Christmas Special: Holy Spirit, where art thou?

Holy Spirit Forget Me Not: Matthew 11:27 falsifies the Trinity

by Ibn Anwar, BHsc (Hons), MCollT

According to standard Trinity doctrine, all three Persons in the Triune Godhead, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, are distinct from each other yet equally and fully God and each Person is equally omniscient (all knowing). The doctrine stipulates that each Person is inseparable from the Godhead and they have been three in one and one in three from all eternity. Matthew 11:27 shatters all of that into pieces when it completely leaves out the Holy Spirit to dry:

“All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” (ESV)

Once again, the Holy Spirit is conspicuously absent from the picture. A plain reading of the verse necessitates ignorance on the part of the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Triune Godhead. The verse negates the Holy Spirit’s alleged omniscience and his alleged eternal relationship within the Godhead with the other two Persons, the Father and the Son. The verse is explicit in saying that only the Son, i.e., Jesus, knows the Father, which means the Holy Spirit does not know the Father and that only the Father knows Jesus, which means the Holy Spirit does not know Jesus. Noting this significant theological point Mark H. Graeser, John A. Lynn and John W. Shoenheit state:

“If the spirit is a sentient (able to sense, be self-aware), separate and distinct being with personality, then Jesus either did not know this or was very inconsistent in giving “Him” proper due. In Matthew 11:27, Jesus asserts that “…no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son…” If “the Holy Spirit” is a person distinct from the Father, and is also omniscient and almighty “God,” then would He not also have to know the Father and the Son? Jesus’ statement, then, would not have been true, and in fact would be a lie.” [1]

John 17:3 is a Stumbling Block for the Trinity

Judaic-Islamic Monotheism in Light of John 17:3

by Ibn Anwar, BHsc (Hons), MCollT

Although it is true that the Gospel According to John has a rather high Christology compared to the other three canonical gospels, it does not necessarily mean that the gospel actually elevates Jesus to the level of an actual divine being equal to the Father. Such a view of Jesus belongs to the Trinitarian theology which does not occur in the Johannine material. Although some texts of John, e.g. John 1, may seem to deify Jesus in the eyes of some readers, others disagree. Such passages are usually quite controversial, cropping up divergent interpretations. The reason for such disparate views is that the texts in question are not emphatic and explicit in their claims, hence allowing multiple different ways of interpretation. The intent of the author of John can be said to be located in his concluding remarks that can be found in John 20:30-31:

“Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (ESV)

The New International Version of the Bible calls the two verses “The Purpose of John’s Gospel,” and so reading the purpose of the author of John in writing his gospel one does not see that it was to deify or prove Jesus’ divinity. He wrote it so that his readers might be convinced of the messiahship of Jesus and in the concluding remarks, he identifies who Jesus is, i.e., the Messiah and the Son of God*, but does not name him God. If Jesus was really God, he would have said so in his conclusion for that would have been a far more significant point to stress and to mention than that of Jesus’ messiahship or sonship. Verses like John 17:3 that emphatically demonstrate Jesus’ clear inferiority to God– that he is but a servant subjected to the God that he worships and prays to –strengthens the view that the Gospel According to John is not really out to prove Jesus’ divinity. John may have a heightened christological presentation of Jesus that reaches the sky, but he evidently does not elevate Jesus to divinity in the Trinitarian sense.

Egg? Man? Water? The Sun? Which is a Trinity?: Trinitarian Analogies Falsify the Trinity

Analogies of the Trinity: Inadequate and Misleading

by Ibn Anwar, BHsc (Hons), MCollT

Throughout the ages, Christian thinkers, theologians and apologists have tried to come up with a solution to unpack the enigmatic Trinity and finally make it comprehensible but to no avail. One of the most common ways that Christian missionaries or apologists try to make sense of he Trinity is by proposing analogies and these analogies are more often than not an appeal to natural phenomena and things. Never mind the absurdity of trying to encapsulate the transcendent with a natural phenomenon or entity, the method has been greatly criticised by theologians as misleading. Most, if not all, analogies that make use of the natural world typically end up with not the Trinity but with heresies like Modalism (Sebellianism), Tritheism or Subordinationism.

One of the earliest analogies used to explain the Trinity is the Sun, its rays and the heat that the Sun emanates. Simply looking at it without putting on one’s critical thinking, the analogy does seem reasonable, but when one analyses it, the whole thing breaks down to Subordinationism. The heat and the Sun are both directly derivative of the Sun and so if the Sun is the Father and the Rays are the Son and the Heat is the Holy Spirit, then both the Son and the Holy Spirit are derivative of the Sun making them subordinate to it. At this point it is helpful to have the Trinity formula clearly stated in our mind. That will allow us to better determine whether any given analogy fits the Trinity. What is the Trinity? According to the fully developed concept that now stands as standard and mainstream doctrine, the Trinity means ‘One God in three Persons’ or ‘Three Persons in One God.’ To state it in another way, there is One God and this One God has three Persons in it and each Person is not a fraction of that One God but is rather fully God in and of itself’ therefore, One God equals the Father who is fully God, the Son who is fully God and the Holy Spirit who is fully God. Now that we have good definition of the Trinity, let’s put the Sun analogy to the test.

The Trinity is a Slippery Slope to Heresy and the Doctrine Did Not Exist Among Earliest Christians

The Trinity Doctrine and the Earliest Christians: Trinity Endangers the Soul and the Earliest Christians Held to a Non-Trinitarian Monotheism

by Ibn Anwar, BHsc (Hons), MCollT

The earliest followers of Jesus, i.e., his immediate disciples and those that followed them, had absolutely no theological concept that remotely resembled Christianity’s Trinity that took centuries to develop and the innovated doctrine was– as is historically certain –divorced from Jesus’ ministry by a hundred years or more. That the disciples of Jesus believed in a Jewish or unitarian monotheistic view of God is a fact of history that cannot be ignored. Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Theology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, Dr. James Leo Garrett Jr. in recognising this fact writes:

“The New Testament writers did bear witness to a relationship involving Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, but they did not define or elaborate upon the precise nature of that relationship… Leonard Hodgson has insisted that “Christianity began as a Trinitarian religion with a unitarian theology.” This was true in the sense that Christians inherited from Judaism and retained a basic monotheism.” [1]

Although Garrett believes that signs and clues to the Trinity were already present in the writings of some New Testament writers like John and Paul, in the above quotation there is clear recognition on his part that those that came first or the first followers of Jesus (i.e., when “Christianity began…”) inherited, without alteration or modification, “from Judaism and retained a basic monotheism.” Whatever “Trinitarian religion” may mean, according to Leonard Hodgson, whom Garrett cites, the first Christians were indeed unitarian in theology. This puts to rest the myth that typically crops up in evangelistic circles and apologia that claim that the Trinity go back to earliest Christianity.

The Monotheistic Ebionites: Islam’s Heritage in the First Century CE

Ebionites as the precursor to Islam: Tracing Islam’s claims to the first century CE

by Ibn Anwar, BHsc (Hons), MCollT

There is particularly strong evidence for the theological claims of Islam for the person of Jesus in a very early Christian group called the Ebionites. The Ebionites were a group of very early Christians that traced their lineage back to the primitive Jerusalem Church. According to tradition, they descended from the Jerusalem Church after its violent demise in 70 CE. This important fact of history is noted by Catholic theologian James Leonard Papandrea:

“In the second century, the theological descendants of the Judaizers were the Ebionites. According to tradition, the Ebionites were born out of the Jerusalem church after the fall of Jerusalem in 70 CE, when the Temple was destroyed and the sacrifices discontinued.” [1]

These early followers of Christ were addressed as ‘Ebionites’ (from the Greek ‘ebionaioi,’ which was derivative of the Hebrew ‘ebyonim’) or ‘poor ones’ because they believed that their life of poverty emulated Jesus. The title gives yet further clue to the origin of this group as it has a strong connection to the primitive church* as stated by Bernhard Lohse:

“The name they applied to themselves, “Ebionites” (poor ones), had reference to an honorific title given to the primitive church at Jerusalem (cf. Gal. 2:10; Rom. 15:26).” [2]

Contrary to Pauline Christians, they were strict observers of the Law and were so regarded as Jewish Christians:

The Crucifixion did not end Temple sacrifices

Animal sacrifice continued after the crucifixion: An indication that early Christians did not hold to the sufficiency of Jesus’ alleged sacrificial atonement

by Ibn Anwar, BHsc (Hons), MCollT

According to standard traditional Christian belief, all animal sacrifices ended with the death of Jesus on the cross which was, as Christians see it, the ultimate sacrifice to end all sacrifices. Since the sacrifice of Jesus cleanses all sins and purifies perfectly the one that subscribes to it there was no longer any need for any other sacrifice. To desire to add to that which Jesus had perfected, as the Protestants would have it, would be an act of utter ungratefulness and it would impugn on the perfect sacrifice that Jesus made. Simply put, “For the Christian community, animal sacrifices stopped with the death and resurrection of Christ.” [1]

Unfortunately, for the Protestant Christians in particular, such claims do not bear out in the documentary evidence, i.e., the New Testament. Evidence clearly shows that even after the alleged crucifixion, the earliest followers of Jesus continued on with Temple sacrifices. As a matter of fact, even Paul, who is painted as the nemesis of the Law, gave animal sacrifice at the Temple of Jerusalem long after the alleged crucifixion and resurrection.

In Acts 21:26, we are told that Paul and his men fulfilled the so-called Nazirite vow which no doubt included animal sacrifice:

Justin Martyr and his angelic Jesus

Was Jesus an angel according to Justin Martyr?: Shabir Ally Versus William Albrecht

by Ibn Anwar, BHsc (Hons), MCollT

In the recent debate with Dr. Shabir Ally, Catholic apologist William Albrecht charged his fellow interlocutor with misrepresentation of Justin Martyr, one of the major early patristic authorities. In the rebuttal period of the debate, Dr. Shabir Ally made mention of the fact that Justin Martyr had the belief that Jesus was God’s angel and this did not sit too well with Albrecht who then spent his entire allotted time in the crossfire period pressing the matter. Dr. Shabir informed Albrecht that his information is derivative of a scholarly work by Richardson and in turn, Albrecht attempted to show familiarity with the cited source but failed in doing so as he mistook Richardson with Robertson (and this was no slip of the tongue as he made the mistake in attribution twice). We do not know which Robertson he meant, but Dr. Shabir Ally’s reference was Richardson or to be more specific Cyril C. Richardson, who was the Washburn Professor of Church History in the Union Theological Seminary, New York. His work on the patristics was a collaboration with three other professors; Eugene Fairweather, Edward Rochie Hardy and Massey Hamilton Shepherd.

After mistaking Richardson for some unspecified Robertson, Albrecht claimed that Justin Martyr never saw Jesus as an angel but did in fact affirm Trinitarianism by identifying Jesus as Almighty God. He contended that even if Justin Martyr had mentioned Jesus as ‘aggelos,’ which is the Greek word for ‘angel,’ he would have meant it in the sense of a ‘messenger’ as how it is used for John the Baptist’s disciples in Luke 7 or Rahab’s spies in James 2:25. Granted that the word ‘aggelos’ may be used of humans without intending that those humans were heavenly winged beings, such usage, however, is rare. Typically, when ‘aggelos’ is used, the primary sense is meant, i.e., a supernatural being of heavenly origin. This is the primary definition that one would encounter in most lexicons. If we were to go by Albrecht’s logic, then, it would be difficult to determine when God really means God because Moses is called God (Exodus 7:1) and Satan is identified as God (2 Corinthians 4:4), too. To those not trained in linguistics, the phenomenon of polysemy may prove too overwhelming. In layman’s terms, the way to determine the meaning of any given word– that has possible multiple shades of meaning –that is intended by the author is by simply putting it in the context in which it occurs.