Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Doctrine and Conduct (3)

Going off on a tangent from the previous posts about the Jewish sh'ma and the relevance to Christian living of the doctrine of 'One God', I just want to say something about the way we teach this.

I have been associated with Christadelphians for all of my life, and for most of it I never heard the word ‘Unitarian’ used to describe Christadelphian theology. In fact, in the preface to John Thomas’s major work on ‘God manifestation’ – Phanerosis – the publisher describes him as being “neither Trinitarian nor Unitarian”. I think it’s only been the current generation of Christadelphians – and then still only a handful - who have started to borrow the term ‘Biblical Unitarians’ to describe Christadelphian theology. The avoidance of the term ‘Unitarian’ may have been to avoid any association with Universalist Unitarians, but I think it was more likely to avoid any confusion with the view held by many Unitarians that Jesus was fully human but in no way Divine, and had a human father. By describing the Godhead in terms which were “neither Trinitarian nor Unitarian” I think John Thomas, for all his faults, may have been trying to come to terms with the union of divinity and humanity in Jesus without ignoring either and without falling into the Nicean trap. (However, I think modern Christadelphians have now mostly lost sight of the “neither Trinitarian nor Unitarian” distinction.)

I do think it would be helpful to present to the Christian world an understanding of the Godhead without polarising people at trinitarian or unitarian extremes, or labelling any alternative view as ‘idolatry’ or ‘apostasy’ or ‘heresy’. If only we could explain the relationship between the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit in clear, positive, Biblical and relatively simple terms without condemning any other view I think a “neither Trinitarian nor Unitarian” explanation of the relationship may have wider appeal than we might imagine.

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