The Deep Things of God: How the Trinity Changes Everything by Fred Sanders is not the best book I’ve read on the Trinity. However, it is among one of the more interesting.
The title grabbed my attention as so many Christian books tend to focus on the trivial. There is nothing trivial about Sanders’ work. He sounds the alarm and calls evangelicals to return to their Trinitarian roots and experience the deep truths concerning God.
The author cites B.B. Warfield which serves as an effective launching point: “The religious terrain is full of the graves of good words which have died from lack of care … and these good words are still dying all around us. There is that good word “Evangelical.” It is certainly moribund, if not already dead. Nobody any longer seems to know what it means.” Sober words from a theologian who has been dead for almost ninety years!
Sanders does not waste any time developing his thesis. He states it early in the book: “The central argument of this book is that the doctrine of the Trinity inherently belongs to the gospel itself.” His goal is to demonstrate that “the gospel is Trinitarian, and the Trinity is the gospel.” And he pounds this theme at every conceivable angle for 239 pages.
The introduction rightly responds negatively to the typical anti-intellectual and reductionist tendencies among evangelicals. Sanders writes, “When emphatic evangelicalism degenerates into reductionist evangelicalism, it is always because it has lost touch with the all-encompassing truth of its Trinitarian theology.”
One strategy the author utilizes is to call forth witnesses to testify on behalf of Trinitarian theology. Those who testify are a diverse group: everyone from C.S. Lewis, J.I. Packer, Francis Schaeffer, Billy Graham, Oswald Chambers, and Susannah Wesley.
Sanders introduces readers to the self-sufficiency of God in what he calls “the happy land of the Trinity.” In other words, God, from all eternity has always been happy and complete. There has been perfect fellowship among the members of the godhead from all eternity and there will continue to be perfect fellowship in eternity future. The author continually returns to the main theme, namely, “The main practical reason for learning how to think well about the eternal life of the Trinity is that it is the background for the gospel.”
Sanders continues to link the doctrine of the Trinity to gospel truth: “Everything in the Christian faith should be connected, clearly and directly, to the one central thing, the gospel of salvation in Christ.” As such, the author does brief exposition of Ephesians 1 and borrows the insight of Henry Scougal to bolster his thesis.
Readers become familiarized with the various roles that the members of the godhead perform which ultimately ushers them into “the saving life of Christ.” Here, Sanders leans heavily on the insight of Francis Schaeffer: “When I accept Christ as my Savior, my guilt is gone, I am indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and I am in communication with the Father and the Son, as well as the Holy Spirit – the entire Trinity.”
I can recommend The Deep Things of God to folks who have wrestled through some of the implications of the Trinitarian formulations. For those who are unfamiliar with how the doctrine unfolded in church history and how it is developed in Scripture – this is probably not the best place to start. I would turn first to Bruce A. Ware’s excellent work, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Robert Letham’s, The Holy Trinity and James White’s, The Forgotten Trinity.
We would do well to remember the words of Dr. South concerning the Trinity, cited in William Shedd’s Introduction to Augustine’s De Trinitate:
- “As he that denies this fundamental article of the Christian religion may lose his soul, so he that much strives to understand it may lose his wits.”