The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Gregory MacDonald Really is Bad, part 3 (he's only orthodox

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

[size=150]Gregory MacDonald Really is Bad, part 3 (he’s only orthodox by chance) [/size]
Steve continues

It’s just a coincidence that you’re theism happens to be as nominally orthodox as it turns out to be. The Trinity doesn’t conflict with universalism, so you just so happen to affirm the Trinity.Your universalism is heretical, and where your remaining theology is orthodox, it’s orthodox by chance. Like being accidentally innocent of murder because the gun misfired.

Ouch! On non-universalist theological issues I am only orthodox “by chance” and thus only “nominally orthodox” (on universalist issues I am simply a heretic). I think that Steve’s point is that he believes that my deepest convictions about God are idolatrous and where my surface beliefs appear to be orthodox this is simply a matter of convenience (because they do not contradict my deeper, universalist convictions). As a result they are not expressions of genuine faith but mere nominal faith.

I must confess to being somewhat surprised that Steve, who does not know me at all, feels so confident in his analysis of my inner life as to be able to make such claims. I hope that if he knew me personally then he would come to see that he is quite mistaken. One day he will know me personally and we’ll have heartfelt fellowship. For now I can only made claims which he may simply not believe. However, for the record, here goes …

The revelation of God as triune - Father, Son and Spirit - is far more fundamental to my faith than universalism was, is, or ever will be. It is the heart of my Christianity and I would surrender universalist theology any day before surrendering trinitarian theology. It is not something I believe by accident or as a mater of convenience, and it is not nominal.

I hope that helps.

However, I am make no apology for being thrilled that the beautiful, glorious God and Father of our Lord Jesus is the one who is reconciling the whole world to himself through Christ and in the Spirit. Universalism is compatible with orthodox trinitarian faith - deal with it!
Posted by Gregory MacDonald at 10:48 AM

Jason Pratt said…
Ah; I see that Steve has upgraded to calling you (in effect) an intentional murderer who by accident fails to murder.

Imagine how torqued he gets when I argue that universalism is an exclusively logical corollary of orthodox trinitarian theism… {sigh}


July 9, 2008 12:11 PM

Josh said…
I’m beginning to wonder if a Christian Universalist beat up Steve on the playground in grade school.

I’m enjoying this series and its good natured replies. It is very much keeping with the wisdom of Proverbs 15:1, “A gentle answer turns away rage, but harsh words stir up anger”.

July 9, 2008 2:26 PM

Bobby said…
Don’t be too quick to put all your eggs in the Trinitarian basket…your friend Steve is wrong on both accounts. There is no triune God…He is ONE and that’s what the Bible affirms over and over again. I challenge you to show me any contextual reference in all of the Bible that clearly supports the Trinity except for 1John 5:7-8 in a few poorly translated Bibles. The words “in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit, and these three are one” cannot be found in any manuscript dated earlier than 1500 A.D. Is Jesus God? Yes, because God the Father created Him to be God…the first born of many brethren. Does that in any way diminish the Person of Jesus or His sacrifice for the sins of the WHOLE world? NO!!! The Holy Spirit is God’s spirit, not some “other” personality of God. For a very comprehensive explanation, follow this link:
where L.Ray Smith, a retired roofer, will WOW you with his arguments.

July 9, 2008 10:46 PM

Anonymous said…
Bobby. While I probably stand somewhere between your position and Gregory´s on the trinity, I think Steve are nonetheless wrong to assume that universalism always or logically comes with other heresies (like anti-trinitarianism), and I understand why Gregory can be orthodox on some points and “heretical” on others.
/Jonas Lundström

July 10, 2008 4:23 AM

Jason Pratt said…
I doubt any of us, as scholars (professional or otherwise) have put our eggs into the trinitarian basket especially quickly, Bobby. {s} Also, I’m not aware of any professional or experienced theologian (if I may risk the ‘no true Scotsman’ fallacy) who bothers to refer to the interpolation in 1 John. (In fact I usually hear about that non-issue from anti-trinitarians. Trinitarianism had to be argued and debated for 1500 years, and survived the process, without that interpolation.)

“Clearly” is, to some degree, a matter of perception, which can be affected by analytical results: to me the Great Commission baptism referent is “clearly” trinitarian in its language construction. But I wouldn’t hang an exegetical argument on that one reference, or even on a handful of them. And other people obviously reach different analytical conclusions. (Though I think it’s interesting that sooner or later, in my experience, the “interpolation” card tends to be played concerning the GosMatt baptism commission at the end. Not everyone does it, but the moment anyone does, their whole ground shifts to it being too obviously trinitarian.)

That being said, I hope you’re prepared to respect the fact that Gregory’s journal is about evangelical universalism, and not about discussing warrants for or against trinitarianism per se.


July 10, 2008 9:18 AM

Bobby said…
My apologies for any offense caused by my perhaps too rash comments. As you have discovered, I’m not a scholar or theologian, just passionate. I’m really enjoying the blog. With the exception of me, the contributors seem thoughtful and well grounded in their perspectives.

July 11, 2008 8:06 AM

Gregory MacDonald said…

For a biblical defence of Trinitarian ideas I must refer you to the sources in my comment on a previous post in the series. Hope they help.

But for the record - to me the Trinity is the centre of Christian theology. It is a non-negotiable.

However, I am more than happy to have gentle conversations with those who disagree - you did not cause any offence whatsoever (and Jason is quite right that no Christian scholar who defends the Trinity uses the suspect verses in 1 John).


July 11, 2008 3:22 PM

Bobby said…
Thanks for letting me off the hook…I never want to offend but seriously crave open and honest discussion of several issues. Sometimes my passion gets a little out of control and I come on too strong…I’ll try to improve.

I have so much respect for your opinion, and Jason’s and Jonas’ too for that matter, that I would like to engage in a “gentle conversation” about the Trinity. If this is not the place (as Jason implied), where can it be held? I don’t have a blogspot, but will create one if that’s needed. In the mean time, I’m asking each of you to take a look at L. Ray Smith’s paper on the subject at: I’d really appreciate your opinions on his arguments.

I still want to discuss the demonstration idea and while I’m on a roll, the idea that no human is in hell at the present and that only One human is in heaven right now (John 3:14). It’s really hard to find Christians with the intelligence, education and openness to discuss these “unorthodox” subjects…please engage! Thanks!

July 12, 2008 8:41 PM

Bobby said…
Sorry, the scriptural reference in my last post should be John 3:13.

July 13, 2008 12:05 AM

Gregory MacDonald said…

OK - let’s talk Trinity. I have read L. Ray Smith’s paper. It is rhetorically effective at a popular level but does not reflect much substantive understanding of the biblical texts in question nor traditional understandings of the Trinity. So it will come as no surprise that I was not remotely persuaded (which is not to say that none of his arguments had merit).

Now there is an immediate problem with knowing how to proceed. It is a very long paper packed full of arguments. Any attempt to pick it apart would be even longer - far longer than is appropriate here (and far longer than I have time for). So you’ll have to help me. What in particular would you like me to coment on?

My basic problem is that the topic is so massive with so many texts that need discussing (and with so many exegetical issues to consider) I still suspect that you’d be better off checking out the books I mentioned. However, if you can tell me what you wish me to comment on then I’ll have a go.



July 13, 2008 10:29 AM

Jason Pratt said…

I suppose my first comment would have to be that for someone wanting a gentle discussion of the issues, Ray the retired roofer does not give an especially gentle discussion of the issues. On the contrary, his paper is laced with emphatic derision all the way through.

His first paragraph starts off with a totally false historical claim: “[The trinitarian followers of Christendom] do not even deem it necessary to explain [the doctrine of the trinity], prove it, or in any way substantiate whether or not such a thing actually exists or is even so much as mentioned in the entirety of the Holy Scriptures!”

When someone starts off like this, it is very difficult not to simply dismiss everything that follows a priori (if I may be allowed a pun there. {s})

I can respect someone who says, for example, ‘The trinitarians have been hashing out their doctrine of the trinity meticulously since at least the time of Constantine, constantly refining it against substantial arguments against it, always seeming to find some new reason to dive into speculative exegetics and knive each other with claims of unfaithful heresy at the slightest provocation–a habit that lasted for multiple centuries through the fall of Rome and the rise of Islam, convening the occasional religious war in the Middle Ages, and even today is still productive of division between the two oldest branches of the trinitarian church in their pedantic insistence on reading their same shared scriptures to mean either that the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son, or from the Father alone. Not to mention the minority trinitarian dissenters in various portions of the Middle East such as the Coptics.’

That person would at least be getting prima facie historical facts correct; our dispute would be on the quality assessment of the facts (plus perhaps questions of expanding the factual base for assessment.) Ray the retired roofer begins by demonstrating he either doesn’t know or doesn’t care that all this sturm-und-drang went on for at least fifteen centuries or so with results that are still historically relevant and in effect today.

(Nor do I consider him excused because he looked up “Trinity” in the Hastings Dictionary of the Bible. A marginally cursory knowledge of church history would have served him better. Heck, anti-trinitarians routinely appeal to the picky scriptural and metaphysical reasonings of the trinitarian disputes as some kind of emotional evidence-by-suspicious-implication against accepting the doctrinal set! I will, however, blame Hastings for making Ray’s job marginally more difficult. I suspect one particular kind of Calvinism behind it.)

Fortunately, I try to make a habit of assessing someone’s analytical prowess on a point by point basis. But still, it needs to be said: you do understand that Ray’s initial paragraph contains at least one flagrantly erroneous claim, yes?

(I might take practical exception to the first sentence, also: in my experience, though admittedly speaking within a largely Protestant culture, the doctrine of the Trinity is taken for granted by most Christians not because it’s so absolutely fundamental to them as followers, but because they don’t understand it and simply defer to people they deem to have had training on the topic as referrent experts. The first sentence might be true enough as a description of the vast majority of RCC and EOx congregations, though, along with probably the ancient minority dissenting trinitarians, inasmuch as there are procedural classification issues about who constitutes members of those groups, tied closely to profession of trinitarian claims. I might or might not disagree with the third sentence in his first paragraph, depending on what he meant by ‘proof’ and ‘validate’. I’m somewhat doubtful it’s possible to deductively establish that the canon in total adds up, so to speak, to the trinitarian doctrinal set, for example, in total exclusion of other options. But I might be wrong about that. {shrug})

Now for “something important and profound”: whenever someone tries to teach a doctrine that is scriptural, he will also always be forced to use words that are unscriptural. (Either that, or he will simply be quoting ancient Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek at you, chapter and verse–except of course without the chapters and verses since those are a late marking technique–without even explication of the scriptures in those same languages.)

As Gregory kindly put it, this sort of tactic is “rhetorically effective at a popular level”; but it doesn’t necessarily mean much one way or another. I’m coming up a bit blank as to anyone in the OT or NT being called ‘a person’. (“Anthropos”, or man-as-human, in Greek, is perhaps the closest. And it still gets slurred over with “aner” sometimes.) That includes Jesus Christ, Whom Ray does seem to consider to be a person: “The spirit of truth was with the apostles in the person of Jesus Christ”. Moreover, in his final comment-to-comments so far, Ray avers, “HOW many Persons? Jesus & Father–Two.”

So… am I supposed to reject this claim of Ray’s as being unscriptural because God is never referred to as “a person” in the scriptures? (He is quite adamant that these two Persons somehow are God. “Jesus IS God”, etc.)

Also, Ray is incorrect about the Holy Spirit never being called “God”. Aside from numerous examples of the HS being identified as YHWH (with YHWH being a key name for God) via OT quotation application, and being given the divine title of Kurios directly, in the NT, Peter’s condemnation of Ananias and his wife Sapphira involves identifying the HS with God: “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit?.. You have not lied to men, but to God.” (Acts 5:3-4)

There are minor grammatic variances in various source texts for Acts, in verses 3 and 4 of this chapter, but none of them have anything to do adding an identification of the HS with ‘ho theos’. (And the grammar is emphatic about {to pneuma to hagion}. Even Knoch’s Concordant Literal translation, which Ray seems to respect–I like to use it, too–emphatically reads “the holy [the] spirit” there.)

It might be argued that Peter was wrong to make this identification; or that Peter was making (what we would now call) a ‘modalistic’ identification; or that Luke touched things up for his own theological purposes; or that he sloppily translated into Greek a different meaning in popular Aramaic (which is what Peter would be expected to be speaking here) at some distance in time from the reported event. It might even be argued that in light of the larger contextual issues we should dismiss the apparent identification of the HS with God here. But what cannot be argued, is that Peter isn’t (insofar as the received text sources go) calling the Holy Spirit God.

(A search through Ray’s paper didn’t turn up a reference to the Ananias incident in Acts, but that doesn’t mean a discussion of it isn’t there, I suppose. I haven’t read through the whole paper yet, so perhaps it’s discussed in some different context. Though if so, he doesn’t mention that the reference is found in Acts–there are only two references to that book in Ray’s paper, both of them near each other, and both concerning a supposedly spurious text at Acts 28:30, though I suspect Ray meant some other verse, perhaps 29 which is recognized to be spurious. Neither of those verses have anything to do with trinitarian disputation, btw (not that Ray says so either). There are certainly more than two verses occasionally found in some Bibles that are “not supported by original manuscripts”, by the way. If it comes to that, all the verses found in all Bibles are “not supported by original manuscripts” per se, because no one knows of any surviving original manuscripts to any book in the canon. Or any other ancient document that I’m aware of, for that matter. But in the looser sense Ray was probably thinking of, there are still several verse sets often agreed by virtue of textual analysis arguments to not be original to the documents. The two most famous such sets are the Adulteress Pericope in GosJohn, and the GosMark Epilogue. Some later source-texts of Acts contain a lot of interpolation, but these are not typically found in Bibles today, and haven’t been for around 150 years–nor ever were found there in some families of manuscripts.)

Ray’s protest that, since Christ is the Son (Incarnate?) He cannot also be the Father, is in fact something technically agreed to by trinitarians (as part of our rejection of modalism in various forms). To what extent the Son can still somehow be “coequal” with the Father is another question, and one that well-informed trinitarian theologians might also agree with Ray on rejecting, too, depending on what “coequal” is supposed to mean. A modalist might say that the Son and the Father are the same person expressing himself in contextually different fashions (like father and judge) and so are “coequal” in that way; a Mormon might claim that the Son and the Father are two equally derivative entities with no ontological superiority between one and another (just as my human father isn’t ontologically superior to me, or my mother either for that matter {s}), or that they are two equally ontologically independent entities (depending on the type of Mormonism). Trinitarians would technically reject all those kinds of co-equality.

More importantly, though, Ray is making a short (and somewhat tacit) metaphysical argument here. I certainly don’t mind him making the attempt, and I certainly agree that metaphysical analysis has to be entered into for a coherent theological claim; but Ray has instantly gone outside his ostensible purview under which he has filed this attempt: for there is certainly nowhere in the scriptures where it is said, “since Christ is the Son, He cannot also be the Father or be coequal with the His Father” (or polysyllabic variations thereof).

This brings me to the end of the first page, more or less, of Ray’s dissertation. So far it is very substandard (except at being rhetorically effective at a popular level, perhaps); and contains a few outright false claims as well. I am not yet WOW’d with his arguments (such as they are); and I certainly wouldn’t be too quick to put all my eggs in the anti-trinitarian basket yet.

This is commentary on one page out of what looks like 21 plus another 6 pages of follow-up correspondence from Ray with commenters. I’m at about the same wordcount as Ray so far; but I expect this will go up substantially later on my side. Gregory isn’t kidding when he says it’ll take a while to comment on it, due to the massive topical size.

But I figured this was as good enough time as any for a break, and I have other writing to be doing today, so… {shrug} {s}


July 13, 2008 3:39 PM

Bobby said…

Wow! I don’t think I’ve ever felt more intimidated! I think I might have been able to respond to Gregory’s request for more specific direction on the subject of the Trinity, but after reading Jason’s comments, I’m really scared to say anything. Obviously, I’ve gotten in way over my head…I really don’t even understand most of what he said, except that he thinks Ray’s a dumbbell and I must be if I thought he had anything intelligent to say. I’ve met some very smart people in my life, but never met anyone who seems more intoxicated with the exuberance of his own verbosity! However, I’m not sure that sounding good makes a person’s perspective necessarily right. I’m just glad we seem to agree that God is going to save us all.

July 13, 2008 10:50 PM

Bobby said…
After reading my last post, I’d like to apologize to Jason…intimidation sometimes makes me say things too harshly…please forgive.

July 13, 2008 11:51 PM

Gregory MacDonald said…

Please do let me know what you’d like me to comment on re: the Trinity. I’m still open for ‘gentle conversation’ if you wish for it (or email me on



July 14, 2008 8:16 AM

Jason Pratt said…

I take it you didn’t notice that much of the length of that post involved me making qualifications either against my position or in Ray’s favor, where I could.

Writers who are getting off on their own egotism don’t typically look for places where they’d be willing to agree and work with their opponents on something both of them think is important. Nor do they typically offer dismissive critiques of their own actual history that they’d be prepared to respect to a certain degree. Nor do they typically qualify the limits to how far their own critiques of an opponent’s position can be carried. Nor do they typically spend large amounts of time finding ways to go even further with a position than their opponent has.

However, if it comes to complaining about someone’s intoxication with the exuberance of his own verbosity, perhaps you should start with Ray’s constant and emphatic rhetorical dismissals. (Which is exactly why I started there. It isn’t like those are hard to miss. {s})

Also, I didn’t notice anywhere on that first page where Ray was willing to point out respectful agreements between himself and his opponents.

{{I really don’t even understand most of what he said, except that he thinks Ray’s a dumbbell and I must be if I thought he had anything intelligent to say.}}

I think I was sufficiently specific about the particular problems I found on the first page. Pointing those problems out doesn’t mean Ray had nothing intelligent to say anywhere.

That being said, Ray does make a very large error in his claims about trinitarian apologetics at the outset, which wouldn’t have taken much historical study to avoid. It really is not excusable for him to ignore fifteen centuries of scriptural and metaphysical argument in favor of trinitarianism as if they don’t exist. (I doubt he ignores it later in his paper, as a practical matter, for what it’s worth. But that would make the initial dismissal even less excusable.)

The error regarding Acts is more subtle, but it’s still something that has to be pointed out in an accounting of his case. The category error of including a metaphysical argument in a group that was supposed to exclude things of that sort, also has to be noted. (Though I did so as sympathetically as I could. I didn’t even critique the implied argument there, figuring there would be a better and clearer opportunity to fairly do that later.) As do also the other initial fallacies common to popular anti-trinitarian cases.

I went into detail because detail was warranted for a fair assessment of the case so far; not to try to intimidate you. I don’t think in terms of intimidation. (I habitually assume other people must be able to figure out what I’m talking about, because I don’t consider myself to be any better than other people.)

I also went into a bit of detail to emphasize that any analysis was going to be just as lengthy (or moreso), because I thought you deserved to know that ahead of time.

{{However, I’m not sure that sounding good makes a person’s perspective necessarily right.}}

I agree with that, for what it’s worth. {s}

I should also point out (again, as I did before) that I only commented on the first page. For all I know Ray might have numerous good points later in the paper. Some of the things on the first page are factually correct anyway; and I certainly don’t blame him for dissing the Hastings Proclamation. {lopsided g}

{{After reading my last post, I’d like to apologize to Jason}}

Easily accepted. Mainly I’m sorry you were so upset. If you go up to people who have been studying these things in-depth for years and tell us not to put all our eggs in the trinitarian basket so quickly, though…

And if you’re going to be upset by someone’s reply, it would be better mine than Gregory’s. He’s the site leader after all. {s} (Though I suspect he’d be less brusque than I am anyway.)

I won’t continue with a second page unless you ask for it; and I would rather not do so on a public journal dedicated to another complex topic altogether. You can email me by following the blue hyperlink for my name, to my blogger profile page, and look for the ‘email’ hyperlink. (That should avoid spambots. Be clear about the topic in the email, header, though, if you do, so I won’t accidentally erase it as spam.) Or not, if not. My writing style isn’t for everyone, and if I’m not being helpful I would advise dropping me.


July 14, 2008 10:43 AM

Bobby said…
Thanks for keeping the “door open” on the Trinity. My intimidation has subsided somewhat and I feel no need to move the discussion away from this forum. And I don’t want to exclude Jason either…discovering the truth is not advanced by closing off the input of those who have something important to say. After reading his post several times, I think I understand what he’s saying and in many places agree with him (given my limited knowledge of the subject).

Since for you, the Trinity is non-negotiable, I’m sure nothing I say will change your position and that’s OK…we don’t have to agree on everything…you’re playing your unique role in the demonstration, Jason is and so am I. It wasn’t universalism that caused me to question the orthodox position on the Trinity in the first place…it was the idea of demonstration. It seems to me that the doctrine of the Trinity was developed to support the idea that for God’s justice to be satisfied, God would have to pay the penalty for sin Himself. But what if human existence is not about God’s justice and sinners don’t deserve to be punished? I am highly suspicious of doctrines like Hell and the Trinity that claim Biblical support while denying logic and reason since it appears God calls us to use our reason as we consider His revelation (Isaiah 1:18). I don’t understand why the Trinity is the centre of Christian Theology…that’s where I need your help.

July 14, 2008 11:51 AM

Bobby said…
Thanks for your last post! I hadn’t read it until after my last. I’m actually very attracted to your writing style and a little envious…you really do have important things to say. Thanks for your forgiveness…I would really like to see what you have to say about the rest of Ray’s paper. I don’t think Gregory minds our continuing the discussion here.

July 14, 2008 12:03 PM

Jason Pratt said…

{{It seems to me that the doctrine of the Trinity was developed to support the idea that for God’s justice to be satisfied, God would have to pay the penalty for sin Himself.}}

That’s certainly an element to why trinitarians have promoted the importance of trinitarianism throughout history; but that isn’t why the doctrine of the Trinity was originally developed. (Various forms of modalism would accomplish much the same thing, and be simpler.) The theologians were trying to piece together the scriptural data on the characteristics of God, particularly in regard to the Son’s relationship to the Father, though also in regard to the NT authors’ propensity for talking about the HS in fashions (both on their own accord and in reference to OT passages) that somehow indicated a YHWH distinct from the Father or the Son. There were a large number of debates about this for centuries. (Though the majority of the debated disagreements were about the characteristics of the Son, both in His inherent nature and in the Incarnation as Jesus.)

Still, you’re correct about trinitarians putting a premium on salvation theology being connected to the action of the final ultimate God somehow through and as Christ. Typically this had to do with the nature of Christ in regard to humanity (versus adoptionists or docetics, for example); but sometimes (versus the Arians, for example) it had to do with the nature of the Son in regard to the Father.

{{But what if human existence is not about God’s justice…}}

Depends on what “God’s justice” means. Which is directly connected to the implications of orthodox trinitarian theism (though orthodox theologians haven’t been very consistent about keeping those implications in mind.)

{{…and sinners don’t deserve to be punished?}}

Speaking as a penitent sinner who takes his own sins seriously, I am quite sure I deserve to be punished. I am also sure I deserve to be saved from my sin (moreover that other people deserve be saved from my sin and my sinning!) But: it comes down to what ‘deservedness’ best means. Speaking strictly as a trinitarian theologian, I profess that deservedness is about fulfilling love and fair-togetherness and cannot be best connected to anything else. (Certainly deservedness is not to be connected to making mere demands for right-fulfillments for the sake of exhibiting power over the fulfiller. I can’t appeal to some standard higher than God by which God is obligated to save me from sin, nor can I in any way coerce God into doing so. Either God loves me enough to act to save me from my sins, or I have no hope of salvation.)

{{I am highly suspicious of doctrines like Hell and the Trinity that claim Biblical support while denying logic and reason since it appears God calls us to use our reason as we consider His revelation (Isaiah 1:18).}}

Same here, in principle. Moreover, sometimes things have been put forward as trinitarianism that explicitly denied logic and reason in itself. (Also sometimes apophatic theologians have tried to protect the doctrine by digging a big ‘negative theology’ moat around it, declaring it off-limits to logic and reason. I am not a big fan of negative theology; no one ever died for a cloud of unknowing. {s})

However, I don’t support doctrines that deny-logic-and-reason. I reject illogical doctrines about hell, but I support logical ones. I reject illogical doctrines about the characteristics of God (including attempts at trinitarianism when those are presented in illogical ways), but I support logical ones: and at the end of the day, I find orthodox positive-aseity trinitarianism (with the filioque) to be the most rigorous logical conclusion (if I’m going the route of pure metaphysics); and I find it to be the most inductively probable exegetical conclusion (if I’m going the route of scriptural testimony. Though making sense of scriptural testimony always ends up appealing to metaphysical argument sooner or later, too.)

{{I don’t think Gregory minds our continuing the discussion here.}}

If he gives permission then I’ll do so. Otherwise, I’ll try to work up a next page of comments and send it by email (if you’ll provide an email link in your blogger profile–currently you don’t have one.) Though it might be better if you first noted anything particular you disagreed about concerning my first comments. (Keeping in mind that I often left open leeway for Ray to address his positions more fully later.)

Please notice, though, that Gregory has already indicated at least once that he doesn’t think an in-depth discussion of Ray’s paper is appropriate for this comment thread. “It is a very long paper packed full of arguments. Any attempt to pick it apart would be even longer - far longer than is appropriate here”

{{I don’t understand why the Trinity is the centre of Christian Theology…that’s where I need your help.}}

The simpler of the two answers I can think of, is that any theology that doesn’t have the character and characteristics of God at its center, is going to be a peculiar theology per se, to say the least. I would expect a non-trinitarian’s understanding and profession of God’s character and characteristics to be at the center of his theology, too.

If, however, you mean why be a trinitarian theist instead of some other kind of theist (perhaps some other kind of Christian theist)–that’s an extremely large question with extremely long answers. It took the church centuries to hash out those answers (with not a little hatred in the process, I’m sorry to say), once conditions became favorable for them to buckle down and really go to work on figuring out what the scriptural witness was saying about God. Not everyone agreed with the historical majority. Different groups peeled off from “the grand middle” along the way (as one ancient orthodox theologian and historian once put it). Some of those groups are still around, and still (with a lot of legitimacy) consider themselves to be trinitarian theists, too.

Still. The simplest answer I can give scripturally is that I believe orthodox trinitarianism does the best at getting in and respecting all the data. And the simplest answer I can give metaphysically is that the more important I believe true love to be, the more strongly I am going to believe and affirm and profess the orthodox Trinity. (With the filioque. {s})

Anything else is detail. And there are lots of details. {g} But personally, Personally I would hope that non-trinitarians believe what they believe for the same basic reasons, even though we’re going to disagree on the evaluation of those details.


July 14, 2008 6:49 PM

Bobby said…
Jason, thanks so much for your very prompt and very thorough response. It will take me awhile to absorb and study your position…you make reference to several ideas with which I’m completely unfamiliar, but I’ll do the research.

I tried to add a blogger profile, but couldn’t make it work. My email is Don’t bother doing the second page on Ray unless Gregory approves…I’ve got plenty to study with what you’ve already done. Again, thanks.

I found several Google references to you and your work…I lived in Tennessee until 1995 when I moved to Albuquerque…both my kids graduated from UTK…Go Vols!

July 14, 2008 7:28 PM

Jason Pratt said…

I particularly recommend the “Heart of Freedom” essay at the Christian Cadre journal, and the press-release article I wrote concerning the boy gunned down for killing Christians in Colorado. Both of those have a lot to do with the metaphysical importance of trinitarianism (or binitarianism at least, not excluding the HS), and the latter also has a lot to do with orthodox universalism. Both should be easily found, too.

And Go Vols! {g}


July 15, 2008 8:22 AM

Jason Pratt said…
Also, the “Saying Grace” essay ends up having a lot to do with orthodox trinitarian apologetics (and implicitly univeresalism, too).


July 15, 2008 8:57 AM

Bobby said…
I had read The Heart of Freedom before your post…read the other two you suggested. This is hard for me, but you, of all I’ve met, deserve to be intoxicated with the exuberance of your own verbosity more than anyone I know!

My hat’s off to you! Thanks for enriching my life!

July 16, 2008 12:49 AM

Jason Pratt said…
Hey… did he just say I deserve to be poisoned…!?

{g} (Just kidding. Thanks for the compliment.)


July 16, 2008 8:01 AM

Gregory MacDonald said…
Jason and Bobby

I have enjoyed following your fascinating discussion - thanks gentlemen.


July 17, 2008 9:51 AM

Patrick Casanova said…
Gregory, why on Earth are you bothering to address Steve’s mean-spirited, inaccurate, conversation-killing comments?? What good will that do? Nobody who is familiar with the book would agree with Steve’s comments so far. So why are you wasting your time?

best wishes

  • Pat

August 31, 2008 4:35 PM

Gregory MacDonald said…

Fair question. In part because to some extent the spirit of his comments undermines his own position. I thought that if people read his comments then, contrary to his intentions, it might serve as a good advert for my book



September 1, 2008 1:17 PM

Patrick Casanova said…
Gregory, thanks for the prompt reply! Is there an email address I could reach you at? I have some questions that I would rather not ask here. Also, I’m writing a book that will, in part, argue for CU. Are you interested in reviewing the relevant drafts for me? If so, are you able to (time wise)?

best wishes

– Pat

September 1, 2008 2:58 PM

Patrick Casanova said…
Gregory, you wrote:

The revelation of God as triune - Father, Son and Spirit - is far more fundamental to my faith than universalism was, is, or ever will be …] I would surrender universalist theology any day before surrendering trinitarian theology. <<

Why is that so? How can that be so? The Trinity is about the form of God, whereas universalism (if true) reveals something deep about the character of God. In one scenario, God exists as Father, Son, and Spirit simultaneously (which is admittedly fascinating). In the other scenario, God ensures that everybody will be reconciled to him and to each other in endless bliss.

Seriously, if I had to choose between which scenario is true (if I somehow had the power to make that choice), I would pick universalism – hands down. And I really don’t understand why you wouldn’t. Is the form of God really more important to you than having everybody reconciled to God and to each other?

Of course, as everybody knows, the two views are perfectly compatible. I just don’t get your preference for the trinity doctrine over universalism.

best wishes

  • Pat

September 3, 2008 12:39 AM

Jason Pratt said…
Pat (and other new readers),

Gregory went on to address this at some length in a subsequent post already. (It still may not be a satisfactory answer to a reader, but… Scroll up a couple of entries on the main list.)


September 3, 2008 8:24 AM

Gregory MacDonald said…

The Trinity is the heart of Christian faith. It is intimately connected to Christian understanding of the gospel. I did discuss something of this in a post somewhere



September 3, 2008 1:04 PM