By Jared Jenkins, Guest Author
[This review originally appeared on www.EnturstedWithTheGospel.com]
Any discussion of the Trinity tends to be deep...or nonsensical. Furthermore, deep discussion of the doctrine of the Trinity leaves many Christians with unanswered questions and a nagging desire to know why the doctrine of the Trinity matters at all. The doctrine is touted as central to Christian belief and yet it does not seem to work itself out in day-to-day reality as the Christian life is lived. Or does it?
In The Deep Things of God Fred Sanders makes a call for Christians and Evangelicals, in particular, to “embrace the doctrine of the Trinity wholeheartedly and without reserve, as a central concern of evangelical Christianity” (7). This is because, according to Sanders, “the Trinity is the Gospel” (10). The more we understand the Trinity the more we understand the Gospel and the more we understand the Gospel the more we understand the Trinity. The Trinity and the Gospel are “internally configured toward each other” (9). The Gospel is actually an invitation to participate in the relationship that resides within the Triune God from all eternity. The Trinity contains within itself God’s character, rooted in love, which is worked out naturally in the Gospel.
According to Sanders there is no stream of Christianity more fitted to live in, experience, believe in, and display the Gospel in the Trinity, and the Trinity through the Gospel, than Evangelicals. Trinitarian theology forms the roots and contours of Evangelical Christianity and this tacit belief “must be coaxed out, articulated, and confessed” (12). When the contours of the doctrine are seen to be the very essence of the Gospel, these deep things of God change everything about our Christian lives.
Sanders works out his argument by setting the stage for the discussion at hand with introductory matters in chapters 1-2, then moves into a discussion concerning the Trinity and salvation in chapters 3-5, and chapters 6-7 consider the Trinity and its place within the important Christian practices of Bible reading and prayer. Of note, chapter 4 entitled “The Shape of the Gospel” is a must read. Here Sanders brings such clarity to the Trinitarian shape of the Gospel that salvation shines in new and bigger ways. Salvation history is shown not only to be a plan of salvation for the world but the very way in which God reveals himself (133). Through this revelation we are being invited to participate in the very nature of God as sons through adoption.
Sanders work is loaded with historical theology from known scholars and lesser know theologians that only add to and illuminate the very argument Sanders is making, and sometimes in very colorful ways. Sanders book is also helpful in the ways that it gets at some of the problems of Evangelicalism such as shallowness in theology and the reductionist tendencies of Evangelicals to only focus on the cross and salvation missing the life of Christ before and after the cross. His application of the doctrine of the Trinity provides phenomenal answers to these profound issues.
Sanders work is geared toward anyone with an interest in the Trinity and is aimed at deepening a Christian’s walk with the Godhead. Sanders book is profound and has changed the way I see everything. I highly recommend The Deep Things of God.
Here are few quotes to taste the deep things of God:
“Behind the missions of the Son and the Spirit stand their eternal processions, and when they enter the history of salvation, they are here as the ones who, by virtue of who they eternally are, have these specific relations to the Father. For this reason, the Trinity is not just what God is at home in himself, but that same Trinity is also what God is among us for our salvation.” (155)
“[Evangelical Trinitarianism] changes everything, not by introducing you into something that was not previously true but by showing you the significance of something that has been true all along. Salvation is Trinitarian, whether you know it or not…” (184-185)
“Salvation is not an experience; experience is only a gateway by which salvation comes into our conscious lives. We have to preach the great thought of God behind the experience.” (186)
“…We have an invitation to pray…to the Father, through the Son, by the Holy Spirit. This is not just the ‘theologically correct’ way to pray but a way of praying that draws real spiritual power from being aligned with reality. The reality is that Christian prayer is already tacitly Trinitarian, whether we recognize it or not.” (212).
Sanders, Fred. The Deep Things of God: How the Trinity Changes Everything. Crossway, 2010.