Is this a powerful, state-of-the-art biblical argument for the Trinity?
reblogged from Trinities
Some would say that Reformed apologist Dr. James White, director of Alpha and Omega Ministries, is the best contemporary debater on behalf of traditional catholic views on the Trinity. Certainly, he’s had time and opportunity to sharpen his arguments, having debated the Trinity and/or the “deity of Christ” with (among others) a Muslim scholar, some biblical unitarians (also here), a Oneness Pentecostal, and a defender of Jehovah’s Witness Theology.
But how strong is his case? In Dr. White’s view, “the” Trinity doctrine is easily deduced from the Bible. Is that true?
In this and the next episode of the trinities podcast, I evaluate Dr. White’s opening statement from a recent debate with a minister from the non-trinitarian Iglesia ni Christo denomination from the Philippines. I find that in many ways, Dr. White does not connect with the views of his opponent. And he hunkers down in some simple traditional language about the Trinity, never clarifying just what he thinks the Trinity is. For example, he does nothing to undermine arguments that “the” Trinity doctrine is incoherent.
Argument 1: collapsing the Father and Son
1. The Father just is God (i.e. the Father and God are numerically one).
2. The Son just is God (i.e. the Son and God are numerically one).
3. God just is the Son. (From 2, by the symmetry of numerical identity: if a = b then b = a.)
4. The Father just is the Son. (From 1 and 3, by the transitivity of numerical identity: if a = b and b = c, then a = c.)
5. It is not the case that the Father just is the Son.
Dr. White commits to 1, 2, and 5. But then, 3 and 4 follow. And 4 contradicts 5. If “the” Trinity implies 1, 2, and 5, then it is incoherent! What does Dr. White do to show us how a trinitarian can avoid 4? Nothing! And to make matters worse, it’s not clear that 1 and 2 are consistent with any Trinity theory, which demands that the one God be numerically the same as the Trinity.
Argument 2: from Trinity to polytheism
1. The Father is divine.
2. The Son is divine.
3. The Spirit is divine.
4. None of these just is any other: Father, Son, Spirit (i.e. they are distinct; no pair are numerically one).
5. To be divine is to be a god.
6. For any x and y, x and y are the same god only if x just is y (i.e. if they are numerically one, the same being/entity). (In other words, being the same god requires being the same being.)
7. There are at least three gods. (1-6)
Dr. White affirms 1-4, and seems committed to 5 also (we’re talking about “full” deity here). 6 seems self-evident. But 7 follows. If each of the three is a god (1-3, 5), and they’re not the same god, because they’re numerically distinct (4,6), then there exist at least three gods (7).
It doesn’t help to just insist that the Trinity is by definition monotheistic. If it also commits to 1-5, then it seems incoherent, affirming both monotheism and polytheism. And Dr. White doesn’t show us how a trinitarian can avoid 7.
Other problems relate to his reliance on controversial translations and/or interpretations of several texts, and on the dubious relevance of texts where Jesus is (arguably) referred to as “God.”
Next week, we’ll hear the rest of his case. Maybe it gets better?