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Trinitarian Crisis in Popular Evangelicalism

brorito's picture

Several years ago I came to the suspicion that the doctrine of the trinity had fallen on hard times. The lack of empirical indicators to prove such a statement left me only with a suspicion. However, it seemed to me that the doctrine of the trinity didn’t quite get the same recognition as some of the popular teachings like prosperity, morality, self-esteem, and relationships. Yet one cannot deny the perennial nature of the trinity and its related teachings. It doesn't take long before one begins to notice that within contemporary evangelicalism discourses seem to emphasize second order discourses and primary order discourses Christology, God, or the trinity were relegated to secondary status. It seems to me that the sentiment today is that the trinity is a doctrine to be believed not understood which I would say is a CRISIS. Any thoughts?

dmlq48's picture

The Trinity, "One in Essence and Undivided"

brorito,

I'm not sure I agree that other teachings are "better understood, articulated, and disseminated than Christology, God, or the trinity [sic]." After all, much of those three topics (Christology, God, and the Trinity) are often what's essential to the faith, i.e., they are dogma in the strictest sense ("doctrine" then, by my definition, comes from dogma - consequent beliefs). Trinitarin theology was very articulated through figures such as the Cappadocians, St. Cyril, St. John Damascus and the Ecumenical Councils. Only when one properly understands who God is and what he's done for us can one start to understand what prosperity, morality, self-esteem, relationships, etc. mean for a Christian.

I wonder if your observations are a result of a different understanding of salvation than the historic Church (which begs the question, if the understanding of salvation has changed, are modern "Christians" still "Christian?")? The early Church Fathers understood salvation in terms of deification (e.g., St. Athanasius, St. Cyril, the Cappadocian Fathers, St. Maximos, and St. Gregory Palamas). In other words, salvation was brought about through the union of God and man. While the sacrifice on the cross may have "purified" us, it does not unite us to God. It's the union of the two natures (divine and human) that unites us to God, and this is accomplished in Christ (though don't misquote me, he is eternally the crucified one).

When one views salvation from this angle, one needs to ask: how is Jesus both fully divine and fully human, without confusion (mingling)? When going down this path, it become necessary to have a proper articulation of the Trinity.

Though we must remember, the Trinity is how we speak about God, not the make-up of God (the what of God, if you will). If we fall into the trap of describing the Trinity as the "what"of God, then it would seem God is 1/3 Father, 1/3 Son, and 1/3 Holy Spirit. This is an improper understanding, but, unfortunately, probably how many Christians view God.

When we understanding that the Trinity is how we speak about God then we see how the Lord Jesus relates to the One God, his Father, in the Spirit. In other words, "Trinitarian theology results from reflecting on how the crucified and exalted Lord Jesus Christ reveals the one and only God as Father, in and through the Holy Spirit, who also enables adopted sons crucified with Christ to call upon the same God as Father, mean that Trinitarian theology has less to do with heavenly existence of the three divine persons than with this new manner of confessing the One God - as Father, in the Son, by the Holy Spirit" (Behr, "The Nicene Faith," in The Formation of Christian Theology, Vol. 2 [Crestwood: SVS Press, 2004], pg. 7-8).

So my question is, if Christians don't properly understand the Trinity through the lens of WHAT God has done for us, how can they better articulate eschatology, as you mention? Doesn't a presentation of eschatology presume a proper understanding of what God has done for us (the economy of salvation) and how that is articulated?

---
Dustin

"Blessed art You O Christ Our God
You have revealed the fishermen as most wise
By sending down upon them the Holy Spirit
Through them You drew the world into Your net
O Lover of Man, Glory to You!" -Pentecost Troparion

---
Dustin

"Blessed art You O Christ Our God
You have revealed the fishermen as most wise
By sending down upon them the Holy Spirit
Through them You drew the world into Your net
O Lover of Man, Glory to You!" -Pentecost Troparion




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