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The Holy Trinity, a book review.

Letham, Robert. The Holy Trinity: In Scripture, History, Theology, and Worship. Phillipsburg, NJ: P and R Publishing, 2004.

Matters of the Trinity are weighty, nuanced, and practical. As a local church pastor, I want to read books that promote theological accuracy and practical application The Holy Trinity is such a book. I found this book helpful and useful in my understanding of the Trinity and have used various parts in sermons as illustrations.

The book has four parts. The book begins with the biblical case for the Trinity beginning in the Old Testament. A chapter is dedicated to each person of the Trinity. While I believe these chapters could have been longer and functioned more like a biblical theology, they accomplish the goal to identify the person of the Trinity in the New Testament. These chapters serve to set up the historical and theological expression of the Trinity which serves as the meat of the book.

The historical and theological sections of the book are divided into two sections. Part Two: The Historical Development and Part Three: Modern Discussion is almost three hundred pages of the book. For my use, interest, and enjoyment, Part Two was more interesting and enjoyable than Part Three, and it is probably my fault.

The chapters covering the early trinitarian issues, Nicaea, and Athanasius are enlightening. Letham shows a deft hand in paring down mass amounts of information into a few paragraphs and in some instances, pages. He covers various church fathers and deduces their writings to various paragraphs highlighting the aspects of the Trinity where they are strong, weak, and issues they write against. His sources and footnotes allow one to study any of the information further. He is kind to those early writers but makes connections to subsequent historical heresies that help tie the parts of the book together.

Did you know Arius’ heresy gained popularity through the many songs he composed? Neither did I. Little nuggets like that exist all throughout the book. It is easy to use the information contained in the book and bridge it to modern-day application. Letham does a masterful job highlighting the early adopters and later disciples and how these various groups impact the church as a whole in different times.

In full disclosure, I found Part Three less profitable than the first two sections. I believe this is entirely my fault. As an evangelical pastor, I am not inclined to read much from Eastern theological perspectives. I learned much from this section but most of it was relatively newer material to me whereas the early church fathers were more familiar. I have read some of Barth and Moltmann. I see more relevance in Barth for modern-day scholarship but in my reading, I have never encountered Sergius Bulgakov. The Eastern-focused aspects of the modern conversation were not as applicable to me.

Everything comes together in the final section where Letham shows the interconnectedness of Trinitarian thinking as it pertains to worship. This chapter would have sufficed as a conclusion for me. Thinking and reading about the Trinity is good but it is better to express worship to our Triune God. How the Spirit enables and encourages us to worship is something I will continue to think about. What Letham has begun in this book as it pertains to a Trinitarian view of worship will be helpful for years to come for me.

You should read this book. It is helpful. It is edifying, even if you learn some new names along the way. There is a great payout in the concluding chapters where you will see the glorious Triune God in how we love and how we worship.  

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