Book Review: The Deep Things of God
The Deep Things of God: How the Trinity Changes Everything
Review by Matt Proctor
Fred Sanders’ central argument “that the doctrine of the Trinity inherently belongs to the gospel itself” was at first off-putting. I am a classic evangelical that tries to keep the “gospel” a message focused on Jesus Christ’s life, death and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15). Whenever someone tries to redefine the gospel, I get suspicious.
Sanders, however, is aware of folks like myself and has constructed a book filled with biblical exegesis and the writings of evangelical heroes (and heroines!) that affirm the necessity of keeping the gospel rooted in Trinitarian theology.
Despite an unnecessarily repetitive beginning and a writing style prohibiting most nonseminary-trained readers from accessing the book, Sanders does convince me that “the Trinity is the gospel.”
As he explains: “The good news of salvation is that God, who in himself is eternally the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, has become for us the adoptive Father, the incarnate Son, and the outpoured Spirit.”
God did not remain in “the happy land of the Trinity”; He made Himself known.
Already, this book is preparing me to teach more accurately on how the Trinitarian God shapes how the church should function, how the Bible should be read, how prayers should be offered, and how salvation is accomplished and applied.
In a world filled with heretical understandings of the Trinity, as well as a church culture that thinks Trinitarian theology is “heady” or “useless” to regular church life, Sanders’ book is a refreshing reminder that the foundations of evangelicalism, Protestantism and orthodoxy have been built on the bedrock of our Trinitarian faith. Indeed, to lose the Trinity is to lose the gospel.
Matt Proctor continues to rack his brain in order to grasp the glory and grandeur of the Triune God. He is privileged to serve as lead pastor of the very patient saints of Cornerstone Church (EFCA) in Marion, Iowa.
Review by Kathi Kunkel
I know the purpose of these reviews is not to play cheerleader, but I can’t help it. I loved this book.
Sanders is an excellent writer. More than that, he has something to say—especially to those who have hit an impenetrable wall when trying to understand the Trinity. To these, Sanders beckons, “Come. Here . . . see? Behind this curtain . . . there’s another way in.”
With wit, compassion, clarity and knowledge, Sanders ushers readers past common intellectual difficulties into an experiential union with the Triune God. Scholars will appreciate the breadth and depth of sources that inform his writing. All will be welcomed by his invitational style.
Two notes to all readers: 1) Don’t skip the introduction. In it, Sanders sets the stage for all that follows. 2) Don’t begin in Chapter 1. It’s about methodology, differs in tone and style, and can safely be skipped until the end—advice given by Sanders in the introduction.
I have not stopped talking about this book since I started reading it. Indeed, I have purchased and mailed copies to four others and have begun building a library from the sources he cited.
Kathi Kunkel is a middle-school math teacher in Mechanicsburg, Penn. She worships at the Evangelical Free Church of Hershey, where she serves in the choir, on the worship and AV teams and as a substitute usher.
Review by Nathan Hogan
As evangelicals we acknowledge the Trinity, but often we don’t have much affection for this doctrine. It tends to simply hover in the background of our theological beliefs. It is precisely this situation that Fred Sanders hopes to remedy.
However, Sanders’ book is not meant to be a study of the history of the doctrine of the Trinity or any of the heresies that surround this doctrine. If you are looking for something to bolster your understanding of these issues, you would do better to turn elsewhere (a trusted systematic theology, perhaps).
A book about the Trinity may sound too deep for some, but don’t let the depth of the doctrine scare you away from diving into this wonderful study of the awesome God we serve.
Nathan Hogan serves as the associate pastor at Lake Murray Community Church (EFCA) in La Mesa, Calif.
Review by Michael Herrington
I wondered at times if Sanders’ book would be well received in a culture that enjoys small bites. While I can imagine the average person getting bogged down at times, I would not hesitate to recommend the book. For someone with little time, I would point them to the two middle chapters (three and four) about salvation and the gospel, and to the last chapter on prayer. These chapters encapsulate and practically apply a great deal of the message of the book.
I had hoped Sanders would give an explanation of how the Trinity impacts our relationship to the world. Since the Trinity is self-sufficient—not needing the creation yet creating anyway and engaging that creation through the sending of Son and Spirit—what is our role as Trinitarians in getting involved with the world?
While there are certainly hints about this, Sanders gives no explicit guidance. That, however, should not distract from this helpful work that re-centers our focus on God as Trinity and how we are Trinitarian whether we realize it or not.
Michael Herrington is husband to Dana, father to three girls and serves as pastor of Christ Community Church (EFCA) in Andrews, N.C.