Thursday, March 09, 2006

The Message of the Trinity by Brian Edgar

In keeping with the aim of The Bible Speaks Today: Bible Themes series, this work on the Trinity takes the form of an exposition of some of the key Trinitarian texts in Holy Scripture. Indeed, Edgar is convinced that an exegetical approach is the best way of tackling this greatest of subjects. In a scene setting introduction, the contribution of Karl Barth and other select theologians is discussed. Then the book divides into four main parts.

Part 1. The Trinity of love, gives attention to the Trinitatiran benediction in 2 Corinthians 13:14 and the blessing in Ephesians 1:1-14. Part 2. The Trinity in the Old Testament, takes us though Deuteronomy 6:4-9, Proverbs 8:22-31 and Ezekiel 37:1-14. Perhaps more attention could have been given to the divine Messiah theme in Isaiah. But Edgar helpfully sketches out the way in which the Old Testament prepares the way for the full revelation of the Trinity in the New. Part 3. The Trinity in the experience and teaching of Jesus, highlights the Trinitarian structure of Christ's incarnation, baptism, mission, teaching and resurrection. Finally, Part 4. The Trinity in the experience and teaching of the early church, reflects on the significance of Pentecost and gives us helpful expositions of selected passages from the New Testament Epistles.

Edgar handles the biblical text carefully and sensitively as he explores the Scriptural foundations of the doctrine of the Trinity. Reading this book is a good reminder that a Trinitarian conception of God is deeply rooted in the Scriptures rather than the product of later speculative theology. The author shows that the Trinity is an essential Christian doctrine,

"The doctrine of the Trinity is not a piece of abstract theology, it is the foundation of all that is truly Christian and it is essential for Christian life and faith." (p. 319)

Edgar does not shirk from addressing some of the perennial issues connected with the doctrine of the Trinity. He is very clear on the full deity and humanity of Christ and writes with some insight on the procession of the Spirit. One matter that left me with some concern was Edgar's treatment of weather Christ (in is human understanding) was conscious that he was God. He asks,

"if [Jesus] was aware of being God, could he live a life of faith and trust as every other human is called to do? Would the incarnation not be somewhat like the experience of the crew in Star Trek who, when visiting an alien planet could, in moments of danger, call out, 'Beam me up, Scotty!' and be miraculously...transported back to the safety of the starship." (p. 162)

If Christ was not aware that he was God, how could he have made statements such as "Before Abraham was, I AM"? (John 8:58). Jesus could have called upon legions of angels to rescue him from danger, (the Biblical equivalent of 'Beam me up, Scotty!'?) but as God's suffering servant he became obedient to death, even the death of the cross. I hope to return to the matter of Jesus' consciousness of being God at a later date and reflect on it a little further. I am not convinced that Edgar is right on this matter. (See here )

Edgar's expositional approach to the Trinity ensures that the practical outworkings of the doctrine are not ignored. He applies the message of the Trinity to themes such as the life of love, mission, assurance and unity and diversity in the Church. Edgar helpfully reflects on the Trinity and consumerism and explores the way in which the doctrine transforms culture.

Brian Edgar has provided us with a Bible-based, thought provoking, and well applied study of the message of the Trinity. The reader may not agree with Edgar at every point, but all will find much that is profitable in this helpful book on the mystery of the Trinue God.

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