by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 2 Paragraph # 1 Study # 5 Lincolnton, NC August 8, 2004
5 For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;
6 Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.
1901 ASV Translation:
5 For there is one God, one mediator also between God and men, himself man, Christ Jesus,
6 who gave himself a ransom for all; the testimony to be borne in its own times;
There are no textual variations between the Textus Receptus and the Nestle/Aland 26 in these verses.
I. The text begins with a high level of exclusiveness -- there is only one God and there is only one Mediator.
II. Then the focus immediately turns to the Mediator -- He is "man" and He "gave Himself".
III. Then we have the phrase "the witness in its own times" without a stated verb (we do have the verbal idea supplied by implication from Paul's next words -- "...whereunto I was appointed a preacher and ... teacher...").
IV. At Issue...
1. In the face of trinitarianism, what is the "point" of arguing for "monotheism" as opposed to polytheism (or pantheism, or panentheism, or atheism)?
a. Even when it is established that there is "one" God, there remains the reality of the multiple personhood involved.
b. The multiplicity of personality means "something"; but, obvious to the text is the fact that monotheism also means "something".
c. There is no escape from the fact that the Scriptures are adamant about the "oneness" of God -- so the issue involved has to be significant; but, there is also no escape from the Scriptural presentation of multiplicity of personality -- so that issue must also be significant.
2. What is at stake in trinitarian monotheism?
a. What is at stake in monotheism?
1) Ultimately, the issue of "God" is the issue of the use of power to accomplish an agenda.
a) When men speak of "God", they are addressing the reality of "The Powerful Person".
i. This is basic to Paul's thesis in Romans 1:20.
ii. There are no more basic issues to "life" than the answers to the questions "what is important?" and "how do we achieve it?" and the issues of power (unto the achievement of objectives) and personhood (as the ultimate value) are roots to these questions.
b) Thus, the Person Whose agenda is determinate is the issue of "God".
i. If the greatest commandment is to "love God", there can be little debate as to the fact that His person and agenda are fundamental...Jesus said, "If you love Me, keep My commandments."
ii. If the greatest commandment is "love", the greatest issue ("God") is the issue of "how" I will use "my" power to chase "whose" agenda.
2) The implication, then, is that multiple "gods" implies some sort of competition in the realm of agenda...developing a scenario of conflict backed by omnipotence -- a kind of "war among the gods".
a) This idea pushes the issue backwards to the question of "what is behind the agenda"?
b) Agenda issues are all "value" based: addressing the question of "What is important?".
c) The "value" issue raises the next question: who determines "what" is valuable?
d) The "who" question raises the "monotheism" issue: at root, only "one" final thing can be "the" thing of value and "whoever" determines that "thing" is the "God".
a) In polytheism we have the war of the gods.
b) In pantheism we have the depersonalization of God so that values are corrupted in the direction of impersonality -- i.e. all "things" have equal value.
c) In atheism we have the denial of God so that Value is destroyed. All that is left is power and the "survival of the fittest".
b. What is at stake in trinitarianism?
1) Historically, "trinitarianism" has been approached in two ways: "modalism", in which there is only one person, but various "modes" of expression; and "multiplicity of personality", in which there are actually three unique persons within the unity of deity.
a) Modalism attempts to by-pass the "democratization of God" as well as the "reductionism of God".
i. Democratization tends to present persons in unity who decide to agree to issues by way of debate/counter-debate [this demeans omniscience and omni-wisdom].
ii. Reductionism is the tendency to make "God" an "idea of perfection" in which the participating persons are each fully committed to the "idea", though none of them is the "Ideal" in and of themselves.
b) Trinitarianism attempts to establish the reality of unity with plurality so that there is no such thing as "democracy" even in the presence of plurality, nor is there the "God is only an Ideal" concept.
i. Trinitarianism, necessarily, reduces "personality" to "an" aspect of deity, not "the" aspect of deity. For "God" to be "One" with three distinct personalities, "personality" cannot be "the" defining issue; the sum total of all of the attributes is "the One God" and "one" of the attributes is multiplicity of personality.
ii. The difference between trinitarianism and polytheism is that polytheism makes "personality" the key characteristic of identity and, necessarily, reduces the other attributes to subservience to personhood. Thus, in polytheism, one can have multiple persons going in multiple directions because the only thing that is "absolute" about the "gods" is their distinct identities. This sets things up for a "Clash of the Titans". In monotheism, omniscience and omni-wisdom are just as much "attributes" as "personality" (as are all of the other attributes) so that each distinct person has exactly the same essence, which includes unity with the other personalities. Technically, if we had three Gods, but each of the three were co-participants in all of the attributes of deity, there would be no conflict -- i.e. there would be plurality in unity. That is only a small step from unity with plurality.
2) What is the bottom line in respect to this issue: what is at stake?
a) How will misconstruing trinitarianism into modalism or tri-theism affect the way man will adapt to "life"?
b) In what way will man go astray if he moves into modalism or tri-theism?
i. In respect to man, the real issue is being able to relate to God in harmony and cooperation. All sin involves being in conflict with God. Participating in the life of God is everywhere presented as "understanding Truth" and "responding to Truth with legitimate action".
ii. Thus, there must be a danger in relational breakdown for man if he misconstrues the essence of God. If he goes into modalism, where is the danger for man? If he moves into tri-theism, where is the danger for man?
iii. The ever-present danger for man is his willingness to move against Truth in self-exalting (I have the knowledge and wisdom I need of myself) disbelief (the way I perceive of my need and how it is to be fulfilled is "truth") for the purpose of setting a different agenda than God's. In modalism, there is a focus upon a Single Individual Who has no reason to concern Himself with Anyone else. If man buys into that "T"heology, he will tend to become a self-important single individual who has no need to take anyone else into consideration. Witness the merciless Pharisaism of the "monotheists" of Israel -- mercilessness is fundamentally selfish and self-exalting. Witness also the mercilessness of Islam whose hypocrisy exists in saying "Allah is Merciful" but in living in a fatalistic lack of concern for others. On the other hand, if man buys into tri-theism, he will tend in the direction of exalting himself to a "necessary collaborator" with "God" whom God "must" consult if there is to be harmony. Only trinitarianism can give man a view of God that tempers his own tendencies to be "individualistic" or "necessary". Man is ever moving against "repentance". If he moves into "individualism", he is moving into the uncaring arrogance of pride. If he moves into "over-significance" he is demanding "help" on his own terms and when his "demands" go unmet, he sinks into despair.