Paul’s Trinitarian Epistle -- By: John A. Witmer

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 115:459 (Jul 1958)
Article: Paul’s Trinitarian Epistle
Author: John A. Witmer


Paul’s Trinitarian Epistle

John A. Witmer

The re-emphasis upon the reality of divine revelation which is the primary characteristic of contemporary theology under the impact of neo-orthodoxy has had many refreshing results. Although it has never identified the Holy Bible as revelation, it has brought the Scriptures to the forefront of theological study as the unique vehicle or record of revelation. Accompanying this attention upon the Bible or resulting from it came serious restudy of the contents of the Scriptures. This in turn produced an interest in and an examination of Biblical doctrines, resulting in restatements of many of the classic theological themes. These statements were thoroughly oriented to the premises of neo-orthodoxy or other forms of contemporary theology; but, in contrast to the outright rejection or the complete emasculation of the doctrines by liberalism, they more or less approximated the terminology of traditional orthodoxy. If nothing more contemporary theology at least treats the field of doctrine seriously.

The Contemporary Emphasis

One such theological area is the doctrine of the trinity. To liberals who denied the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ and made the Holy Spirit a Biblical personification of the power and influence of God the doctrine of the trinity so prominent in the Apostles’ Creed and in the hymnology of the church was an open embarrassment. Those who balked at espousing unitarianism maintained an embarrassed silence. Contemporary theology no longer is embarrassed. The revelation of God in Jesus Christ is the focal point of their theology. This demands inevitably an interest in and a study of the doctrine of the trinity. Whether they

clearly accept the full deity of the Lord Jesus Christ or not, they must attempt an explanation of the relationship of this person so basic in their theology to God. Thus they confront the doctrine of the trinity.

The recognition and statement of this point has been made perhaps most clearly and succinctly by Welch. He affirms that the doctrine of the Trinity “…must inevitably have come to the fore in the present revival of Protestant theology.” Among the reasons he lists for this assertion is the fact that the revival of the category of revelation as the foundation of Christian affirmation makes logically necessary a reconsideration of the classical Christian view of the revealed nature of God” (Claude Welch, In This Name, p. 217).

Welch admits the fact that in the contemporary scene the dismissal or disparagement of the doctrine of the Trinity “is still a major factor”; but he points out the increasing untenableness of such an attitude. “It is no longer p...

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