Rightly Divided

by Pannir Santiago
29 November 2009

The Bereans got it right from the outset, even earning Paul’s commendation on their zealous searching of the scriptures. The searching included questioning any discrepancies in the gospel.

We are the Bereans’ spiritual descendents as restorationists, questioning the prevailing errors of the day and seeking a return to the unadulterated original teachings of the church. However, I have come to the worrying realization that, in the interest of avoiding conflict or controversy, we have lost some of that ability to question. As they say, “use it or lose it.” Hence, we have lost the discerning mindset and become content with treading the same safe ground over and over again.

Our preaching is generally tame and predictable. In my 40 years as a card carrying member of the church of Christ, including 14 years in the US, I have yet to hear a sermon preached or lesson taught on the subject of the Godhead. Because we have omitted to discuss weightier matters of theology such as this, we have lost much ground to those who would snigger at our indecisiveness in this matter.

Our believing children are exposed to ridicule and rebuttals and become butts of jokes because of their belief in the three natures / aspects of the Godhead. Unable to withstand these attacks, they sometimes end up unable to stand for the truth, and crumble away thinking that the truth stands for nothing.

Had we addressed this earlier in our Bible studies, we would have stopped the debate long ago by simply asserting that “trinity” is not taught in the Bible. The term is of Latin origin and Roman Catholic in usage. To the non-Christian, Trinity evokes the Hindu trinity of Brahma, Shiva and Vishnu; the Latin triad of Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto; or the Greek Trio of Zeus, Hades, and Poseidon. Unlike the trinity, the Godhead (or Godhood) is not 3 discrete beings, but 3 natures or personalities of the one and only God.

They laugh at our “polytheism” because they think that our Theos is just like the Hindu, Roman, and Greek deities. Shouldn’t we be laughing at them for first failing to check their facts before asking the question?  There is a difference between the two words. It is up to the Christian to seek and find it.

Paul, being a Jew of Jews, as he claims (Philippians 3:5) would have been acutely aware of Jesus’ claim to be God. That was one of the reasons he persecuted the church, pre-Damascus road. So why didn’t he elaborate on this important theology beyond making passing statements and mere inferences about Jesus’ divinity? Perhaps the early Christians were so attuned to the concept that no elaboration was needed.

Before we move on: If this looks like washing dirty linen in public (assuming the public reads the Christian Message, it would help to know that the linen does get cleaned. Is the opposite action of sweeping it under the carpet, a prettier option? So, there. While dismissing the meaningless liberalism of the so-called modern higher criticism, should we also do away with Berean critical thinking?

In our reading of the NT, we come across some seeming inconsistencies. At first blush, it seems impossible to digest, but we know that scripture is inspired and irrefutable. That is not the point. The real question is, have we addressed these dichotomies and internal inconsistencies?  Or, have we had a “Passover” moment, conveniently avoiding the discussion so as to avoid controversy? Is ours such a spirit of timidity?

Consider these passages from Paul:

1. There is only one God (Rom 3:30,)

2. The Father is God (1 Cor 8:6)

3. Jesus is God (John 1.1)

4. The Holy Spirit is God (1 Cor 6:19)

5. Jesus is not the Father (John 1:1, Luke 3:21-22)

6. Jesus is not the Spirit (Luke 3:21-22)

7. The Father is not the Spirit (Luke 3:21-22)

The one who sniggers at our faith will have a field day with this. Christian, can you defend this?

Consider these passages in Paul, which appear to contradict:-

The law is abolished – Rom 7:1-6 , Gal 3:15 – 4:7, 2 Cor  3: 7 ff

The law should be fulfilled by Christians – Rom 13: 8-10, Gal 5:14

Paul expects to be physically alive at the second coming – 1 Thess 4:13 – 18

Christian will receive resurrection body at death not at judgement – 2 Cor 5:1-10

One is not justified by works – Rom 4:5

Those who practice (works) evil will not enter heaven – Gal 5:19 -21, 1 Cor 6: 9 -11

Obedience (works) is necessary for justification – Rom 2:6 -11, 1 Cor 9: 24 – 10: 22, 2 Cor 5:10

“Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing – 1 Corinthians 7:19

Keeping God’s commandment is what counts.”  Wasn’t circumcision one of God’s commandments?

No more distinction between Jew and Gentile – Gal 3:28

Old Israel has a special salvation coming for it – Rom 11

No distinction between man and woman – Gal 3:28

Man is above woman –   1 Cor 11:3 – 16

We are sinners and judged because of our sin in Adam – Rom 15: 12 – 19

We are judged based on our own individual sin – Rom 2: 12 -16

Not being perturbed or perplexed by these seeming irregularities is a serious problem – a sign of complacency. The Bereans were perturbed, and took proper steps to remedy the situation. They searched.

The bible has a perfect resolution to these puzzles. Our God is not the author of confusion. It is up to the mature and maturing Christian to ponder and peruse the scriptures like the Bereans did. This article is not going to give a free handout of answers to the above questions. It gives homework assignment!  The answers will have to wait for a later edition. Perhaps, a diligent brother or sister can write a good response, as a result of pondering these questions.

But we do need, on our own or corporately, to equip ourselves with an answer to any one who would ask of us the reason for the hope we have in Christ.