What do I think of Anthony Buzzard’s book? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
So as one who is interacting a lot with JWs on Facebook, I was looking through my Kindle library to find a book arguing against the Trinity and came across this one. I had read a few years ago a book he co-authored on the Trinity as Christianity’s self-inflicted wound. I figured I would go through this one.
Unfortunately, this book is just awful. If you played a drinking game every time you see the term “Shema” or “Unitarian” or anything of that sort, you would die quickly of alcohol poisoning. Thus far, Buzzard really has one argument and he repeats it over and over and over again.
Let’s look at this first instance.
“In these chapters I return often to the central creed of Jesus, the Shema (Deut. 6: 4; Mark 12: 29). I carry on a running dialogue with many distinguished scholars who have commented on Jesus and his strict monotheism. I propose that a vast amount of Christian literature confirms my thesis that Jesus insisted on this unitarian creed.”
Let’s analyze this. The first sentence has the Shema as the central creed. That’s fine. Every Jew would know the Shema well as the defining statement of monotheism of Israel. However, we have a problem when we get to the second sentence when he talks about Jesus and His strict monotheism.
Question. What is meant by strict monotheism? As a Trinitarian, I contend I am a strict monotheist. Is Buzzard saying that strict monotheism equals Unitarian? Is he stating that Trinitarians aren’t monotheists? He has not said what is meant by this term and is likely packing in some assumptions.
However, the final sentence really clinches that possibility. He makes a statement in the first sentence about this being a creed, in the second about strict monotheism, and then all of a sudden in the last sentence a monotheistic creed has become inextricably a unitarian creed. No argument has been made for this position.
The big problem is that Buzzard consistently does this throughout this book. Mark Twain once said that if you took “And it came to pass” out of the Book of Mormon, you’d have a pamphlet. I wonder what he would say if he read Buzzard’s book where he makes the same argument time and time again.
Looking back at this, this is really a sleight of hand that most readers will not catch. For the sake of argument, Buzzard could be right that the Shema is unitarian. However, he needs to argue that and not just assert it.
He does the same thing again here:
I do not think that the New Testament ever reports Jesus as claiming to be the God of Israel, the one true God. Why then should Jesus’ followers adhere to a belief which Jesus gave no indication of holding? If being a Christian means following Jesus Christ, then a Christian’s first aim would be to share the same view of God as expressed by Jesus. The creed of Jesus would automatically be the creed of his followers. Jesus, as the scriptural records reveal, made it perfectly clear who he believed God to be. But churches have done much to make Jesus’ perception of the identity of God at least bewildering if not incomprehensible.
Look at this. The first part of Jesus’s claims is highly questionable as I will demonstrate in later chapters. However, notice this. At the start, Buzzard says this is his opinion that Jesus never claimed this. Fine. However, then he asks why His followers should hold a belief Jesus gave no indication of holding. There is that switch again. We have gone from opinion to a fact that Jesus gave no indication that He had this opinion of Himself. Then once again, Buzzard points back to the creed, AGAIN.
Later, he says that when the church got power in the time of Constantine, they took to persecuting heretics. There is no mention that the Arians were also doing their own persecution. Why was Athanasius in exile? Why was he falsely accused of crimes? He was accused of murdering the bishop Arsenius.
When the charges were brought, the accusers brought forth a human hand they said belonged to Arsenius. Athanasius had a powerful rebuttal when he brought in Arsenius to the courtroom, alive and well, and showed that he still had two hands. Arians were hardly sugar and spice and everything nice.
Buzzard won’t tell you that. He only tells you about what those evil Trinitarians were doing. He even goes so far as to say that could it be the church held a non-Jewish creed because they were really anti-Semites? Such a statement tells me little about the early church, but it tells me volumes about Buzzard.
So thus far, I hope you’ve seen that this will be an interesting one. We’ll see if we get any interesting arguments sometime and I could possibly do a word search sometime through Kindle to see how many times certain words are overused. Keep an eye out for smuggling in assumptions. It seems to be something Buzzard is proficient at.
(And I affirm the virgin birth)