In an e-mail I received recently, my attention was drawn to a review of my book The Only True God
by Barbara Buzzard.
The review is in essence an assessment of whether my book argues that a unitarian or trinitarian view of God should be a tenet for Christians today. Anyone who has read it will know that the book focuses on history, and sets aside questions of systematic theology. And I think it is the fact that I do not come out in support of oneness theology that is has riled Ms. Buzzard, who seems to otherwise appreciate some of my arguments.
Buzzard is not the first non-trinitarian to get upset about the fact that, even though I conclude that the earliest Christians were monotheists in the same sense that many if not all of their non-Christian Jewish contemporaries were, this does not in my mind settle the matter as to whether trinitarian language about God can have a useful or appropriate place in theology today. That may seem like a cop-out, but the truth is that no one today – particularly in a North American context – thinks about God in exactly the way Jesus did. And so figuring out what Jesus or the earliest Christians thought is an important, but not on its own sufficient, step in the direction of reflecting on what Christians can or should believe today.
I should also say that I am rather disappointed that in the review, a sentence that is part of my summary of an approach taken by others is introduced early on as though it reflects my own viewpoint. In the same way, the fact that I talk of trinitarianism evolving out of first-century Christian beliefs is taken as though it were a statement of normativity
rather than as a mere statement of fact
. That Christianity gave rise to belief in the Trinity is beyond any historical doubt, I presume. Whether it should have
developed such doctrines is a different sort of question. And if anyone wishes to discuss it here, you are welcome to do so!
Nevertheless, I am grateful to Barbara Buzzard for taking the time to read and write about my book.