” here is none other than “God our Father” as seen in Romans 1:7. Once again, God the Father is the ultimate recipient of “glory forever,” while Jesus is the agent through whom glory is given to the Father.

Bowman[16] and Bowman and Komoszewski[17] use Romans 16:27 as yet another scriptural basis for the oneness of the Trinitarian God.

Further, Rhodes uses this verse in the first of a three-step case for the Trinitarian God. His remarks are worth quoting:
“The fact that there is only one true God is the consistent testimony of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation. It is a thread that runs through every page of the Bible. God positively affirms through Isaiah the prophet: ‘This is what the LORD says—Israel’s King and Redeemer, the LORD Almighty: I am the first and the last; apart from me there is no God’ (44:6). God also says, ‘I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me’ (Isa. 46:9).”[18]

Rhodes then states that the verses he quoted from the book of Isaiah “and a multitude of other verses” including Rom. 16:27 “make it clear that there is one and only one God.”[19] However, what is also clear from the verses he cites is that none of them says Jesus is the one and only one God.

[1] Robert Bowman, “The Biblical Basis of the Doctrine of the Trinity,” in Apologetics Index, (accessed June 3, 2017).
[2] Bert Thompson, “Is God Male?,” in Apologetics Press (accessed June 3, 2017).
[3] Sam Shamoun, “My Lord and My God,” in Answering Islam, (accessed June 14, 2017).
[4] Sam Shamoun, “The Holy Spirit in Christianity and Islam,” in Answering Islam, (accessed June 14, 2017).
[5] Ibid.
[6] John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, The Bible Knowledge Commentary: New Testament (Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 1983), 733, emphasis in original.
[7] McGrath, 120-21.
[8] Bowman, 50.
[9] Rhodes, 72.
[10] Bowman and Komoszewski, 340 note 31.
[11] McGrath, 121.
[12] Bowman, 50.
[13] Rhodes, 72.
[14] Bowman and Komoszewski, 340 note 31.
[15] Shamoun, “The Holy Spirit in Christianity and Islam.”
[16] Bowman, 50.
[17] Bowman and Komoszewski, 340 note 31.
[18] Rhodes, 269.
[19] Ibid.; cf. 72, 95, 248.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

The Father is the One True God—and Jesus is Not – Part 1 of 8 (No. 3)

One foundational pillar of the doctrine of the Trinity is that the Son of God, Jesus of Nazareth, is the one true God of the Bible—in addition to God the Father. This teaching is affirmed in the Trinitarian model in article No. 2 (see C.1 and C.2.). If this pillar goes, then the whole doctrine collapses.

In my journey out of the Trinity, this pillar was first to go. Once it went, there was no more Trinity for me. Believe me. It was heartbreaking to let go because I loved the Trinitarian God with all of my heart, soul, mind, and strength as I tried to follow what Jesus commanded in Mark 12:30. I remember when I always sang with full delight and awe a favorite of hymn of mine. For me the last two lines were the most beautiful:
“Holy, holy, holy; merciful and mighty!
God in three Persons, blessed Trinity!”

Almost all my life, I accepted and defended the Trinity as absolute truth—the very heart of Christianity—until I later discovered that it is not even taught in the Bible. Instead, the Bible teaches that the Father is the one true God—and Jesus is not. This teaching stems from the fact that the Father alone is identified as the one true God.


The Bible teaches that the Father alone is the one true God. The basis for this teaching is derived from the conjunct of two findings:
1.  The Bible singles out the Father as the one true God, and
2.  The Bible singles out no one else as the one true God.
Together the two make up the teaching that the Father alone is the one true God.

The conjunct above goes directly against a number of areas in the Trinitarian doctrine. One area it goes against is the teaching that Jesus is the one true God:
1.  The Bible singles out the Father as the one true God, and
2.  The Bible does not single out anyone else—including Jesus—as the one true God.
Dear ones, this twofold finding is all over the map in Scripture.

There are eight parts to this article. Part one discusses two of the sixteen Scripture references that converge toward this finding. Parts two to five discuss the other fourteen references. Parts six and seven answer a number of possible objections to the position that the Father alone is the one true God of the Bible. Lastly, part eight is a summary and conclusion.

The Father, the Only True God

1.  John 17:1-3
“After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: ‘Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.’”[1]

In praying for his disciples, Jesus addresses the Father as the “only true God” or the one true God. Jesus doesn’t identify himself as the one true God in this text or anywhere else in the Gospel of John. Neither does Jesus do so anywhere in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke or even where Jesus is quoted by the Apostle Paul in any of his epistles.

Ironically, Trinitarian apologists use John 17:3 to maintain their claim for absolute biblical monotheism.[2] They do this despite the fact that the “only true God” is a reference to God the Father. You will notice that apologists also do not provide a single Scripture reference that decisively singles out Jesus as the one true God.[3]

To be clear, establishing the Father as the one true God is a necessary step in advancing one’s biblical monotheistic view. However, there is a gaping hole in Trinitarian apologetics when advancing a Trinitarian view of God: There is not a single Bible verse that clearly states Jesus is the one true God.

Prominent Trinitarian apologist Robert M. Bowman, Jr. uses John 17:3 as one of his biblical basis for Trinitarian monotheism.[4] In Why You Should Believe in the Trinity, Bowman writes, “There is only one Almighty God Jehovah, and he alone is to be worshipped—but the Bible also states flatly that he is the only God. More precisely, the Bible says that there is only one true God.”[5]

Similarly, cult expert Ron Rhodes uses John 17:3 as a basis for Trinitarian monotheism. He wrote a book titled The Challenge of the Cults and New Religions. Rhodes’ purpose was to train those involved with dialoguing with people in cults “with a view to motivate them to use their religious freedom to choose to leave the cult and transfer allegiance to the one true God of whom Scripture speaks (John 17:3).”[6]

The usage of John 17:3 as a basis for Trinitarian monotheism is not confined within the Trinitarian apologetic movement. It is also found amongst other Trinitarian works. For example, well-respected theologian Alister E. McGrath writes, “The New Testament emphasizes that there is only one God (. . . John 17:3. . .).”[7] Standby for some interesting remarks McGrath made pertaining to who both the Old Testament and the New Testament identify as the one true God.

Attempting to use texts such as John 17:3 to establish the doctrine of the Trinity is problematic. When this text is used to establish Trinitarian monotheism—without providing a single text that decisively points to Jesus as the one true God—the only things that have been established are: there is but one true God; that one true God is the Father.

This is precisely why I think Trinitarians are saddled with a huge burden to mount up a case that, although the Bible does not directly identify Jesus as the one true God, there are indirect biblical indications that identify him as the one true God. This is a very complicated, and at times messy, process. For one, Trinitarians would need to establish Jesus’ “full divinity” (whatever this means), while painstakingly maintaining his full humanity” (whatever this means).

Simultaneously, while attempting to establish Jesus’ full divinity, they must not confuse him with God the Father in terms of “personhood” (whatever this means). This is very important because, according to the doctrine of the Trinity, the Son and the Father are “one being” (whatever this means). That is, while the two are the one true God—not the one true Gods—the Son and the Father are two separate, distinct persons.[8]

The Father, the Only One God

2.  Romans 3:29-30
“Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith.”

The “only one God” of both the Jews and Gentiles that Paul refers to here is none other than the Father (Rom. 1:7). Since Jesus identifies the Father as the “only true God” in his prayer for his disciples (John 17:3), in this text Paul is—by implication—identifying the Father as the only one true God (cf. 1 Thess. 1:9). Paul singles out the Father as the only one (true) God, and he never does this to Jesus in any of his writings in the New Testament.

Romans 3:30 is yet another text used by Bowman in his recent work with J. Ed Komoszewski to establish Trinitarian monotheism. They write, “Paul and other New Testament writers echo the Shema when they affirm that God is one or that there is one God,” and then they use Romans 3:30 as one of the biblical references, yet they do not use a reference to Jesus being the one true God.[9]

In volume two of his four-volume work, apologist Norman L. Geisler, too, uses Romans 3:30 as one of the verses to support belief in absolute biblical monotheism. He writes, “[I]t is evident from these many verses that there is, absolutely, only one God. But if God is absolutely one, then He cannot be divided into many gods.”[10] Here, it appears that Geisler is trying to establish monotheism in general, rather than Trinitarian monotheism in particular. However, nowhere in any of his work does Geisler provide a verse that identifies Jesus as the only one God.

What is more, notice how Rhodes tries to establish Trinitarian monotheism. He provides three lines of evidence: (1) there is “only one true God”; (2) there are three persons who are God; (3) there is evidence that indicates “three-in-oneness within the Godhead.”[11] However, as to the first line of evidence, Rhodes uses Romans 3:30 as one of the biblical references, and none of the other references he uses speaks about Jesus being the “only one true God.”[12]

Lastly, Romans 3:30 is on McGrath’s list of biblical references for the Father being the “only one God.”[13] He recognizes the fact that the “only one God” referred to both in the Old Testament and the New Testament is none other than the Father.[14] McGrath states that it is clear that the only one “God is not identified with Jesus: for example, Jesus refers to God as someone other than himself; he prays to God; and finally he commends his spirit to God as he dies.”[15]

[1] Scripture references in this and future blog posts are from the New International Version of the Bible (2011), unless otherwise indicated.
[2] As will be realized, Trinitarians use all sixteen Scripture references (to be discussed in this eight-part article)—which all point to none other than God the Father—in support of absolute biblical monotheism.
[3] To be sure, in establishing Trinitarian monotheism, some Trinitarians do use 1 John 5:20, where it says “this is the true God” as a reference to Jesus Christ. However, 1 John 5:20 is a highly disputed—and hence too problematic a—text to be used as a reference to Christ even among Trinitarians. This is because for a number of reasons the text does not provide a good amount of certainty for believing that it is a reference to Christ. [For an excellent exegetical treatment of 1 John 5:20, see Murray J. Harris, Jesus as God (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1992), 236-53.] Later on, this issue will be revisited at length.
[4] I draw a distinction between monotheism in general (the view most people naturally think of God as one person, one being) and Trinitarian monotheism in particular (the peculiar view Trinitarians think of God as three persons, one being).
[5] Robert M. Bowman, Jr., Why You Should Believe in the Trinity (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1989), 51, emphasis in original.
[6] Ron Rhodes, The Challenge of the Cults and New Religions (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001), 15, emphasis in original; cf. 72, 95, 248, 269.
[7] Alister E. McGrath, Understanding the Trinity (Grand Rapids: Academic Books, 1988), 120-121.
[8] This issue will be addressed in the current discussion as the occasion arises and in my future blogs.
[9] Robert M. Bowman Jr. and J. Ed Komoszewski, Putting Jesus in His Place: the Case for the Deity of Christ (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2007), 166.
[10] Norman L. Geisler, Systematic Theology: God, Creation, vol. 2 (Minneapolis, Minn: Bethany House, 2003), 39-40.
[11] Rhodes, 248.
[12] Ibid.
[13] McGrath, 120.
[14] Ibid. 120-21, 123.
[15] Ibid. 120-21, emphasis in original.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

What is the Trinity? (No. 2)

Most Christians today believe that the Trinity is taught in the Bible. Although majority of them affirm the teaching by faith, they really don't understand it. According to prominent Trinitarian apologist James R. White, the doctrine is "so misunderstood that a majority of Christians, when asked, give incorrect and at times downright heretical definitions of the Trinity."[1]


Trinitarians contend that, although the term "Trinity" is not found in the Bible, the concept is taught in it as a logical conclusion. Apologist Norman L. Geisler remarks, "The logic of the doctrine of the Trinity is simple. Two biblical truths are evident in Scripture, the logical conclusion of which is the Trinity:
1. There is one God.
2. There are three distinct persons who are God: Father, Son, Holy Spirit."[2]

Geisler suggests that God has one What and three Whos. "The three Whos (persons) each share the same What (essence). So God is a unity of essence with a plurality of persons. Each person is different, yet they share a common nature."[3]

White adds a third feature in defining the Trinity. He states that the belief is based on three biblical foundations:
1. Monotheism: There is only one God.
2. There are three divine persons.
3. The persons are coequal and coeternal.

White explains, "Christians believe in the Trinity not because the term itself is given in some creedlike form in the text of Scripture. Instead, they believe in the Trinity because the Bible, taken in its completeness, accepted as a self-consistent revelation of God, teaches that there is one Being of God (Foundation One) that is shared fully (Foundation Three) by three divine persons (Foundation Two), the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit."[4]

A Representation of the Trinity

When I was a Trinitarian, I frequently ran in to this diagram. It is an attempt to illustrate the Trinity.
With the help of this diagram, I understood the Trinity a certain way. That understanding was drawn from what I gathered the Bible is teaching and what Trinitarian theologians, apologists, and philosophers I read are saying. Here is the best and simplest way I can put the doctrine.

A. There is one true God.

B. The one true God is three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

C. Individually,
1. the Father is the one true God,
2. the Son is the one true God, and
3. the Holy Spirit is the one true God.

D. Collectively, these three persons are the one true God.

E. Distinctly,
1. the Father is not the Son,
2. the Son is not the Holy Spirit, and
3. the Holy Spirit is not the Father.

Did I misunderstand the Trinity? Am I misrepresenting it here? If so, you need to tell me precisely where I went wrong, and I will correct my mistake(s). I would not want to misrepresent that which I am attempting to refute. Such would merely be attacking a straw man, which does nothing to the actual position being refuted.

Now, I would ask that you offer a better model. I will then deal with it accordingly and provide a refutation. It would be interesting, though, to see how your Trinitarian model differs from others' and how it is able to withstand close scrutiny.

A Two-Pronged Objection to the Trinity

Of course, the model above is not an exhaustive treatment—but merely an illustrative attempt—to explain the Trinity. Now, assuming that the model fairly and accurately represents the doctrine, if we want to be biblical Christians, ought we to believe the Trinity?

I submit to you that we ought not to believe the Trinity. In fact, we ought to reject the doctrine because it is not only unbiblical but also illogical. In the next series of articles, I aim to provide good reasons for this two-pronged objection.

[1] James R. White, The Forgotten Trinity (Minneapolis, Minn.: Bethany House Publishers, 1998), 16, emphasis in original.
[2] Norman L. Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1999), 730.
[3] Ibid., 732.
[4] White, 28-29, emphasis in original.