Every Wind of Doctrine
By Ross Drysdale
What are the real roots of Neo-Trinitarianism? Why is the Bible doctrine of the virgin birth of Christ being ‘changed’ by Neo-Trinitarians? Do they deny the father and the son?
Neo-Trinitarianism has combined in its theology some of the strangest and mutually contradictory heresies that have ever slept in the same doctrinal bed. Neo-Trinitarians hope by this synthesis to prop up their Godhead belief on all sides, and like the sharecroppers old shack, “it leans mighty hard.” To prevent a complete collapse they have resorted to digging around in the graveyards of Christendom for theological relics. They’ve exhumed the works of the Cappodocian Fathers, Aquinas, Augustine, Athanasius, plus an assortment of other scholars, philosophers, heresiarchs and schismatics, both old and new. They’ve shined and polished these old doctrinal artifacts, relabeled them, and are now serving them up to the faithful as ‘new’ insights into the ‘real’ Trinity teaching. Let us review some of the components of this ‘impossible dream.’
This is the ancient heresy that teaches the Father suffered with the Son on the Cross (and died!). From the Neo-Trinitarian camp we hear: “Thus Trinitarians would insist” that what Jesus endured, the totality of the Godhead endured. For the fullness of the Godhead was in Christ” (Boyd, p. 188). Neo-Trinitarians include the Father in this suffering: “Thus God can and did experience the forsakenness of the cross, not only in a firsthand personal manner as the Son, but he endured it from the equally (if not more) painful perspective of Father as well” (Boyd, P. 188-189). So the Father experiences being forsaken by the Father! What confusion! How does a person forsake himself?
Tertullian, an ancient church father and a favorite of Neo-Trinitarians, condemned such doctrinal .0-rations as this in his work entitled “Against Praxeas.” He wrote, “We are not guilty of blaspheming against the Lord 00, for we do not maintain that he died after the divine nature, but only after the human.” The ancient Trinitarians believed that God was “impassible,” that is, incapable of suffering. And they so stated it in their creeds. Plowing ever deeper into error, Neo-Trinitarianism reaches the ludicrous conclusion that God not only suffered, but that he died!
Death of God
During the I960’s a radical group of liberal theologians proposed the idea that God had died, the so-called “:God is Dead” theory. I remember the New York Times ran an obituary for God on its editorial page. I was in college at the time and recall how the student body was divided into two opposing sides, based on their reaction to this novelty. Some felt it was blasphemous (myself included); others thought it was humorous. No one thought it was factual. The Neo-Trinitarians, however, have their own “God died” maintain a separate deity for Christ under the leaky umbrella of Trinitariansim, they have been forced into this sad and unenviable doctrinal corner. Listen how they unfold “the message” – “When Christ suffered, God suffered; When Christ wept, God wept; When Christ experienced hunger, God experienced hunger, and when Christ suffered a forsaken death, God suffered a forsaken death” (Boyd, p. 58). There it is in plain print – God died. How God, who is immortal by definition, could “die” and yet remain the ever living God is never explained. Contradictions in terms do not lend themselves easily to explanation. Dr. Boyd attempts to cover himself on this one with a very short blanket by declaring it would be “fruitless” to attempt to “psychologize what it was like for the divine Word to experience a human death” (Boyd, p. 88). A “fruitless” question? I personally think it would be very fruitful to probe this “God died” theory a little further. I think the fruit that would mature under the heat of such an examination would be very interesting. Seeing we are always being challenged for direct statements from the Neo-Trinitarian camp, let’s now challenge them! Where does the Bible ever say “God died?” We have been accused of making doctrinal pronouncements that “sound so off.” What could sound more “off” than this absurdity that God, “‘who neither slumbers nor sleeps,” managed to die? This whole nonsensical idea is the direct result of another Neo-Trinitarian doctrinal acquisition”
“This is a general name given to those early sects who only owned one nature in Christ; and who maintain that the divine and human nature of Jesus Christ were so united as to form only one nature, yet without any change, confusion or mixture of the two natures” (Vincent Milner, Religions of the World, p. 481). As a matter of practicality the monophysites viewed the human and divine natures in Christ in such a way that they were virtually indistinguishable. In theory, they did not deny the two natures; in practice, they did. Whatever was said of the man, was said of God. Anything less than this they considered as “splitting Christ in two.” This is exactly what Dr. Boyd and fellow travelers of the Neo-Trinitarian school believe, though they would insist, no doubt, other wise. For this reason we3 hear them making such statements as “a belief in the incarnation means that everything Christ went through and did, God went through and did” The one person of Jesus cannot be split in two” (Boyd, p. 58). And this, we have seen, includes their unscriptural theory that God died. In fact, a distinguishing characteristic of Monophysitism was the doctrine that God died, known as Theopaschitism: “One person of the Trinity was crucified, hence, the Godhead had suffered in the crucifixion and death of the one natured Christ” (Encyclopedia Britannica, 1971 E. p. 747).
But this theory that everything Christ experienced, God experienced, leads to some embarrassing conclusions for them. For if Christ experienced a virgin birth through Mary, then God also was born of Mary. Then do they call her “Mother of God” as the Catholic Church does? If not, why not? And if Christ was tempted, was God also tempted? They have to answer, yes. However, this contradicts the Bible which says God cannot be tempted (James 1:13). Now we have to chose, the Bible or Dr. Boyd. Which shall it be? Even more perplexing is the fact that Christ did not know the day or the hour of his return. He suffered and endured ignorance on this point. Hence, likewise God endured ignorance on this point, “for what Jesus endured, the totality of the Godhead endured”(Boyd, p. 188). Therefore, no one knew the day or the hour, not the angels, nor the Son, not even “the totality of the Godhead.” “What the man Jesus experienced, God experienced” Boyd tells us (Boyd, p. 65). There is no way out for them; they cannot “pick another door.” None of these anti-scriptural conclusions would be necessary except Neo-Trinitarians believe in an “incarnation” which is in reality, no incarnation at all, but a “transmutation.”
During the Dark Ages men sought for a way to change, or transmute, ordinary metals into gold, in hopes of becoming rich. Of course, it was a failure. Something akin to this is now occurring in the very fertile imaginations of Neo-Trinitarians. For they would change the infinite God, who is Sprit, into a man. This is a far cry from the biblical doctrine of the true incarnation which says God dwelt in a man. There is a tremendous difference between, “in a man,” and “changed into a man.” Actually Neo-Trinitarianism teaches that only a portion of God, the Son (Second Person), was changed into a man. Boyd writes: “For only one who admits that God exists within himself in personally distinct ways can affirm that God could truly humble himself in order to become a real full human being “ while at the same time remaining the transcendent Father “in heaven” (Boyd, p. 188). It’s the same old Trinitarianism we’re used to, but with a new twist. God the Son is changed into a man, the Father remains in heaven: “Either God became a man, or he did not; if he did, then everything that the man Jesus does, God does” (Boyd, p. 65). Oneness believers are chided for their belief in “God in Christ” with these words: “so they (Oneness) must instead postulate a God who takes up residence in a man, but does not become a man” (Boyd, p. 65). Did we postulate this doctrine? No! We learned this doctrine from Christ who taught us God was residing in Him: “the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works” (John 14:10). It was confirmed to us by Paul who wrote “God was in Christ”(I Corinthians 5:18) and “God was manifest in the flesh” (I Timothy 3:16). Please note, The Apostle declared Christ as God manifest in the flesh, not “as flesh.” In (Colossians 2:9, “Paul says ‘All the fullness of the Godhead” dwells bodily in Christ. The Greek word for “dwells” means to “take up permanent residence.” No, we Oneness believers did not postulate “a God who took up residence in a man.” We read it!
And we much prefer our Christ to this recently invented Changling of Neo-Trinitarianism. They can keep their pseudo-incarnation of Christ with its “Mother of God” spin off doctrines.
Modalism is the name often applied to modern day Oneness believers by Trinitarians, (And they don’t mean it as a compliment!) Dr. Boyd repeatedly tars us with that brush throughout his book. Modalism was an ancient teaching that explained God as existing in three modes or manifestations. Early Trinitarians fought hard against it and condemned it at three church councils. r. Boyd praises those “early Fathers who first had to battle this modalistic heresy’” (Boyd, p. 178). He says it was the last of his UPCI beliefs to fall. This occurred in his first year of seminary, after discussions with “educated Trinitarians” (Boyd, p. 24). How strange it is therefore to hear him quote Karl Barth, a modern day modalist, and refer to him as a “well respected Trinitarian.” For this well respected “Trinitarian” defines the persons of the Godhead as “modes of being” (Boyd, p. 173). Karl Rahner, who did not even believe that Jesus Christ was the “supreme God” or ‘Ho theos’ in Greek” (Bowman, Why You Believe the Trinity, p. 91), is also cited as a “well respected Trinitarian.” He would define the “persons” as “manners of subsistence.” Pure Modalism! Sabellius could not have asked from more. Even Dr. Boyd himself uses modalistic language when he refers to the “persons” as “distinct fashions” or “distinct ways” in which God exists. (Boyd, p. 62-64). He compares them to “characteristics” as found in light, and gives his final definition of the Trinity as a God who is “revealed in the manifested activity of the Father, in the Son , through the Holy Spirit”. (Boyd, p. 196). All modalistic terms throughout! In fact, the dictionary defines a “mode” as “way of acting or doing; fashion” (Webster’s New World Dictionary). “Ways” and “Fashions” are the same as “modes”. Hence he believes in a God who exists in three distinct modes, for that’s what “fashions” and “ways” are!
How interesting! He leaves modalism only to return. “Educated Trinitarians” convinced him to drop it; “well respected” ones lead him to pick it up. He need not deny it, for his theology is a variant of Karl Barth’s, the Neo-Orthodox pioneer of such thinking.
Perhaps we can expect a new amplified translation of (John 3:16) to be forthcoming from the Neo-Trinitarians side, to wit:
“For one mode of being so loved the world that he gave another personally distinct way of existing that whosoever believes in the manifested activity of this distinct fashion should not perish but have everlasting life” Soli Deo Gloria!
So far we have witnessed the spectacle of very divergent doctrines being wed to each other in a highly unlikely marriage. Monophysitism has gone down the aisle leaning on the arm of modalism, to join hands with her Patripassian groom. Instead of the familiar Wedding March, we hear the solemn dirge for a God who died due to injuries received from a transmutation: Yet there’s more to come.
The Neo-Trinitarian Virgin Birth
The emphasis placed on the virgin Birth of Christ is one of the distinguishing characteristics which set fundamentalists and true evangelicals apart form their liberal and modernistic counterparts, who view it as an “optional” belief at best, and an unnecessary one at worst. Wherever the Virgin Birth is minimized apostasy will soon appear. The first doctrine to come under fire by religious liberals is the virgin Birth. The Oneness movement is historically known for being very strong on the doctrine of the Virgin Birth. For it not only shows us that the Holy Spirit was the Father of Christ (Matthew 1:20), it also proves that the Sonship of Christ is a direct result of his Virgin Birth and had its beginning at that point in time (Like 1:35). There’s no “eternal” son in the Bible, but, one was “begotten” in the womb of Mary, who is the Son of God. Of course, these two texts relative to the nativity of our Lord have always been a problem for Trinitarians. In order to escape being impaled on the twin horns of this awful dilemma, Neo-Trinitarians have taken to minimizing the Virgin Birth. Shirley Guthrie, a Neo-Trinitarian writer, whom Dr. Boyd recommends in his notes, discusses the Virgin Birth in his book entitled “Christian Doctrine”. He mentions that one can reject the Virgin Birth and still be a Christian. Furthermore, he states that Jesus being the Son of God is not necessarily dependent on the Virgin Birth, for this would be similar to pagan mythology (see, Shirley Guthrie, Christian Doctrine, p. 227-230).
I do not know Dr. Boyd’s exact views on those positions but it is obvious ht opposes our oneness belief in the literal Virgin Birth of is t. He classifies our view of Luke 1:35 as “quite anthromorphic” and a “biologically oriented interpretation” (Boyd, P. 111-112). He further says, “such crass literalism mistakenly attributes to God the human characteristics of sexuality. Such a view, though common among pagan mythologies, is completely foreign to the biblical revelation” (Boyd, p. 63). Therefore, to literally believe the angel’s announcement to Mary that “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee and the power of the highest shall overshadow thee” is “quite anthromorphic,” too “biologically oriented,:” and “attributes to God human characteristics of sexuality” that really belong among “pagan mythologies.” If this is not an attack on the Virgin Birth, what is it? I consider it
a disgraceful frontal assault on our Lord’s nativity. It is all brought forward in effort to offset the last half of Luke 1:35 which says, “therefore that Holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.” Theologians who believe in an “eternally exist t Son” do not
like to be reminded of his origin. It is plain to anyone who reads it that this verse teaches that Christ is the Son of God as a direct result of his Virgin Birth. The Scriptures offer no other explanation for that title. To characterize this verse as “anthromorphic,” “biological,” and “pagan” in order to avoid that conclusion and prop up some “co-eternal second person”
is positively wicked.
Guthrie goes on to argue in his book that the Virgin Birth doctrine
was only meant to state that Christ had no natural father, not necessarily that God became his father through the Virgin Birth (Guthrie p. 229).
Boyd apparently feels the same way for he writes: “When the Bible speaks about ‘the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ’ and Jesus as the ‘Son of God’ it is not referring to God as the literal progenitor of Jesus, or Jesus as the literal progeny of God the Father’” (Boyd, p. 63). “When we, following Scripture, call God “the Father” and Jesus “the Son” we are speaking analogically, not literally. We are saying that the loving relationship that exists between God and Jesus is like that of a father and son” (Boyd, p. 63). And he adds, “But of course devoid of the Physical Characteristics that are present in human father-son relationships.” Did you hear it? The Father is not a literal father (“progenitor”) and the son is not a literal son (“progeny”)! It is all “analogy,” not literal. Boyd uses the words “progenitor” and “progeny” to soften the blow; but it means the same. God and Jesus are not really Father and Son, the relationship is just “like that of a father and son.” They act like Father and Son, but they are not “literally”!
But, if He is not “literally” the Son of God, why is he called by that title? Dr. Boyd has an explanation, for he writes: “I find nothing to suggest that Luke was thinking in primarily biological terms when he records the angel as connecting Jesus’ divine conception with the title ‘Son of God”. The title ‘Son of God’ was primarily a moral and theological title throughout the ancient Semitic world, and throughout Scripture. Heard in this context, it is clear the angel was simply telling Mary that she was going to miraculously conceive a supremely holy child who will be called the on of God. Nothing more can be read into this” (Boyd, p. 111).
But, a lot has been “read out of this”! The title Son of God is nothing extra special; something common throughout the “ancient Semitic world” we are told. It’s a “moral and theological title,” not a result of being begotten by God! In fact, the angel was simply telling Mary that she would give birth to a supremely holy child who could also be referred to by that moral theological title of the “ancient Semitic world” Son of God. The whole thing sounds almost “routine” to hear Dr. Boyd describe it. Quite a rearranging of facts here, I would like to say! The bible has the real explanation for the title Son of God, and it’s not what Dr. Boyd says. The angel specifically informed Mary that it was because the Holy Ghost would come upon her that the child would be called the Son of God. “Therefore, that holy ting shall be called the Son of God.” The angel did not say it was because of a “moral and theological title” circulating in the “ancient Semitic world.” The Holy Ghost, who is God, begat the child, and that is why He is the Son of God. “For that which is begotten in her is of the Holy Ghost” (Matthew 1:20).
How different from the biblical account is this Neo-Trinitarian blasphemy. To the New Testament question, “What think ye of the Christ, whose son is He?” Their only response could be, “no one’s, really”!
Denial Of The Father And The Son
The Apostle John wrote: “Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son” (I John 2:22). This is a sol warning: to deny the Father and the Son is anti- Christ. Yet, this is exactly what Neo-Trinitarians have done. There is no real Father and Son to them. It is all analogy, not literal. God is not literally the Father; Jesus is not literally the Son. Boyd tells us that the loving relationship that exists between God and Jesus is only “like that of a Father and Son” for they are not really Father and Son; no literal “progenitor or progeny.” It’s just a literary “analogy.” That’s why he describes .. ‘s participation in the “devastating nightmare” of the cross as “something like a perfectly loving parent, as Father” (Boyd, p. 186). They are always “like” Father and Son, but never are; that would be literal, and they are only analogous. If I told you: “Mr. Jones treats Bobby just like his own son,” you would know one thing for sure, Bobby is not Mr. Jones’ real son. So when Neo-Trinitarians talk about Jesus being “like” a son, you know they mean he is really not a son. They are, therefore, denying the Father and the Son; and he is Anti-Christ that denieth the Father and the Son.”
Dr. Boyd would have done well to have stayed in that parking lot on that windy October night. He wouldn’t be in this predicament now. Neo-Trinitarians, in their efforts to overturn Biblical Oneness, have plunged much deeper into heresy than their Classical Trinitarian predecessors ever dreamed of. They boldly go “where no man has gone before.” They have crossed the Rubicon however with this “non-literal Son” doctrine. There’s no turning back. Like Macbeth, they are “so steeped in blood tis easier to wade on than to return.” Where will this anti-scriptural obsession lead them next? They have already trod the paths of Patripassianism, Monophysitism, Theopaschitism, Modalism, Death of God, Neo-Orthodoxy, Modernism. Where next, we can only wonder?
Now they have their new message of the hour, no literal Father or Son. This is where all their reasoning has led them. The cat is finally out of the bag. All hell is rejoicing at this development. They imply that we are sexually obsessed, crass, anthromorphic, and biologically oriented for believing in a Biblical Virgin Birth. They believe Christ was an eternally existing “Fashion” therefore Luke 1:35 becomes a most “unfashionable” verse for them. They try to “back burner” verses referring to Christ as Son of God by saying it was a “moral and theological title throughout the ancient Semitic world, and throughout the Bible.” Funny, I don’t remember anyone else being referred to as the Son of God “throughout the Bible.” Do you? Is Dr. Boyd thinking of Adam? No teaching so obnoxious has ever reared its head in Church History. It was all conceived in spiritual darkness and midwifed into existence by German theologians. It is no part of the Word of God, and will damn anyone to hell who believes it.
This article “Every Wind of Doctrine” by Ross Drysdale is excerpted from his book published by Apostolic Truth Press, 1994.