Solidifying our Lutheran Trinitarian Preaching & Teaching

beckwith-theholytrinityOutside of Holy Trinity Sunday, when was the last time you preached on the Scriptural teachings on the Trinity?  In your Bible teaching, do you spend much more time than just quoting the normal proof passages such as Matthew 28:19, 2 Corinthians 13:14 and Matthew 3:16-17?  Possibly even when catechizing do you begin with arguments about God’s existence and the natural knowledge of God?  A final question, would you like to be inspired and confirmed in your Trinitarian understanding and proclamation?

To help us with this and all things Trinitarian is the excellent new volume of the Confessional Lutheran Dogmatics series on the Holy Trinity by Dr. Carl Beckwith.  This volume is so well written and composed that it will not just hold your attention on each of its 365 pages, but it will stimulate more precise and scripturally accurate Trinitarian preaching and teaching. It is available in hardcover or paperback from Lulu.com.

Many commendable salient points highlight this well constructed romp through Trinitarian doctrine history.  At the outset is Dr. Beckwith’s goal:  “To put this more pointedly, Lutherans need to be able to confess the Trinity as clearly and persuasively as they do justification by faith alone.”[1] To be sure, much emphasis is placed on the Reformers and Lutherans specifically positions.

Beckwith delineates further the task of his book for our Trinitarian usage: “Our task is not one of simple repristination, of repeating authoritative names and conclusions, thinking this secures for us a right confession of the Trinity; our task is to relearn their exegesis in order to grasp the intelligibility of their conclusions, as seen for example in the technical grammar used to express their scriptural convictions and in the creedal summaries of those convictions.”[2]

This volume on the Trinity explores the path of modernity which drifted more and more away from the historical exegesis on the Trinity to more and more the philosophical analysis and terminology moving from the natural knowledge of God on to His attributes and Trinitarian issues.  Beckwith concludes that this approach “More often than not God becomes the answer to our human anxieties and deficiencies.”[3]  Lutherans certainly rejected modernity and returned to the exegesis of the Fathers and the Scriptural, creedal language.  Since all theology is Christology, all Christology is Trinitarian.  “If we wish to have a right knowledge of the Trinity we must place our gaze upon Christ, who alone reveals the Father to us by the Holy Spirit.  This means that God must come to us if we are to know Him; we cannot ascend to Him by means of reason, good works, or spiritual exercises.  The decisive event in our coming to know God is the incarnation.”[4]

To be sure, a central part of this volume is the Biblical exegesis of the Trinity.  An excellent part is The Trinity and the Old Testament.  Gerhard spoke correctly of this emphasis: “If the mystery of the Trinity had been completely unknown in the Old Testament, surely ‘a recent god’ would be introduced in the New Testament through the worship of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”[5]

A salient and pertinent section is on the Attributes of God, especially how one discusses the unity of God and God as Trinity.  “It is especially irresponsible in our day for a Christian theologian to pursue a discussion of God, His essence and attributes, apart from His eternal identity as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  It is irresponsible, on the one hand, because it is not scripturally possible, but even further, it is suspect to the highest degree because there may be no profitable understanding of God’s attributes apart from the divine persons, who are these attributes, and their works.”[6]

There is much to be gained by reading this fine addition to The Luther Academy’s Confessional Dogmatics series on The Holy Trinity.  They are to be highly commended for this.  Besides the history of this vital teaching being presented, it focuses correctly on what God has revealed to us through Scripture.  Beckwith rightly states that our words and thoughts remain inadequate and unsatisfying.  Yet, he continues: “The possibility of speaking about God, of describing God, stems from God’w own mercy and grace.  He discloses Himself to us, He comes near, He frees us from our idols and idolatries, from the bondage of our sin and the weakness of our thoughts, that we might become shares and participants in His divine life.”[7]

 

 

The book is available in hardcover or paperback from Lulu.com.

 

[1] Carl L. Beckwith, The Holy Trinity, Confessional Lutheran Dogmatics, Volume III, (Ft. Wayne, IN: The Luther Academy, 2016), 4.

[2][2] Ibid., 10.

[3] Ibid., 110.

[4] Ibid., 86-87.

[5] Ibid., Gerhard quote on 119.

[6] Ibid., 314.

[7] Ibid., 357.

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