Inerrancy and the Trinity
Last July I laid out my view of inerrancy. It’s all the hot topic right now, and Nick thinks that if I talk write about it, it will make me more popular. Well I don’t know about that, but I actually do want to revisit the topic, especially as it relates to the doctrine of the Trinity.
My view of the Bible is that it is a covenantal document, not a metaphysical or scientific sourcebook. I don’t care how well you do your exegesis, the Bible isn’t going to tell you what shape the earth is. What it will do is provide the terms of the covenant that God offers through Jesus and give you the resources needed to live it out (e.g. psalms, wisdom, prophetic rebuke, examples, etc.).
Yesterday I decided to click Nick’s link to an online debate he had a few years ago with a non-Trinitarian. Since I have a class studying the Ancient Church (AD 90-600), I thought it would be interesting to read how Nick used the sources. This period in church history is mostly new to me since I have had the standard protestant view that after the Biblical period, nothing really mattered until Luther. Of course the doctrine of the Trinity and the canon of scripture got figured out in the first period and of course I knew they got it right, even though I knew almost nothing about the period. So as I’m reading J.N.D. Kelly’s Early Christian Doctrines, I sense that I am just now becoming familiar with territory that is well worn for Nick. I am bothered at how politically motivated many of the decisions were. But I don’t accept their judgments (i.e. the creeds) because the process was correct, but because they are biblical.
Nick’s opponent (known to us only by the screen name Searchinggone1033) was a Christadelphian, a heretical group that denies the divinity of Christ. The problem I have is that, based on my view of scripture, I’m tracking more with Nick’s opponent than with Nick. I found myself thinking that if the Bible is covenantal and not intended to give us metaphysical data, then I have no foundation on which to build a doctrine of the trinity.
Now I’m not prepared to jettison the Trinity. In my mind, the doctrine of the Trinity is a boundary line between Christian and not-Christian. The doctrine of the Trinity (or a precursor to it) has been believed by all Christians, everywhere, at all times. Instead it is causing me to go back to my presuppositions about scripture. If it’s not Trinitarian (or if it leads to non-Trinitarianism), it’s not Christian.
But then here’s my question for all you non-inerrancy guys. If you reject the idea of inerrancy, are you on any better grounds than I to construct a doctrine of the Trinity? Most of you affirm something very close to my view of scripture, just choosing a different word, like trustworthy (Bryan). Maybe we want to haggle over what constitutes an error – fine. Choose whatever word you want to. What I’m wondering is, if the Bible is not correct in things like a flat-earth cosmology (which has become testable), then why would you think it must be correct in its statements that lead us to trinitarian theology (which is not testable, at least not in the same sense as flat-earth cosmology is)?
Update: It seemed that I was arguing against the doctrine of the Trinity in this post. My intent was to explore the underlying reasons why Christians should believe in the Trinity, and especially to drill down into one of my own causes for doubt.