And now, having sufficiently answered Soriano’s false Christology, let us answer his tritheistic beliefs. According to the orthodox faith, the faith once for all delivered to the saints (cf. Jude 3), “The works of the Trinity are inseparable.“54 Whatever the Father does, so does the Son and the Holy Spirit, and vice versa. All three Persons participate equally in every divine act in the world. For the biblical evidence, again Ludwig Ott:
Christ testifies to the unity of His working with the Father, and bases it on the unity of Nature. John 5, 19: “What things soever (the Father) doth these the Son also doth in like manner.” John 14:10: “But the Father who abideth in Me, He doth the same works.” Holy Writ asserts the unity of the operations of the Divine Persons also by ascribing the same works, for example, the realisation of the Incarnation, the bestowal of the supernatural gifts of grace, the forgiveness of sins, to different persons. Cf. Luke 1, 35; Mt. 1, 20; Phil. 2, 7; Hebr. 10, 5 (Incarnation); 1 Cor. 12, 4 et seq. (gifts of grace); Mt. 9, 2; Luke 7, 48; 23, 34; John 20, 22 (forgiveness of sins).55
Even without the explicit biblical testimony of John 5:19; 14:10, Ott’s Catholic logic is conclusive. According to Luke 1:35; Matt 1:20, the Holy Spirit produced the Incarnation; according to Phil 2:7, the Son produced the Incarnation; according to Heb 10:5, the Father produced the Incarnation. Therefore all three Persons produced the Incarnation, as in all their other operations.
Soriano does not believe this, because he reads in certain places of Scripture that one person of the Blessed Trinity is described as doing something, and the other two Persons are not explicitly named. This is because he does not understand the principle of appropriation, that is, we commonly associate certain kinds of works, which are in actuality common to all three Persons, with one particular Person, because it expresses some truth about the inner life and divine relations of the Trinity. Thus, because the Father is the ultimate origin from which the other two Persons receive their being, we commonly attribute to Him the creation of the world. Thus, because the Holy Spirit is the love or sanctity of God, who proceeds from the Father and the Son as the terminus of their will to love one another, we commonly attribute to Him the outpouring of the grace, the mercy, and the love of our God.
Now we can easily see the fallacy of one of Soriano’s arguments against “Oneness” evangelicals. Although he is correct to denounce their doctrine that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are one person, he is wrong when he claims we can prove they are distinct persons because they perform different works. If the Bible commonly attributes creation to the Father, it does not neglect to mention that the Son participated equally (cf. John 1:3; Rom 11:36; 1 Cor 8:6; Col 1:16-17). If the Son saves us, so also do the Father and the Holy Spirit (cf. 1 Cor 1:21; 1 Tim 1:1; 2:3; 2 Tim 1:8-9; Tit 1:2-4; 2:10; 3:4-6; Jude 25). And if the Holy Spirit helps and comforts us, so also do the Son and the Father (cf. Psalm 71:21; 86:17; 119:76; Isa 12:1; 49:13; 57:18; Rom 8:34; 2 Cor 1:3-5; 7:6; 2 Thess 2:16-17; Heb 7:25). Inseparabilia sunt opera Trinitatis.
Soriano’s denial of the unity of the works of the Godhead leads him, as noted above, to a rather bizarre doctrine of salvation. He believes that in the time of the Old Testament, only God the Father was the savior. Jesus Christ His Son was only appointed savior when He was born and began to preach the gospel, and even then, he had only a limited jurisdiction of salvation, namely the Church. (Soriano appeals to such texts as Eph 5:3, which do say that Jesus is the savior of the Church.)
As implied above, Soriano denies that the Church is the only instrument of salvation. This is because he believes that it would logically follow that everyone who did not hear the gospel preaching of the Church would be damned, which is contrary to Romans 2:13-16. He appeals to all the peace loving Chinese people who never heard the name of Christ. Such people, according to Soriano, may still be saved under the Old Testament system, by God the Father and not by Jesus Christ. Supposedly, these two parallel paths of salvation will still be valid for the rest of history; God the Father is a savior from the beginning to the end of humanity, and Jesus Christ is the savior of the Church. To substantiate the Father’s alleged independent salvation plan, Soriano appeals to 1 Tim 4:10, in which St. Paul states “we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers.” He lays great stress on the word “all” to emphasize that the Father is the savior of those who never hear the gospel.
Now, the first step in refuting this doctrine we have already accomplished, when we noted that the Bible describes both God the Father and Jesus Christ the Son as saving Christians, the Church. “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus according to the commandment of God our Savior, and of Christ Jesus, who is our hope” (1 Tim 1:1; cf. vv. 2:3-5). God the Father is “our savior,” the savior of St. Paul, St. Timothy, and the rest of the Christian Church. “God… has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim 1:8-9). Titus 1:3-4 mentions “God our Savior… and Christ Jesus our Savior” (cf. v. 2:10; Jude 1:25). Again, “But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior” (Tit 3:4-6). This is very explicit. All three Persons of the Godhead save all who ever will be saved. Soriano might counter that he admits that the Father deserves overall credit since He is the one who sent Jesus Christ as savior, however, in the last verse we cited the Father was described as having a very direct, immediate, and active role in salvation; He saved us “by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly.” He did not simply let Jesus go off and do it Himself.
Secondly, Soriano’s doctrine does not conform to the statement in 1 Tim 4:10 that God the Father is “especially” the savior of believers. Recall, according to him, the Father is directly the savior of those who do not hear the gospel, and only indirectly the savior of those who do. Soriano’s emphasis is the opposite of St. Paul’s; to teach Soriano’s doctrine, St. Paul should have said that God is the savior of all men, especially those who do not believe (i.e., never hear the gospel, but live according to their conscience). In reality, the meaning of this text is that God bestows more abundant graces on those who are formally united to His Son in the Church, through a visible sacramental communion, though He may also, “by the efficacious virtue of divine light and grace,“56 save those to whom no man ever preaches the gospel.
Finally, Soriano is wrong to assert that anyone at all may be saved without Christ. “Neither is there salvation in any other” (Acts 4:12). There are no two parallel paths of salvation. Those who are saved having never heard a man preach the gospel are saved the same way as those who have, namely through Christ and his Church, for “by an unconscious desire and longing they have a certain relationship with the Mystical Body of the Redeemer.“57
Let us move on to Soriano’s errors concerning the attributes of God. As alluded to above, he does not believe that God is omnipresent. In his sermon on “the salvation that is being taught by the Bible” he adduces a few facile arguments in support of this claim. (1) Because we lift our eyes to heaven and pray “Our Father who art in heaven” he alleges that God is not everywhere, but in heaven only. (2) He quotes “Hail Mary, Full of grace, the Lord is with thee” and asks the following incredulous questions: “Where is God, this time? Which is true now? Is He everywhere? Is He in heaven? Or, is He in Mary? You are fooling yourselves!” (3) He attempts a reductio ad absurdum: “If you are claiming that God is everywhere, it follows that He is also in cabarets, night clubs, sauna baths, and gambling dens because your God is everywhere.” (4) He quotes Acts 17:24: “God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands.”58
Before refuting him point by point,I will note that Soriano is here contradicting the overwhelming testimony of Sacred Scripture to the omnipresence of God. God is simultaneously in heaven and on earth: “He is God in heaven above and on the earth below; there is no other” (Deut 4:39). The heavens cannot contain Him: “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain You, how much less this house which I have built! (1 Kings 8:27) His presence extends from heaven to earth: “Thus says the LORD, ‘Heaven is My throne and the earth is My footstool.“ (Isa 66:1) God’s presence fills all space from the highest heaven to the depths of sheol (hell) and everything in between: “Can you discover the depths of God? Can you discover the limits of the Almighty? They are high as the heavens, what can you do? Deeper than Sheol, what can you know? Its measure is longer than the earth, and broader than the sea” (Job 11:7-9). Again: “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the dawn, if I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, even there Your hand will lead me, and Your right hand will lay hold of me” (Psalm 138:7-10). God fills the entirety of the heavens and the earth: “‘Can a man hide himself in hiding places so I do not see him?’ declares the LORD. ‘Do I not fill the heavens and the earth?’ declares the LORD” (Jer 23:24). He is omnipresent; we live and move in Him, and He sustains and holds all things in existence by a continual act: “For in Him we live and move and exist” (Acts 17:28). Again: “He [Christ] is before all things, and in Him all things hold together” (Col 1:17; cf. Heb 1:3).
Next, in order to resolve the apparent contradiction between these verses and the passages which Soriano alleges against the omnipresence of God, it is necessary to provide some theological background. There are many senses in which God can be “present” in a place, and He may be present in one sense of the word but not present in another. Ott distinguishes as follows:
Since the time of Petrus Lombardus (Sent. I 37, 1) theologians more closely determine the omnipresence of God as a presence according to power (per potentiam–dynamic presence), according to knowledge (per praesentiam sive scientiam–ideal presence), and according to essence (per essentiam–essential or substantial presence). Through this essence He is present substantially in all things, including the created spiritual essences (angels, demons, human souls), as the immediate origin of their existence. Cf. S. th. I 8, 3. The substantial omnipresence of God is to be more closely defined as a repletive presence, that is, the whole Divine Essence fills the whole created space and every one of its parts…
In addition to this general, natural, presence of God, there is also a special supernatural presence or indwelling of God, by the supernatural efficacy of His grace, in the soul of the just man (John 14:23; 1 Cor 3:16; 6:19), in the house of God (Ps 131:13 et seq.) and in Heaven (Mt 6:9).59
Now we are ready to counter Soriano’s contentious claims. (1) We direct our prayers heavenward because that is where the saints and angels see God as He is, face to face, where God is present according to His grace and love to the fullest extent. This does not mean that He is not also present elsewhere, as is clear from Soriano’s objection (2), wherein he quotes from a Catholic prayer which is lifted directly from the pages of Sacred Scripture: “Hail [Mary], full of grace, the Lord is with thee” (Luke 1:28). Obviously, if the Bible tells us that God is both in heaven and with Mary, both are true. God indwells the soul of Mary just as He dwells in heaven. (3) Of course, God does not spiritually indwell the souls of great sinners in places of sin. However, He is there in the three senses that He is everywhere, enumerated above, namely according to power, knowledge, and essence.
Recall that God fills the earth (Jer 23:24), that is, there is no place on earth that He is not. The psalmist could not escape the presence of God by going down to sheol (Psalm 138:7-10); neither can we escape the presence of God by going to a brothel. Indeed, God might be operative by His grace in the souls of the patrons of places of sin, leading them to repentance and regeneration in Christ. Nowhere is beyond His reach.
(4) Finally, Soriano has wrenched Acts 17:24 from its context and construed it to mean something wholly foreign to the intent of St. Paul. St. Paul is dealing with pagans who believed, like Soriano, in finite gods who could be circumscribed in a certain place. They believed that their gods dwelt in the temples and idols that they carved for them, as though the gods needed these things (v. 25) for homes. St. Paul proclaims to them, on the contrary, that God cannot be thus confined, that he does not need anything from us, and that He is omnipresent, for “in Him we live and move and exist” (v. 28). That having been said, as noted above God may choose to spiritually indwell a temple in order to receive the prayer and worship of the faithful who pray and worship there. “For the LORD has chosen Zion; He has desired it for His habitation. ‘This is My resting place forever; here I will dwell, for I have desired it'” (Psalm 132:13-14; cf. Gen 28:22). God does not dwell in houses of pagan worship, but He does indeed dwell in legitimate houses of worship established according to His desires. These are Catholic Churches.
I am once again eagerly awaiting Mr. Soriano’s admission that he is not of God.
Part 6 coming soon…………….