Why Heresy Often Starts With Getting the Trinity Wrong

In this video, Fred Sanders explains how Trinitarian theology helps us arrive at a uniquely Christian understanding of God and his Word and how a failure to apply Trinitarian theology results in non-Christian understandings.

Below is a lightly edited transcript of the video above. Before quoting, please check the video to ensure accuracy.

Every doctrine is important, but some doctrines are just really, really important. And I think the reason that so many heresies that come up anywhere in Christian thought can be traced back to problems with the doctrine of the Trinity, is that the doctrine of the Trinity is the Christian answer to the question, “Who is God?”

The Trinity is the Christian answer to the question, ‘Who is God?’

So you can read the entire Bible, and there are lots of details, lots of fascinating things, and Scripture teaches on a wide variety of topics. But at any point that you stop and ask, “What is all of this adding up to with regard to the question, who is God?” The Bible is essentially giving the answer that God is the Father who sends the Son and the Holy Spirit. That is, God is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. To come up with any other answer to the question, “Who is God,” is to get off track at a very foundational issue.

And that’s why when people come to the doctrine of the Trinity they often end up in one of two ditches. Either they think it’s just a mystery we’re never supposed to look at all. Or, on the other hand, they may think they’re free to make up their own ideas about what the Trinity might mean. “What does it remind me of? Let’s just play with that.”

So if you engage it either as just a blank mystery or as a free zone for playing and creatively making up anything you want to, you’re messing with the very doctrine of God, that is to say the Christian answer, the biblical answer to the question, “Who is the God behind all of salvation history?” Obviously, that’s going to be a kind of a capstone theologically or intellectually, and if that goes, everything else goes with it.