“Because the gospel is Trinitarian, evangelicals as gospel people are by definition Trinity people, whether or not they think so. It only makes sense that if the gospel is inherently Trinitarian, the most consistently and self-consciously Trinitarian movement of Christians would be the movement that has named itself after the gospel, the evangel: evangelicalism.”
It’s an astonishing claim, and one that only a fool or someone who is enormously well-versed in both Trinitarian literature and the literature of evangelicalism could make.
It happens to be the latter. Let’s review for a second: Fred Sanders, who is Christianity’s greatest cartoonist-theologian, is also enormously qualified to talk about the Trinity. Exhibit A: He contributed the entry on, ahem, the Trinity to the Oxford Handbook of Systematic Theology, which was edited by John Webster. Let’s just say that he knows what he’s talking about.
Though Sanders is up to something more in The Deep Things of God, part of his goal is to point us toward evangelical resources that highlight our Trinitarian roots. Page after page, he brings forward evangelical witness from throughout history–Billy Graham, John Piper, John Owen, Nicky Cruz. It’s a long and diverse list.
Sanders isn’t naive. He knows the problems that plague contemporary evangelicalism, but argues that they are directly related to our forgetfulness about our Trinitarian roots. While contemporary attempts to revive the movement have almost myopically focused on “the Gospel” and its limits, Sanders takes us a step deeper, pointing out that “the Gospel is Trinitarian and the Trinity is the Gospel.”
It’s a crucial addition to the conversation. I speak as a casual observer, but it strikes me that evangelicals have written vast amounts of literature about whether the Gospel extends beyond justification by faith through penal substitutionary atonement, and comparatively little (in recent years, at least) about the God who the Gospel brings us into relationship with.
It is easy to forget in our proclamation that the real heart of the Gospel is the God whose life we enter into.
But The Deep Things of God isn’t just personally edifying, though it is that. It not only offers a robust solution to evangelical shallowness.
It is a performance of an evangelicalism I can make my home in, an evangelicalism that emphasizes Bible, cross, conversion, and heaven within a robustly Trinitarian framework that doesn’t reject our evangelical heritage, but reads it lovingly and critically to retrieve the riches that have been forgotten and neglected.
I don’t know how else to say it: The Deep Things of God is a must read for evangelicals who are disenchanted with the movement, and for those who think there is nothing to learn from it.