Vern S. Poythress
Reviewed by: Arthur J. Fox
The Mystery of the Trinity: A Trinitarian Approach to the Attributes of God, by Vern S. Poythress. P&R, 2020. Hardcover, 728 Pages, $34.50. Reviewed by OP Pastor Arthur J. Fox.
In his introduction, Vern S. Poythress tells us, “We are seeking in this book to deepen our knowledge of God in his majesty” (xxiii). He then focuses on challenges concerning God’s attributes: how can God be independent and yet relate to the world, immutable and yet interact with the world, eternal and yet act in different ways at different times; how can Scripture use “unworthy” descriptions of God like “angry,” “regretful,” and “grieved”; how can finite man truly know the infinite God; and how can God’s attributes be identical with God and also be distinguished from one another (xxvi–xxviii).
Poythress addresses these challenges using the doctrine of the Trinity. In doing so, he interacts with Aristotelian philosophy and with other theologians who interacted with that philosophy, such as Aquinas, Turretin, and Charnock, each of whom tried to explain the world and God’s relationship to it. Poythress says that the Trinity is in fact too mysterious to fully understand because man’s thinking is limited by his finite nature and the influence of sin. God is transcendent, beyond our understanding, and yet immanent, revealing himself to us in limited ways in creation and the Word.
Yet, Poythress shows us that we can grow in our understanding by thinking biblically. He models this for us by closing each chapter with a prayer that reflects what he has taught (a unique and truly edifying practice). This is not a simple book to understand, but if you take the time to think and pray, you will find help from Dr. Poythress to enable you to grow in your understanding of the mystery of who our triune God is and how he relates to us and the world.
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