In Part 6 I talked about two of the most important books in my life apart from the Bible, and how I may or may not have actually stolen them. I still have those books too. Now I want to talk about how, to put it simply, I began to be disillusioned about the simplistic arguments against trinitarianism I had become accustomed to hearing.
In high school I once wrote on a questionnaire that I wanted to become a Bible scholar after I graduated. Really, I wanted to become somebody as educated as my Oneness Pentecostal hero: David Bernard.
David Bernard is one of the most influential writers in Oneness Pentecostalism. His books have helped to clearly state and defend what Oneness Pentecostals believe about God, salvation, holiness, and a host of other topics. He’s an intelligent man and a cordial debater.
I don’t know when I first encountered Bernard’s works, but for two reasons I know it was by my senior year in high school. First, by this time I actually thought I wanted to become a top-notch, educated minister. So I got my hands on any books that would help me with that. Second, in a research paper that I still have from my senior year in high school, I show a lot of familiarity with Bernard’s books on God, salvation, and church history. (I got 100% on that paper.) Back then, I would have said that I was sure I was a Oneness Pentecostal and that I would make a career out of preaching.
My familiarity with Bernard’s works meant that I was open to discussing issues about the Trinity with others and looking into it more myself. I knew that the Oneness position wasn’t the traditional teaching of Christianity (Bernard’s own books testify to this). I also started to find out that some of the “refutations” of the Trinity I heard in sermons and lessons in church simply didn’t argue against what my trinitarian friends were actually saying.
It became clear to me that other Oneness Pentecostals (even pastors and ministers) simply weren’t well-versed in arguments against the Trinity like David Bernard was. From most of the people around me, the only real argument heard against trinitarianism was that it was just obviously tritheism (or the belief that there are three gods). The favorite proof-text is Deuteronomy 6:4 (the Shema): “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord” (KJV). Most Oneness Pentecostals who read this see that the Trinity must be false, since we know there is only one God.
I don’t know why, but I think I’m somehow hard-wired to be skeptical of accepting arguments when I haven’t heard the other side’s perspective first. I eventually found out that there were a lot of debates between Oneness Pentecostals and trinitarians that had already taken place. That was right up my alley.
The first debate about the Oneness of God that I ever saw was a debate that took place on the John Ankerburg show. All I will say about it (for now) is this: I took A LOT of notes and came away thinking two things. First, the trinitarian debaters didn’t sound like tritheists to me (at least not obviously). And second, it seemed to me that the trinitarians were simply more informed about the issues than the Oneness debaters on that show were.
Those were my first impressions at least. The next time we meet I’ll talk about how I became a voracious listener of debates and how I began to explore the issues about the doctrine of the Oneness of God in more detail.