This review appeared in the Apr-Jun 2011 vol. 168 no. 2 issue of Biblotheca Sacra, DTS’s quarterly academic journal.Subscribe Today
Trinitarian Theology for the Church: Scripture, Community, WorshipIVP Academic, Downers Grove, IL March 26, 2009
The essays in this volume were selected from papers presented at the 2008 Wheaton Theology Conference. The focus of the conference was the pastoral appeal and implications of Trinitarianism: “Rediscovering the Trinity: Classic Doctrine and Contemporary Ministry.” In short this book asks, What difference does the doctrine of the Trinity make in the faith and practice of the church? How can the church be more intentionally and explicitly Trinitarian?
In the first of three parts, “Scripture: The Bible and the Triune Economy,” Kevin Vanhoozer examines the doctrinal stance of the Evangelical Theological Society and reflects on the claim that the triune God speaks. Edith Humphrey argues that the Old Testament should be read as the revelation of God the Son. She insists that “the Lord of the Old Testament—the One who creates, acts, speaks, and guides—is the Son incognito” (p. 81).
The second part, “Community: The Trinity and Society?” begins with John Franke’s argument that the love of God is the basis for the mission of God. Mark Husbands critiques Miroslav Volf’s reading of the social trinity in the Cappadocian fathers. Keith Johnson corrects three recent attempts to defend religious pluralism on the basis of the Trinity. Robert Lang’at argues that the “Christian faith is intrinsically missionary because the dynamism within the Trinity carries with it the unveiling of that truth and love to the world” (p. 181).
In the third part, “Worship: Church Practices and the Triune Mission,” Gordon Smith defends the thesis that “the sacramental actions of the church—notably baptism and the Lord’s Supper—are given to us specifically so that the Trinitarian character of the living God might be formed in us” (p. 185). Philip Butin presents a Trinitarian theology of preaching, focusing particularly on the interrelationship of Scripture, proclamation, and Jesus Christ as three forms of the one divine Word. Leanne Van Dyk argues that Christian “proclamation is grounded in the triune life of God. In trinitarian terms, Christian proclamation is explicitly focused on Jesus Christ, is animated by the power of the Holy Spirit and ultimately seeks the glory of God” (p. 225). John Witvliet’s essay describes how the church can adopt Trinitarian worship and catechetical practices. His conclusion serves as an excellent ending to the book as a whole: “In a world filled with deistic inclinations, any trinitarian renaissance must not be limited to the world of theological discourse; it must also extend into worship and catechesis of all kinds of ordinary communities. The next generation of trinitarian theologians, pastors and teachers will do well to invest their lives in discerning faithful, resourceful and effective ways of forming trinitarian piety and imagination in Christian communities through worship and teaching. May God’s Spirit bless us in this life-giving work” (p. 253).
The editors argue that what draws these essays together is the missio Dei, the fact that God sent His Son to redeem a fallen creation and then sent His Spirit in the church so that she would serve as a witness to this mission. They summarize this observation this way: “The triune God calls the church into existence by the Word and Spirit, so that we might be a community whose worship reflects the self-giving, missional character of this God. To be intentionally trinitarian means paying attention to how our words can bear witness to the divine Word—not least by being part of lives that are consistent with the self-giving love of God, whose being is in communion” (p. 20). Students, pastors, and church leaders who are interested in the mission of the triune God and who desire to make their lives and ministries explicitly Trinitarian will find this book helpful.
—Glenn R. Kreider