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Like Father, Like Son

Author: Tom Smail
Published By: Paternoster (Milton Keynes)
Pages: 304
Price: £8.99
ISBN: 1 84227 342 6

Reviewed by Author unknown.

“This book is an attempt to discover what it might mean for our humanity that God is Trinity”. That is Tom Smail’s expressed aim in this book. The exploration of the nature of humanity is rooted in what he sees as the revealed relationships of Father, Son and Spirit in the gospel narratives in which, “the Father sovereignly initiates, the Son obediently executes and the Spirit consummates and fulfils” (p.107). Those who are familiar with Tom Smail’s writings over the years will recognise the turns of phrase, full of wisdom and pithy insight. This is not a quick read, but one to return to and reflect on time and again. The book combines biblical exegesis and interpretation and commentary on theological understanding from a wide range of sources. Augustine, Barth and Pannenberg are well represented, but there is also a serious consideration of the Eastern emphasis on the Trinity who share the divine nature, but are bound together as persons in community, (see pages 92-105).

The image of God in humanity is rich and deep - but marred: “We have become people who cannot but mirror a world which does not know the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ and resists both his truth and his grace” (p. 238)

But in Christ and in Trinitarian life, the church is called to live out the new humanity, not hidden in a churchy ghetto, but in “full and free expression in the life of the world, because this is the humanity that the world was made for, is looking for, and cannot find, and it is there, redeemed, renewed, fulfilled for everyone in Christ” (p.291).

Much of this book is about the theory of what it means to be human, as the image of God who is Trinity. There are plenty of allusions along the way for the implications of this for our anthropology, sexuality, church order, marriage, mission and church life. Chapter seven is, by Smail’s own admission, a chapter feeling its way in the subject of how gender is related to being made in the image of God. It is a chapter which “needs” to be included, but might have made a separate study.

This book is for those with a good theological grounding already. Ministers ought to take it away for two or three days’ study leave and be inspired by it, grapple with its concepts and implications and allow it to inform their teaching and preaching, sharing its profound insights with a wider audience.

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You are reading Issue 38 of Ministry Today, published in November 2006.

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