Pilgrim Pathways: Notes for a Diaspora People

Incarnational Discipleship

Stark Challenges to Jesus’ Divinity

Thom Stark’s series debating the orthodox view of Jesus’ divinity, “O My God-Man” is finished after 16 parts. It’s meticulously researched and I urge full engagement.  Some of Thom’s points are very strong, but others are weaker–such as his view of Col. and Philippians, in my view.

This series took much work and demands careful response.  Here’s a link to the full indexed series.


February 25, 2010 - Posted by | blog series, Christology, Divinity of Christ, theology


  1. Thanks, Michael.

    Comment by Thom | February 25, 2010 | Reply

    • Don’t thank me too strongly. I think parts of your case and much of your conclusions are very wrong. I am hoping folk like Chris Tilling, Mike Bird, or Darrell Pursiful have the time to to answer you thoroughly. If they don’t within 6 months, I’ll have to move some priorities around and attempt the task myself. Since I am not a New Testament scholar, I’d have to do far more research–for things which I believe folk like those mentioned have at their fingertips–and my reply may not be as persuasive. Nevertheless, I think your case is carefully constructed and deserves high caliber engagement. I also think it is a threat to the health of the church–including to the kind of liberation ethics to which we are both committed. But one cannot argue from possible consequences back to the truth or falsity of your arguments. There can be no shortcuts.

      Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | February 25, 2010 | Reply

  2. I was thanking you for linking to me. I think you’re wrong that my readings of Colossians and Philippians are weak. I also think it’s silly that you see it as a threat to the health of the church and to liberation ethics. I think that’s absurd, really. You can have strong communities and good liberation ethics in any religious or non-religious tradition. It depends on the people, not the metaphysics! If the health of the church and its commitment to liberation really depends so much on assent to a certain set of metaphysical propositions, so much the worse for the church.

    As it is, I am supported in most of my positions by a large chunk of New Testament and second temple scholarship.

    As for “answering me,” I think you tend to think that if any sort of answer is possible, then my position is undermined. There’s a big difference between what’s possible and what’s probable. I’m not into to defensive historiography.

    Comment by Thom | February 25, 2010 | Reply

  3. Thom: “Michael said my blog series is a ‘threat to the health of the church.'”

    Erica: “The church is healthy?”

    Comment by Thom | February 26, 2010 | Reply

    • To Erica: “Good point. No, the church is FAR from healthy. I just don’t think that wide acceptance of Tom’s Christology (or, actually, his reconstruction of NT Christology) will help and may actually make things worse.”

      As for Thom’s comment that he opposes “defensive historiography,” all historical reconstruction is defending some perspective. There is no neutral or objective historiography.

      Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | February 26, 2010 | Reply

  4. “As for Thom’s comment that he opposes ‘defensive historiography,’ all historical reconstruction is defending some perspective. There is no neutral or objective historiography.”

    I’ve never heard that before! What do they call that? Well, I’m going to name it pomo just ’cause I like the ring of it.

    Big difference between defending a reconstructive theory and defending a lifetime investment into a set of metaphysical truths into which we’ve placed all our hopes and dreams.

    There are degrees of objectivity. And the person who doesn’t care how the results turn out is automatically much closer to it than the one who does. You’ve amply displayed you do.

    Comment by Thom | February 26, 2010 | Reply

  5. “I just don’t think that wide acceptance of T[h]om’s Christology (or, actually, his reconstruction of NT Christology) will help and may actually make things worse.”

    Funny. That’s what Constantine said.

    Comment by Thom | February 26, 2010 | Reply

  6. OK Michael. You link to his series, describe it as “meticulously researched” and “carefully constructed”, and he responds by calling your objections “silly” and “absurd”. I think I’ll pass. BTW, who is Erica, and what’s with the snarky comment about the Church’s health? 😦

    Comment by BjartTheBaptist | February 26, 2010 | Reply

  7. And your rebuttal compared to “porno”? In the words of Dr. Heinz Doofenshmirtz; “who benefits from this?”

    Comment by BjartTheBaptist | February 26, 2010 | Reply

  8. Bjart,

    What I called silly and absurd had nothing to do with any criticism of my argument. As he himself admitted, Michael was criticizing my position without offering any arguments.

    And I’m sorry you misread “pomo” ar “porno,” but that’s not my fault.

    Pass all you like. Michael passed before he started too.

    Comment by Atlas | February 26, 2010 | Reply

  9. Let me just make a few things very clear here, Bjart.

    (1) Michael and I are friends, have been for a few years; we’re both hotheads and we both understand that about each other. We disagree with each other a lot, but we also respect each other.

    (2) My first comment here was to thank Michael. A simple thank you, for his linking to my series. He made unsupported criticisms of my work in his post, but I left it alone. I just thanked him.

    Then, in response to my thanks, Michael launches into more unsupported criticisms of my work, and makes clear that he’s not planning on offering support for his criticisms anytime soon, also stating his assumption that people more qualified than he to critique me are going to agree with him over me and come get me, as it were.

    Not only that, he makes an unsupported claim that, not only am I wrong, but my position is dangerous. He offered no reasons why. He simply stated the bald claim.

    Then, and only then, in response, did I critique his unsupported criticisms, and in response to his claim that my position is dangerous, I offered reasons why such a claim is ridiculous, reasons I knew Michael would have to consider, precisely because of his commitment to interfaith dialogue. If he believes Muslim communities can be healthy and sustain a liberation ethic (and he does), then he really has no basis to say that belief in the deity of Jesus is necessary in order to sustain communities of faith who are committed to liberation.

    So I think your reading of me here has been quite selective. I stand by my statement that Michael’s criticism (of my position, not my “meticulous” argument/s) is silly and absurd, and I stand by it for precisely the reasons I offered when I first made it.

    Now, I’m all for getting along. But Erica is my wife, and if you’d like to further question her character, I’ll give you my house address.

    Comment by Atlas | February 27, 2010 | Reply

  10. I misread “pomo” as “porno”. You have nothing to be sorry about.

    It appears that someone named Erica has made a snarky(sarcastically critical or mocking and malicious)comment about the Church, which has later been deleted. I’m not making any character judgments. I’m just lost.

    I offer a sincere and humble apology for my lack of understanding.

    Hot Heads have early heart attacks and strokes. Have a glass of wine and meditate 😀

    Comment by Bjarthur | February 27, 2010 | Reply

  11. Nice! 🙂

    I’m about to have the wine. But some hot heads live an awful long time.

    Erica’s comment was deleted. I was relaying what she said. And there was nothing “snarky” about it. She’s a member of the church, so she has a right to offer criticism.


    Comment by Atlas | February 27, 2010 | Reply

  12. Sorry. That should’ve read, “Erica’s comment was NOT deleted.” I was relaying what she said to me in person.

    Comment by Atlas | February 27, 2010 | Reply

    • Quit fighting, guys. Bjart, I hope you don’t give Thom’s view a pass.

      Thom, what makes a healthy Islamic community of faith and what makes a healthy Christian one are not the same thing. But, again, whether or not I am right about the stakes involved CAN NOT be used to pre-judge your case. Your case has to be decided on its merits.

      But you shouldn’t be surprised that people, including me, have interests and loyalties to certain perspectives. One of my other loyalties, however, is to truth and information integrity. It won’t be easy to persuade me (or, I assume, others), but not impossible. I’ve had to revise strong convictions before–it’s never easy.

      As yet, I think you’re wrong (and, on this, wrongheaded), but that’s not unusual in debates of this kind. We meet the same kind of resistance in trying to convince just war theorists of pacifism, for instance. There is no neutral ground and convictions, unlike mere opinions, are not easily changed–and not changed at all without the person or community holding those convictions becoming significantly different than before.

      So, “resistance is expected.”

      Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | February 27, 2010 | Reply

  13. Michael,

    I still disagree emphatically that assent to Trinitarian doctrine is necessary for a healthy Christian church committed to liberation, and would be really interested in hearing some sort of explanation WHY denial of the Trinity is threatening to the Church’s health and commitment to liberation. Until then, I’ll continue to see that claim as silly and absurd—in love and affection for you.

    That said, the rest of your comment is sort of irrelevant. I am NOT surprised to find resistance. Not in the slightest. I expect resistance. All I’m saying is that good resistance should include substantive, descriptive criticisms of my argumentation and my position. So far, you’ve offered none. That’s fine. You don’t have to. But as long as you continue to disparage my position without offering reasons why, I will continue to point that fact out. Once you start offering reasons, then I’ll address those.

    To reiterate: you don’t have to tell me that “resistance is expected.” I expect resistance. It’s just that I hope to encounter substantive resistance. And whenever I encounter resistance that it not substantive, I will not shrink back from pointing that out.

    Comment by Atlas | February 27, 2010 | Reply

    • Thom, I think you deserve that kind of substantive resistance/engagement. It’s because my interests are elsewhere right now (and there’s only so many hours in the day) that I hoped to steer others to your site. THAT’s where the substantive discussion should take place.

      Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | February 27, 2010 | Reply

  14. And with a “Thanks, Michael,” we’ve come full circle. 🙂

    Comment by Thom | February 27, 2010 | Reply

  15. Quite frankly, this Thom bloke seems like a right jerk.

    Comment by Anonymous | February 28, 2010 | Reply

    • He’s not. Please read his blog. He just wants me to interact carefully with his arguments and I’m trying to get others to do it, instead.

      Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | March 1, 2010 | Reply

      • And I appreciate that!

        Comment by Thom | March 1, 2010

  16. I agree. Stuff him. He’s a bloody tosser. Nothing of value to offer. Hey, Thom! Get a life, mate.

    Comment by Anonymous | March 1, 2010 | Reply

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