11 Things to Know about the Doctrine of the Trinity
To contemplate the Trinity is to lift up your heart and to “set your mind on the things above” (Col. 3:2).
It’s easy to turn doctrinal discussions into strictly intellectual affairs, but as Dr. Fred Sanders teaches in The Triune God course, we need to do so “in a way that enlists the reader’s strict and holy attention for what is essentially a spiritual exercise.”
Any discussion of trinitarian doctrine is an attempt to more deeply understand the character and nature of God.
If we’re interested in discovering (and maintaining) an orthodox understanding of the Trinity, there are some principles we need to understand.
These 11 things you need to know about the doctrine of the Trinity are adapted from his course:
1. The revelation of the Trinity comes with the revelation of the gospel.
The doctrine of the…
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: How Is One God Three Persons?
If you ask the average Christian to define the Trinity, more often than not they’re going to give you a similar response: “The Trinity is one God in three persons.” While there will likely be some slight variations in how it’s stated, two words will almost always be present: “God” and “persons.”
It’s easy to understand why “God” would be part of every definition. The whole Trinitarian discussion revolves around what we can know and understand about God. When we discuss the Trinity, we’re discussing God.
But did you ever stop to wonder why “persons” is the accepted term for the distinctions of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? Why not three “manifestations,” “modes,” or “beings?” The truth is that the term “person” wasn’t landed on haphazardly. Theologians have labored throughout church history to accurately define the Trinity.
What Is the Economic and Immanent Trinity?
If you’re interested in the doctrine of the Trinity, then you’ve probably heard the terms economic Trinity and immanent Trinity from a lot of modern theologians. But what exactly do those terms mean? And more importantly, do they help us understand the Trinity better?
In The Triune God, Dr. Fred Sanders explains the terms and their origins, and suggests how they might actually create more confusion than clarity.
Three Steps Toward Rightly Knowing the Doctrine of the Trinity
Fred Sanders has an ambitious goal with his new book The Triune God: securing our knowledge of the triune God by rightly ordering the theological language with which we praise him.
To get us on toward rightly knowing the doctrine of the Trinity, Sanders outlines three crucial steps, which we’ve engaged below:
to grasp the entire two-Testament canon, to trace its unbroken narrative arc, and to recognize that arc as a self-communicative action with God as its source. (98)
Step 1: Construe Scripture as a Whole
Although space doesn’t permit a complete defense of canonical unity, Sanders spends enough time to show why construing Scripture as a whole is a necessary first step toward rightly knowing the doctrine of the Trinity:
10 Principles You Need to Know about Trinitarian Dogmatics
While celebrating Christ’s incarnation is fresh on our breath, it’s apt we contemplate the Trinity. After all, the God-with-us event is inherently Trinitarian: the Father gave the world his only-begotten Son, by the Holy Spirit.
Here to help is Fred Sanders with his new book The Triune God. In it he contends:
the manner of the Trinity’s revelation dictates the shape of the doctrine; it draws its dogmatic conclusions about how the doctrine should be handled on the basis of the way the Trinity was revealed. (19)
He offers an extensive set of dogmatics principles for Trinitarian exegesis to shepherd Trinitarian contemplation. They offer “systematic help for reconstructing the plausibility structures of biblical Trinitarianism” (19).
We’ve briefly shared those principles below to deepen your understanding of the triune God.
1) A Doxological Movement
[Common Places] Pro-Nicene Theology: Exegesis and Inseparable Operations of the Trinity
Our current series, Pro-Nicene Theology, offers doctrinal and exegetical entries to the key tenets of basic Trinitarian orthodoxy as developed in the early centuries of the church. For introduction to the series, see this first post.
A Tale of Three Agents?
There’s a kind of conventional Christian wisdom about the New Testament that goes like this: the Gospels tell the story of three distinct characters who co-operate beautifully to save us. The Father so loves the world he created that he sends the Son to it; the Son takes on human nature and atones for the sins of the world; the Holy Spirit applies that purchased redemption and indwells the redeemed. When you add up the three parts, as you simply must, you get the complete work of salvation. And that complete work of salvation corresponds precisely to the…
[Common Places] Pro-Nicene Theology: Entryways and Ineffability (Part 1)
The doctrine of the Trinity serves as the fundamental lodestar of all Christian belief, the shining center of all Christian truth and the focal point of every instance of our trust and hope. God is. More particularly, God—the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit—is, and in, through, and to this one are all things. What light is shed upon life and being, then, flows forth from this fiery being. It must be admitted, however, that the Trinity has overwhelmed due to the power of its beam. Its very brilliance is the source of its difficulty. Theologians from Anselm to Sonderegger have reminded us that the divine mystery is not owing to a lack of revelation but a preponderance of it. This the hymn-writer attested so beautifully of the immortal God, of whom we…
Mounce Archive 24 – God and Jesus
Bill Mounce is traveling this month and is taking a break from his weekly column on biblical Greek until April. Meanwhile, we’ve hand-picked some classic, popular posts from the “Mondays with Mounce” archive for your Greek-studying pleasure.
In one of his first posts, Mounce helps us take a deeper look at Paul’s introduction to the book of 1 Timothy. By looking at the grammar in the Greek, we can see how Paul referred to the Trinity. Mounce calls this a “christologically sensitive grammatical structure.”
You can read the entire post here.
“Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord” (1 Tim 1:2). Paul begins his letter to Timothy with a somewhat normal…
4 Things You Need to Know About the Holy Spirit’s Being and Nature
Having come from an evangelical tradition that emphasized the Father and the Son at the expense of the Spirit, answers to these questions were mostly AWOL. In fact, it seems such is the case of evangelicalism broadly: a recent survey found 51% say the Holy Spirit isn’t a personal being, but a force. Only 42% affirm the 3rd person of the Trinity is a person.
In The Holy Spirit Christopher Holmes rectifies this confusion by providing concrete answers about the Holy Spirit’s identity, origin, and acts. It is the inaugural volume in the new New Studies in Dogmatics series that…
[Common Places] Engaging with Kate Sonderegger: Interview (Part 1)
The release of a book within a multi-volume systematic theology project makes for a momentous occasion in the world of systematic theology. Over the last few years a number of such projects have launched, none to greater acclaim or worthy of more significant attention than Katherine Sonderegger’s Systematic Theology. In a previous post we introduced and began to explore critically the volume on the Doctrine of God. In this and another post we will make available an interview that Scott Swain and Michael Allen had with Kate Sonderegger. In this post we inquire about her book’s organization, her theological influences, her commitment to monotheism (in light of charges that such a belief leads to hegemony and violence), and how this inaugural volume will relate to her upcoming volumes in…
[Common Places] Engaging with Kate Sonderegger: The One and the Many
The arrival of a new contribution to a multi-volume systematic theology marks a major moment in the discipline. All the more so when the author goes against the grain of much contemporary theology. Kate Sonderegger’s Systematic Theology, volume one: The Doctrine of God is such a book.
Whereas contemporary theology this side of Barth and Rahner has focused on being Christ-centered not only in a soteriological sense but as a methodological key, Sonderegger has decidedly argued that Christology must follow the doctrine of God. So the most determinative factor regarding this volume, at least as it relates to others in its genre in recent decades, involves its character as a study of the one true God rather than the triune nature of…
[Common Places] New Studies in Dogmatics: The Divine Names
The perfections of the triune God may be treated profitably under various aspects. Under the aspect of “divine attributes,” God’s perfections are studied as truths about God’s being, always alert to the fact that, properly speaking, God does not have attributes since God is his perfect being, power, wisdom, and love. Under the aspect of “divine goods”—Gregory of Nyssa’s lovely description of the divine perfections—God’s perfections are treated with a view to God’s status as the supreme object of desire and delight, in whose presence is fullness of joy and at whose right hand are pleasures evermore. Both of these approaches are common to natural theology and revealed theology insofar as these disciplines treat God as the efficient and final cause of his creatures.
I have chosen, however, to treat God’s perfections under the aspect of The Divine Names. Though…