Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Book Review: The Development of the Trinity by Glen Davidson M.A.

Click here to purchase in E-Book or Paperback. Click here for Amazon Kindle.

In this work Glen Davidson sets out to outline the basic historical evolution of the doctrine of the Trinity. It is popular for modern Trinitarians to believe that this doctrine has a consistent, uniform stream of evidence. And that this is somehow completely consistent with the Trinity they believe today. The final test of the Trinity is the testimony of Scripture but as Davidson clearly outlines in his book, "The trinity--without any doubt of any historian--was indeed a development. The ideologies that led to and came from this dogma were from the influence of Greek thinking, namely Neo-Platonism." (Davidson, pg. 2)

Davidson has a M.A. cum laude from Bethel Seminary majoring in Church History. Davidson gives thanks to God, his wife and his Jewish parents for helping him through Seminary. He also thanks professor of Church History, James Smith III, ThD, at Bethel for his guidance and counsel.

The book is just a little over 133 pages which should not be intimidating for the novice but at the same time welcoming to the expert. Davidson outlines the development of the Trinity in three parts: Part One: The New Doctrine Is Introduced, Part Two: The New Doctrine Is Established and Part Three: The New Doctrine Is Mandated. The author also covers the period after the Apostles (Clement of Rome, Ignatius, Polycarp) and discusses the New Doctrines Terminology: The Creeds.

The Trinity develops from the Deity of Christ, Deity of the Holy Spirit and then a definitive formulation. Oneness Pentecostals affirm that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are God. This is Biblical doctrine. The definitive formulation of the Trinity is not and this is where the controversy enters.

Davidson also has a section on the terminology or words used to make sense of the "new doctrine". As he points out, "They can be found so common in Christendom that we would assume them to be in the Scriptures." (Davidson, pg. 105) Terms discussed are: "God the Son", "God the Holy Spirit", "Eternal Son", "Co-equal" and "Co-eternal". The author also points out that the locution "God in three persons" was "not used by the church "fathers" until Augustine...This set of words was most likely made famous by the hymn, "Holy, Holy, Holy," written by Reginald Heber in 1826, and with music added by John Dykes in 1861." (Davidson, pg. 122-123)

In Part One Davidson discusses the introduction of the "new doctrine". The formulation of this doctrine begins with the Greek Apologists (AD 130-180) which imagined a God that was transcendent and impassible. Vergilus Ferm, PhD notes that the "Apologists represented, on the whole, non-Jewish Christian converts trained to think in Hellenistic terms." (Ferm, pg. 145)

In Part Two the author examines the contributions of Iraenaeus, Tertullian, Clement, and Origen. He also concisely discusses modalism,  the Council of Nicea, Council of Constantinople, the Pre-existence of Christ, and the contributions of the Cappodocians in this section. Davidson accurately notes that through the Cappodocians "the major trinitarian concepts took root." (Davidson, pg. 81) In Part Three the book examines the work of Augustine and the Athanasian creed.

Click here to purchase in E-Book or Paperback. Click here for Amazon Kindle.

1) Davidson, Glen (2012) The Development of the Trinity : The Evolution of a "New Doctrine" Hazelwood, MO : Pentecostal Publishing House

2) Vergilius Ferm, A History of Philosophical Systems (New York: The Philosophical Library, 1950), 145

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