Are Western Trinitarians Heretics?

This is an interesting conversation which Scott McKnight is developing. He writes:

Most of Western evangelicals are functionally heretical. Most have a rhetoric for theology that has little room for the Trinity. Christ is God — and this gives them grounds for a satisfaction theory of atonement. But a genuine Trinitarian framing of theology is mostly gone.

He quotes from a book he is dialoguing with:

“many evangelical and conservative believers tend toward biblicism in their approach to doctrine, and thus they feel uncomfortable with the metaphysical language of the traditional creeds” (104).

“everything God does is from the Father, through the Son, and in the Spirit. And every Christian response to God occurs in the Spirit, through the Son, and in the Spirit” (105).

“Western theology from the Middle Ages onward gives the impression that the doctrine of the Trinity, though true and important, could be left out without major revisions in the rest of the doctrine of God” (106).

The author, and Scott agrees, believes that the root of the problem lies in the Western focus on the ‘oneness and essence of God.’ The East, in my opinion, has always, since the days of Origen and Eusebius, focused on the separate of the Essence, while the West since Athanasius, the various Bishops of Rome, and Marcellus, focused on the unity of the Godhead. Is this a ‘loss’ or a different viewpoint? And why is biblicism a bad thing? I know that the Creeds have their place, but is a return to ‘biblicism’ a bad thing? Or should all creeds and councils be accepted – which they are not, even among various branches of Christendom.

You Might Also Like

6 Replies to “Are Western Trinitarians Heretics?”

  1. I have not found 'biblicism' to ever be executed in such a manner to make it efficacious to the history, stories, or theology of the Church. I have only ever witnessed it bulwark claims which have confused these issues and been largely unable to speak to issues of existence. That is just my experience.

  2. agreed. then again, i'd like to re-examine how *exactly* we got the trinity anyway.

    i've found that 'biblicism' is an accusation cast at many textual scholars when they point out obvious textual examples that refute a theologian's theory. many theologians cite the text of the bible to support their harmonizing, systematic theories until that same text gets in their way, at which point those that point out the problematic texts are accused of 'biblicizing.' they want scripture to be an authority, until they don't.

    i wish more theologians actually took the time to learn, really learn, what the bible says (meaning original languages). theologians would be well served by sitting in on a few text criticism classes.

  3. Well said, Dr. Cargill. That is my goal is skipping 'theology' to focus more on the foundation which simply doesn't align well with some theological ventures.

  4. Yesterday i asked someone about belief in the Trinity three persons in one God, and belief in one God as three manifestations. They couldn't understand what I was saying and to them both beliefs are the same – they thought I was explaining the same thing. I had the same response from another person a couple of weeks ago. And last week I heard a pastor talking about God as three manifestations in direct contradiction of his own church belief statement. I'm figuring that he doesn't know the difference.

    So, does it really matter how you believe in God – Father, Jesus and Holy Spirit. There is One God. He exists as Three. Does it matter how you get there?

Leave a Reply, Please!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.