Every pastor and every theologian that has both a pulse and even a modicum of concern for the church usually has his own opinions about what “the next big thing” to trouble the church is going to be.
If you asked ten pastors, you would likely get twelve different answers. Some see a rising and subtle assault on the doctrine of Scripture. Others see a dangerous reformulation of the doctrine of justification.
Speaking only for myself, what I’m seeing is far more deadly: a sudden (at least to me) desire to reboot the Trinitarian controversies from the earliest history of Christianity.
Frankly, there’s a small part of me that’s stunned that this is even up for debate. While I’m used to defending the deity of Christ against the Jehovah’s Witnesses, or fending off Mormon misunderstandings of the doctrine of the Trinity, I never thought I would see professing “conservative evangelicals” who were willing to jettison the central dogma that makes Christianity…Christianity.
But it’s happening.
I can name at least three churches in my immediate area (i.e., within 25 miles of my home) who have either had to turn away prospective new members because they wouldn’t affirm the Nicene formulation of the doctrine of the Trinity, or who have only found out that a new member denied the Trinity after the individual had already been received as a member (in this case, it was kept hidden from the elders).
What’s more, I know of at least two seminary students (at Presbyterian and Reformed seminaries, no less!) who have informed their professors that they don’t out and out deny the Nicene Creed, but they’re not sure they can affirm it, either.
The question is how has this happened?
Perhaps we could answer the question of “how” by realizing that the works of Anthony Buzzard have become suddenly popular.
Even more popular than the Buzzard’s book, however, is Divine Truth or Human Tradition?: A Reconsideration of the Orthodox Doctrine of the Trinity in Light of the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures, by Patrick Navas.
But perhaps the root that has brought forth this poisonous fruit is the general lack of any historical understanding of the early church by the vast majority of so-called “evangelicals.” After all, all that Ecumenical Council stuff is some sort of Papist heresy. Or Greek heresy. Or something.
So all of the aforementioned goals that I had for this year…they just got tossed directly out the window and are now bleeding to death in the median of I-95. I’ve got a new project, and I’d like to invite you all to join me.
Starting in the middle of next week, I’m going to be reading through On the Incarnation by the great Athanasius of Alexandria. The edition I’ve linked to will be the basis of my reading, and the posts which will follow on this blog.
Once we’re done with On the Incarnation, I’ll be moving on to De Trinitate by Aurelius Augustine.
I’d be thrilled if you would read along with me, and then join the discussion here at Southern Reformation; I’m sure that Joseph Richardson, the “catholic boy” Richard, and Fr. James Guirguis would be interesting conversation partners, as would the Rev. Benjamin Glaser.
Soli Deo Gloria, my friends.