There would certainly be little quibble from someone who suggested that doctrine develops. There would also be no problems when someone suggests that earlier writers of the Old Testament knew less than later writers. The idea here is doctrinal development within the canon, often referred to as the doctrine of progressive revelation.

For example, we understand that Abraham did not have access to any of the Old Testament. His sources for theological inquiry had to come from other places. David, on the other hand, had much of the Old Testament to draw from, including the story of Abraham. We would assume that David’s understanding of the Gospel was more fully developed than Abraham’s. Abraham’s was most certainly more developed than Adam. Isaiah’s was more developed than any of these. Why? Because he had a fuller complement of understanding, both from time and the fuller complement of God’s revealed word. Yet Daniel had even more than Isaiah! You see where I am going.

So far so good?

Now let us move to the New Testament. I am sure that you would not have any problems with assertions that the Apostles in training while under the tutelage of Christ were less theologically astute and aware than the post-resurrection Apostles. No one would dare immortalize Peter’s rebuke of Christ’s revelation of his impending crucifixion (Matt. 16:21-23), believing it to be correct and Christ in error. We understand that the Apostle Peter was wrong and, with regard to the theology of the Gospel, a novice. We give him grace. We understand that Peter’s sermon in Acts 2 presents a bold and corrective advancement in his theology. We allow for this kind of development.

Normally, people would assume that after the resurrection and the receiving of the Holy Spirit early in Acts that everything the Apostles said and believed was not only correct, but representative of the fullness of the truth. We often assume that, at this time, there was no further need for any development in their understanding.

However, I am not completely convinced of this. In fact, I believe that, like with the authors of the Old Testament, the New Testament authors developed in their theology. In fact, I don’t necessarily believe that any of them, even Paul, had it all figured out the way we often suppose. I think that we sometimes read into their thoughts and writings a theology that, while correct, is not fully representative of the way they would have understood it, much less expressed it.

Why would we start with such an assumption? What need is there? We don’t do so with the Old Testament, why do we with the New Testament?

What kind of doctrine develops?

Let us start with something easy. I think that all of us would be willing to admit that, in Acts, there is a belief that Christ is coming in the lifetime of the Apostles. In Acts 1 the Apostles ask if it is now that Christ is restoring his kingdom to Israel (Acts 1:6). Christ tells them, essentially, that they are not going to know the timing of his kingdom. Therefore, should we not expect them to speak with some degree of ignorance about this throughout the book of Acts and in other letters? In Acts 3:19, it seems that Peter had an expectation of immediate eschatological fulfillment of the coming of the Lord. Paul often seems to express the same expectation. For example in Romans 13:11-12, Paul exhorts the Romans to righteous living based upon this expectation: ” Do this, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed. 12 The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light (NAU). As well, notice in 1 Cor. 7:29 that Paul exhorts virgins not to get married because, in his opinion (? see 1 Cor. 7:25), “the time has been shortened” (v. 29). Peter, in 1 Pet. 4:7, says “the end of all things is at hand.” However, we don’t notice much development beyond this. Obviously, at the time of the Apostles death, they developed to the point that they knew the coming of Christ was not going to be in their lifetime!

As well, we know that Peter still struggled, post-Pentecost, with his prejudice concerning the inclusion of the Gentiles in God’s plan. It was not until Acts 10 that Peter comes the the full realization that the Gentiles are included in the kingdom plan. But even after this, he has a hard time accepting it as evidenced by his confrontation with Paul (Gal. 2:11-14). Therefore, we know that Peter’s doctrine was still in development even after the receiving of his Apostleship and the Holy Spirit.

As well, Peter talks about his struggle understanding Paul’s writing (2 Pet 3:16). Isn’t that a relief? Peter—the Apostle Peter—admits that there were things that Paul said that caused him to scratch his head. More important are the implications. Peter admit that he is learning from Paul, therefore, Peter admits ignorance about certain things. What things? He does not tell us, but more than likely these were doctrinal issues. Peter was advancing in his theology by his own (implied) admittance.

Things get a little more controversial when we move to other more specific and cardinal issues. . .

For example, could it be that the Apostles developed in their Christiology and Trinitarian understanding of God. Could it be that the Apostles and writers of the New Testament struggled in their early writings to understand what it meant that Christ was God’s Son and how to integrate that into their monotheistic worldview? Could it be that we have indications of this struggle in their writings? This is a very difficult proposal to make for me, but I believe that this type of intra-canonical development in the New Testament is perfectly consistent with a view of inerrancy.

All three historic traditions of Christianity (Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox) believe that a Trinitarian understanding of God’s nature is true and essential to the Christian worldview. Our trinitarian formula goes something like this: We believe in one God who eternally exists in three persons, all of whom are fully God all of whom are equal. However, many Christians have often scratched their heads wondering why there is not a more explicit testimony to the doctrine of the Trinity in such a form if the doctrine is so essential. In fact, it seems to have bothered some scribe so much that he added his own explicit statement of the of the Trinity to the Bible which made it into the KJV!

The question is, Why isn’t there a more explicit statement about the Trinity in the New Testament? There could be many factors at play here.

For one, while the authors of the New Testament wrestled with many doctrinal issues including the resurrection of the dead (1 Cor 15), legalism (Gal.), God’s faithfulness (Rom. 9-11), and Christ’s humanity (1 John), it is possible that with regard to Christ’s deity, the culture was fully willing to integrate this teaching as much of the culture was already polytheistic (not that the Trinity is polytheistic!). But this begs the question concerning the Jews who were monotheistic. Would not there have been some controversy among them? Hence the lack of explicit references?

But it could also be that the Apostles themselves were wrestling with this conviction. There are plenty of statements about the deity of Christ in the New Testament (Jn. 1:1, 18, 8:58–59, 10:30–33, 20:28; Acts 20:28; Rom. 9:5; 1 Tim. 3:15–16; 2 Thes. 1:12; Tit. 2:13; 2 Pet. 1:1; Heb. 1:8; Phil. 2:6; Col. 1:15–17, 2:9). Fewer about the Holy Spirit, and very few that attempt to put all of these together in a systematic whole. However, concerning the doctrine of the Trinity, it is interesting how developed the Apostle John is in this regard. In the “Upper Room Discourse” (John 14-17) we have some of the most specific and developed theological discourse about the Trinity in the Bible. Certainly, this discourse was given many years prior to John’s recording, but it is interesting that John, in the 90’s (the most accepted date for the book of John), in one of the latest books of all the New Testament, includes this discourse while the others don’t. As well, all would admit that the book of John (and Revelation) have what could be considered the highest Christology in the whole Bible. Could it be that John had a better grasp of and comfort with the doctrine Trinity than anyone else?

But even then, we would have to admit that John’s own understanding is only in a sort of “proto-” form that the historic church would later develop further.

These are the types of issues with which we must wrestle.

All of this to ask some important questions. How does this affect the doctrine of inspiration and, more specifically, inerrancy. I have already expressed my comfort in holding to this kind of intra-canonical development and inerrancy. However, this causes me to nuance my view of inerrancy and my hermeneutic (method of Biblical interpretation). I believe that while all of the apostles are correct in everything they said (being inerrant), this does not make them omniscient in their knowledge or complete in their understanding. I believe that we have to look at the canon as a whole to responsibly systematize our doctrines.

See Dan Wallace’s writing on this here.

C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Find him on Patreon Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Join his Patreon and support his ministry

    25 replies to "Case Studies in Inerrancy: Can Doctrine Develop within the Canon?"

    • Marcus

      Thanks Michael. I think your approach is excellent and I agree that doctrinal development within the cannon is not an issue for inerrancy. On a side note, I think that noticing doctrinal development within the cannon should help us feel more at ease when we don’t see some cardinal doctrines like the Trinity explicitly in the NT. Development beyond what is explicitly in the text is ok. What we’re doing is a continuation of what the apostles did (except we don’t have the same authority they did), guided by the same Spirit.

    • Paul Cable

      1) Isn’t there a difference between development in the canon and development in the individual theology of the various OT figures and apostles you cite here? It seems like these are different, albeit related, issues.
      2) Would have to hold to the view that “all of the apostles are correct in everything they said (being inerrant)” in order to hold inerrancy for everything they wrote that’s part of the canon? (I think the CSBI says so, but I’m not sure why.)

    • Mike B.

      Good thoughts, definitely. I think that there are other questions imbedded in the questions you ask, though.

      For instance, if the understanding of the apostles developed, on what basis did it do so? In some cases, the Bible answers that question for us, such as in the case of the theology of gentile inclusion. The apostles saw the evidence that God had poured out his spirit on uncircumcised gentiles and drew the conclusion that clearly circumcision was not a prerequisite for these people to receive God’s blessing.

      Other cases are perhaps less clear. If their understanding of how Jesus shared the divine identity of God (I wouldn’t necessarily use the term trinitarian to describe their thought) evolved, was their theological contemplation somehow inspired, or just well-thought-out.

      This brings us to the heart of our doctrine of inspiration. Why do we ascribe authority to the words of the Apostles. Did they receive direct verbal inspiration from God in order to compose their writings, or was the entirety of the revelation they received contained in the words they heard from Jesus while he was alive? Are they authorative because of their proximity to Jesus or because we believe that they supernaturally received their doctrines. If some doctrines can be ascribed to direct revelation (either through the voice of the spirit or through the words of Jesus), and some to theological contemplation, are the latter less authorative than the former? And how do you tell the difference?

      One other problem: The conclusion that Jesus was returning within the lifetime of the apostles seems to follow quite naturally from Jesus’ own words (Matthew 16:28; Mark 9:1; Luke 9:27). So if you propose that the apostles revised this view, you would have to propose that they were moving away fro the rather particular words of Jesus.

      Now one solution to this of course is to propose that these words are not original to Jesus at all. The fact that they occur in all three gospels indicates that it is in the very earliest traditions, but that does not prove its authenticity. You could suggest that it was the apostles who put these words in the mouth of Jesus in the first place. But, I’m sure that you would agree that this “solution” creates more problems for your view of inerrancy than it solves.

    • CH

      What would bother me about this view is that if the apostles developed their theology over time then this no longer sounds like revelation. Rather than revelation of truth the Bible would be the record of the apostle’s experiences and their interpretation of these experiences which over time may change or become more nuanced. Why would God leave the understanding of key theological points to develop over time in a process that mimics a purely human process?

    • cherylu

      It doesn’t seem to me so much that the disciples “struggled”, as you put it CMP, in their understanding. John 1:13-15 seems to say that what Jesus told them while with them before the Spirit was given to them was incomplete. He said that the Spirit would guide them into all truth. So it seems to me that what we see happening here is the further revelation of the truth by the Spirit that Jesus promised them rather then so much a struggling in understanding.

      On the other hand, maybe the two go together although I don’t know that I necessarily see it demonstrated in the Scriptures that you give in your article to support that idea. I think the II Peter verses are the only ones that could really support it, in my understanding. It seems to me Paul is very settled in His beliefs that he stated in I Cor 15 and is teaching others in the church at large that are struggling. But I don’t see evidence of his struggle. In the Romans 9-11 passage, I think the questions he uses are teaching devices–not necessarily proof of his personal stuggle in this. I guess I don’t think anyone could of come to the conclusions he states in those chapters as the result of his own struggle! It seems to me that what is discussed there must of been more of a direct revelation. And I personally think it is one of the things Peter talked about that is hard to understand!! And the Gal passage speaks of Peter being a hypocrits because of fear. It doesn’t seem to me that it was a lack of understanding of the issue there either.

      Anyway, that is my take on things and I will admit that what you have said in your article is really a new idea to me.

    • Cadis

      Interesting, but really what you are conveying here is just that we have sinners (errant) human beings living out and writing out the message of God. We’ll never totally get it, but we do know every word was God breathed or inspired and in that sense it is the inerrant truth. God did not allow the pen of these writers to slip back and forth between their words and his.

      We do watch them grow and change but that is not contrary to the concept of inerrancy, that is how we are, and God conveyed his message through fallible creatures. I would be suspect of inerrancy if it did not record the truth of human condition. Paul never said, I’ve got it all sown up …He said
      Php 3:12 Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.
      Right there is a hard statement to comprehend but it is a perfect verse for this subject. Paul was not perfect but he was apprehended of Christ who is perfect and even knowing he was already apprehended Paul follows, playing it out in real time so that he might get to his destination. The same is true of the scripture it speaks about and through imperfect humans , in time and space, a message from a perfect God.
      I know I’m crossing more over to verbal inspiration but I’m uncertain how you can have verbal inspiration and not have inerrancy. If every word is inspired then every word is perfectly what God intended to say through the medium he chose.

    • mbaker

      I think we are also talking about a difference in individual life application styles here as well. The canon, as has been pointed out in previous posts is subject to several different kinds of human interpretation, some more accurate than others. However, that alone does not determine its meaning.

      Paul, Peter and John developed at different rates in their Christology, obviously, and contributed different perspectives to the canon because of their different personalities, yet they all had the same teacher in Christ. The same is true of us.

      The inerrancy of the canon, IMO, doesn’t play as much into that, as the development of their individual knowledge and beliefs, as they grew in wisdom and maturity. Certainly as His chosen apostles, they had first hand knowledge from the lips of Christ Himself, whose words certainly we would consider inerrant. But being taught something directly by someone else is not the same as us actually then going out and applying it . We all have the same canon, for example, yet our opinions about it vary widely, as evidenced from all the different comments that come forth here.

      Does that mean the canon is still open? No. Because we have different opinions on how it should be and is interpreted, does that make the canon itself subjective? No, again.

      That’s why I don’t have a problem with the doctrine of inerrancy/infalibility and don’t see it being an impediment to anyone’s growth and development, but rather a more accurate and focused yardstick by which we can all gauge the entire counsel of God.

    • EricW

      Normally, people would assume that after the resurrection and the receiving of the Holy Spirit early in Acts that everything the Apostles said and believed was not only correct, but representative of the fullness of the truth. We often assume that, at this time, there was no further need for any development in their understanding.

      Why do you say that this is what people “normally…would assume”?

      I think that’s a false assumption, and all it takes is reading Acts and the rest of the New Testament to see that. As immediately occurred to me before even reading the rest of your post and seeing that you said the same things, I thought of Peter having to be rebuked by Paul for not walking according to the Gospel because he didn’t understand the Jew/Gentile aspect of the body of Christ, as well as God having to show him in a vision that Gentiles were acceptable. Also, the Christology of Jesus as the son of David and Messiah in Acts is certainly not the “I and the Father are One” of John’s Gospel. Even if Christ said these things to them before His crucifixion, one doesn’t encounter this “God the Son” in the speeches in Acts.


      When our understanding after being saved and filled/baptized in/with/by the Spirit isn’t complete or lacking nothing re: the need for development, why do we think that we should “normally assume” that theirs was, too?

    • Bryan

      Well, this just gets more interesting every day.

      CH asks, “Why would God leave the understanding of key theological points to develop over time in a process that mimics a purely human process?” Why, indeed? On the other hand, do you really think it mimics a purely human process? Recall that all the smart kids thought Arius was right; in fact, there were plenty of things (some scriptures, certain Hellenistic thoughts, the government, some bright eastern bishops) that argued for the Arian understanding.

      Yet it pleased God that a short, swarthy, clearly irritating man should prove to be the strongest force for orthodoxy. And that he should be this force by using a mixture of profound theological thinking, invective, the occasional head slap, and political infighting.

      “And the Word was God,” (Amen), but the Word became flesh. And I think all this is part of what that statement means. He didn’t give us books, He gave us Himself and thus divinized our nature, strange as that sounds. I wouldn’t have done it if I was God, but I wouldn’t make a good God.

      The NT, then, is a record of what his closest friends thought about all that happened. When you go through what they went through, you don’t sort it all out right away. Why would we think that the most profound theophany in history should explain itself completely right away? Or ever?

    • John T 3

      Here is the problem I have, outside of historical books to an extent, you can not write a doctorine if you did not understand the doctorine. And while I believe that God used the individuals and the personalities and expierences, what He did not do was leave them alone to their own intelect. The Holy Spirit is also at work teaching and helping them to understand and to have even the right coherent words when the time comes to write them down or even when the time came to speak them.

      The Apostles did not wrtie something down and not know what it meant and what implication it had. Does doctorine devlope over time yes, because I agree that God has revealed himself over time however, the NT writters knew what they were writting about and didn’t need to devlop it.

    • EricW

      The Apostles did not wrtie something down and not know what it meant and what implication it had. Does doctorine devlope over time yes, because I agree that God has revealed himself over time however, the NT writters knew what they were writting about and didn’t need to devlop it.

      Why should this be any more true of the NT writers than the OT writers? Whether the writers of the OT fully understood what they were writing at the time they wrote it, it appears that their readers/listeners and perhaps even they themselves did not fully know or see at the time how some of these things they wrote or prophesied or wrote/said in Psalms, etc., referred to Christ and future things.

      How can we thus say that the NT writers unquestionably fully “knew what they were writing about” such that an understanding of it didn’t need to develop, either in their own minds or in the minds of their readers/listeners or future generations of believers?

      Is it not the same Spirit operating in both the OT authors and the NT authors, as well as in believers under both covenants? If such understanding in the past wasn’t always complete or fully developed even by those who wrote the Scriptures, why must it be believed without question that what was written 1,900 years ago was fully developed and understood in the minds and understanding of those who wrote those things?

      I’m more asking these questions than asserting that this is the case.

    • Ed Kratz


      It is interesting that even, what many consider to be, the very conservative Chicago Statement of Biblical Inerrancy has this to say in Article IX:

      “WE AFFIRM that inspiration, though not conferring omniscience, guaranteed true and trustworthy utterance on all matters of which the Biblical authors were moved to speak and write.”

      This is all this post is saying. They Apostles did nto have omniscience about any one thing they wrote about. Therefore, they could grow in their understanding of the issue. As well, one writer could provide added perspective that another writer did not have. This does not mean that they were wrong in anything they wrote (being protected from error and inspired by the Holy Spirit), but this does not mean that they had it all figured out.

      Even Christ, according to the Scriptures “grew in wisdom” (Lk 2:52). And Christ was, by definition, inspired!

    • Paul Cable

      Why does a view that scripture (the text, not the authors) is inerrant necessitate the view that the apostles were “guaranteed true and trustworthy in all matters of which they were moved to speak and write.” Can we not say that Peter’s letters are inerrant without saying that everything he said was inerrant? Paul?

    • cornellmachiavelli

      Can doctrine develop within the Canon.

      All scripture was written by the Holy Spirit. The concept of development would not relate only to the human authors but to the Spirit as well.

      So, I would say the answer is “No” in a very real sense. I am taking this answer to stimulate the discussion to help me better understand biblical truths. For example, Paul and the Holy Spirit did not together record a doctrine in the Scriptures that would had been more fully made known had Paul himself known more of the doctrine. The Holy Spirit is not limited by the known of the human author. What the Holy Spirit reveals AT A CERTAIN TIME is ALL that he wanted to reveal.

      Another issue I’m working through. We often refer to the Jews as monotheists and in the same context refer to Christians as monotheists. But the Jews were monotheists in the same way Islam is a monotheistic religion. Both Islam and Judaism believe there is numerically one being who is God. Hence, mono.

      Christians hold to three beings/persons who together make up the Trinity. It is the trinity aspect of the definition that indicates that Christians are not monotheists or polytheists.

      In polytheistic religions, each ‘god’ is different from the others “in nature.” Zeus, for example, had limited knowledge, but his knowledge was different in degree than was Apollo’s. Apollo loved X degree and Zeus loved Y degree. In the Christian Trinity, each member is equal “in nature.” For example, the holiness possessed by the Father is equal to that possessed by the Son. The love and mercy that the Holy Spirit has toward believers is the same degree of love and mercy (perfect and infinite) the Son has.

      What I’d like to see is a more clear title for Christians that can be employed to capture the essence of the Godhead. Monotheism should have been discarded 2,000 years ago when the Jews called themselves monotheists. Christians were heretics for the belief in co-equal beings to God (the Father). The Jews held to one God NUMERICALLY, as do the Muslims and even the Unitarians.

      Can anyone give me definitions that would show a difference in Unitarian and Monotheism, if there is one? It seems to me both hold to one numerical being who is God. I’m not sure what definition Christians should use to define themselves, but monotheism/unitarianism, as far as I’m concerned, misses the point. Here’s why. Monotheism is trying to show the unity of the Godhead by using the term ‘mono.’ But the term mono in monotheism is used as “numerically one being.” Any ideas of what we can use to capture the Christian Trinitarian belief?

      Tri-theism again is a belief in 3 gods that differ “in nature.” So this doesn’t work. And we certainly don’t want to use any word that would be understood in the monotheistic sense as it is used of Islam (who believe in only one being numerically, Allah).


    • EricW

      How about henotheist? Paul says that there is one (heis/henos) God (theos) and Father of all (Eph. 4:6) and that for us there is one (heis/henos) God (theos) the Father (1 Cor. 8:6).

      Technically henotheism means the exclusive worship of one God without denying that there are or may be other gods.

      monotheism (from monos) would mean that there is only one God – i.e., God alone/only is God.

    • cornellmachiavelli


      I think we need to put all related passages – in both the OT and NT – together before coming up with an answer. We don’t want to emphasize, as Trinitarians, anything close to unitarianism. And, I’ve yet to find definitions that clearly makes a distinction between unitarianism and monotheism. They appear to be the same, but Christianity is a far cry from Islam and Unitarianism, as well as Judaism.

      For 2,000 years Christians have identified themselves inside the group of monotheists, but I think this is wrong. This has led to all kinds of weird statement that “God is one YET three.” The fact of the matter is that there are THREE distinct Beings who make up the ONE Godhead.

      For example, in the phrase “God is one yet three” affirms the following which leads to more confusion. In this phrase, the numbers ‘one’ and ‘three’ are being used in two different senses; committing some form of equivocation. Historically, it means “God is one (in nature) yet three” (in persons). Does that clear it all for you? It doesn’t to me. It sounds like there was ONE nature and it was cut into THREE pieces and shared with the Father, Son, and HS.

      The members of the Trinity, and I say this reverently, are different, each having his own separate “personhood.” But because each Being possesses attributes that are infinite, perfect, and divine, their natures have perfect unity with the other members. If their natures differed in any way, in any degree, the Trinity would be reduced to Polytheism. And of course that is not at all the case.

      Here is how I think it would communicate the Trinity more accurately. Something like,

      “We believe that there is one (numerically speaking) Godhead, and this Godhead is composed of three (numerically speaking) separate divine beings.”

      This avoids equivocating, but would require additional verbiage to explain that each member’s nature is perfect and infinite. [This is where I feel we need to spend some time clarifying the concept of ONE and THREE.

      But as I said, I’m hoping to get input into this delicate subject. Any time you challenge a belief/statement that has been around for 2,000 years, you need to have a boat-load of humility. Any ideas?


    • EricW


      But I would argue that no one uses the term “Godhead” in popular usage. To non-Christians, it’s basically meaningless.

      The only people I know who use it are Trinitarians, who already know what they mean by both “Godhead” and “Trinity” – and who also already know that they don’t worship more than one God, and know that the term “Trinity” doesn’t imply or mean that.

      Thus, the only persons who would use the term “Godhead” or would benefit by this redefinition are those who have no problem with the term “Trinity” and hence don’t need the definition rephrased.

      So I’m not sure anything would be gained by rephrasing the definition to use the term “Godhead,” as it’s largely preaching to the choir.

      Or so I think. I could be wrong.

      On a perhaps related note, when discussing light, one can describe what it is in terms of it being a wave and/or in terms of it being composed of particles. Some ways of looking at and experimenting with light show that it behaves like a wave. Other ways of looking at and experimenting with light show that it behaves like particles. Similarly, one can talk of God as being One God, as well as talk of God as being Three Persons, depending on what you are wanting to say about God.

      (I haven’t had physics since the late 1960’s, so it’s possible that quantum or other physics has rendered this example obsolete. But at the time I was in high school, that’s what we learned about light.)

      As for clarifying/explaining/discussing the relationship between the One and the Three, I think the Cappadocian Fathers and Maximus the Confessor have probably already done the necessary work, and all one has to do is read their writings, not reinvent or reshape the wheel. 🙂

      And then there’s also the so-called Athanasian Creed.

    • cornellmachiavelli


      I guess one could push that point, but I see no profit in removing the term “Godhead” (an accurate description) for the term “God” (which will only bring incorrect theology from it).

      We need, at a minimum, to rid ourselves of the phrase “one…yet…three.” It gets a little wordy if you want to avoid the fallacy of equivocation. Even CMP is using these terms which are not technically speaking biblically correct, but these terms are what “we’ve always used.” I’m not faulting anyone, I’m suggesting we accomplish some good out of this blog. We need to seek to solidify the truth in each post, rather than just making it a place for “anyone’s opinion is welcome.” But that’s just me; I apologize in advance for such a recommendation since I doubt this blog is intended to move in that direction. But, since it was given a good rating among other blogs, it seems like it would be profitable to use it as a place to arrive at truth in a way that is more important than getting another topic out the next day.

      Anyway, thanks for interacting. Such discussions really need to take place among serious students in order for there to be a “break through” in terminology. There is no reason this blog could not be a place for that to take place. I would vote for the blog to move in the direction of quality not quantity. Get to the bottom of something, draw conclusions, and then move on.

      We know “monotheism” is not biblically correct when describing the Godhead, nor is “unitarianism.” For now, I prefer the term “Godhead” far more than any other candidate, especially the ones in current use that are misleading to those who think. I may be being unfair to P&P in that what I’m recommending is not its goals.


    • EricW


      I think I got sidetracked in my comment. You’re wanting to replace “monotheism” with a different word that you feel would be more accurate re: Christian belief and confession. My comment/response implied that you were wanting to define “Trinity” differently or restate its meaning in different words. Maybe the two discussions/subjects (i.e., replace “monotheism” and redefine/restate the meaning of “Trinity”) are related.

    • C Skiles

      Some of the comments here seem to have forgotten the fact that CMP indicates that in some sence the Apostles could have even been wrong. (I’m not neccesarily disagreeing with CMP , just reminding those commenting)
      Is CMP’s proposal simply a restatement of progressive revelation? I’m not sure. My guess is that it is a “progressive” take on progressive revelation.(no pun intended)
      Do I agree? Do I even have the intellect to agree or disagree with someone as well trained in the scriptures as CMP? Probably not. But here goes anyway. My tendancy is to agree with him. Michael, you have single handedly honed my understanding of inerrancy over that last 2 years or so. Thanks for using your gifts (even when you don’t feel like it (pun intended) to help those like myself who are eager to learn and need an honest , transparent scholar to help them along the way. As to whether or not Michael’s approach does any damage to inerrancy, based on my limited knowledge I would say no.

    • carl Peterson

      “Here is how I think it would communicate the Trinity more accurately. Something like,

      “We believe that there is one (numerically speaking) Godhead, and this Godhead is composed of three (numerically speaking) separate divine beings.”

      This avoids equivocating, but would require additional verbiage to explain that each member’s nature is perfect and infinite. [This is where I feel we need to spend some time clarifying the concept of ONE and THREE.”

      No. What you are stating at best borders on Tri-Theism. The three “Persons” are not “three seperate Divine beings.” That makes no sense given that they are one in nature.

      I think I will agree with Gregory of Naz and leave out how they aer one and three to pretty much an apophatic mystery. To Athanasius, Greg. of Naz, Calvin, and the puritan John Owen the doctrine of the Trinity was a pastoral doctrine in which all things are from the Father, through the Son, and by the Power of the Holy Spirit.

    • jim

      I tend to agree with carl…in response to three seperate divine beings ….if they are seperate in nature…then they come into existence in some space of time differently. Thus you end up with one being created ahead of the other….. Not possible.

      I don;t understand this part of the trinity…how in essence it’s possible, but having said that, I think it is scriptural.

      Enjoyed this post….tend to think that though inerrant that doctrine and understanding continues and will continue through his holy word.

      Blessing Mike!!!!

    • ScottL

      Here are some thoughts I have had, as related somewhat to this post, though these thoughts would not be popular amongst evangelicals (of whom I include myself).

      Did Jesus’ understanding develop?

      [Scott runs and hides as to not be hit by stones headed his way…]

      We do read these words in Luke’s Gospel: And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man. (Luke 2:52)

      But somehow, I suppose we think that, if He did develop in His understanding, this must have stopped around age 13 or 16 or 18 or 21, something like that. This is where I believe we disregard the human side of Jesus. I don’t know how it all fits together, his humanity and divinity. But I know they were both fully present. But I think we kind of view Jesus as if He hovered some 3 inches off the ground or something like that.

      So, we see an obsessive dependence of Jesus upon the Father, to listen to Him, hear what He is saying, see what He is doing, learn His ways. Some passages:

      Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel. (John 5:19-20) – It seems Jesus didn’t have things downloaded to Him at His baptism or as a teen, but He had to regularly look to the Father to know what to participate in.

      When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me. (John 8:28) – There is an aspect of Jesus being taught on a regular basis, one that speaks of what was presently going on even as He spoke these words, and not so much when Jesus was 13 or 16.

      Again, I believe Jesus is divine. He is the divine Messiah-Son. But I even think that His understanding had to develop, since He was fully human.

      Just some thoughts.

    • Jim Roane

      Referencing Michael Patton’s comment: “Even Christ, according to the Scriptures “grew in wisdom” (Lk 2:52). And Christ was, by definition, inspired!”
      Excellent point! Michael. Problem is that people try to make the New Testament authors out as something they are clearly not; that is omniscient, and therefore not human. Whereas, even Jesus in his humanity “grew in wisdom.” But, then, some are only interesting in making Jesus God (which he is) and not human (which he also was and is; albeit, glorified). Oh, the intricacies of the incarnation.

    • Jim Roane

      Question: Is there a blog on the humanity of Jesus? I sometimes feel as if I am the only one defending his humanity. One of the things I ask my New Testament Theology students to do is to write an essay on the theology of Jesus of Nazareth. That usually draws a lot of blank stares. However, I tell them, “Go for it! Human he was! In the process, however, don’t make him less than God incarnate.” Not an easy assignment, but I think it does provide a lesson in understanding the true nature of who he is, and our opportunity to connect with him in our humanity as well.

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