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Nozomu Miyahira's
Towards a Theology of the Concord of God

A Review by
Rev. Ralph Allan Smith

General Comments

Let me begin with a few general comments about the book itself. Towards a Theology of the Concord of God is the published version of Miyahira's doctoral thesis for Wycliffe Hall, Oxford, which gives you some idea of the nature of work — a well-researched, scholarly treatise. Considering the genre, the book is written well and is generally clear, though it is not without examples of the kind of sentences that only appear in books written by scholars for scholars. I have been told that the Japanese version is more difficult to read than the English, though I have not compared them myself.

From the standpoint of the serious reader, the greatest defect in presentation was the decision — no doubt by Paternoster Press rather than the author — to place notes at the end of the chapter instead of the bottom of the page. Especially in a book that is filled with notes, most of which are more than mere source citations, footnotes ought to be "the law of the land," so that the poor reader is not forced to continually turn back and forth. In the first chapter, for example, in a little over 15 pages, there are 66 endnotes, and in chapter two, a little over 20 pages, there are 145 endnotes taking about 11 pages of text. This makes for an unpleasant reading experience, to say the least: read three lines, turn to the back of the chapter, read three more words, turn to the back of the chapter. This is not how scholarly books should be published. I suppose it may be easier for the publisher to do the page layout with endnotes. And perhaps they figure that anyone willing to read a difficult book ought to have a thoroughly tough experience.

To get to the substance of the work, Miyahira has obviously done his homework, though there seems to be a certain imbalance. On the one hand, the footnotes indicate the breadth of his reading. His discussions of Tertullian, Augustine, and Barth demonstrate his grasp of some of the greatest trinitarian theologians in the history of the Church. However, there are many who question whether Barth was really trinitarian. Cornelius Plantinga, to take only one prominent example, charges Barth along with Robert Jenson, Karl Rahner, and others, with being "reductionistic." For, he claims, these theologians "reduce three divine persons to modes or roles of one person, thus robbing the doctrine of God of its rich communitarian overtones."[2] It seems odd, then, that in spite of Miyahira's interest in the "communitarian overtones" of the Trinity, he does not even include Plantinga's famous essay in his bibliography, let alone offer significant interaction with Plantinga and others of the "social trinitarian" school who might have provided him with a very different sort of trinitarian model and one much closer to his own than Barth's.[3]

The best part of the book is Miyahira's discussions of the text of Scripture, in particular the Gospel of John. This is appropriate. Among the apostles, John is the trinitarian theologian and all serious trinitarian theology must devote mature reflection to the profound picture of the relationship between the Father and the Son in the fourth Gospel.


[2] Cornelius Plantinga, Jr., "The Threeness/Oneness Problem of the Trinity," Calvin Theological Journal, 23, no. 1 (April, 1988), p. 49.

[3] The social trinitarian approach is briefly dealt with in footnotes, but not given full exposition in the body of the treatise. See, for example, footnote 12 on pp. 208-209.

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