Developing a Doctrine or Transforming a Tradition: A Review of the Quest for the Trinity

One of the most remarkable features of twentieth century theology was its emphasis on the doctrine of the Trinity as one of the most central and important aspects of Christian theology. The Trinity isn’t some abstract and speculative idea that we can discard in favor of the more important and practical aspects of the Christian faith. According to many modern theologians, what we believe about the Trinity shapes Christian faith and ministry.

quest for the trinityThat all sounds great. But in his new book, The Quest for the Trinity: The Doctrine of God in Scripture, History and Modernity (IVP, 2012), Steve Holmes argues that there’s a lot more to the story. These modern theologians haven’t just reemphasized the importance of the Trinity. Along the way, they have reconstructed it, subtly changing the doctrine in ways that run contrary to what the church has always believed.

This outstanding resource should be in the “must read” category for anyone wanting to understand the doctrine of the Trinity and/or the contemporary theological scene.

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Flotsam and jetsam (10/18)

luke warm

Good Reads

  • The Double-Edged Sword of Being a Female Bible Scholar: There are still tremendous challenges for women in evangelical scholarship, and I’m just not sure how to go forward because of the tokenism mindset. I want to encourage female scholars, but I would want a young, male New Testament scholar to look up to me as much as a female New Testament scholar would. I want to move beyond thinking that I should just mentor women. I should also mentor men, and I think that would be the next frontier. (Hermeneutics)

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If You Want to Be Missional, You Need to Support Higher Education

Does the church need Christian colleges? Or have Christian colleges passed their “best when used by” date? In “An Open Letter to American Churches: The Crisis of Christian Higher Education,” Chris Gehrz makes an impassioned plea for the church to understand the vital contribution that Christian colleges make to the life and mission of the church. As he provocatively asserts:

“If you want to be missional, you need to support Christian higher education.”

classroom (550x388)

A Growing Financial Crisis

Gehrz is Professor and Chair of History at Bethel University, which has apparently decided to lay off a significant number of faculty in an attempt to address a large budget shortfall. And, of course, Bethel is not alone. Many colleges, both Christian and secular, have their own financial woes, including Calvin College which made the news last spring when it announced a $69.4 million budget gap. As Gehrz points out, 74% of the schools in the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities received a grade of C or lower in a recent Forbes study, and 32% were declared “financially unsustainable” in another report. However you slice it, these numbers aren’t encouraging.

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When God Introduces Himself

nametag (300x300)What’s your name? That seems like a relatively simple question. If someone asks, you probably have a ready answer. Maybe you have a few nicknames that complicate things a bit, but generally this is not one of the more challenging questions you’ll face today.

But when Moses asked God for his name, he got a little more than he bargained for.

In Exodus 3:14-15, we find a fascinating exchange between Moses and God about God’s proper name. Moses is about to go speak to the people in Egypt, and he wants to know what to tell them if they ask for God’s name. And this is God’s response.

God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.”* And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”

God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘The LORD,’ the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.

So Moses asks for God’s name, and he gets three different responses? What’s going on here?

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Calvin and Hobbes Are Getting Their Own Documentary!

The official trailer for Dear Mr. Watterson is out, and it looks great. I’m sure it’s supposed to be about Bill Watterson, but we all know who the real stars will be.

We have stacks of Calvin and Hobbes books laying around the house, displaying their signs of love and frequent use in every torn cover and dogeared page. I’ve used them in youth ministry, preaching, teaching, and, of course, my own personal therapy. And I have fond memories of walking into my daughter’s room late at night to find her propped up in her crib with a Calvin and Hobbes open in her lap. (Or, just as often, fast asleep with one of the books covering her face.) Good times.

Needless to say, I’m looking forward to this one.

Flotsam and jetsam (10/16)

every teacher needs this t-shirt

every teacher needs this t-shirt

Good Reads

  • Conservative Catholics question Pope Francis’s approach: Rattled by Pope Francis’s admonishment to Catholics not to be “obsessed” by doctrine, his stated reluctance to judge gay people and his apparent willingness to engage just about anyone — including atheists — many conservative Catholics are doing what only recently seemed unthinkable: They are openly questioning the pope. (Washington Post)
  • The Bible Is the Word of God: This is an ongoing series looking at critical “axioms” of hermeneutics (the art and science of biblical interpretation), those things that I believe one must know and/or believe in order to interpret the Word of God accurately. (Transformed)
  • Forget About Learning Styles. Here’s Something Better: Whenever I speak to audiences about the science of learning, as I’ve been doing a lot this fall, one topic always comes up in the Q&A sessions that follow my talk: learning styles. Learning styles—the notion that each student has a particular mode by which he or she learns best, whether it’s visual, auditory or some other sense—is enormously popular. It’s also been thoroughly debunked. (Annie Murphy Paul)
  • Neil Gaiman: Why our future depends on libraries, reading and daydreaming: I’m going to tell you that libraries are important. I’m going to suggest that reading fiction, that reading for pleasure, is one of the most important things one can do. I’m going to make an impassioned plea for people to understand what libraries and librarians are, and to preserve both of these things.

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The Story of the Spirit from Beginning to End

For many Christians, the Spirit of God is a relative latecomer to the biblical story, not doing much until the New Testament. He doesn’t really begin to shine until after Pentecost. So if you want to learn about the Spirit, start reading in Acts.

But that clearly isn’t the case. Although the New Testament says some amazing things about the Spirit, you simply can’t understand or appreciate those statements deeply enough without the rest of the story. And it’s a story that begins in Genesis.

We’ve done a good job in recent years emphasizing that you can’t understand the story of Christ without the Old Testament, now it’s time to do the same for the Spirit.

typewriter (500x332)

Rather than just summarize the story of the Spirit in my own words, though, I started playing around with whether you could do it with a selective reading, letting the Bible speak for itself. The idea was to come up with something that (1) could be read in just a few minutes, (2) would make sense of the whole story of the Spirit, (3) could be read without inserting explanations (although everything in here could obviously be discussed further), (4) could be used as a public reading, and (5) doesn’t use any verse(s) inappropriately. That last point is important but tricky given that a selective reading like this necessarily uses individual passages outside their normal contexts. But let’s see what we can do.

Here’s what I came up with. Let me know if you think it’s missing anything essential to the story, but remember that we’re trying to keep this relatively brief.

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The Future of Learning (Infograhpic)

I like infographics, but I still thought this was funny. Of course, it’s also true enough to be a little terrifying.


Flotsam and jetsam (10/14)

not a train

Good Reads

  • 7 Unconventional Reasons Why You Absolutely Should Be Reading Books: In a world of omnipresent screens, it can be easy to forget the simple pleasure of curling up with a good book. In fact, a recent HuffPost/YouGov poll of 1,000 U.S. adults found that 28 percent hadn’t read one at all in the past year. But the truth is that reading books can be more than entertainment. (Huffington Post)
  • A Theologian’s Influence and Dark Past Live On: All of us fall short of our ideals, of course. But there is a common-sense expectation that religious professionals should try to behave as they counsel others to behave. They may not be perfect, but they should not be louts or jerks.By that standard, few failed as egregiously as John Howard Yoder, America’s most influential pacifist theologian. (New York Times)

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42 Maps That Help Me Understand the World and My Place in It

If you have a couple of extra minutes laying around, you’ll appreciate this video, which highlights the importance of maps both for conveying information about the world and for shaping thew way we view the world.