Thursday, December 1, 2011

Evangelicals Sign Document Affirming Belief in the Trinity

There has been some debate, outside of the Evangelical world, which asks whether Evangelicals actually affirm and defend the Christian Dogma of the Trinity in Unity, the Unity in Trinity. A lot of my own personal experience in this debate comes from former Evangelicals who were received into the Orthodox Church. A big reason for a lot of their "swimming the Bosphorus" was because the various Evangelical Churches they left did not teach the Trinity, deeming it heresy, or giving it only lip service.

Now, I don't doubt the sincerity of what these former Evangelicals said but I wouldn't characterize their statements as representative of all Evangelical churches. Evangelical churches are not a monolithic bloc either in doctrine or praxis. They are extremely diverse. However, when I read this article today about prominent Evangelicals signing a document that affirms belief in the Trinity as One God, but in three aspects (their wording, not mine). Seeing that such a document had to be created and signed indicates that perhaps the individual stories I heard from former Evangelicals IS representative of what is going on in Evangelical churches around the United States.

I do have some concerns with words such as "aspects" or "manifestations" to describe the individual persons of the Trinity. The Greek word is hypostasis which is often translated to person (via Latin) but that hardly does the Greek word justice. Hypostasis, like many other Greek words, is just too complex an idea to give a satisfactory one word translation for. But, for our purposes, person will do just fine.

I am happy though that the signers of this document were concerned with possible subordination within the Trinity. The signers of this document might not be aware of this but the Church fought against this doctrine, known as Sabellianism, or modalism in the third and fourth centuries. And they are correct that the doctrine of the Trinity is a Biblical doctrine.

However, many people will shrug their shoulders, within the Evangelical community and without, and wonder what's the big deal. The big deal is that the dogma of the Trinity was one that was fought over and split the Church from a very early age. Such is why the Council of Nicaea had to be called to firmly establish the orthodox belief of who God is and how He has revealed Himself. The Orthodox Church has steadily maintained that the Trinity is a big deal because all of our prayers are directed towards the Trinity. Trinitarian invocations are ever recurring in the Orthodox prayer life.

If there is ever to be healing and a restoration of the fallen to the Great Church of Christ (i.e. the Orthodox Church) then acceptance of the Trinity as a supreme article of a faith is a sine qua non. The fact that the Evangelicals are having problems with this indicates that any rapprochement is a long ways away.


  1. The word "aspect" doesn't occur in the original seems to be from the reporter for the Christian Post.

  2. You're right, Fr. I only had a chance to give the document a very cursory read. Still, you would think and hope that reporters on such issues would be familiar with the appropriate terminology. Sigh.