by Young Oon Kim
The classic formulation of trinitarian dogma was created by the ecumenical councils of the fourth century and became normative for Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, Lutheran and Reformed churches. This creedal statement reads:
I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible; And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the one begotten, Begotten of the Father before all worlds, Light of Light; Very God of Very God, Begotten, not made; of essence with the Father, by whom all things were made: Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven, and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and was made man; And was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate, suffered and was buried; And the third day He rose again according to the Scriptures; And ascended into heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of Father; And He shall come again with glory to judge the quick c the dead, Whose kingdom shall have no end. And I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, and Giver of Love Who proceedeth from the Father, Who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified, Who spake the Prophets ... 41
Although still widely used in worship services, this ecumenical creed has been repeatedly criticized on several grounds. First, it is not really Biblical because it goes far beyond the faith of the New Testament and distorts the kingdom-centered teachings of Jesus. Second, it represents an amalgamation of Judeo-Christian beliefs and the Hellenistic philosophy of the ancient world. Third, it has always divided Christians rather than uniting them in devotion to one God, one Lord and one faith. As a result of the trinitarian controversies of the patristic age, the Church has been fragmented into Athanasian and Arian Christians, Nestorians and Monophysites, Chalcedonian and non-Chalcedonian churches.
Is the trinitarian creed Biblical? Norman Pittenger, an Anglican theologian at Cambridge, fairly summarizes the conclusion of contemporary Biblical studies. The word "Trinity" (trias) is not to be found in the New Testament and was never used by any Christians until Theophilus of Antioch (circa 180 A. D.). The only trinitarian formula in the Synoptic Gospels (Matt. 28:19) does not claim to be a statement of the historic Jesus and represents an addition made by the early church after his death. Similarly, the many references to Father, Son and Holy Spirit in the Fourth Gospel were not spoken by Jesus but show the post-apostolic theology of its author. Paul often speaks of Jesus as the Son of God and the Holy Spirit sent from God and at least twice uses triadic formulas (I Cor. 12:4-6, 11 Cor. 13:14), yet none of these explicitly states the developed trinitarianism of the ecumenical creeds, Pittenger maintains. 42
What does the New Testament teach in regard to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit? It clearly affirms the existence of one God because that faith was central to Judaism. Next, the New Testament affirms that God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself. We do not find "the myth of the incarnate God." What the oldest and most authentic tradition in the New Testament asserts is that Jesus was the anointed agent of God whose mission was to usher in the messianic age. Finally, even though Jesus was crucified, his disciples found that through continued loyalty to him they experienced the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.
In the light of the inadequacies of creedal trinitarianism, for more than a hundred years theologians have reinterpreted the classical trinitarian doctrine. What does it mean to believe in the triune God? Some would say that God has revealed His nature and purpose in three ways. He makes Himself known in creation and the process of history. He reveals Himself in the message, mission and ministry of Jesus Christ. He continues to work actively to realize His kingdom on earth. To put it another way, if God manifested His will in the messianic career of Jesus, He was active before Jesus was born and has remained active since the cross.
Another explanation of the Trinity is also frequently proposed. The trinitarian dogma explains the inner nature of the Godhead. God is a tri-unity in essence. How is He three-in-one? Let me mention some contemporary trinitarian views. Barth taught that the one God possesses three "modes of being": God as creator, as reconciler and as redeemer. Macquarrie redefines the Trinity as "movements" within the dynamic yet stable mystery of Being. The Father is primordial Being, the source of everything which He pours out in creation. The Son or the Logos is expressive Being, the God revealed in the multitude of forms and patterns of existing things. And the Holy Spirit signifies unitive Being, God's activity in maintaining, strengthening and restoring the whole creation's unity with Himself. 43 Or to state the matter even more simply, as the Anglican theologian H. E. W. Turner does, the Trinity refers to God over us (the Father), God with us (the Son) and God in us (the Holy Spirit). 44
How does Unification theology compare with ancient and modern trinitarianism? Like them it recognizes the triune nature of God as creator, redeemer and inspirer. As our exposition of the principle of creation shows, Unificationists believe in the parental God who is above us, with us and in us. In an earlier section, the Divine Principle understanding of the messianic mission of Jesus was explained. We have also treated the nature of and work of the Holy Spirit.
Let us therefore conclude with a distinctive Unificationist teaching. Because Divine Principle is especially concerned with the restoration of divine sovereignty over creation, we stress the trinitarian way by which the kingdom of heaven will be established upon the earth. If there had been no Fall, Adam and Eve would have realized the purpose of creation by founding a God-centered family. Restoration then can take place when a triadic relationship of love and respect is established between a new Adam and Eve based upon their God-centeredness. In give and take with God and between themselves, they will found a family, becoming true parents and fulfilling the three blessings. God can then work through them to provide a pattern for subsequent families on a four-position foundation to create His kingdom on earth.
41 Quoted from Syrian Antiochian Orthodox Service Book (1960), p. 110.
42 N. Pittenger, The Divine Trinity (1977), pp. 21-22.
43 J. Macquarrie, Principles of Christian Theology (1977), pp. 190-210.
44 H. E. W. Tumer, Dictionary of Christian Theology (1969), p. 345.
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