Voices: Garrett et al on “trinity”

Jesus’ concept of God and goodness are the subjects of a recent essay by Leroy Garrett.  Since it was first through Leroy’s writings that I began to probe the doctrine of the Trinity, about 20 years ago, it’s fitting that I share a quote from a recent essay by this same author.  Garrett, a theological philosopher and elder Christian statesman, is now in his 90s and has edited several periodicals — including his own Restoration Review and the current Soldier On! — for an aggregate total of some 60 years.

Jesus was hardly a Trinitarian, and [Matthew 19:16f]  does not lend itself to that hallowed and historic doctrine.  Jesus would have balked at such theological inventions as “the Triune God” or “the hypostatic union of three persons.”  – L. Garrett

Note:  Garrett’s complete essay may be viewed here.  It treats well some of the differences among the gospels’ portrayals of Jesus and others, notably focusing on Matthew.

For what it’s worth:  Mark and John are probably bit more inclined toward trinitarian thought (e.g., a reference in the longer, less well-attested ending of Mark; and the references in John 14, 15, and 16 in particular).  Still, there appears no well-attested original passage that clearly lays out “three.”  I do not think it is contra truth to consider 1-Father, 2-Son, and 3-Spirit — those are all present, in function — but no gospel or letter appears to have as part of its agenda the specification of a divine triumvirate.

For an example of stereotypical, articulate trinitarian support, see this page.  While I appreciate the intent and heart of the quotations (Winslow and Wilson), it’s difficult for me to affirm wholeheartedly a doctrine never claimed in scripture per se.  It’s not that Father, Son, and Spirit don’t exist — they certainly do — it’s that the supposed “triangle” has been superimposed through the intervening centuries.  Orthodoxy is not all it’s cracked up to be; it’s kind of like a dictionary — a reflection of usage, but not necessarily a trove of well-founded accuracy.  [ADDENDUM 7/16 — my comment on the trinitarian blog noted above has not been approved — it is under “moderation.”  I’ll check back later, but I can’t help but wonder why the person doesn’t want an equally God-honoring, although not orthodoxy-worshipping, comment appearing on his site.]  [ADDENDUM 7/20 — I wrote the author on Facebook, asking him to approve my comment.  I now see that I am dealing with quite a clout covey!  The group represented by the trinitarian post includes such luminaries as the pastor of a high-profile Nashville church frequented by CCM artists, the president of Wheaton College, the president of Sovereign Grace Ministries, a Research Professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and noted author John Piper.]

Like Garrett, I consider “trinity” to be a “theological invention.”  I prefer to think of God as transcendent and many-faceted, without locking Him in to being “three” — which may be, after all, a mere number suggested for the sake of the limited human mind.

For more on the topic of trinity, please see this post:  Sorbet as a Symbol.

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