"Unity without verity is no better than conspiracy." - John Trapp

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

QT: S. Lewis Johnson on the Trinity

The following is from the introduction to Dr. S. Lewis Johnson's sermon on John 10:32-42. In light of Pastor JD Hatfield completing his blogging of the Brandon Biblical Theology Conference on the Trinity and of me covering these verses in Sunday School this week, this seemed appropriate.

Given the reference to "a generation or so" below it is worth noting this was preached in January of 1983.

Dr. S. Lewis Johnson on the Trinity
The doctrine of the Trinity is peculiar to the religion of the Bible, to Christianity. Although the word itself is not a biblical word, yet it is a convenient designation of the one God self-revealed in Scripture as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, neither three gods (tritheism) nor three modes of God (monarchianism).

Now it is a common mistake of untaught believers to regard the doctrine of the Trinity as a mere speculative truth. And often, popular Bible teachers, playing upon the simplicity and ignorance of their listeners, take advantage of the natural laziness of the human mind in learning something new. The teachers encourage ignorance, speaking out against "theology" and urging listeners to give attention to "life truth," which is supposed to be "more practical" for the everyday life and its problems.

It is, however, a great error to regard the doctrine of the Trinity as impractical, for it underlies the whole plan of salvation, which demands a divine Creator (just and holy, although sinned against), a divine Redeemer, and a divine Sanctifier. These offices the three persons of the Trinity fill with majesty, beauty, and effectiveness. A divine Creator is necessary to explain the universe and men. A divine Redeemer alone can give authentic tidings from the Godhead, and that is why an incarnation is a necessity. And only a divine Redeemer can provide an atonement that effectually removes the guilt of sin. We cannot receive salvation from a demi-god. Our Savior must be one of us, but also divine. Otherwise He has no contact with God, and His sacrifice does not have sufficient value to cover our sin.

Many churches have practically abandoned the doctrine of the Trinity. Churches with creedal statements that include the doctrine no longer preach the truth, and often their ministers have abandoned belief in the doctrine, being practically Unitarian in their views. And others, while acknowledging belief in the teaching, never enforce its teaching in their messages, with the result that their congregations are theologically illiterate. And, sad to say, this is characteristic of many evangelical congregations.

I am fearful of the path down which many of these congregations are walking. In a generation or so, untold slippage of faith and practice may take place. The "Bible" churches are in many cases already along the way to spiritual mediocrity. The trivial ministry that characterizes many of them can only lead to doctrinal ruin and the abandonment of the faith that their forefathers believed. One of the great truths that must be retained at all costs is the truth of the Christian doctrine of the Trinity.

"As a historical fact," Hodge wrote, "it is beyond dispute that in whatever church the doctrine of the Trinity has been abandoned orobscured, every other characteristic doctrine of the gospel has gone with it." That is a warning that we must note.


Blogger Even So... said...

Yes, it is very important, and Johnson is right on...

8:53 AM EDT  
Blogger Taliesin said...

Dr. Johnson was always right.

Okay, not really always. Until the early 70's he was a four point Calvinist. I'm sure he was wrong on other points as well, but when someone has such a formative impact on you (I had only been a believer 2-3 years when I started sitting under his teaching), it is hard to see the faults.

By God's grace, as I read the Scriptures, Dr. Johnson was one of the more "right on" people I could have learned from during those years.

9:38 PM EDT  

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