Evangelical Trinitarianism And The Unity Of The Theological Disciplines -- By: Fred Sanders

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 60:1 (Mar 2017)
Article: Evangelical Trinitarianism And The Unity Of The Theological Disciplines
Author: Fred Sanders


Evangelical Trinitarianism And The Unity Of The Theological Disciplines

Fred Sanders*

* Fred Sanders is professor of theology in the Torrey Honors Institute at Biola University, 13800 Biola Avenue, La Mirada, CA 90639. He delivered this plenary address at the 68th annual meeting of the ETS in San Antonio, TX on November 15, 2016. He may be contacted at fred.sanders@biola.edu.

Abstract: This is a summons to deeper commitment to a Trinitarianism shaped by the gospel, with an explanation of how such a distinctively evangelical Trinitarianism should be located and arranged. Such a Trinitarianism is characterized by a prominent role for the temporal missions and eternal processions of the Son and the Holy Spirit from the Father, and by a “two-handed,” or Christological and pneumatological, character. Special attention is given to the doctrine’s placement in systematic theology, its shaping effect on every Christian doctrine, and the disposition of the elements that make it up. The conclusion argues that the various theological disciplines themselves require Trinitarian commitment as a basis for their unity and coherence.

Key Words: Trinity, gospel, soteriology, evangelicalism, Christology, pneumatology, Nicene Creed, theological disciplines

The Trinity is big. The doctrine of the Trinity is a big deal. Just how big of a deal it is, is what I want to explore in the following remarks. In doing so, I am inviting readers to join in an intellectual and academic act of worship, an act in which our rational souls magnify the triune Lord, because our spirits rejoice in God our savior (Luke 1:46). If the poor bedraggled word “evangelical” still means anything—and it does—it picks out a person whose spirit knows to rejoice in God the Savior. But how can a soul—a little part of God’s creation—magnify, enlarge, expand on, or embiggen, its Lord? Following the guidance of the Magnificat, as we have begun to do here, we can answer: When the Lord does magnificent things, the lowly can magnify the Lord. In Mary’s Magnificat, it is because the mighty one has done megala, great things, that the handmaid’s soul responds with megaluno, making him great in the sense of declaring him great in her speech (Luke 1:49).

Here is the secret of praise: The Lord moves mightily, the creature responds verbally, magnifying not just the deeds of the Lord, but the Lord of the deeds. This is the secret of praise, and praise is the secret of Trinitarian theology. Helmut Thielicke said that the doctrine of the Trinity is a doxology using the means of thought.1...

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