Essay / Theology

Evangelicals and the Deep Things

It’s time for another report on the ongoing discussion prompted by my new book, The Deep Things of God: How the Trinity Changes Everything. There have been several developments in the past few days, as the book is finding readers hither and yon.

Doug Wilson at Blog & Mablog gives Seven Reasons Why “The Deep Things of God” is An Important Book. Wow! Here are three of the reasons:

Sanders clearly understands the distinction between embodied Trinitarian practice and high level Trinitarian theory. The whole point of the book is to argue for both, but he plainly sees that if you had to choose one or the other, it would be better to come in repentance to the Father through the Spirit in the name of Jesus than to know what perichoretic means… Moreover, Sanders understands the right order of theology.Theology is good at explaining things, but surely there should be something present first that calls for explanation? … Sanders makes the same point that Piper does in his fine book God is the Gospel. The point is not to arrange your thoughts in orthodox patterns, like so many dead butterflies pinned to the poster board. The point is to come to the experienced knowledge of God. The point is to experience Christ.

John Starke at The Gospel Coalition Reviews interviewed me on October 14 about the book. It’s a good, brief conversation, about how evangelical churches are dong with the doctrine of the Trinity these days, the challenge of Oneness Pentecostalism, and Gospel-centeredness. John was especially keen to question my reasons for giving preferential treatment to evangelical authors in the book. He was concerned that my avoiding of early Christian authors could give the impression that there’s something wrong with older sources. “Since the Protestant Reformers labored to show that they weren’t novel, but actually a faithful continuance of the early church,” John asked, wouldn’t it be wise to quote frequently from ancient sources? My answer:

Yeah, the Reformers had this great connection to the past. If anything, I’m trying to make those connections as much as possible. Here’s an analogy: There are times when artists will restrict their pallette, or their available subject matter. So Picasso has a blue period, where he pretends there just weren’t any other colors than blue, and he pursus this line of research, where he’s just seeing how much he can get out of blue. There’s a way in which I restricted the pallette in this book on purpose, to find out just how much is in there. And as I chased that out, it was great to find Dwight Moody, and Bill Bright, and all of these authors being explicitly trinitarian.

(My phone connection wasn’t great throughout the interview, but as a bonus you can hear my urban chickens in the background at about the five-minute mark)

Bob Kauflin of Sovereign Grace Ministries read Deep Things and twittered quite a bit about it last month. He continues to mention the book here and there, including this set of ideas at a recent worship conference:

Our singing is not something we originate, but flows from the relationships of the triune God who sings (Zeph. 3:17; Heb. 2:12; Eph. 5:18-19). We sing because God sings and we’ve been made in his image. I never got to mention it on the panel, but a very helpful book on the Trinity is The Deep Things of God: How the Trinity Changes Everything by Fred Sanders.

(Those are Kauflin’s ideas, not mine. I only mention it here because I’m excited that Deep Things is finding an audience with worship leaders, and is stimulating their imaginations.)

Pastor Mark Lauterbach at Gospel-Driven Life continues to blog his way through the book. He’s nine posts into the series, and may be getting more out of the book than I put into it!

Citing Thomas Goodwin, Sanders insists that God does not bless us with all good things; he blesses us with Himself. (103) This is not novel theology. It is what Protestants have held for hundreds of year. It has just been buried under the rubble of user-friendly, self-help rubbish or under a pile of “Jesus loves you just as you are” therapy. God, in Christ, gives us Himself, through redemption and indwelling and glorification. He is the bread of life. He gives us himself. has the whole first chapter posted online. Between that and Amazon’s preview, you can read a whole lot of this book before you decide if you want to buy a copy.

Justin Camblin at The Camel’s Hump “struggles to classify” the book, but testifies that it helped heighten his awareness of the doctrine of the Trinity:

Evangelicals have lost touch with its power and importance. For me, this nailed my growing up. I grew up in a stream of evangelicalism that had become reductionistic. It wasn’t until after college where I was introduced to the rest of the story. So I really enjoyed this section, mainly because I connected with it so personally. I’m sure many other young evangelicals will connect with it as well.

Pastor Jerry Owen at The World Turned Upside Down looks at the very end of the book, where I explore “the trinitarian theology of C.S. Lewis:”

Bringing the life of the Trinity into evangelism is the antidote to health-and-wealth, prosperity Gospel distortions. God sent his Son, and then his Spirit, to bring man back to himself where life abundant has always been (Jn. 10:10). It also remedies the individualism that has crept into so much evangelism. The Gospel is fundamentally about God, remarkably bringing unholy and unthankful sinners back into his community, the Trinity…. “There is eternal life gong on in the Trinity, and if we are to be saved we must share in that life. Lewis describes our way of access to that Trinitarian life as “good infection,” which calls for us to get close enough to the Trinity to catch this communicable life like a healing virus.”

Nathan at Forerunner Foundations picks up on the Susanna Wesley material in chapter two. He quotes the section at length and then concludes:

I hope Susanna’s example will stir you up and strengthen your resolve to think regular, careful, worshipful thoughts about the God of the Bible. Let Susanna’s example teach you that He is worthy of that kind of rigorous worship, whether or not what it produces ever sees the light of publication. And let her example stir you to think these thoughts with your pen in your hand so when the doorbell rings or the diaper has to be changed or the dog needs to be let out, you can come back and pick up later right where you left off. What might God be pleased to show us, and to show our children through us, if we pressed into the revelation He makes of Himself in His Word in this “Wesleyan” way?

Finally, I’ll be speaking on Why the Trinity Matters at Crabapple First Baptist Church in the neighborhood of Atlanta, GA, on Thurs, Nov. 18. More info about this later, but if you’re in the area, sign up and come!

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