In 1994, one of American Baptist’s most recognized theologians, the late Stanley Grenz, published his full-length systematic theology, Theology for the Community of God. Conservative evangelicals warmly welcomed this book, among others around that time in the early 1990’s. David Dockery (for whom the book is dedicated) wrote an endorsement for his prior book, Revisioning Evangelical Theology, stating, “[It] is a creative step forward for evangelicals…and opens the door for evangelical theology to strengthen the church.” More freshly engaged with the Pietist tradition, Grenz began to center his theology on community or the church, which resonated with many conservatives due to rampant individualism. Yet, whether they were encouraged about the direction but displeased with its overreach or whether they simply misunderstood Grenz from the beginning, he has earned critics from those that initially welcomed his thoughts.
Grenz’s text follows traditional loci beginning with theological method and ending with eschatology. Also, he rightly believes that theology should have a trinitarian shape to it by leading with the doctrine of God and the Trinity (24). This brings unity to the discipline of theology. Developing the history of theology, he points out the different ways it has been divided (i.e. subdiscplines) and contextualized (i.e. academic, narrative, etc.). Concerning the divisions, Grenz wants to develop doctrine not necessarily from biblical, systematic, historical, and practical but by focusing on the biblical message (which is historically conditioned), the historical heritage of the church (which is also contextual), and the thought-forms of the contemporary context (of which he currently lived) (16). Therefore, he includes an “integrative motif,” which is community (20). Like Aquinas’ beatific vision or Calvin’s emphasis on the glory of God, Grenz’s point of integration is the community of God (23). Certainly this emphasis is constructive in some measure such as the recognition that theology is not static but particularly suited for understanding the faith across all ages. However, at times, Grenz can be less than clear about the community’s participation in theology, to what extent there should be integration, and the end goal of it other than that the theology is applied. Based on the use of certain terms (e.g. communal), it seems that he is already primed for a fuller postmodern theological treatment.
In chapter three, Grenz discusses the doctrine of the Trinity. In it, he gives an historical overview, recognizing that the doctrine was formed over years of reflection and was only then fixated as a doctrine in the 4th century (54). Keeping with his theme of eschatological community, Grenz writes, “The doctrine of the Trinity is the product of a lengthy process arising from the experience of the people of faith” (53). While it can certainly not be denied that “trinity” is not found in the Bible, one might get the sense (outside some example texts) that the doctrine is mostly theological speculation or formulation. Still, Grenz portrays an orthodox view of God who is one, three, diversity, and unity (66-67). It is this kind of God, a relationship between Father, Son, and Spirit, who is love at his very being (71-74). This is who God is and it upholds his justice, wrath, and righteousness all at once. Because God is love, the Trinity also informs human ethics. God is the ultimate model of life and community since within himself he is social (76). As it relates to the contemporary situation, however, the doctrine of the Trinity is still subject to theological reflection and the door is open for variations of these truths.