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The following post is by our brother, Patrick Navas, the author of the book Divine Truth or Human Tradition? You can listen to an audio interview with him on the Truth Matters website.

Hello Everyone,

I just had an interesting but sad encounter with a Trinitarian man at a restaurant called Panera Bread here in Valencia.

He overheard me talking about the Scriptures and our home fellowships with my cousin and introduced himself when we were done with breakfast. He asked about our home fellowships, our group name, and about our “distinctives.”

Essentially, I told him that we were just “Christians” and that we fellowship outside of the traditional, mainstream Church structures. In reference to our “distinctives,” the mistake I think I made was that, instead of talking about what we believe in a positive sense, as Christians, I somewhat reluctantly brought up the matter of the Trinity as a major doctrine held by most professed Christians that we do not believe. Then he asked, “So you don’t believe Jesus is God?” I replied, “Well, we believe that Jesus is God’s Son.”

It turned out that he had some background/knowledge in the Scriptures and he tried to make 3 or 4 arguments (according to what I remember) to support his view (he even tried to make an argument based on appeal to the Gk term proskuneo [worship] and its application to Christ).

I was mentally preparing to respond to all 3 or 4 arguments (which I was already thoroughly familiar with, having written a 500 pg book addressing Trinitarian arguments). But when he was done making his points, instead of allowing me to respond, he cut me off abruptly, and said, “That’s it, I’m just going to leave you with those.” I said, “But sir…” And he said, “I’m not going to listen to heresy.” Then he and his wife got up and left.

For me it was a very unsettling experience. I thought it was rude and very small-minded of the man to act that way. I was totally ready to respond to his arguments with gentleness and respect, but he simply didn’t allow me to and said that he wouldn’t listen to “heresy.”

Imagine, making an argument and not having enough of an open mind or enough respect for the other person to allow him to respond, and then to immediately accuse him of heresy (because I believe Jesus is the Son of God?). It made me feel bad and a bit frustrated that he was just going to leave without realizing that a scripturally-based response could have been given and that his arguments were actually quite vacuous. But I do regret bringing up the issue of Trinity (a doctrine I deny) instead of emphasizing the teachings I uphold. If I would have started there, I believe the conversation would have been much more fruitful.

But the conversation sort of rekindled my awareness that there are quite a few dogmatic Trinitarians out there misleading others and accusing Christians of false teaching/heresy for believing Christ’s teachings!

The four points he brought up were basically these

1. The Bible says that God alone should be worshiped (given proskuneo). Jesus is given proskuneo. Therefore he is God.

My response would have essentially been:

I agree that God alone should be worshiped as God. But the Scriptures do in fact extend the usage of proskuneo (worship) to others beside God, including several human dignitaries without resulting in them being God. One example out of many that could be cited: In Revelation 3:9 Jesus said he would make those of the synagogue of Satan worship/bow down (proskuneo) at the feet of the Christians. Yet this did not make them God, even though Jesus himself said he would make them fall prostrate/worship at the feet of his followers.

The man also brought up Hebrews 1:9 where the angels “worship/proskuneo” Christ. But the text explicitly says that God said let all the angles worship him.” That is, God, a being distinct from Jesus, literally authorized the worship of his Son. Since God is God, he certainly has the right and prerogative to authorize the worship of his Son if it please him. And, scripturally speaking, we rightfully worship the Messiah as the Messiah, not as “God the Son, the second person of the Trinity.” God himself is pleased that we “bow the knee” to his Son based on the authority, honor and exalted status that God has gladly given to him.

2. The man said that the book of Isaiah says that God would not share his glory with another. Yet Jesus is given glory in the Scriptures. Therefore Jesus is God.

My response: The reason that Jesus has “glory” is because God gave it to him because Jesus is God’s obedient and most beloved Son. In addition, in John 17:22 Jesus said that the “glory that you [God] have given me I have given to them [the disciples].” That is the disciples too received glory, but that did not make them “God.” In fact, even Christians will receive glory according to Romans 8:17: “provided we suffer with [Christ] in order that we may also be glorified with [Christ].”

Are Christians also part of the “Godhead” because we will be “glorified with Christ”?

The man also cited John 1:14: “and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

But that text brings home the point precisely. Jesus, as the “word” that had become flesh has the glory of an “only Son from the Father” or “an only-begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” That is to say, the glory Jesus has is the glory that is fittingly possessed by one who is God’s very own Son. He has the glory of “an only begotten from the Father” not the glory of “God the Son, the Second Person of the Trinity.” In harmony, Hebrews 1:3 explicitly tells us that the Son is the “reflection/radiance” of God’s glory and the exact representation of [God’s] very being.” It does not say that the Jesus is “God” but reveals him to be the Son of God who perfectly reflects and represents the glory and being of the one God.

3. The man said that in the OT scriptures God has the highest name of all. But Philippians 2 says that Christ has the name above all names. Therefore, Jesus is God.

My response would be: Philippians doesn’t just say that Jesus has the name above all names but that God gave him the name above all names. Therefore, Jesus is not the “God” who gave him the name. Everything that Jesus has, according to the Scriptures, was given to him by his Father, God. Actually, in reference to the name above all names that had been given to Jesus, Paul actually says that God “kindly” or “graciously” gave that name to him. In harmony, Hebrews 1:4 clearly explains to us that the “excellent/superior” name that Jesus has he has because he has “inherited” it, not because he is “God.” This makes perfect sense, given that he is God’s own Son. How else would we expect the God of Scripture to have treated his beloved one with whom he is “well pleased”?

by Patrick Navas

5 Responses to “Closed-Minded, Heretic-Calling, Panera-Bread-Eating Trinitarians: Oh My!”

  1. on 18 May 2010 at 5:57 pmRon S.

    Love this for many reasons.

    A. The title cracks me up. Great job to Sean or whoever posted this for Patrick (assuming Patrick didn’t request it – if so kudos to you Patrick).

    B. It’s a shame that the guy Patrick encountered had closed his mind and was only wanting to put a “heretic” in their place. He really missed the opportunity to have some good dialog on the subject. But IMO this is a prime example of someone who is scared of the subject – scared of to discuss the trinity for fear of their “house of cards” coming tumbling down. For beliefs that your are sure about and are confident in, people should have no qualms about discussing it and being open about examining it from any angle.

    C. Patrick does an excellent job of taking the man’s examples of trinity “support” and shows how once you really examine them, those supposed trinity arguments fall by the way side.

    Thanks for the article!

  2. on 18 May 2010 at 6:22 pmDoubting Thomas

    I agree great article and interview. I found the interview most informing…

  3. on 19 May 2010 at 9:06 amSean

    Thanks Ron, the title was mine, though the article was Patrick’s. I think you are totally right in suggesting the bloke was driven by fear. In my limited experience in discussing doctrine with people, fear is a major problem: fear of losing the argument (especially if it is public, like on a blog or message board), fear of finding out what one believes is wrong, fear of finding out one is not right with God, fear of losing friends and/or family if one changes his or her beliefs. Especially for newbies, fear can often be expressed in anger and abusive/ridiculing language.

    We must push beyond such lower passions recognizing that truth is to be sought after tenaciously. If someone assails my doctrine with questions and my doctrine is really true, solid answers can be found and the truth will stand. However, if my doctrine is flimsy, held together by the duct tape of inherited tradition and not anchored in the sure foundation of Scripture (contextually understood), then it is actually a good thing for such a house of cards to come crashing down. Sure it is painful, but it is a good pain, the kind of pain that results in wholeness, like setting a broken bone.

    My thought when reading Patrick’s encounter was that I never want to be like that man who could only give but not receive. Ironically, as far as I can tell, he was the heretic not Patrick! Yet, Patrick was willing to listen to his deviant view, patiently waiting his turn to speak. May God be gracious to us so that we always stay open to hearing what others have to say.

  4. on 19 May 2010 at 12:57 pmFiona

    I want to agree with Ron S. I have certainly found that people with shaky faith in their doctrines can act very defensively. Often they have never taken the trouble to actually research WHY they believe the trinity. After all, it’s very easy to be a trinitarian- most Christians are on your “side”. So when faced with opposition (sorry Patrick to call you opposition!) it’s much easier to cut and run- the cowards way out. Always remember, the fact that you didn’t lose your temper may,one day, perhaps leave a door open for someone else to get through!

  5. on 25 Aug 2010 at 2:05 pmToni

    Son, I just think your brilliant! Love your mother


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