The vast majority of us Christians aren’t as informed on the character of the God we worship as we should be. Neither are we adept at moving out of our comfort zones into situations where our beliefs are challenged and thereby strengthened.
I found myself challenged concerning the origins of the doctrine of the Trinity by a friend of the Muslim faith. It is commonly assumed (certainly among Muslims at least) that the doctrine of the Trinity is an invention not even of the early church fathers but rather theologians writing hundreds of years after Jesus walked the earth. I realised that I was very ill-equipped to respond to this and therefore went in search of something to help me get at the truth.
Sanders’ book wasn’t quite the right tool for that job. It’s not designed to be a description of the history of Trinitarian thought. Rather, it’s designed to be a reflection on why the Trinity must form the central core of our belief and, thereby, inform every area of our Christian lives. That’s not to say it wasn’t useful. Quite the opposite. I came away from it with a much deeper appreciation of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit I’ve given my life to worship. For that, the experience was invaluable.
As I got deeper into the book, I realised that I was in the presence of someone who has spent a long time thinking very deeply about the one subject of the Trinity. Sanders writes with pathos and care. He very wisely leads you by the hand through some of the deepest theology that’s ever been devised. He has a very broad grasp of how thinkers across the centuries have crystalised this area of thinking.
Written with a completely difference pace and style from his much more theoretical The Triune God (which I’m still wading my way slowly through!), I never felt left behind in Deep Things. Considering the complexity of the subject matter, that is a fine testimony to his skill as a teacher.
Subtitled How the Trinity Changes Everything, the book challenges how evangelical practise simply doesn’t leave much room for consideration of the Trinity let alone actively attempt to reflect upon it. Thus, we fail to ensure that the roles of all three persons are understood in areas such as worship, salvation, prayer and scripture.
It’s a rebuke that we definitely need to hear. From my experience, evangelical thought is far too often something of an oxymoron. Sanders’ humble and gentle chastisement is exactly what we need to get us stirred to go deeper into the things of God.
To summarise, in Deep Things, Sanders does a very good job of helping the layperson navigate the often rough waters of Trinitarian theology. If you’re looking for a place to start, you’re not going to find much better than this. Make sure you get at least the 2nd edition; the study guide added to the original is excellent.