Archive for December 2012

The Greatest

December 29, 2012

The following is a brilliant analytical examination of John 14:28 by Steve Hays from Triablogue that is reprinted here by permission.  Besides spending considerable time debating and refuting well known Unitarian Dale Tuggy, Hays has also spent some time recently refuting that unstable racist mental case Drake Shelton.  Needless to say John 14:28 is a favorite verse of Arians, semi-Arians, and other related anti-Christian Unitarian subordinationists like Shelton who mistakenly think this verse teaches “the Father’s hypostatic Monarchy and the Son’s subordination to the Father as his source and origin.”

I should also point out for those who are unfamiliar with Steve Hays is that he is a Vantillian, which is also one of the reasons I wanted to reprint his piece here.  I look forward to the howls from Shelton and his fellow miscreants confirming that I must be a closet Vantillian when in fact I have no tolerance for Unitarians and other deniers of the Son.  I have my disagreements with Vantillians, but this isn’t one of them.

My only objection in Hays’ various interactions with Shelton is that he accepts Shelton’s claim that he is a “Scripturalist.”  However, a Scripturalist is first and foremost a Christian and since Shelton doesn’t qualify as the latter so he certainly doesn’t qualify as the former.  In his rejection of the Son he is at best a Unitarian who thinks he has prophetic gifts even claiming; “God gave me an understanding into things that maybe a handful of people alive understand.”  Shelton is also one of the vilest racists I’ve ever come across and if either John Robbins or Gordon Clark were alive they would repudiate him as a mentally unstable Christ denying nut job.

By Steve Hays

“The greatest”

The Father is greater than I (Jn 14:28).

i) This is a popular anti-Trinitarian prooftext. According to unitarians, this means the Father is God, and Jesus is not.

According to Nicene subordinationists, this means that even though Jesus is still God, Jesus is eternally and ontologically subordinate to Father.

A basic problem with this approach is that it isolates the statement from its surrounding context. “…for the Father is greater than I” isn’t even a complete sentence. And it’s just a small part of a very extended discourse. In order to gauge the force of this statement, we need to compare it with other statements in this discourse.

ii) Jn 14:28 comes on the heels of Jesus saying:

Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? (v10a).

JohnManuscriptThe mutual indwelling of the Father and the Son involves a symmetrical relationship. While it’s understandable how the greater could include the lesser, it’s less understandable how the lesser could include the greater. To play on the spatial metaphor, you can put something smaller in something bigger, but not vice versa.

If, on the other hand, the Father and the Son are coequals, then it’s more understandable how each could contain the other.

Of course, it’s possible for the preposition (“in”) to carry different connotations, depending on who or what is referred to. But here identical language is used for both parties, in mirror symmetry.

iii) There’s an obvious parallel between 14:12 and 14:28:

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father (v12).

You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I (v28).

Both involve comparative greatness, and in both, the comparative greatness is indexed to the Son returning to the Father.

Given the proximity and similarity of these verses, where v28 rounds out v12, forming a kind of inclusio, we’d expect there to be an analogy between the greatness of the Father and the greatness of the works. But it doesn’t make much sense to say the works are ontologically greater. What would that even mean?

Commentators puzzle over the precise identity of the “greater works” since Jesus doesn’t specify what they are. However, they seem to have reference to answered prayers, where v12 leads into v13.

Jesus may have in mind something like this:

35 Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest. 36 Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. 37 For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ 38 I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor (Jn 4:35-38).

There’s only so much Jesus could do at a particular time and place. Ministering in Palestine for three years.

Collectively speaking, generations of Christians can do “greater works.” The expansion of the Gospel has a global impact. That’s a major force in shaping the course of world history.

iv) It’s also striking that Jesus says:

13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it (Jn 14:13-14).

On a unitarian or Nicene subordinationist reading of 14:28, that’s not what we’d expect him to say. Rather, we’d expect him to say:

Whatever you ask in the Father’s name, he will do it, for the Father is greater than all.

But Jesus instead invites the disciples to address their prayers to him. And he tells them that he will answer their prayers.

v) Likewise, in 16:7, Jesus says:

Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.

But if the sender is greater than the sent, does that mean the Son is greater than the Spirit? To my knowledge, that’s not how Nicene subordinationists argue.

vi) Now, a unitarian or Nicene subordinationist might object that elsewhere in the Fourth Gospel, the Father sends the Spirit. Prayer is addressed to the Father. The Father answers prayer.

That’s true. I’m not suggesting that these are exclusive to Jesus. But that very alternation is problematic for unitarianism and Nicene subordination.

How do we harmonize statements which indicate the Son’s equality with the Father with statements which indicate the Son’s inequality with the Father? I don’t think that’s difficult.

For instance, someone with greater ability can perform a job requiring less ability, but someone with less ability can’t perform a job requiring greater ability. It’s easy to see how equals can assume unequal roles. How a superior can accept a self-demotion.

Indeed, this is the case throughout Bible history. Because we can’t come up to God’s level, God comes down to our level. This is also the case in the Fourth Gospel. The earthly ministry of Christ is clearly a comedown from his natural status. That’s how it’s portrayed. A greater temporarily assuming a lesser standing.

vii) I think 14:28 involves the same principle as 17:4-5:

4 I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.

The Father is “greater” in the sense that the heavenly realm is greater than the earthly realm. By returning to heaven, Jesus is leaving behind the limitations of his earthly ministry. He can do more from heaven, for that mode of existence isn’t subject to our spacetime limitations. Of course, his earthly ministry lays the groundwork for his heavenly ministry. The ascended Son can empower the disciples to do greater works because heaven affords a greater field of action.

In 14:28, I think the “Father” functions as a metonymy or synecdoche for God’s exclusive domain, in contrast to the world. A greater place.

That identification accounts for the emphasis on changing places (heaven>earth, earth>heaven), with the attendant abilities.

This is similar to how the Gospels alternate between “kingdom of God” and “kingdom of heaven,” where “heaven” is a synonym for “God,” and vice versa.

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Squashing Beetles

December 16, 2012

It seems that all the loonies are in flight this time of year and a couple of people have asked me to respond to a recent Youtube video by Monty Collier accusing me of Arminianism or worse.

To make a long stupid story short, on the Facebook “Gordon Clark/Unitarian/Semi-Arian” page Monty started by asserting that Gordon Clark taught “monergistic sanctification.”  When I showed him this was false and for Clark sanctification is synergistic as man is not passive in progressive sanctification, rather than simply admitting his error and moving on he then asserted that justification by faith is monergistic which is also false because God doesn’t believe for us.  In justification regeneration is monergistic as man is altogether passive and regeneration is entirely an act of God, who, by his free grace, makes us willing and able to answer the call of the Gospel and “to embrace the grace offered and conveyed in it.”   Saving belief, however, is an assent to the propositions of the Gospel, and, per Clark, assent is an act of the will.  As the WCF explains: “Those whom God effectually calleth he also freely justifieth; not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous:  not for any thing wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ’s sake alone:  not by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience, to them as their righteousness; but by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them , they receiving and resting on him and his righteousness by faith:  which faith they have not of themselves; it is the gift of God.”

So while saving faith is passive in the sense that it “receives and rests” on Christ alone and his righteousness, it is active in the sense that we must believe in order to be justified which is why faith itself is included as an “evangelical obedience” per the WCF.  Evidently this distinction was too much for Monty and he wasn’t satisfied in my insistence that regeneration is monergistic and not the entire Christian life. So, again, instead of simply admitting his error and moving on, Monty continues to confuse the effectual call with justification by faith alone or WCF X with WCF XI and ends up a slandering me in the process.

More Poisoned Fruit From A Deranged Mind

December 15, 2012

lunatic

Drake Shelton has responded to my post, “The Poisonous Fruit of a Troubled Mind,” by confessing that he is indeed a “White Supremacist” and that the “vast majority of black men in America are evil blood thirsty murderers.” He reiterates his belief that “a handful of States” should be set aside  “to be populated by Blacks and other necessary persons such as inter-racial spouses.”  (Notice his use of  other “necessary persons.”  I wonder who those might be?  Mexicans, Jews, people with clubfoot or cleft lips and other racially impure persons perhaps?)  As a concession to his plan of forced migration and racial segregation he writes, “The Whites would be giving up huge industrialized States ready to be used by the Blacks.”  What a generous racist.

In addition, and perhaps even more frightening (if all this wasn’t frightening enough), Shelton thinks he’s a prophet (more like a false prophet) and claims; “God gave me an understanding into things that maybe a handful of people alive understand.” Oh, brother.  Shelton is Pat Robertson with a burning cross dressed in KKK sportswear.

This guy is completely unhinged.  Not only does he deny the Son but he claims to have received special knowledge uniquely revealed to him that he shares with his handful of heretical semi-Arian and Unitarian followers.  Can you say CULT.   If anyone is interested in this type of Kool-Aid they can find more of Shelton’s dangerous and delusional ravings here.

A Special Kind Of Arrogance

December 14, 2012

the trinityThere is a special kind of arrogance that can look over more than a millennium of church history and theological development and say; “No, you’ve got it all wrong.”  Yet, that is exactly what Ryan Hedrich and Drake Shelton have done.  But they don’t just say this about some obscure or nonessential doctrine.  They argue that theologians throughout church history have been completely wrong about the Trinity and that Christians everywhere should reject it. They say it is “false” to say that God is one being that consists of Three Persons, a belief held by all Christians everywhere and for all time. They say that rather than the belief that  God is Triune, an idea they claim is “irrational” and nothing more than warmed over “Sabellianism,” the Father alone is the one true God and to Him alone is due all of our praise and worship.  While Shelton admits he is a Unitarian (although he prefers to say he’s a Unitarian with a lowercase “u”), Hedrich wants to pretend he’s really a Trinitarian (I assume with a lowercase “t”).

To create this illusion that either Hedrich or Shelton are even remotely or nominally Trinitarian, they maintain that the Son and Spirit are divine persons in a limited and restricted sense as they lack self-existence and authority in themselves.  Instead the Son and Spirit derive their existence from the Father who then delegates his authority to them.  Neither the Son nor the Spirit are “autotheos” or God of themselves.  Their divinity is derived and contingent on the Father’s essential and supreme divinity.  According to Hedrich and Shelton only the Father can be called God in the fullest sense and the Son and Spirit are merely his messengers or servants both of whom act as pointers or emissaries leading people to the “one true God the Father.”  Ryan calls Jesus Christ a “vicegerent,” which means that he is God’s deputy who exercises power delegated to him by the Father and something He lacks intrinsically and in himself.  Shelton refers to Jesus as an “icon” who is not strictly speaking God incarnate (which in his warped mind would mean the Father is incarnate), but rather is  “the representative of God on earth who has de jure authority over all men.”   The important thing to keep in mind is that when these men say “God” they mean “the Father.”

One of the results of this subordination of the Son in being and power can be seen in a recent piece defending Hedrich’s rejection of the historic Christian faith that appeared on Shelton’s blog, Nonexistent Light.  Wedged in between some of the most detestable and vile racism littered throughout Shelton’s blog, Mark Xu defends Hendirch’s semi-Arianism proclaiming:

 …the unity of Godhead is God the Father, as the fountain and source of deity, the only true God, the supreme governor of the universe and the ultimate object of our worship. To him be glory for ever and ever Amen.

Think about for a moment.  According to Xu the Father is the proper and ultimate object of all our praise and worship and not the Son and Spirit as co-equal Persons of the Godhead. The unity of the Godhead is not the attributes or essence the Three share together, rather two Persons are united in one supreme Person.  God the Father is exclusively “the one true God,” which clearly eliminates God the Son and God the Spirit from ontologically sharing in that title “the one true God.”    When I asked Hedrich if he agrees with this little piece of blasphemy offered in his defense he said; “I agree with Mark.”  Consequently, and if we’re to believe Hedrich, Christians are either sinfully wrong or simply deceived when they sing:

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
All thy works shall praise thy name, in earth, and sky, and sea;
Holy, holy, holy! Merciful and mighty!
God in three persons, blessèd Trinity!

Silly Christians.  Yet, in Scripture we see many examples where Jesus is the direct object of worship without objection, qualification, or reservation.  For example:

(Mat 2:2)  “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east, and have come to worship Him.”

(Mat 2:11)  And they came into the house and saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell down and worshiped Him; and opening their treasures they presented to Him gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh.

(Mat 14:33)  And those who were in the boat worshiped Him, saying, “You are certainly God’s Son!”

(John 9:38)  And he said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped Him.

(Luke 24:51, 52)  And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven.   And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy.

(Heb 1:6)  And when He again brings the first-born into the world, He says, “AND LET ALL THE ANGELS OF GOD WORSHIP HIM.”

These verses can be multiplied many times over, but the interesting thing is that in every instance where we see men and women bowing down before Jesus and worshiping Him as their Lord and their God never once does He stop to correct them or tell them to worship the Father instead.  He never once tells them that their worship is misdirected and he never points them to the Father alone as the proper or ultimate object of worship.  Instead Jesus says “I and the Father are one.”  In doing so he claims to be the Father’s equal in every way even commanding that all men should honor him “even as they honor the Father” and adds;  “He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him” (John 5:23).

Sadly, Hedrich’s failure to honor the Son while thinking he is honoring the Father stems from a complete misreading of the Nicene fathers and Athanasius in particular. Perhaps the clearest evidence of this is the fact that all of church history, including the entirety of the Reformed tradition, stand in direct opposition to Hedrich.  Yet, this observation hardly gives this proud young man even the slightest pause.  But unlike “Athanasius contra mundum,” Hendich remains “contra Athanasius.” At the heart of Henrich’s departure from the faith lies the misplaced belief that the eternal generation of the Son necessitates the ontological and authoritative subordination of the Son to the Father, but that is precisely the  opposite of what Athanasius taught and what the Nicene creed affirmed.  For Hedrich, just as we derive out existence from our human parents, the Son as the only begotten of the Father derives his existence and divinity in a similar fashion, but that kind of one to one comparison is what the Nicene fathers wanted to avoid.  The irony is if Hedrich is correct then Athanasius would be advocating the very subordinationism he was opposing in his fight against the Arians and semi-Arians.    (more…)

The Poisonous Fruit of a Troubled Mind

December 13, 2012

drake

There is little doubt that Drake Shelton is a troubled soul.  Recently on his racist subordnationist anti-Trinitarian blog, Nonexistent Light, he wrote:

I have come under severe depression in the last day due to the overwhelming nature of this issue, my exile in Louisville, Ky with no Christian fellowship, the scandalous and atheistic treatment I have received from so-called brothers in Christ and my less than Christ-like reaction to that treatment.  I am going to be taking a break for a while. Pray for me that my faith not falter and that the Lord would make good of the heavy burden he has placed upon me; that is, that I would respond in a way that is submissive to his word  and submit to the chastening that he has put me under.

Interesting, and besides not taking a break at all as he continues to post some of the most hate filled posts I’ve ever seen, Drake complains about suffering from “severe depression” due to lack of Christian fellowship in his “exile in Kentucky.” Give me a break.  He has no Christian fellowship because he is not a Christian.  He is not in “exile” in Kentucky, he is a white-supremacist Unitarian apostate who denies the Son.  Can there be any wonder why he lacks Christian fellowship? I know of no Christian church that would accept him as a member. What session looking at his website would think he has a credible profession of faith? His “exile” is self imposed and unless he repents in exile in his parents basement is where he will remain.

Notice too that he takes no responsibility for his deplorable situation but instead blames his depression on “the scandalous and atheistic treatment I have received from so-called brothers in Christ.” Just like on his blog where he blames his inability to find gainful employment on  “Yankee-ized, Negroized, Darwinists.”

Interesting too, and probably something overlooked by the followers of  Drake’s semi-Arianism like Ryan Hedrich (but maybe not), is that Drake’s rejection of Christian Trinitarianism, or what he calls “the Monad,” is central to his racism. Concerning a proposal where he advocates the establishment of a nationwide system of apartheid in America, he writes in response to his fellow racists:

Brooks believes that Black Nationalism has created a detrimental and destructive hostility towards anything European. He calls this “Racial Romanticism.”

I would reply that all of these objections are satisfied in the solution that Eric Jon Phelps has presented, namely, that the United States reserve a handful of States to be populated by Blacks and other necessary persons such as inter-racial spouses. The States would constitute a new nation, independent of the United States. This movement should be based upon the origin of Races, and Racial and Linguistic Separation found in Genesis 9-11. In this construction the races and languages are something that God created according to his good pleasure, as he is a God who loves distinction and variety. He is not a distinction-less monad.  Thus any preaching of racial or genetic purification by the elimination of a certain race would be absent and strongly condemned. Secondly, this would not involve an exodus back to Africa but would involve a population shift within a social structure already replete with Black Democratic Government Representatives. Thirdly, this solution would remove the Blacks from being under a White government and thus remove the ability of any Whites to oppress or hold Blacks back. On the contrary, and fourthly, the Whites would be giving up huge industrialized States ready to be used by the Blacks, thus removing the detrimental effects of Black Racial Romanticism.

Thankfully, Drake doesn’t advocate the wholesale extermination of blacks, at least not outright or at least not yet, but notice according to him God “is not a distinction less monad,” therefore, if you can follow his logic, and it seems that some men do,  even some who pretend to be Christian Scripturalists, the complete institutionalized and nationwide segregation of blacks is warranted, and is in fact even biblically justified, according to his subordinationist anti-Trinitarian heretical scheme. No wonder he rants like a raving lunatic against the “the absolute blasphemy of the Tri-Theistic or Monadistic phrase ‘God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost.‘”  I suppose if he believed like every other Christian to walk the face of the earth that the Three Persons of the Trinity are co-equals in their being and power perhaps he would see that all men made in God’s image were equal too and he would have no way to justify his hatred of blacks.

Consequently,  I do agree that we should pray for Drake, but not for what he asks for. Rather we should pray that he might be converted to the true faith in the one true God even the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and that he repent of his sinful subordinationism and racism.


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