The Trinity, An Essential for Faith in Our Time
Edited by Andew Stirling
This book is good in that it addresses and takes seriously a problem for contemporary Christianity, lack of understanding concerning the Trinity and its implications for the gospel and church life.
Unfortunately, the essays are at best of varying quality. The exegetical essays are woeful, especially that dealing with the Trinity in the Old Testament, which fails to take into account many passages the church has historically seen as teaching the Trinity. The historical essays are a bit more enlightening, and the systematic treatments are better. The one more interesting observation I have been able to take away from this book, is that those churches that retained the historic liturgy have historically done a better job of holding on to the teaching of the Trinity, where as Pentecostal and charismatic churches haven’t. Though, one might wonder how true this is. It tends to be liberal churches that hold a semblance of liturgy baptizing in the name of the “Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier” which this book also points out is quite acceptable to the concept of God shared with Jews and Muslims.
Andrew Stirling, along with Shepherd, shine in comparison to the other essays of this book, pointing out the challenge of the church today, and that when we don’t teach, and rather hide behind the myth that it is a totally incomprehensible mystery and therefore unteachable, that our people will opt for forms of Unitarianism. He shows that a correct understanding of the Trinity is needed for a correct proclamation of the Gospel.
Indeed, today assaulting the church are all sorts of heresies concerning the Trinity from within and out. We exclude Mormon’s, Unitarians, and Muslims as not being Christian because of their teachings concerning the Trinity. Yet so often those of churches recognized as “orthodox” because of their official teaching concerning the Trinity, are really no better off. Watch an evangelical debate a Mormon concerning the Trinity and see if either of them aren’t in error? Perhaps this is why so many of the evangelistic approaches I see here in Utah amount to trying to out Mormon the Mormons with talk of morality, even the approach to the trinity takes on legalistic overtones concerning it with no more than the first commandment, rather than showing it’s historical necessity for the gospel. Indeed, sometimes I wonder if they know the Gospel of the forgiveness of sins at all! And it makes sense, where the Trinity isn’t taught neither is the Gospel, and where there is no Gospel there is not a correct teaching of the Trinity, no matter how orthodox the official teaching.
In the end, it is worth it for the essays of Stirling, and shepherd, to a lesser extent also Humphrey. The rest is rather tedious, and at times seems to be even at odds with the central theme of the book, though it has worth in illustrating with concrete examples the problem. Were I investigating the doctrine of the Trinity, I’d read this book along with “The First Seven Ecumenical Councils” By Leo Donald Davis, and “On the Incarnation” by Athanasius.