Gavin Ortlund on Theological Retrieval for Evangelicals and Theological Triage (Repost)

This episode is a conversation with Dr. Gavin Ortlund of First Baptist Church of Ojai, California. We discuss how evangelicals can retrieve theology from the past (2:50), benefits and dangers of retrieval (6:05), evangelicals who “leave” to other traditions (11:01), retrieving Augustine and getting beyond modern theology debates (13:53), why theological triage is important and what it looks like (17:34), doctrines that we rank too high or too low (27:34), and more. See my review of Finding the Right Hills to Die On at Christianity Today and buy Gavin’s books.

Church Grammar is presented by the Christian Standard Bible. Intro music: Purple Dinosaur by nobigdyl. Producer: Katie Larson.

Brandon D. Smith is Assistant Professor of Theology & New Testament at Cedarville University, on the board of directors for the Center for Baptist Renewal, and writes things. You can follow him on Twitter at @brandon_d_smith.

*** This podcast is designed to discuss all sorts of topics from various points of view. Therefore, guests’ views do not always reflect the views of the host, his church, or his institution.

The Biblical Doctrine of the Trinity: A Summary

In a recently published collection of essays on the Trinity, Scott Swain discusses B.B. Warfield’s treatment of the doctrine of the Trinity, with particular attention to Warfield’s rejection of the language of “eternal generation.” That’s a hugely interesting and important topic, but it’s not the subject of this post per se. Instead, I want to focus on the broader point that Swain makes about Warfield’s approach, namely, that it’s a bit too pared down, that part of the reason why Warfield is ambivalent about eternal generation is that his summary of the Trinity does not include adequate reflection on what makes the divine persons distinct from another.

Warfield summarizes the biblical teaching on the Trinity in a kind of three-step process. Swain explains:

Warfield summarizes the main lines of biblical teaching on the Trinity in three points: (1) “there is but one God,” (2) “the Father and the Son and the Spirit is each God,” and (3) “the Father and the Son and the Spirit is each a distinct person.” “When we have said these three things,” [Warfield] insists, “we have enunciated the doctrine of the Trinity in its completeness.” (p. 33).

As Swain points out, this is a fairly standard way of summarizing the Bible’s teaching on the Trinity among evangelicals. It’s even given pictorial representation in the widely used image above. But it leaves unexplained just what makes the Father, Son, and Spirit “each a distinct person.” It’s not that the summary is unhelpful or untrue, but it’s claim to “completeness” is suspect.

So, what would it look like to supplement Warfield’s approach with a bit fuller summary, but one that can still justifiably be considered a summary and not an attempt to be exhaustive? How would you summarize the biblical teaching on the doctrine of the Trinity? For what it’s worth, here’s my shot (notice that the first three points track with Warfield’s):

  1. God is one. The New Testament (Mark 12:29; 1 Cor. 8:4, 6; 1 Tim. 2:5), no less than the Old Testament (Deut. 6:4; Exod. 20:1-2; Isa. 45:6), affirms that there is only one God. While there may be other spiritual beings (angels, demons, and human souls), there is—and can only be—one transcendent and immanent Creator and Lord of heaven and earth.
  2. Each of the persons is divine. Once the first person, the Father, is distinguished in the New Testament, his deity is assumed throughout. The deity of the Son is demonstrated by the fact that the attributes, actions, names, titles, and worship of God are ascribed to him. Similarly, the Holy Spirit is named as a distinct person alongside the Father and Son (e.g., Matt. 28:18-20; 2 Cor. 13:14) and his deity is shown by his divine attributes and actions.
  3. The persons are really distinct from one another. The three are not simply successive manifestations or modes of revelation to humanity. They are simultaneously existing persons with real relations to one another (think of Jesus’ baptism, Matt. 3:13-17). And these distinctions are not merely ad hoc arrangements in redemptive history but mark out real distinctions in eternity. These distinctions are made evident by the personal names given to each of the three in Scripture: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Father is eternally the Father of the Son; the Son is eternally the Son of the Father; and the Holy Spirit is eternally the one “spirated,” or breathed out, by the Father and Son. The three relate to one another and love one another in the eternal glory of God’s own life (John 17:5)
  4. Because God is one, he acts as one. The three divine persons act as one in redemptive history.  All of the actions of God in the world—creation, providence, redemption, and judgment—are attributed to each. They are not three separate beings doing three separate but harmonious things. They each act in the others’ actions. The Holy Trinity acts in an inseparable and indivisible manner. To pick just one example, consider the act of creation. The Father creates through his Word (John 1:1-3; cf. Gen. 1:3) and Spirit (Gen. 1:2).
  5. Some divine attributes or actions are appropriated to particular divine persons, but not in such a way as to exclude the others. So, for example, we might say that the Father is our creator, the Son is our redeemer, and the Spirit is our sanctifier. But because of the previous point (that God acts in an indivisible way in all of his actions), this appropriation is only a manner of speaking. All three persons are the creator, redeemer, and sanctifier. The appropriation of certain attributes to certain divine persons only serves to highlight their unique personal identity. For example, the Son is referred to as the Word or Wisdom of God in Scripture, not because he alone possesses the divine attribute of wisdom, but because this name highlights his unique personal property of being from the Father, as a word proceeds from a mind.
  6. Still, each person participates in the indivisible action of God in a manner that is appropriate to his personal identity. In any act of the Triune God in the world, there is only one action. But there are three modes of action corresponding to the three persons active within, so to speak, that one action. Simply put, the Father acts as Father in the inseparable action of the Trinity, the Son as Son, and the Spirit as Spirit. The early church Fathers, following the New Testament pattern, often spoke of these modes of action by means of distinct prepositions: the action of God comes from the Father, through the Son, and by the Spirit (see, for example, 1 Cor. 8:6). And, of course, because the Son alone became incarnate as a human, the actions that he carries out humanly are exclusive of the Father and Son. The point here is that everything that God does divinely, he does as Father, Son, and Spirit—in essentially indivisible but personally differentiated action.

Michael Svigel on Urban Legends in Church History

This episode is a conversation with Dr. Michael Svigel of Dallas Theological Seminary. We discuss the Lord’s Supper in the early church (2:19), philosophy’s influence on early Christian theology (6:45), where the doctrine of the Trinity came from (13:48), the role of Constantine and the Roman Empire in the church (17:45), and the Great Schism (27:30), the Reformers and sola scriptura (33:07), and more. Buy Michael’s books.

Church Grammar is presented by the Christian Standard Bible. Intro music: Purple Dinosaur by nobigdyl. Producer: Katie Larson.

Brandon D. Smith is Assistant Professor of Theology & New Testament at Cedarville University, Editorial Director for the Center for Baptist Renewal, and writes things. You can follow him on Twitter at @brandon_d_smith.

*** This podcast is designed to discuss all sorts of topics from various points of view. Therefore, guests’ views do not always reflect the views of the host, his church, or his institution.

Jeremy Treat on the Atonement and Pastoring in the Pandemic

This episode is a conversation with Dr. Jeremy Treat of Reality LA. We discuss the NBA (1:33), integrating the Kingdom and the cross in atonement theories (5:20), a definition the gospel (11:23), how atonement theories relate to one another (14:07), the implications of living out the gospel (20:49), pastoring in the pandemic (26:38), and more. Buy Jeremy’s books.

Church Grammar is presented by the Christian Standard Bible. Intro music: Purple Dinosaur by nobigdyl. Producer: Katie Larson.

Brandon D. Smith is Assistant Professor of Theology & New Testament at Cedarville University, Editorial Director for the Center for Baptist Renewal, and writes things. You can follow him on Twitter at @brandon_d_smith.

*** This podcast is designed to discuss all sorts of topics from various points of view. Therefore, guests’ views do not always reflect the views of the host, his church, or his institution.

Thomas Joseph White on Tough Trinity Questions

This episode is a conversation with Fr. Thomas Joseph White, O.P. of the Angelicum. We discuss the continuity and discontinuity between Scripture and Nicaea (3:17), the relationship between ontology/theology and economy (10:30), omnipresence and incarnation (20:00), simplicity and persons (29:21), personal distinctions and eternal relations (35:56), filioque and spiration (43:02), and more.

Listen to our previous conversation on tough Christology questions.

Buy Thomas’s books and check out his band, The Hillbilly Thomists.

This episode is sponsored by Phoenix Seminary. Check out their free online masterclasses on church history and the Old Testament: ps.edu/online.

Church Grammar is presented by the Christian Standard Bible. Intro music: Purple Dinosaur by nobigdyl. Producer: Katie Larson.

Brandon D. Smith is Assistant Professor of Theology & New Testament at Cedarville University, Editorial Director for the Center for Baptist Renewal, and writes things. You can follow him on Twitter at @brandon_d_smith.

*** This podcast is designed to discuss all sorts of topics from various points of view. Therefore, guests’ views do not always reflect the views of the host, his church, or his institution.

Matthew Bennett on Truths and Myths about Islam

This episode is a conversation with Dr. Matthew Bennett of Cedarville University. We discuss what we can learn from Islamic culture (3:52), the history of Muhammad and Islam origins (7:58), Jesus in the Qur’an (15:18), the role of the Bible in the Qur’an (21:00), truths and myths about jihad and violent Islamic groups (21:48), Christianity’s truth vs. Islam (28:36), tips for Christian missions and evangelism to Muslims (33:48), and more. Buy Matt’s books.

Church Grammar is presented by the Christian Standard Bible. Intro music: Purple Dinosaur by nobigdyl. Producer: Katie Larson.

Brandon D. Smith is Assistant Professor of Theology & New Testament at Cedarville University, Editorial Director for the Center for Baptist Renewal, and writes things. You can follow him on Twitter at @brandon_d_smith.

*** This podcast is designed to discuss all sorts of topics from various points of view. Therefore, guests’ views do not always reflect the views of the host, his church, or his institution.

Carmen Imes on Sinai, God’s Covenants, and the Biblical Story (Repost)

This episode is repost of my conversation with Dr. Carmen Imes of Talbot School of Theology. We discuss the Institute for Biblical Research (2:05), YHWH and Sinai (3:00), God’s covenants and the Great Commission (16:43), Gentile inclusion and the “spirit” of the Law (24:58), and practical implications for bearing God’s name (34:50). Buy Carmen’s books.

Church Grammar is presented by the Christian Standard Bible. Intro music: Purple Dinosaur by nobigdyl. Producer: Katie Larson.

Brandon D. Smith is Assistant Professor of Theology & New Testament at Cedarville University, Editorial Director for the Center for Baptist Renewal, and writes things. You can follow him on Twitter at @brandon_d_smith.

*** This podcast is designed to discuss all sorts of topics from various points of view. Therefore, guests’ views do not always reflect the views of the host, his church, or his institution.


John Meade on the Development of the Biblical Canon, Canon Lists, and Origen the Text Critic

This episode is a conversation with Dr. John Meade of Phoenix Seminary. We discuss early biblical canon lists (1:06), the Old and New Testaments and “other writings” in the lists (7:00), the canon up to the Reformation (18:11), the unity and diversity of “authoritative” books (25:42), why we can trust our Bible (40:54), Origen the text critic (45:10), and more. Buy John’s books and check out the Text & Canon Institute.

Church Grammar is presented by the Christian Standard Bible. Intro music: Purple Dinosaur by nobigdyl. Producer: Katie Larson.

Brandon D. Smith is Assistant Professor of Theology & New Testament at Cedarville University, Editorial Director for the Center for Baptist Renewal, and writes things. You can follow him on Twitter at @brandon_d_smith.

*** This podcast is designed to discuss all sorts of topics from various points of view. Therefore, guests’ views do not always reflect the views of the host, his church, or his institution.

Gregory of Nazianzus’s “Theological Orations” with Matthew Emerson

This is a crossover episode with Dr. Matthew Emerson from the new Center for Baptist Renewal podcast and YouTube Channel. We discuss one of the books from our CBR Theology Classics Reading Challenge, Gregory of Nazianzus’s Theological Orations.

Subscribe to the CBR podcast: Apple | Spotify | YouTube

Church Grammar is presented by the Christian Standard Bible. Intro music: Purple Dinosaur by nobigdyl. Producer: Katie Larson.

Brandon D. Smith is Assistant Professor of Theology & New Testament at Cedarville University, Editorial Director for the Center for Baptist Renewal, and writes things. You can follow him on Twitter at @brandon_d_smith.

*** This podcast is designed to discuss all sorts of topics from various points of view. Therefore, guests’ views do not always reflect the views of the host, his church, or his institution.

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Kyle Strobel on the Fall of Leaders and Learning How to Pray

This episode is a conversation with Dr. Kyle Strobel of Talbot School of Theology. We discuss the fall of leaders (2:37), a brief Jonathan Edwards troll session (7:40), what is missing in books on prayer (8:58), what we need to unlearn about prayer (12:37), true confession in prayer (22:39), unanswered prayers (29:33), reality vs. fantasy (34:12), and more. Buy Kyle’s books.

This episode is sponsored by the D.Min. program at Phoenix Seminary. Check out their upcoming seminar with Dr. Steven Duby on May 16-20, 2022. Learn more at ps.edu/churchgrammar.

Church Grammar is presented by the Christian Standard Bible. Intro music: Purple Dinosaur by nobigdyl. Producer: Katie Larson.

Brandon D. Smith is Assistant Professor of Theology & New Testament at Cedarville University, Editorial Director for the Center for Baptist Renewal, and writes things. You can follow him on Twitter at @brandon_d_smith.

*** This podcast is designed to discuss all sorts of topics from various points of view. Therefore, guests’ views do not always reflect the views of the host, his church, or his institution.