If you were to ask a systematic theologian “Is the Trinity in the Bible?” there would be various answers that she could give you. If she says “yes” she will have to nuance her answer quite a bit – the word “Trinity” never appears in the Bible, the words we use to describe the Trinity never appear in the Bible, etc. If she says “no” she will have to tell you why she isn’t actually a heretic, but she will likely be able to show the scriptural basis for Trinitarianism.
Fred Sanders says that,
One of the chief obligations laid upon Trinitarian theology in our times is that it render the doctrine of the Trinity with unprecedented clarity as a biblical doctrine, or, to speak more precisely, as a doctrine that is in the Bible.
In order to do this, in the past, some theologians resorted to a proof text approach to this doctrine. Show that Jesus is divine, show the Holy Spirit is divine, throw it all together into a bowl and bam! Trinity. Yet these sort of hermeneutical moves no longer are very persuasive in the eyes of many. Thankfully people like Wesley Hill have taken a different approach for showing how the Trinity is indeed Biblical. But the proof text approach is not completely gone. Rodrick Durst’s new book, Reordering the Trinity, is one of those “proof text” type of Trinity books. But lets just call it a concordance approach. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
What is innovative about Durst’s book is not the fact that he lays out 75 (yes seventy-five) occurrences of the Trinity in the New Testament. What is innovative about this book is that Durst show that in these 75 occurrences there are 6 different patterns.
- Father, Son, Holy Spirit
- Father, Holy Spirit, Son
- Son, Father, Holy Spirit
- Son, Holy Spirit, Father
- Holy Spirit, Son, Father
- Holy Spirit, Father Son
He then goes on to give percentages for how many times each of these combinations occur. (Father, Son, Spirit takes the lead with 28 occurrences and Spirit, Son, Father comes in last with only 8 occurrences.) What is most interesting about this book is that he shows that each of the 6 patterns have different thematic significance!
- Father, Son, Holy Spirit – Missional
- Father, Holy Spirit, Son – Formational
- Son, Father, Holy Spirit – Christological
- Son, Holy Spirit, Father – Regenerative
- Holy Spirit, Son, Father – Ecclesial
- Holy Spirit, Father, Son – Sanctifying
What’s really groundbreaking about this is that it leaves us with various options for thinking through and praying through different ways when we are focusing on different things. For instance if we are focusing on praying about sanctification we may start with the Spirit, move on to the Father, and end with the Son. Or if we are praying about mission we may begin by asking the Father to be glorified as we go out and proclaim the Son by the power of the Holy Spirit, etc.
What’s great about this book is that Durst has this devotional aspect in mind when he is writing. He even includes an appendix for incorporating this Trinitarian Ordering into your own prayer life.
Overall I found this book to be very stimulating for my personal devotional life. It opened up to me the mind blowing idea, or to put it a better way it gave me a theological basis, for prayer that is focused on different persons of the Trinity. So, if you take this book as a series of proof texts that the Trinity is Biblical you will be disappointed. But if you read it as a sort of concordance showing how Trinitarian ordering makes a difference in your own walk with God then you have stumbled upon an amazing resource.
Note: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an impartial review.