The Deep Things of God: How the Trinity Changes Everything Paperback – August 4, 2010
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“At last, a practical guide to the most fundamental doctrine of them all. Mr Sanders shows us how the Trinity is the essential framework on which our faith is built, the hidden skeleton that gives shape and meaning to the flesh and blood of daily experience. Highly commended!”
—Gerald Bray, Research Professor of Divinity, History, and Doctrine, Beeson Divinity School; author, God Is Love and God Has Spoken
“Sanders has a gift for making the deep things of theology—in this case, the doctrine of the Trinity—clear and compelling rather than shallow and simplistic. This is as good an introduction to the essentially Trinitarian shape of evangelical faith and practice of which I’m aware. Every evangelical should be able to explain how the gospel is Trinitarian and the Trinity a summation of the gospel, and Sanders shows us how. He makes a convincing case that there is nothing wrong with the evangelical church in North American that a good dose of Trinitarian theology, if absorbed into the bloodstream of the body of Christ, could not cure. So take, drink, and prepare to be edified.”
—Kevin J. Vanhoozer, Research Professor of Systematic Theology, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School; author, Biblical Authority after Babel and Faith Speaking Understanding
“Fred Sanders’ book should be required reading for anyone involved in the work of the Gospel. It will help readers catch a fresh vision of the depths of the message they strive to proclaim and foster a renewed sense of the grandeur of the Christian life they invite people to enjoy.”
—Mark Hopson, President, National School Project
“The Deep Things of God is at once profound and immediate. God's Triune majesty is brought down to our daily prayers and life as believers. Anyone who wants to know their great God better will be blessed by meditating on the scriptural and practical truth in this book. Any Christian leader who wants to ground his local congregation in the life of the Three-in-One God will find both biblical depth and devotional insight to help him. In The Deep Things of God Fred Sanders makes clear what we tacitly know, that 'the gospel is trinitarian and the Trinity is the gospel.' This book shows the same wisdom Fred has shown in ministering in our church. The Deep Things of God shows that the faith which we held so delicately at our baptism is an expression of our personal relationship with Father, Son and Spirit. We live out The Deep Things of God every time we pray to the Father by the Son and through the Spirit. It is my prayer that the whole church will embrace The Deep Things of God and celebrate our relationship to the Trinity in the life of the church.”
—Scott Carpenter, Elder, Grace Fellowship Church, Costa Mesa, CA
“There simply aren't enough superlatives to describe how important and timely this book is. Sanders demonstrates how the Trinity is at the heart of the Gospel and the foundation of the Christian life, and makes his case by bringing forward distinctly evangelical voices. But this is no book of abstract theology: Sanders' work is lively, engaging, and accessible. He brings the Trinity out of the cloistered walls of academia and into the living room, explaining in terms anyone can understand that we are immersed in the reality of the Triune God. There is no better guide I know of to explore the deep things of God than this book, and it deserves a wide and serious hearing by pastors, theologians, and laymen alike.”
—Matthew Lee Anderson, Founder, Mere Orthodoxy; author, The End of Our Exploring: A Book About Questioning and the Confidence of Faith
“Deep Things of God is a fascinating exploration of the trinitarian heartbeat of the gospel which underlies the rich (though often ignored) practices of evangelicalism. Fred Sanders wears his considerable learning lightly; this is a book I'm going to buy for my parents and recommend to my fellow doctoral students.”
—Ben Rhodes, PhD candidate in Systematic Theology, Kings College, University of Aberdeen
About the Author
Fred Sanders (PhD, Graduate Theological Union) is professor of theology at the Torrey Honors Institute at Biola University. Sanders is the author of The Deep Things of God and blogs at ScriptoriumDaily.com.
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I have long observed that books on the Trinity make the best and the worst of Christian books. The boring ones simply teach facts—facts from the Bible, facts from ancient church history, facts from the dawn of liberalism, almost as if understanding the Trinity was a project that leads to some kind of Christian maturity. “What goes wrong in so much popular discussion of the Trinity is that Christians approach the doctrine as if it were their job to construct it from bits and pieces of verses, arguments, and analogies. The doctrine itself seems to lie on the far side of a mental project. If the project is successful, they will achieve the doctrine of the Trinity…” The beautiful ones teach facts, but wrap those facts in worship and wonder. They do not simply teach the who’s and what’s of the Trinity, but they draw the reader to the persons and work of the godhead. It makes all the difference. Sanders’ joy and delight in the Trinity is evident on every page and it is powerfully contagious.
The Deep Things of God is a book about the Trinity, but it is far more than that. “The central argument of this book is that the doctrine of the Trinity inherently belongs to the gospel itself.” I hope you are not growing weary of hearing that the gospel is attached to every part of Christianity because in this case I am convinced that Sanders is absolutely correct. “The gospel is Trinitarian, and the Trinity is the gospel. Christian salvation comes from the Trinity, happens through the Trinity, and brings us home to the Trinity.” Our faith is essentially Trinitarian. “Because the gospel is Trinitarian, evangelicals as gospel people are by definition Trinity people, whether or not they think so.”
The book begins with this focus on the gospel, and there is no better place to begin. “The first step on the way to the heart of the Trinitarian mystery is to recognize that as Christians we find ourselves already deeply involved in the triune life and need only to reflect rightly on that present reality. Most evangelical Christians don’t need to be talked into the Trinitarian theory; they need to be shown that they are immersed in the Trinitarian reality.” Only after mining the depths of the Trinitarian gospel—what God does—does Sanders begin to explore the questions related to who God is. Who is this God who graciously saves those who have rebelled against him? Has he always been this way? Who and what was he before he had people to save? What does the gospel reveal of his essential nature? “When we praise God for being our creator and redeemer, we are praising him for what he does. But behind what God does is the greater glory of who he is: behind his act is his being.” God is praiseworthy in both regards, for what he does and who he is.
Of all the books I have read on the subject of the Trinity, The Deep Things of God is among the most intellectually challenging, at least on this side of books written by and for academics. It is also one of the most rewarding. Sanders does what he promises and probes deep, deep into God’s revelation of himself. The deeper he goes, the more he exposes the reader to the awe and wonder of our God. This may not be an ideal first book on the Trinity, but it is certainly one that will benefit anyone who wishes to go deeper into this beautiful mystery. It would make an ideal follow-up, for example, to Michael Reeve’s Delighting in the Trinity or Bruce Ware’s Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
As much as Sanders’ topic and book are complicated—the unity and diversity of a God who is one yet three—the heart of the book is answers to three simple questions about the doctrine of the Trinity: Is it biblical? Does it make sense? And does it matter? The clear conclusion is that it is, indeed, biblical. It does, indeed, make sense. And it matters so, so much for us as individuals and us as Christ’s church. The Deep Things of God both explains and proves how the Trinity changes everything.
In The Deep Things of God Fred Sanders makes a call for Christians and Evangelicals, in particular, to “embrace the doctrine of the Trinity wholeheartedly and without reserve, as a central concern of evangelical Christianity” (7). This is because, according to Sanders, “the Trinity is the Gospel” (10). The more we understand the Trinity the more we understand the Gospel and the more we understand the Gospel the more we understand the Trinity. The Trinity and the Gospel are “internally configured toward each other” (9). The Gospel is actually an invitation to participate in the relationship that resides within the Triune God from all eternity. The Trinity contains within itself God’s character, rooted in love, which is worked out naturally in the Gospel.
According to Sanders there is no stream of Christianity more fitted to live in, experience, believe in, and display the Gospel in the Trinity, and the Trinity through the Gospel, than Evangelicals. Trinitarian theology forms the roots and contours of Evangelical Christianity and this tacit belief “must be coaxed out, articulated, and confessed” (12). When the contours of the doctrine are seen to be the very essence of the Gospel, these deep things of God change everything about our Christian lives.
Sanders works out his argument by setting the stage for the discussion at hand with introductory matters in chapters 1-2, then moves into a discussion concerning the Trinity and salvation in chapters 3-5, and chapters 6-7 consider the Trinity and its place within the important Christian practices of Bible reading and prayer. Of note, chapter 4 entitled “The Shape of the Gospel” is a must read. Here Sanders brings such clarity to the Trinitarian shape of the Gospel that salvation shines in new and bigger ways. Salvation history is shown not only to be a plan of salvation for the world but the very way in which God reveals himself (133). Through this revelation we are being invited to participate in the very nature of God as sons through adoption.
Sanders work is loaded with historical theology from known scholars and lesser know theologians that only add to and illuminate the very argument Sanders is making, and sometimes in very colorful ways. Sanders book is also helpful in the ways that it gets at some of the problems of Evangelicalism such as shallowness in theology and the reductionist tendencies of Evangelicals to only focus on the cross and salvation missing the life of Christ before and after the cross. His application of the doctrine of the Trinity provides phenomenal answers to these profound issues.
Sanders work is geared toward anyone with an interest in the Trinity and is aimed at deepening a Christian’s walk with the Godhead. Sanders book is profound and has changed the way I see everything. I highly recommend The Deep Things of God.
*This review originally appeared on [...]