Apologetics is an important, necessary discipline. Christians are called by Scripture to give a reason for our hope to everyone who asks (1 Pet 3:15). There is a long history of apologists, however, damaging Christian doctrine in order to defend the faith and laity are tempted to follow them.
As the late-Modern West collapses in a heap of subjectivism around us, we are likely to see more of this. This morning I saw on social media (Twitter) that one apologist (who has academic credentials) is denying the ancient, universal, and essential doctrine of divine simplicity. It may be that a popular apologist (who does not have the same credentials) may be following him. Whatever the case dear reader, please remember that the job of the apologist (defender of the faith) is to defend the Christian faith and not something else. The apologist has a hard job and sinner that he is, he is tempted to change the faith just here and there to make his job a little easier. Sometimes that change may entail identifying God the Son with the universal rational principle (the Logos) as Justin Martyr did in the AD 150s. Perhaps it might be to give in to the rise of rationalism as Rene Descartes did in the mid-17th century by starting with doubt and seeking to defend the truth from there. An apologist might even say that God is one person. Even the best, most faithful apologists can stumble. This is why historic Christianity has always had creeds (e.g., The Rule of Faith, the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, the Definition of Chalcedon, the Athanasian Creed) and confessions. They provide guardrails within which pastors, teachers, and apologists must work. As guardrails they keep them and those whom they teach safe from error and heresy.
The doctrine that God is three persons (not one person) and essentially one being is of the essence of the Christian faith. This is why the Athanasian Creed (5th century) says, “So are we forbidden by the catholic religion: to say, there be three Gods, or three Lords.” The Trinity is not a composite of three persons. God is one, in three persons. The most fundamental biblical declaration about God is the Shema (Hear!) of Deuteronomy 6:4: “Hear O Israel, Yahweh your God, Yahweh is one.” This is why the Anglican Articles (art. 1) say that God is “without body, parts or passions” and the Westminster Divines retained this language in Westminster Confession 2.1. The Reformed were rejecting ancient heresies.
The God of the Bible, the God who is, just is. We creatures were not and then, after God spoke creation into existence, we were formed from the dust of the earth. We have parts: body and soul. We suffer (passions) and change. God is impassible and immutable. This is basic Christianity. Any god who changes or has parts is not the God of Scripture. He is a fiction and not the God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who created everything and certainly and graciously redeems all his people.
©R. Scott Clark. All Rights Reserved.
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- Turretin Defended Divine Simplicity Against The Socinians
- Bavinck On Divine Simplicity
- Note To Evangelicals Revising The Doctrine Of God: The Socinian Vortius Denied Simplicity
- It’s Not Divine Simplicity And Complexity. It’s Just Simplicity. Period.
- How Should A Lay Christian Learn Theology?
- Does God Change?