on July 7, 2005
A few weeks ago, while I was in one of my favorite bookstores, a guy made a comment about how the Holy Spirit has been forgotten in contemporary Christianity. I replied by suggesting that we haven't forgotten Him, so much as we have misunderstood Him. Whether we misunderstand or forget Him altogether, it's clear that we don't have a robust understanding of the Holy Spirit, or the Trinity in general.
Bruce Ware's Father, Son, & Holy Spirit: Relationships, Roles, & Relevance, seeks to provide us with the robust understanding we lack. The brief 158 page book is an adaptation from a series of lectures Dr. Ware gave at a conference in 2004 and is broken down into six chapters.
Chapter One addresses the importance of the doctrine of the Trinity. "Would God have chosen to reveal himself to us as the one God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, unless he knew that this would be important to our understanding of him and our faith?" (13) Chapter Two claims to be an historical overview of the doctrine, though it's really more of an analysis of the Biblical evidence for the Trinity.
Chapters Three through Five are each on a different person of the Godhead. Each chapter describes the unique roles of each person, how they relate to one another, and what relevance each person's roles has for our lives.
The final chapter, six, concludes with ten "lessons for our lives and ministries from the relationships and roles of the triune God." (132) Since we are made in God's image, we must start with understanding of God in order to understand ourselves. The applications include living in community, the harmony of unity, the importance of authority and submission within our families and churches, how to pray, and how to worship.
The book is a very easy read, though it is far from simple. I still think James R. White's The Forgotten Trinity is the best book available in regards to the Biblical basis of the doctrine. However, Dr. Ware's is the best I've seen that explains the roles of each person and how the doctrine should apply to how we live. For instance, "Here in the Trinity... we see hierarchy without hubris, authority with no oppression, submission that is not servile, and love that pervades every aspect of the divine life." (157)
If you're questioning the Biblical basis of the doctrine, go read James White. If you are seeking a deeper understanding of the Trinity and the relevance the nature of God has in your life, Dr. Ware's book is a must read. I know of no other book that explains these profound truths with such clarity and warmth while maintaining their depth and weight.
A couple of months ago I asked Crossway if there was a book in their catalog that they felt was an overlooked treasure - a book that deserved far more recognition than it had received. They suggested Father, Son & Holy Spirit by Bruce Ware. I know of Bruce Ware from his excellent critique of Open Theism in Their God is Too Small (which was a condensed version of a larger work on the same subject, God's Lesser Glory). A quick look at Amazon showed only one reader review which seems to prove that this book was, indeed, overlooked.
Having read the book I agree with Crossway's assessment. This book is a treasure and one that deserves to be read, absorbed and appreciated. It is a thorough but readable study of the Trinity, their Relationships, Roles and Relevance. The final word of that, the book's subtitle, is what sets this book apart. Ware does more than merely provide a defense of the doctrine of the Trinity. Each aspect of the doctrine is accompanied by an explanation of why this doctrine is relevant and how the reader can apply this to his life. This is a perfect example of practical theology - taking theology out of the realm of knowledge and making it a part of our lives.
Like many books on theological subject matters, this one began as a series of sessions delivered at a conference. The five one-hour speeches have been adapted into a 167-page, six-chapter book. The first chapter deals with the importance of the doctrine of the Trinity. Ware correctly asserts that few things can be more important than studying and understanding, in so far as we are able, the character and persons of God. "It is my hope and prayer that, through this study, we will be able to hear the voice of the Lord helping us to understand the beauty and glory of the God whom we already know as God. But do we know him as we should? Do we know him as he truly is?" (page 14). The second chapter provides an overview of the historical development of the doctrine as Christians came to a deeper understanding of biblical truths through the history of the church.
The heart of the book is in chapters three, four and five. There is one chapter dedicated to each of the three persons of God. In particular, Ware examines the relationships of the members to each other. While each member of the Trinity is fully God, what defines one from the other is their particular roles and relationships. For example, the way in which the Son relates to the Father is presented in clear contrast to the Son's relationship with the Holy Spirit. In each chapter the reader is led to marvel at the wonder that is our God. Each chapter concludes with a section where the author provides application of all that he has taught about the relationships within the Trinity.
The final chapter encourages the believer to behold the wonder of the triune persons in relational community. The chapter is composed of ten "lessons for our lives and ministries from the relationships and roles of the triune God." Each lesson is practical, understandable and biblical.
What can I say? Taking theology to the masses does not get much better than this. Bruce Ware has taken his extensive knowledge of this doctrine and provided it to the church in a format that anyone can enjoy and understand. There is enough content to challenge any believer, but it is simple enough that none need be intimidated by it. This is the best book I've read on the Trinity and I simply can't recommend it highly enough.
on July 6, 2005
Something I appreciate about a good teacher or a good writer, is the ability to make complex ideas understandable and abstract ideas practical. Bruce A. Ware has accomplished this as he writes on perhaps the most complex and misunderstood doctrine of the Christian faith: the Trinity. In Father, Son & Holy Spirit: Relationships, Roles, & Relevance, Ware explains the doctrine and its history, and then focuses on each person of the Godhead, explaining their distinctive roles in the accomplishment of God's will, and yet maintaining their unity of essence as One God.
Bruce A. Ware is Senior Associate Dean and Professor of Christian Theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. The book stems from five talks Ware gave at a pastor's conference in 2004. Though first directed toward pastors, it is not just for pastors. Anyone with basic Bible literacy will benefit from it. It would make an excellent gift for new believers or anyone struggling to understand the doctrine of the Trinity. If I were to make a list of books that every Christian ought to read, I would include this one.
The subtitle of the book: Relationships, Roles and Relevance, reveals its basic structure. Each person of the Godhead is studied in regards to His relationship to the others, to His role in accomplishing the will of God, including the salvation of His people, and also in terms of how these truths are relevant to our understanding of and relationship with God. Ware's thoughts on relevance and application are very profound and thought-provoking. I found myself reflexively setting the book down to ponder the wonder and majesty of our most glorious God and how the relationships within the Godhead are imaged in His relationship with us, and our relationships to one another.
With its approximately 150 pages of text, the book can be quickly read; but it deserves to be pondered and slowly digested. The application section of the chapters on each person of the Trinity would make excellent material for personal devotional time. The book could also be used profitably by study groups. Perhaps Dr. Ware will bless us soon with a study guide.
This book is a gem.
on July 6, 2005
The triune nature of God is one that Christians have tried to get a grasp on for the last two thousand years. The scriptures affirm that God is one and that He exists eternally as three persons. Each of the persons are fully God and there is but one God. This is a difficult doctrine to understand to say the least, but it is one that God has presented in His word repeatedly, so we have a responsibility to understand it correctly, if not completely. I believe it impossible to understand the triune nature of God completely in this lifetime, and perhaps in the next as well. The infinite cannot be contained within the finite.
As I said earlier, we do have a responsibility to understand this revelation as best as we can, but most of us, myself included, have put off this theological doctrine in favor of things that are easier to grasp. This does not constitute apathy per se, but we honor God by seeking His face as clearly as possible. For us to deny any aspect of the trinity or to try to amend the trinity to meet our expectations is to diminish God in our own hearts and try to reform His being into one of our own likeness.
In Father, Son and Holy Spirit: Relationships, Roles, & Relevance, by Bruce Ware, we are given a good overview of the trinity, beginning with a list of ten great reasons every Christian should study this doctrine. It continues with a historical look at how the early church met heretical understandings of the trinity with biblical proof, always leaning toward the scriptures and not on logical statements of others speaking of a God no greater than their knowledge could comprehend
The meat of the book comes after this, as each person of the trinity is given a chapter to discuss the differences of role and not of essence that they have. I found this to be extremely helpful in my Christian walk, as virtually every aspect of a Christian's life is impacted by our triune God. Take prayer, for example. I was taught as a child that praying was just talking to Jesus about whatever was on your mind. According to the Lord's Prayer though, Jesus tells us to pray to the Father. We are also told that our prayer to the Father is offered through our mediator, Jesus Christ. And this prayer to the Father, through the Son is to be offered up by the power of the Holy Spirit. Proper prayer acknowledges the trinity.
The roles of the trinity are quite complex, with the Holy Spirit pointing us toward the Son who seeks to glorify the Father. Thus the eternal roles of each of the persons should be rightly understood by all Christians if we are to discern error. For example, if someone claims that the Holy Spirit has come upon them for any reason other than to point us toward Christ, our ears should listen attentively to what is said that we may be able to lovingly correct the statement which is bound to contain errors, based on the errant foundation of the source of this information.
I have yet to see a book that is more informative on this doctrine than Father, Son and Holy Spirit: Relationships, Roles, & Relevance. It fills in many common misperceptions that we may make regarding what the trinity is and what it is not. One thought I have had for some time has been confirmed while reading this book. Christ came to save sinners, yes. But why is it that the Father does anything? Did He send the Son to die for the sole purpose that we may find our salvation in Him or is there an underlying motive? When you get down to the core values within the trinity, God the Father sent God the Son to earth as a man to be enabled for his task by God the Holy Spirit to the ultimate glory of God the Father. This was accomplished in part by God the Son atoning for those He was sent to redeem. And from His submission to both the Father and the Spirit (for a time) He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords, and yet maintains the second level of primacy to the Father.
This book is 158 pages, not including the notes and indexes, but don't let the relatively short page number dissuade you. The length of this book is such that every Christian should read this book for personal edification, not to mention a more learned response to one of the more frequently brought up objections to Christianity. The content of the book is such that anybody could follow it, but those with a stronger theological background will be able to gain more insight than a casual reader to the degree of thiner knowledge. I recommend this book heartily to all for these reasons and more. This is a book that I plan to read annually, as I am certain there are truths represented within these pages that I have not been able to fully appreciate.
on December 6, 2012
Recent years of scholarship have surfaced some terrific books on the doctrine of the Trinity. Father, Son, & Holy Spirit: Relationships, Roles & Relevance by Bruce A. Ware is among the best. Dr. Bruce Ware defines and defends the doctrine of the Trinity with biblical precision, Christ-exalting passion, and theological muscle.
Chapter one unfolds the importance of the doctrine. Ware draws the reader in by illustrating ten reasons to focus on the "wonder of the Trinity." Readers are given a treasure-trove of ammunition that not only demonstrates the rationale of this doctrine; it shows the practical ramifications for marriage, career, and relationships in the local church.
Chapter two surveys the long history of the doctrine. The author shows why the early Christians accepted the Trinitarian formulation. His explanation is rooted in both Scripture and the writings of the church fathers.
Chapters 3-5 takes an in-depth look at the respective roles of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Dr. Ware makes it clear throughout his treatment that "every essential attribute of God's nature is possessed by the Father, Son, and Spirit equally and fully." Each chapter concludes with practical and powerful points of application. There is no abstraction here. Dr. Ware is concerned with linking truth with the affections and God-centered response.
Chapter six develops a theme that was originally explored by Christian thinkers like Augustine and Jonathan Edwards, namely - the Trinity as society or as Dr. Ware puts it, "in relational community." Ten key principles are presented that need to be fully digested and applied in the real world.
Dr. Ware has done in invaluable service for the church in this book. He has unpacked the doctrine of the Trinity in a way that is clear and biblical. He has skillfully applied this essential doctrine in a way that can strengthen a Reformed spirituality among believers. And he has rightfully challenged the egalitarian movement with the biblical antidote that should define a new generation of Evangelicals.
on July 5, 2005
You may believe in the Trinity, but how much do you know about it? Are you like me, and you know that you believe in it, you can quote the traditional formulations of it, but you still don't know much about the relationships between the persons of the Trinity; the roles those three persons have; or especially, how knowledge of the relationships and roles within the Trinity ought to affect the lives of believers within their own relationships? If the previous statement describes you, too, then this is a book you'll want to read.
"Father, Son, and Holy Spirit" is theology at its best--the study of God with a view toward the practical implications of that study in the lives of the Christian. This is one of those rare books that is short, easy to understand, but so dense with important truth that it oughtn't be read quickly. If I had a vote in the matter, I'd vote this one straight onto the list of Christian classic books for the lay person, valuable to be read and then reread through the years. In all the reading of Christian books that I've done, I'd have to go back a few years before I'd find a book that I think is as important for every believer to read as this one.
on July 7, 2008
The fact that the Triune nature is one of, if not the greatest mystery of the Christian God, it does not follow that there is no further revelation that one should know or learn from. Neither should it preclude one from attempting to gain a deeper understanding in this matter. Dr. Ware begins by teaching from Scriptural evidences, the basis of the simultaneous, equal and eternal divine nature of all three distinct Persons, thereby refuting Sabelianism or Modalism that claims the divinity of each Person occurred sequentially; only one Person being divine at a time, and Arianism that rejects the divinity of the Son and the Spirit. Therefore, since all three Persons are simultaneously, equally or fully, and eternally God, it is futile to attempt to understand their difference in terms of nature or characteristics because each possesses all attributes of God; among which are omniscience, omnipresence and omnipotence.
Many tremendously important lessons to learn can be derived by understanding the difference in their roles and relationship, which not only serves as a divine revelation, but also a pattern and divine design for humanity to follow, having been created in His image. The beauty of the Trinity lies in the respect and affection in their treatment to one another, harmony in operation, and unity in purpose, as well as the complete absence of envy, friction, disagreement, power struggle and abuse of authority amongst Them. Here is a model of a perfect, most sublime authority-submission relationship displayed in the supremacy of the Father, subordination of the Son to the Father wherein the Son glories in the Father, the Father glories in the Son, the Spirit submitting to the Father and the Son. Moreover, the Spirit glories in the Son, yet when the Son was on earth, He was subject to the Spirit, and the Spirit is always eternally joyfully content to take up the background behind-the-scene roles assisting the Father and glorifying and pointing all attentions to the Son.
Dr. Ware also covers what each Person does, and its implications whereby one learns the true fatherhood and obedience, the gracious work of inspiration, illumination, sanctification and evangelism. In regard to Christian life, they teach the divine inspiration and thus, the infallibility and inerrancy of the Bible; expose the importance of illumination in understanding of the Scriptures, show the right way to pray; by the Spirit, through the Son, and to the Father, direct how to worship properly, the Son being the center of all. In the mission field, they affirm the absolute necessity of the work of regeneration brought forth by the Spirit in a true conversion that results in faith and repentance. At home, these lessons are applicable to the relationship between men and women in marriage as husbands and wives, and between parents and children. It is also a divine design for the church and society in general; between congregation, ministers and elders, citizens and government; students and teachers; subordinates and superiors wherein God ordained authority-submission structure or taxis to reflect who He is and how He operates. In each of these relationship structures that Dr. Ware went through in details, he not only teaches that the doctrine of the Trinity is highly practical, but also refutes egalitarianism and a general distrust of authority. Yes, human authority is imperfect, whether it be husband, parent, minister, governor, and superior in a workplace, but Dr. Ware pointed out the preciousness of the lesson of submission from the Trinitarian taxis,
"It appears then, that we need to learn something about the nature of true freedom. Freedom is not what our culture tells us it is. Freedom is not my deciding, from the urges and longings of my sinful nature, to do what I want to do, when I want to do it, how I want to do it, with whom I want to do it. According to the Bible, that is bondage, not freedom. Rather, true freedom is living as Jesus lived, for He is the freest human being who ever lived. In fact, He is the only fully free human being who has ever lived, and one day we will be set free fully when we always and only do the will of God.
So what is freedom? Amazingly, Jesus' answer is this: Freedom is submitting, - submitting fully to the will of God, to the words of God, and to the work that God calls us to do" (p.75).
The reason why this book is a must-read is because we live in the days where human autonomy is God and the seemingly prevailing rule is that I am my own authority; you have your own rules and I have my own, so don't ever tell me what to do. Understanding, embracing and applying the doctrine of the Trinity is a great antidote to this toxic post-modern spirit.
on August 11, 2014
This was an excellent work! It was tightly reasoned, articulate, detailed, and very, very text-oriented.
This means that whether or not you agree with everything Ware states, you certainly know how he arrived at the conclusion as well as the Biblical texts he sees supporting that view. He does this every time, supporting his points with multiple texts and his rather straight-forward interpretation of them. This will be much appreciated to those unfamiliar with the original languages and to all the lay-readers, yet the work's persuasiveness, in my view, does not suffer.
This does mean, however, that there is little new here to those acquainted with Piper, Grudem's, or Frame's discussions of the Trinity and its Complementarian Implications. It is firmly Complementarian in its view of Gender Roles in the home and church, and the 1 star reviews strongly disagreed with this. If you wish to read a work unpacking the Egalitarian understanding of the trinity, I would recommend Erickson's "Who's Tampering with the Trinity?" as an excellent read, though incorrect.
The work is not philosophical--excepting probably 1 obligatory paragraph discussing the difference between essence and person, which is clear and concise. Consequently, there are no discussions of any of the many varying understandings of the trinity, or even of the difference between the East and the West's understandings which is the longest and most basic. So if you do read this work, please don't walk away thinking you've read all there is to read on this topic by any means.
I did find this work to be very original in that it is a summation of many other things I've read and he does an exceptionally clear job of explaining how and even why the persons of the trinity interface, collaborate, and support one another. This book is an excellent place to start.
Why did the Son take on flesh instead of the Spirit, or even the Father? Ware answers this conundrum clearly and efficiently. The work is not longish, praise God, like so many discussions of the trinity can be. It is orthodox, in my view--concurring with Augustine's numerical understanding of the Trinity instead of the more wrong-than-right modern "relational" understandings birthed by the faddish and soon to be outdated postmodern theories.
So, a solid work all the way around and Bibilcally aritculated.
on August 31, 2012
The author of this book succeeds at what he attempts to do--having the reader behold the wonder of our God in the persons of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This book is solidly biblically informed, telling us what God has Himself revealed about Himself. And the wonder of this God is well worth beholding.
In this time, when progressives and emergents want to put a rift between the Father and the Son, when charismatics emphasize the Spirit to such an extent that the Father and Son become little more than background ornamentation, and NAR and megachurch leaders are holding out the hand of fellowship to modalists past and present, this book cannot be more timely.
The book is a keeper, and one to be kept close at hand. I couldn't recommend it more highly.
on December 19, 2011
Most books about the Trinity, in their quest for thoroughness, are written outside of the grasp of lay members of the church. In other words, they are often long, boring, and verbose to the point only a seminarian would reach the last page of a chapter. Bruce's book on the Trinity, however, is very much with the range of a lay member's interest and understanding. He does a great job of taking on a massively important doctrine with crystal clear clarity. Congregations should use this book to learn about the wonderful revelation and truth of God in Three Persons. I applauded the entire book, until the last chapter, when the wheels fell off this Mercedes of a book. His views on egalitarianism, along with other implications of what he just wrote about leaves much to be desired. I recommend two things: (1) skip the last chapter; and (2) read or use this book alongside THE FORGOTTEN TRINITY by James R. Wright.