I’ve listened to the entire 3 hour debate between James White and Roger Perkins.
I’ve also read Mr. Perkins latest rant on the subject (one of the more amusing lines from that screed: “Now, you are very, very wrong about my knowledge of the Greek language and I have written entire symposium papers about how to read lexicons.”).
Less amusing is his demonstration that he does not know how to read footnotes (see his discussion regarding Dr. White’s article “The Pre-Existence of Christ” and Moulton & Milligan (footnote 10)).
During the debate, Perkins repeatedly referred to the Trinitarian position as three “divine individuals.” It’s unclear why he used this approach. To those familiar with the Trinitarian position, it leaves him looking ignorant, as though he doesn’t know that our technical term is “persons” not “individuals.”
Perkins’ main positive argument was that the Old Testament knew who they worshiped, and that they had no conception of the Trinity. Dr. White’s rebuttal of this is that we have greater understanding about God, especially from the New Testament.
I understood Perkins’ argument about personal pronouns to be an attempted rebuttal argument, although it ended up consuming most of his constructive speech. It seemed that Mr. Perkins’ argument regarding personal pronouns was based on a faulty understanding of Dr. White’s usage of personal pronouns.
As enunciated by Mr. Perkins towards the beginning of his rebuttal speech, one Trinitarian argument is that a singular personal pronoun indicating one person is used of each of the Father and the Son in a dialog between them. Mr. Perkins seems to think that the argument is simply that the singular pronoun as such indicates one divine person. Therefore, when God is 9000 times described using a singular pronoun, it means God is being described as consisting of one person.
This argument misses the point of the argument regarding the dialog. The point in the dialog is that there is a distinction in the personal pronouns, which indicates a speaker is treating the other person as his audience. This shows us clear differentiation between the persons. The point is not that the grammatical form of the personal pronouns itself is itself the key, but rather the usage within the dialog. For example, if I say: “He and I are …” I have used two singular pronouns in a way that distinguishes and differentiates two persons. Mr. Perkins’ counter-argument that God is frequently (or even virtually always) referred to by a single pronoun is not a particularly compelling reply to this point, since it does not address the usage of the pronouns in the dialog.
It’s rather similar to Mr. Perkin’s attempted appeal to a verb he says uses a singular tense while referring to both the Father and the Son. He specifically claims that in Revelation (he calls it “Revelations”) “twenty-one and twenty-two” provide such an example.
Revelation 21:22 And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it.
The Greek verb translated “are” there is actually a singular verb. There is a lot that can be said about this interesting grammatical construction. However, this construction actually seems to undo Mr. Perkins’ point. If we are to understand this as meaning that the Lamb and the the Lord God Almighty are one person, there’s no obvious reason we cannot say simply that this refers to Jesus who is the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb. Indeed, we affirm Jesus to be παντοκράτωρ (Pantocrator).
Moreover, Perkins’ argument seems to rely on the similarity between the use of the term “person” in the context of “personal pronouns” and the use of the term “person” in the context of Trinitarianism.
Perkins provides the following:
JW: Perkins has a horrific lack of scholarship
RP: Said the man who told the world last Fri. night that God exists as “Three-Divine-Individuals, each with their own Separate Center of Consciousness”!?
Did you take the time to look up Louw-Nida’s semantic domain or Thayer’s on para in the dat. case as including “in the judgement of, in the opinion of, or metap., in the mind, Jn. 17:5 [this last reference is Thayer].” Or, how about Zodhiates with dia in the gen. case in Col. 1:16…was that also in “error,” esp. since Zodhiates & Thayer explicitly reference the verses under consideration, and Louw-Nida says para in the dat. Case “includes” the mng. “in the opinion of, in the judgement of”. I referenced everyone of these in the debate, to which you offered no response.