The gospel of the Triune God: our prime concern
Published: 19 January 2013 (GMT+10)
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.
My wife and I have been receiving the magazine for many years now, always with interest.
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:
- The scientific aspects of creation are important, but are secondary in importance to the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ as Sovereign, Creator, Redeemer and Judge.
- The doctrines of Creator and Creation cannot ultimately be divorced from the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
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 66 books of the Bible are the written Word of God. The Bible is divinely inspired and inerrant throughout. Its assertions are factually true in all the original autographs. It is the supreme authority, not only in all matters of faith and conduct, but in everything it teaches. Its authority is not limited to spiritual, religious or redemptive themes but includes its assertions in such fields as history and science.
- The final guide to the interpretation of Scripture is Scripture itself.
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.
God is one and says so.
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.
Jesus is his son and says so, to back up God’s declaration of it. The holy spirit is clearly God at work or the power of God, and not a person.
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.
Later in the box it is stated that “Jesus Christ the Creator, God the son” though totally … But again nowhere are such words used in the Bible. Jesus is certainly responsible for the new creation, but his Father made all things.
Again, this is answered in Who is Jesus? God the Son?, showing that the appellation “God the Son” is a logical deduction from Scripture.
Not mentioned in this issue, that I have noticed, are your common comments about satan or devil. Without entering into what these words mean to us from scripture, sufficient to say neither is mentioned in Genesis, from which your foundations are supposed to come.
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.
Yes we know you state you are based on orthodox Christian church doctrines, but perhaps sometime you should reexamine this stand by studying the scripture again rather than just accepting the standard doctrines.
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.
Of course this would destroy your ministry as funding would no longer flow in the necessary quantities I’d imagine.
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.)
Anyway this is what we wanted to say. The result is that despite loving the articles as much as ever, we can’t support the doctrinal side of your work so when renewal comes up next, we won’t.
That is your prerogative.
May God be with you as you look into these things more closely.
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.
M.M. and P.M.
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)
Thank you for your reply regarding the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. I will have to further study your proposed solution, it is the first time that I have heard of this. My more normal contacts have been with church goers who have been struggling with or who did struggle with the thought of having committed this sin themselves. The solution that you describe, Dr. Sarfati, does look promising, but I don’t want to be tossed about by every wind of doctrine, rather, I would (hopefully) like to pattern myself after the Bereans who studied the Scripture to see if this was so. Thank you again.
Yes, definitely check things out with Scripture as per the Bereans (Acts 17:10–12).
If I accepted the more common view of what “blasphemy against the Holy Spirit” meant—a persistent wilful unbelief—here is what I might have said to those worried about having committed this sin:
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.
The Trinity is revealed to us through Scripture. No Trinity = no salvation. I think people try to too hard to comprehend the “unity” in the Godhead. I’ll ask this question to those who fumble over this. How can a man with a finite mind understand entirely three Persons who are one who are infinite? You can’t. Given your current state it would be easier for you to tell me what the Universe is inside of. :D
Great article Sir.
Ian, do you see a trinity at John 1:1?
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:
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]
CB: The most popular (but not the most accurate) rendering of John 1:1 says, in part: “The Word (Jesus) was God.”
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:
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.]
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.
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 Scripture
CB: 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 means
1. origin, place of going out from
1b) places of going out to or from
Hence in the Incarnation article, I cited this translation, pointing out:
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.
CB: 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.”
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 easiest way to defend the Trinity is to compare it with what the Bible says about God. If the two agree 100%, then that should confirm that the trinity is based squarely on Scripture. But is that the case? Well, judge for yourself:
2. THE BIBLE says that “for us there is one God, the Father." (1 Cor. 8:6)
3. THE BIBLE says the “Father is greater…” (John 14:28)
3A. THE TRINITY DOCTRINE says: “In this trinity, NONE is greater…”
6A. THE TRINITY DOCTRINE says that “the holy spirit IS God.” However, A Catholic Dictionary says: “On the whole, the New Testament, like the Old, speaks of the spirit as a divine energy or power.” It adds: “The majority of New Testament texts reveal God’s spirit as someTHING, not someONE.”
So, do the Bible and the trinity doctrine agree about who God is? Certainly not!
I’ve already published your other letter and tried to present a detailed answer. With this one, it's clear that you haven’t taken into account the other articles on the Trinity, although our feedback rules require that inquirers consult our site first. For this, my old article Jesus Christ our Creator: A biblical defence of the Trinity deals with most, including “Father is greater…” (yes, in position, not nature). Also, as shown in Defending vital doctrines and the deity of Christ, 1 Cor. 8:6 is powerful evidence for the Deity of Christ.
I also see that you have been posting the same anti-Trinitarian propaganda on Roman Catholic and Evangelical sites.
It’s also notable that anti-Trinitarians like Jehovah's Witnesses and Muslims love to quote that Catholic Dictionary or encyclopedias out of context (see Islam, testimony, and the Trinity for more examples). I’ll prove it with yours, by quoting the full passages with your out-of-context quotes in bold (documentation off-site at Catholic Encyclopedias and Dictionaries, anti-Trinitarian deceptions, with verse references modernized):
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).
Isn’t it Scriptural to assume that The Word or logos described in John 1:1,2 ...who in this verse is described as God [theos], is indeed the same God that is referred to in Genesis 1:1 [elohim] and according to Hebrews ch1, that it was by Him [singular] that the worlds were made. If Hebrews 1:2 [Colossians 1:15] declares that Jesus is the express image of the invisible God or the expression of God’s substance, or as John 1:14 declares it: “the word that was made flesh” is it not reasonably obvious that Jesus is in fact YHWH manifest in the flesh? Isaiah 44:24 clearly shows God doing the work of creation alone and by himself.
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.
Some JWs came to my house, about thirty years ago, and talked about the Trinity not having any basis in the Scriptures. They also quoted some Scripture which seemed to indicate Jesus was created and therefore not God and if Jesus was God then we didn't believe in one God. I knew they were wrong and my Christian faith depended on their being wrong (could not be a Christian and believe Jesus was crerated), but their questions nagged me for several months. I searched and prayed about it. One chapter; John 1, showed me three times, that the belief in a Triune God is perfectly scriptural. Plenty of supporting scriptures, as you mention, also confirm the Trinity.
Thanks CMI in defending the authority and truth of Scripture (all 66 books) and indeed the “proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ as Sovereign, Creator, Redeemer and Judge.”
A comment to M.M. and P.M.—I’m sure many other supporters of CMI, like myself also affirm in genuine loving concern, what Dr Sarfati has shared with you in the final paragraph of his response to you.
All the hyperlinks and related articles mentioned will provide answers for the truth of the Triune God. I encourage you to read those articles and especially study the Bible verses mentioned that have correctly revealed and informed the reasoning for the Triune God (Trinity).
The three Ecumenical Creeds (Apostles’, Nicene, Athanasian) remain unifying statements of Scriptural truth for all believers. Unequivocally Trinitarian, they are a helpful resource for those who are wrestling with how God has revealed Himself in the Bible.
Being an ex-Christadelphian (a word not found in the Bible) who has converted to Christianity and who wholly endorses CMI’s SoF, I recognise the various reactions and doctrines that MM and PM present. They do indicate probable Christadelphian.
I was fortunate enough to be able to interest my father in reading the latest edition of Creation magazine and hoped that the well-written article on the Incarnation would get him to question his Christadelphian beliefs. So thank you CMI.
Well I’m extremely thankful that CMI defends the faith in more areas than just the creation vs. evolution debate.
Fundy atheists and skeptics attack Christianity from all angles, from the creation vs evolution issue, to philosophy, reliability of NT texts, etc. We have to be ready to answer all attacks on God’s word, not just in the areas of creation.
Besides, what would be the point of winning someone to creation if we don’t also tell them who the correct God is that created?
Thank you Dr. Sarfati for this excellent teaching of the meaning of the Word. The concept of a “progressive propositional revelation” is so important for our individual growth in the faith too. We also “progress” in our understanding of the "propositions" that God has “revealed” in Scripture. Yes, yes, yes!
Further to this though, I believe that Jack C., from Australia is making a mistake in his explanation of the “blasphemy of the Holy Spirit”. It may however be my own misunderstanding of what he is saying. I understand this form of blasphemy to consist of rejection of the truth once the Holy Spirit has convicted you of said truth. If you ascribe to the devil what you know in your inner being to have come from God, then and only then are you blaspheming the Holy Spirit. I bring this up because it is a recurrent theme that I personally have worked through as well as far too many sincere believers that I have spoken with.
Glad you liked the article.
I published Jack C.’s feedback because it was a well-reasoned account of why he came to believe in the personality of the Holy Spirit. In hindsight, it might have been better to omit the part about “blasphemy against the Holy Spirit”, which many commentators have tried to explain in different ways.
My own preferred explanation is actually different from both yours and Jack’s, and some of my colleagues agree with me although it is not necessarily an official CMI position. That is the position taught by Hebrew Christian Bible scholar Dr Arnold Fruchtenbaum:
“Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit” was a national sin of the Israel of Jesus’ generation—of rejecting His Messiahship on the grounds that He was demon-possessed, and indeed possessed by the lead demon Beelzebub. This was despite having experienced the three Messianic miracles they themselves had taught that only the Messiah could do:
- Healing a Jewish leper
- Exorcising a demon that caused dumbness
- Giving sight to a man born blind
The punishment that could not be averted was the AD 70 destruction of Jerusalem, and with it the religious system of the Temple and Levitical Priesthood. But no Jewish Christians were killed because they had obeyed Jesus’ command to flee when the city was surrounded by armies. See History of the scattering of the Jews in A brief history of the Jews.
Thus “blasphemy against the Holy Spirit” is not a sin that people can commit today.
This position is attractive to me and some of my colleagues because it doesn’t seem to pit this Scripture against Scripture. If there were a particular sin that an individual could commit today that was unforgivable, then what about the all the biblical promise that “whoever” calls upon the name of the Lord for eternal salvation will be saved from all their sins if they are willing to accept the God-man Jesus Christ and His sacrificial death on the cross?
A common position is that the “blasphemy against the Holy Spirit” is unbelief. But since all of us were once unbelievers, it would logically follow that our unbelief could never be forgiven, so none of us have this promised hope in Christ.
Re: the deity of Jesus Christ, which was a part of the thrust of this article:
The one verse that solidified things for me in this regard is Hebrews 1:8. The context is determined by the first word in the chapter, “God”—theos, a Greek term for deity. This is followed by verse 5, referring both to the Father and the Son, and then verse 8—“But unto the Son He says, ‘Your throne, O God …’” (NKJV). If the Father calling the Son “God” is not enough evidence for anybody, I don’t know what would convince such a one.
Thank you, Dr. Sarfati, for your strong answers based solidly and repeatedly on Scripture.
You’re most welcome. Indeed, that verse was central in one of my other feedback responses about a decade ago: Who is Jesus? God the Son?
I was searching as an adult for the truth. As a twenty something I studied with and rejected Mormonism as a cult. I gave up looking for a long time but renewed my search as a 30-something and checked out Jehovah’s Witness. As I was slowly indoctrinated in the JW I prayed everyday that if what I was learning was the truth that God would give me some kind of feeling about it. I was actually feeling nothing, no love, no faith or no inner peace. So I ended that exploration. Fast forward another decade and I was finally saved and exposed to the truth for the 1st time. However, I was overly influenced by the false teaching about there being no trinity that it took several weeks of daily reading scriptures that I finally knew the truth. As soon as I “knew” that truth all those gifts of the Spirit were given to me as well!
Thank you Dr Sarfati for contending for The Faith.
MJM and family … by reading God’s Word we are tri-une Theists.
Thank you, in Jesus’ name, for taking the time to hold fast to the doctrines once delivered to the saints.—J
At one stage I was not sure if the Holy Spirit was a force or a being. I’m now convinced it's a being for a number of reasons. One of the strongest reasons is the repeated testaments in Revelation of “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches … .” My understanding of the “Spirit” in such verses is the Holy Spirit. In that case, the Holy Spirit is talking (to John) and so must be a being, not an impersonal force or power since a force or power can’t speak. I would also say that anyone who refuses to believe the Holy Spirit is a being, and as one with God the Father and God the Son, is blaspheming against the Holy Spirit and thus committing the one and only unpardonable sin (Matthew 12:31 and Mark 3:29) which can only be the same as rejecting God the Father and/or God the Son. Note too that in Matthew 12:31 the phrase “the Spirit” is used yet in Mark 3:29 “the Holy Spirit” is used. That's because the Greek text for Matthew 12:31 does not have “Holy” but is included for Mark 3:29. This is strong evidence that “the Spirit” in Revelation is the same as the Holy Spirit, and since such a Spirit speaks it must be a being not just a force.
A very good constructive response by Jonathan Sarfati. For me personally, the response has again made it clear how vital it is to always revert to the Scriptures for instruction and guidance—it works!
I was amazed how the correspondent who wrote to you started off sounding like a Christian and then later revealed himself to someone who seemed to me to have little to no understanding of the Trinity … which also to me can only be revealed by the indwelling Holy Spirit. Thank you for the knowledge in science and the Bible that you help me with and also thank you for being such a great example in how to answer questions and defend our faith in a Godly manner.
An excellent, godly response Jonathan, thank you.
As a Christian who had exposure to Unitarianism through the Jehovah’s Witnesses as a teenager, I struggled for years with the doctrine of the Trinity when I became a Christian in my early 30s. Now in my mid forties, thanks to God opening my eyes through reading His Word regularly, I can now see the Trinity clearly in Scripture. For me it was the documented, right worship of Jesus when he appears through Scripture, due only to God, that helped me cross the line. There is of course much more evidence, if only we look, and seek to honour Jesus as Scripture exhorts us.
God bless you, and the whole CMI team for your diligence, character, and willingness to serve our heavenly Father faithfully.