Essay / Theology

"Deep Things" as Seminary Textbook

I’ve been really glad to see that my 2010 book The Deep Things of God: How the Trinity Changes Everything has been adopted as a textbook by professors at several seminaries. I wrote the book for a general audience, including Christians without formal theological training, but it’s meaty enough for grad students, and I’ve been happy to see it finding a place on syllabi. It covers the territory of theological method, the doctrine of God, the doctrine of salvation, and a bit of practical theology. So it could fit into a variety of courses.

A recent testimonial to that effect comes from the redoubtable Randal Rauser, who has posted a long review of Deep Things at his blog. By the way, a review like this is one of the great things about professorial blogging: Rauser’s review runs longer than 5,000 words and includes fun observations and links that wouldn’t appear in a printed journal. It doesn’t ramble on and on, but it takes all the space it needs. It’s carefully crafted, but is in the zingy, conversational mode, and includes a couple typos. This is good, informative discourse, and I’m glad there’s a place for it.

Rauser’s review includes generous praise (He thinks you should read my book! Listen to him!) and a few well-placed criticisms. Criticisms duly noted, by the way. Rauser rightly indicates three points that I ought to either amend, or sell more convincingly. I’ll take them on board and respond in later, constructive work rather than here in an online reaction.

Okay, one brief response. Rauser takes a swat at the sub-title, “How the Trinity Changes Everything,” and some similar over-reaches within the book. He argues that

Understanding the concept of God within a trinitarian framework doesn’t change everything. This is clearly evident in the fact that Christian theologians have shared with other western monotheists (Muslim; Jewish) a significant degree of overlap in their understanding of the divine nature. (For example, compare Aquinas and Maimonides on the divine nature and attributes.) The fact that Christians believe God is triune doesn’t change our shared confession with other monotheists that God is omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent, omnipresent, or that he exists a se, created and sustains the world, governs it with providential intention and so on. To be sure, there are many places where a Christian conception of God as Trinity will lead to a divergence from other monotheistic theoretical frameworks. But to say that the Trinity changes everything is nothing if not gross overstatement.

Fair shot, and I’ll say something about it in due course. As for the sub-title, Rauser knows that book titles ultimately come from editors rather than authors, and that “editors have a penchant for marketable titles over accurate ones.” I would only add that my suggested sub-title for the book was some hopelessly highfalutin’ pronouncement like “Toward a Heuristic Hermeneutic of Consubstantial Perichoretic Experience In Itself and For Itself,” or a Delphic utterance like “Evangelical Existence To-day!” So the current sub-title is way better, even with its bombast.

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