Sunday, October 08, 2006

A good, readable introduction to the Trinity?

I'm not aware of any simple, easy to read books that introuduce the Trinity to Christians and help them better understand why we must believe it because of who we meet in Jesus in the Bible but also why it's so valuable because of the difference it makes to our relationship with God. I figure it's increasingly important. In the evangelical circles I'm in, exegetical teaching is primarily how the Bible is taught. That means people are really confident of their ability to learn from the Bible but it means sometimes people aren't as thought through about these more systematic issues. And I figure this is increasingly important as Christians should be increasingly in dialogue with Muslims given the danger of fear developing on both sides in our society at the moment. Christians need to have Muslim friends and understand how they view God. But Christians also need to be clear why the Bible doesn't let us say that Jesus is simply a prophet and not God's Son and genuinely God. (And also how Mary is not the third member of the trinity.) As far as introducing why we believe in the Trinity, it needs to cover:
  • monotheism as a Jewish and Christian insistence;
  • understanding what Jesus said and did in this light;
  • how the early Christians talked about Jesus in the same way as they did about God.
Within this section you'd also want very brief explanations of things the early church fathers wrote in the creeds we recite, like:
  • what does "of one substance" mean?
  • what does it mean that Jesus is "begotten" and how does that compare with the Spirit "proceding"?
  • how did they still insist that Jesus wasn't simply another "face" of God?
But you wouldn't want to make this too heavy. Rather, we would want to explore what these things mean for our relationship with God. So:
  • how, because of Jesus, we now can be totally confident that God can be known and that we know him;
  • the way that; because God is triune, he didn't have to create the world - it wasn't that God was lonely;
  • but also, that because God is trune relationships are fundamental to the nature of the universe and the difference that can make;
  • the way that each person in the godhead works in a different way to restore us to relationship with themselves.
The difficult thing with that last bit is how much to explore Jesus' divine and human natures. It's exciting but also hard work. Will keep working on a table of contents until I hear of someone who's done it already.

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