I’m disappointed in you, BioLogos

Depiction of the First Council of Nicea (public domain).

No I’m not. Not really. We’re still friends. But I don’t understand why you don’t have a statement of faith. Darrel Falk, former president of the group, explains:

This is not an easy thing to do given that BioLogos is a place for conversation among people of diverse viewpoints and traditions. The BioLogos staff members represent assorted backgrounds in the protestant evangelical tradition. Our current church affiliations include for example, fellowships which are Calvinistic, Baptist, Anabaptist, and Wesleyan. Furthermore, the BioLogos community as a whole is even broader than that. BioLogos is a place for conversation among Christians — a very broad umbrella for a wide set of theological perspectives.

Sure, I get that. You have differences of opinions about communion and baptism and ecclesiastical polity and other fine points of doctrine. On the other hand, every group of Christians that has ever published a statement of faith surely disagreed about something, and yet, they managed to come up with a basic list of tenets that they could all stomach agreeing to.

I must admit, I am a little disappointed, because a theistic evolutionist statement of faith could do so much good. No longer would “theistic evolution” need to be a vague, boogeyman-sounding word synonymous with “heresy” and “blasphemy” in conservative churches and Christian circles across America. No longer would each Christian who is open to the idea of evolution be forced to build his or her faith back up from the ground floor, virtually on their own, without a simple list of precepts by which they might judge or nourish their beliefs.

The funny thing is, there already are plenty of Christian faith statements that would accommodate evolution just fine. That includes the one that is probably the most well known, which makes sense, since it’s more than 1,600 years old: the Nicene Creed. Nothing about Genesis or evolution in there, and it’s still recited in Christian churches the world over (true to form, there are roughly a million different versions of it out there).

But, for some reason, we evangelicals tend to balk at anything that has even a hint of liturgy about it, so I took the liberty of drafting a statement of faith of my own.

It’s intended to be ecumenically Christian, so I hope it might be something you can use, or at least adapt, to your own purposes. And if you can, please feel free to. You can find it in the form of a Word document here and a PDF here.

My sinister ulterior motive in writing this is to save me a bit of work moving forward. You see, when my more traditional brethren visit my site, they seem to frequently come to the conclusion that — since I accept evolution and all — I must be just one small stumble away from being a godless heathen. So I often get asked about my views on Jesus, the resurrection, scripture, miracles and so on.

Hopefully, this might begin to put their fears to rest. But, if nothing else, it gives me a simple link I can post rather than reiterating my beliefs again and again and again to skeptical literalists.

These are my convictions. It’s certainly not the only Christian statement of faith out there, but I bet it’s one of the very few that contains an allusion to a famous Charles Darwin quote.

I believe in one God, infinite in power and perfection and being, eternal and unbound by time, creator of heaven and earth and all that is seen or unseen. All living things came to be at his command and proceeded according to his divine will and providence; he is the author of every natural process and he alone sustains them by his powerful word.

I believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the Word of God and God incarnate, worthy of glory and honor and praise, through whom and for whom was made every thing that ever has been or ever will be made, who came to earth in the form of a man to reconcile the world to himself and save all people from their sins. He, like us, was tempted in every way, yet did not sin, and instead submitted himself to God, being obedient even to death. I believe he suffered, died and rose again on the third day, as both he and the Hebrew prophets foretold.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the promised gift of God and the third Person of the Trinity, who has come now to convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment and to lead us into all truth, who indwells believers and empowers them for peaceful and godly lives and fruitful ministry.

I believe mankind, male and female, were made in the spiritual image of God and offered everlasting life through obedience to and communion with their Creator. But we went astray, as scripture teaches, and seeking to be our own gods, we severed ourselves from our source of life, corrupting our natures toward sinful desires and condemning us to the ultimate punishment — a fate from which we may be liberated and redeemed only by penitent faith in the Lord Jesus.

I believe the Holy Bible to be inspired by God and hence, infallible and authoritative on all matters on which it was and is intended to teach. I believe that through the study of scripture and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the one true God will make himself known to those who seek him, as he promises in his word.

I believe God’s creation was and is very good, and serves as a reflection of his divine character. Nature, like scripture, is a book written by God, and it cannot lie, just as he cannot. Therefore, the study of nature, in good faith, will yield truth, continually revealing the grandeur breathed into it by its creator since the beginning.

I believe in one Church, established and knit together by the living God, which is to serve as his hands and feet in the present age and will be welcomed by him, spotless and beloved, in the age to come.

Well, there you have it. If you have any questions or suggestions, please feel free to comment below or email me. I’d love to know if anyone uses it or a version of it in their own churches, ministries, small groups, etc. And if you like it, please share it around using the buttons below, and Like us on Facebook (every time we get a new fan on social media, an angel evolves new wings!).

Update: A representative of The BioLogos Foundation has graciously informed me that the group actually does have a “We Believe” statement it drafted sometime after the aforementioned post by Darrel Falk. You can find it here. It goes into much greater detail than mine regarding the scientific positions that BioLogos supports or rejects, and we at GOE are in agreement with each point. So I’m not really disappointed in them at all anymore.

Tyler Francke

  • Heather Goodman

    I kinda think having a “statement of faith” is some sort of tradition that is unnecessary. Unfortunately people have come to expect that any legitimate ministry has a statement of faith, but I just don’t think every legitimate ministry needs to organize themselves in that way. The New Testament church in Acts actually didn’t have a codified statement of faith, but since Constantine this has been imposed on everyone. I don’t think it’s the only way to conduct a ministry though, even if traditionalists expect that all ministries start with the hallowed, “statement of faith.”

    • That’s a good point, and I agree with you. My thinking was that it would be helpful in promoting a worldview like theistic evolution, which is so often misunderstood in more conservative Christian circles. I certainly don’t believe having such a statement is “necessary,” but it might be useful.

      • Heather Goodman

        I see your point there too…but if it’s just because it would be “useful” then the title of your post does seem unnecessarily strong.

        • Well, yeah, but I was being hyperbolic. I think the first paragraph makes it pretty clear that the headline was an exaggeration 🙂

  • Paul Bruggink

    I think that your theistic evolutionist statement of faith is a good starting point. I’m not sure that every theistic evolutionist would agree with your “But we went astray.” Perhaps a little clarification would help.

    • Sure, and that really was the intention, to create a starting point. I definitely wasn’t out to create a binding or authoritative statement for all theistic evolutionists, since there are theistic evolutionists who are not Christians, and there are theistic evolutionists whose Christian beliefs differ from mine. For example, I certainly expect some to have a different view of scripture than I do. That’s why it was important for me to say anyone could use or adapt (i.e., change) the statement if they wish.

      As far as the “we went astray” segment, I simply meant that I do believe there was a fall of man and that our natures have been inherently corrupted toward sinful desires, I just believe that Genesis 3 is a symbolic account of that event, rather than a historical account. Was that what you thought, and you disagreed with it, or did you think it implied something different?

      • Paul Bruggink

        I think that we need to consider the possibility that there was no literal fall of man, but that homo sapiens evolved with original selfishness, which was good for survival but “an obstacle to an eventual relationship with God. Hence they have the same need for Christ’s salvation as all other people. . .” (Daryl P. Domning, “Original Selfishness: Original Sin and Evil in the Light of Evolution,” Ashgate, 2006, p. 149. This notion is also discussed in Denis O. Lamoureux’s book “Evolutionary Creation: A Christian Approach to Evolution,” Wipf & Stock, 2008, particularly Chapter 8.

        This actually solves a lot of theological and scientific problems around the doctrine of original sin. Of course, it creates other issues that have to be dealt with, such as Paul’s statements about Adam in Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15. Denis Lamoureux, Peter Enns (“The Evolution of Adam”), Robin Collins (in “Perspectives on an Evolving Creation”) and others deal with this.

        • Oh, I see what you mean now. Yes, I’m open to that possibility as well, and am familiar with Denis Lamoureux’s and Peter Enns’ perspectives on the matter. I think it’s quite possible that our inherent selfish natures arose through an evolutionary process. The bottom line, for me, is that regardless of whether we obtained our rebellious desires through evolution or inherited them through a fall of man, sin itself is a willful choice that each of us makes and has made, and that’s where I believe the sacrifice of Christ is needed: Because we have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God, through our own actions for which we are responsible and accountable.

          In that understanding, I do believe it would be possible to accept some form of a fall of man even with the idea that our sinful natures evolved, if the fall of man is seen as simply the first time our progenitors were capable of sin, and did sin.

  • Jim Stump

    Hi Tyler, the post from Darrell Falk you link to was from 2010. Since then BioLogos has adopted a “We Believe” statement: http://biologos.org/about#believe It is less specific than yours theologically, but does explicitly talk about evolution.

    • Hello! Glad to see you found this! Thanks for visiting, and thanks for posting the link! I knew Darrel Falk’s article was old, but I didn’t know BioLogos had since changed its policy (just in case you didn’t know already, if you Google “BioLogos statement of faith,” Falk’s post is the first thing that comes up). Anyway, I do appreciate that you guys have such a thorough statement now on theological and scientific positions, and I will amend my post to reflect as much. Thanks again!

  • “No longer would each Christian who is open to the idea of evolution be forced to build his or her faith back up from the ground floor, virtually on their own, without a simple list of precepts by which they might judge or nourish their beliefs.”

    This is what I object to most. Why this need for orthodoxy, doctrine, dogma? It smacks of mental laxness, a contentedness to sheepishly follow the crowd, a dereliction of individuality and curiosity. It infuriates me that an intelligent person such as Tyler should either prefer this scenario for himself or, condescendingly, think it best for others.

    A few Dawkins quotes on the matter:

    “Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence.” – Richard Dawkins

    “I am against religion because it teaches us to be satisfied with not understanding the world.” -Richard Dawkins

    • Guest

      I’m not speaking for Tyler, but I do think that there is some benefit to recognizing that we are never building our understanding of the world on our own from the ground floor. We’re always building upon (and sometimes tearing down and rebuilding) what came before. In the specific context of Christian theology, I can understand why it would be useful to have some sort of statement of what you believe both as a starting point for discussion and as a simple way to define terms.

      If you come at it backwards (starting with dogma and then justifying it) that is problematic, and likely would be “a dereliction of individuality and curiosity.” And I also agree that simply affirming a creed or doctrine because it was written down or is taught by some authority figure is also dangerous, and, I would argue, is part of the problem with religious dialogue today.

      But a statement of faith, a confession, a doctrine, or what have you that developed after carefully exploring the questions, and that is designed to summarize a person or group’s current understanding in light of what other thoughtful people considered previously, does not necessarily “smack[] of mental laxness,” but simply recognizes that these ideas did not develop in a vacuum and clarifies the current understanding of the person who affirms that statement (hopefully based on his or her own exploration of the ideas).

    • Hey Colin! Thanks for your thoughts, but I do think you’ve misunderstood my intent. I may not have explained it very well. Bottom line: I don’t in any way presume to dictate the beliefs of others or present anything that others would “sheepishly follow” without rationally considering it. 1 Thessalonians 5:21 says to “test everything; hold fast to what is good.” That is what I try to follow and what I hope others would do.

      At the same time, on this particular issue of evolution, for those believers who accept the overwhelming evidence for evolution and yet also still see reason to adhere to their Christian faith (like me), it can be a lonely process. Speaking from my own experience, I had to revisit what I’d been taught about scripture, history, God’s work in creation, the meaning and consequences of sin and many other things.

      So what I was proposing with this statement of faith was not something people would simply sign onto, but as something that might help those who are going through that process. I used the word “judge” because I envisioned someone might go through the tenets saying, “Yes, I still believe that,” or “No, I don’t think I believe that anymore.” And I used the word “nourish” because, speaking from experience again, I know that finding others who agree with what you’ve come to believe is true can be very edifying.

      Hope that clarifies the matter. Please let me know if you have further questions.

      • I think that’s fair enough. I know Ken Ham and the like have such statements, usually with a “Bible always trumps science” as a caveat. As a natural materialist, I use the word belief much more tentatively than you do.

        P.S. I had a look through the BioLogos “What We Believe” list and fervently disagreed with every one bar the last, though without the Christ/spirit bit.

        • Yes, I would say the statements of faith by Ken Ham’s Answers in Genesis and like-minded churches and organizations would be far more specific and inflexible than what I’ve drawn up. As a natural materialist, it’s not surprising that you would disagree with most or all of mine and BioLogos’ belief statements, but I’ve always appreciated how you and I have been able to respectfully discuss these issues, and I do thank you for that!

          • I mentioned this on my anti-creationist campaign group, fyi: https://www.facebook.com/groups/CausewayCampaign/permalink/414528831980125/

          • Min

            I know that it’s an ooolllld post, but I looked at your link and I think you’re misinterpreting what Biologos is doing. You said what their doing isn’t science-but that’s the whole point. Biologos isn’t a research group-it doesn’t set out to “prove” the existence of God like the Intellectual Design people.

            Rather, it’s a forum for proponents of theistic evolution/evolutionary creation, and you’re right, it isn’t a scientific theory. The thing is, it never was trying to be one.

            Science deals with finding underlying principles of the natural world.

            Theistic Evolution/Evolutionary Creation is a branch of thinking that takes these scientific findings(in this case evolution) and try to find their meaning/significance in a particular faith or worldview(in this case Christianity). This is in the realm of theology/philosophy.

            What the Biologos team was stating was never a scientific hypothesis, rather, it was making a theological statement. You could agree or disagree with it, and the statement could be either right or wrong, but it could never be pseudoscience because they concern totally different fields of study.

            I apologise for any mistakes in spelling and/or grammar, as English isn’t my first language.

  • Amy Mantravadi

    The perfect statement of faith is specific enough to make people feel good and ambiguous enough to keep them from feeling bad.

  • Russell Downs

    What is the function of a Statement of Faith? Surely it is to exclude those who cannot accept it. Your suggested SoF, as well as the one that Biologos already has, would exclude me. I am a Biblical Unitarian. What does “exclusion” that mean? It apparently does not ban me from posting comments, unless someone is going to come along and delete me. It may mean that if I had anything useful to contribute you would not accept it because I don’t believe that the Trinity is taught in Scripture. Why not? I suppose so that you can defend yourself against criticism of heterodoxy. I am grateful that the remedy of burning at the stake is no longer available. I don’t have anything useful to contribute as it happens. I do however benefit from Biologos and godofevolution.

    • Hey Russell, thanks for reading! The purpose of this statement is simply that: to state what I believe as the moderator of this website. Because my personal beliefs are not the same as others’, I suppose you could say that it “excludes” them, but really, I don’t see it as an “exclusion” when someone takes a stand on something about which others may disagree, whether it’s their religious beliefs or their favorite flavor of ice cream.

      I believe I’ve stressed on here that this is not intended to be some over-arching, mandated belief set that anyone else must adhere to. Indeed, I have and do encourage others to adapt this statement to their own beliefs and purposes. I certainly have no wish to ban you or anyone else who disagrees with me from commenting on this site, and if you did have thoughts you felt would be useful to me, I would wholeheartedly encourage you to share them 🙂

      For example, I would be interested to hear more about why you don’t believe the idea of the Trinity is taught in scripture, if you’d like to share. How might you explain passages that seem to teach that Christ is both distinct from and equal to God the Father, like John 1:1-2, John 8:58, John 10:30 and John 14:8-9?

      • Russell Downs

        I don’t have anything that I have written on the subject and it would be cheating to link to someone else’s work. If you wanted that you could just Google. But here are some thoughts.

        Your position is that “Christ is both distinct from and equal to God the Father”. That statement is already problematic. Identical twins could match that description. But I cannot think of any Scripture that says what you claim regarding God and Christ. What you have described in your very brief description is not the doctrine of the Trinity but a doctrine of the
        Twins. There is Scripture that explicitly rejects the idea that Jesus is equal to the Father:

        John 14:28 You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is
        greater than I.

        1 Corinthians 15:27-28 For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. (28) When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.

        It has not escaped my notice that all the verses you referred to are by John, a Biblical author known for profundity of ideas. There are very few verses other than by John that are used to support. Those few non-John verses are mostly from disputed texts, disputed translations, or in a very few cases echoes of ideas from John. In the whole of the OT there are very few
        verses that are used to support the doctrine of Twins, let alone the doctrine of the Trinity. The few that are used are easily capable of alternative explanation. Most Biblical scholars, as I understand it (for I don’t classify myself as a Biblical scholar), don’t see the doctrine of the Trinity at all in the OT, but even those scholars who are Trinitarians understand the development of the Trinity as only revealed in the NT, or even later.

        Consider the other three gospels. Is there any statement, or even hint, in there of this important doctrine?

        Consider the writings of Paul. His whole thinking and language was very Christ-focussed. It is difficult to find a passage by Paul more than a few verses long in which he does not manage to include some reference to Jesus, even when the idea he is presenting does not actually need to refer to Jesus. I could cite hundreds of examples. But here is one.

        Philippians 1:8 For God is my witness, how I yearn for you
        all with the affection of Christ Jesus.

        And yet despite Paul’s Christ-focus, there are very few passages by Paul that have been used to support Trinitarian ideas, and no unambiguous ones.

        So here is a challenge. Try to come up with a case for the Trinity without reference to John’s words.

        That does not mean that John teaches the Trinity. Here are the four passages you referred to.

        —————————————————————————————————–

        John 1:1-2 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (2) He was in the beginning with God.

        I don’t see the Trinity here. Christ was planned from the very beginning, or as we might say in modern science-speak, Christ was already in the plan of God from the Big Bang. Christ
        was central to God’s plan.

        Compare this with:

        Hebrews 1:1-2 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God
        spoke to our fathers by the prophets, (2) but in these last days he has spoken to us by
        his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created
        the world.

        The world referred to by the writer to the Hebrews is described as the world to come:

        Hebrews 2:5
        Now it was not to angels that God subjected the world to come, of which we are speaking.

        The message I read in John 1:1-2 is that Christ was and is central to God’s plan from the very beginning.

        ———————————————————————————————–

        John 8:56-58 Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would
        see my day. He saw it and was glad.” (57) So the Jews said to him,
        “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” (58)
        Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”

        How did Abraham see Christ’s day? By faith in the promises, which spoke of a seed.

        ————————————————————————————————-

        John 10:30 I and the Father are one.”

        In what sense are Christ and the Father one? A good case can be made that the oneness is in purpose. The saints are also to become a subsidiary part of that same oneness.

        John 17:11 And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.

        —————————————————————————————————

        John 14:8-9 Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” (9) Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?

        This does not need to be understood as a reference to the Trinity. Since Christ reflects the character of God, if we have seen Jesus, we have effectively seen God. Even in ordinary life this happens. Sometimes a family resemblance can be so strong that we can say something similar about closely related people.

        • Hey, Russell! I wasn’t sure if you were interested in discussing the topic or not, but I now see that you are, so OK! This should be fun 🙂

          But I cannot think of any Scripture that says what you claim regarding God and Christ. What you have described in your very brief description is not the doctrine of the Trinity but a doctrine of the Twins.

          I did not intend my description here or the verses I cited to be a full exposition on the doctrine of the Trinity, merely a reference to one part of it, which is the idea that the Father and the Son are distinct Persons and yet equally God. Obviously, I did not intend these four verses to fully support the Trinity, since none of them mention the Holy Spirit. Fact is, and I’m sure you know this, the doctrine is not derived from any one verse, but is an effort to make sense of a number of passages, many of which say quite clearly that God is one, and others that say Christ is God, the Father is God, and/or the Holy Spirit is God.

          Just as you believe the verses I’ve referenced need not be interpreted as supportive of the doctrine of the Trinity, I believe the verses you’ve referenced need not be interpreted as opposed to the idea. As you point out, these verses must in some way be understood and reconciled with the verses I referenced that seem to say exactly the opposite, and I appreciate and respect that that consistency is what you appear to be striving for.

          The way I can understand both John 14:28 and 1 Corinthians 15:27-28 within a Trinitarian view is similar. Basically, it appears that Christ — though of the same essence and being of God — has willfully and obediently accepted a subjective position to the Father. This principle is explained beautifully in the second chapter of Paul’s letter to the Philippians, which says of Christ: “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.”

          Also pertinent to this discussion, notice the very similar way in which Christ tells his disciples in John 16 that “It is to their advantage” that he go away, so that the Helper (Holy Spirit/Spirit of Truth) will come. Here, Christ seems to clearly be saying that the Spirit, like the Father, is “greater” than he is, and yet, he tells the disciples that the Spirit’s role is to glorify him, Jesus (John 16:14; an interesting side note is the very similar passages of Jn 12:49-50 and Jn 16:13). Why would something that is “greater” be expected to glorify that which is “lesser,” unless the two are indeed of equal nature and being and essence, and it is only their willingly accepted roles that make them appear “greater” or “lesser” in certain contexts and to our mortal understandings?

          It has not escaped my notice that all the verses you referred to are by John, a Biblical author known for profundity of ideas.

          And for what reason should John’s ideas be ignored because they are “profound”?

          There are very few verses other than by John that are used to support.

          You may be right that the verses from his gospel are most commonly used, but the Gospel of John is certainly not the only book in the New Testament that has verses that support the Trinitarian view.

          I wholeheartedly agree that the doctrine of the Trinity finds more support in the New Testament than the Old, and that the verses in the Old Testament that appear to support the Trinity could also fit perfectly reasonable alternative explanations. That doesn’t surprise me in the slightest. I believe Christ changed everything when he was revealed, and not the least of that was our understanding of God and the Old Testament — which he fulfilled and brought to completeness.

          However — and I am not a biblical scholar either — but just as an example, I have studied the first chapter of Genesis fairly extensively due to my work on this site, and I think one can see the Trinity laid out quite clearly there, even in the first two verses: “In the beginning, God (the father) created (through the Word, Jesus, as passages like Jn 1:3 and Col 1:16 make clear) the heavens and the earth. And the earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God (Holy Spirit) was hovering over the face of the waters.”

          Also, God’s reference to himself in plural form in Genesis 1:26: “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” I’ve heard it said that God could be addressing the members of his heavenly court here, but humans are not made in the image of angels, nor were angels involved in our creation.

          Consider the other three gospels. Is there any statement, or even hint, in there of this important doctrine?

          I still fail to see why the clear claims of John should be discounted because of their profundity. But, in answer to your question, absolutely! Here are verses in those Gospels that show either the Trinity, or the divinity of Jesus and/or the Holy Spirit. (I’m presuming the divinity of God the Father is not in dispute between the two of us.)

          – The parallel stories in Matthew 9, Mark 2 and Luke 5 about Jesus healing the paralytic. His miracle is not merely designed to heal the man, but to demonstrate to the doubters that Jesus has the “authority on earth to forgive sins.” Since sin is ultimately an offense against God (Psalm 51:4), how could anyone but God presume to forgive a person their sins? That is precisely why the Pharisees accuse him of blasphemy in these stories.

          – The Transfiguration in Matthew 17:1-9, Mark 9:2-8, Luke 9:28-36 can be seen as an example of Jesus revealing his divine majesty. In the presence of two great OT prophets — not to mention God the Father himself — it is the incarnate Son of God whom the disciples are ordered to listen to. It is also after this event that Jesus declares John the Baptist’s work as having fulfilled the prophecy of Malachi 4:4-6, which has heralded the day of the Lord (YHWH). Apparently, that would make YHWH none other than Jesus, since he is who John heralded.

          – Matthew 28:19: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” All three Persons of the Trinity, all given equal weight in name and in Christ’s command.

          – Luke 21:14-15: Jesus promises his disciples he will give them words and wisdom after he is gone. This is especially interesting considering that, in the parallel version of this prophecy in Matthew 10 and Mark 13, this is a role attributed to the “Spirit of your Father” and the “Holy Spirit.” How could these three be used interchangeably if they are not equal?

          – Luke 1:35: “The angel answered, ‘The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.'” All three members of the Godhead mentioned and apparently given equal weight. It seems reasonable to suggest that a child begat by the Holy Spirit and the “power of the Most High” would be himself God, rather than an ordinary human baby.

          – Jesus declares in Matthew 10 and Mark 3 that the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is the only unforgivable sin. I find these to be very confusing passages, but it does seem reasonable that 1) one cannot blaspheme against someone who is not God, and 2) one would certainly not be denied forgiveness forever for blaspheming against someone who is not God.

          – Matthew 1:23: Matthew declares that Jesus’ birth is a fulfillment of Isaiah 7:14, which heralds the coming of a child who will be called “GOD with us.”

          – Matthew 3:3: Matthew declares John the Baptist as fulfilling another prophecy of Isaiah, 40:3, which speaks of one who will prepare the way of the Lord, YHWH. Who is YHWH in the prophecy? Matthew is clearly saying it is Christ.

          – Matthew 11:27: “All things have been handed over to Me by my Father: and no one knows the Son, except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father, except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.” The OT establishes that God shares his glory with no one. The fact that the Father is said to have willingly handed over all things implies equality. There are parallels in Matthew 28:18 and Luke 24:25, and 46 that indicate that all power — including that which can belong solely to God — has been handed over to Christ.

          – Matthew 12:8: Jesus calls himself “lord of the Sabbath.” As the Sabbath was established by God, Jesus would have no right to declare himself lord of the Sabbath unless he was God.

          – Matthew 23:34: Jesus claims that he — not God — sent scribes and prophets in earlier days.

          – Mark 9:42: Jesus declares that none should cause the little ones who “believe in” him to sin. But a prophet of God would never allow himself to be worshiped or declare that he himself is an appropriate object of religious faith and devotion. The fact that Jesus describes himself in such a way shows that he considers himself equal to God.

          I certainly believe the evidence in Matthew and some of the NT letters offer stronger evidence of the Trinity, but you asked for “even a hint” of the doctrine in those Gospels specifically, and I think I’ve provided that.

          And yet despite Paul’s Christ-focus, there are very few passages by Paul that have been used to support Trinitarian ideas, and no unambiguous ones.

          Paul appears to refer to the Trinity in some of his closing greetings, like in 2 Corinthians: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen.” Like in the Great Commission, the three members of the Godhead are named and given equal weight. I don’t see why a devout man like Paul would think the grace of Jesus and communion of the Spirit were worthy of being mentioned in the same breath as the love of God, unless he believed the three were equal in nature.

          In Colossians 1:15, Paul calls Christ the “image of the invisible God,” by whom, through whom and for whom all things were created (distinctions that could only belong to God), going on to say in verse 19 that “in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell.” This language he echoes in Colossians 2:9. I don’t see how these passages could possibly be called ambiguous. Paul is clearly ascribing God-like preeminence to Christ — he would be guilty of blasphemy if he believed Jesus were an ordinary man.

          Whew! Longest comment ever. I would like to respond to your responses to my passages from John, as briefly as possible, then I’m done.

          I don’t see the Trinity here. Christ was planned from the very beginning, or as we might say in modern science-speak, Christ was already in the plan of God from the Big Bang. Christ was central to God’s plan.

          But that’s not what it says. If John meant to say the Word was God’s plan from the beginning, he would have said that. He said something very different: that the Word was there in the beginning (i.e., he existed), with God, and, he goes on to say, the Word was God. John is obviously talking about a Person, not a plan, as he goes on to explain that the Word came into the world (1:9-10), became a man, lived among them and was seen by them (1:14). John concludes his introduction by stressing once again that the Son “is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father” (1:18).

          How did Abraham see Christ’s day? By faith in the promises, which spoke of a seed.

          The point I was making was not about Abraham seeing Christ’s day, it was about Jesus’ declaration that he existed before Abraham was born. Not only that, but he adopts God’s covenantal, Mosaic “I AM” name for himself. The listeners of Jesus’ day and native tongue understood quite clearly what he was saying. They knew he was not making a theological statement about Abraham’s faith; he was making a theological statement about himself, declaring that he was eternal God, and that is exactly why the picked up rocks to try and stone him for blasphemy (Jn. 8:59).

          In what sense are Christ and the Father one? A good case can be made that the oneness is in purpose. The saints are also to become a subsidiary part of that same oneness.

          I have heard this argument before. It seems reasonable until, again, you look at how the contemporary listeners reacted. They knew Jesus’ language and idioms, and I think we can trust them to be more capable of accurately interpreting Christ’s words than we can, reading a repeatedly translated text thousands of years after the fact. And just like the John 8 story where Jesus said, “Before Abraham was, I am,” the listeners in John 10 made it obvious what they thought he was saying by picking up stones to kill him.

          In this case, they even explain themselves. John 10:33: “‘We are not stoning you for any good work,’ they replied, ‘but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.'” Clearly, they did not think he was saying he was one with God “in purpose.” They understood that he was claiming he was one with God in essence and nature and being, and I agree with them.

          This does not need to be understood as a reference to the Trinity. Since Christ reflects the character of God, if we have seen Jesus, we have effectively seen God. Even in ordinary life this happens. Sometimes a family resemblance can be so strong that we can say something similar about closely related people.

          I do not think your interpretation is entirely unreasonable, but I do think you are weakening what Jesus said. Philip asked to see the Father; he did not ask to see a man whose character reflects the Father. If Jesus were not God, why would he say anyone who has seen him has seen God? One’s character is not evident simply from a single glimpse of the person.

          • Russell Downs

            I saw your long post (almost 2,000 words) a few minutes ago, and I have been thinking about it. I am in Australia so it is bedtime now. If I don’t receive an email I am waiting for I will probably respond tomorrow morning. If the email arrives then other priorities will recede into the background. But here are some initial musings, not a response yet.

            I see the Trinity as a bit like YEC, only worse. What I mean is that it is has become so entrenched in practical Christianity that if you reject it there are many places you are just not welcome. It would be exceedingly difficult for you if you decided the Trinity is not Scriptural. That is not an argument. It is just an observation of how difficult it would be, in practical terms, to reject.

          • Hey Russell! Looks like you didn’t get the chance to respond to my full post, which I completely understand (it was insanely long). Please feel free to take your time. It’s cool to hear you hail from Down Under. I love Australia — would love to visit there someday.

            Just a couple comments at this point. I think you are quite correct in your suspicion that the doctrine of the Trinity is more widely held (or “entrenched”) in the church than even young-earth creationism. However, I must insist that I am not simply “toeing the party line” here. If believing the majority opinion was important to me for its own sake, then I would be a creationist, I wouldn’t reject the doctrine of original sin and I would be weirded out by gays.

            I believe what I do about the Trinity because I think it’s what the Bible teaches, and I tried to illustrate why in the post above.

            Just as an aside, I don’t think that my post was even a completely exhaustive review of every verse that might affirm the Trinity, and yet, I believe I provided roughly a dozen times or more the biblical support that young-earth creationism has.

          • Russell Downs

            This is too long to do in one posting. Each substantive response is growing. Word counts: RD 137; TF 218; RD 978; TF 2485. To try to break the verbosity cycle I’ll just post one point at a time. This has the advantage that if I am called away then at least I will have posted something.

            One of your key supporting passages is in Philippians 2. On this (in my opinion slender) support you base a whole family of explanations to Scriptures that would otherwise be fatal to Trinitarianism.

            TF said: [Basically, it appears that Christ — though of the same essence and being of God — has wilfully and obediently accepted a subjective position to the Father. This principle is explained beautifully in the second chapter of Paul’s letter to the
            Philippians, which says of Christ: “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.”]

            This deserves close inspection.

            Philippians 2:5-11 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, (6) who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, (7) but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in
            the likeness of men. (8) And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (9) Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, (10) so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, (11) and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

            (I usually quote ESV which I like because I read the RSV for many years, and often refer to NET in my reading, despite the fact that both these translations have a Trinitarian bias)

            I don’t know what translation you quoted, but comparing
            other translations it appears to be very loose to translate as “being in very
            nature God”. The normal and straightforward translation is “in the form of God”,
            even by translators who have a Trinitarian perspective, and see Trinitarian
            implications.

            The immediate context is that Paul warned the Philippians against “selfish ambition or vanity”, encouraging them instead to be humble (verse 3). He pointed then to the attitude of humility exhibited by Jesus Christ.

            A broader context is Paul’s comparison or more correctly contrast between Adam and Christ. This is seen in Romans 5 and especially 1 Corinthians 15.

            1 Corinthians 15:45-47 Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. (46) But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. (47) The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven.

            If Christ pre-existed as part of the God-head (have I used the right terminology here?) then Paul’s statement is problematic. The order is Adam=First=Man-of-dust and Christ=Last=Life-giving-spirit. It is difficult to squeeze in a pre-existent Christ into that.

            Looking at it in this broader context, Adam was made in the form of God and grasped at equality with God. As a result he fell. Similarly Christ, being the literal son of God, was also made in the form of God. Yet he did not grasp at equality with God. As a result God has highly exalted him.

            To see it as a reference to the relationship between God and Christ as part of the Trinity only makes sense if you already believe the Trinity to be well-established. But actually this is one of the key Trinitarian support passages.

            I have other thoughts in my head, and notes in my diary that I jotted down from your long post. I have a huge backlog of other points you made. But I will leave it there for the moment. It is under 700 words, which is good.

          • I don’t know what translation you quoted, but comparing other translations it appears to be very loose to translate as “being in very nature God”. The normal and straightforward translation is “in the form of God”, even by translators who have a Trinitarian perspective, and see Trinitarian implications.

            Just as an aside, my quote was from the NIV. It was the Bible translation I used when I first became a Christian, and the one I had that particular passage memorized in. I agree that most of the other major translations use some variation of the “form of God.”

            1 Corinthians 15:45-47 Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. (46) But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. (47) The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven.

            If Christ pre-existed as part of the God-head (have I used the right terminology here?) then Paul’s statement is problematic. The order is Adam=First=Man-of-dust and Christ=Last=Life-giving-spirit. It is difficult to squeeze in a pre-existent Christ into that.

            I think you are placing undue emphasis on the word “last,” and not enough on the clear distinctions Paul is drawing between ordinary men and Christ. Christ is the “last Adam” in a covenantal sense, in that his coming completed the work of salvation that was made necessary by the “first Adam.” He has brought that age of history to a close, and we may now bear the image of the new “Adam,” the “man from heaven” (1 Corinthians 15:49).

            I don’t think the word “last” is really meant to be taken that literally here. After all, if Christ is ordinary man, then it is not true. There have been many men who had lived since he ascended. Notice, as well, that in the same breath that Paul calls Christ the “last Adam” (verse 45), he also calls him the “second man” (verse 47).

            Christ was the “second man” in that he was a second type of man, being distinctly different than the kind of man Adam was, in that he was both man and God.

            Finally, this passage is not the only passage in scripture by which we understand Christ. He is also called “the Alpha and the Omega,” “who was and who is and who is to come,” (Rev. 1:8), and he calls himself “the first and the last” (Rev. 1:17). Paul may call Christ the “last Adam” here, but elsewhere he calls him the “firstborn of all creation (Colossian 1:15). And I’ve already mentioned the passages in John, where the author clearly claims Christ’s pre-existence in the introduction, and where Christ himself claims to have pre-existed Abraham.

            Looking at it in this broader context, Adam was made in the form of God and grasped at equality with God. As a result he fell. Similarly Christ, being the literal son of God, was also made in the form of God. Yet he did not grasp at equality with God. As a result God has highly exalted him.

            I think it is quite clear that the passage in Genesis 1 that speaks of the “image of God” refers to all mankind, not just Adam. In that understanding, I don’t think you can simply paint with a broad brush and claim that the Philippians passage is describing the two as complete equals, given the many passages (some of them mentioned in this very post) that describe Christ as distinctly different than other humans.

            I would also argue that your interpretation seems to miss the enormity of what Paul is describing. I don’t see how it is really all that remarkable for an ordinary man to humble himself before God and be obedient God. That is, indeed, the proper place of man. Instead, what Paul seems to be describing is the incredible fact that God himself — who was distinctly different than ordinary man and has no prerogative whatsoever to humble himself as we should — chose to be obedient even unto death.

            To see it as a reference to the relationship between God and Christ as part of the Trinity only makes sense if you already believe the Trinity to be well-established. But actually this is one of the key Trinitarian support passages.

            You could probably say this about just about anything. It is confirmation bias, a logical flaw that any one of us may easily fall into.

            I do appreciate your thoughts and the time you’ve contributed to this discussion, Russell, so I hope you don’t feel otherwise.

          • Russell Downs

            OK, Tyler. You have forced me to think more precisely.

            Genesis 1:26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

            Yes, “man” refers to humankind, not just Adam. This is shown by:

            Genesis 1:27-28 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (28) And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

            Since this passage has come up, I might also respond to an earlier suggestion by you that the “us” in verse 26 may be a reference to the Trinity, although you were honest enough to acknowledge the opinion held by many (probably most) scholars, including Trinitarians, that it refers to the heavenly court.

            The NT references the “man” in these verses as being fulfilled in Christ (I’ll give you references if you challenge it, but I doubt I’ll need to) shows a tension in this Trinitarian interpretation. Even by Trinitarian standards it is difficult to understand how the Trinity (which includes the Son) made Christ. Fortunately for your Trinitarian position you don’t need this “proof text” because many Trinitarian scholars don’t even use it. But I do notice a shrinking set of “proof text” Scriptures. The pattern I
            observe is that many of the Trinitarian proof texts are only so to someone who
            is already committed to a Trinitarian position.

            That was an aside. Back to 1 Corinthians 15.

            1 Corinthians 15:47 The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven.

            Does “first man” imply chronological primacy? I of course agree that Adam was not literally the first man in time. I actually wish I had some Greek, but I don’t unfortunately. So I’ll tread gingerly. The word protos does not, as you say, necessarily mean “first in time”. Context is king. Does it in the context mean “primacy of importance”? Nope. Because if that was what it meant then the verse is saying that Adam was more important than Christ. The context demands that it means that Adam chronologically preceded Christ. However could Paul really have said that if he also implicitly meant: “By the way Adam wasn’t really first because Christ really preceded him as ‘the same essence and being of God’ as you put it. This would be a serious problem for the Trinitarian position. But does your explanation “first type of man” and “last type of man” pass muster? It really doesn’t help. If Christ was the last type
            of man, then exactly the same tension applies if the Trinitarian paradigm is assumed. Paul has given no explanation of the theologically difficult thesis that it wasn’t the real Christ who was the “last type of man”, but a pale mortal make-believe version.

            There will always be a way of finding an explanation to fit in with the Trinitarian paradigm, but only by complex unnatural reading of Scripture.

            I’m sorry. I was going to continue, but the long-waited email has just hit my inbox. So I’ll leave it abruptly, without really integrating the first part of my response (about Genesis 1) with the 1 Cor 15 response. And I haven’t had time to review my characterisation of the Trinitarian position as Jesus being “ a pale mortal make-believe version” of the pre-existent Christ.