The Question of Titles
Lance Cameron Kidwell
The Question of Titles
Often when discussing the differences between Oneness and Trinitarian theologies the primary argument revolves around the relationship between the Son of God and the Father. Trinitarians ask questions such as:
Who was manifest in the flesh, the Father or the Son? When the scripture says, "He is BEFORE all things" (Col.1:17) is the scripture speaking of the Father or the Son? Heb.1:10 says, "And, Thou, LORD, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands". Is this verse speaking of the Father or the Son? Is "the Son of the Father" in 2 John 3 "God"? Is He the Father?
These questions are based on one presupposition: The "Father" and the "Son" are words describing eternal relationships between persons of the Godhead. Arguing from this perspective one falls into the logical trap of:
The Son is not the Father.
The Son is God.
The Father is God.
Therefore, the Son and the Father both are God.
From there the only explanation historic Christianity has come up with is the Trinity which claims that God exists in three persons who are co-equal and co-eternal and have existed from eternity in relationship with each other. A typical Oneness rebuttal asserts that the Son is the Father, which is believed to be logically necessary if both the Son and Father are God but are not two different persons.
This explanation is faulty because it doesn't explain the biblical usage of the terms Father and Son. It is obvious that the scripture meant something by the terms Father and Son. What does it mean then? If the terms are to be held coherent then there must be a distinction between the Father and Son. However, assuming from the outset that the distinction is a distinction of "persons" is a fallacy.
The Context of the Terms
It must be understood that the terms "Father" and "Son" in contradistinction to one another are first introduced in scripture in the context of the incarnation. Christ is God manifest in the flesh. He is fully God and fully man. He had a human body and a human mind, but the humanity of Christ was God's humanity. God did not merely assume the form of man. He actually became man. He was born of a woman in space and time. Inserting at this point the concept of one person of the Trinity became man is an anachronism in that it argues back from the Greek philosophy of the Church Father's to the scriptures. The scriptures never introduce the concept of the Trinity. The Trinity is read back into scriptures.
Therefore, when in scripture Jesus refers to His Father, he is referring to God in his transcendence. When the scriptures speak of the Son, they are referring to God manifest in the flesh. We must believe that the Father refers to the One God of scripture in the same way that the Holy Spirit refers to the Spirit of the One God. Any backward interpretation of these words is to do injustice to the radical monotheism of Scripture and is the result of faulty hermeneutics.
How do we answer those questions then?
The truth is that the questions are unanswerable because they assume definitions and information that is not scriptural. Because Father and Son are relational terms arising from the incarnation we would not expect to find any passage which says the Father became a man. It is God who became a man. Who created the world the Father or the Son? God created the world. The question might as well be, who created the world the Prince of Peace or the Lamb of God? It is unanswerable because it assumes a difference in persons where the scripture doesn't teach a difference in persons. Imagine your pastor's name is Bob Smith. If I asked you who is taller Pastor Smith or Bob? The question is obviously irrelevant. Pastor Smith is what I would call him in the context of my relationship with him as pastor and Bob is what his wife would call him when they're out shopping.
In conclusion, is there a difference between the Father and Son? Yes. Is that distinction one of persons? No. The difference between the Father and Son is that the Father is God in His transcendence and in His relationship with the man Christ Jesus, while the Son is God in his incarnation.
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