Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Just another trinitarian heresy

It's time for Lent! That usually means I read fewer extra-biblical texts and more biblical texts. It rarely means that the pope resigns, though.

There are a few sources which have coalesced to give me reason to think about the trinity and especially trinitarian formulations. Now, when I'm reading the Bible, all I tend to see are the texts that contribute to the concept. The ones that leap out even more than the other are those which present a different perspective than the Augustinian formulation1.

And now to the point. Peter's sermons in the early chapters of Acts include a perspective on Jesus' role. The first sermon of Acts (2:14-36) notes that Jesus was a man (v22) and that God endorsed Jesus (v22), freed him from death (v23), raised him up (vv23) to be exalted by/at the right hand of God (v32), gave him the Holy Spirit (v33) and "made him both Lord and Christ" (v36).

In a way, this presents a contrast between how God treated Jesus the man and how the Israelites treated him; glorification vs shameful death. Without downplaying that at all, what I see here is how Peter identifies Jesus' starting place - Jesus is the man from Nazareth - and that God has made him Lord and Christ.

This appears to be quite different to the idea of a pre-existent Christ from the Johannine prolegomenon. In Peter's sermon, and in other accounts of Peter's sermons, Jesus is the man from Nazareth that God has endorsed and exalted to be Lord and Christ.

It's no wonder that the first few centuries of Church history were marked by debates about the nature of Jesus. Today the view of the Augustinian trinity is the mainstream view and the steps that theologians took to develop that model almost invariably come to the same conclusion each time. However, tracing that path allows the careful reader to challenge each of those steps. These comments by Peter in his Pentecost sermon (and elsewhere) are informative of one aspect of the debate.

Part of me suspects that if we were to take away the fourth gospel and the influence of Platonism on Christianity there would not be a doctrine of the trinity. But that's just a suspicion.

1. It's a given that the Bible is in conversation with itself. The various authors didn't cross-check with each other. That's a given, and it's fine with me.
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