Bavinck on Trinitarian Error
I commented right at the start of the Trinitarian discussion that, while scripture has gripped the evangelical mind when it comes to the roots of serious theological error, it is the doctrine of God which has historically and theologically more often been the culprit. The statement below from Bavinck asserts the same (emphasis mine):
The dogma of the Trinity, however, has at all times encountered serious opposition. It not only came from without, from the side of Jews and Muslims, against whose attacks Christians would then defend the doctrine. Both before and after its official adoption, within the boundaries of Christendom, this dogma was also disputed by many. Now in the confession of the Trinity we hear the heartbeat of the Christian religion: every error results from, or upon deeper reflection is traceable to, a departure in the doctrine of the Trinity. It is such an integral component of the Christian faith that it still reverberates even in the confession of the Unitarians. All who value being called Christians continue to speak of the Father, Son, and Spirit. All the greater, however, has been the opposition to the ecclesiastical formulation of the doctrine of the Trinity and the more frequent its restatement. At the same time the history of this dogma clearly demonstrates that only the ecclesiastical formulation of it is capable of preserving inviolate the matter with which we are here concerned. Now the great challenge facing us with this dogma is to see to it that the unity of the divine essence does not cancel out the Trinity of the persons or, conversely, that the Trinity of persons does not abolish the unity of the divine essence. There is always the threat of deviation either to the right or to the left and of falling either into the error of Sabellius or that of Arius. [Reformed Dogmatics 2: God and Creation (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic), edited by John Bolt, translated by John Vriend, pp. 288–289.]
I wonder: Was he writing nonsense? Was he a slanderer? Was he motivated by a desire to take over the reformedish evangelical world? Did he lack personal integrity? Was he narrowing the bounds of orthodox Trinitarianism in an inappropriate way? Was he sharply criticized for tone and intention by those who were (as the saying goes) personally opposed to but, of course, still publicly supportive of the legitimacy of the alternative positions? Was he an accuser of the brethren? Was he quietly pushing a feminist agenda? Was he gleefully curbing or even trying to destroy complementarianism? Was he someone of such intellectual and moral mediocrity that it was amazing to see who published him? Or maybe he was just looking to provide the late nineteenth-century Dutch equivalent of ‘clickbait’? I only ask, because all of these things have been alleged in public of Liam Goligher and myself over the last four weeks. And if he was subject to such, I then wonder if such claims were publicly removed and apologies offered to him in an equally public manner? Because when you cut through the Sturm und Drang and the personal smears and the smoke and mirrors, the Trinity matters; and it is now more than clear that error has played a significant role in contemporary conservative evangelical formulations of the same. And errors on this doctrine are the root of errors elsewhere, as Bavinck indicates. So don't shoot the messengers.