A number of eminent New Testament scholars appear to make the same theological move: they practice rigorous adherence to the historical critical method which casts doubt on the historical accuracy of numerous articles of the Christian faith (for example the complete lack of historical evidence for the deity of Jesus), whilst on the other hand being personally convinced Trinitarian believers.
I am thinking of such scholars as James DG Dunn, Dale Martin and the late Raymond E. Brown.
I have it on good authority from a friend mine (Nazam) who has met Jimmy Dunn (professor of New Testament at Durham University) that he is a personal believer in the Trinity.
Dale Martin (professor of New Testament at Yale University) in a recent debate gave testimony to his belief in the Trinitarian God. Yet he freely acknowledged that there is no historical evidence that Jesus believed he was God in the Trinitarian sense.
Fr Raymond Brown (professor of NT at Union Theological Seminary) whom I had the privilege of meeting at Oxford University is “regarded as casting doubt on the historical accuracy of numerous articles of the Catholic faith”, yet remained a faithful Catholic priest in good standing with the Pope and the Roman Catholic Church (source).
Jesus scholar Géza Vermes succinctly described Brown as “the primary example of the position of having your cake and eating it” (The Nativity: History and Legend, London, Penguin, 2006, p21).
The following except from a review of Jimmy Dunn’s wonderful book Christology in the Making: A New Testament Inquiry into the Origins of the Doctrine of the Incarnation describes this theological move and how it is justified. (The important paragraph is highlighted in bold).
Belief in the God of Islam is sweet reason in comparison.
In A Valuable Contribution to the Study of Christology Stephen Triesch writes:
‘Dunn examines in detail the various titles of Jesus – Son of Man, Son of God, Messiah, the Logos, God incarnate, etc. – and shows how these concepts were most likely understood at the time they were first used. He describes the history of these terms in Jewish thought, and traces how these terms evolved during the formative years of Christianity.’
‘Dunn generally leans towards the idea that the earliest Christian tradition viewed Jesus as a human being specially chosen by God for a unique role in the salvation of the Jewish people and – secondarily – of all people. Yet, somewhat inconsistently, at the end he claims that the late development of “high Christology” – of Jesus viewed as the divine second person of the Holy Trinity – is an acceptable and logical development of the earlier view of Jesus as a divinely chosen human being.’
‘That is my only quibble with a book that otherwise exhibits sound scholarship and reasoned argument. Perhaps most of us moderns – Dunn included – are infected with the Hegelian idea that whatever happens in the world – if it involves major historical trends and Ideas – somehow enjoys Divine blessing, even if it seemingly contradicts our understandings of the Divine Will. But I digress . . . as a thorough exploration of the progression and development of the Christian understanding of the nature and role of Jesus, this book is a “must have.”‘