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Thread: The Unitarian

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    The Unitarian

    Someone at TheologyWeb had referred me to a theologian I had never heard of named Van Til. As I was researching his writings I came across a Unitarian blog with the usual rants about the Trinity. It is winter here in Oz, so today I was sitting in the sun trying to get warm and the following parable entered my thoughts... I think it needs tweaking, so your critique would be most appreciated...


    In a "watch this, I'm going to drop him to the ground" moment, the Unitarian asked the Trinitarian: "In the doctrine of the Trinity you have three persons who are the one God. Is that correct?

    Trinitarian: Close enough, though we emphasise the concrete reality of each person and the distinction between persons.

    Unitarian: Ok. In my understanding, you also teach that the Father is God, the Son is God and the Holy Spirit is God. Is that correct?

    Trinitarian: Close enough.

    Unitarian exclaims triumphantly: Then you have three Gods, not one!
    _____________

    Trinitarian: If I saw two men and a woman standing at a bus stop, I would declare "There are three persons" and not "There are three men". Why do you think that is so?

    Unitarian replies with some deflation: Obviously because a woman is not a man!

    Trinitarian: Is it not written in the scriptures that God created "man" as both male and female?

    Unitarian replies with obvious impatience: Adam was not created as both male and female!!!

    Trinitarian: The person named Adam definitely wasn't, but Genesis 5:2 tells us that God collectively called the two persons he created "adam". In English we say "man".

    Unitarian replies obviously irritated: You are avoiding my question!

    Trinitarian: You didn't ask me a question! As judge, jury and executioner you made a statement. I'm attempting to demonstrate to you that your statement is silly.

    As I said: If I saw two men and a woman standing at a bus stop, I would declare "There are three persons" and not "There are three men". The reason as you seem to agree is that there is distinction of persons in humanity. Each person, whether male or female, has the status of being human but none are all of humanity. Likewise the Trinity. There is distinction of persons. Each person has the status of being God (theotēs cp. Col 2:9), but alone, none is all of God in regards to the activity that mankind experiences....

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    Professor Cerebrum123's Avatar
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    The end part sounds a bit like Modalism. Of course, all analogies break down eventually.
    Safka, you are NOT "unknown", you were loved by many, and you will not be forgotten. I will always remember you Puginator.


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    Hmmm. I didn't see that coming. Any suggestions of how to tweak/fix it?

    I'm too close to see what you see. I need to stand away. Subconsciously, I assume people are informed but consciously I realise most people don't actually know what "oneness belief" (modalism) teaches and what Trinitarianism teaches ie: three prosopa (persons as the actors masks), one hypostasis (person as a concrete reality), one ousia (essence), versus three hypostases, one ousia, multiple prosopa (Jesus has at least two eg: he who sees Me sees Him who sent Me (Jn 12:45; 14:7-9)).

    I am aware that in the publications of JWs, Christadelphians, Iglesia ni Cristo and the like, Trinitarianism is depicted in the light of Sabellianism. I often think upon how to witness to these people, to explain in simple terms what Trinitarians actually believe. I've found that relying on the Greek fathers and their terms rather than the silliness of Augustine is a huge asset...
    Last edited by apostoli; 08-06-2015 at 03:48 PM.

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    Professor Cerebrum123's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by apostoli View Post
    Someone at TheologyWeb had referred me to a theologian I had never heard of named Van Til. As I was researching his writings I came across a Unitarian blog with the usual rants about the Trinity. It is winter here in Oz, so today I was sitting in the sun trying to get warm and the following parable entered my thoughts... I think it needs tweaking, so your critique would be most appreciated...


    In a "watch this, I'm going to drop him to the ground" moment, the Unitarian asked the Trinitarian: "In the doctrine of the Trinity you have three persons who are the one God. Is that correct?

    Trinitarian: Close enough, though we emphasise the concrete reality of each person and the distinction between persons.

    Unitarian: Ok. In my understanding, you also teach that the Father is God, the Son is God and the Holy Spirit is God. Is that correct?

    Trinitarian: Close enough.

    Unitarian exclaims triumphantly: Then you have three Gods, not one!
    _____________

    Trinitarian: If I saw two men and a woman standing at a bus stop, I would declare "There are three persons" and not "There are three men". Why do you think that is so?

    Unitarian replies with some deflation: Obviously because a woman is not a man!

    Trinitarian: Is it not written in the scriptures that God created "man" as both male and female?

    Unitarian replies with obvious impatience: Adam was not created as both male and female!!!

    Trinitarian: The person named Adam definitely wasn't, but Genesis 5:2 tells us that God collectively called the two persons he created "adam". In English we say "man".

    Unitarian replies obviously irritated: You are avoiding my question!

    Trinitarian: You didn't ask me a question! As judge, jury and executioner you made a statement. I'm attempting to demonstrate to you that your statement is silly.

    As I said: If I saw two men and a woman standing at a bus stop, I would declare "There are three persons" and not "There are three men". The reason as you seem to agree is that there is distinction of persons in humanity. Each person, whether male or female, has the status of being human but none are all of humanity. Likewise the Trinity. There is distinction of persons. Each person has the status of being God (theotēs cp. Col 2:9), but alone, none is all of God in regards to the activity that mankind experiences....
    Maybe I'm reading it wrong, but the underlined sounds like the modalist type claim that God is just experienced by us in different ways.

    If I'm reading it wrong, there is no need to fix it, but if I am, then I just don't know how you would do that. Sorry.
    Safka, you are NOT "unknown", you were loved by many, and you will not be forgotten. I will always remember you Puginator.


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    tWebber
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cerebrum123 View Post
    Maybe I'm reading it wrong, but the underlined [none is all of God in regards to the activity that mankind experiences....] sounds like the modalist type claim that God is just experienced by us in different ways.

    If I'm reading it wrong, there is no need to fix it, but if I am, then I just don't know how you would do that. Sorry.
    I appreciate your input. First instincts are often spot on...

    ...And I do see your point. A difficulty I have in finding an adequate expression is the Church (at least my RCC) has always taught progressive revelation. Imu, the Orthodox talk of our understanding of God as experiential...

    I've been thinking on what you said, and for my tale I've added...

    ___________________

    Unitarian: That almost sounds like Modalism to me!

    Trinitarian: How so? Modalism teaches that there is one person who has three distinct modes of revelation. Trintarians hold there are three distinct persons...
    ___________________

    Do you think that would fix the problem?

  6. #6
    tWebber shunyadragon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by apostoli View Post
    Someone at TheologyWeb had referred me to a theologian I had never heard of named Van Til. As I was researching his writings I came across a Unitarian blog with the usual rants about the Trinity. It is winter here in Oz, so today I was sitting in the sun trying to get warm and the following parable entered my thoughts... I think it needs tweaking, so your critique would be most appreciated...


    In a "watch this, I'm going to drop him to the ground" moment, the Unitarian asked the Trinitarian: "In the doctrine of the Trinity you have three persons who are the one God. Is that correct?

    Trinitarian: Close enough, though we emphasise the concrete reality of each person and the distinction between persons.

    Unitarian: Ok. In my understanding, you also teach that the Father is God, the Son is God and the Holy Spirit is God. Is that correct?

    Trinitarian: Close enough.

    Unitarian exclaims triumphantly: Then you have three Gods, not one!
    _____________

    Trinitarian: If I saw two men and a woman standing at a bus stop, I would declare "There are three persons" and not "There are three men". Why do you think that is so?

    Unitarian replies with some deflation: Obviously because a woman is not a man!

    Trinitarian: Is it not written in the scriptures that God created "man" as both male and female?

    Unitarian replies with obvious impatience: Adam was not created as both male and female!!!

    Trinitarian: The person named Adam definitely wasn't, but Genesis 5:2 tells us that God collectively called the two persons he created "adam". In English we say "man".

    Unitarian replies obviously irritated: You are avoiding my question!

    Trinitarian: You didn't ask me a question! As judge, jury and executioner you made a statement. I'm attempting to demonstrate to you that your statement is silly.

    As I said: If I saw two men and a woman standing at a bus stop, I would declare "There are three persons" and not "There are three men". The reason as you seem to agree is that there is distinction of persons in humanity. Each person, whether male or female, has the status of being human but none are all of humanity. Likewise the Trinity. There is distinction of persons. Each person has the status of being God (theotēs cp. Col 2:9), but alone, none is all of God in regards to the activity that mankind experiences....
    I do not consider this a rant as such, It is simply a sort of dialogue concerning objections to the Trinity, which in a way I consider valid objections if worded a bit better. Actually this is more like the view of many Unity Church Christians. The Unitarians today are mostly 'Humanists' (agnostics and atheists) of one sort or another along with a mix of Pagans, a few stanch Deists, and a diversity of other nonconformists. Not a bad open minded religious view of diversity, but tough on organization, something like herding cats

    As a Baha'i I do not consider traditional Trinitarian Christianity, including the Roman Church, true Monotheists, which draws a lot of flack from the stalwart traditionalists. I consider most Jews and Muslims true Monotheists.
    Last edited by shunyadragon; 08-07-2015 at 04:06 AM.
    Glendower: I can call spirits from the vasty deep.
    Hotspur: Why, so can I, or so can any man;
    But will they come when you do call for them? Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part 1, Act III:

    go with the flow the river knows . . .

    Frank

    I do not know, therefore everything is in pencil.

  7. #7
    tWebber
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    Testimonial (getting to know me)

    As far as I have been able to ascertain, I am a fully Orthodox Trinitarian (I've checked via conversations with the RCC Archbiship of Sydney, and the CoE Archdecon in Sydney - it is possible they gave me their blessing just to get rid of me ). That said, I suspect some here at TheologyWeb, especially those distracted by Augustine's romanticism (most Calvinists) might consider my explanation of the doctrine of the Trinity not to their liking or at least questionable (I invite cross examination).

    There was a period in my life when I was a small "a", Arian. I say small "a" because in reading the scriptures withour prejudice, I couldn't help but discover the threefold activity of God. In my niavity, in those days I referred to my discovery as "the Pastoral Trinity". I now know it by its theological designation = "the Economic Trinity". Admittedly, it took me some time to accept what theologians refer to as the "Ontological Trinity" but then I started reading the Greek fathers and once I adopted an understanding of Greek terminology I found myself (with much resistance) accepting the teaching. My resistance was simply the result of prejudice and not inquiring of scripture, being inattentive what scripture was telling me eg: John 14:7 where in English we read the words "know" and "see". In the Greek we read of "ginōskō" and "horaō". The first has the idea of knowledge gained through intimacy, the second, to perceive with the mind. As a Bahai, I suspect you appreciate these ideas, and how misleading the English renderings can be.

    Basically, I have trod the path of Basil and the other Capadocians who at first resisted Nicea but came to be its greatest advocates - for this reason, and to avoid "political" argument, these days I describe myself as RCC with a Nicene faith (nb: at each mass the Nicean creed is recited by the congregation, so in theory, all RCC admit to the Nicean faith ).
    _________________________

    Quote Originally Posted by Shunyadragon
    I do not consider this a rant as such
    I presume you mean the anti-trinity blog I referred to (?). Most I accidently come across online are from some obscure unitarian church or person. For JWs etc I have to go looking for their pamplets.

    I had a unique experience the other day: I was reading the business news and bang in the middle of an article was one of those annoying google banners advertising a free booklet titled "Is God a Trinity?", given the placement I was curious, so I downloaded the pdf version. It wasn't from a unitarian group but some group I presume is binitarian, they call themselves "The United Church of God in Australia". The booklet was for me a disappointment as it contained the usual misinformation and made no valid analysis of Trinitarianism. In short: the pamplet played on people's naivety and general ignorance.

    Quote Originally Posted by Shunyadragon
    It is simply a sort of dialogue concerning objections to the Trinity
    I welcome dialogue, especially theological and scripural discussion. But I get irritated by the usual tripe I come across on the internet which aims to stifle any discussion. These pamplets read like one of the fraudster Von Daniken's books - these are my facts, swallow them whole! What is glaringly obvious to me is their "facts" rely on distortion, misrepresentation and fabrication. For instance: they misrepresent the infights after Nicea as rebellion against the teaching of the Trinity. They never mention that the infights after Nicea were attempts to suppress Sabellianism, Tritheism and Subordinationism - they weren't fights for the Trinity, that was accepted by most, even the Arians (Arius and even the extreme Arians vociferosly advocated the Son was fully God, what they objected to was any concept of the Son being of the same "substance" as God the Father). Another falsehood of these pamplets was that the Council of Nicea was the result of a Trinitarian plot. The reality is that Eusebius of Nicomedia, the chief Arian advocate with any real authority (via his familiar connections to the throne), petitioned Constantine to hold a conference to debate the issues. As for Arius and Athanasius. They had no direct part in the council! Arius had been excommunicated by a Synod in Egypt several years before Nicea and was petitioning for readmission to the Church. Athanathius was merely the secretary to the Bishop of Alexandria. I could go on and on detailing the outright lies that I find in these anti-Trinitarian pamplets.

    Quote Originally Posted by Shunyadragon
    ...which in a way I consider valid objections if worded a bit better.
    40 or more years ago I came across a pro-trinitarian book titled "Liar, Lunatic, or Lord?" by a guy called Josh McDowell. That book set me back years...and pushed me towards my investigation of unitarianism...

    What I find disappointing is no one on any side of the tracks (Trinitarian, Binitarian, Unitarian, Oneness (Modalists) or Subordinationist) has produced a publication that serouisly investigates each others position. I've thought about doing a cursory but I doubt I have the talent...

    Quote Originally Posted by Shunyadragon
    Actually this is more like the view of many Unity Church Christians.
    I presume you mean my parable (?)

    What are "Unity Church Christians"? I don't think I've heard of them...

    Quote Originally Posted by Shunyadragon
    he Unitarians today are mostly 'Humanists' (agnostics and atheists) of one sort or another along with a mix of Pagans, a few stanch Deists, and a diversity of other nonconformists. Not a bad open minded religious view of diversity, but tough on organization, something like herding cats.
    I haven't had anything directly to do with JWs since the 1980s, but I would exclude them from your appraisal. Christadelphians and their splinters might fit (?)

    Quote Originally Posted by Shunyadragon
    As a Baha'i I do not consider traditional Trinitarian Christianity, including the Roman Church, true Monotheists, which draws a lot of flack from the stalwart traditionalists. I consider most Jews and Muslims true Monotheists.
    I've read that up until late antiquity the Jews were henotheists. These days I observe most are materialists, agnostic and token Jews (well except for the fanatics with the dred locks, and some other minor but powerful sects).

    Muslims? I live in what is becoming more and more a Muslim enclave. About 10k away is the main Muslim center (Lakemba). Where I am, young Muslim families (3rd or 4th generation Ozies) are buying up, demolishing and building duplexes. So their population growth around me is huge. My observation is most are materialists and publically agnostic, albeit their wives wear the scarf. Actually, it is really amusing around here. The Muslim school uniform for girls is (tight) fitted slacks, jacket and white scarf - I find it quite provocative. Around here there are Muslim dress shops and pretty nice outfits too. An Australian Muslim's invention is a swim suit for Muslim women (something like a one piece light weight wet suit with a tight fitting hood).

    I guess their religious leaders believe there is only one God, but they don't seem to tell anyone about it. I consider both groups here in Oz just social organisations...

    Just as an aside: A Muslim friend of mine parroting Muhammad once asked me "What needs Allah of a son?". I responded "What needs Allah of a prophet?" I'm still waiting for an answer...

    Quote Originally Posted by Shunyadragon
    As a Baha'i I do not consider traditional Trinitarian Christianity, including the Roman Church, true Monotheists...
    Regarding those locked into Augustine, I might agree with you. But notice what the Nicea Creed following the Christian scriptures require each Christian to confess: "I believe in one God = the Father..."

    ps: I don't know much about Bahai other than what I can read on the internet. Feel free to share...
    Last edited by apostoli; 08-08-2015 at 03:43 AM.

  8. #8
    tWebber shunyadragon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by apostoli View Post
    Testimonial (getting to know me)

    As far as I have been able to ascertain, I am a fully Orthodox Trinitarian (I've checked via conversations with the RCC Archbiship of Sydney, and the CoE Archdecon in Sydney - it is possible they gave me their blessing just to get rid of me ). However, I suspect some here at TheologyWeb, especially those distracted by Augustine's romanticism (most Calvinists) might consider my explanation of the doctrine of the Trinity not to their liking or at least questionable (I invite cross examination).

    There was a period in my life when I was a small "a", Arian. I say small "a" because in reading the scriptures withour prejudice, I couldn't help but discover the threefold activity of God. In my niavity, in those days I referred to my discovery as "the Pastoral Trinity". I now know it by its theological designation = "the Economic Trinity". Admittedly, it took me some time to accept what theologians refer to as the "Ontological Trinity" but then I started reading the Greek fathers and once I adopted an understanding of Greek terminology I found myself (with much resistance) accepting the teaching. My resistance was simply the result of prejudice and not inquiring of scripture, being inattentive what scripture was telling me eg: John 14:7 where in English we read the words "know" and "see". In the Greek we read of "ginōskō" and "horaō". The first has the idea of knowledge gained through intimacy, the second to perceive with the mind. As a Bahai, I suspect you appreciate these ideas, and how misleading the English renderings can be.

    Basically, I have trod the path of Basil and the other Capadocians who at first resisted Nicea but came to be its greatest advocates - for this reason, and to advoid "political" argument, these days I describe myself as RCC with a Nicene faith (nb: at each mass the Nicean creed is recited by the congregation, so in theory, all RCC admit to the Nicean faith ).
    I basically understand this belief. I was raised in the Roman Church, and briefly studied to be a Priest in the Saint Francis Order.


    I presume you mean the anti-trinity blog I referred to (?). Most I accidently come across online are from some obscure unitarian church or person. For JWs etc I have to go looking for their pamplets.
    Yes, JW are Monotheists.

    I had a unique experience the other day: I was reading the business news and bang in the middle of an article was one of those annoying google banners advertising a free booklet titled "Is God a Trinity?", given the placement I was curious, so I downloaded the pdf version. It wasn't from a unitarian group but some group I presume is binitarian, they call themselves "The United Church of God in Australia". The booklet was for me a disappointment as it contained the usual misinformation and made no valid analysis of Trinitarianism. In short: the pamplet played on people's naivety and general ignorance.
    OK, Unity Church of God, are Monotheists, probably the Unity Church I referred to. The basically believe in a metaphysical Trinity.

    I welcome dialogue, especially theological and scripural discussion. But I get irritated by the usual tripe I come across on the internet which aims to stifle any discussion. These pamplets read like one of the fraudster Von Daniken's books - these are my facts, swallow them whole! What is glaringly obvious to me is their "facts" rely on distortion, misrepresentation and fabrication. For instance: they misrepresent the infights after Nicea as rebellion against the teaching of the Trinity. They never mention that the infights after Nicea were attempts to suppress Sabellianism, Tritheism and Subordinationism - they weren't fights for the Trinity, that was accepted by most, even the Arians (Arius and even the extreme Arians vociferosly advocated the Son was fully God, what they objected to was any concept of the Son being of the same "substance" as God the Father). Another falsehood of these pamplets was that the Council of Nicea was the result of a Trinitarian plot. The reality is that Eusebius of Nicomedia, the chief Arian advocate with any authority with connections to the throne, petitioned Constantine to hold a conference. As for Arius and Athanasius. They had no part in the council Arius had been excommunicated by a Synod in Egypt several years before Nicea and was petitioning for readmission to the Church. Athanathius was merely the secretary to the Bishop of Alexandria. I could go on and on detailing the outright lies that I find in these anti-Trinitarian pamplets.
    I avoid the confusion of marginal beliefs during the Time of the Church Fathers.

    40 or more years ago I came across a pro-trinitarian book titled "Liar, Lunatic, or Lord?" by a guy called Josh McDowell. That book set me back years...and pushed me towards my investigation of unitarianism...
    I avoid angry ranting. This is indeed likely a rant.

    What I find disappointing is no one on any side of the tracks (Trinitarian, Binitarian, Unitarian, Oneness (Modalists) or Subordinationist) has produced a publication that serouisly investigates each others position. I've thought about doing a cursory but I doubt I have the talent...
    Yes, these are various Monotheist views, I also avoid rationalizing different Monotheist views to justify ones beliefs.

    I presume you mean my parable (?)
    I guess so.

    What are "Unity Church Christians"? I don't think I've heard of them...
    With possible variations, but likely what you referred to as the Unity Church of God or some variation thereof.

    I haven't had anything directly to do with JWs since the 1980s, but I would exclude them from your appraisal. Christadelphians and their splinters might fit (?)
    I do not exclude JWs, but they do make claims I consider questionable about their belief system.

    I've read that up until late antiquity the Jews were henotheists. These days I observe most are materialists, agnostic and token Jews (well except for the fanatics with the dred locks, and some other minor but powerful sects).
    Jews, regardless of variations, remain basically Monotheists by belief.

    Muslims? I live in what is becoming more and more a Muslim enclave. About 10k away is the main Muslim center (Lakemba). Where I am, young Muslim families (3rd or 4th generation Ozies) are buying up, demolishing and building duplexes. So their population growth around me is huge. My observation is most are materialists and publically agnostic, albeit their wives wear the scarf. Actually, it is really amusing around here. The Muslim school uniform, tight fitting slacks, jacket and which scarf I find quite provocative. Around here there are Muslim dress shops and pretty nice outfits too. An Australian Muslim's invention is a swim suit for Muslim women (something like a light weight wet suit).
    Again putting the variations of Muslims aside as well as the sectarian divisions, Islam is fundamentally a Monotheistic religion.

    Just as an aside: A Muslim friend of mine parroting Muhammad once asked me "What needs Allah of a son?". I responded "What needs Allah of a prophet?" I'm still waiting for an answer...
    To me. asides are not meaningful. The response here is a flippant rant.

    Regarding those locked into Augustine, I might agree with you. But notice what the Nicea Creed following the Christian scriptures require each Christian to confess: "I believe in one God = the Father..."
    I study St. Augustine, but in many ways St. Augustine does not really represent traditional Christianity nor the beliefs of the Roman Church.

    Yes the Nicea Creed requires this, but so do Vedic beliefs believe "All Vedic Gods are = One God Brahman, but this remains an incomplete statement as to what traditional Christians believe.

    ps: I don't [know] anything about Bahai other than what I can read on the internet. Feel free to share...
    I will be simplistic here to begin the dialogue. The Baha'i Faith basically believes that there is absolutely One indivisible and unknowable God, only known through the attributes of God through progressive Revelation of the religions throughout history to representing the spiritual (by the way the physical) evolution of humanity. The apparent differences between religions are two: (1) The progressive evolving changes in humanity. (2) The influence of culture and human desire for certainty of belief, doctrine and dogma. In the Baha'i God cannot be defined by doctrine and dogma of any one church nor religion.

    This view of the Trinity does not specifically true nor false, but that human beliefs cannot define the nature of God in this limiting way.

    You can read references on the Baha'i Faith at: http://www.bahai.org/?gclid=CjwKEAjw...GRxhoCrYLw_wcB.
    Glendower: I can call spirits from the vasty deep.
    Hotspur: Why, so can I, or so can any man;
    But will they come when you do call for them? Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part 1, Act III:

    go with the flow the river knows . . .

    Frank

    I do not know, therefore everything is in pencil.

  9. #9
    tWebber shunyadragon's Avatar
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    Clarification on the view of God and the Trinity from the Baha'i view. The actual reality and nature of Jesus Christ is ultimately unknown and not definable by Doctrine and Dogma. The Baha'i Faith does not accept that Jesus Christ can be described as 'God incarnate.' The belief is more like a spiritual metaphysical relationship between humanity and God found in all religions throughout the history of humanity. The Divine Nature of Jesus Christ as the Son of God is spiritual not physical.
    Last edited by shunyadragon; 08-10-2015 at 02:17 PM.
    Glendower: I can call spirits from the vasty deep.
    Hotspur: Why, so can I, or so can any man;
    But will they come when you do call for them? Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part 1, Act III:

    go with the flow the river knows . . .

    Frank

    I do not know, therefore everything is in pencil.

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    Quote Originally Posted by apostoli View Post
    I've read that up until late antiquity the Jews were henotheists. These days I observe most are materialists, agnostic and token Jews (well except for the fanatics with the dred locks, and some other minor but powerful sects).
    According to Wikipedia, henotheists are defined as the belief in and worship of a single god while accepting the existence or possible existence of other deities that may also be served.

    According to the Tanakh, while Jews sometimes accepted other gods, they are never viewed favorably. Worshipping other gods can only be idol-worship. True Judaism has only ever recognized and worships the one G-d.

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