WHAT LED YOU TO WRITE THE MYSTERY OF THE TRINITY? HOW DID YOU BECOME INTERESTED IN EXPLORING THE BIBLE’S TEACHING ON THIS TOPIC?
VSP: In 2018 P&R Publishing published an earlier book that I wrote on the topic of the Trinity (Knowing and the Trinity: How Perspectives in Human Knowledge Imitate the Trinity). It focused on some ways in which the Trinity is the foundation for human knowledge. My friend John Hughes from P&R Publishing proposed that I write on the attributes of God, because there was a controversy among evangelicals on that subject. I thought that this subject of the attributes of God, and their relation to the Trinity, was mysterious and difficult. I was apprehensive about doing it. But I undertook it nevertheless, because I sensed that I might be able to help. I thought that the only way I could help was by going back to the Bible itself and primarily appealing to its teaching. The teaching on the Trinity, in particular, could be a help in exploring more deeply the meaning of the attributes of God.
WHAT ARE THE MAIN THINGS YOU LEARNED FROM RESEARCHING THE MYSTERY OF THE TRINITY?
VSP: I appreciated more deeply the greatness of God, and stood in awe of him. I also grew in appreciating the struggles that had taken place in the history of theology as people tried to obtain a biblically based view of God and also interact with philosophy—unfortunately, mostly pagan philosophy.
WHAT ARE SOME IMPORTANT TRUTHS YOU WOULD LIKE READERS TO REMEMBER FROM READING THE MYSTERY OF THE TRINITY?
VSP: Most important, I hope reader understand that God is God. We should stand in awe of him and understand that we can know him truly and deeply, but we will never know him completely, exhaustively. He is infinite.
Second, I hope that readers will remember how I emphasize the centrality of Christ and his resurrection in coming to know God. We do not know God in a saving way by speculation or by mysticism or by contemplation outside of the Bible, but only through Christ: “no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him” (Matt. 11:27). “Jesus said to him [Thomas], ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’” (John 14:6).
Third, I hope they remember that God is always the Trinitarian God, and that we understand his attributes in the light of the Trinity. Also, we understand the Trinity in the light of the attributes. The unity of God and his distinctiveness in three persons are both ultimate in who God is.
Fourth, I hope that readers remember that it is not a problem for God to be the infinite, unchangeable, self-sufficient God and also to be a God who created world and who interacts intimately with us. God is eternally active, eternally speaking, eternally knowing, and eternally loving in the activities of the persons of the Trinity. He reflects and displays to us his eternal activity in his activity toward us. He loves us in Christ. Praise the Lord!
WHAT DO YOU SEE AS THE PURPOSE OF THE BOOK THE MYSTERY OF THE TRINITY?
The primary purpose is that people would grow in knowing God. This knowledge includes knowing facts about God, but our goal should be to know God himself. Jesus says, “And this is eternal life, that they know you the one true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3). I desire people to grow in worshiping God, in living their lives in a God-centered way, and in standing in awe of him.
I also hope that my words would be a help in moving us forward as the people of God, in dealing with corruptions of the knowledge of God that come from unbelieving philosophy, and in dealing with the present controversy over the attributes of God. But primarily, I see the book as positive. What does God show us about himself in the Bible, and how can we know him and know what the Bible is saying more deeply?
This interview appeared originally in John Hughes, “Author Interview: Vern Poythress,” Academic Newsletter, P & R, Vol. 10, Nov., 2020, pp. 3, 7. Full newsletter is downloadable here.