In the first part of this series, I explained and defended the orthodox doctrine concerning the consubstantial unity of the Trinity, particularly against the heresy of Unitarianism. I concluded that the Church cannot be complacent about the threat of this doctrine due merely to its historical refutation and to the modern recognition of Unitarian Universalist churches as sectarian, for this doctrine has re-entered mainstream Christianity through alienism and egalitarianism. Before beginning to explain this claim, let me first note that all of history, but particularly recent history, shows that one of the devil’s most effective ways to deceive the faithful is through subtlety (II Cor. 11:14). The devil’s most effective means of fighting orthodoxy in the Church does not involve satanists doing door-to-door missionary work among Christians. He is much more effective by infiltrating the Church from within, and most effective when this can be done unnoticed. Countless examples in history show how this has been the primary strategy of the enemies of the Church: taking a Christian doctrine, distorting it slightly, and attacking orthodoxy from within, utilizing the distorted doctrine as a weapon that demands consistency.
Using these same methods of deception, the wolves within the Church have also managed to deceive almost all of Christianity to embrace egalitarianism and alienism. They begin with a kernel of truth, rightly viewing creation as a unity. This is true in the sense that all of creation is indeed God’s property. All men descend from the first man, Adam, and therefore, despite the fall, remnants of the image of God remain in all men. A unity therefore also exists between all of mankind as God’s creation, and all men are to seek to live in peace and harmony together on God’s earth. These are all truths in complete agreement with God’s Word. However, by simply disregarding God’s created order, as is evident from natural revelation and God’s revealed Law-Word, these heresies twist Christian truths to mean something radically different from the meaning they really convey.
The Imago Dei and Its Implications for Unity in Diversity
As was shown earlier, the relation between the three Persons in the Trinity can be viewed as one of unity in diversity. Man was created in God’s image according to Genesis 1:26, which reads: “Then God said: ‘Let us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’” God is here employing the plural pronoun “our” when speaking in the first person. The Septuagint uses the plural subjunctive verb ποιησωμεν (poiesomen), literally meaning “let us make” in the deliberative sense. During the whole creation narrative thus far, God, merely by virtue of simple commands, spoke His creation into existence. But now, He enters into consultation. In Calvin’s commentary on this passage, he explains the correct understanding thereof and refutes two heretical interpretations grounded in Unitarianism:
But since the Lord needs no other counselor, there can be no doubt that he consulted with himself. The Jews make themselves altogether ridiculous, in pretending that God held communication with the earth or with angels. The earth, forsooth, was a most excellent adviser! And to ascribe the least portion of a work so exquisite to angels, is a sacrilege to be held in abhorrence. Where, indeed, will they find that we were created after the image of the earth, or of angels? Does not Moses directly exclude all creatures in express terms, when he declares that Adam was created after the image of God? Others who deem themselves more acute, but are doubly infatuated, say that God spoke of himself in the plural number, according to the custom of princes. As if, in truth, that barbarous style of speaking, which has grown into use within a few past centuries, had, even then, prevailed in the world.1
When comparing this Scripture with various other passages throughout the Bible, it becomes even more evident that we have a consultation of the three Persons within the one Triune God. Not only the Father, but also the Spirit is involved in the work of creation (Gen 1:2), and the Father made all things through Christ, the Word with and by which He speaks creation into existence (John 1:1-3). The fact that consultation is so explicitly taught here, is also clarified by Psalm 110:1-2, where it becomes clear that Christ was in eternity appointed by the Father, through the power of the Spirit, to redeem His elect from sin. This covenant made between the three persons within the Trinity is the very first of the covenants acknowledged by Reformed theology, namely the covenant of redemption. It is indeed shocking that, not 500 years after Calvin, scholars at mainline “Protestant” theological faculties, like the one I attended, would uphold both Unitarian interpretations as possibilities, but discount the traditional Trinitarian exegesis offered by Calvin. Once this covenant is understood, it becomes very clear as to why God enters into consultation in Gen. 1:26 in particular, since when making mankind in the image of Himself, He also at the same time knows that the fall will occur and undertakes to restore this Imago Dei in man through Christ’s perfect sacrifice. Therefore, the Trinitarian nature of the redemptive plan of God necessitates that the image of God in man would reflect the diversity of the Trinity itself.
Of course, there are many alienists and egalitarians who would reject the Unitarian interpretation of Gen. 1:26, but Rev. Bret McAtee explains how these heresies implicitly promote Unitarianism and pose a threat to the orthodox doctrine of Trinitarian unity:
Alienism represents a Unitarian view of God and may suggest that their God is really man. All visions of God that are Unitarian require unity in the godhead at some point. The Alienists takes man as God; therefore man must be forced to be the same (egalitarianism). Since the Alienist has a Unitarian vision of god, the Alienist will work to make sure his god (man) is one. He has no room for the many in his vision of god. To the contrary, the Christian sees God as one and many. As such, there is unity in diversity. The Biblical Christian understands that there is a created one-and-many that corresponds to the Creator one-and many. As such, the Biblical Christian looks for Unity inasmuch as man is created in the image of God and is normed by God’s law-word. However, the Biblical Christian also expects diversity as reflecting God’s Trinitarian nature. That many will be reflected in the differences and distinctions that God has ordained among different peoples and cultures. Whenever you find Alienism that is humanistic, there you will find Unitarianism and a drive towards sameness. Whenever you find Biblical Christianity, there you will find unity in diversity.
So often is a refutation of kinism, even from within the Reformed community, marked by such phrases as “There is only one race, the human race” or “We are all part of the same family of Adam.” Obviously, all men as descendants of Adam will have (although to varying degrees) a remnant of the Imago Dei imprinted on their being, and all have to look to the same Redeemer for full restoration of this image (I Tim. 2:5-6).2 But just as Trinitarian unity does not negate the existence of a distinguishable diversity within the Godhead, the same goes for mankind made in His image. One of the most prominent examples of this diversity within mankind is gender differences; from the beginning, the first family of mankind was marked by diversity with regard to the sexes. Other characteristics of mankind represent the diversity of the Imago Dei, such as are found even within the same (immediate) family: differences with regard to appearance, talents, and preferences. Due to the Imago Dei, no two persons of all the people who ever were or will be, even of those within the body of Christ, share a complete, indistinguishable, Unitarian unity (I Cor. 12:4-30). This can also be applied to the doctrine of race and nationhood; in Acts 17:27-28, Paul identifies God’s purpose for this diversity within mankind as a reflection of God’s image: “That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us: For in him we live, and move, and have our being.” It is very clear from this passage that a kinist anthropology is in line with the will of God.
This diversity in the Imago Dei, being a reflection of the diversity within the Godhead, is so often denied and distorted by the false religions, exactly because they lack a correct understanding of the Trinitarian (diverse) nature thereof. An example of this can be found in Islam, where Arabic is considered to be the language of heaven, the language in which prayers to Allah ought to be conducted.3 Judaism and dispensationalism commit an analogous error, making ethnicity a factor in soteriology. Because of their (implicitly or explicitly) Unitarian view of God, none of these false religions can appreciate the diversity of Christ’s body that the true religion affirms.
The orthodox doctrine of Trinitarian consubstantial unity is non-negotiable. All those who reject it, reject Christ. Alienism and egalitarianism are therefore heresies that would threaten not only our lives, our families, our nations, and Christendom itself, but – when the implications of their understanding of God and the cosmos are taken to their logical conclusion – also the salvation of our souls. This danger exists not because all alienists are consciously Unitarians, but because the kinist anthropology is the only one reflecting an orthodox understanding of the Trinitarian unity of God and of mankind as formed in His image.
- http://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/calcom01.vii.i.html ↩
- Note how the term Imago Dei can here be differently used. Reformed theologians generally distinguish between a broader and a narrower meaning of the Imago Dei, the former referring to man’s basic capacity of reason, conscience, and will, and the latter referring to man’s proficient use of those capacities, i.e. his moral righteousness and holiness. For example, Charles Hodge speaks of this distinction as the “essential” vs. “accidental” image of God in Volume II of his Systematic Theology, p. 99. Similarly, R.L. Dabney, on p. 294 of his Systematic Theology, follows Herman Witsius in articulating that man’s “antecedent” Imago Dei consists of his “spiritual and immortal nature,” whereas the Imago Dei ”formally” consists in his holiness and moral rectitude. In the same way, we argue that in the broad sense, all men possess the Imago Dei equally, whereas in the narrow sense, it can be imprinted in varying degrees. Specifically, certain groups of men (e.g. races) can possibly bear the Imago Dei in different degrees (in the narrow sense), according to the degree of their conformity to the law of God; yet this does not at all imply that other groups of men lack the Imago Dei in the broad sense. As long as our terms are properly defined, this ought to pose no problem, and anyone who wishes to use this as an objection that kinists deny the image of God in certain races are ignoring important distinctions and committing slander. ↩
- http://www.faithfreedom.org/articles/quran-koran/arabic-language-the-weapon-of-muslim-apologists-to-enslave-non-arabs/ ↩