Since we clearly write and speak a lot on creation/evolution, people can be easily mistaken that it is the only issue CMI is concerned with. However, we are first a Christian ministry. Our concern for the truth of biblical creation is born out of our concern for the integrity of the Bible and the gospel in our day—it is not an end in itself. Our mission has always been to defend the authority of Scripture and the truth and transforming power of the gospel, as we have clearly laid out in our Statement of Faith (SoF). This includes defending doctrines such as the Trinity and the Incarnation because they are foundational biblical doctrines. P.M. writes, with comments from CMI’s Dr Jonathan Sarfati interspersed.
Dear Mr M.
Thank you for your subscription over the years.
Until recent years articles were about natural life with the occasional mention of doctrine. This has changed, obviously as a matter of policy, to the magazine articles now including specific doctrinal articles. For example in this issue “The Incarnation” by Jonathan Sarfati [see full version].
This is clearly your prerogative, but detracts from the apparent original aims of the magazine.
With respect, the original aims of our magazine are to promote the doctrines that have been clearly laid out in our Statement of Faith. This has been on our website for some time (What we believe), so it’s not a secret. Also, the leading apologists at CMI have had a part in this SoF so we have thought through the issues from Scripture. And right from the start, there is:
We could live with this because of the usefulness of the other articles, but not when the doctrines expressed in the magazine in either articles or boxes is unbiblical. I’ll explain that in a minute.
But as a basis for comments like the ones we want to make, we notice you always assert, and we agree, that all basic doctrines should come from Genesis. Fine, but yours don’t. Now to explain.
Genesis is the seedbed of all doctrines, yes, but Christian doctrine is laid out in all the Bible. Near the top of the SoF, under the Priorities, is:
The box at the foot of page 41 is headed “Here’s good news for the world.” The thrust of the text is just that, but not the detail.
It claims to “give glory and honour to the triune God of the Bible”, but you know as well as we do that such terminology is never found in the Bible, nor the word “trinity”, nor, and perhaps just as important, the whole concept.
Here is where we disagree. I address both the absence of the word and the fact of the doctrine in reply to an Islamist in Islam, testimony, and the Trinity. The defense of the doctrine is presented in relatively brief form in Jesus Christ our Creator: A biblical defence of the Trinity and in more detail in Our Triune God. I specifically defend the Deity of Christ at Defending vital doctrines and the deity of Christ and address some critics at Trinity: analogies and countering critics. Indeed, the doctrine in embryonic form is found in Genesis, as shown in Who really is the God of Genesis?
With respect, I think anti-Trinitarians really are not aware of the strong biblical case for the Trinity, which is why the Church has historically accepted it, from the Church Fathers all the way to the Reformers then the Whitefield and Wesley revivals.
Trinitarians believe in one God. As I explain in The Hebrew language and Messianic prophecies, the word for “one” is the word for composite unity.
Yet as we explain on the site, ‘ … the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”’ (Acts 13:2) This first-person proclamation is conclusive proof of the personality of the Holy Spirit.
Again, this is answered in Who is Jesus? God the Son?, showing that the appellation “God the Son” is a logical deduction from Scripture.
This again presupposes that the Bible stops at Genesis. But the Bible is progressive propositional revelation, and the serpent is identified with the devil in later parts of Scripture.
That’s exactly what we have done, as amply shown by the articles cited. It seems that you hold to something like Christadelphianism, which is a newcomer presenting doctrines rightly rejected by the early church.
Certainly CMI believes in Sola Scriptura (not Solus Genesis as you seem to want us to believe). Part of that must logically include the biblical teaching that God has provided teachers. We agree that ultimately they must all be judged according to Scripture, as the “noble Bereans” applied even to the Apostle Paul (Acts 17:11). Thus we have confirmed that the Trinity really is a biblically-deduced doctrine.
When it comes to the wisdom of using that term, we think it wise to follow the greatest teachers that God has raised up in the Church, from the early Patristic age (see their Scriptural arguments in Trinity: analogies and countering critics), then the great ecumenical councils at Nicea and Chalcedon, through the Reformers such as Calvin whom we cited at length, the great Revival leaders and anti-slavery abolitionists, and now leading evangelical systematic theologians. We would consider it as most unwise, and with unforeseen dangers, if we were to abandon this term. The remedy for any misunderstandings must be sound instruction in the Word, demonstrating that God does reveal Himself as a Trinity.
Imputing motives is always dubious, since you don’t know our minds. But the only objective evidence available is that we stand to lose your funding because we will not change our Trinitarian stance. (Of course we could also probably get more funding by going soft on billions of years.)
That is your prerogative.
I would say the same to you. I am deeply concerned that you do not “honour the Son just as they honour the Father”, because that means that you do not honour the Father either (John 5:23), as the Messiah said. We urge you to repent of the sin of not honouring the Son, of rejecting the Son of God (John 3:35–36); our loving concern is that otherwise you will see the wrath of YHWH on you. The Bible makes it clear that we are saved from the wrath of YHWH by trusting in Jesus our Saviour, not by doing the things the Watchtower (or any other organization or group such as Christadelphians or “oneness” groups) tells us to do (Acts 2:38, 4:12). That’s the only way we can be saved! How about it? Have you been forgiven for your sins? Are you safe from the wrath of YHWH? I speak in genuine loving concern.
Yours in “our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13),
Jonathan Sarfati, Ph.D., F.M.
Author, Speaker, Head Scientist, CMI–USA (formerly Australia)
Jonathan Sarfati responds: Indeed, the Trinity doctrine states that there is One God in three Persons, totally compatible with the above. This is amply shown in the articles on this site, as well as the reply to Carl B., United States, 22 January 2013, below.WT: If God the Father is found to be a separate entity to God the son, it would make the above scriptures confusing and inaccurate. However if we were to observe that the attribute that God used to create life, the universe, laws of nature, geometry, mathematics, morals, ethics etc.etc , was by way of his logos and expression, then the above scriptures are sound and steadfast.
JS: No confusion at all. The only confusion is of your own making: confusing Trinitarianism with tritheism. See for example Genesis teaching on the plurality of the Godhead in The Incarnation: Why did God become Man?WT: When the Scripture declares in [John 1:3] that “By Him everything was made …,” the full description is of God using His logos to express “all things”, and in God’s perfect time revealing himself as the logos incarnate i.e deity and humanity ‘fused’ [not confused]. This is why the apostle John could boldly point to Jesus as the God who is creator. On his mother’s side he was the son of Man and on his father’s side he was the son of God.
JS: Again, basically right, and totally compatible with the Trinitarian view that it was God the Son who incarnated. See for example The genealogies of Jesus.WT: JS needs to address many triune problems of his own making e.g if Jesus is the Logos who is God the Son and he is separate from God the father [anti-Jewish pluralism] how can God the son pray to God the Father when the Son holds all power and authority in heaven and earth?
JS: Actually, you have answered your own question. The very fact that Jesus prayed to God the Father is proof that they are distinct persons, thus a refutation of the ancient Sabellian Modalist (“Oneness”) heresy to which you seem to hold! See also Jesus Christ our Creator: A biblical defence of the Trinity. Oneness groups sometimes argue that when Jesus prayed to His Father, it wasn’t two distinct Persons but the human nature of the one person praying to the Divine nature. But this is philosophical confusion. Natures don’t pray; persons do. A person is a distinct centre of consciousness, which has will and intellect. A nature is an aspect of a person (or thing). There is much more in this off-site article by Dr James White, The Trinity, the Definition of Chalcedon, and Oneness Theology.
2. The Spirit of God.-On the whole, the New Testament, like the Old, speaks of the Spirit as a divine energy or power particularly in the heart of man. ... This divine Spirit is clearly distinguished from the Spirit or conscience of man (Romans 8:16), and the authority of the Spirit is identified with that of God Himself (Matthew 12:31; Acts 5:3,9; 1 Corinthians 3:16; but cf. Exodus 16:8; 1 Thessalonians 4:8). But is a personal existence clearly attributed to the Spirit? No doubt, all through the N.T. his action is described as personal. He speaks (Mark 13:11; Acts 8:29), bears witness (Romans 8:16; 1 John 5:6), searches (1 Corinthians 2:10), decides (Acts 15:28), helps and intercedes (Romans 8:26), apportions the gifts of grace (1 Corinthians 12:11). Most of these places furnish no cogent proof of personality. … In the fourth Gospel, however, this personal existence is stated more fully and plainly … “I will ask the Father and He will give you another advocate, that He may be with you for ever, the Spirit of truth. I will not leave you orphans, I will come to you” (John 5:16–18). “Advocate” is the same name given in 1 Jn- to Christ Himself, our advocate with the Father, and in each case the name is a personal one. … Trinitarian formulae occur throughout the N.T. books. ... The persons of the Trinity are further mentioned together by St. Paul (2 Corinthians 13:14) and by St. Peter (1 Peter 1–2). Considering the strict Monotheism of the NT.,—such language implies the divinity, as well as the personality, of Father, Son and Holy Ghost, and they are sufficient warrant for refusing to believe that N.T. writers did not know the doctrine, because they did not, like St. John, state it explicitly.
The Spirit of God as a Person. Although the NT concepts of the spirit of God are largely a continuation of those of the OT, in the NT there is a gradual revelation that the Spirit of God's a Person. In the Synoptic Gospels. The majority of NT texts reveal God’s spirit as something, not someone; this is especially seen in the parallelism between the spirit and the power of God. … The only passage in the Synoptic Gospels that clearly speaks of the person of the Holy Spirit is the Trinitarian formula in Matthew 28:19. ... The statement in Acts 15:28, "“the Holy Spirit and we have decided,” alone seems to imply full personality. … However, the Trinitarian formulas employed by St. Paul (e.g., 2 Corinthians 13:14), indicate a real personality. ... So clearly does St. John see in the Spirit a person who takes Christ's place in the Church, that he uses a masculine pronoun (Greek) in reference to the Spirit even though [spirit] is neuter in gender (John 16:8,13–16). Consequently, it is evident that St. John thought of the Holy Spirit as a Person, who is distinct from the Father and the Son, and who, with the glorified Son and the Father, is present and active in the faithful (John 14:16; 15:26; 16:7).
Jonathan Sarfati responds: We can see the plurality of the Godhead there, which is the issue at hand: the Word is both with God and God, and the One by whom all things were made (John 1:3). See discussion in The Incarnation: Why did God become Man?CB: Does it say that three persons are called God, but that the three of them actually make up the same God?
JS: It doesn’t have to. The dispute throughout Church history, and evidently with you, is the nature of the Son. This passage disposes of any question of the deity of Christ. Just to quite one leading Greek scholar among many, the 19th century Bishop B.F. Westcott:CB: The most popular (but not the most accurate) rendering of John 1:1 says, in part: “The Word (Jesus) was God.”No idea of inferiority of nature is suggested by the form of expression, which simply affirms the true deity of the Word. [The Gospel According to St. John, p. 3]
JS: Indeed, this is the correct translation. The error in your argument is in thinking that “God” in the New Testament is a proper name, but it is not. Dr Daniel Wallace in Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics says:CB: So, if “the Word was God,” then God is one person, not three. If three persons make up the same God, wouldn’t JJohn 1:1 say, in part: “and the Word and the Father and the holy spirit were God.” There is nothing remotely trinitarian about John 1:1.A proper noun is defined as a noun which cannot be pluralized, thus it does not include titles. A person’s name, therefore, is proper … . But θεὸς [theos] is not proper because it can be pluralized …. Since θεοί [theoi] is possible (cf. John 10:34), θεὸς is not a proper name. [p. 272, n 42;]Dr Wallace uses this point when discussing John 1:1, καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος (kai theos ēn ho logos), pointing out that theos in this passage is qualitative, i.e. saying that Jesus is divine—in the literal sense of having all the attributes of God—and this was so right from the beginning; it was His essence. It was not καὶ ὁ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος which would be Modalism/Sabellianism, treating God as a proper name or as an identity statement. A great Greek grammarian from about a century ago, A.T. Robertson, states:The word with the article is then the subject, whatever the order may be. So in John 1:1, theos ēn ho logos, the subject is perfectly clear. Cf. ho logos sarx egeneto ([the word became flesh] John 1:14). It is true that ho theos ēn ho logos (convertible terms) would have been Sabellianism. See also ho theos agape estin ([God is love] 1 John 4:16). ‘God’ and ‘love"’ are not convertible terms any more than ‘God’ and ‘Logos’ or ‘Logos’ and ‘flesh’. Cf. also hoi theristai angeloi eisin ([the reapers are angels] Matthew 13:39), ho logos ho sos alētheia estin ([your word is truth] John 17:17), ho nomos hamartia; ([the law is sin] Romans 7:7). [A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research, pp. 767–768, Broadman Press, Nashville, 1934.]
JS: It’s dubious to assert counterfactuals such as what something “should” have said. John’s purpose was to show that Jesus of Nazareth is the eternal Word (Hebrew Memra)—see Christmas and Genesis.CB: One other thing. Jesus is a created being.
JS: Absolutely not. The Word clearly pre-existed creation, and “All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.” (John 1:3) This is enough to dispose of the claim that the Word is part of the created order.CB: Only God is said to be “from everlasting to everlasting.” (Psalm 90:2)
JS: So when Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am”, He was claiming this divine attribute! His enemies certainly knew what He was claiming and wanted to stone him for blasphemy, and He didn’t correct what you must claim was a misunderstanding. (See again The Incarnation: Why did God become Man? under Divine/human Messiah taught throughout ScriptureCB: Jesus had a beginning. As Micah 5:2 says about him: “Yet a ruler of Israel will come from you, one whose origins are from the distant past.” What does "“origins” mean? It means “beginnings”.
JS: If the translation “origins” is right, the passage is referring to the “origins” of the Messiah in the line of David. But even with that translation, it's clear that the Messiah long predated His birth there. However, No, the Hebrew lexicon of Brown, Driver and Briggs says the Hebrew צָאתָמ môtsā’āh meansCB: Even Jesus said he had a beginning when he attributed his existence to his Father. At John 6:57, he said: “I live BECAUSE of the Father.”1. origin, place of going out from 1a) origin 1b) places of going out to or from 1b1) privyHence in the Incarnation article, I cited this translation, pointing out: Micah 5:2 is most famous for prophesying the birthplace of the Messiah (cf. Matthew 2:1–6):But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity.Yet this prophecy made it clear that the One who was to be born in Bethlehem did not in fact begin there, but has been in action since Eternity Past.
JS: In His humanity, it was proper for Jesus to depend on God the Father.CB: BTW, how many sons do you know of who are as old as their fathers?
JS: A gross misunderstanding. As we say in our new book >Christianity for Skeptics: In Matthew 26:63 and John 5:25 the phrase “Son of God” is used but this does not mean that He is less than deity as some wrongly believe. Theologian J. Oliver Buswell (1895–1977), in his A Systematic Theology of the Christian Religion, points out:In Jewish usage the term “son of …” did not generally imply any subordination, but rather equality and identity of nature. Thus Bar Kokba, who led the Jewish revolt 132–135 AD in the reign of Hadrian, was called by a name which means “Son of the Star.” It is supposed that he took this name to identify himself as the very Star predicted in Numbers 24:17. The name Son of Consolation (Acts 4:36) doubtless means, “The Consoler.” “Sons of Thunder” (Mark 3:17) probably means “Thunderous Men.” “Son of Man,” especially as applied to Christ in Daniel 7:13 and constantly in the New Testament, essentially means “The Representative Man.” Thus for Christ to say, “I am the Son of God” (John 10:36) was understood by His contemporaries as identifying Himself as God, equal with the Father, in an unqualified sense. [A Systematic Theology of the Christian Religion (Singapore: Christian Life Pub., 1994), p. 105.]Hence John 5:23 as we cited in the last paragraph: the Son is deserving of equal honour with the Father.
The very fact of worrying about it is actually very strong proof that you have not committed this sin. That is, the worry shows a concern about having grievously offended the Holy Spirit for a faulty view about the Son. And Jesus promised to forgive all sins, so I urge you to believe on the LORD (God) Jesus and His death for your sins and His resurrection (Romans 10:9–13, 1 Corinthians 15:1–4). Persistent wilful unbelievers would not even care about whether they have blasphemed a divine Person.