Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Triune God

The Triune GodThe Triune God by Kohl Ronald L
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Triune God from P&R Publishing is a volume of essays based on talks given at conferences for the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals.  It does not set out to give an exhaustive treatise on the Doctrine of the Trinity, or on Theology Proper, Christology or Pneumatology for that matter.  Rather, these are pastoral theological essays designed to encourage a greater understanding of our Triune God and elicit a greater faith and love for this One who is eternally 3-in-1.  “This is not a book that attempts to define or explain the Trinity, but it is a book that enriches the Christian’s love for our triune God.”

The list of contributors is pretty impressive.  Bryan Chappell, Kevin DeYoung, D.A. Carson, Joel Beeke, Michael Horton, Richard Phillips, Iain Duguid, Phillip Graham Ryken, Hywel Jones, and R.C. Sproul.  

Bryan Chappel opens the volume well with an essay that could go on forever and in a sense will go on forever in eternity.  His proclamation of the greatness of God was stirring time and again.
“We are not to waiver in the awful circumstances we face is not because of the promise of a son but because of the provision of a Son.”  When faced with terrible circumstances and how he could rely on God, Chappell’s reply was as poignant as pithy. “I trust him because he sent Jesus”.  We have faith in God’s ability but it is more than that.  We have faith in God’s character, in who he is.  “It’s not just faith in God’s power. Ultimately it’s faith in God’s provision.”

Richard Phillips has an excellent chapter on the holiness of God.  I take issue with his presentation of the Regulative Principle as normative based on the handling of the ark.  He labors the point of the ark being sacramental but then extends the handling of the ark to worship in general.  I felt this was an overreach, in general and in his own analogy.  I would have loved to see him develop this analogy more in regards to Baptism and Communion, but his attaching it to the RP was unconvincing.  Being said, this is an excellent essay of God’s complete otherness.

Kevin DeYoung argues that “We must combat the misconception that sincerity is the measure of truth,” and he makes a great case for this in his essay on the truth of God.  “It is sad in our day that humility is inconsistent with certainty. This is perhaps one of the reasons why so many of us, especially young people, have forgotten how to speak like, you know, whatever.  We have these little verbal hiccups because we’re afraid to say, like, something with, like, authority”

DeYoung continues that In our world, “(a)ny assurance of religious belief is seen to be arrogance; confidence is seen as cockiness.”  DeYoung quotes Chesterton in saying that we are “making a race of men too meager to believe in the multiplication tables: “Five times five is twenty-five if that works for you, but you may be different.”

But Christianity has assurance because it is a religion of history.

“Machen would say that the Gospel is historical fact plus theological interpretation—something happened, and here’s what it means.  You need to help your neighbors and your churches see that Christianity is irreducibly historical.  It isn’t just a way of dealing with life’s problems: we’re declaring something that actually happened in history.”

“Humility does not entail uncertainty.”  This leads DeYoung into an extended discussion on the doctrine of perspicuity.  It is particularly interesting how he ties it into the character of God.  The ability of the Scriptures to be understood stands as a testimony of a God who wants to be known, a God who lovingly condescends to the point of “baby-talk” so that His creatures can have relationship with Him.

Richard Phillips has a good overview of one of the doctrines that we humanist have such a difficult time with, the wrath of God and, specifically, the ceaseless enduring of hell.  This is an issue that pricks at the heart of natural man.  Even many, if not most, of the redeemed that I know still struggle with this doctrine.  It is a hard teaching and Phillips does well to present it faithfully, pastorally, and with all the sharp edges un-dulled.  In the midst of it he gives good perspective on the antinomianism-legalism struggle in the Western church at the moment even if, at times, his depiction is a bit of an absolutized(apparently not a word, but I am going with it) version of the opposing position.  In fairness, many have been guilty of this to a much greater extent. (See my review of Mark Jones’ Antinomianism…wait, you can’t because I took the post down and deleted it from my computer because it was terrible.)  Suffice it to say, it is exceedingly easy to only see the caricature of an opposing position and Phillips may succumb to that here, be it ever so slightly and in the midst of an excellent chapter.

Bryan Chappell follows with a chapter of the love of God, union with Christ and our baptismal death certificate.  You have to read this chapter!! “Your calling is to know how  much you are loved, because when you remember how much you are loved, you will live for him who gives you the power to do so.”

DA Carson opens the section on the Son of God and includes a great section on how the Son is equal yet subordinate to the Father.  Joel Beeke has an essay on Christ as the incarnate Word of God in which he comments on Christ as the revelation of God.

“Christ is therefore the full and comprehensive revelation of his Father.  Every attribute we affirm of the Father is true of the Son.  That’s why Jesus could ay to Phillip, “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father”(John 14:9). That’s why Isaiah could prophesy that Christ is the “mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace”(Isa 9:6, cf. 10:20-21).  Truly we behold in Christ “glory as of the only begotten of the Father.” (John 1:14)

Beeke also has an extensive chapter on the work of Christ on the cross dealing specifically with how, amongst other issues, the Son was abandoned by the Father.  DA Carson’s essay on the resurrection stresses the objective nature of the risen Son and the need for it to be a historical fact if it is to provide any genuine hope to the believer.

Michael Horton offers an excellent essay on the Holy Spirit and seeing his work “in creation, in the calling of Moses, in the exodus of the people of God, in the exile, in the return, in the promises that are ultimately fulfilled in our Lord Jesus Christ, and in this age of the Spirit, in which the church is able to take the gospel boldly to the ends of the earth”.

Horton argues that most of his work clusters “around three principle themes that can be categorized in a couple of different ways: temple, witness, and glory; or—it just happened to come out this way—earth, wind and fire.”  :-D  It is an essay well worth reading!!

Phillip Graham Ryken guides the reader away from an inappropriate understanding of our role in regeneration and a tacit denial of the monergistic activity of the Sprit in our new birth.

“There is a danger in the way that people sometimes talk about born-again Christianity.  The danger is in viewing conversion as something we have decided to do rather that something God does for us and in us by his grace, so that grace is the foundation of any response we make to God.”

R.C. Sproul takes the reader through the Upper Room Discourse with a focus on “The Paraclete” and “Another Paraclete” and the various translations of “paraclete”, settling with good reason for the term “advocate”.  Sproul then goes on to show us the beautiful truth that Christ and The Holy Spirit advocate for the children of God and how it is truly to our benefit that we live in this age rather than at the time of physical ministry of Jesus on earth.  Sproul closes his essay, and the book, with a comforting and encouraging truth that we would do well to remember as we journey through this far country.

“The Holy Spirit will not allow the world’s view of sin, righteousness, and judgment to prevail, because he’s the Spirit of truth, sent to the world by the Father and the Son.”

This is a great collection of essays.  At points it gets a bit deep and might be overwhelming at times, but it is worth the effort.  For the most part these essays are clear and straightforward and very helpful in seeing each person of the Trinity, how they relate to the world, and how they relate to each other.  I would love to see many people invest some time in this work and reap the benefit of a group of men gifted by God with the ability to think deeply and speak clearly.  One of the best parts about a collection like this is that you can pick and choose what to read and when to read it.  You are not bound, unless like me you suffer from a bit of a sequential chapter neurosis, to read the book from the first chapter to the last.  You can read the last essay first and in any order and benefit greatly from each individually.  This is well worth the read and I look forward to reading some of the other volumes that have been put together.

I received a review copy of this work from P&R Publishing.

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