Monday, February 27, 2012
Book Review of Rethinking the Trinity and Religious Pluaralism by Keith E. Johnson
Rethinking The Trinity and Religious Pluralism: An Augustinian Assesment
by Keith E. Johnson
Published by IVP Academic
Reviewed by Clint Walker
Throughout much of the enlightenment, Christian theologians began to move away from a Trinitarian theology of the Godhead. Instead of embracing the Trinity, they often tried to reduce Christianity to an ethic for living modeled by the person of Jesus (see Schliermacher and Kant). In the 20th century, with the magisterial works of the Protestant Karl Barth, and the Catholic Theologian Karl Rahner, embrace and study of the Trinity experience a revival in Western Christian theology. This is a good thing.
What has been a negative consequence of a revival of interest in Trinitarian theology is people who use the Trinitarian language of God for their own ends. One of the ways this has been happening in recent decades is to use the language of the Trinity to promote some sort of semi-universalist Christian doctrine of salvation.
This kind of pluralism cannot be justified by any honest reading of Scripture and church tradition. Keith Johnson, in his book Rethinking the Trinity and Religious Pluralism, attempts to use logic, the teachings of Augustine, and orthodox Christian doctrine to show how a broad-based embrace of religious pluralism and the Christian doctrine of salvation are incompatable.
I think Johnson does an admirable job taking on a very tedious task. He methodically lays out his point of view, he addresses the theology of four theologians who embrace the Trinity as a tool for bringing an unbiblical theology of Christian pluralism into the church, and then he plots a future for articulating a Trinitarian evangelical theology of salvation in the context of interfaith dialogue.
This book was a challenge for me, but in a good way. The author is smart. His audience is definitely among those in academic and intellectual circles. His subject matter is tedious. To really understand what is happening in the context of this book, you need to take time to digest it and process it. It is a well-written book, but it is not for the average lay person in the pews.
This book is an excellent text for Christian pastors seeking to develop an intellectually grounded Christian apologetic. Not only will this book get its reader to get thinking about challenging issues relating to the Trinity, it will help them think more deeply about to communicate their faith in general. Which is, by the way, never a bad thing.