Yesterday Dale Tuggy challenged James White to debate whether or not the God of the bible is the Trinity on his Trinities podcast (Episode 182: White’s Case for the Trinity–Part 2 at 38:17). The question is, “Will White accept the challenge?” If so, he will have to do more than follow his standard approach of prima facie proof-texting. He’ll have to delve deeper and actually define what he means by saying the Father is God, Jesus is God, and the Holy Spirit is God and yet there is only one God. Just baldly asserting these claims doesn’t explain how the Father is God and how Jesus is God, how the spirit is God, or how they are all one. Of course, biblical unitarians believe the bible calls Jesus God (in a representational sense) and that the holy spirit is God in action (not a separate person), but this is totally different from White’s presupposition of trintarianism.
Furthermore, identifying the Trinity as Yahweh cannot possibly work, since names identify individuals not substances. If Yahweh is a person (as tens of thousands of singular personal pronouns clearly imply) then Yahweh cannot identify an impersonal substance. Either Yahweh is the Trinity and we have four persons: the Father, the Son, the Spirit, and Yahweh or else Yahweh identifies the substance and Yahweh is not an agent at all, but the mere designation of a substance like oak, granite, or vapor. Either we add a person or lose Yahweh’s personhood altogether. Either way, we buck up against the Hebrew bible since it regularly portrays Yahweh as the only true God as well as the personal agent who acts within the history of redemption.
In addition, one cannot just assume that first century Jewish fishermen had categories of thought like ontological unity or they perceived the distinction between person and essence. Is this really what White believes–that Peter and John believed the Trinity? I’m not sure White is up for the challenge. After all, if he debates Tuggy, he won’t be able to get away with equivocation or ad hominem attacks. Tuggy can defeat his biblical case, his logical case, and his historical case. White has only two choices:
- Refuse to debate Tuggy
- Come up with a new strategy
What will he choose?
Here’s Tuggy’s official challenge taken from a little after 38 minutes into Podcast 182
Dr. White, if you want something different, if you want something new, I would be glad to debate you sometime. Get in touch with me. I will give you an argument for Christian unitarian theology based on the New Testament and no one will be able to say that it presupposes unitarianism. And the reason is, I won’t just take a few favorite unitarian verses and say, “See unitarianism!” I’ll argue from large scale facts about the New Testament from its explicit teachings, from its clear implications, and I’ll call into question theory-driven questionable inferences that you are going to make from the scripture.
I’ll debate whether or not the one God is a Trinity in the New Testament. I’ll debate whether or not Jesus, according to the bible, is the one God himself. It’s probably best to debate one of those two things rather than start talking about the Trinity and then retreating to the, you think, easier proof texts on the deity of Christ. I think it’s important that a person should have something to say about all the important texts. Yet when we hunker down into specific points about Greek grammar we tend to lose our broader vision. And I think that’s really what’s called for if we are going to debate trinitarian vs. unitarian Christian theology.
I do occasionally make use of a little bit of humor in my presentations, but I’m sure Dr. White can handle that. But, can he handle the case that I will make from the New Testament without employing any controversial philosophical theses–just the New Testament, common sense, and the standard scholarly helps. There’s a powerful case that all of those authors are unitarians in their theology. I don’t think that Dr. White’s opponents have made that case as well as it could be made….
I assume he wouldn’t want to debate me. It wouldn’t fit the standard script of battling the cultists, which is what I think Dr. White prefers. I’m not in a cult. I’ve never been in a cult. I’m pretty much a lifelong evangelical who just went back and reexamined scripture at great length and found that it didn’t say what I thought it was going to say. Basically, I’m an insider whose a whistle-blower. I accept the authority of scripture and all of it. I neither assume nor accept the authority of the catholic traditions that Dr. White is relying on in his exegesis. So, I don’t fit the script. I do think I’m qualified to do this. Hopefully Dr. White agrees and we’ll work something out. Anyhow, let us know if you’d be interested in seeing something like that.
More on Dale Tuggy at trinities.org
More on James White at aomin.org