Thursday, March 11, 2010


If you're wondering what this is all about..check out the introduction to the last post just below this one. Remember our verse about our communication. Have at it..with respect.



Your face turns purple when you hear of the "atrocities" attributed to Allah, but you don't even flinch when hearing about how God/Jehovah slaughtered all the babies of Egypt in "Exodus" and ordered the elimination of entire ethnic groups in "Joshua" including women, children, and animals.


You laugh at polytheists, but you have no problem believing in a Trinity God.

What say you?

Paul B.


Aussie John said...


This list from atheists is quite interesting, to say the least.

Makes me wonder if the compilers must have known some "smart alec" Christians (I've no doubt they did) who have found the only way they can feel good about themselves is by making someone else look bad.

I've known a few misery guts like that (read their words on blogs as well) who are really don't want other people to feel good about themselves.

Number four reminds reminds me of the sinfulness of man and how God regards that sin. That saddens me but doesn't turn my face purple.

Number three takes me back to a previous answer: I will not laugh at, but defend the right of a polytheist to believe what he does, and respectfully use the right that is mine to seek to convince him otherwise, including the about trinitarian Godhead.

Lest anyone think that I'm expressing a false picture of my position, I very regretfully admit that at least some of these points would have once been true for me. My training in traditional Baptist churchianity was such that it produced such miserable examples of what called itself Christian that this list is referring to.

I hate to think of what life would be like if God had the same attitude towards my unbelief that I used to have towards those who think differently.

If amazing grace has truly been the experience of undeserving sinners such as I, it will most definitely be expressed through us towards those with whom we disagree.

By the way, I believe that is the first step in the Great Commission being worked out through us.

Paul Burleson said...

Aussie J,

I agree with your words here..."Makes me wonder if the compilers must have known some "smart alec" Christians (I've no doubt they did) who have found the only way they can feel good about themselves is by making someone else look bad."

I would also say, I think the list probably is made because of the experiences it's compilers had with "Christians" who have an unwillingness to hear anyone ask questions of their belief without them laughing, shaming, or ridiculing the questions or just plain disrespecting the questioner.

That's part of the point of my posting this. Good job in responding on your part [and others] for which I'm thankful.


Do any of you wish to speak to how you see the differences of the God of the Old Testament (Anger) and the God of the New Testament? (Mercy) [At least the appearance that would be seen to a casual reader.]

Is there anything you wish to say to the "three gods" the atheist sees in the Trinity?

traveller said...

Paul, I must admit to struggling some with the supposed differences between the OT God and the NT God. I am not sure there is a good explanation. However, a thought that does occur to me is that perhaps the OT writers, while divinely inspired, may not have had as clear an understanding of God as the NT writers who experienced Jesus directly and personally. I know some will say that this calls into question whether the Bible is divinely inspired since it might suggest that it is not "true". But I am not convinced that the idea of "inerrancy" is even a valid concept to use with the Bible. I think it is a concept that was developed to attempt to address the issue of Enlightenment thinking which in my view means that Enlightenment thinking was defining the nature of Scripture.

In any event, I will kick off the discussion in this way and let others respond.

Aussie John said...


Trying to be brief:

In the OT God is revealed as having the same characteristics as He is revealed as having in the NT,“compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness”.

His unchanging, permanent and just attitude towards sin (the breaking of His just laws) is expressed in His wrath which is often seen as an expression of human-like anger.

In the NT the former of these characteristics are shown more fully through God’s incarnate revelation of Himself as the “beloved Son”.

In the latter, like any loving father, when his children (in the OT case, the nation Israel) are disobedient and willful, punishment is in order.

In the NT, nothing has changed except that now the punishment is born by God Himself in His Son.

God’s unchanging attitude towards sin requires His justice to be satisfied, either in the sinner, or the sinner’s substitute (Jesus Christ).

The OT children of God were under the laws of the Old Covenant, which the Scriptures tell us was faulty (Heb.8:7) Under the New Covenant between God and His Son AND His adopted children we are under a “better covenant” (7:22; 8:8) of which the Son is “the mediator” (8:6), a ministry which God describes as “..a ministry the more excellent” (8:6).

Covenants are of legal standing. Two covenants regarding the same facts and issues cannot exist at the same time, hence the words we find in Hebrews 8:13.

Jesus fulfilled all the requirements of the Old Covenant laws in His perfect life and death as the substitute for all who would believe on Him in repentance and faith. As he cried out when His earthly work was complete, “It is finished”, paid in full.He had paid the sin debt of those who are and will be His and ratified the New Covenant.

The God of the OT is the immutable God of the NT.

I’m thankful that in instituting the New Covenant, He caused the old to lose its power, through the finished work of Christ, because as James says, “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point is guilty of breaking all of it”.

“And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.”

Rex Ray said...

If these questions get any harder, there may not be any comments.

Reply to question #4:

God’s ways are not man’s ways. Without the love of God, this earth would have no humans on it.

What was so bad about eating one ‘apple’ that caused Adam and Eve to die spiritually before the day ended?

Adam wanted to be as wise as God and rebelled to obtain that knowledge. Adam even challenged God that it was God’s fault because He made the woman who was deceived into rebelling. (Adam rebelled without being deceived.)

I don’t think God bought Adam’s reasoning anymore than God bought Paul’s reasoning: “It was not Adam who was fooled by Satan, but Eve, and sin was the result. (1 Timothy 2:14 Living)

I said that to show God knows the weakness of man. God ordered the elimination of entire ethnic groups in "Joshua" including women and children because women would have tempted God’s people to worship other gods. (Look what they did to Solomon.)
Children would have grown up to hate those that killed their parents.

Also God didn’t want his people to become lazy by having slaves to wait on them hand and foot.
(With so few doing the work, they would become what our nation is headed for today.)

The animals were destroyed so God’s chosen would work and depend on God for food and not the animals of their enemies.

I don’t believe God killed all the babies of Egypt, but killed the first born which some may have been old men and women.

The responsibility of the first born dying was upon Pharaoh for not obeying God.

If a person is killed because a driver did not obey a red light, it’s not the fault of the light.

Chris Ryan said...

Like Traveller, I wonder if Israel interpreted God through their experience. A different experience of God (found in incarnation, death, and resurrection) led to a different perspective on God, and perhaps on what God had been up to all along. Of course, I too wonder what this does with the idea of inerrancy. I don't think you have to set it aside, but doing so would certainly make this position easier (especially when inerrancy *is* a response to - and continuation of - Enlightenment reasoning).

But I also wonder if perhaps God changed His way of working in the world for a reason. I don't know that God is immutable in every way possible. I wonder if at one point, God sought to redeem the world with violence. He realized that would never work, but that the cycle of violence would only escalate as men with knowledge of everything but their own mortality sought their own ends, and so sought to absorb the violence rather than perpetrate it. Could God have known such a change would be needed, even from the beginning? Sure. But perhaps He had to wait for the cycle to reach a peak. And who has ever civilized violence better than Rome (except perhaps America)?

Paul Burleson said...


I got up this morning and read the comments. I told my wife about them. She read them. We agree that they are REALLY and all.

I'm thinking. That takes a while. :) I'm planning to respond to a portion of what each of you said later in the day. Something each one of you has said has triggered further thinking on my part in areas I haven't considered in a long time. I've got some ideas forming. I'm not sure how they will play out in the court of "sensibility" but I'll say them.

I'd like to hear from you on this "trinity gods" thing too, if possible.

Paul Burleson said...

Sorry guys. Totally infected laptop. Will call the "geeks" to get on it. Am at a very old desktop and it is limited as you can imagine. Sorry.

Rodney Sprayberry said...

Number 3
In ISBE: “The plural form of God's name in the OT (Elohim)..." has given rise to much discussion, and various explanations have been advanced: 1) A underlying polytheism 2) a plural of majesty 3) and intimation of the Trinity.”

The point is one of the earliest names for God (singular) is expressed in plural form.

This is especially fascinating when you think about the fact that early (and I mean early!) Judeo Christian thought emphasized monotheism (Deut. 6:4-5).

Though this may not be convincing to someone who does not accept scripture as authoritative, it is interesting…

Number 4
When I think about the trinity or the OT/NT picture of God (which are both sides of the same coin), I have found FF Bruce to be helpful in his discussion on primary and plenary interpretation of scripture:

“What did the speaker or writer intend to convey by writing this, and how was it understood by those for whom it was first designed?’ When we have found the answer to the question we have found the primary interpretation.

We have to do more thinking if we are to discover what it means for us today, but if its meaning for us today is to have any validity it must arise out of its primary meaning. The plenary sense of Scripture consists of its primary meaning plus whatever further meaning has been validly discerned in it by the people of God in succeeding generations. The plenary interpretation of Scripture in the church, it has been said, accrues like compound interest, but there must be a secure relationship between the compound interest and the primary deposit.

This is so particularly in the application which New Testament writers give to Old Testament texts which they quote. This application cannot be allowed to obliterate the primary sense of those texts, but the primary sense may be seen to present a preliminary or limited instance of a principle which has a wider reference in the completed revelation.

Or if we are perplexed at first by Matthew’s application of Old Testament texts in his nativity narrative (when their original reference is to something quite different), light may dawn when we realize that he is bringing out the way in which the experiences of the messianic people are recapitulated in the history of the Messiah himself. This is one of many ways in which the New Testament writers emphasize the christocentric relevance of Old Testament prophecy: ‘to him bear all the prophets witness’ (Acts 10:43).”

I think we can all agree that there is progressive revelation from the OT to the NT.
We may disagree on the extent but cannot deny its presence.

For the NT to present a true (but limited) picture of God, it must be predicated upon the OT picture of God.

Though I have a Christocentric view of scripture, such a position cannot obliterate (in my opinion) the OT picture of God as much as it should clarify and expand our knowledge of the God of the Bible.

Do I have questions absolutely? Is it difficult to harmonize some of what I see in the OT as compared to the NT, Yes.

So, when I read John 3:16-21 I go looking for God's heart in the OT, and is there.

Maybe the key to it all (as I would say to an Atheist) is to wrestle with a single question before all others.

If God does exist, is He good or not?

Paul Burleson said...


Very thoughtful and insightful comment IMHO.

Chris Ryan said...

Well if you are going to keep on asking...

The trinitarian nature of God is something I don't think will ever make sense to an atheist. It doesn't make sense to this theist! The best theologians throughout Church history have struggled to articulate what this concept is and how it works. But like those theologians, I realize that the trinity is what the Bible demands. It is not the same as polytheism. But that doesn't make it any easier to understand or accept.

Also making this more difficult is the fact that if the OT does advocate monotheism, that certainly wasn't the practice of OT folks. Instead we see a form of henotheism: YHWH is one God among many gods, but He is the particular God of Israel. There were other gods that the Israelites turned to for sustenance and protection. And YHWH didn't always do a good job of saying that these gods weren't real: more often He says that He does a better job than these other gods of whatever these other gods are supposed to do.

Strict monotheism doesn't really develop until the Maccabean period. But was it there all along? That's another question entirely. Is it in the NT? Most definately. Is the trinity in the NT? Most definately. Is it possible that some old pagan understandings are bleeding into an otherwise monotheistic understanding of the world? Maybe. Homousious (sp?), the traditional word for understanding the trinitarian concept, comes from Greece not Palestine.

But I think that the origins of trinitarian thinking can be far more docile than that. The sustaining presence of God (the Father) yet an incarnate presence (the Son) and a resurrection (resulting in the sending of the Spirit) demand that God be understood in different ways if not understood as different gods. If you aren't careful, it leads to modalism. But I'll just try to be careful...

Rex Ray said...

Number THREE: “You laugh at polytheists, but you have no problem believing in a Trinity God.”

Trinity means three are one.

In math, it would not be 1+1+1=3;
but 1x1x1=1.

In Physics, it would be like water, ice, and steam, but all being one in being one part hydrogen and two parts oxygen.

A book has length, width, and thickness. These names have different definitions, but they are three in one to describe the book.

If God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit were the same, they would not have different names. If they were the same, they would not appear separately at the same event:

“So Jesus was baptized. And as soon as he came out of the water, the sky opened, and he saw the Spirit of God coming down on him like a dove. Then a voice from heaven said, “This is my own dear Son, and I am pleased with him.” (Matthew 3:16, 17)
1. Jesus was baptized.
2. Jesus saw the Holy Spirit.
3. God spoke.

In spite of being different, they are ONE:
1. “The Father and I are one.” (John 10:30)
2. “…I am in the Father and the Father is in me…” (John 14:10)
3. “May they all be one, as You, Father, are in Me and I am in You. (John 17:21)

I believe God was referring to Jesus in these verses:
1. “Then God said, “Let US make man in OUR image, according to OUR likeness…” (Genesis 1:26)
2. “The Lord God said, “Since man has become like one of US, knowing good and evil…” (Genesis 3:22)

I believe the New Testament refers to Jesus as the Son of God in these verses:
1. “He who has seen Me has seen the Father.” (John 14:9)
2. “He who beholds Me beholds the One who sent Me.” (John 12:45)
3. “Jesus said to them, “I assure you; Before Abraham was, I am.” (John 8:58)
4. “They all asked, “Are You, then, the Son of God?” And he said to them, “You say that I am.” (Luke 22:70)

I believe the Holy Spirit is revealed in these verses:
1. “Come let US go down there and confuse their language so that they will not understand one another’s speech.” (Genesis 11:7)
2. And the angel answered and said to her [Mary], "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy offspring shall be called the Son of God." (Luke 1:35)
3. "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for that which has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit." (Matthew 1:20)
4. “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever. HE is the Spirit of truth. The world is unable to receive HIM because it doesn’t see HIM or know HIM. But you do know HIM, because HE remains with you and will be in you.” (John 14:16-17)
5. “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit—the Father will send HIM in My name—will teach you all things.” (John 16:26)
6. When the Counselor comes…HE will testify about Me. (John 15:26)
7. “…If I don’t go away the Counselor will not come to you. If I go, I will send HIM to you.” (John 16:7)
8. “When the Spirit of truth comes, HE will guide you into all the truth…He will glorify Me, because HE will take from what is Mine and declare it to you.” (John 16:13-14)
9. "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit." (Matt. 28:19)

P.S. Most of this is thanks to the Internet.

Aussie John said...


God is spirit (cannot be seen), incarnately revealing Himself in Jesus Christ (who can be seen), who works upon and in those He calls to Himself by His Spirit(the evidence of whom can be seen).

One God,in three persons, who because He IS God, cannot be intellectually fully understood, but can be fully known practically in Jesus Christ and the very tangible evidence of His working through His Spirit.

Rex Ray said...

Instead of having “Number 3” and “Number 4” on your comment, would you agree it would be more descriptive if you had ‘Off Topic’?

Chris Ryan said...


Just be careful with your descriptions. When you use water, steam, and ice in your physics analogy you have to remember that to describe it that way is modalism. A particular H2O molecule can't be water, steam, and ice all at the same time as Christians content God is at all times Father, Son, and Spirit.

And Jesus' baptism doesn't prove the trinity anymore than it is proof of polytheism. In that story they could very well each be different and distinct entities. Which is why you are wise to draw on other scriptures, too. The Bible demands the Trinity, but you will never be able to use only one or two verses or stories and prooftext your way through.

Rex Ray said...

I thought the object of #3 was to ANSWER the atheists’ question on how God was three in one (Trinity).

Would you copy paste anything that’s been said by anyone that would enlighten an atheist to his question?

Chris, most of your comments in the past have been right on target, but on this subject you said:

“The trinitarian nature of God is something I don't think will ever make sense to an atheist. It doesn't make sense to this theist!” And you go on to tell how hard it is.

Huh? It seems since you threw in the towel to start, you may be envious if someone else tries to answer the question.

Why did you say: “The Bible demands the Trinity, but you will never be able to use only one or two verses or stories and proof text your way through” when I used twenty-three?

I have a problem with your saying: “A particular H2O molecule can't be water, steam, and ice all at the same time as Christians content God is at all times Father, Son, and Spirit.”

Does that mean the ‘will’ of God and the ‘will’ of Christ were the same? You know where I’m going there.

Chris Ryan said...

Envious, no. Aware of how hard this issue is to explain, yes.

Did I throw in the towel? Probably. The trinity is nothing that can be proved empirically. There is really no earthly analogy that holds. But with the 23 verses that you used (as I said, it was good of you to use so many since one or two would never cut it) it becomes clear that the only conclusions that can be drawn are trinity or "these people were idiots." Even if it is unexplainable, I'm more comfortable with the first. The trinity has always been a divine mystery that the best of theologians dare to say very little about. Most apologists who try to answer objections fall into heresy to do so - which is why I won't even bother looking for something to copy/paste. The "why?" is simple: the Bible says so. The "how?" is something the brightest minds of Christian history have had no problem trying *not* to answer.

And, no, the wills of Father and Son didn't have to remain the same (though what I think we see in the garden, which is where you were going with this, is the human will of Jesus striving against the divine will of both Father and Son - spirit is willing but the body is weak). If you need there to be a petty squabble between the Father and Son, then go right ahead. That doesn't change them from both being *fully* God at the same time. But one molocule of H2O cannot be both steam and ice at the same time.

Rodney Sprayberry said...


Not really :)

The point in my mind is not to argue a position (or point of view) as much as it is to have a conversation with an atheist.

I have come to realize an important truth.

In most cases, arguments and debates are useless...dialogue is not.

But to dialogue there must be some level of mutual interest and respect. Also,there is the reality that many times the issue and hand is not the real issue at hand!

For very atheist I have had the privilege of knowing/interacting with( Granted, only 3-4)lack of belief in God is not the issue so debating bible/doctrine is counterproductive

I remember asking one guy after we had talked for hours what his greatest hope was to which he replied...I really do hope there is more to life than this.

The writer of Ecclesiates says that God has put eternity into the hearts of men.

That was the issue for him.

Paul Burleson said...


Sorry I missed your question about DNA in he last comment section. I will give my answer and then another observation.

My answer is no. I do not believe anyone in heaven will have the same DNA as they had on earth. Heaven-suits [Glorified resurrected bodies] as opposed to earth-suites [Natural bodies] will be of heavenly material whatever that is I would suspect.

Paul Burleson said...

I chose not to give my "other observation."

Rex Ray said...

When you wrote: “The Bible demands the Trinity, but you will never be able to use only one or two verses or stories and proof text your way through”, I was in a ‘negative mood’.

I had spent hours on Google copy/pasting what others had written on the Trinity. I thought what they had written was good, and didn’t expect criticism especially when some received praise that wasn’t on topic. Sort of like that ‘teacher’s pet thing’.
I had forgotten your previous sentence (“Which is why you are wise to draw on other scriptures, too.”)

I was wrong in my thinking of you saying I had only quoted one or two verses…sorry.

I agree that it’s beyond the human mind to explain in detail or even scratch the service of the Trinity, but we need to tell an atheist something besides being a friend. So, if H2O is not 100% correct, does the atheist know it?

In fact, can you prove H2O is not correct? Sure, H2O cannot be in three stages at the same time, but why does the Trinity have to be in three ‘stages’ at the same time?

We physically see Jesus in the water, the Holy Spirit on his head, and God’s voice from heaven. Is that ‘three in one’? I see the ‘three in one’ at the same time but at different locations.

I see the ‘three in one’ as united together with different works/love:
The Holy Spirit’s works/love testifies of Jesus and God while lifting us up and convincing man of sin.
Jesus’ works/love is to do the will of his Father.
God’s work/love after creating man and ‘losing’ him to the devil; is to restore man back to him for fellowship by bringing honor and glory to his Son with Jesus taking the punishment of dying spiritually for our sins.

You said, “In most cases, arguments and debates are useless...dialogue is not.”

So, how would you conduct the First Church Counsel in Acts 15, the SBC, church and deacon’s meetings? :)

You said, “My answer is no. I do not believe anyone in heaven will have the same DNA as they had on earth.” I believe that answered my question: “Does Jesus now have some of Mary’s DNA?”

I also asked, “Do you think Jesus returned to heaven with the same DNA as he left?”

I guess your answer would be ‘yes’.

Hey! Maybe we would all have the same DNA since we become children of God. But then maybe we’re adopted. Oh well, so much for chasing rabbits. :)

I agree our frail bodies will be perfect. I don’t know if we will look the same as on earth (black, red, white etc), but we will “know as we are known”, so I’m not going to worry about it. I know a minute before she died, my widowed grandmother for 38 years said with a big smile that she saw her husband.

Chris Ryan said...


Apology accepted. I think we've all been in foul moods and posted before thinking everything through. If everyone else hasn't, at least I have. So I'm certainly not going to cast any stones your way.

You asked, "but why does the Trinity have to be in three ‘stages’ at the same time?" in contrast to the way that a particular water molecule is only in one form at a time. Simple answer: it doesn't. But to say otherwise is something that the Church has considered heretical since the 3rd century. Feel free to disagree.