I am reading another book, one which comes highly recommended. It is a work on the Patristics, primarily focusing in on the Trinitarian language and grammar used by some of the foremost church Fathers. Also of interest, to me, is how Ayres will address the common notion that the way Eastern and Western churches spoke and thought of the Trinity were disparate from one another. Ayres, apparently, will demonstrate how this notion is overstated; and in fact, it sounds like, a false dichotomy or competition between the Eastern and Western branches of the early church (and thus church traditions today). I look forward to reading this book, and you can be sure I will share quotes and thoughts from it; as I can. Here is the synopsis of the book (found on the back-jacket):
The first part of Lewis Ayres’s book offers a new narrative of the fourth century trinitarian controversies. It takes forward modern revisionary scholarship, showing the slow emergence of the theologies that came to constitute pro-Nicene orthodoxy. Ancient heresiological categories, such as ‘Arian’ and ‘Neo-Arian’, are avoided while the unity of ‘Nicene’ theologies is not assumed. In the second part Ayres offers a new account of the unity in diversity of late fourth-century pro-Nicene theologies. In particular he argues that the Nicene-Constantinopolitan creed and the statements of unity and plurality in the Trinity to be found in all pro-Nicene theologians and in Theodosius’ anti-heretical legislation were intended to be understood in the context of a broad set of theological practices and assumptions. He offers an account of the basic strategies that ground pro-Nicene theology, focusing on common epistemological concerns; a common notion of purification and sanctification, and a common aesthetics of faith. Ayres also provides detailed introductions to the trinitarian theology of Basil of Caesarea, Gregory of Nyssa, and Augustine of Hippo. Throughout the first two parts of the book a constant concern is to show that the common acceptance of a basic division between eastern and western trinitarian theologies is unsustainable. Finally, Ayres considers the failure of modern trinitarian theology to engage pro-Nicene theology in a substantial manner. Fundamental characteristics of the culture of modern systematic theology, especially the role of narrative and the influence of Hegel, prevent appreciation of the theological culture essential to pro-Nicene theology. (Lewis Ayres, “Nicaea and its Legacy: An Approach to Fourth-Century Trinitarian Theology”)
So often, especially within the halls of “Evangelical Theology,” a doctrine of God is just assumed. In fact if you read various systematic theologies done by leading Evangelical systematicians (like Millard Erickson, Grudem, et al.) you will notice by their prolegomena (or philosophy of theology) that the Trinity is conspicuously absent until well into the “order.” Instead, as I think a book like this from Ayres will demonstrate, the doctrine of God is most important to the development of all and subsequent doctrines (like salvation). In other words, if there is lack of engagement of a doctrine of God (at a first order level); and further, if this lack of engagement decentralizes the Trinitarian nature of God as to whom God is; then how we conceive of things like salvation or the purpose of creation, in general, will be skewed. After all, isn’t this point best illustrated by folks like Jehovah’s Witnesses, LDS, et al. If we mess up or demphasize a proper doctrine of God; then, necessarily, views on salvation are either hybrided (at best), or “hereticalized” (at worst — i.e. JW’s, LDS).