On (Christian) Unitarianism and 1 Corinthians 8:6
edit: for some odd reason I had misspelt the individual’s name.
I have recently been engaged in a series of discussions concerning the issue of whether Jesus is God or something other than God, namely the Son of God. While your average Christian would see no contradiction in affirming both statements, the individual with whom I had the pleasure of discussing with seemed to have a vastly different understanding of what these terms meant. It was clear that to him, it denoted some inferiority in ontological being yet since I never actually asked him to expound on his understanding of this title, I won’t go into a discussion of it either. Now before I continue with the subject proper, I should mention that this post should be read in unison with these other two as well. Anyway, let us begin.
“I see things like Jesus was tempted in all points like as we are and yet without sin. I see another verse in James where it says let no man say when he is tempted that he is tempted of God; for God cannot be tempted of evil. To you your own question; how can both of these verses be true if Jesus is God. The only way I see no conflict is if we believe that the Father is God and Jesus is the Son of God. There is only one God. [...] [A]fter years of studying this and with a trinitarian background; I am comfortable with what I believe. I believe along with Paul waht [sic] is written in 1 Corinthians 8:6 which reads; “But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all thngs [sic], and we by him.” One God the Father—-One Lord Jesus Christ. Not one place in the scripture is Jesus called God. [...] I do not know where you get your definition fo Kyriios. Strongs’s define it is an expression of respect and reverence which would certainly be given to Jesus. This is the word usually associate with the word Lord in the New Testament. In the old Testament we usually find the word LORD with all capital letters and that word means JEHOVAH which is defined ass [sic] the proper name of the one true God. [...] I think the scripture where you say others say that Jesus is God are taken in a way different [sense] than what the writers meant. We just see it differently. You have to read things into the scripture that is not there. I do not do that.” — Landsway (emphasis mine)
The above serves to give the reader some background information concerning why I’m typing out this post. While this article will mainly concern itself with 1 Corinthians 8:6, the reader will note that James 1:13 is brought up and my response to that (albeit towards a different person who also holds a different theological disposition) can be found here. As one will note (concerning my exposition of James 1:13), the strength of my argument lay in the fact that it was consistent and it did not lead to contradictions when examined in light of the entire corpus of the author’s writing. It is all too easy to single out a verse and claim that such an author meant to say such-and-such a thing yet the proper method to be undertaken in order to understand what an author taught is to examine his or her work in its entirety and contrast the statement in question against the author’s philosophy. This held true for the citation from the epistle of James and likewise, as we will see, for Paul’s letter to the Corinthians.
“yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.” — 1 Corinthians 8:6 NIV
According to Landsway, the above verse is quite emphatic in teaching that there is only one God (to which all trinitarians agree) yet that this God is existent only as the Father to which the Son and the Holy Spirit are either inferior separate beings (that is to say, something less than God) or the power of God, respectively. At this point I have to reiterate that I did not quite get an explanation concerning the status of the Second nor Third Person of the Holy Trinity (in the aforementioned author’s theology) but then again, this isn’t too important for our purpose. All we need to understand at the moment is that the author distinguishes Christ from God (once more, not merely from the Father as all trinitarians do, but from the being of God himself). Now, it would seem appropriate to say a few things concerning the term Lord before we move on:
The venerable biblical tradition of Sacred Scripture, known as the Old Testament, displays a series of divine appellations, among which is the sacred name of God revealed in the tetragrammaton YHWH הךהי. As an expression of the infinite greatness and majesty of God, it was held to be unpronounceable and hence was replaced during the reading of Sacred Scripture by means of the use of an alternate name: Adonai, which means “Lord.” The Greek translation of the Old Testament, the so-called Septuagint, dating back to the last centuries prior to the Christian era, had regularly rendered the Hebrew tetragrammaton with the Greek word Kyrios, which means “Lord.” Since the text of the Septuagint constituted the Bible of the first generation of Greek-speaking Christians, in which language all the books of the New Testament were also written, these Christians, too, from the beginning never pronounced the divine tetragrammaton. Something similar happened likewise for Latin-speaking Christians, whose literature began to emerge from the second century, as first the Vetus Latina and, later, the Vulgate of St. Jerome attest. In these translations, too, the tetragrammaton was regularly replaced with the Latin word Dominus, corresponding both to the Hebrew Adonai and to the Greek Kyrios. [...] When in fact St. Paul, with regard to the crucifixion, writes that “God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name” (Phil 2:9), he does not mean any name other than “Lord,” for he continues by saying, “and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord” (Phil 2:11; cf. Is 42:8: “I am the Lord; that is my name.”) The attribution of this title to the risen Christ corresponds exactly to the proclamation of his divinity. The title in fact becomes interchangeable between the God of Israel and the Messiah of the Christian faith, even though it is not in fact one of the titles used for the Messiah of Israel. — adoremus.org
Given that I was asked where exactly I received my understanding of the word Kyrios, I believe that the above answers that question quite nicely. In fact, we could in theory end here, but there is still a bit more that I wish to talk about concerning the 1 Corinthians citation because when properly understood (similar to that from the Epistle of James) it proves to be quite detrimental for the Unitarian. When reading the verse in question, the logic of the Unitarian is as follows:
1. There is only one God—the Father.
2. Jesus is not the Father.
3. Therefore, Jesus is not God. (1 & 2)
Now if the Unitarian is to be consistent, they would conversely have to believe that this very verse also conclusively teaches that there is only one Lord: Christ. Given that the Father is not Christ, the Father is not (a/the) Lord. This is quite the heretical position that the Unitarian has forced himself into but if they are to be consistent then they can’t help but affirm this very thing. Now I have never met a Unitarian who believed the latter syllogism of 1 Corinthians 8:6 (that is, if we assume that what the verse teaches is actually Christ’s distinction from God) and rightly so because it would then contradict what the entire bible teaches, namely that God is the Lord. By Lord I do not merely mean Yahweh (for often is Lord substituted for the Divine name, as in Gen. 18:1) but Lord as in Kyrios/Adonai (as is presented in Gen. 18:27 where it stands in place for Adonai). Now here the Unitarian finds himself with a contradiction: if their logic is correct then Christ is the Lord, yet the Genesis citations are quite clear in the fact that they are speaking of Yahweh, the God of Israel whom Unitarians claim is not Christ. Unlike the author’s claim of not having to read anything into scripture, when they come to the verse in question, they must somehow read into it the statement that there are at the very least two Lords—Christ and the Father—or else they are stuck in a hopeless contradiction.
Yet the matter does not end there. Repeatedly throughout the New Testament, Christ is called “Lord of Lords” (Rev. 17:14; 19:13-16). Now if the Father is Lord, and Christ is Lord, but Christ is called the “Lord of Lords” would it then not follow that Christ is the Lord of the Father? Once more Unitarians would deny this outcome but it’s quite clear that their logic leads to this conclusion. They may try to point out various verses where the Christ comes in clear submission to the Father’s will but this would only serve to show how numerous are the contradictions that their theology entails (while if we understand the Trinity to be taught within the Bible, if we understand the matter of the Hypostatic Union, and that Christ came as the second Adam, to succeed where the first had failed and to redeem the souls of men, then there is no contradiction present). If that weren’t all, if we are to posit a clear distinction between God and Jesus Christ, then the verse in question itself is heretical and contradicts the Old Testament where it says, “This is what the Lord says—your Redeemer and Creator: ‘I am the Lord, who made all things. I alone stretched out the heavens. Who was with me when I made the earth?'” (Isaiah 44:24). If Christ is not God then there are two separate individuals who created everything that exists, one is Yahweh and the other is Christ. Yet Yahweh says that he did everything by himself. Is God a liar? And how could Christ then not be a separate God if he also created all things yet is himself not the Father/Yahweh (this is not the position of the Trinitarian but rather the position that Unitarianism drives one towards)? If this is so, then what are we to make of this:
“But the Lord is the only true God. [...] Say this to those who worship other gods: ‘Your so-called gods, who did not make the heavens and earth, will vanish from the earth and from under the heavens.'” — Jeremiah 10:10-11 NLT
In the above Yahweh quite clearly claims to be the only God and says that he will destroy all other so-called gods, all the ones who have not created the heavens and the earth. Yet according to the implications of the Landsway’s theology, after Yahweh has done this, there will be two Gods left, Christ and Yahweh. So in the end, applying Unitarianism to 1 Corinthians 8:6 does not safekeep the notion of only one God but rather affirms polytheism! While the Trinity affirms that Christ is Yahweh and that there is only one God, Unitarianism leads to the position that Christ is himself a separate God and that there are at the least two Gods, of whom one has a predilection for masquerading as the sole Creator-God. There is no need for me to mention how blasphemous this is.
Once more, according to the above verse, the mark of being the only true God is the fact that this being created the heavens and the earth (also see Gen. 1:1). Any so-called deity who has not done this is not God. Yet 1 Corinthians 8:6 affirms that Christ did create the heavens and the earth along with everything else in existence. Therefore by the criteria of the Bible itself, Christ is God. Now the problem is that since Unitarians believe Christ to be a being distinct from the LORD, then rather than denying the deity of Christ, Unitarians deny the oneness of God.
I am almost at the end but before that, I wish to say a few more things. The very fact that Christ is called the Lord, moreover the very fact that he is given the title “Lord of Lords” should alert us to the fact that Christ is Yahweh. The very title ‘Lord of Lords’ is a title of Yahweh, the God of Israel (Deut. 10:17; Ps. 136:3)! Should we be surprised that Jesus claimed to have been sent by God? Not if we have a proper understanding of scripture for Yahweh himself declared that he would come to dwell among his creation. Many nations would become his people and on that day, quite shockingly enough, we would know that Yahweh Almighty had sent him to us (Zech. 2:10-11)! Notice that Yahweh is sent by another who is also Yahweh yet Yahweh consistently claims to be only one. Is this not what the Trinity teaches? That there is One God, omnipotent and eternal yet within his being he is a plurality of more than one person?
There is more that I could mention concerning the verse that this article is centered on but I’m too tired and think that the above is enough for today. But once more, rather than positing a distinction between God and Christ, the verse, for one thing, posits a distinction within the being of God. In that there is “but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord [Yahweh], Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.” If the Father is God, and God is Yahweh, and if it follows that Christ is Yahweh then he is also God. That said, in order to distinguish Christ from the Father the New Testament regularly employs the term God (Theos), for the Father and the term Lord (Kyrios), for the Son yet both these terms mean to express the same idea (that the being who is spoken of is in fact the one true God, Yahweh).
Now, what I wish for the reader to take from this article (other than the fact that Christ Jesus is God) is the consistency within my argument. It is able to harmonize all factors without leading to insurmountable contradictions while Unitarianism is rife with these and goes so far as embracing polytheism. If we believe that the Holy Spirit is the author of the Bible (and as such the bible has only one author) then we must understand that our exegesis must conform to the general philosophy of this author without leading to contradictions with other statements said by this person (such as how Christ could then not be God when the author has clearly stated that the mark of being the one true God is the fact of having created the heavens and the earth and then goes on to identify the Christ as the Creator of everything in existence). Therefore, one must take scripture as a whole when examining any verse and see how the verse in question fits in with the message of the Bible. As it comes to Unitarianism, it simply does not conform to what God has revealed in his word. The simple fact is that biblical Christianity is monotheistic instead of polytheistic, and trinitarian instead unitarian.
In closing, it is ironic that the very text which Unitarians would appeal to in order to deny the deity of Christ is the very text that, when properly understood, commands his worship as God. I believe this to be in keeping with God’s modus operandi (and sense of humour). He has always been about pulling the carpet from under the feet of his detractors (not to say that Landsway is such a one; merely that the very things which we might view as being problematic to our personal conception of God are oftentimes the very things that cement his glory when rightly understood):
“But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are,29 so that no one may boast before him.” — 1 Corinthians 1:27-29 NIV
Truly, “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! ‘Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?’ Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them?’ For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.” Incidentally this doxology also affirms the divinity of Christ. That is, in speaking of God, Paul claims that “from him and through him” were all things made. Now, aside from outright calling Christ God in his introduction to his gospel, the Beloved Disciple furthermore confirms that all things were created through the Word (John 1:1-3). Hence, if all things are then created through God, if the very Bible opens up with the claim that the creator of the heavens and the earth is God, if God claims that he created everything alone, and if—aside from Christ being explicitly called God (2 Peter 1:1)—he is also called the creator of all things (Colossians 1:15-17) then on what basis can anyone continue to claim that Jesus Christ is not God? Certainly not on the basis of honesty.
Addendum: I realize now that the statement was made that nowhere in scripture is Christ clearly called God and while I think that the above is quite clear enough, here is another simple refutation of this statement:
I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying, my conscience confirms it through the Holy Spirit— 2 I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people, those of my own race, 4 the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption to sonship; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. 5 Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of the Messiah, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen. — Romans 9:1-5 NIV