Welcome everyone to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth. We’ve been spending a lot of time lately looking at the Watchtower booklet called “Should You Believe In The Trinity?” We’re on the section now about how the doctrine of the Trinity developed and tonight, we’re going to be looking at the section called “Further Development.”
The Watchtower is correct that Nicea did not end the debate. Indeed, you could often tell how the debate was doing just by looking at where Athanasius was at the time. If he was in exile, then the Arians were winning the day. Arianism has not died out of course and there were pockets of it throughout the Medieval period up to today when we have groups like the Jehovah’s Witnesses, our modern-day Arians. Of course, they’re not the only ones, but they’re the most well-known.
The Watchtower however is leaving much out. For instance, the booklet talks briefly about the Council of Constantinople in 381. What is not mentioned at all is that the teaching of Apollinarianism was under discussion. This was the belief that Jesus did not have a human rational mind, but that the divine logos took the place of that mind. This would have called into question the full humanity of Christ. To be sure, while we should rightly condemn Arianism, we also need to realize that it is in fact just as much a heresy to deny Christ’s humanity as it is to deny his deity, and implicitly many of us might do that in the church today.
The Watchtower does not mention this at all and one would think it would be important to state that about the Council. The Watchtower does say that this doctrine was further developed throughout the medieval period. With this, we have no qualm. Of course it was developed. So was our doctrine of God concerning any of his attributes. There has not been a point for instance where it has been said “Okay! Now we know about omnipotence! There’s no need to study that any further!”
In fact, we should still be studying this. We should still be studying the doctrine of the Trinity further today and developing it. If our doctrine of God ever ceases to develop, and I don’t mean in our personal theologies but in our theology in general, then we are in a sad case. Who are we to say we have plumbed the depths of the knowledge of God and have reached the point where we can know no more? Of course, some knowledge of God will always be beyond us, but we don’t stop reaching. Sinless perfection is beyond us in this lifetime, but we don’t stop reaching.
I recommend for those interested in this time period reading works like Harold O.J. Brown’s book “Heresies.” For those who are interested in the development of the doctrine, an excellent example of a fine work on it in the medieval period would be Augustine’s “On The Trinity.”
We shall continue tomorrow.