Millard Erickson’s Making Sense of the Trinity

So Mrs. Richardson and Miss Richardson are out of town for the weekend and it’s just me and London (the dog) sitting at home staring at each other.  She’s staring at me with her fascinating underbite and bulging eyeballs, and I begin to think to myself, “Self, what shall we do?”  Then it hits me!  Of course!  Let’s knock out some Trinitarian theology!

So I grab Millard Erickson’s Making Sense of the Trinity: Three Crucial Questions and commence to read what turns out to be a tremendous and clear-sighted handling of the Trinity that frankly left me sad when it was all over.  This is one of those books that actually gets better as it goes along.

Many a seminary student knows the name Millard Erickson.  His Christian Theology (along with Wayne Grudem’s) pretty much dominates the evangelical seminary scene (or at least the Baptist expressions of it).  Through this work, and a whole host of smaller works such as Making Sense of the Trinity, Erickson has established himself as one of those solid, trustworthy, go-to guys that you might not always agree with on every detail but you know will never fail to teach you something.  Erickson taught for a while at Southwestern, then down at Truett, I think.  I believe he’s retired now.

This is a fantastic book that would serve as a great introduction to the Trinity for anybody looking for a good place to make a start.  Erickson explores the biblical basis for the Trinity and concludes that while it is not explicitly taught in Scripture it is implicitly and consistently taught.  His handling of possible Old Testament Trinitarian passages was solid and careful.  He avoids eisegesis, a problem for Christians seeking to find vestiges of the Trinity in the Old Testament, but nonetheless points out some fascinating instances of Old Testament texts that may well have been pointing to what the Church would come to understand as the Trinity.

His handling of the New Testament data was extremely helpful and thorough for such a small book.  He shows New Testament evidence, for instance, that the writers and the early believers viewed each person of the Trinity as divine and, in some sense, viewed them as three-in-one.

Other features of this text that I found helpful were Erickson’s very helpful discussion of perichoresis (which he seems to embrace and highly value) and his discussion of the practical implications of the Trinity.  His handling of the question of Christ’s subordination to the Father and whether or not that subordination applies only to Christ’s earthly incarnate state or applies to the Son from eternity past to eternity future was very helpful.  That’s a hot issue in the whole egalitarian/complementarian debate.  While Erickson doesn’t address that particular debate, he argues for incarnational subordination but, through the idea of perichoresis, stresses the eternal unity and equality of each person.  He argues that it’s very difficult to hold to eternal subordination (a term that advocates of this position would reject) without slipping into an idea of the Son as inferior.

As I say, Erickson is a trustworthy voice and one worth heeding.  This little book would be a great place to start.

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