Readings on the Trinity (Class Outline)

This is the book list, with short annotations, for a class I teach on the Trinity from time to time here at Biola. There’s more to a class than just the book list, of course: our classroom work is all Socratic discussion, and during the semester we spend some time on supplementary topics like the Trinity in art, music, teaching children, and understanding anti-trinitarian groups.

Still, the book list is the heart of this readings course, and I love the challenge of picking the Top Ten Trinity Texts to lead students through when we have a whole semester together.

Week 1: B. B. Warfield, “The Biblical Doctrine of the Trinity” (from the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, 1915), and Fred Sanders, “The Trinity,”  (from the Oxford Handbook of Systematic Theology, 2007). Two concise reference articles giving an overview of the topic. Warfield’s, just about a century old, is unbelievably comprehensive and shrewd. I would require students to read it twice if I thought they would obey. I also highly recommend the other article if your name is Fred Sanders or you are taking a class with the guy and want to know his biases up front.

Week 2: The Gospel of John, and a book about it by Andreas Köstenberger and Scott Swain, Father, Son, and Spirit: The Trinity in John’s Gospel. With only 13 weeks of class, how much time should we spend on Scripture? It’s a vexing question. If this doctrine is not profoundly biblical, then nothing else in the class matters. But if we do justice to the biblical material, we never get to the rest. So I have the students read the gospel of John straight through, then read Swain and Köstenberger’s extended treatment of its trinitarian dynamics, and then re-read John. I hate to leave out the synoptics, Paul, and Hebrews, but a guided tour of John’s gospel is a good downpayment on the topic of the Trinity in Scripture, and Johannine categories set us up well for the patristic developments.

Besides, these students have read the rest of the New Testament and most of the Old in other courses at Biola, and they will also write a short exegetical essay about a passage of their choosing. So we cheat some more Bible in, in various ways.

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