rather than neglected) in a merely notional way rather than as the operative concept of the distinctly Christian God of the gospel.

A second possible explanation is the fault-line running through the history of evangelicalism that stems from its dual allegiance to head and heart.4 While it would be wrong simply to identify the scholastic ''head' with Calvinism and the pietist ''heart'' with Wesleyan-Arminianism - for each tradition wants both to know and to love God - there is a popular perception that the former emphasizes divine sovereignty and the latter divine love.5 In fact, all evangelicals profess both, though the precise meaning of these divine attributes remains in some dispute. The ultimate challenge for any doctrine of God is rightly to distinguish, and to relate, God's transcendence or ''beyondness'' and immanence or ''nearness.'' Given their mixed (e.g., scholastic and pietist) heritage, then, evangelicals have to work especially hard to preserve the delicate balance between the truth of God's absolute otherness from creation and the gospel truth that God relates to creatures personally.6

The malaise in evangelical theology is most apparent not in academic textbooks but in Christian life and worship. It is easier to be deceived into worshiping what is not God when knowledge of God is in short supply. Ancient Israel was influenced by the plausibility structures of its neighbors and consequently ''the worship of Baal began to seem natural and normal.''7 North American evangelicals are similarly coming under the influence of contemporary culture and thought forms. Meeting our felt needs is not necessarily the same as meeting God. Marva Dawn worries about the ''dumbing down'' of worship in some evangelical churches: ''The only means for keeping worship free of idolatries is to keep God the subject.''8

Worship involves a conception of the one to which our praise and prayers are directed. The nature and quality of our worship is an index of theological understanding, a measure of our apprehension of God's ''worth-ship.''9 Our worship thus transmits our vision of ultimate reality. So do our patterns of everyday life. Evangelicals too often look and act like everyone else. In an American context this culturally compliant practice may reflect deeper affinity with the civil religion of ''Moralistic Therapeutic Deism'':10 the belief that God wants people to be nice and to feel good. This diluted doctrine of God fits hand in glove with the dumbed-down worship that characterizes some evangelical churches.

The label ''evangelical'' is the statement of an ambition - to correspond to the gospel - rather than an achievement. Similarly, ''God of the gospel'' names a project, not a finished product. It also pinpoints the major challenge for an evangelical doctrine of God: to think about God biblically, according to the Scriptures that attest Jesus Christ, rather than following cleverly devised conceptual or cultural myths. Accordingly, we begin our survey of the doctrine by asking where evangelicals have obtained their view of God: from the gospel, Greek philosophy, or both.

conserving: whose theism? which tradition?

Most evangelical theology textbooks present the doctrine of God in roughly the same order: the existence, knowledge, nature, and attributes of God, followed by the Trinity and the works of God (e.g., creation; providence).11 Where did this order come from and what is its significance?

Classical theism: a fusion of biblical and Greek horizons

"Evangelical theologians live in the house that Thomas built.'' While this is too simplistic, it is true that most evangelical theologians embrace some form of classical theism of which Thomas Aquinas was the leading medieval exponent. Classical theism began when Christian apologists of the second century somewhat necessarily used then-dominant concepts of Greek philosophy to commend the faith, and the Scriptures, to the cultured despisers of religion.12 Theists define God as a being of infinite perfection: all-holy, all-powerful, all-knowing, and everywhere present.13

Classical theism refers to what has long been presumed as a synthesis worked out in the ancient and medieval church between biblical Christianity and Greek philosophy, and in particular between "God'' and Aristotle's notion of the "Unmoved Mover'' (or Uncaused Cause). The Unmoved Mover is a perfect being: self-sufficient, eternal, and pure actuality (actus purus). From the latter - that God has no unrealized potential - Aristotle deduced that the Unmoved Mover must be immutable, because any change would be either for better or worse, and a perfect being is already as good as it can, and will for ever, be. God must not therefore have a body, because all bodies can be moved, so God is not material but immaterial. So: God sets the world into motion yet nothing moves God.

Thomas Aquinas did not appropriate Aristotle's Unmoved Mover wholesale. He realized that philosophy (a.k.a. "natural theology'') takes us only so far. Reason yields knowledge concerning the world of nature and, by extension, its Creator, but only revelation gives knowledge of the realm of grace and hence of the Son and Spirit. Nevertheless, by employing

Aristotelian categories (e.g., substance, form, essence) and by conceding some knowledge of God to reason alone, the die of classical theism was arguably cast.

The first part of Aquinas's Summa discusses the "one God'' (de Deo Uno) and treats themes accessible to natural reason - doctrines that would be held in common by Christians, Jews, and Arabs alike. Here we find discussions of God's existence, unity, nature, and attributes. Aquinas treats the "three persons'' (de Deo Trino) second, when he turns to the truths of revelation. He consequently presents the divine attributes before he even begins referring to the Incarnation and passion of the Son; in brief, he has been read as thinking about God apart from the gospel.

Seven hundred years later Charles Hodge would define theism in a way that seems to recall Aquinas: God is the ens perfectissimum ("most perfect being'') and theism is "the doctrine of an extra-mundane, personal God, the creator, preserver, and governor of the world.''14 Hodge also cites the Westminster Catechism, which gives what is "[pjrobably the best definition of God ever penned by man'':15 "God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.''

The Reformation protest: sola scriptura; sola Christus

Though the main focus of the Reformers was on salvation, they were also concerned to make Scripture, not what they saw as Greek philosophy, the supreme criterion for theology, including the doctrine of God.16 It was therefore important to Luther and Calvin, as it is to contemporary evangelicals, to bring the traditional theistic descriptions of God's being and attributes into line with the biblical portrait of God as personal and covenantal.

A perfect being has properties rather than personality traits.17 Persons, unlike things, have histories because, as agents, they say and do things. For example, in Exodus 3:14 God speaks to Moses out of the burning bush and names himself. Yet this very name - "I am that I am'' - encouraged theologians to relate Yahweh to the perfect being of Greek philosophy, despite Pascal's contrast between the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and the god of the philosophers.

Several divine attributes that feature prominently in classical theism also have biblical support; take, for example, the notions that God is immaterial ("God is Spirit'' [John 4:24]) and perfect ("Be ye perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect'' [Matt. 5:48]). Jesus' statement in John 5:26 ("The Father has life in himself'') gives credence to the notion of divine aseity18 and one can even find proof texts for divine immutability (''I am the Lord and I change not'' [Mal. 3:6]). As for biblical passages that go against classical theism by appearing to ascribe a certain changeableness to God - ''And the Lord was sorry that he had made man'' (Gen. 6:6); ''And the Lord regretted that he had made Saul king'' (1 Sam. 15:35) - classical theists retort that such language is anthropomorphic: the change is not in God but in humanity's relation to God.

The pertinent question to ask here is methodological: is the Bible really the supreme source and authority for our doctrine of God if such passages are read through someone's idea as to what the perfect being must be like?19 Luther in particular protested what he thought was Aquinas's use of Aristotelian categories as a hermeneutical framework for reading Scripture. In so doing, he anticipated what would later become a flash point for evangelical theologians: whether to explicate the biblical narrative in light of some concept of ''most perfect being'' or to revise the concept of perfect being even further so that it conforms to the biblical depiction of God.20

Luther insisted that Jesus Christ was the supreme revelation of God. He went so far as to speak of God wrapped in swaddling clothes, even of the crucified God, and to distinguish the ''theology of glory'' (namely, what philosophy can find out about God) from the ''theology of the cross'' (namely, what we can only know about God by contemplating Jesus Christ). Luther insisted that what God reveals of himself in Christ confounds the wisdom - especially the philosophers! - of this world. And, while Calvin affirmed a general revelation of God available apart from Jesus Christ, he too insisted that we cannot ultimately obtain true knowledge of God apart from Scripture's ''spectacles of faith'' and the illumination of the Holy Spirit.21

Early modern theism: the rise of philosophical theology and worldviews

Though the Reformers questioned the biblical pedigree of classical theism, in the end they revised rather than rejected it. In so doing, they kept focus on God as the supreme rather than the distinctively triune being. The eclipse of trinitarian theology became almost total when, in the face of rational objections to the existence of God, philosophers and theologians began to fight back with their opponents' weapons.

Where medieval theologians sought understanding, their seventeenth-century counterparts had to contend with the natural sciences, for which explanation was the desired end: ''During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the word 'god' came to be used, for the first time, to name the ultimate explanation of the system of the world.''22 In the context of early modern philosophy and Newtonian science, God came to be thought of in terms of ''an immaterial substance, single subject, and first cause'' - in short, as ''a rational causative substance.''23

The Reformers' emphasis on God's sovereign will, combined with a Newtonian mechanistic view of science, resulted in arguments over whether God's will was the efficient cause of everything that happened in the world, including the purportedly free acts of human beings. Natural scientists and theologians alike became intent ''on identifying the causal order in a series of determined events.''24 God came to be seen as the efficient cause of creaturely effects - a principle of metaphysical explanation more than a person to be adored. The question with which evangelical theists were left to struggle is whether this picture of ''a timeless immaterial substance, whose absolute subjectivity is the predetermining cause of all things''25 faithfully represents the God of the gospel.

reacting: defending (and tweaking)

classical theism in response to modern challenges

Evangelical theologians in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries paid relatively little attention to the doctrine of God until Friedrich Schleiermacher and his liberal progeny challenged the tradition. In the age of immanence, modern theologians constructed their doctrine of God with the mud and straw of human experience. The best rubric under which to describe North American evangelical theology during this period is not ''always reforming'' but ''always reacting.''

Saving the revelation of the sovereign God

The main issue that exercised evangelical theologians for much of the twentieth century was revelation and the knowledge of God. Schleiermacher conceded Kant's point that we cannot know God in himself, but only God as he is experienced by us. Schleiermacher, and liberals in general, viewed the Bible not as God's word but as an expression of human religious experience. Neo-orthodoxy, with its claim that God reveals himself (in Jesus Christ), not information about himself, represented yet another perceived threat to the ''Scripture principle'' that posited a direct identity between the human words of the Bible and the word of God.

The most significant work on God in North American evangelical theology during the latter half of the twentieth century was Carl F. H. Henry's six-volume God, Revelation, and Authority,26 a response to liberal and neo-orthodox challenges to the traditional view that God reveals himself verbally and conceptually in the biblical text. Henry argued that revelation is cognitive and propositional and that the system of truth revealed in Scripture is superior, intellectually and existentially, to all other worldviews. What Henry called ''biblical theism'' rests on two axioms: the ontological axiom of the living God (''God exists'') and the epistemological axiom of divine revelation (''God speaks and shows'').

Saving the sovereignty of the revealed God

As one of its most insightful critics, Edward Farley, has demonstrated, the Scripture principle ultimately relies on the ''royal metaphor,'' namely, the assumption that God can work his will in the world (and thus in the human words of the Bible).27 With the Protestant exception of Karl Barth, evangelicals found themselves alone, a theological remnant, with regard to the issue of divine sovereignty. In light of the horrendous evils of the twentieth century (e.g., the Holocaust), a number of Christian theologians abandoned theism for panentheism's alternate picture of the God-world relation that emphasized divine intimacy, not supremacy.28

So-called ''process'' theologians maintain that God is not ''above'' the world but "alongside" it, developing his, and its, potential. God's perfection is a function not of his "apartness'' but ''relatedness.'' It is precisely because God is related to all that is that he is able to influence the world for good. Process theologians claim to have ''solved'' the problem of evil, at the cost of giving up the notion that God is all-powerful. God's loving will is not sovereign, but persuasive; God does not coerce or rule the world but woos it.

Evangelicals by and large have defended theism from all its competitors -atheism, Deism, and now panentheism - on the grounds that the God of infinite perfection is substantially the same as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Evangelical philosophers have rushed to theism's defense as well: ''analytic theology'' - an alliance of evangelical philosophers, philosophical theologians, and systematic theologians - continues to clarify, defend, and in some cases significantly adjust, classical theism's portrait of God as the infinitely perfect being.29

One area in which many evangelicals are inclined toward revision concerns God's emotions. According to the classical view, God's perfection demands that he be unable to change or be affected as we are by anything outside himself. More than a few evangelical theologians have difficulty imagining how humans can enter into a genuinely personal relation with such a being. Accordingly, they qualify divine immutability, a key plank in the classical theist platform, to mean that God is unchanging in being, character, knowledge, and purposes, but not in his relations and responses to creatures.30

rethinking: contemporary i ssues and proposals

The closing years of the twentieth century saw significant changes in the evangelical doctrine of God. The fault-line between divine transcendence and immanence - and the underlying Calvinist and Arminian tectonic plates - shifted under increasing pressure from both biblical scholarship and contemporary cultural sensibilities. The result: a hybrid form of "open'' theism.

Two other developments continue to pose challenges to the evangelical doctrine of God: first, the rise of religious pluralism; second, the expansion of evangelicalism to the non-Western world. Those challenges, however, may be offset by an even more significant development of great value to the long-term health of evangelical theology, namely, the recovery of Trinitarian theology.

Rereading Scripture: the ''openness'' of God

Much of the contemporary impetus in evangelical theology today proceeds from the desire to rethink the classical theistic picture of God as "self-contained and all-sufficient, impassible, supremely detached from the world of pain and suffering''31 in order to reconcile it with the biblical picture of a God who loves the world supremely. However, in 1994 a group of five evangelicals put forward a new paradigm in a co-authored book entitled The Openness of God: A Biblical Challenge to the Traditional Understanding of God.32

Open theists claim that their classical counterparts subscribe to a sub-biblical view of God that is detrimental to Christian piety. Greek philosophical ideas about God's immutability have skewed the way subsequent theologians have interpreted the Bible, leading them to dismiss as anthropomorphic language about God relating and responding personally to human beings: ''How long do theologians intend to permit the Hellenic-biblical synthesis to influence exegesis?''33 Open theists want to take seriously (by which they mean literally) the biblical depiction of God's give-and-take relationship with humans. On their view, God is not an ''aloof monarch'' but a wise and ''caring parent'': ''His sovereignty is not the all-determining kind, but an omnicompetent kind.''34 God grants humans real freedom to respond or to reject his initiatives; such is the cost of a genuine personal relationship. Indeed, ''persons in loving relation'' is the central rubric for open theism.35

Two controversial claims follow from the model of God in ''genuine'' (e.g., mutual and reciprocal) relation to human beings: first, God limits his knowledge of how people will use their freedom in the future (otherwise human freedom would be determined and therefore compromised); second, God's providence or care for the world, precisely because it is not deterministic but respectful of human freedom, is risky. Open theists do not deny divine omniscience and omnipotence but understand these attributes differently in light of their control belief in God's loving self-limitation. The Evangelical Theological Society in 2001 declared its own mind on the matter when it passed a resolution affirming that the Bible teaches God's exhaustive foreknowledge.36

Clark Pinnock, the public face and elder statesman of open theism, acknowledges that modern culture is ''more congenial to dynamic thinking about God than is the Greek portrait''37 and has allowed us to rediscover the original biblical witness.38 Though Pinnock confesses that ''God has used process thinkers''39 to lead him to revise theism in such a way that it conforms more to the biblical model, he is careful to distinguish open from process theism.40 The most important difference: open theists hold to ''an asymmetrical view of the relationship of God and the world'' whereby the world depends on God for its being but not vice versa.41

The conservative backlash has been nevertheless quick and fierce, ranging from caustic comments to critical, book-length commentaries.42 The stakes, and rhetoric, were raised even higher when some critics, most of them Reformed, hinted that the underlying problem was a certain unchecked, thorough-going Arminianism in which libertarian freedom, not divine sovereignty, became the control belief and chief hermeneutical principle.43 The waters were muddied somewhat when Pinnock was invited to give the keynote address at the 1997 annual meeting of the Wesleyan Theological Society, and by Pinnock's suggestion that the more dynamic model of God's nature was ''intimated also in Wesley's thinking.''44 Still, most critics acknowledge that traditional Arminians affirm God's exhaustive foreknowledge.

Retrieving tradition: rediscovering the Trinity

The most important task of the doctrine of God is to identify the God of the gospel who has revealed himself in Jesus Christ through the Scriptures.

It is therefore surprising that the bulk of evangelical treatments have been given over to discussions of the existence, nature, and attributes of God -that God is and what God is - rather than to God's identity or who God is, even though Scripture itself identifies God by what he says and by what he does: ''I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt'' (Exod. 20:2). When it comes to personal identity, actions speak louder than words, even when that word is perfect being.45

One of the most significant recent developments is the renaissance in Trinitarian theology.46 Ironically, the doctrine's recovery owes more to Karl Barth and other non-evangelicals (e.g., Jurgen Moltmann, Karl Rahner, Robert Jenson, John Zizioulas) than to any evangelical theologian. Perhaps, in light of Barth's achievement, the outstanding story of twentieth-century evangelical theology is its benign neglect of the Trinity. Only in the closing years of the century did evangelicals begin to rediscover it.47

Of course, it was not as if the doctrine of the Trinity had been lost. All evangelical theology textbooks have a section on the three persons (de Deo Trino). Yet the Trinity was often tacked on as a kind of appendix to the doctrine of God, as it was (literally) in Schleiermacher's The Christian Faith.48 These textbooks end up speaking of God's nature and attributes without adequate focus on the way he has made himself known in Jesus Christ and the Spirit (what Irenaeus calls the ''two hands'' of God). As Barth insisted, however, the only God Christians know and confess is the God who has revealed himself as Father, Son, and Spirit. The Trinity is not merely the appendix to the doctrine of God, then, but the primary and distinctive way in which Christians should think about God.

The doctrine of the Trinity is not abstract speculation but the church's response to the revelation of God in history and Scripture. We best come to know other persons not through charts that list their personality traits, properties, or vital statistics, but by listening to stories about what they have said and done or, better yet, by watching them in action. The gospel is an account of something God has said and done. Hence the key insight behind the renaissance of Trinitarian theology: God's nature must not be deduced from anything other than the narrative of his own revelatory and redemptive acts.49

Though the technical term ''Trinity'' is not explicit in Scripture, the doctrine is ''so clearly implied by all that Scripture says and by the logic of the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ that it is a necessary implication of and protective concept of the Christian gospel itself.''50 Furthermore, the renaissance of Trinitarian theology affects not only the doctrine of God, but the whole of Christian theology inasmuch as it offers a framework through which to read Scripture and to understand other doctrines as well.51

Reforming and regrouping: from Greek concepts to global contexts

The doctrine of God may be largely informed by Greek categories, but God himself surpasses any one culture's interpretative framework. Here I can only mention two illustrations, one owing to the continuing attempt to free Christian theology from categories of the modern West, the other owing more to increasing global awareness of other religions and to evangelicalism's growth in the non-Western world.

Some evangelicals draw connections between the postmodern emphasis on community and the being of the triune God as ''community'' in order to advocate social Trinitarianism. Stanley Grenz then argues from God's being as communion to the conclusion that we should view human beings, made in God's image, not in terms of individual rational substances (as Aristotle and modern thinkers would have it) but in terms of interpersonal relations.52 Miroslav Volf proposes something similar with regard to the church.53 And LeRon Shults identifies what he calls the ''turn to relationality'' as a new paradigm for understanding not only divine and human personhood but the nature of reality itself.54 As evangelicals continue coming to grips with the passing of modernity, the doctrine of the Trinity affords new resources for rethinking not only the traditional loci of systematic theology, but being itself in terms of relations rather than substances.55

A second point. As globalization has brought Westerners face-to-face with people from other ethnicities, traditions, and religions, the numerical center of evangelical gravity has shifted to the non-Western world. These changes pose two challenges for the doctrine of God. John Hick states the first: ''Does God have many names?'' Hick, like other religious pluralists, argues that all world religions are culturally conditioned responses to the same divine reality. Note that the religious pluralist goes beyond political correctness: he or she does not merely respect religious differences but smoothes them out. This way the bland generic god of moral-therapeutic Deism lies.

The challenge for evangelicals in the non-Western world is somewhat different. It concerns how to relate to a doctrine of God formulated with foreign (e.g., ancient Greek and Western) concepts far removed from the lived experience of the majority of those who inhabit the southern hemisphere today. Kwame Bediako suggests that traditional religion can do for

African Christianity what Greek philosophy has done for the West, namely, serve as ''preparation'' for the gospel.56 Other evangelical African theologians, however, worry that such an approach could lead to unbibli-cal syncretism. Ironically, this is precisely the worry that open theists have with regard to classical theism, which is itself only a ''local'' (i.e., Western) theology.

Still other African evangelicals are as concerned to relate African Christianity to its catholic as to its cultural and religious heritage.57 It is not enough to ask ''how may African Christianity become more authentically African? It must also insistently be asked how African Christianity may become more authentically Christian.''58 The same humble, dialogical strategy ought to characterize every other ethnic evangelical theology as well. The way forward is to recover the catholic heritage of the church in local contexts. After all, Yahweh is no mere tribal deity, for there is but one God, the triune maker of heaven and earth.59

The crucial question, then, with regard to global evangelical theology, is this: will it stay Trinitarian? Will it continue to recite the Nicene creed?60 Some may object that the creed was forged in a specific historical-cultural location, and that is true. Concepts such as homoousios (the Son ''of the same substance'' with the Father) were not mined direct from Scripture. Yet the judgment about who the Son is that underlies that Greek concept is thoroughly biblical. One hopes, then, that non-Western evangelical doctrines of God will display the same biblical judgments as those reflected in the Nicene Creed, even if the particular terms and concepts are not those of Nicea.61

Evangelicals can meet both of the above challenges by focusing not on the divine ''what'' but the divine ''who.'' The God of the gospel is not a generic deity but has spoken and acted in concrete ways, revealing his identity in history with Israel and ultimately in the history of Jesus Christ. The way forward for global evangelicals, therefore, is to use canon-sense and catholic sensibility: for the best evangelical (e.g., gospel-centered) theology is a canonic (i.e., biblical), catholic (i.e., Trinitarian) theology.62

conclusion: the divine comedy's triune actor

The major issue in theology is the identity of the God whom we worship. Worship equips us to see God, the world, and ourselves as we really are and equips us to live rightly with others before God. If the above account has a moral, it is that one must not move too hastily from the God of the gospel to culturally conditioned ideas about the most perfect being; after all, it was the core of the gospel, the cross of Christ, that led the apostle Paul to contrast the way and wisdom of God with worldly wisdom (1 Cor. 1:18-25).

God has acted; God has spoken - this is the good news. Consequently, if evangelicals are to conform their thinking to the gospel, they would do well to avoid thinking of Christianity as a philosophy or a system of morality. Christianity is first and foremost a theo-drama: an account of what God - Father, Son, and Spirit - has said and done in creation and redemption.63 Drama highlights the importance of God as a who rather than a what and, in so doing, privileges the category of communicative action over that of impersonal causality.64 God is a sovereign speech agent, whose Word does not return empty (Isa. 55:11) because it is efficaciously conveyed and accompanied by his Spirit.

God is the triune actor in the drama of redemption; the doctrine of God ultimately involves all that God says and does on the stage of world history. A theo-dramatic conception of God combines the best parts of the evangelical heritage - scholastic (intellectual), pietistic (heart), and activist (will) theology alike - in order to embody Christian wisdom and to demonstrate what it means to know and love God in individual and communal forms of life. Evangelicals in different cultures may formulate and ''perform'' the doctrine of God in different ways, each suited to their respective contexts and cultural scenes, yet the theological judgments underlying these ways are rooted in the one biblical script and the one gospel: one Lord, one faith, one baptism.65

The good news is that humans have not been excluded from the divine comedy but invited to join in. The people of God have important roles to play, both speaking and acting parts. The doctrine of God thus ultimately has a pastoral function: to direct believers to participate in the life and mission of God, glorifying and enjoying him for ever.66 We can do no less for the triune God of the gospel, the Father who reaches out with both hands - Son and Spirit - in order to lift us up to himself.

Further reading

Bloesch, Donald G. God the Almighty: Power, Wisdom, Holiness, Love. Christian

Foundations. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1995. Bray, Gerald. The Doctrine of God. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1993. Frame, John. The Doctrine of God. Phillipsburg, NJ: P. & R., 2002. Grenz, Stanley J. Rediscovering the Triune God: The Trinity in Contemporary

Theology. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 2004.

The Named God and the Question of Being: A Trinitarian Theo-Ontology. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2005.

Karkkainen, Veli-Matti. The Doctrine of God: A Global Introduction. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2004.

Metzger, Paul (ed.). Trinitarian Soundings in Systematic Theology. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 2006.

Olson, Roger E. and Christopher A. Hall. The Trinity. Guides to Theology. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2002.

Packer, J. I. Knowing God. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1973.

Richards, Jay Wesley. The Untamed God: A Philosophical Exploration of Divine Perfection, Simplicity, and Immutability. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2003.

Shults, F. LeRon. Reforming the Doctrine of God. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2005.

Vanhoozer, Kevin J. (ed.). The Trinity in a Pluralistic Age: Theological Essays on Culture and Religion. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1997.


1. Douglas Sweeney, The American Evangelical Story (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2005), p. 17.

2. John Frame, The Doctrine of God (Phillipsburg, NJ: P. & R., 2002), p. 1.

3. David Wells, God in the Wasteland (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1994), pp. 88-117.

4. One of the best examples of an evangelical theologian who gets the head/heart balance right is J.I. Packer, Knowing God (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity,

5. Calvinist or ''Reformed'' theologians stress the sovereignty of God, especially with regard to God's provision for salvation: believers choose God because God first chooses us. Wesleyan-Arminian theologians, by contrast, argue that the reason God chooses some to save and not others is because they have freely chosen to believe. Both traditions acknowledge the need for God's grace, though they disagree on the particulars of its distribution.

6. Cf. Roger Olson's comment that ''If evangelical theology in general has its own spin on traditional Christian belief in God, it may be an emphasis on God's personal nature'' (The Westminster Handbook to Evangelical Theology [Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2004], p. 188).

7. David Wells, ''Introduction: The Word in the World,'' in John H. Armstrong (ed.), The Compromised Church (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1998), p. 23.

8. MarvaDawn, Reaching Out Without Dumbing Down: A Theology of Worship for the Turn-of-the-Century Culture (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1995), p. 285.

9. See Kevin J. Vanhoozer, ''Worship at the Well: From Dogmatics to Doxology (and Back Again),'' Trinity Journal 23 (2002): 3-16.

10. The term comes from Christian Smith's Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005).

11. See, for example, the standard systematic theologies of Charles Hodge, Louis Berkhof, Augustus Strong, and Millard Erickson. Even Wayne Grudem, whose theology self-consciously strives to be biblical, follows this order.

12. Several church fathers regarded Greek philosophy as a divine preparation of the gospel (see Gerald Bray, The Doctrine of God [Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1993], p. 30).

13. There are, of course, exceptions. Donald Bloesch argues for ''a biblical theism that must be radically differentiated from classical theism'' (God the Almighty [Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1995], p. 14).

14. Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, 3 vols. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1979), vol. i, p. 204.

16. What held the Reformers' interest were not questions about God's being but his will. Indeed, to some extent, Calvin reassigned the God-making properties that the medievals associated with God's nature to God's will, a move that explains his successors' preoccupation with predestination and the divine decree: that eternal, sovereign, immutable will of God.

17. Neoplatonists called God to on (''that which is'') but Christians, knowing that God is personal, called him ho on (''he who is''). Paul Jewett contrasts the philosophers' abstract idea of God with evangelicals' emphasis on God's concrete, personal self-revelation (God, Creation, and Revelation: A Neo-Evangelical Theology [Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1991], pp. 174-77). Whereas Greek philosophers speak of ''the Absolute,'' Jesus and the New Testament authors cry ''Abba'' (Mark 14:36; Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:6).

19. The issue concerns the relative priority of biblical narrative and metaphysics, that branch of philosophy concerned with the nature of ultimate reality. For a contemporary evangelical theologian who responds to classical theism by claiming to adhere consistently to sola scriptura, see Frame, The Doctrine of God, esp. pp. 7-13. In Frame's view, the Bible presents God not as perfect being but as covenant Lord.

20. Instead of seeing classical theism as a hermeneutical framework through which one interprets and orders the Bible's talk of God, some see it as an attempt to clarify the intrinsic logic of the biblical text itself. In other words, classical theism may be less like metaphysical than analytic philosophy. Alternately, one may see the attempt to employ categories of Greek thought to interpret the biblical stories as ''another way of contextualizing the gospel'' (Veli-Matti Karkkainen, The Doctrine of God: A Global Introduction [Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2004], p. 81).

21. Calvin believes the project of natural theology is rotten at the core, namely, the sinful human heart: ''They do not apprehend God as he offers himself ... but measure him by the yardstick of their own carnal stupidity [and] imagine him as they have fashioned him in their own presumption'' - which is as incisive a critique of conceptual idolatry as anything postmoderns have produced! (John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, ed. John T. McNeill, trans. Ford Lewis Battles, Library of Christian Classics XX and XXI [Philadelphia, PA: Westminster, 1960], 1:47; order slightly amended).

22. Nicholas Lash, Holiness, Speech and Silence: Reflections on the Question of God (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2004), p. 9.

23. F. LeRon Shults, Reforming the Doctrine of God (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2005), p. 9.

26. Carl F. H. Henry, God, Revelation, and Authority, 6 vols. (Waco, TX: Word, 1976-83).

27. Edward Farley, Ecclesial Reflection: An Anatomy of Theological Method (Philadelphia, PA: Fortress, 1982).

28. According to panentheism, the world is in God but God is greater than the world. It follows for panentheists that God and the world exist in a relation of mutual interdependence, so much so that some suggest that the world is God's ''body'' while God is the ''mind'' of the world.

29. For an example of a contribution from analytic philosophical theology, see Jay Wesley Richards, The Untamed God: A Philosophical Exploration of Divine Perfection, Simplicity, and Immutability (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2003).

30. John S. Feinberg professes himself dissatisfied with classical and process theism alike. The self-sufficient, immutable sovereign God of classical theism is ''too domineering, too austere, and too remote to be at all religiously adequate'' (No One Like Him: The King Who Cares, Foundations of Evangelical Theology [Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2001], p. 31) yet the changing, empathetic, power-sharing (and at the limit, impotent) God of process theology is not strong enough to sustain hope that all things shall be well. Accordingly, Feinberg proposes a third model: the king who cares (p. 32). However, as J. I. Packer points out, the depiction of the God of classical theism as detached and uncaring is something of a caricature (J. J. Packer, ''God the Image-Maker,'' in Mark A. Noll and David F. Wells (eds.), Christian Faith and Practice in the Modern World: Theology from an Evangelical Point of View [Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1988], pp. 27-50).

31. Bloesch, God the Almighty, p. 21.

32. Clark Pinnock, et al., The Openness of God (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity,

33. Clark Pinnock, Most Moved Mover: A Theology of God's Openness (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2001), p. 63.

34. Clark Pinnock, ''God Limits His Knowledge,'' in David and Randall Basinger (eds.), Predestination and Free Will: Four Views of Divine Sovereignty and Human Freedom (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1986), pp. 145-46.

35. Progressive evangelicals are not the only ones reluctant to throw in their theological lot with classical theism. J.I. Packer comments: ''Western Christian theism as generally received today is a blend of philosophical and exegetical reasoning, the former appearing to constitute the frame into which the latter has to fit'' (''God the Image-Maker,'' p. 33). Packer ultimately argues not for abandonment but an''aggiornamento" (''update'') of traditional theism.

36. For an open theist perspective on divine omniscience, see Gregory Boyd,'' The Open-Theism View,'' in James K. Beilby and Paul R. Eddy (eds.), Divine Foreknowledge: Four Views (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2001), pp. 13-47, and Gregory Boyd, God of the Possible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2000). For an open theist perspective on divine providence, see John Sanders, The God who Risks: A Theology of Providence (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1998).

38. Even our greater awareness of the world as ''an interconnected ecosystem'' helps us to imagine God's openness to the world (Pinnock [ed.], Openness of God, p. 112).

39. Pinnock, ''Between Classical and Process Theism,'' in Ronald Nash (ed.), Process Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1987), p. 317.

40. See especially Pinnock, Most Moved Mover, pp. 140-50.

42. For example, one critic described open theism as ''a dangerous trend within evangelical circles of creating God in man's image'' (Norman Geisler, Creating God in the Image of Man [Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House, 1997], p. 11). See also John Piper, Justin Taylor, and Paul Kjoss Helseth (eds.), Beyond the Bounds: Open Theism and the Undermining of Biblical Christianity (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2003) and Millard Erickson, What Does God Know and When Does He Know It? (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2003). Donald Bloesch includes an appendix critical of open theism in his God the Almighty, pp. 254-60.

43. See John Frame, No Other God: A Response to Open Theism (Phillipsburg, NJ: P. & R., 2001).

44. ''Evangelical Theologians Facing the Future: Ancient and Future Paradigms,'' Wesleyan Theological Journal 33 (1998): 12-13. Barry L. Callen claims that Pinnock's relational theism represents a ''Wesley-sensitive school of thought'' (''From tulip to rose: Clark H. Pinnock on the Open and Risking God,'' Wesleyan Theological Journal 36 [2001]: 160-86, esp. p. 160).

45. Richard Bauckham develops the notion of divine identity into a fascinating account of the deity of Jesus Christ in his God Crucified: Monotheism and Christology in the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1998).

46. For a full account, see Stanley J. Grenz, Rediscovering the Triune God (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 2004). According to Grenz, the rebirth of Trinitarian theology is ''one of the most far-reaching theological developments of the [twentieth] century'' (p. 1).

47. One exception to the rule is Cornelius Van Til. It is also interesting to note that the Evangelical Theological Society decided to add belief in the triune God, along with biblical inerrancy, as the only two requirements for membership.

48. In fairness, it should be said that Western theology typically has been read as presenting the one God before turning to the three persons.

49. One of the most important identifying acts in the biblical narrative is God's self-naming. For a recent evangelical attempt to think through the relation of God's triune naming to the traditional concept of perfect being, see Stanley Grenz, The Named God and the Question of Being: A Trinitarian Theo-Ontology (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2005), esp. ch. 8.

50. Roger Olson and Christopher Hall, The Trinity (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2002), p. 2.

51. This, at least, is the premise behind the essays in Paul Metzger (ed.), Trinitarian Soundings in Systematic Theology (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 2006).

52. Stanley Grenz, The Social God and the Relational Self (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2001). Other evangelicals, however, worry that the social analogy leads to tritheism, the heretical belief in three gods.

53. Miroslav Volf, After Our Likeness: The Church as the Image of the Trinity (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1998).

54. Shults, Reforming the Doctrine of God.

55. There is a possibility that theologians espousing this new conceptuality have simply exchanged masters; "relationality" may simply be the new "substance"! Paul Molnar cautions against allowing some principle other than God to define the meaning of relationality. See Divine Freedom and the Doctrine of the Immanent Trinity (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 2002), pp. 126-46.

56. See Kwame Bediako, Theology and Identity: The Impact of Culture upon Christian Thought in the Second Century and in Modern Africa (Oxford: Regnum, 1992).

57. See Tite Tienou, The Theological Task of the Church in Africa, 2nd edition (Achimota, Ghana: Africa Christian Press, 1996).

58. Paul Bowers, '' African Theology,'' Africa Journal of Evangelical Theology 21 (2002): p. 123.

59. See also Aida Besançon Spencer and William David Spencer (eds.), The Global God: Multicultural Evangelical Views of God (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1998), which argues that churches in every culture have something to contribute to the church's knowledge of the one God.

60. Gerald Bray rightly stresses the importance of the Trinity in any future evangelical doctrine of God (Doctrine of God, pp. 246-51).

61. For the distinction between judgments and concepts, see David Yeago, '' The New Testament and the Nicene Dogma,'' in Stephen Fowl (ed.), The Theological Interpretation of Scripture (Oxford: Blackwell, 1997), pp. 87-100.

62. For a further development of this proposal, see my One Rule to Rule them All?' Theological Method in an Era of World Christianity,'' in Craig Ott and Harold Netland (eds.), Globalizing Theology: Christian Belief and Practice in an Era of World Christianity (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2006).

63. See Michael Horton, Covenant and Eschatology: The Divine Drama (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2002).

64. Kevin J. Vanhoozer, First Theology (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2002), ch. 4.

65. See Kevin J. Vanhoozer, The Drama of Doctrine (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2005).

66. Cf. Paul Fiddes, Participating in God: A Pastoral Doctrine of the Trinity (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2000) and Packer's citation of a Puritan (John Perkins) who defines theology as '' the science of living blessedly forever'' ('' God the Image-Maker,'' p. 28).

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