Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

The doctrine of the Trinity: one being and three persons

The Christian doctrine of the Trinity

The Christian doctrine of the Trinity

Here’s an article by Jonathan M. to explain what the Bible says about God and the doctrine of the Trinity.

Excerpt:

So, what exactly do we mean when we talk about the Trinity? Writing in the early third century, in his Against Praxeas, Tertullian is credited with first employing the words “Trinity”, “person” and “substance” to convey the idea of the Father, Son and Spirit being “one in essence — but not one in person”. Indeed, Tertullian writes,

“Thus the connection of the Father in the Son, and of the Son in the Paraclete, produces three coherent Persons, who are yet distinct One from Another. These Three are, one essence, not one Person, as it is said, “I and my Father are One,” in respect of unity of substance not singularity of number.”

This concept was established as church orthodoxy at the famous Council of Nicaea in A.D. 325. The Nicene Creed speaks of Christ as “God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten not made, being of one substance with the Father.”

It is this definition that I am going to assume in the discussion that follows. Succinctly, then, the doctrine of the Trinity may be defined thusly: Within the one being or essence that is God, there exists three co-equal and co-divine distinct persons — namely the Father, Son and Holy Spirit — who share that essence fully and completely. This concept is not to be confused with polytheism, which maintains that there are multiple gods. While orthodox Christianity emphatically holds there to be only one God, we nonetheless understand God to be complex in his unity. The concept is also not to be confused with the ancient heresy of modalism, which maintains that God exists in three different modes. The Son has never been the Father and the Holy Spirit has never been the Son or the Father. Modalism is refuted by the picture given to us in all four gospels (Matthew 3:16-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-22; John 1:32-34) in which the Holy Spirit descends on Jesus in the form of a dove and a voice is heard from Heaven “This is my beloved Son. With him I am well pleased.” Similarly, it should be noted that the Father, Son and Spirit do not each make up merely a third of the Godhead. Rather, each of the three persons is God in the full and complete sense of the word.

Having shown that Scripture emphatically rejects the notion that the Father, Son and Spirit are synonymous persons, only five propositions remain to be demonstrated in order to provide Biblical substantiation for the concept of the Trinity. Those propositions are:

  1. There is only one eternal God.
  2. The Father is the eternal God.
  3. The Son is the eternal God.
  4. The Holy Spirit is the eternal God.
  5. Although the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are non-synonymous persons, the concept of the Trinity does not violate the law of non-contradiction.

Let’s take a look at each of these in turn.

He then takes a close look at what the Bible says about God with respect to those assertions. There can be no doubt that the Bible teaches that God is one divine substance, and three persons.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

What is the “unforgiveable sin” in Mark 3 and Matthew 12?

Take a look at these two puzzling passages from the New Testament.

Mark 3:28-29:

28 Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter,

29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin.”

Matthew 12:30-32:

30 “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.

31 And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.

32 Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.

What can it mean?

Well, here’s a post by Dr. Paul Gould to shed some light on it.

Excerpt:

Taken in isolation, it is hard to make sense of this passage—how is it that all kinds of sins can be forgiven but one sin will not be forgiven? What is going on here? Well, here is a principle of sound biblical interpretation:

Principle #1: In order to correctly understand a passage, we must always look at it within its context.

And what is the passages context? The broader context can be found in Matthew 12:22-32. In this broader context we read of Jesus performing a miracle (he performs an exorcism and heals a blind and mute man), we read of the crowd’s amazement and wonderment over the identity of Jesus (“Could this be the Son of David?”), we find the slanderous (and murderous) charge of the Pharisees, and we find Jesus’ response to the Pharisees charge (both his reasoned response to their explicit charge that he drives out demons by Satan’s power as well as his warning to the Pharisees if they continue to attribute to Satan what is in fact the work of God’s Spirit).

After looking at this passage in context, we find that the “unforgivable sin” is (basically) attributing what is in fact the work of God’s Spirit to His ultimate enemy, Satan.

Fair enough, you say, but there are other problems passages that talk about the unforgivable sin—Hebrews 6, 1 John 5, and Hebrews 10 come to mind. What about those passages? Well, here is our second principle of biblical interpretation:

Principle #2: Always interpret unclear passages in light of the clear teachings of Scripture (as a whole).

And what is the clear teaching of Scripture related to sin and forgiveness? It is this:

Forgiveness of sins is a consequence of man’s repentance, and repentance is a consequence of the activity of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. So in the end, it seems that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is nothing more or less than the unrelenting rejection of His advances.

So, the only unforgiveable sin is the sin of deliberately rejecting God’s efforts to draw you into a saving relationship with him. What does this mean for you? It means that if you are a Christian and you believe the essentials of the faith, then you aren’t going to be able to lose your salvation by performing sinful actions. You can’t sin your way out of God’s forgiveness, because if you accept Jesus’ death as payment for your sins, then it covers all your sins. I do think that the Bible is very clear that you can lose your salvation by “the unrelenting rejection” of God’s advances. But that’s not a description of any Christians, it’s a description of someone who does not believe in Jesus.

Filed under: Commentary, , , , , , , , ,

My experiences with Christian women in church and campus ministries

A friend of mine sent me some horror stories from his time dealing with single Christian women during seminary, and I thought I would write something about the horror stories from my experiences with single Christian women in campus ministries during my BS and MS programs, and in several evangelical churches that I attended in my 20s.

The biggest problem I’ve had with unmarried Christian women in college and in church is that it is impossible to impress them by being a competent, effective Christian man. Every skill and ability that seems to me to be useful and effective for the kingdom (or for marriage) seems to cut no ice with them. I had women in my youth group, in IVCF and in Campus Crusade have told me that being an engineer is bad, being chaste is bad, not drinking is bad, talking too much about apologetics is bad, and especially trying to get them to learn apologetics – that was really, really bad. They hated that. And forget trying to talk to them about abortion and homosexuality. They were very proud to be non-judgmental. It was a badge of honor, saying “I don’t judge” as if they were saying “I am good person”.

Everything that you might think makes sense for a man to be skilled at from a marriage point of view is viewed as creepy and weird by these church/campus-club unmarried Christian women, in my experience. I am a colored guy, so I always put their messed up standards down to the fact that I was colored and therefore was not allowed to talk to them, period. I was also surprised to see how little the command to “love your neighbor” was implemented by the unmarried Christian women. Here I was, struggling through a tough engineering program, and obviously coming from an unchurched background, yet these woman never had a supportive word for me. My interests in theology and apologetics and moral issues and politics were viewed by them with suspicion.

In retrospect, I would say the biggest argument against God’s existence I ever faced was the complete disconnect between what these women professed and how they treated others.

There was one exception. When I was a teen, I had an older college student mentor me and she helped me pick up my grades – especially in English. She eventually fell away from her faith (she was a cradle Catholic). But other than her, I basically was in my mid-30s before I met a Christian woman who had any respect for me because of the things that I could do as a Christian. And that was after over a decade of donations, organizing, training, mentoring, apologetics, etc. By that time, I had my BS and MS and a boatload of savings, and yet up till then, no unmarried Christian woman had ever given me the time of day. I was sort of stuck looking to white Christian women for validation, because most colored girls are liberal. But what I found is that they had no standard in their worldview that I could be graded against favorably, other than physical appearance.

That was the scariest thing for me, to find out that there was no worldview there that distinguished between William Lane Craig and Jim Wallis, for example. There was just the outward appearance – that was the sole criterion that unmarried Christian women were using to decide whether a man had value or not. And their agenda for men was never a mentoring/discipling agenda. It was the standard secular boyfriend agenda. And very often, they chose standard secular boyfriends for that agenda. I later found out that they found men with definite moral positions and definite apologetics ability intimidating. Any man with fixed, entrenched positions – either about truth or moral issues – frightened them.

Even now, I find this such a weird thing, because in my own life, I act as a mentor to younger Christians regardless of their appearance or other such criteria. Mentoring other Christians is what Christians ought to be doing! I mentor about a dozen promising young Christians (women and men) in different countries. On a given night, you’ll find me reading something they asked me to read, sending them links to evidence to help them argue, proof-reading their essays, buying them books, hearing about their school assignments, picking their elective courses, or ordering them not to take the summer off and to work instead, etc. Right now, I have two of my experienced pro-life friends helping one of them take over a pro-life club at a university. Another of my friends who does Internet consulting is helping another friend start his web site. And so on, with me or my friends mentoring other Christians just for the sake of honoring that command to love others upward. It doesn’t even matter how great the person is right now, because we mentor Christians at all levels of ability. No one is left out, and no oneis turned down.

But this idea that other Christians have value simply because they are Christians was NOWHERE to be found among unmarried Christian women when I was in university and in my 20s. It’s totally foreign to them that Christianity imposes those mentoring/discipling obligations on them, regardless of appearances. They are feelings-driven, not obligation-driven. They are concerned with their own agenda, and not looking to God to see what he wants them to do for their fellow Christians.

I was always the same Wintery Knight back them as I am today, just at an earlier stage of development, and yet no unmarried Christian women in the church or in a campus Christian ministry gave me so much as an affirming glance while I was working out my plans. In fact, church women often stood in the way of things I tried to do, like bring in professors to speak at IVCF or show William Lane Craig debates at Campus Crusade. Focusing on evidential issues was deemed “too divisive”. It was prayer walks, hymn sings and testimonies by postmodern relativists every week. I learned not to count on unmarried Christian women for support of any kind for the things I was trying to do. No matter how good the things I wanted to do were, they always had a reason why I shouldn’t be allowed to do them.

I am always surprised when I meet a woman and she wants me to read the Bible, or read a book, or do anything like that. (That actually happened to me again last week!) I’ve had a handful of women do that to me in my whole life. Unmarried Christian women are, in my experience, running a very secular playbook, making decisions about how to treat others from their feelings. And then if you question them about it, they attribute their feelings to the work of the Holy Spirit. You don’t really see how bad it is until you hear them tell you that God told them to move in with the atheist guy, etc. It’s striking to me how far the Holy-Spirit-wrapping of their feelings goes, and yet they don’t see a problem with it. I think the answer to this problem is that we really need to help women to think through their worldview and think about how to act on Christian convictions with other people, and men in particular, and men who are committed to building the Kingdom effectively and intelligently above all others.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

How early are the doctrines of the Incarnation and the Trinity?

Here’s a great post from Tough Questions Answered.

The post describes evidence for the Incarnation and the Trinity in the writings of Ignatius, who was the third Bishop of Antioch from 70 AD to 107 AD.

Here’s the raw quote from Ignatius’ “Epistle to the Ephesians”:

But our Physician is the only true God, the Father and Begetter of the only-begotten Son.  We have also as a Physician the Lord our God, Jesus the Christ, the only-begotten Son and Word, before time began, but who afterwards became also man, of Mary the virgin. For “the Word was made flesh.”  Being incorporeal, He was in a body; being impassible, He was in a passible body; being immortal, He was in a mortal body; being life, He became subject to corruption, that He might free our souls from death and corruption, and heal them, and might restore them to health, when they were diseased with ungodliness and wicked lusts.

And TQA discusses the passage:

There are several aspects of this passage which demonstrate that Saint Ignatius held beliefs consistent with the Doctrines of the Trinity and the Dual Nature of Christ.  First, he refers to two separate Persons, God the Father and Jesus Christ, yet he calls both of them God.

[...]Second, Ignatius refers to Jesus Christ as begotten “before time began”.  This is almost word for word identical to the Nicene Creed, which says, “I believe in. . . one Lord, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the only-begotten, begotten of the Father before all ages. . .”  Some today claim that the Early Church believed Christ’s being ”begotten” of the Father was in relation to His birth from Mary (specifically, this is an LDS claim).  However, Ignatius’ comment here demonstrates that the Early Church’s understanding of Christ’s nature as “only-begotten” was a relationship with the Father that was “before time began” and has nothing to do with His earthly incarnation.  It is interesting to note that the Greek word translated as “only-begotten” both here and in the New Testament is ”monogenes”.  Monogenes literally means “one of a kind,” and to the Church Fathers it connoted Christ being of the same nature as the Father. . . something that was entirely unique to Him.

In addition to calling Christ God and claiming Him to be the “only-begotten” of the Father “before time began”, Ignatius tells us that “afterwards” Christ “became man”.  Ignatius then goes on to point out some aspects that Christ’s becoming man added to His nature.  He says that although Christ was incorporeal, He was in a body; although He was impassible, He was in a passible body; although He was immortal, He was in a mortal body;  although He was life, He became subject to corruption.  These differing aspects of Christ’s nature, aspects that are polar opposites to one another, speak to Christ having two natures, one as God and one as man, and demonstrate that Saint Ignatius understood Christ in this manner.  As God, Christ was incorporeal, impassible, immortal, and life itself.   However, as man He was corporeal, passible, mortal, and subject to corruption.

Now I think you can pull the Incarnation and the Trinity right out the Bible, but it’s still nice to see such a prominent church father writing about it decades after the events.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

My experiences with Christian women in church and campus ministries

A friend of mine sent me some horror stories from his time dealing with single Christian women during seminary, and I thought I would write something about the horror stories from my experiences with single Christian women in campus ministries during my BS and MS programs, and in several evangelical churches that I attended in my 20s.

The biggest problem I’ve had with unmarried Christian women in college and in church is that it is impossible to impress them by being a competent, effective Christian man. Every skill and ability that seems to me to be useful and effective for the kingdom (or for marriage) seems to cut no ice with them. I had women in my youth group, in IVCF and in Campus Crusade have told me that being an engineer is bad, being chaste is bad, not drinking is bad, talking too much about apologetics is bad, and especially trying to get them to learn apologetics – that was really, really bad. They hated that. And forget trying to talk to them about abortion and homosexuality. They were very proud to be non-judgmental. It was a badge of honor, saying “I don’t judge” as if they were saying “I am good person”.

Everything that you might think makes sense for a man to be skilled at from a marriage point of view is viewed as creepy and weird by these church/campus-club unmarried Christian women, in my experience. I am a colored guy, so I always put their messed up standards down to the fact that I was colored and therefore was not allowed to talk to them, period. I was also surprised to see how little the command to “love your neighbor” was implemented by the unmarried Christian women. Here I was, struggling through a tough engineering program, and obviously coming from an unchurched background, yet these woman never had a supportive word for me. My interests in theology and apologetics and moral issues and politics were viewed by them with suspicion.

In retrospect, I would say the biggest argument against God’s existence I ever faced was the complete disconnect between what these women professed and how they treated others.

There was one exception. When I was a teen, I had an older college student mentor me and she helped me pick up my grades – especially in English. She eventually fell away from her faith (she was a cradle Catholic). But other than her, I basically was in my mid-30s before I met a Christian woman who had any respect for me because of the things that I could do as a Christian. And that was after over a decade of donations, organizing, training, mentoring, apologetics, etc. By that time, I had my BS and MS and a boatload of savings, and yet up till then, no unmarried Christian woman had ever given me the time of day. I was sort of stuck looking to white Christian women for validation, because most colored girls are liberal. But what I found is that they had no standard in their worldview that I could be graded against favorably, other than physical appearance.

That was the scariest thing for me, to find out that there was no worldview there that distinguished between William Lane Craig and Jim Wallis, for example. There was just the outward appearance – that was the sole criterion that unmarried Christian women were using to decide whether a man had value or not. And their agenda for men was never a mentoring/discipling agenda. It was the standard secular boyfriend agenda. And very often, they chose standard secular boyfriends for that agenda. I later found out that they found men with definite moral positions and definite apologetics ability intimidating. Any man with fixed, entrenched positions – either about truth or moral issues – frightened them.

Even now, I find this such a weird thing, because in my own life, I act as a mentor to younger Christians regardless of their appearance or other such criteria. Mentoring other Christians is what Christians ought to be doing! I mentor about a dozen promising young Christians (women and men) in different countries. On a given night, you’ll find me reading something they asked me to read, sending them links to evidence to help them argue, proof-reading their essays, buying them books, hearing about their school assignments, picking their elective courses, or ordering them not to take the summer off and to work instead, etc. Right now, I have two of my experienced pro-life friends helping one of them take over a pro-life club at a university. Another of my friends who does Internet consulting is helping another friend start his web site. And so on, with me or my friends mentoring other Christians just for the sake of honoring that command to love others upward. It doesn’t even matter how great the person is right now, because we mentor Christians at all levels of ability. No one is left out, and no oneis turned down.

But this idea that other Christians have value simply because they are Christians was NOWHERE to be found among unmarried Christian women when I was in university and in my 20s. It’s totally foreign to them that Christianity imposes those mentoring/discipling obligations on them, regardless of appearances. They are feelings-driven, not obligation-driven. They are concerned with their own agenda, and not looking to God to see what he wants them to do for their fellow Christians.

I was always the same Wintery Knight back them as I am today, just at an earlier stage of development, and yet no unmarried Christian women in the church or in a campus Christian ministry gave me so much as an affirming glance while I was working out my plans. In fact, church women often stood in the way of things I tried to do, like bring in professors to speak at IVCF or show William Lane Craig debates at Campus Crusade. Focusing on evidential issues was deemed “too divisive”. It was prayer walks, hymn sings and testimonies by postmodern relativists every week. I learned not to count on unmarried Christian women for support of any kind for the things I was trying to do. No matter how good the things I wanted to do were, they always had a reason why I shouldn’t be allowed to do them.

I am always surprised when I meet a woman and she wants me to read the Bible, or read a book, or do anything like that. (That actually happened to me again last week!) I’ve had a handful of women do that to me in my whole life. Unmarried Christian women are, in my experience, running a very secular playbook, making decisions about how to treat others from their feelings. And then if you question them about it, they attribute their feelings to the work of the Holy Spirit. You don’t really see how bad it is until you hear them tell you that God told them to move in with the atheist guy, etc. It’s striking to me how far the Holy-Spirit-wrapping of their feelings goes, and yet they don’t see a problem with it. I think the answer to this problem is that we really need to help women to think through their worldview and think about how to act on Christian convictions with other people, and men in particular, and men who are committed to building the Kingdom effectively and intelligently above all others.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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