Saturday, September 14, 2013
Can we be Trinitarian without being Nicene?
For all the desire that we possess to be purely biblical in the categories and language that we use to express our doctrinal convictions I am not aware of anyone today who is significantly and successfully Trinitarian who does not owe a great and decisive debt to the Council of Nicaea.
That the Nicene Creed is woven indelibly into the fabric of contemporary, orthodox, theology is an undeniable and persistent fact. It is a permanent legacy in the articulation of the doctrine of God's triune identity.
Quite simply, can we be Trinitarian without being Nicene? I seriously doubt it.
To attempt it would be a crazy feat of theological gymnastics, an oddball mission to bungee-jump into the world of the New Testament without stopping anywhere in the following twenty centuries of church history.
Even if it were possible to do so the undeniable reality is that in order to secure clarity on the biblical meaning of God's eternal triune being, and crucially to distinguish this architectonic truth from it's heretical rivals, it proved necessary to use extra-biblical terminology.
There is a recognition in the church fathers that heretics use the same biblical stock of language as the orthodox but give these words a false meaning. How else could they distinguish truth from error, orthodoxy from heresy, Athens from Jerusalem, without the painstaking task of clarifying the meaning of biblical terms by employing a wider theological vocabulary?
Their legacy has shaped the theology and language of churches across the globe ever since.