The Broken Trinity (Forsaken pt. 1)

Tom McCall’s recent Forsaken:  The Trinity and the Cross, and Why it Matters (IVP, 2012–thanks to IVP for a copy!) is a very stimulating little book.  Its four short chapters (just 165 pages total) are a series of focused treatments of major issues in Christian faith. Tom McCall (associate professor of theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) writes for the non-specialist in this book, and keeps things readable. But the intellectual skills he has displayed in his more academic writings (see especially the volume Which Trinity? Whose Monotheism? in which he fearlessly crosses the boundaries between philosophy, systematic theology, historical theology, and biblical studies) are also conspicuous here.

Here’s proof that Forsaken is stimulating: It stimulated two of the theologians at Biola’s Torrey Honors Institute to get together and discuss it. Fred Sanders and Matt Jenson have been meeting to talk through the book, and will share some notes from their conversations here.

In this post, Sanders and Jenson take up chapter 1, “Was the Trinity Broken? The Father, the Son, and Their Cross.”

Sanders: Now this is a chapter that needed to be written! Jesus’ cry of dereliction from the cross (“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”) is a profound and moving passage. But we hear a lot of strange things said about it these days: it is treated as “deeply troubling, revolutionary, unexpected, shattering,” and so on. It is all of that, but it’s high time to put up some boundaries about what conclusions can be drawn from it.

What I love about this chapter is that McCall makes two calls: first he calls for clarity on the meaning of these words, offering a whole range of possible meanings: that the Father rejected the Son? That the Father hid his face from the Son? That God cursed Jesus with damnation? That the eternal communion between the Father and the Son was ruptured on that fateful day? That the Trinity was broken? But when he gets to those latter statements, he makes his second call, which is to call shenanigans on the broken Trinity view.  It’s either accidental nonsense, or a pernicious attempt to reject the classical Christian doctrine of God while continuing to use the traditional vocabulary. The former (accidental nonsense) is what we usually hear bits and pieces of at the popular level. The latter (rejection or at least revision of classical theism) is Mostly Moltmannian these days.

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