The Trinity Under Attack
- Thursday, June 22, 2006
Doctrine is under attack, as it always has been, in the Christian church. Historic church councils and great debates have helped to ward off the ever encroaching error that originates from the depraved heart attempting to re-imagine God in his own image rather than submitting to the authority of God's revelation of Himself in His word. Among other vital doctrines under attack today from numerous sources and in a seemingly unending variety of ways is the doctrine of the Trinity.
Consider the fact that a commitment to Modalism is wide-spread in certain segments of evangelicalism. Perhaps the most common expression of that persuasion is found among prominent leaders within the pale of Christendom who teach, among other things, that Christ was not God until His baptism and ceased to be God at His crucifixion.
More startling is the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the fact that they just voted to receive a policy paper on gender-inclusive language for the Trinity, according to the AP. "Church officials can propose experimental liturgies with alternative phrasings for the Trinity." The Divine Trinity, "Father, Son, and Holy Spirit," could now be referred to as "Mother, Child, and Womb," or "Lover, Beloved, and Love."
"Some Bible scholars [Clark Pinnock to name one] recently have used the Trinity to teach that many will be saved apart from explicit faith in Christ," Baptist Press reports. Thank God for Stephen J. Wellum, editor of the Southern Baptist Journal of Theology, who notes that the Trinity "is at the core of a biblical understanding of God." Wellum refutes the assertion that the Trinity teaches that many will be saved apart from explicit faith in Christ and "argues that the Trinity actually demonstrates just the opposite -- that salvation is found by faith in Christ alone. The Trinity, he argues, is 'at the heart' of what differentiates Christianity from other religions."
"The doctrine of the Trinity is not an esoteric, abstract theory that is unimportant to practical Christianity, but instead is at the very heart of the Christian life, essayists assert in the latest edition of the [Journal]." Further, "at the heart of Scripture's presentation of our great and glorious God is the doctrine of the Trinity...[U]nderstanding God as triune is central to everything Scripture says about him, and it is what distinguishes him from all other conceptions of 'god.'"
Dr. Bruce Ware, "who serves as professor of theology at Southern Seminary, discusses the relationship between the Trinity, Christ's identity as Savior and the atonement. Ware argues that God must be triune for Christ to be the Savior of sinners. 'The identity of Jesus as Messiah and Savior is tied, both historically and of necessity, to his relationships with the Father and Spirit, respectively,' Ware writes. 'Put differently, if you imagine for a moment removing the Father and the Spirit from the historical Person Jesus Christ of Nazareth, you realize that this Jesus the Christ could not be -- i.e., he could not exist and be who he is -- devoid of the Father and the Spirit. Indeed, the identity of Christ depends on the reality of the Trinity.'" Related implications are crucial.
First, precision is required when it comes to the issue of all doctrine as it is God's revelation of Himself to us. The Trinitarian nature of God is no exception despite the fact that we cannot fully comprehend that reality in all of its glory. To misunderstand what is revealed or to say we can conceive of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in ways more relevant or palatable to our culture is to change the very nature of God and thereby worship another God.
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