You would be more likely to assemble a fully functioning and flying jumbo jet by passing a hurricane through a junk yard than you would be to assemble the DNA molecule by chance. In any kind of primeval soup in 5 or 600 million years, it’s just not possible [as quoted in the article, “Computing the Cost of Minimalism” (last accessed August 4, 2011)].
Bringing the above section of my 2003 debate with Dr. White forward to White’s April 12, 2007, Blog, “A Test for Your Listening Skills – Part III,” Dr. White references, quotes from, and relies in large part on what he wrote in his online paper, “Beyond the Veil of Eternity: The Importance of Philippians 2:5-11 in Theology and Apologetics,” Christian Research Journal 223 (available online here).
Note in particular White’s introductory and conclusive comments, which also caption a quotation from page 630 of Daniel B. Wallace’s Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996):
Here we have a clear example of reading assumptions apart from the best available reasons back into an ancient text, not only from the point of subsequent commentary and interpretation by White, but also in interpretation and in translation on some expressive level by Professor Wallace.
White and Wallace, being Trinitarians, cannot have Jesus ever ceasing to be “God” in terms of his essential nature. This means that while Jesus can “take on” something else he can only do so if it does not take away from what he is already or, in the case of Philippians 2:7, Jesus cannot “empty himself” of the “form of God” or of what it means to be “God” essentially in order to “become a man,” and yet to “become a man” that is what he would have to do if that “man” is “the last Adam” (1 Corinthians 15:45). Indeed, in addition to 1 Corinthians 15:45-57 what is said in 1 Corinthians 15:20-28 is also in large part contained in what we read in Philippians 2:5-11.
I do not read a theology which can be dated and shown to have come about hundreds of years later back into the New Testament writings of the first century CE. Rather, I read the New Testament and related literature and other credibly verifiable events or likely events from various peoples and from many sources which have to date proven reliable when it comes to what has occurred or existed during, before, and after the first century CE. These include also, and in large part, the Old Testament and other, similar writings and inscriptions from various times and peoples which have survived and been tested over time. In evidence of this, and in direct contrast to what I can show is often done in Trinitarianism, I will here point to my prior and most current writings, particularly Chapter 2 from my Third Edition (2009) of Jehovah’s Witnesses Defended, where it concerns this very question of different assumptions about the meaning of ancient, biblical and other literature’s use of terms for “G-god.”
My writings on other subjects, such as my EOP 1, “Advanced ‘Earth Conditions’ Corrections to Miller’s 1953 Hypothesis and Its Likely Indications,” (July 4, 2010), on the subject of intentionally intelligent, eternal life also show this is true in other areas of my argumentation and subsequent belief, and in this field of study I have also at times argued openly but based on good reasons against those who are otherwise accepted as experts. Indeed, there are times when I can and, I believe, when I have shown that some experts have done or are presently doing in certain scientific fields of study the very same or similar thing(s) many Trinitarians have done or continue to do in theology today: Assuming beliefs and/or the basis(es) for them in many cases where the assumed (= non-good-reason-based) beliefs are critical to the overall understanding they express, conclude, and/or strongly maintain. Whether and certainly before the same is said about me, more must be considered and presented than what Dr. White has put forth, to date, for it only really clearly shows to this point that he is ignoring the reasons that I have repeatedly put forth, to date, often in ways which further reveal his own Trinitarian assumptions.
To deny this, that is, to deny they are assuming their beliefs and/or the reasons for them (often or all the while claiming that I do these very things), many Trinitarians like White and Wallace equivocate on or come up with a new or different (certainly later) meaning or understanding for the expression, “empty himself” in Philippians 2:7. This they do, by first adding “glory” to the act of ‘emptying’ and then by interpreting “taking on the form of a servant” (and “becoming a man”) as the means by which the glory of the heavenly Jesus is ‘veiled,’ but not ‘emptied,’ or at least not in the ‘normal means of an act of subtraction rather than by addition,’ to use Wallace’s language.
Yet, when it comes to the regular use and meaning of the Greek verb keno’ō, from which we get kenosis as it is used in Philippians 2:7, this has not been hidden from Martin, Bowman, White, or from Wallace; they simply do not accept the following view which I do accept in large part and for good reasons (with my underlining and bracketed words added):
Because of what Oepke writes here overall, I have added “of His person” in brackets after Oepke’s use of “essence” in light of what “remains” after Jesus’ preexistent “mode of being changes,” since those are the words used in immediate relation to “The essence,” as well as in light of the expressed acceptance that the ‘change’ came only to Jesus’ “mode of being.”
Because of this change in “mode of being,” Wallace considers this the “biggest difficulty” involved with “taking on” when understood in this way in Philippians 2:7, for it would then involve not addition only (that is, the ‘taking on’ of a second, human nature/form) but, rather subtraction of the form/nature in which Jesus already existed, namely, that of “a god/God.” To quote Braumann (from earlier in this Blog), who is in obvious agreement with Oepke and with me in terms of how to present in words the meaning of the text (but with my underlining added), “This form [the ‘form of a servant’ Jesus ‘took on’] replaces the ‘form of God.’”
Yet, what Braumann and Oepke write about and what I also believe for the same and for other reasons can be shown to be correct according to the best available reasons, I believe I can show, as opposed to other positions like Trinitarian Incarnation theology which makes use of all sorts of assumed concepts and meanings by wrongly associating them with the biblical writings and even with other, related texts.
In making clear this last point, consider respected Trinitarian Professor Ralph P. Martin. Originally published in 1963, Martin wrote a book about Philippians 2:5-11 under the title, Carmen Christi, which was later published as A Hymn of Christ: Philippians 2:5-11 in Recent Interpretation and in the Setting of Early Christian Worship (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1997).
On page 1 of his Introduction, Martin quotes Lightfoot’s translation of Pliny the Younger’s Letters 10.96. Pliny was a Roman official who lived from 61 to about 112 CE, and an apparent adviser to then-Emperor Trajan. For more on Pliny the Younger see, “Ancient Rome – Pliny the Younger,” on Classical Literature (link: http://www.ancient-literature.com/rome_pliny.html, as of August 1, 2011)]. Of his Letters, those writing for the Classical Literature site and concerning this period and Pliny’s person and his Letters have noted:
According to the portion of Pliny’s letter quoted by Martin from Lightfoot and found on page 1 of Martin’s Introduction, Pliny wrote the following to Trajan about how to deal with those claiming to be Christians:
Compare also the translation of Pliny’s Letters 10.96 in its larger context as presented on the VRoma Project site, which uses the 1915 Loeb Classical Library edition (and also, “a god”). For more on the letter’s significance, see here.
However, though Martin quotes Lightfoot accurately where Lightfoot uses “a god” in representing how Pliny viewed the Christians’ view of Jesus of Nazareth (A Hymn of Christ, Introduction, page 1), several pages later (Introduction, page 7, note 5) Martin changes Pliny’s reference from “to Christ as to a god” to “a composition directed to Christ as God”! The only meaning or understanding Martin could here intend for Pliny, by changing Pliny’s view of how he understood the Christians’ view of the Christ from as “a god” to “as God,” is according to his view of “God,” namely, “the Trinity.” Here though, instead of assuming it for his interpretation of New Testament or other biblical texts, Martin does it also for others, and here for Pliny the Younger.
This is precisely what Bowman, White, and Wallace have done, though in Martin’s case he does it with a non-Christian, making the assumptions inherent in all Trinitarian theology clearer by association with his “interpretational methodology” (to use White’s description), since in the case of the New Testament Trinitarians claim it as part of the ground of contention over what to believe. But Pliny was not a Trinitarian! This is clear from any extended reading of his Letters 10.96.
In spite of this, by 1982 Martin had not only made a complete substitution between Pliny’s “a god” and his Trinitarian understanding of “God,” but his assumption of Trinitarianism is what allowed him to transfer his belief about “God” to Pliny’s Roman, non-Christian, intended “a god” meaning!
Note the following from Martin’s essay, “Some Reflections on New Testament Hymns” in Christ the Lord: Studies in Christology presented to Donald Guthrie (Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1982), page 49 (with underlining added):
The above change to “Pliny’s report” is simply incredible, particularly when you realize further that Martin’s reference in his note to the above paragraph takes the reader to Martin’s note 21 on his page 44, which note merely refers his readers back to the introductory pages of his Carmen Christi/A Hymn of Christ book, which we just considered!
Now that is a “circular” argument Dr. White would be proud of if he had seen it. But though White and Wallace and Bowman (and Martin) do with Paul and with other biblical writers exactly what Martin does also with Pliny’s use of “a god,” Martin’s example involving Pliny is more powerful to use in showing what is happening elsewhere when it comes to actual biblical texts. Indeed, no one can dispute that Pliny the Younger would have used the sense of “a god” according to Roman tradition. This is particularly evident since part of the very reason Pliny is writing about the Christians is to confirm they do not invoke “the Gods,” their Roman Gods, and the Christians did not ‘offer adoration, with wine and frankincense’ to the “image” of Trajan, which Pliny says he “had ordered to be brought for that purpose, together with those of the Gods”!
See Pliny’s entire Letter 10.96 to Trajan. So Pliny could not ever be made to rightly say through commentary or by translation of his “report” that the Christians of his day sang to Christ “as God” or “as to God.” But in denying even this to the obvious meaning intended by a non-Christian writer, that is, according to Pliny’s words to Trajan about Pliny’s view of Jesus among Christians, Martin shows what is happening also with biblical texts in the hands of Trinitarians in large part.
Assuming rather than arguing for that which is used in the argument is where this kind of assuming breaks the argument down, often because there are no good reasons to hold it up in the first place; such assuming does not lift up and it does not enlighten, no matter how enlightened one may be. Whether enlightened or not, as noted earlier, Professor Wallace offers us the following understanding (Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, page 630) of Philippians 2:7 which is picked up and used by White in his April 12, 2007, Blog, “A Test for Your Listening Skills – Part III,” and in his online paper, “Beyond the Veil of Eternity,” (available online here), and as quoted and discussed earlier in this Blog:
But this is true only if one assumes (as does Wallace) that “truly God” should not rather be “truly a god” for, indeed, only then do we have the kind of parallel argument which can stand the comparative test Wallace puts on it, namely, “If one denies that Christ was [truly a god], one must also deny that he was truly a servant (note [morphēn doulou verse 7]).” Trinitarians must first ask why they do not use the commonly understood and regularly used meaning for such terms rather than take “as a starting place” in their “interpretational methodology” Trinitarian Incarnation theology in their use of “God.”
Wallace has here fallen into a similar kind of assumptive trap that Bowman fell into much earlier concerning the uses of “God” and “a man” in 1 Timothy 2:5. Note what I wrote in this regard in both my 1998 and 2000, First and Second Editions of Jehovah’s Witnesses Defended, pages 79-80 and 202, respectively, but here quoting only from my Second Edition, page 202:
Though they each assume Trinitarianism “as a starting place” in their interpretation and even in their translations of the biblical text and some other early writings which speak about Christian beliefs (Pliny, by Martin), they would all likely (and Dr. White would for sure) have you believe that I am assuming what to believe and what not to believe “as a starting place,” without any evidence.