- File Size: 774 KB
- Print Length: 176 pages
- Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0801027659
- Publisher: Baker Academic (October 1, 2006)
- Publication Date: October 1, 2006
- Sold by: Amazon.com Services LLC
- Language: English
- ASIN: B00A4BQ4PA
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- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,060,485 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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God the Holy Trinity (Beeson Divinity Studies): Reflections on Christian Faith and Practice Kindle Edition
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From the Back Cover
Ellen T. Charry
Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J.
J. I. Packer
James Earl Massey
Gerald L. Bray
Cornelius Plantinga Jr.
"Though the doctrine of the Trinity is basic for all Christian life and reflection, it often remains shrouded in the theologians' obfuscating mystery. This book, by contrast, with its stellar line-up of contributors, shows why the Trinity is so important for all communities of whatever denomination, documents powerfully the practicality of the doctrine, and does so with crystal clarity. It is an ideal volume for students, church classes, laypeople, and ministers--indeed for anyone who desires deeper understanding of the heart of the Christian faith."
--Mark A. Noll, McAnaney Professor of History, University of Notre Dame
"The Christian name of God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This admirable book helps explain why the renewal of trinitarian theology is critically important for all of us."
--Richard John Neuhaus, author of American Babylon: Notes of a Christian Exile
"This book brings into the twenty-first century some of the fruits of the remarkable ecumenical rediscovery of the Trinity in the second half of the twentieth. Grounded in Scripture and illustrated from the early, the medieval, and the post-Reformation church, trinitarian doctrine here both illuminates several confessional traditions in Christianity and also offers resources for facing various contemporary issues. Yet warnings are rightly raised against too facile an application of the recently fashionable 'social' construction of the triunity of God. All in all, a stimulating collection of essays for both positive and critical purposes."
--Geoffrey Wainwright, Cushman Professor of Christian Theology, Duke University --This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.
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Alister McGrath's essay on Evangelicals and Trinitarian theology isn't too engaging (is he ever?), but does rightly call us to have a mental humility before the mystery of God. Without limiting God to transcendence, he rightfully remarks that we must stick to our data, and not get so absorbed in our thoughts about God that we forget that loving God covers over a multitude of "unknowings", and that this is just fine. This is akin to the Orthodox approach to apophatic, or negative, theology. God is fundamentally a mystery in which we participate, not understand. This is a good way to set the tone for reading the other essays.
Massey's essay on African-American spirituals notes the role of the Holy Spirit. While useful, I found it to be rather narrow for a larger reading; likewise can be said for Packer's reflections on the Puritan John Owen. In at least two other conferences I have heard him present on Owen and at this point it just doesn't do it for me. Too narrow for general readership.
Essays that I found more general and insightful would include Matthew-Green's reflections on the Eastern Orthodox approach/experience of God as Father, Son and Spirit in Her art & architecture. She reminds us that it is in the context of worship that we come closet to "knowing" God in a communion of love, as the Church is the Body of Christ. That can never be said enough, and one might find in this approach a useful metric to just how Christian much of what passes for worship actually is (or isn't). Dulles' essay echoes the liturgical aspect of theology, with his reflections upon the nature of baptism.
Charry's critique of Barth, Jenson and LaCugna is through her Augustinian lens. This means that she wants to temper the "social" aspect of the Trinity with Augustine's notion of divine simplicity. I am not exactly sold on this at all, but it will resonate with classical Western theology. It can be a tricky conception, but it does serve to guard against tritheism.
Most useful for myself has been George's critique of Muslim critiques of Christian trinitarianism, showing that Mohammed fundamentally misunderstood Christian theology on this point by believing that Mary was the third member of the Trinity and that she had sexual intercourse with God to spawn Jesus. While Mohammed may have been exposed to a heretical Marian cult, and developed his ideas of Christianity form that, it dose show that the Quran is off-base in its critique of the Faith. Robert Louis Wilken's Remembering the Christian Pasthas an excellent chapter on this topic as well.
There are a few other essays that are included that yo can see in the index above.
I would steer readers who are interested in this topic to a few other books before buying this one: Being as Communion: Studies in Personhood and the Church (Contemporary Greek Theologians Series, No 4),Energies of the Spirit: Trinitarian Models in Eastern Orthodox and Western Theology (American Academy of Religion Academy Series),The Tripersonal God: Understanding and Interpreting the Trinity,Trinity and Incarnation: The Faith of the Early Church (Theology),The God of the Gospel of John,The Cruelty of Heresy: An Affirmation of Christian Orthodoxy,The Mystery of the Trinity: Trinitarian Experience and Vision in the Biblical and Patristic Tradition and, needed in any approach to theology, Vladimir Lossky's The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church.
Please see my other reviews for books that relate to theology and ecumneism.
This volume consists of a collection of essays originally presented at a symposium held by Beeson Divinity School of Samford University. Attempting to avoid presenting the doctrine of the Trinity as a "theological conundrum" (13), the participants of this conference investigated how the Trinity impacts the Christian life. While the contributors bring distinct approaches to the topic and come from various ethnic backgrounds and theological traditions, George insists that these essays "represent an underlying commitment to the trinitarian faith of the apostolic tradition" (12). These scholars reflected an ecumenical spirit as they dialogued with each other under the umbrella of Nicene Orthodoxy.
Taken as a unit, the first two essays by Alister McGrath and Gerald Bray function as the centerpiece of the book. McGrath seeks to recover the notion of the Trinity as a profound "mystery" and enable believers to "grapple" with this doctrine (22). He applauds the recent resurgence of Trinitarian discussion, but offers two concerns. McGrath recognizes the tendency of the discussion to digress into rampant speculation that employs unnecessarily extra-biblical terms and concepts. Thus, he urges theologians to have "Trinitarian modesty" (32), by maintaining a close proximity to the language of Scripture and by keeping a healthy distance from constructions built on speculative foundations.
In the successive essay, Bray answers McGrath's call by providing a thoughtful investigation of the relationship between the Christian Trinity and the God of Judaism. Bray's key insight is in highlighting the hermeneutical shift that takes place in a Christian reading of the Old Testament, whereby the one God of Judaism is demonstrated to be the Trinity of Christianity. Viewed externally, God is one, but viewed internally, God is three. Bray then demonstrates that the Christian doctrine of the Trinity is a "description of what that experience of God's inner life is like" (45-46). The rest of Bray's essay consists of a theological exposition of Galatians 4:6 that shows how "God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying: Abba! Father!" Thus, the doctrine of the Trinity springs from the Christian's life experience rather than his philosophical speculation. In his attention to Scripture and theology, Bray's essay functions as an apt illustration of McGrath's model for Trinitarian reflection.
The group of essays that follow are as eclectic as they are ecumenical. James Earl Massey investigates the theological underpinnings of African-American Spirituals. Avery Cardinal Dulles applies the doctrine of the Trinity to ecclesiology. Frederica Mathewes-Green engages in art criticism of The Old Testament Trinity by Russian artist Andrei Rublev. J.I. Packer provides a "Puritan perspective" on the Trinity in a biographical essay of John Owen. Timothy George examines the implications of the Trinity for interacting with Islam. Ellen Charry argues for the legitimacy of Divine Perfections in thinking about God and his salvation. Finally, Cornelius Plantinga ends the volume with a sermonic exhortation to submit to the "deep wisdom" of Christ's selflessness evidenced in the Gospel of John.
One obvious strength of this work is the diversity of contributors and their attempt to translate the sometimes oblique discussion of the Trinity into a volume designed to engage the church. The first two essays provide a helpful framework for thinking through the mystery of the Trinity in light of the biblical text. After these chapters though, the focus of the book begins to wander. Both the nature of the topic and style of presentation vary greatly as the reader moves through this section of the work.
Massey's investigation of African-American spirituals is interesting, but his discussion of the Holy Spirit in these songs is more tenuous than with the other members of the Trinity. Dulles' ecumenically driven discussion of "Trinitarian ecclesiology" perhaps engages in the speculation about which McGrath cautions in his essay. Mathewes-Green's art criticism is intriguing but is based on a debated Trinitarian interpretation of Genesis 18:1-2. The chapters range from biography (Packer), to apologetics (George), to art criticism (Green), to literary criticism (Massey), to philosophical debate (Charry), and to sermon (Plantinga).
This topical diversity reflects the ecumenical makeup of the contributors but also detracts from the structural focus of the work. Though George accomplishes his goal of starting an engaging Trinitarian conversation, an editorial comment on how each essay relates to the next would provide this volume with the thematic cohesion that would strengthen its overall impact.
I would say my favourite essay was Timothy George's "The Trinity and the Challenge of Islam", though Cornelius Plantinga Jr's "Deep Wisdom" was quite a moving and appropriate way to conclude the book.
The thing lacking I think is "For Further Reading" - some suggestions from the Authors of where to go for more on the topic they covered. I did appreciated having a section on the Contributers as this is not always found in collections of essays, but should be.
I think this is a good easy read and a good way to be exposed to some of the discussion about the Trinity - but definitely not the place to stop :)