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Sunday, August 30, 2015

Faith Strengthened (Pt 2) Under the Microscope: Chapter 55

John 17:3, Jesus says, "And this is life eternal, that they might know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent." In this verse, Jesus acknowledged himself to be merely a messenger, and not an integral part of the Deity. The awe and worship due to the Almighty is also, in 1 Timothy 1:17, declared to belong to God alone; for we find there, "Now unto the king eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever, amen." If Jesus does not share the glory of God, he must be dependent on the will of his Creator, like every other creature. 
 Troki gives an allusion to Isaiah 42:
“I am the Lord, I have called You in righteousness,
I will also hold You by the hand and watch over You,
And I will appoint You as a covenant to the people,
As a light to the nations,
To open blind eyes,
To bring out prisoners from the dungeon
And those who dwell in darkness from the prison. “I am the Lord, that is My name;
I will not give My glory to another,
Nor My praise to graven images. “Behold, the former things have come to pass,
Now I declare new things;
Before they spring forth I proclaim them to you.”
Again, Troki reads John while ignoring the first 18 verses, which give the background needed to understand this book. A key verse is 14
And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.
Let's look at John 12:
These things Jesus spoke, and He went away and hid Himself from them. But though He had performed so many [n]signs before them, yet they were not believing in Him. This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet which he spoke: “Lord, who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” For this reason they could not believe, for Isaiah said again, “He has blinded their eyes and He hardened their heart, so that they would not see with their eyes and perceive with their heart, and be converted and I heal them.” These things Isaiah said because he saw His glory, and he spoke of Him. Nevertheless many even of the rulers believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they were not confessing Him, for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God.
 John is quoting Isaiah 6, which speaks of God's glory and says that Isaiah saw the glory of Jesus. This can only make sense if Jesus is God.

Regarding John 17, what exactly did we expect Jesus to say? Did we expect him to say that you, Father, are just one of many gods? If the Jehovah's Witnesses were right that this verse teaches that only the Father is God, then they would have to reject Jesus as a false God, because even the New World Translation translates John 1:1 as saying that Jesus was a god.

Again, Troki's answer is a straw man attack on the idea of Trinitarian monotheism. This is to say that there is one God, but that God is not one person. I think of this as one mind with multiple centers of self-consciousness. Since there is one God, any of the three persons could say to another "you are the only true God" and the statement would be true.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Faith Strengthened (Pt 2) Under the Microscope: Chapter 54

John 13:34, Jesus asserts, "A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another," etc. This commandment was by no means a new one. Moses had inculcated it in the words, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thy self." Matthew 19:19, and 22:39, admit that Moses was the first who promulgated this precept
 Again, it's hard to pinpoint Troki's exact objection. He argues that by calling it a "new" commandment, Jesus was contradicting himself and the book of Leviticus. In fact, the objection is pretty silly given the context of the two verses:
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
 Jesus is not just telling his disciples to love one another. He is saying that they should love one another as Jesus loved them. They should love one another in the way that they have been loved by their master. Jesus repeats this command two chapters later.
This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.
This is the meaning of the statement. Jesus is telling his disciples to love one another to the point of self-sacrifice. This is in stark contrast to the conventional Jewish wisdom of the day. Bava Metzia 62A states:
If two are travelling on a journey [far from civilization], and one has a pitcher of water, if both drink, they will [both] die, but if one only drinks, he can reach civilization, - The Son of Patura taught: It is better that both should drink and die, rather than that one should behold his companion's death. Until R. Akiba came and taught: 'that thy brother may live with thee:' thy life takes precedence over his life.
Jesus taught to the contrary: you are to lay down your own life for your companion.

Faith Strengthened (Pt 2) Under the Microscope: Chapter 53

John 13:3, "Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands," etc. See also ibid. 16:15, "All things that the Father hath are mine"; and Matthew 28:18, "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth." This assumption of Supreme dominion is in total opposition to the often-quoted passage of Mark 13:32, "But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the son, but the Father only." A like inconsistency in ascribing to Jesus at one time the possession, and at another a deficiency, of Supreme dominion, is perceptible in Matthew 20:23 where Jesus owns that it is not within his power to allot to the meritorious certain distinctions in future life. We have before quoted from Matthew 8:20, that Jesus confessed he had no place on which to rest his head, and was poorer than the fox in the field and the bird of the heavens. In John 14:28, he states, "The Father is greater than I." Such repeated discrepancies must deprive the New Testament of all title of a genuine and an inspired work. 
All four gospels are compilations of different stories in the life of Jesus. In each one, the different stories follow one another like pearls on a string, until we get to the Passion narrative, where there is one continuous story beginning at the last Passover meal. John 13 is where Jesus assumes the lowliest of a servant's duties by washing each of his disciples' feet. The passage in question is as follows:
The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God.
 One might object here that this passage distinguishes Jesus from God and therefore imply that Jesus is not God. I would direct any such person to the first 18 verses of John.

The passage that Troki quotes in Mark speaks about future destruction; first of the temple, and then of the eventual return of Jesus.
At that time people will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens.
 It is this day or hour that Jesus does not know, nor does anyone know but the Father. Preterists will argue that all the events in this chapter already occurred at the destruction of the Jerusalem temple in the year 70, but notice that Mark says that people will see the Son of Man at that time. Remember what the angel said in Acts.
They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:10-11)
Did people visibly see Jesus descend? No? Then at least some of the events have not yet occurred.

Back to Troki's objections. He states that the New Testament books contradict one another by stating that in one passage, the Father gave full ownership and dominion over all things to Jesus, and in another passage, not only does Jesus not know when he will take over, he doesn't have a place to lay his head.

The objections can be dissolved quite easily through the same reasoning that the rabbis use in the Talmud. The idea of having or owning something has different applications. It can mean that someone has the legal right to it, and it can also mean that the person has the thing in his or her possession.

Imagine an ancient kingdom which is taken over by an empire, which drives the king of the nation into hiding. One generation later, the empire crumbles, and the kingdom regains its independence. The deposed king's firstborn son enters the kingdom, but is quickly robbed and then has nothing on his person. In this scenario, the king's son has nothing, and yet in another sense he owns the whole kingdom. He both has nothing and has everything at the same time, but not in the same sense.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015


Ancient Greek skeptics held to the view that nothing could be known. One of their arguments was known as Agrippa's Trilemma:

We are told to state a belief and ask "how do you know that?" Whatever justification we give for that belief, we repeat the question. This line of questioning will eventually lead one of three ways:

1. An infinite regress
2. A circle of beliefs
3. Beliefs which do not have any further justification

Option 1 is like the story of the woman who said the world is on the back of a giant turtle. When asked what the turtle is standing on, she said "Sorry, but it's turtles all the way down"

Option 2 is a simple fallacy of circular reasoning. When someone says something like "miracles are impossible because they never happen, and we know they don't happen because they are impossible" they really aren't giving a justification. What they are doing is asserting those two statements.

With option 1 and option 2 out of the way, this leaves option 3 as the only option left, which is called foundationalism. On foundationalism, certain beliefs are considered "basic" meaning that they form the foundation of one's belief system and do not require any additional justification.

The first flavor of foundationalism, and the one people think of when they hear the word, is hard foundationalism. On this view, beliefs have to meet one of three criteria to be eligible for the category of "basic." They are:

Infallible beliefs - Beliefs that cannot possibly be false
Indubitable beliefs - Beliefs that cannot possibly be doubted
Incorrigible beliefs - Beliefs that cannot possibly be corrected

An example of an infallible belief is the law of non-contradiction. To deny the law of non-contradiction is to affirm it, so one cannot possibly be wrong about it. An example of an indubitable belief is one's belief in one's own existence. One cannot assert the doubt if one does not exist. An example of incorrigible beliefs are my beliefs in my subjective experiences. I may be wrong that what I am seeing is a white shirt, but I cannot be corrected about my belief that what I am seeing looks like a white shirt.

Descartes held to hard foundationalism in his Meditations on First Philosophy. He said to imagine a situation where a demon was constantly deceiving his senses, his reasoning, his beliefs. Even if he were being deceived in such a way, Descartes would have to exist in order to be deceived.

"After having reflected well and carefully examined all things, we must come to the definite conclusion that this proposition: I am, I exist, is necessarily true each time that I pronounce it, or that I mentally conceive it."

These indubitable propositions formed the basis for Cartesian epistemology. Descartes build his system on the foundation of his own existence, which he cannot rationally deny. He then argued for the reliability of sense experience based on his idea of God, which could not have been built in his mind by anyone but God. With God as a guarantor of sense perception, Descartes could then build a system of knowledge, trusting his senses and his reasoning.

Hard foundationalism has fallen on hard times recently. The difficulty with hard foundationalism is that one is forced to justify all beliefs on the basis of the very limited number of beliefs that we can hold with certainty.

A second problem with hard foundationalism is that we do not think in this manner. We form most of our beliefs on sense experience, intuition, and heuristic devices. We do not check our beliefs for adherence to this kind of structure. This means that hard foundationalism is at best an ideal for how we ought to form our beliefs, not a description of how we do form our beliefs.

Moderate foundationalism rose in the second half of the 20th century in response to objections that our infallible, indubitable, and incorrigible beliefs are too sparse to form an adequate foundation for knowledge. Moderate foundationalism allows as basic any belief that has a strong presumption of truth. The biggest problem with moderate foundationalism is the problem of arbitrariness. What keeps us from stipulating any belief which we cannot support with other beliefs as basic? It seems like any belief could theoretically be justified on this system.

Foundherentism is a system invented by Susan Haack to combine the strengths of foundationalism and coherentism. There are certain beliefs which are considered basic, and which form the basis of our knowledge. Coherentism states that beliefs are justified by their relationship to other beliefs, like a spider's web. Systems of belief that best hang together are the most justified.

One problem with coherentism is that works of fiction and conspiracy theories can be highly coherent, and even connect with our current system of beliefs. There can be independent webs which are each fully coherent within themselves and yet contradict one another. Basic beliefs can serve to anchor that web of beliefs into reality.

Haack asks us to think of our belief systems like a crossword puzzle. Certain answers form the foundation for other answers, and yet the answers have to cohere as well. Beliefs are not built on a purely vertical system. Not every justified belief is justified on the basis of more basic beliefs. Some beliefs are basic, and we then build a web of beliefs by adding beliefs which best cohere with that belief system. This system has coherence as its basis for justification, but basic beliefs keep the web from being arbitrary. Any web consistent with itself must also be able to accommodate our basic beliefs. Critics like Laurence Bonjour argue that foundherentism is just another label for moderate foundationalism.

Reformed Epistemology gives many of the benefits of coherentism and foundherentism, and places them within a foundationalist framework. Plantinga's project seeks to provide justification for our common sense beliefs and to avoid the problem of arbitrariness. On reformed epistemology, beliefs are justified if they are produced by properly functioning mental factulties in an appropriate environment.

On Plantinga's Reformed Epistemology, most of our beliefs are foundational. Traditional foundationalism looks at our belief structure like a skyscraper. There is a narrow foundation of beliefs which supports the entire structure. On reformed epistemology, our belief structure is like bricks scattered throughout a parking lot. A few beliefs are stacked on top of one another, but most lay at the ground level. Most of our beliefs are basic.

What keeps contradictory beliefs from being considered basic is the notion of a defeater. A defeater is something that causes a belief to lose justification and/or warrant. If I see what looks like a sheep in a field, I have justification that I actually am seeing a sheep in a field. However, if I talk to someone who says that his dog is out in the field, and when seen from a distance looks like a sheep, then I have a defeater for my initial belief that there is a sheep in the field. Most of our beliefs may be basic, under this view, but they are also defeatable.

One implication of Reformed Epistemology is that belief in God can be considered justified until proven otherwise. Plantinga thinks of this as analogous to the problem of other minds. How do I know there are other minds besides my own? Philosophers have tried to give arguments for this principle, especially arguments from analogy, but they end up either being question-begging or being logically invalid. There simply are no good arguments for the existence of other minds, yet we all believe we are justified in believing in the existence of other minds.

Some beliefs are unjustified even if true. I could believe that the universe has an even number of stars, and be correct, and yet be unjustified in believing this because it is due to nothing but a random guess. Under reformed epistemology, this cannot be the case for belief in God. If a good God exists, then he could plant knowledge of his existence in some individuals.

For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

If this is the case, then one cannot argue that belief in the existence of God is unjustified even if God existed. In order to argue against the rationality of belief in God, one has to argue against the existence of God.

Foundationalism is the axiomatic solution to Agrippa's Trilemma, grounding our knowledge in a more basic set of axioms. Coherentism and infinitism cannot form a basis for formal systems of reasoning such as logic or mathematics, since they either form an infinite vicious regress or result in circular reasoning. This leaves us with foundationalism

Hard foundationalism is difficult to accept since it allows for too narrow a foundation to give us any real justification for our ordinary knowledge. Moderate foundationalism is too arbitrary to work. Foundherentism looks quite promising, but it might degenerate into moderate foundationalism. Reformed epistemology makes the best sense of our every day experience and coheres the best with our common sense beliefs.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Why Orthodox Judaism is a Cult - Part 2

Years ago, I decided to see what it was like to get sucked into an Orthodox Jewish group. I posed as a secular Jew and lett the kiruv (Orthodox Jewish outreach) rabbis rope me in to this learning experience. I spent one year full-time in an ultra-Orthodox Jewish community before moving away, and then studying with a different community, but only part time. To this day, I spend 2-3 nights a week studying with Orthodox rabbis. Occasionally, one of them finds out the truth about me, and I inevitably get kicked out, and have to find another group. This has happened several times so far, and I predict it will continue to happen in the future.

So far my most notable experience has come when one Modern Orthodox rabbi, who identifies himself as the most liberal and tolerant of Orthodox rabbis in the area, found out about my beliefs. At first, he seemed intrigued. We talked for a few hours about my beliefs regarding God, Israel, and the public education system. He was absolutely shocked to find that a fellow Jew could believe in Jesus as God. He also asked me about my feelings about Jews for Jesus, and I said that I like their intentions but believe they are not terribly successful.

About a week later, I got a phone call from him, where he said that he would not allow me to attend any of his shiurim (lectures) and pretty much wanted to break all contact with me. I asked why he seemed to have such a change of heart. He said that even though I never had any affiliation with any missionary organization. In all my years of studying with Orthodox rabbis, I have not attempted to sway their audience. I just sit and listen. The rabbi said that he could not allow me to do that, because I might in the future, encounter a secular Jew and use this rabbinic information to persuade him or her to accept my beliefs.

Several things are of note here. First, this rabbi has been known to invite people who are not Orthodox and have no intention of becoming Orthodox to dine with his family or to spend the night for the Sabbath, or to attend religious events with them. He is sharply critical of the Hasidic group Chabad, which is a very outreach-focused organization. He brags that he accepts all Jews for who they are and provides no pressure for them to conform to his beliefs. This is the rabbi who would not even let me listen in on his lectures because "you could use them against us."

Second, it was during his phone call where I heard him repeat so many slogans that I had heard a bunch of times from Orthodox Jews, and repeating them word for word. This rabbi was not thinking for himself, but was spouting the propaganda that he had been force-fed in yeshiva many years ago.

Third, his attitude toward letting outsiders know his beliefs resembles Gnosticism and other secret societies more than it resembles a defensible belief system. I have studied under Eastern Orthodox theologians, letting them know my beliefs openly. They had no problem with teaching me. I have studied Roman Catholic theology under very theologically conservative Roman Catholic theologians. They openly welcome me, even though they know I have major issues with their theology. Reformed Protestants also have openly welcomed me and even atheists and agnostics to learn their belief systems. In all cases, I asked whether they were afraid I could use their beliefs against them. They all responded that if I used these teachings to criticize them, they would be happy that at least I would be criticizing what they actually believe.

People who have confidence that their belief systems are true are not afraid of criticism. Alvin Plantinga has phoned many of his colleagues, telling them that he wanted clarification on what they believed so that he could more accurately criticize them. These colleagues were only too eager to oblige! They believed that their beliefs had the best arguments for them, and would be happy to change them if other beliefs had better arguments. I agree with this sentiment. I would only be too happy to accept the belief system and even the lifestyle of Chabad or the Aish Hatorah or Jews for Judaism rabbis if they presented strong enough arguments. But I think the feeling is really not mutual.

Years ago, when I was living undercover as an ultra-Orthodox Jew, I studied in the kollel (community learning center) pretty much on a nightly basis. I particularly enjoyed studying with adolescents and even older children who were raised Orthodox, because they gave me the raw teachings that they were taught in the day schools, without filtering out any of the teachings which might look bad to outsiders.

I was reading through the latter chapters of the book of Daniel (ArtScroll translation) with one 14 year old boy, who said that he had never read the book of Daniel before. I let him do most of the reading and discussing of the commentaries on the text. When we got to Daniel 12:2 he froze up. He said that he could not believe what he was reading.

"Many of those who sleep in the dusty earth will awaken; these for everlasting life and these for shame, for everlasting abhorrence."

He said "but we don't believe this. We believe that the wicked will suffer for up to 12 months but no longer."

I was later told by the rosh kollel (head of the kollel) that I should not be reading prophets with the kids. They are not taught these books until later on because they can be easily "misunderstood." He gave an example that he believed strongly in marital fidelity, but a cursory reading of 2 Samuel or 1 Kings makes it look like David was guilty of having an affair with Bathsheba and arranging the murder of Uriah to cover it up, or that Solomon was violating his marital vows by having 700 wives and 300 concubines. The rosh kollel told me that he thought Bill Clinton was a despicable individual for having an affair with one intern. There was no way he was going to let the kids just read these books of the Bible for themselves.

Defenders of Orthodox Judaism will claim that cults do not allow questioning while Orthodox Judaism thrives on questioning. This is one of those dangerous half-truths. It is true that the rabbis do allow lots of questioning from the laity. They are more than happy to answer questions when they know they have the questioners intellectually out-gunned. They will answer questions from people who do not have the education to pose powerful, thoroughly researched questions backed with citations from top scholars.

Michael Brown said that when he was a teenager, the Chabad rabbis would gladly allow him to ask them questions about their interpretation of Scripture. Once Brown started becoming an expert in Semitic languages and was able to challenge their interpretations on philological grounds, they quickly stopped letting him ask those questions.

I have repeatedly contacted anti-missionary organizations such as Jews for Judaism to ask if they would be willing to engage a Christian scholar in oral debate. They have consistenly refused to do so, stating "we do not believe in debates." I have asked Dovid Gottlieb, the founder of the modern Kuzari Principle argument if he would publish it in a peer-reviewed journal, and he refused. These rabbis do like to entertain questions, but not from professional scholars, lest their followers realize that the Rebbe has no clothes.

Why Orthodox Judaism is a Cult - Part 1

Evangelical Christians often use the word "cult" to describe any group that claims to be Christian but is guilty of one or more major heresies. This is not the definition I will be using. I am going to define a cult as an organization or group that seeks to control its members through indoctrination and then isolate its members from any outside influences that might threaten this control.

Organizations such as UC Berkley have criteria for what makes a group a cult. An organization is a cult if it has many of the following features:

1.  Love Bombing - Instant friendship, extreme helpfulness, generosity and acceptance...Group recruiters "lovingly" will not take "no" for an answer-invitations impossible to refuse without feeling guilty and/or ungrateful. "Love", "generosity", "encouragement" are used to lower defenses and create an ever increasing sense of obligation, debt and guilt.

2.  Schedule Control & Fatigue - Study and service become mandatory. New member becomes too busy to question. Family, friends, jobs and hobbies are squeezed out, further isolating the new member.

3. Submission - Increased submission to the leadership is rewarded with additional responsibilities and/or roles, and/or praises, increasing the importance of the person within the group.

4. Intense Study - Focus is on group doctrine and writings. Bible, if used at all, is referred to one verse at time to "prove" group teachings

5. Totalism - "Us against them" thinking. Strengthens group identity. Everyone outside of group lumped under one label.

6. Isolation, Separation & Alienation - Group becomes substitute family. Members encouraged to drop worldly (non-members) friends. May be told to change jobs, quit school, give up sports, hobbies, etc.

7. Secrecy - Group hides inner workings and teachings from outsiders. Sophisticated cults may curry media interest or even employ public relations consultants and ad agencies to manage their image.

and most importantly

8. Information Control - Group controls what convert may read or hear. They discourage (forbid) contact with ex-members or anything critical of the group. May say it is the same as pornography making it not only sinful and dangerous but shameful as well. Ex-members become feared and avoidance of them becomes a "survival issue." 

Speaking from experience, Orthodox Judaism has many of these features. There is an outreach industry called kiruv which seeks to turn non-Orthodox Jews into Orthodox Jews, regardless of how manipulative the organization has to be. They invite people in by offering community, fellowship and meals. They open their homes to strangers and offer the arms of friendship. This friendship comes with a price, subtle pressure to conform to the group's behavior.

One favorite tactic is called the BT yeshiva. A normal yeshiva is a place where Jewish men around college-age, live and spend 12-14 hours per day studying Talmudic law for a few years. The BT yeshiva is a similar idea. Young, single Jews, especially those on trips such as Birthright, are invited for a free meal and a place to stay. They can live and study for years on end at no cost to them, with the only condition being that they spend a good amount of their time studying in classes which focus on how to conform to Orthodox Jewish law, and also indoctrination as to why Orthodox Judaism is true.

The real magic about this approach is that people in yeshiva are pretty isolated from the outside world. Social psychology sets in, and the beliefs and behaviors of the yeshiva culture seep into these new recruits, with little outside contact to hold this transformation in check. Their worldviews become manipulated in an almost Truman Show -esque fashion. By time they are finished with a few years, they are ready to live and believe like a proper ultra-Orthodox Jew, always living in an Orthodox community, so that the indoctrination can be maintained.

The idea is to make it as easy and as pleasant as possible to become more and more dependent upon the Orthodox Jewish community for emotional, social, spiritual, and eventually financial support. This community becomes one's entire world, and that gives the community tight control over its members. The more integrated one becomes, the more difficult and painful it is to get out.

Orthodox Jews who come to believe in Jesus often lose everything as a result. The Orthodox community is very good at getting everyone, including the person's own family, to shun the individual. All support is cut off, and their own families will not speak to them. These Orthodox families sometimes even hold funerals for Jews who leave the community, especially if they come to believe in Jesus.

The reverse is almost never the same. I have met people raised in hardcore, homeschool, Fundamentalist Christian backgrounds who have become atheists, Jews, and even Muslims. Very rarely do these Christian families shun them or cut them off from support.

For those still unwilling to accept the idea that Orthodox Judaism is a cult, ask youself the following question. Why is it that those who apostatize from Orthodox Judaism, particularly those born into the system, require halfway houses in order to make the transition? This is not true of Catholicism, Evangelical Christianity, or even Reform or Conservative Judaism, but it is very true of Orthodox Judaism.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Faith Strengthened (Pt 2) Under the Microscope: Chapter 52

John 10:38, "That ye may know and believe that the Father is in me, and I in Him." The same is repeated in chapter 14:11. In chapter 17:21, it is said, "That they all may be one, as thou, Father, art in me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in us; that the world may believe that Thou hast sent me. And the glory which Thou gavest me, I have given them, that they may be one even as we are one. I in them, and Thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one," etc.

The junction of Father and Son is conferred also upon the twelve apostles. If, therefore, the Christians thought it necessary to change their belief in the Divine unity, they were not justified in adopting the term "Trinity," inasmuch as the twelve apostles are placed on an equality with Jesus, and they might, with the same latitude of argument, be well included in the coalition of Divine personages.

This is an area where I have good agreement with Troki. In John 10, Jesus confronts the Jewish authorities. The crowds challenge him to proclaim himself as Messiah, but Jesus does one better than that. He says "I and the Father are one." The crowds then accuse him of blasphemy, for who could be unified with God but God? Mohammad was quite right to assume that no creature could assume partnership with our Creator, and that seemed to reflect Second Temple Jewish sentiments as well.

Troki argues that in Chapter 17, Jesus says that the disciples are to be one, just as the Son and Father are one. Therefore, Jesus' claim to be one with the Father is not a claim of deity. This, I think, is to misunderstand the passage. Jesus did claim to be one with the Father in the sense that he wanted the disciples to be one. In John 17 Jesus gives his high priestly prayer over his disciples, desiring that they would be united in their mission. Jesus claims that his own mission with the Father is one of the same unity. Jesus and the Father are one in their mission to redeem humanity, bringing about salvation. Jews knew that only God is the source of salvation, and this sentiment is still in the siddur to this day.

The kicker is the Jewish reaction. Why stone Jesus for blasphemy if he was only claiming to be an important prophet or exalted creature? Claiming to be Messiah is not blasphemy. Claiming to be exalted is not blasphemy. Claiming to be God, however, is grounds for being stoned. And if that isn't enough, remember verse 33:

The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.”