Doctrine of Trinity essential to Christianity, journal asserts
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)--The doctrine of the Trinity is not an esoteric, abstract theory that is unimportant to practical Christianity, but instead is at the very heart of the Christian life, essayists assert in the latest edition of the Southern Baptist Journal of Theology.
The spring 2006 journal, published by Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., examines “Perspectives on the Trinity.” Journal editor Stephen J. Wellum argues that the Trinity is at the core of a biblical understanding of God.
“A the heart of Scripture’s presentation of our great and glorious God is the doctrine of the Trinity,” Wellum writes in an editorial. “... [U]nderstanding God as triune is central to everything Scripture says about him, and it is what distinguishes him from all other conceptions of ‘god.’”
The journal includes a separate article by Wellum and essays by two other Southern Seminary professors -- Bruce A. Ware and Michael A.G. Haykin -- along with pieces by Keith E. Johnson and Fred Zaspel. Johnson serves as director for theological education for Campus Crusade for Christ. Zaspel is senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in Skippack, Pa.
Some Bible scholars recently have used the Trinity to teach that many will be saved apart from explicit faith in Christ. In his essay, Wellum refutes this assertion and argues that the Trinity actually demonstrates just the opposite -- that salvation is found by faith in Christ alone. The Trinity, he argues, is "at the heart" of what differentiates Christianity from other religions.
“And that is certainly an important point to emphasize in our pluralistic and postmodern world that is constantly attempting to challenge the exclusive claims of the gospel," he writes.
Ware, who serves as professor of theology at Southern Seminary, discusses the relationship between the Trinity, Christ’s identity as Savior and the atonement. Ware argues that God must be triune for Christ to be the Savior of sinners.
“The identity of Jesus as Messiah and Savior is tied, both historically and of necessity, to his relationships with the Father and Spirit, respectively,” Ware writes. “Put differently, if you imagine for a moment removing the Father and the Spirit from the historical Person Jesus Christ of Nazareth, you realize that this Jesus the Christ could not be -- i.e., he could not exist and be who he is -- devoid of the Father and the Spirit. Indeed, the identity of Christ depends on the reality of the Trinity.”
Haykin, who serves as visiting professor of church history at Southern, details the Trinitarian theology of 18th century British Baptist pastor Benjamin Beddome. While Beddome is little remembered by Baptists today, he was well known around London in his day as both a hymn writer and preacher.
The Trinity was a major feature of Beddome’s teaching and shone through clearly in his hymns and in his 1752 work, “A Scriptural Exposition of the Baptist Catechism,” Haykin writes. Beddome wrote three hymns on the triunity of God, Haykin points out.
“Here (in his Trinitarian hymns) Beddome rightly recognizes that the doctrine of the Trinity, mystery though it be, is to find its ultimate expression in unceasing adoration and worship of the Triune God,” Haykin writes.
The journal also includes a forum in which several scholars discuss the practical relevance of the Trinity. Participants include Southern Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr., D.A. Carson, Carl Trueman, Vern Sheridan Poythress and Greg Strand. To subscribe to the journal or for further information, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 800-626-5525, extension 4413.
Selected excerpts from the journal can be read online at http://www.sbts.edu/resources/publications/sbjt/2006Spring.php.