This evening a group of men from Christ Church are meeting at our home to discuss our reading of The Deep Things of God, by Fred Sanders. A month or so ago, when I started reading this book, I wrote to a friend at Crossway to thank him for publishing such an important book. Here are seven reasons why I think it is important.
1. Sanders knows the principle of clearing away debris in order to build on the old foundations. When he sees superficialities in evangelicalism, and he does, he does not leap to the easy but misguided conclusion, He shows that evangelicals have wandered away from their Trinitarian roots, not that they have no Trinitarian roots.
“When evangelicals are being true to the underlying realities that brought the movement into being, they are the advocates of a particularly intense variety of Trinitarian knowledge and experience. When they are not self-forgetful, they know that participation in the life of the triune God is ‘the distinctive teaching of Evangelical Christianity’” (p. 21).
2. Sanders clearly understands the distinction between embodied Trinitarian practice and high level Trinitarian theory. The whole point of the book is to argue for both, but he plainly sees that if you had to choose one or the other, it would be better to come in repentance to the Father through the Spirit in the name of Jesus than to know what perichoretic means.
“Most evangelical Christians don’t need to talked into the Trinitarian theory; they need to be show that they are immersed in Trinitarian reality” (p. 34).
3. Moreover, Sanders understands the right order of theology.Theology is good at explaining things, but surely there should be something present first that calls for explanation?
“Reality comes first, and understanding follows it” (p. 27).
4. Sanders shows a wholesome loyalty to the evangelical wing of the Christian Church, without falling into petty forms of sectarianism.
“The doctrine of the Trinity is no place for small-mindedness” (p. 23).
5. Sanders makes the same point that Piper does in his fine book God is the Gospel. The point is not to arrange your thoughts in orthodox patterns, like so many dead butterflies pinned to the poster board. The point is to come to the experienced knowledge of God. The point is to experience Christ.
“The gospel is Trinitarian, and the Trinity is the gospel” (p. 10).
6. Sanders is very clear that to be a biblicist is to be someone who functions, necessarily, within the shape of the gospel, which is Trinitarian in shape. This is not high theology instead of Scripture, but is rather heavy doses of Bible.
“There is one place in Scripture where the sheer greatness of the gospel is most profusely described” the blessing with which Paul opens the epistle to the Ephesians” (p. 99).
7. Sanders knows that negotiating the balance between objective truth “out there,” and subjective truth “in here” is quite tricky.
“That makes Trinitarianism the natural home for the doctrine of assurance” (p. 190).
I commend this book highly. Just one criticism in conclusion. With the knowledge that within the limits of a 239 page book, it is not possible to say everything, especially on a subject like this one, the only criticism I would offer is that I wish there had been more about the issues surrounding the filioque clause in the Nicean Creed.
Still, an important book. There are more than seven reasons why, but since I am done typing, to discover the other reasons you will have to read it yourself.