Is the Beginning of Christianity the Trinity?

Is the Beginning of Christianity the Trinity? June 10, 2016

Dr. Francis A. Schaeffer (1912-1984) was an American Evangelical theologian and Presbyterian pastor most known for establishing L’Abri Fellowship in Huémoz-sur-Ollon, Switzerland. He and his wife Edith began this ministry by taking young people into their home and personally discipling them about how to live a Christian life and have a positive effect on the world in doing so. Both Francis and Edith were authors of Christian books. Francis’ most successful book is entitled, How Should We Then Live: The Rise and Decline of Western Thought and Culture (1976). I still have this book in my library, though I admit I have not read all of it.

Francis Schaeffer had an indirect effect on me. My close friend Jim Hiskey imparted to me and his brother Babe Hiskey the idea of starting the PGA Tour Bible Study. We did so in 1965. Jim afterwards visited our ministry on the PGA Tour about once per month or less for many years. Thus, I viewed Jim for many years as an overseer of this work. Over fifty years later, the PGA Tour Bible Study flourishes today, and through the years it has proliferated to other pro golf tours around and world.

Jim Hiskey was a three-time All American collegiate golfer at the University Houston, where Babe and I also attended. In about 1965, Jim left the staff of Campus Crusade for Christ to join Dick Halverson, pastor of Fourth Presbyterian Church in Washington D.C. (later Chaplain to the U. S. Senate for 15 years), and Doug Coe who were leading the fledgling Fellowship ministry centered in D.C. To prepare for this change, Jim moved his family to Switzerland for one year to live with the Schaeffer’s and be discipled by them. I don’t know if Francis named his work L’Abri Fellowship because of The Fellowship in Wash D. C. So, I’m sure I learned some things about how we should then live from Jim that he had learned from Francis Schaeffer.

Dr. Schaeffer dedicated his book, How Should We Then Live, to his son Franky Schaeffer. Franky went on to become a successful author, screenwriter, and film director. He also has a blog here at patheos.com. He claims to be a “God-believing atheist,” whatever that is. He tells about it in his book, Why I am an Atheist Who Believes in God. He says in this book that one of his goals is to separate Evangelicals from their allegiance to the Bible. Not good! The wikipedia article on him says he has written “several internationally acclaimed novels depicting life in a strict evangelical household,” of which he is pretty critical. But I’ll bet it was better than what most people experience growing up in their family.

Dr. Francis Schaeffer adhered strongly to credal Christianity. In his book, The Church at the End of the Twentieth Century (p. 46), he states, “Let us understand that the beginning of Christianity is not salvation: It is the existence of the Trinity.”

I couldn’t disagree more. I would say the beginning of Christianity is God. Christians believe in the Bible, and it starts out, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Faith that is based on the Bible believes in the God of the Bible who is also the God of creation. When man sinned and thereby became spiritually separated from this God of creation–also the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob–he began his great and second work–the salvation of humankind and thus the redemption of his spiritually fallen creation. And for Christians, the centerpiece of that salvation is God sending Jesus to die a substitutionary, atoning death on the cross for the sins of humankind.

To say that the beginning of Christianity is the existence of the Trinity is a statement based solely on the determinations of church leaders that became framed in later church creeds. Yet the word “Trinity” is not in the Bible, and neither does the Bible say God is three persons. For many centuries of church history in especially church-state Europe, if you publicly denied the church doctrine of the Trinity you got yourself in a mess of trouble that could end in you being burnt at the stake.

How things have changed. Now we have separation of church and state, free speech, and religious tolerance. Moreover, most eminent theologians and biblical exegetes who still adhere to belief in the doctrine of the Trinity now admit that it is not expressly stated in scripture but is a deduction of scripture. Basing an important Christian theological dogma on a deduction from the Bible is shaky ground compared to being based on clear, unambiguous statements such as Jesus is the Messiah of Israel.

Consider what conservative Evangelical scholar D. A. Carson says in his commentary on Matthew (p. 598) concerning the eight New Testament texts that mention together God/Father, Son/Jesus Christ, and Holy Spirit, “Individually these texts do not prove there is any Trinitarian consciousness in the NT, since other threefold-phrases occur.” One is Paul writing, “God and of Christ Jesus and of the elect angels” (1 Tim 5.21).

Think of the majority opinion about the Trinity while reading this piece that Carson says in his book, The King James Version Debate: A Plea for Realism (p. 55), “Since when has majority opinion defined what is true, even majority evangelical opinion? Logically speaking, a proposition is either true (that is, it accords with reality and is held to be true by omniscience), or it is not, even if not one person believes it. Of course one should be very careful and humble before disagreeing dogmatically with what the majority of believers (whoever they are) have held to be true; but the fact that they believe it does not make it true.”

Apply that to the church’s denunciation of those professing Christians like me who used to believe in the doctrine of Trinity because that’s what our churches taught us, but on further examination we decided that this teaching is not supported in the Bible. (See my book, The Restitution of Jesus Christ, authored with my pseudonym Servetus the Evangelical.)

…………….

To see a list of titles of 130+ posts (2-3 pages) that are about Jesus not being God in the Bible, with a few about God not being a Trinity, at Kermit Zarley Blog click “Chistology” in the header bar. Most are condensations of my book, The Restitution of Jesus Christ. See my website servetustheevangelical.com, which is all about this book,  with reviews, etc. Learn about my books and purchase them at kermitzarley.com. I was a Trinitarian for 22 years before reading myself out of it in the Bible.

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