The Conflict Of Trinitarianism And Unitarianism In The Ante-Nicene Age -- By: Philip Schaff

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 015:60 (Oct 1858)
Article: The Conflict Of Trinitarianism And Unitarianism In The Ante-Nicene Age
Author: Philip Schaff


The Conflict Of Trinitarianism And Unitarianism In
The Ante-Nicene Age

Philip Schaff

The doctrine of the holy Trinity, that is, of the living and only true God, Father, Son, and Spirit, the source of creation, redemption, and sanctification, has in all ages been regarded as the sacred symbol and the fundamental article of the Christian system, in distinction alike from the abstract monotheism of Judaism and Mohammedanism, and from the dualism and polytheism of the heathen religions. The denial of this doctrine implies necessarily also, directly or indirectly, a denial of the divinity of Christ and the Holy Spirit, together with the divine character of the work of redemption and sanctification.

The Bible teaches the Trinity expressly in the baptismal formula, Matt. 28:19, and in the apostolic benediction, 2 Cor. 13:14, i.e. in those two passages where all the truths and blessings of Christianity are comprehended in a short summary. These passages, especially the first, form the basis of all the ancient creeds. The Scriptures, however, inculcate the doctrine, not so much in express state-

ments and single passages, as in great living facts; in the history of a threefold revelation of the living God from the creation of the world to its final consummation, when God shall be all in all Every passage, moreover, which proves the divinity of Christ or the Holy Spirit, proves also the holy Trinity, if we view it in connection with the fundamental doctrine of the divine Unity as revealed in the Old Testament and confirmed in the New.

On this scriptural basis arose the orthodox dogma of the Trinity as brought out in the œcumenical creeds of the Nicene age, and incorporated into the Evangelical Protestant confessions of faith. The same belief directly or indirectly ruled the church from the beginning, even during the ante-Nicene period, although it did not attain its full logical form till the fourth century. The doctrine is primarily of a practically religious nature, and speculative only in a secondary sense. It arose, not from the field of metaphysics, but from that of experience and worship; and not as an abstract, isolated dogma, but in inseparable connection with the study of Christ and of the Holy Ghost; especially in connection with Christology, since all theology proceeds from “God in Christ reconciling the world unto himself.” Under the condition of monotheism, this doctrine followed of necessity, as already stated, from the doctrine of the divinity of Christ and of the Holy Ghost. The unity of God was already immovably fixed, by the Old Testament, as a fundamental article of revealed reli...

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