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Why Does The Trinity Matter?

THE DOCTRINE OF THE TRINITY: NO CHRISTIANITY WITHOUT IT

The Holy Trinity image

By Kevin DeYoung

If any doctrine makes Christianity Christian, then surely it is the doctrine of the Trinity. The three great ecumenical creeds—the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed—are all structured around our three in one God, underlying the essential importance of Trinitarian theology. Augustine once commented about the Trinity that “in no other subject is error more dangerous, or inquiry more laborious, or the discovery of truth more profitable.” More recently, Sinclair Ferguson has reflected on “the rather obvious thought that when his disciples were about to have the world collapse in on them, our Lord spent so much time in the Upper Room speaking to them about the mystery of the Trinity. If anything could underline the necessity of Trinitarianism for practical Christianity, that must surely be it!”

Yet, when it comes to the doctrine of the Trinity, most Christians are poor in their understanding, poorer in their articulation, and poorest of all in seeing any way in which the doctrine matters in real life. One theologian said, tongue in cheek, “The trinity is a matter of five notions or properties, four relations, three persons, two processions, one substance or nature, and no understanding.” All the talk of essence and persons and co-this and co-that seem like theological gobbledy-gook reserved for philosophers and scholars-maybe for thinky bookish types, but certainly not for moms and mechanics and middle-class college students.

So in a few hundred words let me try to explain what the doctrine of the Trinity means, where it is found in the Bible, and why it matters.

First, what does the doctrine mean? The doctrine of the Trinity can be summarized in seven statements. (1) There is only one God. (2) The Father is God. (3) The Son is God. (4) The Holy Spirit is God. (5) The Father is not the Son. (6) The Son is the not the Holy Spirit. (7) The Holy Spirit is not the Father. All of the creedal formulations and theological jargon and philosophical apologetics have to do with safeguarding each one of these statements and doing so without denying any of the other six. When the ancient creeds employ extra-biblical terminology and demand careful theological nuance they do so not to clear up what the Bible leaves cloudy, but to defend, define, and delimit essential biblical propositions. The Athanasian Creed puts it this way: “Now this is the catholic faith: That we worship one God in trinity and the trinity in unity, neither blending their persons, nor dividing their essence. For the person of the Father is a distinct person, the person of the Son is another, and that of the Holy Spirit, still another. But the divinity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is one, their glory equal, their majesty coeternal.”

The two key words here are essence and persons. When you read “essence”, think “Godness.” All three Persons of the Trinity share the same “Godness.” One is not more God than another. None is more essentially divine than the rest. When you read “persons”, think “a particular individual distinct from the others.” Theologians use these terms because they are trying to find a way to express the relationship of three beings that are equally and uniquely God, but not three Gods. That’s why we get the tricky (but learnable) language of essence and persons. We want to be true to the biblical witness that there is an indivisibility and unity of God, even though Father, Son, and Holy Spirit can all be rightly called God. The Persons are not three gods; rather, they dwell in communion with each other as they subsist in the divine nature without being compounded or confused.

Sometimes it’s easier to understand what we believe by stating what we don’t believe.

  • Orthodox Trinitarianism rejects monarchianism which believes in only one person (mono) and maintains that the Son and the Spirit subsists in the divine essence as impersonal attributes not distinct and divine Persons.

  • Orthodox Trinitarianism rejects modalism which believes that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are different names for the same God acting in different roles or manifestations (like the well-intentioned but misguided “water, vapor, ice” analogy).

  • Orthodox Trinitarianism rejects Arianism which denies the full deity of Christ.

  • And finally, orthodox Trinitarianism rejects all forms of tri-theism, which teach that the three members of the Godhead are, to quote a leading Mormon apologist, “three distinct Beings, three separate Gods.”

Second, where is the doctrine of the Trinity found in the Bible? Although the word “Trinity” is famously absent from Scripture, the theology behind the word can be found in a surprising number of verses. For starters there are verses that speak of God’s oneness (Deut. 6:4Isa. 44:61 Tim. 1:17). Then there are the myriad of passages which demonstrate that God is Father (e.g., John 6:27Titus 1:4). Next, we have the scores of texts which prove the deity of Jesus Christ, the Son—passages like John 1 (“the word was God”), John 8:58 (“before Abraham was born, I am”), Col. 2:9(“in Christ all the fullness of Deity lives in bodily form”), Heb. 1:3 (“The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact imprint of his being”), Tit. 2:13 (“our great God and Savior Jesus Christ”)-not to mention the explicit worship Christ willingly received from his disciples (Luke 24:52John 20:28) and the charges of blasphemy leveled against him for making himself equal with God (Mark 2:7). Then we have similar texts which assume the deity of the Holy Spirit, calling Him an “eternal Spirit” (Heb. 9:14) and using “God” interchangeably with the “Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 3:16 and 1 Cor. 6:19Acts 5:3-4) without a second thought.

The shape of Trinitarian orthodoxy is finally rounded off by texts that hint at the plurality of persons in the Godhead (Gen. 1:1-326Psalm 2:7Dan. 7), texts like 1 Cor. 8:6 which place Jesus Christ as Lord right in the middle of Jewish Shema, and dozens of texts that speak of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in the same breath, equating the three in rank, while assuming distinction of personhood (Matt. 28:19Gal. 4:61 Cor.12:4-61 Peter 1:1-22 Cor. 2:21-2213:14Eph. 1:13-142:1820-223:14-174:4-65:18-206:10-18).

The doctrine of the Trinity, as summarized in the seven statements earlier, is not a philosophical concoction by some over-zealous and over-intelligent early theologians, but one of the central planks of orthodoxy which can shown, explicitly or implicitly, from a multitude of biblical texts.

Third, why does any of this matter? There are lots of reasons, but borrowing from Robert Letham’s work (The Holy Trinity. Philippsburg, N.J.: P & R Publishing, 2004) and in Trinitarian fashion, let me mention just three.

One, the Trinity matters for creation. God, unlike the gods in other ancient creation stories, did not need to go outside himself to create the universe. Instead, the Word and the Spirit were like his own two hands (to use Irenaeus’ famous phrase) in fashioning the cosmos. God created by speaking (the Word) as the Spirit hovered over the chaos. Creation, like regeneration, is a Trinitarian act, with God working by the agency of the Word spoken and the mysterious movement of the Holy Spirit.

Two, the Trinity matters for evangelism and cultural engagement. I’ve heard it said that the two main rivals to a Christian worldview at present are Islam and Postmodernism. Islam emphasizes unity—unity of language, culture, and expression—without allowing much variance for diversity. Postmodernism, on the other hand, emphasizes diversity—diversity of opinion, belief, and background—without attempting to see things in any kind of meta-unity. Christianity, with its understanding of God as three in one, allows for diversity and unity. If God exists in three distinct Persons who all share the same essence, then it is possible to hope that God’s creation may exhibit stunning variety and individuality while still holding together in a genuine oneness.

Three, the Trinity matters for relationships. We worship a God who is in constant and eternal relationship with himself as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Community is a buzz word in American culture, but it is only in a Christian framework that communion and interpersonal community are seen as expressions of the eternal nature of God. Likewise, it is only with a Trinitarian God that love can be an eternal attribute of God. Without a plurality of persons in the Godhead, we would be forced to think that God created humans so that he might show love and know love, thereby making love a created thing (and God a needy deity). But with a biblical understanding of the Trinity we can say that God did not create in order to be loved, but rather, created out of the overflow of the perfect love that had always existed among Father, Son, and Holy Spirit who ever live in perfect and mutual relationship and delight.

*Article adapted from the Gospel Coalition blog: http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevindeyoung/2011/09/28/the-doctrine-of-the-trinity-no-christianity-without-it/

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A Fascinating Look At 112 Triads Illuminating the Trinity by John M. Frame

Adapted from Appendix 1 in the phenomenal book: The Doctrine of God by *John M. Frame, Phillipsburg, N.J.: P&R Publishing, 2002

I will present here a list of triads that have sometimes been thought to reflect or illumine the Trinity in some way. I will offer a few comments, but normally will present them without comment.

I have tried to weed out those that seem to me to be obviously arbitrary, contrived, or uninteresting, but readers should not assume my evaluation of any of these. I do not place any theological weight on these examples—nor do I urge readers to do so. All I would claim is that these triads are of some interest and that they may in some measure reflect, illumine, or provide for the evidence of the Trinity on any of these triads (except for the first one).

Some are taken from other sources, but I will not be able to provide adequate documentation in many cases. I have been building this list for many years, and I have lost track of many sources, for which I apologize to the authors (Nathan Wood, The Trinity in the Universe, Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1984 has an even longer list of vestigia). The chapter numbers refer to the chapters in The Doctrine of God.

Scripture and Christian Theology Triads

 (1) Texts anticipating, reflecting, or explicitly teaching the Trinity (chaps. 27-29).

(2) Divine act, covenant making, and period of application.

(3) History, law, and sanctions, as elements of the suzerainty treaty.

(4) God’s word as powerful, meaningful, and self-expressive (See John Frame, Perspectives on the Word of God, Eugene, OR.: Wipf and Stock, 1999, 9-16).

(5) Events, words, and persons as media of God’s word (See Perspectives, 17-35).

(6) Prophet, priest, king.

(7) Revelation, inspiration, and illumination (See Perspectives, 31-32).

(8) Revelation: general, special, and existential.

(9) Control, authority, and presence, as God’s lordship attributes (as discussed throughout The Doctrine of God).

(10) God’s oneness as unity, equality, and concord (Augustine).

(11) Goodness, knowledge, and power, as classifications of divine attributes (as in this volume). Omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence, as exemplifications of these.

(12) The theological account of God’s holiness as mysterium temendum et fascinans (mystery arousing fear and fascination – Rudolph Otto).

(13) The threefold repetition of “holy” in Isaiah 6:3.

(14) God as life (John 14:6), light (1 John 1:5), and love (1 John 4:8, 16).

(15) God’s righteousness as standards, actions, and moral excellence (chap. 21).

(16) God’s will as decree, precept, and wisdom (chap. 23).

(17) God’s spirituality as control, authority, and presence (chap. 25).

(18) God’s acts, attributes, and persons.

(19) Miracles as signs, wonders, and powers (chap. 13).

(20) Creation of heaven, earth, and sea (the three-layered universe).

(21) The sun, moon, and stars.

(22) Providence as government, revelation, and concurrence.

(23) God’s decrees, creation-providence, and redemption.

(24) Law, redemption accomplished, and redemption applied (chap. 13).

(25) Jesus as the Word, his acts in history, and his nature as God and man (chap. 13).

(26) Election, effectual calling, and individual soteriology (chap. 13).

(27) Biblical history: the old covenant period, from the incarnation to the Resurrection, Pentecost to the consummation.

(28) The three parts of the Old Testament in the Hebrew Bible: the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings.

(29) Many triads in Bible stories and laws: three stories in Noah’s ark, three sendings of birds after the Flood, three sons of Noah, three visitors to Abraham, three patriarchs, three divisions of the tabernacle, three feast periods, three offerings. The cleansing of a leper by blood, water, and oil on the ear, thumb, and toe (Leviticus 14:1-20). Three years in Jesus’ ministry, three temptations, and three crosses.

(30) Grain, wine, and oil as chief staples, elements of offerings, sacraments, and rites.

(31) Creation, redemption accomplished, and redemption applied.

(32) Man as image of God: in Meredith Kline’s view, the image consists of physical, judicial, and moral qualities (in my terms, situational, normative, and existential qualities (Meredith G. Kline, Images of the Spirit, Grand Rapids: Baker, 1980).

(33) Human responsibility as accountability, liability, and integrity (chap. 8).

(34) Justification, adoption, and regeneration-sanctification as the major benefits of redemption (chap. 13).

(35) The grounds of assurance of salvation: the promises of God, the fruit of salvation in one’s life, and the internal witness of the Spirit (normative, situational, and existential).

(36) Sanctification: definitive, progressive, and final (at the consummation).

Non-Christian Religion Triads

 (37) A.A. Hodge says that the doctrine of the Trinity captures and balances the truth of deism, pantheism, and mythology, by its teaching about the Father, Spirit, and Son respectively (See his interesting discussion in A.A. Hodge, Evangelical Theology, Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1976, 107-10).

(38) Triadic polytheisms: (a) Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva in Hinduism; (b) Osiris, Isis, and Horus in Egyptian religion; (c) Sin, Shamash, and Ishtar (Babylon); (d) Anu, Elish, and Ea (Sumer); (e) Uranos, Kronos, and Zeus (Greece); Odin, Thor, and Loki (Norse).

(39) Raimundo Panikkar: everyone has three aspects: divine, anthropic, and cosmic (normative, existential, and situational).

(40) In mysticism: cogitation, meditation, and contemplation.

(41) In mysticism: purification, illumination, and ecstasy.

Ontology

(42) Predicables, cases, and exemplifications, like wisdom, Socrates’ wisdom, and Socrates. I see these as normative, situational, and existential (See Nicholas Wolterstorff, On Universals, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970, 133).

(43) Thales is said to have believed that every object has three dimensions: physical, living, and divine.

(44) Hegel’s being, nothing, and becoming, and other triads on patterns of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis.

(45) Many twofold distinctions can be construed as triads, for the two terms are related in an important way, producing a unity that brings them together similar to Hegel’s dialectic. Thus: subject/object, naïve/theoretical, free/determined, one/many, form/matter, and so forth (Thanks to my correspondent Daniel Davis – henceforth DCD for this observation).

(46) Instantiation, association, and classification (Vern Poythress, described in chap. 29; other threefold distinctions in his writings: particle, wave, field; expressive, informational, productive).

(47) Beginning, middle, end.

(48) Good, true, and beautiful, seen as convertible in scholastic philosophy. But being, unity, and particularity are also among the convertible “transcendentals.”

Epistemolgy

(49) Object, subject, and law (DKG).

(50) The situational, normative, and existential perspectives.

(51) In logic: major premise, minor premise, and conclusion.

(52) Dooyeweerd: the Archimedean point, by which we see the world rightly, must not be separated from our selfhood, divine law, or the totality of the meaning of the cosmos (I see these as existential, normative, and situational, respectively).

(53) Rationalist, empiricist, and subjectivist approaches of secular philosophy (DKG).

(54) Knowledge as justified, true belief (see chaps. 11 and 22).

Ethics

(55) Faith, hope, and love, as virtues that abide (1 Cor. 13:13)

(56) Three lusts (1 John 2:16).

(57) Teleological, deontological, and existential schools of secular ethics (DCD).

(58) Great commandments: love God, love yourself, and love your neighbor.

(59) The world, the flesh, and the devil.

(60) Goal (glory of God), motive (love, faith), and standard (Word of God).

(61) Good works seek the goal of God’s glory, on the basis of the cross of Christ, in the power of the Spirit.

Language

(62) Contrast, variation, and distribution (Poythress: see chap. 29).

(63) Expressive, informational, and productive (Poythress: see chap. 29).

(64) Locution, illocution, and perlocution: locution in a piece of language; illocution is what is done in the language (command, question, statement, etc.); perlocution is what is done through the languages (educate, mislead, annoy, amuse, etc.- See J.L. Austin, How to Do Things with Words, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1975).

(65) Three grammatical persons: I, you, and he.

(66) Theories of meaning, locating meaning in the author’s intention, the hearer’s understanding, and the text itself.

Education

(67) Grammar, rhetoric, and dialectic—the classic trivium.

Mathematics

(68) Theories of mathematics: formalism (determined by inner consistency), constructivism (based on the structure of the human mind), and Platonism (mathematical objects and relations belong to the ontology of the world).

The Physical World

(69) Field, wave, and particle (see chap. 29).

(70) Red, green, and blue (the primary painters’ colors), from which other colors can be made. I have said (rather tongue-in-cheek) of the first triad that blue is the sky (normative), green is the earth (situational), and red is the interior of the body (existential).

(71) Yolk, white, and shell.

(72) Liquid, solid, and gas.

(73) Height, width, and length (Each constitutes all of space, yet they are distinct).

(74) Outside, inside, and above. (Also used as three viewpoints: “from outside,” etc.)

(75) Number, space, and time (yielding arithmetic, geometry, and calculus).

(76) Past. Present, and future.

(77) Matter, energy, and meaning. David Bohm, a disciple of Einstein, believed that each of these replicates the other two. Each is a basic manifestation of reality.

(78) The nine dimensions of some recent theories: a trinity of trinities.

(79) Root, trunk, and branches.

(80) The sun brings light, heat, and life.

The Human Body

(81) Circulation, respiration, and nervous system.

The Human Mind, Personality

(82) Mind, knowledge, and love.

(83) Memory, understanding, and will (Numbers 82-85 are important to Augustine’s discussion of the Trinity).

(84) Being, knowing, and willing.

(85) In self-knowledge: the self as subject, object, and knowledge.

(86) In self-love: the self as lover, beloved, and love.

(87) Thought, word, and deed.

(88) Intention, action, and response (especially within the same person).

(89) We form our selfhood in our relations to others.

(90) Unity and plurality in the human mind and in the human race (chap. 29).

(91) Some people are normativists, always seeking justice. Others are situationalists, wanting to be committed to a cause or activity beyond themselves. And some are existentialists, focused on their own feelings. In families, the oldest child is often normativist, and the other children sort out the other two roles. These are aspects of all or us, but we differ in focus.

Human Society, Culture

(92) Husband, wife, and child.

(93) Physician, pharmacist, and patient (Normative, situational, and existential, respectively, if you take this triad from the patient’s point of view – Taken from an ad for Women’s International Pharmacy, placing each term at one point on a triangle. Anything is fair game for theology!).

(94) Think, work, and serve (the motto of Tennessee State University – DCD).

(95)  Godel, Escher, and Bach (relatively normative, situational, and existential – See Douglas R. Hofstadter, Godel, Escher, Bach, New York: Random House Basic Books, 1980).

(96) Piety, doctrine, and social action, seen as varying emphases among (especially Reformed) Christians. In truth, each requires the others.

Art, Music, And Literature

(97) I, IV, and V, the three primary chords, defined by triads of tones.

(98) Root position and two inversions of triadic chords.

(99) Tonic, tierce, and quiet.

(100) Melody, harmony, and rhythm (the music as composed).

(101) Timbre, volume, and harmony (the music as presented).

(102) The threefold structure of the twelve-bar blues.

(103) The threefold structure of many classical forms: theme, development, and recapitulation; fast, slow, and fast movements in sonatas and concerti; the da capo aria.

(104) Themes with variations, in which the variations correspond one-to-one with the theme, but are widely different from each other.

(105) Composer’s conception, the score, and the performance (any of these can be called “the piece” – Thanks to Steve Hays for this suggestion).

(106) beauty as integrity, proportion, and splendor.

(107) Aesthetic theories: formal (locating beauty in qualities inherent in objects), emotional (locating it in the response of the perceiver), and relational (finding beauty in the capacity of objects to arouse responses). I see these as normative, existential, and situational, repectively (DCD).

(108) “Unity within monotony” as aesthetic criterion (DCD).

(109) Jesus’ parable of the talents (Matt. 25:14-30) describes three stewards: one increased the Lord’s investment, then a second did, but the third did not. As in many jokes, two people would seem to be too few, and four too many (I recall watching on TV a discussion among several comedians about “three guys” jokes [as, “An atheist, a priest, and a rabbi were going past a bar…”]. They agreed that there was something unique about the number three that was crucial to that form of humor).

The first sets up a pattern, the second establishes it as a continuing pattern, and the third consummates the pattern, driving home its significance. This is not essentially different from the work of the persons of the Trinity: initiation, accomplishment, and application (We should, of course, not see a rigid or unvarying pattern here. There are also important twofold distinctions in Scripture [e.g., Old and New Covenants, Creator and creature, double restitution for theft in the Mosaic law, law and gospel], as well as fourfold, sevenfold, tenfold, etc. But the threefold distinctions are strangely pervasive, and they hold special interest for our present discussion).

(110) The chiasm is a frequent literary device in Scripture, especially in the Pslams, but also in prophecy, prose narratives, etc. It is essentially an A-B-A form in which one idea, theme, image, or motif gives rise to another, then returns to the first with some level of enrichment. The chiasm can become more complicated, when the text includes chiasms within chiasms: so, A-B-A, B-C-B, C-D-C creates the total structure as A-B-C-DC-B-A. Often the central item (D in our example) receives the emphasis. But the overall structure can be understood as triadic: theme, additional theme, return.

(111) The chiasm exists implicitly in all literature. A story begins in a situation and encounters a problem that brings the situation to a different state: thesis, antithesis, and synthesis-consummation (as in the “quest” genre: a journey from comfort to ordeal to enlightement; stasis, katabasis, anabasis). In Scripture: Jesus’ preincarnate glory, his state of humiliation, and his resurrection and ascension to an even greater acknowledgement of his lordship; or creation, fall, redemption.

History

(112) Confrontation, consolidation, and continuation: stages of major cultural movements (reformation in the church and political change).

*John M. Frame is an American philosopher and a Calvinist theologian especially noted for his work in epistemology and presuppositional apologetics, systematic theology, and ethics. He is one of the foremost interpreters and critics of the thought of Cornelius Van Til (who he studied under while working on his B.D. at Westminster Theological Seminary). An outstanding theologian, John Frame distinguished himself during 31 years on the faculty of Westminster Theological Seminary, and was a founding faculty member of WTS California. He is best known for his prolific writings including: Apologetics to the Glory of God; No Other God; The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God; Salvation is of the Lord; The Doctrine of the Christian Life; The Doctrine of the Word of God, and several others. He is a regular contributor to many books and reference volumes, as well as scholarly articles and magazines.

Frame was born (1939) and raised in Pittsburgh, PA. He came to know Christ at around 13 or 14 years of age, through the ministry of Beverly Heights UP Church (in particular the youth and music ministries) and some Christian friends.

For his education, Frame received degrees from Princeton University (A.B.), Westminster Theological Seminary (B.D.), Yale University (A.M. and M.Phil., though he was working on a doctorate and admits his own failure to complete his dissertation), and Belhaven College (D.D.). He has served on the faculty of Westminster Theological Seminary and was a founding faculty member of their California campus. He currently (as of 2005) teaches Apologetics and The History of Philosophy and Christian thought at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, FL. He is appreciated, by many of his students, for his charitable spirit and fairness to opposing arguments (although, he fairly demolishes them nonetheless).

Frame is also a classically trained musician (he plays the piano and organ) and a critic of film, music, and other media. He has been involved in the music/worship ministry of the church since he was a teenager, upon coming to faith in Christ. He is deeply committed to the work of ministry  and training pastors.

 

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Book Review: The Mystery of the Holy Spirit by R. C. Sproul

 How To Know The Holy Spirit Personally and Intimately

 Many times as a pastor I have heard Christians refer to the Holy Spirit as an “it,” or a “power/force,” or the like. I have also heard many times that the most abstract member of the trinity to many Christians is the Holy Spirit. It has been my own experience that I have had to work harder to understand and know the Holy Spirit more than any other Person in the Trinity. In this book Dr. Sproul writes with profound insight, biblical acumen, and exegetical precision and gradually peels away the mysteries surrounding the third Person in the Trinity.

There are ten good reasons to read this book and its because each chapter handles a distinct important aspect of the character or attributes of the Holy Spirit and Sproul then cogently and articulately explains the ramifications for us theologically and then practically.

In chapter one Dr. Sproul asks and answers the question “Who is the Holy Spirit?” by using various Scriptures demonstrating that the Holy Spirit is a “person;” that we are called to a have a “personal relationship with him;” and that he performs “personal tasks.”

In chapter two the author gives a plethora of Scriptures and some very good logical arguments like this one: “Were the Holy Spirit not God, it is extremely unlikely that blasphemy against Him would be regarded as unpardonable,” to show very clearly that the Bible teaches the deity of the Holy Spirit in both the Old and New Testaments.

In chapter three Dr. Sproul tackles and dismantles the most common objections raised against the Trinity and deals with them historically, biblically, and philosophically. He answers the following objections with great erudition, concise simplicity, and with immense sagacity:

Objection #1: The Word “Trinity” is not a biblical word and represents the invasion of foreign philosophy into biblical revelation.

Objection #2: The doctrine of the Trinity is contradictory and therefore irrational.

He demonstrates clearly in this chapter that the Trinitarian formula is neither contradictory nor irrational—rather it is biblical and logical.

Chapter four is vintage Sproul. Dr. Sproul is known for his outstanding vocabulary and for making things clear by explaining the meaning of words with reference to his subject of discussion. Dr. Sproul takes the time in this chapter to define the meanings and distinctions of the Holy Spirit as “essence” and “person.” He explains this by elaborating on three concepts: contradiction, paradox, and mystery with reference to our understanding of the Holy Spirit’s character and attributes.

Chapter five is a wonderful explanation of God the Holy Spirit’s work in physical and spiritual creation. He summarizes the chapter in this manner: “It is the Holy Spirit who supplies the dynamic for the created world. By His power the universe has life and motion…there is a parallel between the Spirit’s work in creation and redemption. As He is the generating power of biological life, so is He the source and generating power of spiritual life. His work in redemption mirrors and supplements His work in creation. He works both in creation and re-creation of a fallen world.”

In Chapter six Dr. Sproul gives a masterful presentation on what it means to be “born-again” or “regenerated” by the Holy Spirit. He demonstrates from John 3 and Ephesians 2 how we are “dead” spiritually and must be “made alive” by the Holy Spirit in order to be saved. He gives an outstanding presentation of why regeneration must precede faith and obliterates the much believed idea that faith + rebirth = justification.

Chapter seven is a wonderful articulation of the eternal security of those who are indeed regenerate. Sproul gives a very good presentation on the biblical distinctions of justification (monergistically – God alone working to save us); and sanctification (synergistically – the cooperation between the Holy Spirit and us).

I think chapter 8 on the Baptism of the Holy Spirit is perhaps the best in the book. The baptism of the Spirit may be one of the least understood issues in theology today. Dr. Sproul brings great clarity and synthesis to a better understanding of this doctrine and its immense importance. The thesis he defends is summed up at the end of the chapter in this manner:

“I am not saying that everyone who is a member of a Christian church has the Holy Spirit. Membership in the visible church no more guarantees the baptism of the Holy Spirit than it guarantees salvation. We know that there are unbelievers who are church members. No unbeliever has the baptism of the Holy Spirit, but every believer, every regenerate person, does have the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Every Christian from Pentecost to the present is both regenerate of the Spirit and baptized in the Spirit. That is the essence of the meaning of Pentecost. Anything less casts a shadow over the sacred importance of Pentecost in the history of redemption. Any person who is regenerate is also sealed by the Spirit, baptized in the Spirit, and has the earnest of the Spirit.”

In chapter nine we have a great exposition of Galatians 5 contrasting the works of the flesh and the work of the Spirit, and lastly in chapter ten Dr. Sproul shows how the Holy Spirit is Christ’s Vicar on earth to empower, comfort, and use us for the glory of Christ.

Honestly, I’m surprised this book has not been a BIG seller. As far as I’m concerned it is the best book bridging great scholarship in laymen’s terms on the Person and Work of the Holy Spirit in the English language. I have read over twenty books on the Holy Spirit – and this is my third time through Sproul’s work, and it is still the one I would recommend most if you are going to read one book on the Holy Spirit.

*Dr. R.C. Sproul is the founder, chairman and president of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian education ministry located near Orlando, Florida. His teaching can be heard on the program Renewing Your Mind, which is broadcast on hundreds of radio outlets in the United States and in 40 countries worldwide. He is the executive editor of Tabletalk magazine and general editor of The Reformation Study Bible, and the author of more than seventy books and scores of articles for national evangelical publications. Dr. Sproul also serves as president of Ligonier Academy of Biblical and Theological Studies and Reformation Bible College. He currently serves as senior minister of preaching and teaching at Saint Andrew’s in Sanford, FL.

 

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Book Review: Our Triune God by Philip Ryken and Michael LeFebvre

This book concisely and eloquently presents some of the depth’s of the biblical portrayal of the Triune nature of God in four particular areas: 1) The Distinct roles of the Father, Son, and Spirit in our salvation from Ephesians 1:3-14 – this section made me want to thank and praise the Trinity; 2) The Mysteries of the Trinity with glimpses into how God is one in essence and yet three in Person in the Old and New Testaments – this section fed my mind; 3) The Relational nature of the Trinity with some helpful exposition from John 13-17 – this section nurtured my soul; 4) Highlights from the Gospel of Luke gives glimpses into the joy and power of the Triune working of God in our lives – this section increased my joy in the Lord.

The author’s do a very good job of highlighting the distinct roles of each Person in the Godhead; going into enough depth to make one think; and use helpful illustrations to touch and reach the soul. I think this book is an excellent resource to give away to new believers who have never really thought through the process of their salvation; and how essential each Person in the Trinity works in making this possible. I also think that the more Trinitarian we become, the more we actually grow in our understanding of, and intimacy with God.

As a pastor and life coach I’m particularly grateful to have this book to be able to share and give away as a very good resource to those who want to know God more intimately. It is a book that is easy to read, short, and yet covers a lot of theological ground in about 100 pages.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher – Crossway Books – book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

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