Trinitarian Letters by Paul Kurts (Book Review)

Trinitarian Letters

I actually feel bad about publishing this review. I know that what I have to say will come across as very harsh. Should the author read this review, I apologize. I mean no personal disrespect. However, I promised to provide an honest review upon receiving a free copy of Trinitarian Letters. What follows is my honest opinion.

The first thing that struck me about this book was the formatting. I don’t usually comment on such things, preferring to focus on the content of books. However, this book was nearly impossible to read past the ALL CAPS SHOUTING. I don’t think there is a page in the book without shouting. In some places, the author even applied bold formatting to his all caps text. I also found an instance of no fewer than 35 exclamation points in a row.

Trinitarian Letters was published by West Bow Press, which is the self-publishing division of Thomas Nelson. The fact that it is self-published is quite evident. In addition to the problem with shouting, there are hardly any pages that do not suffer from atrocious spelling and grammar mistakes.

If I may share a particularly humorous example, page 9 includes a misspelling of the word Zoroastrianism. That’s not a big deal by itself. Zoroastrianism is a rather large and uncommon word that would be easy to mess up. However, the misspelled word was followed by “(Sp.?).” In other words, the author was aware of the fact that he had probably spelled it wrong. Could he not take 30 seconds to look it up?

This book would have benefited tremendously from an editor. In addition to the blatant mistakes, the whole thing is just poorly laid out. I understand that it is a collection of short letters, but that’s no excuse for the complete lack of organization. The various letters go back and forth between unrelated topics, they often repeat one another, and they fail to make any kind of coherent whole. Additionally, the lack of any page headers makes it tedious to navigate.

The actual premise of the book was difficult to ascertain until several chapters into it. After the author finally did explain what he believes, he began repeating the same arguments over and over again throughout the rest of the book.

And that brings us to the actual content. As bad as the formatting in this book is, the theology is even worse.

This book asserts itself to be an understandable lay-level introduction to the theology of men like Karl Barth. I’ll confess that I had little knowledge of Barthian theology before this book, but I’ve usually heard Barth spoken of in high regard. However, if this book truly does represent what the esteemed theologian believed, then I cannot fathom the reason for his reputation.

The theology in this book comes across as a sort of Calvinistic soft-universalism. Yes, I know that doesn’t make any sense, but that’s what is presented. Like Calvinism, this view is really big on election. Unlike Calvinism, it sees the whole world as being the elect. Thus, everyone will eventually give in to God’s irresistible grace, even if they have to go to hell first.

The main passage that surfaces throughout the book is Ephesians 1, which the author insists must apply to all of humanity. Never mind the fact that Paul specifically addressed his letter “to the saints” (Ephesians 1:1). The author rightly pointed out that Paul’s letter was intended for a broader audience than just Ephesus, but this does not mean that truths spoken about believers apply to all men.

The big list of proof texts, which shows up several times, is as follows: Romans 5:18, John 3:16, 1 Timothy 4:10, 2 Corinthians 5:14, 1 Peter 3:18, Hebrews 9:12, and 1 John 2:2. Let’s take a quick look at them.

Romans 5:18 shows the parallel between one man—Adam—and one man—Jesus. Adam brought condemnation to all men. Jesus brought justification and life to all men. But not all men will receive that condemnation. Likewise, not all men will receive justification or eternal life.

John 3:16 shows that God loves the whole world. However, this does not mean that all will receive eternal life. The context makes this clear. Only two verses later, we read that “whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God” (John 3:18, ESV).

In 1 Timothy 4:10, Paul wrote that God “is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe” (1 Timothy 4:10, ESV). This is admittedly an odd verse at first glance, but it becomes much simpler when we remember what it is that Jesus has saved us from. He did not die to save us from hell, but from sin—specifically the penalty of sin, which is death (Romans 6:23).

Jesus has indeed saved the whole world from death. All men everywhere will be resurrected, thus defeating death. However, only some will be resurrected unto eternal life. The rest will be resurrected unto judgment (John 5:29) and the second, final death. Therefore, God has saved all people from death, but this is doubly true for those who believe.

In 2 Corinthians 5:14 Paul wrote “that one [Jesus] has died for all” (2 Corinthians 5:14, ESV). I too believe that Jesus died for all. But again, this does not mean that all will receive eternal life. The Bible is very clear that those who reject Jesus will perish, despite the fact that he died for them.

Some translations of 1 Peter 3:18 read as follows: “For Christ also died for sins once for all” (1 Peter 3:18, NASB). Likewise, some translations render Hebrews 9:12, “He entered the holy place once for all” (Hebrews 9:12, NASB). This is taken in the book to mean that Christ died once for the sins of all men.

The Greek does not support this idea. The “for all” means “for all time,” not “for all people.” That said, I do believe (though not from these verses) that Jesus did die for the sins of all men. I’ll explain that with the next verse.

1 John 2:2 shows us in a very straightforward manner that Jesus is the propitiation (or atoning sacrifice) for the sins of the whole world. I agree with the author on this point. No amount of linguistic gymnastics can get around the context showing clearly that “the world” really does mean everyone. Jesus atoned for all people. How does this not equal universalism? I’m glad you asked!

On the cross, Jesus atoned for (or covered) the sins of all humanity. This propitiation turned God’s wrath away from all men. All sins (except for one) have been forgiven. However, God’s wrath is turned back on men who commit the one unforgivable sin, which is blasphemy against the Spirit (Matthew 12:31).

But what is blasphemy against the Spirit? Hebrews 10:29 spells that out for us.

How much greater punishment do you think that person deserves who has contempt for the Son of God, and profanes the blood of the covenant that made him holy, and insults the Spirit of grace? (Hebrews 10:29, NET)

This speaks of men who reject Jesus Christ (whether in word or deed). Even though they were made holy by the blood of the covenant, their rejection of the Son of God is an unforgivable insult against the Spirit. Thus, the wrath of God abides on them, and they will not receive eternal life (John 3:36). Instead, they will face “a fury of fire that will consume God’s enemies” (Hebrews 10:27, NET).

I will point out that the author does offer certain convoluted explanations for many of his problem passages. He does so according to a certain principle which he spelled out in the section titled “Do Scriptures Contradict the Gospel?” (pp. 38–41).

Basically, he makes it an absolute presupposition that God has adopted all of humanity and that all men are already in Jesus (despite having no sound Scriptural support for this claim). He then admits to forcing this interpretation on the rest of Scripture.

That’s called eisegesis (reading our ideas into Scripture). It does not allow Scripture to speak for itself. If you come to Scripture with such a presupposition, of course you’ll find a way to make it say what you want it to say. I’d rather know what God intended it to mean.

My review is getting really long, and it is not my intention to refute this whole theology right here, so I’ll leave it at that for now.

Trinitarian Letters is a poorly laid out book that suffers from horrible spelling, grammar, formatting, and everything else an editor could have fixed. The theology is confusing at best and completely unbiblical at worst. I could not possibly recommend this book to anyone.