The Trinitarian Theology of Stanley J Grenz by Jason S Sexton: A short boook review

This book is a must read for anyone who is interested in the theological writings of Stanley Grenz, here we find a clear scholarly analysis of Grenz theological position. I hope particularly that those who have been critical of Grenz will read this book because it demonstrates convincingly that Grenz stood in the Great Tradition as far as the doctrine of Trinity is concerned. It must be emphasised that this work does not answer all the questions some will have in regards to the theology of Stanley Grenz, I am sure that some will say that post-foundationalism should have been treated in greater depth but that is to miss the point of the book.

Chapter 1 leads us into the theological program and methodology pursued by Grenz and deals with some of the criticisms levelled against him. For me the most interesting part of this chapter was the section dealing with Grenz’s methodology, the section on the sources of theology is particularly illuminating and demonstrates to my mind that Grenz was using a genuinely evangelical methodology whilst addressing contemporary issues.

Chapters 2 and 3 are an enlightening examination of the influence of Pannenberg on Grenz, here we see that Grenz was not a slavish follower of Pannenberg but rather he  critically adapted Pannenberg’s insights into his own theological thought. He was particularly influenced by Pannenberg’s emphasis on the Trinity.

Chapter 4 shows the development of Grenz’s thought in developing his doctrine of the trinity, here we find an examination of the development of his thinking from the time he was taught by Lewis and Demarest until the time he published “Theology for the Community of God” here we see that Grenz has embraced the idea of the social trinity. Personally I have always been fascinated by Grenz’s emphasis on community both as regards the trinity and in regards to the Imago Dei, this is because in 1976 I had developed a view of the image of God in man in which I described man as an individual-communal creature, this concept I had used to critique both Marxism and Liberation Theology.  I had purchased Theology for the Community of God soon after it was published in the UK because of this interest in the concept of community.

Chapter 5 helpfully guides us through the developing thought of Stanley Grenz regarding the doctrine of the trinity, this chapter takes us in depth through the various stages of Grenz’s trinitarian doctrine, although this chapter is not an easy read it is worth the effort because one begins to understand the issue Grenz dealt with until his untimely death in 2005. Here we see that Grenz was steeped in not only modern theological reflection but was also aware of patristic writing both of the east and the west. It is interesting to see that Augustine was an influence upon his thinking. This chapter will challenge the reader to be more careful in their critique of Grenz but it is also an example to us of good theological research (both by Grenz and Sexton). We need to see that Sexton has shown clearly in this chapter that Grenz was a trinitarian theologian who realised that the Triune God could not be easily classified and because of this was willing to develop his thinking in his response to theological challenges and primarily to his growing understanding of divine revelation.

Chapter 6 is a very interesting introduction to Genz’s concept of the Imago Dei, Grenz rightly grappled with the issue of the implications of the doctrine of the trinity in its relationship to biblical anthropology. What is helpful here is that Grenz moves beyond the rationalistic views of the Imago Dei to a more relational concept. Sexton shows how this functions in several aspects of theological thinking including ecclesiology, I was hoping that there would be some discussion of the social implications of this doctrine but here I believe that Sexton is just demonstrating the flow of Grenz’s thought. I have in the past tried to find references to the social implications of this in Grenz’s writing and I wonder if he realised what a powerful tool he has given us to critique both Marxism and Capitalism. I have commented above about my own development of the concept of the Imago Dei and I will not repeat that here.

Chapter 7 is a very interesting discussion of Grenz’s trinitarian ethics, here we see Grenz the theologian grappling with theological and ethical issues that have pastoral implications. Sexton demonstrates that whilst Grenz deals with the modern world in all its complexity he does so with a pastoral heart that desires to be faithful to divine revelation. This chapter helps us to see how Grenz was God-centered in  his ethic and how this impacts his thinking.

Chapter 8, brings the book to a close with a look at how Grenz has been received and Sexton demonstrates that Grenz theology was “A comprehensive conservative evangelical project” I know some will disagree with this evaluation but to do so is to ignore the clear argument of this book. I fear that some have labeled Grenz as being post-conservative or even post-modernist and are not really open to the excellent research that that this book contains.

I recommend this book to all who want to understand the theology of Stanley Grenz, it is also an example of good theological research which will stimulate us in our task to be better thinkers and theologians.

About pneumaandlogos

David Rollings was born in Luton in1949 and raised by my Christian parents in the Gospel Standard Strict Baptist denomination( Hyper-Calvinistic} in the sixties I rebelled against this background and got involved in left-wing politics. I became a Christian in 1969 and soon started reading Francis Schaeffer's books and came to embrace a Christian Worldview. I had the privilege of being on the staff of L'Abti Fellowship from1975 - 1979. After L'abri I studied at London School of Theology where I gained my BA.(1983) A few years later I studied for my MA by distance learning with The Nazarene Theological College Manchester (1999) For the last 25 years, I have been an elder of Shoreham-by-Sea Baptist Church. I also regularly attend the Christian Doctrine Study Group of the Tyndale Fellowship.
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