Sanders, Fred. The Triune God. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2016.
The Threeness of the one God stands as the centre of the Christian faith. It is both our primary confession (we confess God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) and our central mystery (how can the one God be three persons?). But we cannot help but believe in the Trinity, be baptized into the name of the Triune God (Matthew 28:19), and live the Christian life in a distinctively Trinitarian way (we pray to the Father, live by the Spirit, and trust in Christ alone for salvation).
Fred Sanders provides readers with a thoroughly researched and thought out work on the Trinity to help us understand the mystery of the Trinity. For Sanders, a true Trinitarian theology is one of worship (20, 25). And rightly understanding the Trinity means paying attention to the two revelatory missions of God: the incarnation and Pentecost.
The first mission is the mission of the Son in his incarnation. The second mission is Pentecost, where the Holy Spirit was given to the church. Together, these two events constitute the missions of God. And from them, we can understand God’s eternal processions: “… the truth is that the temporal missions of the Son and the Spirit make known the eternal processions of the Son and the Spirit” (112).
While the language is somewhat technical, God’s eternal processions or relations tell us how the Trinity relates to each other as God. The Son relates to the Father because he is generated or begotten of the Father; and the Spirit relates to the Father because he is spirited from the Father (112–113).
Sanders does an admirable job of explaining the greatest mystery in the universe. But there are at least two major shortfalls. The book is an information dump. There is so much here. It may not be Sanders’ fault because the scholarship and history of theological research on the doctrine is immense.
Second, Sanders makes the point that he will pay attention more to Scripture than the tradition of Trinitarian theology (23–24). In a rather ironic way, Sanders himself fails to focus on Scripture and instead discusses the tradition of the church and of scholarship with great detail. Scriptural exegesis does, however, appear in Sander’s book; but it doesn’t constitute the meat of the book.
My critiques of Sanders’ work do not mean that you should avoid reading it. On the contrary, Sanders’ work is rewarding and informative. You will be drawn into a deeper understanding of God and you will be drawn to praise the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher, but I was under no obligation to give the book a positive review.