Thanks to Dr. James Anderson for his further reply to my reply to his initial answer to the Challenge to “Jesus is God” apologists. His new post does clarify his position for me. Perhaps later, I’ll reply more straightforwardly, but for now… story time! The story concerns premise 4 of the Challenge…
The new kid at the high school seemed somehow different. “He seems… spiritual,” mused Del.
“I wonder if he’s a Christian,” wondered Jimmy.
“Let’s ask him.”
Jimmy and Del walked towards the school cafeteria, resolved to talk to the new kid, and maybe even engage in a little lunchtime evangelism. The sat down at his table and introduced themselves.
“My name’s Chad. Where’m I from? Oh, you’ve probably never heard of it.”
“Jimmy and I noticed the other day that you bowed your head for a moment before eating lunch. Were you praying? Are you a Christian? Jimmy and I are.”
“I was praying, yes,” answered Chad. But I’m not a Christian. I’m a Quatronian.”
Jimmy and Del looked at each other.
“Probably you haven’t heard of this religion. It’s fairly new, and there aren’t very many of us. We worship the one true god, Quatro.”
“Oh,” said Jimmy, as he struggled to process this news. “Who is this Quatro exactly? Tell us more.”
“He’s the one true God. He sent us the prophet Nugai, and inspired our sacred book, the Waeittiz, which was written by Nugai and some of our other leaders.” He pulled out a well-worn paperback from his backpack and held it out. Jimmy took it and examined the back cover.
“Well I guess we disagree about God then,” suggested Del. “Jim and I believe in the god of the Bible.”
“You mean Yahweh?”
“Yes,” piped Jimmy, looking up from the book.
“Oh, I don’t know how much we disagree about. You see, Quatro and Yahweh are the same god. Our religions differ is some ways, yes, but we worship the same god.”
“Perhaps this is what your holy book says, but we’ll have disagree about that,” suggested Del.
“I hope not,” replied Chad. Jim sat up straight, excited. This was going to be interesting. He handed back the book.
Del shifted to lawyer mode. “Did this ‘Quatro’ befriend Abraham, and later send the prophet Moses to the descendants of Abraham?”
“Absolutely not. Quatronian theology positively denies that Quatro ever did any such things.”
“Did Quatro send his only Son to us, to teach us about himself, and to die for the sins of the human race?”
“Absolutely not. Waeittiz chapter 17 quotes Quatro as saying “I am the Son of no one, nor do I have a Son to send, nor is there any ‘Son’ within me. Anyone who says that are or have a Son – that’s not me!”
“OK,” pressed Del, “our god revealed himself to Abraham, sent Moses, and then later sent us his Son. So clearly, we’re not talking about the same god here.”
“Not the same being, no but the same god, yes!” insisted Chad, waving the book. Del looked confused, but remained silent. Jim came to his rescue,
“Chad, how do we know that this ‘Quatro’ is even supposed to be divine? Del and I have read in various mythologies about so-called ‘gods’ who are created, who die, and who do terrible deeds like deception, murder, and rape.”
“Oh, Quatro isn’t like that. He has all the divine qualities.”
“Is he eternal?”
“Perfect in every way? Even morally?”
“And yet, he didn’t send Moses and Jesus?”
“Well, we Christians believe there’s only one god. You’re alleging that there’s another one, but that can’t be, in our view.”
“No, Quatro is a different being than Yahweh – yes, the differences we’ve discussed prove that. But he’s the same god as Yahweh.”
“That’s absurd,” declared Del. “Any god just is a certain being! If we’re talking about different beings, we’re talking about different gods. Suppose we learn that in your country every marriage is monogamous, and then we find out that your dad is married, and has a wife named Chrissy. And we also learn that he has a wife named Sissy. We know then, than his one wife is called both ‘Chrissy’ and ‘Sissy.’”
“No you don’t!” objected Chad. “What you know is that my dad has one wife. But for all you know, Chrissy and Sissy are the same wife, but different women.”
“But any wife just is a certain woman,” shot Del.
“That’s what you say! But I don’t have to accept your controversial theories about wives and women.”
“Theories?!” Del’s mouth hung open and he was red in the face.
“He’s right, you know,” said Jimmy. “I mean, he’s right about the god case, whether or not he’s right about the wife case.”
“Jimmy, how can you say that?”
“Del, you need to read some more philosophy. There are philosophers who think that a lump of clay and a statue made of it are different form-matter compounds, but the same material object.”
“Well, I think they’re wrong.”
“Perhaps they are. But this calls into question the general principle that if some x and y are the same F, then x is an F, y is an F, and x just is y.”
“So?” Del threw up his hands and stared unkindly at his friend. Chad looked on, amused by this discord in the Christian camp.
“The divine nature, we know, is far, far beyond us. Sure, we know some things about it, like that it includes omniscience, eternality, uncreatedness, and such, but there is far more we don’t know about it. Only a fool would say that he understands God completely.”
“So how can we rule out that different beings can be the same god?”
Del looked distressed, but remained silent.
“We’ve been told that this Quatro is eternal, uncreated, and perfect, and that he’s a god. I don’t suppose we can just assert that he’s a fiction and leave it at that. It sounds like he could be both real and divine. And I take it,” Jimmy looked at Chad, “that Nugai and others claim they’ve directly experienced the reality of Quatro.”
“This is just too much,” whined Del.
“No – hear me out. We’re Christians, right? We believe in the Trinity. Father and Son and Spirit – none of these is identical to any other. They differ in various ways, while each being divine. Each is a god – but they’re the same god.”
“Well, that’s what some trinitarians say, but…”
“Hear me out,” interrupted Jimmy. “Father, Son, and Spirit are different beings – none just is any other. And yet, they each share the divine essence, which makes them the same god. Now for all we know, this Quatro may share that same divine essence, making him that same god too.”
“But God sent Jesus, while Quatro says he did no such thing.”
“Sure, but by ‘God’ there you mean the Father. Or maybe the Trinity. But anyway, any trinitarian thinks there are differences between the sharers of the divine nature. The Son became incarnate, but the Father and Spirit didn’t. So maybe,” now Jimmy was getting excited, “Quatro just wasn’t involved with Abraham or Moses, and didn’t send Jesus because his mission within the divine economy was different. Each divine Person has his own job. Perhaps Quatro’s job is sending the prophet Nugai, and inspiring the writing of that Waeittiz book.”
Chad looked pleased.
“You’ve got to be kidding me!” declared Del. “You just met our new friend here, and just found out about his religion, and you’re willing to consider belief in a Quaternity, with this ‘Quatro’ as a fourth divine Person?”
“You have to admit,” countered Jimmy, “that the name seems rather providential.”
“But don’t some argue that there will be at most three divine persons, as three are all that are required for being perfectly loving?”
“Yes, the famous analytic theologian Richard Swinburne argues that. But honestly, he’s putting too much trust in human speculations, human intuitions. What we know is this: the Bible tells us about three divine Persons, three beings within the Godhead. It never tells that that there are only three, at most three, or no more that three, does it?”
“I don’t recall that it does.”
“Right. And recall again that God’s nature is profoundly mysterious; there is just so much about God that we don’t know.”
“That’s what we say too,” chimed Chad.
“We can’t rule out, then, that this is one of those things previously unknown.”
“I just can’t take this seriously,” insisted Del. “When I find out that Sissy and Chrissy are different women, it just follows from that that they’re not the same wife. And when I found out that Yahweh and Quatro are different beings, it just follows that they’re not the same god.”
“So you say!” shot Jimmy.
“I’m just applying common sense here.”
“You’re applying your speculative theories about god here. Pardon me if I don’t claim to completely understand the divine nature!”
“Jimmy, you’re a smart guy, and I respect your knowledge of Bible and theology. You’re a good friend. Forgive me, but, it seems to me like you’re way out on the end of a theoretical limb, not me. The point about gods seems obvious. It seems obvious without any speculative theories about statues or the divine nature. Different being, different god! But you doubt it. Why? Because a few philosophers have questioned a general principle that being the same some-sort-of-thing requires being the same being. But don’t you agree with me about the Chrissy and Sissy case?”
“So then, only in the case of God, you’re open-minded, allowing that maybe different beings can be the same god. That’s why when you find out that Quatro, assuming he’s real, differs from Yahweh, and so is not numerically the same as Yahweh, still you’re open to their being the same god.”
“Yes. Bro, do you even Trinity?”
“But Jimmy, not all trinitarian theologians say that the Father, Son, and Spirit are the same god. Some think that neither is a god, but each is a part of, or anyhow mysteriously within the one god, which is the triune God.”
“Who’s your favorite apologist?”
“That’s what he thinks! As he interprets the Trinity, the Father, Son, and Spirit are divine, but not in the sense that implies being a god. Only the Trinity can be divine in that way.”
“Even good apologists make mistakes.”
“But it’s not just him. I think Swinburne would agree too, that the Father, Son, and Spirit are not the same god, though each of them, and the Trinity too can be called ‘God.’”
“What can I say? Some people trust too much in their own speculations. Sorry, but you’re one of those people. Me, I go by the Bible. Father, Son, and Spirit are all divine – yes, in the way that means being a god. But there’s only one god. So, they must be the same god. But this doesn’t rule out that this Quatro too is that same god.”
“I’m pretty sure,” Del thought out loud, “that some theologians would deny that the Persons of the Trinity are different beings…”
“Well, there’s no helping them. It’s obvious that ones who differ, like the Father and Son do, are not one and the same being.” Chad nodded.
“Right. But the Bible doesn’t say that does it?”
“It doesn’t need to; it’s something we all know. It’s part of common sense.”
“But so is this claim: different beings are not the same god.”
Jimmy thrust his finger at Del. “No, it’s not!” Chad again nodded. “As I mentioned, some philosophers deny it.”
“But some philosophers deny that change is real, or that human persons exist, or that any event causes any other event.”
“Del, I know that, but in this case divine revelation makes us question what seems obvious to us.”
“Right,” agreed Chad.
“But divine revelation is one thing, and your views on the Trinity are another.”
“Divine revelation plainly says that Jesus and his Father are the same god. ‘The Father and I are one.’”
Chad added,“I don’t know about the Bible, but the Waeittiz says that Quatro and Yahweh are the same god.”
“That’s why I’m so intrigued,” replied Jimmy.
Eventually Jimmy and Chad entered into a long-term study of the Waeittiz. Jimmy became convinced that Quatro was indeed the same god as Yahweh. This fourth divine Person, he believed, had a complementary mission, which the Waeittiz explained fairly clearly, and Nugai had truly revealed new things about God that Jesus had never mentioned. For his part Del remained recalcitrant, insisting that Yahweh and Quatro just couldn’t be the same god, even when Jimmy teased him with Shakespeare. “There are more divine Persons, Del, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”