More on the Oneness of God

by
William Arnold III
WmArnold@gmail.com


(original article: A Commentary on the Book of Colossians)

Question:

I am disappointed that you would seek to undeify the Lord (kurios) Jesus Christ when he is juxtaposed with the Father in the same verse as you do in your exegesis of Colossians 1:3. You go on to say that "the distinction is ALWAYS deity and humanity, spirit and flesh, Father and Son, never God and God" How do you explain Hebrews 1:8 where you have someone called God addressing the Son as God? Maybe you can explain another example like when Jesus says he is in the Father and the Father is in him. Is this an example of deity and humanity distinguished. Many Oneness writers use this to try and prove that the Father dwelled in the flesh as the Son of God. How can Jesus' claim to be in the Father be a disticntion of flesh and deity since it would mean that the flesh is in the Father. How does a Spirit have flesh? I truly believe you are reading Colossians in a way that fits your theology instead of letting scripture speak for itself.

Furthermore, it might be your opinion that Colossians 1:16 means that the one who later became the Son created the universe but the grammar, if it means anything at all, demands otherwise. In Hebrews 1:10 you have God speaking to the Son as God and calling him Lord while attributing the creation to Him. There definitely seems to be some personal relationship there and not one mode speaking to another. Since when do modes address each other. Oneness uses the example of a person being both a father and a son, but never bothers to consider just how ridiculous it is to think that this same person's modes address each other. I do not intend for my writing to be as harsh as it probably seems. But I sometimes think I know how some of the early church fathers must have felt whenever they were already being persecuted for their beliefs by tyrannical governments while having to battle heresies within the Church at the same time.

Response:

I'll take your word that you do not intend to be harsh and will attempt to discuss this in the same way. If anything in my response may seem that way, understand I am merely emphasizing something to demonstrate a point. I am assuming from your writing that you are a Trinitarian.

The first thing you said is that I undeify Jesus Christ. I don't see how you could say this since we Oneness believers emphasize that deity of Christ so strongly. It is our position that he is God almighty, as opposed to merely one person out of three in a "Godhead." I don't mean that to be derrogatory, but I don't think that term communicates very much. It makes it sound as though God is a comittee (which I am sure you do not believe). We believe that Jesus Christ is God himself, the creator, the Father, Yahweh, the one God of Israel in the Old Testament become flesh.

You then objected to my statement that we never see God and God. I am quite puzzled that you would object. If we have God and God, then that is two Gods. This is polytheism, which even Trinitarians reject.

Concerning Hebrews 1:8, the author of Hebrews is quoting Psalm 45:6. So in the original context, it is the Psalmist who is calling the Messiah God. Of course he is inspired and so these are the words of God (which is why the author of Hebrews uses them for his argument). However, God is saying this by a human agent. This is not one divine person looking over at another divine person. In the Psalms we also see men worshiping God and calling out to God for help. God is not worshiping and calling himself. Yet we still confess that the Psalms are the words of God. In fact, notice the verse following this one, "You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You With the oil of joy above Your fellows" (Psalm 45:7). Speaking to the same person, he says "your God." Does God have a God? Obviously not. Jesus prayed. God does not need to pray. Jesus was tempted. God cannot be tempted. Jesus died. God is eternal. Jesus was a genuine human being and in one sense he was distinct from God. Yet in another sense he was God himself. Even Trinitarian scholars admit this.

On the interpenetration of the Father and Son (John 14:10-11), I would first ask: how would you explain this from a Trinitarian perspective? Jesus cannot mean this in a geographical sense. Probably you understand this as a dynamic interpenetration of two divine persons. I would say the same thing except I would say deity and humanity. I understand this to refer to the hypostatic union of the two natures of Christ - once again, something even Trinitarians believe in (though they might not use this verse to suport it).

You also stated that the grammar of Col. 1:16 demands that it will not fit my view, but you did not explain why. Concerning how agency is expressed in the New Testament, Daniel Wallace states that ultimate agency is usually expressed by hupo with the genitive, intermediate agency by dia with the genitive and impersonal means by en with the dative (or even the simple dative alone).1 In Col. 1:16 we have en with the dative case which would indicate impersonal means. God created the universe by means of his word, his expression. Jesus Christ is the expression of the invisible God (John 1:18; Col. 1:15; Heb. 1:3). In the Old Testament this was impersonal, but when the fulness of time was come, it became a person. The word became flesh (John 1:1, 14). This would also apply to Hebrews 1:10, which you mention as well.

Concerning the terminology of "modes" I have never used this anywhere, in writing or speaking. Most of the Oneness believers I know reject identification with Modalism because it sounds as though God is going through different stages. Oneness people do not believe this. I do realize that many Oneness believers from former generations have identified themselves as Modalists, but even they did not mean "successive stages," but rather, "simultaneous manifestations."

The human/divine distinction must be wrestled with by both Trinitarians and Oneness believers alike. In some respect, Jesus was distinct from God. Notice the words of Allister McGrath, a well-respected Trinitarian scholar:

In one sense, Jesus is God; in another, he isnít. Thus Jesus is God incarnate-but he still prays to God, without giving the slightest indication that he is talking to himself! Jesus is not identical with God in that it is obvious that God continued to be in heaven during Jesusí lifetime, and yet Jesus may be identified with God in that the New Testament has no hesitation in ascribing functions to Jesus which, properly speaking, only God could do.2

So here is one of your own saying that in one sense Jesus is not God, yet no one calls Allister McGrath a heretic. As I have tried to demonstrate repeatedly, most of these issues are the same for both Oneness believers and Trinitarians. Either way, Jesus is identifed as God and yet distinguished from God over and over in scripture.


Footnotes

1. Daniel Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996, p. 432-433. <back>
2. Alister E. McGrath, Studies in Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1987), 202-203. <back>

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