As if often noted by Dr. White on his program, The Dividing Line, there are certain presuppositions that show up again and again in cults. The most obvious one is that of Unitarianism.
These presuppositions can be illustrated quite clearly in an excerpt from Dr. White’s “The Forgotten Trinity.”
So we can see that rather than denying the deity of Christ, John 14:28 implies it, for the position into which the Son was going is a position fit only for deity, not for mere creatures. This is brought out plainly in the words of Jesus in John 17 and His prayer to the Father:
This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do. Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was. (John 17:3-5)
Amazingly, even this passage is sometimes cited against the truth of the Trinity. How can a passage that connects eternal life itself with knowledge of both the Father and the Son, and that speaks of the Son having shared the very glory of the Father in eternity past (cf. Isaiah 48:11), be used against the deity of Christ? Again, it requires one to make a couple of false assumptions right at that the start. First, one must assume unitarianism, and refuse to see that “God” can refer either to the person of the Father, or can be used more generically of the godhead en toto. Secondly, one must assume that if there is any difference between the Father and the Son, then the Son is not truly deity, the old “difference in function does not indicate inferiority of nature” issue. So the argument is, “Jesus said the Father was the only true God. Hence, Jesus is not God, and is an inferior creature.” Yet, what Jesus said was that to have eternal life one must know both the one true God and Jesus Christ, who was sent by the Father. This is exactly what we read in 1 John, where having eternal life involves knowing both the Father and the Son.
But what of the phrase “the only true God”? Doesn’t this mean that Jesus isn’t God? Of course not. How else would Jesus have made mention of the truth of monotheism? Since He is not a separate God from the Father (He is a separate Person, sharing the one Being that is God), how could His confession of the deity of the Father be taken as a denial of His own deity? As the perfect God-man, we again encounter the question of how the Incarnate One would behave and relate to the Persons who did not enter into human existence (i.e., the Father and the Spirit), just as we discussed above in reference to John 20:17. Would Jesus deny the deity of the Father? Would He say that the Father is not the only true God? What is often missed by those who present John 17:3 as an argument against the deity of Christ is that they have only two options as to what the passage is saying, if in fact it is not supporting the deity of Christ. Either 1) Jesus is therefore a false god, separate from the Father, or 2) Jesus would have to make some statement supporting polytheism, like “You are one of a couple of true Gods” or some other such absurd statement. Instead, Jesus speaks the truth: there is only one true God, and as the God-Man, He prayed to the one true God, just as we would expect.
Having seen the misuse of the passage, we can then see how it is directly relevant to John 14:28, in that is describes the exalted position the Son had before the Incarnation, sharing the very glory of the Father. It is no surprise to recall that John himself had insisted that when Isaiah saw the glory of Jehovah, Isaiah was, in fact, seeing the glory of Christ and was speaking about Him (John 12:39-41, see chapter nine). Therefore, we can easily understand that the Father was, during the entire time of the Incarnation, positionally greater than the Son, who voluntarily subjected Himself to the Father, taking a subordinate position, doing the Father’s will, all to fulfill the eternal covenant of redemption.
(The Forgotten Trinity, pgs 90-91)
I had a very interesting encounter some time ago, while discussing these issues with a Jehovah’s Witness.
I went to Philippians 2, in response to an objection that centered around the humanity of Christ. (One of several) I found something very interesting – every time they’d read Phil 2, they’d just “skip over” the portion that speaks of Christ as “being in the form of God”. Every time. Like it wasn’t even there. After the 4th time I went back to that section, he finally gave me a throwaway answer – “that just means that Jesus was like God” – he became agitated, so I moved on.
So, I proceeded to Isaiah 6. If you remember, this is the chapter where Isaiah sees the Lord – in majesty, train of his robe fills the temple, etc. I showed him the “YHWH” Strong’s reference in my bible – and he agreed, this must be Jehovah God. Then, I took him to John 12. He was visibly annoyed at this point, and muttering to himself – but he turned. We read from verse 30 to verse 41. I asked him: “Who did Isaiah see?” His answer – “God”
I said, “exactly”. Who is John saying that Isaiah saw? “God.” “So,” I said, “who is John saying that Jesus is?” He became extremely agitated at this point, and said “Jesus is a created being – he cannot be God!” “Yet”, I pressed, “Jesus is said, right here, to be the one that Isaiah saw.” “Where does it say that?” He replied. I went through all the times just prior, and just after, that John points out, over and over, that Jesus is the one that is referred to throughout, as “Him”. At 5 times within the previous 5 verses, “Him” is Jesus. There is no context change between the verse prior, and this one – all the same discussion. The next verse says that “even some of the rulers believed in Him” – I asked J. – in who? “God”, was his answer. “The rulers already believed in God the Father – and to be a Jew, you HAD to confess the Father as God – so who is John saying they are afraid of confessing, for fear of being put out of the synagogue? “God!” (Very, very agitated, now)
“Read on a little further, then. ‘He who believes in Me does not believe in Me, but in the One who sent Me. He who sees me, sees the One who sent Me.’ See that? Christ is answering your question for you. Isaiah saw the glory of the preincarnate Christ, seated on a throne, with the train of His robe, filling the temple.”
I was then informed that the conversation was over, he didn’t want to talk about it, that we were done. I asked him – “are you sure you wouldn’t like to look at Psalm 102, first?” The last response I got was “What part of the conversation is over did you not understand?”
As you can see, there is a presupposition involved. God *must* be unitarian, so anything which implies that God is not is immediately discarded as untrue. Scripture’s testimony is insufficient to overthrow the authority, to this individual, of their presuppositions. Now, I think I may have succeeded in pointing their presups out to them. We cannot, however, make them change them. That is the work of God. However, we can’t just say “we’ll leave it up to God for everything”. God also commands us to give an answer – so that’s what we do 🙂 He uses means to accomplish His ends! I may do more of these as we go along, if they are helpful to our readers.