Book Review – Delighting in the Trinity (Tim Chester)

After thoroughly enjoying reading “Total Church“, I decided to get another book from the same author, and the subject of the Trinity was one that I felt I needed a better grasp of. In it Tim Chester seeks to explain the doctrine of the Trinity and show why it is such good news.

He starts off by noting that this has been something of a neglected doctrine, perhaps in part because it can be difficult to explain. However, though it may be a mystery, it is not an absurdity – God is not three in the same sense in which he is one.

The book is broken up into three sections (nice!). The first section deals with the Biblical foundations for the doctrine of the Trinity. He starts with the unity of God, and the Shema, before moving on to consider some Scriptures that speak of the plurality of God, in particular demonstrating the divinity of Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Finally, he shows how the oneness and plurality of God come together at the cross, and help us make sense of the atonement.

The next section deals with historical developments, starting with the early church, and moving right through to modern times. This is where things can get a little technical, but Chester does an admirable job of making it as straightforward as possible. There is a good explanation of the different emphases of the eastern and western churches, and Calvin is presented as providing a synthesis of these approaches. In more recent times, Chester highlights the contributions of Barth, Rahner, Moltmann, and Zizioulas, amongst others.

The final section applies the doctrine of the Trinity to the areas of revelation, salvation, humanity and mission. He draws on Barth to show that revelation is trinitarian – the Spirit enables us to see in the Son the revelation of the Father. In an excellent chapter on salvation, he explains a variety of theories of the atonement (substitution, moral influence, dramatic), and affirms that all have their place in a multi-faceted view of the atonement. However, he argues that the penal substitution model is primary because it is truly Trinitarian – because it presents salvation not as a transaction between God and humanity, or between God and Satan, but a transaction within God himself.)

The chapter on the Trinity and humanity is also helpful. He draws on a societal model of the Trinity, to show that it is in the Trinity that we see the diversity in unity that should characterise human society. This vision of humanity stands in stark contrast to modern day individualism, and the pressures towards homogeneity. Our identity as human persons, is found not in our independence, but in our relationships, just as the members of the Godhead are persons in relationship.

The final chapter on mission draws out some of the differences between the Christian understanding of the Triune God, and the Muslim understanding of God. The Christian community is called to be a demonstration of the nature of the Triune God.

I feel I have benefited hugely from reading this book, as it has clarified my understanding of the doctrine of the Trinity, and also helped me to see how it relates to so many aspects of Christian doctrine and practice.

Update: This book is now available in second edition from the Good Book Company.

5 thoughts on “Book Review – Delighting in the Trinity (Tim Chester)

  1. How can a book like this speaks of the Biblical foundations of the Trinity? The truth is that the Old Testament forcefully states many times that God is only One.
    The New Testament then at several places states that (something like) not a single word can be changed from or added to the Old Testament and that the message of the Old Testament is still valid for the very recent believers of the New Testament at the time this New Testament was first available to readers. But, at the same time, this Trinity idea is invented in the New Testament!

    How can any logical explanation could manage to reconcile the inexplicable that is that the unicity of God is no more true and that now God is a three-part entity being still one!!

    You, the software programmer, rational I assume, how can you accept this idea of the Trinity when the Old Testament is so clear on this matter?!! Does it not show you that the New Testament has not reliable at all?

    How can any rational human being accepts such an illogical concept of a God in three parts being nevertheless one when the Old Testament is very clear on this matter that God is only One?
    Faith I suppose is the medecine for those who accepts these completely irrational explanations on the Trinity abomination!

    I am always amazed how people put reason, logic, and critical thinking in the dustbin just to accept the unacceptable, this idea of a God who would be in three parts and three being nevertheless one!

    How can such a Trinity concept can be defended without being illogical?!!! Sorry, not the best book on the matter will reconcile the completely illogical idea of the Trinity when the Old Testament clearly states MANY TIMES that God is only ONE!

    Anyway, just a remark. At the end of the day, if you want to believe in the unbelievable, no matter how illogical it is, no one will be able to change your irrationality on this matter!!

  2. Hi Tom,

    Your comments seem to indicate that you have not really understood what Christians believe about the Trinity. In particular, did you notice the statement above that we do not assert that God is one in the same sense that he is three?

    Have you noticed that on the first page of the Old Testament, God speaks of himself in the plural? “Let us make man in our image after our likeness…”

    I do not believe I have put reason, logic and critical thinking in the bin. I believe that a responsible thinker makes an attempt to fully understand a point of view before evaluating its truthfulness. I do not blindly accept everything that Christians claim, nor do I reject out of hand the arguments of those from other worldviews.

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  5. Hi Mark,

    as your lovely review here comes out as the top hit for Delighting in the Trinity on Google (in the UK at least), I thought I’d get in touch to let you know that we have picked up this title and have just published a second edition that is now available. Happy to send you a copy for review – as well as some other stuff for review if you are interested. New book cover and info here:
    http://www.thegoodbook.com/delighting-in-the-trinity

    do get in touch

    Tim

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