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This is the first post in a moderated debate between Biblical Unitarian Danny Dixon and Trinitarian Marc Taylor. A complete list of posts can be accessed here.

A Granville-Sharpian greeting to each forum reader in the name of God and our Lord Jesus Christ! This is the second discussion on these matters that I have had with my capable friend Marc Taylor. I have learned some things since that discussion with him in June-October of 2006. I have discarded and indeed embraced some other things since that time. But this is all in a careful desire to be taught by God and refined by him as I come to more perfectly and responsibly understand truth as revealed in Scripture. And I am confident that our debate will be instructive to all. Let me begin by expressing briefly that I happily write here on our assigned topic that affirms Jesus to be Christ, the Son of God. And everyone here embracing that truth may have life in his name (John 20:31).

Crucial Definitions

I begin by saying that if Jesus is the Son of God Almighty, that is a far cry from saying that he is Almighty God the Son. In affirming then, that the Father is Almighty alone, this debate should be best developed through correctly explicating the relationship between the Father and the Son. When I stress that “The Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is alone God Almighty,” I am trying to use biblical terms to express ideas intended for readers God intended to impress with the normal and logical minds he has given them.

We all have known “fathers” and some of us are, or have known, “sons.” So we can understand language like this without difficulty. That the Scriptures use such common expressions reveals the fact that our God wanted us to understand the concept; and while different contexts therein speak of different kinds of fathers and sons, the one concept that biblically inheres in the terms, regardless of context, is that of temporal precedence in time of fathers to sons. If I say that there exists the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, I mean that Christ does not precede the Father, and that the Father and the Son do not both progress back eternally in time. Jesus’ Sonship necessarily implies his beginning. When I stress the phrase our Lord Jesus Christ, I mean that individual who at some point in time was not “Lord” and he was not “Christ.” Rather those are positions of designation and authority that were granted or given to Jesus. He did not eternally have them.

When I stress Almighty God in our debate, I mean the Father who is self-existing, the Ho On, the One Who Is and is rendered “The Being” in Brenton’s English translation of the Septuagint (See the last phrase of Exodus 3:14); the one who is in heaven and is powerful enough, in and of himself to do whatever he wills (Psalm 115:3) whose existence extends eternally into the past, who is in the present, and who will exist forever into the future; the one who has always been immortal and all powerful; and if there are any other biblically identifiable attributes that he has, they inhere within his nature, not being at all granted, as opposed to any other being of spirit like created angels or the Son to whom, as we shall see below, he has given life.

These are some basic definitions. (They are by no means complete, and I may add to or clarify others in my second constructive presentation if necessary!) Having said so much, I present the following biblical arguments that I am confident Marc can competently address (please read the passages provided):

The Case

1. Jesus derives his life, and therefore his existence, from the Father who gave it to him.
Jesus says the Father “gave to the Son to have life in himself,” and he “lives because of the Father” (John 5:26; 6:57). Jesus has not always had existence. So the Father is the cause of Jesus’ granted beginning; the Word was divine by nature, or designated qualitatively as “a god” (John 1:1See the comment made by Dan Wallace regarding the Greek construction in this verse, which he says, “is likely to emphasize the nature of the Word, not his identity. That is to say, the Word is true deity but he is not the same person as the Theos [“God”] mentioned earlier in the verse” in Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics [Zondervan, 1996], pp. 45, 46).

2. Jesus’ prerogatives and powers are not original, but are things he has seen and been taught by his Father.
Jesus says, he “can do nothing of himself,” and what he does and speaks, he was “taught” by his Father (John 5:19; 8:28). Were he God he would need no prompter apart from his own eternally divine will.

3. The Father granted Jesus authority for his humble service (Matthew 9:5; 28:18). This includes his status as Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36; Philippians 2:6-11).
Almighty God would not be given such status, for he would always have had it.

4. Jesus’ divine fullness has been granted by the Father (Colossians 1:19; 2:9) .

5. Jesus, known as “my Lord” (Hebrew Adoni), is a lesser individual from Jehovah (Psalm 110:1; Matthew 22:43-44).

6. Jesus has a Father and God. (John 20:17; Rev. 1:6; 3:2, 12, and other verses).
The Father is never spoken of as having a Father and a God as is Jesus.

7. Jesus explicitly denies that being “one” with the Father meant that he was equal with God his Father.
He admits the subordinate relationship of being God’s Son (John 10:30-36). Indeed, his immediate further explanation of this relationship is that he was in the Father who was also in him (v. 38); but he presents the precise comparison of the interrelationship as existing between himself and his Father and his disciples in the remote context of the same phraseology in John 17:21-23—and no one takes this passage to mean that “oneness” makes the disciples to be God!

8. Jesus specifically says in an unambiguous reference that his Father was the only true God (John 17:3).
This concept is explicitly supported in Paul’s observation that “to us there is only one God, the Father, who is separate from the one Lord, Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 8:6. See Ephesians 4:5, 6).

9. The Jews do not charge Jesus with the blasphemy of making himself equal with God. Rather the blasphemy is of declaring his prerogative to judge them as leaders.
Darrell Bock, research professor of New Testament at Dallas Theological Seminary, points this out in his book Blasphemy and Exaltation in Judaism: The charge against Jesus in Mark 14:53-65 (Baker, 1998) . Regarding this he writes, “Judgment, whether from God or through intermediate agents, was the appropriate response” (p. 235). The point is that had the Jews retained the understanding that Jesus blasphemed by claiming to be God the Jews would have used it. They do not.

10. As God’s worthy life-giving and judicial Son, Jesus can properly receive honor because the Father has appointed it to be so.
This truth is revealed in a context where prerogatives, normally thought of as belonging to the Father—namely to “give life” to whomever he wishes and to exercise “all judgment”—are given to the Son (See John 5:21-23).

Categories of Error

As you observe the debate you will notice a number of categories of error that may arise causing my friend Marc to fall into theological traps compelled by his doctrine:

1. Imprecise Contextual Distinctions
Look for a failure to make remote and immediate contextual distinctions about biblical terms and phrases like “G/god(s),” “Son of God,” “Lord”/ “LORD”/ “my Lord”/ “Lord,” etc., and the various Hebrew or Greek designations for them.

2. A disposition not to recognize the force of scholarly acknowledgment of equal alternatives.
I don’t think it will be necessary to be too scholarly, though some technical points may come up. Most issues can be illustrated with your Bible alone I am hoping.

3. Confusion about the biblical principle of agency.
God grants authority to angels and to men to act as him (Eg. Exodus 3:1-6 // Acts 7:31ff, esp. 36; Exodus 7:1); to carry his name (Exodus 23:20-21). If God assigns tasks to someone and grants that individual the authority to act in his name or on his behalf, Scripture shows, time and again, that the individual can be called God. Indeed, some God-like descriptions can even be assigned to humans in some circumstances.

Constructive #1 Summary

God is eternal. Jesus is not. Various designations show why Jesus is shown not to be eternal and Almighty God as is his Father. He admits as much regarding himself when others make the mistake and would call him God. And he specifically says that only his Father is the true God—a point confirmed by Paul’s writings.

This should be enough for now. Marc’s up for rebuttal of these points. And let’s see how he fares thereafter in his First Constructive presentation.

7 Responses to “1st Unitarian Constructive (1a)”

  1. on 17 Aug 2010 at 8:34 pmLonzo Pribble

    Christ, like angels, may be said to be eternal, inasmuch as both had their beginning in the age of “eternity” as distinguished from “time” (Col. 1:15-16). But in either case, “eternal” does not always mean “without beginning”.
    -Lonzo Pribble

  2. on 17 Aug 2010 at 9:42 pmJames Nehemiah

    Regarding the statements God is eternal and Jesus is not. The first thing that comes to my mind is that Jesus was raised from the grave and is indeed eternal in some sense of the word, and perhaps the most important sense of the word.

    “This concept is explicitly supported in Paul’s observation that “to us there is only one God, the Father, who is separate from the one Lord, Jesus Christ.”

    And the scriptures that you give for reference about the above statements do not clarify that they are seperate.

    Just a few thoughts.

  3. on 18 Aug 2010 at 4:00 amJaco

    Granville-Sharpian greeting…I couldn’t resist the chuckle!

    We all have known “fathers” and some of us are, or have known, “sons.” So we can understand language like this without difficulty. That the Scriptures use such common expressions reveals the fact that our God wanted us to understand the concept

    This is a very important and fortunately a well-observed point. EVERYTHING the Bible reveals to us regarding God and his relationship to everything else, are in terms of anthropomorphism. The distinctness in “someones” (I prefer circumlocution of “person”), the inequality between them, as well as the inequality in temporality are a few inherent implications demanded by the anthropomorphic metaphor of Father and Son.

    9. The Jews do not charge Jesus with the blasphemy of making himself equal with God. Rather the blasphemy is of declaring his prerogative to judge them as leaders.

    The Jews charged Jesus with different accusations on different occasions. To use their opinion of him and their judgment as a gage for what God’s opinion and judgment might be would be nothing short of preposterous. Arguing this way is indeed desparate!

    …to carry his name (Exodus 23:20-21)

    Well-noted. Even if the NT granted Jesus, God’s sh’liach (Heb. 3:1), the honor to bear God’s Name (which it doesn’t), that would in no way be any proof of his equality or even identity with the Yahweh of the OT. That was exactly why the judges in OT times were called elohim. Sh’liach, sh’liach, sh’liach.

    As regards eternality; it should not be confused with everlasting life. Strictly speaking, eternality implies no beginning, nor end. If this concept applies to Jesus, it violates the Father-Son anthropomorphic implication of temporality. Only the Father has that ability. The Son, however, received immortality and thus everlasting life: life with a beginning in the womb of Mary, but without end.

    Excited about this debate,

    Jaco

  4. on 18 Aug 2010 at 12:44 pmDanny André Dixon

    Regarding Jaco’s comment 3, my case point #7 is not desperate. It would have been easy to accuse Jesus of claiming to be Almightyt God had he been doing so. It wasn’t blasphemy to claim to be the Messiah; others before (and after) Jesus had done that. How radical it was for the one claiming to be the Messiah to declare judgment on the leaders of the people. What is the evidence that he was claiming to be God Almighty in his admission that he was “the Son of the Blessed”? Jesus had told the leaders that there was nothing fundamentally blasphemous in being called theoi/elohim (John 10:33ff).

    People want to distract from the point by inappropriately stressing that the judges of Israel were evil, whom God addressed in Jesus’ allusion to Psalm 82:6. Jesus point was that people can be called “gods” by Almighty God himself WITH NO OFFENSE; and it should ALSO NOT be considered an offense if they would recognize that he was not calling himself God Almighty but God’s Son–a lesser, not an equal–designation. “I and the Father are one” of John 10:30 is a statement of relationship. This is the identical relationship of unity that Jesus’ disciples shared with him and with his Father. It is NOT a “oneness” of authority in rank (See John 17:21-23).

  5. on 19 Aug 2010 at 2:54 amJaco

    Danny

    I am a BU myself, just to set the record straight.

    Maybe I should have expressed myself more clearly. And I suppose my comment on this was more preparatory than anything else of a possible reference to the wicked Jews’ reaction as a basis for arguing for a position favorable to the trinity. On several occasions the Jews accused Jesus (and even John the Baptiser, for that matter), of unfounded vices (Matt 11:18, 19, John 5:18). To use the Jews’ wicked, self-serving and God-dishonoring judgments (even outright disobedience to the Law, as in the case of Barabbas) would be therefore utterly disingenuous. As you said,

    It would have been easy to accuse Jesus of claiming to be Almightyt God had he been doing so.

    To rearrange what you said here:

    If Jesus claimed to be Almighty God, they would have easily accused him of doing that.

    I agree with you fully. It would thus be logically flawed (affirming the consequent), to continue, saying,

    They accused him of making that claim, thus, he truly claimed to be Almighty God.

    As with the Bowman/Burke Debate, I pointed out the weakness of Burke’s take on Heb. 1:10-12, even though it was favorable to my position. Likewise, whether one argues for or against the Trinity, using the judgment of a people as morally flawed as those wicked Jews’; no amount of sophistry would do either case justice. Their impression of Christ simply cannot lead us to the real Christ.

    We are of kindred spirits, friend. I hope I clarified myself.

    In Christ,

    Jaco

  6. on 19 Aug 2010 at 8:45 amDanny Dixon

    Re: Comment 5.

    Crystally.

    Danny Andre’

  7. on 20 Aug 2010 at 4:09 pmDanny André Dixon

    Re: Comment 2 by James Nehemiah

    James:

    I am not ignoring you. I’d rather wait for Marc’s comment on the point before I elaborate on the texts mention in my Case Point #8. I’ll have to decide as the discussion progress.

    Respectfully,

    Danny Dixon

  

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