From Stephen Holmes’ The Quest for the Trinity – “We have claims about God made by Scripture and tradition, and so known to be true; the necessary task of theology is not to determine what is true, but to determine how language works so that these claims can all be true without any appearance of contradiction or incoherence.” And in discussing the mystery of the Trinity he says “The task of theology is to find a grammar that will speak of this adequately”. (ch. 5, p108-109)
In other words, the task of theology is preaching – interpreting (“determine how language works”) and declaring (“finding a grammar to speak”). And (2nd Helvetic 1) “the preaching of the word of God is the word of God.”
So, what marks a false teacher? It cannot be whether he appeals to Scripture or not – all claim to be teaching the Bible. It is marked by his interpretation. So the question is this: Does he submit to the preaching of God’s ordained ministers, which preaching is summarized in the creeds and confessions?
You will know them by their fruits. (Matt 7:16 cf. Heb 13:17 and 1 Peter 5:5 and 2 Tim 1:13)
Have you read this book: The Quest for the Trinity by Stephen R. Holmes? I think this book cuts through a lot of what is wrong with modern misconceptions of the Trinity while also elucidating why the doctrine of “Divine Emotivity” has become such a problem recently. If you haven’t read it, get it. If you have read it, leave your comments below.
In short, Dr. Holmes presents a historical review of the doctrine of the Trinity, but he does so to make a point about modern Trinitarianism. His thesis is that the 20th century Trinitarian “recovery” is not a recovery at all, but the logical extension of the rationalistic and liberal theology of the 18th and 19th century.
Our modern, 20th-century-influenced conception of the Trinity is one of “divine community”. It is an edifice of false doctrine – it is speculation built upon a rationalistic attempt to know the Trinity apart from revelation, decorated by the liberal attempt to emphasize the individual Christian’s personal experience as the ultimate guide for interpreting Scripture. It is a self-focused neglect of biblical truth – a rejection of the historical doctrine of God in favor of an acceptance of the false-doctrine of man’s happiness (which elevates man’s present need to be fulfilled and satisfied in this life above all else). This false teaching elevates man’s own happiness such that modern Christians can only find the doctrine of the Trinity “useful” if it has something to do with our relationships, but the classical application of the doctrine centered completely and solely on the creature’s humble dependence and worship of the God who is Trinity.
Therefore our modern world is steeped in personal self-gratification, the elevation of experience and therefore emotion, and the need for a God, and hence a theological construction, which justifies these urges.
Dr. Holmes proves this modern conception has nothing to do with the historic faith and calls us back to be true to the faith once for all delivered to the saints. I echo his call by urging you to read his book. The false doctrine of the Trinity has permeated even Reformed Churches and it most certainly has penetrated your heart. I know this because we are hated by the same world, steeped as brothers in arms against the common foe. This book is a sound and helpful rebuke for us all.