why I think you’re identifying Jesus with God
It’s because of the argument you made…
It’s because of the argument you made…
Sometimes, trinitarians think that the Son just is God, and that the Father just is God, and yet the Son is different from the Father. But these can’t all be true. In modern logic, we represent the claims as:
If you understand that numerical sameness (=) is symmetrical and transitive, you’ll “see” why these can’t all be true, since any two entail the falsity of the remaining one. But that’s not my point now.
My point is that in the face of this objection some young apologetics enthusiasts will (1) assert that here I’m “assuming unitarianism,” or (2) triumphantly announce that “the Son is God” simply means that the Son is divine, not that the Son and God are numerically identical.
About (1): No, I’m not. I’m only assuming the aforementioned facts about numerical identity, which are taught in any beginning logic course. 1-3 simply are an inconsistent triad, and anyone can know this, irrespective of their theological commitments. About (2): Of course, that is what many trinitarians mean by “Jesus is God.” More on this below.
But why did I think the trinitarian was saying that Jesus just is God (j=g)? Good question! And, it has a good answer. Most likely, I just heard the trinitarian in question argue like this:
1. Only God can forgive sins.
2. Jesus forgave sins.
3. Therefore, Jesus is God.
Never mind that the first premise is false according to the New Testament. Just focus on premise 1. They seem to be using “God” here like a name, a singular referring term which refers to the one God. Notice that 1 makes two claims about God. First, he can forgive sins. Second, only he can; that is, no one else can. Here’s how we analyze a statement like that in standard logic. (This is the right structure – the symbols vary by textbook and are a pain to put in a blog post.)
In English: 1. For any x whatever, x can forgive sins only if x just is God. 2. Jesus can forgive sins. 3. Jesus just is God. This is an obviously valid argument. In other words, if 1 and 2 are true, then 3 must also be true. That, my friend, is why I hear you identifying Jesus and God. You deployed the concept of numerical sameness / identity in premise 1. And this is why I’m interpreting you as deploying it in the conclusion – because I’m charitably listening to you, trying to hear you as reasoning correctly.
Of course, it is a great mistake for any Christian to agree with 3. But that’s another conversation.
But suppose you then clarify that by “Jesus is God” and “The Father is God” you mean only that each is divine. What about those claims? And what about the “Only God” argument above interpreted as involving only a divine being?
Good questions. And they have good answers. Here’s a redo of our inconsistent triad above:
1. Jesus is divine.
2. The Father is divine.
So far, so good. There are logically consistent; conceivably, they could both be true. But now add:
3. There is only one being which is divine.
It follows that Jesus just is the Father, and vice-versa. But (hopefully) you did not want to imply that! Here’s the triad symbolized:
This is not an inconsistent triad, as above. Rather, it’s consistent. But these three imply something that any Christian must deny.
Here’s the “only God” argument interpreted as involving only predication, as describing Jesus as divine, rather than identifying him with God.
Again, obviously valid. But again, premise 1 contradicts the New Testament. Thus, the argument is unsound.
Premise 1, contra some of Jesus’s critics, is not even remotely plausible. Why can’t an omnipotent God authorize a non-divine being, even a man, to forgive sins? Even you could authorize another to forgive a wrong on your behalf, or a debt. These are not hard things to do! In case you’re tempted here to agree with Jesus’s Jewish critics, the author of the first gospel helps you out:
Now when the multitudes saw it, they marveled and glorified God, who had given such power to men. (Matthew 9:8)