The doctrine of the Trinity is the heart of Christianity and the Christian faith. There is a an increasing biblical illiteracy and an emphasis on loving Jesus but not doctrine. This cuts to the heart of the doctrine of the Trinity. For example, the statement is often made “Jesus unites; doctrine divides.” It is intended to emphasize Jesus but it downplays doctrine, and in doing that it compromises both. This means that when this sentiment exists, both Christianity and the Christian faith suffer.
Added to this is the rise of Islam that denies the Trinity. This has implications in two directions. First, how do we biblically and theologically articulate the doctrine of the Trinity? Second, how do we defend the doctrine of the Trinity when questioned, undermined or denied? The two go together because one must know something before one can articulate or defend something. As I often say, many Evangelicals could not fight/defend their way out of a Trinitarian paper bag.
Fred Sanders is one who is doing some great work on the doctrine of the Trinity. He wrote the book The Deep Things of God: How the Trinity Changes Everything, some of which he taught at our preconference to last year’s EFCA Theology Conference. He continues to study this doctrine in preparation for another book, The Triune God in a new series New Studies in Dogmatics, which looks to be excellent.
As a part of his present research, Sanders ponders the unique way the doctrine of the Trinity was revealed, which is not like other doctrines. He believes the way in which the truth of the Trinity was revealed has implications for how the doctrine is taught. Here are the guidelines he has developed to support his thesis: Theses on the Revelation of the Trinity I simply list the theses with an encouragement to read his brief explanations.
1. The Revelation of the Trinity is Bundled With The Revelation of the Gospel.
2. The Revelation of the Trinity Accompanies Salvation.
3. The Revelation of the Trinity is Revelation of God’s Own Heart.
4. The Revelation of the Trinity Must Be Self-Revelation.
5. The Revelation of the Trinity Came When the Son and the Spirit Came in Person.
6. New Testament Texts About the Trinity Tend to Be Allusions Rather than Announcements.
7. The Revelation of the Trinity Required Words to Accompany It.
8. The Revelation of the Trinity is the Extending of a Conversation Already Happening.
9. The Revelation of the Trinity Occurs Across the Two Testaments of the Canon.
10. The Revelation of the Trinity in Scripture is Perfect.
11. Systematic Theology’s Account of the Trinity Should Serve the Revelation of the Trinity in Scripture.
A few questions to ponder:
- Do you agree with my sense of how some Evangelicals regard doctrine, generally, and the truth of the Trinity, specifically?
- What do you think of Sanders’ theses?
- How do you help God’s people to understand the importance of both, which affects both life and doctrine (1 Tim. 4:16)?
Another book on the Trinity to be released this fall in the Counterpoints series is Two Views on the Doctrine of the Trinity edited by Jason Sexton. It should also be an excellent contribution to this important discussion.