Friday 14 July 2006

Ten essential books on the Trinity

The development of trinitarian doctrine is perhaps the most exciting and most significant aspect of modern theology, and it has paved the way for many other important developments (not least of all ecumenical advances). So here’s a list of ten essential books on the Trinity.

(Although this is a list of modern books, an engagement with the early defining works is of course essential—e.g. the Gospel of John, Gregory of Nyssa, Gregory of Nazianzus, Augustine.)

Anyway, here’s my list, in chronological order:

1. G. W. F. Hegel, Lectures in the Philosophy of Religion (1827), parts 1 and 3
2. Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics I/1 (1932), §§8-12
3. Karl Rahner, The Trinity (1967)
4. Eberhard Jüngel, God’s Being Is in Becoming (1965)
5. Jürgen Moltmann, The Trinity and the Kingdom (1980)
6. Robert W. Jenson, The Triune Identity (1982)
7. Wolfhart Pannenberg, Systematic Theology, Vol. 1 (1988), ch. 5
8. Catherine LaCugna, God for Us: The Trinity and Christian Life (1991)
9. T. F. Torrance, The Christian Doctrine of God: One Being Three Persons (1996)
10. David Bentley Hart, The Beauty of the Infinite: The Aesthetics of Christian Truth (2003)


Katerina Ivanovna said...

Sorry, Ben, I could not resist...

My Contemporary Top 5 (no particular order):

Rahner, The Trinity
O'Collins, The Tri-Personal God
Coffey, Deus Trinitas
Balthasar, Credo
Kasper, The God of Jesus Christ

Guy Davies said...

Have you seen Robert Letham's The Holy Trinity? I only just got it, but the book looks like a substantial contribution to the subject from an evangelical perspective.

See review Here

byron smith said...

Thanks for the list Ben. No Gunton? What about The Triune Creator? Or The Promise of Trinitarian Theology?

Anonymous said...

Recent books on the Trinity which are not "essential" but useful are:

Paul Fiddes, Participating in God: A Pastoral Doctrine of the Trinity (2000).

David Cunningham, These Three Are One: The Practice of Trinitarian Theology (1998), which is quite an original contribution.

Anonymous said...

I echo Kim on the Cunningham addition as useful and unique.

What about Tanner's short Jesus, Humanity, and the Trinity? She offers a view quite different and critical than those of Jenson, Moltmann, Pannenberg, and Jungel, more Augustinian in sympathy.

guanilo said...

Joshua - Do you think Tanner really contributes much to trinitarian theology in that book? Christology, certainly.

As much as I'm an opponent of much of what Gunton has done, The Promise or better, The One, The Three, and the Many warrants inclusion. And Cunningham's book is fantastic. Perhaps Bruce Marshall's book as well.

Because really, why ten? Why not fifteen and a half?

Ben, I love that you put in Hegel, btw.

Strider said...

Add my vote for Gunton.

Let me also recommend two books by philosophers:

David Brown, The Divine Trinity

Richard Swinburne, The Christian God

Leonard Hodgson's The Doctrine of the Trinity is a classic, IMHO.

tchittom said...

Hello everyone, howabout the Epistle to the Ephesians? I have been reading this book over time in tandem with a good friend of mine and am dumbstruck by how thoroughly and primally trinitarian it is in every respect. One could remove the opening paean altogether, and it still be trinitarian through and through. (Of course, unlike the excellent theological books mentioned above, one could argue that this particular work is involved with the Trinity in rather different sort of way.)

Anonymous said...

Add my vote for Fiddes and Cunningham. LaCugna is not so good, though--too much reductive in its conception of the economic Trinity. Also looking forward to Sarah Coakley's book, which is sure to provoke discussion. Anybody know when it's coming out?

David W. Congdon said...

Thank you for placing Hegel at the top. We all owe him a great debt. But LaCugna over Torrance?? Torrance deserves to be in the top 5. His is the best work on the Trinity in the modern era, and it will remain the best for quite some time, I expect.

Ben Myers said...

No, sorry for the misunderstanding: no one is "over" anyone else. They're just arranged chronologically!

Anonymous said...

Can I put in a word for Leonardo Boff's "Trinity and Society"?

byron smith said...

No, sorry for the misunderstanding: no one is "over" anyone else. They're just arranged chronologically!

In that case, I'm still glad you put Hegel first!

Anonymous said...

For lighter reading you should have included Hahn, SW, First Comes Love: Finding Your Family in the Church and the Trinity. If just for his puns and the following quote from p86 JPII's Puebla: A Pilgrimage of Faith:
"God in His deepest mystery is not a solitude, but a family, since He has in Himself fatherhood, sonship, and the essence of the family, which is love."

Anonymous said...


I have a good friend who is a part of a "jesus only" church and was wondering what three books out of the history of the church, both ancient and modern would you recommend him read? He is 17 but loves to read and would read what I recommend him. I would appreciate your advice. Thanks.

Ben Myers said...

Hi JR -- Sorry for the slow response. This is a tricky one: but perhaps you could try James B. Torrance, "Worship, Community and the Triune God of Grace" (IVP 1997)?

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