'Knowledge' and 'Belief' of Trinity Salvational?

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KMK

Administrator
Staff member
Q. 2. Is this doctrine of the Trinity, then; a fundamental article, upon the belief of which our salvation depends?
A. Beyond all doubt it is: because without the knowledge and belief of the Trinity of persons, we would remain ignorant of the love of the Father, the merit of the Son, and the sanctifying influences of the Holy Ghost, in the purchase and application of redemption; without which there could be no salvation, John 17:3, -- "This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent." James Fisher; Catechism on the Catechism, Q. 6

Does Fisher overstate his case here? Tertullian and Origen, for example, had erroneous 'knowledge' of the Trinity. He can't mean 'perfect' knowledge so what does he mean?
 

Peairtach

Puritan Board Doctor
The Old Covenant believers didn't have knowledge of the Triunity as we have, but they knew God as Saviour.

Maybe Fisher is indicating that even a very lightly educated New Covenant believer should have intellectual knowledge of the Trinity, because it is one of the basic doctrines of Christianity.
 

py3ak

Unshaven and anonymous
Staff member
I think this point is actually fairly simple. In your Christian consciousness, it is quite clear that Christ is your Saviour, your Lord: it is also quite clear that God is your Father. Your experience of salvation does not blend or confuse the two. Because discussing the Trinity can be so difficult, I think we sometimes forget that from an experimental level, the apprehension of it is rather intuitive.
 

Prufrock

Arbitrary Moderation
I think this point is actually fairly simple. In your Christian consciousness, it is quite clear that Christ is your Saviour, your Lord: it is also quite clear that God is your Father. Your experience of salvation does not blend or confuse the two. Because discussing the Trinity can be so difficult, I think we sometimes forget that from an experimental level, the apprehension of it is rather intuitive.

Indeed, our theologians were pretty unanimous that the Trinity was a fundamental article of faith, and that knowledge thereof was necessary for salvation. This knowledge, however, was not a detailed knowledge of the "how," or the complete "whatness," or a detailed understanding of the doctrine; rather, it was a simple confession of the three distinct divine persons.
 

toddpedlar

Iron Dramatist
I do believe that if you cannot confess what is contained in the Nicene Creed, the Definition of Chalcedon and the Athanasian creed, concerning the persons of the Trinity, your faith is suspect... that is, if you do not affirm the full deity and humanity of Christ, the full deity and personhood of the Holy Spirit, that the three are each God, and yet alltogether one, you are outside the faith. We certainly should never require one to have full "comprehension" of how the Trinity works - but we should also just as strenuously insist upon the core principles of the doctrine as essential to the faith.
 

Ron

Puritan Board Freshman
There are certain teachings that if rejected bring reproach upon a credible profession of faith. The Trinity is of course one of them, as is the two natures of Christ. Notwithstanding, a distinction should be made between not having knowledge of the Trinity and a rejection of Trinity. Remember in Acts, there were some who were saved who did not know of the Holy Spirit: "He said to them, 'Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?' And they said to him, 'No, we have not even heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.'"

It is my belief that when a profession of faith is to be affirmed in the church, a query should be made by elders of prospective communicants in an effort to ascertain whether the Trinity is affirmed. Of course embracing the doctrine is not sufficient for a credible profession, let alone salvation, but a rejection of the doctrine is indeed enough to regard one an unbeliever.

Ron
 

Ron

Puritan Board Freshman
I just received a very kindly worded PM that challenged my post. The person offered deference to my office, which I believe went beyond what was neccesary but I certainly respect the posture this person assumed. I'd like to share my response to him / her because I think it could prove helpful and I don't think that my sharing of my response can in any way suggest who dropped me the note.

I wrote:

"Feel free to challenge my view on line. The book of Acts makes it clear that one can be saved apart from a knowledge of the Trinity. The gospel accounts affirm the same. At Jesus' baptism the Trinity was revealed but even then, many saved people did not know of the Trinity. Accordingly, the burden of proof would be for you to demonstrate the time upon which one could no longer be saved apart from a knowledge of God in three persons. If your argument is sound, then you'd have to assert that infants can no longer be saved since they certainly don't know of the Trinity. The point you are missing is that one who is saved will grow to embrace certain doctrines, but it is indeed possible for God to convert and infant, or a young person for that matter, without them having first considered God in three persons. Having said that, of course we should expect all the saved to grow to embrace the Trinity even apart from any resistance whatsoever."

--------

If I can underscore anything, it would be that when a credible profession of faith is being sought, it should include an affirmation of the Trinity. It should be required.

I list below the four questions asked in the OPC when one comes into full communion. No explicit question regarding Christ's deity or the Trinity is asked, though I suppose Christ's deity could be inferred depending on one's view of "Lord". I am not suggesting for a moment that my denomination would accept a profession of faith from one who denied the Trinity; or that the OPC does not think that the Trinity should be affirmed by all who come to the table. My point is merely that we should proactively solicit the prospective communicant's understanding of the creeds and not assume anything. I know of at least one OPC session that added a couple of questions regarding this very matter.

OPC formal questions:

1. Do you believe the Bible, consisting of the Old and New Testaments, to be the Word of God, and its doctrine of salvation to be the perfect and only true doctrine of salvation?

2. Do you confess that because of your sinfulness you abhor and humble yourself before God, and that you trust for salvation not in yourself but in Jesus Christ alone?

3. Do you acknowledge Jesus Christ as your sovereign Lord and do you promise, in reliance on the grace of God, to serve him with all that is in you, to forsake the world, to mortify your old nature, and to lead a godly life?

4. Do you agree to submit in the Lord to the government of this church and, in case you should be found delinquent in doctrine or life, to heed its discipline?

Ron
 
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