In recent years, a renaissance of interest in the doctrine of the Trinity within evangelical scholarship has produced several excellent introductory textbooks exploring its historical roots and exegetical foundation as well as many works exploring specific doctrinal issues or controversies. Few books, however, have drawn these individual doctrines together in such a dogmatic fashion as D. Glenn Butner Jr. has done in a book designed primarily for classroom instruction. He writes, “This theology, like all dogmatic theology, is intended to serve instructional purposes. . . . [T]his volume seeks to convey the fundamental dogmas or doctrines that those who study theology in preparation for ministry ought to understand” (2).
This purpose can be seen most clearly in the chapter structure. Rather than beginning with a historical progression of the doctrine of the Trinity or its exegetical foundations, each of the eight chapters explores a key theological concept, or “dogmatic locus,” each of which builds logically on the others. Another unique aspect of the book’s layout is that the chapters are roughly arranged in oneness/threeness pairs that balance one another. For example, the first chapter covers consubstantiality (oneness), and it is paired with the second on divine processions (threeness). Butner explains this arrangement: “The first locus will be consubstantiality, which is, in my understanding, logically the most fundamental idea to the doctrine of the Trinity, yet one that raises more questions than it answers. This required clarification will come as the book moves on to increasingly complex subjects” (10).
Much recent writing on the doctrine of God has intended to reject the social model of the Trinity, often used to argue for various human social or political ends, and instead articulate a classical trinitarianism that focuses on, or at least begins with, the oneness of God. Though Butner’s work clearly fits this category, his pairing of the doctrines and placing them within a progressing, dogmatic frame allows him to avoid the accusation that he is advocating for a modalist-sounding psychological model of the Trinity that reduces the persons to afterthoughts. This means, however, that the chapter that follows consubstantiality does not immediately give a full-orbed view of divine persons. Rather, chapter 2 introduces divine processions and is posited as “an initial effort to distinguish the Father, Son, and Spirit in a manner that does not undermine their consubstantiality” (47). As the book progresses, the subjects covered continue to oscillate between threeness and oneness, covering simplicity (chapter 3) and persons (chapter 4), inseparable operations (chapter 5) and missions (chapter 6), and finally, perichoresis (chapter 7) and communion (chapter 8). Even in these pairings, the progressions move in an increasingly relational direction, with the final chapter looking at God’s relationship with his creatures in communion, which points the reader in the direction of worship.
Each chapter introduces the exegetical and historical foundations of the doctrine, explores its importance to a fully developed trinitarian belief, and concludes with further reading in the subject. The book’s arrangement and features would make it a helpful textbook, best suited for more advanced students with some initial understanding of trinitarian doctrine or paired with a more introductory work.
About the Contributors
Channeling Eric Liddell, John likes to say, “When I code, I can feel God’s pleasure.” This desire to glorify God by showing how our creativity is an important aspect of our role as image bearers, drives John’s work and teaching. A former youth pastor, he enjoys working with students to see how the biblical story brings insight and clarity to the ideas found in science, sociology, and culture. John is married to Amber, a literature and philosophy professor and has two lovely children.