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Is Jesus God?
The following discussion took place online, through mediums for both Greg Stafford and Robert Bowman, during the month of April, 1998.

The medium for Greg Stafford, Mark Ross, was not able to cut and paste Greg's reply, and resorted to typing in the reply directly from a printed hardcopy. As a result, the actual posted reply contained several spelling errors, and a few missing words. These have been corrected by uploading Greg's own copy to this page. As a result of this debate, several other individuals joined in the discussion, and various points were clarified and considered in greater detail, and these have been worked into the discussion so as to give as complete an understanding of the issues involved as possible.

Mark Ross [one of Jehovah's Witnesses] wrote:

Matthew, worship (Grk latreuw) includes honor, but honor does not necessarily include worship. Jesus is given the authority to judge by his Father, and the Father NEVER gets authority from anyone. I don't understand what the big deal is. BTW, [John 5] Verse 26 says that while the Father has 'life in himself' he is pleased to GIVE to Christ to have 'life in himself'. How is it that the Father has this by nature and the Son does not if the Son is equal and co-eternal with the Father ? I have NEVER had a trinitarian successfully address this one. Perhaps you will be the first ?

Rob Bowman:

1. If Jesus has the nature and prerogatives of the only true God, that makes him God, however he got that nature and those prerogatives.

Greg Stafford:

The errors begin early in Bowman's reply. Above we have a non sequitur. Bowman also asserts that which he has yet to prove, that is, where does the Bible say "Jesus has the nature and prerogatives of the only true God"? Also, how Jesus obtained a divine nature and divine prerogatives has a direct and substantial impact on our understanding of his position in relation to the Father. Bowman also uses the word "God" in two different senses: The first use appears to be in reference to the Godhead Beingness that is allegedly shared by three "persons." This is not a proper use of the word in this discussion, for nowhere does the Bible articulate the word "God" as denoting a substance of being shared by three persons. And when Bowman says that Jesus' having "the nature and prerogatives of the only true God, that makes him God," he does not state the matter correctly. A trinitarian would have to say, "makes him God

by nature," or makes him a sharer of the divine essence. As he has it, it is misleading, for many (and rightly so) take the term "God" as a noun of personal description, for that is the only sense in which the Bible writers make use of it, unless it is used figuratively of the "belly" or something similar, of course. Does Bowman mean, by saying, "makes him God," that this makes Jesus "the Godhead Beingness"? I doubt that. Thus, he equivocates on the meaning of the word "God."

Rob Bowman:

a. I don't think Stafford gets, or wants to get, the logic of what I asserted above. Let me put it more formally and completely.

(1) Whoever does what ONLY God can do, is God. (2) Jesus does what ONLY God can do. (3) Therefore, Jesus is God.

Greg Stafford:

First, Bowman again assumes that which he has yet to prove, and ignores the concept of imitation.

I recognize the valid structure of Bowman's argument and the deductive interpretation if one assumes the premises are true. For, if I said:

1) Whoever does what only dogs can do, is a dog. 2) My cat does only what dogs can do. 3) Therefore, my cat is a dog.

then this, too, would be valid structurally.

Now, this is only a sound argument if the premises (#s 1 and 2) are assumed true, for then the conclusion (#3) must be true. However, this argument contains a false premise: I have not given any proof that my cat does what only dogs can do, and, frankly, that would be tough to do! Thus, the above argument is unsound, and the conclusion is false. I call on Bowman to prove his premises, for he assumes in them a truth value that is unscriptural. He also misquoted John 5:19 in an attempt to support his

argument. That is why I say he has assumed that which he has yet to prove, namely, premise #2. Bowman fails to provide precise examples so we can evaluate his conclusion, and determine if Jesus' imitation of the Father (note his improper use of "God" as a personal reference, againsee below) is contingent upon anything. Bowman also uses God in an equative sense which even he does not accept. Again, when a trinitarian says, "Jesus is God," they mean "Jesus is God the Son, second person of a consubstantial Triad." But they do not put it that way, because the Bible never puts it that way! Thus, his conclusion is improper from a trinitarian point of view, without the proper qualification, and it does not follow from his premises.

Rob Bowman:

The parallel syllogism is also logically valid:

(4) Whoever has characteristics that ONLY God has, is God. (5) Jesus has characteristics that ONLY God has. (6) Therefore, Jesus is God.

Greg Stafford:

Bowman fails once again to prove his point. What if I said, "Angels have characteristics that only God has. For example, they are spirit beings, and only God is a spirit being." Well, then, for me to say, "The angels have something only God has, namely, spirit nature," would be to assume that a spirit nature is something only God has (the Bible never says this), and that anyone else who is said to have a spirit nature must therefore be God. This is similar to what Bowman is arguing. He assumes that Jesus does what only God can do, when in fact the Bible never says only God can do the things that He allows His Son to do in His name.

Rob Bowman: Now, my point was that these two parallel syllogisms are both valid regardless of how Jesus came to do what only God can do, or to possess characteristics that only God has.

Greg Stafford:

And your conclusion is incorrect for it is 1) based on faulty evidence; 2) couched in ambiguous terms; 3) does not necessarily follow from the premises laid, unless you further clarify your meaning of "God" as used in your conclusion.

Rob Bowman:

If Jesus does even ONE THING that Scripture says ONLY God can do, or he has even ONE characteristic that Scripture says ONLY God has, then Jesus is God, regardless of how that state of affairs came about.

Greg Stafford:

This is a non sequitur, pure and simple. Bowman also assumes that which he has yet to prove. The Bible does not say "If Jesus does even ONE THING that Scripture says ONLY God can do, or he has even ONE characteristic that Scripture says ONLY God has, then Jesus is God, regardless of how that state of affairs came about." A little proof from the Bible might be in order. The very fact that Jesus is given (yes, GIVEN) certain prerogatives that previously were exercised only by God, simply means that God is now allowing another, His Son, to act in a certain capacity. And his acting in that capacity is not due to his own authority, but because it was given to him. He is not equal to the Father in his divine authority. Thus, it is clear that, if Jesus is doing something that was previously done only by God, then it is now no longer something only God can do!

Rob Bowman

Thus, to disprove the conclusion of either of these two syllogisms (that Jesus is God), Stafford will have to dispute one or more of their premises (i.e., statements [1], [2], [4], and [5]). Admitting that statements (2) and (5) are true but objecting that the arguments ignore HOW they came to be true fails to show the arguments to be unsound. Greg Stafford

Who admitted to 2 and 5 being true? When you offer

proof then we will

evaluate it. Second, your entire argument is faulty on a number of fronts, several of which I have outlined above.

Rob Bowman:

b. It is true, of course, that how Jesus came to possess divine nature and prerogatives has a bearing on our understanding of his relation to the Father.

Greg Stafford:

If it has a bearing then why do you say, "If Jesus does even ONE THING that Scripture says ONLY God can do, or he has even ONE characteristic that Scripture says ONLY God has, then Jesus is God, REGARDLESS [emphasis added] of how that state of affairs came about"? Does it matter or not?

Rob Bowman:

But it does NOT have a bearing on the validity of the above arguments.

Greg Stafford:

If your argument is in relation to Jesus' prerogatives and whether having these prerogatives makes him God, then how he came to possess these prerogatives most certainly has a bearing on the ACCURACY of your argument. Whether your argument is "valid" from a logician's point of view is not the key issue; I am evaluating the accuracy of your conclusion. Your argument may be valid structurally, but the premises are incorrect, and so is your conclusion.

Rob Bowman:

We trinitarians do not ignore the matter of how Jesus came to be God; but we insist that the "how" cannot be used to negate the "that."

Greg Stafford: Of course, you do. You have to, for the "how" does negate the "that." If he came to have a divine nature, then he was not eternally grounded in the nature of God, and therefore is not eternal God.

Rob Bowman:

Your difficulty in understanding "how" Jesus could be God and receive hisnature and/or authority from another is just that - it is your difficulty. It is not a logical or biblical disproof of his being God.

Greg Stafford:

My difficulty lies in harmonizing unbiblical teachings with clear statements of faith. It is, in fact, your difficulty, for the Bible's "how" cannot be made to agree with your "that."

Rob Bowman:

c. Stafford erroneously attributes to me a belief that I do not hold and a meaning that I did not intend when he asserts that I use the term "God" to mean "the Godhead Beingness that is allegedly shared by three 'persons.'" I will come back to this point further below where Stafford's misconstrual of the trinitarian position is further elaborated. Here let me try to explain that I am not at all equivocating. To clarify, any of the following forms of the first premise in the first syllogism will work for my position to be sustained:

Greg Stafford:

Rob, you have got to be kidding. I know that you may not have intended to use the term "God" as a reference to the divine essence, but I am pointing out that you, as a trinitarian, cannot legitimately use the term in any other way than of one who shares the divine essence. Thus, to say, "makes him God," without qualifying what you as a trinitarian mean by that, is misleading. Of course, you missed this point.

[BREAK - For more on Bowman's failure to appreciate the point made by Stafford, see the response by Al Kidd to Rob Bowman, to which Bowman never replied.] Rob Bowman:

(1a) Whoever does what only deity can do, is deity.

Greg Stafford:

Premise #1: assumed and unproven. By this I mean you have assumed a relationship between your premise and the presention of Jesus in the Bible. Now, a deity can allow another to perform certain functions that he/she previously performed, without raising that person to the level of deity. We are talking about actions, and if a deity is truly a deity, then allowing another who is not a deity to imitate what that deity does, is not hard to imagine. This applies equally for all the premises listed below.

Rob Bowman:

(1b) Whoever does what only Almighty God can do, is Almighty God.

Greg Stafford:

Premise #2: assumed and unproven. Again, you have not shown a relationship between your premise and the presentation of Jesus in the Bible.

Rob Bowman:

(1c) Whoever does what only Jehovah can do, is Jehovah.

Greg Stafford:

Premise #3: assumed and unproven. Again, your point in relation to Jesus has not been established.

Rob Bowman:

(1d) Whoever does what only the Creator can do, is the Creator.

Greg Stafford:

Premise #4: assumed and unproven. Again, you have assumed that this applies to Jesus, when such language is nowhere used of him in the Bible.

Rob Bowman:

(1e) Whoever does what only a member of the Trinity can do, is a member of the Trinity.

Greg Stafford:

Premise #5: Here you have assumed a trinitarian relationship between Jesus and the Father that is nowhere articulated in Scripture.

Rob Bowman:

These are examples, not an exhaustive list; they illustrate the point that no equivocation is at work in the premise. And the same would apply to premise (4) in the second syllogism.

Greg Stafford:

Rob, you are equivocating by using the term "God" in two different and misleading senses. You said, "If Jesus has the nature and prerogatives of the only true God, that makes him God, however he got that nature and those prerogatives." Is not the "only true God," according to classical trinitarianism, a consubstantial Triad? That is, three persons who share the divine essence? When you say, "makes him God," do you not mean "makes him one who shares the divine essence"? Yet you use the term "God" in the second instance in an equative sense as a noun of personal description. You are using the word in a sentence that is ambiguous and which does not state the full truth of your position.

Rob Bowman:

Now, Stafford is on to something. It is true that in the expression "what God can do" the term "God" COULD be understood to be referring to God as the triune Being per se. On the other hand, in the conclusion "is God," the term "God" obviously CANNOT refer to God as the triune Being per se (or it would imply that Jesus is the triune Being rather than the Son alone). On this basis, Stafford thinks he has caught me in an equivocation. But there are at least two problems with this argument.

First, it really amounts to begging the question. For at every turn Stafford can (and probably does!) use the same objection to rule out a priori the trinitarian belief. In

other words, saying that "God" cannot be used with these two different connotations (God as triune, one of the three persons as God) really amounts to saying that the Trinity cannot be true.>>

Greg Stafford: Thats right! I am arguing that the only proper use of the term "God," by a trinitarian, is in reference to the persons of the Godhead as sharers of the same Beingness. A trinitarian cannot simply say, "Jesus is God." They mean, "Jesus shares the nature of God." Of course, you have to use it as a noun of personal description, for that is the only sense in which the Bible uses it. But you do not really believe that any of the members of the Trinity are God, you believe they share the essence of God. So you have to explain what you mean every time you make such a confession, otherwise you will mislead those who recognize the proper use of the word "God" in the Bible, namely, as a noun of personal description. It is a title denoting one's position, not the substance of being in which He is grounded.

Rob Bowman:

Second, it is not at all necessary for these two different connotations to be employed in the syllogisms I presented above. In saying, "Whoever does what ONLY God can do, is God," the term "God" may in both instances be used with the same connotation. The five expanded forms of premise (1) detailed above illustrate the point. For example, we might take the term "God" in both instances to connote "Creator" (1d). Or we might understand the term in both instances to connote simply "Jehovah" (1c). Or, alternatively, we might understand the term in both instances to connote "a member of the Trinity" (1e). Thus, Stafford has fallaciously moved from the correct understanding that the term "God" in trinitarian usage CAN have two distinct connotations to the erroneous conclusion that two such distinct connotations MUST be present in the two halves of the premise to my argument.

Greg Stafford:

It appears quite clear that you did not understand my point. Again, I am arguing that your use of "God," as referring to anything but the consubstantial Triad, in your statement, is incorrect, misleading, and a textbook example of equivocation.

Rob Bowman:

d. I'm not sure what Stafford means when he says that the Bible uses the word "God" only as a "noun of personal description." Whatever precisely he means, though, I do not see how it invalidates my argument, as expounded above. But I'll let Stafford explain himself. (My guess is that this is a statement he will later want to retract.)

Greg Stafford:

You guess wrong. What is unclear about my statement? I have articulated my point enough, and I will not go on and on about a matter that has already been discussed.

Rob Bowman:

In John 5:19, Jesus says that he does *only* what God does, that he does *everything* that God does, and that he does it just like God does it. I'd say that makes Jesus God!

Greg Stafford:

Bowman equivocates yet again. If "God," according to trinitarians, means a substance of being shared by three persons, then "God" cannot do anything! Bowman here attributes personality to an impersonal substance that he believes is shared by three persons. Again, the word "God" can only properly be employed by trinitarians as referring to the Godhead Beingness, which is impersonal. Otherwise they compromise their view of monotheism. Bowman uses "God" where John 5:19 uses "Father." So Bowman is carelessly using "God" as a synonym here for the Father. Also, since God sent His Son into the world to give his life in our behalf, according to Bowman's reasoning, Jesus would have to have likewise sent his Son (who might that be, Rob?) to earth to similarly give his life in our behalf. Obviously, when Jesus said he does only what he sees the Father doing, he did not mean for us to take this as an all-inclusive statement, but a statement in relation to his soteriological and eschatological functions, like judging and raising the dead, both of which are mentioned in the context of John 5:19.

Rob Bowman:

e. Stafford again insinuates into my argument an understanding of the Trinity that I do not hold and for which he has provided no documentation that it is held by trinitarians. I do NOT believe that there is an "impersonal" substance "shared" by three persons. The triune God is one infinite-personal Being, not an impersonal abstract beingness subdivided into three personal entities.

Greg Stafford:

Who said anything about "subdivided"? However, the Trinity most certainly does teach a consubstantial Triad. Is the "substance" shared by the three persons "personal"?

Rob Bowman:

To assert that "the word 'God' can only properly be employed by trinitarians as referring to the Godhead Beingness, which is impersonal" is to attribute to trinitarians a belief that we do not hold. Nor is it true that we must define God this way to preserve our view of monotheism. As a matter of fact, the reverse is true. If we defined God as an impersonal abstract essence or "beingness" shared by three individual concrete beings, that would implicitly result in a kind of tritheism.

Greg Stafford:

What, then, exactly, does the word "God" properly denote, in your view. Please articulate it for us. Also, where did I speak of "three individual concrete beings"?

Rob Bowman:

Whether any trinitarians have ever defined the doctrine of the Trinity in the way Stafford does, I do not know. But I do know that in all my years of studying the doctrine, writing a book on it, and discussing it with trinitarians of all denominations, I have never encountered any trinitarian who defined the doctrine in that way. On the other hand, I have encountered antitrinitarians who do insist on defining it in this way. And I have read trinitarians who have explicitly pointed out that the doctrine should not be misconstrued in the way Stafford misconstrues it. I conclude that Stafford has simply bought into a popular antitrinitarian assumption about the doctrine of the Trinity.

Greg Stafford:

I conclude you are evading the point. You wrote a book defending what you apparently do not understand. Of course, when one reads the early works on trinitarianism, it is easy to see why a proponent of the doctrine would try to avoid association with its clear implications, if one hopes to defend it. After you answer my question in the paragraph above yours, we can proceed with this thought.

Rob Bowman:

f. It is true that I used the term "God," whereas John 5:19 actually speaks of the Father. But this was not carelessness on my part. First of all, according to Jehovah's Witnesses, the Father alone is God, and God is no one but the Father. So, according to Stafford's theology, an argument that assumes an identity between the Father and God should not be problematic.

Greg Stafford:

It is not problematic for me, but for you, and that is the point I was making.

Rob Bowman:

Let's cut to the chase, now. I ask Greg Stafford, and any other Jehovah's Witness, this simple question: Is there anything the Father does or can do(in relation to creation) that the Son does not or cannot do? That is, is there any work (ad extra, as we say in trinitarian theology; i.e., anything done outside of God) that the Father does that the Son does not do? If so, how does that square with John 5:19? And if not, does that mean there is nothing that Jehovah can do that his supposedly created and inferior son Jesus (aka the Logos, aka Michael the Archangel) cannot also do? >>

Greg Stafford:

Of course. The Son does not create in the same sense that the Father does. The Father is the source and the Son is the agent of the Father's creative acts. (1 Cor. 8:6) John 5:19 simply states that Jesus homoios poiei what the Father shows

(deiknusin) him. For, again, the Son cannot do anything of his own volition. This shows a dependence on the Father that is irreconcilable with trinitarianism, for the text does not limit such dependence to the Son's human nature. Additionally, the Son does not even act in accordance with his own will. (John 5:30) His will is distinct and completely dependent upon the Father. Also, in context, the statement of John 5:19 seems to be related to the Son's soteriological and eschatological functions, some of which involve raising the dead (vs. 21) and judging (vs. 22). Thus, to make it an all-inclusive statement is not necessary. Jehovah's truly created and quite inferior Son can only do what the Father shows him and wills him to do. Such could hardly be said of Jehovah!-Isa 46:10-11.

Greg Stafford:

Bowman also fails to note that Jesus, in the very same verse to which he refers, states that he cannot do anything of his own initiative. Naturally, trinitarians take this in reference to Jesus' fleshly dependence on the Father, but then should we not take the very words to which Bowman refers as also referring to his fleshly state? That is, since Jesus does nothing of his own from his human standpoint, he must, of necessity, do what the Father does. Are we to understand, Mr. Bowman, that the words of John 5:19 deify Jesus' fleshly nature? Of course, Jesus goes on to identify some of the things he does in imitation of the Father: raising the dead and acting as Judge. But the Father still had to "give" (vs. 22; dedoken) such authority to the Son. The Son could not do the judging that the Father did, unless the Father gave him that authority. See below for more on this matter of "giving."

Rob Bowman:

g. While the words of John 5:19 might apply to Jesus specifically in his human state, I don't think they need to be limited to that state. In any case, I don't take John 5:19 to be deifying Jesus' human nature in the abstract, but to be an affirmation of the deity of the PERSON of the Son who at that time had (and still does have, in orthodox theology) human nature. The incarnate Son could do nothing on his own, and the incarnate Son could do and did do everything the Father did. There is no problem here for the orthodox position.

Greg Stafford:

There is a huge problem here for the "orthodox position," and it is only further complicated by your reply. There are 102 words in the above paragraph, and yet you fail to address the point. I will ask again, to what nature does John 5:19 apply? The person of the Son, according to you, possesses two natures, so you cannot avoid the question. If it applies to "the PERSON of the Son," then it must apply to one or both of his natures. Well? Was the Son's deity so dependent on the Father that the Son, as a divine person, had to imitate the Father, only after the Father revealed his will to the divine person of the Son? Or, did the Son in his humanity imitate the Father's actions, so that you would then be forced to either deify his humanity or accept that the imitation is not that which places the Son on par with the Father in "all he does"?

Rob Bowman:

No orthodox trinitarian has ever dreamed that the Son could do anything on his own, apart from the Father.

Greg Stafford:

And, of course, you are referring only to his humanity, right? How convenient. But you still have not addressed the problem I outlined above. Please try to stay focused on the point at hand, so we do not become overly wordy in our discussion, as our readers are likely trying to follow along and glean the key points. We don't need a lesson in obfuscation.

Rob Bowman:

Anyone who suggests otherwise is either ignorant of trinitarian theology, or dishonest.

Greg Stafford:

How is this relevant here? I am asking you a question about the matter. I clearly recognize the loophole trinitarians wrongly make in applying the Son's dependency to

his human nature, so can you simply deal with the issue of whether or not the words under discussion apply to his human or divine nature?

Rob Bowman:

The Son is not an independent deity, off doing his own thing; he is the Son, working always in union with the Father, always acting to bring glory to the Father.

Greg Stafford:

Again, let's save space and deal with the issues. The Son is quite dependent upon the Father, and that is the very point I am raising against your teaching! I contend that this dependence is nowhere limited to his human nature, and that you are playing fast and loose with John 5:19 and other texts, choosing which portions you want to apply to his human nature and which portions you want to apply to his divine nature, when the Bible makes no such distinction.

Rob Bowman:

That the Father "gave" authority to Jesus to raise and judge the dead is not a problem for our position - it is a problem for yours.

Greg Stafford:

It is a problem for you when it comes to answering this question: Was the Son's human nature given this authority, or his divine nature?

Rob Bowman:

On your view, John 5 apparently means that Jehovah God has delegated all judgment to a finite creature. Worse, he did so in order that everyone would honor that finite creature just as they honor Jehovah God himself (vv. 22-23).

Greg Stafford:

And here you assume that being a "finite" creature somehow makes one unworthy to receive the power to judge. Why don't you show that from the Bible, Rob?

As for the honor given to the Son, since he is now Judge, we must honor him as we would honor the Father as Judge, for such authority has now been delegated to the Son. Would an infinite being need to be given authority to judge? Of course, if you here say it is Christ's humanity that is given the authority, then you contradict yourself, for then you would be suggesting that a finite creature was given "all authority to judgment"! Well?

Rob Bowman:

Wrangle all you want about the precise nuance of kathos ("just as"), the point still comes through clearly if one reads the whole paragraph instead of dissecting it according to preconceived theological biases.

Greg Stafford:

And just where did I "wrangle" about "the precise nuance of kathos"? Maybe you should wait until you hear my argument before you offer a reply. We must honor the Son as Judge just as we honor the Father, and that is the context of the statement in John 5:23. Of course, I could certainly appeal to the different nuances of kathos, but it is not necessary. The role of Judge is directly related to the honor paid to the Son, as is manifest in the hina clause of verse 23.

Rob Bowman:

On the trinitarian view, Jesus had to be "given" that authority because he had taken the path of self-humiliation and self-denial in order to redeem us (see further below). Again, the givenness of his divine authority does not detract from the fact that it is indeed divine authority. The person who will be making the life and death decisions for every human being for all eternity will be - Jesus! He will decide if you will live eternally or not. He will decide who will be saved and who will not. He has the power to give eternal life, or to withhold it. Biblically, theologically, and personally, that makes him "my Lord and my God" (John 20:28).

Greg Stafford:

I understand that, Rob, but you are apparently unaware of what I am saying. The Son in his divinity could not be given this authority, could he? No, for if that divinity

is infinite, and it is, according to you, then it would already have the authority to judge. But if the Son in his humanity is given what you say is "divine authority," then how can you then argue that the Son has a dependence upon the Father as to his humanity, when that humanity now has divine authority? I have no problem calling Jesus my Lord and my God, in the qualified sense in which the Bible presents him as a divine being. But Thomas may not have addressed Jesus as such (see my book for details). You are the one who has the problem, for neither Thomas nor any other Bible personage uses the term "God" in a manner consistent with trinitarianism. Yet, you and others appeal to these verses as if they support your theology!

Rob Bowman:

The person who will be making the life and death decisions for every human being for all eternity will be - Jesus!

Greg Stafford:

Yes! And that is because the Father gave him that authority; this authority is not original to him. We are, of course, grateful to have such a merciful and glorious judge, who will make decisions and act in such a way as to bring glory to his God and Father.

Rob Bowman:

In John 16:13 Jesus said something about the Holy Spirit very similar to what he said about himself in John 5:19. "He will not speak on his own, but whatever he hears he will speak." Obviously, this has nothing to do with the Holy Spirit being in a human state, since the Holy Spirit did not become flesh. It has to do, rather, with the Holy Spirit not acting independently of the Father (or of the Son, in the immediate context) but speaking on behalf of the Father (and/or the Son). But now we encounter what appears to me to be some serious difficulties for the Watchtower view. >>

Greg Stafford:

Not so fast, Rob. The holy spirit does not say, "Most truly I say to you, [I] cannot do a single thing of [my] own initiative." (John 5:19) Again, is this related to Jesus'

human or divine "state"? The holy spirit is not said to have been given the authority to judge.

Rob Bowman:

(i) Since in John 5:19 the one who does not act on his own is obviously a person, one would expect that the same language used in John 16:13 would also apply to a person. (The impression is reinforced and confirmed by several other features of the text: the term pneuma in the NT customarily refers to persons, the Spirit here is said to "hear" and "speak," and so forth.) But the Watchtower teaches that the Holy Spirit is an impersonal force.

Greg Stafford:

I am more than happy to discuss your misunderstanding of this matter, but I prefer to finish the discussion at hand. I can understand your desire to do so, but I do not care much for Bible hopscotch. We are discussing the Son's relationship with the Father vis--vis the Godhead Beingness they allegedly share, and how this relationship is harmonized with statements such as those found in John 5:26. Please try to stay focused on the subject under discussion. Again, we'll get to your view of the holy spirit soon enough.


2. The doctrine of the Trinity teaches that the Son was "eternally begotten" by the Father, that is, that the Son is in some (admittedly unfathomable) way dynamically related to the Father as his Son. This doctrine is based on the NT teaching that Jesus Christ has always been the Son (e.g., John 1:1-2, 14, 18; Col. 1:13-17; Heb. 1:2).

Greg Stafford:

In the above texts, or anywhere else in the Bible for that matter, one will search in vain for the words, "Jesus Christ has always been the Son." Also, you will never encounter the words or the concept of "eternal generation" in the Bible. Here we have an example of a later doctrinal development read back into the text of the Bible, in order to support a doctrinal presupposition. The Bible frequently uses terms that

denote a distinction in terms of age, such as "Father" and "Son," but never do we find

the Bible writers articulating an understanding of these and other terms that would cause us to think they are using them in a sense different from that of the everyday meaning associated with these terms in Bible times, in terms of temporal priority, and certain filial associations.

Rob Bowman:

There are several reasons why we would, in fact, conclude that Jesus is called God's "Son" in a way that varies from that term's "everyday meaning," and specifically that it does not imply that Jesus's sonship was a temporal, created sonship. I have detailed seven such reasons in my book Why You Should Believe in the Trinity: An Answer to Jehovah's Witnesses (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1989), 85-86. In John 1:1-3, the apostle tells us that the Word existed in the beginning and that all temporal things owe their existence to him. See my book Jehovah's Witnesses, Jesus Christ, and the Gospel of John (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1989), 20-24, for a defense of the eternity of the Word in John 1:1.

Greg Stafford:

You are wrong, and I provide reasons for viewing your argument as incorrect in my book, Jehovahs Witnesses Defended: An Answer to Scholars and Critics. See Chapter 7 for details.


In John 1:3, John says explicitly that everything that "came to be" (that is, all temporal things) did so through the creative agency of the Word.

Greg Stafford:

Once again you assume that which you have yet to prove. Is this going to be a reoccurring theme in your writings? Please show us, from the Bible, that panta refers to "all temporal things." Bowman:

Therefore, once again, the Word is eternal.

Greg Stafford:

From false premises will come false conclusions. John 1:1 says nothing about the Word being eternal, but that he existed with God (not the Father, mind you) in the beginning, that is, the beginning of Genesis 1:1, where the creation of all temporal physical things came into being. I believe the opening words of John 1:1 are purposefully the precise words used in the LXX of Genesis 1:1. Genesis 1, of course, articulates the creation of the physical universe.

Rob Bowman:

Then, verses 14 and 18 make it clear that this Word was the Son before he became human (a fact with which the Jehovah's Witnesses agree) and that the WordSon is the same person who we now know as Jesus (again, the Jehovah's Witnesses agree). Thus, I assert that John 1:1-3, 14 teaches that Jesus has always been the Son.

Greg Stafford:

Yes, we know that is what you assert, Rob, but the Bible makes no such assertion.

Rob Bowman:

Colossians 1:13-17 speaks specifically of God's beloved "Son" (v. 13b). It says of him that all things were created in, through, and for him (v. 16), that he is before all things (v. 17a), and that all things cohere or consist, are held together or sustained, in him (v. 17b). Much the same things are said about the Son in Hebrews 1:2-3. Thus, these texts also support the assertion that Jesus has always been God's Son.

Greg Stafford:

I believe you left out the very temporal designation "Firstborn" from Col. 1:15, and the also temporal description of the Son as the charakter tes hupostaseos autou. (Heb. 1:3) This makes it ever so clear that the Son is not as old as the One of whom he is a charakter. And, of course, this is referring to his prehuman state, the one through whom God made the ages. Any particular reason you neglected to highlight these aspects of the verses to which you referred, Rob?

Rob Bowman:

Far from reading a later doctrinal development back into texts, I am reiterating the biblical teaching that drove the early church precisely to develop those doctrinal ideas.

Greg Stafford:

Really? Well, when are you going to reference the "biblical teaching" that you are "reiterating"? All you have done so far is refer to sections of Scripture that contain descriptions of the Son that are irreconcilable with trinitarianism.

Rob Bowman:

In this sense it is eternally true that the Son receives his nature and authority from the Father. One might read John 5:26 in this sense assaying that Jesus eternally received self-existent life from the Father in his eternal generation.

Greg Stafford:

One might read it anyway one wishes, but that does not makes one's reading accurate. There is nothing about eternally receiving anything! Again, Bowman interprets the text in light of later, post-biblical theology. Also, the idea of receiving life "eternally" is a contradiction in itself. If he received it, it is not something he had "eternally," and there is no justification for such a view in Scripture. The Bible says the Son was "given life." (Joh 5:26) Jesus acknowledges that he `lives because of the Father.' (Joh 6:57) These two statements are consistent with some of the ideas commonly associated with the relationship between "Father" and "Son," in biblical times. If you are looking for straightforward texts around which to build your doctrine, these two verses are not a bad place to start. They are certainly much better than reading the text and trying to make it fit with post-biblical theology.

Rob Bowman:

a. Stafford once again begs the question. By asserting that one cannot receive something eternally, what he is really saying is that, no matter what the Bible says, the doctrine of eternal Sonship can't be true because it seems contradictory.

Greg Stafford:

Now your arguments are displaying considerable weakness. Where do I say, "no matter what the Bible says"? You are the one who has assumed that which you have yet to prove, while I am simply pointing out that the Bible does not teach an inherently contradictory doctrine like "eternal generation." No? You believe it does? Then point us to those sections of scripture where such a teaching is clearly articulated. Of course, it is not until hundreds of years later that we meet with this idea of "eternal generation," and it is surprising that so many trintitarians cling to it when it is found nowhere in the Bible, and when it involves concepts that contradict one another.

Rob Bowman:

This is the reasoning of a skeptic, not of a Bible-believing Christian. Sorry to be so blunt, but it's true - and it's been true of Jehovah's Witnesses all along, beginning with Charles Taze Russell himself.

Greg Stafford:

You are quite the card, Rob (sorry to be so blunt). A Bible-believing Christian is not one who is duped into accepting ideas and philosophies that are not in any way, shape, or form grounded in Scripture. "Eternal generation"? You have go to be kidding. When you provide evidence for such a view from Scripture, I will begin to take you more seriously. Until then, you are simply reading later theology back into the Bible, in order to support your preconceived view of what the Bible teaches.

Rob Bowman:

Russell rejected Christianity until he found out that some people had figured out a way to accept the Bible without having to believe those incomprehensible doctrines of the Trinity and hell. Thus, the Watchtower religion is founded ultimately on an unbelieving spirit - "I won't believe if it I can't make sense of it." See further my

Understanding Jehovah's Witnesses: Why They Read the Bible the Way They Do (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1991), 75-84.

Greg Stafford:

You are way off the mark, and I have made appeal only to the fact that your views are not founded upon Scripture, and they are inherently contradictory. You have no idea why we "read the Bible the way we do." You don't even realize why you read the Bible the way you do: You are forced to reconcile later theology with the Bible, regardless of how you bend it, less you bear the brand of heretic.

Rob Bowman:

b. If we understand Jesus to be speaking of his possessing "life in himself" even before becoming a human, then in light of John 1:1-4 we will have to understand it to refer to the Father "giving" the Son self-existent life before creation. In light of a proper exegesis of John 1, as already discussed briefly, this "giving" occurs beyond space and time, because Christ already has it when time begins.

Greg Stafford:

Another unproven assumption (this is getting ridiculous!), which I refute in my book. John 1:1 says nothing about "beyond space and time," but it is only by reading these thoughts into the text that one can hope to reconcile the trinitarian view of Jesus with later theology. The Father gave the Son life, and that is all we are told in John 5:26. There is no qualification made, and no mention of "beyond space and time." Historically, trinitarians have been forced into the role of "eisegete," for the Bible, as it stands, cannot support their teachings.

Rob Bowman:

This leads directly to the idea of an eternal giving of self-existent life from the Father to the Son, which is what is meant by eternal generation. Thus, once again, I am not reading later theology back into John, but reiterating the teaching of John that led the church later to formulate their theology.

Greg Stafford:

(!) All you have done and continue to do is read later theology into the text and add words and concepts that are not all at found in the passages you reference. "Eternal giving"! Where is that in the Bible? We have the giving, and you keep trying to read the "eternal" into the text, but it just is not there. I guess the faith teachers' views are not to be condemned, for they hardly attempt to read more into the Bible than trinitarians!

Rob Bowman:

c. Which texts seem "straightforward" will, notoriously, depend on wha tdoctrinal assumptions one has already nailed down as fixed points of reference. John 5:26 and 6:57 are fine texts, and they should be taken seriously (and are) by trinitarians, but they don't give a straightforward, direct answer to the question, "Is Jesus God?" or "Has Jesus existed eternally?"

Greg Stafford:

Some texts are clear enough that they require little if any interpretation. However, ambiguous texts should always be interpreted in light of clearer passages. Trinitarians do not take John 5:26, 6:57 seriously. Instead, they, as is evident by your example, read them in light of later theology in order to bring them into agreement with their beliefs. Rather, they should bring their beliefs into agreement with the texts. Again you use the term "God" inappropriately for a trinitarian, for you really mean to ask, "Is Jesus grounded in the divine essence of God?" John 5:26 and 6:57 are two texts that stand in direct contradiction to the Trinity. If Jesus was given life, then he did not always have it, and therefore did not always exist. If he did not have life, he could not have been eternally grounded in a substance of Being shared by other "persons."

Rob Bowman:

I find much more direct answers to the first question in such texts as John 1:1; 20:28; Rom. 9:5; Titus 2:13; 2 Peter 1:1; Hebrews 1:8; 1

John 5:20; and to the second question in such texts as John 1:1; 8:58; Col.

1:16-17; Heb. 1:2-3, 10-12.

Greg Stafford:

None of the above texts can be harmonized with the tenets of trinitarianism, and all of them argue negatively against both the first and second questions. See my book for more details.

Rob Bowman:

3. The doctrine of the Incarnation teaches that the Son became a man and as such was God incarnate (based, e.g., on John 1:1, 14; 20:28; Col.2:9).

Greg Stafford:

While the doctrine of the Incarnation may teach that, the Bible does not. The Bible teaches that Jesus "became" flesh (John 1:14); he did not "clothe" himself, or "veil" his divinity. He gave it up (Phil. 2:7), showing true humility (Phil. 2:3-5).

Rob Bowman:

Notice once again that Stafford uses language to describe my position that I myself have not used.

Greg Stafford:

I use the terms that are commonly given by those who embrace the doctrine of the Incarnation. If you do not agree, then say so.

Rob Bowman:

In any case, the question is whether, when Jesus became a man, he remained who and what he was before becoming a man. Surely the answer to that question must be Yes.

Greg Stafford:

This is getting old, fast! Please prove what you here assert as true.

Rob Bowman:

He was the Son of God before; he was the Son of God on earth, in the flesh (e.g., John 1:14, 18; 3:16; Rom. 8:32; 1 John 3:8; 4:9).

Greg Stafford:

He will always be the Son of God for nothing can erase this as a historical fact. But this does not imply that he would have to retain the same nature throughout his existence.

Rob Bowman:

The man who presented his wounded hands and side to Thomas for inspection was Thomas's Lord and God (John 20:27-28). Now that's Incarnation!

Greg Stafford:

No, that's an unproven assumption! First, we are dealing with a postresurrection appearance and so Jesus is no longer flesh, but has become a "life-giving spirit" (1 Cor. 15:45) and has manifested himself in human form, much the same way angels did in the past, when they sat down and ate a meal with Lot. Second, it is not clear that Thomas intended for Jesus to be called "God" in this verse, but even if he did it would be in the qualified sense in which the Bible refers to Jesus as theos: There is one who is God to him.--John 20:17.

Rob Bowman:

Colossians 2:9, about which Stafford said nothing here, explicitly says that Jesus Christ has the fulness of deity dwelling in him bodily. I think Stafford is overly dismissive here. On Philippians 2:3-5, see Why You Should Believe in the Trinity, 1013.

Greg Stafford:

And if anyone has any questions about pages 101-103 in Why You Should, just ask. As for Col. 2:9, Bowman fails to recognize that Christ's own fullness is contingent upon the Father's will! (Col. 1:19) Thus, once again we see that Christ is not eternal, for he has not always had the very fullness that constitutes him a god! Of course, anointed Christians will also possess this fullness, according to Col. 2:10. For more on Col. 2:9, see my book, pages 24-27.

Rob Bowman:

As such, Jesus in his incarnate state had "life in himself." Since the Son was sent to be our redeemer by the Father, Jesus in John 5:26 might have been saying that the Father had willed that Jesus, the *incarnate* Son, should embody self-existent life in himself.

Greg Stafford:

Upon rereading the text, we find no such teaching in John 5:26. Jesus makes no such qualification of the life he was given. He simply says that as the Father has life, so He has given life to the Son.

Rob Bowman:

Not just life, but "life in himself." Again, what is said here needs to be correlated with John 1:1-4, among other passages in John.

Greg Stafford:

No problem. But the conclusion is the same: Jesus was given life in himself. In what other way could he be given life than for that life to dwell in him? It is not some tangible, external product.

Rob Bowman:

In any case, "life in himself" is a description of the Son's nature. That is what he is. John tells us that "in him was life" (John 1:4), that is, even before he became incarnate.

Greg Stafford:

Yes, in him was life. But the point we are making is he was given that life. John 5:26 does not say when he was given that life. Again, the simple truth is that the life Jesus has in himself was given to him by the Father. Thus, he did not always possess that life.

Rob Bowman:

Again, Stafford is assuming what he needs to prove - that the Father's "giving" life to the Son implies that the Son received it temporally.

Greg Stafford:

There is no other meaning one can derive from a simply reading and appreciation of the term "give." Unless the Bible articulates the word "give" in such a way as to restrict its meaning and place in some non-temporal category, we are not at liberty to dissociate its inherently temporal connotations! Of course, you have to, for otherwise your theology crumbles. But, it is you who have once again assumed that which you have yet to prove. I assume that the word is used with its normal meaning (for I have no reason to believe it is not), while you assume that it is used in a sense that is nowhere articulated or demonstrated in Scripture.

Rob Bowman:

Pop quiz: If a temporal father gives temporal life to his son, what kind of life does an eternal Father give to his one true Son?

Greg Stafford:

He gives the same kind of life that He "gives to all persons" (Acts 17:25), being as He is the "source of life." (Ps 36:9) Life is never spoken of in the Bible as something that carries with it the age of the One who gave it.

Pop quiz: If God gives life to another, His true Son, why is he the Son if no difference in age separates them? How is it a giving of life if the Son has always had life?

Rob Bowman:

4. The doctrine of the Incarnation teaches that the Son humbled himself to become the Father's servant as a man (Phil. 2:6). As such Christ had placed himself voluntarily in a position of servitude in which he did not exalt himself but received exaltation from the Father in his resurrection and ascension (Phil. 2:9-11; cf. Heb. 5:5). This is why Christ could be "given" all authority in the universe (Matt. 28:18). What he was given already rightly belonged to him, but in order to redeem us Christ took the path of humility. The glory that he received in the resurrection and ascension was actually the glory that he already had before the world was created (John 17:5).

Greg Stafford:

Question: Was Christ's deity or humanity given "all authority"? Also, Bowman assumes that what Christ was given "already belonged to him." But the Bible does not say this. Dwelling in glory with the Father does not ipso facto means he had "all authority." At least the Bible does not speak in such terms.

Rob Bowman:

The answer to Stafford's question is, neither: Christ the PERSON was given authority; it was not given to his humanity or his deity per se, but to the person who was now permanently both deity and glorified humanity.

Greg Stafford:

Fine. Then Christ the "PERSON" was given that which he did not already possess. But if the "PERSON" of Christ was given it, then one or both of his "natures" had to be given it. Also, if Christ has two natures, and one nature is, say, omniscient (his divine nature), and his human nature is finite in terms of knowledge, then you have two centers of consciousness, and thus two persons. You deny this, but there is no way around it other than to deny reality. When asked to explain it, well, the mystery is usually invoked and the dialogue ends. It's no mystery, Rob, it is unbiblical.

Rob Bowman:

There's no "assuming" on my part about Christ already having the authority. Does Matthew 28:18 mean that Christ did not have all authority before his resurrection? Well, consider this: In Matthew 11:27 Jesus asserts, "All things HAVE BEEN [not "will be"] handed over to me by my Father." So, when did this happen, if it did not happen at his resurrection?

Greg Stafford:

The Bible does not provide an exact "day" when these things were given to Christ; it simply tells us they were given to him. So your point is meaningless in a discussion concerning what was in fact given to Christ. Also, the precise time he was given the authority need not be considered the same time he began to exercise that authority.

Rob Bowman:

My statement about Christ receiving glory he had previously before creation (John 17:5) was meant as a further illustration of the fact that Christ "receiving" something or being "given" something does not necessarily mean he didn't have it before.

Greg Stafford:

And you are wrong, for "glory" can be that which is grounded in Christ's own prehumanly existing divine form (Phil. 2:6-7), or "glory" can be the praise and honor that comes as a result of the Father's exaltation of the Son. (Phil. 2:11) The glory Christ

had before he came to earth is not the same as that which he will receive when every knee bends and every tongue confesses him as Lord, to his God and Father's glory, for the glory he receives as an appointed Lord involves the praise that comes from humankind, and this was not the case with the glory he owned in his prehuman state, for the world of humankind did not then exist.

Rob Bowman:

5. Several of the exalted titles Jesus has are said in one place or another to be given to him after he already had them. For example, Peter says after Jesus' resurrection that God has "made" Jesus both Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36) -- but he was already both (e.g., Luke 2:11).

Greg Stafford:

Where does Peter say he was made Lord after his resurrection? He simply states that God made Jesus "Lord" and "Christ" in the course of his conversation with the Jews. Did God make Jesus "Christ" after his resurrection?

Rob Bowman:

a. That wasn't exactly what I said. I said that after Christ's resurrection Peter said what he said. In fact I don't think God made Jesus Lord or Christ for the first time at or after his resurrection. What I think Peter is clearly saying in the context, though, is that in or by his resurrection and exaltation to the right hand of God (Acts 2:33), Jesus was shown to be both Lord and Christ (v. 36).

Greg Stafford:

Then you are wasting our time and failing to make your point, for you were attempting to demonstrate how something can be given to someone, even though that person already owns "it." Showing someone to be something has no business in a discussion concerning the meaning and true import of giving something to someone for the first time.

Rob Bowman:

His language, though, if pressed the way YOU press other texts that speak of Jesus being given something or made something, would imply that Jesus did not become Lord or Christ until he was raised and exalted. And that is explicitly contrary to Scripture.

Greg Stafford:

(?!?) I don't know when you typed this, but may I suggest that you do not do so late at night and that you give careful thought to what you say, before you say it? I mean, there is no rush to put up a reply just so you can think, "Well, I replied." Substance counts. Now, how in the world does his language, "if pressed," "imply that Jesus did not become Lord or Christ until he was raised and exalted"? I just got through telling you that the text says nothing about when this was done, but merely that it was done at some point. If you continue to ignore what I say and reiterate the same thing that I just addressed, then this is simply an exercise in futility. Actually, I think you see the problem your "logic" presents you with, and now you are backing off. If not, then deal with the issue; do not simply repeat the point I already considered.

Rob Bowman:

Thus, I am arguing that you should not press such language to prove that Christ's deity or authority are temporal and inferior when the Bible clearly says otherwise.

Greg Stafford:

Yes, I know that is what you want, Rob, but your arguments fail to make your point, and so you are left in with the same problem: The Bible uses temporal language with regard to the authority, life, and nature (divine fullness) that the Son possesses.

Rob Bowman:

Paul says that Jesus was "appointed" as God's Son by his resurrection from the dead (Rom. 1:4) -- but Jesus was already God's Son when he lived and died in the flesh (Rom. 8:3). These examples (more could be "given"!) show that Christ's exaltation

was actually the Father showing to the world that Jesus was the divine Son and Lord and now called on the world to confess Jesus as such.

Greg Stafford:

The word "son" is used in several contexts with slightly different connotations. Jesus was the Son of God before coming to earth because he was given life by the Father. Similarly, he is God's son by means of a resurrection, for at that time God once again gave Jesus life. Also, Romans 1:20 says Jesus was designated (horisthentos) God's Son by means of the resurrection, so it may simply be that Jesus' sonship was recognized at the time of his resurrection. However, Paul's use of Psalm 2:7 in Acts 13:33 seems to indicate that it is the life Jesus received at his resurrection that allowed him to be designated "God's Son." Therefore, the expression "God's Son" used in different contexts does not support the assumption Bowman makes that God bestows titles on Jesus that he already had. Also, if Jesus had a title prior to the world's or our recognition of it, this would not provide a useful parallel to our discussion of John 5:26, which speaks of "life" being giving to Jesus, not a title.

Rob Bowman:

b. The fact that the title "Son of God" has "slightly different connotations" in different contexts does not change the fact that this is an example of a title that God bestowed on Jesus>>

Greg Stafford:

Did I say it did? I am simply pointing out that this title, with different connotations, can be given to Jesus on different occasions, in accordance with the particular connotations intended at a given time/event.

Rob Bowman:

While my point about titles is not directly pertinent to the expression "life in himself" John 5:26, it is pertinent as a reply to Mark Ross, who had asserted that Jesus received authority and therefore could not have already had it. Since Jesus' divine titles are expressive of his divine authority, my point about Jesus' titles is relevant to answering Mark's argument.

Greg Stafford:

Not really, for your examples do not make your point. But I believe Mark's question primarily related to John 5:26.

Rob Bowman:

I think Stafford means Romans 1:4, not Romans 1:20.

Greg Stafford:

Yes, I did. Thank you for the correction.

Rob Bowman:

6. There is one Scripture that, in a sense, speaks of the Father receiving authority. In 1 Corinthians 15:24, Paul says that at the end, Christ "delivers up the kingdom to the God and Father." So here we find Christ in a sense giving the Father the kingdom (a word perhaps better translated "kingship," that is, royal authority). Of course, that does not mean that the Father was not already in possession of kingdom authority over all creation. But there will be a sense in which Christ presents to the Father a reconciled new creation that perfectly embodies God's rule.

Greg Stafford:

The Bible says Jesus gives the kingdom, or rule, back to the Father, thus, the Father will not have it while it belongs to His Son. This text simply states that that which the Father gives to the Son, the Son gives back to the Father. While the Son exercises authority over the kingdom apart from the Father's intervention, the Son never exercises authority over the Father, but the Father does exercise authority over the Son as his God. (1 Cor. 11:3; Rev. 3:12) This implies that, as the Son's God, the Father could take back the kingdom if He chooses to, but He will not do so, according to the Bible.

Rob Bowman:

a. So, Jehovah God is currently not ruling mankind?

Greg Stafford:

No. At this time, Satan is the ruler of the world of mankind (1 Joh. 5:19), and during the Millennial Reign God will not rule mankind directly, for, again, He has given the authority to rule and judge to His Son. Was I unclear about this?

Rob Bowman:

b. So, Jesus' kingdom will have an end, despite, for example, Luke 1:32-33?

Greg Stafford:

That's a rather slippery slope you're riding, Rob. The kingdom Jesus established with his God-given authority will never end. Jesus' direct authority over that kingdom will end, and be given back to God, the One who gave it to Jesus in the first place. After the Millennial Reign the Bible clearly states that the Son will once again come under the authority of his God (not simply the "Father"), and then God will once again resume direct control over earth's affairs. (1 Cor. 15:24-28) I do hope you will be there to see God's promised "new earth" as He intended it to be.

Rob Bowman:

c. Is it even theoretically possible for Jesus to make a mistake?

Greg Stafford:

No, for he is a perfect spirit being, and, as we have discussed, he only does what the Father shows him. During his rule, he will likely maintain the same outlook, and do all that his Father taught him.--John 8:28.

Rob Bowman:

d. If the Father can be God for thousands of years without ruling as such, can't Jesus have been God for thousands of years before beginning to rule with divine authority?

Greg Stafford:

Where do you see the Father as "God for thousands of years without ruling as such"? In answer to your question, Jesus could be, but you can park yourself in a garage and call yourself a car and that does not mean it's true. The Bible says Jesus was "a god" and was with "God." They are different in terms of their being. The Bible says that the God Jesus was "with" gave him the authority to rule and judge, but no one is said to have given God the authority to rule and judge, let alone said to have given Him "life." Having the authority for thousands of years and not using it is entirely different from being given that authority. In one instance you have it, and in the other you are given it. Thus, you create a false analogy, at least in relation to the point we are supposed to be discussing. But since you are jumping all over the place, it is hard to tell where your mind is, as opposed to where it should be.

Rob Bowman:

e. Yes, the Father is Jesus' God, because Jesus became a human being and as such looks to the Father as his God; but this does not mean that Jesus is not also God. See Why You Should Believe in the Trinity, 71-72, for more on this point.

Greg Stafford:

Let's see, does the Bible ever qualify the fact that the Father is God over the Son as referring solely to the Son's humanity? No! Your book has nothing to use effectively in your behalf. Here you go again: When it suits your needs, you all of a sudden classify texts that are devastating to your theology as referring to Jesus' humanity. But the Bible provides no license for doing so. He also has a God since his resurrection (Rev. 3:12), and he does not still have his human nature in heaven. See Chapter 8 of my book for details. The dual-nature concept has all sorts of problems, not the least of which is the fact that you end up creating two persons, whether you like it or not. It's nothing but word magic.

Rob Bowman:

My point is that we need to be careful when running across language about "giving" or synonymous terms not to draw conclusions not warranted by the text. To "give" (!) another example, in Psalm 96:7-8 we are told, "Give to the LORD, O families

of the peoples, Give to the LORD glory and strength. Give to the LORD the glory of his name" (the same statements are found in 1 Chron. 16:28-29 and Ps. 29:1-2). In Revelation 5:13 we read, "To him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever." In none of these texts are people giving to God anything that is not really already his. They are simply acknowledging or recognizing or publicly declaring that God has these honors.

Greg Stafford:

In two of the above examples, we are not talking about giving something to someone else, but we are talking about, as Bowman himself says, "acknowledging or recognizing or publicly declaring that God has these honors." This is not true of the passages that speak of Jesus being given life or authority. None of the above texts refer to life or authority, also. Bowman uses a simplified English-concordance approach that is not indicative of serious scholarship. The LXX of Ps. 29:1-2 and Ps. 96:7-8 uses a form of the word phero, which carries the meaning, "ascribe." This simply means recognizing that which already belongs to God. The examples from 1 Chr. 16:28-29 do use didomi, which is the same word used in John 5:26, but here we are indeed talking about giving something to God, namely, glory and strength. Is this referring to the glory He has or His own personal strength? No. We give Jehovah glory by praising Him, and we give Him our strength by our worship and the work we perform in His name. Unless we give these to Jehovah, He does not "have" them.

Rob Bowman:

f. Actually, I used a Hebrew concordance, as I was interested in the Hebrew OT text, not the Greek Septuagint text. But in any case the two texts that use phero are parallel to the 1 Chronicles text that you say uses the same Greek word as in John 5:26, didomi. So I don't see how you can use this difference to discount my point.

Greg Stafford:

Why would you be using a Hebrew concordance? And if you did, why not present your Hebrew findings? But, are we not interested in the meaning of the Greek word in John 5:26? Then why not use the LXX to find a use of the same word in similar contexts? Why reference texts that use a word different from our subject word? No, the

examples you gave do not parallel the 1 Chronicles reference, nor do they parallel John 5:26. The use of didomi in 1 Chronicles has a similar meaning to the use of didomi in John 5:26, that is, giving something to someone who previously did not possess it. Your point, Rob, has been supported with nothing short of sheer desperation.

Rob Bowman:

Now, you need to make up your mind about something. In the two Psalm texts the Septuagint, you say, translates using a word meaning "ascribe." But both of these texts say that we are to "ascribe" the VERY SAME THINGS that 1 Chronicles 16:28-29 says we are to "give" to God - "glory and strength." You are trying to have it both ways, and either don't know it or are being cunning.

Greg Stafford:

First of all, Rob, you create a false dichotomy. Even if different texts speak of the same things, that does not necessarily mean they are taken in same way! We can ascribe glory and strength to God, and we can also give Him glory and strength by the work we do in His name. However, you are mistaken in your assessment: The LXX in the two references in Psalms and the reference you gave from 1 Chronicles does not refer to "the VERY SAME THINGS"! The references in Psalms use doxa and time ("honor"), but 1 Chronicles uses doxa and ischus ("strength"). Perhaps you should read your LXX a bit more carefully.

Rob Bowman:

I'll make it easy for you: in all three passages it is God's strength, not ours, that is to be "given" or "ascribed" to him (note 1 Chron. 16:8-9, 11-12, 24b, 27b; Ps. 29:4-8, 11; 96:3b, 5-6).

Greg Stafford:

You are killing me, Rob. You are also wrong again. When we declare his deeds among the nations, we ascribe glory and strength to Jah, and it is also while we declare such things that we give Him glory and our strength. Also, stop misleading others into thinking that the same words are used in these passages.

Rob Bowman:

Likewise it is God's glory that is being spoken of, not us giving God something he doesn't have (I'm sure you've already seen that if you looked up the verses just cited).

Greg Stafford:

Well, it appears you are the one who has not looked up these verses, or, if you did, you did not do so very carefully.

Rob Bowman:

These points, taken together, seem to me to be an adequate answer from an orthodox trinitarian perspective to the objection that Jesus could not be Almighty God if he was given divine nature or authority.

Greg Stafford:

Trinitarians are in a difficult position. The Bible frequently and consistently uses unambiguous language that argues against their view of God, and so they, as we have seen from the above, must read certain texts in light of theology that came into being hundreds of years after the closing of the Bible canon. We can only hope that, given enough time, and with God's help, those who embrace the Trinity doctrine will come to see it for what it truly is, and come to know God, not as a substance of being shared by three persons, but as the person of the Father, who lovingly gave life to His Son, that other might live by means of him.--Joh 6:57; 1 Cor. 8:6.

Rob Bowman:

Some closing comments of my own.

1. The Bible, correctly translated, unambiguously calls Jesus "God" (Is. 9:6; John 1:1; 20:28; Rom. 9:5; Tit. 2:13; 2 Pet. 1:1; Heb. 1:8; 1 John 5:20) and "Lord," i.e., the Lord YHWH (e.g., Rom. 10:9-13; Phil. 2:9-11; 1 Pet. 2:3; 3:15). Not once does the Bible, in any translation, not even the NWT, say that Jesus is "not God."

Greg Stafford:

The Bible never says Michael is "not God," either! Also, you again fail to properly explain what you mean by God, for it surely, having trinitarian connotations, does not coincide with the Bible's use of theos for Jesus. Additionally, when you show you have a grasp of the issues involved in the proper translation of these verses, feel free to begin the discussion. Until then, you are simply spinning your wheels.

Rob Bowman:

2. Watchtower theology came into being 19 centuries after the close of the NT canon. If we open the discussion beyond the narrow confines of the doctrine of the nature of God and the deity of Jesus Christ, we find that the whole theological structure of the Jehovah's Witnesses' doctrinal system is a late 19th and early 20th century development. So, if late development is an issue, the Jehovah's Witnesses are in a far worse situation than trinitarians.

Greg Stafford:

And, of course, you provide not one example. Your "eternal generation" certainly qualifies as later theology, and most certainly is unbiblical, as we have seen. But that is hardly the extent of the theological inventions trinitarians use to try and legitimize their preferred theology.

Rob Bowman:

3. It is not we who are reading our theology into the Bible. We developed our theology as faithful Christians in the church seeking to understand Scripture. We did not develop our theology as disaffected persons who had left the church because we did not like the doctrines of Scripture, only to decide that we could be Christians if we could make it agreeable to our notions.

Greg Stafford:

Sure you did, Rob. Eternal generation, two natures in one person, a Godhead Beingness shared by three personsNeed I say more? The Bible does away with all these teachings: Jesus is a spirit person (1 Cor. 15:45), he has a God over him (Rev.

3:12), and he is not eternal (John 5:26; 6:57). Also, the Bible never articulates the term "God" as a reference to a consubstantial Triad.

Rob Bowman:

4. In Stafford's closing comments he again shows that he does not understand the doctrine of the Trinity. We do not believe in an impersonal essence shared by three divine entities (which is what Stafford clearly understands "persons" to mean).

Greg Stafford:

Are you saying that the essence of the Father and Son is itself "personal"?

Rob Bowman:

We believe in one infinite-personal God who eternally exists in three persons (a word itself used analogically). Our doctrine is that the Father sent his Son, who was already in heaven with him in divine glory, into the world to be our Redeemer. This is also the doctrine of Scripture (John 3:13-16; 13:3; 16:28; 1 John 4:9-10).

Greg Stafford:

Yes, I know you believe that, Rob, but the Bible does not speak in such language. Also, the essence shared by the three persons is not personal, unless you are advocating four persons.

Rob Bowman:

5. The burden of proof is not on the trinitarian. It is on the Jehovah's Witness to show, not only that there are "difficulties" with the doctrine of the Trinity, but that it is incontrovertibly false, AND then to show that their alternative to the doctrine is better than all of the other antitrinitarisn theories on the intellectual market.

Greg Stafford:

We need only refer to Scripture to show that such a doctrine is entirely foreign to the Bible. In 1 Cor. 8:6 we are specifically told that the one God is one person, the Father. Also, Jesus is not the same God as the Father, for the Father is his God. The trinitarian position is helpless in the face of biblical scrutiny, and those who promote it are forced to read later theology back into the text, for the Bible nowhere articulates their understanding of God.

Greg Stafford

Go to Stafford/Bowman Part Two.

Go to Al Kidd's Reply to Bowman.

Bowman, the Bible, and Trinitarianism By Greg Stafford

One day last April I checked my email account and I found a letter from one of my friends, Mark Ross. Attached to it was a question he had posted to a board frequented by trinitarians and others who disagree with the beliefs of Jehovah's Witnesses, but in addition to the question there was a reply by well-known Witness critic, Rob Bowman. Apparently the trinitarians on the discussion board were so taken aback by the question Mark had asked, that they felt the need to appeal to Rob for assistance. What followed was a brief answer-reply discussion between Rob and myself, wherein I commented on his reply to Mark's question, but in the course of the exchange other topics were introduced. Trinitarianism stems from a controversy concerning the persons of the Father and Son, as well as an inquiry into the nature of the holy spirit, and its relation to both Jesus and his Father. The terms and concepts used by Trinitarians to explain their teachings are, for the most part, not found anywhere in Scripture. When I replied to Rob, I used terms like "God" and "Beingness" in a manner that is consistent with the historical definition and extra-biblical articulation of the Trinity. Bowman has challenged the rightness of my use of such terms, in relation to the Trinity dogma. Let us consider his arguments, one at a time.

Rob Bowman: I confess to being amused by the Jehovah's Witnesses who have been posting triumphant notices to the Watchtower Review that Greg Stafford has somehow refuted me into silence. For some reason, the passing of a few days without a reply is taken as evidence that I cannot or will not reply. Meanwhile, I have been steadily working on a reply to Greg.

Greg Stafford: For the record, this was not something I condoned, believing that you were in fact preparing your reply. In fact, I made a post that offered several possible reasons as to why you had not yet responded. However, it appears your supporters have similarly used such notices to their own ends.

Rob Bowman: Originally, I had offered a very brief reply to a challenge posed by Mark Ross for a trinitarian to explain how the Bible can speak of Jesus being given life if he was God. Greg Stafford then critiqued my short answer line by line, and I replied with a very lengthy critique. Greg's follow-up response was so long that it was posted in three parts. If we continue on the same trajectory Greg will have to devote his next book entirely to his third reply to me!

Greg Stafford: No, my next book is of a different sort. While my previous reply may have been long, I tried to keep it as brief as possible, asking questions for clarification and pointing out areas of discussion that you had brought up, that were not necessarily related to our discussion (such as the issue concerning the holy spirit).

Rob Bowman: I never intended to participate in such a protracted and time-intensive debate. In this essay I will try to lower the trajectory a bit and keep my reply from becoming unmanageably long. This means that I will not attempt to respond to each and every point that Greg raised, and I will reproduce little of his actual post. As it is, my reply will be somewhat lengthy. I hope Greg won't feel that I'm wasting his time or valuable space.

Greg Stafford: I hope you don't think my comments about "wasting time" were in reference to spiritual discussions, but when it comes to repeating points that have been considered at length, then I think it behooves us to reconsider the quality of our reply. By your words above, it is evident that you agree.

Rob Bowman: In this essay I will not be responding to the whole of Greg's post. Instead, I will focus on a few key points that pervade Greg's treatment , and especially in the first half or so of his post.

Greg Stafford: That is unfortunate. In fact, I have read through your entire reply and I am most disappointed by the fact that you have indeed chosen to ignore a great deal of my last reply. However, a more focused discussion is needed. Still, I hope you do not intend to make this a habit, for if I am going to give a complete reply to your posts, I expect you to do the same.

Rob Bowman: These have to do with theological method, particularly the use of logic, and the meaning of theological terms, especially "Son" and "God." Even with the length of this essay, I cannot claim to have treated these subjects at all definitively. Readers will notice also that I do not offer detailed exegesis of biblical texts here. This is because there are certain presuppositional impediments to a trinitarian exegesis of the Bible being given a fair hearing, as I see it. I am attempting, then, to defuse certain misunderstandings and to clear away certain objections, so that discussion of the biblical texts may proceed in earnest. As time permits I hope to post one or more follow-up essays responding to other matters raised in Greg's post.

1. Methodological Problems

Greg and I have some fundamental differences in theological methodology. Ironically, we both think that the other is guilty of reading our ideas into the Bible. But that is the result, not the explanation, of our methodological differences. Let me try to explain what I think it is.

a. Use of Logic in Theology

Both of us maintain that logic or reason is to be employed in Christian doctrine. However, we differ in the place we assign to reason. I maintain that its proper theological use is threefold: (1) drawing inferences from the biblical texts, (2) correlating the propositional truths conveyed by those texts, and (3) clarifying and defending those truths soundly based on Scripture. Greg, on the other hand, thinks that, in addition to these uses, reason also may be used to evaluate the resulting doctrinal position for possible irrational aspects or apparently intractable logical problems. In other words, whereas I see logic as operative only at the level of articulation of doctrine, Greg sees logic also as operative at the level of the assessment of doctrine.

Greg Stafford: This is not an accurate description of our differences. While it is true that I believe God will not present us with a logical impossibility (not to be confused with a genuine "mystery," that is something we can see as logical, but not fully understand) I do not use logic as a means of creating conflict with explicit statements in the Bible text. In other words, Bowman seems to think that my use of logic in assessing the truthvalue of a doctrine is such that even if the doctrine is clearly articulated in Scripture, if it fails my "logic test," it is to be rejected. Because of my belief in the inspiration of Scripture, I look to the Bible for statements of faith, and see them confirmed by logic, in most instances. I do not use logic as a test for whether or not a statement in Scripture should be accepted or rejected. Also, I have emphasized the Bible throughout our discussion, and have never appealed to human logic as a means of accepting or rejecting a teaching that is clearly articulated in Scripture.

Rob Bowman: For example, Greg looks at the doctrine of the Trinity as formulated in orthodoxy and finds logical conundrums in it, and on that basis he pronounces it DOA. I reject that method.

Greg Stafford: So do I. That is why I do not employ it. To characterize the doctrine of the Trinity as containing "logical conundrums" is far from the truth of the matter. The problem I have with the Trinity is threefold: 1) There is no explicit articulation of the doctrine in the Bible. 2) There is explicit articulation about the relationship God has with His Son, in Scripture, that, when carefully considered apart from later theology, is irreconcilable

with trinitarianism. And 3) the Trinity contains tenets that present logical impossibilities. Now, if the Bible taught what I considered a logical impossibility, then I would be faced with either accepting the Bible's teachings regardless of what I perceive to be logical problems, or rejecting the Bible as the product of human, irrational thinking. Fortunately, I do not see any logical problems with the teachings of the Bible, and I am convinced it is the product of divine thinking. The Trinity, however, is not taught in Scripture, and that is the problem I have with the doctrine, and those who advocate it.

Rob Bowman: I maintain that if the premises or data on which the doctrine of the Trinity is based are biblical and if the way in which the doctrine correlates those premises does not contain missteps in reasoning, then the doctrine is biblical even if it appears paradoxical, antinomous, or contradictory.

Greg Stafford: Agreed. But that is precisely the problem I perceive: Where does the Bible teach what may "appear" contradictory? I contend that any paradoxical statements made in Scripture can be understood by appealing to other, clearer texts that pertain to the subject at hand; there is absolutely no need to appeal to the theology of later centuries.

Rob Bowman: On the other hand, if the premises are not biblical or the inferences are invalid, the doctrine should be criticized ON THAT BASIS and not on the basis that the doctrine is philosophically untenable. At most alleged logical difficulties should be regarded as supplementary evidence against the doctrine, not disproof.

Greg Stafford: Again, I have in no way limited my rejection of the Trinity to "philosophical differences." I am, in fact, criticizing it on the very two premises you mention, with a clear emphasis on whether or not the Bible teaches the doctrine.

Rob Bowman: Again, I do think that logic may be used to try to elucidate the rationality of the resulting doctrine in response to objections. I have tried and will try again here to do just that. But I maintain that it is methodologically unsound to insist that such elucidation must be successful and persuasive before a doctrine may be accepted.

Greg Stafford: Let me restate my position on this matter: The doctrine of the Trinity has no foundation in Scripture, and is also loaded with logical problems. The primary reason it should be rejected by thinking Christians is because it is inconsistent with the Word of God. It is also problematic from a purely humanistic standpoint, as it contains teachings that are nowhere reflected in nature, and cannot be reconciled with our God-given powers of reason. (Rom. 12:1) Again, this should not be taken to mean there are not genuine mysteries or concepts beyond our comprehension. But these do not conflict with other truisms we apprehend in the world around us. Again, I reject the Trinity primarily for its lack of biblical foundation; it just so happens that there are considerable logical problems with the doctrine, also.

Rob Bowman: This is not special pleading to save a doctrine to which I have some sort of emotional attachment. I apply this same methodological principle in all areas of Christian doctrine. It has led me to accept as biblical other doctrines that Greg probably also considers horribly irrational as well as unbiblical - doctrines such as eternal punishment for the unbelieving and God's predestination of individuals to salvation based on his sovereign will. In each case I myself had an initial prejudice AGAINST the doctrine, saw logical as well as biblical difficulties with it, but was eventually persuaded by the mass of biblical support for the doctrine to accept it despite my initial discomfort with it. The biblical data that I thought militated against the doctrine, it turned out, did so only on the basis of certain rationalistic assumptions. For example, I assumed with regard to predestination that human responsibility to believe was impossible unless human beings possessed the inner, intrinsic ability to choose or not to choose to believe. That sounded eminently reasonable, but it turned out it was an assumption that was not biblical and that flew in the face of clear biblical teaching concerning the bondage of the human will in sin.

Greg Stafford: Well, when you are prepared to discuss the "mass of biblical support " for these doctrines, let me know. I appreciate what you are saying, Rob, but I think you are missing the point (how I don't know, but you are): I am primarily objecting to trinitarianism on biblical grounds. It appears that you are trying to make it seem that it is you who are championing the Bible, while I am using humanistic rationalizations in rejecting it. Trust me, that is not the case at all.

Rob Bowman: I bring all this up, not to raise new issues for debate or because I can't focus on one topic at a time (as Greg complained),

Greg Stafford: I did not say you couldn't focus on one topic at a time, Rob, I pointed out that you were not focusing on the topic at hand. My complaint was intended to get us back on track. I am glad that it worked.

Rob Bowman (continued from above): but to provide some perspective on the difficulties we seem to have in getting the other side to see the reasonableness of our position. Certain Jehovah's Witnesses (as well as certain evangelicals) prefer to focus in these types of dialogues on the nature of Christ as it pertains to the Trinity almost to the exclusion of all else. I have found that this narrow focus frequently results in a kind of hermeneutical myopia.

Greg Stafford: We were brought into this discussion over this particular issue. I have placed no restrictions on how broadly we may consider the topic. In fact, I prefer that we explore the issues to the fullest extent possible, for only then will others have a chance to understand the significance of our differences.

Rob Bowman: b. Meaning of Biblical Language as Applied to God

Greg assumes that biblical terms used of God (Jehovah) must carry certain "ordinary" meanings unless explicitly stated otherwise. For example, he complains that it is illegitimate to import into the biblical language about God "giving" life to the Son the idea that this giving was eternal rather than temporal. The Bible never speaks of eternal giving, so why should we? Or again, Stafford assumes that the term "Son" implies a temporal beginning for Christ, a "difference in age" between the Father and the Son. After all, in everyday language and in every other context in the Bible, sons have beginnings and are younger than their fathers. Why should the Son of God be any different?

I, on the other hand, hold that Greg's assumption is unwarranted and improper, for two reasons. First, biblical terms used of God will often if not almost always be used

in ways that differ somewhat from their "ordinary" usage when applied to created things, simply because God is the one uncreated, transcendent, infinite reality. Second, explicit statements in the Bible about God must be allowed to preempt what we might consider as plausible or reasonable inferences from language used elsewhere of God.

Greg Stafford: I agree with your first and second points, Rob. But what may be true of the One we all acknowledge as God, without beginning and end, a teaching clearly communicated and articulated in Scripture, is not necessarily true of others, like His Son. Now, let's consider some of your examples:

Rob Bowman: Here I'll try to use a less controversial example. Statements in the Bible about God going down to earth to find out what is happening there, or asking people questions, do seem to many readers to imply that God does not know everything. However, since the Bible explicitly and flatly says God does know everything, I take that as a doctrinal premise and on that basis understand the language of God finding out or asking as anthropomorphic.

Greg Stafford: Anthropomorphic for what? The Bible frequently uses all-inclusive language when, in fact, such statements are meant to be taken in relation to something more specific, and not universally applied. So, if you would care to reference those verses which, to you, support your statements above concerning God's knowledge, then we can evaluate them. I am not saying they are biblically untenable, but I would prefer to examine the particular scriptures you have in mind. But on this matter of "knowing all things," your view has an inherent problem in terms of harmonizing statements in the Bible that reveal Jesus' dependency upon God for knowledge of divine things. (Rev. 1:1) Thus, while you accept the view that God knows absolutely every single thing that can be known, you do not hold this to be true in reference to Jesus, or, I should say (right?), in reference to his human nature. But this is where we get into real problems in terms of how many centers of consciousness Jesus has, and whether or not the Bible teaches what you claim.

Rob Bowman: Or, to take a more relevant example, when I read about God the Father in the Bible, a natural inference to make might be that there is a God the Mother. Nor is this hypothetical, as many Mormons popularly believe in just such a being. However, not only is no Heavenly Mother mentioned in the Bible, but the explicit statements about the nature of God as infinite Spirit and various other biblical teachings firmly rule out the possibility of a Heavenly Couple.

Greg Stafford: Well, actually it is not true that "there is no Heavenly Mother mentioned in the Bible." (Gal. 4:26) So, Mormons could argue, as you are attempting to do, that the concept of "God the Mother" is in fact rooted in the biblical text. You might counter by suggesting that the context refers to this as "Jerusalem," an impersonal entity, and they might argue that you are begging the question, for the text itself uses the feminine pronoun "she." But you and I both know that such terms are anthropomorphic, not because we ignore the text, but because we recognize (at least JWs do) the spiritualization of Jerusalem as the "city having real foundation." Also, there is no unambiguous articulation of an ontological being known as God the Mother. Thus, without clear articulation, Rob, we are not at liberty to insert concepts into the text that clash with ideas expressed elsewhere, just because we can bend the language in some way to conform to an otherwise biblically unsubstantiated teaching. That is why trinitarianism is biblically untenable, for there is no articulation of the concepts that are fundamental to the belief. So, really, trinitarians are no better off than the Mormons, when it comes to establishing their dogma by referencing biblical articulation for their position.

Rob Bowman: This is more relevant to our discussion, since it shows that the term "Father" is itself an anthropomorphism, not to be taken at all literally. This is something difficult for Muslims, for example, to grasp; they object on principle to calling Jesus God's "Son" because they cannot dissociate that term from the ordinary cause of sons, namely, sexual procreation. Thus, what seems "obvious" or "natural" or "ordinary" about the use of such a word in relation to the divine is very much relative to one's cultural and religious perspective.

Greg Stafford: Of course, we are talking about "obvious" and "natural" meanings in the Bible, and the terms "son" and "father" are used throughout, both with reference to humans and spirit beings, without any difficulties, except for the Jews who rejected Jesus' identity as one of God's sons. Now, regarding your reference to "literal" meaning, you seem to imply that a literal meaning for the word "father" must necessarily involve physical procreation. How so? When used of humans we would naturally associate physical procreation with the word, but that is not a necessary part of the concept created by the semantic signals "father" and "son." For example, when Satan is referred to as "the father of the lie" (John 8:44), this clearly does not involve physical procreation, but the meaning that is at the forefront of the semantic signals conveyed by the term is similar to physical procreation, in terms of bringing something into existence. So, the terms need not imply the same process, but they do convey same basic idea. The concepts created by the semantic signal "father," whether spoken or written, create certain images that the reader/hearer can appreciate in relation to the everyday meaning of the word "father." And unless those readers/hearers are specifically cautioned against such everyday associations, then the chances are 1) the sender/giver of the semantic signal intended a correlation with the hearer's/reader's everyday understanding of the term, and 2) the hearer/reader would likely associate his/her everyday understanding of the term with the author's usage. What is certain is that no reader or writer of the Bible would confuse the semantic signals of the words "father" and "son." Additionally, if the semantic signals create different concepts, then what are they? How should we define them in relation to each other? Of course, trinitarians import a functional hierarchy into the text in order to avoid an ontological distinction. To do this they refuse to acknowledge how the words are used and understood in the text itself. This is nothing new, and is, in fact, at the heart of trinitarian reasoning. Consider, for example, Athanasius. Athanasius and company took as their point of departure the spiritual concepts to which the biblical words refer, made up their mind as to the meaning of these concepts, and discussed them as if they were part of a material world of three dimensions. But this is to start in the wrong end. For an accurate understanding of God we are dependent upon Him for a revelation of Himself, His Son and His spirit. We, therefore, have no other choice but to start with the words in their normal or "biological" sense. They are the three dimensional building blocks, and from these we may get an idea of the concepts to which they refer. Athanasius would not accept the biblical words as absolute proofs because words had no definite meaning in themselves. He wrote:

"For terms do not disparage His Nature; rather the Nature draws to Itself those terms and changes them. For terms are not prior to essences, but essences are first, and terms second. Wherefore also when the essence is a work or creature, then the words "He made" and "He became", and "He created" are used of it properly, and designate the work. But when the Essence is an Offspring and Son, then "He made" and "He became" and "He created" no longer properly belong to it, nor designate a work; but "He made" we use without question for "He begat." --- Nicene and PostNicene Fathers, vol. 4, page 349. Aside from making a distinction between "made" and "begat" that is nowhere articulated in the Bible, what Atahanasius also does is to first decide that the Son, who is called the Wisdom and the Word, is eternal and uncreated, and based on this premise, any biblical passage saying that he is created or made cannot be taken at face value. Armed with such an interpretative model, any biblical argument was neutralized, because the words had no meaning in themselves. So, Rob, unless you provide examples of clear articulation, at the hand of the Bible writers, where the terms in question ("father" and "son") carry a meaning different from their normal meaning (in your view, a meaning that is opposite to their normal meaning!), then you are simply following in the path of Athanasius. Since the Bible does not articulate your new definition of the words "father" and "son," but merely applies them to entities that are not human, this so that we humans can have a measure of understanding about these beings and their relationship with one another, it is bad methodology to ascribe new meanings to words straight away, from a philological point of view. Instead of starting with preconceived concepts and interpreting words in light of them, we should begin with the words used and build our concepts from these words.

Rob Bowman: Now, with respect to the terms mentioned above, indeed it is extraordinary and unprecedented to understand "giving" as eternal rather than temporal. And it is quite true that the Bible never speaks of God "eternally giving" life to the Son. However, we have explicit statements in the Bible about the Son as existing antecedent to all temporal things (e.g., John 1:1-3; 8:58; Col. 1:15-17; Heb. 1:2-3). (I realize that Greg disputes my interpretation of these texts, but I can't prove everything at once. Please be patient!) If I am right about that, then I am driven logically to understand the "giving" of life to the Son in one of two ways.

Greg Stafford: Again, this is bad methodology. Start with the words and build your concept(s) from them. If the Bible does not define the terms the way you do, then right away you should recognize the possibility that you are reading into the text a view that is not there. Now, the texts to which you refer do not say anything about the Son "existing antecedent to all temporal things." This is a view that is read into the text in order tosupport a concept created apart from the text. Now, I realize you are busy, but I find it rather remarkable that you, an author on books that have discussed these issues at length, could not provide some documentation to support your view of these passages. I mean, you have my book, and I have yours. Why not refer me to those parts of your book that you feel most strongly support your view and I will be happy to discuss them. But in looking at these verses in their respective contexts, Col. 1:15-17 contains a temporal reference to Jesus as the Firstborn, and in verse 19 he is said to have been given the fullness that is later spoken of in Col. 2:9. In Hebrews 1:2-3 Jesus is described in temporal terms, and in John 1:1-3 the context (vs. 18) contains another temporal reference to the prehuman Jesus. Now, unless you are going to argue that these descriptions are not meant to convey their normal connotations because of clear articulation at the hands of those who used such terms, then you are special pleading.

Rob Bowman: (1) It might refer to an eternal giving of life in himself to the Son by the Father. While this idea is inferred from Scripture rather than stated explicitly in Scripture, it is a possible inference, and has its own coherence on the presupposition that the Father, as an eternal person, would have an eternal Son. However, I do not (and never have) insisted on this explanation as the only correct one, nor is it the only interpretation of John 5:19 and 6:57 that coheres with trinitarianism.

Greg Stafford: There is nothing in Scripture that infers any such thing. Also, there is nothing to suggest that an eternal person must have an eternal son, as if age were transferable! Also, since the Father gave life to all things through His Son, then all things, according to your reasoning, would have the same life-span as the Son, and, hence, the Father, also. By the way, I think you mean John 5:26. At any rate, there is no qualification made in John 5:26 and 6:57. They both refer to "life" and neither specify or limit that life to human life, or present it as life given "eternally." Apparently the matter was not an

issue, and the writers of Scripture, or even Jesus himself, were not concerned about giving the wrong idea in using such language.

Rob Bowman: (2) It might refer to a temporal giving by the Father to the Son of life in himself as a human being. Arguably this fits John 6:57 better, and it makes good sense of John 5:19 as well. This interpretation, if accepted, does not rule out the "eternal giving" posited in the first interpretation, but it makes it unnecessary with respect at least to these two prooftexts.

Greg Stafford: Again, you have started with a concept and are trying to bring that concept into harmony with the language used in the text. Rather, we should take the language at its face value, and attempt to build our doctrine from there. If the context or genre of the literature is such that figurative or anthropomorphic expressions are used, then we need to ask ourselves what the anthropomorphic terms are meant to convey. Since God and Jesus are spirit beings and exist on a plane that we cannot understand, Jehovah evidently saw fit to present Himself and His relationship with Jesus in terms that we could relate to, and understand. These terms carry temporal connotations for Jesus. Thus, unless we are specifically told not to understand them in this way, we should take them in accordance with the meaning they conveyed at the time they were used. In the case of the Bible, there is no example for us to use as evidence that anyone who lived in the different periods in which the Bible was written would have failed to appreciate a temporal distinction between the terms "father" and "son." And there certainly is no example to show that the terms "father" and "son" would fail to denote two separate beings.

Rob Bowman: Greg will probably object that this interpretation still cannot explain why the Son would need to be given life by the Father in his human state. My answer to that question (as I think Greg knows already) is that the Son humbled himself to receive everything in his incarnate state, including life, from the Father for the purpose of reconciling us to the Father. Greg will probably not consider this a reasonable explanation (or complain that it has not been proved from the Bible, despite Phil. 2:611). But my point is that some such explanation must be sought IF elsewhere the Bible clearly teaches the eternal preexistence and deity of the Son. It is methodologically unsound to reject this type of explanation because it appears "illogical" or because it

involves an unusual use of language. Just about every use of language with reference to God has unusual features.

Greg Stafford: And here again you are starting with a concept and trying to make it fit with the words of Scripture. If the Bible uses words without qualification, then, aside from recognizing the different nature of the subject (that is, it is now applied to something spiritual and not physical, and therefore the concepts created should be viewed as taking place at a spiritual level), we should transfer the concepts created by those terms as far as were can. The Bible uses anthropomorphic terms to give us an idea of what certain spiritual things are like. Now, I do indeed have several questions regarding this matter involving Jesus' "human state," but at this point I have but one question: Did Jesus ever use his divine power while on earth?

Rob Bowman: As for the title "Son," the assumption that it implies temporal beginning and a disparity in age between the Son and his Father is just that, an assumption.

Greg Stafford: It is an assumption based on the fact that the Bible uses this term consistently to denote a temporal distinction between the one called "father" and the one called "son." Also, the word "son" is nowhere articulated to mean one who is of equal age to the one called "father." The imagery created and the distinction between these two terms is everywhere attested to in Scripture.

Rob Bowman: Indeed it seems a "reasonable" one insofar as the customary usage of these terms goes. But again, certain reasonable assumptions about the meaning of "Father" turn out to be wrong (God is not male, and he doesn't have a wife).

Greg Stafford: Again you fail to appreciate the purpose of anthropomorphisms. They are intended to help up appreciate what God is like by creating images in our mind that we associate with objects in our physical world. While we cannot fully understand what God is like, He has described Himself as a Father in relation to His Son, and this carries with it a clear and unavoidable temporal distinction. The word "father" does not

need to convey the idea that such a being is male per se or has a wife, as we saw in the case of Satan being called the "father of the lie." But I ask you, where in the Bible is the term "father" used apart from a temporal distinction between the one called "father" and that which is said to have been fathered?

Rob Bowman: Another "reasonable" assumption about the titles Father and Son would be that the Father himself had a Father (since, with the partial exception of Adam, every father we know of in the Bible and outside the Bible himself also had a father). Again, some Mormons make this claim (Joseph Smith himself taught it), and they even muster biblical prooftexts for it. (Smith cited Rev. 1:6 in the KJV, "to God and his Father" - a place where Sharp's rule comes in handy to refute someone other than Jehovah's Witnesses!) But the idea is unbiblical and unwarranted by Smith's "reasoning" about the meaning of the term Father.

Greg Stafford: The word "father" does not convey the concept of one who has a father. It is, as you mentioned, not true of Adam. "Father" is generally, in fact, always, understood as the giver of life, and I know of no instance in Scripture where the use of the word "father" is intended to create a mental image of one who himself has a father. Can you provide an example? I also challenge you to find one instance in Scripture where the word "son" does not convey the idea of having a father, when used of persons. On another note, might I suggest that you lay off the Mormons? I think you can make your point clear without making negative references to groups that do not share your presuppositions. Also, the reference to Sharp's rule and Revelation 1:6 does indeed refute another group: Trinitarians! Here Jesus is said to have a God and a Father. Thus, according to the Bible, Jesus is not the same God as the Father, for the Father is his God. There is no qualification made; it is a simple statement, the meaning of which is readily appreciated apart from later theology. The person of Jesus has One who is God to him. Thus, he could not be grounded in the same divine substance as the One who is his God. That is, according to the way Scripture presents his relationship to the Father.

Rob Bowman: All of which is to say that IF the Bible clearly says that the Son exists antecedently to all temporal things, and/or IF the Bible identifies Jesus as Jehovah, the one true God (as I maintain it does, e.g., Rom. 10:9-13; Phil. 2:9-11; 1 Pet. 2:3; 3:15),

then we must revise our assumptions about the implications of the title "Son." On the other hand, if the Bible does NOT say these things that trinitarians regard as premises of their doctrine, there is no need to complain that the alleged meaning of "Son" is unprecedented. Just refute the claim that the Bible teaches the premises!

Greg Stafford: Rob, I have from the outset maintained that your view has no biblical foundation. The terms you use and the meanings you pour into them are nowhere articulated in the Bible. Therefore, the burden of proof rests with you. Show us that the writers of Scripture use these terms with the same meaning you do. Also, I agree that if the Bible clearly, as you put it, teaches that the Son is eternal, then we should reconsider the meaning of terms that are inherently temporal. Now, the verses you mention say nothing about the Son being eternal or being Jehovah. In fact, some of them, such as Phil. 2:9-11, militate against such a view. I have called on you to prove your premises, and you have not done so. However, in order to make your doctrine work you have to read later theology into texts like Revelation 3:12. The other passages that you mention deal with biblical parallels and fulfillments, not ontological identity. Unless you are prepared to accept that John the Baptist is ontologically identical with Elijah (Matthew 11:13-14), or Jesus Christ is Solomon (Heb. 1:8-9), then you should recognize that the Bible deals in types and antitypes, and uses figures in one instance to show parallels and fulfillments in another. You see, in order for you to discount the meaning of terms like "son" and "father," which when used of a relationship between two persons always convey temporal distinctions, you have to use parallels and types selectively, to your own ends. That is why you reject an ontological identification between John the Baptist and Elijah, but use parallels in relation to Jesus and Jehovah as if they can only be interpreted in terms of ontological identity. Thus, you have no clear, unambiguous example to support your contention.

Rob Bowman: Let me give an example of my criticism of Greg's method as seen in his treatment of the word "Son." Greg asked:

Quoting Greg Stafford: >Pop quiz: If God gives life to another, His true Son, why is he the Son if no difference in age separates them? How is it a giving of life if the Son has always had life?

Rob Bowman: The answer to Greg's question is that a "difference in age" is meaningless when the Father in question has NO AGE. The Father is not merely older; he is ageless, transcending all time.

Greg Stafford: That is ridiculous, Rob. You're just making things up in order to support your view. The fact that the Father is eternal has nothing to do with whether or not the Son is eternal. The Bible nowhere makes such a qualification of these terms. In fact, in view of the biblical usage of these and other terms, the distinction between the two as Father and Son necessarily involves a temporal distinction. Your refusal to acknowledge this because of your doctrinal presuppositions is pregnantly obvious to us all.

Rob Bowman: The terms Son and Father are never used in Scripture with reference to Jesus and his heavenly Father to denote age difference.

Greg Stafford: That is begging the question. Please show us one example where the two terms are used apart from any temporal distinction.

Rob Bowman: That is, Scripture never says that the Father is older than the Son. This is an inference Greg has drawn from the language, an understandable inference to be sure, but one that BEGS THE QUESTION when he uses this inference to refute the trinitarian view of Jesus as God's eternal Son.

Greg Stafford: The Bible does not speak of an "eternal generation." Therefore, it provides us with no other way to view these two terms, other than in the sense in which they were commonly understood. You can't accept that, not because the thought is unbiblical, but because it does agree with your extra-biblical theology. Thus, you must question the use of these terms, and insert a concept that is foreign to Scripture in order to make it fit with your preconceived view. I, on the other hand, need only look at the way the Bible uses these terms and, in the absence of clear articulation to the contrary, use them as consistent with the regular and repeated sense the Bible gives them.

Rob Bowman: Indeed, if the titles "Son" and "Son of God" are understood to connote the idea that the Son has the same nature as God, we would actually expect that the Son, like his Father, would be eternal.

Greg Stafford: Why would we expect that? Again, age is never spoken of in Scripture as something that is passed along with the giving (!) of life. The angels are sons of God (Job 1:6). But they are never spoken of as eternal. In fact, the Bible more frequently uses temporal designations of the Son (Jesus) than all the other sons of God combined!

Rob Bowman: Now here we are actually on solid ground, for Scripture speaks of the Son's preexistence in the same breath as speaking of his having the very nature of God (e.g., Col. 1:14-17; Heb. 1:2-3). It really does not make much sense to say that the Son has the very nature of God and then turn around and assert that the Father is eternal but the Son temporal in nature.

Greg Stafford: Where do these texts say that the Son has the selfsame nature as God? That is what you mean, is it not? Selfsame nature? Also, the very texts to which you refer use temporal descriptions that clearly communicate an age difference between God and His Son. Jesus is the firstborn, he was given his fullness, he is the charakter of God's being. These not only show that the Son is of a different age than the Father, but also reveal that he is not the same Being, since he is a "copy" (charakter) of that Being. When you think of a copy, and that is the language the Bible has given us so that we might create an accurate mental image of the relationship between the Father and Son, we never think of the copy as having the same age as that of which it is copy! For then how would we rightly say one is a copy of the other in any meaningful sense? Again, with all due deference to you, Rob, I hold that this is trinitarian word magic at its finest.

Rob Bowman: Obviously, to speak of an eternal Son, or to speak of the Father "giving" his Son life in eternity, would be without parallel in human experiences of sons or of giving. But then, being the Son is without parallel in our experience. How the Son can be eternal, or how his divine life can be dependent eternally on the Father, is beyond our capacity

to picture or comprehend, but that is no objection to it. A proper analysis of biblical language, like a proper use of logic, does not dictate what Scripture can and cannot say.

Greg Stafford: You are missing the point. Such a view of the terms "father" and "son" is without parallel in the Bible. Thus, we have no license to use the terms apart from the repeated sense in which they are used. Jehovah purposefully used such terms so that we might appreciate the relationship He has with His Son. You are using them in a manner consistent only with later doctrinal developments, not the Bible.

Rob Bowman: 2. The Meaning of "God" in Scripture and in Trinitarian Usage

a. Begging the Question

One of the points made repeatedly by Greg in his post was that I cannot legitimately use the word "God" in any sense other than as a designation for one who shares the divine essence. A couple of his fellow Jehovah's Witnesses thought this was a decisive objection to the trinitarian doctrine. I had pointed out that Greg's argument here in effect amounted to an a priori assumption that the doctrine of the Trinity could not be true. Greg actually agreed that this was what he was doing! I had written: >First, it [Greg's objection] really amounts to begging the question. For at every turn Stafford can (and probably does!) use the same objection to rule out a priori the trinitarian belief. In other words, saying that "God" cannot be used with these two different connotations (God as triune, one of the three persons as God) really amounts to saying that the Trinity cannot be true.<

Greg replied:

>That's right! I AM arguing that the only proper use of the term "God," by a trinitarian, is in reference to the persons of the Godhead as SHARERS of the same Beingness. A trinitarian cannot simply say, "Jesus is God." They mean, "Jesus shares the nature of God." Of course, you have to use it as a noun of personal description, for that is the only sense in which the Bible uses it. But you do not really believe that any of the members of the Trinity ARE GOD, you believe they share the essence of God.

So you have to explain what you mean every time you make such a confession, otherwise you will mislead those who recognize the proper use of the word "God" in the Bible, namely, as a noun of personal description. It is a title denoting one's position, not the substance of being in which He is grounded.<

Rob Bowman continued: Now, this is precisely the sort of thing to which I object on methodological grounds. Greg is denying the possibility of the doctrine of the Trinity being true on the basis of a linguistic analysis of what he reasons are possible or not possible valid uses of the term "God." This is not biblical theology. It is not valid systematic theology. Rather, what Greg is doing is imposing rules ON THE BIBLE as to what it can and cannot say. Now, I know Greg will object that he is doing no such thing, but read my statement above and Greg's response again. I pointed out that what Greg is saying is that the word "God" cannot be used with the two different connotations of God as triune Being and God as one of the three divine persons, and Greg agreed that he was saying just that. But on what basis? On the basis of an inductive study of the Bible's actual use of the word "God"? No! It is an a priori claim that such usage of the term "God" results in equivocation and leads logically to absurdly unbiblical and unorthodox conclusions such as a divine quaternity. Thus, elsewhere Greg reasoned that if the divine essence shared by the three persons is itself personal, what we would then have is a fourth divine person.

Greg Stafford: You have misapplied my "That's right!" to a linguistic analysis when, in fact, I was referring to the use Scripture makes of such terms. In fact, if you will kindly reread my above reply, you will notice that I said, "or that is the only sense in which the Bible uses it." Thus, my point was and is simply this: Since the Bible never articulates the word "God" as trinitarians do, then the only proper use of the term by trinitarians is with the understanding they give it. So, you cannot use the term "God" as anything other than a reference to the totality of the Trinity, unless you further qualify your statement. For when you use the word "God," say, in the sentence, "Jesus is God," you do not mean he is the totality of the Divine Being, but, rather, that he shares the divine essence, being the second person of a consubstantial Triad. Again, it is entirely on the basis of the Bible's use of the term that I say you, as a trinitarian, cannot use the word "God" as it is consistently used in Scripture, for Scripture does not use the term the way you do!

Let's take 2 Peter 1:1 as an example. You believe this verse calls Jesus "God," but by "God" you mean he shares (= is grounded in) the divine essence as the second person of a consubstantial Triad. Yet, the Bible nowhere uses such language! Therefore, based on the Bible's use and articulation of the word "God," you cannot use it the same way the Bible writers do, for it is not consistent with your understanding of the term. And since "God" to you is one Being in which three "persons" are grounded, then to use the term "God" without qualification is tantamount to a reference to the Divine Triad, for that is what God is, in your view.

Rob Bowman: b. "Noun of Personal Description"

The only reference to the Bible in Greg's several paragraphs on this matter of the proper use of "God" in his post is the assertion that the Bible only uses the term "God" as "a noun of personal description." He offered no proof for this assertion (I suppose it's in his book, which I am getting), nor did he explain what exactly he meant by a noun of personal description when I politely asked for an explanation. I had written:

>d. I'm not sure what Stafford means when he says that the Bible uses the word "God" only as a "noun of personal description." Whatever precisely he means, though, I do not see how it invalidates my argument, as expounded above. But I'll let Stafford explain himself. (My guess is that this is a statement he will later want to retract.)

To which Greg replied:

>You guess wrong. What is unclear about my statement? I have articulated my point enough, and I will not go on and on about a matter that has already been discussed.

Rob Bowman: There seems to be a double standard here. Greg presses me to give an account of my use of the term "God." He tells me that I am equivocating in my use of the term, and that I have used it in ambiguous and misleading ways. My assertion that I as a trinitarian do not think of God as an abstract, impersonal divine essence is dismissed as indicative of ignorance of what I as a trinitarian must really mean. But Greg refuses to explain what he means by "noun of personal description." This is not a

common expression, and I have not seen any definition of it from Greg so far. Yet he says that he will "not go on and on" about it and claims that it "has already been discussed." Perhaps it was in an earlier post (I have only recently started participating here), but I don't think Greg has explained it to me.

Greg Stafford: Well, Rob, by a noun of personal description I mean a term that is used to describe a person. I was not aware this description was so unfamiliar to you. The Bible uses the term God in its highest sense only of the Father. That is why He is the God of the Son. The Bible does not articulate the term as though it were a reference to a consubstantial Triad, the essence of which is impersonal (see below).

Rob Bowman: What is unclear is the expression "noun of personal description." Does this include or exclude nouns used as proper names? Does it include only nouns used as titles, i.e., designations of standing positions or relationships? This seems to be what you mean, since after asserting that "God" can be used only as a noun of personal description, you wrote, "It is a title denoting one's position, not the substance of being in which He is grounded." But if we were to use the noun "God" to denote the substance of being in which he was grounded, wouldn't that be descriptive of the person, and so wouldn't it be a noun of personal description? Why isn't "human," for example, a noun of personal description, since it's a noun, it's descriptive, and it refers to a person? I find Greg's use of this expression, then, ambiguous and unclear.

Greg Stafford: First of all, you misunderstood and proceeded to misstate my position. I did not say that nouns of personal description are restricted to titles, I simply stated that the noun "God," in Scripture, is used as a title, not as a reference to one's substance of being. Trinitarians do in fact use the term God to denote a consubstantial Triad, so "God" cannot be used a noun implying "personhood" for the Divine Being, for only the three persons who are grounded in the Divine Being are said to be "persons." But that is not the way trinitararians consistently use the terms.

Rob Bowman: When I guessed that Greg would later retract his statement, it was based on the apparent definition of "noun of personal description" as a title denoting a person's position. If this is what he really means, then I think he has contradicted himself. When

he discusses Sharp's rule, he claims that the noun "God" can and often is used as a proper name in the New Testament. For example, in Greg's "Public Reply to Dan Wallace" posted by Wes Williams to the Watchtower Review on April 14, 1998 (sent to me by a friend), Greg made the following statement.


>In Titus 2:13 I believe that THEOS, together with hO MEGAS, is a case where THEOS has the force of a proper name, as it is a description used frequently of Jehovah in the LXX OT.<

Rob Bowman Continued:

To be consistent, Greg cannot assert that "God" can only be used as a title when accusing me of an unbiblical use of that noun, but argue that "God" functions as a proper name in Titus 2:13 when arguing that it does not call Jesus God. Even here, though, there is some confusion, since he refers to _theos_ with _ho megas_ as "a description," which makes me think that he may intend to include proper names along with titles in the category of nouns of personal description. Strictly speaking, though, the use of a noun as a proper name is identificatory, not descriptive.

Greg Stafford: You apparently fail to realize that descriptive nouns can be used as proper names and therefore have both an identificatory and descriptive sense. Again, by nouns of personal description, in the context of my discussion with you, I am referring to nouns that are used of persons, not substances of being. You either failed to grasp this point, or are intentionally trying to skirt the issue.

Rob Bowman: For example, in the sentence "Here comes George," the noun "George" does not describe someone but identifies him.

Greg Stafford: But in the sentence, "Here comes George the coward," we have an identification that is also a description. This is similar with "the great God" in Titus 2:13. You may want to read my words in context next time.

Rob Bowman: Likewise, when "God" is used as a proper noun, it functions to identify someone, not to describe him, as in the sentence, "God created the world." Hence, I suggest you have trapped yourself in either contradiction or confusion. Of course, perhaps Greg meant something else by "noun of personal description" and can clear up the matter. That's why I asked for an elaboration, to give Greg a chance to fix the problem before I took him to task for it. (I'm really a very nice guy, when you get to know me!)

Greg Stafford: I am sure you are, but you have not established your point. My reference to a "noun of personal description" was meant solely in reference to your use of "God" as denoting a substance of being, not a person. Thus, the term, as used by trinitarians, properly denotes a substance of being, not a person. It is not used as a noun of personal description. I find myself wondering how you could get so sidetracked by what I perceive to be a rather simple use of language, in a context where my meaning should have been easily apprehended. Still, I will try to be even clearer were possible. Also, below you try to defend a personal view of the Divine Being, which I believe is not in line with classical trinitarianism (see below).

Rob Bowman: c. Biblical Precedent for the Trinitarian Use of "God"

Now, let's unpack Greg's objection to my use of the word "God." I have already quoted one of the paragraphs in which he articulated his objection. Here are two more:

Quoting Greg Stafford: >Third, Bowman again uses God in an equative sense which even he does not accept. Again, when a trinitarian says, "Jesus is God," they mean "Jesus is God the Son, second person of a consubstantial Triad." But they do not put it that way, because the Bible never puts it that way!

>I know that YOU may not have intended to use the term "God" as a reference to the divine essence, but I am pointing out that you, as a trinitarian, can not legitimately use the term in any other way than of one who shares the divine essence.

Rob Bowman Continues: In reply to my claim that he had misconstrued my understanding of the meaning of "God" in trinitarian language, Greg had asked:

Quoting Greg Stafford: >To what, then, exactly, does the word "God" properly denote, in your view. Please articulate it for us.

Rob Bowman: Let me begin my response to Greg on this question by giving a positive answer. The word "God" properly denotes the infinite, personal Being who created the universe and who sustains and governs it. This God, we believe, is triune, that is, his infinite personal Being is fully realized or present in three persons, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The three persons of the triune God do not "share" an impersonal divine essence, because there is no such thing. In fact, the word "share" is imprecise and open to misunderstanding, as it might be taken to imply a distribution of divinity among the three persons (hence my reference to "subdivided"). Rather, the three persons co-exist as this one transcendent personal Being we call God.

Greg Stafford: I contend that not only is this description of God nowhere found in the Bible, but that when you say "his infinite personal Being is fully realized or present in three persons, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit" you imply a fourth person, whose being is fully realized in three other persons. I will give you a chance to clarify this matter. Also, since none of the three divine persons is said to exhaust the Godhead, I see no problem using the term "share" in reference to the fact that each of these persons are understood to be grounded in the divine essence. Also, the term "shares the nature of God" is commonly used in discussions with trinitarians, as well as in certain commentaries. It need not imply a subdivision of the essence, as you contend.

Rob Bowman: While the word "God" properly DENOTES the triune, infinite-personal Being who created the world, it can CONNOTE the divine Being as such without qualification; it can connote the divine Being in his triunity; or it can connote any one of the three divine persons in the divine Being. Thus, in the sentence that Greg says cannot meaningfully be affirmed by a trinitarian, "Jesus is God," the word "God" denotes the

infinite-personal Being who is the Creator, while it connotes that divine Being in the person of the Son.

Greg Stafford: I hold that this use of the term is not only unbiblical, but since you did not previously define your terms in the way you do above, you were in fact guilty of equivocation. Now, you use the term as a direct reference to Jesus, "Jesus is God." But in neither of the above uses of the term "God" do you state that it can be used of Jesus himself, but only of the "infinite Being" and "that divine Being in the person of the Son." Thus, you make the point I stated at the outset: The term God only properly refers (in trinitarian thinking) to the Divine Being, or to the Divine Being in one of the three persons. But it does not refer to the persons themselves! Now, I hold that your use of Divine Being implies a fourth person. If you say that the Divine Being is personal, and that this personal Being exists in the three persons, then you have given us a fourth person. That is why I maintain that the Divine essence must be considered impersonal, and therefore your use of the term God in relation to an impersonal substance of being is not consistent with the Bible's repeated use of God as a noun used in reference to a person (noun of personal description), not in reference to the Divine essence. You have to personalize it in order for you to use the term God as it is used in the Bible, but by doing that you create a fourth person.

Rob Bowman: Now, I see biblical precedent for everything I have just said. In what follows I am summarizing.

Greg Stafford: No need to include your summary in this post since you have made the points already. Now, again, you are faced with the problem I outlined above, and the Bible nowhere speaks of God as a triune being. Your one example is:

Rob Bowman: In a few texts, though, the word "God," while still having the same denotation, appears to speak of God in his triunity. For example, Genesis 1:26-27 speaks of God as a single Being yet presents him as speaking in the first person plural. Here, despite all the protests from antitrinitarians and their many alternative interpretations, I think the trinitarian explanation is the only one that makes sense of the passage (especially when compared with the other plural reference, Gen. 3:22).

Greg Stafford: Where oh where does this text speak of "triunity" in any sense commensurate with trinitarianism? Also, what other texts articulate the Trinity? Surely if you would have us reject the clear implications of the many passages that separate the being of the Father and that of the Son, and show that the Father is God over the Son, has given the Son life, gives the Son knowledge, then you must have some bullet-proof texts to support your position, right? Then let us have them.

Rob Bowman: In yet other texts, the word "God" has the same denotation but refers specifically to one of the three divine persons. So, for example, in Hebrews 1:1 "God" refers specifically to the Father (in light of verse 2). Any text that speaks of God in relation to Christ (whether as the Son, the Word, or Jesus Christ) would naturally be taken as referring specifically to the Father. This will be a good number of texts. But there are texts in which "God," while still retaining the denotation of the one divine Being, refers specifically to the Son (John 1:1; 20:28; Rom. 9:5; Tit. 2:13; Heb. 1:8; 2 Pet. 1:1; 1 John 5:20) or to the Spirit (Acts 5:3-4).

Greg Stafford: And here you assume the "while still retaining the denotation of the one divine Being" idea. The Bible uses the term "God" for angels (Psalm 8:5), Satan (1 Cor. 4:4), the Father (1 Cor. 8:6), and the Son (John 1:1). But the meaning of the term is hardly the same. The use of this title in relation to these beings is made clear by the co- and context of the passages. Nowhere is the term articulated as a reference to a triune Being. The Father is a different God than the Son for He is the God of the Son! Nowhere is there said to be any unity of substance. The angels are not the same God as the Father, either, and neither is Satan. Again, you have not gathered your view from the Bible, but brought your view to the Bible, and then proceeded to make it fit, in spite of the difficulties.

Rob Bowman: Finally, there are texts where the noun "God" denotes the one divine Being and connotes the nature or status of that Being. These are texts employing the noun "God" in the so-called "qualitative" usage. Arguably John 1:1c is an example, though admittedly a highly controversial one from the perspective of the Jehovah's Witnesses. Mark 12:27 and Luke 20:38, though, are indisputable examples. In these texts Greg may wish to argue that the word "God" expresses status, not nature or essence, and

he may be right. I myself cannot think of any example of the noun "God" being clearly used to refer to the divine essence or nature of God. In the New Testament there are other words that express that idea, specifically _theotes_ (Col. 2:9) and the somewhat weaker form _theiotes_ (Rom. 1:20).

Greg Stafford: And there we have it. You "cannot think of any example of the noun `God' being clearly used to refer to the divine essence or nature of God." Thus, it is not biblical to use it as such. Also, Col. 2:10 states that anointed Christians will possess this same divine fullness, and Col. 1:19 says Jesus was given that fullness. Theotes properly refers to that which constitutes one as "a god." Thus, the Father, the only one who is truly God, in the ultimate sense (John 17:3), gave the Son a divine nature (life as a spirit being) and will do so with those who are to rule with Jesus in the heavens. The Bible does not say that this nature is the same substance of being that the Father has. This view has to be selectively read into the Bible. I say selectively because trinitarians will not allow the Christians of Col. 2:10 to own the same fullness that the Son is given, for this would not fit with the concept that they bring to the text.

Rob Bowman: d. Does the Trinitarian Use of "God" Result in Equivocation?

There are two questions that Greg will want to ask about this analysis. First, is it really biblical? This is a fair question. I have no objection to Greg asking questions about the interpretations of specific biblical texts that form the basis for the doctrine of the Trinity. Greg's second question, though, is this: Is it coherent?

Greg Stafford: Where did I ask this? If I did, it was only in the context of whether or not such a view is coherently expressed in Scripture.

Rob Bowman: Greg claims that it is incoherent or illogical to use the word "God" with the different connotations I have identified here.

Greg Stafford: No. Rather, I have claimed that it is unbiblical, for it is not in harmony with the Bible's use of the term.

Rob Bowman: On one level I respond to this question by ruling it out of order. As I have already explained, I deny the propriety of limiting what the Bible can say to what one can logically comprehend. Much of Greg's polemic against the Trinity depends precisely on such a priori considerations.

Greg Stafford: In fact, not one of my arguments use such tactics. I have all along maintained that the Trinity is irreconcilable with the Bible, not merely with logic. I have stated the biblical problem you are faced with concerning the Trinity, and other matters such as the "two natures of Christ." This is one of the key points you avoided in your reply.

Rob Bowman: That having been said, I really don't agree that there is anything incoherent about the varied connotative uses of "God" presented here. Let me see if I can address the alleged problem directly. Greg argues that, to be consistent, a trinitarian should not say, "Jesus is God," or even that the Father or the Holy Spirit is God. His reasoning is that such "equative" uses of the noun "God" contradict the Trinity by inadvertently identifying one of the three divine persons with the triune Being. That is, he thinks "Jesus is God" in trinitarian usage, where "God" is treated as a "noun of personal description" (whatever exactly that means), could only mean "Jesus is the Trinity," since we believe that God is the Trinity (and vice versa). Of course, this would not fit the doctrine of the Trinity, either, so he suggests that what we really mean by "Jesus is God" is that "Jesus shares the essence or nature of God." If this is what we mean, though, Greg thinks we cannot help but equivocate when we present arguments that refer to "God" as the divine Being per se as well as to one of the three persons sharing in the divine essence. For example, Greg wrote:

>Rob, you are equivocating by using the term "God" in two different and misleading senses. You said, "If Jesus has the nature and prerogatives of the only true God, that makes him God, however he got that nature and those prerogatives." Is not the "only true God," according to classical trinitarianism, a consubstantial Triad? That is, three persons who share the divine essence? When you say, "makes him God," do you not mean "makes him one who shares the divine essence"? Yet you use the term "God" in the second instance in

an equative sense as a noun of personal description. You are using the word in a sentence that is ambiguous and which does not state the full truth of your position.<

This seems to be Greg's problem: he thinks that my argument commits an equivocation because it has the following form:

(a) Jesus has the nature of God (=the divine consubstantial Triad). (b) Whatever has the nature of God, is God (both =the divine consubstantial Triad). (c) Therefore, Jesus is God (=one person sharing in the divine essence of the consubstantial Triad).

The above argument equivocates by changing the sense of "God" from the premises to the conclusion. However, it is not at all necessary to construct the argument in this fashion. The argument may be reconstructed as follows:

(A) Jesus has the nature of God (=the infinite-personal Creator). (B) Whatever has the nature of God, is God (both =the infinite-personal Creator). (C) Therefore, Jesus is God (=the infinite-personal Creator).

If this is deemed unacceptable because it makes no reference to the trinitarian distinction of persons, the argument can be restated as follows:

(A1) Jesus has the nature of God (=a person in the divine Being). (B1) Whatever has the nature of God, is God (both =a person in the divine Being). (C1) Therefore, Jesus is God (=a person in the divine Being).

Thus, the argument I presented does not equivocate in its use of God. The problem really arises, not because my argument equivocates, but because Greg would then insist on the following further argument:

Greg Stafford: First, in all of the above arguments the second premise is false from a biblical perspective. Whoever has the nature of God is not necessarily God, but could also be "a god." Second, God cannot be used to denote a person in your view, for then you

would have three Gods (or four persons). That is why you have to define the term God when you use it in this fashion, for you do not mean God equatively but qualitatively. So, when you say Jesus is a person "in the divine Being" you are either using the term God in reference to an impersonal substance (which you earlier rejected) or you are creating a fourth person. I suggest you give this some more thought, and reread Al's post.

Rob Bowman: (d) God is a Trinity. (e) Jesus is God. (f) Therefore, Jesus is a Trinity.

Greg's reasoning may be completed as follows:

(g) If God is a Trinity and Jesus is God, then Jesus is a Trinity. (h) But Jesus is not a Trinity. (i) Therefore, either God is not a Trinity or Jesus is not God, or both.

Time and again I have found that antitrinitarians have thought that this argument can be used to falsify the premises that God is a trinity and that Jesus is God. Yet it should be noted that this is not a trinitarian argument, but an antitrinitarian argument. That is, it is here that the equivocation is to be found, in the varying use of "God" in premises (d) and (e):

(d) God (=the divine Being per se) is a Trinity. (e) Jesus is God (=a person in the divine Being). (f) Therefore, Jesus is a Trinity.

This argument does commit the fallacy of equivocation, but it is an antitrinitarian argument, not a trinitarian one. The trinitarian argument I presented, to which Greg objected, does not commit that fallacy.

Greg Stafford: Fortunately, you have illustrated my point quite well. You see, I have all along stated that you must define the term "God" when you use it in an equative sense in order for you to hold to your teaching. In other words, you cannot simply say "Jesus is

God" without further qualification. And that is precisely what you do in your parenthetical comment! I am not arguing like the other antitrinitarians you mention, for I am asking you to add clarification to your use of "God" in equative sentences, and it worked! You have shown quite well that it is necessary for trinitarians to qualify their use of "God" in order to avoid confusion. Now that you have done so, it is easy for us to see that such a use of "God," as given by you, is never found in Scripture. The Bible never qualifies it as you have done with your parenthetical comment, and thus you show that your understanding of the term is derived, not from the Bible, but from later theology. So, as you have it stated above, your use of the term "God" is fine, but that is not how you used it originally. It was my intention for you to clarify your use of the term, and not to argue that your use is necessarily illogical. Thus, we have spent a lot of time going over points that have sprung from a misunderstanding of my argument on your part, in several respects, and that is unfortunate.

Rob Bowman: e. The Problem of the Quaternity

One other alleged problem may be addressed here. Greg alleges that I cannot hold the triune Being to be personal without resulting in four divine persons (what is known as a quaternity). Al Kidd, likewise, raised this objection in a post agreeing with Greg against me. This objection, again, is a philosophical one, not a biblical one.

Greg Stafford: No. My objection and reasoning is based on the use of these terms in the Bible. Your use, as I outlined above, does in fact lead to the conclusion that there would have to be four persons, at least according to the language you have used thus far.

Rob Bowman: Suppose I cannot solve the problem. Should I abandon belief in the Trinity? No, because my inability to solve the problem may be merely a reflection of my philosophical ineptness. It has nothing to do with whether the Bible teaches that Jesus Christ is himself Jehovah God.

Greg Stafford: It has everything to do with an inability to show that the Bible writers were aware of and articulated a consubstantial Triad. My objection to you from the start has been

with regard to the Bible's presentation of God and Jesus, and for you to assert that my, or Al's, objection is merely philosophical reflects a lack of appreciation for our position. I honestly think you know exactly where we are coming from, and have deliberately chosen to obfuscate matters by making it seem like our objection is primarily of a philosophical nature. I say this only because I think you are too clever to miss our point, especially since it has been stated clearly and repeatedly.

Rob Bowman: I do not, however, think the problem is insoluble. To say that the triune God is himself "personal" is not to say that he is a "person" in the same sense that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are each designated as a person. In our ordinary usage a personal being is, of course, a person. In that sense I grant, and have always granted, that God is one "person." But when trinitarians say that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three "persons," we are not using the word "person" to mean "a personal being." If we were, obviously we would be affirming three divine beings, which strictly speaking would mean three Gods. (The fact that some trinitarians occasionally speak imprecisely of the three as "beings" should not distract us here. It is the doctrine of the Trinity at its most precise and accurate formulation that should be considered.) Rather, we use the word "person" with reference to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in an analogous sense. Now here I will frankly have to use rather technical language, and I don't profess to have comprehended God, but I will try to make this clear. In trinitarianism the term "person" as used of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit denotes a LOCUS OF RELATIONALITY. This is a somewhat more precise definition than the more popular "center of consciousness," although the latter is close enough for most purposes. The Father has a relationship with the Son and with the Spirit that we would certainly describe as "personal," since it involves mutual knowing, loving, glorifying, and the like. However, these three persons are not three separate or independent beings; they are loci of relationality, not loci of being.

Greg Stafford: Nowhere have I stated anything differently, as to your position. I have merely pointed out that it is unbiblical. There are also certain logical problems with your view, but I have focused on its lack of biblical articulation.

Rob Bowman: When, then, we affirm that God is a personal being and that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are persons, we are not driven to a quaternity, because the three

"persons" are not three personal beings. That is, we do not have four of anything in the Trinity: not four beings, and not four persons.

Greg Stafford: How, then, is the triune God "personal," apart from the personhood of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? Also, and more to the point, where does the Bible reveal these distinctions in meaning for the term "person"?

Rob Bowman: With such rationalistic objections to the doctrine of the Trinity set aside, hopefully discussion of the biblical evidence may proceed apace.

Greg Stafford: Well, since my main objection to the Trinity is in regards to the biblical evidence, and has been from the start, I would hope so. Now, why don't we begin where we started. Please harmonize the meaning of John 5:26 and John 6:57 with your belief that Jesus is eternally the Son. In the process, you might also revisit my question concerning the two natures of Christ and which nature was given the authority that you say only the Almighty could possess. Please see my previous reply for details. When we have finished our discussion of these issues, then we can proceed with others.

Greg Stafford

Reply to Rob Bowman from Al Kidd. Posted by Al Kidd on April 26, 1998 at 23:37:43:

In Support of Stafford's Calling Bowman to Account

In reading the exchanges between Greg Stafford and Rob Bowman, I felt compelled to echo Stafford's efforts to call Bowman to account for his definition of Trinity. Trinitarians indulge themselves in a word-magic theory of personalism when they aver There are three different persons who participate absolutely equally in every way in a Godhead beingness; moreover, there are only three persons who are divine, each thus deserving the title "God."'

To reiterate, trinitarians aver that there are only three divine persons, and that they own the selfsame substance (the selfsame set of infinitudes) so that the three divine persons have the selfsame substance of mind. Now, the logic of this is that because they do not take their much-vaunted triune Godhead to be a fourth person--for they speak only of three divine persons--, then the overarching principle that grounds the existence of the three persons is, by argument reductio ad absurdum, reduced to being an extra-personal and impersonal essence. And they must have some sort of an overarching principle in their argument--this whether they consciously claim an impersonality for it or not--lest they surrender at once their claim that the persons are not three Gods, three independent beings who each has his very own center of omniscient consciousness and a will that must always manifest itself in righteousness and love. Now, the rub here is that the theory of this trinity of persons is epistemological nonsense because we define what it means to be a person in terms that define what it means to be a self-conscious being, a being that owns a unique center of consciousness. We moderns know no way to speak of a group of several persons without express or implicit acknowledgment that several beings comprise the group. And yet Trinitarians will not admit that their argument can only begin to make sense of the Scriptures when once they have given up their thought that there is but one divine Being. Assuming for the moment that holy spirit is a person, we can say that trinitarians might have coherently--even if not Scripturally--presented to us a sort of trinitarianism on the basis that there are only three divine beings (Gods) who are brothers "in spirit" ( = a serendipitous harmony of personalities), this so that they we hear presented no nonsensical declaration that there are but three divine persons who have the selfsame center of consciousness and will. Below in offset left margin the reader will find material by Noel Balzer, ""What Is A Class?"" The Journal of Value Inquiry 21 (Dordrecht, Netherlands: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 1987) 112-130. Individuals can be classified. An instance of a person called "Fred" is Fred. Any instance of Fred is Fred. Fred is, of course, more than bare instances, he lives through time and has an existence independent of our classifying him. Let us interrupt Balzer for a moment. Yes, "Fred" has an existence independent of our classifying him as a member of the class of all instances of soulical persons, the act of such classifying being an abstracting away from each instance all qualities that are repeated in all the other instances, this so that we form the abstract concept "the average man" ( = humanity ).

So, there is no substance or beingness we can call the average man. To postulate it is to postulate an absurdity, for it is to say that humanity is an ontically existing substance that occultly goes about reproducing itself for the formation of every soulical person in existence--which is impossibly problematic in light of, among other things, the question, "How can humanity be a substance for grounding in itself the substance or beingness that is the entirety of beingness for each individualized, soulical person?" To ask the question is to define the nature of the absurdity, which is that humanity be thought of as an occult albeit ontic reality having Substance that constitutes the variegated beingnesses that are themselves all the instances of the class "All uniquely individualized (uniquely identifiable), soulical persons." Balzer continues: Classification is a mental activity. But Fred must not be confused with this activity, we know him through this activity. That [our knowledge of] Fred [as one who] is an existing person is a logical construction that we [know to be true is because we know we] derive [it] from our experienced instances of him, directly or indirectly. So it is that when we instance Fred we realise he was born, that he has lived and is a person with an active life. Instances are not mere images. Individuals and concrete objects form a mental paradigm for human activity. The instances we perceive of them are logically constructed [--abstracted--] into objects, and we take their existence for granted [because].... classification has a propensity to deal in objects. Our thought is conducted in terms of classes which are the Forms that enable thought to operate and so it is not unnatural that we treat instances of property and relation classes in the same way as [we treat] objects. The instances of red that we perceive are in the mind curiously assimilated into an object we call "redness". The instances of the relation we call "together" are assimilated into an object we call "togetherness". It all seems very natural. However, curiosities are produced. When we speak of "The average man" we do appear to have a curious object. Everyone speaks of "The average man" but there is no object which is the average man. Plainly, we have assimilated every instance which is correctly classified "An average man" into one fictitious object "The average man"[--a reification of the abstract, the logical fallacy of the misplaced concretion]. If one treats these fictitious objects with seriousness, paradoxical conclusions can be drawn. For example: If one assimilates every instance of what can be classed "a triangle" into an abstract object, A Triangle, it then poses a great difficulty to indicate whether the triangle is isosceles or equilateral or scalene. It has to be everyone at once which is impossible, but it cannot be any one except on pain of contradiction.... [When t]he reference of "a triangle" is said to be the collection of every triangle[, then, w]hen this is said, paradox appears . . . [The solution is to maintain that] no totality can be defined in terms of itself.

End of our quotation of some of Balzer's material.

When we see that we have no ontically existing reality called "humanity"--there is not "the average man"--, then we also see that one's attempt to use it as an analogy for illustrating Divinity ("the Godhead") as the Being that ontologically grounds in itself all ( = three, according to trinitarians' count) divine persons collapses: his analogy is, quite simply, horsefeathers and claptrap! We have yet to make use of Professor Leigh (Ft. Wayne Bible College). He builds upon these logical insights, and does so in a manner that gives us his selfconscious rejection of Chalcedonian trinitarianism. A Stan Slater posted on AOL a 3-part series ("The Logos pt. [1 thru 3]"), which incorporated excerpts from D.A. Fennema, NTS 31, pp. 128-31. The Fennema excerpts bear self-contradiction, which the reader may observe below. Early on in Slater's transcription of Fennema's article, in part 2 of the transcription, we read the following: THEOS EN HO LOGOS [John 1:1c] . . . cannot be taken as meaning: he was a god, a divine being, as if THEON were a generic concept such as ANTHROPOS or animal, so that there could be two divine beings. This is clearly out of the question, because the word THEON is intended in its strict monotheistic sense. Now, a little later on, in part three, Fennema states some- thing that contradicts his words we reproduced above. He states: Thus John perceives the Logos/Son and the Father/God as two distinct Beings, yet ascribes the identical deity to both. Just earlier Fennema has said that we cannot say "that there could be two divine beings" for the concept THEON [sic], for that would make THEON [sic] generic. Then a little later he affirms exactly this, doesn't he? So it seems, for he says, "Thus John perceives the Logos/Son and the Father/God as two distinct Beings, yet ascribes the identical deity to both." So, Fennema gives back what he earlier denied, for now he is saying "two distinct Beings"--beings that are numerically discrete, for he mentions two here--, and he is saying that both of them are identical as to the matter of their deity (divinity). Also, Fennema has not accurately made reference to what Jesus did with the phrase "the only true God," as John recorded it in 17:3. (It reminds us of recent equivocation in the terms "God" and "Father" in a context in which a trinitarian like Bowman should have wanted to maintain the distinction. Stafford called Bowman to

account for the confusion, and Bowmans reply was most disingenuous, to put it bluntly.) Fennemas own sleight of hand is as follows:

John's subsequent description of God as . . . "the only true God" . . .

Well, we know that John did not record Jesus' words exactly as Fennema would like them to be, for Jesus declared in his prayer to the Father that it was He (the Father) who was the only true God. So, John did not record something like the following: 'God [--in the sense that God is the entity that can house in "Himself" (Itself) the only three divine persons in existence--] is the only true God.'

Fennema falsely assumes the following:

"[When John records] denials that there is another [true] God, [so that] if the evangelist confesses any Deity [--note Fennema's gratuitous, self-serving capitalization of "Deity"--] it must be an acknowledgment of that one, true God." Of course, that would be the case if the assumption could truthfully be that John everywhere used the concept of "deity" (godship) in reference to the Almighty God. But such an assumption is to beg the question, and assumes that Jewish monotheism was of a sort as self-servingly postulated by trinitarians. Historical records for a preChristian Judaism falsifies such a concept. There is a trinitarian writer (James White) who, in his having some of his thoughts posted on AOL, endorsed Fennema through his (White's) endorsement of a posting to AOL that a certain Mr. Stan Slater posted, it being a post in which Slater was heavily dependent upon an article written by Fennema. Mr. James White approved of Slater's use of Fennema, and he stated that approval in the following words: I was under the impression that Mr. Stanley Slater had posted for us an excellent discussion of John 1:1, and the meaning of John 1:18 as well. I would have nothing to add to that excellent discussion as far as substance goes. Well, perhaps White will not add to it; however, in light of his attempt to make a distinction between being and person, then which of Fennema's statements concerning divine beings does White want? Which one does Bowman want? From long ago the larger question for trinitarians should have been Does the Trinity doctrine make comment on Jesus' true nature? According to trinitarianism, member-"persons" of the Trinity cannot freely make decisions springing from a free will that is unique to each of the persons of the Trinity: 'They have never had any control over the positions they have always owned' would at least be a more logically accurate

statement from trinitarians not too concerned over what the Scriptures say about Jesus' will. However, such a necessity in persons of this allegedly existing Trinity should have to indicate to trinitarians an ontological superiority for the Father-member of the Trinity (= He Who ever has merely been happening to have the position of being greater than the other two persons), for then trinitarians should have to say that the Father's position was by force of uncontrollable circumstance so that the Father did not choose to act-could not have merely chosen to act--as though He were superior to the other two persons of the Trinity. Trinitarians cannot stave off the damage that the truth of Jesus' statement at John 14:28 makes against their dogmatic assertion that Jesus' statement only applies to the economic Trinity as opposed to an immanent Trinity, a Trinity that supposedly springs from ontologically based realities in the persons of the Trinity. We hold that a personal being's own 'preference pattern' is a manifestation of his very own will. Furthermore, it is will that springs uniquely from within the beingness of its owner that goes to the core of what is the essence of personhood. Holding to the truth in the paragraph immediately above, then if we also allow the term "Being" to be the owner of a unique center of consciousness such that it can have necessarily only one "total preference pattern," then it is absurd for one to hold that "Being" is a neutral term as respects composite individual (Trinity in the classical sense) and part (as the allegation goes, a member-person of the Trinity) because there is a logical difference between (classical) Trinity owning a unique center of consciousness, store of knowledge, and will for its unfragmented 'preference pattern,' on the one hand, and a (nonclassical sort of a triune) God-person's ownership of its own center of consciousness, store of knowledge, and will unique to that person, on the other hand, so that each person does not necessarily own the same 'preference pattern' that any other person owns. (There are some "trinitarians" who have surrendered classical or Chalcedonian trinitarianism.)

So, when Jesus said:

"Father, if you wish, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, let, not my will, but yours take place" (Luke 22:42),

then Jesus was in effect acknowledging that even though he might not know how "this cup" (of his having to bear a charge that he had acted criminally against the God of Heaven--Who was Jesus' Father) might be set aside, yet the Father might know such a way so that the Father's will is still accomplished in connection with His Son.

Nevertheless, even though the Father might not find it a good thing to let that cup pass from His Son, yet the Son would accept whatever it was the Father's will to permit to happen to him, and would not by any willful act on his part protest the Father's decision as he saw it unfold, though it was logically possible for the Son, had he been so disposed, to willfully protest it. The Father's will would be active in this instance, and the Son's would be passive: the Father's will would manifest itself in the Father's determination as to what He would do about "this cup"; the Son's will would be passive in that, out of modesty, he would not will to author anything as respects "this cup." This understanding of the logical implications as respects how the Father and Son own logically possible differences, qualitatively speaking, in their wills is a contradiction of trinitarianism. If by definition there is necessarily and absolutely no "preference pattern" unique to a member-person (in the Trinity) in contradistinction to the other memberpersons, then the surprise for trinitarians is that there also ceases to be any meaningful (psychological) distinction between members of the Trinity, for there collapses any real basis for epistemological justification for one's holding that there is a multi-personality God, this because the basis for each of the putative member-persons' maintaining a role (for a manifestation to the world of the way they work together) must accordingly be ruled out. Jesus Christ has given us to know that in his prehuman existence in heaven he neither owned the same store of knowledge that existed in his Father's mind, nor did he operate the selfsame, metaphysical will that his Father owned. Thus do we have it that Jesus could say in a common- sense manner the things that he said at John 8:23, 26, 38, 40 inter alia. The commonsense way of understanding those verses rules out any validity to any concept that Jesus and his Father operated the selfsame, metaphysical will. No, they are not wholly alike member-persons in a triune God for ownership of the selfsame features of mind, paramount among them (the features of God's mind) being especially that faculty of mind which we call God's will. So, if the member-persons are not wholly alike in accordance with the terms set forth here, then one cannot begin to apply things commensurate to the classical definition of Trinity (three wholly alike persons in one divine life) to the Father and the Son. (See Dahms below on this.) We do not forget that trinitarians have also to prove from the Scriptures that there is a God-person called the "Holy Spirit." We need not argue in these presents that the Scriptures do not teach that holy spirit is a divine person, for God's holy spirit is not a person, but is His invisible, active force.) Trinitarian John V. Dahms, "The Generation of the Son," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society_ 32.4 (December 1989) 493-501 has the following

helpful information concerning the generation of the Son, and THAT THE TERM "BEGOTTEN" CONNOTES ONTOLOGICAL SUBORDINATIONISM, and that it cannot allow the idea that what is generated must be as absolute as the one doing the generating. He writes as follows: [I]t must be remembered that a good deal of the NT is addressed to Gentiles-that is, to people who were familiar with the conception of deities begetting other deities and heroes. And many of them, if not all, were familiar with the conception of birth from a male deity alone. This would predispose them, when confronted with the NT statements about God as uniquely the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ, and about Jesus as the unique Son of God, to think that generation of the Son by the Father was implied. And in this connection it is to be noted that nowhere in the NT is there any warning against the idea of divine generation. Belief in many gods and many lords is rejected in 1 Cor 8:4-6, but the relationship of the one Lord to the one God is left undefined therein [i.e., left undefined in 1 Cor 8:4-6,] cf. Joh 3:16; 17:3 [for some detail of NT definition of the relationship]). It is therefore not surprising that C.E. Raven should state that our terminology "would suggest [to Greeks] the popular polytheism and the gross fables of Olympus.".... In Col 1:15 "his beloved Son" is said to be "the firstborn of all creation." Some scholars hold that this phrase "echoes the wording of Ps 89:27: "I will make him the firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth." If so, "firstborn" implies superiority and preeminence. [Perhaps, but w]hat is clear, however, is that THE PHRASE (also?) DERIVES FROM PROV 8:22: "The Lord qanani [produced] Wisdom at the beginning of his work" (cf. the birth language concerning Wisdom in vv. 24-25 . . . Paul is almost certainly implying that the Son is begotten. The same is probably true of Heb 1:6: "When he brings the firstborn into the world" . . . [T]he "identification of Christ with the Wisdom of God" in v. 3:15 suggests that "firstborn" is probably to be taken as implying the generation of the Son, as Col 1:15 apparently does.... The [generation] doctrine provides an ontological basis for the dissimilarity of the father and the Son that is necessary for fellowship and interaction between them. Fellowship and interaction between persons cannot exist without dissimilarity of some kind. And the same is true for interaction. Moreover, unless there is fellowship and interaction between the members of the Godhead they are not persons in any meaningful sense of the term . . . The generation doctrine provides an ontological basis for the subordination of the Son to the Father, which the NT emphasizes (e.g. John 5:19- 30). The view that this subordination is only an economic subordination and originates solely in a mutual agreement among the members of the Godhead implies that the divine persons can choose and do what is contrary to their nature. If it is their nature to be independent of each other, that independence is denied

if they decide that one shall have authority over another. And that the subordination involved is only temporary does not lessen the problem in the least. If they can thus deny themselves (cf. 2 Tim 2:13) they cannot be trusted, and to speak of God's faithfulness is irresponsible . . . Having been begotten of the Father, Christ is not misleading concerning the deity when he speaks of the Father as "my Father . . . [and] my God" (John 20:17; cf. Matt. 11:27), when he declares that the Father sent him John passim), when he prays to the Father (e.g. John 17), or when he affirms: "The Son can do nothing of his own accord . . . I can do nothing on my own authority" (John 5:19, 30; cf. 14:10; 17:2; Matt 28:18). If what is eternally true is not being represented, it is not correct to say that Christ "made him [God] known" (John 1:18). At most it would be possible to say that at times Christ made him known. At other times he was misleading concerning him.... [I] the doctrine of the Trinity implies that "the Divine unity is a dynamic unity unifying in the one Divine life the lives of the three Divine persons," Father, Son, and Holy Spirit do not exhaust the divine reality. That which unites them is in addition to them so that "the one Divine life" is more than the lives of the three Divine persons." But of this there is no intimation in Scripture . . . [G]eneration [of person(s)] suggests both [a sort of generic] equality and inferiority (as in the case of the son of a human father). In that a son is human, he is equal to his father, but in that he is a son he is inferior.


Dr. James White and the Assumptions of Trinitarianism Revisited Some thirteen (13) years ago I published the First Edition of Jehovahs Witnesses Defended: An Answer to Scholars and Critics (Elihu Books, 1998). Shortly thereafter, Dr. James White published a book review titled, A Summary Critique: Jehovahs Witnesses Defended (Christian ResearchJournal, volume 21, number 2 [available online here]), in which he claims in large letters crossing the entire page 49 of his article, Throughout his work, Stafford assumes Unitarianism is true in order to disprove Trinitarianism. In 1999 I responded to Dr. Whites Summary Critique of my First Edition of Jehovahs Witnesses Defended. In 2000 I published the Second Edition of Jehovahs Witnesses Defended, in which I addressed numerous sections of Dr. Whites 1998 book, The Forgotten Trinity: Recovering the Heart of Christian Belief (Bethany). In my Second Edition, Chapter 2, there is a subheading, Who is assuming what, and why, in which I further addressed some of the assumptions of Trinitarian concepts by Dr. White

when it comes to the interpretation of biblical texts (this section is now More on who is assuming what, and why, on pages 148-151 of my Third Edition [2009]). Then in 2002 I published Three Dissertations on the Teachings of Jehovahs Witnesses (Elihu Books). On pages 155-163 of the Third Dissertation I further discussed some of the erroneous assumptions and wrongful concept-substitutions commonly made in association with grammatical analyses of New Testament and other texts by Trinitarians, including by Dr. White and by Professor Daniel B. Wallace, on whom Dr. White often relies. Finally, in 2003 I agreed to publicly debate both Robert M. Bowman, Jr. and later in that same year Dr. White. See Is Jesus God? Examining the Biblical Evidence, a debate between Greg Stafford and Robert M. Bowman, Jr. (La Mirada, CA), and Jesus Christ: God or a god? A debate between Greg Stafford and Dr. James White (Tampa, Florida), both available through the Elihu Books Books and Media page. Several years later, in late 2006 through early 2007, I returned from a period of searching and learning more about what to believe after having left off from working with the Watchtower Societys organization and from their forms of ministry. After several years separation from such activity, I began reconsidering how I could best begin to form beliefs based on the best available reasons or evidence, and then learn about and possibly begin to practice the resulting beliefs. At some point here, I began to write more about what I had come to believe in association with and apart from the Watchtower Society. The result was a newer version of the Elihu Books site which allowed me to post articles and chat in a back-and-forth, message-posting manner through what is now known as the Elihu Books Chat with Us!or Elihu Books Online Chat page. [AUTHOR'S NOTE for January 13, 2012: The Elihu Books Chat with Us! page is now a more complete discussion board, which you can review here.] For much of this early site work, I owe thanks to Aurel Enea, and then also later on in similar ways to David Barron. During this same time or, more specifically, on March 28 and on April 1, 2007, I received two inquires about the status of audio links on the Elihu Books web site for my 2003 debate with Dr. White. The links were at one time active for the debates audio feed but during this time in early 2007 they were not active due to ongoing changes to the Elihu Books site. However, during this time the entire 2003 Tampa, Florida debate was still available (as it still is today) on DVD and through other media available from either Elihu Books or Alpha and Omega Ministries (Dr. Whites organization []). Therefore, on April 10, 2007, I replied on the Elihu Chat to the two pending inquires about the audio links. I explained that the Elihu site was undergoing revision

and that if the two people who had inquired about the audio debate links did not have the DVD, then they could get it and that if they could not afford it I would send copies to them. At or around this same time Dr. White began posting a series of entries on his aomin.orgs Blog concerning certain parts of our 2003 debate, the very debate whose audio links were being discussed at that time on the Elihu Chat. In addition to questions about 2006 email communications presented in my Response to Dr. James White, Part One (listed below), Whites 2007 Blog series focused on two issues raised by White during his cross-examination of me during our 2003 debate, namely: 1) the glory seen by Isaiah according to John 12:41, and 2) whether it is impossible for God to become a man in the light of the Greek participles labon (took on) and genomenos (came to be/came into being) used in Philippians 2:7. In the earlier, 2006/2007 Elihu Books Blog and Chat I provided 2 of 4 intended responses to Dr. Whites 2007 Blogs, that is, those of his Blogs which relate to me or to my expressed views. These have been made into PDFs with relevant material and new introductions explaining their origin and some history given the changes subsequently made to the Elihu Books site, including changes to the Elihu Blog and Chat. I have made these PDFs of Parts One and Two available since Dr. Whites 2007 Blogs are still online and because others have since cited or relied on my original Part Two in discussions of Isaiah and John 12:41:

1. 2.

Response to Dr. James White, Part One: Introducing the Issues; Response to Dr. James White, Part Two: He Saw His Glory, and He

Spoke About Him.

These two parts were essentially completed as given above and in relation to other earlier Elihu Books Blog and Chat materials between January-May and AprilJune, 2007, in response to Dr. Whites Blog for January-April, 2007. [December 21, 2011, AUTHOR'S NOTE: For further and more recent discussion of the meaning of John 12:41, see my Elihu Online Papers 4, The Glory Seen by Isaiah According to John 12:41 (November 20, 2011)]. Also intended as Parts Three and Four were discussions related to the content of my 2003 debate involving Whites questioning me over Philippians 2:7 and related concepts (= my intended Part Three), and then some further discussion of related or similar difficulties which had come up during this time involving offers from both Dr. Robert Morey and Dr. White to debate me formally, in public (= my intended Part Four).

My Addendum from my Response to Dr. James White, Part One: Introducing the Issues and the related material in the main text of that article make plain some of the problems I encountered after being approached by a member of Dr. Whites staff. As for the similar but different problems involved with Dr. Morey, this involved Moreys initial challenge, my taking up that challenge, followed by Moreys abandonment of any kind of meaningful response. The audio of this show is linked on the Elihu BooksTopical Index under A Audio: Debate: September 27, 2006, The Narrow Mind (Morey/Stafford). My responses to the challenge Morey made to me during this show can be read here, listed just as they are in the Elihu Books Topical Index under R Robert Morey: Foreknowledge and Freewill: Stafford Response:

Robert Morey: Foreknowledge and "Freewill": Stafford Response_1 ; Robert Morey: Foreknowledge and "Freewill": Stafford Response_2 ; Robert Morey: Foreknowledge and "Freewill": Stafford Response_3 ; Robert Morey: Foreknowledge and "Freewill": Stafford Response_4 ; Robert Morey: Foreknowledge and "Freewill": Stafford Response_5 . Moreys responses to my responses to his September 27, 2006, challenge to me are still pending, or they simply will never arrive. If they do, if Dr. Morey ever intends to make good on his own challenge and offer to debate me over the above listed responses to his issues, then he has a lot of reading and writing to do, as is clear from the above and from our September 27, 2006, discussion. In fact, those are words similar to what Morey said to me, and which I have fulfilled for some time. The above information and items regarding Morey, together with my Addendum to my Part One and the related main-text material regarding Dr. White, explain the substance of my intended Part Four as it relates to these 2006/2007 email, Blog, and Chat discussions regarding my possibly debating both Dr. White and Dr. Morey (for White, for the second time) sometime in the future. Moving back from my intended Part Four involving some of the pre-debate behavior of both Dr. White and Dr. Morey from 2006/2007, and coming now to my intended Part Three, Part Three was to involve my presentation and subsequent review of the complete transcription of what I gave in response to White during our 2003 debate, that is, in response to Whites assertions from his Blog April 12, 2007, A Test for Your Listening Skills Part III, where White writes (with my underlining added): It is vital, in examining the argumentation of Jehovah's Witnesses, Oneness Pentecostals, and Muslims, to recognize the presuppositional nature of their

commitment to unitarianism. They rarely defend it, they simply assume it. Here Stafford admits that it is a starting place in his theology that if one is God, one cannot be man. He begins by precluding the possibility of the Incarnation, seen in Philippians 2:5-11 or John 1:14. If you begin with your conclusion, you will always be arguing in circles, and this becomes the operative factor in his interpretational methodology. Though Stafford is far more polished in his presentation than your regular Witness, or Oneness Pentecostal, or Muslim, take the time to examine their materials: you will find the exact same foundational assumption. Paul could not actually be saying Jesus became a servant, because that just isnt possible. Here is where we again get further into who is assuming what, and why, and in this case Dr. White is claiming I admit, as a starting place in my theology, that if one is God, one cannot be man. White further writes, [Stafford] begins by precluding the possibility of the Incarnation, seen in Philippians 2:5-11 or John 1:14. But, in fact, what I clearly did do both during our 2003 debate and in my writings to that point concerning White and the assumptions of Trinitarianism is not assume Incarnation (Trinitarian) theology. Rather, I looked (and I still do look) to the meaning(s) arguable from the best available evidence, evidence which includes New Testament texts such as John 1:14 and Philippians 2:5-11. What White refuses to accept is that my beliefs are not assumed as a starting place in [my] theology (or in my interpretational methodology) apart from good reasons which establish those beliefs. White simply ignores the reasons at times in ways that make it seem like there are none. This is exactly what he did in his Summary Critique of my First Edition (1998), and he has continued to do these same things since in these ways, as shown here from our 2003 debate and then also again in our subsequent 2007 Blog and Chat articles and related discussions. Indeed, consider the section of our 2003 debate which represents the transcribed part which I intended to include in my earlier Part Three response to Whites April 12, 2007, A Test for Your Listening Skills Part III. The following is from hour one, minute thirty-four, and second fifty-six (1:34:56) to hour one, minute thirtyseven, second fifteen (1:37:15) of my 2003 debate with Dr. White, during Whites cross-examination of me (with my underlining added):


In ... uh ... In your book Three Dissertations on the Teachings of Jehovahs Witnesses, page 216, you write: (WHITE THEN QUOTES STAFFORDS THREE DISSERTATIONS

PAGE 216)

Also, to truly take on the weaknesses and limitations of humanity, Christ would had to have given up that which would have prevented him from really owning such human limitations, namely, his divine nature, intrinsic to which are attributes that cannot coexist with the intrinsic attributes of human nature. And therein lies the great fallacy of the Trinitarian incarnation.


Is that a correct citation?




Two questions based on that. First, is it truly your position that Yahweh is incapable of the act of Incarnation in the Trinitarian sense, specifically, this act resulting in one person

with two natures? And secondly, would not the historic, Trinitarian exegesis of the text which sees the participles labon and genomenos as circumstantial modals answer the very objection you have raised regarding the voluntary selflimitation of the Incarnate Son who is eternally humiliation and

co-equal with the Father?


I am not certain whether or not it is possible for Jehovah to

take on or become a part of the Incarnation in the classic Trinitarian sense. That would be my answer to the first question. the second question ... um ... Im not sure what the with respect to the Greek ... um ... White: and genomenos explain how it is that the emptying took place? Oh, I see what you are saying ... uh ... I dont ... I dont words you used. My answer to point is that you are mak ing

Have you ever examined the fact that the participles labon


think thats a problem. The fact that Christ emptied himself by taking the form of a man makes the same point: If you are a man you are not God. Therefore, you are devoid of that which makes you God, thus a man.


But isnt that just going back to what I just asked, and that is

that seemingly it is your assumption that God is incapable of doing this. What if God could? Wouldnt your response be circular?


No, because God is not man. Therefore, if he becomes man he is ...

you cant have ... It would, based on my knowledge of the Scriptures and understanding of theology and metaphysics, if one becomes a man that one is no longer God. If one becomes God that one is no longer a man. They are two different categories of being.


So from your perspective then it is a given that God cannot be

Incarnate. Hence he cannot both be God and man. That is a fundamental presupposition of your understanding?

Stafford: yes.

Based on my limited knowledge of metaphysics and theology,

(After my answer, Dr. White moved on to a different question and one not directly related to this part of the subject.)

From the above transcription we can see Dr. White ignores my reasons and instead persists in trying to get me to accept that my beliefs are circular, simply because I do not accept his view as possiblebecause of what I believe and because of the stated reasons for why I believe what I believe. In fact, even in my 2003 response I conceded, I am not certain whether or not it is possible. Ultimately, therefore, I simply have different beliefs than Dr. White, but this is because of what I consider and have presented in arguments as good or better reasons than what Dr. White presented to me in 2003, and what he has presented to me and to others since then. If my beliefs are true (as I believe them to be), then outside of a concession of possibility for the limited sake of theoretical discussion, Whites belief in Trinitarian, Incarnation theology (namely, that God did become a man in the classic Trinitarian sense)is impossible. I say this not as my starting place but as the point to which I have come in my studies. As you can see from what I underlined in the above transcription, twice in my responses to Dr. White I expressly pointed to the reasons why I believe what I do about Philippians 2:7, and whether God can become a man and still remain fully God, or whether a man can become God and still remain fully man. My stated reasons were: 1)

my knowledge of the Scriptures and understanding of theology and metaphysics, and 2) my limited knowledge of metaphysics and theology. Whether W hites beliefs are possible under some theoretical condition is really a separate question since granting that something you do not believe is possible to be possible does nothing to truly answer the question, and so it certainly provides no basis for belief, either. For example, I do not believe in the real possibility of the unintelligent evolution of life apart from an already-existing, intentionally intelligent Creator, whose life is clear to me from all that we can and that we have observed in our present and fossilized life here in this earth. However, I might use the Francis Crick analogy as a means of demonstrating this impossibility, for even this analogy gives a chance not only to what Crick already otherwise assumed is true for the sake of his analogy, namely, the existence of both a hurricane and trash on a junkyard, in association with which Crick then reportedly acknowledged concerning the unintentional evolution of the DNA helix: You would be more likely to assemble a fully functioning and flying jumbo jet by passing a hurricane through a junk yard than you would be to assemble the DNA molecule by chance. In any kind of primeval soup in 5 or 600 million years, its just not possible [as quoted in the article, Computing the Cost of Minimalism (last accessed August 4, 2011)]. Whether these odds are fair or accurate for anyone to use in any credible argument for the formation, the origin, or for the eternality of life is open to further consideration. But my point here in relation to life and then also in relation to what Dr. White asked me about God and man, is that I might grant the possibility that something could theoretically be true all the while believing differently, or oppositely, and for what I am willing to present and to argue for intelligently as the best available reasons. If you ask White, it is not for good reasons but because I already believe something apart from any good reasons at all that I believe what I do and, then what I do, is simply use my assumed beliefs as facts to help me understand everything else. Yet, not only have I and can I show that I do not do this, even in the very places in my writings and in my debates where White says I do these things, I will further argue, and I have for some time argued, that this is what Trinitarians often do. Hence, there is real irony in how Dr. White and others have attempted to try and turn the tables on me, in this way. The same is true when it comes to other theoretical possibilities, including Trinitarian Incarnation theology, which though possible through some kind of theorizing is really not possible as a biblical doctrine in view of what we can show is taught throughout the New Testament and in other related biblical texts. What we read in early

Christian, New Testament texts such as Philippians 2:5-9 speaks directly against what White wants me to admit is possible! Therefore, anything but cloaking or veiling the Jesus of the Trinity rather than allowing Jesus of the New Testament to empty himself of the form of a god/Gods form and to be the one who took on the form of a servant/a man is rejected by Trinitarians, if it means anything like what I believe or what we read from others like G. Braumann: It is said of this divine mode of existence that Christ existed in it in the past (hyparchn, being, v. 6). It refers to his pre-existence prior to the incarnation. en morph theoucharacterizes, therefore, his existence before his earthly life, but not his existence in that earthly life. For he emptied himself (heauton ekensen, v. 7) taking the form of a servant (morphn doulou). This form replaces the form of God. It is not to be thought of like clothing put over the previous form or as an addition to the preexisting form. Christs mode of being was essentially changed. [G. Braumann, morph, in The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, vol. 1, Colin Brown, ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1975), page 706. This I had cited in my discussion of this text in both my First (page 75) and Second (page 197-198) Editions of Jehovahs Witnesses Defended. Yet, instead of asking me more about what he already knows in large part, namely, my theological and metaphysical reasons for believing God cannot become a man and how these reasons may relate more specifically to Philippians 2:7, in 2003 White questioned me about my alleged assumption that God is incapable of becoming a man! Indeed, White further asked me, What if God could? Wouldnt your [= Staffords] response be circular? As I answered, No. How could my response to White have been circular in this case if my reasons are not my assumption as a starting place that Whites Trinitarian views are impossible but, rather, that Whites Trinitarian view is impossible based on my knowledge of the Scriptures and understanding of theology and metaphysics? Bringing the above section of my 2003 debate with Dr. White forward to Whites April 12, 2007, Blog, A Test for Your Listening Skills Part III, Dr. White references, quotes from, and relies in large part on what he wrote in his online paper, Beyond the Veil of Eternity: The Importance of Philippians 2:5-11 in Theology and Apologetics, Christian Research Journal 223 (available online here). Note in particular Whites introductory and conclusive comments, which also caption a quotation from page 630 of Daniel B. Wallaces Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996):

Daniel B. Wallace, an eminent Greek scholar, sees both terms taking and being made as the means by which the being made nothing is accomplished.[viii] The biggest difficulty with seeing labwn (taking) as means is that emptying is normally an act of subtraction, not addition. But the imagery should not be made to walk on all fours. As an early hymn, it would be expected to have a certain poetic license.The Philippians were told not to puff themselves up with empty glory, because Christ was an example of one who emptied his glory. If this connection is intentional, then the Carmen Christi has the following force: Do not elevate yourselves on empty glory, but follow the example of Christ, who, though already elevated (on Gods level), emptied his glory by veiling it in humanity.[ix] So the means of the kenosis is the addition of a human nature, the veiling of the divine in the creaturely. This is important to understand, for many interpret Paul to mean that Christabandons the form of God rather than seeing this as an addition of the human nature to the eternal divine nature that was Christs. It is this addition that veils the form of God. While there are certainly many who see this passage teaching that Christ did indeed lay aside the form of God, the words of Paul do not present such a concept.

[viii] That is, the syntactical function of these two participles is circumstantial modal. [ix] Wallace, 630.

Here we have a clear example of reading assumptions apart from the best available reasons back into an ancient text, not only from the point of subsequent commentary and interpretation by White, but also in interpretation and in translation on some expressive level by Professor Wallace. White and Wallace, being Trinitarians, cannot have Jesus ever ceasing to be God in terms of his essential nature. This means that while Jesus can take on something else he can only do so if it does not take away from what he is already or, in the case of Philippians 2:7, Jesus cannot empty himself of the form of God or of what it means to be Godessentially in order to become a man, and yet to become a man that is what he would have to do if that man is the last Adam (1 Corinthians 15:45). Indeed, in addition to 1 Corinthians 15:45-57 what is said in 1 Corinthians 15:20-28 is also in large part contained in what we read in Philippians 2:5-11. I do not read a theology which can be dated and shown to have come about hundreds of years later back into the New Testament writings of the first century CE.

Rather, I read the New Testament and related literature and other credibly verifiable events or likely events from various peoples and from many sources which have to date proven reliable when it comes to what has occurred or existed during, before, and after the first century CE. These include also, and in large part, the Old Testament and other, similar writings and inscriptions from various times and peoples which have survived and been tested over time. In evidence of this, and in direct contrast to what I can show is often done in Trinitarianism, I will here point to my prior and most current writings, particularly Chapter 2 from my Third Edition (2009) of Jehovahs Witnesses Defended, where it concerns this very question of different assumptions about the meaning of ancient, biblical and other literatures use of terms for G-god. My writings on other subjects, such as my EOP 1, Advanced Earth ConditionsCorrections to Millers 1953 Hypothesis and Its Likely Indications, (July 4, 2010), on the subject of intentionally intelligent, eternal life also show this is true in other areas of my argumentation and subsequent belief, and in this field of study I have also at times argued openly but based on good reasons against those who are otherwise accepted as experts. Indeed, there are times when I can and, I believe, when I have shown that some experts have done or are presently doing in certain scientific fields of study the very same or similar thing(s) many Trinitarians have done or continue to do in theology today: Assuming beliefs and/or the basis(es) for them in many cases where the assumed (= non-good-reason-based) beliefs are critical to the overall understanding they express, conclude, and/or strongly maintain. Whether and certainly before the same is said about me, more must be considered and presented than what Dr. White has put forth, to date, for it only really clearly shows to this point that he is ignoring the reasons that I have repeatedly put forth, to date, often in ways which further reveal his own Trinitarian assumptions. To deny this, that is, to deny they are assuming their beliefs and/or the reasons for them (often or all the while claiming that I do these very things), many Trinitarians like White and Wallace equivocate on or come up with a new or different (certainly later) meaning or understanding for the expression, empty himself in Philippians 2:7. This they do, by first adding glory to the act of emptying and then by interpreting taking on the form of a servant (and becoming a man) as the means by which the glory of the heavenly Jesus is veiled, but not emptied, or at least not in the normal means of an act of subtraction rather than by addition, to use Wallaces language. Yet, when it comes to the regular use and meaning of the Greek verb keno, from which we get kenosis as it is used in Philippians 2:7, this has not been hidden from Martin, Bowman, White, or from Wallace; they simply do not accept the following

view which I do accept in large part and for good reasons (with my underlining and bracketed words added): [Kenoo] To make empty, a. to deprive of content or possession ... In the NT sense a. is used only in Phil. 2:6f. of Christ ... Here sense b. he negated himself, deprived himself of his worth, denied himself ... is ruled out by the resultant weak tautology of [etapeinosen heauton, he lowered himself]. We are rather to supply [tou einai isa the, this equality or this likeness to a god/God] as an omitted object, and we thus have the equivalent of [en morph theou huparchn, though he was existing in the form of a god/God (or a divine form)]. There is no suggestion of a temptation of the Pre-existent to aspire beyond His existing state. What is meant is that the heavenly Christ did not selfishly exploit His divine form and mode of being ..., but by his own decisionemptied Himself of it or laid it by, taking the form of a servant by becoming a man. The subject of [ekensen, he emptied] is not the incarnate but the pre -existent Lord. There is a strong sense of the unity of His person. The essence [of His person] remains, the mode of being changes a genuine sacrifice. Docetism [= the belief that Jesus onlyseemed to have a human body] is excluded. The best commentary is to be found in [2 Corinthians 8:9]: [eptcheusen plousios n], he became a beggar even though (of himself, and up to this point) he was rich. [Albrecht Oepke, Keno, in TDNT 3, G. Kittel, ed., G.W. Bromiley, trans. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1965), page 661.] Because of what Oepke writes here overall, I have added of His person in brackets after Oepkes use of essence in light of what remains after Jesus preexistent mode of being changes, since those are the words used in immediate relation to The essence, as well as in light of the expressed acceptance that the change came only to Jesus mode of being. Because of this change in mode of being, Wallace considers this the biggest difficulty involved with taking on when understood in this way in Philippians 2:7, for it would then involve not addition only (that is, the taking on of a s econd, human nature/form) but, rathersubtraction of the form/nature in which Jesus already existed, namely, that of a god/God. To quote Braumann (from earlier in this Blog), who is in obvious agreement with Oepke and with me in terms of how to present in words the meaning of the text (but with my underlining added), This form [the form of a servant Jesus took on] replaces the form of God. Yet, what Braumann and Oepke write about and what I also believe for the same and for other reasons can be shown to be correct according to the best available reasons, I believe I can show, as opposed to other positions like Trinitarian Incarnation

theology which makes use of all sorts of assumed concepts and meanings by wrongly associating them with the biblical writings and even with other, related texts. In making clear this last point, consider respected Trinitarian Professor Ralph P. Martin. Originally published in 1963, Martin wrote a book about Philippians 2:5-11 under the title,Carmen Christi, which was later published as A Hymn of Christ: Philippians 2:5-11 in Recent Interpretation and in the Setting of Early Christian Worship (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1997). On page 1 of his Introduction, Martin quotes Lightfoots translation of Pliny the YoungersLetters 10.96. Pliny was a Roman official who lived from 61 to about 112 CE, and an apparent adviser to then-Emperor Trajan. For more on Pliny the Younger see, Ancient Rome Pliny the Younger, on Classical Literature (link: http://www.ancient, as of August 1, 2011)]. Of his Letters, those writing for the Classical Literature site and concerning this period and Plinys person and his Letters have noted: The Epistulae [Letters] are a unique testimony of Roman administrative history and everyday life in the 1st Century CE, incorporating a wealth of detail on Pliny's life at his country villas, as well as his progression though the sequential order of public offices followed by aspiring politicians in ancient Rome. Especially noteworthy are two letters in which he describes the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 CE and the death of his uncle and mentor, Pliny the Elder (Epistulae VI.16 and Epistulae VI.20), and one in which he asks the Emperor Trajan for instructions regarding official policy concerning Christians (Epistulae X.96), considered the earliest external account of Christian worship [from Ancient Rome Pliny the Younger, on the site Classical Literature (link:, as of August 1, 2011)]. According to the portion of Plinys letter quoted by Martin from Lightfoot and found on page 1 of Martins Introduction, Pliny wrote the following to Trajan about how to deal with those claiming to be Christians: They asserted that this was the sum and substance of their fault or their error; namely, that they were in the habit of meeting before dawn on a stated day and singing alternately to Christ as to a god, and that they bound themselves by an oath, not to the commission of any wicked dead, but that they would abstain from theft and robbery and adultery, that they would not break their word, and that they would not withhold a deposit when reclaimed. This done, it was their practice, so they said, to separate, and then to meet together again for a meal, which however was of the ordinary kind and quite harmless.

Compare also the translation of Plinys Letters 10.96 in its larger context as presented on the VRoma Project site, which uses the 1915 Loeb Classical Library edition (and also, a god). For more on the letters significance, see here. However, though Martin quotes Lightfoot accurately where Lightfoot uses a god in representing how Pliny viewed the Christians view of Jesus of Nazareth (A Hymn of Christ, Introduction, page 1), several pages later (Introduction, page 7, note 5) Martin changes Plinys reference from to Christ as to a god to a composition directed to Christ as God! The only meaning or understanding Martin could here intend for Pliny, by changing Plinys view of how he understood the Christians view of the Christ from as a god to as God, is according to his view of God, namely, the Trinity. Here though, instead of assuming it for his interpretation of New Testament or other biblical texts, Martin does it also for others, and here for Pliny the Younger. This is precisely what Bowman, White, and Wallace have done, though in Martins case he does it with a non-Christian, making the assumptions inherent in all Trinitarian theology clearer by association with his interpretational methodology (to use Whites description), since in the case of the New Testament Trinitarians claim it as part of the ground of contention over what to believe. But Pliny was not a Trinitarian! This is clear from anyextended reading of his Letters 10.96. In spite of this, by 1982 Martin had not only made a complete substitution between Plinys a god and his Trinitarian understanding of God, but his assumption of Trinitarianism is what allowed him to transfer his belief about God to Plinys Roman, non-Christian, intended a god meaning! Note the following from Martins essay, Some Reflections on New Testament Hymns inChrist the Lord: Studies in Christology presented to Donald Guthrie (Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1982), page 49 (with underlining added): Hymnology and Christology thus merged in the worship of one Lord, soon to be hailed after the close of the New Testament canon as worthy of hymns as to God (Plinys report of the Bithynian Christians at Sunday worship, AD 112). The above change to Plinys report is simply incredible, particularly when you realize further that Martins reference in his note to the above paragraph takes the reader to Martins note 21 on his page 44, which note merely refers his readers back to the introductory pages of his Carmen Christi/A Hymn of Christ book, which we just considered! Now that is a circular argument Dr. White would be proud of if he had seen it. But though White and Wallace and Bowman (and Martin) do with Paul and with other biblical writers exactly what Martin does also with Plinys use of a god, Martins example involving Pliny is more powerful to use in showing what is happening

elsewhere when it comes to actual biblical texts. Indeed, no one can dispute that Pliny the Younger would have used the sense of a god according to Roman tradition. This is particularly evident since part of the very reason Pliny is writing about the Christians is to confirm they do not invoke the Gods, theirRoman Gods, and the Christians did not offer adoration, with wine and frankincense to the image of Trajan, which Pliny says he had ordered to be brought for that purpose, together with those of the Gods! See Plinys entire Letter 10.96 to Trajan. So Pliny could not ever be made to rightly say through commentary or by translation of his report that the Christians of his day sang to Christ as God or as to God. But in denying even this to the obvious meaning intended by a non-Christian writer, that is, according to Plinys words to Trajan about Plinys view of Jesus among Christians, Martin shows what is happening also with biblical texts in the hands of Trinitarians in large part. Assuming rather than arguing for that which is used in the argument is where this kind of assuming breaks the argument down, often because there are no good reasons to hold it up in the first place; such assuming does not lift up and it does not enlighten, no matter how enlightened one may be. Whether enlightened or not, as noted earlier, Professor Wallaceoffers us the following understanding (Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, page 630) of Philippians 2:7 which is picked up and used by White in his April 12, 2007, Blog, A Test for Your Listening Skills Part III, and in his online paper, Beyond the Veil of Eternity, (available online here), and as quoted and discussed earlier in this Blog: Do not elevate yourselves on empty glory, but follow the example of Christ, who, though already elevated (on Gods level), emptied his glory by veiling it in humanity. In harmony with the above understanding, and in perfect harmony with Martin, Bowman, and White when it comes to assuming Trinitarianism for Pliny or for Paul, Wallace (Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, page 635, note 56) wr ites, If one denies that Christ was truly God, one must also deny that he was truly a servant (note [morphn doulou verse 7]). But this is true only if one assumes (as does Wallace) that truly God should not rather be truly a god for, indeed, only then do we have the kind of parallel argument which can stand the comparative test Wallace puts on it, namely, If one denies that Christ was [truly a god], one must also deny that he was truly a servant (note [morphn doulou verse 7]). Trinitarians must first ask why they do not use the commonly understood and regularly used meaning for such terms rather than take as a starting place in their interpretational methodology Trinitarian Incarnation theology in their use of God.

Wallace has here fallen into a similar kind of assumptive trap that Bowman fell into much earlier concerning the uses of God and a man in 1 Timothy 2:5. Note what I wrote in this regard in both my 1998 and 2000, First and Second Editions of Jehovahs Witnesses Defended, pages 79-80 and 202, respectively, but here quoting only from my Second Edition, page 202: Jesus as mediator between "God and men." Commenting on Jehovahs Witnesses use of 1 Timothy 2:5 against the Trinity doctrine, Bowman [Why You Should Believe in the Trinity: An Answer to Jehovah's Witnesses (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1989), page 73] states: "1 Timothy 2:5 says that Jesus is the one mediator between God and men (NWT), and from this statement the JW booklet concludes that Jesus cannot be God, because by definition a mediator is someone separate from those who need mediation (p. 16). But by this reasoning Jesus cannot be a man, either; yet this very text says that he is a man!" A more complete quotation of 1 Timothy 2:5 will prove illuminating: "For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus" (NIV, emphasis added). The point of the "JW booklet" [Should You Believe in the Trinity? (Brooklyn: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, 1989)] is that Jesus cannot be the one for whom he mediates. Who is that? It is not simply "God," but the one God. Bowman substitutes the specific reference to the Father as the "one God" with the less descriptive title, "God." He states that by our alleged reasoning "Jesus cannot be a man either." However, if we take notice of the second and third words emphasized in the above quote from 1 Timothy 2:5 ("men" and "man"), we can see that the proper conclusion is Jesus cannot be the "men" (those for whom he mediates), but he was "a man"; nor can he be the "one God," but he can be and is "a god." Though they each assume Trinitarianism as a starting place in their interpretation and even in their translations of the biblical text and some other early writings which speak about Christian beliefs (Pliny, by Martin), they would all likely (and Dr. White would for sure) have you believe that I am assuming what to believe and what not to believe as a starting place,without any evidence. Yet, what I actually do and what I can and will show I do, is use what I believe after thorough review are the best available reasons. I then use and continue with these as my starting place for understanding the New Testament and other biblical writings. Who is really doing what, and why, is for each one of us to decide, hopefully according to good reasons, and not because of what we assume is true in spite of the best available evidence. For more on the meaning of Philippians 2:5-9 and other related texts, see my Jehovahs Witnesses Defended, Third Edition (2009), page 214 (available online here)

and my Three Dissertations on the Teachings of Jehovahs Witnesses (Murrieta, CA: Elihu Books, 2002), note 5, pages 213-216, as well as my answer to the question, What is your understanding of Philippians 2:5-9, and why does the NWT read so differently from versions like the NASB? in Upon the Lampstand, December 15, 2007 (revised May 4, 2010), pages 1-8, all of which are available through

Posted by Greg Stafford at 12:16 PM