Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Is there a Trinity or Functional Godhead? Response to Menashe Walsh

In a recent posting on my blog's Facebook page I did about Mormonism, Menashe Walsh chimed into speaking on the small post and he sent me an article to look at. I won't be focusing on Zechariah 12:10 and I need to look into the issue, but the first section caught my eye and I'll take a look. The original article can be found here: http://menashedovid1.wordpress.com/godhead/

This is what Walsh has written:
"Some of the deniers of the ‘Trinity’ amongst Messianic and Christian groups insist in the term ‘godhead’ rather than ‘Trinity’ for a plural unity of the ‘godhead’ and typically prefer to describe a necessary functional nature to the ‘godhead’. It is not readily clear amongst Messianic and Christian groups if the ‘godhead’ has always been a plural unity (made up of parts, persons and/or functions) or was an absolute unity (not made up of parts, functions, intrinsic duality or plurality but absolutely one1) that became a plural unity as a result of the necessary functional nature of the ‘godhead’ functioning (cf “I the LORD do not change” Mal 3:6). That is to say for example, just before and after creation, the “god” of necessity needed to be a ‘God’ and a ‘Spirit’, hence at creation we see the “the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters” (Gen 1:2b). By referring to the ‘God’ and the ‘Spirit’ it is possible to speak of two concepts in relationship to the ‘godhead’: essence (‘God’) and position (‘Spirit’ hovering over the waters), hence a plurality. If before creation, “god” was an infinite plural unity instead of an absolute infinite unity, then it is possible to say that the ‘godhead’ is composite i.e made up of from the necessary functional parts or persons of Father, Son and Holy Spirit for example. A composite ‘godhead’ however, cannot be eternal, since there must have been a time when the separate parts (parts finite or infinite?) were joined together by a previous cause to make a unified (infinite?) whole. Now it stands to reason for God to be eternal, God has to have no previous cause and no beginning and also no end."

Firstly, I'll show the brief exchange we had on Facebook:



In the comments, Mr Walsh and I both are monotheistic, but obviously he and I would differ on certain points as you can see here. 

Lets take a look at the points on his article one by one:

"Some of the deniers of the ‘Trinity’ amongst Messianic and Christian groups insist in the term ‘godhead’ rather than ‘Trinity’ for a plural unity of the ‘godhead’ and typically prefer to describe a necessary functional nature to the ‘godhead’."

Both Trinitarians (like myself) and Modalists, the unitarian group I think Walsh has in mind in this context, use the term Godhead, but we have a different definition.

Godhead used by Trinitarians refers to how many persons of God there are, whereas Godhead to the Modalist would be referring to one person with many manifestations. There is nothing wrong with the usage of Trinity but obviously Modalists would object because of their denial of it.

"It is not readily clear amongst Messianic and Christian groups if the ‘godhead’ has always been a plural unity (made up of parts, persons and/or functions) or was an absolute unity (not made up of parts, functions, intrinsic duality or plurality but absolutely one1) that became a plural unity as a result of the necessary functional nature of the ‘godhead’ functioning (cf “I the LORD do not change” Mal 3:6). "

Christianity from the beginning has made it clear that Father, Son and Spirit are distinct persons from one another in personhood yet one in being. A compound God, One God in Three Persons. They do have specific functions in bringing man's redemption, The Father sending the Son to die for us and the Son sending the Spirit to indwell his followers to lead a Holy life. I am free to provide Church Fathers, especially Tertullian on this subject. Tertullian in his book Against Praxeas refutes the Sabellian heresy that was flourishing around at that time: http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/tertullian17.html

"That is to say for example, just before and after creation, the “god” of necessity needed to be a ‘God’ and a ‘Spirit’, hence at creation we see the “the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters” (Gen 1:2b). By referring to the ‘God’ and the ‘Spirit’ it is possible to speak of two concepts in relationship to the ‘godhead’: essence (‘God’) and position (‘Spirit’ hovering over the waters), hence a plurality. "

Genesis 1:26 is also another verse that speaks on plurality and obviously in his dealings with missionaries, Walsh is aware of the answer I am giving here, that this section would refer to the Trinity. Genesis 1:2 can refer to the plurality of the persons within the context of the passage. 

""If before creation, “god” was an infinite plural unity instead of an absolute infinite unity, then it is possible to say that the ‘godhead’ is composite i.e made up of from the necessary functional parts or persons of Father, Son and Holy Spirit for example. A composite ‘godhead’ however, cannot be eternal, since there must have been a time when the separate parts (parts finite or infinite?) were joined together by a previous cause to make a unified (infinite?) whole. Now it stands to reason for God to be eternal, God has to have no previous cause and no beginning and also no end."

The Trinity does mention and teach, (or the Bible) that the three Persons have existed eternally. Even a unitarian who denies the Trinity and Modalism would acknowledge in their theology, (the belief the Holy Spirit is the force or presence of God), that the Holy Spirit would be eternal, but Unitarianism we'll put aside for now. 

A composite Godhead, in a Trinitarian context, what the three persons make up, would be co-equal and co-eternal, there isn't a point where they were joined to together, but always were together before heaven and earth existed.

While both Menashe Walsh and I would disagree on the Nature of God, both of us, one way or the other are Monotheists and that is not something that's disputed.

Answering Judaism.

2 comments:

  1. 1. I see a descending order of address in your response going from Rabbi to Mr, and then just Walsh. FYI I am not so bold as to claim to be a Rabbi unlike some in the messianic movement.

    2. It is always difficult to fully reply to points but I would welcome a link to my full article so that relevant points missed (Zech 12) for instance would help readers of both this blog and mine are able to get full context and possibly respond on this thread too.

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    Replies
    1. Fair enough. The descending order is not intending to be insulting. I can happily go back to change certain details.

      As for your article in full, I have posted a link to original so people can look at it.

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