On Classical Trinitarianism

On Classical Trinitarianism

Retrieving the Nicene Doctrine of the Triune God

Edited by Matthew Barrett

On Classical Trinitarianism
  • Length: 824 pages
  • Dimensions: 7 × 10 in
  • Published: October 01, 2024
  • Imprint: IVP Academic
  • Item Code: A0034
  • ISBN: 9781514000342

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Modern theology claimed that it ignited a renaissance in trinitarian theology. Really, it has been a renaissance in social trinitarianism. Classical commitments like divine simplicity have been jettisoned, the three persons have been redefined as three centers of consciousness and will, and modern agendas in politics, gender, and ecclesiology determine the terms of the discussion. Contemporary trinitarian theology has followed the spirit of this trajectory, rejecting doctrines like eternal generation which were once a hallmark of Nicene orthodoxy and reintroducing subordinationism into the Trinity.

Motivated by the longstanding need to retrieve the classical doctrine of the Trinity, theologian Matthew Barrett brings together Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox scholars to intervene in the conversation. With over forty contributions, this ecumenical volume resurrects the enduring legacy of Nicene orthodoxy, providing a theological introduction that listens with humility to the Great Tradition.

The distinct yet united voices of On Classical Trinitarianism summon the next generation to move past modern revisionism for the sake of renewing classical trinitarian theology today. Together, they demonstrate that Nicene orthodoxy can endure in the modern world and unite the church catholic.

"One will be hard-pressed to find a more comprehensive explanation of trinitarian doctrine than this collection of essays. Matthew Barrett has assembled a prestigious team of scholars to explain what the Trinity is and why it still matters. On Classical Trinitarianism is an outstanding achievement in modern scholarship on the Christian doctrine of God."

Michael F. Bird, deputy principal at Ridley College in Melbourne, Australia and author of A Bird's-Eye View of Luke and Acts

"On Classical Trinitarianism is a breathtaking accomplishment. An astonishing array of contributions maps the field of trinitarian theology—historical, dogmatic, and polemical. The forty chapters, written by prominent theologians from each of three major branches of the church, are a major refutation of the so-called revival of the Trinity in twentieth-century theology. This publication is a serious, in-depth reassertion of classical Nicene theology over against the recent onslaught of social trinitarianism with its rationally comprehensible and compositional (and, often, subordinationist) view of the Trinity. Anyone attempting a return to the social trinitarianism of the previous century will have to reckon with Matthew Barrett's major accomplishment in this volume."

Hans Boersma, the Order of St. Benedict Servants of Christ Chair in Ascetical Theology at Nashotah House Theological Seminary, Wisconsin

"Evangelical retrieval of classical trinitarianism is a vital project. This massive resource represents various approaches and levels of polemical intensity along with a core set of convictions. I can't believe I read the whole thing! But its many fine essays convey valuable insights, sound some necessary alarms, and pose enduring questions."

Daniel J. Treier, Gunther H. Knoedler Professor of Theology and PhD program director at Wheaton College


Introduction: The Prospect and Promise of Classical Trinitarian Theology
Matthew Barrett

Part 1: Retrieving Nicene Trinitarianism
1. Ante-Nicene Trinitarianism: From Confession to Theology
Donald Fairbairn
2. The Nicene Creed: Foundation of Orthodoxy
Christopher A. Hall
3. The Beginnings of a Pro-Nicene Trinitarian Vision: Athanasius of Alexandria on the Activity of the Son and the Spirit
Amy Brown Hughes and Shawn Wilhite
4. Hilary of Poitiers on the Unity and Distinction of Father and Son: A Pro-Nicene Reading and Use of John 5:19
Carl L. Beckwith
5. The Cappadocians and the Maturity of Nicene Vocabulary
Stephen Hildebrand
6. Maximos and John Damascene: Mid-Byzantine Reception of Nicaea
Andrew Louth
7. Augustine of Hippo: Will the Real Augustine Please Stand Up?
Keith E. Johnson
8. Anselm of Canterbury: Faith Seeking Trinitarian Understanding
David S. Hogg
9. Thomas Aquinas's Appropriation of Pro-Nicene Theology of the Trinity
Gilles Emery, OP
10. Creedal Critics or Creedal Confessors? The Reformers and the Reformed Scholastics
J. V. Fesko
11. A Fading of the Trinitarian Imagination: The Fight for Nicene Confessionalism in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries
Michael A. G. Haykin

Part 2: Trinitarian Hermeneutics and Nicene Dogmatics
12. The Incomprehensibility of the Holy Trinity
Ronni Kurtz
13. Trinity, Creatures, and Hermeneutics: Accounting Properly for both Theologia and Oikonomia
Richard C. Barcellos
14. The Unity of God and the Unity of the Economy
Steven J. Duby
15. Perfect Being Theology and Classical Trinitarianism
Katherin A. Rogers
16. Trinity and Divine Simplicity
James E. Dolezal
17. Three Persons, One Will
Stephen J. Wellum
18. Trinity and Aseity
Gavin Ortlund
19. The Immutable and Impassible Trinity, Part 1: The Biblical Teaching and Early Patristic Thought
Thomas G. Weinandy
20. The Immutable and Impassible Trinity, Part 2: The Early Councils, Further Theological and Christological Developments, and Soteriological and Pastoral Implications
Thomas G. Weinandy
21. Trinity and Love
Matthew Levering
22. The Unbegotten Father
John Baptist Ku
23. Only Begotten God: Eternal Generation, a Scriptural Doctrine
Charles Lee Irons
24. Only Begotten Son: The Doctrinal Functions of Eternal Generation
Fred Sanders
25. No Impassibility, No Eternal Generation: Retrieving a Pro-Nicene Distinctive
Matthew Barrett
26. The Procession of the Spirit: Eternal Spiration
Chris R. J. Holmes
27. The Spirit's Procession Revealed in the Spirit's Mission: An Augustinian Account
Adonis Vidu
28. Three Agents, One Agency: The Undivided External Works of the Trinity
Scott R. Swain
29. Trinity and Appropriations: Meaning, Practice, and Significance
Josh Malone

Part 3: The Renewal of Nicene Fidelity Today
30. Social or Classical? A Theological Dialogue
Michael Allen and Matthew Barrett
31. Three Versus One? Some Problems with Social Trinitarianism
Stephen R. Holmes
32. Perichoresis and Projection: Problems with Social Doctrines of the Trinity
Karen Kilby
33. Is There Obedience in God? Nicene Orthodoxy and the Eternal Procession of the Son in Aquinas and Barth
Thomas Joseph White
34. Renaissance or Revision? Metaphysical Departures from Classical Trinitarian Theism
Craig A. Carter
35. Are Evangelicals Nicene Trinitarians? Evangelicalism's Debt to Social Trinitarianism
D. Blair Smith
36. Reforming the Trinity? The Collapse of Classical Metaphysics and the Protestant Identity Crisis
Carl Trueman
37. The Need for Nicene Exegesis: Eternal Functional Subordination's Hermeneutical Innovation
Amy Peeler
38. The Need for Nicene Dogmatics: Eternal Functional Subordination's Dogmatic Inadequacy
Glenn Butner
39. The Trinity Is Still Not our Social Program: The Trinity and Gender Roles
Samuel G. Parkison
40. Biblicism and Heterodoxy: Nicene Orthodoxy, Ecclesiastical Accountability, and Institutional Fidelity
Michael Horton

List of Contributors
General Index
Scripture Index


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Matthew Barrett

Matthew Barrett is professor of Christian Theology at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, the editor-in-chief of Credo Magazine, and Director of the Center for Classical Theology. He is the author of the award winning book, Simply Trinity: The Unmanipulated Father, Son, and Spirit, as well as the author of The Reformation as Renewal: Retrieving the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. He is currently writing a Systematic Theology. He is the host of the Credo podcast, where he talks with fellow theologians about the retrieval of classical Christianity today for the sake of renewing the church.