Opinions on faith and life

Trinity Debate Assessment, Part 3

2008-10-28

Under “2. Opening Statements”, point I (neg.)

Point I states that that the affirmative lacks scriptural support while the negative has such support. They clarify and focus the debate by stating that Biblical authority is not a part of the debate at all, and that neither view believes philosophy should trump scripture.

Under “2. Opening Statements”, point II (neg.)

Point II examines whether the scriptures used by the affirmative are valid. The “indirect Biblical argument” made by the affirmative fails due to its presumption that the Trinity can be adequately described in human terms. By grounding the relationship among the three Persons in what we understand about people, it limits the unfathomable Trinity to whatever we can grasp. In other words, to dogmatically state that there must be hierarchy in the Trinity is to claim knowledge beyond that which is actually stated in scripture or can be deduced from it.

The “direct Biblical argument” used by the affirmative is shown to be logically self-defeating. Please refer to the list at the transcript for details. It shows that if the sender is superior to the one sent, then what do they do with scripture that shows the Spirit sending the Son (Mt. 4:1, Mark 1:12, Luke 4:1)? By their own logic, scripture must be saying that the Son and the Spirit are subservient to each other (ref. John 15:26 for the Son sending the Spirit)!

Under “2. Opening Statements”, point III (neg.)

Point III is where the detailed rebuttal is given. I will try my best to relay the argument as simply as I can. I will abbreviate “eternal role subordination” as RS to match the transcript (that is, to stand for the belief that the Son is eternally subordinate to the Father). I won’t go over each of the points individually since they are trying to cover all possible scenarios in various RS theories, and they do so from the angle of more formal logic.

Since we cannot know for certain that the Son is permanently subordinate to the Father beyond a philosophical presumption, and since that is the very point being debated, the RS argument is primarily philosophical and not theological. The point under debate cannot be presumed in the premises. The philosophical presumption is that distinctions among the Persons cannot be made without hierarchy or at least some kind of roles. But even if the presumption is that their relationships are what distinguish them, it is still a philosophical assertion to presume that these relationships must entail hierarchy.

If RS is true without exception in any scenario, then it must follow that the Father has an essential property that the Son lacks, and vice versa (the same principle follows for any combination in the Trinity). And it follows from there that the three Persons do not have the same nature. Yet both sides unequivocally agree that they must all have the same nature. Therefore RS cannot be true. Either they all have different and unique natures, or there can be no hierarchy among them. Either RS is self-contradictory or merely an arbitrary assertion based upon philosophy instead of scripture.

Next up: the rebuttals to each view. (or back to Part Two)