The Trinity and Systematic Theology

A couple of weeks ago, I posted a short review of The God Who Is Triune: Revisioning the Christian Doctrine of God by Alan Coppedge, you can read it here. In that review, I suggested that systematic theology tends not to do full justice to the Trinity. Onesimus has taken up the same theme with a good deal of his customary vim and vigour in an extremely enlightening post.

But there is a problem even in the way recent Western Protestant/evangelical/Pentecostal theology is constructed. The doctrine of the Trinity is dealt with essentially as an attribute of God—God is Triune just has he is omniscient or loving, etc. This means that the starting point in many systematic theologies, for example, as well as in many Christians’ minds, is with God as God. In this construction, it is the one God who is all of these attributes. But then somehow, we add to these attributes that idea that the one God is also Trinity. This serves to make the Trinity functionally peripheral to the theology and therefore the soteriology of most Christians—it is something that we affirm, but because it is difficult and because we can’t very well explain it, it is left to the side while we focus on things that seem more central to what we are about as Christians…

… The Trinity has for too long seemed an optional add-on to much Western preaching, teaching and discipleship. It’s past time we became authentically Christian in what we believe, teach and preach.

Read the whole post “Are you Trinitarian?

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2 replies on “The Trinity and Systematic Theology”

I’m reminded of an excellent quote from Newbiggin in “The Open Secret”:

“It has been said that the question of the Trinity is the one theological question that has been really settled. It would, I think, be nearer to the truth to say that the Nicene formula has been so devoutly hallowed that it is effectively put out of circulation… The church continues to repeat the Trinitarian formula but – unless I am greatly mistaken – the ordinary Christian in the Western world who hears or read the word “God” does not immediately think of the Triune Being – Father, Son and Spirit. He thinks of a supreme monad.

The working concept of God for most ordinary Christians is – if one may venture a bold guess – shaped more by the combination of Greek philosophy and Islamic theology that was powerfully injected into the thought of Christendom at the beginning of the High Middle Ages than by the thought of the fathers of the first four centuries.”

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