Thursday, November 29, 2012

Delighting in the Trinity: a book review

“Christianity is not primarily about lifestyle change; it is about knowing God.  To know and grow to enjoy him is what we are saved for…Thus to read this book is not to play an intellectual game.  In fact, we will see that the triune nature of God affects everything from how we listen to music to how we pray: it makes for happier marriages, warmer dealings with others, better church life; it gives Christians assurance, shapes holiness and transforms the very way we look at the world around us.  No exaggeration: the knowledge of this God turns lives around.” So begins Michael Reeves engaging new book Delighting in the Trinity (135 pages from IVP; ISBN 978-0-8308-3983-4).  In this book the author sets out to both explain the Trinity and perhaps most significantly, explain why the triune nature of God is essential to the Christian faith – “the governing center of all Christian belief” (pg. 16).

For many the Trinity is like your weird uncle that shows up at the family gatherings – you have to acknowledge him as family, but you would just as soon not introduce him to your friends.  In my early years as a Christian, well-meaning people used various analogies to try and “explain” the doctrine of the Trinity.  Things like: an egg, a shamrock, three states of water, even streaky bacon.  I found them all to be very unsatisfying - not to mention bizarre.  Later I retreated into the position of thinking and speaking of the Trinity in terms of what it is not – parroting the ancient creeds.  But this left the whole issue somewhat dry and academic – lacking in day-to-day personal connection.  The power and benefit of this little book is that the author steers clear of both academic dryness and evangelical silliness. 

As to the layout of the book, it tackles in chapter form the importance of the tri-unity of God under the following topics:
1.      What was God doing Before Creation?
2.      Creation: The Father’s Love Overflows
3.      Salvation: The Son Shares What is His
4.      The Christian Life: The Spirit Beautifies
5.      “Who Among the Gods Is Like You, O LORD?”
6.      Conclusion: No Other Choice
Woven throughout are pictures and text boxes which briefly address and explain the issues and the people who have shaped our understanding of the triune nature of God through the centuries.  Early in the book Reeves is very clear that Scripture reveals God to be triune and robustly refutes the idea that the trinity is a fabrication of 4th century theologians. 

Another interesting and helpful feature of the book is that as the author unfolds the beauty of the Trinity he takes the time to compare it to the solitary monotheism of Islam – clearly pointing out along the way that Allah is not identical to the Christian God.  Loving relationships is something inherent in the Godhead (Jn. 17) and it is those loving relationships that explain why God both created and redeems humanity – this is a profound idea and when internalized it will become a powerful motivation for our evangelistic endeavors. 

Michael Reeves is the theological adviser for the Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship in the UK and thus experienced in speaking and writing for that age group.  This results in a writing style that is both witty and practical, making the book accessible for both young and old.  I would recommend this book to those high school aged and above who desire to grow in their understanding of their triune God – for the doctrine of the Trinity has profound implications for both life and ministry.  This would also be a good book for reading together with others and then periodically getting together to discuss.    

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