A Brief “Bonus” Book Summary from Books At a Glance
By Steve West
About the Author
Fred Sanders (PhD, Graduate Theological Union) is professor of theology at Biola University’s Torrey Honors Institute. A popular blogger and speaker, Sanders has authored numerous journal articles and written or contributed to several books, including The Triune God.
In this book, Sanders explores the doctrine of the Trinity, showing that it is essential and practical. He demonstrates how all of our Christian life is rooted in the Trinity, and how salvation is an irreducibly Trinitarian reality. Sanders clearly shows how the ultimate reality of the Trinity stands as the necessary presupposition of creation and redemption. Evangelicals need to grow in their self-conscious awareness of how the Trinity is necessary for all of theology and life.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Evangelicals, the Gospel, and the Trinity
Chapter 1 Always Already Trinitarian
Chapter 2 Compassed About by Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
Chapter 3 Within the Happy Land of the Trinity
Chapter 4 The Eternal Life of These Three
Chapter 5 Lost in the Fullness of God
Chapter 6 So Great Salvation
Chapter 7 The Shape of the Gospel
Chapter 8 Behold What Manner of Love
Chapter 9 Into the Saving Life of Christ
Chapter 10 Anchored in Jehovah: Experience and Assurance
Chapter 11 Hearing the Voice of God in Scripture
Chapter 12 Praying with the Grain
Chapter 13 What Makes Christian Prayer Possible
Introduction: Evangelicals, the Gospel, and the Trinity
Evangelicals must embrace the doctrine of the Trinity as of central importance. Today, too many believers are uncomfortable with the doctrine or neglect it. The gospel, however, can only be Trinitarian, and the Trinity is at the heart of the gospel. Far from being superfluous or impractical, the doctrine of the Trinity is essential for evangelical theology. In evangelical churches we tend to forget the Trinity, and we also tend to be very shallow—these things are not unrelated. We need to recapture and explore the truth that the Trinity is foundational to the gospel, and the gospel is deeper than we can fathom. Evangelicals must not only hold to biblical truth, we must know which doctrines are primary and require emphasis. Too often evangelicals emphasize one doctrine (like the cross) without locating it in a proper theology, but doctrines are not comprehensible unless they are seen in balance with the rest of God’s revealed truth. Emphasis must not degenerate into reductionism. Reductionism misses the fact that the entire revelation of God and his work of salvation is Trinitarian; the Trinity is the presupposition behind the doctrine of salvation. As a result, evangelicals are Trinitarian, and we need to be self-conscious about understanding and articulating the doctrine of the Trinity. This book will focus on evangelical thinkers, not because there is nothing helpful in other traditions, but to show that evangelicalism throughout history—at its best—has provided rich reflection on the Trinity. Of course there are giants in the first 1500 years of the church, and their work underlies informed evangelical theology, but the focus won’t be on the development of the doctrine throughout all of church history. Even before an evangelical Christian begins to engage in deep theological reflection, they are swimming in Trinitarian waters.
Chapter 1: Always Already Trinitarian
The doctrine of the Trinity is not cobbled together by proof-texting—in fact, we find that when we think deeply about the Trinity it is because we are already immersed in the reality of what the Triune God has revealed and accomplished. Nicky Cruz was converted through the ministry of David Wilkerson. Cruz went from being a violent gang leader to a minister. He testifies that growing in his knowledge and experience of the Triune God revolutionized his Christian life. He is not an academic theologian, but he has learned to grow in his appreciation of the reality of the Triune God—a reality that was already present in the original gospel message that he received. Evangelicals don’t deny the Trinity, but they need to see that they are already immersed in it. Regrettably our talking about the Trinity usually reduces to a doctrinal formulation and comment that it’s not logically contradictory. We need to ask three questions: “Is it biblical?” “Does it make sense?” “Does it matter?” Usually the way we approach the first two questions makes the last one irrelevant or impossible to answer well. Rather than trying to piece together a mental project to vindicate a doctrine, we need to start with our experience of the Triune God. The gospel and the Trinity presuppose each other, so we have a background of rich truth to work out in understanding the Trinity. We must avoid the extremes of subjectivism and rationalism. In history, some have relegated the doctrine to the sidelines as tertiary, while others have warned against trying to probe its mystery or worried that they have not understood it. It has often been seen as mere words and tradition, affirmed but irrelevant for our lives.
Chapter 2: Compassed About By Father, Son, And Holy Spirit
When we don’t see that the Trinity is essential for the gospel, we tend to view it as a secondary issue. As Christians we are interacting with the Trinity; we are already immersed in the Triune God, but we don’t think about this reality. We already know the Trinity, but we might not know that we know. We need to bring into the foreground what is tacitly in the background of our salvation and theology. Michael Polanyi has helpfully articulated the importance of tacit knowledge for our ability to learn and formulate our understandings of reality. As Christians, we find that we already know a lot about the Trinity in the background, and that this knowledge is necessary for us to make connections and explicit affirmations about the doctrine of the Trinity. Christians know more about. . .[To continue reading this summary, please see below....]
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