Book Review: Jesus in Trinitarian Perspective

Sanders, Fred & Klaus Issler, eds. Jesus in Trinitarian Perspective: An Introductory Christology. Nashville: B&H. 2007. 244 pp. Softcover. $24.99.

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Contributors: Fred Sanders, Garrett J. DeWeese, Donald Fairbairn, Bruce A. Ware, J. Scott Horrell & Klaus Issler.

Sample Chapter

ISBNs: 080544422X / 978-0805444223

DCN: 232

Subjects: Jesus Christ, Christology, Trinity

Jesus in Trinitarian Perspective is a collection of six essays on the person and work of Christ from a Protestant and Chalcedonian perspective. As a work composed of essays by six different authors, the book requires that it be reviewed primarily on a macroscopic level.

The tone of these essays can be described as systematic theology rather than biblical exposition. Those seeking a rigorous engagement with historical frameworks and philosophical clarifications will be pleased with the range of material cited. The authors consistently orient themselves not only to a Protestant Trinitarian Christology but also to an evangelical theology. The book is confessional in its underpinnings as it rejects the historical-critical agenda and unashamedly believes in God coming down from heaven and becoming human for our salvation.

However, it would have been more apropos to replace the subtitle “An Introductory Christology” with “An Intermediate Christology.” Each chapter begins with a list of key terms and a list of theological axioms. Study questions are provided at the end of each chapter along with a short annotated bibliography. When one takes all of these extremely helpful components into consideration, the essays still retain the sense that some background is being assumed. The reader with no background in the theological nuances of Christology would do well to view this as a “next step” after reading about Christology in a book such as Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology.

Each chapter has been written so it can be read without reference to the others. This format is particularly helpful to those looking to research a particular topic or to read the book over an extended period. This book may be helpful for those seeking to address difficult pastoral issues of the day. For example, those seeking to address oneness Pentecostals may find the chapter “Christ’s Atonement: A Work of the Trinity” useful. Or those preaching through the Gospels and wrestling with the incarnation may want to turn immediately to the chapter “One Person, Two Natures.”

What makes this book exceptional is the maturity reflected by the authors as they tweak, re-examine, and sometimes reject certain doctrines—all the while remaining faithful to Chalcedonian orthodoxy. J. Scott Horrell challenges the Western preference for doing divine ontology apart from Trinitarian frameworks. Particularly surprising was Donald Fairbairn’s dismissal of the stereotype that Alexandrians were allegorizers and Antiochenes were literalistic. Garrett J. DeWeese’s chapter will pique interest as he argues that Jesus had not two wills but one. In addition to the introductory chapter by Fred Sanders, the five other authors all reflect a judicious use of logic and rhetoric in their formulations. Even in this “introductory” volume, there is plenty to offer readers who have already done advanced work in historical and systematic theology.

The task of understanding and wrestling with Christology is not a light one. The reader of this volume must work though the history and logic of the positions of orthodoxy and heresy. This task involves a smattering of Latin and Greek as well as technical jargon, such as perichoresis and dyothelitism. This book is not for those unwilling to work hard at arriving at sound doctrine. Fred Sanders points out that one experiences a “temptation” to feel disappointed by long, theological propositions. He states that the trick is to “hear” it in the right way, never letting the echo of refinements drown out doxology. When this book is read in this way, it will undoubtedly move the reader in knowledge and spiritual reflection.

David WenkelDavid H. Wenkel graduated from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School with an M.A. in Christian Thought: Systematic Theology (2004) and from Bob Jones University with an M.A. in Bible (2006). He returned to Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (2008) to do a Th.M. with a focus in New Testament.

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