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What I "Learned" Tonight

Thomas Whitley

Tonight I “learned” two things. One was from a discussion board for my worship class and the other was from my Ethics professor. I say that I “learned” these two things for two reasons. The first is that I was already aware of these views/positions. The second is that I vehemently disagree with both of them and typically when someone truly learns something, they respond by subscribing to it.

Lesson 1
The comment on my Worship class’ discussion board was in the context of responding to reading the first chapter of Robert Webber’s Ancient-Future Worship: Proclaiming and Enacting God’s Narrative. One of my class members responded to another class member with the following comment:

Worship could never be possible without reading Jesus back into the OT narratives and texts. Although not specifically named in many, if not most OT references, Jesus is present from Genesis to Revelation, therefore He was included in OT worship forms.

This is a very common view that I have major problems with. I will not expound on all of them now, but I will mention a few. This view is typically called, in academic circles, supersessionism. Supersessionism is the belief that Christians superseded the Jews as God’s chosen people and as such receive God’s blessing and Jews now receive God’s damnation.

Besides the fact that this view is rather poor theology (it is likely very good christology if by good christology one really means high christology, but it is not good theology), and is not, in my understanding, good and appropriate work with the biblical text, this view is also very demeaning and does great harm and a great disservice to Judaism.

Furthermore, to say that it is impossible to have an Old Testament/Hebrew Bible (henceforth HB) worship without reading Jesus back into the narratives and texts of the HB says that for the thousands of years of recorded human history before Jesus the Nazarene came on to the scene no one really knew God and they were not capable of worshiping God. I, for one, will not say that Israelites and Judeans did not know God or that they were incapable of worshiping God because Jesus was not yet alive. That is quite a ridiculous view.

Moreover, my classmate’s response fails to realize that in actuality Jesus is never explicitly named in the HB. As difficult as it is for many to realize, the prophets that were writing in HB and during that time period had no clue who Jesus was (perhaps “would be” is more appropriate) and they were not predicting the future. Prophecy in the HB, as a trade and class, was about recounting history and speaking about present events and situations in the world view (ethos) of religion. Though the HB prophets are typically read as predicting the future, a solid exegesis that is informed by good historical studies will show that they were not.

That is all that I will say on this topic, for now.

Lesson 2
The second thing that I “learned” tonight was espoused by my Ethics professor. He said that you cannot read the New Testament (henceforth NT) and not be Trinitarian. Trinitarianism is the belief that God is only one being, yet three persons, manifested as God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.

Many of you may well hold this belief and that is perfectly fine, but my question to you is this, how many of the NT authors were Trinitarian? Answer: none. Does the Bible speak of the Trinity? Answer: no.

The doctrine of the Trinity has as its origin the Council of Nicea in 325, when the debate came to a head about whether Jesus and God the Father were “of the same substance” or not. Before then many people believed that Jesus was fully divine, just as many others believed that Jesus was fully human. Proclaiming that Jesus was fully human and fully divine and “of the same substance” as God was not a prerequisite up to that point of being a Christian.

Trinitarianism is an acceptable view to hold, but it is not biblical. I am perfectly fine with people holding to beliefs and convictions that are not biblical, so long as they recognize it as such and do not attempt to beat down those who do not hold to those same views and treat them (or tell them) that they are not Christian because of it. Many of you reading this post probably already have doubts about my Christianity. Regarding that, I really do not care. I do not say that to be callous, but my relationship with God is just that, my relationship with God. It is not yours and it certainly is not yours to make judgments about. But, if you do insist on making judgments, which we all do from time to time, please make sure that your judgments and arguments are sound.

I am not a Trinitarian for two main reasons. The first is not so much that it is not biblical, which has been established, but that there is no evidence that Jesus himself or his earliest followers believed anything of the sort. It is simply a doctrine of the church, not a core, foundational belief. The second reason is that I am a monotheist (I believe there is only one God) and I have the same questions/problems that Jews and Muslims have of most Christians. How can I call myself a monotheist and yet say that there is God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. My faith, for me personally, must follow logic as far as possible and in this case my ethos simply will not allow me to subscribe to both views, monotheism and Trinitarianism. They are mutually exclusive.

What do you think?