I recently listened to Patrick Navas’ debate against James White over whether or not Jesus is God. The specific debate topic was: “The deity of Christ is taught in the following texts or families of texts: John 12:41 (cf. Isa. 6 and 53), 1 Cor. 8:5-6, Heb. 1, Col. 1:15-17, and the ‘I am’ statements of Jesus (John 8:24/58, 13:19, 18:5-6).” Navas argued for a one-God position whereas White defended the doctrine of the Trinity. These two are among the best advocates of their respective positions.
James White is the Director of Alpha and Omega Ministries and the author of The Forgotten Trinity. White has debate dozens of people on many subjects, including Anthony Buzzard and Greg Stafford on the Trinity. He is tenacious, well-trained at debating, and probably one of the best Trinity defenders in the world.
Patrick Navas is the author of Divine Truth or Human Tradition?: A Reconsideration of the Orthodox Doctrine of the Trinity in Light of the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures. I’ve listened to a few of Navas’ debates and he exemplifies a Christ-like respect and gentleness combined with strength and confidence. If you would like to listen to my own interview with Navas on the subject of the Trinity, click here.
The two faced off on Chris Date’s Theopologetics podcast.
Overall the debate was collegial yet lively. Navas should have used a timer to avoid going over his time. Also, Navas’ phone connection was distorted at times, which I found distracting. Chris Date did a great job moderating. White was a bit over confident and often made unsubstantiated allegations while constantly reading into the text his own Trinitarian bias. Navas, to his credit, never diverted from the text at hand, no matter how hard White pressed him to get off track. Even so, I would have like to have heard Navas engage White more on Jesus being a creature.
Also the texts were clearly stacked in Whites’ favor. I’m sure Navas would have liked to interact on John 17.3; Mark 12.28-34; 1 Timothy 2.5; and Mark 13.32, just to name a few. With the exception of 1 Corinthians 8.6, the five chosen texts repeatedly forced Navas into a defensive posture, an unfair starting point. I would have preferred a more general approach, where each side can chose which texts to mention as they see fit. Even so, it was really a fantastic debate.
I learned a lot from both sides and find myself more convinced to remain on the unitarian side of the fence. Navas’ case rested on the plain meaning of language and the face-value interpretation of Scripture while White often had to assume the Trinity as a starting point in order to explain the text. Ironically, though White constantly claimed Navas imported the “presupposition of unitarianism” into the text, it was not he but White who constantly committed eisegesis, reading complex Trinitarian philosophy into the New Testament documents (the fallacy of anachronism).