I thought I would top off this month's series on heresies with the most heresy-haunted Christian doctrine of all: the Trinity. Augustine once quipped that to not think about the Trinity is to risk heresy, but to think about the Trinity is to risk lunacy. As for me and my house, we've chosen the second risk as the wiser venture. I think the Trinity exemplifies best of all the principle outlined in the previous post that the careful study of heresy illuminates Christian doctrine.
The heart of the doctrine of the Trinity is a four word theological affirmation: that God is one being, three persons. Despite the complaints of popular doubt promoters, understanding this is not the great barrier to belief. The real problem is grasping what is at stake in this affirmation. It just sounds like some kind of irrelevant and irreverent divine math. What makes this affirmation so much better than other ways of talking about the relationship between the Biblical names of Father, Son and Holy Spirit?
Enter the trinitarian heresies. By comparing and contrasting the classic and contemporary trinitarian heresies, we can see what is at stake in affirming the Trinity. It's not so much that "one being, three persons" is the best possible thing we could say about God's inner life, but rather that all the other alternatives are much worse. If we don't say this, then we logically fall in one of four traps:
Once again, the doctrinal affirmation is found within the space between one-sided heretical options.
Are these terms and distinctions clear enough?
What other conceptual alternatives are there to speaking triple name of God?
What other doctrinal domains would you like to see this kind of analysis applied?
Which would you rather risk: heresy or lunacy?