Tuesday, July 5

Book Review: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit

Relationships, Roles, and Relevance, by Bruce A. Ware, reviewed as part of a program at The Diet of Bookworms.

How much do you know about the Trinity? You may be like me, and know that you believe in it, be able to quote the traditional formulations of it (You know: God is one being, one substance, three co-eternal persons, etc.), and even understand a little about some of the controversies over things like kenosis and functional subordination, but still not know much about the relationships between the persons of the Trinity; the roles those three persons have; and especially, how knowledge of the relationships and roles within the Trinity ought to affect the lives of believers within their own relationships. If the previous statement describes you, too--and I'm betting that at least part of it does--then this is a book you'll want to read.

There are six chapters in Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The first chapter is a list of ten reasons why believers need to study the Trinity. The last reason given is that the Trinity "provides one of the most important and neglected patterns for how human life and human relationships ought to be conducted." There you go. The doctrine of the triune God is a practical one. I suspect that most Christians don't fully understand this, or it wouldn't be the neglected doctrine that it is. We know that the Trinity is hard to understand, that we can't understand it completely, and since we can't see how the doctrine affects our everyday Christian walk, we figure the time spent studying the Trinity would be better spent doing something else. We couldn't be more mistaken, and the list in this chapter tells us why we need to know our stuff on the Trinity.

Chapter 2 is a historical overview of the doctrine of the Trinity. It explains how Christians came to understand God as three persons, yet one being; and why the early church fathers affirmed this doctrine. This chapter is especially valuable for showing us how the historical formulations are grounded in scripture.

Each of the three middle chapters examines the individual role and place within the Trinity of one of the persons of the Trinity. Chapter 3, for instance, examines what distinguishes the Father from the two other persons of the Godhead. What is the Father's eternal role? What is the nature of his relationship with the Son and the Holy Spirit? The answers to these questions are drawn from the statements of scripture. The last section of the chapter is application of the truths about the Father's role and relationship within the Godhead. We can, for instance, learn from the Father what true fatherhood really is. God's example is the perfect example for human fathers to follow as they fulfill their role as fathers within their family. The Son and the Holy Spirit each have a chapter as well, chapters in which Ware examines their roles within the Godhead from the testimony of scripture, and then gives us applications drawn from those scriptural truths about their roles in relationship to one another.

The last chapter is one filled with practical lessons gleaned from the relationships and roles of the triune God that we can apply in our own lives and in our own ministries. How does understanding the triune God affect our relationships? How does the trinity show us the proper way for our community to be? For our family to be? For our church to be? We learn here, too, how the Trinity forms the framework for biblical prayer and worship. Most of all, we learn that God's design for our lives and our relationships is good. Equal essence does not mean identical roles to fulfill. We can know that diversity in roles, with some in submission to others who are in authority, is a good thing because it is something found within our good and perfect God.

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is theology at its best--the study of God with a view toward the practical implications of that study in the lives of the Christian. This is one of those rare books that is short, easy to understand, but so dense with important truth that it oughtn't be read quickly. If I had a vote in the matter, I'd vote this one straight onto the list of Christian classic books, valuable to be read and then reread through the years.

This book gets my strongest recommendation so far of all the books I've reviewed for the Diet of Bookworms. Moreover, in all the reading I've done, I'd have to go back a few years before I'd find a book that I think is as important for every believer to read as this one.

You'll find more reviews of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit at the Diet of Bookworms.
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