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He Are Three – They is One!
The Language of Confusion about God
by Anthony Buzzard
This edition of Focus on the Kingdom, now in its 13th year, is unashamedly dedicated to encouraging solid and easy thinking about God and Jesus. These are issues that have distressed and divided believers for much too long. These are issues, too, which provoked the most savage cruelty on the part of some confessing Christians. The murder of Michael Servetus by John Calvin in 1553, precisely over the topic in hand, is yet to be taken to heart by many. They seem unaware that this senseless brutality even took place. Such lack of information can be remedied by reading Out of the Flames, by Lawrence and Nancy Goldstone. Also Did Calvin Murder Servetus? by Standford Rives, a professional lawyer.
I was recently with Barbara in Phoenix at the Television Studio of Jewish Voice. Their leaders had generously organized a long debate between Drs. Michael Brown and James White, both seasoned radio persons, and Joe Good and myself. The issue was on the “Trinity.” Who is God? The results will be made widely public from November and we encourage our readers to acquaint themselves with this age-old controversy about who God and Jesus are. We are urged by Jesus to worship God in spirit and in truth (John 4:24).
Why study these great issues? By being involved in the discussion you equip yourself to help other seekers to understand the Jesus of the Bible and the God of the Bible as they should.
Our object as disciples is to align our thinking with that of our Master Rabbi and Savior Jesus. Jesus was profoundly interested in keeping us straight on the issue of God and how many He is. John wrote that “Jesus came to give us an understanding that we might know God” (I John 5:20). Isa. 53:11, in a much neglected text, teaches that “the Messiah will make many righteous by his knowledge.” Popular tradition in churches is easily offended by such verses! Did not Jesus die for me to save me? Yes of course that is true but it is not the whole truth: “By his knowledge the Messiah will cause many to be accounted righteous.” (see RSV) That is equally true. Jesus came to die and rise but he also (we repeat the point!) came to give us an understanding that we might come to know God” (I John 5:10). That word understanding in the Greek is a strongly intellectual word! The Devil trades often on the idea that “intellect” is of very secondary importance; what counts is “sincerity.” “Doctrine divides,” so goes the popular saying. But what is doctrine other than teaching? Doctrine means teaching! Every proposition you make about faith, or Jesus or the Bible is “doctrine.”
A preacher who does not preach “doctrine” would in fact remain silent at the pulpit! He would say nothing. The issue is: are we preaching true or false doctrine? Partial or complete doctrine? The doctrine about Love is not less a doctrine than the teaching which defines God properly or defines the Gospel rightly as the Gospel about the Kingdom (Luke 4:43). Paul urged preachers to deliver to their flocks the “whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). With this apostolic injunction he warned against falling for the easy trap of preaching just what is “acceptable” even what keeps the paycheck secure! Or popularity polls high.
Did not Messiah plead with us to remember that “he who is ashamed of me and my words”--“I will be terribly disappointed in him when I come back in the glory of my Father.” (see Mark 8:38). The whole counsel of God means the whole range of Biblical teachings. These are to be taught firmly and kindly without partiality or deferring to “lobbies” in the congregation who have decided they know better than their leader! Paul’s advice is so very compelling and relevant to the today’s church scene.
The point of discussing Jesus’ teaching about who God is involves our whole relationship to God and truth. It was Jesus who said that “this is the most important commandment of all: Listen Israel, the Lord God is one Lord.” What if the public, rather casually accepting the status quo of church tradition, aids and abets the strange idea that God is really THREE? Many have heard of the Athanasian Creed recited for centuries in churches. Amongst other dogmatic pronouncement assigning you to eternal hell fire if you dare to differ with it, it says” “The Father is Almighty, the Son is Almighty and the Holy Spirit is Almighty, but this is not Three Almighties, but One Almighty.”
Are you impressed? Or horrified? Why did one Archbishop, even, say he wished we could get rid of that creed! Are God and Jesus pleased when those gathering as congregations utter what is evident nonsense? Are we supposed to break the rules of common sense and grammar and proclaim before God our faith in what makes no sense at all?
At the recent debate in Phoenix I tried to make the point that one good reason for not believing in the Trinity is that expert Trinitarians admit candidly that to be a true and proper Trinitarian one must be willing to say “HE (GOD) are THREE and THEY is ONE.” (Millard Erickson, God in Three Persons, p. 270). Erickson confesses that “it is simply impossible to explain the Trinity unequivocally” (p. 268). Yet “the system” requires that you believe it, or else!
What if the Bible’s definition of God is actually very simple and entirely unambiguous. Try this: We read in NLT 1 Cor. 9:24, “Remember that in a race everyone runs, but only one person (eis) gets the prize. You also must run in such a way that you will win.” Did you understand “one person”? Of course. Now read about God in Gal. 3:20: “God is One Person.” The Greek word is exactly the same as in I Cor. 9:24; eis, one, one Person.
Reprinted with permission from Focus on the Kingdom
Volume 13 No. 1, October, 2010
Focus on the Kingdom is a magazine dedicated to spreading the Gospel of the Kingdom throughout the world (Matt. 24:14).
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