Thursday, March 22, 2007

Should You Believe in the Trinity?

Not long ago I had the opportunity to preach through John chapter 1:1-18.  Overall, I must confess that this section of Scripture has been a vast blessing to my own heart.  One thing that we have sought to understand in this portion of Scripture is John’s big picture concerning the person and work of Christ. In reality, this entire section is all about the supremacy and glory of Jesus Christ. From beginning to the end, John’s point is to lead us to humble worship before the One who is by nature God Himself. The introductory verses in this section establish this remarkable truth concerning the deity of Jesus Christ. Particularly in verse 1, John tells us very plainly about the deity of the Son of God in what amounts to three simple clauses which focus on the nature of the One called the Word:

John 1:1: 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

What I love about this opening is that John reaches back further than any other Gospel in order to show us the glory of the Son of God. Rather than starting his gospel with a genealogy that goes back to Abraham, or to Adam - John goes all the way back to eternity: before the creation of the heavens and the earth. It is here, in this brief glimpse of eternity, that John brings us face to face with the One who has always been; to the One who was the instrument of all creation (John 1:3).  This One who is called the Word is clearly the Son of God, who came to this world and became a man:

John 1:14: 14 And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.

In our day, many people will acknowledge the humanity of Jesus Christ, and yet, John is telling us us so much more about this One whom he calls the Word. First of all, John’s repeated use of the verb was shows us that the Son in fact always existed in eternity with the Father. The verb that John uses is key - it is an imperfect active indicative form of the word eimi - to be. This is the verb of existence, and John’s use of the imperfect is crucial in each clause.  The imperfect verb is the verb of perpetuity - continual action. In the context of John 1:1, it underscores the reality that the Son existed perpetually with the Father.  This is underscored by the adverbial phrase in beginning [the article is omitted here because in the Greek, the word arche, beginning, is anarthrous - without the article].  When John says that "in beginning" the Word was [perpetually], he clarifies the fact that the Word exits perpetually. Though the heretic Arius taught that “there was a time when the Son was not...” John clearly refutes this when he says - “in [the] beginning was the Word.” This first clause also reminds us that the Son is antecedent to, and is the sole source of, creation; and this is presented once again in verse 3:

John 1:3: 3 All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.

In the second clause of the three [in verse 1], John tells us that the Word was a distinct person who was with God ("…and the Word was with God…"). This statement is repeated in verse 2 when he says “He was in the beginning with God.” This point keeps us from assuming an absence of separate persons within the Godhead, as was the case with Sabellianism - an early church heresy that believed that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit were simply different modes of revelation of one god. This teaching ultimately refuted the Trinity, but John’s instructions here give us a clear plurality of persons within the Godhead.

Having thus established the distinct identity of “the Word,” John then unveils this climatic truth: “...and the Word was God.” In this last statement, John tells us that the Word Himself was by nature all that God is. That is, He Himself possesses all of the same attributes and essential nature of deity.

Now Jehovah’s Witnesses will refute this translation and say that it should read (as their own Watchtower translation does):

“...and the word was a god.”

Their twisted translation is often related to the misuse of several grammatical rules. In their work “Should You Believe in the Trinity?” they cite a "rule" which deals with preverbal anarthrous predicate nominatives (PAPN).  That's a mouthful, I realize, but in plain terms this is simply a noun which functions as a predicate nominative (a PN is a noun which follows the linking verb [is, was, be] and modifies the subject); as well, the PAPN is placed before the verb (preverbal) and it lacks an article (anarthrous).  The rule that they cite is called Colwell’s rule and they use it inappropriately in order to say that the word theos (God) is indefinite (a god), rather than being qualitative (God).  Unfortunately for the Watchtower Society, their use of this rule demonstrates their deception such that they twist Colwell's rule in order to make it say and mean something that is completely contrary to the intent of the "rule" itself.  Colwell's analysis was very limited and therefore it barely qualifies to be called a rule; as Daniel B. Wallace, in his book Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, observes:

"Colwell stated that a definite PN that precedes the verb is usually anarthrous.  He did not say the converse, namely, an anarthrous PN that precedes the verb is usually definite.  However, this is how the rule has been misunderstood by most scholars (including Colwell) since the article in JBL* was written." Greek Grammar, p. 260.

*(Journal of Biblical Literature) 

What Colwell did was to try to find PAPN constructions that he believed were definite to begin with.  The problem with his research, therefore, is that he assumed too much about the sentence constructions that he examined, and this is why Wallace mentions how even Colwell "misunderstood" his own research.  What the Watchtower Society then ignores is the fact that many scholars have come to realize the limited use of Colwell's rule, as in the case of men like Philip B. Harner and Paul Stephen Dixon.  What these men confirmed, is what Wallace summarizes above - that the converse of Colwell's observations must not be assumed - namely that a PAPN is necessarily definite (or indefinite), rather than being qualitative.  If this is too much for you - consider the obvious:
1.  The expression "...the Word was God" is not indefinite:  That is, the Son is not "a God" - such a translation as this leads us to polytheism.
 
2.  The expression "...the Word was God" is not definite:  The Son is not "the God" - this cannot be because John twice distinguishes the Word's identity when he says: "...and the Word was with God..." [verse 1] and "He was in the beginning with God" [verse 2].
This leaves us with the clear conclusion that the PAPN in question (theos) is qualitative (a very common use of anarthrous nouns) and therefore it is teaching us that the Word was by quality God - sharing all the same essence of deity with the Father.  This has been the historic understanding of John 1:1, and centuries of grammatical observation have further confirmed that interpretation.
 
But this is not the first time that JW's have had a run in with Greek grammar, and the grammarians who contribute to such studies.  In fact, in the Jehovah's Witness Kingdom Interlinear (p. 1158-59) they cite Julius Mantey’s Manual Grammar in order to support their twisted translation of John 1:1.  The following responses from Julius Mantey supply a very embarrassing rebuke:

Mantey:  "Since my name is used and our Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament is quoted on page 744 to seek to justify their translation, I am making this statement… of all the scholars in the world, as far as we know none have translated this verse as Jehovah’s Witnesses have done. If the Greek article occurred with both Word and God in John 1:1, the implication would be that they are one and the same person, absolutely identical. But John affirmed that "the Word was with (the) God" (the definite article preceding each noun), and in so writing, he indicated his belief that they are distinct and separate personalities. Then John next stated that the Word was God, i.e., of the same family or essence that characterizes the Creator. Or, in other words, that both are of the same nature, and that nature is the highest in existence, namely divine…. The apostle John, in the context of the introduction to his Gospel, is pulling all the stops out of language to portray not only the deity of Christ, but also his equality with the Father. He states that the Word was in the beginning, that He was with God, that He was God and that all creation came into existence through him and that not even one thing exists that was not created by Christ. What else could be said that John did not say?" 

Mantey to the Watchtower Society, in a letter dated July 11, 1974: "In view of the preceding facts, especially because you have been quoting me out of context, I herewith request you not to quote the Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament again, which you have been doing for 24 years. Also that you not quote it or me in any of your publications from this time on.  Also that you publicly and immediately apologize in the Watchtower magazine, since my words had no relevance to the absence of the article before theos in John 1:1…. On the page before the Preface in the grammar are these words: 'All rights reserved—no part of this book may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the publisher.' If you have such permission, please send me a photocopy of it. If you do not heed these requests you will suffer the consequences. Regretfully yours, Julius R. Mantey"

The publishers of the Watchtower Society should be ashamed and embarrased.  To have such a public rebuke as this (from a man that they cite in support of their own argument) is utterly shameful.  Clearly, the JW will garner any deception and lie necessary in order to advance their false religion.  Let there be no confusion here - the Jehovah Witness religion is a non-Christian cult.  As Christians we must be on guard against such teachings, not only for our own sakes but also for the sake of others who may fall into the trap of such heresy.  The doctrine of the Trinity is a core doctrine of Christian orthodoxy.  Without such truth as this, we could never walk in the light.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Recommended Viewing

To my great surprise, BBC has recently managed to produce two very good programs which debunk much of the left-wing conspiracy theories that prevail here in America.  The first video below is called "The Great Global Warming Swindle."  What is refreshing about this particular production is that the scientific hypotheses presented, along with the scientists themselves, are much more credible than the normal pseudo-science that is thrown into the public arena in order to "prove" Global Warming®.  In many ways the program shows us how our world order works - especially when it comes to politics and power.  Spiritually speaking, it is an illustration of 1 John 5:19:  "...the whole world lies in the power of the evil one."  With that in mind, I would even suggest that the viewer consider how this serves as a parallel to the evolution/creationism controversy - especially when they talk about the pressures that are associated with grant research funding etc.  I say this because many of the pressures that fall upon those scientists who actually oppose global warming are the same for those who attempt to question the theory of evolution (Creationists, or otherwise).  Thus, there is a similar thread of political-financial influence in both schemes. 

The Great Global Warming Swindle:

UPDATE: At this point BBC's "The Conspiracy Files, 911" is no longer available on Google Video...

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Don't Call Them Fagots

Earlier this month CPAC (the Conservative Political Action Conference) assembled for its 34th national conference.  Many of you know this already, but political-pundit Ann Coulter was there and made a comment that has garnered a great deal of attention.  In particular, this is the questionable comment:

"Oh and, um, I was going to have a few comments on the other Democratic presidential candidate, John Edwards, but it turns out that you have to go into rehab if you use the word 'faggot.'"

Her comment was welcomed with what I would call startled laughter - but laughter nonetheless; and, as always, there is a broader context to her comments that is worth noting.  But all in all there are two things that disturbed me about the moment, and these are important enough to address here at The Armoury.  Therefore, in the following article, I will take issue with:  1.  The use of the Word Fagot and 2. Our Culture's Exaltation of Corruption:

1.  The use of the Word Fagot:  Let me be very frank here and say that over the years there have been a number of articles written by Ann Coulter that I have enjoyed, and yet despite some of her better moments, the above comment of hers was plainly foolish.  At best, I might assume that her use of the word fagot represents a misunderstanding of the word's history; at worst, she new what she was saying and therefore voluntarily engaged in coarse jesting as one who professes Christ in the public arena (Ephesians 5:4).  In either case, I would strongly suggest to the reader that the word fagot is a word that is worth avoiding, and this is why:  

Etymologically speaking, this French word originally referred to a stick or bundle of sticks that would be used to fuel a fire.  The Oxford English Dictionary (OED, Unabridged) reminds us that this term then adopted the secondary meaning of either a moral or theological apostate who was to be burned above a pile of fagots:

"2. a. With special reference to the practice of burning heretics alive, esp. in phrase fire and faggot; †to fry a faggot...Hence fig. the punishment itself." 

We see an example of how this word migrated in its meaning when, In John Foxe's Book of Martyrs, we read about the martyrdom of John Huss.  It is by accounts like this one that it becomes apparent how the term fagot became a base reference for those accused of heresy:

"The flames were now applied to the fagots, when our martyr [Huss] sung a hymn with so loud and cheerful a voice that he was heard through all the cracklings of the combustibles, and the noise of the multitude. At length his voice was interrupted by the severity of the flames, which soon closed his existence."

Unfortunately, much of church history is riddled with many dark memories; particularly the dark memories of those church "leaders" who facilitated the cruel burnings of many men, women and children who were deemed to be heretics in the eyes of the Roman Catholic church.  Many of these victims were often chided as being fagots, as those who were considered worthy to be burned so that their souls would be ushered into hell with the horrific foretaste of a fiery destruction in this life. 

Some five hundred years later, the term was first used here in America to speak of male deviants who were effeminate or who would dress in "drag" (i.e., wearing women's clothing).  While it is true that such conduct is a gross deviation from God's design, it must be recognized that the term's history is much too stark to be used as a pejorative for anyone.  Most people are unaware of this historical background of the word fagot - and I am willing to assume that Miss Coulter is too; and while this word's perceived meaning in the present day will certainly vary from person to person, I do believe that those who name the name of Christ, of all people, ought to be the most careful with such language.  

Not surprisingly, we still have in this modern day those who, in the name of religion, are heralding a message of hatred as in the case of Westboro Baptist Church whose domain name is, of all things, www.godhatesfags.com.  They justify their use of the word fagot in light of Amos 4:11:

Amos 4:11: 11 “I overthrew you, as God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, And you were like a firebrand snatched from a blaze; Yet you have not returned to Me,” declares the Lord."

Here the Hebrew word ke'ud [from 'ud] means firebrand.  From this text the WBC website cites justification for using the word fagot in place of firebrand.  While such a use of fagot does comport with the word's ancient and original meaning, it is nothing less than a veiled admission that theirs is not a message of mercy, but of judgment alone.  What is ironic is that all of Amos 4 is a reminder to Israel of how God has shown them mercy amidst His judgment of their sin; that is, all kinds of sin.  Therefore the Lord graciously commands the nation in the next chapter: "...seek Me that you may live" Amos 5:4.  It is this message of mercy (seek the Lord that you may live) that is utterly lacking in the WBC website and in their overall message.  Their use of the word fagot is designed to be degrading and hateful, and fails to convey the Lord's call of mercy in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  A "ministry" such as this isn't much different than those false religionists who burned supposed heretics with murderous glee.  WBC's stilted message of hate is heavily adorned with casual references to homosexuals as fags or fagots; and while they are partially correct to point out that the wrath of God abides on those who practice homosexual sin (Romans 1:18-32), they still manage to ignore a vast ocean of truth: that God's wrathful judgment is leveled against all sinners (Romans 3:23) - against idolaters, adulterers, thieves, the covetous, drunkards, revilers, swindlers (1 Corinthians 6) as well as all false religionists (1 Timothy 3:1-5).  The truth is that all men deserve to be burned alive for all eternity (Revelation 20:11-15)- but that judgment (and execution) is the sole prerogative of God and must not be made a source of jesting by anyone who names the name of Christ. The legacy of the murderous inquisitions should drive us to be more careful, not only of the words that we use, but especially of our own hearts before God: 

Deuteronomy 32:41: 41 If I sharpen My flashing sword, And My hand takes hold on justice, I will render vengeance on My adversaries, And I will repay those who hate Me.

God will repay, and He doesn't need our help.

 

2. Our Culture's Exaltation of Corruption:

The other side to this discussion has to do with the fact that a great number of people oppose the word fagot for the wrong reasons.  Most people have no idea of the word's history, but because it has been deemed to be a derogatory term used for homosexuals, it has therefore been black-listed, and with a vengeance.  In other words, those who complain the loudest over the use of the word fagot do so, not because of the inappropriate nature of the word itself (for anyone), instead the real focus is on safeguarding what has become a newly-protected "class" of people: homosexuals.  The ugly reality is that it won't be long before hate crime legislation will make it illegal for people to use certain words that have been deemed by society as hateful speech.  Don't get me wrong - I'm very much against hateful speech (as previously argued), but to threaten legal action, or imprisonment, against someone who says such things represents a frightening extreme.  Frankly speaking, this is becoming the new class of heresy hunting in the modern era, and it comes with the same vicious venom that led to the brutal slaughter of many in the past.  Clearly we're not repeating that history yet, but a similar spirit of intolerance is escalating in our culture today.  In fact, it was just this past week that General Peter Pace said that he believed that homosexuality was immoral.  His comment set off a firestorm of media-backed hostility.  If you followed the media's revelation of his "heresy" at all, you would think that the world was about to end for what the man said.  For myself, I thought that his comments were fairly mild and that it would be better to cite the Lord Himself on the matter:

Leviticus 20:13: 13 ‘If there is a man who lies with a male as those who lie with a woman, both of them have committed a detestable act..."

I do not mean to derogate the General's comments at all here, but we must realize that it doesn't matter what I, General Pace or you believe - what matters is that the Creator and Judge of the Universe has already declared concerning homosexuality: it is a detestable act - period.  It is because of this that our military, for years, has endeavored to keep its ranks clear of those who practice such detestable acts for the sake of our troops, for their morale, and for their ability to focus on the task of fighting off the enemy - not one's fellow soldier.

But let me advance this idea a bit further.  In today’s crazy culture a person can mockingly use the Lord’s name in vain, or even deride His deity in the public arena with impunity (perhaps even landing a PBS television show out of it all).  But when a newscaster makes reference to the word fagot, he/she will reverently refer to it as the “f” word, or as "the word that begins with an “f” and ends with a 't'".  Thanks to discussions like these, we are reduced to speaking in childish code rather than having frank and open discussions that would help us to understand the nature of such controversies. 

But more than this, the question that transcends this whole discussion is this:  When will the Lord's name be treated with such reverence?  Will newscasters ever offer the Lord Jesus Christ, and His followers, the same respect that is given to the mounting collection of blacklisted words?  Will we ever hear a reporter quote those who blaspheme the Savior's name by reverently citing their slanderous references as the "G", "J" or "C" name, reminding us that we shall not take the name of the Lord God in vain? 

I'm not holding my breath for that one. 

Friday, March 09, 2007

Been Busy...

UPDATED BELOW...

If The Armoury seems to have been moving along at the same pace of the M-497 jet-powered train (which was retired in 1966 and hasn’t moved an inch ever since) it’s because I’ve been busy. The usual priveleges and responsibilities have kept me running all this time, but there is one exception, and his name is Josiah Calvin Beasley:

This 9.1 pound gift from God was given to us on Tuesday, March 6th, at about 8:30 in the morning. He is our second son of six children, and we are very thankful for him.

Update:

David Kjos over at The Thirsty Theologian has issued a needful rebuke for my own good. In my rush to get a picture of Josiah up on The Armoury, I failed to post any pictures of my wife - who had something to do with the birth of Josiah!!! What would I do without godly brethren? So here are a few more pics (for now):

Sandra, Lydia and Josiah:

Ruth, Lydia, Maria, Micaiah, Sandra and Josiah:

Thanks to Angie, from the Jonestown Starbucks in Winston-Salem, for the celebratory beverages for the whole family, in Josiah's honor:

P.S., Micaiah is glad to have a brother: