|Pastor John Clark (Pastor John's House): On the Trinity|
The article, "Is Jesus God?" by John David Clark, Sr., head of a site called "Pastor John's House," is of the sort from people for whom Wisdom theology (see here) is an unknown. Hence it is no surprise to find their refutation of the Trinity seriously lacking.
Clark would also have problems with the scholarship showing that Israel was monolatrous. But it does bring up a good point: What about passages like Is. 41:23-24, which say that other gods are "nothing"? Doesn't that mean, like, "non-existent"?
It does; but wait. Isaiah's entire passage is essentially an honor challenge, which means it's a mocking insult to get out there and do something. And what could be more insulting to say of a deity, "you're a fraud"?
Contrary to Pastor John, this passage says nothing explicit about the "real" existence of other beings. The challenge was not, "prove you are real" but, "prove you can act." By the reckoning of monolatry, this is Yahweh saying that these gods aren't so much not real, as not what their people say they are cracked up to be. (Note that it says, "You are OF nothing," not that they ARE nothing.)
So indeed resolves John's confusion over how Scripture could refer to "gods" as though real. It also helps to know the meaning of elohim as more abstract than our word "god" especially with the capital G. But John's point then?
After some talk about how men can be invested with authority by God (which no one doubts here), we get to John's main point, which is that Jesus, as a man vested by God (like Moses before Pharaoh), is no more "god" that Moses in that sense.
Oh, sure, he did create heaven and earth and all that (so says Pastor John, noting John 1:1-3 and Col. 1:16); sure he is God's image (noting Heb. 1:3 -- three passages, now, which more than any others make Jesus part of that hypostatic unity found in Trinitarianism), but rather than being one who is created eternally as a hypostatic entity, as one created sometime in "the unknown of eternity past."
Yes, it's just Arianism yet again. But John doesn't even know that "Alpha and Omega, beginning and the end, first and the last" were ancient titles applied to the supreme God -- not to any part of His temporal creation.
So in sum: Jesus is not "God" but is "God to," by this theology; just as Moses to Pharaoh. But the Biblical data goes far beyond that, to identification of Jesus with deity, and with the Father's hypostatic Wisdom. Not mere conferral of a title, as John says (even as he quotes Phil. 2:9, a fourth passage linking Jesus to Wisdom).
From here John enters into commentary that the Father and Son are not the same person. With this we do not disagree, of course; we do disagree with John's assessment, "The Holy Spirit is not a person," and wonder if he can answer any of the questions here about the Spirit doing quite personal things. Once again, what John calls a "queer, nonsensical doctrine" wasn't "originally conjured up by Catholicism" as he says; it had its roots in Judaism prior to the New Testament.
"[F]oreign to all revelation and reason" as he says? Not if you do your research.
In closing, John offers some statements showing that he knows of no distinction between functional subordination ("the Father is greater than I") and ontological subordination (the former, proper in Trinitarianism; the latter, not so). "Isn't it obvious that if all power in heaven and in earth is given to Jesus, then He who gave that power to Jesus is greater than Jesus?"
Functionally, yes. Ontologically, no. And to close, John offers the usual misapprobation of Mark 10:18. John says, "Some of us need to listen carefully to what Jesus through the Spirit is saying."
I have a better idea: Some of us need to listen carefully to sound scholarship, and not pretend that our own imaginations based on a "plain reading" of the text is somehow the words of Jesus. That after all is how many cults get their start.
And now an update. It seems I was prescient when I mentioned cults. An apologetics list I subscribe to passed along a copy of this article:
Family divided: Pastor denies his group is a cult -- Times-News, Burlington, NC, USA -- Nov. 29, 2007
Michael Clark will be calling his siblings during the holiday season to wish them a Merry Christmas.
He might even get to visit some of them. But, he says, he will not be calling or visiting one of his older brothers, John Clark, a pastor who lives in Graham.
Michael, 54, an associate minister at Nashville Praise & Worship Center in Nashville, N.C., says he hasn't spoken with his brother in about 15 years, not because he doesn't want to but because John Clark doesn't let him.
"He considers us unclean," Michael Clark said, referring to himself and his 11 siblings. "He wants nothing to do with us."
John Clark is the head of a group called Pastor John's House, which meets at Bullard Lane in Graham for prayer and Bible studies.
He is also at the center of a complaint that is being battled in Alamance County Superior Court in which a former member of the group alleges that Clark was responsible for breaking up his marriage. The lawsuit was dismissed on Thursday.
Still, the matter raised issues about Clark's methods when dealing with the group members.
Some have gone as far as calling his group a cult.
Many, including Michael Clark, allege that this is not the first time a marriage has been affected by the wisdom of John Clark.
A pastor from a church in New Mexico, however, is so convinced John Clark's group is a cult that he dedicated a section of his church's Web site (here) to look at the group's doctrines and beliefs.
Roger Griffith, senior pastor at First Assembly of God in Bosque Farm, N.M., says he found out about the group in the late 1990s when a member of his congregation told him she was considering visiting the group.
The woman in question was going through a hard separation and was very vulnerable, Griffith says. He says she told him that she was told by someone in the group that she needed to move to North Carolina in order to be saved and that she could marry someone from the group. [...]
Also of note in the message was this description from that site:
Many of Clark's other "revelations" are just as bizarre. He claims that the Holy Spirit is the blood of Jesus. He believes that none are truly saved who do not speak in tongues. He denies the doctrine of the Trinity. He lowers the deity of Christ to the level of an exalted man. He believes that God has abolished the ordinances of water baptism and the Lord's Supper. Clark either denies or distorts almost every doctrine of evangelical Christianity. It might be interesting to note that he adamently teaches that tithes should be given to the "minister of God." Then, he uses his own absurd and unbiblical teachings to make himself the only "minister of God" in the whole world who is seemingly worthy of receiving tithes.
None of this is surprising, as when Clark deigned to notice to this article, he refused to reply and instead referred me to a link on a different, tangential issue, that of the personhood of the Spirit; his one comment was that the Spirit is never called "he" by the Apostles -- as if this negates the passages that show the Spirit doing what only a person can do.
I think the cultic nature of Pastor John's House speaks for itself in this commentary from one of his flock:
I knew that I probably didn't need to read any further. However, I tried. Like you said, I, too, am willing to be wrong and consider. Reading his website reminded me so much of where I was in 1988 - - confusion!
And another said:
Mr. Holding writes many words, but I am having trouble determining what he is trying to say. But, I get the sense that he is clutching at straw as he sinks in the mire of a self-perceived scholarly wisdom, and instead of asking for help, he throws straw in your face. Lord help him. I suppose that if Jesus were to stand before him and tell him a truth, he would accuse Jesus of being demon possessed. Could Mr. Holding be providing us a glimpse of what the Jewish leaders of Jesusí day were like?
And Pastor John himself replied:
Jesus spoke simply because he wanted to be understood. Any man sent from God is the same way. All the "hypostasis" and "homoiousias" jabber from men of Mr. Holding's persuasion is not meant to instruct; it is meant to impress. It is intended to make the hearers feel inferior, and those poor children of God who have not been taught the truth usually feel just that way. How many times have I witnessed them cowered by erudite fools who talk like that. Such talk is not of God.
Yes, this correspondence with Mr. Holding is a glimpse, albeit a very small one, of what it was like when the Lord tried to communicate with the hard-hearted elders of Israel. Mr. Holding, I was surprised to learn is a lightweight, much more bluster than substance, and apparently completely unable to conduct a serious and godly conversation when confronted with love and light. But then, isn't all of Christianity lightweight, really, when compared to the glory of the word of God? I can only hope that somewhere down the road, Jesus gets to him the way he got through my hard shell and touched me.
Not surprisingly, Pastor John and his followers merely took their correction as a type of persecution validating the error of their ways. Such are indeed the ways of cults.