Friend and fellow Gentle Reformation blogger Dr. Michael LeFebvre recently had a new book he coauthored published. Below is a short interview I conducted to find out more about the book and Michael’s reasons for writing it.
Michael, what led you to work on this book on the Trinity? How did it come about that you co-authored it with Philip Ryken, the pastor of the historic Tenth Presbyterian Church of Philadephia?
On an afternoon early in 2007, I met my good friend Bud Wilson for coffee at Lulu’s Electric Cafe. During conversation about various topics, Bud mentioned he was planning the autumn seminar of the Reformation Society of Indiana (RSI), and the topic that year would be the Trinity. He told me he was hoping to get Phil Ryken to serve as one of the speakers, and he was in the process of identifying a second speaker. I told him that sounded like a great conference topic, and that I would be eager to attend and learn. But before I finished my cup of coffee, Bud had gently twisted my arm into serving as the second speaker. This book grew out of the lectures Phil and I gave at the 2007 RSI conference in Indianapolis, Indiana. That conference was to be the last event organized by Bud, as the Lord took him home to be with himself the following year. Phil and I dedicated the book in Bud’s memory.
The Trinity is not only foundational doctrine for the church but precious truth. What approach do you and Dr. Ryken take in presenting the Trinity to your readers?
For too long, this doctrine has been viewed as too confusing for the average Christian to be bothered with, and too lofty to be of any down-to-earth value. But when Jesus was in the upper room with his disciples for their last meal before he went to the cross, what was the topic he spent the night discussing with them? The triune nature of God. If Jesus regarded the doctrine of the Trinity as a subject of immense comfort and practical help for his disciples in such a time of need as that, shouldn’t we? Our goal in this book is to bring the biblical teaching about God’s triune nature “back into reach” of Christian laymen. We don’t dumb things down, but we try to bring out the tremendous, practical value for Christians learning to relate to God according to his triune nature.
Given the size of the book (128 pages) and the publisher (Crossway), is it safe to say that Our Triune God is written for all but especially is seeking to make this teaching accessible to people in the pews?
That is right. At one point in the book, I quote the observation of Karl Rahner, who wrote, “Despite their orthodox confession of the Trinity, Christians are, in their practical life, almost mere ‘monotheists’.” Most Christians today understand that God is triune, but that fact has little impact on how they pray or relate to God. We earnestly hope that this book will be of some help to Christians in the pew in their relationship to the triune God. And certainly, pastors and seminarians might find benefit in this book as well, but we did try to prepare it with the serious minded layman in view.
I was interested that columnist Anthony Bradley from WORLD magazine recently referenced your book to use it as a call for unity among denominations. Was that part of your intent in writing it or more of a welcomed by-product of it?
I think Mr. Bradley’s review shows greater perceptiveness about this doctrine’s potential than at least I had in mind when writing the book. It is certainly true, Jesus pointed to the unity within the Godhead in his high priestly prayer (in John 17) as the basis for his disciples growing in genuine unity. Furthermore, as we do bring out in the book, Jesus pointed to the love within the Godhead as the foundation for the church’s love one for one another. That feature is certainly in the book, but I had not conceived of this book as primarily (or prominently) a call for unity among denominations. Our aim was a bit more modest, calling individual Christians to know, pray to, and worship God according to his triune nature. But I heartily concur with Mr. Bradley’s excitement, that a recovery of careful thinking about the communion within the Godhead will have profound implications on our proper communion within the church.
Thank you for making this teaching available to the church.
If you are now interested in getting a copy of Our Triune God, you can purchase it by clicking on the picture of the book.