Ty Gibson is a prolific author, popular speaker and director of Light Bearers, a literature ministry now based in Collegedale, Tennessee, USA. He spoke about his two recent books on aspects of the doctrine of the Trinity.
What prompted you take on the topic of the Trinity as a writing project?
I was driven to write on the topic in response to a steady stream of questions on the matter. I was made aware that local churches in various places around the world were encountering anti-trinitarian advocates, resulting in confusion and division among believers. So I decided to write out the biblical narrative in order to demonstrate the relationship between the two testaments with regards to sonship language, trusting that any non-mercenary Bible student would correct their theological course once the case was laid out before them.
Is the Trinity our most important doctrine?
Yes, because knowing what manner of being God is must precede and inform the formulation of all other teachings. If we are to make sense of who we are, we must begin by making sense of who God is. The doctrine of the Trinity urges that God is essentially social, communal, interpersonal. It is an utterly unique vision of God and, by logical extension, of reality as a whole. In contrast to polytheism and pantheism, the Bible claims that God consists of an interpersonal relationship defined by self-giving benevolence. God is one and yet more than one. There is only one God, and that one God is composed of a perfectly integrated relationship—“God is love.”
Why two books with two different approaches to this topic?
The Sonship of Christ endeavours to paint the big picture of the biblical narrative with regard to sonship as a main theme of Scripture that crucially connects the two testaments. When the New Testament authors identify Jesus the “Son of God” they are not attempting to tell us anything about His ancient origins as a secondary deity brought into existence by a primary deity. Rather, they are informing us that Jesus is the long-awaited covenant Son of God promised to the human race in Genesis 3:15, who would be born to crush Satan and redeem Adam and Eve’s fall. Unfolding this big biblical narrative was the goal of my first book on the topic.
The second book—The Heavenly Trio—explores the views of the Adventist pioneers and Ellen White regarding the Trinity. It points out that the Adventist pioneers held a specific kind of anti-trinitarianism that actually formed the legitimate and foundational concerns that led to the formation of the Trinitarian doctrine of God presently held by the Adventist church.
Why has the Trinity been such a contested topic in Christian theology?
There is one common feature of all the lines of argument that are employed against the doctrine of the Trinity: the prooftext method of Bible study coupled with a general lack of understanding of the overall narrative of Scripture. Unfortunately, those who have argued against the anti-trinitarian position have generally done so by also employing the prooftext method and ignoring the large story of Scripture. All of this proof-texting has created a theological impasse that is removed when we take in the big storyline of the Bible. It becomes quickly apparent that the New Testament authors are working out the Old Testament narrative in their usage of Father–Son language. Once you see the covenant narrative of Scripture, the anti-trinitarian arguments vanish in the light of the Old Testament story that is informing all the language of the New Testament.
Have you changed anyone’s mind?
Yes. A number of people have told me they were pulled back from the anti-trinitarian edge by reading the books. But I’ve noticed a distinction between the sincere Bible student in the pew who might be confused due to a lack of biblical literacy on the topic, on the one hand, and the anti-trinitarian advocates and preachers with a fanatical zeal, on the other. Repeatedly, I’ve seen the average church member, with all their sincere honesty, reject the anti-trinitarian perspective once the biblical case is laid out before them.
The Sonship of Christ and The Heavenly Trio are available from Adventist bookstores in Australia and New Zealand, or online.