In this barren wasteland of books on the Trinity there are only a few oases out there. If you believe Michael Reeves, and I suspect you should, this is thanks to Schleiermacher who basically treated the Trinity as extraneous to Christianity. In Michael Reeves’ Delighting in the Trinity: An Introduction to the Christian Faith he treats the Trinity as the hub upon which all of Christianity turns. That is part of what makes this particular volume on the Trinity unique. He explicitly states and develops this as a steady drumbeat in the book.
“For God is triune, and it is as triune that he is so good and desireable.”
In part, the book is an apologetic for Christianity in general and the Trinity in particular. He spends some time examining what happens if you don’t have a Trinity, what does that mean about God. To put it simply, God is not love. He is wanting a creation, if he wants a creation that serves him. But if God is love, and there are more than 3 persons in this eternal community of love we understand creation (and redemption) as an overflow of the love they have for one another. This sets Christianity into a different light, a greater light.
“Before he ever created, before he ever ruled the world, before anything else, this God was a Father loving his Son.”
For instance, love is the motive for the mission of God. I am currently reading a book on that subject and the author of this otherwise good book seems to neglect this as the reason. He’s not seeing the mission as the Father sending the Son to adopt more children, but more a Creator wanting to be obeyed. This focus on God as loving community helps to clear the air of many misconceptions and present a more winsome Christianity.
“He creates as a Father and he rules as a Father; and that means the way he rules over creation is most unlike the way any other God would rule over creation.”
For instance, in the last chapter he explores how this focus influences how we view various attributes of God. God’s holiness, for instance, is that he is separate from us in that he loves. In Leviticus 19, he reminds us, that the call to be holy, or perfect, as he is is surrounded by the command to love your neighbor as yourself and explanations of what that looks like (caring for the poor, for instance). So our holiness is not to be mere obedience. Our holiness is to be a love that reaches out to others as God has reached out to us in order to meet the needs of others. Oh, there is obedience but as Jesus said in John’s Gospel this is because love Him who first loved us.
“Because the Father’s love for the Son has burst out to be shared with us, the Son’s inheritance is also (extraordinarily!) shared with us.”
You might be tempted to think that this means Rob Bell was right in Love Wins. No. God’s wrath is seen as a manifestation of His love as opposed just petulant frustration about not getting his way. Love gets angry when the beloved is threatened.
“Made in the image of God, we are created to delight in harmonious relationships, to love God, to love each other.”
The book begins before creation to explore the nature of God. He then has chapters on creation and salvation. Because God is love the Father has always been Father and the Son has always been Son. With the Spirit they have loved one another. Creation and salvation do not arise out of a need in them to be loved or to fill the emptiness and loneliness but to bring others into their loving fellowship. This is really the strength of the book. He then has a chapter on the Christian life in which the Spirit makes us beautiful as the triune God is beautiful.
“That, indeed, is why the Father sent him, that we who have rejected him might be brought back- and brought back, not merely as creatures, but as children, to enjoy the abounding love the Son has always known.”
As Reeves moves us along this trajectory, he gives us some snarky, (usually) funny comments. He is a bit offbeat. At times this can seem inappropriate in light of the context. There are also a number of historical profiles to show how theologians of the past wrestled with particular ideas (Arias, Athanasius, Aristotle, Sibbes, Augustine, etc.). Some of them are familiar, and some may not be. This adds to the flavor of the book as well as its import. We don’t study theology in isolation, but in community: a community that spans time and cultures.
“Thus the Spirit is not like some divine milkman, leaving the gift of ‘life’ on our doorsteps only to move on. In giving us life he comes in to be with us and remain with us. Having once given life, then, he does not move on; he stays to make that life blossom and grow.”
This is a book that knowingly stands on the shoulders of giants. It is not a gigantic book however. It is only about 130 pages and therefore is quite readable and accessible. He gives you time to soak up the significance of what he is saying. And what he is saying is incredibly significant. This makes the book well worth reading.
“In our love and enjoyment of the Son we are like the Father; in our love and enjoyment of the Father we are like the Son. That is the happy life the Spirit calls us to.”
I will leave you as he left me at the end of the book, with a quote by Russian theologian Vladimir Lossky.
“If we reject the Trinity as the sole ground of all reality and all thought, we are committed to a road that leads nowhere: we end up in an aporia (a despair), in folly, in the disintegration of our being in spiritual death. Between the Trinity and hell there lies no other choice.”