Essays on the Trinity

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Lincoln Harvey
  • Eugene, OR: 
    Cascade Books
    , July
     250 pages.
     For other formats: Link to Publisher's Website.


Lincoln Harvey’s collection of twelve essays titled Essays on the Trinity strives to investigate and offer fresh insight into one of the most complex and difficult of all Christian doctrines: how can one God be three and how can three divine persons be one? What is the Trinity? How can we speak meaningfully of the Trinity in our own time? The opening chapter, written by Harvey, offers a historical introduction to this question, summarizes the essays included herein, and is quite well written and informative. 

There were several strong and noteworthy contributions—specifically those of Robert Jenson and Chris Tilling were of interest to this reviewer. In chapter 3, Paul the Trinitarian, Chris Tilling asserts that Paul is a Trinitarian who expresses himself in Trinitarian terms: “… when one reads these [Pauline] texts in light of the wider relational pattern expressing the Godness of God in terms of the Father, the Lord Jesus, and these relations actualized by the Spirit … they express, in a nutshell, what we have uncovered by focusing on Paul’s own theological grammar” (57). Tilling’s argument is level headed, insight filled, and provocative. One would hope that at some point Tilling expands his thoughts into a full length monograph.

C.E.W. Green’s essay was engaging and stimulating. He remarks, “… God brings about all kinds of good in an astonishing array of modes … Some of God’s works might be described as ‘miraculous’ or ‘supernatural’ while others might be called ‘natural’. Some are ‘common’, others are ‘special’. What matters, finally, is that all God’s works have the same telos: to conform creation in its entirety to Christ’s character and his divine-human share in the being-act of God. And that end will come as God works within, upon, and without time to bring all things into perfect alignment with his own act-of-existing, God as God is in himself” (136). These ideas draw readers into a dialogue with Green on a very deep level and provoke, I’m sure it is hoped, further thought on those topics and further engagement with the literature.

Douglas Campbell’s reading of Paul and the implications of his trinitarian notions leads him to suggest that “… a fascinating Trinitarian implication lies hidden within the history of Paul’s mission. Once uncovered this prompts us to recognize that the doctrine of the Trinity, even in this early form, can never be left at a merely confessional level, where some current debate might suggest. It is supposed to do work on the ground, forming the communities who confess it in virtue, and authenticating the surprising missional inclusions that the triune God effects” (193). This suggestion is certainly quite interesting and, as is true of Green’s contribution, leads to some very intriguing possibilities for Christian Trinitarian theology and for our interpretation of the Apostle Paul and his work.

The essays in this collection are stimulating, thought provoking, engaging, and the careful reader will be pressed to consider ideas previously left unconsidered. And that is the best reason of all to read a book. This book deserves to be read.

About the Reviewer(s): 

Jim West is Professor of Biblical Studies at Ming Hua Theological College.

Date of Review: 
March 11, 2019
About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

Lincoln Harvey is Lecturer in Systematic Theology at St Mellitus College, London.


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