Tag Archives: Fred Sanders

Sanctified by Grace – The Triune God

Sanctified by Grace (Eilers and Strobel) is an attempt to do theology in a way that involves more than the comprehension of Christian truth, rather it is an attempt to do theology in a way that helps bring about Christian faithfulness.

In their preface to the book Eilers and Strobel write that the normal Christian life is 9780567383433intimately and inescapably theological and that the work of Christian Dogmatics can and should participate in the sanctification of the Holy Spirit who forms Christians in the likeness of Christ.

Having said that they notice that there is often a divide between doctrine and theology on the one side and spirituality and ministry on the other. In this book they hope to help tear down that false dichotomy. In my own opinion the doctrine that they start with fits this theme very well. If there is a doctrine that many Christians see as useless, though true, is the doctrine of the Trinity. Thus inviting Fred Sanders to write a chapter on this topic which gives itself over so easily to this false divide is a great move.

In this chapter Sanders sets our spiritual growth in the middle of a Trinitarian truth, specifically Trinitarian adoption. He argues that believers are adopted into the life between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The eternal begetting of the son stands behind the temporal mission of the Son to save humanity. The Spiration of the Spirit stands behind the Spirit’s work in uniting us to the Father and Son. Thus, the Christian life itself can only be understood in light of the Trinity.

For me the highlight of this chapter included his discussion of how eternal processions give rise to temporal missions. The relationship between these two is often tricky and convoluted. Most theologians intuitively know there is a link, but that link is hard to pin down. Sanders does a good job of explaining the connection without being dogmatic about the “link” between the two.

Another highlight was his discussion of adoption. Sanders does a fine job navigating between the view that our sonship is merely metaphorical and the opposite view that we become totally immersed in the life of God (erasing the creator/creature distinction). Rather by advocating a soteriology of Trinitarian adoption, he is able to maintain our intimacy but distinction from God.

Overall Sanders does a great job of showing how the doctrine of the Christian life is shaped by Trinitarian though, specifically the eternal processions of the Triune God. He succeeds in showing that the Christian life is filial by essence.

 

Advertisements

Reordering the Trinity

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 a41aka-4obzl-_sx331_bo1204203200_ 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.

  1. Father, Son, Holy Spirit
  2. Father, Holy Spirit, Son
  3. Son, Father, Holy Spirit
  4. Son, Holy Spirit, Father
  5. Holy Spirit, Son, Father
  6. 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!

  1. Father, Son, Holy Spirit – Missional
  2. Father, Holy Spirit, Son – Formational
  3. Son, Father, Holy Spirit – Christological
  4. Son, Holy Spirit, Father – Regenerative
  5. Holy Spirit, Son, Father – Ecclesial
  6. 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.

 

The Task of Trinitarian Theology

Many books on the doctrine of the Trinity begin by decrying the state of Trinitarian theology. Many of these authors believe that the ever so important doctrine of the Trinity has been pushed off to the margins, with many Christians living as functional Unitarians, primarily because the doctrine seems so impractical. In an effort to make it “practical” many Social Trinitarians have begun to show how its practical for our social relationships. Some evangelicals have sought to show how its practical for our understanding of gender roles. These may or may not be good “practical” implications (my money is on the fact that they are not good), but I think that there is a better way to show how “practical” this doctrine is. Fred Sanders hints at this in his essay “What Trinitarian Theology is For: Placing the Doctrine of the Trinity in Christian Theology and Life.” (Advancing Trinitarian Theology)

In this short essay he lays our 5 things that this particular doctrine functions within systematic theology (i.e. shows how its practical for doing theology).

  1. The doctrine of the Trinity helps us summarize the biblical story.
  2. The doctrine of the Trinity helps us articulate the content of divine self-revelation by specifying what has been revealed.
  3. The doctrine of the Trinity orders doctrinal discourse.
  4. The doctrine of the trinity identifies God by the gospel.
  5. The doctrine of the Trinity informs and norms soteriology.

These are all very helpful points. But I especially like what Sanders has to say about points #2 and #4.

Under his discussion of point two he has a fantastic diagram with options for an answer to the question: What do the sending of the Son and the Holy Spirit signify about the eternal life of God? The diagram lays out 7 options along a maximal and minimal position.

Under point #4 he says something I though was absolutely fascinating:

The doctrine of the Trinity serves to identify God by the gospel, or to specify the identity of the God of Christian faith. It does so primarily by insisting that God is the author of two central interventions into the course of human history, the incarnation of the Son and the outpouring of the Spirit. These two actions, considered not in isolation but as culminating events, mark God as a particular God. The God who sent a Son and a Holy Spirit, because he always already had a Son and a Holy Spirit to send, must be essentially different form a God who could not and did not self-communicate in this way. (39)

Anyway… Fred Sanders is coming in to our Trinity Seminar tomorrow morning and I really look forward to hearing what he has to say.

 

Atonement Week – The Crucified King – Kindle Deal

Its tonement week and boy do I have a deal for you! Right now you can get Jeremy Treat’s excellent treatment of this doctrine, The Crucified King: Atonement in Biblical and Systematic Theology for your Kindle for only $1.99! What a steal!

This book won the “Award of Merit” for Theology/Ethic in Christianity Today’s 2015 Book Awards.

“The great, central doctrine of Christianity, the Atonement, has suffered rough treatment in this century from friend and foe alike. It has been pulled apart by false dichotomies, knocked off balance by reactionary overemphasis, displaced, overworked, and buried out of sight. Treat’s calm and sagacious book exorcises a legion of interpretive errors in one smooth argument: Christ brings the kingdom through the Cross.” —Fred Sanders, professor, Torrey Honors Institute of Biola University

Don’t miss out on this deal!

ETS Far West 2014 is Tomorrow!

So tomorrow is the gathering of the Evangelical Theological Society’s Far Western Region. I will be presenting a paper titled:

“The Son in the Hands of a Violent God?” Assesing Trinitarian Violence in Jonathan Edwards’s Covenant of Redemption.

As you can probably tell by the title of my paper, this year’s theme is Trinitarian theology. Fun stuff!

I am not the only one presenting a paper on Trinitarian theology though. Here are a few other papers that you can can look forward to hearing, if you attend, tomorrow. These are all papers by bloggers (they do other stuff too, like teach or work on their PhD) that I highly recommend.

  1. Fred Sanders, who blogs over at The Scriptorium Daily, is the keynote speaker. He will be presenting a paper titled: “The Trinity as a Biblical Doctrine: Developments in the Oldest Conversation.”
  2. Matthew Emerson, who blogs over at Secundum Scripturas, is presenting a paper titled: “Hermeneutics and the Eternal Generation of the Son.”
  3. Jason Sexton, who helps the Theological Engagement with California’s Culture Project, will be presenting a paper titled: “What’s Scripture Got to Do With It? Trinitarian Theology for the Future of Evangelicalism.”
  4. Gavin Ortlund, a former classmate of mine who blogs over at Soliloquium, will be presenting a paper titled: “Sonship and the Imago Dei in Genesis 5:3 and Luke 3:38.”

Those are just a few of the awesome papers you can look forward to hearing tomorrow at ETSFarWest2014. You can get the whole list of papers as well as the location and schedule here.

Thinking about Becoming a Theologian? Resist the Temptation!

Fred Sanders, a theologian who has mastered the art of social media, offers some advice for people who want to become academic theologians. He encourages us to pick a major doctrine to specialize in and resist the temptation to specialize in some obscure doctrine…

Also – know your primary sources & learn some languages!