Why the silence on the Trinity?

I have read a lot of United Methodist commentary in the last couple years about the importance of Trinitarian faith. I’ve had a member of my conference Board of Ordained Ministry explain that one concern the board has had in recent years is that some candidates come out of seminary without a sufficient ability to clearly articulate Trinitarian Christianity.

And yet, during the last year as the country has seriously considered the election of a man who embraces a religion that espouses a non-Trinitarian religion, I have heard almost no discussion about why the Trinity matters to Christians. I’m not asking for a political argument here. By Wesleyan standards, after all, we’ve probably had several non-Christian presidents in our history. Electing a non-Trinitarian is not my concern.

My concern is more a question. If the Trinity is so important to our understanding of God, why have we seemed to flee from any discussion of the topic?

Is it that we have become such thorough-going pluralists that we recoil at even describing differences among the religions?

Is it that we are afraid of being labeled as political?

Is it that we really are not all that Trinitarian in our theology after all? Do we not actually believe that Jesus Christ was fully God, uncreated, and from the beginning? Is this just so much scholastic game playing to us? Do we not believe the Holy Spirit is God, not just from God?

Is it that we cannot articulate our faith with either confidence or clarity?

I ask these questions as much about myself as I do about you.  I have not talked about the theology of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in any public way in the last year. But if I do not, how can I expect the people in the churches I serve to understand our faith?

I suppose before I do that, I need more knowledge. I have read the United Methodist Chruch’s document on baptism and former LDS members, but most of what I know of LDS theology is bits and pieces. Perhaps learning more is the first step.

Who knows a good accessible resource for doing so?

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9 thoughts on “Why the silence on the Trinity?

  1. Popular evangelical theology is subordinationist because of how they rescue the cross from its scandal by making it about the Father taking out his fury on the Son rather than God the Son allowing His enemies to crucify Him in order that all sin could be judged in the process. Also we no longer talk call God “Father” but call the Father “God” and the Son “Jesus” in order to be politically correct. Those are two of the reasons I can think of why Trinitarian theology has been undermined. I’m sure there are others.

  2. “Is it that we cannot articulate our faith with either confidence or clarity?”

    I think this statement is the critical issue. As a member of the Methodist Church, I have less need to understand LDS theology than I do to make sure that I am on solid ground understanding our Trinitarian faith. I’m currently reading A.W. Tozer’s “Knowledge of the Holy”, which seems to point in the right direction. Do you have other recommendations?

    • Great question.

      I like a little book by Stephen Long and Andrew Kinsey called Keeping Faith. It is about the UMC Articles of Religion and Confession of Faith, so covers much more than the Trinity, but the chapter on the Trinity is good.

      As a Wesley nerd, of course, I have to suggest John Wesley’s sermon The Trinity.

  3. Tertullian, who coined the phrase “Trinity” gives the only coherent explanation I have ever read to explain the Trinity Doctrine.
    Any subordination of The Son, Jesus Christ, was rejected by Orthodox Protestant or Roman Catholic doctrine.
    He was the first to respond to the attack on the divinity of The Son & The Holy Spirit.
    You can read Tertullians “Against Praxeeas” chapter 3.

    http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf03.iv.iii.iii.html

    Although Tertullian would later fall into the sect of the Montanist, Tertullian was not following Montanist at the time he wrote his defense of the Trinity. At that writing he was in good standing with the Christian Church. It is said Tertullian turned away against Montanist teaching before his death.

    Tertullian, like Luther is always a great read.

    You may also find the following helpful.

    http://www.cbeinternational.org/?q=content/doctrine-trinity-and-subordination

    I do not agree with Wesley”s comment, “I dare not insist upon any one’s using the word Trinity, or Person.” or his explanation, …“because I do not find those terms in the Bible.” There are many words and term used today that reflect circumstance, truth and law found in scripture. One may not find the specific term or word in scripture but the foundation and explanations are written, explained and understood.

    • What is your disagreement with Wesley? I take him to be saying that it is the concepts and meanings that matter, not the particular vocabulary.

  4. As a former Mormon who is now a Christian and studying to be a UMC pastor I am always shocked by how little my fellow Methodists understand the Trinity. The doctrine of the Trinity was a difficult one for me, but now that I understand the doctrine and live in and through the triune God I can’t comprehend Christianity without it.

    (BTW, if you ever have any Mormon doctrine questions feel free to shoot me an e-mail.)

    • Thank you, Michael.

      Rather than pestering you with questions, do you know of a good book that discusses the theology, especially with an eye to helping Christians understand it?

      • I responded earlier, but for some reason the reply didn’t take.

        Cokesbury sales a Book of Mormon with notes for a Christian audience, but I wouldn’t waste my time with that. The BOM doesn’t actually contain a lot of Mormon theology; it’s actually trinitarian in places. (JS formulated the Mormon concept of the God-head after he wrote the BOM.)

        ldstalk.wordpress.com is a good blog where Evangelical Christians and Mormons discuss the differences in theology. It’s a good read. There are even a few Mormons who’ve seen the light and are now Wesleyan-Christians on the blog.

        I can’t really recommend any books as I’ve never really explored Mormonism from the Christian perspective. The above blog generally mentions some good resources.

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