You are correct in the need for definition here. I know Jaco is not a Modalist. Modalism is actually a another form of Trinitarianism. I recall my discussions with Jehovah’s Witnesses years ago. I pointed out in their own literature, which I read thoroughly, that they had confused two types of Trinitarianism, one being Modalism; the other, the Orthodox view. My challenge was, if they could confuse the two without understanding either, how could they discern the error they were purporting for Trinitarianism?
The problem now, in this blog conversation, is that that challenge needs to made to Ed. I know this because I come from Ed’s background and thinking. I would not have been interested in debating Jehovah’s Witnesses if that were not the case. However, once I started understanding the nuances of people’s beliefs, I knew I had to understand that misrepresenting people was just as heinous a sin to Jesus as defending truth.
I also understand something of your concerns, Cherylu, about how Andrew is working with the scriptures. If he is going to show a different way of looking at passages of scripture that have been used for centuries to support Jesus’ deity, until there are none left for anyone to make the claim the doctrine is biblical, then Trinitarianism disappears, except for the assertions of the creeds.
And that is exactly why exegesis is so important here, to defend either case. That the Orthodox version “won” the day by no means proves its exegesis is sound. Did you know that Nicea worked through this in a very political fashion? Every other view - and there were others - was subsumed under “Arianism” and condemned. I did not know why, in church practice, that publicly reciting the Nicene Creed was to proclaim one’s allegiance to the Emperor who once and for all declared it to be the right and true doctrine. Those churches that did not “publicly confess” were destroyed, or at least shut down. I actually became acquainted with all this by way of Muslim apologetics, and then through my own attempt at verification of these claims by them (Just when you think you’ve got something to give them :-)) They don’t see much use in “joining” something that simply was made “orthodox” by shear political might (never mind their own faith doing the same!). Problem is, I don’t either. It was never the way of Jesus, and brings to light what he said about knowing those who are his by their “fruit.” That is why I am concerned also about Ed’s take on ridding heresy from the church. He might not have that kind of power to destroy others now, but his is the same kind of attitude that allowed it to happen in the past. That is what finally convinced me to dissociate myself from that kind of orthodoxy.
I am in this process of attempting to understand the back and forth myself, once I became aware that there was dissent about Jesus from the beginning of the church within the scholarship of those that study early Christian origins (Larry Hurtado, Richard Baukham, James Dunn, and James McGrath, to name a few). Many of these references are known by Muslim scholars, and are used to create their apologetics. I had no choice but to engage “our” own scholars on the matter. This then led me to consider Christian Unitarianism. You can imagine the pressure, can’t you? On the orthodox side, I’d be accused of putting aside what is considered there to be the primary point of supreme confession. I would no longer be a Christian in their eyes if I even for a moment questioned it. I would be seen as bowing to my desire to find common ground with Muslim objections. But I know that would not be the case. Mine was an attempt at humbly coming to terms with scripture and history’s use of it, no matter who was using it at the time. I could convince no one of my motives.
And that is why I don’t just give it all up and come back into the fold. So much willful ignorance, and the justification to use power to misrepresent and coerce on the part of the orthodox, would never allow me to stand with it again. I just don’t see Jesus, and what he says is necessary to follow him, there. And the bigger problem is, those outside looking in, don’t see him either. They would just brush me and my testimony aside, unwilling to look at what was plainly starring me in the face.
Cherylu, you put a personal face on orthodoxy in a winsome way. That is important. You engage Andrew with honest questions, and you need to do that. But you do that within the frame of reference of orthodoxy. You just need to be aware of that. You will also need to step into the shoes of others so that at the very least you do not misrepresent them, or join in with others who do the “willfully ignorant thing.” (This can be the case with any contending parties, by the way).