As evangelicals, we tend to have a vague sense that the Trinity matters but are not quite sure why. As a doctrine, it seems overly speculative and void of practical benefits, and we'd rather get down to the business of getting more people saved. Questions about its coherence haunt pastors and Sunday school teachers, who often give weak-kneed answers that take more cues from eggs and water than from the revelation of Scripture.
Fred Sanders, professor at the Torrey Honors Institute at Biola University (and a former teacher of mine), argues in The Deep Things of God: How the Trinity Changes Everything (Crossway) that even though we continue to treat the doctrine of the Trinity as an "awkward guest in the evangelical household," it is the necessary backdrop for everything evangelicals emphasize. As he puts it, "The gospel is Trinitarian, and the Trinity is the gospel." His goal is to help evangelicals "embrace the doctrine of the Trinity wholeheartedly and without reserve, as a central concern to evangelical Christianity."
If Sanders accomplished only that, The Deep Things of God would be a notable contribution to the burgeoning literature aimed at helping evangelicals become more thoroughly Trinitarian. But he goes a step further, arguing not only that evangelicals need the Trinity to make sense of the gospel, but that we need it to make sense of ourselves as well. Our current evangelical milieu notwithstanding, Sanders writes that "evangelical Christians have been in reality the most thoroughly Trinitarian Christians in the history of the church."
The claim is a strong one, but Sanders is not capricious. While he acknowledges that the broader tradition ...1