Saturday, 12 March 2016

Debate Analysis: Abdurraheem Green and Jonathan McLatchie on Trinity and Tauhid - IERA and Apologetics Academy

I've scrambled to get this on to the blog. Overlook any typos and mistakes, trust me I rushed to transfer my notes into something that you could follow

Bit of an uncomfortable discussion. Both parties pitched up with different intentions and expectations. Think about having a kick about with your mates. One of your mates turns up wearing a full kit, football boots and shin pad (there's always one of those guys in every group!). While your other mate has a wedding to go to in a few minutes - he's spruced up wearing a tuxedo.

Jonathan was wearing the full kit - he came for a debate and was getting his metaphorical slide tackles in (polemics) while Abdurraheem just came for a quick chat.

Abdurraheem Green starts off by giving an outline of his journey to Islam from Christianity. The Trinity was complex and problematic for Green - he was drawn to the simplicity of Tawheed. Green explains Tawheed and says the term is not Scriptural and it literally means making something one - it's a reference to the Oneness of God. He also explains the universality of the religion in that it's a continuation of the same message of previous Prophets.

Jonathan McLatchie describes the Trinity and he affirms he gets this concept from taking the Bible as a whole rather than from one particular verse or passage outlining this belief. In support of this he did cite the Shema in Deut 6 pointing to pure monotheism and then (later on) he references the Alpha and Omega title given to Jesus as being a divine title (Rev) which is attributed to Yahweh in Isaiah 44:6. Jonathan also cites John 17:5 and draws it in with Isaiah 42:8 suggesting Jesus has the same glory as God. He does not explain how he accepts the Holy Spirit into this Godhead though. Jonathan has had this issue before where he was asked to give a proof text for the Trinity idea and just wound up giving a text that he considered to affirm Jesus as divine

The obvious difference here, the Muslim can easily point to Quranic Verses which affirm Tawheed (Pure Abrahamic monotheism) whilst Jonathan McLatchie and other 'orthodox' Trinitarian Christians would struggle or more realistically, the majority would be unable to amalgamate numerous Bible verses to support the Trinity idea.

Green missed an opportunity here. It would have been useful if he asked McLatchie to show support for the 3 persons of the Trinitarian Godhead. I've never seen this done in a debate/discussion - no Trinitarian apologist has done such in a debate setting. Why? Trinitarians, be honest, has anybody done that in your church or Sunday school and convinced you?

A Developed Apologetic

It didn't take Jonathan McLatchie long to go into the Law of Non-Contradiction. This is interesting as it seems to be a common theme amongst Trinitarians. RC Sproul begins with this in his book on the Trinity too IIRC. You can see Trinitarians have a developed apologetic around this which has been honed with arguments against it in mind - clearly many do label it as contradictory so one can understand why they go into this pre-emptive spiel right off the bat. However, I think it's best not label it contradictory in these types of discussions as if you understand that Trinitarian framework you wouldn't label it contradictory in the sense Jonathan was pre-empting against - you'd understand they don't conflate the WHO's with the 1 WHAT. A key question is whether it's a contradiction to the texts. For instance do the singular pronouns used by God according to the Old Testament (OT) not cause a problem for the Trinitarian position of 3 in 1? Biblical Unitarians certainly believe so.

Tertulian heretic, good thing John Calvin wasn't about!

Jonathan McLatchie is upfront in apprising - thought I'd use a fancy word :) - the audience of the history behind the word 'Trinity'. Tertulian was the first person to use the term 'Trinity', Jonathan tells us in his Scottish brogue.

Interestingly enough, Tertullian appears to be the first person to introduce the word persona into Christian theology.

FYI: Tertulian would be deemed a heretic by most Christians of today.

Ignatius and Polycarp, is it fair to say these chaps were Trinitarians?

Mr McLatchie (thought I'd do the annoying James White stuff and go all formal - it's not much fun and seems stiff - metaphorically tosses the bow-tie away) said Ignatius and Polycarp affirmed Trinitarian concepts around the 11 min mark but what's he referring to here?

Remember the Trinity is 3 in 1. What text does he draw upon here to support the assertion these gentlemen were Trinitarians? I don't think it's right to intimate they held to the same beliefs as Jonathan and orthodox Trinitarians of today - especially given our investigations into Ignatius.
We can see a discussion on Ignatius and Trinity ideas here

An old polemic..

I don't get the presupposition Trinitarians come with when they talk about the Quran. They say the Quran should address their theological views of the Trinity. Why aren't they consistent and presuppose their NT should address the Jews' Unitarian theology?

Inconsistency is the sign of  a bad argument.

Trinitarians such as James White fall into this fallacy - all because they build their arguments on false premises. Sadly, some folk just don't see it. Good thing I and others are about. I and these others are one :)

It didn't take long before the polemic of 'Mary in the Trinity' was proffered. This is not an intellectually honest argument, James White has a lot of explaining to do here as he is popularising this old missionary polemic. If White considers this a valid argument then he's opening the gate for a lot of bad arguments against the Bible if he's consistent. He's consistently inconsistent. Ohhhh that old cheesy line :)

Denouncing Maryoloatry is not the same as talking about the Trinity. I'm not going to dwell on it, it's already been discussed in this video

Does Quran Teach Mary is in the Trinity? Ali Ataie and Taylor Marshall Crush Christian Polemics

To be clear, Jonathan is just repeating these arguments, so too is James White. However, one would call for discernment here rather than repetition.

Abdurraheem does touch on it. He does mention Maryolotry, he answers it well once he gets into it. I like the way he takes it all the way back to Tawheed.

Having said that, we really need to further our research into the theology of Christian groups in 7th century Arabia. The standard line is that these people consisted of Monophysites and Nestorians. If you have a look at Salman Al Farsi's story it's indicating these people even had different Scripture to what we see in churches today, why not different beliefs? These communities were cut off from the Byzantine empire and were, perhaps, exiles or refugees in that area. A really interesting area of research. Sop bombing the Middle East, get a few archeological digs set up!

Angry Christian extremists, what do yo say? Care to stop calling for military intervention in Muslim countries...

Sonship and Polytheistic

Jonathan McLatchie states there's a conflict between the Quran and the doctrine concerning the Sonship. Jonathan operates from his theological framework of an Eternal sonship. I think this is quite naive to think in this way - imposing one's understanding of this doctrine onto Christians in the Arabian peninsula. In fact, would Jonathan even impose his understanding of the sonship and trinity onto the Christian in the pew ahead of him this Sunday? IIRC, on the Trinity Channel, he has stated 90% of Christians would give a heresy if they were asked to explain the Trinity idea!

I think when Triniarians keep superficial polemics like these going they aren't being intellectually honest, consistent and fair.

Perhaps I will do a separate post or video on this argument in the future. For now, I think most people can see it to be an unconvincing line of argumentation.

Abdurraheem Green labels the Trinity polytheistic. That should have set a few pulses racing amongst the Christian audience. He states the Quran does not get into complex theological discussions and deals with broad principles. Theology of the son being literally God comes from the reasoning my son is like me...

"Coming after the Trinity"

Quran 4:171 - Do not say 3

Jonathan McLatchie suggests this is talking about 3 gods and thus getting the Trinity theology mixed up. This argument doesn't make sense. The simple statement of do not say 3 would refute the 3 in 1 concept in any case. Later in this verse, the Quran further shows the Trinity (whether Tritheism or the orthodox Trinity idea) is false by stating innama Allah ilah wahid (Allah is only one god).

As for Jonathan's claim it suggests 3 divine beings (gods).Jonathan and other Trinitarians miss the boat here and end up talking across Muslims. In Islamic theology any being put to the level of God is considered as being taken as a God thus Jonathan does have 3; God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. This is a really contrived and fallacious argument from old missionary tomes being re-energised by Trinitarian folk like James White.

This is a video made by darkness2noor. Watch it at least from the 10 min timeframe, you will see Yusuf Ismail uses Quran 9:31 and calls for consistency, why do Trinitarians not say the scholars and monks are taught to be part of the Trinity?

How does one expect to have serious and meaningful dialogue when one cannot even get passed superficial Trinitarian polemics?

Here's the thing, Jonathan is using his theological understanding of the Trinity idea to attack the Quran but if he looked at it from our point of view - from Islamic theology - he would see there's no issue here. As outlined above. These polemics James White and others repeatedly use all seem irrelevant and boring.

Mr Green (sounds a bit Reservoir Dogs-ish) gets frustrated!

Abdurraheem Green seemed to be getting frustrated at Jonathan's lines of argumentation, for him it all seemed to be irrelevant - understandably so. Most lay Christians don't understand the Trinity. The Quran is talking to these people and also people versed in theology as Mr Green puts it. I can't disagree.

Uncreated Word of God argument

I'm not sure if Abdurraheem Green thought this through but, without any impetus from Justin or Jonathan, he alludes to the Trinitarian polemic on the Eternality of the Quran. He was difficult to follow here. Why he brought it up I'm not sure. If I was to guess I think he was trying to pre-empt Jonathan McLatchie after observing Jonathan was getting quite polemical in this discussion.

Jonathan was making this Shamoun-esque argument a few months ago. Here's a short article outlining the fallacies of this argument which apologists for the Trinity make.

Again, I think arguments like this from Trinitarians do not  show their side in a good light.
Clear and obvious

Abdurraheem Green contends the Trinitarian Christians are focussing on ambiguities in the New Testament and Old Testament to come to the Trinity belief while the unambiguous verses clearly show Jesus to be a man (Green appeals to ' the Father is Greater than I' in John 14:28 and Jesus' lack of knowledge of the day or hour, Matt 24:36). He calls for accuracy.

Limited Man

In response to John 14:28,  Jonathan McLatchie appeals to a reading of the entirety of the verse and then to John 17:5. However, Jonatan stops short and misses out John 17:22 where the glory is given to others so it's problematic for Trinitarians to use this type of argumentation to support the idea Jesus is the same substance as God.

Jonathan plays the 'Jesus opted to limit himself' card. This is the doctrine of Kenosis - as we have seen via Prof. Dale Martin this is a complex theory which has led some theologians to believe Jesus did not have to know he was divine. Jonathan also uses the idea of Kenosis to explain his thoughts on Jesus p not knowing the hour.

However, Jonathan Mclatchie's idea does not stack up. How so? Well the verse also teaches the Holy Spirit did not know the Hour - Jonathan as a Trinitarian would believe the Holy Spirit is the same ousia (essence) as the Father. Why does the Holy Spirit not know? The idea of kenosis and opting to limit oneself does not explain this issue for the Trinitarians. Trinitarians are in a bind here. The unravelling of the Trinity idea is apparent here - surely even to staunch Triniarians. Go on take that step towards pure Abrahamic monotheism..

Jewish Christians

Abdurraheem Green mentions Jewish Christians who seemingly did not believe in the Trinity idea. The orthodoxy of today cannot be applied to all early groups of Christians. Christianity was variegated -  just like it is today.

Jonathan McLatchie, really?

Jonathan claims to be able to historically demonstrate Jesus considered himself God and taught his followers. This contradicts Larry Hurtado and Bart Ehrman.

Persecution, the reason behind the lack of early historical support for the Trinity idea?

Jonathan McLatchie talks about the church having faced intense persecution until the edict of Milan in 313 (alluding to the reason why the Trinity was not formalised prior to the 4th century). Does this argument stand up to scrutiny? I'm going through Amanda Threlfall-Holmes' book on the history of Christianity and here's something we can glean from her work which does pose some problems with the idea of persecution being behind the late formulation of the Trinity idea. I grabbed this chunk from my notes on that book thus far:

Apart from Emperor Nero's reign 54-68 AD the persecution from the Roman Empire was sporadic and local until 250AD. Roman society was essentially pluralistic and tolerated most religions as long as they did not threaten the stability of the Empire (civil disobedience). Christians were seen as anti-social as they did not partake in pagan traditions and were seen as an economic threat in instances of them refusing the eat meat sacrificed to idols.

Persecutions intensified from the mid 3rd century to the early 4th century as the Roman Empire began to hit hard times. These difficulties were blamed on a moving away from the old gods. Emperor Decius demanded sacrifices from every household. Each household was issued a certificate of compliance. Christians were persecuted when they refused to comply although many did comply or manage to purchase a certificate. Emperor Diocletian (303-305) intensified the persecution further

Nicea and the canon?

Jonathan McLatchie is correct in saying the Council of Nicea had nothing to do with deciding the canon of the Bible. There's no evidence it discussed the canon. I hear people linking the canon to Nicaea - correcting misunderstandings is a good thing

The council was about the Arian controversy so it was really about Christology.

MUSLIMS involved in dawah DO NOT make this mistake. DO NOT link Nicea with the NT canon. DON'T do it. Accuracy helps build trust and confidence in YOU.

Some bizarre comments from Jonathan McLatchie of the Apologetics Academy

"Church fathers unanimously teach the doctrine of the Trinity and the deity of Christ from way back, all the way to the apostles themselves". The example he gives is Ignatius of Antioch teaching the "hypostatic union" in a hymn.

See the link to Ignatius and Trinity; one cannot say Ignatius taught the Trinity idea. Really odd comment.

I don't believe anybody can substantiate the apostles believed in the doctrine of the Trinity. The Trinity idea obviously came about later.

"Peter, Paul, John and James taught the Trinity" - is it really plausible? Where's the evidence for this? In fact this video shows Paul did not believe in the Trinity idea.

Abdurraheem Green labels Jonathan McLatchie's statement slightly dishonest. The discussion gets even messier. Jonathan sounds unnerved and makes a comment that was outrageous - Jonathan continues with the odd comments the "word Trinity is closer to the Bible than what Tauhid is to the Quran" This has been demonstrated to be untrue here.

"Ignatius and Polycarp were disciples of John and both taught the Trinity". We've touched on this above, however, can Jonathan provide us proof for this claim concerning the Trinity?


Abdurraheem Green was appealing to unambiguity while Jonathan McLatchie was relying on ambiguities to support the Trinity idea.

Look folks, we must not say of God that which is not true. How one can claim God is triune without any evidence for it is putting oneself in spiritual danger. Why believe in the Trinity? There's no reason to believe in it. If God wanted you to believe in it don't you not think He would have had Moses, Abraham, Jesus and Muhammad teach it?

The fact nobody can find any statement of any of those Prophets (pbut) teaching a Trinity idea speaks volumes. Trinitarians, please think about it. Peace.

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