Quite honestly, and not claiming any unique depth of thought or insight because I honestly have none, the trinitarian nature of God does not cause me any real difficulty. It does not present me with any cognitive dissonance, with heavy tensions, with any real struggles of understanding. Without a trinitarian understanding of God, the Gospel simply falls apart. I accept it because it is true, because it is a doctrine clearly taught in Scripture.
The number of errors, heresies, and misunderstandings in trinitarian theology are, I think, relatively few, though I assert such with qualification in regards to Christology. Essentially, you haven on one hand the heresy of modalism wherein God reveals Himself in three modes, appearing at times as the Father, as the Son, or as the Holy Spirit. The other error is that of tri-theism, that God exists as three separate personalities, as three separate gods. Too, one finds the purely unitarian theology of, well, the Unitarian-Universalists, a theology far outside of Christian orthodoxy though it did find its birth in the church.
Most attempts to describe the trinitarian nature of God, unwittingly I think, lead to error when examined. Using the egg, with the yoke, the white, and the shell, as an aid in understanding the Trinity fails. Worse is using the forms of water – steam, ice, and liquid – as illustration of the trinity in that it is purely modalistic error.
The following graphic perhaps is the best illustration of the nature of the Triune God.
I do not think it can be improved upon.
Not to minimize the mystery of the Trinity, I quite honestly ponder the incarnation of Christ. I try to wrap my mind, with no little difficulty, around the wonder of the Triune Godhead, in the Person of Christ, taking on flesh to become our Perfect Sacrifice.
The potential for error and heresy in understanding the nature of the God-Man Christ may easily be fallen into and is also related to one’s understanding of Trinitarian theology.
On top of the aforementioned errors in understanding the Trinitarian nature of the Godhead, some of the potential pitfalls in understanding the being of Christ are as follows:
- Denials of Christ’s Divinity — Ebonism, Arianism (today’s Jehovah’s Witness) , Nestorianism, Socinianism, Liberalism, Humanism, Unitarianism.
- Denials of Christ’s humanity — Docetism, Marcionism, Gnosticism, Apollinarianism, Monarchianism, Patripassianism, Sabellianism, Adoptionism, Dynamic Monarchianism.
- Denials and confusions of Christ’s two natures — Monophysitism, Eutychianism, Monothelitism.
In contrast to the above, the Biblical, historical, and correct Christology is Chalcedonian.
Delving in to Christology may appear to some dry, cold doctrine…a useless intellectual exercise in theology that adds little to one’s worship experience. In today’s mostly anti-theological ecclesiastical climate that is often more experience driven than doctrinally driven, in a milieu where church attenders are more likely fed a low calorie, pragmatic diet of life-coaching and moralism rather than a theologically rich meal of expository preaching, the danger the American church straying into error and heresy is perhaps waxing higher than anytime in her history. When Joel Osteen, mostly Christless and a bit gnostic in his Christianity, leads the largest congregation in America and other megachurch leaders look to him as a model of success, woe is us. When influential church leaders look to modalist T.D. Jakes as a role model and call those who exhibit discernment idiots, woe is us.
Christmas is upon us. The incarnation of Christ is the heart of the matter. Forget the legalistic, fictional Santa Clause. He brings no good news of redemption to anyone. Forget the frenzied, mindless materialism of the season. Forget the silly culture war skirmishes over greetings and creches. God has forever more taken on flesh, humbling Himself and reaching down to His rebellious creation and has redeemed His children, taking our sin as His own and clothing us in His righteousness as we repent and believe, those abilities themselves a gift from the Giver of all good gifts.
As an addendum and speaking of Joel Osteen, here is his seasons greetings for us:
HT: Wartburg Watch
There is reason for concern over the church.
One more addendum….
Here is an interesting quiz to determine if you are a heretic….I am Chalcedonian!