Introduction · Personal

The Goals of This Website

One of the main pages mentions two of the main goals of The Oneness Exchange. I would like to elaborate on these in some detail here and state a few more things that I hope to accomplish over time.

Goal 1: To give a fair hearing to the arguments for and against Oneness Pentecostal theology.

In informal (or “practical”) logic there is something called the Principle of Charity. As I see it, this principle includes at least two things.

First, you should respect your opponent by assuming that they are intelligent even if they don’t seem that way to you. Always assume people know more than they let on until proven otherwise. Second, you should respect the argument that your opponent gives by objecting to the strongest possible form of it even if your opponent didn’t state it that way. This is really the Golden Rule applied to arguments: treat others’ arguments the way you would like yours to be treated.

Allow me to elaborate on this second aspect a little more. If you construct an argument that is obviously weak and then knock it down, you aren’t actually doing anything worthwhile. This is why it’s called “attacking a straw man.” It’s much easier to knock down a straw man than a real one.

I’ll say more about this in time, but I’ve seen plenty of straw men get strewn about in discussions about the Oneness of God and the Trinity. Let me give two examples.

I’ve heard Trinitarians give the argument that Oneness theology is Sabellianism, a form of modalism that was condemned as heresy early on in Christian history, and leave it at that. But any charitable reading of Oneness theology would show that it is not Sabellianism (as classically understood).  To make your position shine, doesn’t it make better sense to reconstruct Sabellian arguments and then show how brilliant trinitarians in the past argued against them?

At the same time, I’ve heard it directly from the lips of plenty of UPCI ministers and laypeople that trinitarianism is nothing more than tritheism. “They believe in three persons, and three persons really means three gods!” they say. Well, you have to do more than that. I would be willing to say that some ways of understanding the Trinity imply tritheism, but that doesn’t mean they all do. Again, a lot more work needs to be done than providing a facile dismissal.

I understand that being charitable takes a lot more effort than people are usually prepared to give, especially when there are time constraints (as in debates). But if we are really going to get after the truth of God’s nature, it doesn’t do anybody any good to strike down flimsy arguments and attack each other personally. We can only make real progress when we lay out the strongest arguments from both sides and then see which ones hold water.

Goal 2: To help others learn how to think about the issues.

You can decide this for yourself over time, but I think that I’ve been given the gift of teaching. As far as I’m concerned, it won’t do to discuss the arguments pro and con if I’m going to make a real impact. I think that I should also teach people how to think well.

If you feel any aversion at all when you hear the word “logic,” it’s probably because you’ve seen or heard somebody use logic in a dishonest way. That’s not logic. To put it as simply as possible, logic is the study of how to think well. The only way you’re going to recognize the charlatans that misuse logic is to know logic yourself.

The greatest theologians in history were great “reasoners.” They knew logic, and they knew how to use it. For a great example of this, I would recommend that everybody read John Wesley’s “An Address to the Clergy.”

With all of that said, I am going to devote a lot of posts to teaching logic. In the distant future, I hope to also provide some basic instruction on the original languages of Scripture. By doing both of these things, I hope to show (1) that I’m not out to trick anybody into buying into a particular belief (or set of beliefs) about God and (2) that I take thinking about God very seriously.

Goal 3: To provide a platform where the issues can be discussed.

My ultimate prayer is that people will become involved, in their own way, with the process of discovering who God is in his nature. I hope this manifests itself with a lot of discussion in the comments on this site. But there’s a couple more things I’d like to see happen.

First, I would like to allow certain individuals to give guest posts. If I think somebody has a particularly interesting or good argument, I might ask them to devote an entire post or so to elucidating the argument. My voice isn’t the only one that I want to hear. I want to allow others to speak up when they have ideas people should listen to.

Second, I would like to sponsor debates and host them here. If you’ve browsed this website, though, you should already realize there’s a big problem with this: the fact that I’m remaining anonymous (at least for now). But my plan is to do something like what Credo House has done with a similar debate and post each side’s statements in subsequent posts. To be quite honest, other than discovering God’s nature for myself, there’s nothing else I would rather see happen here.

These are just some preliminary ideas though. Discussion forums are a possibility if I am able to devote more time to this website, or if I am able to find individuals who are qualified to moderate it for me.

No matter what, expanding discussion is my goal.

Goal 4: To promote spiritual formation and discipleship to Jesus Christ.

It’s true that a lot of what is going to occur at The Oneness Exchange is going to focused on the use of the mind. It’s a website about debate and discussion, not a website full of daily devotions.

This may come as a shock to some readers who know their philosophy, but I think Immanuel Kant said something absolutely correct about doing theology. It’s this:

What interest does reason have in [theological] knowledge? Not a speculative, but a practical one. The object is much too sublime for us to be able to speculate about it. In fact, we can be led into error by speculation. But our morality has need of the idea of God to give it emphasis. Thus it should not make us more learned, but butter, wiser, and more upright. For if there is a supreme being who can and will make us happy, and if there is another life, then our moral dispositions will thereby receive more strength and nourishment, and our moral conduct will be made firmer. Our reason does find a small speculative interest in these matters, but it is of very little value in comparison with the practical one. This speculative interest is only that our reason always needs a highest in order to measure and determine the less high according to it.

—Lectures in Philosophical Theology, p. 24 (trans. Wood & Clark; emphasis added)

In other words, as important and worthwhile it is to think hard about God and gain knowledge about him, learning about God is useless if it doesn’t somehow change how we live. If the way we relate to God doesn’t improve as we think about him, then we don’t think very highly of him at all.

I hope that the study of the topics that we discuss will draw you closer to the God of the Bible. In addition to that, I’ll be posting some devotional reflections as I find time to do so. There are some other ideas that I have, but those will be coming to light in the distant future (if at all).

I hope this gives an adequate explanation of what The Oneness Exchange is about, and of my motivations for creating this website. I look forward to enjoying this journey, not just the destination at the end.

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