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Feedback: The Trinity vs Unitarianism, and explaining the Bible on homosexual behavior

Published: 21 December 2014 (GMT+10)
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D.L. wrote in from the US:

Dear Creation Ministries,

We have some friends who claim to be Unitarians. Our family is of the Christian faith and we have shared scriptures and cds on our faith. What are your thoughts on the subject and on this site [URL removed].

We know that their hearts are going to have to be opened to the truth. We are just wanting to be sure that we are doing all we can to help that. We are here on this earth to serve God to all His people.

Thank you so much for your time.

CMI-US’s Lita Cosner answers:

Dear Dawn,

Thanks for writing in. The article on the Unitarian page is too long to address every claim in detail, but to answer a few of the key points:

“We cannot understand the concept of the Trinity, so we have to resort to an unbiblical concept of ‘mystery’.”

In fact, the Bible itself says that God is in some sense unknowable, because He is so far beyond us; see Isaiah 55 and Psalm 50:21, for instance. What He reveals to us in Scripture is completely true, but is not an exhaustive revelation of His character. However, I don’t know anyone who claims we cannot understand the Trinity at all. But regardless of whether we can fully comprehend this doctrine, we can apprehend the fact that Scripture teaches it.

“There would not be so many mentions of the Father and the Son without the Holy Spirit if the Holy Spirit were a person”.

This conclusion simply does not follow from the premise. To the contrary, Matthew 28:19 and 2 Corinthians 13:14 make no sense if “Holy Spirit” were simply another name for “Father”; neither would Luke 11:13, John 14:26, Acts 10:38. Also, a Bible search will reveal lots of times where “Jesus” or “Lord” is used with Holy Spirit, but not God or Father. (Outside of the Gospels, Lord (kyrios) usually refers to Jesus, while God (theos) usually refers to the Father—though there are exceptions to this rule. This does not mean that Jesus is not God, because kyrios is used for Jesus even in cases where it is obviously translating the Hebrew “Yahweh”.) This obviously doesn’t mean the Father isn’t a Person.

“The doctrine of the Trinity makes otherwise simple verses complicated.”

Actually, looking at any mainstream evangelical Bible commentary will give simple explanations for any of the verses in that list. To just address one: in Acts 2:36, Peter says, “God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” The unitarian would say this verse is saying, “God made the man Jesus.” However, the meaning is quite different. The text is saying that the Father made Jesus the Christ—the Messiah who would save His people from their sins. The Son was God from eternity past, but He became our Savior and Lord through His death and resurrection.

“The Trinitarian Jesus is a contradiction”.

I would actually agree that many ‘average Christians’ are confused about how Jesus’ divine and human natures interact in the incarnation. This, however, does not invalidate the doctrine. During His time on Earth, Jesus lived a perfect human life so that He could impart a perfect human righteousness to us. This means that when He laid aside His divine power and privilege (temporarily and voluntarily), He did so completely. To illustrate the point: what was the point of Satan tempting Jesus to turn stones into bread? Why would it have been wrong? If some human technology were discovered that allowed us to turn dirt into edible food, it would be hailed as an end to world hunger. The temptation was for Jesus to bypass the human inconvenience and discomfort—to use His divine power as a ‘get out of jail free’ card. And if Jesus had done that, it would have been the end of the Messianic scheme, because Jesus would no longer have lived a purely human life. Even His miracles were done through the Holy Spirit, and not by Himself acting alone. So in the Gospels, we see Jesus as a man, living a perfect human life. This means that He is still a meaningful example for the Christian. However, there are many, many Scriptures which assert the deity of Christ: for instance, John 1 calls Jesus “the unique God who is at the Father’s side”.

I hope this helps.

S.C. from the US writes:

I tried looking on your website, but I couldn’t find the answer to my question. We know that the Old Testament says that both parties who commit a homosexual act must be put to death (Leviticus 20:13).

However, when I read the New Testament, Where Jesus tells His apostles to spread the Gospel to the world, surely the apostles must’ve come across homosexuals in their time, as evidenced in scripture (1 Corinthians 6:9–11). I know that the early church couldn’t have issued the death penalty to homosexuals in New Testament times, for those and other people were the ones they were trying to reach. And surely we, the church, wouldn’t execute homosexuals today!

My question is this: What in the world made homosexual acts no longer an offense that’s to be met with capital punishment?

If they were to be stoned in OT times, why not in NT times and the present? I need to be prepared to give a detailed answer for those citing Lev.20:13 to “prove” that the Bible is immoral.

Thanks for your help!

Lita Cosner answers:

Thanks for writing in. Some people mockingly ask about the penalties given in the Torah, but it’s actually a good point for discussing the relationship between the Torah and the Christian.

God gave the first 5 books of the Bible to Israel after the Exodus within the lifetime of Moses. And the Law that it contained was not only a religious law; it was the foundation for the laws of their nation. So we unsurprisingly see some similarities to other ancient law codes. Today, most people would say that the death penalty should only be applied to extreme murder cases, but that’s not the way it was in the ancient world. There were harsh penalties for stealing, adultery, and other ‘minor’ crimes. This was for a couple reasons: 1) Life was harder in the ancient world. If you stole from someone, for example, it wasn’t a matter of running to the store to buy a replacement; the victim could suffer substantially for a long time from the loss. 2) Community cohesion was essential for survival. One way Israel in particular was supposed to differentiate itself from other nations was to refrain from the abominable practices of the Canaanites. One category of such actions was sexual immorality. Also, homosexuality was often linked to male prostitution, and male prostitution was often linked to idolatry. And homosexuality was so ingrained as an abomination in Judaism that by the rabbinic period, they said that it was fine for two men to sleep in the same bed, because the chance of immorality was so low.

But this is an important point: the Bible only made homosexual activity a capital offense for the nation of Israel, because only they were signatories to the Sinaitic Covenant. Christianity was never set up to be a nation the way Israel was, and therefore we don’t have any of the civil laws that were part of Israel. Also, meting out the death penalty for sins would be contrary to the sacrifice of Christ which saves us from the spiritual penalty for our sin (note: this is in the context of a religious setting and does not apply to discussions about whether governments should have the death penalty).

Those citing Lev. 20:13 as an ‘immoral’ verse have to answer: by what standard do they claim it is immoral? Up until the 20th century, the vast majority of people would have agreed that homosexuality is an abomination. And it is a medical fact that male homosexual activity in particular opens the parties up to injuries and disease, and shortens lifespan. In fact, the case could be that it is profoundly unloving to let someone engage in such harmful behavior without intervening. There are powerful social disincentives for smoking, and homosexual activity is even more harmful than smoking in terms of shortened lifespan.

I hope this helps.

Helpful Resources

Creation, Fall, Restoration
by Andrew S Kulikovsky
US $24.00
Soft cover
Gay Marriage: right or wrong?
by Gary Bates, Lita Cosner
US $3.50

Readers’ comments

Grahame G.
Raymond C asks why Jesus was tempted if He could not sin and put the reference Heb 4:15 which says "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin." and I would suggest that there is an answer given in that verse. He is able to sympathize with us, but in a perfect way that no-one else who is tempted can sympathize because He did it without sin.

Hebrews 2:17,18 helps makes this point as well. "Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 18 For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted."

And Lita gives excellent reasons as well.
Riaan V.
Excelent responses Lita!
I have found that whenever entering a debate against a critic, no matter how scientific you try and keep the descussion they will most of the time revert to this view of an "immoral God" when they feel cornered, especially hammering on homosexual discrimination. I find it.. "funny" that these critics of our faith will throw homosexuality in our faces during a debate as a rebuttal against Christianity yet most of them would probably see it as a disgrace and abomination within their own family life. We Christians must always remember that the gospel is to be spread through love and respect towards ALL people! And I will even go as far as to say that we Christians have alienated certain groups throughout history from the true Gospel by means of a judgemental, derogatory and self righteous attitude.
Wes I.
The town of Sodom and surrounding areas were destroyed by God prior to the Law being given and prior to the nation of Israel being instituted. To say that homosexuality was only punishable within the scope of the nation of Israel/Jewish nation and their laws is a fallacy.
You should be careful not to lighten or diminish the fact that homosexuality is the worst sin in the bible.
Both the Old and New testaments speak against these practices. (see Romans 1. God gives them over to a reprobate mind)
The Jewish people could not carry out the penalties for crimes punishable by death in the New Testament because they were living under Roman rule and not their own. This is why when they brought the woman caught in adultery to Jesus that she was not put to death (which was her punishment according to Gods law), not because Jesus didn't think that's what she deserved.
Lita Cosner
Wes, if I was arguing that homosexuality was only sinful within the scope of the nation of Israel, I would be very wrong. Fortunately, I was arguing no such thing. That particular law, which included the death penalty for homosexual actions in Leviticus 20, was for the nation of Israel (Christians are not commanded to execute homosexual offenders). Romans 1, 1 Corinthians 6, and plenty other passages tell us that it is a violation of God's Law--Leviticus 18 and 20 tells us what that means in the Israelite context.

The worst sin in the Bible is not homosexuality--it is unbelief.
Paul L.
I am a bit confused on Lita Cosner article on homosexuality, is she saying that it is not a sin now because only Israel was subject to it because of the treaty with God and we are not under that treaty?
Thank you for all your help as you have been a great enlightenment for me, especially on evolution.............Paul Lowenstein
Lita Cosner
Paul, Leviticus 18 is not the only place where the Bible teaches us that homosexuality is a sin. The account of Sodom and Gomorrah seems to teach that it is a grave sin even for those who have had no apparent special revelation from God regarding His law. Leviticus 18 teaches us that it was an "abomination" for the people of Israel. Romans 1 teaches us that it is the culmination of rebellion against the Creator and His design for His creatures. 1 Corinthians 6 teaches us that it is one of many sins that exclude unrepentant practitioners from the Kingdom of Heaven, but that this along with every other sin is cleansed through Christ for those who repent.

So no, Leviticus 18 is not the first or only place a Christian should go to find a condemnation of homosexual practices (they would also have to go to Leviticus 20 which mandates the death penalty for such things). Rather, the entirety of Scripture teaches positively that monogamous marriage between one man and one woman for life is God's perfect original plan for human sexuality. Negatively, it teaches that corruptions of human sexuality, such as adultery, lust, rape, bestiality, and homosexuality, are sin and will be judged as such, unless the sinner repents and believes in Christ for the forgiveness of sins.
Marc K.

Re Satan, I think the other thing is that it is not inconceivable that Satan not only thought that he could get Jesus to succumb, but that Satan didn't even know that Jesus REALLY was God. After all, why would God let Satan in on his plan which was hidden from the foundations of the world and only fully revealed to us post resurrection.
Lita Cosner
Marc, I think Satan was fully aware of who Jesus was, because all the demons seemed to know who He was. Satan just believed that he might be able to get Jesus to sin, but of course Jesus as God is incapable of sin.
A. T.
I have to draw attention to an oft forgotten fact that homosexual behaviour is nothing new. In pre-Christian times at least among the Greeks, although I'm sure among many people groups, homosexual behavior was the norm. The great Greek myths about their heroes include many riveting love stories between men, which apparently moved the listeners to tears, such as Achilles and Patroclus.
However there is a new modern movement to identify sexual orientation with personality and to perceive such behaviour as being exclusive of normal sexual relations. In ancient times it was normal in for men and women to get married, who would otherwise have same-sex lovers, but homosexual marriage rights would be a foreign concept to them.
As such I don't think that implying homosexuality was universally reviled before the 20th century is a good idea. There is a powerful argument from history that sexual orientation has nothing to do with genetics and more to do with cultural mores and ideas about acceptable behaviour. And I question the statement that homosexuality is more dangerous than smoking.
James V.
I would like to add a few comments in defense of the truth of Christ's "impeccability," i.e., that He, the God-Man, could not sin.

"As God He was holy, and as man also He was holy. It was holy humanity -- not innocent (ignorant of good and evil) as Adam's before the fall, or sinful as Adam after the fall. It was holy humanity, taken into His person, impeccable!"

Some apparently do not recognize that the doctrine of the "peccability" of Christ (that He "could" have sinned) implicitly divides His person. This false doctrine inherently necessitates (despite protests to the contrary) that Christ is actually two persons, not deity and humanity united forever in one indivisible Person. For if Christ had the potential to sin, then there would also have to be the potential for Christ to be divided . . . for the potential of the humanity that might sin (and only a person can sin, not an impersonal nature) to be split off from the deity that cannot sin. (For there cannot be a union of sinful humanity and holy deity in one Person.) Thus the doctrine of the peccability of Christ inherently requires the Christ to be two persons not one . . . it inherently denies the real nature of the Incarnation, the real Theanthropic Person of Christ, the real union of God and man in one indivisible Person forever. (Of course, the doctrine of peccability also explicitly denies the true state of Christ's humanity as being intrinsically holy.) And what of the atonement? The doctrine of peccability also thereby destroys the infinite, divine value of His Cross-work. For if Christ, by implication, were two persons (no real union of deity and humanity in one indivisible Person), then His atoning blood would have only the finite efficacy of a human person, and could thus be the ground of saving no one.
What's the point if Jesus could not have sinned? Heb 4:15
Lita Cosner
So that his perfect righteousness could be credited to us. He had to be tempted and no succumb. He could not sin because He is God. Just because a battle cannot be lost does not mean the battle doesn't need to be fought.
So, what was the point of Satan tempting Jesus, if, Jesus being perfect, could not have sinned?
Lita Cosner
Well, I think Satan thought Jesus might actually succumb. If we look at it as part of God's plan, Jesus had to be tempted in every way as we are. We can also look at it as Jesus succeeding where Adam failed. Adam was in a garden, Jesus was in the wilderness. Adam had everything he needed; Jesus hadn't had anything to eat for 40 days. And yet Jesus succeeded while Adam succumbed.
Jane V.
The OT law was given to teach the world how holy God was and to show the depths of our sin. In the sight of God one tiny sin is enough to warrant our ‘eternal ‘ death!
Paul uses the sin of homosexuality to explain this in Romans 1. However all sins can be substituted in its place as the list of sins in the same chapter shows. Everyone is a sinner. Homosexuality was an obviously hideous sin that every believer can relate to.
But Paul goes on in his book of Good News to say that, “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:6-8 “For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.” Romans 6:14 “You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.” Romans 6:18 “That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead. You will be saved.” Romans 10:9
In the inspired Song of Zechariah, he says of his son John the Baptist, “And you my, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord (Jesus) to prepare the way for him, to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, BECAUSE OF THE TENDER MERCY OF OUR GOD”. Luke 1:76-78a This is the true message of Christmas and of Christianity: God hates all sin including homosexuality, but has tender mercy for all who repent because Jesus Christ paid for our sins in our place.
Thomas H.
"There are powerful social disincentives for smoking, and homosexual activity is even more harmful than smoking in terms of shortened lifespan."
Thanks for pointing out an obvious hypocrisy in our US government. We really need to pray that the eyes of our leaders will be enlightened to the knowledge of the truth.
Thanks for your work in spreading not only knowledge but also the Good News of Jesus.
Stephen C.
Yep, your answer concerning homosexuality and capital punishment helped out quite a bit. Thanks!
George J.
What is the statement, "Even His miracles were done through the Holy Spirit, and not by Himself acting alone. " based on? One of the key differences that separates the miracles that Jesus did perform from what Satan wanted Him to do is that all Hid miracles were done to benefit others. Satan wanted him to glorify Himself. I have understood that Jesus could have availed Himself of Godly powers, and did so to help others, but not to help Himself; which makes His refusal to call angels to his rescue all the more poignant.
Lita Cosner
Thanks for this comment. I want to be absolutely clear. Jesus had at all times all the attributes of God; He never gave up His deity. But He did give up the rights and the glory associated with deity, voluntarily and temporarily, for our benefit. This is because only a human righteousness could be credited to us. This is why Jesus had to be born as a baby and live a full life for over 30 years before dying for our sins.

But part of that righteous life is being tempted and suffering the effects of this life. If Jesus had gotten around these things by doing miracles, He would cease to be living the sort of human life that could be credited to us.
Bill H.
I think you might want to reconsider your wording in your answer regarding Unitarianism: "Even His miracles were done through the Holy Spirit, and not by Himself acting alone." When coupled with "This means that when He laid aside His divine power and privilege (temporarily and voluntarily), He did so completely," it appears that Jesus had no more power than a Spirit-filled Christian. I sustain that the only thing Jesus laid aside (kenosis - "emptying" - Phil. 2:7) during His incarnation was His glorious position in heaven. I base my view on the immediate context of Phil. 2:5-7, which says: "Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men."
Lita Cosner
Bill, I think we have to go a little further. To be able to impart righteousness to us, Jesus had to have a human righteousness. He already had all the righteousness of deity, but He had to live a righteous human life so that His righteousness could be credited to us. This means that He had to live the same sort of life we lived. He still had all the attributes of deity, but He did not use them for his own advantage. If He had, He would cease to be living the completely human life which could be credited to us.

I hope this clarifies things.
R. C.
Could you explain how homosexuality shortens lifespan?
Lita Cosner
A main way is through diseases that homosexual men are more likely to contract. They also have far higher suicide rates than the general population, and more violence. A Google search will turn up more detailed information (but beware, because some of this information, especially regarding diseases, may be graphic).

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