The Trinitarian Foundation in Theology Chapter by Steve Childers and John Frame

Steve —  September 13, 2019 — Leave a comment

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Professors John Frame and Steve Childers combine their almost 90 years of experience (Frame 49 Systematic Theology, Childers 22 Practical Theology & 15 in church planting and pastoring) to help you apply theology to life and ministry. Study the 8 foundations Scripture provides for developing sound theology.

The Trinity must be seen as not only one topic amidst a list of theological topics, but also as the foundational perspective through which we see all theology. We need to return to the ancient, creedal Trinitarian approach to theology.

Sound theology must be Trinitarian because God reveals himself in Scripture as the Triune LORD. To know God as LORD means to know who God is (his attributes) and what God does (his acts) in creation and redemption as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Therefore, the study of the Trinity must be seen as more than one topic in Christian doctrine, but as the perspective through which we see all doctrines.
This chapter will teach you how to gain a Trinitarian perspective toward the development of sound theology.

The Trinitarian Foundation in Theology

Sound theology must be more than biblical, missional, and centered on the supremacy of God as Lord. It must also be Trinitarian because God has revealed himself in Scripture as the Triune Lord. Therefore, to know God as Lord means to know who God is (his attributes) and what God does (his acts) as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

So all Christian theology includes the Trinity as one of its many topics. And theologians usually teach it as a sub-category under the more major category of the doctrine of God. However, the Trinity is both a doctrine and a perspective for all other doctrines.

In the study of theology, we need a method to help us identify the topics we study and determine how to organize them into a coherent whole. In this series, instead of studying the doctrine of the Trinity only under the doctrine of God, we are learning about all the other Christian doctrines in light of the Trinity.

This is because the Bible presents all these individual, doctrinal topics as vital parts of the bigger story, the unfolding mission of the Triune Lord as Creator, Redeemer, and Restorer:

    • God the Father establishes his will by creating all things
    • God the Son accomplishes his will by redeeming all things lost in the
    • God the Spirit applies his will by restoring all things lost in the Fall

This approach connects us back to an ancient, historic method that uses the Trinity as an organizing structure for studying theology. For example, this is the model of the most famous creed of Christianity, the Apostles’ Creed (120-250 AD).

I believe in God, the Father almighty,
Creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended into hell
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.

Likewise, we find this Trinitarian method of studying Christian theology in other ancient creeds, like the Nicene Creed (325 AD) and in the writings of the church fathers of the past. Early on, the precedent for constructing theology in alignment with the Triune God’s work in redemptive history became well established.

Prominent theologians who follow this approach include Augustine (5th century), John of Damascus (8th century), Peter Lombard (12th century), Thomas Aquinas (13th century), Martin Luther (16th century), and John Calvin (16th century).

Therefore, when Calvin wrote his well-known Institutes of the Christian Religion (1564), considered by many to be one of the most significant and influential Protestant Systematic Theologies, he followed the Trinitarian approach to theology in the Apostles’ Creed and titled his first three books:

• Book One: The Knowledge of God the Creator (Father)
• Book Two: The Knowledge of God the Redeemer in Christ
• Book Three: The Way in Which We Receive the Grace of Christ (Holy

Following this biblical and historical precedent, we will study theology in this series with an intentional focus on the person and work of the Triune Lord in history.

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