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  • Writer's pictureMichael Burgos

Mark August's Shoddy Defense of Vestal

Updated: Jul 20, 2023

After reading what is arguably the worst defense of Oneness theology ever published, I posted a critical review. I kvetched about D. R. Vestal's self-appointed "Ph.D.," his sub-standard school (i.e., Cypress Bible Institute), and his terrible book while providing specific examples and evidence for each of my gripes. Mark August, "Bishop" of the "The First Electronically Organized Christian Church," posted a defense of Vestal likely because he is a student and alumnus at Vestal's degree mill. August is both a Oneness Pentecostal apologist and the "Bishop" of a fake church which has a presence only on the internet. He claims to possess both an undergraduate degree and a Master of Divinity from Cypress Bible Institute[1] and from personal correspondence, I learned that he is currently pursuing a Doctor of Theology.

To my observation that Vestal illegitimately issued himself a Ph.D. in religion, August objected:

Scholars in history who have began their own schools were able to do so even with less than comparable training as the top of their fellows, even early proto-Trinitarians. Throughout history an academic graduate with a qualification to teach will begin their own school [sic]. This was the case with many in Church history. Dr. Vestal has done nothing different. Dr. Vestal earned a M.Th. from one of Oneness most recognized schools, Indiana Bible College.

In the above quote, August fallaciously compared someone who earned a terminal degree only to start an educational institution with Vestal, who began his own school (CBI) and then proceeded to award himself a degree. Vestal did not earn a legitimate doctoral degree elsewhere and then start CBI. Rather, he started CBI and then awarded himself a doctoral degree. August's comparison is subterfuge designed to obscure the immorality and illegitimacy of Vestal's education. Whether Vestal earned a graduate degree from Indiana Bible College is irrelevant since the issue is his self-awarded doctorate. Further, since Indiana Bible College currently issues only undergraduate degrees, call me a tad skeptical about August's claim.

In my review, I noted how all of the staff listed at CBI had degrees from the same institution. To this observation August remarked:

CBI's faculty has all but passed away with Dr. Vestal being the only one left i believe. Dr. Vestal does not sell PhDs. CBI is set up for ministers in such a way that he who has many years in the ministry and have contributed great time to study can be evaluated for an honorary Doctor. I could not be considered qualified for the honor even though i am soon to graduate with a ThD from Cypress [sic], and if I'm not mistaken Dr. Burgos, you may not be qualified to "purchase" an Honorary Doctorate from Cypress any more than me.

According to August's own admission, the only faculty member at Vestal's school is Vestal. To put that into perspective, Vestal, who awarded himself a doctorate from CBI, is the sole professor of an institution which claims to have twelve individual degree programs ranging from psychology to theology. Clearly, CBI is a degree mill and its faculty of one is completely unqualified to teach, supervise, or graduate students in any discipline.

In order to demonstrate the substandard work produced at CBI, I gave an example in the doctoral dissertation of Larry Yates, a CBI grad. To this, August responded:

Dr. Yates THE DIVIDED GOD has/had some mistakes [sic]. Dr. Yates has been working to correct some published errors on that one. But Larry's book is pretty sound. As to credibility [sic] of CBI she has graduated many leaders in Oneness academic thinkers [sic]. CBI's curriculum is much adopted by permission from Indiana Bible College. The contributions of Dr. Vestals [sic] writing in his curriculum along with other scholars are wonderful. CBI credits do transfer to Urshan College, an accredited Oneness institution of higher learning.

Yates' dissertation, The Divided God, does not merely have "some mistakes." Rather, as I pointed out in my review with references, Yates' work is filled with grammatical errors, spelling errors, errors of pagination and citation, mistakes of coherence and logic, and is about half the size of the average research dissertation. Instead of addressing these evident problems straightforwardly, August merely asserted the credibility of CBI. Credibility to whom? Graduates of the same degree mill? If one is able to put forward a doctoral dissertation that contains the kind of argumentation that might be found in the average high school term paper, complete with the same sort of sophomoric mistakes, what kind of credibility could CBI possibly have? Moreover, since it is standard practice to require a doctoral student to submit his project to at least two credentialled independent readers, who were the readers that passed Yates' third-rate work? To whom did he present his dissertation defense? Surely, had Yates' project gone through the hands of anyone with a modicum of grammatical sense, his work would have been rejected as unsound.

Regarding my critique of Vestal's book, August retorted:

Vestals book THE TRUTH OF THE ONENESS DOCTRINE is a direct response to Jimmy Swaggart's book against the Oneness movement and should be read as such. Dr. Vestal is a former Assemblies of God Preacher turned Oneness and this book should be examined in it's unique context. Dr. Vestal has been a Trinitarian. He knows what Trinitarian doctrine is. Dr. Burgos should be ashamed for misrepresenting Dr. Vestal in his understanding of the Trinity.

If The Truth of the Oneness Doctrine was written to address a preexisting text, one would expect Vestal to communicate that fact within the relevant book. However, despite August's claim, there is no mention of Swaggart. While Vestal ambiguously wrote "A well-known Trinitarian has published a book in which he attacks the Oneness doctrine,"[2] he made it plain that The Truth of the Oneness Doctrine is designed to afford readers a positive presentation of Oneness theology: "I feel it only fair and equally [sic] as just [sic] to show the other view."[3] August, without any substantiation or evidence, claimed that I misrepresented Vestal's views. One would expect some form of evidence to support such an assertion, but August provided none.

In response to my critique of Vestal's erroneous and unfounded definition of trinitarianism, August responded:

As to Vestal writing about 3 manifestations, he is likely speaking in Philosophy terms [sic] of the 2nd and 3rd centuries Greek Apologists and later scholars. 3 ways in which God manifests Himself to creation in economy of soteriology. Many scholars have termed the pre Roman Catholic proto-Trinitarians "Catholic" in a short hand acknowledgment that these were part of the pre Roman Catholic movement, one which began in the middle 2nd century. As goes the manifestation issue, scholars agree that the only visible manifestation of the one God is Jesus Christ as Logos of The Father, revealing The Father. Even Trinitarian Theologians admit that The Father is revealed through The Son. As far as Dr. Burgos assertion that the Trinity teaches the "consubstantiality and eternality" of 3 divine persons, that doctrine was not yet even practically part of Trinitarian theology until well after Origen, post 3rd century.

August's attempt at re-framing Vestal's erroneous definition of trinitarianism does not help his cause. First, Vestal made no mention of second century writers in the relevant pericope. Second, Vestal's definition was of trinitarianism and not the views of "2nd and 3rd centuries Greek Apologists and later scholars." Third, since Vestal was seeking to define trinitarianism, August's appeal to the function of the Son as Revealer of God is both irrelevant and misguided. Instead of honestly admitting that his professor does not grasp the position he seeks to refute, August has transparently sought to explain away the error in Vestal's own text.

In my review, I noted that Vestal erroneously attributed the ancient heresy of Arianism to trinitarians. To this, August responded:

In his mentioning of Arianism, Dr. Vestal was probably paraphrasing a book titled, IF YE KNOW THESE THINGS, by Dr. Drysdale. A popular graduate of CBI who answered Dr. Boyd's book against Oneness. In that book Drysdale addresses charges of Arianism for teaching classical ante-Nicene Modalism.

If Vestal was "paraphrasing a book" one would expect him to cite his paraphrase according to standard practice. Of course, there is no such citation. If August is correct, Vestal uncritically adopted an erroneous viewpoint (i.e., trinitarianism is Arianism) and then plagiarized the relevant work.

After citing some irrelevant sources in support of his Oneness Pentecostal theology, August concluded his review:

My overall assessment of Dr. Burgos work here is that he's not acting as a theologian. He has put himself forward as an Apologist. Apologists are like the used car salesman of the theology world. He has tasked himself to sell you ideas. Here he tries to sell us misinformation in a tasteless attempt to discredit Dr. Vestal and his work. Dr. Burgos makes claims that are terrific and obtuse. His writing here should be considered a failed, drive by hit piece, nothing more. This piece could be called 'The Many Errors of Dr. Burgos'.

One would imagine that August, in his zeal to protect the founder of his degree mill, would provide some sort of evidence for his assertions other than the juvenile ad hominem displayed above. Injudicious as his response may be, it is always far easier to attempt to obscure the shady endeavors of someone by attacking the person who notices them.

[1] 2020. "Our Bishop," The A.C.T.S. Movement,

[2] D. R. Vestal, The Truth of the Oneness Doctrine (Van, TX: Cypress Bible Institute, 2019), 7.

[3] Ibid.

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