Book Review: The Deep Things of God by Fred Sanders
Diving In: A Review of The Deep Things of God: How the Trinity Changes Everything, by Fred Sanders (Crossway, 2010).
Fred Sanders’ recent publication, The Deep Things of God: How the Trinity Changes Everything, is his effort to introduce to the broadly evangelical community a deeper and more edifying understanding of Trinitarian theology which he sees as being conspicuously absent in much of evangelicalism. “When a theologian has to function under the salutary pressure of authoritatively revealed sentences, but in the debilitating absence of a lively sense of the connection between gospel and Trinity, Trinitarian commitments take on a particular pathos” (41). The fundamental problem, as Sanders sees it, is that many evangelicals lack a tacit awareness, the necessity of which was expounded by Michael Polanyi and which the author discusses, of the Trinity and have little recourse for dealing with or applying to their personal experiences the difficult doctrine. Sanders’ project is to inculcate a Trinitarian understanding of redemption, and to show how it deeply influences devotional Bible reading and prayer, for those evangelicals who eschew liturgy, tradition, and sacrament, by which many churches maintain the tacit awareness of the Trinity.
Sanders accomplishes this by showing first that salvation is fully an act of grace since God, being perfectly happy in His own Trinitarian existence, does not need to create a universe or redeem fallen man to satisfy anything lacking in Himself. The author’s exposition of Ephesians 1 shows not only the depth of the grace that man enjoys in salvation but also how the Triune God has accomplished it—redeemed man is chosen by the Father and sealed by the Holy Spirit in the justification accomplished by the Son. Sanders goes on to show that the relationship with Jesus Christ, which stands for many evangelicals as the basis for faith and practice, is a state appointed by the Father, accomplished by the Son, and applied by the Holy Spirit, such that fellowship with Jesus is fellowship with the Trinity. From this point the author shows that the fundamental practices of devotional Bible reading and prayer are Trinitarian, even if believers are unaware of the fact, and that their personal experiences of these practices are more edifying when they read and pray as an act of fellowship with the Triune God.
The greatest strength of The Deep Things of God is Sanders’ appeal to and application of Scripture. He goes to great lengths to show faithfully how the Trinity works in creation and redemption, from Genesis to Revelation. Also, in order to show that Trinitarian doctrine is not novel, the author appeals to a wide range of authorities in the Protestant tradition; most readers will be able to find in the pages of the book a theologian or preacher with whom they identify, such as Susannah Wesley, B.B. Warfield, J.I. Packer, Francis Schaeffer, and Charles Spurgeon. This book will be highly useful for anyone seeking to understand how the Triune God of Scripture has purposed, accomplished, and applied their salvation and how that understanding can further enrich their lives as they seek to grow in grace and in the knowledge of Jesus Christ.