Hello again Wonderment. Accept my apologies for responding so late.
Firstly, going by your last response to me, I say AGAIN that you are definitely not clear on the doctrine of Trinity. This is because the arguments you presented against it, like many you have been putting forth before, are actually in consonance with it. You may however be forgiven for your mix-ups because, from my experience, most Trinitarians are as I once was, nominal, unenlightened and lacking in depth in the doctrine. Most of the others are academic Trinitarians; only a few are spiritual, having a heart-deep understanding and experience of it. Like I explained before, my understanding is more than academic; it is from a place of earnest prayers to God for spiritual understanding of the truth. I didn’t read it from some Greek mythology or Platonic teaching as you allude.
The doctrine of Trinity affirms the equality of Jesus and the Holy Spirit with the Father as well as the superiority of the Father to Jesus and the Holy Spirit without contradictions. Equality is affirmed at the level of nature while superiority is affirmed at the level of position. So your arguments of the Father being greater than Jesus, being the one exalting Jesus, being the one to whom glory ultimately goes to, and such like, are acknowledged in Trinity and therefore do not disprove it. They are rather one side of the coin. Like I said in a previous response, your approach of destroying one truth in other to establish the other is what puts you at odds with us. You see the two as mutually exclusive; we see them in the form of a paradox.
For instance, we know that for virtually all of mankind’s history humans have always exercised superiority over one another by some definition or perception of class, status, skill, intellect, training, wealth, age, race, sex, color, etc. We however know that despite the relative truth and the many unhealthy exaggerations of this fact that all men have always been equal at the level of their humanity despite all the propaganda to the contrary, some of which were even backed by religious authority figures and institutions. Do we for the fact that the former truth has always been dominant and very pronounced through our history use it to nullify our base equality? Absolutely not! The issue is also similar to the issue of the perplexity of the Jews of Jesus’ day when He asked them about how the Christ could be the son of David when David himself calls him his Lord. Jesus evidently not out to deny Christ's sonship to David, he only wanted to challenge their understanding to broaden it. They however could not answer him because they probably shared your exclusivity thinking. They definitely knew that by the protocol of precedence a father is greater than his son irrespective of whatever the son possesses and so could not fathom how Christ being unarguably the son of David could AT THE SAME TIME be the Lord of David. The simple fact that someone is your father apparently precludes you from being the person’s Lord. The preclusion is however suspended in this case without contradiction. The exception is a function of perspective. They could not see this however because they chose to stick with their traditional, true but narrow perspective. You and I however know that both statements are true of Christ, that he is both the son and Lord of David without contradictions. Jesus himself would later express the paradoxical relationship as “Root and Offspring of David.” (Rev. 22: 16) If I were to follow your pattern of thinking I would have to accept one and reject the other as it is evident that a person cannot, by this thinking, be the root and offspring of his father at the same time. As a matter of fact, virtually all of the passages that relate the Christ to David before his coming subordinate him to David by words such as branch, son, seed, etc. Only this passage cited by Jesus relates them to each other and puts the Christ as superior to David. I could even hazard a guess that if you and I had existed before Christ came and we had to interpret the cited passage, you would have rejected us taking it to mean actual superiority in the overwhelming light of the other passages that make David superior to him, believing that doing so would upset the other passages. You might have said that we should interpret it simply as a courtesy language similar to how one king may to refer to another king in courtesy language as "my Lord" based on mutual respect and not necessarily in the sense of actual Lordship.
Similar to the foregoing, we completely regard the Father as original source of all things and God over all things. He is God intrinsically and God relationally. We however also believe that he begat (sourced) Jesus from himself in a way that our human reproductive system is a reflection of. Given that we are made in his image and we reproduce after our kind and not less than our kind, it should not be inconceivable that God would have the capacity to reproduce after his kind. So we say He begot him not created him. This begetting, we believe, makes Jesus intrinsically God as kind begets kind otherwise it will not be a begetting. Hence, the NWT's rendition of "the only begotten god" in John 1: 18 is unacceptable to us. For the begotten to be less than God is more dishonouring to God than it is to the begotten. Thus we say that Jesus is Light of Light, true God of true God. By the protocol of precedence however, the Father is greater than the Son and is relationally God to the Son. So when Jesus calls the Father his God, it is neither discriminatory to his nature nor contradictory to it. He was stating an obvious positional relation of the Father to him.
Concerning your asking for a place where Jesus explicitly stated that he is God, the challenge appears to me like a tongue in cheek one. I presume that you believe with JWs that Jesus was originally archangel Michael but I know you know that there is nowhere in the Scriptures where Jesus explicitly identified himself so but yet you believe it and you don’t ask first for it to be explicitly stated from the mouth of Jesus. Again I say that his claim to being the Son of God was a claim to being God BY NATURE not God as in the Father. His argument for it in the passage showed that he considered being the Son of God higher than being call a god. He would not be arguing along that line if he considered their understanding that he was making himself equal with God untrue. His defense was essentially that it was not blasphemous for him to claim so, albeit in the form of Son of God. Think also of this: when he calls himself the Son of Man, is it in the sense of a less than man, or even in the sense of fallen man like us as we now know it, or in the sense of perfect man, full nature man like Adam and equal with him?
Regarding your interpretation of the honor Jesus spoke of in John 5: 23, I find a grave weakness in it for the reason that it makes the honor common to any and all that are sent by God which it is not. For if Jesus’ statement meant that then Paul, Peter, John and everyone else sent by God would all be entitled to honor JUST AS we honor God. While we would indeed honor someone sent by God, we do so FOR THE SAKE OF, IN RESPECT OF, ON ACCOUNT OF, not JUST AS (according to the manner in which, in the degree that) we honor God, no matter how great the messenger is. For this reason Peter would not accept Cornelius bowing at his feet, Paul and Barnabas refused sacrifice offered to them, the great angel that mediated the book of Revelation to John the apostle refused John worshiping at his feet. Jesus however claims and receives such for himself. In conclusion on this, forgive my correction, JUST AS does not mean 50/50 split between God and Jesus; it means 100% reproduction for Jesus of whatever God gets.
Then concerning your response to my take on the Phil. 2: 5-9 passage, I humbly say it falls short of being an effective rebuttal. One, you latch on to Jesus’ exaltation as if it came to him in his original state and not after, as clearly stated, he emptied himself, took on the form of a slave, humbled himself and was obedient unto death. Verse 9 then says “FOR THIS VERY REASON, God exalted him…” So the exaltation became necessary after the fact of his self-abasement not before. Consequently it does not dent Trinitarian position. Two, you somehow missed the statement that he was in God’s form but took on the a slave's form. Notice the contrast and transition – God’s form (his original form), slave's form (his target form). If Jesus was a created being in his original form then that form would have been that of a slave as well except you can show me how an angelic form (I am presuming that you also hold that Jesus was originally archangel Michael), even the most glorious, is not a form of a slave. Lastly, read his emptying into context, the mental attitude that produced it, the use of the conjunction “although” in verse 6 and you get the full picture. Verse 3 - 4 says “Do nothing out of contentiousness or out of egotism, but WITH HUMILITY CONSIDER OTHERS SUPERIOR TO YOU, as you LOOK OUT NOT ONLY FOR YOUR OWN INTERESTS, BUT ALSO FOR THE INTERESTS OF OTHERS.” Then verse 5 charges: “Keep this mental attitude in you that was also in Christ Jesus” So Philippian believers were being enjoined to keep a mental attitude of humility that considers others superior to oneself and then referencing Christ as a model of this attitude. But are not all believers equal in Christ? Absolutely! But it is not humility for any single believer to blow horn about that to his own advantage. The humility is to esteem others (who you could justifiably affirm equality with and contend for status with) superior. How then did Christ exemplify this attitude? Paul says “Who, although he was existing in God's form, gave no consideration to a seizure, namely, that he should be equal to God. No, but he emptied himself and took a slave’s form and became human.” That he never existed originally in a slave’s form but acquired it out of self-abasement is as clear as day and night here. Thus it is implicit that he is intrinsically God and thus equal with the Father on that level. But you may ask “if he was equal with God, how come it is said that he did not try to seize equality with God?” The equality he did not try to seize is that of position/status as it is evident that you cannot seize nature or essence. Sound Trinitarian doctrine has always acknowledged that the Father is the one who occupies the relational position of God. It is a position that he rightfully occupies because of his nature and none other who is not essentially God can contend for it. However, because Jesus is of his kind, his very being-kind and nature, he is qualified to occupy it in every sense but he does not pursue it. That is why the conjunction “although” stands there. It serves to contrast what is justified/reasonable by a condition with what is otherwise done. Any interpretation of the phrase “existing in God’s form” that swings to the side of a created being makes a nonsense of that conjunction. What is the sense in a statement like “Who, although he was in a creature form, he did not consider attempting to seize at equality with God?” What in being a created being gives reasonability to attempting to pursue equality with God? What sense for instance will I be making if I said “although he is short, he did not attempt to play basketball?” The condition of shortness does not give reasonability to doing otherwise. If I had said “although he is tall, he did not attempt to play basketball” then I make sense. Because being tall is a good reason to attempt to play basketball. So if Christ “existing in God’s form” does not give reasonability to him pursuing equality with God then the whole statement makes no sense. And the reasonability cannot be if “God’s form” interprets to some creature form, it rather has to be uncreated, full, infinite divine form, that is the only form that will justify Jesus reasonably contending for equality with the Father but which in humility, considering the Father better than himself, looking out not just for his own interest, but also for that of the Father, he does not follow after and thus serves as a model for us.
Now Wonderment, the following are just a few of the statements I cannot sincerely reconcile with Jesus being a created being. I would like to know how you do.1. How is it true that “No man has seen God at any time” – John 1: 18 (NWT), “or can see” him – I Tim. 6: 16 (NWT) when Moses, Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, 70 of the elders of Israel and Isaiah, just to mention a few, saw him live on earth and in glory? Exodus 24: 9, Isaiah 6: 1 – 52. Isaiah 6 is a record of the prophet’s sighting of God in glory in the temple and which led to his prophecy about the blocking of Israel’s ears and the blinding of their eyes. How is it then that John, referring to the episode, says Isaiah saw Jesus’ glory? John 12: 413. Psalm 102, according to its title, is “A prayer of the oppressed one when he is in despair and pours out his concern BEFORE JEHOVAH.” The prayer includes a section of adulation of Jehovah that extols him as the creator of the heavens and the earth. Heb. 1: 10 however says the adulation was directed at Jesus. How? Especially given the fact that the adulation says “you laid” not “through you was laid.” Or is it now okay to just lift God’s praise or sections of it and apply it to anyone else in so far as the part we are lifting can be safely applied? Is this the same way that we should understand Heb. 1: 6 statement of “And let all of God’s angels do obeisance to him,” which is said to be referent of Jesus also? The quotation however is from Deut 32: 43 (Septuagint version), and from the context is a clear charge to bow down to God.
Finally, consider this Wonderment, that no person or group that considers Jesus a created being ever gets satisfied with Jesus and him alone as the ultimate expression of God and the unavoidable all-pervasive mediator between God and man. They always have this feeling that Jesus is obscuring God and must be put in his place so that they can have God directly in their sight. Notice how JWs affiliate themselves preferentially with God rather than with Jesus? They ALWAYS find a reason to cast him in God’s shadow when they want to praise him calling him Jehovah’s King, God’s Saviour, etc. They are never able to see God COMPLETELY in him. They cannot praise him in the same breath with God like all creatures are recorded as doing in Rev. 5: 13 without qualifications. They cannot adulate him or ascribe to him the same virtues they ascribe to God, much less do so to him by himself as the host of heaven do in Rev. 5: 12 (compare the virtues he is affirmed here as being worthy of with those the Father is said to be worthy of in Rev. 4: 11) without seeking to denigrate it is some way in order not to seem to be conceding those things in absolute terms to him. It is as if praising him by himself constitutes some dishonor to God and that it could be too much. It just never feels right. There is always that unconscious or subconscious need to contain and limit his adulation so as not to put it in competition with God's. That is what making Jesus a creation produces. The truth is that anyone who sincerely wants to worship the one true God will always find that feeling impossible to shake off with a created Jesus. This is because an all-pervasive mediator between God and us like Jesus claims he is but who proves to be no more than a created being, presents a very real danger of idolatry, the flavor of idolatry that worships the Creator through the agency of a created thing. So something in you just tells you to hold back and be careful lest by some means you cross the line of propriety. Yet Jesus never shied away from positioning himself as the one and ultimate expression of the Father to all creation, worthy of all honor befitting the Father. He claims to reflects the Father so completely and perfectly that you can look directly and intently on him without your focus missing the Father or the Father missing your devotion. And you can honor him with complete abandonment without offending the Father for it is to the Father’s glory that he be honored with such abandonment since after all he is “the reflection of God’s glory, the EXACT representation of HIS VERY BEING” It is apparent for anyone who thinks deeply about it that while a finite being can represent God in one or a couple of ways, none can EXACTLY represent God. For to EXACTLY represent God means that you leave not even the tiniest detail for God to be able to add of himself if he were to later show up in person. In other words, God cannot represent himself better than or improve on the representation provided by the being that EXACTLY represented him. Do you really think a finite being can do that? Yet this complete and exact representation is what Jesus claimed for himself when he upbraided Philip for desiring to see the Father beyond him. “How is it you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” Jesus replied disapprovingly. Imagine Philip, despite having walked with Jesus for 3 years, knowing and accepting Jesus as God’s one-of-a-kind representative on earth, still yearning for a direct experience with the Father, the glorious Father who is greater than Jesus and who Jesus had fondly and majestically talked about and now says he is returning to, asks Jesus to show them the Father and Jesus puts himself forth as adequate for the experience Philip seeks. If he were not alluding to his being the EXACT replica of the Father and consequently intrinsically God I wonder what he meant. Philip was clearly not asking for a representative of the Father or any other thing of sort; he wanted the real deal. Jesus interestingly does not berate him for being ambitious or reaching for too much in wanting the real deal. Jesus also does not ask him to temper or downsize his desire and make do with him (Jesus) as some close alternative that one could be content with when one cannot have the real thing. Jesus rather berates him for not knowing him. Neither does Jesus post date answering Philip by asking him to wait for some later time when he (Philip) would be worthy enough to see the Father). He answers Philip there and then with himself. He says if Philip had known him he would have known the Father transparently and satisfyingly to obviate the need to want to see the Father directly. What? Will any JW accept such an answer today? Imagine a JW asking to see God, Jehovah Almighty and I tell him to snap out of it and just look at Jesus, that experiencing Jesus suffices for experiencing God. Do you see yourself or any JW honestly going to bed with such an answer without putting up a fight and trying to cut Jesus to size? Yet that is exactly what Jesus did to Philip? The truth is that no experience with a being, no matter how great, close to God or representative of God such being is, none can compare with a direct experience of God except of course the being is EXACTLY God.
In conclusion Wonderment, above and beyond all our academic and intellectual analysis, I advice again as before, that we step back and review this subject afresh prayerfully before God. Let us not trust in academic understanding. God’s being does not expose itself to our best academic efforts but our humble hearts. (Matt. 11: 25-26) Things can be very plain and still not be understood. Remember how Jesus was plain with his disciples about his then impending death and yet they assumed he was speaking in parables. Consider also how you and I see plainly the Messianic prophecies fulfilled in Jesus and the Jews still cannot see till today. We definitely cannot charge them with not being academic enough. Jesus puts it this way: “no one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son is willing to reveal him” – Luke 10: 22 (NWT). This explains why despite the fact of his being the Son of God being a public domain thing, he attributed Peter’s specific discernment of it, when he asked them about their identification of him, to his Father’s revelatory work and not human reasoning. The problem is not a problem of letters but of spirit. A man can say something so clearly and yet be understood so differently by different people. The different understandings could be academically and grammatically sound without any being true in meaning to the heart of the person who spoke originally. The nature of God, his manner and mode of being is even more enigmatic. You and I can postulate and expound on it and be very different while remaining academically sound but still both be off point with the real truth. I pray God to have mercy on us and remove from us (within and around) anything that causes us to stumble at the intent of his word. May he grant us his Spirit for accurate understanding of his word, being and person.
Happy New Year to you.