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Archive for September 19th, 2013

Trinity

Tim Chester opens up this book with a brief account of two friends who happened to be Muslims.  His two friends who would visit him faithfully each week would come over to have a cup of tea and discuss a passage of Scripture.  Many of their questions were about the Trinity.  They wouldn’t ask, “How can God have a son?  How can there be three Gods and one God?”  Chester went on to explain how he even tempted to move the conversation to a different area because he was embarrassed by the doctrine of the Trinity.  But upon reflecting upon that, he realized that being embarrassed about the doctrine of the Trinity is to be embarrassed about God.  He goes on to say, “The triune God revealed in the Bible is good news and so the Trinity must be good news.  And so I thought on.  How is the doctrine of the Trinity good news?  This book is my answer to that question.”

Chester also admits that he has written a number of books, but this book on the Trinity is the most enjoyable one to write.  In order to show that the doctrine is not irrelevant or embarrassing, Chester stays true to the book’s titles. What made this book delighting was his foundational framework that made the less than 200 page book enjoyable to read.  The framework consisted of three parts.

Part one consisted of biblical foundations that covered the unity of God in the Bible, the plurality of God in the Bible, and the unity and plurality at the cross.  He he goes over some major passages such as Deuteronomy 6:4 and 1 Corinthians 8:6. He does a comparison of the two passages in order to reveal that both the OT and NT point to the same God.

Part two was about the historical developments of the Trinity that consists of three major periods.   The first period covered God’s actions and God’s being (2nd-4th centuries AD). Here,Chester makes note of how the Trinity expresses God’s actions and God’s being.   I am so thankful that Chester mentions God’s being and His actions because people in this world need to understand the details behind God’s being and they need to understand that He is not distant from His creation.  As I contemplated this, it definetely provides a strak contrast from the god of deism and the god of Islam that seems to be distant from humanity.  The first period does not end there, but also journeys into the Arian controversy and Athanasius’ (Bishop of Alexandria) exile.   An exile that was due to his acceptance of homoousios (“same substance”) and his denial of  homoiousios (“similar substance”).  The difference was over one Greek letter; and it was enough to have him exiled for over 16 years.  For Athanasius, he understood that in the incarnation of Christ, the Son was subordinate to the Father, but ontologically, he was equal to the Father in essence and substance, not similar.  In the second period, the book covered the importance of starting with the three, then the one, when explaining the Trinity (5th-16th centuries AD).  The second period also dispenses a lot of material that covered the eastern and western’s views on the Trinity.  Their views that were weighty enough to cause the churches in those geographical areas to split.  Chester mentions, “To the east, western theology contained within it a tendency towards modalism–the equality of the three tending to beocme the sameness of the three.  To the west, eastern theology involved a tendency towards subordination with the essence of God associated with the Father alone (although this tendency is mitigated by the idea of perichoresis.”  There is more to say about the west and the east, but that was the jest of it.  One of the biggest highlights of period two, was the book’s coverage of the Reformation period.  The Reformation was the fork on the road.  For example, guys like Calvin, from the Reformation period, saw the Trinity differently from the east and west.  To Calvin, the Trinity in the Bible must be viewed as three persons that are co-equal in divinity.  To Calvin, all three have distinctive roles, but they do not work separately.  The God-head was involved in creation and redemption together.  As for the third period, it was a period that covered  the Enlightenment (18th-19th) and the twentieth century.  The Enlightenment sought to perceive the Trinity from a more inductive reasoning process rather than deductive process.  In the Enlightenment period, human reason was elevated and was the starting point for rationalists.  Their rationalism and love for one’s reason portrayed their handling of the Trinity as a marginal matter rather than a vital matter.  Also, in the twentieth  century, the book highlights the renewed interest in the Trinity for human personhood and social interaction.

The last foundational framework, which is part three, covered the practical implications of the Trinity upon revelation, salvation, humanity, and mission.  This was a very fascinating and heart-warming area.  As a footnote, this past Sunday, I taught a group of young people on the topic of the Trinity.  I was glad I read the book prior to teaching this topic because it caused me to stress the importance of not only assimilating correct knowledge of the Trinity, but the importance of seeing the implications that the Trinity has upon our relationships with one another and our worship to God.

An this juncture, I must also point out that there were some areas that I wished the author would of tackled in more detail. For example, he briefly wrote about the death of the God-man.  I wished he would of interacted with that area a little more.  Covering the implications of the death of Christ upon the the human and divine nature of Christ would be helpful for some who are reading and those who still have questions about it.   An area of disagreement I had was the loose quotation of N.T. Wright.  I know  that N.T. Wright has contributed some good works such as topics on the Trinity, but Wright’s view on justification is so dangerous and unorthodox that I would be careful when quoting him in a favorable manner. I think there are other great scholars that could of been quoted.  And quoting him in this book only gives him more publicity.  The author also spoke much about the separation of the Father from the Son at the cross.  But diving briefly into some exegesis would be helpful, because as I see it in Scripture, chronologically, the persons of the Trinity can never be separated from one another, but logically, yes the separation can happen.  What I mean by logical is that the separation only transpired in Jesus mind. But at the end of the day, God cannot be separated.  Perhaps, it is best to say Jesus experienced a different relationship at the cross.  He received a relationship of wrath from the Father because He bore our sins.  But this topic of Jesus separation from the Father is a topic for another day.  Other than that, I really enjoyed reading this book and I think it would be of great benefit for those who would like to have a renewed passion and delight for their worship of the Trinity.  This book will fuel you.

Also I must also end with this one favorable area that I appreciated about this book.  And it lands on chapter 11 concerning the Trinity and missions.  Here, Chester mentions that the Trinity is good news and it is news that must be shared because from the Trinity, we see the missionary activity of the Trinity upon this world.  As a result, the Trinity is not an embarrassing news, but a great news that must be shared with Muslim, postmodernists, other isms, etc.

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