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The Mystery of the Trinity: A Trinitarian Approach to the Attributes of God

, 2020
ISBN: 9781629956510

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Starting with the doctrine of the Trinity, Vern Poythress addresses six challenges concerning the compatibility of God’s independence with his activities in the world. The eternal activities among the persons of the Trinity offer a foundation for God’s activities in the world. Alternative metaphysical frameworks for explaining God’s transcendence and immanence run the danger of overriding the truths of biblical revelation.

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“Language of being angry, regretting, and being grieved is analogical2 language. It is not language that has precisely the same meaning when used for God as it does when used for mankind. God does not regret in the same way that man regrets (Num. 23:19; 1 Sam. 15:29). An analogy is not an identity. The meaning of the term regret can vary with context. And in the context of describing God, its meaning must be in harmony with everything else that we know about God from the rest of the Bible.” (Page xxvii)

“At the same time, we can know God, because God has chosen to reveal himself and to give true knowledge: ‘All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him’ (Matt. 11:27).” (Page 15)

“God’s eternity is not a mere negativity, according to which he would be isolated from time. Rather, God is eternally active.” (Page xxvi)

“When applied to God, the words simple and simplicity have a special, technical meaning. Being simple is the opposite of being composed of parts. God cannot be decomposed into parts.” (Page 69)

“The resurrection of Christ has a central role in our knowledge of God in at least three respects. First, it displays openly and climactically who God is in his infinite power and majesty (Eph. 1:19–21). Second, it displays who Christ is, as the divine Son of God who mediates the knowledge of God the Father (Matt. 11:27; Rom. 1:4). Third, it provides the foundation for our new life. The Holy Spirit joins us to Christ and his resurrection (Rom. 8:11). The Holy Spirit renews our whole being, including our minds, so that we may know the things that God has freely given us (1 Cor. 2:12).” (Page 12)

This book is a valiant and thought-provoking attempt to approach the attributes of God through the doctrine of the Trinity. . . . While broadly endorsing the classical doctrine of God, [Poythress] is suspicious of our reliance on well-defined technical terms that are required to do our work for us. He wants us to abandon our implicit reliance on Aristotelian metaphysics in favor of the shaping power of the mystery of the Trinity. . . . In the hands of Poythress, this becomes an appeal to become more robustly biblical, not less. This book is truly transforming—a capstone to all that Vern Poythress has taught us over the last two or three decades. Read it slowly and carefully.

—D. A. Carson, Emeritus Professor of New Testament, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

I enthusiastically recommend The Mystery of the Trinity as by far the best account of these issues.

—John M. Frame, Professor of Systematic Theology and Philosophy Emeritus, Reformed Theological Seminary

Dr. Poythress applies his deep knowledge of Scripture, his well-informed knowledge of historical theology, and his brilliant mind to some of the most difficult controversies in the theology of the divine attributes.

—Philip Graham Ryken, President, Wheaton College

Vern Sheridan Poythress (b. 1946) is an evangelical philosopher, theologian, and Professor of New Testament Interpretation at Westminster Theological Seminary where he has taught since 1976. In 1981 he was ordained as a teaching elder in the Reformed Presbyterian Church Evangelical Synod, which later merged with the Presbyterian Church in America.


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  1. BC-Anlin Zeng

    BC-Anlin Zeng


    Excellent works!