The Trinity: An Introduction | Book Review


The Trinity: An Introduction by Scott R. Swain is the second book in Crossway’s Short Studies in Systematic Theology series. The first was Graham A. Cole’s Faithful Theology: an Introduction. According to series editors, Cole himself and Oren R. Martin, “each volume (1) introduces the doctrine, (2) sets it in context, (3) develops it from Scripture, (4) draws the various threads together, and (5) brings it to bear on the Christian life.”

Unfortunately, The Trinity does not accomplish the first two items in the editors’ list. In my opinion, one cannot understand Trinitarianism, the Christian doctrine of God, without understanding its historical development and creedal/confessional definition. Swain justifies this in terms of space limitations: “The book’s limitations in space and focus mean that it will not give extensive attention to the doctrine’s historical development, polemical uses, or more sophisticated dogmatic elaborations.” Given that this text is explicitly introductory, Swain’s choice to skip those topics—not to mention his editors’ decision to allow it—is difficult to understand.

Fortunately, what The Trinity focuses on is very helpful. Swain focuses on “the basic grammar of scriptural Trinitarianism.” He writes: “If Scripture provides the primary discourse of Trinitarian doctrine, theology is that discipline concerned with understanding and communicating Scripture’s basic grammar so that Christians may become fluent, well-formed readers and speakers of scriptural teaching.” This approach is helpful because the doctrinal definition of Trinitarianism employs terms that are not found in Scripture, terms that clarify what Scripture means and demonstrate is internal coherence. One must understand the interplay of these texts—along with the worship patterns of the early church—in order to understand why Christian theologians employed philosophical terms to define the doctrine. Only by doing so could they show the meaning and coherence of those biblical texts.

Here is the book’s table of contents:

  1. The Bible and the Trinity: The Basic Grammar
  2. The Bible and the Trinity: Three Types of Texts
  3. The Simplicity of God
  4. God the Father
  5. God the Son
  6. God the Holy Spirit
  7. The Shape of God’s Triune Work
  8. The End of God’s Triune Work

Although The Trinity describes itself as an introduction, readers need to have at least a passing familiarity with the doctrine and its basic terms before they read the book, or they might feel a bit lost in it. My guess is that the Short Studies in Systematic Theology is directed at Bible college students and seminarians, who are the most likely to consume introductory books on systematic theology. I believe pastors and theologically proficient church leaders and members can also benefit from the book. It will enrich their understanding of why sound biblical theology results in Trinitarianism, and it will help them connect what sometimes seems like an abstract doctrine to the Bible’s core concern, namely, God’s salvation of lost humanity.

Book Reviewed
Scott R. Swain, The Trinity: An Introduction (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2020).

P.S. If you liked my review, please click “Helpful” on my Amazon review page.

How to Ruthlessly Eliminate Hurry from Your Life and Ministry | Influence Podcast


John Mark Comer lived many pastors’ dream. He led a growing congregation (adding 1,000 adherents annually for seven years running) in the Pacific Northwest (one of the nation’s most secular regions). You’d think he’d be happy, but he wasn’t. He was burnt out, enduring most pastors’ nightmare.

Busyness, which according to Comer is “where your life is full with things that matter,” wasn’t the problem. The problem was hurriedness, “when you have too much to do and the only way to keep the quota up is to hurry.” Jesus was busy, but He never hurried. Hurry is of the devil.

In this episode of the Influence Podcast, I’m talking to John Mark Comer about how to ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life and ministry. I’m George P. Wood, executive editor of Influence magazine and your host.

John Mark Comer is pastor for teaching and vision at Bridgetown Church in Portland, Oregon, whose mission is to practice the way of Jesus, together, in Portland. He is also author of The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry, published by Waterbrook.

The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry | Book Review


John Mark Comer lived many pastors’ dream. He led a growing congregation (adding 1,000 adherents annually for seven years running) in the Pacific Northwest (one of the nation’s most secular regions). You’d think he’d be happy, but he wasn’t. He was burnt out, enduring most pastors’ nightmare.

Busyness, “where your life is full with things that matter,” wasn’t the problem. The problem was hurriedness, “when you have too much to do and the only way to keep the quota up is to hurry.” Jesus was busy, but He never hurried. Hurry is of the devil. So, as Dallas Willard once remarked to John Ortberg, who wrote the Foreword to this book, giving it its title: “You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.”

To ruthlessly eliminate hurry, Comer maintains, you need to establish a rule of life, “a schedule and a set of practices to order your life around the way of Jesus in community.” At the heart of this rule are spiritual disciplines, especially silence and solitude, Sabbath, simplicity, and slowing.

These are not the only spiritual disciplines. They are crucial to unhurrying your life, however. Solitude and silence tune out the “noise,” both external and internal, that so easily distract your attention. Sabbath reminds you that God created the world, and it still spins on its axis without your frenzied efforts. Simplicity of lifestyle eliminates the desire for “more” that so often drives our nonstop work. And slowing is just that: taking time to be present in the moment.

These disciplines aren’t just good ideas, though. They’re Jesus’ practices, which He invites us to imitate. “Follow me!” isn’t just a call to belief, after all; it’s a call to walk in Christ’s footsteps, to practice His way of life.

“In the years to come,” Comer concludes, “our world will most likely go from fast to faster; more hurried, more soulless, more vapid; ‘deceiving and being deceived’” (2 Timothy 3:13). The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry urges readers to put on Jesus’ easy yoke (Matthew 11:30). Only by moving slowly but deliberately will we find our soul’s rest, for Christ’s “yoke is easy” and His “burden is light.”

Comer did not write merely for pastors. His book is suitable for a wide readership. But pastors, only by slowing down will you be able to busy yourself helping others find rest for their souls too. In this matter as in others, you cannot lead where you have not followed first.

Book Reviewed
John Mark Comer, The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry (Colorado Springs, CO: Waterbrook, 2019).

P.S. If you liked my review, please click “Helpful” on my Amazon review page.

P.P.S. This review is cross-posted from InfluenceMagazine.com with permission.

Review of ‘The Radical Disciple’ by John Stott


The-Radical-Disciple John Stott, The Radical Disciple: Some Neglected Aspects of Our Calling (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, 2010). Hardcover / Kindle

John Stott died in 2011, but his legacy lives on through his writings. The Radical Disciple is his final book, which he self-consciously wrote as a “valedictory message.” In eight short chapters, simply written but spiritually deep, Stott addresses “some neglected aspects of our [Christian] calling.” They are nonconformity, Christlikeness, maturity, creation care, simplicity, balance, dependence, and death.

Stott’s concern throughout the book is the discrepancy between Christians’ stated beliefs and their actual behavior. “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’” Stott quotes Jesus saying in Luke 6:46, “and not do what I say?” Radical discipleship, then, is “wholehearted discipleship,” a form of following Jesus that is not “selective” about “which commitment suits us” and avoids those areas which are “costly.”

The “neglected aspects of our calling” relate to Western Christians’ practice of the faith. Were Stott writing at a different time or for different readers, no doubt his list would’ve looked different. As it is, the eight aspects he identifies have a prophetic edge to them.

Two chapters in particular struck me with particular force. The first is chapter 5 on simplicity. This is the book’s longest chapter and includes excerpts from “An Evangelical Commitment to Simple Life-Style,” published by the Lausanne Committee in 1980. Americans—Westerners more generally—are among the world’s wealthiest persons by any imaginable metric. We are used to high levels of consumption. Unfortunately, American Christian giving habits have been declining for decades. The solution is a simple lifestyle that minimizes consumption and maximizes generosity.

The second is chapter 7 on dependence. In this chapter, the book’s most personal and intimate, Stott shares the personal indignities he experienced when he fell and broke his hip. Using his personal experience as a window onto Scripture, Stott writes, “I sometimes hear old people, including Christian people who should know better, say, ‘I don’t want to be a burden to anyone else…’ But this is wrong. We are all designed to be a burden to others… ‘Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ’ (Galatians 6:2).” This is an apt reminded that none of us can live in isolation from others. We need, and are needed by, family, friends, fellow citizens, and even strangers.

The Radical Disciple is a short book, simply written, and filled with the unique grace that is characteristic of a long-time disciple of Jesus Christ. It is worth reading and will repay re-reading, especially if its wisdom is taken to heart and put into practice.

P.S. If you found my review helpful, please vote “Yes” on my Amazon.com review page.

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