My year of reading about the Trinity has been mostly disappointing. I have not read nearly as much as I wanted, but I have been disappointed in almost everything I have read. The only book I have really liked was a fairly academic (and expensive) book on the development of Trinitarian Thought before 400 AD.
But Michael Reeves new book Delighting in the Trinity: an Introduction to the Christian Faith was different. First, it took the historic development of the Trinitarian theology seriously (it was not only looking at post-reformation thought like a lot of Evangelically focused books are.)
Second, it gave historical context to the thinkers by giving short biographies along with the theological development and quotations. I find that ideas abstracted from the people and context of their development often leads to misunderstanding of the real point of the theology.
Third, it was very readable. Trinitarian theology is often on the dense side, Delighting in the Trinity manages to be readable for an average Evangelical reader, without being condescending.
The method was useful. Reeves focused on how Christianity requires a Trinity. An example of this is this passage:
Here we are not left to guesswork: the Qur’an is a perfect example of a solitary God’s word. Allah is a single-person God who has an eternal word beside him in heaven, the Qur’an. At a glance, that seems to make Allah look less eternally lonely. But what is so significant is the fact that Allah’s word is a book, not a true companion for him. And it is a book that is only about him. Thus when Allah gives us his Qur’an, he gives us some thing, a deposit of information about himself and how he likes things. However, when the triune God gives us his Word, he gives us his very self, for the Son is the Word of God, the perfect revelation of his Father. The Word was with God and the Word was God. It is all, well, very revealing. This God does not give us some thing that is other than himself, or merely tell us about himself; he actually gives us himself. If he just dropped a book from heaven, he could keep us at the sort of distance we would expect. But he doesn’t. The very Word of God who is God comes to us and dwells with us.
Overall, I agree with many of his conclusions. But there are times when I think it is a bit strained. I think that a good writer could make similar arguments about why Islam needs monotheism or why Judaism rejects Christ. Occasionally it felt more like apologetics (arguing for why you should believe in Christianity over another religion) instead of theology. Understanding is part of a religious dialogue and to the extent that Reeves was bringing clarity and illustration, this was very helpful.
As with most books that I have read on the Trinity, I find that the treatment of the Holy Spirit is most important for Evangelicals to hear. Evangelicals are often a bit uncomfortable with the Holy Spirit and seem to want to replace the authority of Holy Spirit with the authority of the scripture. After all the authority of scripture is based on the Holy Spirit interpreting it for us, not on the words by themself.
I also think that Reeves did a very good job explaining why the Trinity is intrinsic to who God is, and not just how God reveals himself to us. God was Trinity before humanity’s existence It is a subtle, but I think dangerous thing to think that God is Trinity only for humanity’s benefit. Humanity was created from God. God was not created for humanity’s benefit.
On the negative side there was some problems with the formatting on kindle. I prefer reading on Kindle and I waited to read this book until it was released on kindle. In concept I like the idea of Reeves having sidebar biographies of some of the theologians that he is quoting to give context to why the quotes and concepts are important. But in reality it was jarring. I wish the information could have been integrated into the book better. As it was poorly formated on the kindle, the sidebars ended up in the middle of the text and you had to scroll up and down to finish the concept (often the side bar was in the middle of a sentence or paragraph) and then read the sidebar info, then scroll up to remember what you were reading about and then scroll back down to find you place again. There was a subtle font change, but that was not enough. The sidebars needed to be moved up or down until there was a break in the idea and then clearly set apart so that the reader knows what is going on.
It is not only this book that has this problem. I have found almost every book that uses sidebar information like this is formatted badly on the kindle. On the whole, I think sidebars in books are a bad idea. The point of a long form book is to read it straight through. Putting content in the middle of other content, even if related, breaks up the flow and encourages ADD reading. It is hard enough to read long form without putting distractions into the text. So if you are going to read it, get the paperback for now. (Formatting has been updated and is better than before)
On the whole this is probably my second favorite book on the Trinity that I have read this year.
- Historical Theology by Greg Allison (Review of Trinity Chapter)