Who is God? A Debate on the Trinity | Dr. James White v Joe Ventilacion of Iglesia Ni Cristo
I've finally finished watching the recent debate between Dr. James White and Joe Ventilacion of Iglesia Ni Cristo. If you haven't seen the debate, South Dakota Apologetics has the entire debate (including intermissions) in the video below:
Dr. James White of Alpha & Omega Ministries debates Bro. Joe Ventilacion of Iglesia ni Cristo, moderated by Dale Bartcher of Family Heritage Alliance. Dr. White defends the affirmative: “The Bible teaches that within the one Being that is God there exists eternally three coequal and coeternal persons, namely, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” Bro. Joe Ventilacion argues the negative. This event is held in Rapid City, SD, in the Best Western Ramkota Convention Center at 6PM MST, on April 21st, 2017. This event was arranged and coordinated by the ministry of South Dakota Apologetics.Some of my own, brief observations:
- Different name, same story. I, like many of you, haven't encountered any INC before, so this debate was certainly revealing in some ways. It wasn't new as far as argumentation, however. Whether one is dealing with Unitarians, Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, Muslims, or any other group arguing against the Trinity, the arguments come back to the same key texts. Such debates are good for building Christian confidence and knowledge in the affirmative and biblical presentation of our God regardless of who we address.
- White's anticipatory argumentation could have alone ended the debate. Dr. White perfectly anticipated the counter-claims in his opening presentation. Namely:
- He stated that since he also believes in one God (monotheism), arguing that he believed in multiple gods is a misrepresentation of his Trinitarian beliefs.
- He furthermore stated that Trinitarians believe that there are differences between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, so demonstrating those differences prove nothing against Trinitarianism.
- This would have proved to be both a time-saver and a prodding for Ventilacion to prove a Unitarian view of God and make for a more lively debate. Sadly, Ventilacion consistently argued
- that Trinitarians believe in more than one God if Jesus is also God, and
- that there are differences between the Father and the Son. This meant that much of the debate involved White correcting Ventilacion on Trinitarian theology rather than responding to a Unitarian rebuttal.
- Ventilacion wasn't committed to sola scriptura. After White's opening argument which is chock-full of Scripture, Ventilacion argued that White only believes in the Trinity only because it's a holdover from Roman Catholicism. He couldn't prove it, but okay. Such a charge would have carried more weight if Ventilacion had made his own sola scriptura case; he instead had a library and a team handing him multiple INC materials (among others) to support his claims. When Ventilacion quoted Scripture, it was a hodge-podge of English versions (NKJV, TEV, and NLT to name a few).
- Ventilacion also wasn't committed to tota scriptura. By the way, White anticipated Ventilacion with his call to sola scriptura and tota scriptura, that theology should arise from the Scripture alone and should consider all of Scripture. Unfortunately, Ventilacion would base his arguments on parts of verses or verses out of context, and never ventured far from 1 Timothy 1:17 When White pressed him for context on certain verses, Ventilacion would shrug it off and change to other contexts. I'm not sure what they really believe about Jesus based on this debate (other than He is created, not God), as Ventilacion stuck to a strictly negative presentation.
- Did Ventilacion know Greek? It became clear even to someone with as limited knowledge of Greek as myself that Ventilacion has no real facility in the languages. For instance:
- He was oddly fixated on the accusative case for one of his arguments (an argument I couldn't figure out, to be honest).
- He didn't seem to know what White was talking about when asking if a kai was conjunctive and disjunctive (and made an off-handed comment was that he didn't know what was important about kai being "subjunctive," apparently meaning to say "con/disjunctive").
- He had persistent trouble with his glasses when another question about the Greek was raised. In reading the Greek Septuagint, Ventilacion asked White where the Tetragrammaton was (YHWH - the Name of God in the Hebrew text).
- One need not be a Greek scholar to know about God (praise the Lord!), but it's noteworthy because Ventilacion claims to have taught Greek, seemed to mock White's Greek pronunciations at the beginning of the debate, and was trotting out his own Greek analysis.
- White kept presenting the gospel! White extended a clear and impassioned gospel call three times in the course of the debate. This was not only encouraging and an example to us in our own interactions, but a cause for prayer as we continue to hear about this debate and its effects. It's sad that INC seems to have no hope in the eternality of the soul (though it wasn't clear what Ventilacion was actually saying).
Those are some of my thoughts. If you want more:
- I noticed that Slimjim has posted a couple of helpful articles on the debate:
- Argument against the Trinity? Jose Ventilacion on the death of Christ
- Argument against the Trinity? Joe Ventilacion on Christ not Θεόν?
- SDA posted the hour-long recap and Q-and-A: