Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Orthodoxy is an act of humility

Several evangelical theologians have recently been debating each other about the relationship of the Son to the Father in Trinity. Today Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, comments on the debate and cautions that a certain humility is required about such matters.
.... Heresy is a denial or deviation from a doctrine central and essential to Christianity. Thus, the Christian church has learned through sad experience that heresy is a necessary category and a constant concern. In the early centuries of Christianity, church leaders had to define the true faith against false gospels and to defend biblical teachings concerning the most essential doctrines of all — the triune nature of God and the full deity and humanity of Christ. ....

The first heresy to call for a universal condemnation by the church was known as Arianism. Arius, a presbyter and priest in the church at Alexandria in Egypt, taught that the Son was a created being — even declaring “there once was a time when the Son was not.” ....

Their creed was so openly contrary to Scripture and so contradictory to the church’s faith in Christ that it was easily rejected. Eventually, the Council of Nicaea adopted a creed that established orthodoxy, rejected heresy, and confessed essential teachings about the Son of God, Jesus Christ. ....

Nicaea was a necessary victory for orthodox Christianity, and the formula affirmed in the Nicene Creed is foundational for all genuine Christianity. Any deviation from Nicene orthodoxy is a matter of grave consequence. The Bible alone is our final authority in matters of doctrine, but creeds and confessions serve the necessary purpose of defining what the Bible teaches and condemning error on basic doctrines. ....

.... Potential heresies lay at every side. Modalism and tritheism result, in turn, from over-stressing the unity of the Trinity, on the one hand, and over-stressing the diversity of the Trinity of three divine persons, on the other hand. Harold O.J. Brown described the challenge well: “How is it possible to express the distinction between the Persons clearly without destroying the fact that God is one divine substance or being, not three beings?”

All of our attempts to answer this question fall short of God’s glorious reality, but we dare not say less than the Scripture clearly reveals. We ought also to be very cautious in trying to say more.

Orthodoxy is, in part, an act of humility. Faithful Christianity in this generation means believing and teaching what faithful Christians have always affirmed as taught in Scripture. G.K. Chesterton captured this spirit when he quipped: “Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about.” .... [more]
Note: I added the links above. They were not present in Mohler's post.