A-1 - Encouraged by What You Read?

This current blog series on Reflections is intended to encourage Christians to read more vigorously by providing a beginner’s guide to some of the Christian classics in such fields as theology, philosophy, and apologetics. Hopefully a very brief introduction to these important Christian texts will motivate today’s believers, as St. Augustine was called to in his dramatic conversion to Christianity, to “take up and read” (Latin: Tolle lege) these classic books.

blog__inline--take-up-and-read-on-the-trinityThis week’s book, On the Trinity, is by that same St. Augustine and is considered by many scholars to be one of the greatest works about God’s triune nature. It is a long and systematic treatise on a unique and essential Christian doctrine. Augustine’s reflections concerning the Trinity deeply shaped Western Christendom.

Why Is This Author Notable?

Augustine of Hippo (354–430) was a Christian theologian, philosopher, rhetorician, apologist, and church bishop. After the apostles, he may have done more to shape the Christian world-and-life view than any other Christian thinker. For more about him and his unique accomplishments, see my article “Christian Thinkers 101: A Crash Course on St. Augustine.

What Is This Book About?

Written over the years 399–419, On the Trinity is divided into 15 books. This work contains the first fully systematic theological presentation of the doctrine of the Trinity. Augustine explains and defends orthodox Trinitarianism, asserting that the one true God exists eternally and simultaneously as three distinct persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He vigorously rejected all forms of subordinationism that would treat the Son or the Holy Spirit as inferior in nature to the Father. He defended the Western church’s position that the Holy Spirit proceeds from both the Father “and the Son.” (The use of the phrase “and the Son” [Latin: filioque] in the Western version of the Nicene Creed later gave rise to the filioque controversy that sharply divided the Eastern and Western churches in the eleventh century.)

A unique feature in Augustine’s approach to the Trinity is his engaging use of psychological analogies. He argued that since the triune God created the world, one would reasonably expect to find “traces of the Trinity” in creation. And since human beings were made in the expressed image of the triune God (imago Dei), traces of the Trinity are likely to be found in human beings. Augustine believed the human mind (composed of “intellect, memory, and will”) reflected this three-in-one concept. But he acknowledged that ultimately all human analogies of the Trinity are imperfect and that believers must await the next life to see and understand God more intimately. Augustine believed that this Trinity doctrine was derived from, and fully supported by, sacred Scripture.

Here is Augustine succinctly expounding the Trinity:

“Let us believe that the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit is one God . . . a trinity of persons mutually interrelated, and a unity of an equal essence.”1

Why Is This Book Worth Reading?

On the Trinity is one of Augustine’s theological masterpieces. The book shaped the way Catholics and Protestants came to think about God’s unique triune nature. And the doctrine of the Trinity may stand as historic Christianity’s most distinctive belief.

Resources

Resource

Here is a recommended paperback version: Augustine, On the Trinity (Veritatis Splendor, 2012).

Check out more from Dr. Kenneth Samples @Reasons.org

About The Author

Kenneth R. Samples

I believe deeply that "all truth is God’s truth." That historic affirmation means that when we discover and grasp truth in the world and in life we move closer to its divine Author. This approach relies on the Christian idea of God’s two revelatory books - the metaphorical book of nature and the literal book of Scripture. As an RTB scholar I have a great passion to help people understand and see the truth and relevance of Christianity's truth-claims. My writings and lectures at RTB focus on showing how the great doctrinal truths of the faith (the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Atonement, creation ex nihilo, salvation by grace, etc.) are uniquely compatible with reason. This approach reflects the historic Christian apologetics statement - "faith seeking understanding." I work to help myself and others fulfill Peter's words in 2 Peter 3:18: "But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen." As an RTB scholar I have a great passion to help people understand and see the truth and relevance of Christianity's truth-claims. • Biography • Resources • Upcoming Events • Promotional Items Kenneth Richard Samples began voraciously studying Christian philosophy and theology when his thirst for purpose found relief in the Bible. He earned his undergraduate degree in philosophy and social science from Concordia University and his MA in theological studies from Talbot School of Theology. For seven years, Kenneth worked as Senior Research Consultant and Correspondence Editor at the Christian Research Institute (CRI) and regularly cohosted the popular call-in radio program, The Bible Answer Man, with Dr. Walter Martin. As a youth, Kenneth wrestled with "unsettling feelings of meaninglessness and boredom," driving him to seek answers to life's big questions. An encounter with Christian philosophy in Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis led Kenneth to examine the New Testament and "finally believe that Jesus Christ is the divine Son of God, the Lord and Savior of the world." From then on, he pursued an intellectually satisfying faith. Today, as senior research scholar at Reasons to Believe (RTB), Kenneth uses what he's learned to help others find the answers to life's questions. He encourages believers to develop a logically defensible faith and challenges skeptics to engage Christianity at a philosophical level. He is the author of Without a Doubt and A World of Difference, and has contributed to numerous other books, including: Lights in the Sky and Little Green Men, The Cult of the Virgin, and Prophets of the Apocalypse. He has written articles for Christianity Today and The Christian Research Journal, and regularly participates in RTB's podcasts, including Straight Thinking, a podcast dedicated to encouraging Christians to utilize sound reasoning in their apologetics. He also writes for the ministry's daily blog, Today’s New Reason to Believe. An avid speaker and debater, Kenneth has appeared on numerous radio programs such as Voice America Radio, Newsmakers, The Frank Pastore Show, Stand to Reason, White Horse Inn, Talk New York, and Issues Etc., as well as participated in debates and dialogues on topics relating to Christian doctrine and apologetics. He currently lectures for the Master of Arts program in Christian Apologetics at Biola University. Kenneth also teaches adult classes at Christ Reformed Church in Southern California. Over the years Kenneth has held memberships in the American Philosophical Association, the Evangelical Philosophical Society, the Evangelical Theological Society, and the Evangelical Press Association. The son of a decorated World War II veteran, Kenneth is an enthusiastic student of American history, particularly the Civil War and WWII. His favorite Christian thinkers include Athanasius, Augustine, Pascal, and C. S. Lewis. He greatly enjoys the music of the Beatles and is a die-hard Los Angeles Lakers fan. Kenneth lives in Southern California with his wife, Joan, and their three children.

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