In the last post, I wrote about Cessationism and how my view has adapted a bit over time. Today, I unravel a more interesting and important topic to consider: the doctrine of the Trinity. Many have proclaimed, and yet many have failed to explain this idea coherently. After speaking(debating) with a friend, I was referred to Dr. James White’s explanation. Needless to say, I found it severely lacking any real understanding. Here is the link to that explanation, and my line-by-line response to the logic and Scriptural support behind it.
Article and Response
It is necessary here to distinguish between the terms “being” and “person.”
“It would be a contradiction, obviously, to say that there are three beings within one being, or three persons within one person.”
>>Also correct, which is why his first statement is so crucial.
“So what is the difference? We clearly recognize the difference between being and person every day.”
>>Assertion. What is the difference? (I’m assuming he’s getting to it now, here we go!)
“We recognize WHAT something is, yet we also recognize individuals within a classification.”*
>>Assertion. How do we recognize what something is? How do we recognize individuals within a classification? What is a classification even?
*What I assume he’s using here for classification is really Plato’s IDEA, types of BEING. These are abstracts. Is there a big pool of ROCK BEING substance somewhere? Is this in the Bible? Where’s the big pool of the BEING of HUMANITY that individual people end up being created from? Where is this in the Bible? He’s using these abstract concepts to define BEING without any scriptural support whatever. He’s starting with the Platonic IDEA, not the Bible to define this term.
“For example, we speak of the “being” of man—human being. A rock has “being”—the being of a rock, as does a cat, a dog, etc.”
>>This is not a definition of BEING. He’s only telling us that some things have it. If you ask me what a leaf is and I say trees and plants have them, have them have I defined leaf for you? Of course not, you have almost no clearer picture of what a leaf is than before you asked me. Define the term.
“Yet, we also know that there are personal attributes as well.”
>>Assertion, what is a personal attribute? Like I can run fast? We don’t even know what a PERSON is yet, so how can we know what the attributes of a PERSON are? Define PERSON, show me.
“That is, we recognize both “what” and “who” when we talk about a person.”
>>We haven’t talked about a person yet. We were talking about BEING. He hasn’t defined a person, and yet here we are already using the term he said he would define from the outset. Besides that, we have no clear distinction between BEING and PERSON, which he stated was assuredly needed in order to understand this without contradiction!
“The Bible tells us there are three classifications of personal beings—God, man, and angels.”
>>I’m pretty sure I would agree with this, but not on his definition of what a being is. He believes that each of these is an IDEA, some abstract concept as illustrated above.
“What is personality? The ability to have emotion, will, to express oneself.”
>>Assertion, show me! No Scripture — citation needed, please.
“Rocks cannot speak. Cats cannot think of themselves over against others, and, say, work for the common good of “cat kind.””
>>Rock cannot speak is true, but neither can a mute. This is a bad illustration for personality. And many people would argue that animals do have a “personality”. Based on his own definition, animals seem to possess this (emotion, will, expression). His use of ‘cat kind’ here is equivocal. He’s saying they can’t do for the good of the rest of the INDIVIDUAL cats, not the CAT BEING. Those are separate terms.
“Hence, we are saying that there is one eternal, infinite being of God, shared fully and completely by three persons, Father, Son and Spirit. One what, three who’s.”
>>How can any sane person justify these 2 statements based on what was said above? It almost has nothing to do with these propositions. The word HENCE should signify some causal connection, but I don’t think it does at all here. I don’t even know what ‘infinite being of God’ could possibly mean since he hasn’t defined that either. But I’m assuming that he’s pulling again from Plato. The divine simplicity or the divine essence. Seems like he’s just asserting the Trinity now (which in fairness is not particular to Dr. White).
“NOTE: We are not saying that the Father is the Son, or the Son the Spirit, or the Spirit the Father. It is very common for people to misunderstand the doctrine as to mean that we are saying Jesus is the Father. The doctrine of the Trinity does not in any way say this!”
>>It might be better if he did say this, then it would be logical and he would at least know rationally that he believed in one God.
“The three Biblical doctrines that flow directly into the river that is the Trinity are as follows:
1) There is one and only one God, eternal, immutable.”
>>Agreed, the Father.
“2) There are three eternal Persons described in Scripture – the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. These Persons are never identified with one another – that is, they are carefully differentiated as Persons.”
>>Person has yet to be defined. But I’ll give it a shot – A PERSON IS A BEING. Therefore, persons can never be identified with one another, and there’s no need to ad hoc and arbitrarily qualify that. I would say at best there are 3 beings, but more likely it’s just 2 – Father and Son.
“3) The Father, the Son, and the Spirit, are identified as being fully deity—that is, the Bible teaches the Deity of Christ and the Deity of the Holy Spirit.”
>>They are not identified as being fully deity in Scripture, only in the Trinity. There are no doubt verses to support the idea that Yeshua came in the Father’s name(s)/titles, but there are multiple verses indicating the Son is lower than the Father. The Holy Spirit is most likely just the Father’s Spirit, not a different being altogether(his method of being omnipresent without leaving Heaven). The distinction that needs to be made is that the Son is consubstantial with the Father since he was begotten of Him. Consubstantial does not mean the same being, that’s utterly redundant. Consubstantial meaning “same type of substance”, or “like substance” — in the same way that a human father and son are both of human substance, but they are not the same being.
This was not a Scriptural refutation per se of the doctrine of the Trinity, but a rational elucidation that Trinitarians don’t know what they believe really. They end up conflating BEING and PERSON, or as Dr. White does in this article, they just avoid defining the terms altogether. As this video points out, it boils down to ‘mystery’ and assertion. This kind of justification has no place in Protestantism whatsoever.