Are you guys Barthians?

From time to time, we are asked, "Are you guys Barthians"? (or "Torrancians," or devotees of certain other theologians who embrace a theology similar to what is explored on this blog). The short answer is "no." Trinitarian theology is not a uniform "school" of theology and we are not slavishly beholden to any particular so-called "Trinitarian" theologians.

Of course, the question is understandable. We humans love to categorize things and theology is no exception. Thus, there is "Calvinism," "Arminianism," "Universalism" and other theological -isms. However, "Incarnational Trinitarian Theology" (the label we use for the theology explored here) rather than being prescriptive of a uniform set of beliefs, is descriptive of a theological perspective. It addresses the heart of a theological vision and method rather than establishing rigid limits of a uniform school of theology.

Karl Barth, T.F. Torrance, J.B. Torrance, Thomas Oden and certain other notable theologians of the past 100 years are sometimes referred to as "Trinitarian." These men were doing theology as faithfully as they could in order to assist the whole church. In doing so, they drew on the insights of many theologians throughout the ages (including leaders of the early church councils). In this work, they were not seeking to found a distinct school of theology and, generally, they did not label their theological viewpoints as uniquely “Trinitarian.” Neither do we.

In GCI, we see our primary responsibility as assisting and resourcing our own pastors and other teachers and members. We seek to share with them the best formulations of Christian theology that we can find, even while we understand that these formulations do not constitute conditions of salvation. In constructing those formulations we borrow from a wide array of theologians, both ancient and contemporary. But that borrowing is not slavish. For example, we may agree with Karl Barth on some points, but not others. Our sole controlling authority is the Living Word of God revealed to us in Holy Scripture, the written word of God.

Trinitarian theology (what we in GCI refer to descriptively as Incarnational Trinitarian Theology) is, for us, a focal point related to our renewal and reformation as a denomination. It gives theological under-girding to the radical doctrinal shift that we experienced in coming to understand more clearly the nature of the New Covenant in Jesus Christ.

As theologian Gary Deddo recently pointed out to me, by God's grace and through his amazing timing, the theological reformation of GCI has overlapped a movement of theological renewal -recalibration in the wider church that has been ongoing for the past 100 years. That movement has stretched across Christian denominational lines. In GCI, we have found much helpful information from various leaders in that movement, including Barth, the Torrance brothers, Thomas Oden, Ray Anderson and others (you will find videos of GCI interviews with many theologians who embrace a similar perspective at However, we are not slavishly beholden to any.

Our incarnational, Trinitarian theological perspective does not give us some sort of special theological identity. Rather, we are interested in biblically-normed, historically orthodox Christian faith and theological understanding. Any particular theological emphasis that has arisen in our movement is the result of a practical need to describe the focus of our renewal and doctrinal reformation, not to create a new school of theology.

When we share our theological perspectives with others, it is not out of some sense of superiority, but because we realize that we are not the only branch of the church experiencing renewal, and not the only Christians who see a need to more fully understand and emphasize the twin doctrinal pillars of the Christian faith: the Trinity and the Incarnation. We believe that we have much to learn from others and we hope that others will benefit from what we are learning. It is to that end that this blog exists.
  • For the core concepts of GCI's Incarnational Trinitarian Theology, click here
  • For related articles on the topic of this post, click here and here.