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Thursday, January 21, 2016

Do You Hear The One I Saw?

A Christmas song lyric played in my mind as I read this book: Do you hear what I hear?

It is commendable and praiseworthy how these three men, three brothers in Christ, have co-authored and penned their discussion concerning the God who is one in their book, The Son of God. The essay format followed by challenges by the other two men and then explanations by the original essayist is an excellent one. I do not feel compelled to disparage or assail any one of them no matter our differences. The format of the book, especially the spirit of the authors, is worthy of imitation by those who would engage in discussion or in that loathsome, grandstanding format of public debate. I understand their struggle to understand the God who is one is not unlike that of other saints in Christ.

I read the book not because I expected to fulfill some unmet need in my understanding of the God who is one.
I did not read it in search of answers or reassurances concerning the deity of Jesus, the Son of God. I believe Dr. Charles Lee Irons, Mr. Danny Andre Dixon and Dr. Dustin R.Smith are confident that the views presented in their book are not new to anyone who has dedicated some time to this subject. What I did find, as I expected, was the usual seeming differences between the views presented. Those seeming differences are alike in that they all apply the mistaken notion of a quantitative numeric value to the God who is one; a given standard misunderstanding among the saints. Even more, but definitely related to this notion, is the significant omission of the Shema and Yahweh of Hosts which amplifies the otherwise complete silence behind these seeming differences. Why, the silence cries out, are these things left silent and kept at a distance?

Although the format of the book is not in the characteristic tone or mode of theology debates its result is very similar still. Theology soup quickly becomes a mix of word definitions, extra-biblical sources, second temple literature, ancient and contemporary commentaries and endless speculations to produce a muddle offering little or no nourishment or edification for the saints in Christ. Rarely can one expect a definitive conclusion to emerge from the discussion or to hear it asserted with confidence. Two ingredients are lacking in the authors’ soup for which any two others could well have been removed to make room for those ingredients.

Arguably, the Shema is the touchstone of any discussion on the God who is one. Yet, except for the most minimal reference (by Dixon) to the Shema it is completely lacking from the discussion by all three men. Similarly, the vision of Yahweh of Hosts (according to the seraphim) as the one whom Isaiah saw in Isaiah 6, except for the most minimal reference (again, by Dixon) is completely lacking from the discussion. The silence concerning these passages cannot be sustained nor can it be dismissed. Both passages are directly concerning the God who is one and both are quoted or alluded to by Jesus or concerning Jesus by the New Testament writers. The silence brings to mind the muteness of the Sadducees, Pharisees and scribes when they withheld any response to the question from Psalm 110 which Jesus posed to them concerning the Christ in Mark 12.

Aside from the absence of these two passages from any substantive part of the discussion the other matter shared in common by Unitarians, Trinitarians, Socinians, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Jews, Muslims and Christians is the erroneous mistaken notion of applying a numeric quantitative value to the term one, as in, God is one. This mistaken notion holds equally true whether that value is two or three. Although the authors are well familiar with the call for disciples to be one; to share a common unity, the fact that there is no place for the Shema in the discussion seems a clear indication that the message of unity around the Shema in Deuteronomy 6 concerning the revelation of the will of God to Moses and subsequent messengers and which was to be learned and taught throughout the generations; is silenced and put aside. This on a discussion concerning the Son of God?

Yes, it is understood research involves the examination and study of a broad spectrum of sources, and in this instance, outside of the Bible. However, this is the bane of research, and in this instance, but for the exception for the most part of Irons and Dixon, the scriptures succumb or are on par or sub par with any other type of writing. It is egregious and striking that Smith’s major source of second temple literature for mining and shoring up his theology yields a lot “notional” or “ideal” musings, both of which represent a long, distant departure from scripture. Again, these men have done a commendable job in the manner they presented their views. Yet, I cannot feel that much of the exchanges which make up the book reflect the same calculated response by the scribe who answered Jesus wisely in Mark 12 and played it safe in the presence of his peers. The scribe was not about to say anything other than to parrot back to Jesus what Jesus had just stated. It is no wonder that while the book may make for great reading and much knowledge and information one ought not expect much edification for the saints of the faith that is in Christ Jesus, our Lord and Savior. Again, the Christmas song lyric (no, it’s not theology) comes to mind with influence the vision of Isaiah: Do you hear the One I saw? The words of Jesus come to mind: He who has ears to hear, let him hear. Read the book, but keep a block of salt within arms reach.

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