A biblically literate theist challenges the Trinity

Monday Musings for October 04, 2021

Good morning, Musers,

I was surprised to discover that some Jews believe in the Trinity. I use the word “some” because I’ve also seen challenges of the Trinity from Christians in the Hebrew roots movement. Like Christianity, Judaism is not monolithic... so we should be careful not to treat it as such. But today I had a biblically literate theist who was using Jewish lingo to argue against the Trinity. Frankly, he sounded like a believer... but just what is it you are believing about Jesus Christ if you don’t believe in the Trinity?

American founding father Thomas Jefferson loved the person of Jesus Christ! But he was an antisupernaturalist. As such, he did not even believe in God — let alone the Trinity! Yet he was so enamored of the person of Jesus that he created the so-called Jefferson Bible by reassembling the Gospels — but avoiding things like miracles or the assertion of metaphysical realms.

My question is, when you throw away (literally in Jefferson’s case) parts of the Bible that offend you, at what point are you believing in the wrong Jesus — and at what point are you not saved... because the Jesus you “put your faith in” is not enough like the biblical Jesus to do the job?

We evangelicals tend to take the doctrine of the Trinity for granted. But the early church fathers didn’t have that luxury. They first had the struggle with Jesus’ (apparent) dual nature. How was it that he was fully human yet fully divine… because that was the data in the New Testament?

After they hammered that out, the doctrine of the Trinity was easier to manage. But it was hundreds of years after the church was founded that scholars offered the kind of Christology we take for granted today… which included the doctrine of the Trinity.

I think the Trinity makes the best sense of the biblical data. Therefore, we should teach it and preach it from the mountaintops! But I do not think that people have not been properly saved because they have not subscribed to it. Frankly, it’s a bit of a headful. So I have to have mercy on people who challenge — what I believe to be — a definitive Christian doctrine.

But definitive doctrines are not always “cardinal” doctrines… doctrines to which we must subscribe to be saved. To be saved, a person must believe that God exists, that Jesus existed, that humans are sinful, that Jesus died, was resurrected and in the efficacy of his atoning sacrifice. This means that a person in the process of being saved is engaging with doctrines like hamartiology, soteriology and Christology on some level. But he does not have to engage with the Trinity.

That being said, if God exists, he either exists as a Trinity of persons or he does not. Muslims believe in God... but not a Trinity. Traditional Jews believe in God... but not a Trinity. The Jehovah’s Witnesses believe in God... but not a Trinity. I call all three of these out for that lack of belief. Should I treat a believer any differently… just because he’s a brother?

It turns out that I don’t.


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