[“Annoyed Pinoy” is James, as he stated on 7/12/11 in this comment below.]
This dialogue began in the comments section of the Triablogue post, Do We Need a Trinity Verse?
The post was about the Trinity. Its author was Steve Hays, so you’ll see the exchange beginning with my asking Steve a question. (His blog labeled my comments with “blogforthelordjesus.”) Then James (Annoyed Pinoy) stepped in and offered an answer (Steve didn’t respond). James has a blog called Gospel Crumbs. We don’t know each other in any other context.
(I’ve done only minor editing.)
Mike Gantt: Steve, you said to me in another comment string about the Trinity, “There’s extensive scholarship that lays out the exegetical case for the Trinity in minute detail.”
Could you recommend to me what you think is the single best resource in this regard?
Annoyed Pinoy: I’m sure Steve has a much better list that he could give than I could. But below are some classic (but FREELY available) resources that helped me out of an Arianistic view and into a Trinitarian view years and years ago.
The only problem with these classic works is that they sometimes appeal to passages that have textual variants which they either weren’t aware of (in their day and age); or they just didn’t take the time to explicate the possible implications of the variants; or they appeal to passages that involve the scribal tendency of “expansion of piety” where, for example, the original reading might be “Jesus” but later manuscripts have “Lord Jesus Christ”; or didn’t take into consideration or lived before the formulation of Granville Sharp’s Rule; or appeal to verses that could be interpreted contrary to their preferred exegesis without mentioning opposing views (e.g. 1 John 5:20) etc.
So I personally wouldn’t use those passages in a positive defense of the doctrine of the Trinity. [Or if I did, I would give certain qualifications and be more balanced and open about the controversies concerning those passages. For example, a case could be made that 1 John 5:20 (which has no textual variant) teaches that Jesus Christ is the “true God and eternal life”. But it’s not definitive.]. For example passages like:
John 3:13; Acts 2:28; Rom. 14:10; 1 Cor. 10:9; 15:47; 1 Tim. 3:16; 2 Tim. 2:19; Titus 2:13; Heb. 1:8; 1 John 5:7; Rev. 1:11
Doctrine of the Trinity: The Biblical Evidence by Richard N. Davies
The Trinity by Edward Henry Bickersteth (direct link to pdf)
The Eternal Sonship of the Lord Jesus Christ by J.C. Philpot (This work is not specifically a defense of the Trinity. Rather it’s about the controversy of the “Eternal Sonship of Christ” that was raging in his circles at the time.)
An Unpublished Essay On the Trinity by Jonathan Edwards
Athanasius’ works especially his Defence Against the Arians. (Apologia Contra Arianos)
Brief Declaration and Vindication of The Doctrine of the Trinity by John Owen
Mike Gantt: Thanks for the recommendations.
I find Arianism as distasteful as Trinitarianism. However, I am taking a look at the first book on your list (Davies). Unfortunately, like other Trinitarian teachings I have read it tends to pontificate and obfuscate more than it elucidates.
Here’s one of Davies’ sentences for you: “The prayerful study of the Bible, from the day of Pentecost down, has convinced men that Almighty God exists as a Trinity of co-equal persons in the unity of the Godhead.” This reminds me of the old line, “‘Shut up!’ he explained.”
Nevertheless, I’ll poke around some more and see if I can find something a tad more enlightening in his work.
In the meantime, I’ll simply say that the reason most Trinitarians don’t see how their doctrine obscures the doctrine of Christ is that they think their foil is Arianism or some derivative. In other words, for them Trinitarianism is, among other things, a way of proclaiming the deity of Christ. Therefore, they don’t recognize how making Him “the second person of the Godhead” actually diminishes the place given Him by the New Testament…and by the Old Testament, for that matter.
Annoyed Pinoy: From a historical trinitarian point of view, there are various heresies beside Arianism that touch on the doctrine of God and/or the doctrine of Christ.
For example, Gnosticism, Docetism, Apollinarianism, Nestorianism, Dynamic Monarchianism, Sabellianism/Modalism, Adoptionism, Eutycheanism, Monophysitism, Monothelitism, Binitarianism, Pneumatomachianism/Macedonianism et cetera, etc.
The question is what does the Bible teach. From my (admittedly) limited studies and by standing on the shoulders of other scholars and theologians I’ve concluded that Trinitarianism does best to explain all the data the Bible provides about the nature and attributes of God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit.
When I first let go of Arianism by becoming convinced of the full deity of Christ, I was briefly a Modalist. I don’t know what your position is, but from the little you’ve said, I’m guessing you might be a Modalist too. Whatever the case, I encouraged you to continue studying the various options as well as church history. I’m convinced that if you do, you’ll eventually come to Trinitarian conclusions too.
Experience can never prove the truth of a theological position. Scripture is the final authority. Nevertheless, I do find it interesting and confirmatory that of those movements and groups that God seems to have used (and blessed the efforts of) since coming of the Messiah, that they have often been Trinitarian groups.
Mike Gantt: I agree with you that Scripture is the final authority. For that reason, it seems more practical to go to it for the correct teaching rather than to survey all the various competing theories. I compare this with sticking with a difficult math book to learn the solution to a problem rather rummaging through a catalog of all the answers that have been proposed.
That’s not to say that the right answer can’t possibly be in that catalog. It might very well be. Nor am I saying that I myself haven’t looked through any of those explanations of God that compete with the Trinity. It’s just that when I have, I have found nothing that fully resonates with Scripture. And that is the problem with the Trinity for me – that as I came to understand the Scriptures more and more, the idea of the Trinity seemed less and less in synch with it.
You wrote that Trinitarianism was the best of all the explanations you have found of the biblical data. I have no reason to doubt that this has been your experience. But this does not mean that the trinity concept is the truth. To trust that it is the truth, one must come to a conviction that it squares with Scripture. I have not been able to do that. You only seem to say that it comes closer to squaring than any competing theory you have heard, but, as I’ve said, that doesn’t make it square.
If you would like to continue the dialogue, please respond. There is a question or two I’d like to ask you, if a continuing conversation would permit.
In any case, thanks for the good-will suggestions and comments you’ve made to me.