Hip and Thigh: Smiting Theological Philistines with a Great Slaughter. Judges 15:8

Monday, October 16, 2006

The Impotent Beggar god of Unitarian Socinians

This past Friday I linked to an interview on Way of the Master radio with a real live apostate from the faith. I have been trying to find some back ground on this Dan Mages character, but no one I have spoken with so far is familiar with him. I talked a bit with Phil Johnson on Sunday about him and though he couldn't place his name, he could remember there being a group of guys in a class he taught at Master's College baggering him with questions about Socinus when Phil covered the subject of historical heretics.

Mages's website is typical of the Unitarian "free-thinkers" I have encountered over the years (who, by the way, all "think" a like; the adjective "free" is misleading). They delight in uncertainty and being outside the box of traditional orthodox anything. In a word, they proudly wear the badge of being labeled a "heretic."

Additionally, they draw to themselves any crackpot philosopher or writer, no matter how off the wall his or her beliefs may be, or even radically opposed to their core Unitarianism (is there even such a thing as "core" Unitarianism?), if that crackpot happens to be considered outside the mainstream of orthodoxy. For example, Dan has a quote from Oliver Wendell Holmes, the early 20th century Supreme Court justice who was a roaring evolutionary based, anti-God humanist and was instrumental in getting pro-eugenic laws passed so as to genetically weed out the helpless in American society who were thought to be "less evolved." I was totally unaware that Unitarians are keen on eugenic policies. He also gravitates towards the quack science of environmentalism and veganism. Seeing that young earth creationism is considered "outside the box" of mainline science, I wonder if Unitarians are 6 day creationists? I digress...

The one thing I noted to Phil before we parted ways was how Unitarians believe in a weak, impotent god who can't do anything in his world. Anyone who is a student at any level of Church History will quickly note how the Christian affirmation of the key biblical doctrines that shape fundamental, orthodox Christianity came about. Typically, what we see as Church History unfolds is that a theological crank cooks up some alternative to a particular Christian doctrine and he begins advocating it in a class room or published material. He has enough personal charisma that he gains a following and his popularity allows his novel beliefs to catch on with academics and many among the unwashed masses. The Christian community then rises up, addresses the doctrines at stake, renounces the crank, and affirms the orthodox biblical teaching. This is what happened with Arius for instance. He taught that Jesus was a created being. His false teaching became such a point of controversy, the Christian Church had to address him. They did and the Council of Nicaea affirmed the Deity of Christ.

Now, what Unitarians would have us believe is that these heretics should have been given an honest hearing. Their "ideas" were too easily dismissed because they fell outside the normal, traditional take on doctrine and were wrongly label heresy by the mean control freaks running the politics of the day. In fact, men like Arius in the 4th century and Servetus and Socinus in the 16th century, were right concerning their perspective on God, but the powers-that-be at the time shot these men down.

However, if we are to believe Dan Mages's take on doctrine, along with many other Unitarian "free-thinkers" I have encountered, they are basically saying that God was unable to preserve His revealed truth among His people. Arius had the "truth" about Jesus, but when he went to proclaim it, he was silenced by the majority. So, according to this line of thinking, for the last 2000 years of Church History, mainline, Bible believing Christianity has had it wrong about its own core beliefs, because I guess, God was unable to make it clear in the scriptures, or in the hearts of His people. That whole thing Jesus said in the upper room discourse about the spirit leading us in all truth just didn't succeed. Interesting how Joseph Smith believed similar things about Mormonism.

This would make a lot of sense with the Unitarian god, because he is already pushed out of his world by the libertarian free will of man and has given up any sovereign claim anywhere so as to be a god who risks. But this makes him a weakling beggar god who has to humbly ask permission from men to get back into his world. Heck, as Dan told Todd in that October 11th broadcast, this god may do something reckless like threaten another Sodom and Gomorrah scenario in which Abraham had to argue against his insanity.

I don't want to have anything to do with the Unitarian god.

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Blogger Daniel said...

What was sad (after listening to the interview) was how sold out this fellow seemed to be. He was genuinely sincere in his search for truth, as long as that "truth" agreed with his own predispostions. I got the impression that he was "sincerely" trying to press the God of the bible into his own moral mould.

If scripture says that God is just, and that God is going to cast sinners into a lake of fire to be tormented eternally - then I am forced to conclude that the lake of fire is a just punishment - in fact, because I am something of a romantic, I really think that the lake of fire is a kind of mercy - the eternal physical torment may from time to time take the mind of the sinner off what is really the greater torment - their separation from all that is beautiful - their separation from God.

The trouble really began when Dan learned to project his own morality into the character of God - when he determined to hold onto a man-centered morality that says all suffering is evil (ignoring entirely somehow that God not only allowed, but planned well in advance for his own Son to suffer horribly on the cross...) - really his moral philosophy doesn't come from the text of scripture - it comes from hating the justice of God, and if we are to find the root - I'll suggest it comes from hating God for punishing anyone.

In the computing world we have a saying: garbage in, garbage out.

12:48 PM, October 16, 2006  
Blogger Ebeth said...

Do the Socinians/Unitarians have any relationship to the Open Theists, at least in their theories?

6:39 PM, October 16, 2006  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

Yes they do. In fact Socinus could be considered the first open theist. Interesting that Dan lists several open theist books on his website as must read theology works.


8:05 PM, October 16, 2006  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

The truly sad thing, Daniel, is how this guy sat under some of the best theological teaching anywhere, and still walked out of the place an apostate. I would imagine you are getting close to the truth when you talk about his predispositions. I would bet a Costco ice cream bar the guy already thought this way when he attended Masters. It would also not surprise me that he already entertained a rebellious streak against orthodox teaching. Unitarians are the classic Jude apostate.


8:10 PM, October 16, 2006  
Blogger The Girl in Grey said...

Free Thought? I thought it was more like thought free.

3:12 AM, October 19, 2006  
Blogger thomas4881 said...

Hi! Yeah I listend to that WOTM radio podcast. I though dan was just like every other person I come across who wants to debate scripture. They always have thoughts that are shown to be of their immagination. Their immagination takes the place of scripture. They just intertwine their immagination with scripture. The scripture is extremely redundant. Doctrine doesen't hinge on one little verse taken out of context. Dan often appeals to a few verses then takes them out of context to proclaim his immagination as Gods' word. Interesting how in the end their immagination is where Gods' word came from. Though I'm not in awe this happens, it's characteristic of those who aren't born again. One thing I notic in scripture is the definition of two natures. One nature does one thing and the other nature does another thing. These natures are in conflict. You can look at a medical guide and read the section that tells you that human beings breath air. That confirms that the medical guide is fact. I read the bible and it says those not born again commit lawlessness, such as lying and stealing. I see people lie or steal and the bible told me they would do it. Therefore I know the bible was true in what is written about their nature. What makes it even more astonishing is the bible was written almost thousands of years before we were born and defines the functioning of our nature. Most like Dan don't comprehend the difference between being born again and spiritually dead. They think the all have the ability to be born again, it's just a choice they have to make. They just have to mold themself. Somehow they are the potter and the clay. Free will is their potter. Guess their immagination will save them when they'er in distress.

3:06 PM, October 19, 2006  
Blogger thomas4881 said...

Dan claimed that Jesus isn't God in the flesh. I find it odd how someone could have gone to seminary but never studied their Bible. Dan is a clear case of one who carrys a Bible around and reads lies into it. Here are a few examples of Christs' deity that doesen't take years of theological seminary training to find out:

Ezekiel 34: 11 " 'For this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. 12 As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness. 13 I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries, and I will bring them into their own land. I will pasture them on the mountains of Israel, in the ravines and in all the settlements in the land. 14 I will tend them in a good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel will be their grazing land. There they will lie down in good grazing land, and there they will feed in a rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. 15 I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down, declares the Sovereign LORD. 16 I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice.

John 10: 11"I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. 13The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.

Notice how Jesus is the "shepherd" and the shepheard who saves his people is the "soverign Lord".

Matthew 3: 1In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Desert of Judea 2and saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near." 3This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah:
"A voice of one calling in the desert,
'Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.'

Isaiah 40: 3 A voice of one calling:
"In the desert prepare
the way for the LORD ;
make straight in the wilderness
a highway for our God.

Notice how John 3 speaks of John the baptist preparing the way for Jesus Christ and Isaiah says "make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God". Speaking of making a highway for our God, Jesus Christ.

This just shows us how the Bible becomes useless in the hands of useless men.

12:29 PM, October 23, 2006  
Blogger The Emerson Avenger said...

Well militant fundamentalist atheist "Humanist" Unitarians, to say nothing of more moderate atheist Humanists and agnostics don't even believe in God at all. Those people who are bona fide God believing Unitarians believe in the same God that you and everyone else does. They just have different beliefs about that One God. AFAIAC Atheist Unitarian is an oxymoron of course.

7:55 PM, October 29, 2006  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

Those people who are bona fide God believing Unitarians believe in the same God that you and everyone else does. They just have different beliefs about that One God.


If we begin with an understanding that the biblical text is a clear, accurate, and concise revelation of God to humanity, a point Unitarians deny. Then do a thorough exegesis of the entire biblical text, it quickly becomes obvious that Unitarians, regardless of how "conservative" they may wish to claim to be, have an entirely different god in mind than who has revealed Himself in scripture and is proclaimed by historic, orthodox Christianity. Your comment would be along the lines of a Muslim claiming that he believes in the same God that I do, but just has different beliefs about him. This claim, however, can easily be shown to be false.

Like I said in my article, the orthodox view of a triune God who knows all the future because He has fixed it to be so, has been the main position of the historic Church for 2,000 years. To claim otherwise slights God as being unable to reveal Himself clearly and preventing His church from sliding into error. Unitarians adhere to a form of conspiracy mongering to explain why Arianism and Socinianism was shot down, but in taking this line of argument, you uphold a weak, do-nothing god who can't defend him (or her) self.


6:36 AM, October 30, 2006  
Blogger Theocrat said...

Crackpots versus murderers?

Hey, if Mages is a Philistine, you can call me Goliath.

Who was it that said ‘by your fruits you shall know them’? The record of the Trinity is not good on this. Would a doctrine that is of God have to resort to such means to be upheld?

You criticise Mages for having a quote from a humanist evolutionist. I think it would be willingly ignorant of you to say that in doing this he was endorsing all this man’s views. Didn’t Paul quote a Greek philosopher on Mars hill?

I notice you have a link to a site which promotes the doctrines of Calvin, who orchestrated the judicial murder-by-torture of Michael Servetus - a man who was found guilty only of writing a book. Please research the history on some of these figures. Also Athanasius, who promoted the Trinitarian agenda at the council of Nicaea was a gangster who resorted to kidnap, riots, punishment beatings and possibly even murder to further his version of Bible truth.

Last time I checked, no murderer had eternal life abiding in him, much less be qualified as a teacher of doctrine.

But, then again, perhaps it is only a reflection of the fact that a person’s attitude and conduct will never really be able to rise above their conception of God.

Perhaps condemning a man during a show trial for choosing to affirm differently is the logical action of a person who holds a view that God himself condemns people for not responding to a message which they are totally incapable of believing.

Perhaps choosing the horrific death by burning and further using green wood to slow the process is only consistent with faith in a God who keeps people in a state of eternal existence in order to torture them forever. The crown of sulphur was a particularly telling touch, I think.

You know what, perhaps this accounts for your attitude and that of certain participants on your blog.

I wonder who really is glorified by a body of people who are prepared to go to the lengths of sacrificing the doctrine of God’s infinite mercy and the gracious gift of choice he has given to man, in order to uphold a rigid and simplistic concept of some plastic ‘sovereignty’?

Let’s not forget that all of the above is based upon a slender ‘translation theology’ based upon an interpretation of scriptures that is inconsistent not only with the meaning of the text in its original linguistic context, but also with the plain sense of the rest of the Bible.

While you go after those Philistines, don’t forget what happened to the house of Eli when then chose to go into battle against them holding a mere form of godliness, the ark, without having the power (1st Samuel chapter 4).

7:20 AM, November 09, 2006  
Blogger Theocrat said...

Apologies to everyone for posting this twice. It's my first time on this forum. Won't happen again.

7:25 AM, November 09, 2006  
Blogger Blog Smack said...

Dan Mages is a graduate of the master's college, i have debated at my church.

11:23 AM, November 09, 2006  
Blogger HungerTruth said...

Hey there Fred,

I know this is suppose to be a comment and not a blog, but felt it necessary to respond thoroughly. I can understand your concern and sympathize with your perspective. It was not long ago that I shared the same worldview. I attended The Master’s College because I believed that John MacArthur was one of the best Bible expositors out there. I purchased his entire commentary set as my very first book-by-book commentary on the NT. I adamantly held his perspectives on virtually ever issue. I, like you, greatly benefited from his book and tape ministry. I would check out gobs of tapes and listen intently as I commuted home on the weekends in order to teach what I was learning to my friends back home. I especially enjoyed the Q & A tapes where members of Grace Community would ask John questions from a standing microphone. This allowed John to be more candid. It was during these sessions when he would openly admit that he was something like a 2.5/3 point Calvinist. He would openly share the paradoxical statements in Scripture and talk about how he gladly accepted them both. As you know, he has now evolved in his understanding and interpretation, just as I have.

Shortly after my IBEX experience and graduation, I was accepted as an apprentice at John Piper’s church. It was during this time when I felt that I had enough education and training to make theological judgments for myself. In other words, I wanted to take the training and interpretive skills that I had gained and put them into practice. I had taught the Trinity and the Deity of Christ in the past, but I wanted to read the Scriptures and come up with reasons which were compelling to me, not just those that had been handed to me. In fact it was my Master’s IBEX teachers who made statements which caused me to question the traditional understanding. I went to the texts themselves to make the doctrine my own and become solidly convinced that the Trinity was true. I figured that if these doctrines were strong, they would easily stand as I searched and studied the texts. What I thought would happen, did not, as I came across clear, simple, straight forward texts that seemed to teach something different than what I had been taught.

It appeared that the NT concerned Jesus and God. The general tenor of Scripture led me to think that YWHW, the God of Israel, was the God of Jesus. Texts like, “There is one God and one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus” caused me to re-think my Trinitarian instruction. If the Trinity was to be found, it was not clear, for it seemed to rest on ambiguous Jewish poetic wisdom texts like John’s prologue and possible allusions to Isaiah or Exodus in John 8. I noticed that neither of these were Trinitarian in nature, but only Binitarian at best. Anyhow, you can read some more of my thoughts for a positive argument that Jesus is not YHWH, the one God of Israel on my website under “Religion.” The link is called, “Did Jesus believe in the Trinity?”

I think it may be misleading to say that I “delight” in uncertainty. We have never met, so it would be a stretch for you to make such a claim. Besides, how would anyone be able to prove that a claim like this is untrue? It is very easy to make all kinds of glib remarks about one another, but this only poisons the well for the readers. You make it sound as if I just throw my hands up in the air and give up the search for accurate information and don’t have any convictions. If you were to read any of the articles that I’ve written you would know better. What I state on the site is that our conclusions are tentative. This means that new information may become available, and in the information age, this happens quite often. I can have a high degree of certainty and conviction without having the final word on a topic.

My continued studies have led me to realize that even after we go through all of the proper methods in interpreting Scripture (utilizing background, language, grammar, customs, geography, culture), we still are left with an interpretation. From the earliest times men who sought after God disagreed about the nature of the Messiah. As you know, godly leaders disagree about Calvinism and Arminianism, they disagree about the rapture of the church, they disagree about tongues. Others disagree about the millennium, infant baptism, spiritual gifts, women in ministry, eternal security, predestination, and the nature and duration of hell.

Daniel B. Wallace says,

In a historical-literary investigation we are dealing with probability vs. possibility. We are attempting to recover meaning without all the data. This is not a hard science...Unlike the hard sciences, a falsifiable hypothesis in the humanities is difficult to demonstrate because of the vacillations in the levels of ambiguity in the data examined (in our case, the ambiguities in the texts whose authors cannot be consulted) (Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, 9).

I think it would be wise for us to take his insight seriously. We are not able to pull John, or Paul aside and ask, what did you mean by that? This leaves us to put the pieces together the best we can. Biblical, or any other interpretation is not a perfect science. Therefore, I am only asking for grace as I am doing the best I can. I acknowledge that my interpretation is just that, an interpretation. Should we not all acknowledge this? I am always open to good arguments, that is what changes my mind, not name calling or personal attacks.

Fred, in other matters, it saddens me that you seem to be unable to separate a quote from a person’s understanding of the world’s origins. I did not quote Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes for his evolutionary views, but because he said, “The mark of a civilized man is his willingness to re-examine his most cherished beliefs.” It is possible to agree with him on this point, without accepting everything he believes. You should know this. Furthermore, putting a Supreme Court justice in the class of a “crackpot philosopher” is an ad hominum attack hardly worth commenting on and completely misses the point of his quotation.

It never ceases to astonish me that Christians scoff at the idea of preserving and protecting the environment or exploring ways towards a healthier diet. It seems that you are assuming that there is some kind of anti-God agenda behind this, but in reality it is just the opposite. It is the idea that we are to imitate God and be good stewards of the earth and our bodies. Once again, I don’t have to support everything a particular organization is about to support their basic message. This is true for those that attend churches. Many agree on fundamentals and disagree on other matters.

Concerning Phil’s idea of an impotent God – well of coarse he thinks that, he has to! Like R.C. Sproul says, if there is a single atom that is running free, then God is not sovereign. I know where you and Phil are coming from. If you read my paper on Open Theism, you can see my biblical reasons for why I disagree. I think there are more problems with the classical Calvinistic approach, which I once shared with you, than the Open model. I don’t think God is insecure and therefore feels the need to control every atom. I think God is bigger, wiser, and exhaustively resourceful. Just as history is filled with sovereign kings over kingdoms who did not manipulate every action and reaction in their kingdom, God too can be sovereign without this puppeteer-like control.

Is everyone in church history that disagreed with the majority a “theological crank?” I continually find it ironic that it is the reformers, should I say it again, the Protestant reformers who bully and push around the significant minorities the most. Are you suggesting that Unitarians should not have an honest hearing? If Unitarianism was the more biblical perspective, how would you know? If any minority perspective was better, how would you know? I suppose church history settles it for you. It’s impossible for the church to be wrong, correct? We are safest by just joining whatever group has the largest following, right? We may as well all become Roman Catholics I suppose. I understand that you think everything is as God planned, the child molestations, rapes, car accidents, plane crashes, genocides, starving children, holocausts, wars, and murders. Even after God allowed all of these things, you can’t conceive of pastors and people in church being confused about doctrine? Why are there 34,000 Christian denominations then?

Fred, I know I have asked some pointed questions. I desire constructive criticism so that I can continue to learn, grow, and mature in my understanding. However, although your response was articulate, and interesting to read, I find your sneering remarks a pitiful commentary on the state of reformed evangelicalism; a church that does not desire to listen because it is well established with buildings, and churches, and institutions, and seminaries and all the rest. Let’s have a real conversation and I am sure we can both learn something from one another and be better off for it.


Dan Mages

6:25 PM, November 09, 2006  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

I have answered Dan here


6:48 AM, November 13, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dan Mages doesn't know to read. He actually uses ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics. I once saw him punching a baby. He's a heretic. Screw his Unitarian God.

1:55 PM, March 24, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why is everyone so afraid to embrace the fact that God functions outside of the "sovereignty" of any religious institution. It seems foolish to attack a person and his ideals, and not embrace the diversity with which God can operate in the world. If everyone was as close-minded as the people who uphold these traditional views, then we would never evolve into our true selves. Yes, I said evolve, relax, it's just a word. If God created us in his image, and we fell far from it, how much longer will we quarrel amongst each other before we climb back up to our designated perch?

Let's not forget that it was the established religion that tried to put a cap on the very science that allows our freedoms today. If you don't know what I'm talking about, maybe you should research a thing or two on Galileo and Newton.

2:01 PM, March 24, 2009  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

I take it that you are probably a young Dan supporter? In your early 20s, maybe 19 at the very least?

So do you believe the Bible with any amount of seriousness as a infallible revelation from God? Does it have any say on how we are to understand God, how we are to perceive Him? How we are to conduct our lives?

You write,
Let's not forget that it was the established religion that tried to put a cap on the very science that allows our freedoms today. If you don't know what I'm talking about, maybe you should research a thing or two on Galileo and Newton.

Actually, that is the lazy skeptical atheist view. I have done a fair amount of research on the subject. What have you read by the way?

In truth, Lucas, you had a magisterial authority attempting to defend an Aristotelian view of cosmology, not a biblical one. Galileo didn't discover anything that contradicts scripture.

It is similar to modern day big bang theorist attempting to defend their beloved model of galactic origins against any alternative interpretations.

Are you a believer in Darwinian, biological evolution? I had a question if you are.

11:49 AM, March 25, 2009  

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