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A Reply To Anthony Buzzard

Anthony Buzzard "Reviews" The Forgotten Trinity

James White


Posted 07/13/06 by James R. White on his Apologetics Blog



Anthony Buzzard "Reviews" The Forgotten Trinity

   Sam Shamoun, Islamic expert extraordinaire, happened to notice that once again a cheap hit piece has been posted in the guise of a "review" of one of my books on Amazon. I truly detest the review features which are so rarely used for reviews and so often used as a major-league sized "comments" section (another good example of why comments sections, in general, should be viewed as little more than "ITIAs," that is, Internet Theological Ignorance Aggregators). It would never cross my mind to be running around Amazon flaming books and giving them "one star" just to drag down their rating. Few things are more childish.
   This particular review was posted by a rather well known anti-Trinitarian that I have discussed on The Dividing Line in the past, Anthony Buzzard. On January 24th of this year I reviewed some of his comments in his discussion with Shabir Ally. You can listen to the mp3 of the program here. Sam and I demonstrated that his oft-repeated and key argument regarding Psalm 110 is simply fallacious on its face to anyone who actually knows something about the languages and history of the Bible. As I pointed out then, I have informed Buzzard of the errors in his presentation in the past. In any case, Buzzard's "review" of The Forgotten Trinity is not a review at all, and since it contains numerous errors of its own, I respond to it here.

John White's

James. James Bond.
Forgotten Trinity is a brave attempt to defend the non-biblical doctrine of the Trinity. He overlooks without comment the massive evidence which persuades scholarly and other non-Trinitarians that God is one Person, that God is the Father of Jesus the begotten Son (LUke 1:35)(God = the Father 1300 times in the NT and Jesus is given the title in a secondary sense twice for certain-- John 20:28; Heb 1:8.)

   Excuse me? Overlooks without comment? Anyone who has read the book knows either Buzzard didn't bother to read the book, or, he is not overly honest in his comments. Anyone who has read the endnotes especially knows how often objections are met head on in that material. As to the usage of qeo,j (God) in the New Testament, those who have read my work know that I dedicated entire chapters to the subject, and fully discussed the issue in the book. Just what is accomplished by misrepresenting the book so badly in the first paragraph is difficult to comprehend. I have Buzzard's works, and if I were to post a review, one thing is for certain: my standard of review would be quite different than his own.

White does not deal with the credal statements in the NT "You, Father, are the only one who is truly God" (John 17:3).

   Really? Is that why this appears on pages 90-91?
So we can see that rather than denying the deity of Christ, John 14:28 implies it, for the position into which the Son was going is a position fit only for deity, not for mere creatures. This is brought out plainly in the words of Jesus in John 17 and His prayer to the Father:
This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do. Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was. (John 17:3-5)

Amazingly, even this passage is sometimes cited against the truth of the Trinity. How can a passage that connects eternal life itself with knowledge of both the Father and the Son, and that speaks of the Son having shared the very glory of the Father in eternity past (cf. Isaiah 48:11), be used against the deity of Christ? Again, it requires one to make a couple of false assumptions right at that the start. First, one must assume unitarianism, and refuse to see that "God" can refer either to the person of the Father, or can be used more generically of the godhead en toto. Secondly, one must assume that if there is any difference between the Father and the Son, then the Son is not truly deity, the old "difference in function does not indicate inferiority of nature" issue. So the argument is, "Jesus said the Father was the only true God. Hence, Jesus is not God, and is an inferior creature." Yet, what Jesus said was that to have eternal life one must know both the one true God and Jesus Christ, who was sent by the Father. This is exactly what we read in 1 John, where having eternal life involves knowing both the Father and the Son.
   But what of the phrase "the only true God"? Doesn't this mean that Jesus isn't God? Of course not. How else would Jesus have made mention of the truth of monotheism? Since He is not a separate God from the Father (He is a separate Person, sharing the one Being that is God), how could His confession of the deity of the Father be taken as a denial of His own deity? As the perfect God-man, we again encounter the question of how the Incarnate One would behave and relate to the Persons who did not enter into human existence (i.e., the Father and the Spirit), just as we discussed above in reference to John 20:17. Would Jesus deny the deity of the Father? Would He say that the Father is not the only true God? What is often missed by those who present John 17:3 as an argument against the deity of Christ is that they have only two options as to what the passage is saying, if in fact it is not supporting the deity of Christ. Either 1) Jesus is therefore a false god, separate from the Father, or 2) Jesus would have to make some statement supporting polytheism, like "You are one of a couple of true Gods" or some other such absurd statement. Instead, Jesus speaks the truth: there is only one true God, and as the God-Man, He prayed to the one true God, just as we would expect.
   Having seen the misuse of the passage, we can then see how it is directly relevant to John 14:28, in that is describes the exalted position the Son had before the Incarnation, sharing the very glory of the Father. It is no surprise to recall that John himself had insisted that when Isaiah saw the glory of Jehovah, Isaiah was, in fact, seeing the glory of Christ and was speaking about Him (John 12:39-41, see chapter nine). Therefore, we can easily understand that the Father was, during the entire time of the Incarnation, positionally greater than the Son, who voluntarily subjected Himself to the Father, taking a subordinate position, doing the Father's will, all to fulfill the eternal covenant of redemption.

   What can be said of the scholarship, or honesty, of someone who writes a review like this when the book is readily available to refute him? It is one thing to disagree. It is something completely different to take direct aim at your own credibility in public and shoot it. Repeatedly, as we see in this next example:
"There is one God, the Father and no other God besides Him" (I Cor 8:4-6).

   I guess this particular chapter fell out of Buzzard's review copy, because it follows right on the heels of the non-existent discussion of John 17:3 noted above:
We close by looking at our final passage, which has again been presented as if it denies the deity of Christ, when in reality it is beyond understanding outside of that truth:
Therefore concerning the eating of things sacrificed to idols, we know that there is no such thing as an idol in the world, and that there is no God but one. For even if there are so-called gods whether in heaven or on earth, as indeed there are many gods and many lords, yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him. (1 Corinthians 8:4-6)

Here some wish us to believe that, just like in John 17:3, Paul's use of the phrase "one God, the Father" excludes Jesus from the realm of deity. Of course, we immediately recognize that there is a real problem here: that's not all Paul says. If "one God, the Father" is meant to be taken exclusively, then does it not follow that "one Lord, Jesus Christ" also excludes the Father from the realm of Lordship? When we see the distinctive use of the terms "God" and "Lord," we should realize that the Scriptures are not here introducing a competition or contest between the two. God is just as much Lord as the Lord is God. The two terms are merely being used to describe different Persons in their relationship to one another. They are not being used to say that God is more "Lord" than the Lord is "God." But beyond this, B.B. Warfield very accurately summed up the beautiful testimony of this passage of Sacred Scripture:
In the very act of asserting his monotheism Paul takes our Lord up into this unique Godhead. "There is no God but one," he roundly asserts, and then illustrates and proves this assertion by remarking that the heathen may have "gods many, and lord many," but "to us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we unto him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and we through him" (I Cor. vii. 6). Obviously, this "one God, the Father," and "one Lord, Jesus Christ," are embraced together in the one God who alone is. Paul's conception of the one God, whom alone he worships, includes, in other words, a recognition that within the unity of His being, there exists such a distinction of Persons as is given us in the "one God, the Father" and the "one Lord, Jesus Christ."

   Buzzard has hardly started off in a fashion that will lead us to believe he is actually going to provide us with an insightful review of the book. In fact, we are left wondering just what book he is reviewing when he can't get my name right and says I did not discuss passages that I demonstrably did! But the review continues downward in a spiral with the next comment:
"There is one God and one Mediator between God and man, the Man Messiah Jesus" (I Tim. 6:3).

Don't bother looking. That's supposed to be 1 Timothy 2:4-5, not 6:3. Ironically, 6:3 reads,
1 Timothy 6:3-5 3 If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, 4 he is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, 5 and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain.

In addition there are some 12,000 occurrences of the words for "God" in the Bible and not one of them means "God in three Persons."

   It is hard to respond to this kind of argumentation since it is so far removed from carrying any kind of logical weight. Is he suggesting that someone actually argues that "God," either as ~yhi_l{a/ or as qeo,j, means "God in three Persons"? If so, who makes this argument? Surely not any Trinitarian I know. Does "God" at times refer to God considered singularly, i.e., the Triune God acting as one? Of course. But in either case, this kind of "throw numbers around" argumentation is utterly vacuous to any person who actually knows what they believe. So once again, we have moved a good bit through Buzzard's "review," and have yet to find a single meaningful statement.
In other words, Bible writers when they say "GOD" mean the Father of Jesus Christ (thee are two exceptions. In the NT Jesus is called "God" twice for certain, Heb. 1:8 and John 20:28).

   Dr. Buzzard needs an editor, since he has now repeated this claim twice. In any case, let's try to remember that this is allegedly a review, and hence, it might be good to actually deal with my discussions of the other kinds of evidences of the deity of Christ, for example? Does he do so? No.
Since Jesus affirmed the creed of Israel in Mark 12:28ff. and the Jewish scribe agreed with him, it is obvious that Jesus did not believe in the Trinity.

   Yes, well, obviously! I mean, it's that simple, right? Christians down through the ages, with the small exception of Buzzard's group, have been utterly blind to the Shema and its meaning! It must not just mean that God is ontologically one in being! It must mean that God is unipersonal, unitarian! Let's just throw out the evidence of the deity of Christ, His being identified as Yahweh, and all the rest! Surely! I'm sorry, but this kind of facile argumentation, following on the heels of "this is a review...let me show you how little of the book I actually read," is a bit hard to handle.
Thousands and thousands of singular personal pronouns describe God in the OT. Singular personal pronouns define a single Person, not three Persons.

   And there you have the heart of Buzzard's unitarianism, and if you find it a bit less than a compelling argument, you are not alone, today, or in the history of the church.
White himself struggles with the definition of God. He says that the biblical God is "three who's in one what." He then goes on to speak of that God who is a "what" with masculine personal pronouns in the singular. He tries to have it both ways. If God is a "what," then "he" is the wrong way to describe Him (It?. He says on p. 132 that there are 2 Yahwehs and that contradicts Deut. 6:4 and Jesus' quotation of it.

   I get the distinct feeling someone was in a major hurry when writing this, don't you? Again, evidently, the idea is to keep anyone from reading the book, because, if they do, they will lose all respect for Buzzard's scholarship, at least what little of it he invested in writing this review. The discussion of God's nature in the book is so far beyond Buzzard's representation that once again the term "misrepresentation" comes to mind. Yes, we use singular pronouns when referring to God generically and to HIS actions when the Bible does not single out a particular divine Person in that context. So? This is the best argument to put forward for unitarianism?
   Next, I am once again left shaking my head at Buzzard's inability to represent the written page with any level of accuracy at all. Let's look at page 132 and see if there is anything about "two Yahwehs" in what I wrote:
Jehovah's Witnesses believe the Trinity is nowhere to be found in Scripture, so they are quite confident that you will fail in attempting to support the Trinity from the Bible. So I press on:
I assume you would agree with me that there is only one true God, Yahweh, or as you pronounce it, Jehovah. I believe the name "Jehovah" refers to the very divine Being, the eternal God who created every thing. We can agree, I assume, that the Father is identified as Jehovah. But I believe that the Bible identifies Jesus as Yahweh as well, and the Spirit is the Spirit of Yahweh. Each of these three Persons share the one divine name, Yahweh or Jehovah. May I show you a few passages of Scripture that make this identification?

   At this point I can go to a large number of passages where the New Testament writers think nothing of applying to the Lord Jesus passages from the Old Testament that were written in reference to Yahweh. But I have found two particular passages to carry the most weight in communicating this truth to those who believe that Yahweh is God, believe the Bible is true, but reject the deity of Christ: Hebrews 1:10-12 in comparison with Psalm 102:25-27, and John 6:39-41 in comparison with Isaiah 6:1-10.

   Did you miss the "two Yahwehs"? Yes, I did too. There's a reason for that, of course. Buzzard is reading a Trinitarian (me) but he refuses to take off his unitarian glasses, so, if the name Yahweh is used of the Father in some contexts, and of the Son in others, and we know the Father and the Son are separate and distinct persons and separate and distinct beings, that makes "two Yahwehs." That is not what I was saying, of course, so to accuse me of violating the Shema is gratuitous at best.
White is forced by his credal orthodoxy to impose an abstract God as a single "what" on the text. That abstract God is not there. The Father of the Lord Jesus is there and he "the only one who is truly God" (John 17:3)which as JAT Robinson of Cambridge noted is a clear "unitary monotheism."

   You will note not a word of the biblical argumentation demonstrating the Bible uses the name Yahweh of Jesus is addressed by Buzzard. No "review" of that argumentation at all.
John White

James. James White. Nice to meet you.
avoids any discussion of the detailed accounts of Matthew and Luke about the origin of the Son (Luke 1:35; Matt. 1:18, 20). There is no preexistent Son here at all. White does not venture into the Trinitarian idea that the Son was "eternally begotten." Is he willing to explain what "eternally coming into existence" means?

   Once again we are left wondering what book Buzzard is responding to. These texts are about the Incarnation, not the "origin" of the Son. I addressed Christ's pre-existence repeatedly in the work in looking at the Carmen Christi at Phil. 2:5-11, Christ as the Creator in Colossians 1:16-17, etc. I affirmed Christ is eternally begotten, I discussed "begotten" as a term of relationship not creation, and provided an extensive discussion of monogenh,j (pp. 201-203).
Overall, this is an easy book to read, but it seems unaware of arguments on the other side and ignores the massive number of texts which subordinate the Son to the Father and speak of the Father as uniquely God.

   We have seen that as yet, Buzzard hasn't actually brought up any meaningful issues that are not in fact discussed in the book! Either he got an amazingly defective copy, missing only particular portions of particular pages, or his ability to read a text fairly is very much in question.
At John 1:1 he has not noted the remark of Dr. Colin Brown that "to read John 1:1 as if it said "in the begining (sic) was the SON' is patently wrong."

   Given the accuracy, or lack thereof, in Buzzard's citations thus far, I would very much like to see the context of such a statement.
There is no Son until verse 14 when the word (God's creative command which reflects the one God perfectly) becomes a human being. Jesus is the Son of God and Luke 1:35 tells us exactly how and why and when he is the Son.

   And this is patently untrue, as documented in the book itself. The Logos is personal in the prologue, not merely a "creative command." To make this kind of bald assertion while pretending to review a book that contained all sorts of information that is directly contrary to your thesis while ignoring that information shows no more fairness or depth of scholarship than we have seen in what has come before. I would suggest that it would be best for Dr. Buzzard to withdraw his "review" and apologize for the numerous misrepresentations it contained and which I have documented above. If he wishes to review the book, I would suggest he do so in an appropriate setting, and Amazon is not such a setting. Try providing references, documentation, and actually reviewing the book fairly. That would be a good first step.
posted at 19:03:55 on 07/13/06 by James R. White - Category: General Apologetics