Russ “Pappy” Houck vs. Cris Putnam Trinity Debate Breakdown
The Trinity Debate
**UPDATE: Here is a link to my podcast review of the debate: Full Report
Does God reveal His nature in scripture? If so, how do we determine what He is telling us? Is Matthew 28:19 (Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit) proof of God’s triune nature (One in essence, three in persons), or was it added in the 4th century by Constantine, who had an agenda to paganize Christianity? Further, what would the omission of Matthew 28:19 say about the Great Commission, a lynchpin upon which millions of Christians worldwide have based their evangelism? Was the New Testament written in Greek, or was this yet another Constantian conspiracy? Who is the Holy Spirit – a third person of the Godhead, or a breath emanating from the Father? And depending upon how these questions are answered, is there sufficient evidence to support that stance?
On a recent episode of read this, two men engaged in a formal debate and endeavored to present the best evidence for their opposing answers to the questions outlined above.
I am a fan of debate. I debated at both the high school and college levels, and I have a fair amount of experience with the Lincoln Douglas structure. Formal debate is not for the faint of heart. One must enter into it knowing that they will be confronted with direct challenges to every point that they address. It isn’t a contest to see who can be the most likable. That’s for the modern political realm and the mockery that has been made of the debate structure. Debate is about facts, and the evidence that proves them to be facts.
The wonderful thing about a formal debate is that the audience can enter into it fully biased, but if they judge based upon a few simple criterion, an honest and intelligent audience can be swayed away from their bias. The key to all of this is evidence. Formal debate is an amazing tool that can be used to educate and inform. It is an incredible application for apologetics, because it allows the audience to be exposed not only to the evidence presented, but also to the lack of evidence and dropped topics from either side. It is an ancient and trusted format in which opposing viewpoints come face to face, and debaters make their best, fact based case. The person with the most reliable, sourced, and compelling evidence wins. If you cannot give the audience examinable evidence upon which to hang the facts that you present, the audience has no choice but to presume your facts are not facts at all.
Given my experience and interest in debate, and the extreme importance of the subject matter, I determined that it might be useful to submit a post-debate breakdown, and that is what I shall endeavor to do here.
The VFTB debate was not strictly Lincoln Douglas (No cross examination etc), but the flow was similar and the standards for the debate were clearly laid out. Before we get into the terms of the debate, let’s meet the debaters.
Russ “Pappy” Houck is the author of EPIDEMIC Examining the Infected Roots of Judaism and Christianity: How do we find God with all this mess? (Volume 1). He is involved in the growth and development of the New Covenant Israel movement, and has a background in engineering and the entertainment industry.
His website is: http://newcovenantisrael.wix.com/nci-home
Cris Putnam is co-author of Petrus Romanus: The Final Pope Is Here and Exo-Vaticana: Petrus Romanus, Project LUCIFER, and the Vatican’s astonishing exo-theological plan for the arrival of an alien savior. Cris is a well known apologist and is recognized for expertise in the area of biblical prophecy and other prophetic traditions.
His website is: http://www.logosapologia.org/
The moderator for the debate was VFTB’s Derek Gilbert, who remained entirely neutral and fed no suggestions, questions, or support to either side. I imagine that was not easy, given that Gilbert is a fellow debate geek. He did a great job keeping the debaters to their designated time allottment, and the whole presentation had a professional flow.
Each debater was given equal time. The resolution for the debate was essentially as follows:
Resolved: The Orthodox understanding of Christianity and the Trinity is not as it was presented by Jesus (Yeshua) during his time on Earth; but was changed, modified, and removed from its roots during the 4th Century.
Affirmative Position: Houck / Negative Position: Putnam
Each speaker was allotted the following:
15 minute opening statement.
10 Minute Rebuttal.
5 minute follow up rebuttal.
10 minute closing statement.
I attempted to catalog the major claims, evidence, and refutations by each speaker, and will list them to the best of my understanding. Given the fact that I am a mere mortal, I may have missed a few points, but I believe that I have fairly captured the essence of each presenter’s facts and supporting evidence. Again, this was not a likability contest, so I’ll editorialize as little as possible during the actual debate notes, and attempt to adhere to the spirit of such debates, which is to allow the information to lead the audience to its ultimate conclusions. Full disclosure, I am very much biased toward the orthodox trinitarian position, but for the purposes of this breakdown, I simply list the evidence as presented by each man. My review/editorial will come later. I welcome you to listen to the debate and follow my notes below. You can take notes of your own, and feel free to let me know where I’ve missed something. Full debate can be downloaded or streamed here: http://vftb.net/?p=4974
Since I cannot stress enough that debate is won and lost with EVIDENCE, I will try to put documentation and evidence in bold. This will not include circumstantial or experiential claims.
*When writing up a debate flow, one generally doesn’t write it out in a narrative manner, but in a sort of shorthand/highlight play by play. This is not really meant to substitute listening for oneself, but to aid in having a visual representation of arguments and evidence.This is what I did below.
Russ Houck (Affirmative) Opening Statement:
Judaism and Christianity were not Biblically based religions from Jerusalem, but birthed in Babylon and Rome. Christian doctrines and practices were inspired by paganism and not scripture. NT was not written originally in Greek but in Aramaic or Hebrew, and some scriptures were added in an effort to promote Catholic agenda. Protestant denominations are RCC sects. All religion is an infection, including Judaism and Christianity. There is a diabolical conspiracy theory to keep you from knowing the truth, promoted by the Illuminati, Trilateral Commission, CFR. (sourced from page 20 of Houck’s book Epidemic)
Proceeds to discuss years of research, trips to Jerusalem and Rome, experience as engineer.
In the absence of apostles, church is in quandary over what to do about New Covenant. Pharisees came out of Babylon. Created own religion to enjoy wealth. Came back to Israel to sell their religion. Sadducees ran temple. Pharisees (works based) over throw temple.
Feast of Pentecost: Initiates new covenant, everyone is back to personal relationship. Filled with Holy Spirit. Temple Destroyed: Initiates journey of getting back to personal relationship. As gospels and epistles are being written, Man has the “spirit of God” indwelling = relationship.
(Up to this point, no scripture sources have been provided)
70-150 AD: Gnosticism enters and takes over Christianity.
Didache: Houck claims it is a gnostic document. Considered as important as what Jesus or Apostles said. Document quoted by early church fathers. Became massive problem. Persecution of Rome. Jews wouldn’t submit to Rome. Christians were a sect of Judaism. Constantine comes on the scene. Stops persecution. Constantine has (disputed according to Houck) vision. 312 AD Constantine becomes emperor. 313 AD Edict of Milan. Stops all religious persecution. Christians falsely claim that he stopped Christian persecution, reality is ALL persecution stopped. Slickest emperor. Instates Right of Kings: Reference to Greco-Roman pyramid paradigm.
Constantine befriends Eusebius. Eusebius is sympathetic to Constantine. Lactantius is another contemporary. Not sympathetic to Constantine agenda. Lactantius is more accurate.
(At this time Houck refers the audience to look up this info on their own to find documentation. He also says you can run to Rome anytime, and visit a Early Church Studies building dedicated to Jewish roots of Christianity. Records you can go through there. No specifics or evidence given beyond citing the Didache and Edict of Milan)
Constantine declares Sunday the day of rest . He names Sunday named for Apollo. In 321 Sunday is named a National Holiday. Before long Constantine asked to call Nicaea. Debate over God being two. 2 Gods, Yahweh and Yeshua. No discussion of Holy Spirit or Trinity. Claims trinity is based on Nimrod trinity. Another trinity in Egyptian gods. Greeks 3rd. Buddhists Trinity. Hindu trinity. All pagan religions have trinity as common concept. Scripture “The Lord is One”.
Easter Sunday is Passover. Constantine orchestrates council of Nicaea, at which point they can’t agree over Yeshua and Father. 325 AD Constantine made Yeshua an identical twin. (?) All religions must have their own God.
Documents mentioned: Epidemic, Bible, Didache, Edict of Milan
Scripture evidence: No specific scripture reference
Cris Putnam (Negative) Opening Statement:
Faced with challenge that Putnam and Houck do not share commitment to inerrancy. (2 Timothy 3:16)
Reiterates Russ’ claim Constantine corrupted New Testament. Matthew 28:19 disagrees with Houck’s thesis, so Houck says Matthew 28:19 was added, thus how can Houck trust anything in scripture. No proof that Matt 28:19 was a later addition.
Chooses to focus remarks around Trinity. Constantine’s influence uncontroversial.
5 main points of concern (based on Houcks assertions):
1. Trinity is Pagan doctrine.
2. Constantine added Matthew 28:19 and the Great commission—the great commission is a pagan corruption.
3. Jesus is not co-equal to the Father. Holy Spirit is not a person.
4. Constantine added the word Christ to the NT.
5. The original New Testament was all in Hebrew or Aramaic– Constantine changed it to Greek.
Above points demonstrably false. Houck’s book falls short on evidence and documentation.
No evidence of Houck’s claim that Nimrod was the inspiration for the Trinity or Nimrod had a Trinity. No evidence in Greco-Roman paganism of Trinity. No evidence of equivalent.
Trinity is based on 3 foundational Biblical truths:
1. Monotheism – Undisputed
2. Three divine Persons – Progressive revelation.
Proof of distinct persons: John 12:28, Acts 13:2
Three things make up a person – Mind, Will, emotion:
Son: Mind/John 2:2, Will/John 6:38, Emotion/John 11:35
Father: Mind/Matt 6:32, Will/Matt 6: 9-10, Emotion/Genesis 6:6
Holy Spirit: Mind/John 14:26, Will/1 Corinth 12: 11, Emotion/Ephesians 4:30, Isaiah 63: 10.
Personal pronouns (He and His) indicative of person, attributed to HS. Rules of grammar dictate personal pronouns refer to person. Houck claims this is not so, Page 356 of Epidemic.
3. Co-equal and Co-eternal
Subordination in roles but not in essence.
Few deny the Father, so attacks primarily involve the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Council of Nicaea mainly focused on the deity of Christ.
Father called God – Philippians 1:2/ Son called God – John 1:1, John 1:4/ Holy Spirit called God – Acts 5: 3-4
JESUS IS CO-EQUAL WITH FATHER – Houck disputes this on page 382 of Epidemic.
Philippians 2:5;6 speaks to humility. Language in passage refers to true and exact nature, form of God/equality with God. Philippians 2:7.
Hebrews 1:3 – Christ equality with God.
Romans 15:3 – subordination of role, not of essence. John 5:17
Colossians 2:9 – Fullness of deity dwells bodily. Equal.
John 1:1-2: logos co-equal and co-eternal with God.
HOLY SPIRIT IS CO-EQUAL – Houck disputes on page 355 of Epidemic
John 14:6 – another helper, always means another of the same kind.
Acts 5: Lie to HS, lie to God. Impossible to lie to impersonal force. Greek word theos.
Putnam re-states challenge- Prove that Nimrod had Trinity, Greco-Roman Trinity.
Documents mentioned: Bible, Epidemic (pages 355, 356, 382)
Scripture evidence: 2 Timothy 3:16, Matthew 28:19, Deut 6:4, John 12:28, Acts 13:2, John 2:2, John 6:38, John 11:35, Matt 6:32, Matt 6: 9-10, Genesis 6:6, John 14:26, 1 Corinth 12: 11, Ephesians 4:30, Isaiah 63: 10, Philippians 1:2, John 1:1, John 1:4, Acts 5: 3-4, Philippians 2:5;6, Philippians 2:7, Hebrews 1:3, Romans 15:3, John 5:17, Colossians 2:9, John 1:1-2, John 14:6, Acts 5.
Houck 10 Minute Rebuttal:
Response to challenge about pagan trinity connection: Advises Cris to look it up himself on his own.
Eastern/Western paradigm. Romans and Greeks come out of paradigm of control, combining belief systems. Religion must be defined. Paradigms and understandings of culture and control. To control something, you need to redefine it. Trinity never mentioned by Jesus. 381AD trinity name established. Claims trinity does not exist in scripture.
Catholic and protestant definition of trinity never understood prior to Constantine. Understanding of Jesus’ sacrifice is all that is required.
Deut 4:35 – None else beside God. Isaiah 46:9. <— Either God is lying or we’ve redefined what He means. Isaiah 45:18. Isaiah 45:21. 1 Sam 2, 2 Sam 7 (All variations on there is no God beside God, there is none else.)
The Father’s own breath is Holy Spirit. He is Holy implies that it comes straight from the Father. The Holy Spirit is not a person. If there are 3 persons, then Mary was impregnated by the other person, meaning the HS. Where is his name? Where is his throne? Not separable from the father. Breath, power, spirit, anointing.
Claims Yeshua denied trinity. John 8:42 If he was co-eternal, co-equal, then God is a liar. He is not begotten son. God’s son was birthed. He wasn’t created or formed, he was birthed literally out of his body.
Matthew 28: He didn’t say call them Christians. He wasn’t forming a religion.
Constantine hijacked, redirected and changed the direction of worship. Jesus said “How dare you call me good.” Rebuke. Paul never taught trinity. (no scripture cited)
Challenge – Show me doctrine of trinity.
2nd John: You deny me or father… you’re not saved.
Requirement to acknowledge God as creator. Jesus shows and teaches as deity himself. It is not just a role it is who he is.. subjection under the Father.
Only thing that will save is mercy and love of God himself.
Scripture cited: Deut 4:35, Isaiah 46:9, Isaiah 45:18. Isaiah 45:21. 1 Sam 2, 2 Sam 7, John 8:42, Matthew 28, 2nd John
Cris Putnam 10 Minute Rebuttal
Houck refused to back up statement about pagan trinity. Nimrod has no trinity referenced in Genesis. Houck provides no reference for claim.
To Houck’s claim that Trinity isn’t in scripture – Many theological terms aren’t found in scripture. It’s a logical inference from clear teaching of scripture.
Monotheism does not contradict Trinity. Law of non-contradiction.
God is one in essence, three in persons. Clear in scripture: Matthew 28:19. Houck claims this verse was added. Anyone can make a claim like that. Where is evidence? Oldest manuscripts have the verse in it. (Issues another challenge to Houck to provide evidence that Matt 28:19 was added)
Reiterates that there is no evidence that the NT was originally written in Hebrew. Issues challenge for evidence. Hundreds of papyri going back to second century – all in Greek.
Polycarp, Ignatius, Tertullian cite Mathew 28:19. Polycarp, deciple of John talks about passage.
Tertullian lived in 200AD. Writes in his statement on baptism, “Sealed in the name of the father, son and Holy Spirit.” In his statement Against Paraxeas, speaks on trinity 100 years before trinity. Chapter 25 of Against Paraxeas.
Constantine inserted the word Christ? 2nd century papyri loaded with the word Christ. Constantine time machine?
Quoting Epidemic page 208 – Houck claims NT written in Hebrew/Aramaic. No citation. No evidence. Where is the evidence? Mr. Houck has not produced any evidence.
Luke was gentile Acts 21:40 Acts 22:2 – makes distinction of languages, clarifies that he spoke in Hebrew. This wouldn’t be a necessary thing to point out if the original text was in Hebrew.
Revelation “They have a king over them” makes language distinction. Hebrew name Abaddon. Also, Armageddon Hebrew name distinction. When the author makes a point to highlight the names, words, phrases in Hebrew, it points to the fact that the text wasn’t written in that language.
Hundreds of Papyri dated 1st and 2nd century – Greek text. John Rylands Papyri 125CE – Greek text from Alexandria. Many many more examples. Not one in Hebrew or Aramaic.
Constantine changed the Sabbath to Sunday? Book of Acts meeting on first day of the week to gather to break bread. Greek puts a 1 in front of Sabbaton (Sabbath) which means first day of the week. Greek scholars agree. Houck incorrectly interprets Greek of Sabbath. Greek scholars agree that first day of week is very well documented – The Lord’s Day.
Didache is not Gnostic. NT Scholars agree it predated gnosticism. Gnostics don’t arrive on the scene until late 2nd century. Handbook of Patrology dates Didache to first century and shows no evidence of pagan influence. It cites baptism in the name of the Father, Son , and Holy Spirit.
Documents cited: Bible, Epidemic, Against Paraxeas, John Rylands Papyri, Didache, Handbook of Patrology.
Scripture cited: Genesis, Matthew 28:19, Acts 21:40 Acts 22:2, Revelation, Book of Acts
Further sources mentioned: Polycarp, Ignatius, Tertullian
Houck Five Minute Rebuttal:
Points to the Didache being available in his book. Cites various Didache sections he deems questionable. Chapter 11 deals with teaching of apostles and prophets, Chapter 12 rules for traveling Christians and “Most blatant” Chapter 13: Payments of prophets. Didache refers to high priests. We only have one high priest/Yeshua. Didache full of heresies.
Points out that his book Epidemic is 444 pages long. Cris misquotes Russ. Cris quotes basic orthodox Catholic doctrine. Cris is sect of Catholic.
Russ says his evidence is the Bible.
Says we’re in Daniel 12:4 – Last days knowledge will increase. We are coming on an age and time instead of having to go to Rome (references in the book Epidemic, says to go look them up. Doesn’t want to be argumentative) Trinity was added, which redefined action and process of HS. Body of Church coming out of religious world system. Says he didn’t say the word “Christ” was inserted. Says it was added. Concedes Christ is in manuscripts. Last page is missing of Matthew – mysteriously disappeared. Nobody knows what it actually says. We have 7 examples in scriptures baptize in “my name.” not in name of HS. Not about religion about relationship. You won’t go to hell for disagreement on trinity.
Documents mentioned: Bible, Didache, Epidemic
Scripture cited: Daniel 12:4, Matthew
Putnam Five Minute Rebuttal
Houck refused to provide references as to pagan doctrine. No evidence of Matt 28:19 added. Discussion of missing pages is non-issue. Argument from silence. 2 oldest Bibles Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus not altered by Constantine according to scholars. Both contain Matt 28:19.
Ignatius cites Matthew 28:19 – Epistle of Ignatius – upholds orthodox trinity. Predates Constantine. Constantine time machine?
Referring to Houck commentary on birth of Jesus: Father birthed Jesus? There was a time when Jesus didn’t exist? Arian heresy. Jesus is co-eternal. Birthed? Not true.
Houck says Matthew 1:18 gives HS a role to impregnate Mary? This presumes that father son relationship is based on mundane biology. Close to Mormon belief that the Father had sex with Mary. Page 361 of Epidemic, Houck claims Jesus existed prior to incarnation. Contradiction?
Psalm 2 – father son relationship existed before incarnation.
Acts 13:33: Begotten refers to resurrection not physical birth.
What changed Judaism is not Constantine.. it was the Cross. The new Covenant. Caused dramatic shift.
Trinity comes directly from the text of sacred scripture – refers back to previous evidence already submitted in opening statement.
Documents mentioned: Bible, Codex Sinaiticus, Codex Vaticanus, Epistle of Ignatius, Epidemic
Scripture cited: Matt 28:19, Matthew 1:18, Psalm 2, Acts 13:33,
Houck 10 Minute Closing Statement:
Not touting Arianism. Arianism and Modalism are heresy and he does not ascribe to them.
Defines Arianism as – Yeshua is not deity, not birthed of father. He is created being, lower than God, above the angels.
Clarifies that he believes Jesus existed before Genesis 1:1
Exciting part of discussion is that people are asking how God, Yeshua, and HS exist.
Book is 444 pages, impossible to cover. Point by point rebuttal impossible.
Says this conversation is a midrash, which can last days or weeks. Talks about belly bumping.
History is there. We can all study it. He is not anyone’s leader or priest.
We have one God, one spirit, one son – Father is above all.
30 years of study has led him to believe that there are things changed.
Not believing in Trinity won’t send you to Hell. Only rejecting or turning your back on savior.
Book is not trying to convince reader of anything. Should make you question orthodoxy.
No religion. Whether you are baptized in the name of Father, Son and Holy spirit or if you are baptized according to Acts, Corinthians, Galatians, it doesn’t matter.
Putnam 10 Minute Closing Statement:
Defends foundational doctrine of Biblical Christianity. Says Postmodernism causes people not to study.
Trinity is Biblical doctrine from text of scripture. Not negotiable. Years of theology and apologetics have made it a test for orthodoxy. Go to hell? Wont’ say that. But does indicate rebellion against text of scripture.
Houck Radical claims: Trinity is pagan doctrine – Failed to produce 1 example. Matthew 28:19 added? Proven incorrect. Jesus not co-equal and father birthed Jesus -Arianism is claiming Jesus is created being. NT was in Aramaic and Hebrew – Failed to produce 1 example. Constantine changed to Greek – Papyri disputes. Failed to defend assertion that Didache is gnostic. You don’t need Houck’s book to read the Didache. It is available online. Predates Gnosticism.
Houck is dangerously wrong, claims are demonstrably false. Failed to provide evidence. Appeals to length of book. No footnotes. No page numbers, no footnotes, no real documentation. Not a scholarly work. Impossible to defend because book so long? Cris was very specific.. Houck didn’t defend. There is no evidence because he can’t defend. They are indefensible.
Dangerous false teaching, easily dis-proven.
END OF DEBATE
Whew!!!!!!! I hope you all were taking notes along with me. This was a much needed discussion. Now then, who won?
Well, if we take the weight of evidence, supporting citation, and depth of research and also take into consideration unanswered challenges and dropped topics – we would have to conclude that Cris Putnam won this debate. Regardless of your feelings coming into the discussion, that answer is obvious.
In formal LD debates, point values are allotted to legitimate documentation, citation, and supporting evidence. Points are also accumulated when challenges are issued and unanswered. Points are docked for floating a claim and failing to support it when challenged. In a strictly academic sense, this one was a landslide in favor of the negative response to the resolution, held by Mr. Putnam.
Pappy was very pleasant, even tempered, and kind. No doubt about it. Cris was also kind, but his tone was a bit more passionate. Debates aren’t won or lost based upon tone. In the wake of this debate, I’ve seen a lot of commentary that seems to be focused primarily on the style and tone of the speakers, which I just think is silly. Do we desire a discussion about facts or do we want a bed time story? But I digress.
While Putnam was the winner of the debate, I believe the person of the Holy Spirit was the ultimate victor, and was thoroughly and clearly defended.
That’s the extent of my editorializing for the purposes of this post. I will be releasing a podcast very shortly in which I’ll be giving a much more personal review of the debate. Stay tuned. Podcasts as always are listed in their own posts, as well as archived via the links in the upper navigation bar and right side bar of this site.