Book Review: “Christ Before Creeds”
A journey of discovery from Trinitarian Pastor to Unitarian Bible student.
Written by Jeff Deuble
Reviewed by Chris Sales
In “Christ before Creeds,” Jeff Deuble recounts his own personal journey of discovery from Trinitarian Pastor to Unitarian Bible student. That journey involved intense Bible study, much soul searching, and a willingness to look again at many of his own long-standing beliefs. It was indeed a matter of “rediscovering” a man the author thought he already knew. Perhaps another way to phrase the subtitle would have been “Rediscovering the Jesus of the Bible!”
This well-written, easy-to-read, and relatively short (less than 200 pages) book gives a concise yet thorough look at the key principles involved in this topic. Deuble powerfully outlines the development of the doctrine of the Trinity, showing that the Jewish Old Testament and the Christian New Testament speak nothing of this doctrine. His research is sound, and he gives lots of footnotes to allow the reader to check it out for themselves if desired. Appendix B also lists many of the resources he used.
His reasoning from Scripture is also sound, and much of what he says would be welcomed from any Christadelphian platform on the topic of the nature of God and Jesus. In fact, he offers some ideas that I will have to add to my notes on the topic! That is because this account is from the perspective of someone who believed and preached the Trinity and gives insights that many Christadelphians (including myself) could never have seen for themselves.
The first six chapters comprise the bulk of the book, covering the main teaching component, and are all framed as questions: “Why This Book?” “Why Bother?” Why Question?” “What Went Wrong?” “What Does The Bible Teach?” and “Who Is Jesus?”
Deuble answers each of these questions in a compelling way and manages to do it without rhetoric or condescension. And he does so in a very succinct manner, without getting bogged down in the usual “rabbit-holes” that arise in such discussions. He is also not overly technical but allows the Scriptures to speak for themselves, showing how a non-Trinitarian view is much more consistent with the overall teaching about God the Father and the agency of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Each chapter ends with a nice summary of the key points, making the book even better as a teaching tool. Here are some snippets from the “Who Is Jesus?” chapter summary.
The Bible declares why Jesus is unique in so many ways–the perfect reflection he is of God, the special place he holds in God’s heart and purposes for the world, the ideal example he is of how we are meant to live and what we are destined to be.
The Bible teaches that this Jesus came as a human being in the flesh. He was born and lived as a man: completely human.
A [Trinitarian] Jesus would not be genuinely and authentically human. Hence, he could not be truly mortal, tempted and tested, perfected, capable of completely identifying and sympathizing with us. He would be less fully the model, mediator, pioneer, perfecter, brother, and High Priest that the Bible declares him to be.
A brief comment about the “What’s Essential?” chapter, where the author basically asks, “Does it matter if we believe differently on this topic?” As Christadelphians, we would say that it certainly does. However, this chapter is still worth reading even though Deuble argues for a closer association and fellowship between those that believe in the Trinity and those that don’t. Having been ostracized and kicked out of his own church, he makes a strong case for finding a kinder way to handle disputes in the church.
Appendix A is like a “wrested scriptures” on the topic and gives insights and arguments I have not read or thought of before—a great addition to any Christadelphian lecture or Bible Class.
Even as non-Trinitarians, this book is well worth reading by Christadelphians. It is also a book I plan to give to my Trinitarian friends that could be much more powerful for them, coming from “one of their own.” Jeff Deuble gives a powerful testimony in defense of a non-Trinitarian model of the relationship between God and Jesus and what that means for us as believers. This is perhaps the best account that I have ever read of why the Trinity is not Biblical and why Jesus is the “Son of God,” not “God the Son.”
I will leave you with Deuble’s own final plea on the subject:
Rediscover the Jesus of the Bible–to remove the overlays of subsequent Greek philosophical thinking… to return to a more genuine and Jewish Jesus, a more historic, holistic, and human Jesus, a less creedal and a more credible Jesus, as truly portrayed in the Scriptures.
Collingwood Ecclesia, ON