on the Trinity and the gospel

via Justin Taylor’s blog:

Mike Reeves, author of Delighting in the Trinity: An Introduction to the Christian Faith, delivers a short and delightful talk on the necessary relationship between the gospel and the Trinity:

FWIW: I think he’s absolutely right.


The Trinity in Gender Debates

I admit I got sucked in to the whole idea of social trinitarianism – it sounds nice but I guess I may need to re-think it all.

Fred Sanders has finally let his thoughts about it all be known – he doesn’t think talk about the Trinity and Gender relations or Community relations should happen in the same conversation.  One belongs to the doctrine of God and the others are more suited to discussions in theological anthropology.

(This is me Brian talking here) It seems once and yet again it is all a possible case of “pulling the God card.”  God becomes a victim of humanity.  He gets used to help us all push our human agendas to exert authority over one another or to usurp from one another.  Shame on us I suppose.  Good thing the Lord isn’t subject to our attempts to wrangle him into our nice little boxes…

Go here to read the full LONG blog post on what Dr Sanders has to say about the Trinity and Gender Debates.


Some new books

Thank you to the anonymous donor of a few new books that showed up in my mailbox yesterday!!  (Well, I hope they were for me and not sent to my address on accident!  lol!)  It was very gracious of you, kind person!   Thanks so much I really appreciate it!

Here is what they are:

Eugene Peterson’s A Long Obedience in the Same Direction (IVP).

Gordon Fee’s New Testament Exegesis (WJK).

Gordon Fee’s Paul, the Spirit and the People of God (Baker).

Jurgen Moltman’s The Trinity and the Kingdom (Fortress).

So… pretty much , nothing less than the BEST!!  🙂

Quote of the Day on the Trinity

it is a portion of a sermon from Richard Bauckham given Trinity Sunday, 1996

But there’s something else to notice about that story of God’s love for the world. I can only tell that story by talking about God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I’ve already done so. I couldn’t help it. When we see God’s love in action, we see not only God the Father who cares for us like a parent for his children. We also see God the Son, who loves us by coming alongside us as Jesus, as our human brother, one of us, living and dying for us. And we also see God the Holy Spirit, who comes into our very being, who loves us, as it were, from the inside. God the Father cares for us, nurtures us, watches over us, directs us in his love. God the Son is God in loving solidarity with us, God as Jesus, with us in our human world, giving himself for us in his human life and death. And God the Holy Spirit is God’s love in the depths of our  being, sharing God’s love with us so that we can love with God’s love. It is only because God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, that God can love us in the way he does.  Only because God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, that God can be caring, selfsacrificial, self-giving love.

Gordon Fee on 2 Corinthians 13:14

He writes in his book To What End Exegesis?: Essays Textual, Exegetical, and Theological (Eerdmans 2001), 333, 334:

At the heart of Paul’s theology is his gospel, and his gospel is essentially about salvation – God’s saving a people for his name through the redeeming work of Christ and the appropriating work of the Spirit.  Paul’s encounter with God in salvation, as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, alone accounts for the expansion and transformation of his theological language of God and of God’s saving work.  In light of this reality and the great number of texts that support it – with trinitarian language – these passages rightly serve as the starting point for any study of the Trinity in Paul.

The remarkable grace-benediction of 2 Cor. 13:14 offers us all kinds of theological keys to Paul’s understanding of salvation, and of God himself.  The fact that the benediction is composed and intended for the occasion, rather than as a broadly applicable formula, only increases its importance in hearing Paul.  This what he says here in prayer appears in a thoroughly presuppositional way – no at something Paul argues for, but as the assumed, experienced reality of Christian life.

First, it summarizes the core elements of Paul’s unique passion: the gospel, with its focus on salvation in Christ, equally available by faith to Gentile and hew.  That the love of God is the foundation of Paul’s view of salvation is stated with passion and clarity in passages such as Rom. 5:1-11; 831-39; and Eph 1:3-14.  The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ is what gave concrete expression to that love; through Christ’s suffering and death on behalf of his loved ones, God accomplished salvation for them at one moment in human history.

The participation in the Holy Spirit continually actualizes that love and grace in the life of the believer and the believing community.  The koinonia, (“fellowship/participation in”) of the Holy Spirit is how the living God not only brings people into an intimate an abiding relationship with himself, as the God of all grace but also causes them to participate in all the benefits of that grace and salvation – that is, by indwelling them in the present with his own presence, and guaranteeing their final eschatological glory.

Second, this text also serves as our entrée into Paul’s understanding of God himself, which had been so radically affected by the twin realities of the death and resurrection of Christ and the gift of the Spirit.  Granted, Paul does not here assert the deity of Christ and the Spirit.  What he does is to equate the activity of the three divine persons (to use the language of a later time) in concert and in prayer, with the clause about God the Father standing in second place(!).  This suggests that Paul was in fact trinitarian in any meaningful sense of that term – that the believer knows and experiences the one God as Father, Son, and Spirit, and that when dealing with Christ and the Spirit one is dealing with God every bit as much as when one is dealing with the Father.

Thus, this benediction, while making a fundamental distinction between God, Christ, and Spirit, also expresses in shorthand form what is found everywhere throughout his letters, namely, that “salvation in Christ” is the co-operative work of God, Christ, and the Spirit.

Get it?  Got it?  Good!  🙂


Book Review: T.F. Torrance’s Incarnation

It is with much thanks to Adrianna Wright of IVP for her graciousness in allowing me to read (in part) and review T.F. Torrance’s Incarnation: The Person and Life of Christ (IVP, 2008).

This is a long overdue review (over a year) and for that I sincerely apologize.   I have to say at the out set I have not yet read this book in its entirety so there is just no possible way I can offer a full and complete review – so it will only at best be an inadequate partial review – why have I not read the whole thing? Well, its a big book from a theological standpoint.  It’s not light reading by any means, so though it is only 371 pages including endnotes, appendices, index and so on, there is a lot to read and chew on. It’s going to take me a while to really get through it – so instead of delaying I am writing a partial review.

In this book on Christology, Torrance “addresses both the heart and head through a deeply biblical, unified, Christ-centered and trinitarian theology.”  He “presents a full account of the meaning and significance of the life and person of Jesus Christ, demonstrating that his work of revelation and reconciliation can only be understood in the light of who he is – true God and true man united in one person.”    Torrance contends that the whole life of Jesus Christ from his birth through to his resurrection and ascension, even to his second coming are of saving significance.  (quotes from the inside cover).

One question I want to address is what is the value or purpose of reading such a deeply theological work such as Torrance or even Barth and others for the pastor and preacher? The primary value lies in nature and purpose of church dogmatics.  The editor writes “Christian dogmatics is that discipline which which attempts to express the essential content of Christian faith and doctrine as an aid to the church in her teaching and preaching” (xxii).  In sum, the purpose of reading this particular work on Christology or even a work like Barth’s Dogmatics (even if one does not agree with all the finer points being discussed), is it allows the preacher to proclaim Christ and the Scriptures in a richer and deeper way.

Essentially, it adds theological depth to the sermon or teaching.

You want to be a strong pastor/theologian?  Read Torrance, Barth and the like!  🙂

Both Torrance and Barth (Torrance was for a time, a student of Barth) sought to put forth a dogmatics of Christian Theology for the help of the pastor so he or she could faithfully proclaim the Scriptures in an articulate and unified way that was line with faithful interpretation, historical Christian teaching including the Fathers (“all the saints” xxiii) thus proclaiming Christ and bringing glory to him.

Some of the leading features of Torrance’s theology are as follows:

The heart of Torrance’s theology is the Trinity and deity of Christ…. The truth of the Trinity, ‘more to be adorned than expressed,’ and the deity of Christ belong together (xxx-xxxi).

The deity of Christ is the guarantee of reconciliation.  Because Jesus Christ is God, he not only makes God known, but what he does is the work of God.  The words and acts of Jesus and of the Father are identical.  The deity of Jesus is therefore the guarantee that the reconciliation we see and receive in his the reconciliation of God himself (xxxi).

The full humanity of Christ is of equal importance with his deity.  If Jesus is not God then it is not God that has saved us, but equally, if Jesus is not man then man has not been saved.  The deity and the humanity of Jesus are equally important and neither without the other can bring salvation (xxxii).

The humanity of Jesus is the guarantee of human reconciliation and forgiveness.  In fact, the very act of incarnation is an act of reconciliation because now in the person of Jesus Christ, there is a permanent union of God and man (an act of reconciliation or re-union) (xxxiv).

The hypostatic union of God and man in the one person of Christ needs to be understood dynamically – not statically.  It needs to include the whole life of Jesus from his birth through to his resurrection.  This ‘hypostatic union’ had to be maintained throughout the life of Jesus not just at his birth.  “Throughout it all, the hypostatic union held fast as Jesus clung to the Father in utter and obedient dependence in prayer.  And the hypostatic union emerged victorious and unscathed in the resurrection as the eternal union of God and man in Christ Jesus” (xxxvi).

The hypostatic union is at the heart of the gospel.  “The doctrine of the union of God and man in Christ is the absolute heart of the gospel.  it tells us that the full reality of God in his love has come all the way to suffering and sinful humanity and has united himself with us. It tells us that we have been accepted in the fullness of our humanity and brought as we are into union with him in Christ. It tells us that because Christ is the permanent union of God and man, his person is the indivisible and living center of our salvation for all time”   (xxxvi).

There is much much more to this work than can possibly be reviewed here – so this will have to suffice!  I highly recommend this as a work for pastors to read and consume and integrate into their thinking and theology and preaching/teaching ministry.

In the Mail: The Deep Things of God

With thanks to Angie Cheatham of Crossway Books, I just received a review copy of Fred Sanders’ new book: The Deep Things of God: How the Trinity Changes Everything (Crossway, August 2010).  Sanders is a specialist on the Trinity and in this book he “explains how the gospel is inherently Trinitarian.  Readers will see that recognizing the work of the Trinity in the gospel adds depth to faith and the Christian life.”   Here is more of a description:

The doctrine of the Trinity is widely taught and believed by evangelicals, but rarely is it fully understood or celebrated. Systematic theologian Fred Sanders, in The Deep Things of God, shows why we ought to embrace the doctrine of the Trinity wholeheartedly and without reserve, as a central concern of evangelical theology.

Sanders demonstrates, with passion and conviction, that the doctrine of the Trinity is grounded in the gospel itself. Written accessibly, The Deep Things of God examines the centrality of the Trinity in our salvation and the Trinity’s presence in the reading of the Bible and prayer. Readers will understand that a robust doctrine of the Trinity has massive implications for their lives. Indeed, recognizing the work of the Trinity in the gospel changes everything, restoring depth to prayer, worship, Bible study, missions, tradition, and our understanding of Christianity’s fundamental doctrines.

Looks to be a good, interesting and useful read!  Wished I could have linked it here though.  Ah well.

I agree with Eugene Peterson

Pastoral ministry in America is being ruined.  With all the over-focus on leadership development and such, the church is creating CEO type pastors and not shepherd-pastors – little actual direct soul care takes place from the pastor to the parishioner anymore.  Additionally, with the CEO style leadership focus this leads to a focus on measures of “success” – the implication being that a successful church is one that is a numerically growing church (this isn’t necessarily all bad but we need to break ourselves from being too over-concerned about it).   More important to a strong pastoral ministry is a strong focus on following Jesus – living a faithful and obedient life and long (and short) term spiritual formation/growth of all in the congregations.

Of course we are to be evangelical and work faithfully at sharing the gospel with all in our communities and those we come in contact with – and then seek to integrate them in to the larger congregation – yet this is not all there is to it.

One thing I think I have been “getting” since learning pastoral ministry here at the Grand Canyon is that our congregations are “living communities of faith.”  Through simply being and living as a faithful congregation that too is a kind of witness to the community we live in – but also being a Christian doesn’t mean we can just stay in the same place spiritually all our lives. Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 3:18 that “we all are being transformed into his image with ever increasing glory…”  So at the heart of a solid pastoral ministry I think isn’t going to be “strong leadership” so much as it is going to be strong spiritual formation.  Hopefully I am not confusing the two (I am still new to pastoring and learning what it all means).

This is why I need to make Peterson my pastor/mentor by way of his books – I want to learn to be a true pastor and not just some corporate style leader – I want to learn what it means to lead in the Jesus way and style and teach others to do the same.  This is something that connects with me – I knew there was a reason I was not comfortable with the whole “you have to be a strong leader” approach to ministry – who says and why for?  All you have to do is follow Jesus faithfully and lead his way and it’ll all be good.

Thanks to Derek Vreeland for sharing his thoughts on his blog.

what i chose for the giveaway

So many tough choices, really!  So in the end I decided to go with:

Klyne Snodgrass’ Stories with Intent: A Comprehensive Guide to the Parables of Jesus ($31.00)

Kenton Sparks’ God Words in Human Words: An Evangelical Approriation of Biblical Scholarship ($17.27)

It was tough to go between Sparks and Letham’s book on the Trinity.  Real tough.  But in the end I think I chose to go with Sparks because he covers such a broad spcetrum of the Bible and issues I would like to read up on, though I really want to check out Letham too.

on the importance of understanding the Trinity

I want to put up Tony’s response from my last post on the lack of interest in the doctrine of the Trinity – it’s too good to let go by in the comments section (I edited it slightly for effect):

The doctrine of the Holy Trinity is the single most important doctrine of Christianity. Everything else depends on it; ecclessiology, christology, pneumatology, interpretation of Scripture, missiology, etc….  It is the most appropriate and timeless way to talk about God. It is what separates us from other religions, it defends the Church from heresy.

This is it.  It is the single most important doctrine of Christianity – in essence it is what separates the wheat from the chaff – true believers from the false ones.  I know Nick has shared it is usually one of the primary reasons a cult is a cult – they dismiss God as Trinity. 

What are some other reasons it is important to know and understand God as Trinity?

Here is a really good book to consider on the Trinity:

Robert Letham, Holy Trinity: In Scripture, History, Theology, and Worship (P and R Publishing Company, 2005).