Question: Why was Nicean Trinitarianism introduced at all?

Table of Contents

Question: Why was Nicean Trinitarianism introduced at all?

People tried a ‘new’ way of talking about God because of disputes about the nature and mission of Christ

Let us return to the second century, when it was first sensed that the formulations of the New Testament and the Apostolic Fathers were not sufficient to describe the nature of the divinity. A new way of doing this was attempted. Thus the so-called Monarchian controversy occurred... In addition to the Modalists (such as Sabellius), for whom Christ and the Holy Spirit were modes in which one Godhead appeared, there the Dynamists or Adoptionists, who conceived of Christ either as a man who was raised up by being adopted by God, or as a man filled with God's power.[1]

Simply put, people tried a ‘new’ way of talking about God because of disputes about the nature and mission of Christ. In the LDS view, this is because the loss of revelation to the Apostles (due to the apostasy) meant that Christianity was divided about key issues. No one had a good way to resolve the questions, and so they turned to the best intellectual tools they had—they merged Christian theology with Greek philosophy.

Father Charles Curran, a Roman Catholic priest, said,

We [the Christians] went through the problem of appropriating the word in the fourth, fifth, and sixth centuries with the great trinitarian and Christalogical [check spelling] councils where we finally came to the conclusion of three persons in God and two natures in Jesus. Many people at the time said, ‘Well, you can’t say that because those words aren’t in the scriptures.’ That’s right, they aren’t in the scriptures, they are borrowed from Greek philosophy, but they are the on-going account of the believing community to understand, appropriate and live the word of God in its own circumstances.[2]

Notes

  1. Kurt Aland, A History of Christianity (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1985), 1:190.
  2. Charles Curran, "Creative Fidelity: Keeping the Religion a Living Tradition," Sunstone 11 (July 1987), 45. off-site Cited in Robert L. Millet, "Joseph Smith and Modern Mormonism: Orthodoxy, Neoorthodoxy, Tension, and Tradition," Brigham Young University Studies 29 no. 3 (1989), footnote 14.