English blog

Two basic dogmas

08-04-2017 - Posted by Andre Piet

In het Nederlands Dagblad (march 25th 2017), a Dutch reformed daily newspaper, a column appeared from reverend Arjan Plaisier, former secretary of the PKN (a Dutch reformed denomination), entitled ‘long live the dogma’. Plaisier describes how much dogma’s are distrusted nowadays. Aversion against dogma’s is everywhere. And then he continues:

Perhaps it is useful to point out that in principle the church has two basic dogmas. Of God it is said that He is Father, Son and Spirit and that He is the Trinity. And of Jesus that He is truly God and truly man. A church and a faith without (these) dogmas is possible of course, but it is no Christian church and also no Christian faith…..

What Plaisier raises here is rather fundamental. Two basic dogmas. The christian church and the faith stand or fall with them, according to him. And what are these dogmas? First the dogma of the trinity and connected to it that Jesus is “truly God and truly man”.

For whom only the Scriptures are normative, this choice of words is staggering. Because the word trinity, or something like it, cannot be found in the Scriptures anywhere. This is not an opinion but a  verifiable fact. And with the conventional definition of the trinity it isn’t any better: one being, three persons. There is no text in the Scriptures which says anything close to this. The distinction which is made between ‘being’ and ‘person’ is not part of the Biblical vocabulary. By the way, who is capable of explaining the difference between the two? But do you realise what this means? It means that dogma number one is not rooted in the New Testament but in formulations of church councils of the fourth century of church history!

With this basic dogma, the church has distanced itself from the frequent recurring confessing declaration of the Hebrew Bible. A confession which forms the heart of Judaism until today. The famous Jewish writer Pinchas Lapide once wrote:

One could call the oneness of God the only ‘dogma’ of Israel.
– In “the Lord your God is one” (page 15) –

The New Testament is fully in line with ‘the sjema’ (“Hear Israel, YAHWEH our God , YAHWEH is ONE”). As the scribe confirmed, after he asked Jesus which is the first of all commandments:

And the scribe said to Him, In truth, Teacher, You say ideally that He is One, and there is no other more than He.
– Mark 12:32 –

Exactly like Jesus later says in his prayer to God:

Now it is eonian life that they may know You, the only true God, and Him who you do commission.
– John 17:3 –

Or how about Paul who declares emphatically…..

….Nevertheless for us there is one God, the Father, out of Whom all is and we for Him…
– 1 Cor. 8:6 –

“One God” writes Paul, “The Father”. And not: Father, Son and Spirit. Or listen to the same apostle in Ephesians 4 in which he names the sevenfold unity which binds us as believers:

…one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, Who is over all and through all and in all.
– Ephesians 4:5,6 –

The dogma of the trinity is not only unknown in the Scriptures, it is diametrically opposed to it. The dogma of the trinity is illogical, contradictory, complex and incomprehensible. The confession of the Scriptures however (“óne God, the Father”) is logical and simple. Dozens of times we read in the Scriptures about “God, the Father”. Dozens of times we read about “the Son of God”. But where do we read about ‘God, the Son’? Nowhere indeed!

And then the other dogma? Is the Son of God “truly God”? Or like Paul says…

Who is the Image of the invisible God, Firstborn of every creature.
– Col 1:15 –

Here Paul speaks of “The God”. The One. This invisible God has an Image or Icon. Somebody who represents Him (Mat. 22: 20,21). Because He who has seen the Son has seen the Father (John 14:9). Imagery. Because:

God, no one has ever seen. The only begotten Son Who is in the bosom of the Father, He unfolds Him.
– John 1:18 –

If you want to speak sensibly about God and his Son, you are exclusively dependent on the words of the Scriptures. Thóse are “healthy words”. And then we say together with Paul:

For there is one God, and one Mediator of God and mankind, a Man, Christ Jesus
– 1 Tim 2:5 –

It is perhaps painful for many to determine that there is no place in the church for whoever doesn’t conform to “words of human wisdom”. That, in her eyes, it is even impossible to be a believer. But this also does create distinction. Because it sharpens the ancient contrast: óne God (the Father) or several gods (Father, Son and Spirit). “The Son óf God” or ‘God the Son’? God’s word or man’s word?