Monday, February 17, 2014

Recent Reading - Of Puritans and the Trinity

I've recently finished two good books on two very different subjects. For anyone who's interested in the history of Evangelicalism and/or the doctrine of the Trinity, I heartily recommend these books!


I first came across this book eight years ago when I was writing a paper on how the Protestant Reformation revolutionized ideas about sex and marriage. I never finished it though, and since I'm in Ptr. Brian Ellis' class on Modern Church History, I thought it was a good reason to go through it cover to cover.

This book is a very helpful introduction to the Puritans. It's easy to read and arranged by topic, so you know from the bat just where Ryken is taking you. Every page is well-sprinkled with quotes from the Puritans themselves, so one can get a fair idea of their convictions and aspirations. A fair assessment of the Puritans is definitely something we need, since popular ideas about them are anything but. (For example, look up the animated film, ParaNorman (2012).)

Ryken doesn't merely dwell on the past, however. His objective is to understand what was most excellent about English and American Puritanism, and to suggest ways in which modern-day evangelicals can benefit from the example of our predecessors. Near the end he also includes a chapter on their faults, so that we don't romanticize them and fall into the same excesses that they did.

Overall, I think it's a very well-balanced historical book that you can benefit from greatly without necessarily being a historian / history buff. If you can get it and read it, I recommend you do so!


This one's been on my shelf for a while, untouched. But am I glad to finally have read it! I think Chester has made a very important contribution to popular Christian literature with this book on one of the absolutely foundational doctrines of Christianity.

As important as it is, probably no doctrine is more misunderstood and underappreciated by evangelical Christians. It seems that for many of us, the Trinity is something we confess, but don't really understand, much less live by! But Chester helps us to see that worship that is truly biblical, God-honoring, and soul-satisfying is worship that is oriented towards the Trinity.

He also includes a few chapters on the history of the doctrine, how it was formulated and debated about through the centuries. This is very important for those who aren't familiar with this subject matter.

Since Chester is dealing with a very delicate and lofty truth (what could be a loftier subject than the nature of God and His action in the world?), his chapters can be a little challenging to get through. But to be fair, I think the language is as simple as it can get without sacrificing theological precision. With some patience, new concepts and unfamiliar terms gradually sink in and things make more and more sense.

Aside from his endorsement of Karl Barth (which I disagree with), I would highly recommend this book to anyone who understands that the most important thing in the world is to know God -- who He is and what He is like. Given our increasingly pluralistic society (the Iglesia ni Cristo cult is celebrating it's centennial this year) and its secularizing tendencies, I think it's high time Christians enrich our joy in the gospel by going deeper into the truths that made Christ's death on the cross what it is.

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