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Harlot of Babylon According to Irvin Baxter; Trinity and Oneness, Part 10

by Karl Kemp  
2/16/2016 / Bible Studies

We continue the discussion of verses from the first two chapters of Colossians here in Part 10.

In COLOSSIANS 1:16 the apostle Paul says, "For by Him [by God the Son, who existed with the Father before any creating took place (see John 1:1-3, 10, 1 Cor. 8:6; Heb. 1:2, 3)] all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones, or dominions or rulers or authorities [[This includes Satan and his extensive kingdom of evil, but it must be understood that he and the ones who followed him in his rebellion were not created evil. Anyway, the Creator has the authority and power to judge and remove beings He has created, which He will do at the proper time. That is the easy part, but God's plan included working things out in a way that He would save a gigantic number of people (the elect) and give a powerful demonstration of the fact that there is no room for rebellion and sin in His world.]] - all things have been created through Him [God the Father created all things through God the Son, who existed with Him before any creating took place.] and for Him [for God the Son; certainly not for the human nature of Jesus which, according to the oneness point of view, is destined to cease to exist]."

COLOSSIANS 1:17 says, "He [God the Son] is before all things, and in Him all things hold together." Obviously "He is before all things" in time, since all things were created "by Him" and "through Him" (Col. 1:16). God the Son is also before all things in His exalted position over them. And Col. 1:17 also informs us that God the Son has been active in holding things together since they were created. We are talking about a Person, God the Son, not a thought, or a word, etc. in the mind of God. These verses that speak of the preexistence of God the Son with the Father should suffice in themselves to show that the oneness view of God is wrong. My article, "The Name Yahweh and God the Father and God the Son: The Name Yahweh and a Listing of Some of the Large Number of Passages in the Hebrew Old Testament Where We Can See God the Son Along with God the Father," gives many examples where we see God the Son existing as a distinct Person along with God the Father and actively engaged in the things that were taking place throughout the Old Testament.

SOME EXCERPTS FROM "A DEFINITIVE LOOK AT ONENESS THEOLOGY: IN THE LIGHT OF BIBLICAL TRINITARIANISM" BY EDWARD L. DALCOUR (3rd edition, revised, updated & expanded; adapted from Ph.D. Thesis from North-West University; copyright 2011 by North-West University in South Africa; 215 pages). This is one of the books I read in preparing to write this paper. This scholarly work is written from a biblical, Trinitarian point of view. Edward Dalcour deals with many of the relevant passages of Scripture, with the early Christian teaching, and with several popular oneness writers, including David Bernard. I disagree with Dalcour on several details, but I believe he effectively shows that the oneness viewpoint is wrong, seriously wrong. I'll include several excerpts from this book here, but I believe most of the book is worthy to be excerpted.

"The oneness notion that the interactions between the Father and the Son (and Holy Spirit) were mere interactions among natures or modes severs the biblical teaching of the personal loving interaction between the Persons of the Trinity. [[This is extremely important. For one thing, a key feature of the glory of our salvation is that the VERY SPECIAL LOVE that God the Father has for His unique Son is shared with all true Christians, those who become united with the Lord Jesus through new-covenant salvation (see John 17:20-26 for example).]] However, the Oneness idea that 'natures' can actually love, talk, or pray to each other, or exhibit any kind of emotion toward one another is not only irrational, but also unbiblical.

Only self-aware cognizant persons can engage in personal emotive activities such as giving and receiving love or intellectually communicating with each other - abstract natures cannot. [[Keep in mind that the oneness viewpoint is that the Son doesn't exist until the virgin birth, at which time God the Father takes upon human nature and a physical body. The Son isn't a person; he is the human part of the God-man. Some oneness believers say he is only the physical body. It is totally necessary to understand that God the Son always existed with God the Father, through whom everything that was ever created was created.]] Scripture presents that the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit each possess personal attributes and characteristics, which constitute personhood. As shown in subsequent chapters, the three Persons in the Trinity possess personal attributes and personal characteristics such as love, anger, the exercising of the will and mind, etc., which, as stated, constitute personhood" (pages 47, 48).

"...'The expression of love between Father and Son are explained as communication between the divine and human natures of Christ' ("The Oneness of God" by David K. Bernard, 1983, 22 [The quote is not from page 22 of the copy of the book that I have.] Dalcour was quoting from Bernard.) In other words, the 'Father' mode loves the 'Son' mode, or Jesus' human nature loves His own divine nature, and the reverse. ..." (page 75). "In oneness doctrine, the 'Father' and the 'Holy Spirit' are merely names or descriptions of the divine nature of Jesus" (page 76). According to oneness theology the Son mode didn't exist until the time of the virgin birth. On pages 106-108 of "The Oneness of God," under the heading "The ending of the Sonship," Bernard says that the role of the Son will end when Jesus "in His role as Son, and as His final act as Son, will present the church to Himself in His role as God and Father." He is basing this on 1 Cor. 15:23-28. Revelation chapters 21 and 22 should suffice to show that God the Son will continue to reign with God the Father forever. Revelation 22:5 shows that we will be reigning with them. None of the three Persons of the Trinity can come to an end; They are eternal Persons!

Dalcour has the heading "The Trinitarian Formula [with water baptism] in the Early Church" (pages 110-113). I'll quote a few sentences. "...there has never been a church father (Greek or Latin), recognized Christian theologian, or biblical commentator that has provided a modalistic [oneness] understanding of Matthew 28:19. Despite the...historical evidence, the UPCI vigorously contends that 'the early church Christian leaders in the days immediately following the apostolic age were Oneness' (Bernard ["Oneness of God"], 1983, pages 236-37) and taught that water baptism must be done 'in the name of Jesus' to achieve salvation (cf. Paterson ["The Real Truth About Baptism in Jesus' Name"], 1953, pages 12, 27); Vouga ["Our Gospel Message"; Pentecostal Publishing House ], 1967, page 18); Bernard ["The New Birth"....], 1984; pages 132-133; UPCI....). [Dalcour goes on to list some citations from the late first to the late fourth centuries to document that there was a lot of baptizing taking place in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then he says:] It was not until the UPCI/Oneness churches surfaced in the twentieth century that the Jesus' name formulation dogma first emerged (cf. Beisner [" 'Jesus Only' Churches", 1998, page 7; Ankerburg and Weldon ["Encyclopedia of Cults and Religions"], 1999, page 367)."

Dalcour gives page after page of information under the heading "The Doctrine of the Trinity and the Early Church" (pages 170-183). I'm just going to quote part of what Dalcour says as he interacts with some of Bernard's very influential but wrong assertions. There is no doubt in my mind that Bernard had to be extremely biased toward a oneness viewpoint (he certainly will admit that he is totally committed to a oneness viewpoint of God) to come up with some of his summarizing statements that he makes in this excerpt. He teaches that the early church, including the apostles, were oneness and of "the emergence of the trinitarian doctrine in the latter part of the second century."

I agree with Dalcour that Bernard "has yet to establish" (page 171) what he is saying. I'm not attacking Bernard, and I know that he is intelligent and educated and I'll give him the benefit of assuming that he is trying to be honest before God, but, like I said, he must therefore be extremely biased. I would like to be a blessing to Bernard and the large number of people he has influenced and is influencing.

"To maintain the idea that the early church was Oneness is a complicated task for Oneness teachers, for in order to do so, Oneness teachers must revise history. For instance Bernard (["The Oneness of God"], 1983, pages 236-37) claims: '1. As far as we can tell, the early church Christian leaders in the days immediately following the apostolic age were Oneness. [For one thing, Bernard is wrongly assuming that the apostles were Oneness.] It is certain that they did not teach the doctrine of the trinity as it later developed and as it exists today. [[There are some differences. For one thing, it took some time to come to a balanced viewpoint that incorporates all that the Bible teaches. Also, back in the early church and in the church of our day Christians don't always get every detail right. I have mentioned before in this paper that I believe some Trinitarians are saying more than what God has revealed, which doesn't work for good. However the Trinitarian viewpoint of the early church and of the church today is correct in general, unlike the oneness viewpoint, which is wrong at the foundational level: The three Persons of the Trinity always have, and always will, exist.]] 2. Even after the emergence of the trinitarian doctrine in the latter part of the second century, the doctrine of the trinity did not replace Oneness as the dominant belief until around 300 A.D., and it did not become universally established until in the fourth century. 3. ....'

(Still quoting Dalcour) As we will see, Oneness teachers routinely practice this kind of historical revisionism in order to substantiate the notion that the early church taught distinctive Oneness doctrines. Bernard's assertion that the Trinity 'did not replace Oneness as the dominant belief until around 300 A.D.' is the very conclusion he has yet to establish. ... Bernard's main assertion ("The Oneness of God," 1983, page 236) that 'The early church Christian leaders in the days immediately following the apostolic age were Oneness' demonstrates his lack of data and/or understanding in the area of church history. ... ...." I believe the evidence for the Trinitarian viewpoint "in the days following the apostolic age" in Dalcour's book easily suffices to prove what he says here. And the primary evidence for the Trinity is the Bible itself, especially the New Testament.

"Oneness believers reject the doctrine of the Trinity and embrace a Unitarian or unipersonal [one person] view of God mainly because of their a priori assumption that monotheism means unipersonalism" (page 191).

SOME EXCERPTS FROM "ONENESS PENTECOSTALS & THE TRINITY" BY GREGORY A. BOYD (Baker Books, 1992, 234 pages). I had read this book several years ago, but I reread it in the process of preparing to write this book. As a teenager Gregory Boyd was a member of a oneness United Pentecostal Church, but within a few years he had left the oneness viewpoint behind and become a Trinitarian. He went on to earn a PhD from Princeton Theological Seminary. He has made it a priority to write and teach against the oneness viewpoint. He mentioned that when he was with them he "soon internalized the certain elitist mentality that largely characterizes many Oneness communities, for we all believed we had a 'truth' possessed by very few others" (page 22).

In Chapter 1, "Understanding Oneness Pentecostalism," on pages 25-48, Boyd "[summarizes] the Oneness Pentecostals' case for their rejection of the Trinity. Then his last two sentences at the end of that chapter are: "Although these arguments [at least some of them] must be taken seriously, they can be soundly refuted. It is to this task, then, that we shall address ourselves throughout the rest of this book."

I don't agree with Boyd on every little detail, but I believe he quite effectively shows that the oneness viewpoint is wrong, seriously wrong. Boyd's Chapter 2 (pages 49-66) is "The Trinity, Truth or Error?" His Chapter 3 is "Is Jesus His Own Father?" I included some important excerpts from the first few pages of this chapter earlier in this paper. Boyd discusses many key passages of the Bible under the heading "Prooftexts [used by oneness Christians] for Jesus as the Father" pages 71-84. He discusses Isaiah 9:6; John 14:7-10 ("If You see Me, You See the Father'); John 10:30 ("I and the Father Are One"); John 14:18 ("I Will Not Leave You as Orphans"); the Salutations ("God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ"; these salutations are quite important. We see God the Father AND God the Son. Boyd deals with the oneness (wrong) viewpoint that such salutations, which are frequent in the New Testament, should be understood in the sense God the Father EVEN the Lord Jesus Christ. I dealt with this issue earlier in this paper); 1 John 3:1-5 ("Was Jesus God the Father Appearing on Earth?").

The topic of Boyd's Chapter 4, "Did the Son of God Exist Before His Birth? (pages 93-114), is quite important. "In this chapter we complete our defense of the trinitarian view of Jesus by refuting the Oneness argument against the actual preexistence of the Son of God." The oneness viewpoint is that the Son didn't exist before the virgin birth. That is a very significant mistake. Boyd discusses "Christ's Preexistence in the Gospel of John" on pages 94-102; in Paul's Writings on pages 102-109, which includes Col. 1:16-17; 1 Cor. 8:6; and Phil. 2:5-11; and in Hebrews on pages 109-111; and other passages.

I'll quote a sentence from Boyd's conclusion at the end of chapter 4. "The biblical case for the distinct personal preexistence of Jesus Christ is, we have shown, exceedingly strong, while the modalistic arguments against this doctrine are essentially groundless."

Boyd's Chapter 7 (pages 147-162), "Was the Early Church Oneness?," effectively shows that the early Christian church was not oneness. Boyd points out that we must base what we believe on the Bible, but that the teachings of the Christian leaders who followed the apostles are also quite important for this study, especially the leaders who came right after the apostles. And we must understand that these leaders were making it a priority to preserve and pass on what they had been taught, not to come up with new doctrines.

Boyd says the early writings demonstrate that the Oneness Pentecostals are wrong in claiming that "the original apostolic teaching was that Jesus is himself the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. For, if the apostles did teach this, it is virtually inconceivable that Christian leaders in the two following generations would have, or could have, intentionally or unintentionally failed to teach this. ... ...I shall show that it is indisputable that none of the earliest Fathers were at all close to holding the Oneness Doctrine.

Indeed, what is perhaps even more damaging to the Oneness view is that there is not even a trace of anyone's arguing for or against modalism until the late second or early third century. ... A relatively cursory review of what the early post-apostolic Fathers taught is all that is required to prove that they did not hold the Oneness view. Following the pattern of the New Testament, never is Jesus called 'Father'..." (page 148). Boyd went on to say that his study of the early Fathers at Yale Divinity School was the thing that initially caused him to seriously question his Oneness view of God. He had intended to further prove his Oneness view. The Oneness teachers claim that those early Christian writers were Oneness. This obviously is very important.

Boyd goes on on pages 149-162 to discuss the early Christian writings on this topic and to interact with some Oneness writers. It seems clear to me that Boyd totally proves his point. I won't comment on his Chapter 8, "The Inescapable Trinity" (pages 163-196), but it is packed with important information. I don't agree with him on every detail, but none of those details have anything to do with leaving any room for the Oneness view of God. I disagree with Boyd on quite a few things he says in some of the four Appendices at the end of the book (pages 197-228), but none of them have anything to do with leaving any room for the Oneness view of God.

SOME EXCERPTS FROM "THE FORGOTTEN TRINITY" BY JAMES R. WHITE (Bethany House Publishers, 1998, 224 pages). James White doesn't directly deal much with the Oneness Pentecostal viewpoint in this book (He does refute the modalistic viewpoint in his chapter 11 [pages 153-161]), but his detailed teaching on the Trinity doesn't leave any room whatsoever for the modalistic/oneness viewpoint. White's primary purpose for writing this book was that Christians would better understand and love the Trinity, not to deal with arguments against the Trinity, but he does some of that.

I'll quote a little from his Chapter 1, "Why the 'Forgotten' Trinity?" He starts the chapter with the words, "I love the Trinity." The more true Christians really understand the Trinity, the more we will love the Trinity. ... So why don't we talk about loving the Trinity? Most Christians do not understand what the term means and have only a vague idea of the reality that it represents. [[I have observed that many or most Christians do "have only a vague idea" regarding the Trinity, and wrong ideas abound. Many who say they believe in the Trinity have no idea of the preexistence of the Son of God, for example, and many who say they believe in the Trinity give little recognition (if any) to the Person of God the Father who has the preeminent role in the Trinity. For many who say they believe in the Trinity essentially everything focuses on Jesus, the Son, including worshipping Him, talking about Him, and praying to Him (not the Father). These are serious problems. See my paper "WHO DO WE WORSHIP? (Oneness/Jesus-only Worship Songs)" on my internet site (Google to Karl Kemp Teaching).]] We don't love things that we consider very complicated, obtuse, or just downright difficult. ... ...the Trinity is the highest revelation God has made of Himself to His people. It is the capstone, the summit, the brightest star in the firmament of divine truths. ...God revealed this truth about himself most clearly, and most irrefutably, in the Incarnation itself, when Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, took on human flesh and walked among us. ..." (pages 1, 2).

His Chapter 2 is "What is the Trinity?" and his Chapter 3, "God, A Brief Introduction."

White discusses John 1:1-18 in his chapter 4, "A Masterpiece: The Prologue of John" (pages 48-64), with some emphasis on the first verse. I agree with just about everything he says here. In his chapter 5 White argues, and rightly so, for the full deity of the Lord Jesus, God the Son. I don't agree with everything White says here, but he effectively demonstrates the full deity of the Lord Jesus. He discusses the fact that the words "I am He" of John 8:24, 58; 13:19; and 18:5, 6 demonstrate the full deity of the Lord Jesus.

White devotes most of his chapter 7 to demonstrate the deity of Christ and the Trinity through the teaching of Col. 1:15-17. In chapter 8 he uses Phil. 2:5-11 in its context to demonstrate the full deity of the Lord Jesus, very much including His eternal preexistence with the Father. It is a super-important passage to demonstrate the full deity of the Lord Jesus, very much including His preexistence. I doubt that White (and others) is right when he interprets the words "did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped" (Phil. 2:6) to mean that there was nothing that the Son could possibly grasp in that He had everything He could possibly have. I believe the apostle Paul was including the idea that, even though the Son was fully deity with the Father, He could have grasped for more and rebelled against the preeminent role of God the Father and His plan of salvation that involved the incarnation and sacrifice of the Son. Of course Paul didn't leave any room for the possibility that the Son would rebel. QUITE THE OPPOSITE! He is using the Lord Jesus here as a perfect illustration of humility (and love for the Father and love for those He will save, etc.).

It seems to me that White (and it isn't just White) thinks it would detract from the full deity of the Son if we left any room for any real eternal subordination of the Son to the Father, who has the preeminent role in the Trinity. I didn't say He was superior or the Son was inferior. For one thing, I believe the eternally subordinate roles (along with the full deity of the Lord Jesus and the Holy Spirit) makes it a lot easier to dispense with the idea of three God's who are fully alike in every way. Fully God, Yes! Fully Alike (including authority)? I don't think so!

On page 66, White says that "difference in function does not indicate inferiority of nature." He goes on to say that the fact that God the Father creates through Jesus Christ does not indicate that He [the Son] is not fully God. I totally agree, but it probably does indicate some subordination of the Son. And I have some rather serious reservations with what he goes on to say in the next paragraph: "Think of it this way, in eternity past the Father, Son, and Spirit voluntarily and freely chose the roles they would take in bringing about the redemption of God's people. [[I believe it would be more in line with the Biblical data to say that the Son and the Spirit voluntarily and lovingly submitted to "the roles they would take, in accordance with the will and plan of God the Father, in bringing about the redemption of God's people."]] ... The Father chose to be the fount and source of the entirety of the work; the Son chose to be the Redeemer and to enter into human flesh as one subject to the Father [It seems He always was lovingly subordinate to God the Father, not just during the period He voluntarily and lovingly condescended to become the God-man and perfectly carried out His very difficult mission. This very much included His voluntarily and lovingly submitting to the incarnation before the incarnation.]; and the Spirit chose to be the Sanctifier of the church, the indwelling Testifier of Jesus Christ. Each took different roles of necessity - they could not all take the same role and do the same things. ...."

A primary point I am trying to make here is that it seems that the Son always was subordinate to the preeminent Father. He always was Son to the Father. I don't believe it is necessary or helpful to resist leaving room for the Son to be fully deity but actually subordinate to the Father in His role by virtue of what it meant for Him to always be the Son of the Father. I don't see any reason to deny this eternal subordination. White (and others) are striving to make sure there is no true subordination of the Son with respect to the Father in their eternal roles, in that it is perceived that this would detract from His full deity and the reality of the Trinity. As I have mentioned I believe the Son and the Spirit totally love and boast in the preeminent role of the Father, and I am confident that this viewpoint better reflects the reality presented in the Bible and is totally reasonable and does not detract from the full deity of the Son (or the Spirit).

I believe this detail is important. In my opinion many Trinitarians, in their noble attempt to emphasize the full deity of the Son (for one thing His deity has been challenged by many) overstate what it means (what is required) for Him to be deity. When we are out of balance in any direction, we invite opposition to what we are saying. If we overstate the eternal role of the Son of God, we leave room, for one thing, for others to hear us speaking of three God's that are so much alike that it sounds like three equal God's with each one having the same authority sitting at a triangular table. I am not suggesting that the error of not leaving room for the eternally subordinate roles of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (assuming it is an error) is nearly as serious as denying the existence of the three Persons of the Trinity, not at all. But we desperately need the balanced truth of what the Bible teaches. Every error hurts, but some are a lot more serious than others. Some errors distort the gospel so much that it cannot save. Denying the deity of the Lord Jesus, for example, certainly qualifies to destroy the heart of the gospel.

In chapter 10 White effectively demonstrates that the Holy Spirit is a Person, not a force, etc. He is sometimes called the third Person of the Trinity. In chapter 11 titled "Three Persons" he briefly deals with modalism (pages 154-161). In chapter 12 White gets into more details defining the Trinity (pages 163-175). Back on page 26 he gave the "basic definition": "Within the one Being that is God, there exists eternally three coequal and coeternally eternal persons, namely the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit." And I'll quote two sentences from his page 27: "Each of the persons is said to be eternal, each is said to be coequal with the others as to their divine nature. ... Each is fully God, coequal with the others, and that eternally." As I have mentioned, it seems to me that although the Son and the Spirit are fully deity with the Father the Bible indicates some eternal subordination of the Son (and the Spirit) to the Father. And I believe the Son (and the Spirit) totally love and even boast in the preeminent, eternal role of God the Father.

Maybe I'm missing something, but it is easier for me to believe that it is quite possible, even probable, that some Trinitarian theologians have overstated the sameness of the three Persons of the Trinity (especially in reference to the Holy Spirit). The relationship of the Father to the Son and the Spirit and THE FATHER HAVING AN ETERNAL PREEMINENT ROLE IN THE TRINITY MEANS SOMETHING. I believe it means a lot.

The Bible doesn't teach three Gods. For one thing, we don't want to communicate the idea that the three Persons function independently in themselves. Total love, harmony, and unity, but not three independent Persons.

We will continue to discuss the Persons of the Trinity as we continue in Part 11.

Copyright by Karl Kemp Karl Kemp worked as an engineer in the space field throughout the 60s. He became a born-again Christian in 1964. He received an MA in Biblical Studies in 1972. He has been a Bible teacher for 45 years. See the website for more info on his books, papers, etc.

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