Book Notes

Review of the “The Trinitarian Father” by Joshua Torrey

Review of the “The Trinitarian Father” by Joshua Torrey

May God bless Uri Brito for this small book. The Trinitarian Father is another stepping stone in a growing “tradition” of recent literature seeking out a genuine Trinitarian Christianity. How we have arrived at a Trinitarian-less Church is beyond the scope of this book. But the fundamental fact that such a church exists provides the basis of the book’s principal and pastoral concerns. With the light of Scripture and an intense focus on the relationship between God the Father and God the Son, Uri Brito mercifully exposes the faults, failures and, hopefully, growing convictions of Christian fathers pursuing a robust Trinitarianism.

The Thesis

At first glance it may seem convoluted to attribute so much to the relationship between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. But as Pastor Brito shows, the history of Christianity is rooted and grounded in a Trinitarian God. This Trinitarian God is a God of Persons and thus the originator and sustainer of community. At this point, the Biblical revelation of the Father should indicate that within the community the role of father is essential. Thus, if Christian fathers seek to mimic their maker (Eph 5:1) it makes sense to model a Trinitarian fellowship. In his introduction, Pastor Brito states his case,

“The Trinity is not some obscure and irrelevant doctrine put in systematic theologies to confuse us. We know that our entire lives depend on the true God, who is Father, Son, and Spirit.” (emphasis mine)

On the surface, there is a risk of internalizing the need to resolve the obscurity and irrelevance of the Trinity. But this is not the point of living out Trinitarian theology. Far from telling people that they can understand or mimic the Trinity fully, The Trinitarian Father seeks to amplify the glorious revelatory light of the Trinity onto crucial aspects of Christian, and thus Trinitarian, fatherhood. Instead of being a personal and internal event, Trinitarian theology should take fathers outside themselves and focus their attention on God as they apply it to their lives.

Part of fathers being removed from this internal thinking is the focus on relationships with sons. Though the book offers good advice for both daughters and sons, the model of Trinitarian fellowship is a Father-Son relationship. And it is this relationship that invigorates father-son relationships here and now. In the opening pages of this book, fathers are presented with an important look at the source of their namesake: the Father of everything (Eph 3:14-15). Pastor Brito highlights the Father as history Maker, cultivating Creator and ultimately image Producer. Each of these things is seen in the first and second Adam with a stronger emphasis on the Father-Son relationship with Jesus Christ the eternal Son.

Each of these is a responsibility to fathers because “You cannot claim to be a biblical father without first understanding what our Father in heaven has taught us” (pg. 11). Thus, in all practical matters, fathers are reassured that there is no step taken in the father-son relationship that was not taken by the Trinity first. By taking these truths seriously, The Trinitarian Father reassures fathers of their calling and ability to accomplish their task.

The Practice

The Trinitarian Father makes good on its promise to look at the practical functions of fatherly life. From wisdom to discipline and life to redemption, the example of the Father is made real in examples found in the Scriptures. In the chapters on wisdom, fathers are instructed on how to train their sons to be wise. Far from being an idealistic schoolroom, fathers mimic God as He taught in a fallen world. Fathers are shown the benefits of a long term perspective, a heart prepared for gladness
in sorrow and the ultimate value of true wisdom. Denying fatherly perfection, Pastor Brito supplies the
balm of grace as he describes the natural ways in which this should occur and confidently affirms fathers
who make mistakes.

Though saturated with good words, The Trinitarian Father keeps some of its most penetrating
exposures and personal convictions for its closing chapters. Concerning the liturgy of living, Pastor Brito
drives home the clearest of Biblical instruction (Deut 6:4-9) for fathers: fatherhood is not another “9 to
5.” Liturgy should continue and stretch to cover every moment within a covenant home. This, of
course, requires a discipline unnatural to fathers. Here again, Pastor Brito provides a balm of practical
application in the categories of “cleansed, consecrated and commissioned” (pg. 30) for covenant
renewal within the family. Understanding the state of humanity, a proper liturgy within the home
restores fallen fathers, prepares growing children and structures whole houses towards obedience to
God.

The final chapter on discipline is in fact a bridge between the health of families and the health of
the church. There is a direct correlation and it was surprising to see it laid out in such a simple manner.
The faithfulness of fathers to respond in humility and submission to their church leadership is brought to
the forefront in the battle for children in the church. In the evangelical community this is a battle the
church is losing and the pastoral insight in this chapter provides profound and simple reasons for why.
Building off of the example of a rebellious Israel, Pastor Brito masterly twists the pointing finger
of guilt back on modern fathers. For some time this finger has been pointed at the emphasis and
structure of the church. But in looking at Israel, it is more clear who demonstrated the rebellious
attitudes within the congregations: parents, and more specifically fathers. Far from demonstrating an
example of the Son’s submission to the Father, Israel as God’s “son” rejected obedience. Likewise,
Christian fathers, in their race to find leadership that doesn’t impose upon them, have pronounced to
their households that they are “masters of their own souls” (pg. 42). This behavior denigrates any
chance of children, and especially sons, seeing the church as a greater family with a greater submission
to a greater head. Eventually this Christ-less attitude is “a threat to themselves and to their own
families” (pg. 42).

Conclusion

Before one knows it, The Trinitarian Father has run out of words and passages to highlight with
notes. One may appreciate the blank space at the end for extra note taking but the length of the book
may leave people feeling hungrier than when they started. But this is not a pitfall of the author or book.
In fact it can be regarded as an indication that the book truly has reflected upon the inconsumable
depths of Trinitarian theology and the endless practical insight that it can provide.

Fathers seeking to better understand their role and pastors seeking to move their congregations
forward in faithfulness will benefit from the time spent by Pastor Brito in his “brief labor of love” (pg.
vii). Churches desiring to grow up Godly fathers, deacons, teachers and elders should instruct their fathers in these practical things and watch the abundance of blessing from Trinitarian thinking flow.

The Trinitarian Father (Book and PDF edition)

The Trinitarian Father (Book and PDF edition)

The good news is that the book is now in print and should be here by Christmas. Some of you may have purchased the book in kindle form, but the new book is a revised version of the kindle edition with several new chapters added. It is a great Christmas gift for all dads (do you hear it moms?)

Covenant Media Foundation will be publishing the book and as soon as I am made aware it’s available I will make it known.

The even better news is that you can get a PDF copy of my booklet now for any amount. That’s right. Simply donate however much you think my little labor of love is worth, and leave your e-mail in my paypal account or send me an e-mail at uriesou@gmail.com and I will send you the book in PDF form.

Suggested donation: $1.99



Tremper Longman on Rick Warren’s New Book

Tremper Longman on Rick Warren’s New Book

Longman, my former professor at RTS, wrote this on his facebook page worth re-quoting here:

I just heard Rick Warren talk about his new book, the Daniel Plan on CBS news yesterday. I applaud his efforts to help us all keep trim. However, citing Daniel’s water and vegetable diet as the model made me chuckle a bit. The look that Nebuchadnezzar was going for was not lean and mean but plump. If you check out ancient depictions of Babylonian wise men, they are bald, round faced and chubby. Daniel was giving God room to work. At the end Nebuchadnezzar thought it was his diet that made Daniel so pleasantly chubby (many cultures even today prize a little girth on people), but Daniel knew that God was in control and made him chubby in spite of his diet. The next chapter shows that it is God’s wisdom and not the Babylonian wisdom that he learned in school that made him truly wise. For more detail see my Daniel commentary (NIVAC; Zondervan).

The Way of the Cross

The Way of the Cross

Doug Jones’ newest book Dismissing Jesus: How We Evade the Way of the Cross is filled with gems right from the start. Peter Leithart writes a wonderful foreword; not just one of praise, but one where he confronts some of the basic premises of the book. Peter relates his concerns:

I think the topography of maturation from Old to New is less smooth
than Doug maps it. Doug is not a pacifist, but he needs to explain why
not. I wonder if Doug has given weight to the way the patriarchal narratives,
the life of David, the career of Jesus, and the history of the church
progress from weakness to power. I would like to see Doug integrate Acts
more intimately into his reading of Luke.

This type of open engagement is befitting of the Framian tradition of book writing.

The book begins with some challenging shots at the heart of our westernized fascination with success. I am sure there will be plenty to disagree with in the book, but I am taking every line at a time and enjoying Jones’ penetrating observations. Among them is  this beautiful definition of the implications for the way of the cross:

The way of the cross fails if it is not lived in community. It is not
designed for loners. Jesus’s way assumes a community of love and commitment
and burden bearing. It requires great sacrifice and self-denial
out of love for others in the body. The way of the cross is deeply communal
because, in the end, it seeks to incarnate the love and loyalty of Father,
Son, and Spirit on earth. The way of the cross seeks to make Trinity here
and now. That is God’s mission for us.

 

A Short Bio of the Man Who Changed the World

A Short Bio of the Man Who Changed the World

The great Reformer Martin Luther belonged to a peasant family. Luther once wrote that “his father, grandfather, and all his ancestors were thorough peasants.” Luther’s father made his livelihood by mining for copper. Margaret was Luther’s strong and strict mother. In fact, you can see that Luther’s personality comes very much through his mother. There is some record of the strictness and sometimes harshness in the Luther home. On one occasion, “His mother whipped him till the blood flowed, for stealing a hazel-nut.” In fact, Luther writes that it was the strictness and the rigorous life that led him to the monastery and made him a monk. a

One of the remarkable events in Luther’s life was one that is often unknown. Growing up in a peasant home, Luther’s opportunities to move to a higher rank of society were minimal. One of the things young Luther did to help with schooling and food was to go around from door to door with his friends and sing. It was in one of those occasions where he met Mrs. Ursula Cotta. She welcomed Luther to her table and exerted a great influence on Luther. Specifically, Mrs. Cotta taught Luther the ways of a more refined home circle. Essentially, she taught Luther proper mannerisms. This actually provided Luther opportunities to move to a higher rank in society than the ones his parents belonged bAt 18 Luther entered into the University of Erfurt and as always Luther distinguished himself. The author S.M. Houghton observed: “Little did Luther realize that even at this time God was preparing him for a career of activity which was to astonish Europe, and which was to shake a proud and polluted Church to its foundation (79).” It was at Erfurt that Luther came across a copy of the Bible. Contextually, we need to remember that peasants did not have copies of the Bible, so this was Luther’s first engagement with the Word of God. What caught his attention was the story of Hannah and Samuel, and how Samuel was called by God. This is all the background formation of Martin Luther before he became the great Protestant leader.

When Luther finished his studies, a series of events occurred, which really led Luther to consider his life and what he wanted to do in the future. There are two main events. The first was the day when one of Luther’s best friends got involved in a fight and was killed. At that moment he asked himself the question: “What if I had been killed instead of my friend?” The second and legendary event was the day when during a trip, a vicious thunder-storm broke over Luther. Luther believed that he was surely going to die before he reached his destination, and “stricken with fear he fell prostrate to the ground, crying out: ‘Help, Anna, beloved saint, I will become a monk.’” Luther kept his vow and after a big farewell party, the next day he presented himself at the door of an Augustinian monastery. Growing up in a peasant home, the last thing Martin’s father wanted was his son to pursue an ecclesiastical life. He wanted him to pursue law and achieve fame and wealth. But Luther wanted something different than fame and wealth, though as result he certainly achieved fame and the respect of many of the wealthiest in Europe. Luther—ultimately—wanted peace with God. For Luther, the way to obtain this peace was to isolate himself. He obeyed the very strict monastic rules, performed menial tasks, and went on begging on behalf of the monastery c. One author said that Luther was the “most sincere, conscientious monk who ever tried in genuine earnestness to merit salvation by human effort (81). He even became proud of his humility. This is important because this is shaping Luther’s thinking and how drastic his theological change was. He sacrificed everything to find peace. “He observed every detail of discipline, praying, fasting, watching, confessing his sins and he literally tortured his body to obtain peace for his soul.” Luther’s conscience plagued him so much that he despaired of salvation, and his physical strength began to waste away (Sketches, 80). His fellow-monks couldn’t help him, the departed saints that Luther prayed to so fervently could not help him. One person who brought some consolation to Luther was John von Staupitz, the head of the Augustinian monastery in Germany. He visited Luther often. Luther would cry often to his friend, Staupitz: “Oh, my sins! My Sins! My Sins!” Luther could not view God as the punisher of sin. Staupitz offered Luther many great theological truths that sank into Luther’s head. Once he said to Luther: “ Your thoughts are not according to Christ; Christ does not terrify, he consoles.” In God’s grace, the Spirit revealed to Luther that our works can never merit salvation before God. Only the mercy and grace of God can bring sinners to true faith. Luther once wrote that the phrase The Just Shall Live by Faith was the very gate of Paradise.
The result of a changed mind is a changed life. Martin Luther began proclaim the light of the gospel far and wide, and before long he became aware that this was not received well by the Church of the day.

Martin Luther was deeply troubled when he was commissioned to go to Rome in 1510. In his way to Rome he discovered that there was deplorable wickedness being done in the name of the Church, he saw the remarkable ignorance in the monasteries. The priests did not know the Scriptures well. Luther was so enamored with Rome in the beginning of his trip, but at the end, he wrote: “If there is a hell, Rome is built over it.” (Sketches, 84). When Luther returned to Wittenberg , he received a doctorate degree and began to preach in the parish church. He was loved by the people, because here was a man opening the word of God. As the people began to learn, Luther desired that more people hear the Word of God. As a result, Luther began to protest more and more.

And his protest came to a culmination when the popes decided that St. Peter’s Cathedral in Rome should be rebuilt. The expense was to come from every area of society where the church had influence. One of Rome’s fundraiser experts was a man named Tetzel. Tetzel taught that those who donated to the project of re-building would deliver their loved ones who had died from purgatorial torments. Tetzel, and other issues of corruption infuriated Luther who began to preach vehemently against Tetzel. Luther wrote down 95 theses attacking indulgences. And at mid-day 1517 on October 31st, Luther nailed them to the Wittenberg Castle. His intention, of course, was to begin a conversation, but the conversation has been going on for over 400 years now. There was the printing press that made Luther’s theses popular, but what really got the attention of the citizens was that following October 31st was All Saints’ Day. Multitudes flocked to church. Luther’s theses were read, copied, printed, and distributed all over Germany, and eventually all over Europe (Sketches, 88). Luther’s these was received with little protest by the church, but as the popes and priests began to see how much it was affecting the population.

As Luther’s fame went far and wide, he quickly became the leader of this new movement emerging in Europe. In Luther’s day, Emperor Charles V was requested to deal with the case of Martin Luther. He ordered Luther to appear before him in the city of Worms. Luther’s friends reminded him of what had happened to John Huss. But Luther was committed to going to Worms. This is the famous Diet of Worms. The Council of Worms as is commonly known. Luther arrived at Worms and the streets were crowded with people all waiting to see the man who was taught to be the “devil personified” (88). He was the man who stood up against church and state, and not church and state were ready to crush him. As Luther entered the hall of the assembly he was astonished that the great religious and political leaders of the day were all present. The presiding office, Johann von Eck, opened the proceedings by asking Luther if he was the author of the writings on the table, and secondly he asked Luther if he would retract the doctrines in the books. Luther answered that he was the author of the books, but he said he wanted to think through his doctrines carefully to make sure he was being truthful to the Word of God. Luther spent the rest of the evening in prayer. April 18th, 1521 is described as the greatest day in Luther’s life. One author describes the day as “one of the sublimest scenes which earth ever witnessed, and most pregnant with blessing.” Luther came back and Dr. Johann von Eck posed the question again: “Luther, do you recant of the doctrines written in your book?” And here is the English translation of what Luther said:

“Unless I am convinced by testimonies of Scriptures or by clear arguments that I am in error—for popes and councils have often contradicted themselves—I cannot withdraw, for I am subject to the Scriptures I have quoted; my conscience is captive to the Word of God. It is unsafe to do anything against one’s conscience. Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise. So help me God.”

Several days after this statement, Luther was declared to be an outlaw and anyone who lodged him or gave him food or drink were liable to be charged with treason. Nothing stopped Luther’s mission and throughout the rest of his life he wrote, preached, translated and left a remarkable legacy. In these times he held very dear to Psalm 46, and in fact, wrote his greatest hymn A Mighty Fortress is our God. God became his fortress in his time of trial.

In 1546, Luther fell ill and shortly thereafter he died. It is said that one of his closest friends asked Luther if remained determined to stand fast in Christ and in the doctrine which he had preached! Luther responded with a distinct Yes. Luther died and was buried at the Wittenberg Castle; the same place where 29 years earlier he had nailed the 95 theses.

  1. see Martin Luther the Man  (back)
  2. Sketches from Church History, pg. 79  (back)
  3. Sketches, 81  (back)
Free Book Offer at Kuyperian Commentary!

Free Book Offer at Kuyperian Commentary!

Over at Kuyperian Commentary, you have the opportunity to enter your name to win a copy of “The Church-Friendly Family.” CFF was endorsed by Douglas Wilson, Peter Leithart, and George Grant. In order to enter your name, you must do two of the following:
a) Subscribe to receive e-mail updates from KC on the website or subscribe to the KC Facebook page.
b) Add KC to your blogroll
c) E-mail us @ kuyperian.com@gmail.com and describe in one or two sentences how KC is helping to shape your worldview
d) Share a recent article on your FB page
*E-mail us at kuyperian.com@gmail.com to let us know you have fulfilled two of the requirements above.
Two winners will be announced on August 15th!

Summary of the book: “Of the making of books about marriage and the family, there is no end. The family is in trouble today―and has been since the sin of our first parents. But the rescue of the family requires more than just good advice, helpful as that can be. It requires more than just a focus on the family. It requires that the family be brought into the church of Jesus Christ. In The Church-Friendly Family, Randy Booth and Rich Lusk set marriage and family in the context of the church, showing how putting the church first enables the family to bear a rich harvest in culture, education, missions, and more.”

Book Review: Gods at War: Defeating the Idols that Battle for your Heart by Kyle Idleman

These days I rarely finish a book. I am currently reading through so many books I can barely keep track of which ones. I usually peruse a book, find what I want, and leave it buried in my increasing treasury of books on Kindle. This changed recently. In preparation for a sermon on idolatry I came across Kyle Idleman’s book entitled Gods at War. The book title caught my attention and so I downloaded it into my kindle and two seconds later there it was. I confess I had never heard of Pastor Idleman, and my first impressions of a mega pastor (which he is; pastor of the fourth largest church in the country) have not changed. The writing style filled with little stories and illustrations hurt my intellectual feelings from the start. But then I just kept reading it. The side bars with research and even the funny footnotes kept me reading it.

The reading is meant for a lay audience, but I confess this pastor needed it just as much. Idleman argues that “until that god is dethroned, and the Lord God takes his rightful place, you will not have victory” (22). I am not even sure where to start. I have had so many idols over the years.

As I read the book I realized that the premise was not much different than the biblical theological work of G.K. Beale who wrote that we are what we worship, whether for our ruin or for our good. Beale wrote his work in an academically driven style. Idleman is Beale for Dummies.

The time I waste. The things I treasure. Everything had become a god. “Never in the history of humanity has there been so much entertainment and so little satisfaction” (121). I am so easily entertained, and yet that entertainment fails to find the satisfaction that it intends to give. Why? because it is not meant to give it.

Who is your god? That question kept coming back again and again to haunt me. I have read Keller and I am quite aware that the second commandment is more thorough than simply constructing a physical icon, it also deals with the heart of the matter; really, the heart is the matter.

What a simple, at times silly, but overall profoundly revealing book. Don’t read this book. If you do, you will start hunting more effectively for those gods that tempt you in every direction. Come to think of it, read it. Be a hunter. Choose this day whom you will serve. “You shall have no other gods before me,” says Yahweh.

*See also, We Become What We Worship by G.K. Beale

This world is not my home…or is it?

Those who follow me on twitter may see several tweets with the hash-tag #Ruthproject. The Ruth project is a new work I am working with a fellow pastor from Birmingham. We are working on a commentary on Ruth. But this will not be just a normal, exegetical work, it is actually a pastoral and theological labor focusing on the nature and goal of redemptive history. We will focus on the content of Ruth’s majestic love story, but also detailing why Ruth serves as a miniature picture for all of God’s history.

We will offer a theological framework for how we are to look at redemptive history and how God is working in it. The commentary hopes to be practical, pastoral, and layman-friendly.

Here is a quote from the introduction:

What you believe about the future shapes how you live in the present.  If your final expectation is just to go and dwell forever in ethereal heaven, compare what your world view and your practice would be to someone whose final hope is of dwelling in a renovated and perfected physical creation in a resurrection body.

Lord-willing we will be able to provide a manuscript draft to our publisher by the end of the summer. Our goal is to have it published by the Family Advance Conference in November.

A Festschrift to Norman Shepherd

Obedient FaithAndrew Sandlin and John Barach have done a great service in providing these essays in honor of Norman Shepherd. Obedient Faith  is “a tribute by students and friends to a courageous theologian’s lifelong stand for a full-orbed, obedient Christianity.” In the preface, Andrew Sandlin observes:

His influence is not thought to rank with his Calvinist contemporaries like J. I. Packer, John Piper, and R. C. Sproul. Yet in the end it may be Shepherd’s distinctive views that prove to be the more lasting and influential. Those views spring from his recovery of the older Reformed idea of the covenant as the overarching theme of the Bible and of the church and Christian life… Shepherd does not merely argue that individual salvation is the outworking of the covenant of grace (true enough); he insists, moreover, that man’s entire relation with God from creation to consummation, from birth to death, is governed by covenant.

I will be posting some quotes along the way. Also, stay tuned for an interview with editor, Andrew Sandlin on the life and theology of Norman Shepherd.

Praise for “The Trinitarian Father”

The Trinitarian Father (Trinitarian Living)The Trinitarian Father is not another work by an expert father to the rest of us — no, it’s better than that. Rather than offering his own wisdom, Uri Brito guides fathers through the whole biblical sweep of our Heavenly Father’s redemptive wisdom in his Son in order to unfold to us what true fatherhood is. In this work, we learn that the future of the church and of the culture is fathers — fathers who instruct their children from the the wisdom, example, and self-sacrifice of their Trinitarian Father.

John Fraiser, Pastor of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in La Grange, Kentucky